Friday, 9 July 2010

Move over ET, and Number 5, here's HERB...

"Number 5 is alive" said the sentient robot in the 1986 film Short Circuit. That was a long time ago, but the notion of robots had already long captured our imaginations.

Robot / artificial life forms are common in industry.  There are even robotic / automised production lines for making cheese & pickle sandwiches at speeds humans could never pull off, but robots are only just beginning to spill over in to the consumer / internet connected world.

You can already own a roving webcam that can interact with it's environment, or a "smart rabbit" - the Nabaztag, which illustrates quite well how the" internet of things" is coming to life, with responsive and connected objects starting to perform "useful" tasks:

But now... Intel have introduced HERB (Home exploring robot butler), he might not be a commercial consumer proposition yet, nor perhaps be beautiful to look at but what he can do is pretty amazing...

Facebook gifts going, but Facebook Credits go offline in Asia

Facebook have announced that they are phasing out their virtual gifts store by August(albeit third party/ branded gift stores like Hallmark will be unaffected), which to me hints of housekeeping ahead of bigger things to come for Facebook Credits.

Virtual gifts have been useful - they proved the willingness of people to exchange virtual objects & place a value on them, paving the way for the development of Facebook Credits as a virtual micro-currency. 

 We can already buy Facebook Credits, and they're well established amongst the social gaming community, with thousands of people paying other people in Facebook Credits to farm their virtual farms for them, but now that Facebook's Opengraph takes Facebook to the rest of the web, I'm sure it will only be a matter of a short time before Facebook credits achieve what governments around the world have failed to.... a single global virtual currency.

On an economic level that raises all sorts of interesting questions - Facebook as a finance house or bank?  What exchange rate will the Facebook Credit trade at versus the pound, the dollar, the yen.....??  It's too hot here this afternoon to think about that so I'll save that for another day, but meanwhile the foundations are being laid for a bigger role for Facebook Credits, with the announcement that in Asia Facebook have done a deal which will see Facebook Credits sold in 7-11's and other real world outlets.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

YouTube gets even more multi-screen friendly

The YouTube team have been busy it appears.

Two developments this week - one, for let's call them BIG screens, and the other for POCKET screens.

Let's start with the big screens (formerly known and understood as TVs)

In May YouTube announced they would be launching a new service designed to make your YouTube experience on bigger screens even better. There's already YouTube XL, (which I rather like) and yesterday the next generation of that beta launched as YouTube Leanback .

XL gives you cleaner easier navigation around YouTube for those that have got their act together and either project content from the web or have a connected large screen at home.

 Leanback goes one step further towards Google's forthcoming TV Project.

Once you've launched YouTube/Leanback it will immediately start playing footage from the people/channels you've subscribed to, with a ribbon of other content from other subscription channels appearing at the bottom of the screen which you can quickly and simply navigate through using keyboard arrow keys.

What do I think?

It's easy to navigate yes, but in reality, I don't know that many people who as yet have either a home media centre /projector set up or a large screen that's net-connected. It will come, no doubt faster than we can imagine I am sure.

However, it's the implications of Leanback which are interesting, particularly for brand channels / broadcasters. Once you've got someone to subscribe to your channel (take BlendTec for example), using Leanback, you'll automatically be able to expose them via easy navigation to old or new content. Nice if you've captured people already but it makes it tougher to interrupt / attract attention given the human tendency (when watching content flopped on the sofa after a hard day) to take the easy route (i.e just channel flick the top 10/ routine channels) than lean in and look for new stuff.  Factor in the power of the social graph - when what you watch (next)is shaped by algorithms and messages that appear alongside your video saying "your friend Fred watched x or subcribed to y" or "z is really popular today / this week / right now" and the power of influence (or the votes of the crowd) scores over advertising yet again.

Yet another win for my "battle of the Somme theory". The time is now for brands and advertisers to be experimenting and learning what works or doesn't.  People are experimenting and making decisions whether it's about downloading or keeping useful apps for this or that or subscribing to useful/entertaining content sources on YouTube. I have no doubt that it will get harder and harder to get people to shift in the future.

Does your brand have a YouTube channel? Is it well thought out, called something sensible that makes it easy to find and publishing, framing or aggregating relevant and interesting content beyond just being somewhere to sling your made-for-TV ads??

Back to the POCKET screen.... YouTube gets even more mobile friendly ...

YouTube launched their mobile portal in 2007 when it was offering just 1000 videos in mobile friendly format. 2009 saw a 160% increase YoY on videos viewed on mobile handsets, and there are now 100 million videos viewed on a mobile every day.

So it was time for a revamp that's as much cosmetic as it is functional:  YouTube's mobile site is now faster than ever before, (on Android phones / iPhone at least), it's friendlier to touch screen navigation [video] and has much more of the functionality you experience on the site, i.e the ability to like / unlike, "favourite" or create playlists just as you can on the web. (Taking me nicely back to the previous point about Leanback and laziness - now it's easier than ever before to line up stuff you want to watch when you get home on a bigger screen whilst you are standing at the bus stop on your way home...).

Brands, what's your multi-screen strategy!?  It's not about channels any more, the silo walls are falling fast.

It seems to be timecapsule project week...

Only two days ago I was writing about the One Day on Earth project, and then yesterday I trip over Google/YouTube's equivalent project, "Life in a day", the premis being almost identical - people contribute footage of their lives, the interesting, the mundane, the fleeting, the ugly, the beautiful, it doesn't matter as long as it happens on a given day, in this case,  the 24th July 2010. The trump card for this project is not the noble  "doing good / charity" angle of One Day on Earth but the rather more shallow Gen Y-appealing celebrity & fame perspective, as the submissions will be edited by Ridley Scott (and a large team of helpers me thinks) & debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2011.

The life in a day  project  is "made possible by LG" the electronics firm, so we'll give marks to LG for buying big thinking and the power of harnessing and focussing collaboration and content production. We won't give them any marks though for having a really rubbish site with a lousy flash-y country selector that I had to alter the size of my browser for to even find the United Kingdom from the drop down list of European countries, and then it didn't click through anyway. FAIL!  LG= Life's Good. Not on your website it's not, I can only hope your products deliver the promise rather better.

Whilst I'm on the LG theme though, they also recently announced that they'd be launching a tablet device this year based on the Android operating system.

The future's touchy feely :-)

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Be inspired, get involved - One Day on Earth 10th Oct 2010

Watch this video (great soundtrack!), read this, and then put on your greater good hats and think how you could get involved in your own way, however small. What a great project.

One Day on Earth - Original Trailer from One Day On Earth on Vimeo.

Facebook's not the only social network: Don't overlook LinkedIn

Last week there were reports that Google were working on a Facebook alternative, which may or may not amount to something, but for me the big question is what will it take to shift 500million people's digital lives somewhere else??  It's an interesting question and one that Clay Shirky touched upon at the end of his cognitive surplus lecture last week, and despite some of the great social scientists of London being in the room, one that none of us are sure of the answer to.

That said in a world of distributed identity, where we increasingly have a digital presence, and possibly different digital profiles or identities in different spaces for different purposes, LinkedIn shouldn't be overlooked.  Aside from the obvious professional connections library that it represents, LinkedIn have been beavering away adding features and groups and to those that are still banned from accessing Facebook at work, it represents a very credible social interaction space, for professional and personal interests these days.  Groups, debates, sharing ideas, organising events, it's all there too.

I liked this infographic I found this morning which prompted the post. (Click to see it on a larger scale)