For the past five years, give or take a few months, Turnstyle News has been our point of departure for exploring the way culture and technology intersect.
We’ve gone through a few changes in that time, you can see some of the legacy we’ve left behind here , and now we’re going through one more.
The work we’ve done is going to continue on as part of our parent site Youth Radio—and take on a new twist as the next, next generation steps up to define their relationship to technology. Your humble narrator here will be helping to guide them through that journey.
Until then, you can delve through our archive—it’s not going anywhere anytime soon—and see how we chronicled the role of diversity in tech, the reemergence of virtual reality , and the rise of crowdfunding for half a decade.
See you soon,
Head Writer, Turnstyle News
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(Image: Hanzhou Lee, Creative Commons)
Five years is a long time in tech.
Not that Turnstyle News has always been about tech, although when we first started developing the site a big part of it was about the intersection of tech and culture. We kept that Venn diagram going, leaning a little this way, a little that, and along the way kept finding the strange ways that the two worlds collided.
On this, the last active day of publishing at Turnstyle, I’ve put together a little look back at what we were. Year by year. (more…)
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2016 is going to be remembered for a lot of things, too many, really. One thing it doesn’t seem to be on track for being remembered for is as “the year virtual reality broke through to the mainstream.”
While the first wave of major consumer head mounted displays have gone on sale from industry pioneers Oculus and HTC/Vive the market is still the playground of early adopters and developers. Some corners of the tech and business press have been eager to bury VR but as a conversation I had with AMD’s Corporate Vice President of alliances, Roy Taylor, reminded me the industry is still in its infancy.
As Taylor likes to point out, it took more than a decade and a half to go from the first motion picture cameras to the arrival of the Nickelodeon ushered in the movies as a mass medium. We’re “about five years in, in relative terms,” Taylor asserts. (more…)
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As a culture, America loses its mind every four years as every bubbling tension is brought to the surface in the emotional outpouring/long term strategic planning scrum better known as the Presidential Election.
No corner of the culture is safe from this, seemingly increasingly sadistic, ritual. Social media is the eye of the storm, while cable news, comedy, and dinner table conversations create an inescapable cage of mental pain.
Not even video games are safe from the touch of the campaign. There are scores of products in the iOS App Store looking to make either a quick buck or a “real difference” by marrying gameplay with this election’s troupes. There’s plenty of options for playing Flappy Bird or Whack-a-Mole clones with Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump skins, if you’re so inclined.
What you won’t find in the App Store are some of the sharpest satirical takes in game form. That’s because The GOP Arcade, home to interactive hot takes like Trump Toss and the topical Epipen Tycoon was rejected by the App Store.
“We were supposed to release it as an app,” said Brian Moore, one of the small group of friends behind The GOP Arcade. “Apple rejected us because of the content of these games.” (more…)
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How did we get so stupid?
This is the question we will be asking ourselves in 2022, assuming we’ve still got enough active brain cells left to collectively come up with the thought. The answer will be simple: we let algorithms do our big thinking for us.
We should have seen it coming. Hell, we did see it coming.
From James Cameron’s Terminator to Bill Joy’s grey goo prognostications we collectively saw the threat that out of control technology poses to our society. Only we were on the lookout for killer robots and nanoparticle clouds that consume everything in their path. What we really should have been looking for is the zombie virus that is eating away at our neocortex: those friendly, neighborhood algorithms.
Melodramatic? Sure. But when was the last time you were conscious of just how much of your everyday life is being shaped by sleepless, flawed mathematical formulas that are continuously sifting through data in order to present back a picture of reality to you? Maybe you’ve been bit by a the same bug I have, and it happens to you every time you open up—usually under duress—Facebook.
Facebook has built an empire on the strength of algorithms. Much in the way Google did before it. It is on Facebook, however, with the sheer amount of time online users spend within its garden walls, that the broken nature of algorithms becomes apparent. (more…)
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One of the more interesting things about virtual reality is that it is going to be the first consumer medium whose distribution platform is native to the internet.
Oh sure, websites are native to the internet, but the web pages of which they consist are riffs on print pages with embedded elements. We saw plenty of those during the CD-ROM era of multimedia efforts. While every other form of media—from music to video games to movies—have developed distribution ecosystems to either supplement or replace their traditional channels VR is starting online by default. Even “out-of-home” VR attractions are powered by networked solutions.
A lot of the lessons of what does and doesn’t work in internet distribution have already been learned. That’s true if we’re talking about streaming services like Spotify and Netflix or App Stores like Apple’s. The long term smart money is on whoever can establish strong content distribution platforms for VR.
There will be those who will try and own the ecosystem from top to tail the way Apple does with the iPhone. It’s been a lucrative path for them to say the least, but it’s not the only one. Some of the current tension in the high end at-home Head Mounted Display market comes from the battle between Oculus and HTC/VALVE to have the superior store for game content. HTC/VALVE entered the battle with a leg up: they had Steam, which is pretty much the personal computer video game marketplace. Oculus has Facebook’s cash reserves and reach into a billion-plus internet users lives in their back pocket.
Who controls the hearts and minds of early adopters of high end HMDs is important, but it is far from the only battleground. Games and other deeply interactive experiences will have enough variables within their technical requirements that the distribution platforms for them will likely see a tighter integration with the hardware makers. Or to put it in plain terms: platform exclusive games won’t be going anywhere for a few years, if ever. Sorry, fellow gamers.
Straight up 360 video experiences, on the other hand—whether they are music videos, feature length films, or live streams of unfolding events—will benefit from some cross-device standards.
Which brings me around to Jaunt. (more…)
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This piece needs to start with a confession.
Despite being completely enamored with virtual reality for the past three years I still don’t own a Head Mounted Display. Part of the reason is the cost: a top-of-the-line kit can run a few grand when all is said and done. That’s if you want to bet it all on one of the available HMDs. With two strong contenders in the market—Oculus’ Rift and HTC/Valve’s VIVE—it’s difficult to choose.
Over the next few months the choices are just going to get murkier: Sony has PlayStation VR, Google is spinning up their Daydream project, and who knows what 800-pound aluminum and chamfered edged unibody gorilla Apple might be forging in their secret laboratories. At least the Oculus/HTC battle will be a little clearer come this fall when the former’s motion controller solution is made available.
Yet what VR HMD to buy is pretty much the definition of a first world problem. Still: the relative shallowness of the consumer market at present didn’t stop 1.1 billion dollars being poured into the VR and Augmented Reality industry in the first two months of this year alone. (The largest chunk of that being put in the still in stealth-mode AR company Magic Leap.) At times it feels like no investor wants to be left behind on what has been foretold as the absolute future of media.
Which is why I was lucky when I got a chance to talk to Michael Yang of Comcast Ventures last week. Yang heads up that group’s efforts in the VR/AR space, and his dance partners are some of the best in the business. On the content side of things Comcast Ventures has backed Felix and Paul Studios and Baobab Studios, and they’ve made a bunch of strategic investments in social VR, live stream technology, and AR hardware. (more…)
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It’s Friday, and our head writer is supremely caffeinated. Time for a rant about social media.
It’s a day of the week, so it must be time to mourn the imminent demise of Twitter. I know, I know, we’ve bene doing this for at least half of the lifespan of the social media platform, but this year feels different. 2016, after all, is the year that everything good and decent has collapsed into a singularity from which no hope can escape.
In so many ways it is also the year that saw the triumph of the worst of Twitter culture seize control of the mainstream. American political headlines read like a celebrity’s mentions gone toxic. Meanwhile, the actual headlines, and the Facebook trending topics that people actually bother to read, focus on all the celebrity mentions that have gone toxic.
Those of us who have been on Twitter since the early years have watched the company stumble through one lame product launch after another, all while bleeding out users. This week saw a fairly brutal expose by Buzzfeed News that relied on ex-Twitter staff to pretty much lay waste to the company’s failed efforts to curb harassment. The core assessment: that the platform is basically optimized for trolling.
It’s almost impossible to argue with that. (more…)
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This past weekend I spent some quality time at VRLA—which all spelled out is Virtual Reality Los Angeles—the largest expo of its kind, boasting of 6000 attendees. Lines were long for the summer edition on Saturday—which is when the public had access to the show floor—as enthusiasts and the curious came to check out the latest in VR experiences.
It’s funny, now that VR headsets are available commercially you might think that the demand for VRLA tickets would wane. However, it’s still a lot cheaper to buy a day pass and spend some time standing in line to get a taste of the future than it is to invest in a computer capable of running VR software and the head mounted display that makes it all possible.
Here are five things I walked away from VRLA knowing. (more…)
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It has taken just a handful of demos to convince me of the potential of virtual reality.
The first was at E3 2013, when I had my first Oculus experience in the CCP booth. It was the demo that would become their game Valkyrie, which is pretty much the starter Pokemon of VR games. That experience opened up my eyes to the possibilities of the modern age of VR.
Weeks later came the second: as I stood in the Los Feliz living room of a developer and walked around a VR environment for the first time with my own legs. The third was my trip to Nonny de la Pena’s lab, where I saw how journalism could be revolutionized through recreations of powerful events. The fourth was in my own living room as I held a Google cardboard shell to my face while wearing Bluetooth headphones and found myself standing on a stage surrounded by U2.
The fifth great demo happened just this week, some 40-odd stories above the streets of downtown Los Angeles in the offices of Visionary VR. (more…)
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