TEDxBelfast 2012

TEDxBelfastAt TEDxBelfast last night I was inspired by the stories of individuals who passionately believed in an idea and then made that idea a reality. From working with autistic children to building a new arts centre, these people all made a difference. Presented in Titanic Belfast in front of the replica of the famous staircase, it was an unforgettable evening.

Titanic Staircase

As with all TED conferences, the presentations will be posted on-line but that will take a week or two before they are ready. In  the meantime, these are the speakers, their stories and how they made a difference.

David Maxwell of Tyrone Timberframes presented his work with Habitat for Humanity in building highly energy-efficient homes that have no central heating. The significant cost of fossil fuel-based energy can be a big factor in poverty and these homes can save the inhabitants over £1000 per year.

Maureen Murphy, Director of Aurion Learning, grabbed attention with the headline that 70% of training was wasted and proposed an innovative way of providing effective training using the acronym ASSAULT. One of the best bits was that of story-based approach that hooked the learner and got them more emotionally involved.

Fransuer Makula grew up in the slums of Kenya but is now a teacher in a prestigious school in Northern Ireland. Describing the harsh reality of existence as a street child, where death is commonplace, he related how the children dared to dream big. In the midst of utter poverty, these children wanted to grow up as doctors, nurses and lawyers. Fransuer established “Jengana” to help orphans, street children and schools in West Kenya.

Colleen Hardwick, billed as an urban geographer and serial entrepreneur from Vancouver, laid out the loss of personal engagement in democracy. The statistics she presented on the fall of voter turnout over the past few decades were shocking. To counteract the anonymous global nature of the web, she’s developed PlaceSpeak, a community-based website that lets local people be authenticated as stakeholders in local issues without necessarily giving up that anonymity.

Next was an absolute gem…acoustic guitar duo Declan McKerr and Andy Toman, aka Gypsy’s Wish, serenaded TEDxBelfast, equipped with a brand-new George Lowden guitar. His guitars are world-famous with owners such as Eric Clapton and Mike Oldfield. Sublime.

Following a musical theme, Chris Blake, Principal Horn with the Ulster Orchestra, talked about the work he’d done with autistic children and the therapeutic value of music. The results were truly ground-breaking, increasing the evidence between autism and musicality.

Dr Nigel Hart took us all on a trip to the peaks and Mt Everest in particular in his talk on Mountains, Medicine and Mantras. Clearly a keen mountaineer, he combined his medical training with his passion to investigate the effects of hypoxia on humans at altitude. During his climb to the top of the world, he had to rescue another climber who had collapsed. Apt for many shared endeavours, his response to the famous climbing question was not, “Because it’s there” but rather, “It’s not the height or the distance, it’s the people you travel with.”

Anne McReynolds, CEO of the Belfast Metropolitan Arts Centre, had TEDxBelfast captivated by her struggle to get a world-class arts centre built in Belfast. Starting in 1996 and finally opening in 2012, it’s an amazing story of architects and artists (“good clients get good buildings”), buildings and space. If you want to build an arts centre, Anne should be the first person you talk to.

Colin Williams of Sixteen South tackled the “Can’t Do” attitude that has often afflicted Northern Ireland with a great story of “Can Do” success. It’s likely that you’ll never have heard of Sixteen South, a children’s TV production company but if you have kids under five you’ll have heard of Sesame Tree, Big City Park, Pajanimals, and Big & Small. Working with the BBC and The Jim Henson Company, Sixteen South produces these great TV programmes here in Northern Ireland. Fantastic.
Colin’s business plan was pretty clever too. “Do some good, make some money, have some fun.” Good advice for anyone.

Chris Horn completed the speaker line-up with his inspiration for Dublin’s Science Gallery, an exhibition space that takes a creative and artistic approach to the presentation of science and related issues. By taking the traditional remit of a science museum and combining it with the changing presentation of an art gallery, the Science Gallery is an innovation in itself that has proved tremendously successful. So much so that Google recently awarded the Science Gallery $1m to setup other Galleries around the world.

Overall, it was a great evening, with inspirational speakers in a fantastic setting. Thanks also to Davy Sims and Gary Burnett and Mark Finlay for organising #TEDxBelfast.

TV by Apple-A Rant

Sometime this week, if not today there has been a rumor published about the imaginary TV that Apple is building. Most of these reports are assuming the new TV by Apple is a done deal and it is just a matter of time. From the time these rumors started the question that has run through my brain has been why?

I am really not looking for a TV made by Apple. I have no doubt that Apple has the technical know how to make an awesome TV, including retina display and Siri integration. That is not where the problem lies, the problem lies as always with content. Apple somehow has to convince the various content providers to allow their content to be used. Something that Google has been unable to do with the Google TV. Let say they get the content providers to agree to an arrangement, that is just the first problem. Then they have to get the content to the consumer through cable companies like Comcast, which has already shown that they will favor those who have an agreement with them over independent content. Third, it will have to convince consumers that purchasing a new HD panel is worth it. A panel which will probably be over 1,000 dollars if Apple’s history is any indicator.

Instead of creating a whole new TV, I wish Apple would improve the Apple TV they already have. They need to open it up to more third-party video platforms like Plex or XMBC. That way I could watch content not only from providers such as PBS or Aljazerra or HBO Go, but also live streaming from Ustream, Justin TV or YouTube to name a few. Second open up the platform to games and allow third-party vendors to create wireless controllers. Yes, I know a lot of this can be accomplished by jail breaking the Apple TV, but I shouldn’t have to do that. Plus if you do jail break the Apple TV, than you are always in this constant game with Apple. They do an update and you have to wait for the new jailbreak to come out, they do another update and it’s another jailbreak and on and on.

I know I am probably wrong the current Apple TV will continue to remain what it has always been for Apple just a hobby and this fall just in time for the holiday season, there will be an Apple TV monitor for sale in the Apple Store. The Apple pundits will write about it like it is the next coming.  I and all the other Mac fans will be drooling over it, wishing we could afford it.  Meanwhile the hobby which could be so much more will continue to be ignored, I just wish it wasn’t so.

Discovery Communications Buys Revision3

Discovery Communications, parent company of Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, and more, has purchased Revision3, which is a special interest video network that produces shows that people watch online. It is an odd, and perhaps, unexpected, partnership (of sorts) between Cable TV and Web Video, (which many see as opposing forces).

It wasn’t all that long ago that people were speculating that Cable TV was nearing its end. Personally, my husband and I stopped paying for Cable years ago. The cost was more than we cared to pay for it. We didn’t like the idea of being forced to pay for channels that we knew we would never have an interest in watching just so we could get access to the ones that we enjoyed. It felt insulting to pay for the service and then have to sit through a barrage of ads that interrupted the shows.

Instead, we were using legal online resources in an attempt to be able to watch what we wanted to watch when we were ready to watch it. Hulu used to give free access to a plethora of television shows, including entire seasons, for free. It also used to play recent episodes of shows that were currently airing, (but only for a limited time). Eventually, though, what a person could watch for free through Hulu dramatically shrunk, which was disappointing.

That didn’t make us rush out and pay for Cable, though. Instead, we got Netflix. It was less expensive than Cable, it didn’t make us sit through ads, and it let us watch what we wanted to when we wanted to watch it.

My husband and I haven’t hit the point where we have exhausted the resources on Netflix yet, but, I have heard that this is possible. This week, I got an email from Netflix informing me that they have created a Netflix original series called Lilyhammer. So maybe we won’t run out of stuff to watch through Netflix after all.

I find it interesting that Discovery Communications, which is one of the big Cable networks, decided to purchase Revision3. Is this a way for Cable companies to add “new blood” to what they can offer consumers? I’m unsure if I should expect some of what Revision3 currently offers viewers for free to appear on Discovery Communications, essentially behind a “pay wall” of sorts. Or, could it mean that the Revision3 website will soon require people to pay before they can watch the shows? Somehow, my experiences with Cable TV leaves me with little trust in this situation.

What is the Future of Television

New Tek At the NAB show New Tek had a panel Broadcast Minds: The Future of Television with Leo Laporte of TWIT.TV,  Kevin Pollak, Award winning Actor and Comedian, Jeff Jacobs, Vice President, Production Planning, Strategic Initiatives & Business Operations of the MTV Music Group,  Bill Chapman, Vice President of Creative Development/Emerging Technologies of Turner Studios and Jeff Hawley, Director, Customer Experience Group. Yamaha Corporation of America. They discussed the future of television and media, if you are interested in media and where it is going you need to watch it. Among the areas they discussed are:

  • The importance of live streaming as an event.
  • People need to feel like they are a part of a community.
  • Engaging the viewer on the various platforms they are on.
  • Creative people are only limited by their own imagination.
  • Creativity drives technology and vice a versa.
  • Anyone can build an on-demand library of content.
  • The ability to store and send big data is a major cost concern.
  • Social Media has become an integral part of the whole process from creation to distribution.

This should only be the start of this dialog and it needs to continue both online and off.

FlixFling and Orb are About to Release FlixFling TV

FlixFling and Orb Networks have gotten together to offer something that sounds really interesting. They are combining FlixFling’s movie subscription service with Orb’s wireless video streaming hardware. This is the very first time time that a service that streams premium content has been bundled with a set-top box.

The package is called FlixFling TV. It gives you FlixFling’s unlimited streaming movie subscription service and the Orb TV Wireless Streaming Media player. When you subscribe for this package, you get a both a membership to FlixFling and a membership to the Orb TV Wireless Streaming Media Player at the same time, for one low monthly fee. In other words, when you subscribe to this package it automatically signs you up for both of them and puts the membership fee for both onto one bill. That’s rather convenient!

FlixFling is an application-based movie streaming service. It is compatible with several popular internet-connected devices including Web, iOS, Android, connected TV, Roku, Orb, and more. It has over 8,000 independent and studio movies for you to watch. Orb Networks is a company that develops hardware and software, smartphone applications, and web application services.

Here’s something else that is pretty cool about this package. FlixFling TV will use FlixFling’s mobile applications for iOS and Android devices and Orb’s AllPlay for Mobile Devices to bring the FlixFling service to any screen. You can use your iOS or Android smart phone, or your tablet, as a remote. AllPlay for Mobile Devices is an open, cross-platform API that enables wireless media streaming. The FlixFling TV bundle will start being available to consumers in April of 2012.

My husband and I are currently using NetFlix. I cannot help but wonder if the movies and television programs that are not on NetFlix might possibly be accessible through FlixFling. We signed up to get streamed content from NetFlix, and we have a computer connected to our television so that we can watch movies on a nice, big, screen.

It can be a bit problematic sometimes when that computer needs to do a software update while we are trying to watch something. It might be interesting to see if the set-top box that comes with the FlixFling TV package would alleviate that particular problem.

Boxee Shows off Their OTA Device

Boxee announced an over-the-air solution for TV a few months ago, but now the tiny dongle that makes it possible is available on the market.  They were at CES last month to show it off and TPN got a look.  Boxee has become a leader in pulling in internet TV, but they have finally come up with an answer for those looking to watch live content like sports.

You can do this with a PC hooked to your TV and some third-party purchased software, but Boxee wraps it all into your set-top box.  The cool thing here is social recommendations.  You can see what your friends are watching, but only if that is shared information, which is your choice.

You will need the Boxee Box for this new dongle to work, because it won’t work on a computer regardless of the OS.  It’s available now for $49 with no monthly fee.  You can find out more at Boxee.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.

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Barber Tech SteddiePod

BarberTech SteddiePodThis is the funniest CES interview I’ve seen (which isn’t saying much, to be honest). Jeffrey and Jamie get a hands-on demonstration of BarberTech‘s SteddiePod by Eddie Barber, which actually looks pretty handy, all joking aside.

The Barber Tech SteddiePod is billed as the “world’s most versatile camera support” and it’s a handheld camera stabiliser with extra features designed in, so it can be used as a tripod or with the boom extended to give overhead shots. The setup looks amazingly straightforward – there’s a good video on the Barber Tech website – and with just a few minutes easy work, the SteddiePod can be accurately balanced for a video camera.

The SteddiePod starts at $499 and is available from dealers nationwide. Barber Tech is “Emmy Award Winning” and has other products such as camera booms and teleprompters for the TV and film industry.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Jamie Davies of the MedicCast and the Nursing Show.

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Wi3 Uses Coax for Ethernet Networking

Wi3 CartridgesThe folks at Wi3 have developed a new and innovative way of using the cable TV co-ax wiring to carry more that just pictures. Jeffrey and Andy find out more from Adam.

The Wi3 system replaces the cable wallplate with a modular unit that offers a range of connection or transport options. The first two modules offer twin ethernet ports or a single ethernet port with wifi access point. Later modules may offer a built-in “set-top box”  with HDMI out or a small PC could even be squeezed in. And all without affecting the cable TV signal by using MoCA technology.

It only takes about five minutes to install and one of the neat things I like about this product is that the connections come sideways out of the unit. Consequently, it looks more attractive and less noticeable in the home.

The first two modules are only available to dealers at present but they will be stocked in big boxes nationwide later in the year. Prices are $150 and $200 for the ethernet only and wi-fi models respectively.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.Support our Show Sponsor:
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Nyxio VioSphere Splits your TV and PC

Nyxio is a new company that is looking to integrate your computer and your TV.  They have a product, the VioSphere, which literally splits your monitor screen into half PC and half television.  The VioSphere is a touch-screen monitor that has a built-in web-cam and microphone to allow you to video-conference while you are watching that big game on the other half of your screen.  It’s like the old picture-in-picture TV features, which allows you to watch both or go full-screen with one or the other.

It functions like an all-in-one PC with a DVD burner also built-in. While it runs on the Windows platform they also are partnered with Bluestacks to include Android apps as well.  It also comes with a wireless keyboard and built-in WiFi.  As for the TV end of things, it just takes a normal coax input.  The VioSphere comes in a wide range of sizes spanning 21″ (although their website states the low end at 32″) all the way up to 65″.  A price point isn’t given in the video, but you can learn a lot more info on the product.  You can also visit Nyxio online for additional information.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Hearing Loss Help From ClearSounds

ClearSounds LogoSurprisingly, one in five Americans over the age of 12 has hearing loss severe enough to affect communication and in over a third of the cases, the loss is from noise exposure, not age. ClearSounds produces a range of stylish products that help people overcome their hearing loss and communicate again. Andy and Courtney talk to company president, Michele Alman of ClearSounds.

Suffering from a hearing loss is less about the physical impairment and more about the isolation and withdrawal that occurs when it becomes difficult to hear what’s going on. The problem doesn’t only affect the afflicted; friends and family stop calling and phoning because it’s simply too hard to have a conversation. In turn, the lack of contact leads people into depression.

ClearSounds have a range of products aimed at remedying everyday situations – people with hearing loss want to use cool tech too. The ClearSounds i700 iCreations Phone is combination landline and iPhone dock. The enhanced handset combines a DECT cordless phone with a Bluetooth receiver so only one handset is needed to take both landline and mobile phone calls.

For watching TV, the ClearBlue Bluetooth TV/Audio Listening System is a Bluetooth transmitter and headphones receiver. Rather than turning the TV volume up until it rocks the house, the headphones let the individual set the volume just right for them.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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