Google updates Photos for iOS, but no Chromecast support just yet

Google updates Photos for iOS, but no Chromecast support just yet

Waiting for the revamped Google Photos app to arrive on iOS? Well, the company has just rolled out an update on iTunes, but we’re afraid it doesn’t come with all the new features Mountain View promised at its Nexus event. The latest version for iPhones and iPads lets you share animations via Whatsapp, and if you’re in the US, it gives you the power to label people and merge face groups. Similar to the Android version, you can easily search for the names of the people you labeled or even combine search terms (say, name + location) to find particular photos. However, it has one glaring omission: it’s not Chromecast-enabled just yet. Google says that’s “coming soon!” in its announcement post — in the meantime, it has sprinkled in some bug fixes and added the ability to fire up the app faster.

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Aetho’s ‘Aeon’ GoPro stabilizer looks slick, and so will your video

Aetho's 'Aeon' GoPro stabilizer looks slick, and so will your video

“Shoot video that’s worth watching” reads one of the straplines for Aetho’s “Aeon” handheld GoPro stabilizer. It sounds kinda obvious, right? But, if you’ve ever walked/ran/danced/dived/whatever with a GoPro in your hand/mouth/knees/whatever you’ll know it’s not that simple. You thought you had an oak-like steady grip, turns out you shake like a cold chihuahua — and the GoPro does a wonderful job of translating that to your videos. Aethos’s marketing copy suddenly doesn’t seem so vapid, does it? Especially once you see what the Aeon can do for your footage. Which, helpfully, you can right here in this article.

Let’s back up a little. What is Aeon? It’s a camera gimbal (stabilizer) designed for GoPros. If you’ve ever watched a silky-smooth drone video, you’ve already enjoyed gimbal-stablized video. But, handheld versions of these already exist, right? Yeah, they do. In fact, when I recently wrote about some of the best accessories for the ubiquitous action camera, I cited an existing gimbal as my “must have” add on. The problem with current products, though, is they either feel a little delicate, a little clunky, or simply lack practical design.

Aetho’s goal with the Aeon is to make a stabilizer that looks and functions as slick as the video it produces. I spent some time with a 3D-printed prototype, and I have to say, it looks and feels very promising. Firstly, the design is unlike most competing products (which usually resemble a frame on the end of a pole). Aeon, on the other hand, looks like the offspring of a traditional steadicam that got friendly with the steering controls of a supercar. The curved handle feels much more comfortable to hold for extended periods, and it also places the camera directly level with your hand. With other gimbals, the GoPro is usually above your hand, which makes framing less predictable. With Aeon, you just point your knuckles where you want to film, and the GoPro follows. A small, but significant detail.

Aetho's 'Aeon' GoPro stabilizer looks slick, and so will your video

The Aeon also allows a broader range of lateral motion. The camera’s 3-axis articulation is designed into the handle itself, so instead of motors moving on the end of a pole, the grip has much more ability to twist and maneuver. To make use of this, Aeon has an analog joystick (a-la PS Vita etc.), that lets you pan the camera left or right (or up/down) without your wrist moving. This means you can be moving (say, on a board/bike) and track your subject with your thumb, while keeping your hand naturally pointed forward. Another big plus, is a circular LCD display at the top of the grip so you can see exactly what you’re filming at all times. At the base of the grip, is a GoPro mount, letting you attach this to helmets, selfie-sticks and any other compatible accessory you might already have.

The prototype I tried didn’t have some of these extra features (no LCD or GoPro mount), but the gimbal and joystick worked perfectly, and the results are impressive. I took it for a walk, which might not be extreme, but the movement of walking is one of the best ways to bugger up your handheld video — and you can see below how smooth it is (the video starts with unstabilized video first). Frustratingly, I realized after shooting that the GoPro in the Aeon has a bust lens hood, so there’s some blurring from the camera, but the results are unmistakably much, much smoother than the camera that’s just on a regular grip (GoPro’s 3-Way, incidentally).

Aetho's 'Aeon' GoPro stabilizer looks slick, and so will your video

Other details I noticed, is that where the motors in my current gimbal can jam when you reach the end of their rotational range — creating an annoying vibration in the gimbal and your footage — the Aeon prototype didn’t do this once. That alone make me excited about this product. It only takes one rogue wobble to ruin your meticulously planned cinematic skate intro, right? Oh, and the Aeon can be charged via USB cable — no weird-sized batteries with a cradle (if you have a Feiyu, you know what I mean). I still love my Feiyu G4, but Aetho’s taken a good idea, and tried to make it great — and from what I can see, it works. If there are any concerns, it’s whether it’ll deliver the five hours of battery life promised, and how rugged or delicate the final units will be, something I can’t judge from the prototype.

The Aeon’s currently taking orders on Indiegogo, but, from my conversations with Aetho founders Harrison D. Lee, and Ian Nott, all the development is done (for real, it used to look like this), and production is ready to go — slated for early 2016. The money pledged is to directly fund the production of those devices. How much for one you ask? If you’re quick, $300. If you’re not so quick, $350. That’s about $100 more than the popular Feiyu G4, but with LCD, and other design advantages above, that seems about right.

Aetho's 'Aeon' GoPro stabilizer looks slick, and so will your video

Aetho’s 3D-printed prototype might not look as pretty as the final product, but it works a charm.

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What I learned from spending a week with the first big Apple Watch update

What I learned from spending a week with the first big Apple Watch update

By Jared Newman

This article originally appeared on Fast Company and is reprinted with permission.

As the first Apple Watch update big enough to merit its own official web page, WatchOS 2 is supposed to be a big deal.

Yet in day-to-day use, many of WatchOS 2’s improvements can be easy to miss. You might have no desire to use the Apple Watch as a beside clock, and may never frequent the retailers whose rewards cards now work with Apple Pay. Siri’s new voice controls are useful in only a handful of situations, and an expanded contact list doesn’t matter much if you’re not initiating many calls from the Watch in the first place. Public transit information is nice, but only if you’re in one of the select cities where that data is available. As a way to tell time and view notifications, the Apple Watch is largely the same as it ever was.

But that doesn’t mean WatchOS 2 is unimportant. It’s just that the biggest changes are happening behind the scenes, as app makers rework their software to take advantage of new capabilities. WatchOS 2 is a significant update, but one whose effects won’t truly be felt for some time.

I’ve spent about a week with WatchOS 2, and so far my experience hasn’t changed drastically from before the big software update. Most of my Watch usage involves managing emails, checking sports scores, controlling music playback, and fielding the occasional phone call or text message. WatchOS 2 does little to improve those experiences.

But in dabbling with the first WatchOS 2 apps, it seems the update is more about establishing the product to be far more useful in the future.

In Search Of Native Apps

The most noteworthy change in WatchOS 2 is support for native apps, which can run on the Apple Watch without being connected to a nearby iPhone over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Already, this has opened the door to some offline utility apps, such as PCalc, a basic calculator, and Pomodoro Pro, a timer for managing productivity. But going native should also benefit apps that still rely on an iPhone for Internet connectivity; in theory, they should be faster and more reliable, since they’re not banking so heavily on the iPhone for processing power and core app logic.

The native WatchOS 2 apps that I have tried do seem slightly more reliable than their non-native counterparts. The weather app Dark Sky, for instance, loads just a little faster, and doesn’t revert to the loading screen as you move between various sections of the app.

So far, however, most Apple Watch apps are no different than they were in WatchOS 1. Several developers have told me that switching to a native app isn’t especially easy, because it requires rewriting much of their existing code to run on the Watch instead of the iPhone. And certain features, such as iCloud and GameCenter, are a lot trickier to implement now. In other words, it’ll be a while until native apps are the norm.

What I learned from spending a week with the first big Apple Watch update

Making Watch Apps More Useful

Apple Watch apps aren’t just getting a speed boost in WatchOS 2. They’re also getting more powerful as Apple provides access to more of the Watch’s hardware capabilities.

A twist of the Digital Crown, for instance, can now control software knobs and menu boxes within third-party apps such as PCalc and The Weather Channel. Access to the accelerometer and heart rate monitor open the door to third-party fitness and sleep tracker apps. Haptic feedback allows for surprising new apps such as Tacet, a metronome that counts the beat by tapping on your wrist.

In time, these types of capabilities will help the Apple Watch become more than just a notification machine. By using the Digital Crown for selecting items, Apple can pack more information into the screen. And with wearable sensors and haptic feedback, they can accomplish things that just aren’t possible on your phone.

Complicated Complications

Even when you’re not actively using third-party apps, WatchOS 2 extends their usefulness by letting them appear as Complications on the main watch screen. DataMan Next, for instance, can show how much wireless data you’ve consumed, and WaterMinder can show how much more hydrated you ought to be. These apps can also use WatchOS 2’s Time Travel feature to show past and future information with a twist of the Digital Crown. An obvious example would be a weather app that lets you scroll through the next several hours of forecast data.

For now, if you want more Complications, you’ll need to seek out the handful of specific apps that offer them. (And sadly, none yet exists for sports scores or fantasy football.) But over time, it’s likely that app makers will treat Complications and Time Travel as a high-priority feature. After all, it’s an opportunity for their apps to be the first thing you see when you glance at the screen.

The current situation reminds me somewhat of Android home screen widgets in their early days, with too few Complications overall and too many of dubious value. But as app makers catch on, I suspect the inclusion of clever Complications will become a lot more commonplace.

Seeding The Future

Whereas WatchOS 1 was largely about the apps and services that Apple built in on its own, WatchOS 2 extends those capabilities to third-party apps. The difference is barely noticeable now, but over time there should be a cumulative impact as apps become faster and can do a lot more. (And one can imagine these effects will be more pronounced whenever the next version of the Apple Watch hardware arrives.)

That may explain why Apple calls this update “an even more personal experience.” The tagline no longer refers to just the watch faces and wrist bands you choose, but to a new wave of apps that you’ll come to rely on.

[Photo: courtesy of Apple]

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Why is this song used in so many GoPro videos?

Why is this song used in so many GoPro videos?

February 23rd, 2012. Electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling uploads the official music video for “Crystallize to YouTube. Two days later, user “riley lux” uploads a video titled “DH long boarding on a windy day.” In it, a group of friends enjoy some downhill riding set to Stirling’s haunting violin-based soundtrack. The video itself isn’t remarkable. Some self-shot GoPro footage, with a few edits roughly in time with parts of the song. But, there’s something about each pass of Stirling’s bow that balances the on-screen energy with a tangible calm. Later the same day, user “Jvr0s” chooses the same song for a video called “GPK Fun around town.” In it, a group of friends practice parkour. This video is entirely forgettable, but for the song — it somehow manages to elevate the otherwise unremarkable action cam footage.

My first exposure to the track is also on an action sport video, during a wingsuit video marathon, to be precise. Long after my first encounter, I hear the song again on an F-18 pilot’s GoPro video; remembering it, I use Shazam to find out what it’s called. I scour my YouTube history and realize: This song has been following me for months through its popularity on YouTube GoPro videos and I’ve only just noticed.

The question is: Why am I hearing this song in videos more than… well, any other? Is it a free download on some action sports site? Was it used in an advert for GoPro? Maybe it’s just confirmation bias? Or, perhaps, Stirling’s stumbled on a secret formula. Something in the song’s DNA that makes it particularly suitable for soundtracking sweet jumps, aerial rides, hula-hooping, surfing, wingsuit flying or, seemingly any and every form of action-based activity?

As of this writing, searching YouTube for “Crystallize GoPro” returns about 12,000 results. By contrast, searching for “Rihanna Diamonds GoPro” (an arbitrarily chosen popular song), you actually get about 10,000 more results. However, scroll down and you’ll soon see that the action videos using Rihanna’s song are few, and drop off almost immediately. YouTube fills the space with “Results for similar searches.” You can go 10 pages deep after searching “Crystallize GoPro,” and still find more action videos soundtracked by the song. When I first noticed this, it seemed like an in-joke I didn’t know about. Some videos are perhaps less suited for the piece, sure; it’s not a panacea. But most — the clear majority — are improved by it.

Time to call in the professionals. I spoke to GoPro Creative Music Supervisor David Kelley about it. His job is figuring out the best music for GoPro’s in-house productions. If anyone knows how to soundtrack an action sport video, it’s him. I want to know if there are characteristics he looks for in music that can help explain why “Crystallize” might work more than other songs. (And in turn, what music in general works?) It turns out there are: “We do really appreciate a long intro, dramatic builds, spaces in the song where we can play around with the footage,” explains Kelley.

If it were as simple as the structure, though, surely there’d be something of a formula by now? A musical template making Kelley’s (and our) job easier? Kelley, perhaps predictably, adds that it’s also about the unquantifiable: the emotion of the piece, its narrative qualities. “It’s really hard to tell a great story without using music,” he says, “because music is the shadow that’s telling you how to feel, or what the tone of what you’re seeing is.”

Where GoPro differs from the average uploader, though, is that it has a library of music comprising some 500 indie artists (representing about 20,000 tracks) for it to draw on. Kelley’s skill is finding the right one, but even the professionals aren’t immune to a bit of a nudge from their gut or serendipity. “I never thought it would happen, but when the right song shows up, you’ll know,” he says. “It just makes the footage sing out; there’s that magical lightning-in-a-bottle thing that happens.”

This “leaping out” is what happened with user “SWISSPilot101.” Loïc (his real name) used “Crystallize” on this video of him flying a small aircraft. He tells me he isn’t actually much of a fan of Stirling’s music, but, “I found this song pretty well fitting. It turned out to be very easy to cut some footage to the song with nice transits. The construction of the song is not too complicated, which makes it easier to fit into a video.” True to Kelley’s advice, essentially it made his footage “sing out” to him and there were easy edit points, cues for him to tell his story.

“Crystallize” is, of course, not the only song that lends itself to our home videos. There are many; it’s just Stirling’s that has come to my attention. Another example is Overwerk’s “Daybreak”; it’s on way more GoPro videos. At least double if we’re going by the YouTube search metric. It too has the intro, the high impact beat, the builds and the “space.” And so it should. Not only was it used on one of the camera maker’s official videos (earning it instant favor with GoPro owners); it was written (or at least finished) especially for the company. When GoPro reached out to Overwerk about working together, he offered them “Daybreak” — an incomplete track that the artist felt was ideal for the company.

So far, we know that a good intro, hook or dramatic instrumentation (with a healthy dose of storytelling) can help your video and music gel. But, is there something else that ties it all together? Something in the brain? Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya lectures on the neuroscience of music and emotion at Goldsmith’s University, London. Unsurprisingly, he says it’s complicated. “When a musical piece is chosen to go along with a visual scene, what’s needed is the congruency of meaning across both dimensions — musical and visual,” he says. “The answer lies, in my view, not just in the music, but the various ways that meanings emerge out of the video.” The trouble being, that meaning is a deeply subjective thing.

Bhattacharya explains that how a video is shot and edited — the dynamics, the angle, surroundings, et cetera — all contribute to its relationship with music. In Stirling’s case, Bhattacharya attributes the song’s “sense of toughness” and “dream-like” state as key to providing meaningfulness to those action enthusiasts choosing it. As a non-scientist, I hypothesize that Stirling’s soothing “dream-like” violins subconsciously represent the fabled state of flow — the state of mindful focus — often talked about by action sports participants.

This leads us to a (admittedly obvious) question. What is the meaning behind “Crystallize”? Who better to answer that than Stirling herself? “When I finished writing ‘Crystallize’ and was trying to think of what I should name the song, I had recently started attending some meditative/therapeutic sessions with a friend. She taught me about Dr. Masaru Emoto, and his experiments with water.” For those unfamiliar with Emoto’s experiments, he believed that water given positive reinforcement, and water given negative reinforcement, when frozen, look vastly different under the microscope. Essentially, that water is changed by consciousness. “Considering that we, as human beings, are over 70 percent water, well — you get the idea,” adds Stirling.

It’s perhaps Stirling’s own feelings about “Crystallize” that likely chime most with the average big-wave rider or skydiver. “I’d like to think that ‘Crystallize’ is a very positive, empowering song and that when people listen to it, they feel that enabling power in themselves to go out and achieve their goals and dreams.” Even Stirling’s noticed its popularity with this demographic: “I haven’t searched YouTube for ‘Crystallize’ lately, but have noticed that people like using it as background music for videos, gymnastics, dance routine music, et cetera,” she said. “I think that’s awesome!”

Of course, you only have to look at the official video for “Crystallize” to see it. The ice, the rocks, the flight-like shots between the stalactites. In many ways, the first 25 seconds are like the wingsuit videos that started me on this journey. “I don’t have a problem with fans using my music for basic [not-for-profit] videos and projects,” adds Stirling. Which is good, because it’s been three years since its debut on YouTube, and the videos using it are still coming.

If the idea of using a track that features on thousands of other videos horrifies you, GoPro’s Kelley has some tips for upping your soundtrack-selection game:

  • Get a feel for the tone, the color and the texture of the footage; try to get a clear idea of what the story you’re telling is.
  • Pick a handful of songs, and play with the footage; see what works.
  • Sometimes you just need one part of the song. “We always look for intros that really grab you. Maybe a hook, but they’re usually pretty beat-driven.”
  • Look at a song, and see how you can edit to the music or cut to the beat. Look for cues in the song that tell you where to go. A moment of silence? Perhaps a good opportunity to put a “foot brake” in the video.
  • “Sometimes, try and choose music that falls outside of what you normally like. Occasionally a video can call for music that isn’t my favorite, but when you see them together, it works.”
  • “I always encourage directors to reach out to independent artists directly and plead their case. Tell them you’re making a short film about [whatever]; you’d love to use their song. More often than not, the artist is honored and will grant you permission.”
  • Failing that, there are many artists on Bandcamp and SoundCloud that actively want you to use their music. Look around. Additionally, production libraries (like can be both inexpensive and convenient for sourcing legal-to-use audio.

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Extreme exposure: Inside GoPro’s burgeoning media empire

Extreme exposure: Inside GoPro's burgeoning media empire

A sun-pinked face stares down the barrel of a surfboard-mounted camera. Mountain biker, Sam Pilgrim, is gently floating in crystal-clear water. Behind him, a backdrop of cotton-wool clouds and bright blue sky. This idyllic setting could describe any number of surf videos shot with GoPro’s rugged action camera, but this one is different. Pilgrim gazes up from his board, then impulsively, inexplicably bails into the ocean. Almost in the same moment, an outrigger canoe bursts into shot over the camera — right where Pilgrim would have been had his reactions been a millisecond slower. Pilgrim is a pro athlete, but surfing’s not his sport. The moment is genuine, but the circumstances that make it possible are planned. This close shave took place at GoPro’s recent Athlete Summit in Hawaii, and it’s videos exactly like this that the company is hoping will transform it from camera maker to media outlet, as it files for its IPO.

GoPro’s business is action cameras, those small, silver cubes that adorn helmets, surfboards and, these days, pretty much anything. It’s a market the company dominates. GoPro’s cameras are responsible for a great number of YouTube’s most thrilling content, with an estimated 6,000 uploads originating from its devices every day. It sold just shy of 4 million GoPros last year, a number up from 2.3 million in 2012, and 1.1 million in 2011. But the cameras are catching up to the limits of what’s currently possible or practical for a consumer product; its top model already records at 4K, albeit only at 15 frames per second. As a result, many have asked where the company can go from here. It doesn’t help that the cameras it makes are built to be almost indestructible, and therefore non-disposable. This, then, is a pivotal time for GoPro. It must continue to expand and convince potential investors there’s still room for growth.

GoPro’s solution starts with shipping a load of the athletes it sponsors out to Hawaii. Not where most business reinventions begin perhaps, but the company has big plans. It realizes it’s sitting on a content golden goose. Content it can monetize. Content it has to do very little to obtain. Content that’s already doing big things online. GoPro tells us it’s the top-ranking brand channel on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Adrenaline is apparently big business.

Because of this, GoPro’s making the conscious and, perhaps, natural leap from selling cameras and accessories to content creation, curation and delivery. As for the athletes? They’re here in Hawaii to learn how to crank up the share factor on their videos and grab the tools to make even more content for the brand. It’s creating a virtuous circle where its cameras shoot the content that it then monetizes on various channels. Content encourages camera sales and, in turn, a new wave of content creators.

Extreme exposure: Inside GoPro's burgeoning media empire

The day before our quick-witted surfer’s lucky escape, Paul Crandell, VP of marketing at GoPro, stands on a small stage in a hotel conference room. He’s addressing the large group of around 100 skateboarders, skydivers, skiers, surfers and bike riders before him. Among them are 14 world champions and six Olympic medalists (including gold winners like US snowboarder Jamie Anderson). At any other summit, it’d be briefcases and brogues, but here, it’s board shorts and baseball caps. It’s about as far from corporate as a corporate event could get, but it’s definitely all about business.

Crandell is telling the group GoPro wants to grow with them. “It’s about getting that content off the device and out into the world,” he explains. The more pressing goal, however, is to turn the athletes into an army of viral video creators, through a number of boot camp training sessions. Nothing will be left to chance. Everything from setting up the shot, to editing the footage, to what clothes to wear and what time to publish content will be covered. It turns out that a good, spontaneous moment requires quite a lot of planning.

A few days after this summit ended, GoPro filed its S-1 IPO, revealing to potential investors the company’s performance in hard numbers for the very first time. It’s fair to assume the timing of these two events isn’t entirely coincidental. Investors will want to know how GoPro plans to keep growing, and it’ll likely be pointing those that ask directly to the summit in Hawaii.

For those that don’t already know, the world of GoPro content is one of stunts, adrenaline-soaked activities and what could be called the “super-selfie” — like regular selfies, but with more sharks, free-falling, mountain views and goggle tans. At the conference, Crandell sums up GoPro with a video from another professional mountain biker: Kelly McGarry’s heart-stopping backflip over a 72-foot canyon (above). McGarry’s video ends, and Crandell simply exclaims “Over 18 million [views]!” The audience ripples with whoops and cheers in appreciation. McGarry, casually sits four rows back from the stage, visibly humble and clearly just stoked he got the shot.

“This is GoPro’s next product: a lifestyle, not a camera.”

We’ve all seen videos like these, and while it might just seem like a sharable lunchtime internet distraction, it’s actually a business opportunity ripe for exploitation. GoPro sponsors a good number of individual athletes from across the board of actions sports. Some of the big names, like pro surfer Kelly Slater and snowboarder Shaun White, act as brand ambassadors, but there are many more who can make their living from their sponsorship deal with GoPro. It’s these individuals that the company tells us have already created 388 YouTube videos, achieving more than 50 million views each. Numbers like these can reportedly earn the creators (or, rather its YouTube publisher) six-figure sums. It’s little wonder GoPro is keen to create more of them.

Videos like McGarry’s backflip contain something we all want a little more of — adventure, excitement and, perhaps surprisingly, a satisfying story arc. This is GoPro’s next product: a lifestyle, not a camera. The more candid moments like Pilgrim’s close shave, on the other hand, have the “gotta see this” factor. This new strain of media has become impossible to ignore in the shit-you-gotta-see world of online video.

Extreme exposure: Inside GoPro's burgeoning media empire

“The big push has really been to become a media company,” Brad Schmidt, creative director for the firm, says when he takes over from Crandell at the morning’s presentation. Not entirely shocking news. But this is the first time we’ve heard the company be so open about it. Schmidt explains that for about the last year and a half, GoPro has been actively observing other media companies. For example, Red Bull doesn’t just make short videos for sharing on social media; it also has a whole arm of its business dedicated to rich content production. Red Bull doesn’t sell cameras, though, and its programs are expensive, pre-planned projects, more in line with the “old” TV production model. This is where GoPro’s simple advantage becomes obvious: It only needs to distribute its own product — a $400 camera — and the content comes to it.

This difference in approaches is no better illustrated than with Red Bull’s Felix Baumgartner space dive. Red Bull may have done all the hard work, but it used GoPro’s cameras to record Baumgartner’s first-person view of the descent. The whole project reportedly cost the drink maker around $65 million. GoPro used its involvement in the stunt for its own Super Bowl advert — cheekily (but legitimately) piggybacking on Red Bull’s years of work by simple association. In fact, if you Google “Felix Baumgartner,” it actually predicts you’re going to type “GoPro,” not “Red Bull” next. It’s this low-cost, nimble association with so many cool things that allows it to constantly feed Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and (most importantly) our imaginations. Red Bull, with all its slick production, on the other hand, isn’t even in YouTube’s top 10 brand channels, where GoPro is number one. As TV follows in the footsteps of other media mainstays (magazines, music, etc.) and moves further online, it’s platforms like YouTube that will be increasingly important. It’s a level playing field where media titans and have-a-go heroes can compete side by side for viewers’ attention.

After the presentations, the real work of the event begins, and it’s no less symbiotic than everything else GoPro does. A busy two days of action-packed fun awaits the army of camera-clutching athletes. It’s a rare chance to see White surfing, while Ryan Sheckler stand-up paddleboards and Anderson swaps snow for sand and sea. Watching them engage in their activities with verve, it’s easy to see how they could become the new sporting icons for the super-selfie generation. The symbiotic part? After all the activities, the athletes are ushered into training sessions and shown how to convert the content captured into the most sharable video or photo possible. The summit might be about giving something back to the athletes, but its long-term yield for GoPro shouldn’t be underestimated.

Outside the training room, a pair of TVs behind a GoPro-branded desk displays a fictional hybrid social network — something between Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube. Over the two days, it displays photos and videos shot by the attendees along with their own personal “engagement” factor. The displays rarely spend any time without at least a small group of people gathered in front of them, checking and admiring the competition. It turns out there are also prizes on offer for the best shots. GoPro isn’t about to launch a social network as far as we know, but it’s yet another indication of just how compelling its content is — even those who are living it and doing it can’t take their eyes off of it.

Extreme exposure: Inside GoPro's burgeoning media empire

The camera maker’s first foray into media production arguably started in a similar vein to this homemade social page — republishing and content curation. It’s been handpicking user-submitted videos and promoting them on its own channels for a long time. It has, of course, also commissioned and made its own original productions — and blown out some of those clips into full-length versions. But, for the most part, these user-submitted videos, the pro athlete footage and official promo reels have been easily distinguishable from each other — but maybe not for long.

“A legion of athletes is a powerful thing, but compared to the content created by the public, it’s just a tiny speck in terms of potential.”

While hardly unique to GoPro, there’s a growing trend of videos with spurious origins. In many cases, these are well-produced, authentic-looking edits. Just as the camera maker might produce. If these videos find their way into the firm’s channels, it could spend some of that hard-earned brand equity.

A legion of athletes is a powerful thing, but compared to the content created by the public, it’s just a tiny speck in terms of potential. It’s no surprise that GoPro’s taken notice of this rich well of resources. It started with the company creating templates in its “Studio” video-editing software. The templates let you create a video using one of the firm’s own creations as a guide. Drop clips into the empty sections, and your video will match the music cadence, making for really simple “pro-looking” cuts. The next tool for those that aren’t quite on the official GoPro team is a forthcoming tutorial book.

Extreme exposure: Inside GoPro's burgeoning media empire

When GoPro launched its own branded channel as part of Virgin America’s in-flight entertainment some months ago, it may have seemed like a good, but largely unremarkable partnership. Since then, however, that channel has spilled over to two of the most popular gaming consoles, and you can bet it’s already in negotiations with other platforms and services. This represents the third part of the full media empire trifecta. From camera to content to distribution channel, GoPro has laid the foundations for an end-to-end lifestyle video machine. All of this innately promotes the sale of more cameras, which in turn means more content, and more to show on your channel.

Is it all sunshine and surf trips for the brand? Audiences love the authentic videos, and are fine with the scripted stuff, especially when it’s something just downright cool. But as other brands have learned (remember those fake bloggers that proliferated in the mid-2000s?), audiences are happy to do contrived to a point, but if they start to get a whiff of too much fakery, they’ll soon bail out. For now, though, it seems the action-packed videos aren’t taking anyone for a ride, other than the one downhill in Aspen.

Extreme exposure: Inside GoPro's burgeoning media empire
As the summit winds down, one athlete tells me that his sport is so small (Ski-BASE, a derivative of the already niche BASE jumping) that there’s no way he could make a living from it without his relationship with GoPro. He’s eternally grateful to be there in Hawaii, and for him, being able to make killer videos that might in some way help his sponsor isn’t work at all; it’s the purest fun and the very best thanks he can offer. It’s this sentiment that seems to be a real force for GoPro. A shareable video clip is one thing, but its strongest asset is how the brand makes people feel. For now, as GoPro gets ready to go public, all it needs to do is shepherd that brand cachet, and be sure not to squander it. If it does, it’ll need Sam Pilgrim-like reflexes to pull it back again.

Daniel Orren and Edgar Alvarez contributed to this report.

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The interfaces that bridge the human-machine divide

The interfaces that bridge the human-machine divide

First it was toggle switches. And then keyboards, the mouse and other standard interface devices gave us control of computers and the digital world. From the tangible, to hands-free and beyond, the ways in which we control digital systems are expanding. We’ve collected just a few of the interesting products and concepts that are breaching the two-dimensional world of computing and merging it with our physical reality.

[Image: Jinha Lee / MIT Media Lab]

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Recommended Reading: Microsoft’s knack for predicting NFL games

Recommended Reading: Microsoft's knack for predicting NFL games

Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

How Microsoft Got So Good at Predicting Who Will Win NFL Games
by Tim Stenovec
Tech Insider

Have you been using Bing’s sports predictions to make “friendly wagers” and set your fantasy lineups this football season? Microsoft’s Bing Predicts team has been picking winners for NFL games, other sporting events, reality shows and elections for a while now. As it turns out, the small group of researchers employ machine learning to make the predictions and they’ve gotten better at it over time.

Here it is, Moog’s Badass New Synth
DJ Pangburn, The Creator’s Project

Moog revealed the Mother-32 semi-modular analog synth this week and The Creator’s Project offers a bit of background on the new gear.

I Went to a Robot Cage Fight and Learned How to Be Human
Matt Simon, Wired

Robot cage fighting? ‘Nuff said.

At Google, Breathing Room for New Ideas
Alistair Barr, The Wall Street Journal

The autonomy of Nest, even after Google bought the company, is being used as a model for new projects under Alphabet.

Carrie On: Making Peace With Five Seasons of ‘Homeland’
Andy Greenwald, Grantland

Homeland was a pretty good show… until it wasn’t. Grantland’s Andy Greenwald stuck it out, though, and offers a preview of the new season that begins this Sunday.

[Image credit: Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images]

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Dr. Henry Edward Roberts, personal computing pioneer, loses battle with pneumonia

Dr. Henry Edward Roberts, personal computing pioneer, loses battle with pneumoniaSad news out of Georgia this morning, Dr. Ed Roberts, pioneer of personal computing, has died of pneumonia at the age of 68. Roberts founded Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) in 1970. In 1974 his company released the $395 Altair 8800. It was based on Intel’s revolutionary 8080 processor and, after being featured on the cover of Popular Electronics (included after the break), would become the world’s first truly popular personal computer. It would be on this machine that the former Micro-Soft would get its start, with Bill Gates and Paul Allen being contracted by Roberts to write Altair BASIC, a version of the simple programming language that Allen delivered by hand on paper tape to the MITS office in Albuquerque.

Those two are remembering him today with the following statement:

Ed was willing to take a chance on us — two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace — and we have always been grateful to him… The day our first untested software worked on his Altair was the start of a lot of great things. We will always have many fond memories of working with Ed in Albuquerque, in the MITS office right on Route 66 — where so many exciting things happened that none of us could have imagined back then.

Our thoughts go out to the Roberts family this morning.

Dr. Henry Edward Roberts, personal computing pioneer, loses battle with pneumonia

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12 moments in the keyboard’s history

12 moments in the keyboard's history

At some point in the day, we all smash our fingers against some form of keyboard — whether it’s of the physical or virtual variety. In this week’s Rewind, we take a look at how the keyboard’s grown beyond its humble typewriter beginnings and taken on a life of its own.


Happy Hacking Keyboard


Model M

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ICYMI: Grippy robot hands, smarten up your dumb car and more

ICYMI: Grippy robot hands, smarten up your dumb car and more

Today on In Case You Missed It: MIT developed robotic hands of pliable silicon that are also studded with pressure sensors so it knows how tightly to hold something. A small dashboard camera and advanced computer vision software are being tested in the San Francisco Bay Area to record potential roadway hazards and track the drivers eyes. And a robotic solar-powered mirror light is here to give Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers another option for Vitamin D.

You definitely need to know about the Experian credit hack at T-Mobile but it might be more fulfilling to check out the livestream or YouTube channel of this year’s migration of animals in Africa via HerdTracker. It’s really beautiful.

If you come across any interesting videos, we’d love to see them. Just tweet us with the #ICYMI hashtag @engadget or @mskerryd.

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