November 11, 2010
Tunepresto's Video Music Maker
I met with Tunepresto's marketing guru Owen Cooney in Dublin and our briefing was a bit scattered, but in a good way: partly over food and partly under an umbrella on a walk through Dublin. The guy knows more about the history and myths of Ireland than the last country tour guide I encountered. And, more importantly, is passionate about it. (graffiti, art, legends, and murals too).
Currently, Tunepresto, a video 'music maker,' is a Mac download only, although it is slated to be a web-based solution later this month. Essentially, Tunepresto uses the colors in your video to create royalty free music, perfectly timed to your video or slideshow. I can think of tons of places where you could use a solution like this, so the value-add for me was immediate.While I haven't tried it yet (waiting for the web version), it's so damn easy to understand the benefits. Additionally, their website walks you through every possible scenario where adding music via Tunepresto would give you a 'win' to a creation you're working on. Refreshing.
How many times do you go to a website and know immediately what the company is about and how to use their product? Tunepresto's site makes it incredibly easy to figure out: left is a download, right is a learn more video. Also, they have this fabulous screenshot which walks you through different ways to use their product.
November 11, 2010 in America The Free, Entertainment/Media, Europe, Music, On Australia, On Blogging, On Education, On Technology, On Video, Social Gigs & Parties, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
November 10, 2010
Camara Educates African Communities With Reburbished PCs
Camara's John Fitzsimons tells me about their latest work in Africa during a recent trip to Dublin.
We have both spent time in Africa volunteering and teaching so had some common ground; the difference is John is still committed to making a difference there through his day-to-day working as General Manager of Camara.
It has nothing to do with photography despite the a/e slip in the word that could fool you if you read too quickly.
All about giving back, Carama is a volunteer organization dedicated to using technology to deliver education more effectively to disadvantaged communities in Africa and Ireland.They operate as a social enterprise in two distinct business lines: ‘Education Delivery’ and ‘Computer Reuse’. The connection between these two, seemingly disparate activities is technology.
Essentially they bring in in used computers from Irish companies and individuals, wipe their hard drives of data (in line with US Department of Defense standards), refurbish and load them with educational software before setting them up as Learning Centres in schools in Africa and Ireland. How cool is that?
What's with the name I ask him? It's the Bantu name for one who teachers with experience John says. They currently do most of their work in Lesotho, Zambia, Tanzanaire, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Ethiopia.
"Camara is not the typical NGO," John says. "I'm not an international specialist. The return on investment for us is a social return, not a financial return. We want to be a 'social enterprise.'" They train teachers to use these computers as tools to improve the delivery of education to their students. And, they produce computer training and educational multimedia materials for use by teachers and children.
When Camara was established in 2005, they had two core beliefs: 1) Education is the key for people to break the cycle of poverty they find themselves in; and 2) properly used, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be harnessed to revolutionize the way world class education is delivered to disadvantaged communities.
"The Internet is such a great leveler, creating so many equal opportunities with education and distant learning," says John. More on their program and how they operate below.
November 08, 2010
Meet the 2010 PopTech Fellows
November 8, 2010 in America The Free, Europe, New England, On Africa, On Being Green, On China, On East Africa, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On Science, On South Africa, On Technology, On the Future, On Women, Social Media, United Kingdom, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 11, 2010
F-K The School Districts: Get Your Kids Connected To Music Quickly & OftenOften, I hear my neighbor's kids (2 gorgeous little girls) practice piano - piano teachers & parents make you do that. Every time I hear them practice (daily), I think back to the umpteen years my piano teacher and parents made me do that. Yes, forced it on me. If I didn't practice, I couldn't go out and play, weekend play was limited, friend-time was limited, phone time eliminated and well, the list goes on.
It's not as if I came from a upper class wealthy family with tons of rules and regulations. (NOT). But, I did come from a family with standards on what 'makes a life' and music was high on the list.
The sound of a piano playing in the background, a voice accompanying it, a guitar when we could find one, a flute or a sax or a trombone (which my grandfather played) a welcome addition.
For anyone who has gone through the process in the states or elsewhere, you know the drill. They paid for those damn lessons and you better deliver. I remember how much I resented it at the time and it had nothing to do with the fact that I didn't love to play nor the fact that I didn't love music. It was the thought of failure and not delivering et al.
Yet yet yet, I think about this often and am reminded of it when I hear my neighbors kids banging away. If you have kids who are not playing an instrument, for crying out loud, WHY NOT? Don't wait for the schools (who clearly don't get the value). Just do it. They're your kids, not the government's kids. I posted this on Facebook and someone responded right away with this:
"This is a big issue in our school district, where the administration axed 4th-5th grade music entirely, and it was restored through private donations; the high school music teacher (one for a HS of c. 1,000 kids) was despairing he'd see the beginning of his pipeline dismantled."
Okay, then? F-K the schools. Sorry, but seriously, move on. Get your kids close to music and do it quickly and early. Don't wait for the 'school district' who is focused on too many of the wrong things. Just get your kids close to music AND connected to it. It's not expensive to make this choice if you're creative and you most certainly won't regret it.
Below is a shot I took of an old piano in La Basilica in Quito Ecuador in late August.
October 03, 2010
What Would It Mean If Every Child Had a Tablet?Imagine if every child were issued a tablet computer? This is the next step beyond Nicholas Negroponte's "laptop for every child" initiative. Below he speaks with GigaOm's senior writer Matthew Ingram and Marvell's Co-Founder Weili Dai on the Mobilize stage in San Francisco this past week.
The idea behind creating a new platform opportunity for developers is that getting tablets in the hands of children can help to fix IT literacy problems around the world, particularly in developing nations.
October 3, 2010 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On Africa, On Australia, On China, On Education, On Technology, On the Future, Videos, WBTW, Web 2.0 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
October 01, 2010
Noise Kills 200,000 People a Year in Europe: Sound Design is the FutureJulian Treasure has an interesting talk to get to sound health in 8 steps. He says our increasingly noisy world is gnawing away at our mental health -- even costing lives. His 8-step plan includes advice on softening sonic assault (starting with those cheap earbuds) to restore our relationship with sound.
He notes that women listen expansively compared to men and jokes that if men could take one thing away from his talk, it's to listen more expansively and you'll transform your relationship.
Noise is killing 200,000 people a year in Europe. He says that there's a price we pay from music compression; we have to work harder to get the sound and using bad headsets are part of the problem or using them incorrectly. 61% of students have hearing issues related to poor headphones. Quality 'listening' means you don't have to turn the music up so loud.
The last two things I took from his talk and my favorites: Silence is beautiful. He says the Elizabethans described language as Decorated Silence - how great is that? And secondly: Sound Design is the Future. Julian encourages us to design everything around us with sound in mind.
Acumen Fellows Program Applications OpenThe Acumen Fellows Program is now accepting applications for 2011 and 2012.
The Acumen Fellowship is a one year program that immerses Fellows in world-class leadership training, field work with social enterprises on the front lines, and a community of change makers and thought leaders.
For 2011, they received over 550 applications from over 65 different countries for 10 positions. While each Fellow comes from a diverse background and brings a unique skill set to the Fellowship, below are some key indicators of a successful Fellow:
* Proven track record of leadership and management responsibilities
* Experience working in emerging markets
* Unrelenting perseverance, personal integrity, and critical thinking skills
* Strong passion and commitment
* 3-7 years of work experience
* Graduate degree preferred
Below is a synopsis of some of the fellows and what they have done and where.
October 1, 2010 in America The Free, Europe, Israel, On Africa, On Australia, On Being Green, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On Science, On Technology, On the Future, Science, Videos, WBTW | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
September 28, 2010
Meet Blio: It Transforms e-Reading
Available immediately, Blio features a library of full-color, interactive media content and today’s bestsellers. Apps for iOS, Android and Silverlight platforms are apparently coming soon.
"By providing a full-color, flexible, and interactive experience, Blio redefines the boundaries of the e-book, opening up entirely new categories of multimedia content and, as a result, engaging new groups of readers of e-books," says founder and CEO Ray Kurzweil.
Through its partnership with Baker & Taylor, the world’s largest distributor of print and digital books, Blio will not only offer today’s bestsellers but also interactive rich-media, video, slide-show, and audio enhanced content from more than 100 top publishers, including Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Penguin Group, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster.
Blio offers a library of more than 1 million paid and free titles, and is currently adding new publishers and thousands of new titles weekly. Currently, Blio supports English, French and Spanish, with Italian, German and Asian-language options to follow.
With its ability to reproduce the color, layout and original fonts as in the print version of a book, Blio brings to life a large selection of books that are not available with E Ink devices. Categories such as children’s books and lifestyle books, encompassing travel guides, cookbooks, and textbooks, finally have an e-reader that can deliver the experience to the reader that was intended by the author.
Blio has a host of functions that make it smart, fun and easy to use. Highlights include:
- Blio mimics a book’s printed format like no other e-reader, with files presented in XPS format, which allows digital books to stay true to their original print version. Blio also supports the more limited ePub-formatted books.
- Blio is powered by the most advanced text-to-speech technology, using the Nuance Vocalizer, which allows readers to download two lifelike voices (“Samantha” and “Tom”) for hands-free use. To facilitate reading and learning, Blio provides unique synchronized highlighting of the words being spoken.
- Blio’s full-media functionality allows users to insert notes into digital pages, highlight sections and even look up references on websites, without leaving their e-book.
- Downloaded Blio titles are stored in a personal virtual library, enabling flexible access to content. This library can be accessed easily from numerous devices, allowing users to begin reading their book on a home PC, then pick up where they left off on a netbook or laptop. Future Blio versions will also support tablets and mobile devices and iOS, Android and Silverlight platforms.
August 16, 2010
Singularity Summit Promises to Stimulate Your BrainThe Singularity Summit, held in San Francisco this past weekend, is not new to me since I helped market the very first one, which was held at Stanford in 2006. The goal of the first Summit was to further the understanding and discussion about the Singularity concept and the future of human technological progress.
The idea over time is to improve people’s thinking about the future and increasing public awareness of radical technologies under development today and of the transformative implications of such technologies understood as part of a larger process.
It was founded as a venue for leading thinkers to explore the subject, whether that be as a scientist, enthusiast, or skeptic.
Speaking of skeptics, the last talk of the event was by James Randi, who some think of as a magician, but he is also known as a debunker.
I first learned of Randi's work at TED where he spoke several years ago. The title defunker equates to his strong and very vocal skepticism, which he writes and speaks about extensively. Fascinating as ever, Randi has the ability to draw you into his logic even if you don't necessarily agree with him.
Gregory Stock is a renown biophysicist who I had the pleasure of meeting at PopTech in Maine more than five years ago. What I love about Stock is his ability to move from academic, physicist and author to entrepreneur and philosopher all within a one hour window. He also has a very engaging curiosity about random things outside his world when you talk to him one-on-one that most experts lack. He wrote the book Redesigning Humans, which is considered a transhumanist classic, now eight years ago.
You can't have a Singularity Conference without a bunch of Artificial Intelligence (AI) geeks running around, which at this event, included Eliezer Yudkowsky (also a profilic writer about human rationality), Ben Goertzel, who is Chief Scientist of AI firm Novamente and Ray Kurzweil, who joined us remotely via video and as always, delivered a rivoting and mind-expanding talk.
My favorite line all day was a Kurzweil one: "My feelings about the brain, the mind and AI - If it quacks like a duck, it is a duck. If it seems conscious it is conscious" -- meaning a conscious being.
Below Ben Goertzel on the Singularity Summit Stage
Psychologists Irene Pepperberg and John Tooby (considered a pioneer of evolutionary psychology) also brought their perspective to the table as did neurobiologists Terrence Sejnowski, Brian Litt, Dennis Bray and Demis Hassabis, who is a research fellow at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit at the University College of London.
"Futurists like to predict how genetic engineering and computational implants will allow humans to become a super-species, but few examine the application of similar technologies to nonhumans," says Pepperberg.
David Hanson, who I first met at TED more than six years ago, is a well known roboticist. When I first met him, he was working at Disney Imagineering and while you may not think of a roboticist as an artist, this one is. Formerly a sculptor, he has merged his artistic way of looking at the world with his left brain ability to design and develop a robot with human-like expressive capabilities. He holds a patent on Frubber, a novel material that imitates the look and feel of human skin. I had an opportunity to touch it while I was talking to their very human robot named Zeno. (a video of my experience coming later this month).
Below David Hanson and his very human-like robot Zeno, who has a sexy British accent and has accepted a date with me as soon as he is given 'legs' - I told David I'd fly to Dallas for the occasion.
Also on the agenda was Anita Goel, who works at the intersection of physics, nanotechnology and medicine, Lance Becker, a Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Venezuelan born Jose Luis Cordeiro who is the Director of the Venezuela node of the Millenium Project. Jose, who I met at the cocktail party the night before the event, has been working in Asia. Prior to that however, he lived in Ecuador for a year around the time the currency changed over to the dollar.
Engaging and witty on stage, Steve Mann doesn't look like your ordinary professor. A pioneer in the study and practice of virtual reality, he has been dubbed the world's first cyborg. He even published a book with its name in the title: Cyborg: Digital Destiny and Human Possibility in the Age of the Wearable Computer. Together with collaborator Ryan Janzen, a Canadian researcher, scientist and composer, they demoed the very powerful and mesmorizing Hydraulophone, a tonal acoustic musical instrument played by direct physical contact with water where sound is generated or affected hydraulically.
Below Toronto-based Steve Mann is engaging, interactive and wows the audience with his examples of virtual reality and demo of the Hydraulophone on stage.
Other impressive talks from other disciplines included Shane Legg, who won the 2008 Canadian Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research Prize, Ellen Heber-Katz whose research focuses on molecular biology and genetics of healing, and Ramez Naam, who is the author of More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement.
Since I'm a right brain, I must admit that my favorite part of the day was playing the Hydraulophone, which I'm doing below with Ryan Janzen's guidance and interacting with Hanson's robot, the very endearing Zeno.
August 16, 2010 in America The Free, Conference Highlights, Europe, Events, On Education, On Health, On Innovation, On People & Life, On Robotics, On Science, On Technology, On the Future | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
July 13, 2010
Jeff Bezos: We Are What We ChooseThe below is a moving and inspirational talk that Jeff Bezos made to the Princeton University Class of 2010 at the end of May -- reposted from the Princeton website.
I particularly love his reference to the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice.
Read Jeff's speech below in its entirety: "We are What We Choose."
As a kid, I spent my summers with my grandparents on their ranch in Texas. I helped fix windmills, vaccinate cattle, and do other chores. We also watched soap operas every afternoon, especially "Days of our Lives." My grandparents belonged to a Caravan Club, a group of Airstream trailer owners who travel together around the U.S. and Canada. And every few summers, we'd join the caravan. We'd hitch up the Airstream trailer to my grandfather's car, and off we'd go, in a line with 300 other Airstream adventurers.
I loved and worshipped my grandparents and I really looked forward to these trips. On one particular trip, I was about 10 years old. I was rolling around in the big bench seat in the back of the car. My grandfather was driving. And my grandmother had the passenger seat. She smoked throughout these trips, and I hated the smell.
At that age, I'd take any excuse to make estimates and do minor arithmetic. I'd calculate our gas mileage -- figure out useless statistics on things like grocery spending. I'd been hearing an ad campaign about smoking. I can't remember the details, but basically the ad said, every puff of a cigarette takes some number of minutes off of your life: I think it might have been two minutes per puff.
At any rate, I decided to do the math for my grandmother. I estimated the number of cigarettes per days, estimated the number of puffs per cigarette and so on. When I was satisfied that I'd come up with a reasonable number, I poked my head into the front of the car, tapped my grandmother on the shoulder, and proudly proclaimed, "At two minutes per puff, you've taken nine years off your life!"
I have a vivid memory of what happened, and it was not what I expected. I expected to be applauded for my cleverness and arithmetic skills. "Jeff, you're so smart. You had to have made some tricky estimates, figure out the number of minutes in a year and do some division." That's not what happened. Instead, my grandmother burst into tears. I sat in the backseat and did not know what to do. While my grandmother sat crying, my grandfather, who had been driving in silence, pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway. He got out of the car and came around and opened my door and waited for me to follow. Was I in trouble? My grandfather was a highly intelligent, quiet man.
He had never said a harsh word to me, and maybe this was to be the first time? Or maybe he would ask that I get back in the car and apologize to my grandmother. I had no experience in this realm with my grandparents and no way to gauge what the consequences might be. We stopped beside the trailer. My grandfather looked at me, and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, "Jeff, one day you'll understand that it's harder to be kind than clever."
What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices. Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy -- they're given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you're not careful, and if you do, it'll probably be to the detriment of your choices.
This is a group with many gifts. I'm sure one of your gifts is the gift of a smart and capable brain. I'm confident that's the case because admission is competitive and if there weren't some signs that you're clever, the dean of admission wouldn't have let you in.
Your smarts will come in handy because you will travel in a land of marvels. We humans -- plodding as we are -- will astonish ourselves. We'll invent ways to generate clean energy and a lot of it. Atom by atom, we'll assemble tiny machines that will enter cell walls and make repairs.
This month comes the extraordinary but also inevitable news that we've synthesized life. In the coming years, we'll not only synthesize it, but we'll engineer it to specifications. I believe you'll even see us understand the human brain. Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Galileo, Newton -- all the curious from the ages would have wanted to be alive most of all right now. As a civilization, we will have so many gifts, just as you as individuals have so many individual gifts as you sit before me.
How will you use these gifts? And will you take pride in your gifts or pride in your choices?
I got the idea to start Amazon 16 years ago. I came across the fact that Web usage was growing at 2,300 percent per year. I'd never seen or heard of anything that grew that fast, and the idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles -- something that simply couldn't exist in the physical world -- was very exciting to me. I had just turned 30 years old, and I'd been married for a year.
I told my wife MacKenzie that I wanted to quit my job and go do this crazy thing that probably wouldn't work since most startups don't, and I wasn't sure what would happen after that. MacKenzie (also a Princeton grad and sitting here in the second row) told me I should go for it. As a young boy, I'd been a garage inventor. I'd invented an automatic gate closer out of cement-filled tires, a solar cooker that didn't work very well out of an umbrella and tinfoil, baking-pan alarms to entrap my siblings. I'd always wanted to be an inventor, and she wanted me to follow my passion.
I was working at a financial firm in New York City with a bunch of very smart people, and I had a brilliant boss that I much admired. I went to my boss and told him I wanted to start a company selling books on the Internet. He took me on a long walk in Central Park, listened carefully to me, and finally said, "That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn't already have a good job."
That logic made some sense to me, and he convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision. Seen in that light, it really was a difficult choice, but ultimately, I decided I had to give it a shot. I didn't think I'd regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all. After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion, and I'm proud of that choice.
Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life -- the life you author from scratch on your own -- begins.
How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?
Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?
Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?
Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?
Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?
Will you bluff it out when you're wrong, or will you apologize?
Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?
Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?
When it's tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?
Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?
Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?
I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story. Thank you and good luck!