SiliconANGLE Extracting the signal from the noise. Sat, 28 Feb 2015 13:00:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Apple-IBM partnership is more than a simple hardware distribution deal Sat, 28 Feb 2015 13:00:30 +0000 Continue reading ]]> apple-ibmThe past week saw IBM host its annual cloud and mobile conference, InterConnect, in Las Vegas while the company’s CEO, Ginni Rometty delivered the annual investor briefing to Wall Street. Both events reaffirmed that the Apple-IBM partnership is an important part of IBM’s growth strategy and not merely a distribution deal for Apple hardware.

At InterConnect, IBM launched an iOS-specific version of its MobileFirst Platform, which allows developers to build and deploy native, Web and hybrid apps.

Since its announcement in July the Apple-IBM partnership has produced 10 enterprise iOS apps, which are currently being run in pilot programs to more than 50 customers. A further 90 enterprise iOS apps are planned for release before the end of 2015.

Rometty meanwhile told investors that IBM’s new growth strategy will focus on open ecosystems and partnerships. [Partnerships are] “a way to monetize our innovation and scale it. It started with the Apple partnership,” she said.

On Thursday, IBM released a case study on the first publicized Apple-IBM rollout at St Virgil’s College, an Australian all-boy’s school. The two-year deal is for IBM to supply the school with Apple iPads and Mobile Device Management (MDM).

At the start of the 2015 academic year, IBM will roll out 550 iPads and 900 Fiberlink MaaS360 MDM licenses to manage the College’s new and existing iPad deployment. The MDM solution will be used to centrally provision wireless access, deploy apps, perform email setup, securing the devices and for central document distribution.

“IBM’s experience at an enterprise level, coupled with Apple’s rich mobile ecosystem, is a very appealing combination for St Virgil’s,” said Damian Messer, Principal, St Virgil’s College.

Market watchers and commentators are sitting up and taking notice of this unprecedented partnership. IBM’s partnership with Apple shows that “these established enterprises are beginning to think, speak, and act like entrepreneurs,” said Douglas Soltys, the Senior Editor of Mobile Syrup in an interview with SiliconANGLE’s theCUBE at InterConnect 2015.

Soltys explained that an entrepreneurial mindset is key to the mobile market. This partnership is “more than just distribution,” Soltys remarked, “it’s both companies growing.”

Image: IBM via Flickr
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Esports events drive players to “feel more enthusiasm” and spend more money, says study Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:40:56 +0000 Continue reading ]]> League of Legends tournamentEsports events might not be big earners in and of themselves – quite the opposite, actually – but the buzz surrounding the tournaments and the player engagement they generate has enormous benefits for game makers, according to a new study by Eventbrite.

“The gaming industry is seeing a cultural shift,” Eventbrite wrote in its report, which surveyed over 1,500 people who attended live esports tournaments from 2013 to 2014. “Instead of playing or watching eSports at home—alone or in small groups—fans are seeking more opportunities to come together in person by the thousands to sharpen their skills and watch their favorite players and teams compete live.”

According to Eventbrite, over 12 million gamers participate in live esports events in the U.S. and Western Europe, and that number continues to rise each year. A large portion of esports attendees responded that their primary reasons for going to the live events include participating in the gaming community and watching their favorite players compete. Others go to meet friends they met through the games online, and a few just want to watch the professional gamers to get tips on being better players.

Eventbrite also surveyed demographic info for esports fans, and the results are not especially surprising. On average, fans attending live esports events tend to be male and between the ages of 18-34. Nearly half are college students, and a full 34 percent of which are computer science majors.


Player engagement from esports “translates into real revenue”


According to Eventbrite’s report, gamers who attend esports are more engaged with the game community and are more likely to play longer hours and make more purchases, both from the games themselves and from sponsors of the tournaments they attend. 86 percent “feel more enthusiasm for the game overall.”

“This passion and sense of exclusivity translates into real revenue,” Eventbrite wrote in its report. “These live events effectively market games while also driving incremental purchases in person or in-game the next time attendees play. Gamers have shown that they spend more money and become even more avid fans after attending a live event.”

A full copy of Eventbrite’s study can be found here.

photo credit: IMG_0331 via photopin (license)
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Sony offers “deepest apologies” after deleting list of anniversary PS4 winners Fri, 27 Feb 2015 21:45:38 +0000 Continue reading ]]> PlayStation 20 yearSony Computer Entertainment unveiled a special twentieth anniversary edition of the PlayStation 4 console back in December, and the gray plastic video game system generated a lot of demand due to its limited quantity. Sony held a contest where it chose 123 lucky PlayStation fans to win one of the ultra rare consoles, but somehow the Japanese electronics company accidentally deleted the list of the winners.

“Our deepest apologies for the trouble we have caused to those who entered the previous campaign,” Sony wrote on its website (translation from Kotaku).

The contestants did not only lose out on a snazzy rare system. Because the anniversary edition of the PlayStation 4 is so rare – only 12,300 were made – the game consoles are worth a significant amount of money to the right buyers. One of the console systems sold on Ebay for $20,000, and Sony itself auctioned another (with the proceeds going to charity) for about $129,000. That’s enough to buy around 200 regular PS4s with a little money left over to paint them all gray.




How could a multi-billion dollar technology company lose an electronic list of names? Where are the backups? Have they not heard of cloud storage? Truthfully, Sony does not have the best reputation for data security after multiple data breaches and network outages over the last few years. Mistakenly deleting a list of contest winners is not quite as costly as previous data problems, such as the notorious email leak from the company’s film studio, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Sony has yet to confirm exactly what resulted in the loss of the list of winners, but it will now be holding another campaign to find another group to be awarded with the consoles. People who entered into the previous contest and use the code they received from the first one or go through the slightly more tedious process of sending in their hardware information and serial number.

With mistakes like this and the occasional huge data breaches and denial of service attacks, Sony might want to keep a copy of this one in a safety deposit box somewhere.

Screenshot via PlayStation/YouTube
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Leonard Nimoy, influencer of the Star Trek generation as Spock, dies at 83 Fri, 27 Feb 2015 20:36:45 +0000 Continue reading ]]> spock-star-trek-original-series-nbcToday Leonard Nimoy, the actor best known for his portrayal of Spock on Star Trek, died at age 83. He leaves behind a legacy of a science fiction generation and a swell of fans sad at his passing yet proud of his life accomplishments.

His wife, Susan Nimoy, told The New York Times that her husband died as a result of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The actor announced he had COPD last January in a tweet urging his fans to stop smoking, as he attributed the onset of the disease to the habit he quit three decades ago.

No stranger to Twitter or social media, Nimoy’s last tweet is something that will bring tears to your eyes:

The acronym “LLAP” at the end of the tweet is the phrase, “Live Long and Prosper,” an oft used Vulcan greeting and farewell attributed to the culture of his character from Star Trek, Spock. Leonard Nimoy is best known for his role in what is called Star Trek: The Original Series (or ST:TOS) which only lasted three seasons but spawned a massive cultural outlay in the science fiction community.

Nimoy appeared in several Star Trek related films and an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and recently reprised his role as Spock in the new J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek universe in two movies from 2009 and 2013.


Star Trek Online players gather on Vulcan, home world of Spock, filling 20 instances (50 players each) during an ad hoc memorial after news of Leonard Nimoy’s death.

The actor also lent his voice to the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) Star Trek Online where players are greeted by Nimoy’s sonorous tones every time they visit one of the original sectors of space. The team at STO published their own memorial to Nimoy and some players have suggested a statue of his character added to the planet Vulcan (Spock’s home world) added to the virtual world in game.

His first acting credit is from an odd 1951 film called Queen for a Day, based on a radio program out of Holloywood of the same name. Nimoy’s acting career catapulted him through numerous different films, from science fiction to the ordinary, over the next sixty years. His voice is even featured in such films as Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon and the popular Disney video game Kingdom Hearts.

Leonard Nimoy, as Spock, as an actor, as a man had a profound impact on the science fiction community and he will be remembered. As apparently his role as Spock, and interacting with the SciFi community had a profound impact on him.

The New York Times memorial article on his death includes a quote from Nimoy’s writing about his experience after acting in the original Star Trek series.

He wrote, “To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” to which he added, “Given the choice, if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”

Although the man, Leonard Nimoy, is dead, no doubt his legacy, through Spock, will endure to live long and prosper on film and in the hearts and minds of his fans.

Image credit: Photo by NBC, via Photofest.
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The cheat sheet to following Big Data’s money trail | #BigDataSV Fri, 27 Feb 2015 20:00:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> money drain swirlThe Big Data market is dynamic, with companies going public, others like Hadapt and Revelytix, Inc. being acquired by Teradata Corp, and a lot of technology innovation happening. Large amounts of money have also been changing hands. For example, last year we saw Intel Corp., one of the industry’s biggest Big Data players, invest $740 million into Cloudera, Inc. We also saw MapR Technologies, Inc. complete a $110 million round of financing.

In fact, billions of dollars have been raised in the Big Data space over the last few years, but where exactly has all this money gone and why? These were just a couple of questions answered by Wikibon’s Principal Analyst Jeff Kelly in a presentation entitled “Following the Big Data Money Trail” at last week’s Big DataSV 2015 event at the Fairmont San Jose. In his presentation, Kelly answered the most common questions he gets asked about the Big Data market, which we’ll examine here.


How big is the Big Data market?


Wikibon determined that, in 2014, about $28 billion in revenue was created by the supply side in the Big Data space. This includes all different areas—from Hadoop and NoSQL to all of the related tools and technologies including data warehousing, data integration and professional services. If we look at the Hadoop and NoSQL slice in particular, Kelly said we’re talking about just over $1 billion dollars in revenue in 2014 going into 2015. That’s a pretty small slice of the overall market but Kelly said that’s where Wikibon is seeing a lot of the innovation happening.


Which enterprises are adopting Big Data?


The Global 1000—the really big enterprises out there—are adopting Hadoop and some of the other Big Data approaches, Kelly said. Then we have the companies he described as the “born data-driven startups” or the companies “that have Big Data built into their DNA” (such as Uber, Inc., for example) who are adopting Big Data. But we still have a large number of enterprises that are just exploring Big Data but haven’t really taken any steps to adopt it yet.


What are Big Data’s early adopters doing with it?


On the enterprise side, what Kelly is consistently hearing is that the initial use cases for technologies like Hadoop have been focused more on the cost savings side. He said this includes data warehouse optimization and data warehouse offloading—essentially, the moving of data from more expensive systems to the less expensive Hadoop platform to save money, archive that data, and reduce spend on some of the more expensive technologies.


Why are enterprises still struggling with Big Data?


Enterprises are still struggling with Big Data because Hadoop, in general, is complex. Plus, Big Data is complex and there’s a lot of different components involved; it’s not a simple, monolithic technology. Kelly said even pioneers on the enterprise side are still struggling in a lot of cases to expand beyond their pilot projects and move to more production-grade deployments. They’re supporting not just cost savings but more revenue-generating applications.


How much ROI have these companies been seeing?


Enterprises who have adopted Big Data technologies have told Wikibon that, on average, they have seen an ROI of about 55 cents on the dollar, which Kelly said is “not great.” Plus, since Wikibon did their Big Data survey (over a year ago), Kelly says that the average ROI has actually gone down because adoption has increased but the struggling with the technology continues. “If they’re getting 50 cents on the dollar, they’re doing pretty well in these early days,” Kelly said of these enterprises. There’s still a lot of complexity involved, he said, and Wikibon is seeing most of the use cases still focused on cost savings and less on revenue generation.


What can we learn from previous markets like Business Intelligence (BI) and Data Warehousing (DW)?


We saw consolidation in both the BI and DW spaces when Business Objects SA, Cognos Inc. and Hyperion Solutions Corporation were acquired. Then, in the MPP data warehouse space, Netezza Corporation, Aster Data Systems, Inc. and Vertica Systems, Inc. were acquired. Wikibon thinks we are seeing (and will continue to see) similar consolidation in the Big Data space. In the BI and analytics space, Pentaho Corp and Revolution Analytics, Inc. were recently acquired. In the Hadoop space, Hadapt and Revelytix were recently acquired.

Graphic courtesy IBM

Another interesting development in the data warehouse space in particular was the consumption model, Kelly said. The appliance model—the bringing together of hardware and software—really became the standard way for data warehouse technology to be adopted in the enterprise. Kelly doesn’t think that’s going to happen in the Big Data space, at least not to the extent that we’re going to see a lot of “appliances.” But he said we’re definitely seeing a need for a more platform approach that will tie together the different components into something more consumable for the enterprise.


How will open source help drive innovation in Big Data?


In the BI and DW space, we did not see open source playing a huge role (back in 2007 up through 2011 or so) according to Kelly. What’s really different now is that open source is driving a level of innovation in the Big Data space that was never seen in the BI and DW markets. Nowadays, open source software is not just being accepted by the enterprise, it’s increasingly becoming a requirement. Wikibon thinks this is going to lead to some good outcomes. Kelly explained this by saying, with the open source nature of Big Data generally (and Hadoop specifically), acquisitions will happen but the innovation will continue.

hello my name is open sourceBecause, not only are we going to have new technologies being developed by well-funded startups, but a lot of the innovation in the Big Data space is coming from practitioners—from companies like Facebook and Netflix who are creating technologies internally and then open-sourcing them to the community. This will lead to more startups commercializing these technologies and the cycle of innovation will continue.


Where is all the money that’s been raised?


In terms of venture capital, Kelly said we’re seeing “really crazy amounts of money being raised.” The three Hadoop pure-play vendors—MapR Technologies, Inc., Hortonworks, Inc. and Cloudera, Inc.—together have raised over $1.6 billion. Add to that the NoSQL players and the amount rises to over $2 billion. If you add in all of the other Hadoop players, Kelly said we’re probably talking close to over $3 billion that’s been raised in the Big Data market.


Why do we need billions of dollars to enable the Big Data market?


Kelly said takes time in the open source ecosystem to build the market. This is separate from the innovation, which is happening fast and furious. But it takes time in the open-source community to actually build an enterprise-grade solution or platform that will be accepted by the mainstream enterprise. You’ve got to come to an agreement on some kind of standard, and you’ve got to understand the different concerns of the enterprise—which is not always the sweet spot for startup companies that are focused on an exciting but cutting-edge technology.

It also takes time to build out distribution and sales channels that startups don’t necessarily have. Startups are really good at innovating stuff; they’re not always great at taking that innovation, packaging it, and delivering it to the enterprise in a way that can be consumed.

cash moneyThe other reason that all of this capital is being raised, Kelly said, is because the Big Data market is not confined to small players or startups. The industry big whales—IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., EMC and others—are being very aggressive in this market because they see the opportunity. As a result, startups have to compete for mind share with companies that have huge marketing budgets.


Will the Big Data market be disruptive to the big players?


When the Big Data market first started to evolve, Kelly said people thought it was going to be very disruptive to the big players like IBM and Oracle. “But I would say that that’s actually not the case,” Kelly said. “I think, in fact, the rich are going to get richer. This market is going to be dominated by the big players.”

Kelly said the big players are spending their money on targeted, strategic acquisitions that are going to fill functional gaps with some of the hot new technologies. The big whales are really good at packaging that and delivering it to the enterprise because they have the relationships at the C level; they can actually move this market forward in a way that startups can’t.


How will the consolidation within the Big Data market impact startups?


Kelly said it’s going to be very difficult for the startups to build long-term, sustainable businesses when you have the big players (like IBM, Pivotal Software, Inc., EMC and Oracle) playing such a big role. Will there be any independent players left in five or 10 years? Kelly thinks that Cloudera and Hortonworks are the two companies best positioned right now to be the ones left standing in five years. They got off to an early start, they have laid the foundation for this entire market (along with companies like MapR). The Hadoop slice of the market is where Kelly said we’re seeing a lot of the innovation. Kelly thinks that a lot of the startups that are focused on what he describes as “a particular tool or some segment of the larger Big Data stack” will get acquired.

big dataThat’s not to say that the innovation, the tools and the technologies that these startups are creating are not important because they are. But, as Kelly points out, it all has to fit into the larger, platform approach that mainstream enterprises require. Enterprises don’t want to cobble various components together to enable innovation around analytics or data-driven applications. Kelly said a platform approach also helps from a governance and compliance perspective. When you cobble different things together, it gets more difficult to track things like data lineage and how people are using the different components within the stack.


Why does Big Data itself need to fit into the larger IT infrastructure?


Kelly said that the tools not only have to fit into the Big Data stack but Big Data itself needs to fit into the larger infrastructure, the larger data management landscape within a mature enterprise. And if you even take a step back from that, he said, that needs to fit into the larger infrastructure and some of the innovation that’s been happening in the cloud space. For all that to happen, it’s going to require some significant innovation.


Is this the beginning of the end of the Big Data space?


When there’s acquisitions in a space, people tend to think it’s the end of the innovation. But Kelly thinks this is not the end of the Big Data space. Kelly thinks that, in the next phase of Big Data, enterprises are going to get more mature around data governance. “Not just the technology and bringing it into their environments,” Kelly said, “but some of the other, more process-centric, more non-technology challenges associated with Big Data. That’s mainly around data governance, compliance, ethics, more of the process and people and political issues.”


Real-time and the Internet of Things: Big Data’s next phase


Kelly said we have moved from some of the early use cases (i.e., cost savings in data warehouses) and using a Hadoop environment to do so. But now you can build data-driven applications that are actually going to focus on revenue generation, as well as other applications that are focused on customer data.

Kelly thinks the next phase of Big Data will be moving towards real-time, near real-time, and the Internet of Things. “I think, clearly, when you look at the amount of data being created by essentially objects that previously did not create data, there’s so much opportunity there and so much innovation that’s going to happen in that space. I think that’s where you’re going to see some of the real excitement.”


You can view the video of Jeff Kelly’s presentation in its entirety below.

Also, be sure to catch SiliconANGLE’s archived coverage of Big Data NYC 2015 on our YouTube channel here..



Photo credit: Patrick Hoesly via photopin cc
Big Data graphic courtesy of IBM
Photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc
Photo credit: Damian Gadal via photopin cc
Photo credit: Knee Deep Photography via photopin cc
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Tim Cook clears up rumors about the Apple Watch Fri, 27 Feb 2015 19:48:31 +0000 Continue reading ]]> While many techies anticipate a barrage of products to be launched at next week’s Mobile World Congress, fanboys may be more excited about what’s happening later in the month on March 9, 2015.

Apple, the company behind the bar-setting iPhone device, has sent out invites for its Spring Forward press event, which will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco. There’s a huge chance that this event is the official launch of the Apple Watch, as the press invites coincides with the update of the Apple Watch website.

Apple Watch


When Apple first introduced its smartwatch last year, many were delighted with the possibilities, including its good looks (available in three variantsApple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition), and basic price-point of $349. It features a digital crown that allows users to zoom in and out on the touchscreen without obstructing the user’s view of the screen or to quickly go back to the Home Screen or activate Siri. The Apple Watch also features NFC for Apple Pay and ties in with Apple’s Health App. The exact specification of the Apple Watch has yet to be revealed, but we’ll probably know more on March 9.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently revealed some interesting things about the Apple Watch that puts to rest several rumors.

Poor battery


There have been reports that the Apple Watch’s battery will only last 2.5 hours with continuous use of processor-intensive applications. With standard use, it will last 3.5 hours; if used for fitness tracking during exercise, the battery lasts for about four hours on a single charge. But in low-power mode, the battery will last for two to three days.

According to Cook’s interview, the battery will last a whole day and charging it won’t take as long as when you’re charging your iPhone. Cook didn’t really specify what mode the Apple Watch is on that makes it last a day, but if it lasts a day with intensive use, then fanbois will surely be delighted.

Apple Watch will replace car keys


Key fobs can remotely lock and unlock car doors, and Apple aims to replace them with the Apple Watch. Apple has ongoing efforts in the automotive industry with CarPlay and has big name partners, such as Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo, to incorporate its connected car platform in their vehicles. Wearing an Apple Watch can make it easier for owners of these cars to check on them remotely.

It fights ‘cancer’


According to Cook, being a couch potato is the new cancer and the Apple Watch will fight it. The device has a tap feature that alerts the wearer if he or she has been sitting for way too long to motivate the person to stand up and get their blood circulating. Cook revealed in an interview that aside from nudging the wearer to get moving and monitoring their heart rate, users who get active and exercise enough will get credit for it. No info yet as to what “credit” Cook was pertaining to, but if it’s points that can be spent in the App Store, then that would be awesome.

Filtered messages


Cook stated that the Apple Watch will allow for filtering of messages, which means you can set it so that only important messages will be shown on the watch. This allows you to decide whether you need to take immediate action or save it for later.

It will be a new experience


This is the first time the Apple Store will feature a device that needs to be “tried on,” which could make for an interesting shopping experience. For one, a dummy device won’t suffice, as buyers would want to try out the real thing. Now, if Apple Stores gets overwhelmed with too many fanbois, it could end up getting one of its devices stolen under its nose. Apple could put in place better security for the Apple Watch.

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New starter kits for IoT developers Fri, 27 Feb 2015 17:13:46 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This week’s Smart DevOps roundup features a starter kit to jumpstart developers building hardware for the Internet of Things, a mobile-ready developer kit to connect things to the Internet and a chip that simplifies app creation.

robot robotic hand gold AI artificial intelligence connected internet of things wired


ARM and IBM unveils IoT starter kit

Chip maker ARM Holdings plc and IT giant IBM unveiled an Internet of Things starter kit that is designed to help hardware developers easily test their prototypes. The Internet of Things Mbed Device Platform kit is designed to be set up and used in just five minutes after unboxing it.

The kit includes a preconfigured microcontroller development board that features one of ARM’s Cortex-M4 processors and built-in memory and a sensor expansion board that contains a thermometer, accelerometer, two potentiometers, small joystick, LED light that shows three different colors and a rectangular black-and-white LCD display. The two components fit seamlessly together and can be connected to the Internet using an ethernet cable or onto another device using a USB link.

The IoT starter kit price is pegged at somewhere between $50 and $200 and the boxed kit will be manufactured by Freescale Semiconductor, Inc.


Spark Electron cellular dev kit

Most connected things today gain connectivity via Bluetooth or WiFi, which can be limiting if there’s no available Internet connection. Spark Electron aims to change all this.

Electron is a tiny development kit for creating cellular-connected electronics projects and products. It comes with a SIM card and an affordable data plan for low-bandwidth things. Spark’s SIM cards work in the U.S., Canada and Europe and support for other regions will be coming soon. This will allow devices to connect to the Internet without relying on a network hub.

Electron is currently on Kickstarter and has already raised more than $173,000, at the time of writing, with 33 more days to go.


Simblee chip simplifies app creation process

RF Digital Corp. has designed a new chip called Simblee to allow developers to put mobile application behavior into the devices they create and pass the interface information over Bluetooth Low Energy to a generic framework Simblee app on the mobile device. This allows developers to produce apps for their devices without having to write a line of Swift, Xcode, or Android code to produce working applications for their inventions. The chip also allows the developers to bypass Apple and Google’s app store approval process for the apps they write.

The chip is quite small, the size of a standard SIM card, has an extremely low connection latency making it suitable for use in the IoT space, embedded in wearable devices, toys, and everything else you want to connect to the Internet.

“Simblee means Simple BLE,” said Armen Kazanchian, the founder of RF Digital. “And the two E’s at the end are for Everyone and Everything—as in it can be used by everyone for everything.”

photo credit: Dancing Lemur via photopin cc
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Future Assassin’s Creed games will focus on the modern story more, says Ubisoft Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:45:22 +0000 Continue reading ]]> assassins_creed_brotherhoodUbisoft Montreal’s most recent Assassin’s Creed game, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, shied away from the series’ modern day storyline, which made up a significant portion of the story and gameplay elements of earlier titles, but the Canadian studio has suggested that it intends to return to that aspect of the series in greater detail in the future.

The first five main Assassin’s Creed titles ostensibly told the story of Desmond Miles, the modern day heir to a millennia old legacy of assassins who relives his ancestors’ memories with the help of a Matrix-like VR device called the Animus.

After the events of Assassin’s Creed 3, the series shifted gears and used an unnamed silent protagonist in Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, which told the modern portion of the story through first-person view. In Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the modern day sections were limited to a small handful of brief cutscenes, removing all gameplay and exploration from the modern story portion.

Assassin’s Creed lead writer Darby McDevitt explains that one reason Assassin’s Creed II: Brotherhood was able to include a lengthy modern section was its reuse of the castle town of Monteriggioni from the previous game. The town was already designed and built, so updating it for a modern story segment involved a smaller amount of work.


“Creating any kind of modern day is a pretty huge ask”


Assassin’s Creed: Unity, by comparison, took place in an entirely new environment that had to be designed from scratch.

“The thing with Unity was that it was a completely fresh game on a completely fresh generation,” McDevitt said on a recent livestream. “So creating any kind of modern day is a pretty huge ask. To create a city, for instance, or even part of a city, would require six months of work by many, many artists, designers, modellers. And then you’d need gameplay systems that didn’t feel like you were just fencing.”

But while future games might see a greater focus on the modern story, McDevitt has previously stated that a fully modern story in the Assassin’s Creed universe is unlikely.

“I doubt we would do a modern day AC,” he said in an AMA on Reddit in 2013. “There are just too many mechanics we would have to develop to make it believable.”

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Facebook adds “fill in the blank” gender option for users Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:00:51 +0000 Continue reading ]]> facebook like user finger clickFacebook Inc had already expanded the gender options on its social network to 58 different choices, and now it has expanded that number even further by adding a “fill in the blank” option that allows users to input whatever they want.

Facebook has previously run into trouble with some gender identity groups with its controversial “real name” policy, which requires users to use their legal name for their Facebook profile. This policy upsets many users who do not identify with the gender of their given name and have decided to use a different one.

According to Facebook, the change was enacted to protect its community from fraudulent profiles, but others accused the site of discriminating against transgendered people. It has also affected other groups, most recently Native Americans whose profiles were deleted because Facebook assumed that their names were not real. Dana Lone Hill, for example, lost her account until Facebook restored it after her story received media attention.

Facebook is currently facing a class action lawsuit as a result of the effect of its real name policy on Native Americans.


“This setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way”


“Now, if you do not identify with the pre-populated list of gender identities, you are able to add your own,” Facebook said on its Facebook Diversity page. “As before, you can add up to ten gender terms and also have the ability to control the audience with whom you would like to share your custom gender. We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.”

In addition to the customer gender field, users are also able to select what pronoun they prefer to be used by automated Facebook messages such as birthday reminders. Users can choose to be referred to as him, her, or them. Note that users choosing “them” may face discrimination from grammar sticklers.

The new gender option is currently only available to English-speaking Facebook users, and so far there isno word on when or if the change will make it to other language versions.

photo credit: leeander via photopin cc
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3D Robotics raises $50M to build better drones with mobile chips Fri, 27 Feb 2015 12:45:12 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 8722016447_8656cf49dc_nDrone and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology startup 3D Robotics Inc. has just raked in a massive $50 million in a Series C funding round led by Qualcomm Ventures, the latest in a flurry of investments going into the industry.

The Berkeley, California-based startup also gains a new partner in Qualcomm itself, and will build the company’s chips and mobile phone technology into some of its upcoming consumer drones. It also plans to use the money to invest in the development of new software and UAV designs to support a range of industrial applications.

3D Robotics‘ funding round comes just weeks after the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ratified its proposed regulations on drone use in the USA, in order to “accommodate future technological innovations”. The FAA’s new guidelines states that it’s acceptable to fly drones weighing under 4.4 pounds at altitudes of less than 500 feet, and at speeds of no more than 100 miles per hour. It also says that anyone over the age of 17 can become a “drone operator”, so long as they obtain an FAA certficate before doing so. This means it’s done away with its previous, controversial requirement that all operators hold a private pilot’s license. The FAA’s guidelines are now open for public comment prior to a final decision being made.

3D Robotics welcomed the FAA’s proposals, stating that the regulations would “stimulate a huge amount of drone innovation by allowing the industry to advance at the pace of smartphones, not airplanes. This means drones that are smaller, cheaper, lighter, safer and in the hands of more users, finding more uses than ever before.”

Besides Qualcomm, Foundry Group, True Ventures, OATV, Mayfield, Shea Ventures and a number of unknown investors also participated in the round, which surpassed the original $40 million 3D Robotics was looking for.

The money far surpasses the combined $35 million 3D Robotics raised in its first two funding rounds. It’s used that money to develop a number of surveillance drones that can collect data for real estate agents, farmers and anyone else who might benefit from them.

photo credit: Quadrocopter via photopin (license)

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