Choose Your Own Adventure Comes to Netflix’s Black Mirror

While everyone spent their Holiday breaks blindfolding themselves after watching “Bird Box” on Netflix against the advice of the streaming service, Netflix also rolled out an interactive standalone Black Mirror movie on Dec. 28.  The interactive movie allows viewers to choose the ending.

Image result for bandersnatch

Via NY Times:

“Black Mirror,” the speculative fiction series that encouraged people to be wary of new technology, is now hoping they will embrace it. The Netflix show released just one episode on Friday, a narrative titled “Bandersnatch” during which the viewer decides what will happen next.

It begins like this: Should the teenage video game whiz Stefan have Sugar Puffs or Frosties for breakfast? Soon the choices become more consequential. Will Stefan work at a game company, tell his therapist about his mother, take his meds? As so often on “Black Mirror,” reality is up for grabs.

Viewers are voting on more than who lives and dies on one program. If the response to “Bandersnatch” is enthusiastic, Netflix will take it as a strong signal that the public is ready for interactive movies and television shows, and a new age of storytelling will commence.

Not that the company needs much encouragement. It has already developed software to help organize stories that have endless permutations. It has perfected, or so it hopes, the technical ability to present these tales on multiple platforms around the world simultaneously. And it is calling for producers to submit interactive proposals in genres from horror to romantic comedy while hinting that it already has a few new shows in the works.

The idea behind the interactive push is simple: Viewers will care more if they are complicit.

“If bad things happen, you’ll feel even more crestfallen, because you were responsible,” said Todd Yellin, Netflix’s vice president for product. “If the character is victorious, you’ll feel even more uplifted because you made that choice.”

Source: NY Times, Read More Here.

Why It’s Hot: As more and more streaming services vie for the same pieces of the pie, services like Netflix and Hulu are constantly looking for ways to be the next most talked about show.  If “Black Mirror Bandersnatch” does well, interactive long form content may be the next big thing for entertainment, much like what “Avatar” did for 3D, and what Pokemon Go did for AR.

Stay Tuned.  The Future is Bright. 

UN digitally transforms petitions…

For World Humanitarian Day last Friday, the UN reimagined how logging your objections to important social issues should really work in 2018.

The organization created a “living petition” protesting civilian suffering in conflict zones across the globe that people could “sign” using a 3D image of their faces (according to the UN, 3 out of 4 victims in conflict zones last year were civilians).

The “petition” is being displayed in an installation at the UN from now through next month’s General Assembly, which “has motion sensors that will allow the eyes of the petitioners to follow world leaders and delegates as they enter the UN hall, reminding them that the whole world is watching.”

Why It’s Hot:

There’s no disputing that a wall of faces with eyes that follow you has a much greater potential to impact the people who see it than a list full of signatures. With all the digital technology we’ve seen arrive in the last 20+ years, it’s high time someone used it to transform the “petition”.

[Source]

Adobe’s VR Sound Design Project – #SonicScape

One of Adobe’s newest project involves giving users a 360 interface to edit 3D sounds. Instead of needing to figure out the exact panning, echoing, delays, etc to fake a 3D sounds, this project lets sound designers see and move their audio files in 3D space. This is pretty similar to what I’m used to doing already in 3D games with Unity, but it’s great to see it available for 360 sound design in general.

Why it’s Hot:

  • Innovative way to deal with an interface issue
  • Allows sound designers an easy way to create 360 sounds

It’s just a prototype for now, but may be making into into an Adobe product in the future.

VR Replacement for your PC and 3D Facebook Posts

Oculus’ Connect 4 VR conference held place recently and Facebook announced some awesome stuff. I’ll be focusing on the two that stood out for me, but you can see some others on this article.

First one that caught my attention was the Oculus Dash, Facebook’s new user interface that let’s users customize their VR Home space with the goal of replacing traditional computer monitors in a very Minority Report-style way.

Users can easily open apps and move windows in the 3D space around them. Dash will let users open desktop apps like Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, Spotify, and Chrome.

 

The next that that caught my attention was Facebook’s new 3D posts in the newsfeed. It will allow users and brands to post interactive 3D models right in their newsfeed. These can be simple 3D objects that users can rotate around and zoom in on, or more interactive. For example, the demo below shows how users can open a 3D car door.

 

Why it’s hot:

  • Oculus Dash is helping VR become a replacement for PCs, with it’s dropped price point and new features we may see more users picking one up
  • Brands can now make interactive 3D posts on Facebook

More info:

Evolution of Adidas Product Development

Adidas is creating its first mass-market shoe that is being produced through 3D printing. The shoe is called FutureCraft 4D and it will be in market this year. One unique aspect of this shoe (besides that it is printed) is that the 3D printing allows the brand to customize soles for its customers. Amazing right?!

Check this out too!

Why It’s Hot

I chose this for my Hot Sauce because 3D printing has always fascinated me. This technology was bound to help brands produce products at some point down the line and now Adidas is testing it out. Considering the adaption of 3D printing, its going to be interesting to see how more brands leverage this technology and cut down human labor. At the end of the day, how will this impact jobs?

Google Expands Beyond Maps, Plans to Recreate Building Interiors in 3-D

Google already maps the world, but the internet giant has bigger plans for its next location-based technology.

The Alphabet Inc. unit wants to digitally map the interiors of buildings in 3-D down to a resolution of a few inches, and make money in virtual reality along the way, through a project named Tango.

The company plans a big expansion of the technology this year and ultimately wants to make it ubiquitous, according to a person familiar with the situation. Job postings and recent updates to Tango’s developer software show steps toward this ambitious goal. Google will showcase progress at its I/O developer conference near its Silicon Valley headquarters May 18-20.

Tango packs cameras and depth sensors along with other software into Android smartphones and tablets. Fire up the application and point the device at a space and it sucks in images and depth information to re-create the environment on the screen and locates itself within that new digital realm.

Google hopes Tango will support a system for independent developers to create new virtual reality applications and services. Video games could have characters that hide behind real-life furniture. A museum app could show 3-D animations when you walk past an exhibit. A grocery store could highlight sale items and guide shoppers to the right shelf.

Unlike most emerging virtual reality systems, Tango doesn’t need external equipment to re-create the world digitally. And unlike Google Maps it can figure out the details of a space without additional data sources.

“Tango is the indoor extension of their outdoor mapping platform,” said Lex Dreitser, a virtual reality developer who builds Tango applications.

Tango started in a Google research lab more than two years ago, but the company is trying to take it mainstream this year. It’s going into new smartphones from Intel and Lenovo Group and the software has been updated to let it easily run on more devices. And there are signs Google is working on the most important challenge: Making Tango 3-D maps shareable so the company can someday patch them together into a single, detailed digital representation of many of the world’s buildings, rooms and the stuff inside them.

Google Maps is one of Google’s most successful services, used by more than a billion people every month. It’s stitched into other popular Google services, like Gmail, Calendar and Photos. With more detailed maps, Google could build new advertising and location-based services into its products. It could also offer these capabilities to outside developers, letting them create more powerful applications for its Android operating system.

“If Tango could digitize every single physical commerce place, then all of a sudden Google has an exponential opportunity to place very relevant contextual physical advertising in every space,” said Nathan Pettyjohn, Chief Executive Officer of Aisle411, a mobile commerce and location company that has built applications for Walgreens Boots Alliance and Toys R Us. “It literally gives me goose bumps talking about it.”

Tango could also make Google a potent virtual reality rival to Facebook’s Oculus and HTC’s Vive. The Vive and the Oculus need separate sensors along with their headsets to map a room, while Tango does it with components in the phone or tablet. The closest competitor may be Microsoft’s HoloLens, a headset that integrates the technology. Occipital, a startup, makes a device that can be attached to standard Apple Inc. iOS and Android devices to give them 3-D sensing capabilities. Apple may be working on VR and 3-D sensing too through PrimeSense, a company it acquired in 2013.

Gina Scigliano, a spokeswoman for Google, declined to comment.

In January, Google software engineer Eitan Marder-Eppstein said the technology had “a lot of potential for indoor navigation.” And back in 2014, another Google engineer, Simon Lynen, said the company was researching how to use multiple Tango devices to build large, detailed maps that could be combined and downloaded to devices giving them “a human-scale understanding of space and motion.”

“With I/O it feels like they’re really doubling down on it,” said Andrew Nakas, who has been building Tango applications for two years. “I can do things now I had no expectation I could do back then in 2014.”

Kris Kitchen, an inventor, built an application for the blind using Tango and a backpack-sized speaker called a SubPac. Tango maps a space and passes that data to the SubPac, which vibrates differently according to the proximity of objects. That gives blind people an additional sense — touch — alongside hearing to get around.

For Tango applications like this to reach the most people, 3-D data will need to be easily shareable among devices. That would mean one person could map a museum, and another person could build an application based on the original map, or extend it, saving effort.

Google is working on this by building a system that allows Tango devices to share maps with other devices. It may also weave all these maps together and store the information in its data centers so it can be accessed by even more devices.

Tango will “rely on cloud infrastructure to store, merge, and serve location data to specific Project Tango devices,” Google wrote in a job posting in February for a mobile software engineer to work on the project. The company asked for “experience with Google Maps and other related location products.”

A cloud service would make life easier for developers, according to Pettyjohn. “Right now you have to save these mapping files on the device,” he said. A cloud service would make it so “anytime you need it, you pull down a file on the spot.”

— Bloomberg News

WHY IT’S HOT

This could be an interesting opportunity for retailers to help customers navigate to things they need more quickly, but I question HOW helpful and used it will actually be.  I find the use of Google Maps much more useful since it’s a GPS, but people don’t always need a map of a store.  Could be useful for malls or places where a lot of stores exist in one area.

This 3D Food-Printing Genie Can Make Your Every Wish Come True

A new kind of food processing machine called the Genie can make personalized meals with the press of a button, ready for eating in less than a minute.

The appliance includes the single-portion capsules, ranging from couscous to cake and muffins, and the machine that prints the ingredients into edible foods. Genie can even consider dietary restrictions, including gluten-free and and vegetarian options.

Read more via No Camels.

Why It’s Hot: 3D printing is cool but 3D printing food is hot. We have already seen 3D printers that can make chocolate and print pancakes, but Genie expands this idea to make more personalized food and make it instantly. In addition to the fun tech aspect, Genie also seeks to eliminate food waste, as well as curb obesity by controlling consumers’ meal portions.

Fun technology, plus environmental and human benefits sounds like a piece of too-good-to-be-true instant cake to me. The company is already seeing public interest and are in the mass production stage for corporate clients, arranging thousands of orders from Israel (where it was founded), the U.S. and Greece.

Turn Breakfast into Art with PancakeBot

PancakeBot is the world’s first pancake printer. A Norway-based American maker of an earlier DIY LEGO Pancake Bot is at it again, this time crowdfunding a smarter batter dispenser that 3D prints drawings in pancake batter and cooks them in the order the lines were drawn, resulting in pancake art.

Learn more and watch a demo video to see how PancakeBot works via Tech Crunch.

Why It’s Hot: Perhaps the only thing better than eating pancakes is getting to design them too. PancakeBot’s success with its Kickstarter campaign proves that consumers are enthusiastic about their pancakes – and technology.

While Tech Crunch notes that 3D printing of food is still a niche market, we’ve already seen other edible applications of 3D printing technology. Humans need to eat to survive, and suffice it to say that most enjoy it. Printing and physically designing food makes eating that much more fun. We’ve seen the lengths of 3D printing being tested in other fields, from treating brain tumors to manufacturing automobiles, but PancakeBot provides a unique user experience by enabling – and requiring – consumers’ participation. We’ll have to stay tuned to see what 3D printing will do next.

Mattel’s View-Master going virtual

On February 13, 2015, Mattel and Google announced a partnership to infuse the beloved toy with virtual reality technology.  Using Google Cardboard technology, which lets you create a 3D viewfinder out of cardboard and a smartphone as the virtual reality screen, Mattel plans to update the popular toy.

Now inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fam, the View-Master was introduced in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair after inventors Harold Graves and William Gruber visited the Oregon National Caves the year before.  Graves, president of Sawyer’s Photographic Services, went to the caves in 1938 and saw fellow camera buff William Gruber using two cameras strapped together. The two then collaborated produce the 3D color slide viewer.

According to an article in Yahoo: Tech, “The Internet search giant and the toymaker plan to use Google’s Cardboard virtual-reality platform to offer virtual reality, augmented reality and “photospheric” images, using a smartphone as the display inside a plastic View-Master casing.

The companies plan to come out with the product in October, in time for the holiday season.

    Mattel's View-Master Is Back, and Now It's a Virtual Reality Headset

Why It’s Hot

Nostalgia is always popular, and reintroducing a favorite toy can evoke great memories plus a delight among new generations.  As important, it shows how technology can give new life to older products and make them popular again.

Why Lowe’s is Working with a Team of Science-Fiction Writers

Lowe’s is looking to the future of home improvement, and it’s using physical lab spaces, along with a team of science-fiction writers, to help it envision what that might look like.

“You take all of your market research, all of your trend data and hire professional science-fiction writers. And they write real stories with conflict and resolution and characters. We turned it into a comic book and created possible stories or visions of the future.” (Kyle Neil, Executive Director)

One of those visions involved giving homeowners the ability to envision remodeling projects with augmented reality.

The first project to come out the Labs and science fiction-prototyping is the “Holoroom.” The 20-foot- by-20-foot room allows customers to simulate renovation projects. Customers can create realistic rooms on an iPad — stocked with anything Lowe’s sells, right down to Valspar paint colors — and then enter the Holoroom to experience a 3D version of the room. An app, paired with a printout of the room, allows customers to view and adjust their 3D creation at home, as well as share it with friends.

The Holoroom will be installed later this year in two Toronto-area stores and will focus on bathroom remodeling. The plan is to add new categories and rooms over the next 12-to-18 months. There is no firm plan for rollout in the U.S.

Rumored Amazon Smartphone Heightens Competition with Apple

Following a cryptic tweet from the company’s official Twitter account on June 4, sources are now reporting that Amazon will unveil a new smartphone device on June 18th.  If true, the new device would pit Amazon against Apple in yet another high-growth tech category.

amazon

 

“The companies are increasingly going head-to-head in devices such as tablets and in Web services including online entertainment, as they strive to be digital gateways to consumers. Mobile is central to that effort as more people carry gadgets and do their computing on the go,” cites Bloomberg Businessweek.

The smartphone category, while dominated by large players like Apple and Samsung, remains an area of high-growth, particularly in global markets. So what would this device do to differentiate itself?

“A video accompanying the tweet showed people moving their heads around to view a device that’s just out of sight, shot from different angles, implying the phone may have 3-D viewing capabilities, a feature reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.”

Why It’s Hot

Amazon is looking to continue expanding its brand as a true “technology company” that is far bigger than the ecommerce heritage that built the company. But the move is more than brand-building.  Analysts suggest that Amazon will use a low/moderate priced, high performance device to drive more revenue to Amazon’s other channels and raise the entire boat as a whole. This continues the trend we’ve seen towards the device as a bridge to other services, rather than the intended revenue-driver itself.