Between launching a charity-friendly buying program, announcing Sunday deliveries, and gearing up for the first wave of frenzied holiday shoppers, Amazon has been busy these past few weeks. But that didn't stop CEO Jeff Bezos from spending a decent chunk of time talking to Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes about something, well, new.
60 Minutes has been more than happy to tease the unveiling with a clip of Bezos leading Rose into a room to show him something that elicited an “Oh my God!” from the veteran TV journo. The exclamation seemed to stem from a place of pleasure rather than worry, but the segment just aired and the truth is out.
So what did Bezos' have up his proverbial sleeves? Amazon Prime Air drones that could feasibly be used as autonomous delivery vehicles. To hear the chief executive tell it, those electric drones - or “octocopters” as he referred to them - could make for delivery times as low as 30 minutes. Naturally, the size of those drones means there's a strict upper limit to how much cargo they can carry, but Bezos says they can carry packages of up to five pounds for round trips as long as 10 miles. Thankfully for Amazon, that means nearly 86% of the items that it carries can be lashed onto one of its sky-bound couriers.
Just don't expect to see one of them land on your doorstep any time soon. The FAA still hasn't given its blessing to domestic drones yet (though it just recently laid out its vision for such a situation) which means the earliest Amazon will be legally able to bring PrimeAir online is in 2015 - a launch window that Bezos says is “optimistic” at best. There's also no word on what company (if any) Amazon is working with to develop its fleet of drones, but at this stage there's no shortage of players eagerly working to bring drones into the world of business.
The rest of the report didn't shine too much additional light on what makes Amazon tick, though it did afford us mere mortals a closer look at how its gargantuan fulfillment centers work. They're stunningly large models of efficiency - the one 60 Minutes toured was 1.2 million sq. ft. and the workers packing products into parcels were able to do so with remarkable speed. Sadly, since the segment was filmed over the span of a month, there's no official response on the recent BBC report that took aim at Amazon UK for warehouse working conditions that could potentially cause “mental illness and physical illness”.
Holidays are all about tradition, and this year a 90-year-old woman from Connecticut created a new one with her grandson: the two signed onto Reddit after Thanksgiving dinner and held an AMA.
Tons of Redditors logged on to listen to her stories and ask questions, and it became so popular that it ended up making it to the front page of the site.
This was how she introduced herself:
I was born in May 1, 1923. I was born in Stamford, CT. I lived through the Great Depression, 14 presidents, a moon landing and much more. I served time in Army Air Force as a nurse. 2nd Lieutenant. I served for a year in the army. I then worked as a nurse in a doctor's office. I've traveled all over. I was in Pasadena, CA on VJ Day. I've been married, had three wonderful children I've lived a long time and have a lot to share, so please ask anything!
The AMA - short for "Ask Me Anything" - was a delightful read this morning, considering most of today's news focused on Black Friday showdowns and throw downs in Walmarts across the country.
These were some of the highlights (her grandson typed her answers and put them in quotes):
Perhaps this will inspire others to hold their own offline AMA's with their family members around the dinner table this holiday season.
Grey Area will debut a collection of seven artist-designed yoga mats during Art Basel in Miami next month in partnership with the Morgans Hotel Group and Lululemon Athletica.
The mats feature designed by Daniel Arsham, Eric Cahan, Wim Delvoye, Kon Trubkovich, Jon Kessler, Grey Area and @earlboykins (Andrew Kuo). If you’re familiar with yoga, you know that the mat is an essential grounding force in yoga practice. You spend a lot of time just staring down at your mat in mindful concentration, so Grey Area thought that this would be an ideal location for some art.
Inspired by the Hindu metaphysical tradition of the seven body chakras, this first collection is inspired specifically by Sahasrara, or the crown chakra. Represented by the color violet, the crown chakra is the physical manifestation of the self—where one’s creativity and higher consciousness reside. The mats are backed in purple to celebrate this spirit.
Spanning the spectrum from complex to simple, Grey Area’s yoga mats serve to broaden the boundaries of one’s practice and incorporate art further into our daily rituals. Enhancing the quiet, Cahan and Arsham’s serene imagery expand upon one’s sense of space. Delvoye and Kuo take a more satirical approach, appropriating pop cultural references to question the boundary between the mainstream and the sacred. Kessler’s design playfully addresses the action of rolling the mat, relating it to less wholesome practices, while our own design offers an alternative surface for one’s practice. Trubkovich’s mat confronts the viewer with a distorted portrait to force a greater awareness of one’s body and self, contrasting perception with the factual. United by medium, these diverse works come together to create our first dynamic collection.
During Art Basel Miami, you can enjoy daily yoga classes at all of the Morgan Hotels Miami locations. The mats will be available for sale starting on December 2nd at the Delano, Shore Club and Mondrian Hotel as well as at Art Basel Miami Beach (D.A.P.) and Design Miami (Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum).
There are all kinds of reasons to think that Bitcoin is a joke, and that the value of the bitcoins themselves will ultimately go to zero. It's inherently unstable as a currency, prone to hyperdeflation, has an artificial scarcity, and is subject to hoarding.
But there is one important thing about Bitcoin that its advocates correctly identify. As a payment-processing platform, it's very intriguing.
Bitcoin gives file-sharing a brilliant twist. In essence, it has created “a decentralized virtual currency that uses a peer-to-peer consensus system to confirm and verify transactions,” two researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis concluded in a recent study. And François R. Velde, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, made this assessment in a new report on bitcoin: “It represents a remarkable conceptual and technical achievement, which may well be used by existing financial institutions (which could issue their own bitcoins) or even by governments themselves.”
Bitcoin’s advantages as a low-cost means of transferring money have intrigued a number of corporate clients of the law firm Proskauer, though none of them are using it, said Jeffrey D. Neuberger, co-chairman of the firm’s technology, media and communications group. “It’s an early-stage technology,” he said. “But it could be revolutionary.” In short, in a world that some people consider almost as important as music — the precincts of money and finance — bitcoin, or a successor technology that shares its DNA, is given a good chance of influencing the future.
The existing payment system in developed countries remains archaic. It's not easy to zip money to someone, and fees remain high and frustrating. Using cryptography and peer-to-peer technology to instantly move money from one person to another without fees or time lag is a genuinely exciting and disruptive notion. Why people need to speculate on the "coins" is a head-scratcher. But the interest in how the technology could be applied is not.
An epic dance battle broke out between an excited kid and Shannon Sailes (aka “The Dancing Usher“) during a Detroit Pistons basketball game against the New York Knicks on November 19th, 2013. The kid’s smooth moves gave the Piston’s dancing usher a run for his money.
video via Detroit Pistons
via Bleacher Report
Fitcoin is an app created by Jamie Roberts, Adam Leibsohn, and Daniel Finkler that encourages people to compete in fitness challenges with their friends to win money. After setting up Fitcoin with a Jawbone fitness band, users can create or join a fitness challenge and put some money in the pot. Everyone competes to win the prize, which goes to the competitor who exercises the most. Prospective users can sign up at the Fitcoin website.
Monocle allows you to listen to your music on the go, but also intercept calls and interact with your phone, all handsfree. I love the idea of wearing something that’s interesting and unique rather than some hideous ear piece or boring earbuds. This makes listening to music or talking on the phone a little more fun.
Constructed with a reinforced retro-style cable, this cute speaker is available in six fun colors: Coral Red, Mint Green, Marine Blue, Slate Grey, Black Copper or Black Diamond.
If you listen to Boing Boing's Apps for Kids podcast, you know that Jane and I love the iOS app, Kingdom Rush, and its follow-up title, Kingdom Rush Frontiers (They are on Android, too!). The object of these tower defense games is to wisely use your treasure to build different kinds of defense towers and to deploy troops to stop oncoming waves of monstrous invaders. The excellent cartoony graphics and elements of humor add enhance this addictive resource-management challenge.
Today, Armor Games announced that Kingdom Rush Frontiers is free to play on its website. From the press release: "The Kingdom Rush Frontiers Flash version features 15 stages set across three unique terrains, with three epic Boss Fights, over 40 enemy types, nine heroes including six that are unlockable through gameplay and plenty of fun Easter Eggs throughout."
BV’s Top 20 Producers
How do you stop a 400-lb running back rushing at you? The answer is simple: you don't.
Meet Tony Picard, a White Swan High School senior from Yakima, Washington, who may just be the biggest running back in the history of football. Picard, who at 6'4" and 400-lb is even bigger than famous football player William "Refrigerator" Perry of the Chicago Bears, started out as a lineman, but he was faster than one expected.
White Swan coach Andrew Bush once saw Picard play basketball and realized that the teen was agile in spite of his size. Bush switched him to running back and gave him a simple instruction: don't fumble.
"It's so much fun to have him go out [on the field] as a captain and see him shaking hands before the game," said Bush to Jack McNeel of Indian Country, "They're just kind of staring, like 'Oh my gosh, you've got to be kidding me!'" Bush added that most teams will sacrifice five guys to stop Picard, which left the rest of the White Swan team open to make plays.
Photo: Tony Picard
Update 11/17/13 - The video clip:
Paris maternity nurse Sonia Rochel made a video of newborn twins taking a bath still clinging to each other, not realizing they were out of their mother’s womb. It’s a technique she invented called the “Thalasso Baby Bath” that involves gently running water on the babies faces, which then makes them mimic how they would move in the womb.
A game-changing invention for the art of long-exposure illumination, Pixelstick takes light art to new levels, enabling beginner animators to participate and advanced artists to evolve their craft in amazing ways.
Having already raised four times its $100,000 crowfunding goal on Kickstarter, the popularity of this incredible gadget speaks for itself – but no worries: you still have one month to back the project. Their short promotional video is a must-see illustration of the vast possibilities.
The breadth of possibilities is breath-taking, from graffiti tags to animated rainbows (above), mesmerizing patterns to abstract compositions (below).
The gadget’s creators point out that light painting dates back nearly 125 years yet the tools used to create it have evolved only on the side of cameras and not in terms of the actual methods of illumination.
The founders of Bitbanger Labs saw this market void as a worthy challenge and began experimenting with drafts and prototypes, slowly developing a handheld wonder with powerful features even they did not anticipate at the beginning.
An elephant at the Fort Worth Zoo is determined to break a stick, and gets very frustrated when none of its efforts seem to work.
video via johnbod
A unique green retreat and pedestrian pathway is set to rival elevated parks around the world, including New York’s own High Line, right in the heart of London. This project stands out from its lofty peers in many regards, but most boldly: it is set over the River Thames rather than buildings or roads.
Heatherwick Studio, known for work in architecture, urban infrastructure, sculpture and design, is teaming up with landscape designer Dan Pearson and global engineering firm Arup to realize this massive and bold cross-disciplinary endeavor.
Crossing over 1,000 feet of river, the bridge will branch out into smaller spaces and seating areas and be populated with a wide range of regional flora. The complex plan will frame views of the city and provide opportunities for different kinds of performances and interactions.
The bridge is intended to bring a place of peace, quite and greenery back to the heart of the city as well as serving the role of pedestrian route. It will be both an activator of the two newly-joined neighborhoods and a stunning green landmark.
The crowdfunding space has just got a little more crowded in the UK, with the official launch today of a platform for crowdsourcing donations aimed at doing social good. Yimby.com - an affirmative play on the phrase nimby (aka ‘not in my back yard') - is a new business from online charity donation company JustGiving, a 12-year veteran of the digital giving space. Yimby.com has been operating in beta up to today.
If you're in the business of making money from other people's largess - JustGiving takes a 5% cut of all donations on its platform, and has raised £1.6 billion for charity since 2001 (which equates to revenue of around £127 million for the business) - then the rise of alternative crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter, is either a concern or an opportunity.
A concern because these platforms are on a growth tear, and people only have so much money to give. The most successful crowdfunding platforms also give people more of an incentive to donate by casting the spell of story around causes/projects to increase engagement.
Instead of watching from the sidelines JustGiving has decided to wade in, with a little help (to the tune of £50,000) from the UK government to help it launch Yimby. Presumably Yimby tallies with the government's ‘big society‘ agenda - by outsourcing social project financing to the community, rather than the Treasury.
As with its other charitable donations-fuelled business, JustGiving will be taking a 5% fee on donations for all successful projects on Yimby. It's also charging card fees (where applicable).
Here's how it describes Yimby's mission:
Yimby.com allows individuals to deliver philanthropic projects without being affiliated with a charity, from planting community gardens, to purchasing basketball wheelchairs for local teams or launching mentoring programmes for young people.
Yimby is manually checking projects to ensure they qualify as a ‘social good' - so trying to fund your Birthday drinks probably won't fly. But individual projects can qualify if the need/cause is great enough, with Yimby noting that a disabled man used the platform to fund making his house more accessible during the site's beta period, for example.
Over the beta, Yimby has had 250 projects submitted, and more than £250,000 has been pledged. More than 100 of the projects have been successfully funded to-date, which it says works out at a 64% success rate thus far. Yimby sets a 30-day period on campaigns to keep them “focused”.
One successful project that took place during the beta was a campaign to save Kettering Town Football Club. Its supporters were able to raise £20,546 on the site in October.
Asked why the UK needs another crowdfunding platform, even one focused on social good, JustGiving said its aim is to take the crowdfunding model mainstream - or more mainstream than it currently is.
“We've continually been asked by our users for exactly this type of service, and now we want to open up philanthropy to any individual wanting to start their own community projects,” it told TechCrunch. “With JustGiving's experience, technology and reach behind us we hope to bring community crowdfunding to a mainstream audience across the UK.”
It did not make mention of fee-less charity donation rival Believe.in, which undercuts JustGiving by charging zero fees on donations, but such disruption can't be far from its thoughts.
And while here's no shortage of rivals to Yimby - from a mainstream crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter to specialist social good platforms such as StartSomeGood or OpenIDEO, to name a couple – JustGiving will presumably be hoping its brand profile gives it a better reach than some of its smaller rivals. It's also clearly keen to tap into the energy around crowdfunding.
While Yimby is launching only in the UK for now, JustGiving says the site has been growing fast, adding that it has plans to expand Yimby internationally in future.
Kyoto-Moto recorded his friends participating in a chaotic 13-car demolition derby atop a skyscraper in Grand Theft Auto V. Kyoto-Moto used a large “Cargobob” military helicopter to taxi each of his friend’s cars from the street to the very top of the building. The war among vehicles actually begins about three-minutes into the video.
A recently discovered G tridens fruitfly that has evolved a to have images of detailed, ant-like insects on each wing, complete with six legs, a thorax, antennae and a tapered abdomen. The fly uses the images defensively, waving them back and forth when threatened to create the illusion of massing ants. Many G Tridens varieties bear elaborate wing markings, but this one, discovered in Oman, is very striking. I think more beasties should have van-art bestowed on them by the strange world of evolution.
Dr Howarth first saw G tridens on an oleander shrub in northern Oman. "I was looking at the stem of the leaves and I noticed that there were some insects crawling around. When I sort of honed in I started to notice what I thought was a couple of ants moving around."
At first she suspected an infestation on the fly's wings. "But it was so symmetrical that I thought, 'oh this is not possible'. When I got it under the microscope I realised that these were insects painted onto the wings."
In contrast to its wings and brilliant green eyes, the fly's body is a dull greenish grey - "almost cryptically coloured," says Dr Howarth - that blends into the leaves where it is found.
When threatened, the fly flashes its wings to give the appearance of ants walking back and forth. The predator gets confused and the fly zips off.
Fruit fly with the wings of beauty [Anna Zacharias/The National]
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)