Monday, November 24, 2014

Skiing at night to promote Philips Amberlight TV

So how do you sell a television in 2014? Sony tried coloured balls back in 2010.

Now Philips is skiing down hills using LED backpacks. This is the backstory....

that made this final result:

This is infact a short version - the original is 12 minutes.

Great visual effects - but the story is lost on me.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Content is power - which is why The Grid intrigues me

It's almost like a DIY Kickstarter project.

What if websites could design themselves? That's the promise of The Grid, which harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to take everything you throw at it - videos, images, text, urls and more - and automatically shape them into a custom website that's unique to you. As your needs grow, it evolves with you, effortlessly adapting to your needs.

Their algorithms apparently analyze your media and apply color palettes that keep your messaging consistent and unique. The Grid also detects color contrasts, automatically adjusting typographic color to maximize legibility.

What's possible when an AI does all the hard work for you? You can get things done, even on the go. Drag-n-drop builders don't play nice with fingers on phones, but AI works perfectly, anywhere.

Never again change your content to fit your template or the latest hot mobile device. The layout changes as you add content, and adapts to look great and work flawlessly no matter where your users find you.

It’s as easy as that. Actually, it’s incredibly complicated, but The Grid figures it out, so you don’t have to.

Joining the evolution has a price - 96 dollars up front - but that works out at US$8 a month for the first year. Sign-up is at Follow for the latest. Hope they make it. I signed up and I'll be reporting my experiences warts and all. But personally, I just hope they are going to be saving me a whole bunch of time.

Small Empires Season Two

Delighted to see the return of Small Empires and to see that they've been visiting the top Innovation Districts in North America. Europe in Season 3?

Episode 1 visits Open English in Miami, a company that started in Caracas.

Episode 2 takes us a brewery platform in Connecticut

Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

Post by NOS.

I was impressed with the video that the NOS made to illustrate the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Swimming Robots seen in Stuttgart

A team led by Prof. Peer Fischer from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany ] has developed an artificial micro-swimmer, called “micro-scallop”, which can swim through viscous fluids by opening and closing its shells at different rates. Doesn't work in water. But these tiny "scallops" can swim in blood.

Mystery behind Amsterdam Mist - Bert Monroy

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The art of powerful storytelling

I'm currently looking at how different professionals around the world pass on their skills to interested members of the public. I feel that many of the standard "master class courses" are flawed, especially in my sector of broadcast storytelling. Screens have replaced chalk, but rather than "show" people what is possible, there is still a lot of "telling". And because things have become very formulaic, we're repeating too many of the old ideas which don't work in a world where sharing has replaced shouting. I note that trainees from many "developing countries" are more developed than we are.

I've long been a fan of the TWIT network, founded by radio broadcaster Leo Laporte. He has grown his "deep-dive" network of tech shows into a modern equivalent of what we were trying to do in Hilversum from 1980-2000 with Media Network. But although I like the pundit shows like This Week in Tech, MacBreak Weekly or This Week in Google, I must confess that the hour-long in-depth interview programme "Triangulation" is the show that I set aside time to watch on an iPad. A recent case in point is the discussion with hyper-realist artist Bert Monroy. Born in New York City, he now lives in Berkeley, California.

Bert on the power of sharing

While we were messing around in Europe with the early Mac's in 1984 to see what they could do for radio guys, Bert was starting a new digital career, looking at the possibilities of MacPaint, which turned from being a toy into programs like Photoshop, Pixelpaint, Illustrator and Imagestudio which modern artists rely on today. 

Bert is different from many artists in that he shares his techniques, encouraging others to apply them in their own works. A lot of the knowledge is given away. Which leads people to inexpensive digital master classes on the excellent knowledge site He doesn't need to be afraid of imitators - I know of few people who put so much time and effort into their work.This recent edition of Triangulation caught my eye because of Bert's discussion of his latest digital work called Amsterdam Mist. It's a digital creation based on a simple, rather blurry image he took on Radhuisstraat, a rather non-descript bridge on the West side of Amsterdam near the Westerkerk church. I've been over the bridge many times in a tram but never really paused to look down the canal at that point. Perhaps that explains why I don't have my own picture to hand, even though I have hundreds of pictures of the city.

The bridge on the Radhuisstraat via Google Maps

The same bridge in summer via Google Maps

Around 41 minutes into the Triangulation program, Bert starts explaining the making of Amsterdam Mist. You're invited to explore and as you zoom in, so the mist clears and the incredible detail becomes clear.

Bert points out a few Easter Eggs - his first book in the bike basket, there's a logo of on the same bike, many of the license-plates on cars reflect the travels of the artist.

Hidden Easter eggs on a remarkably clean bicycle
License plates have a hidden meaning

His website also explains the impact that Google maps had on the work. 

My Amsterdam Mist is the culmination of twenty-two months of work. Every element in the image was meticulously created pixel-by-pixel using Adobe® Photoshop® and Adobe® Illustrator®.
It is the first piece to be inspired by the shot rather than the scene itself.

Each tree took an average of ten days to create. Extensive research was done to ensure the authenticity of the scene. The reference for the trucks, cars and bicycles was done by doing a Google search for European models of each. The boats were boats that appeared in other images taken by me during the visit to Amsterdam. The original shot had very little detail. The day was overcast and the shot was done with a hand held point-and-shoot camera. All the details were nothing more than a blur.

One of the more unusual facts about this piece is how the details of the buildings were researched. The scene was photographed while walking from one place to another. In Google maps, the two locations were plotted allowing me to determine the precise place where the original shot was taken (middle figure). Using Google Street View, details of the structures were researched by strolling up and down the streets on either side of the actual canal.

Be careful, you can spend hours absorbed in this picture - especially if you put it on a large monitor. But it may encourage you to try to experiment yourself.

I have also been using Google Street View to capture stories from people which otherwise would not have been rediscovered. Contact me if you're interested in how it's done.

In the meantime, thanks to Bert for creating an adventure just round the corner.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Daniel Erasmus - we have a leadership problem not a climate-change problem

Daniel Erasmus has run a digital thinking network for several years and through his work I got introduced to people like Douglas Rushkoff as well as Brewster Kahle of fame. Curious to find out what the young leaders in the Nudge network decided - did they adopt more ambitious action goals that adult negotiators?

Meanwhile Norwegian broadcast NRK has broadcast a weather forecast for the country for 2050, assuming a global warming of 2 degrees Centigrade.

Forecaster Bente Wahl has received a storm of reactions after NRK published her forecast for 2050. A few are also puzzled by the project: - How can Wahl give an accurate weather alert for the year 2050 when she can not even give an accurate forecast for the next few days?

Tony Fadell on the challenges of rolling out NEST in Europe.

Personally, I think the Dublin Web Summit has grown too fast. From 400 to 22,000 attendees in just four years. It's a marketing triumph, which is great for the founders who I met in Paris around the time they were starting out, and LeWeb was number one.

But now, it means a lot of sales pitches to sift through to find the interesting talks. They have also cut the length of the interviews so much that no-one really goes in to depth. I think that's a shame. Quality not quantity, especially because the main attraction of the summit is not the commercial keynotes - it's the live networking with start-up companies which you cannot do from home.

The interview with Tony Fadell was interesting. I note that he doesn't really talk about his early days at Philips. He didn't stay long trying to persuade them to make a personal music player. Instead, he went to Apple, who brought out the iPod. Now he's the person behind NEST, which is turning out to be much more than an intelligent thermostat. In the interview he describes the challenges of trying to role out to other countries - there are a myriad of standards. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Best Interactive Ad for 2014

In March I mentioned this ingenious use of a raspberry pi computer. It was for a shampoo. Here's a re-run of the post. But there's more to come - and it is really worth watching.

A very clever piece of interactive advertising has been dreamed up by the Stockholm advertising agency Åkestam Holst from Sweden, working with production company Stopp for Apotek Hjärtat’s Apolosophy products.

Stopp says the ad was scheduled to be run for one day only, but it was so popular that the company which owns the screens asked for it to run for the rest of the week “as a way for them to show the opportunities their screens can offer”. It turns out the billboard is driven by a Raspberry Pi computer which is still powerful enough to drive a full HD digital display and can be hooked up to respond to real-world inputs. Thanks to the Raspberry Pi blog for the tip.

Now the update, courtesy of theLocal in Stockholm

Early in October 2014, another Swedish advertising agency Garbergs snapped up the idea, hoping it could be used for the greater good. It created an eye-catching Cancer campaign and the first advert was installed in Stockholm's underground in the beginning of October. The installations were only there for two days, but a YouTube clip of the campaign (below) has had a much longer life. In less than a week it has attracted 300,000 hits. By November the number was over 2.5 million.

The focus of the project is 14-year-old Linn. As a train passes the billboard, the wind makes her hair blow so violently that it flies off her head.

That's when it becomes clear that this is not a copycat-ad. Linn was diagnosed with cancer and lost her hair because of it.

The billboard then displays a message explaining that one child is diagnosed every day from cancer, and urges people to donate.

"The world shares the film not just because they think it's beautifully made, but because they think the message is beautiful," Garbergs' copywriter Sedir Ajeenah told The Local.

It is a touching message - and one that also inspires hope.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

MN.26.08.1987. Nicaragua & New Radios in Berlin

This was a new edition of the programme covering the strange move by President Reagan to use clandestine Radio Liberation broadcasting from El Salvador. VOA Spanish is much better received in the target area of Nicaragua. We also learned that Radio France Internationale has decided against putting a relay station in Sri Lanka, looking at the island of Reunion instead (later dropped when they discovered the island is prone to very high winds). Mark Deutsch at BBC World Service explains their expansion plans for satellite coverage of Europe. People are not watching the new Superchannel service because there are no subtitles on the programmes. Radio Lebanon has been off the air because of a heat wave in Beirut. We also covered the Berlin Audio and Video Fair. Sony has launched a radio with a fax receiver built in SR6768. We learn about EuroMac and why Philips believes DAT will not take off as a consumer tape standard. Wolf Harranth reports on an Italian station broadcasting to Slovenia. Enthusiasts in the Netherlands have discovered a way to make free international calls via Denmark.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.01.09.1983. Zimbabwe & Satellites

This was an early attempt to do longer investigative features. We start the programme looking at the challenges facing the satellite broadcast industry (remember this is well before the launch of SKY television). Richard Ginbey also did a marathon overview of the history of broadcasting in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe. I think the off-air recordings are rather unique - not sure that much has survived. He put this togther using cassette tape recorders - must have taken ages. And the programme ends with tuning suggestions from Andy Sennitt and Arthur Cushen.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.23.08.2000 Offshore Radio Revivals

A nice summer edition of Media Network in which Diana and I looked at a revival of Radio Caroline in the Netherlands, organised by Sietse Brouwer from Harlingen. Land-based pirate stations have been meeting in London. Bob Tomalski reports on one of the biggest booze-ups in 35 years. Bob laments that the old passion has gone. Audio quality is not what it used be. Bryan Clark reports from New Zealand on the reappearance of American Forces stations on shortwave. And that includes Diego Garcia. We also looked at the future of radio design, highlighting some work going on at the University of Twente.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.08.04.1988 The Indonesian Journey

This was a documentary I made about Indonesian radio broadcasting, based on a holiday trip I took in 1988. I recall taking an ICF2001D and a Walkman Professional so as to capture sound effects of the train journey.
The tape of this documentary did not survive well - some print through because the tape was in poor condition and not complete. But I have processed it so it probably sounds better than it did on shortwave back then. The sounds of RRI in English, especially on the local stations was something out of a living radio museum.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Radio South Atlantic May 1982

Radio South Atlantic was a short-lived clandestine radio station started by the UK Ministry of Defence with programmes aimed at Argentine troops on the Falkland islands. This programme was broadcast from a transmitter on Ascension Island which was temporarily taken away from BBC World Service.

Background (from Wikipedia)

The Falklands War (SpanishGuerra de las Malvinas), also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur (Spanish for "South Atlantic War"), was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two British overseas territories in the South Atlantic: theFalkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday 2 April 1982 when Argentina invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands (and, the following day, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it had long claimed over them. On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

The Station

This is a studio copy of Radio South Atlantic. In May 1982, the British government decided to set up a Spanish language radio station targeting Argentine troops. This was probably in response to an Argentine radio station (nicnamed Argentine Annie by the UK press) which appeared on shortwave some weeks earlier using the Beatles theme "Yesterday" as a signature tune.

I was editing the Media Network programme at the time. We could hear Radio South Atlantic using our shortwave radios in Hilversum - but the signal was very weak because it wasn't beamed in our direction.

So I rang the British embassy in the Hague and asked if it would be possible to get a studio copy of the programme to use in a documentary feature we were making. A few days later, a courier riding a large motorbike arrived at RN's reception and asked for me. I went down to the front-desk to sign for the tape. "But you can't keep this tape. You can only listen to it" was the message from guy in the helmet. "I have to take it back to the Hague in about half an hour". I said I'd look for an empty studio, gave the guy a large coffee and wandered casually round the corner. Then I made a mad dash to the fast copy-room used to make tape copies of RNW transcription programmes for other radio stations. It had a machine that could copy tapes at around 8 times faster than normal. Luckily, Jos, the guy in charge, saw my challenge, set up the machine immediately and 15 minutes later I was back in reception to return the tape to the messenger. And I had this copy.

It seems the British dropped leaflets over the Falklands to try and spread the word that this shortwave radio station existed. And we later analysed the programme. It was classic Sefton Delmer (Black Propaganda), although rather poorly presented. Bit like calling up Vera Lynn if the British had a dispute with France.

But this is one of the few surviving recordings of Radio South Atlantic. You be the judge of how effective it all was.

Would be interested to hear from others who know who was involved in the production.

There are two Media Network programmes which date from the same period which might be worth listening to.

The one broadcast on May 5th 1982 looked at the BFBS service to the Falklands Task Force - a programme hosted by Sarah Kennedy.

The second programme was broadcast at Christmas 1982 in which we looked back on the various news stories of 1982 and analysed the Radio South Atlantic tape released above.