UKTV will copy Amazon, ask viewers which shows it should make
When it comes to choosing which new TV shows to make, British broadcaster UKTV is taking a leaf out of Amazon and the BBC’s playbook. The company behind Dave, Really and Watch will produce pilot episodes of shows, asking users of its UKTV Play on-demand platform to vote on which one should become a series. Emma Boston, the executive behind the scheme, believes that the move will enable the company to take more risks and produce shows that’ll cater to different audiences. Recombu is also reporting that the company has asked Sky and Virgin Media to share detailed ratings data in order to help UKTV produce more tailored content. Presumably the company is looking at Netflix’s vast reserves of viewing data with envious eyes.
Filed under: Home Entertainment, Internet, HD
Source: Broadcast (Paywall)
Google set to reveal Android One budget phone hardware in India on September 15th
Not everyone is interested in paying for premium handsets, and Google knows that in many parts of the world, shelling out five or six hundred dollars for a One, G3 or Galaxy S5 simply isn’t an option. The Android One initiative is how Google plans to bring a better experience to folks buying budget phones by providing OEMs with hardware designs — and it looks like the program’s first fruits will be revealed on September 15th in India. Save the date invites went out today promising only an “exciting new announcement” and more details to come. So, no confirmation of Android One hardware, but given that the initial partners in the program announced at Google I/O are Indian smartphone manufacturers Karbonn and Spice, we fully expect to see some new Googley phones in two weeks. We’ve reached out to Google for more info, so stay tuned.
Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, Google
Via: 9to5 Google
Source: NDTV Gadgets
Opportunity rover is getting reformatted after ten years on Mars
NASA’s ironman Mars rover Opportunity, like your five-year-old PC, is about to get reformatted. Problems have been causing the aging vehicle to reboot and scientists suspect that worn-out cells in the flash memory are to blame. Opportunity’s been running for 10 years despite an expected mission life of three months, so even having such problems is a bonus — and its now-defunct twin, Spirit, had a similar procedure in 2009. Scientists will back up the rover’s memory, then send a format command to prevent the bad cells from being accessed. They’ll use a slower-than-normal data rate to reinstall the software, since Mars is currently 212 million miles away and the signal will take 11.2 minutes just to reach it. NASA said that Martian winds have kept the rover’s solar panels surprisingly clean since it hit the ground rolling in 2004 (see the video below). As the picture above from August 10th shows, it’s still doing science and exploration like a boss.
Via: The Register
Vodafone ditches Phones4u to go all in with Dixons Carphone
Dixons Carphone is only (officially) a month old, but it’s already dealt a huge blow to one of its rivals. In its battle to provide UK consumers with the best value smartphone deals, the newly-formed company today announced that it’s signed an “enhanced” sales agreement with Vodafone, sticking another nail in the coffin of rival high street retailer Phones4u in the process. You see, while Carphone Warehouse customers will soon enjoy a greater choice of contracts and pay-as-you-go SIMs, Vodafone has also chosen not to renew its network agreement with Phones4u, which expires in February. The carrier follows O2 and Three in moving away from the retailer, meaning it’ll soon offer just EE and Virgin Mobile deals in-store and online. It could get even worse if EE decides to go it alone, but it hasn’t yet confirmed that it will, ensuring Phones4u has at least one big name network on its books while it attempts to grow its own.
Filed under: Cellphones, Wireless, Mobile
Source: Mobile News
Physicist shows why your WiFi sucks in that one room
If WiFi can track a heartbeat through walls, why can’t I get internet in my corner bathroom? Jason Cole was trying to figure that out too, but unlike me, he’s a PhD student in physics. So he mapped his own apartment and assigned refraction values to the walls (shown above), then applied so-called Hemholtz equations to model the electromagnetic waves. As detailed in his (math-drenched) blog, the best spot for his router was where you’d expect: directly in the center. Since that was out of the question, he was still able to get “tendrils” of internet by placing it in the corner of the apartment. His experiment implies that even in a distant room you could eke some connectivity by judiciously shifting around your laptop. Some commenters want him to turn his equations into a WiFi mapping web service — unfortunately, he thinks the idea is “unfeasible” due to the processing time and assumptions made.
Via: Ars Technica
Source: Jason Cole
UK police threaten companies that sell domains to piracy sites
When a piracy site is targeted by authorities, the owner’s usual trick is to move the website to another domain (and sometimes hosting provider) to re-establish access for users. The Pirate Bay is probably the biggest example of this, which has spent years avoiding internet blocks by leading police on a virtual game of Cat and Mouse. The City of London Police previously attempted to put a spanner in the works by hijacking ads to restrict their cash flow, but it’s now turning its focus to the suppliers of those all-important internet addresses in its bid to limit piracy in the UK.
After requesting that sellers suspend the domains of numerous “illegal” sites late last year, which for the most part went ignored, the force’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has begun issuing a “notice of criminality” to some domain sellers. One company, EasyDNS Technologies, was asked to consider its “ongoing business relationship” with an owner or purchaser of an piracy-related domain in order to avoid “future accusations of knowingly facilitating the movement of criminal funds.” EasyDNS believes the letter is designed to serve as a formal warning, suggesting that if the company acknowledges receipt of the letter but chooses to ignore it, it could then be implicated in a future case. However, without a court order, the registrar believes the City of London Police is treating file-sharing domains like they’re guilty until proven innocent, so it’ll only heed PIPCU’s advice once it’s got the full backing of the law.
[Image credit: Ben Geach, Flickr]
Filed under: Internet
Physics’ best-known lectures are now available to everyone on the web
Ask professors about important physics lectures, and they’ll probably point you toward Richard Feynman’s famous 1964 talks. They led to one of the most popular physics books ever (over 1.5 million English copies sold) and helped generations understand concepts like quantum mechanics. They’ve been available to the public for a few years now, but there hasn’t been an easy, legal way to read them online… until now, that is. The California Institute of Technology has finished publishing Feynman’s lectures in a free, HTML5-based viewer that lets you read on any device with a modern web browser. Even the equations and diagrams are visible on small screens. You’re sadly not allowed to grab offline copies, but these web versions may be perfect for brushing up on the fundamentals of energy and matter before a big test — even if you have to study on your smartphone.
[Image credit: Associated Press]
Filed under: Science, Internet
Via: MetaFilter, Open Culture, Slashdot
Source: California Institute of Technology
What you need to know about the world’s most popular game streaming service, Twitch
Twitch was an accident. The live video streaming service, which boasts over 55 million unique users each month, began life in 2007 as “Justin.tv”: an all-hours video livestream of co-founder Justin Kan’s life. That wasn’t the whole point of the service, of course; later that year, “Justin.tv” opened up to the public, who could then “livestream” to various “channels.” At its inception, Justin.tv was a form of internet television, offering live broadcasts across a variety of topics. One such topic — gaming — took a particularly large portion of Justin.tv’s audience. So much so that, in 2011, the company spun out gaming into its own website: Twitch.tv. Three years later and Justin.tv is dead, the company is now known as “Twitch Interactive,” and Amazon just bought it for $970 million. Not too shabby for an “accident”.
WHAT IS TWITCH?
Like Justin.tv, Twitch.tv is a live video broadcasting service. Unlike Justin.tv, Twitch focuses solely on gaming. More specifically, Twitch focuses primarily on e-sports: the burgeoning world of competitive games played professionally for money.
For example! Twitch hosts a non-stop livestream of “The International,” an annual game tournament. At The International, teams compete in a Valve game named DOTA 2. Twitch broadcasts those games in real-time. This year, over 20 million people tuned in. Over 2 million people tuned in simultaneously at one point. Oh, and the winning team took home just over $5 million.
So, what are those 20 million people watching? They are literally watching live video of a video game being played by other human beings. The live video often has commentary (sometimes by the players themselves, other times by other folks), and often has a picture-in-picture view of the players face. That description can be applied to much of the content on Twitch, albeit with varying levels of production. The International (seen below) is a massive event, so its stream has very high production value.
In short, Twitch is mainly a venue for e-sports fans to watch live e-sports. But there’s another side to Twitch: participation. Within each Twitch user’s channel is an embedded chat widget, enabling the person (or people) broadcasting live video to interact directly with viewers. Interactivity expands the use of Twitch beyond simply watching e-sports being played live.
For example! Game development studio Vlambeer use their Twitch channel to broadcast a weekly stream of game development. Since their game is already available to purchase, fans can offer feedback directly on what they’ve played, see what’s currently in-development, and even influence the final product. It’s a direct pipeline from development team to player.
But these two examples are exceptions to the rule. They represent the “premium” end of Twitch’s content — the “whales” (especially high viewer numbers). Anyone can broadcast games on Twitch — even Engadget! — and, beyond using the web interface on a computer, it’s built into both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. There’s even a new Android tablet with Twitch broadcasting capability built in. That accessibility means that the vast majority of video content broadcast on Twitch is, well, “just some person playing a game.” Some channels attract millions of viewers. Some attract single digits.
WHO’S USING TWITCH? AND WHY?
Twitch’s full user base is enormous: over 55 million “unique viewers” use Twitch annually, and over one million people use Twitch to broadcast each month.
Not these guys
The heavy-hitters — that is, the channels with the most views — tend to be “partners.” Twitch describes its “partner” program as such: “an exclusive group of the world’s most popular video game broadcasters, personalities, leagues, teams and tournaments.” That includes everything from The International to live broadcasts of press conferences; at this year’s big gaming trade show, E3, Twitch carried live broadcasts of every console maker’s press conference.
That said, the people broadcasting on Twitch vary dramatically. Though e-sports dominates the most-viewed list, Twitch is home to some incredible — and incredibly bizarre — user-generated content. Take, for instance, “Twitch Plays Pokémon.” Using Twitch, a programmer in Australia created an interactive game for Twitch viewers. He combined an emulation of GameBoy classic Pokémon Red with a bot that took text from chat. If a viewer entered “up” in chat, the character in Pokémon Red would move up. Simple enough! It becomes far less simple when hundreds of thousands of people are entering commands all at once. The result is what you see below.
Unbelievably, the game was eventually completed solely based on community commands. The system actually defeated a whole mess of Pokémon games. And now, fish are getting in on the action. Really!
Yet another use of Twitch: the phenomenon known as “speedrunning.” The term literally means to complete a game as quickly as possible. Sound lame? Watch this incredible video of Nintendo classic Mario 64 being defeated in under 10 minutes.
One particularly interesting subcommunity is helmed by the group “Games Done Quick” (GDQ). Each year, the group holds two marathons of non-stop live speedruns in an effort to raise money for charity (this summer’s event already happened, and they raised over $700K for Doctors Without Borders). In total, the group’s raised just shy of $3 million for charity by playing games as fast as humanly possible while live broadcasting the whole thing.
As for the general public, live broadcasting became far more mainstream when it entered the living room. With Xbox One and PlayStation 4, living rooms were suddenly thrust online in full view of the world. In the case of PlayStation 4 tech showcase The Playroom, Twitch was forced to outright ban the game; it enabled users to directly broadcast a full screen video feed of their living room. As you can imagine, that led to some occasionally lurid content.
Of course, that’s also the exception — many are simply using Twitch, and game broadcasting in general, as a social platform. Their friends are online, and they can participate remotely in each other’s games, follow the same people, and broadcast or watch together. It fosters community, and it’s instantly relatable to a generation that’s grown up with fast internet and computer ubiquity. As Ben Davis wrote in a recent New York Magazine piece, “So much of social life has migrated online already; why wouldn’t it be the entertainment that was live and social and digital that feels most vital?”
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Perhaps you like money? With Twitch’s huge user base, there’s plenty of opportunity to jump in and get broadcasting. Between running ads on your content through Twitch’s partner program and charging a subscription price to your channel (which gives viewers an ad-free experience), you could make it a full-time gig. Of course, you’re one of millions. But that never stopped anyone before, right?
Okay, okay — let’s appeal to your more reasonable senses. This whole e-sports and live broadcasting thing is quickly becoming a pretty big deal. Maybe you dig traditional sports? E-sports might be your thing. The same rivalries transpire, and it’s full of the same human emotion. All the words they’re saying might sound like jargon at first, but that disappears after a few intense matches pique your interest.
Though e-sports gained prominence with the mass popularity of competitive first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and Halo, the game dominating Twitch’s charts now are of the “MOBA” genre (multiplayer online battle arena). Of this genre, millions are playing League of Legends and DOTA 2. Though from different developers and made independently of each other, both games are nigh identical in the way they play. Like sports, there is only one “arena” where players compete. Teams battle for control of the other’s side, carefully organizing tactics and strategies to win. In so many words, it’s a hell of a lot like traditional sports.
Loaded as the term “e-sports” may sound, Twitch offers a great (and free) opportunity to give them a shot. At very least, the fantasy sports players among you will feel right at home.
WANT EVEN MORE?
Despite Twitch’s relative newness as a company and service, there’s been quite a bit of words spilled in that time. From New York Magazine‘s excellent recent breakdown of the company’s purchase by Amazon, to our sister site Joystiq‘s coverage of Twitch Plays Pokémon, to The Next Web‘s interview with Twitch when the company spun out its video game arm, there’s quite a bit of material out there. Oh, and there’s the BBC‘s recent take on defining the service’s importance to the uninitiated (seen above) and this recent piece from the New York Times which digs in on e-sports.
[Image credit: Twitch (ESL TV), BBC Newsnight (“What is Twitch?”), Suzi Pratt/FilmMagic (The International DOTA 2 Championships, 2014), Vlambeer (Nuclear Throne devstream), Shutterstock (“Gamers”), Twitch Plays Pokémon (via Joystiq), Twitch (Fish Plays Pokémon), Sony Computer Entertainment/Reddit (The Playroom), YouTube]
Filed under: Gaming, Internet, Software, HD, Sony, Microsoft
Possible 5.5-Inch iPhone 6 Rear Shell Showcased in New Video
A video showcasing what is claimed to be the rear shell of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 was published today by Nowhereelse.fr. While component leaks have been abundant for the 4.7-inch version, this is one of only a few leaks for the 5.5-inch iPhone, which is rumored to be entering production in September. The site’s sources also claim Apple has selected “iPhone Air” as the name for this larger iPhone version.
The metal frame in this latest leak is similar in appearance to a rear shell that appeared last month. Both shells have thick antenna breaks, a rounded opening for an updated True Tone flash, a cutout for the Apple logo, a space for elongated volume buttons and a side mounted power button.
Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 6 at an event scheduled for September 9th at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California. While it most certainly is an iPhone event, it is not known whether the company will announce both the 4.7-inch and the 5.5-inch models at this time.
If Apple introduces the 5.5-inch model on September 9th, the company may stagger the retail sales of the two phones, offering the 4.7-inch model sometime in September and waiting to ship the 5.5-inch version until the end of the year due to production issues.
Sony’s RX10 camera now shoots higher-quality video at a lower price
Sony’s Cyber-shot RX10 is a pretty capable camera, but it still has weaknesses: it doesn’t shoot super high-quality XAVC-S video, and that steep $1,300 price is bound to steer some people toward DSLRs and mirrorless cams. Well, consider both of those problems licked. Sony has just put out new firmware (installable through Macs and Windows PCs) that lets it record in XAVC-S and preserve more detail in your movies. At the same time, the RX10′s price has dropped to $1,000; that’s still a lot of money to shell out for a camera with a non-replaceable lens, but it’s definitely more accessible. If you’ve been holding out for a few more reasons to try this superzoom, you may want to take another look.
Source: Sony (Mac), (Windows)