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Dead Paradigms – Digital PULP

I often joke with my friends and family about being filled with an intense level of jealousy towards my kids.

 

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I often joke with my friends and family about being filled with an intense level of jealousy towards my kids. All it takes is one look at the technology I used in school, and then to look at the technology they will be using in school to learn with, and I can’t help it. I grew up playing Oregon Trail on a Macintosh computer, that was viewed as the lesser computer at the time. My how times have changed. My kids are going to be introduced to the iPad in Kindergarten. Who knows what they will be using as a learning tool by the time they reach high school.

A seemingly small change in teaching tools is only one example of the many changes, or shifts, our society is going through right now. I would even go so far to say we are in the middle of a series of paradigm shifts.

These paradigm shifts are far reaching and will have a heavy impact on our day-to-day lives, but will have an even greater impact on the lives of our children. Have you taken a moment to sit and think about all of the different industries being changed? It’s alright if you haven’t, some of them are easy to dismiss as another fad when briefly mentioned on the nightly news, while others never even make the nightly news.

An obvious industry currently going through a change is television. Currently, your options are to sign up for cable through a handful of providers, paying a monthly fee for a couple hundred channels. You’re lucky if you even watch twenty of those channels on a regular basis. Consumers waste a lot of money on cable television, and some forward thinking companies know this. Look at Netflix, Amazon or Hulu. All of these companies provide streaming video content, on demand, on nearly any device with an Internet connection — and for a minimal fee.

Not only are consumers able to “cut the cord,” ditching traditional cable providers, and save some money at the same time, but they’re also able to take control of their viewing schedule. As it sits now, you watch what shows are on at the given time they’re on, because that’s what the networks say. With a streaming-only setup, you’re in control. If you want to watch an entire season of “House of Cards” in one sitting, you can.

It’s going to take more than these three companies to get on board with an on demand à la carte approach for the industry to truly change, but the shift has started and I can’t see it stopping. Look at HBO’s original series “Game of Thrones.” There’s two barriers viewers must get through before being able to watch this amazing series: a cable subscription and an accompanying HBO subscription.

Both of which are expensive, especially if you only want to watch just one show. What’s the end result for HBO? Instead of a huge jump in revenue, it now gets to boast it has created the most pirated show of all time. Well done, old cable. Viewers are illegally downloading episode after episode and watching them when it’s convenient. The shift can’t be ignored by larger networks for much longer.

A new technology is going to have far reaching changes across multiple industries. That new technology is 3D printing. 3D printing is here, it’s real and it’s going to change our lives. You may have recently heard stories of a 3D printed skull implant being approved by the FDA. Seems like something from the movies, right? It’s not. I can sit here and go on and on about how 3D printers are going to change the way we shop for, and purchase products. After all, that’s how it’s being marketed: make at home products and medical solutions. Both are true, and shifts that should be taken seriously. But one of the more intriguing, or perhaps frightening aspects of 3D printing has nothing to do with printing out a replacement part for the shelf you just broke. It has to do with guns.

Right now, 3D printers are capable of printing a working gun. Guns made of ABS plastic (the same plastic used to make legos), untraceable and completely disposable. Think of 3D printed guns from the point of view of a cartel. For under $2,000 anyone can purchase a 3D printer the size of a microwave, hook it up to a computer, either download or create the proper CAD files and print out a working gun. Instead of worrying about illegally importing guns, they can build unlimited guns, and dispose of them after being used in a crime in a matter of minutes. And with as much money as a cartel has, it wouldn’t purchase one printer. With the right plans, equipment and personnel, an entire arsenal can be printed.

In the right hands a lot of good can be done with a 3D printer. In the wrong hands, well, it’s not fun to think about what evil can be done with a 3D printer and some plastic, but it’s time we start talking about the potential repercussions. It only takes a few seconds with the right search term on Google and you can find the proper files to print out a gun of your own, should you have access to a 3D printer.

Speaking of Google. Isn’t it amazing the shift we’ve all gone through, without even realizing it, in terms of searching for and finding information? In the past, a trip to the local library was spent doing several searches for books on a topic, reading, more searches and yet more reading were required to gain a basic understanding of a topic. It was a lot of work. Now, with the Internet and search services such as Google, finding information on a topic can be done in just minutes. We no longer view gathering information as a long, boring process, because we get to look for it using technology, and often end up looking a memes of grumpy cat during the process. Compare that to the librarian telling you to be quiet, and it’s apparent why we’ve gravitated to searching online.

I tend to view my computer or smartphone screen as a window, looking at it is the equivalent of looking out into a giant world of information. With the introduction of smartphones, the collection and processing of information isn’t a computer only affair anymore. The shift here isn’t one of desktop to mobile, that’s already occurred, but the shift is from equipment that’s relatively expensive to widely affordable. Right now, anybody of the proper age can walk into Wal-Mart and purchase a smartphone, capable of searching the collective knowledge of the world using the Internet — from anywhere — for under $100. The future has arrived.

Recently I stumbled upon the classic television show “Mr. Rogers” on Hulu Plus and my kids, naturally, were hooked. The first episode we watched was from 1981. I wasn’t even born in 1981. The cameras followed as Mr. Rogers went on a jog to a garage in his neighborhood. I guess you could call it a neighbor’s garage. In the garage, there were a couple of guys who built electric cars. The small cars, which looked more like small trucks, each had 19 batteries with a maximum distance of 50-miles before needing to be recharged.

The episode reminded me just how long people have been attempting to make electric cars and failing. Sure, a range of fifty miles back in 1981 might have seemed like a technological achievement, but it surely wasn’t anything that would have improved the life of the average consumer. It wasn’t going to change a life. This car was built by hobbyists, for hobbyists.

Then I started looking at what we have available in the form of electric cars now. Hybrid cars are growing in popularity, but these cars aren’t true electric cars. You can view them more as a gateway car. The gateway they’re creating is to a 100%, non-gas reliant, electric car. A car with a maximum distance of 300-miles on a single charge, top speed of 125 MPH, fully decked out with the expected features of a 2013 model car and then some.

The car I just described exists, and is available right now for anyone with enough money to purchase. You may have heard of Tesla Motors recently, as the CEO Elon Musk took The New York Times to task over a recent review of Tesla’s Model S.

The review, as it turns out, included some fabricated data by the reporter, in an attempt to discredit how economical an electric car is. Unbeknownst to the reporter, Tesla tracks a car’s data during a review and was able to provide damning evidence the car actually performed as expected.

What was overlooked during the back and forth that ensued between Musk and the reporter was how far technology has come. Tesla Motors is producing cars that are a feasible (in terms of distance, size, features. Pricing is a different story, more on that in a bit.) electric car for the average driver.

Charging your car can be done at home, or at compatible charging stations across the U.S., or by using one of Tesla Motors’ Supercharging stations. A Supercharger will give a car 150 miles of range in just 30-minutes of charging time. No longer are we viewing range by quantity of gas in the tank, but by the amount of miles a charge can carry. Tesla Motors, against all odds, against big oil and without new government regulations is building a network for Superchargers to support electric cars across the nation. In the not so distant future we will be able to go on a road trip, stop at a local diner, charge up our car and take in the local culture and enjoy the fact we haven’t spent a dime on gas (or charging for that matter. Supercharging stations are free to use for Tesla owners.).

The biggest hurdle facing Tesla Motors from going mainstream with its lineup is cost. Right now, you can’t find a Tesla Motors car for under $52,000. To its credit, Musk has announced his plans for getting the Tesla Motors line down to a more economical price point, and it sounds like it will work, but it’s going to take time. With each car sold, the profit goes directly back into the company, furthering research, development and ultimately lowering the cost to produce wallet friendly vehicles. Oil companies should be scared.

Last month in the PULP I took a look at Simple, a banking startup looking to improve the way customers interact with and view banks. The article takes a look at how Simple is not only treating customers the way we want to be treated, but it’s also changing the way we interact with banks. Our society has been shifting to one where we no longer need or want to visit businesses in person, instead we tap on a screen or click a mouse to send a payment, deposit money and order items. Those items are then delivered to our front door the next day, from China. With companies like Simple, this trend is going to continue, and our children will grow up hearing us tell stories: “You kids have it easy. Back in my day we had to get in the car, drive to the bank, sign and walk inside to deposit a check. We actually had to look a lady in the eye to get our money into an account.”

That reminds me of another shift — ordering products online. Right now we order products, select a shipping option and wait X days for it to arrive. Yea, that’s going to change too. Amazon and Google are currently working on same day delivery services. That’s right. Soon you’ll be able to order something from Amazon, and have it show up on your doorstep the same afternoon. It’s currently being piloted in a few select cities, and if all goes well, we will see it rolled out to larger metropolitans in the near future. Talk about instant gratification. Not only can we then take advantage of the unbelievably low prices Amazon offers, but we won’t have to wait more than a few hours to get our hands on the products. Where do I sign up?

There’s many more examples of industries going through a paradigm shift, on some level; more than I have room to write about. Uber is changing the way we view calling a cab, and the prices we pay for mediocre service, by letting users hail a private town car for the same price as a taxi using their iPhone. Every city Uber has launched in, a controversy has followed, often times leading to Uber being ordered to shut down. All shut down orders to date have been reversed, due to user outrage. Right now, Uber is fighting the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and taxi companies in Denver, just to stay open. We sure hope they win. Uber is a threat. It’s a shift from the norm.

The term Paradigm Shift generation applies to us just as much as it does our kids, since they’ll be the ones benefitting the most from the various shifts in logic. Entrepreneurs our age are affecting change, dramatic change in some cases, at all levels across the globe. Whether it’s taking on big taxi’s, big oil or big banks, it’s amazing what a few lines of code and fresh perspective on how things should be, not how they’ve always been, can improve our daily lives.

by Jason Cipriani

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Arts & Culture

Mecheagle v. Rising Sun Robot

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USA Versus Japan

For American robotics company MegaBots and Japanese company Suidobashi it’s battle time. Punches will probably be thrown.   

In 2012, Suidobashi developed a giant robot called the Kuratas, which stands over 13 feet high and weighs just under 10,000 pounds. It can be manned by one person, and features a full heads-up display and an advanced targeting system, or can even be controlled remotely. Costing a bit over $1.35 million, the Kuratas was first revealed three years ago with no opposition in its field, making it the first ever robot of its kind.

Fast forward three years.

Only the most American of ideas conceivable would happen. MegaBots decided they would build their own giant robot, and challenge Suidobashi to a battle that was, until now, only a spark of imagination in our minds. The challenge went viral after being posted to YouTube and was soon seen by Suidobashi.

“We just finished tightening the bolts on the Mk. II, America’s first fully-functional, giant piloted robot,” the makers said in the video. “And because we’re American, we’ve added really big guns.”

After throwing in some details about the features of their robot, as well as details regarding the Kuratas, the team members did the inevitable.

“Suidobashi, we have a giant robot, you have a giant robot… You know what needs to happen,” after which the challenge was offered. America’s MegaBots picked a fight.

In Suidobashi’s response video, Kogoro Kurata, the company’s CEO, replied with several mocking retorts, such as “Come on guys, make it cooler. Just building something huge and sticking guns on it. It’s… Super American.”

Kurata goes on to say: “We can’t let another country win this. Giant robots are Japanese culture.”

The video ends with a message telling MegaBots to arrange the duel, and that Suidobashi will be there. But in order for it to be a real duel, the robots need to have some form of malee combat. The battle is expected to take place sometime in the summer or fall or 2016.

Now, while this may sound like an aggressively playful jab between giant robot companies, many predictions have begun circulating around regarding just what, exactly, this means for the future of giant fighting robots.

Until now, the only field in which robotic technology has received major attention has been in the medical field, which almost creates a comedic tone of irony. Medical robotics have been designed and intended to help people who are in the hospital, and now these two companies are in an arms race to design robots that could easily hospitalize people, in what has become one of the biggest public relations events in the history of robotic technology, especially considering how well-accepted and spread around it has been by social media.

MegaBots speculations suggest giant robots fighting could become the next huge worldwide sport, which, much like UFC or WWE, would be filled with an enthusiastic sense of danger and excitement, minus the actual injury of humans.

Giant robots would also have different limitations than what humans can, causing the style of the fights to be vastly different from traditional fighting-related sports. Robots can fire projectiles from their arms, withstand explosions, be loaded up with a wide array of equipment, and can be reassembled after being destroyed – or, at least, another one can be made to look like the first.

Much like Kurata said in Suidobashi’s response video, the fascination with giant robots fighting one another originated in Japanese culture, most noticeably in manga and anime. One of the most famous of all being the Gundam series, which is easily recognizable by anime fans worldwide for its giant robots (more commonly referred to as ‘mechs’) that fight each other with a mixture of sword fights and gun battles.

Some anime fans may remember a show from year back called IGPX, or, “Immortal Grand Prix” where giant mechs would race along long and convoluted tracks to a finish line, while fighting against an opposing team that would try and get there first.

Looking at the current models for the Mk. II and the Kuratas, both robots have armor, wheels and weaponry, meaning that to see them fighting and racing is, by no means, out of the questions. It goes without saying that, even if their dispute is only aimed at the purpose of entertainment, MegaBots and Suidobashi may be making history as the pioneers of what could be the next biggest sports in world history.

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Watching people game: Twitch TV

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At first glance the name Twitch.tv comes across as more confusing than intuitive.  Something in the realm of a drug side effect than a popular video site. Honestly could you guess that everyday on average 4 million viewers watch over 2 hours of content from it? Content being basically live streams of someone else playing a video game? That’s more viewers per week than Breaking Bad, Preseason NFL, and tosh.0 combined. It’s pretty astonishing if you ask me.

In just a few years the live video streaming service has gone from an interesting niche idea to clogging the internet like a boss. It joins Netflix, Apple, and Google in peak internet traffic claiming 1.8% just above Hulu at 1.7%. There’s also the business aspect of streaming which isn’t just for the hobbyist. Professional streamer Jeffrey Shih told Forbes that the best streamers can bring home upwards of $100,000 on their streams alone. That’s some serious cash for just “sitting around playing games”.

What’s also serious is how Twtich.tv started. Twitch was origionally called Justin.tv and started as the personal site where Justin Kan would lifecast to the world. Lifecasting involved streaming events over the internet usually point of view style. It meant wearing head mounted cameras giving the viewer a very personal and entertaining experience. This concept transitioned over into Twtich.tv by allowing anyone with the right hardware to stream live gameplay over the interent. This last February Justin.tv was dropped in favor of building Twitch 100% and pushing it into the mainstream.

So when your internet speeds start to dip in the evenings after everyone gets home you’ll might be able to blame live streaming.

Strangely enough though this service isn’t exactly on the western radar yet being adopted more quickly by the European and Asian countries. It wasn’t until about six months ago when Google pondered the idea of buying Twitch that it started to really get noticed. Plot twist however Amazon just snagged it for a cool $970 million to add to it’s ever growing portfolio of world domination. It seems as if gaming as a spectator sport is coming to fruition and quickly thanks to huge investments of cash from the tech giant. If they are printing that kind of money you can bet they have a plan for the future, and hopefully it benefits all gamers whether professional, hobbyist, viewer or streamer.

The best streamers can bring home upwards of $100,000 on their streams alone.

The numbers are there and the cash is flowing in, but the biggest question most ask is “why should I care”?

Why indeed. The idea of watching someone else’s game seems pointless. With today’s hardware being so affordable and customizable why on earth would you waste your time watching someone else? Shouldn’t you be playing yourself?

Interestingly enough this is where Twitch really shines. It’s not just about the content but also the micro communities. Built in chat, custom emoticons, giveaways, and other channel specific benefits give viewers a reason to come back daily. That and the content is always new, even if it’s just picking up from the save game the day before.

Steamers can have real time interaction with just a handful of viewers up to hundreds of thousands. The audience can interact and change what they are watching by just commenting. Giving a community aspect above and beyond traditional television or other video sites like YouTube. Gamers have even quit their full-time jobs where they try to make it off revenue from YouTube and Twitch

Over the next few years, with the help of eSports and gaming colleges, you will probably see the entire gaming sector sky rocket. Gaming talk shows, professional tournaments, and overall quality of content is growing by leaps and bounds every month.

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Twitch much like Vine, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks doesn’t make sense to outsiders. However gaming, like every other social medium thrives off personal interaction and just moved to the digital realm. Watching others play games may sound boring, but when you think about it, isn’t that was we did as kids? In our parent’s basement watching our friend make an incredible run on Sonic the Hedgehog. All that’s really changed is now your couch can seat thousands of friends from all around the world.

It’s a good time to be a gamer.

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The $299 NVIDIA Shield Tablet: not just for Gamers

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You can think of the Shield Tablet as a technological utility knife. Not one of those cheap chinese knock offs you’d get at a flea market, but something from the future with lasers and maybe a chainsaw option. Something that would make Dr. Who or maybe even Tony Stark envious. Alright maybe not quite that awesome but it’s still pretty sweet. All jokes aside it’s able to run high end mobile games, stream PC games, connect to your HDTV, watch movies, listen to music, browse the internet, stream to Twitch.tv, make video calls, take notes, draw works of art, hack your neighbors WiFi, post social updates, and more… much much more.

All of these features are thanks to the great specs inside. Now I’m going to have to get nerdy for a bit so brace yourselves (feel free to glaze over this part if specs aren’t your thing). It has 2GB of system memory, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, a microSD slot supporting up to 128GB, mini HDMI out for console mode supporting up to 4K, an 8in full 1080p HD display (275ppi), a 3.5mm headphone jack, a 5-megapixel front camera and 5-megapixel rear camera, a built in stylus for drawing and note taking, built in 802.11n 2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi, a quadcore 2.2GHz ARM A15 CPU, and of course the main feature of the tablet the 192 core Kepler GPU. Not bad for only being 9.2mm thick and 390 grams.

“If some of that went over your head it’s ok, just imagine something along the lines of an overclocked PS3 flattened to a pancake and shoved under an 8in screen.”

“Our three-person startup has grown to 8,000 staff across 40-plus sites.” – Nvidia Blog

Now before I get into the main details of the tablet let me explain a bit about Nvidia as a company itself. Over the last 20+ years they have influenced our daily lives by: continually evolving the GPU, helping Holywood make awesome movies, powering the world’s fastest supercomputers, creating proprietary console GPUs, powering smart gadgets and vehicles, and even helping save lives through GPU based medical advancements. I’d venture a guess that everyone in the last year alone has watched at least one movie or played a game that was powered by Nvidia tech. At it’s core Nvidia is a gaming company though, and no matter how many ventures they expand into gaming will always be a primary focus for them. Hence the move to making an Android based gaming tablet. Nvidia wanted something to upset the balance of mobile gaming and show that console quality games can be played on the go.

Android Gaming: This is where the tablet really shines. I loaded up some of the newest mobile games like: Modern Combat 5, Asphalt 8, Trine 2, Rochard, Dead Trigger 2, Defenders, Bounty Arms, Half-Life 2, Portal, Deus Ex: The Fall, and Dungeon Defenders just to name a few. Needless to say everything ran great. Fast fluid framerates, faster than normal load times, and the ability to run everything on max settings makes for a great experience. Touch screen games look and play awesome on the 8in screen. However the tablets best experience can be had through it’s library of controller supported games.

Shield Controller: This truly is a game changer for the mobile market. The controller feels good in the hands and sports some neat extras like android navigation buttons, a touch pad, volume rocker, built-in microphone, rechargeable battery, and 3.5mm jack for a headset. The analog sticks and D-Pad are what you would expect from a gaming controller and leagues ahead of any bluetooth options on the market. The addition of native android buttons are a nice touch and help more than you would think. The touchpad is a neat option allowing you to navigate non-controller supported screens more easily. The built in microphone is great for giving voice commands or recording over gameplay while streaming. Lastly the headset port on the top allows you to plug in a headset and not only hear all the audio from the tablet but stream voice back if you prefer a higher quality mic than the built in one. It will cost you an extra $60 so it’s not for everyone, but I recommend it if you want the full gaming experience. It’s money well spent, and I’m debating on buying more for multiplayer games.

Gamestream: This is actually a really neat feature that most will probably never use. Basically you can stream your PC games to the Shield Tablet anywhere you have a fast/stable connection. It requires a GTX600 or higher equipped PC and that can cost you almost as much as the tablet itself if not more. If you meet the requirements it’s a great add-on and being able to access your library of games from anywhere is a lot of fun.

GRID: Simply put this is like having a gaming PC in the cloud. Nvidia setup a huge server cluster in California that streams a select library of PC games to your device. It’s still a beta feature currently so it’s free for every tablet user but is limited to only the games they have loaded. From my tests it runs great and almost better than local Gamestreaming even though I’m in Colorado. There’s not a roadmap for the GRID service but I’d like to see them add support for Steam so I can load up my games and saves. I’d gladly pay $10-15/month to have my own personal gaming rig in the cloud. Paired with 4G LTE this could be a game changer but right now it’s just a neat feature to try.

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Shadowplay: This is Nvidia’s fancy name for local recording. You can record anything you do on your tablet and stream it straight to Twitch.tv or save it for editing later. I’ve been putting this to the test by recording lots of gameplay videos which you can view on my youtube gaming channel. It has multiple options for quality that goes all the way up to 1080p. Thats right you can record 1080p games right on the tablet. If you’re into adding your voice and face while you play you can do that too. The interface is simple and quickly accessible from the controller or settings dropdown.

Direct Stylus 2: You read that right this tablet is sporting v2 of the direct stylus tech! Although it’s ok if you didn’t know there was a v1. Basically Nvidia managed to tack on a sensitive and low latency stylus thanks to the power of the Tegra GPU. The built in apps like Dabbler really show off the power of it, but you can use your favorite apps that you would say on a Galaxy Note 3. It works well for taking notes and drawing but isn’t going to replace your Wacom or pen and paper anytime soon.

Pros:

  • Fast…. really fast. Currently unmatched in the mobile realm.
  • It’s a full featured tablet running stock android.
  • HD Screen! Slightly larger than 1080p.
  • Plays every game thrown at it and has K1 exclusives.
  • Can stream full PC games from GTX enabled machines.
  • Comes with a stylus for drawing and note taking.
  • Doesn’t cost an arm and a leg like most of Nvidias new tech.
  • Console grade low latency wireless controller (supports up to 4).
  • Micro SD storage expansion up to 128GB.
  • Built in mini HDMI out for a true console experience.
  • Twitch.tv streaming right from the tablet.

Cons:

  • “Squishy” (hard to use) power and volume buttons.
  • Controller must be purchased separately.
  • Can’t turn on/off tablet from the controller while sitting on the couch (might be fixed through software)
  • Desktop class GPU means lower than average battery life when running high end games.
  • Swiss army knife of tablets (might be too many options for normal consumers)
  • Bugs… too many options means lots of bugs.
  • Quite a few of the first batches have heating defects.
  • Below average WiFi range (this is a bummer).
  • It doesn’t have a “lower case I” or an apple on it.

All in all I’m extremely happy with this tablet. After just a few weeks of daily use I still reach for this over any other device. If you consider yourself a gamer this is an obvious purchase and if not for $299 what are you going to find that’s better?

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