Monday, November 16, 2015

IT News Head Lines (Techradar) 17/11/2015


Why On-Demand is the future of cinema
Why On-Demand is the future of cinema
I've always been an avid cinephile, a lover of the entire moviegoing experience. Ever since I was a child, I've made a habit of seeing at least one new movie per week in a cinema.
But over the past few years ticket prices have skyrocketed, audience members have become more annoying and quality films have been pushed aside in favour of mega-budgeted nonsense. The act of going to an actual theatre has started to lose a lot of its lustre for me.
As we move toward an era where franchises and special effects films dominate the local multiplex, the idea of staying home to watch smaller, character-driven films is becoming more and more appealing.
While the release of new films via the video on demand model has been around for some time, there's always been a low-budget stigma attached to it that would suggest these movies would've gone straight to video anyway.
Thankfully, the simultaneous theatrical and streaming release of Netflix's first original film, Beasts of No Nation – plus several other films soon to be released – are causing that notion to evaporate.

Better than previous VOD attempts

Why On-Demand is the future of cinema
One of the things that has held concurrent theatrical/VOD releases back in the past (aside from the D-grade movies generally on offer) is that they've always carried a price of admission.
One exception to this rule is last year's VOD release of the Seth Rogen and James Franco-starring film, The Interview, which brought in US$31 million in VOD sales alone (though the film was forced into that situation after it supposedly inspired the notorious Sony Pictures hacking last November).
While the figure listed above is impressive compared to the VOD releases that have come before it, it's considerably less money than it would've made had the film received a traditional theatrical release.
With Beasts of No Nation, Netflix has removed the price obstacle entirely, making the film available to the service's 69 million subscribers worldwide at no additional cost.
Now that the audience's barrier for entry has been removed, the only thing stopping Netflix subscribers from watching Beasts of No Nation is disinterest.
Admittedly, this release model makes it difficult to quantify the success of Netflix's film, as there isn't really a box-office style number that can be attributed to it.
The question is: does that really matter? As long as Netflix uses these films to attract new subscribers and keep the ones it already had, it will keep making money, and its original movies will be carried by the platform's overall success.
Netflix knows that the future of cinema is moving in this direction, and investing heavily in it now will allow it to be the service that sets the standard for the next hundred years.

A night in at the movies

Why On-Demand is the future of cinema
No matter how good the seats are at your local cinema, nothing beats the comfort of your own lounge room.
If you want to watch a movie in your pyjamas without looking like a weirdo, you can. If you want to eat something that isn't ridiculously over-priced junk, you can do that, too. If you need to go to the bathroom, you can pause and not miss a thing. You can even talk and use your phone without bothering anybody.
Aside from the extra comfort and freedom afforded to you at home, you're also free from obnoxious audience members who threaten your enjoyment of a film, whether it be parents who bring screaming infants to horror films, people who loudly rustle chip packets for minutes on end, giant-headed jerks that sit right in front of you, texters, talkers, inappropriate laughers (that's a thing, I assure you) and even loud breathers.
Technical difficulties aside, the main thing that can ruin your chances of enjoying a new release movie in a theatre is other people, so why not remove the audience from the equation?
Sure enough, there's nothing better than seeing a big, crowd-pleasing film with a large audience that's just as enthusiastic as you are, but that isn't always the case, just as every film you watch is not an event film that demands the biggest screen possible.
Filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recently predicted an 'implosion' of the film industry in which fewer movies are released in theatres, but have longer Broadway-style runs that last up to a year and carry a premium ticket price, while smaller films are released either on-demand or in limited runs with smaller ticket prices – Spielberg even mentioned that his award-winning film Lincoln came remarkably close to being released on HBO.
When you consider that quality films like Beasts of No Nation are now being delivered directly to homes on release, and long-form, movie-quality TV dramas like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Daredevil have changed people's perceptions of the kinds of stories that work well on a smaller screen, Spielberg and Lucas just might be onto something.

Coming soon to a TV screen near you

Why On-Demand is the future of cinema
Though it was not created specifically for the streaming market, Netflix's purchase and release of Beasts of No Nation has kicked off a trend which has forced the On-Demand practice out of infancy and into its adolescence.
Rival service Amazon Prime recently acquired Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn's next film, The Neon Demon, which will initially release in theatres followed closely by a streaming release on Amazon Prime Instant Video, as well as Spike Lee's latest joint, Chi-Raq, which will arrive on the SVOD service sometime in December.
Netflix already has several films in post-production and nearing release, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend, which is from the team responsible for Netflix's series, Marco Polo, and the upcoming Adam Sandler western comedy, The Ridiculous 6.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will release simultaneously in theatres (including IMAX) and on Netflix, something that has angered the AMC, Regal and Cinemark theatre chains in the United States, with all three companies having already announced boycotts of the film.
Netflix has also dropped $60 million into its upcoming satirical war film, War Machine, which stars Brad Pitt and is directed by David Michôd of Animal Kingdom fame, and has also invested $50 million into the next film from Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho, Okja, starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
With the level of talent behind and in front of the cameras on each of these announced films (well, maybe excluding the Adam Sandler one), it's clear that On-Demand is moving out of the D-grade ghetto and is concentrating on delivering pedigree entertainment that isn't reliant on spectacle.
Though I'll definitely continue to watch big event films in the theatre for the foreseeable future, I'm also certain that I'll quickly get used to making my living room my preferred destination for just about everything else.

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Tim Cook says Apple's not planning a MacBook iPad hybrid
Tim Cook says Apple's not planning a MacBook iPad hybrid
If you're waiting for Apple to release some kind of iPad Mac hybrid monstrosity then Tim Cook has some bad news for you.
According to the Apple CEO, his company has no intention of releasing any such device, so you may have to settle for a Mac, an iPad, and a big tube of super glue.
Speaking to, Cook said "We feel strongly that customers are not really looking for a converged Mac and iPad.
"Because what that would wind up doing, or what we're worried would happen, is that neither experience would be as good as the customer wants. So we want to make the best tablet in the world and the best Mac in the world. And putting those two together would not achieve either. You'd begin to compromise in different ways."

Dilute this

Cook's comments come after he last week described Microsoft's Surface Book – a PC/tablet hybrid of sorts – as "diluted." Naturally that's not a word he'd use to describe his company's own iPad Pro, a device that's similar to the Surface Book in many ways.
According to Cook, the iPad Pro would make an excellent substitute for your notebook or desktop PC. But don't mistake that for meaning that your Mac is in danger of becoming obsolete.
Cook insists PCs and Macs are different beasts, so while the iPad Pro could replace your PC it wouldn't make a very good Mac substitute. Riiiiiight.
But just because an Apple CEO says something's not on the cards doesn't mean we won't see it eventually. After all, Steve Jobs poo-pooed the idea of an iPhone with a screen as large as its Android competitors, and then Apple launched the iPhone 6 Plus. So with a little luck we may see Apple's iPad Mac hybrid monstrosity yet.

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Google is offering free Hangouts calls to France
Google is offering free Hangouts calls to France
In the aftermath of the appalling terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday evening, Google is doing what it can to help those of us outside France get in touch with friends and family who may have been caught up in the terrible events.
Announced via a Google+ post, Google has made all calls to France via its Hangouts app free of the international charges they would normally incur.
The post does not specify particular countries, so our understanding is that callers can contact loved ones from anywhere in the world using the Hangouts app on iOS, Android, or the web.
The Google+ post simply states: "We're thinking of you, Paris. No fees on calls to France, via Hangouts. #ParisAttacks"

Safety check

Google isn't the only company offering assistance. In the wake of the attacks, Facebook activated a Safety Check tool that enabled users to quickly alert their friends list to their status.
Users in the affected area were automatically sent a note asking if they were safe. If they clicked "Yes, let my friends know," that user's friends list was notified that they needn't worry.
The Safety Check tool has since been turned off.

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techradar kicks off its lifestyle challenge week
techradar kicks off its lifestyle challenge week
techradar's November How-To challenge is well under way and this week we'll be giving you lifestyle-themed tips and tricks.
We'll be showing you how you can turn your smartwatch into a personal fitness trainer, and how to get the best workout from your Apple Watch.
If getting in shape sounds a bit too much like hard work, don't worry - we'll also be showing you how to get the most out of your digital media and guide you through turning your home into a high-tech paradise.
Make sure you join the November How-To challenge Facebook event to make sure you don't miss a single tip.

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10 hugely important IT trends for 2016
10 hugely important IT trends for 2016

Introduction and device mesh

Forget drones, FinTech and (especially) apps that claim to be 'digitally disruptive'. The big tech trends that will have a significant impact on the IT and business world in 2016 and beyond range from machine learning and neuromorphic computing architectures to a growth in sensory and contextual information and more ambient user experiences. Could 2016 be the tipping point when the physical and virtual worlds finally merge?
Connected cars are next for the 'device mesh'

Information of Everything

It's chaos out there. Smart devices of all kinds are producing and sending text, audio, video, sensory and contextual information.
"The Information of Everything addresses this influx with strategies and technologies to link data from all these different data sources," say analysts at IT research company Gartner. "Information has always existed everywhere, but has often been isolated, incomplete, unavailable or unintelligible … advances in semantic tools such as graph databases, as well as other emerging data classification and information analysis techniques, will bring meaning to the often chaotic deluge of information."
Whether you call it the Internet of Things, the Internet of Data or the Information of Everything, we know one thing – 2016 will produce more and more big data. It's what we do with it that could change.

The device mesh

Forget the smartphone – that's just the start. The era of the device mesh means accessing information and apps via all kinds of devices, from phones, watches and wearables to smart TVs, sensors in homes and even the dashboard in a car.
"The device mesh is innately part of the Internet of Things … even apps like Waze are part of this trend, turning cars into live traffic data," says Mike Crooks, Head of Innovation at Mubaloo Innovation Lab. "The device mesh is the trend of moving to the interconnected ideal of the Internet of Things."
Could 3D food printing be the next big trend?

3D printing

Some think there's been a lot of hype around 3D printing, but it remains a major growth area with vast potential. As the materials that can be 3D printed increase, so do the practical applications for 3D printers, with aerospace, medical, automotive, energy and the military all destined to benefit.
"Open hardware and democratised production methods like 3D printing can be seen as ushering in a third industrial age," says Dr Kevin Curran, Technical Expert at the IEEE, who nevertheless sees food printing as the imminent trend for 2016. ChefJet can print in chocolate and sugar, Choc Edge creates on 2D/3D chocolate decorations, ChocoByte prints custom 3D solid chocolate bars, and Natural Machines' Foodini can print both pasta and pizza.
A major research area is bioprinting, where food is printed dot by dot to build up edible meals. "The aim is to create a range of food inks, basically substances that form gels with water, and the Holy Grail is to bring food to life from nothing," he says. The mission, as with all 3D printing, is to eliminate the production chain for food.
Smart devices of all kinds are creating an Information of Everything

Ambient user experiences

Here we're talking about a long-term future of immersive environments with augmented and virtual reality, but for now it's about continuity between devices and location.
"Hyper-location technologies are key to delivering an ambient user experience that is also giving rise to the idea of slippy UX," says Crooks, who thinks that mobile is becoming more about short, fast interactions with minimal user input.
"It's different from the simple sensor-based apps on smartphones today," says Curran. "Instead of the user having to go and look for something like hotels, the device would already know what kind of hotel they are looking for based on what hotels they have picked in the past."
Context comes from both human and physical elements – the former is emotional state, habits, interests, group dynamics, social interactions and colocation of others, present tasks, and general goals, while the latter is the user's absolute position, relative position, light, pressure, noise and atmosphere of the area.

Advanced machine learning

Another tech trend for 2016 and beyond – and tied up with the Information of Everything – is advanced machine learning, where computers automate data processing by learning and adapting. The end result is artificial intelligence. Handling complex datasets requires deep neural nets (DNNs) that allow computers to both act autonomously and perceive the world on their own.
"DNNs are what makes smart machines appear intelligent," according to analysts at Gartner. "DNNs enable hardware or software-based machines to learn for themselves all the features in their environment, from the finest details to broad sweeping abstract classes of content."
In this fast evolving area, businesses that understand how to use advanced machine learning can get a huge competitive advantage.

Virtual assistants and Bluetooth beacons

Virtual assistants

Hardware is dead – it's software that's increasingly the agent of change, so instead think of autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors as the future faces of tech. Google Now, Cortana, Alexa and Siri are just the beginning.
The virtual assistants of today are the intelligent agents of tomorrow
"Over the next five years we will evolve to a post-app world with intelligent agents delivering dynamic and contextual actions and interfaces," says David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow. "IT leaders should explore how they can use autonomous things and agents to augment human activity and free people for work that only people can do. However, they must recognise that smart agents and things are a long-term phenomenon that will continually evolve and expand their uses for the next 20 years."

Adaptive security architecture

With more digital businesses come more hackers, and with the birth of a new threat landscape we're seeing the death of antivirus software. "The Volatile Cedar malware takes great strides to remain under the radar of leading antivirus solutions," says Curran, offering an example of why we need adaptive security architectures.
As well as a 'stealth mode' where it lies dormant to evade detection, Volatile Cedar is capable of sophisticated monitoring of system processes as well as a custom-built remote access Trojan.
"Techniques to avoid detection include frequently checking antivirus results and changing versions and builds on all infected servers when any traces of detection appear," says Curran. Cloud-based services and open APIs only make the demand for adaptive security higher.
"Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behaviour analytics, will help fulfil the adaptive security architecture," says Gartner.
Bluetooth beacons are spreading to shopping malls, offices and homes

Bluetooth beacons

Bluetooth-powered beacons – AKA 'lighthouses' – are now being installed in shopping malls, museums, hotels, airports and even offices that can track the exact location of a smartphone or smartwatch wearer, and send them real-time notifications.
So far it's been rather lamely talked up as a way of texting vouchers to passing shoppers, but beyond mobile commerce the spread of intelligent, wireless Bluetooth beacon hardware also means indoor mapping and much, much more.
"We believe that Bluetooth 4.2 beacons will become one of the big trends for next year, taking the technology from outside of the marketing sphere and into the Internet of Things sphere," says Crooks. Think notifications of gate changes and train delays at airports and train stations, hands-free payments, indoor mapping and multi-room music that follows you around your home.
At any rate, Bluetooth beacons are about to emerge as the links within, and between, the Internet of Things, the smart city and the smart home.

IoT platforms

Not a day goes by without some company or other stating that it's the best platform yet for the Internet of Things. It's easy to get cynical when so many are jostling to become 'the one', but IoT devices will have an increasing need for management, security and integration.
"IoT platforms constitute the work IT does behind the scenes from an architectural and a technology standpoint to make the IoT a reality," says Gartner. "The IoT is an integral part of the digital mesh and the ambient user experience, and the emerging and dynamic world of IoT platforms is what makes them possible."
But standardisation? Yeah, right. "Any enterprise embracing the IoT will need to develop an IoT platform strategy, but incomplete competing vendor approaches will make standardisation difficult through 2018," says Cearley.

Advanced system architecture

With the digital mesh and smart machines about to go ballistic, computing is about to get intense. Cue the latest power-play – ultra-efficient neuromorphic architectures underpinned by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), which should allow computers to run at speeds of greater than a teraflop.
"Systems built on GPUs and FPGAs will function more like human brains that are particularly suited to be applied to deep learning and other pattern-matching algorithms that smart machines use," says Cearley. "FPGA-based architecture will allow further distribution of algorithms into smaller form factors, with considerably less electrical power in the device mesh."
The result? Advanced machine learning will be present anywhere that Internet of Things devices hang out – such as in homes, in cars, on wristwatches… and even in humans.

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