Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Leap Motion

In 2002's movie Minority Report,  Tom Cruise played the part of Tom Cruise acting as a police officer. The movie was really quite good and worth getting on Netflix.  In the movie, we see Tom looking for evidence on some holographic computer screens, and all he used was his hands to move all that information around.

Cool huh?

Wouldn't it be great to be able to do that...move and control images in thin air?

That's what the Leap does.  It's a tiny little box that plugs into your USB and allows you to control the computer and special "Leap" activated files.

I received mine a couple of days ago and have been playing with what does it do?

Firstly the little box creates a field around it that picks up your finger and hand movements within it.  This is what the Leap sees when you use it...

And here's the "field"...

It's really quite what does it do...

Firstly there's a very cool instructional video introducing you to the movements and utilizing space as a mouse.  There are games like Cut The Rope, The New York times has a very impressive app, and an amazing interactive DNA app that allows you to move the DNA strand as if you were holding it.

The New York Times is interesting. It takes but seconds to learn how to use the app, and then you are pulling stories up, scrolling down the story by just circling your finger, and closing stories by waving over the Leap.  Some of the games are a bit clunky and frustrating if our hand leaves the field and the games stops or in my case with "Fish Run" my fish dies.  But all in all, it's a lot of fun.

There is an app store and it's got quite a lot of stuff in it.  I counted 58 apps for the MAC, including a very cool frog dissection.

So why is this good and is it practical?  At the moment it's a novelty, it's fun and not really practical, it would take less time to access the NY Times from a browser...BUT, this sort of technology is important.  Game play will change because of it.  I think it has immense opportunities for educational content.  The Leap cost $65, shouldn't every school have something like this, it would revolutionize biology, physics, chemistry...and kids would love to learn using it.

Try and get a hold of a Leap, play with it, it's cool, it's very interesting and it makes you look like tom Cruise when you use it, (OK that last part was a lie).

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Pebble

Many years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, television was in black and white, and politicians didn't Tweet nude photos of themselves I backed a Kickstarter campaign called Pebble. The Pebble is a watch that synchs with you smart phone's Bluetooth, and delivers emails, phone call ID, and text messages.  As we all know by now the campaign became Kickstarters most successful campaign to date.

I love Kickstarter.  I have invested and continue to do so in many of the enterprises posted there.  Not only is Kickstarter a superb platform for young companies to get their idea off the ground, but it encourages creative thinking and problem solving. Someone who might have sat on an idea, now has a launch pad to not only try and raise money on an idea, but see the public's appetite for that idea.

Pebble was the ultimate success story.  To date they have shipped over 93,000 Pebbles to 150 countries.  Understandably the scale of their success took the young company by surprise.  They instantly had production problems and logistic problems.  It took a year for my Pebble to ship to me, and after giving that first one to my nephew, I ordered a "pre-order" Pebble for me.  That still hasn't arrived.  What did happen though is that Pebble did a deal with Best Buy to distribute Pebbles.  This has pissed a lot of people on the waiting list off that they would release inventory to the public before fulfilling the remaining 182,000 units, me being one of them.  It clear to say that Eric Migocovsky
and his young management team are trying to keep their heads above water and are not necessarily making the smartest decisions. 

On a whim I ventured into Best Buy yesterday in Manhattan.  They had one Pebble left. It was the last one from  a shipment of 30 watches they had received the previous afternoon.  This is quite impressive, think about it.  a product launched exclusively online with no marketing what so ever sold out their inventory of 30 units within a day in one store, and apparently has been doing so in all stores ever since they started receiving units on July 8th.  The Pebble costs $150, so did Best Buy sell 30 pairs of $150 headphones within a day, or UP bands from Jawbone...I doubt it.  There is definitely an interest in wearable technology, it can't all be early adopter geeks like me.

So what's it like.  I'll break it down into different categories.

Construction:  It feels cheap.  It is plastic, lightweight and feels cheaper than a Swatch.  It is water resistant but not recommended to be worn in hot water, so don't take a bath or shower. It is rated for freshwater and saltwater so you can swim but don't dive with it.  The case is shiny plastic so waiting for the first scratches. The strap a cheap matt rubber.  The buttons on the side feel particularly cheap to the touch.  If Apple has designed this it would feel substantive and of high quality, you notice things like this when you wear it.

Design:  It's not a small watch, (it has to house a lot of stuff), so on my looks OK, but if my wife were to wear one it would look like a Gigantor had lent her his watch.

It has a smart clean look, but again not s sophisticated as one if Apple or samsung had designed it.

Setting up:  The online instructions were complicated and clunky.  It IS easy to setup, but at the same time you find yourself jumping from screen to screen in their app trying to source information on why certain things didn't happen the way they ere meant to.

Synching with an iPhone:  I was able to synch texts immediately, caller ID doesn't work properly, the phone number comes up but no name, which is the main function. It took me into the night to have email synching and to be honest it just started working which makes no sense, but now it does synch with all my accounts and I must say this is the best part of the watch. The watch immediately synched with my iPod/Music on my iPhone and that's a cool feature.  Some of the third party apps do not work as advertised, but as they're freeware, nothing to shout about.

Watch faces: There are a great and ever increasing selection of cool watch faces that you can easily down load.  I have already downloaded seven.

Alerts: The watch alerts you to an incoming message or email by vibrating.  this is really useful as it makes no noise and I can now turn the ringer off on my phone, which pleases my wife immensely.  The alarm also works on vibration and it does wake you up.

Overall this is an exciting product development.  I liken it to when streaming video hit the internet.  Most people had a dial up connection or if they were posh a DSL, and streaming video was in a tiny little player at 4 frames a second.  It was exciting, didn't quite work as advertised, but the potential was huge.  People are going to want to wear and use wearable technology.  This is the tiny rough end of a huge iceberg, it is cool, but what's to come is larger and a lot cooler. One thing I have noticed since synching is an increase in battery drain and my iPhone is a lot hotter than it was, if it explodes I'll let you know.  The Pebble is cool, it will get better.  I predict by the end of the year Apple will at least announce their wearable iWatch, and Samsung also. They will look and feel better than the Pebble and that unfortunately will kill the Pebble business. But for the moment, they own this space, and I think what they have produced is a market changer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Royal baby

Yes I am I don't give a crap about the Royal baby. I hope the baby is healthy, ( as I would any baby), but when CNN, Fox and it seems every news outlet is turning into Royal Baby central...that's just sad.

At the moment in this world of ours, there's a suspected serial killer in Cleveland, a massive earthquake in China, Egypt is still in complete turmoil, the UK is banning online porn, our economic growth is stalled, millions of encrypted radios for the Marshals service have been stolen allowing terrorists to listen to confidential VIP movements, Detroit is bankrupt, children have been poisoned in India, China has detained an English background investigator, there is a need to stabilize the Chinese currency and their economy... but turn the TV on and what you will see is the Royal baby!

This story should be relegated to a funny spot on the boring shows...and that's it.

More important things happening in life.

End of rant.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Snowden traitor or hero?

We all know the story, Edward Snowden, leaked information he thought was in the best interest of the US public about the US's monitoring of he a hero or a traitor.

Let's look at this another way....

You join a company that is developing a top secret software.  On joining the company you sign NDA's and a binding contract that you will not reveal any secret and sensitive material.  After a couple of months you discover that the software the company is developing is morally at odds with you.  If you reveal this publicly, you would be sued, have restraining orders placed against you and probably end up in court for a long time.  That isn't the material of a hero.

So why is Snowden considered by some a hero?

Is there a difference between the NDA's he signed and contract with the NSA he entered into?

Firstly, unless you believe that you're living in a real life Pleasantville, is it ANY surprise to you that your government is monitoring cell phones, emails or any mass electronic communication?  We're certainly not living in Russia, (and neither is Snowden by the looks of it), but it should be pretty obvious that your emails are being scanned/skimmed for telltale words and word chains that might be an indication of terrorism.  It doesn't mean that some poor government idiot is sitting there reading my emails or listening to my calls.  If I could prevent one incident of terrorism, I say go at it, read away, (you'll be bored to death, but read away).

Snowden betrayed the trust placed in him by the NSA, and therefore the American people.  He is now threatening to release more informations, "that could bring down the government".  Firstly, I doubt he had that level of clearance, but even if he did, to threaten this is purely treason. Every government in the world is doing things that we wouldn't be proud to be a part of, be aware of, or probably condone, but it doesn't mean it's not happening.

People were up in arms about water boarding terrorist suspects, it's inhuman and against human rights...well so is flying a plane into a building and killing 3,000 innocent people. If your son or daughter was killed in 9/11 I would imagine you would be lining up to water board anyone to find Osama Bin Laden or anyone to blame.  My point is, things like this happen, and 99% of these things we know nothing about, nor should we.  If you join a government security organization and agree to be bound by their secrecy rules, that's what you're signing up for.  Making public sensitive information and breaking your confidentiality agreement is not whistle blowing, it's treason.

Again, if this were a private company Snowden would be in court now looking a life changing damages.

So Snowden...hero whistleblower or traitor? I say traitor.

Monday, July 8, 2013


UPDATE: So, I just bought an Apple TV to watch Netflix at home. I just paid $99 to enhance our viewing experience. I already had an old Apple TV with iTunes, but it didn't have the OTT Netflix option.  The world is changing.

So how was your Fourth of July weekend?

My wife and I spent six hours watching House of Cards on Netflix.  Now, I know everyone known to the media god has expressed their opinions on how good House of Cards is, and for $3mm an episode it should be, but I have a different perspective.

Over a 48 hour period we watched six hours of one program.  If you deduct eight hours a night for sleep, (we like to get our full eight hours in), that means we dedicated 19% of our time to watching Netflix!!

As reported in an earlier blog, The Business of The Kids Business a new report from cable channel Pivot claims that 13% of "Millenials", (who are now in their mid 20's), have cut the cord from traditional program suppliers and gone web only. Now admittedly, my ancient 45 year old self doesn't fit into this demo, but look what this 45 year old did this weekend, we watched Netflix, not cable.

Why did this happen? Well, House of Cards really is THAT good!  Both my wife and I are completely hooked.  We used the OTT capabilities of Apple TV in the country and the experience was great, and when we got back to the city on Sunday night, our old Apple TV didn't have OTT capabilities, (I must get a new one), so we turned the TV off and watched on a laptop.  As much as I look like a bronzed young 25 year old, I'm actually  as stated before a crotchety 45 year old, what the hell am I doing watching high quality drama on a laptop???  It's really that good of a show!

I pay $8.00 a month for Netflix. In the two months since I signed up I have watched the new series of Arrested Development, (I don't care what the critics say I loved it), and now I am spending hours watching House of Cards. All of these shows are original Netflix productions, and the more I love them the more I a) spend time on Netflix and b) love Netflix as a brand.

If I didn't watch anything else this month on Netflix each episode cost me $1.33 which I don't think is all that bad, (my wife really screws me on the price of the popcorn and concessions but hey), but you know we're going to finish the series so, that's 13 hours at 61 cents an hour.  Throw in a couple of movies a month and we're down to 50 cents an hour. So, I suppose the question is, what would you pay for advertising free high quality entertainment?  So far I am more than happy to pay 50 cents an hour.

If you haven't seen House of Cards it really is a superbly written and acted political drama. Kevin Spacey is amazing, (as he usually is), and the supporting cast are truly great.  If you have ever lived in Washington DC, (I lived there for five years), you will know how realistic the cynical, corrupt, money exploiting plot lines and characters are. This drama is better than ANYTHING I am watching on TV at the moment.  Let's just think about that for a second...better than any other drama on TV.  As we know network TV is in a dire situation. the networks don't know whether to go gameshow, reality of drama. Ratings are down, and cable is starting to fracture in certain demos.  The only stupid thing is I don't own Netflix stock...yet.