physical

Watch Thalmic Integrate The Myo Armband And Oculus Rift To Get Your Hands In The Game

Waterloo’s Thalmic Labs has a new demo video out for their upcoming Myo armband, a controller that uses the electrical impulses generated when you use your arms and hands to generate input for computing devices. This time, they’ve shown how they built in-house support for the Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headset, and it’s a very impressive look at how well the two technologies are paired.

As you can see, the Myo allows you to control virtual arms in-game as if they were your own, mirroring your limbs’ movements in the physical world. That’s a huge benefit to the sense of immersion that Oculus offers, since it incorporates not only your head and neck movements, but more of your whole body. The implementation that Myo shows here is pretty basic, but they plan to make this available to developers to play with, and you can imagine where it might go from there.

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Gripping a physical sword or gun controller to vanquish in-game enemies? Now a definite possibility. Just make sure the space around you is clear before you go performing any sweeping arcs of your trusty blade.

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Congressman Calls To Ban U.S. Dollar In Response To Plea For Bitcoin Ban

Congressman Jared Polis is calling on the Treasury to ban physical dollars in response to Senator Manchin’s plea to ban Bitcoin. “The exchange of dollar bills, including high denomination bills, is currently unregulated and has allowed users to participate in illicit activity, while also being highly subject to forgery, theft, and loss,” wrote Polis in a statement.

To be sure, the Congressman is being cheeky. “This is just a satirical version of Senator Manchin’s letter, meant to draw attention to the fact that BitCoins are not any more susceptible to the problems that the Senator points out than dollars,” said Spokesperson Scott Overland. “Congressman Polis is not actually calling for a ban on physical currency, but hopes this helps move the debate forward so we can come up with ways to improve BitCoins, not ban them.”

The rather bold request comes on the heels of renewed calls to ban Bitcoin, a controversial, completely digital “crypto-currency” that allows for anonymous transactions–a currency that has been associated with black market activity. Bitcoin has strong champions from the libertarian wing of the tech community, who prefer an untraceable alternative to an official government-backed currency (the dollar).

Unfortunately, in addition to facilitating the black market, Bitcoin is also susceptible to wild swings in value and mass theft. Congressmen who worry Bitcoin will hurt uninformed investors want it regulated or banned entirely.

“The clear use of dollar bills for transacting in illegal goods, anonymous transactions, tax fraud, and services or speculative gambling make me wary of their use. Before the United States gets too far behind the curve on this important topic, I urge the regulators to work together, act quickly, and prohibit this dangerous currency from harming hard-working Americans,” said Polis.

All told it is a rather clever way to reveal some of the hypocrisy surrounding the ban on Bitcoin. At the very least, it’ll continue an important debate.

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CEO Tim Cook Says Touch ID Was Part Of Apple’s Thinking Around Mobile Payments

Apple CEO Tim Cook actually discussed mobile payments directly on the company’s earnings call today, saying that it’s an area that has “intrigued” the company and that mobile payments actually figured in the company’s thinking around Touch ID.

There’s been a considerable amount of discussion around Apple’s potential exploration of the mobile payments space recently, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Cupertino was exploring payment tech and the ability to use iOS devices to buy physical goods. Cook noted that customers have responded positively to being able to buy digital goods including music, movies and apps via Touch ID, and suggested that there’s potential for use of the fingerprint-scanning tech in other kinds of commerce, too.

Apple has also filed a patent recently for a “touchless” payment system that uses a “secure element” on the iPhone to store and protect payment information. Apple already employs just such a cordoned area on its current system-on-a-chip to keep fingerprint data private, and it’s entirely plausible that it could be paired up with a physical payments system given its current use.

Of course, being able to pay with a thumb press at retail stores is a tantalizing possibility, but even just the admission that this is an area Apple is actively exploring is plenty exciting enough. The company has well over 600 million credit cards on file, at least according to the best guesses from analysts, so it’s hard to understate the potential upside for Apple should it start competing with the likes of PayPal.

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LG G Flex, Optimus F3Q Will Be Available On Feb 5 At T-Mobile, Pre-Orders Start Today

T-Mobile has just announced that LG’s flagship G Flex smartphone, as well as the long-rumored Optimus F3Q, will be available starting February 5. Pre-orders for both phones open up today.

The G Flex is one of LG’s most hyped phones yet, with a curved, 6-inch OLED HD display, 13-megapixel camera, and a curved 3500mAh battery.

On T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan, buyers will pay 24 equal monthly payments of $28 alongside their monthly voice, text and data charges. T-Mobile throws in a 6-month membership with Netflix to sweeten the deal.

AT&T already put the G Flex up for pre-order on Friday, and Sprint’s pre-orders open up on January 31, but neither carrier has announced official ship dates or in-store availability.

T-Mobile’s promise of physical, available G Flex smartphones by February 5 could make a difference in the minds of consumers during this pre-order period.

Meanwhile, the Optimus F3Q will be available on the same February 5 date for $13/month.

This is the first official mention of the F3Q, although press shots and specs leaked out last week. As rumors suggested, the F3Q has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a 4-inch IPS TFT display, and a 5-megapixel camera.

Both phones are available now for pre-order.

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Operating a business in the age of the ‘brand experience’

Julius Talvik is co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Unison, a brand innovation company in Washington, DC, that develops physical and digital products for companies around the world. He is multi-talented creative director with expertise that stretches from technical development, identity design, and experience design to music production, print collateral and product packaging.


The business world has been through a remarkable transition in the last three decades, a time that has seen traditional concepts of brand move away from the physical to the virtual world. The preeminent philosophy of these times came to be embodied in a software development term known as “user experience”—what a customer experiences in electronic formats.

The difference, it was believed, between a “good” user experience and “bad” one was the difference between a company’s success and its failure. Thus, user experience became the key to thriving in the digital revolution.

In the last decade or so, however, the preeminence of user experience seems to have come full circle. There has been a shift back toward the physical world in which all aspects of a business—its products, architecture, printed materials, software, mobile applications and everything in between—have to be considered as a unified whole in order for companies to succeed.

The story of how we got here, and what it means to businesses moving forward, is a fascinating tale that holds lessons for anyone willing to tune into its subtle, but powerful messages.

The traditional meaning of the term “brand” emerged in the late nineteenth century and evolved slowly but steadily for most of the twentieth century. A brand was an idea applied to a physical thing; most often it was a product, but could be a service, too. A brand encompassed everything the product or service promised to the customer on rational and emotional levels.

Enter the Personal Computer

Between the advent of the personal computer in the early 1980s to the mid-1990s, however, the notion of brand began to seep into the electronic space—the so-called “virtual world.”

The concepts of branding that once applied to physical things got transferred to digital assets such as websites and operating systems. The old notions of brand did not go away, per se; The Coca-Colas and McDonald’s, the Tides and the Chloroxes of the world still existed – but the electronic world took center stage.

The future of brand was virtual and user experience trumped all. It is important to consider the etymology of the term “user experience.” It is a software term for the relative ease with which a customer can interact with a piece of software to accomplish some desired goal, ideally a goal involving the purchase of product.

Two leading examples of this shift are familiar enough: Apple and Amazon. The “insanely great” Apple operating system and Amazon’s “crush-all-competitors” online marketplace transformed the digital world. In 1999 or so, a third player entered the scene when Google launched its minimalist Web experience.

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Soon, all the complexities of the Internet were reduced to a single box on a white page. The Internet, Google promised, could be had for the simple price of a few search terms and a click of a mouse. It was the ultimate user experience and several multi-billion-dollar fortunes materialized out of that little box on the white screen.

During this time, new verbs entered the lexicon. Business leaders fretted that their companies would get “Amazoned.” Consumers mastered the art of “Googling.” Suddenly, user experience was all anyone could talk about.

Boomerang effect

Then along came the iPod and, with it, iTunes. As if by magic, the virtual and the physical were once again reunited. User experience and brand, it seemed, were not separate and mutually exclusive things, but different aspects of the same concept. The user experience is the brand experience, and vice versa.

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Not only was the iPod a beautiful physical product, an icon of industrial design, but its operating system and the brilliance of iTunes were perfect matches for the simplicity of its design.

Stepping into one of Apple’s new retail stores, it was as if the Apple operating system had inhabited the “geniuses” in the blue shirts, the retail experience and even the very architecture of its stores. If one could use an iPod, Apple promised, one could navigate the store just as easily.

Almost overnight, business experts who only a few years earlier had extolled the age of user experience and cautioned against getting Amazoned were saying that getting “Appled” was the real threat. Today, even Amazon and Google, those paragons of the user experience, are manufacturing consumer devices. Kindle and Google Glass are but two examples among many.

Likewise, Amazon’s warehouses and Google’s campus in Mountain View have become physical extensions of their parent companies, much as Apple’s retail stores and its Cupertino headquarters seem to embody the very essence of Apple.

Implications for business

While this shift to the brand experience is an interesting turn of events, what is the business leader of today to make of the evolution? To me, it means that to stay ahead of the technology/content curve, companies will have to align all brand touchpoints—the physical and the digital manifestations of their brand—around their core principles. This is the “brand experience.”

Increasingly, technology innovation will merge with new hardware devices to connect the disparate consumer decision points of our lives. This is exemplified in the much talked about “Internet of things” where every device we own—our cars, our refrigerators, our wine cellars, our televisions and more—will be networked and controlled through handheld smartphones, laptops, tablets or something else not yet invented.

In this world, where physical and digital are one, the brand experience will become dominant. The philosophy of brand experience is already transforming the retail setting, but it will surely infuse restaurants and entertainment soon enough.

To succeed, and in some cases to survive, companies will have to learn to capture value from their own virtual and physical infrastructures. The Apple Store turns the highest profit per square foot than any other, even Tiffany & Co.

Apple didn’t get there selling diamonds and platinum, mind you, but by applying its exceptional “brand experience” to everything it does—its products and its branded physical environments at the same time.

Businesses will likewise have to develop a consistent voice and tone on all channels. In essence, they will need to create a brand operating system in which the things that work on one device work on all others. This will require a deep understanding and appreciation for the company’s brand pillars and how those pillars apply to each medium and guide the development of future iterations.

Where do we go from here?

The evolution to the age of brand experience will have many beneficial and largely predictable effects on global industry, as well—a sort of 21st century multiplier effect. These impacts will be felt on both sides of the equation, as the ecosystem necessary to support it all will spread into retail, consumer products, shipping and architecture as well as in the sphere of digital design and development.

Companies will have to focus everywhere at once and think hard about how the personalities of their carefully crafted brands get translated into physical and digital things, so that customers can immediately recognize the brand operating system wherever they encounter it. This will require simplification and streamlining to a degree never seen before.

Originally posted here: Operating a business in the age of the ‘brand experience’

The End Of The Library

A simple link. That’s all it took to unleash a hailstorm of angry emails, messages, tweets, and comments. Why? I dared wonder if libraries will continue to exist in the future.

I mean, it’s not that crazy a notion, right? (If you’re a librarian, you’re not allowed to answer that.)

Last Monday, I linked to this piece by Art Brodsky for Wired from my blog. In it, he argues that beyond the recent hoopla around e-book pricing, the real problem with e-books is what they’re doing to libraries. That is, killing them.

As Brodsky notes:

Imagine walking into a library or bookstore and needing three or four pairs of different glasses to read different books manufactured to specific viewing equipment. Or buying a book and then having to arbitrarily destroy it after say, two weeks. That’s just nuts. But it’s the current situation we’re in with ebooks.

He’s referring to the fact that Amazon, Apple, Google, and others now have their own e-book stores which sell goods which only work on certain devices or within certain applications.

Also, while the economics of e-books at a library should theoretically be better (since there is no more physical product, and any replacements or new copies are just a download away), they’re actually far worse:

Take the example of J.K. Rowling’s pseudonymous book, Cuckoo’s Calling. For the physical book, libraries would pay $14.40 from book distributor Baker & Taylor — close to the consumer price of $15.49 from Barnes & Noble and of $15.19 from Amazon. But even though the ebook will cost consumers $6.50 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, libraries would pay $78 (through library ebook distributors Overdrive and 3M) for the same thing. Somehow the “e” in ebooks changes the pricing game, and drastically. How else does one explain libraries paying a $0.79 to $1.09 difference for a physical book to paying a difference of $71.50 just because it’s the electronic version? It’s not like being digital makes a difference for when and how they can lend it out.

And so, with these things in mind, it’s hard not to imagine a future where the majority of libraries cease to exist — at least as we currently know them. Not only are they being rendered obsolete in a digital world, the economics make even less sense. One can easily envision libraries making their way to the forefront of any budget cut discussions.

I know this sucks. Libraries have been an invaluable part of human history, propagating our culture and knowledge over centuries. But recognizing the changing times and pointing out the obvious shouldn’t be considered blasphemy. It is what it is.

The internet has replaced the importance of libraries as a repository for knowledge. And digital distribution has replaced the role of a library as a central hub for obtaining the containers of such knowledge: books. And digital bits have replaced the need to cut down trees to make paper and waste ink to create those books. This is evolution, not devolution.

It’s hard for me to even remember the last time I was in a library. I was definitely in one this past summer in Europe — on a historical tour. Before that, I think it was when I was in college. But even then, ten years ago, the internet was replacing the need to go to a library. And now, with e-books, I’m guessing the main reason to go to a library on a college campus is simply because it’s a quiet place to study.

I do recall the last several times I went to a library in high school — it was to borrow some CDs. (Which may or may not have been subsequently ripped onto a computer…)

The point is, times have changed. And things continue to change with increasing speed. So where does that leave libraries?

Undoubtedly, some of the largest, most prestigious libraries will live on. But the people lurking in them may increasingly look like Gandalf in the bowels of Minas Tirith looking through the scrolls of Isildur.

Meanwhile, some other spaces currently known as libraries may live on as cultural and/or learning centers. Others like the notion of using libraries as some sort of newfangled technology demo pits. Tablets over here! 3D printers over here! One article even likened them to Apple Stores.

There is also the notion of libraries shifting their focus to go further up the stack, as it were, to help content creators earn a better living from their writing. Eli Neiburger of the Ann Arbor District Library has written extensively about this. (Multiple people dismayed by my original link, pointed me to Neiburger’s thoughts.)

But even Neiburger admits that this is likely only a possibility for niche and/or independent writers. The big name publishers and big ticket books are never going to go for this. And again, this may mean a future where libraries have less of a focus on actual books.

All of these prospects for the future of libraries sound nice on paper (figuratively, not literally, of course). But I’m also worried that some of us are kidding ourselves. These theoretical places are not libraries in the ways that any of us currently think of libraries.

That’s the thing: it seems that nearly everyone is actually in agreement that libraries, as we currently know them, are going away. But no one wants to admit it because calling for the end of libraries seems about as popular as the Dewey Decimal System.

It’s almost like some people want to interpret anyone talking about the end of libraries as talking about the end of learning — and, by extension, the end of civilization. The reality is that learning has evolved. It’s now easier than ever to look something up. And the connected world has far better access to basically infinitely more information than can be found in even the largest library — or all of them combined. This is all a good thing. A very good thing. Maybe the best thing in the history of our civilization. Yet we retain this romantic notion of libraries as cultural touchstones. Without them, we’re worried we’ll be lost and everything will fall apart.

So we’re coming up with all these other ways to try to keep these buildings open. Co-working spaces! Media labs. Art galleries? We’ll see. But it’s impossible to see a world where we keep libraries open simply to pretend they still serve a purpose for which they no longer serve.

I’m sorry I have to be the one to write this. I have nothing but fond memories of libraries from my youth. Of course, I also have fond memories of bookstores. And we all know how that has turned out…

[image: New Line Cinemas]

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