Everybody’s A-Buzz About Amazon Tanking

on Friday, Jul. 25th

Amazon, the online retailing giant, saw their stock drop as much as 10% after a weak earnings call yesterday. This came on the heels of other bad news: the smartphone that CEO Jeff Bezos sunk so much of the company’s R&D money into has been universally panned as a dud.

Could it be that the bloom is finally off the Amazon rose? This after years of the company being rewarded by Wall Street for operating at a loss?

Eh, not necessarily.


This isn’t even the first big drop that Amazon has experienced on the market this year. While it is true that the narrative in the tech and business press is shaping up to be “Amazon has spread itself too thin” the stock will have to keep on falling for this to be anything more than your usual post-earnings call profit taking.

The thing to watch is this: will Amazon keep pushing into the hardware space, or has Bezos lost his appetite for making craptronics?

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The One Terrabyte SmartPhone Could Be Yours

on Friday, Jul. 25th

Researches at Rice University have made a breakthrough in manufacturing resistive random access memory (RRAM), a new form of computer memory. The MIT Technology Review explains what RRAM is:

Like flash memory, RRAM can store data without a constant supply of power. Whereas flash memory stores bits of information in the form of charge in transistors, RRAM stores bits using resistance. Each bit requires less space, increasing the amount of information that can be stored in a given area.

What’s more, it should be easier to stack up layers of RRAM, helping to further increase the amount of information that can be packed onto a single chip. RRAM can also operate a hundred times faster than flash. Some prototypes can store data densely enough to enable a terabyte chip the size of a postage stamp.

While a number of companies have been in the RRAM hunt for years the chips have required extremely high temperatures to make. This is they did until the Rice University researchers figured out a way to make the material  at room temperature. Bigger local drives on mobile units would take pressure off cloud servers: why stream something on the fly and deal with unreliable connections when you have a massive amount of storage on a phone?


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The Name of the Game is Consolidation

on Thursday, Jul. 24th

The rumors have been swirling for weeks now that Google was aiming to snatch up video game streaming platform Twitch for a cool billion dollars. Now VentureBeat is reporting that the deal is done, and other sites are following suit on the reporting.

This comes just one day after Re/Code broke word that AT&T and The Chernin Group’s Otter Media will buy a controlling stake in Multi Channel Network Fullscreen. While this is a bit like comparing apples to oranges—Twitch is a platform, Fullscreen a major player in the YouTube universe—it still shows that we are hip deep in a wave of major media consolidation.

Comcast is attempting to pick up Time Warner Cable. Disney just gobbled up Maker Studios. Rupert Murdoch is trying to get his hands on Time Warner itself.

Sooner or later the wave of mergers and acquisitions has to stop, right?

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Reddit Says ‘We’ll Do It Live’

on Thursday, Jul. 24th

Reddit, the popular link-sharing site best known to the wide world for its “Ask Me Anything” events with celebrities has always styled itself as the “front page of the Internet”. In the past few years this has proven to be apt, as the site has become a place where news junkies gather when rapidly evolving tragedies unfold.

My own first experience of this involved coming home after a screening of The Dark Knight Rises to discover the Aurora, Colorado shootings had happened. I then proceeded to not sleep but instead obsessively refresh reddit until I passed out.

The site, however, is not designed around the idea of breaking news, or at least wasn’t until a feature called “reddit live” entered beta months ago. Now the feature is being rolled out en masse. From the reddit blog post announcing the arrival:

reddit live is a new feature of reddit for real-time updates. A reddit live thread’s multiple contributors can post updates, and anyone watching gets sent those updates immediately without having to refresh. Unlike with self-post or comment based live threads, there’s no limit to how many updates can be posted during the course of an event. These live threads exist outside of subreddits and are designed to be submitted, like any other link, to whichever (multiple) subreddits are relevant to the thread. Pictures, video, and more can be embedded in the updates by simply pasting a link.

The feed rolls in reverse chronological order, which is how any sane news live blog is organized. What the feature doesn’t do is prevent rampant speculation and ham-fisted amateur sleuthing from occurring. That feature-set is expected sometime in the year 5,000,000,000 AD, when human nature is finally solved about six minutes before the sun goes supernova.

Via: ArsTechnica


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joyce rift

Beyond Games: Using The Oculus Rift To Get Inside James Joyce’s Classic Novel

on Wednesday, Jul. 23rd

We’re always on the lookout for interesting sounding virtual reality projects, and Motherboard’s Jordan Pearson has spotted one that aims to bring part of a literary classic to life:

[An] Irish filmmaker named Eoghan Kidney is designing a virtual reality video game that uses an Oculus Rift headset to put the player in the shoes of Stephen Dedalus as he meanders through Dublin on June 16th, 1904.

The game is currently in the development and crowdfunding stage, but it already looks pretty interesting, even psychedelic. Its title, In Ulysses:Proteus, comes from the chapter of the novel that it tackles. In it, Dedalus wanders across a desolate beach, closes his eyes, and ponders the shifting nature of reality and the disconnect between his inner self and the external world.

In Ulysses:Proteus doesn’t look to be anything like a traditional video game, but more in line with the emerging “virtual experience” genre. There is merit to the idea of creating an immersive experience out of what is traditionally an internal process: metabolizing the imagery of a novel. Whether Kidney is up to the challenge, or indeed if the project will get enough funding to test out his skills, is up in the air.

Via Vice’s Motherboard

Image: In Ulysses: Proteus Fundit video

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Unleash The Kraken! Squids Hold Secrets Of Cybertech (Maybe)

on Tuesday, Jul. 22nd

Advancements in prosthetics–like the DEKA Arm which was recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration– and machine vision (think: Google Cars) seem to finally pushing us towards the cybernetic future that made 1980s action movies so badass.

Yet the recent breakthroughs are still a far cry from the science fiction fever dreams of Gen X’s youth. Which prompts the question: why has it taken this long into the 21st century to see this technology come to the fore? Well it turns out that there are some deep differences in how biological and artificial systems deal with electricity. Check out the lead paragraph of a recent article at Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News:

The electrical activity of living organisms and human-made devices evidence a fundamental mismatch. Living organisms transmit electrical messages by moving positive charges, protons, and positively charged ions such as calcium and sodium. Human-made devices—retinal implants, nerve stimulators, and pacemakers—rely on negatively charged electrons.

So there’s our culprit: machines and mankind just don’t speak the same electrical code. Since we’re not going to rewire human DNA to better suit machines–not yet, anyway–the solution for the cybernetic divide will have to happen on the artificial side of things. Which is exactly what that GE&BN article is about.

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine have found a way to use a naturally occurring protein from pencil squid to create an electrically conductive material that transmits protons efficiently. This could–could, mind you–lead to a whole class of electrically conductive material and devices that interact directly with human biology.

Will it lead to half-men, half-machines who are all cop? Probably not.

All squid, maybe.

Source: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News via Popular Science

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Ambitious Xbox Project ‘Quantum Break’ Weathers Microsoft Shake-ups

on Tuesday, Jul. 22nd

For a minute there it looked like Microsoft was throwing in the towel on anything resembling innovation on Xbox.

Kinect? Ripped from the box. Original television programming? Just for teh Haloz, thx plz.*

The priority of the Xbox division has become games, games, games. So where has that left the hybrid project Quantum Break, which looked to merge a game with episodic television content? There was no word about the title, which is being developed by Remedy the makers of the cult favorite Xbox 360 series Alan Wake, since an announcement earlier this year that it wouldn’t be shown at E3 but instead at the big European game show later in the year.

Given that some of us actually like it when console makers are insanely ambitious and willing to fail gloriously the silence has been unnerving. Polygon, thankfully, has word that the game remains on track:

“The news of Xbox Entertainment Studios has not impacted our progress and we’re excited to share more details of Quantum Break at Gamescom in August,” the statement reads.

TV/game hybrids might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but neither are an endless supply of 80s/90s retro indie games. Everything gets old after a while. While we’re all waiting for virtual reality to take off it good to know that other strange avenues of interactive entertainment are not getting ignored.

*Okay, not really, but it might as well be.

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The Political Fight Over Net Access You’re Not Hearing About

on Monday, Jul. 21st

Access to the Internet is practically seen as a basic human right amongst millennials, that’s one reason why the Federal Communications Commission is having to weed through a million comments in the wake of the political battle over Net Neutrality.

While that knife fight was going on a quieter Congressional mugging was taking place in the alley net door. In this case, as dug up by Motherboard’s Jason Koebler, the FCC are the good guys looking out for the interests of communities who are being held back by their home states.

More than 20 states have laws on the books preventing local communities from building municipal fiber networks—the FCC recently said it would help local communities preempt those laws, giving power back to small towns who know what they want better than anyone in the statehouse.

But the Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s amendment, which nearly all House Republicans voted in favor of, would make the FCC’s move illegal.

The real reason for the seemingly hypocritical opposition to the FCC’s decision is that (as you might guess) the politicians backing the legislation are in the pocket of big telecom, and those deep-pocketed companies don’t want to have to compete with anyone.

While not as link-bait worthy as the battle over Net Neutrality this political fight is a significant one. Just who should be controlling access to the Internet? Should local governments have the right to provide basic Internet services to their citizens if that’s what the citizens want?


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Seoul Declares War On Uber

on Monday, Jul. 21st

Uber–friend to upwardly mobile technoratti and drunk smartphone owners, mortal enemy of working class taxi drivers and transportation regulators everywhere–has a new arch nemesis: the city of Seoul, South Korea. The city government is looking into banning Uber as they view it as illegal under South Korean law which forbids unregistered private transportation services.

Uber, for its part, has issued a statement that says it’s just a technological platform and not a taxi service.


Here’s the kicker, from The Wall Street Journal:

The city added that it will launch in December an app that will provide similar features to Uber for official taxis, such as geo-location data on cabs nearby, information about them and their drivers, as well as ratings.

Seoul is one of the most technologically connected cities in the world, but will that translate into the city itself being able to provide an app infrastructure for related services like taxis? There’s no question that from an app UI/marketing standpoint that Uber has become the best-in-breed of hailing services. Which makes their unending protestations that they are not a taxi service all the more grating: taxi dispatchers are functionally middle men, and that’s what Uber is.

Going head to head with an app is a new trick in the war between cities and Uber, but the software maker almost certainly has the upper hand when it comes to design. How far will Seoul be willing to go to break the “sharing economy” poster child’s will?

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Transparency Through Design: Digital LEED Scoreboard Keeps Green Buildings Honest

on Friday, Jul. 18th

Getting a building LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certified by the U.S. Green Business Council has become a badge of honor amongst conscientious developers. Yet the certification represents the green potential of a building while the reality can be a lot different.

Enter the legendary design firm IDEO, which along with the U.S. Green Business Council has developed a dynamic digital scoreboard to showcase a building’s current LEED score. Fast Co.Design’s Heba Hasan has the details:

The plaque acts like a visual scoreboard. It tracks how a building performs in five categories: energy, waste, transportation, water, and human experience. Owners can compare their building’s current and past performance and can examine the building’s overall performance relative to comparable structures. Additionally, they can enter the building’s performance data into the USGBC’s online interface as frequently as they want–but the USGBC will require owners to submit building data at least once a year.

There’s plans in the works for the score to be broadcast via Bluetooth so that passerby can snag the data via their smartphones.

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Augmented Reality: German Firm Shows Off Touch Based UI

We seem to be on a collision course with wearable computing.



Will VR’s Killer App Make You Sick?

Polygon’s Ben Kuchera has a close-in look at the design philosophy going into Eve: Valkyrie, the “killer app” for virtual reality systems.

Image: Rachel I. Berman (Alice); Publicity image by Darial Sneed for Then She Fell.

Immersive Cinema And The Age of Voxelpunk

In the wake of the Facebook acquisition of Oculus VR the issue of the future of virtual reality beyond games has stepped into the media spotlight.


Tribeca’s Storyscapes Returns For An Epic Second Year

The Tribeca Film Festival leapt into the vanguard of transmedia art last year with the inaugural edition of Storyscapes, an event led by TriBeCa’s Director of Digital Initiatives Ingrid Kopp.


Simple Machine Announces Micro-Festival Grants

We’ve been keeping up with Simple Machine, the independent film curation tool for festival and art house programmers, since running across their booth at South By Southwest last year.