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Posts Tagged ‘Valley’

25 Totally Excruciating Silicon Valley Problems

The struggle is real.

Losing your drone:

Losing your drone:

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When your neighbor doesn't understand that you're trying to PIVOT right now.

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Deciding which two Segways to take out for your morning stroll.

Deciding which two Segways to take out for your morning stroll.

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Watch the new trailer for Mike Judge’s HBO show ‘Silicon Valley’

Mike Judge has been entertaining audiences for years with his own brand of insightful comedy, and now we’re getting a longer look at how he plans to skewer the tech world. The latest trailer for his upcoming HBO series Silicon Valley builds upon the basic premise sketched out in the first teaser: it’s a show about a group of socially awkward software engineers looking to hit it big, while a pair of dueling billionaires try to stake their claim and help the would-be upstarts. The likes of Thomas Middleditch (The Office) and Portlandia‘s Kumail Nanjiani make up the cast, while fans of Freaks and Geeks will no doubt recognize a bearded Martin Starr. Given Judge’s track record with King of the Hill, Office Space, and Idiocracy, there’s sure…

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You have actually Come a Long Way, Silicon Valley

At the first big innovation conference I attended, the Consumer Electronic devices Program in Las Vegas a years back, I pressed past hundreds of guests on the show floor and was surprised to discover myself alone in the ladies’ washroom. Down the hall, the line for the guys’s washroom snaked out the door.

Throughout my occupation at The Wall Street Journal, I have actually utilized my casual ladies’ washroom observations as my own barometer to determine the number of women at events and, more broadly, in the tech neighborhood. The more females I see in the field, the less most likely it is that simply a team of men are making and marketing tech items.

Eleven years later on, I’m happy to report I now frequently wait in line for the ladies’ rooms at conferences and product announcement occasions.

A lot has actually happened because that first conference and I have actually had a front-row seat on this ever-changing industry. I’ve never ever composed exclusively for or about ladies; rather, I hope my columns are read by anybody thinking about discovering more about an item. But privately I have actually noted the industry’s shift far from manly advertising and item designs.

In my final column this week, I’m taking a moment to look back at a few examples of how products tailored towards women formed this industry, counting failures and successes.

Initially, the misses out on.

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Ads for Verizon’s Droid seemed to target the phone at robot-crazed males.

A wonderful example of a now-defunct business that tried completely too difficult to attract ladies with its product was the 2009 Palm Pre. The pebble-shaped smartphone had a slide-out keyboard and the business was happy to note that ladies would like the mirror that was disclosed on the back of the pulled-down keyboard.

On top of that, its industrial seemed like a cross between a coordinated dance regimen and a daytime drama, complete with a woman standing on a rock in a windblown outfit while she organized her digital life on a Palm Pre. A woman’s breathy voice-over stated she was working on sorting “my family’s lives, buddies’ lives, work life, play life, my life today and my life next week.” At the end of the commercial, the woman sat on the rock in the middle of a field with her gown tucked under her. All ladies do this, right?

Among the most popular failed attempts to make for females was available in the shade of pink. After years of making dull black and silver products, tech business appeared to think they discovered the solution for interesting all females by slapping a rosy hue on a device and calling it a female favorite. As laptops, video cameras, mobile phones, headphones, Bluetooth headsets, mobile speaker docks, mice, keyboards and other products flooded the marketplace, ladies remained to look for the very best items with the very best individual interfaces — — not just the pink ones.

Another more recent failure: Verizon’s Android. The business’s commercials seemed to tailor this smartphone specifically to robot-crazed males. The phone even had a default alert set up for notices: A deep, mechanical voice would sound out, “Droid!” whenever brand-new e-mails showed up. Not only did it push away ladies, but I understand a few guys who discovered this annoying and odd.

Now some hits.

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Pinterest credits a core team of female bloggers as having a huge influence on the website.

It’s still real women make use of social networking even more than guys, according to Bench Study’s Internet studies. Pinterest is specifically attracting ladies, with significantly more females than males using it on computers, mobile Internet browsers and particularly in the Pinterest app. A few of the website’s very early outreach was finished with a group of female blog writers and the business’s Chief Executive Officer, Ben Silbermann, credits that core team with having had the greatest effect on the site.

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Motorola’s Moto Maker provides customizable colors for phones like this one.

Today, color has smarts. Tech products available in multiple tones are prevalent, including a variety to attract all types of individuals. Business understand that as long as the item is well made, variety and selection in designs and colors can be a good thing. Current examples consist of Motorola’s Moto Maker internet site for making your very own smartphone and Jawbone’s site where people can create their own Jambox portable speakers. Apple’s variation of a budget iPhone, the $ 99 iPhone 5c, can be found in green, blue, yellow, pink and white. Lenovo laptops are available in orange and red.

As this special year draws to a close, so does my time at The Commercial Journal. I’ll continue composing evaluations of consumer innovation products at a brand-new internet site. And I know I’ll remain to see smart females influencing clever tech items. There have been excellent strides in the previous 11 years, but there’s still space to grow — — even at the toilet line.

Compose to Katherine Boehret at katie.boehret@wsj.com.

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You’ve Come a Long Way, Silicon Valley

At the first big technology conference I attended, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas a decade ago, I squeezed past hundreds of attendees on the show floor and was surprised to find myself alone in the ladies’ bathroom. Down the hall, the line for the men’s bathroom snaked out the door.

Throughout my career at The Wall Street Journal, I’ve used my casual ladies’ bathroom observations as my own barometer to measure the number of women at events and, more broadly, in the tech community. The more women I see in the field, the less likely it is that just a team of guys are making and marketing tech products.

Eleven years later, I’m happy to report I now regularly wait in line for the ladies’ rooms at conferences and product announcement events.

A lot has happened since that first conference and I’ve had a front-row seat on this ever-changing industry. I’ve never written exclusively for or about women; rather, I hope my columns are read by anyone interested in learning more about a product. But privately I’ve noted the industry’s shift away from masculine marketing and product designs.

In my final column this week, I’m taking a moment to look back at a few examples of how products geared toward women shaped this industry, counting failures and successes.

First, the misses.

image

Ads for Verizon’s Droid seemed to target the phone at robot-crazed males.

A great example of a now-defunct company that tried entirely too hard to appeal to women with its product was the 2009 Palm Pre. The pebble-shaped smartphone had a slide-out keyboard and the company was proud to note that women would like the mirror that was revealed on the back of the pulled-down keyboard.

On top of that, its commercial felt like a cross between a coordinated dance routine and a soap opera, complete with a woman standing on a rock in a windblown dress while she organized her digital life on a Palm Pre. A woman’s breathy voice-over said she was working on sorting “my family’s lives, friends’ lives, work life, play life, my life today and my life next week.” At the end of the commercial, the woman sat on the rock in the middle of a field with her dress tucked under her. All women do this, right?

One of the most well-known failed attempts to design for women came in the shade of pink. After years of designing dull black and silver products, tech companies seemed to think they found the solution for appealing to all women by slapping a rosy hue on a device and calling it a female favorite. As laptops, cameras, cellphones, headphones, Bluetooth headsets, portable speaker docks, mice, keyboards and other products flooded the market, women continued to look for the best products with the best user interfaces — not just the pink ones.

Another more recent failure: Verizon’s Droid. The company’s commercials seemed to gear this smartphone exclusively to robot-crazed males. The phone even had a default alert set up for notifications: A deep, mechanical voice would sound out, “Droid!” whenever new emails arrived. Not only did it alienate women, but I know a few men who found this annoying and odd.

Now some hits.

image

Pinterest credits a core group of female bloggers as having a big impact on the site.

It’s still true women use social networking more than men, according to Pew Research’s Internet studies. Pinterest is particularly appealing to women, with considerably more females than males using it on computers, mobile Web browsers and especially in the Pinterest app. Some of the site’s early outreach was done with a group of female bloggers and the company’s CEO, Ben Silbermann, credits that core group with having had the biggest impact on the site.

image

Motorola’s Moto Maker offers customizable colors for phones like this one.

Today, color has smarts. Tech products available in multiple shades are commonplace, encompassing a variety to appeal to all sorts of people. Companies understand that as long as the product is well made, variety and choice in designs and colors can be a good thing. Recent examples include Motorola’s Moto Maker website for designing your own smartphone and Jawbone’s website where people can design their own Jambox portable speakers. Apple’s version of a budget iPhone, the $ 99 iPhone 5c, comes in green, blue, yellow, pink and white. Lenovo laptops come in orange and red.

As this momentous year draws to a close, so does my time at The Wall Street Journal. I’ll continue writing reviews of consumer technology products at a new website. And I know I’ll continue to see smart women influencing smart tech products. There have been great strides in the past 11 years, but there’s still room to grow — even at the restroom line.

Write to Katherine Boehret at katie.boehret@wsj.com.

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Meet Monument Valley, The iPad Game Inspired By Escher That Wants Every Screen To Be An Artwork

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Once in a while a game comes along that blends gameplay and aesthetic design to such a degree that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other starts. It was true of Limbo, and it also describes exactly the experience of Monument Valley, a forthcoming iPad title from London design studio, ustwo, which uses the perception-bending drawings of Dutch graphic artist MC Escher as its jumping off point.

Monument Valley’s tricks of the eye don’t just toy with you aesthetically but serve as subtle keys to unlocking the puzzles that make up each scene and segment the game into chapters. These chapters are named for the isometric landscapes they depict, such as The Garden (pictured below) or The Water Palace. Or else they hint at the gestures required to slip the puzzle’s knots and progress to the next level (e.g. GripRotate, Draggers). 

These architectural landscapes – they are the title’s eponymous monuments – consist of a jumble of passageways, towers, stairs and so on. These passageways don’t immediately appear to connect up, and the character you control, a small lost-looking girl called Ida, has to make the links between what’s real and unreal to journey from one end of the scene to the other – rotating portions of passageway to bridge gaps, for instance, or flipping a set of stairs to climb. 

Portions of the landscape that can be rotated or moved are signposted by handles, colour changes or bumps resembling the connectors on Lego bricks. 

Normal rules absolutely don’t apply, with Ida able to press buttons allowing her to defy gravity and walk on a wall, or pass through one apparently disconnected tower door and appear out of another at the opposite side of the screen. Except when they do – Ida can’t just clamber anywhere she fancies; if there’s a wall, she needs a ladder to go up it. Or a gravity switch to flip her perspective. 

The weird physics of the world is based on playing with spacial perception, allowing your eye to bridge gaps that could never be so traversed in reality. It’s a surreal and otherworldly experience, with a lonely protagonist who remains silent and leaves little trace as she progresses. The adversaries she encounters, called the Crow People, crop up as sporadic guardians of certain routes – marching up and down like automatons, allowing Ida to time her passage so she can slip by.     

Monument Valley is due to arrive in Q1 next year but ustwo gave TechCrunch access to a preview of its latest build. I was testing the game on an iPhone 5 but it will be iPad-only at launch – and with the scenes often extending off the iPhone’s screen it’s easy to see why ustwo wants to make the most of the more generous screen real-estate offering by Apple’s tablets. That said, the studio confirmed to me that an iPhone version of the game is planned – although it will be iPad only at launch. Other mobile platforms are also factored into the roadmap, coming later.

“We’ve decided to go with the iPad as our leading platform as the screen real estate enables us to bring the fullest experience to the player. Every running river, every small crack in the architecture and Ida’s small movements feel enhanced on the bigger screen,” said ustwo’s Ken Wong, artist and designer of Monument Valley.

He describes the iPad mini  as a “really optimal gaming platform” – with enough room for game designers to showcase their work and for the player to interact properly with it, but small and portable enough for a mainstream audience to buy in.

“Every detail in the game is given the absolute perfect framing which was one of our goals from the outset,” he added. “We wanted every level in the game to be a piece of art that you could literally print out and frame and it seems that we’re on our way to achieving that because we’ve already done a couple of print runs internally for people.”

How challenging is it to translate visual perception tricks into viable game mechanics? Conceptually easy but technically challenging, according to Wong. “As soon as you start arranging cubes in an isometric perspective, your mind is filled with possibilities. Doing the technology that allows characters to walk across constantly shifting impossible structures is a bit trickier,” he said. 

“It’s been really fascinating setting up the rules of this universe based on peoples’ perceptions of what they’re seeing from a singled viewpoint of a scene. Escher’s work wouldn’t be popular if it wasn’t also beautiful with great attention to detail, so we’ve also been working hard at making the game look really special.”

ustwo has a portfolio of thoughtful and creative apps to its name already – including the psychedelic game Whale Trail, antisocial photo-sharing app Rando and minimalist puzzle game Blip Blub, to name three. Monument Valley looks like it will take up the baton as ustwo’s flagship property when it launches next year.

As well as Escher, Wong said the inspiration for Monument Valley came from art, architecture, and also the film Labyrinth.

“The work of M.C. Escher is great and popular because he found a way to describe geometric and spatial concepts through everyday elements like water, buildings and animals. I think what Monument Valley brings to the table is an exploration of how to bring an interactive, emotionally engaging experience to a wide audience through a set of simple mechanics and a world that feels at once familiar and fantastical,” Wong added.

Monument Valley will be a paid app, with a “premium” price-tag, owing to its focus on blending creative gameplay with high quality aesthetics. ustwo isn’t revealing how much it will charge as yet but says it has six people committed full time to the project, with a 12-month development span.  ”We’re investing heavily into it’s production and will continue to do so post release,” he added. 

Wong argues there is a “new wave” of premium apps hitting mobile devices, as developers seek ways to make their wares stand out from the freemium herd.  ”In a sea of freemium powerhouses a few high quality premium experiences have popped up to disrupt the system and prove that there really is a market for players with absolute quality in mind. We’re aiming for Monument Valley to become the ‘coffee table book’ of iOS games – one you just have to show your friends,” he said. 

To stay up-to-date about Monument Valley ahead of its Q1 2014 release you can sign up for updates here.

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Workers in Silicon Valley no-hire scandal granted class-action status

Programmers and other technical employees whose wages were allegedly kept artificially low by widespread no-hire pacts between Apple, Google, Adobe, and Intel are being granted class action status. California district court judge Lucy Koh ruled that the antitrust concerns of the “overarching conspiracy” between 2005 and 2009 warranted trying the case en masse. According to a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, over 64,000 employees who worked at the four companies are potential class members. Intuit, Pixar, and Lucasfilm had been named as defendants in the original complaint, but have reached tentative settlements with the plaintiffs totaling $ 19 million, Bloomberg reports.

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Just Move Already: Valley Town In Norway Installs Giant Mirrors To Avoid Months Of No Direct Sunlight

mirrors-for-light-1.jpg

The Norwegian town of Rjukan sits in a deep valley that receives no direct sunlight for 82 days of the year. So what did the town do? Pack up their bags, burn the village to ashes, and move somewhere else? NOPE. Installed three 300-foot mirrors to aim a single beam of light into the town square. *standing in beam* Weird, I still feel depressed.

A few days ago, helicopters descended on the 3,500-person town to install three huge rectangular mirrors on the face of the mountains that pin Rjukan in on either side. Technically, these are heliostatic mirrors, which are controlled by a central computer that tilts their positioning to reflect the sun onto a specific, static location.

The “hot spot,” in this case, is a 2,000-square-foot circle on the town square–soon to be converted into an ice rink (apparently, the reflected light still won’t be terribly warm).

Okay, so here’s the plan– “Use a giant magnifying glass to concentrate the beam and set the town ablaze?!” What? No! Well, not until they fail to deliver the ransom anyways. Remember: good plans have steps.

Hit the jump for a shot of the town and the conceptual light beam (which won’t be tested until September).

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Starbucks and Powermat bring wireless charging to select Silicon Valley shops

Starbucks and Powermat bring wireless charging to select Silicon Valley coffee shops

Following a successful trial rollout at 17 stores in Boston, Starbucks has decided to join up with Powermat to bring the company’s wireless charging tech to Silicon Valley. The first installation will be completed this Sunday, at a store in San Jose, with up to 10 area locations set to be online before the end of August. Powermat President Daniel Schreiber explained that Silicon Valley was selected in order to boost the technology’s exposure among key industry players — AT&T has already confirmed that several of its smartphones will be compatible with the PMA standard in 2014, but the alliance needs event more support in order to grow momentum. The next logical step for this partnership would be for Powermat to sell coffee-resistant charging cases in Starbucks stores, of course, though neither company has made any announcements to that effect.

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Source: Duracell Powermat (PR Newswire)

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Future soldier: Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku on building a Death Star and Silicon Valley brain drain

Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku

Morning light shines softly through a large glass window as a travel-weary Michio Kaku gamely musters a smile. Just a few hours removed from a cross-country flight from the East Coast, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this physicist is plain tired. Then the camera starts rolling. In an instant, Kaku looks rejuvenated as he plays to his audience and waxes poetic about his favorite subject — science.

In the world occupied by nerds and techno geeks, theoretical physicist and futurist Kaku is akin to a rock star. Chalk it up to a flowing mane of pepper-gray locks and the fact he co-created string field theory (which tries to unravel the inner workings of the universe). These days, Kaku can mostly be found teaching at City College of New York where he holds the Henry Semat Chair and Professorship in theoretical physics. When he isn’t teaching, Kaku still spends most of his extra time talking science, whether it be through his radio programs, best-selling books such as Physics of the Future or appearances on shows like The Colbert Report, where he recently enlightened Stephen Colbert about the dangers of sending Bruce Willis into space to blow up a deadly asteroid. As fun as it is for Kaku to talk physics, however, he also considers it a matter of survival

Future soldier Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku on building a Death Star and Silicon Valley brain drain video

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‘King of the Hill’ creator Mike Judge to shoot ‘Silicon Valley’ pilot for HBO next year

silicon valley (CC wikipedia user Elf)

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Silicon Valley has actually already been reported in its very own fact TV show on Bravo, and now HBO is looking to use the exact same property for a live-action series. Deadline reports that King of the Hill and Beavis and Butthead creator Mike Judge, along with KotH manager producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky, will certainly shoot a pilot for Silicon Valley in the spring.

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The program is said to be a live-action dark comedy filmed with a single camera that will analyze exactly how “the people most qualified to succeed are the least capable of dealing with success” in the Valley. There’s no guarantee that the pilot will certainly get picked up for a full run, but Judge’s previous work directing Workplace Space would appear to be good experience.

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