Technology

From touch-screen to touch-skin

From touch-screen to touch-skin
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Microsoft’s research lab in partnership with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University has brought life to a true sci-fi-secret-agent concept: Using skin as a touchable gadget! The general idea is simple: A projector displays images somewhere on your body — say, your arm, for example — and a sensor captures your touch. Really cool, right? With such technology you can play games, control an MP3 player, make phone calls, and much more…the possibilities are endless. For a more detailed explanation of the invention, check out the video:

Via:
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18591-body-acoustics-can-turn-your-arm-into-a-touchscreen.html
http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/cue/skinput/
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/03/skinput-turns-your-arm-into-a-touch-screen/
A projector displays images somewhere on your body

End of an Era

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Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things…

Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water or do you want a chance to change the world?

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Click. Boom. Amazing!

 

Everything is a remix – the truth about creativity

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If you are going to watch only one video today – this should be it.

Everything is a Remix Part 3 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

 

Gatekeepers Make a Lot of Sense

Gatekeepers Make a Lot of Sense
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I love Techdirt. Their cynical writing style is fun to read. Their in-depth knowledge is amazing. But they are missing the point in their post about entertainment industry:

Gatekeepers don’t make much sense.

Actually they do. In a world where media distribution was complex and expensive, gatekeepers enabled the whole industry to exist. But now, the internet is changing the game, as Mike says clearly in his post:

But the amazing thing about the internet is that it knocks down fences and walls with ease.

In a world without fences there are still gatekeepers – they are just different ones. Facebook and Google are the new gatekeepers. We need them. We need them to help us find what we want and communicate with our friends. By providing this value they become the new gatekeepers.

I fully agree with Mike’s statement, that the entertainment industry doing as much as possible to cripple innovation. These guys are not ready yet to change their business model. It is probably because there isn’t any viable alternative that will provide the same revenues and profits. But there is no free love – when one gatekeeper collapse, another one is taking its place.

Image by Pink Sherbet

Playbook – #Fail

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I was really looking forward to see a major company releasing a proper contender to the iPad. RIM looked like the best one to do just that. But Walt has some bad news:

“….But that isn’t the biggest distinction between the PlayBook and the other tablets. This first edition of the PlayBook has no built-in cellular data connection and lacks such basic built-in apps as an email program, a contacts program, a calendar, a memo pad and even RIM’s popular BlackBerry Messenger chat system.
To get these features with your $500 PlayBook, you must use it with a nearby BlackBerry phone connected to it wirelessly over a short-range Bluetooth connection. Once this link is made, these critical applications pop up on the PlayBook’s screen, via a system called Bridge.
But these are essentially ghosts of the same apps on the phone. In my tests, I could use them from the tablet, where they looked nicer, and they did synchronize with the phone. But when I broke the connection, the apps became grayed-out and the data they held disappeared. It is all stored on the phone….”

You can’t beat a great product with crap.

Atavist and the New Content Ecosystem

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Couple of days ago I ran across Atavist, a simple and well designed iPad app. This application is simple. You download it for free, but every story you’d like to read costs ~$3. What you get for your hard earned cash is an  in depth article, 12,000 words length, with additional multimedia content. All storied are non fiction, and based on long and in depth research. The writers are well known journalists, writing for Wired and The New Yorker.
As an avid fan of crime films, I bought the story of a famous bank heist in Sweden. The long and detailed story included videos from the heist itself, photographs of the suspects, maps of the event, timeline and more.

I am intrigued by the business model of this publication. Selling individual articles was a model that was discussed in the past. I didn’t believe in it, but the fact that I bought the story, read it from beginning to end, and would gladly pay again for interesting articles, makes me wonder if this model is more viable than I’ve expected. Is this another glimpse on the future of publishing? I am not certain yet. But in the mean time, go, download the app and judge it yourself.

iPad and the (Bleak) Future of Publishing

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eMediaVitals, website geared toward publishers going digital, and FIPP digital content partner,  invited me to write a column about digital media, platforms and business models.
The first article describes  why Jobs is not the knight in a shining armor for publishers, and why technology is not the answer to the challenges the industry is facing.
Would love to hear your thoughts.

You can find it here.

What Makes Quora Such an Amazing Product

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Steve Case, founder of AOL at Kinnernet in Isr...
Image via Wikipedia

The recently launched Quora grabbed my attention as soon as I started using it. I find myself spending more and more time on this question and answers site and it seems that I am not alone.

What makes it so awesome?
1. Authority – I am still amazed with the depth of the answers on the site. Let me give you an example – a question was asked about  the causes  failure of AOL Time Warner merger. While on Facebook and Twitter such a question would be answered by many, but not the most knowledgeable, on Quora, Steve Case (AOL chief at the time) himself gave his point of view on the matter. When a person asked how did Amazon decide to enter the cloud computing market, Amazon’s CTO answered him directly. What else could you ask for? In a sense, the fact that content is edited and removed if not informative enough, makes this platform so great.
2. Content discovery – Quora is all about topics and people. You can follow a topic or person over time and continuously learn more. This is just awesome. I follow the topics I am interested in, and people I value their opinion and knowledge.
3. Ease of use – first time you use it, you already know how to find relevant questions, as well as post your own.
4. Diversity – whenever I login, I find a question about SEO techniques, followed by a philosophical question about the meaning of life. As a guy who loves to read random Wikipedia articles, this site is a great way to learn about topics in the world around us that normally we don’t stop to think about. This thread is a great example.

I love Quora – it’s a key part of my online toolbox. If you didn’t try it yet – I highly recommend you do.

Exploring the Future of Video Communication

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Next week, as part of IMTC’s Annual Meeting,  I am moderating a panel with the leaders of Telepresence and video communication market worldwide, including Cisco, Avaya, LifeSize Communication, Polycom, Radvision and more. Also, we will host standards organizations that lead the way in making video communication ubiquitous – IMTC (event hosts), UCIF and SIP Forum.
You can join the event via phone and video conferencing – all the details here. The event takes place on Wednesday, November 3, from 10:00 – 13:00 PST (Pacific).
If the future of video communication important for you – join us.

Humus Manifesto and Shakshuka Reality

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Shakshuka
Image by STML via Flickr

Michael Eisenberg, an Israeli VC, wrote two thought provoking posts about the way the government  invest properly in Israeli High Tech. From Microsoft and .Net monopoly through iPad banning, to poor distribution of CSO funds, our government neglects the important aspects of maintaining Israel’s technological leadership.
Though not a VC, I’ve worked in several industries, from mobile to internet to media, and I meet a lot of startups in different stages. And I think that though Michael is right in his claims, there is another angle to this story – the core competencies of the Israeli industry is not as important as in the past.

Origins of Israeli High Tech
Israel’s High Tech originated, broadly speaking, from 4 sources:
1. Technological army units such as 8200, Air force and Mamram
2. Universities such as Technion
3. Russian immigration
4. ECI/Comverse RAD group and other major companies, whose employees who jumped ship and opened their own startups.

The strong points of these sources were electrical engineering and telecom oriented know how.

The Best Beta Site
Israel has one of the highest mobile and broadband penetration rates. Therefore, a mobile startup could easily sign a deal with a local mobile operator and make it a beta site. The local mobile industry was at the same level as  European mobile markets, so Israeli companies could launch products in that huge market relatively easily, as it was close to what they had locally. I was a part of such process when working with Flash Networks. First we sold our product to Orange, and then to T-Mobile. We knew what was needed in order to build and deploy a product in such an environment.

Media and Internet are Winning. Pipes are losing.
However, the market changed. World wide innovation lies more and more in internet companies. Hulu is more innovative then Motorola. Google is more innovative (and profitable) then Nokia. Mobile operators are not as important in the value chain as they were before. And Apple is changing the game again and again with innovative hardware and software.

Failure in  Growing the Business
Most Israeli companies are just not big enough, or maybe not with the right culture and financial resources to win over the mobile and telecom market and create the next Nokia or even next iPhone. The last guys who tried it failed and closed shop, not to mention their founder’s financial trouble. Yes, I am talking about Else Mobile and Eli Reifman‘s troubles. So in that area we are basically, well, screwed.

No Longer a Beta Site
So let’s look at the Israeli internet industry. Unlike the mobile market, there is a huge difference between local internet industry to international or American one. While video is growing drastically in the US, and major media companies experimenting with new business models, our market is just too small, too centralized, to make companies feel their bread and butter is at risk. With 3-4 major media players (Hot, Yes, Reshet, Keshet), and two major portals (Walla, Ynet) no one has the incentive to innovate. They are making enough money as is, and digital cents are not even on their map, as no one buys content here.
We don’t have an Israeli iTunes. We don’t have an Israeli Hulu. We don’t have an Israeli Huffington Post. We don’t have an Israeli ereader market (Sorry E-vrit, not enough units sold yet). Come on, iPhone, one of the biggest media innovations, landed here less than a year ago.
Amazingly, there is a huge gap between Startup innovation and portals’ adoption of technology.
So the Israeli media and internet is like Shakshuka – some great cutting edge media technology (eggs) floating in a sea of not extremely innovative portals (tomato sauce).

Culture
With technology less of an issue and winning product is the focus in the online and media industry – culture and media consumption habits become the key for creating a winning company. And, we don’t have the visibility of neither. Cause our local market is so different.

Is This The End?
Is this the end of Israeli startup industry? No. There are several amazing content and media companies here in Israel such as Innovid, Outbrain and many more.
But we need to start think differently. It is not like 8200 will start to create cool video players so Israeli innovation won’t die. But it might be that in the future these units won’t be as important in Israeli High Tech as in the past.

Possible Solution
We need a simple plan – and do the so unIsraeli thing to do- actually follow it. We should encourage Hot, Yes and the major portals to invest in innovation. It might be through tax incentives or other ways, but we should give them a reason to do so, cause they don’t have one now.
We should create special incubators for media companies with international media veterans. I have couple of names in mind.
And we should take into consideration that the market is going to change to the worse for us. As Michael said, we are definitely not competitive in price. If the current situation will continue, we will lose our technological edge as well.

What’s Wrong with this  Post?
If you know me you know that I love well established facts. Unfortunately I don’t have the numbers to back the claims here. It is based on personal experience and being in the industry for 10 years.
Would love to hear your opinion.