Fit for an AirPod
(First published on 2/25/17 on Cold Takes, my newsletter — more)
I’m pretty sure there’s no technology product I’ve been asked about as much as the AirPods. Now, granted, they’re giant white things that stick out of your ears. They’re pretty noticeable. Still, based on my anecdotal evidence, consumer interest is through the roof. Everyone from baristas to Uber drivers are well aware of what they are and want to know how well they work.
I got these types of questions for a while with the Apple Watch. The difference here is that the product, in my view, is an absolute no-brainer for most people to buy (if within budget, of course). The same was not (and still is not) true with Apple Watch.
That said, the top question I get beyond the generic “how well do they work?” is about their fit — and I sadly can’t help you there. They fit my ears perfectly. Megan wears them while running and she loves them — they never fall out. But I realize everyone’s ears are different. And I’m not going to let you try mine on :)
Michael Thomsen on a truly weird phenomenon — playing video games blindfolded:
So how does playing video games work without visual cues? The speed-runners say they rely on a game’s sound effects and music to know where they are in the process. Jacob Criminiski, 23, who has completed multiple blindfolded speed-runs of the Game Boy game Pokémon Blue, with the fastest time of 19:50, said he used the sounds of hitting walls to orient himself, and timed direction changes to certain beats of the game’s soundtrack in specific locations.
“It’s really just about finding those little things that make it easier,” said Mr. Criminski, a student at the University of Dayton in Ohio. “As soon as you hit a wall, there’s a little bonking sound. You find 20 things that make it easier, and you add them all together and it turns into something that’s pretty easily done.”
Unclear if I should be confused or impressed by this.
Kristopher Tapley spoke with Denis Villeneuve, who is directing the upcoming Blade Runner 2049:
“I think the movie we are doing, we will need to find our own identity and territory, and at the same time be faithful and linked to the first project,” Villeneuve says. “It’s that equilibrium we are trying to find.”
With films like Sicario and last year’s Arrival under his belt, the pedigree is promising. But the original film is so iconic that there are at least a thousand ways this can go wrong… I choose to be cautiously optimistic.
Ty Burr on the challenges and potential of doing feature films in VR:
Most of us would never leave Rick’s Café Américain. We’d go behind the bar with Sascha, hover by Emil the croupier at the roulette table, hang out with Sam as he played “As Time Goes By” again. Me, I’d be following Peter Lorre’s sniveling Ugarte. But the central drama of Rick’s rekindled love and sacrifice for Ilsa Lund? We’d probably never get that far. Director Michael Curtiz and the Warner Brothers elves did such a brilliant job imagining the world of Casablanca that we’d be content to explore it until we bumped up against the walls, like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show.
Similarly, a virtual-reality Citizen Kane might be a survey of the title character’s infinite basement, each talisman sparking its own flashback in no particular order. The Godfather VR Edition might allow us to prowl the haunted house of Don Corleone’s extended family, with the drama of Michael’s slow rise and rot only one small thread amid the warp and weft.
The other possibility, of course, is that “films” done in VR are just totally different. Maybe it’s not about a single narrative arc, maybe it’s about multiple narrative arcs. Something like Sleep No More comes to mind. There’s a cinematic quality, for sure, but it’s also entirely different…
Adam Epstein on Netflix securing the rights to distribute The Irishman, the new Martin Scorsese film starring his longtime collaborator Robert De Niro:
The surprising deal is as much a microcosm of Netflix’s emergence in Hollywood as it is a reflection of the major studios’ reticence to dole out cash for risky, non-tentpole films. Paramount’s last collaboration with Scorsese — the filmmaker’s spiritual passion project Silence — was a critical success but a box office disaster, earning just $7 million in the US on a $40 million budget. Scorsese’s planned $100 million budget for The Irishman was likely far too big of a gamble for Paramount to make.
Yes, we now apparently live in a world where Scorsese + De Niro is a “gamble”. Just how bad was the last year for Paramount? This bad.
To that end, Scorsese will have all the creative (and financial) freedom he wants at Netflix. The streaming service has cavernously deep pockets, and is known not to meddle with auteurs — especially someone as iconic as Scorsese. With Netflix, Scorsese will get to make the movie he wants to make, with as much money as he needs to make it.
But that also means the film is unlikely to receive a traditional theatrical release. Unlike Amazon, Netflix’s streaming rival which releases its films in theaters before they appear online, Netflix releases the films it distributes online the same day as in theaters. Several major theaters have boycotted Netflix’s strategy, maintaining that it depresses turnout if viewers can watch a new release online in the comfort of their own homes, rather than spend money to see it at a theater.
I’d be pretty surprised if Netflix didn’t have some sort of bigger theatrical release for this film as well — well, if the theaters allow it. Then again, Netflix does surprising things, and it seems to work more often than not. (Hopefully this isn’t a Qwikster move…)
More reporters and editors across consumer and lifestyle beats write about the technology angle of a story almost inherently now, in a way that was a really hard sell when I was starting out in PR. Again, this is because technology has become so central to our every day life in a very short amount of time. You can’t write about human experience or trends without writing about technology because it is fueling it all.
To me, this means that technology companies need to get much better at owning their stories and managing their brands from day one. You no longer get to be “stealthy” for very long, if at all so you gotta fill the void with an accurate narrative about your product, your team and what you’re trying to accomplish asap. Drag your feet and others will do it for you (reporters, former employees, anyone with a Medium, Facebook, Twitter account, etc).
Technology is no longer a niche, it permeates everything. And while all startups may start out small, as they grow, they have to start thinking about the brands they’re building earlier and earlier in their lifespans. Because you can go mainstream — actually mainstream — in very short order. We’re moving beyond “disrupting” and the constant fights that used to entail…
You should talk as fast as I listen. Please.
(First published on 2/25/17 on Cold Takes, my newsletter)