- Video Games
by Donna Borak
Going to this year’s Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier exhibition hall on virtual reality, you couldn’t help but feel as if you were seated at the front row of the future of journalism. It’s a new world of immersive media and experimentation. And even though they are not specifically talking about journalism, it is all applicable to any form of storytelling.
For example, Interlude Video is using eye-tracking machines to enable users to narrate their own story in a music video. Think interactive video + storytelling. Futurist Ted Schilowitz is experimenting how to break the rectangle in the digital movie experience. And then there are the number of virtual reality exhibitions including that of the Iranian 1979 Revolution and Project Syria, which both stole the show. Even experiences on a smaller scale such as sitting across from Reese Witherspoon in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail from the movie “Wild” evoked a different kind of movie viewing experience by using Samsung’s VR Gear.
Storytellers across all mediums are trying to use gaming technologies and virtual reality in ways to create empathy with users, while also offering them an opportunity to be a part of the storytelling experience.
There was no better example of that then Project Syria, a virtual reality experience, directed by Nonny de la Peña and built by a team of students at the University of Southern California. The project was first exhibited last winter at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
I had the opportunity to step inside and experience this alternate world — a country, I should mention, I have been to on several occasions.
Immediately, I am transported to a street corner in Aleppo, Syria. There are people passing through the street. At one point, it almost seems as if a man is about to pass through me. The experience is unsettling. It startles me. I try to look around to get a bearing of my surroundings. You can feel like something is about to happen. The center of the scene is a group of people standing in a circle listening to a girl singing.
And then a bomb explodes, and I too, scream and leap back horrified at the event I have witnessed. Where is the girl that was just singing? She is gone. I forget that I am not standing in the streets of Aleppo. I forget about the heavy virtual reality goggles and headphones I am wearing that took me time to adjust and focus. I am there.
It’s only seconds later that I am now transported to a refugee camp, where I watch as men and women and their children try to buy rations of food provided by international donors. I can’t help but to look behind me in the tent at the stockpile of food and hope that it actually gets to those most in need.
My reality is then switched to a third and final scene. This time I am standing in a desert. One by one children appear. There are tents behind them. They are all looking at me. Each one of them. I turn to the right and quickly back to the left and there are more of them. I can barely count them all. Each is faceless, and perhaps that’s the point, because in each of them I see myself.
About the author
Donna Borak has never shied away from asking a question. Drawn to the study of cognitive science and philosophy as an undergraduate at Lehigh University, she was captivated by trying to understand how the human mind worked. It was that innate curiosity and passion for writing, however, that ultimately brought her to Boston University to pursue a masters’ degree in journalism. Seizing on an opportunity to come to Washington, D.C., for a semester, Borak began as an intern at United Press International, quickly landing a full-time position in 2004 on the business desk before graduation. Two years later she was hired by The Associated Press to help create a business desk in Washington. There she covered the defense industry during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Borak has most recently covered the aftermath of the financial crisis and the 2010 financial reform effort as the Federal Reserve reporter for the American Banker. When she’s not on deadline, you can find her in a yoga studio practicing her headstand, and quietly pondering her next big question.
This post originally appeared on donnaborak.com and on the website of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University. Applications are now being accepted for the 2015-16 John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program. The Knight Fellowships foster journalistic innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership. Each year, 20 individuals from around the world get the resources to pursue their ideas for improving journalism.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 05, 2015
FCC chair proposes aggressive net neutrality rules; could help connections in rural areas
In a move that could increase high-speed Internet availability in rural areas while also protecting small businesses, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday proposed much more aggressive net-neutrality rules than expected, saying that rules will place "broadband Internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon Wireless under a stricter regulatory regime" that will ensure consumers have access to an open Internet, Brian Fung reports for The Washington Post. FCC is expected to vote on the rules on Feb. 26.
"Under the new regime, broadband providers would be explicitly banned from blocking content or creating fast lanes for Web services that can pay for preferential treatment into American homes," Fung writes. "The draft rules seek to impose a modified version of Title II, which was originally written to regulate telephone companies," keeping rules that that "allow the FCC to: enforce consumer privacy rules; extract funds from Internet providers to help subsidize services for rural Americans, educators and the poor; and make sure services such as Google Fiber can build new broadband pipes more easily, according to people familiar with the plan." (Wall Street Journal graphic)
Broadband Internet providers and supporters immediately labeled the rules unnecessary and vowed to fight the rules, Roger Yu and Mike Snider report for USA Today. Verizon's deputy general counsel Michael Glover called the proposed rules "unnecessary because all participants in the Internet ecosystem support an open Internet. It is counterproductive because heavy regulation of the Internet will create uncertainty and chill investment among the many players."
But supporters "say stringent rules are needed, because the cable industry is poised for consolidation and many consumers contend with local monopolies in broadband Internet service," Yu and Snider write. "Without specific rules, ISPs would be tempted to ban, slow down or seek payment from content providers that compete with a company that has an affiliation or is owned by the Internet provider, they argue. For example, Comcast, which is trying to buy Time Warner Cable, also owns NBC Universal, which has plans to expand streaming shows."
One of the strangest things about Wheeler's aggressive approach is that only a few months ago he seemed ready to side with cable operators. That was before President Obama intervened, nudging Wheeler toward supporting a more open Internet, Gautham Nagesh and Brody Mullins report for The Wall Street Journal.
"The prod from Obama came after an unusual, secretive effort inside the White House, led by two aides who built a case for the principle known as 'net neutrality' through dozens of meetings with online activists, Web startups and traditional telecommunications companies," Nagesh and Mullins write. "Acting like a parallel version of the FCC itself, R. David Edelman and Tom Power listened as Etsy Inc., Kickstarter Inc., Yahoo Inc.’s Tumblr and other companies insisted that utility-like rules were needed to help small companies and entrepreneurs compete online, people involved in the process say."
Written by Tim Mandell
Kentucky Press News Service
FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and Waze, a real-time, “crowd-sourced” navigation app powered by the world’s largest communities of drivers, have entered into a partnership through the new Waze Connected Citizens program, the company’s largest municipal effort to date.
Waze is a GPS-based geographical navigation application program for smartphones with GPS support and display screens. It provides turn-by-turn information and user-submitted travel times and route details, downloading location-dependent information over a mobile telephone network.
The mission of Waze Connected Citizens is to help cities, citizens and “Wazers,” as drivers using the app are known, collaborate to improve their community and answer the question: “What’s happening on our roads right now, and where?”
The program promotes more efficient traffic monitoring by sharing crowd-sourced incident reports from Waze drivers, a news release said. Established as a two-way data share, Waze receives partner input such as feeds from road sensors, adds publicly available incident and road closure reports from the Waze traffic platform and returns a succinct, thorough overview of current road conditions.
With the addition of city data, Wazers can be safer and more knowledgeable about anything that can cause delays, such as construction, a flooded roadway or large public events. For cities, real-time information from drivers is essential, and no one knows more about what’s happening in a city than the people who live there.
“The data generated by Wazers will complement our 511 service,” Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock said in the release. “This crowd-sourced information will help us respond more quickly and efficiently to traffic situations. Managing congestion on Kentucky’s roads is an ongoing challenge for the Transportation Cabinet, so we’re glad to be a part of Waze Connected Citizens.”
Connected Citizens already has a case study in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In fall 2013, the office of Mayor Eduardo Paes reached out to Waze in an effort to better monitor road conditions during a visit to the city from Pope Francis. Within two weeks, the Centro de Operações Rio (Control Center of Rio) had embedded the Waze application program interface into its traffic control center, adding driver reports to existing data from road sensors and street cameras for a more contextual view – essentially creating an ever-changing urban dashboard.
Currently more than 20 municipal groups around the world participate in Connected Citizens.
“Traffic is a universal problem,” said. “Word has spread quickly because this is a solution the community has never seen before. We’re dedicated to answering every call to manage the demand.”
The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission just said he's proposing the "strongest open Internet protections" the Web has ever seen.In a Wired op-ed, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced he wants to regulate Internet providers with the most aggressive tool at his disposal: Title II of the Communications Act. In addition to covering fixed broadband providers such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable, the draft rules would cover wireless providers such as T-Mobile and Sprint. The rules would also make speeding up or slowing down Web traffic — a tactic known as prioritization — illegal. And it would ban the blocking of Web traffic outright. Read full article
FRANKFORT, Ky. – A new public-private partnership will develop a robust, reliable, fiber “backbone” infrastructure to bring high-speed Internet connectivity to every corner of the Commonwealth – with the critical first components scheduled to be operational in less than two years.
Governor Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers announced the partnership with Macquarie Capital today.
“We are on an aggressive timeline and believe that the Macquarie team’s technical capabilities and history of innovative solutions are the best fit for this important project,” said Gov. Beshear. “Kentucky’s Internet speed and accessibility have lagged behind the rest of the nation far too long. This partnership puts us on the path to propel the Commonwealth forward in education, economic development, health care, public safety and much more.”
This infrastructure project is unlike any other seen in Kentucky in the last 50 years. Broadband, now considered an essential utility service, will improve Kentucky’s dismal connectivity and slow speeds to some of the fastest and highest capacity service in the U.S. – all with the potential to lower consumer costs and improve coverage as well.
Just as important, this project will be paid for up front by leveraging private capital at no additional cost to Kentucky taxpayers.
“If we were to rely solely on state government funding to get this project off the ground, it would take years, if not decades. Those kinds of tax dollars just aren’t available,” said Gov. Beshear. “In this technology-dependent economy, we can’t afford to wait another minute. That’s why this partnership is so valuable – it ramps up this project to the speed of the private sector without any additional burden on our taxpayers.”
The first stage of the project is to build the main broadband fiber lines across the state. These major fiber lines are called the “middle mile.” The “open access” network will allow the private sector to use the fiber to deliver services into communities. Once complete, other Internet service provider companies, cities, partnerships, or other groups may then tap into those “middle mile” lines to complete the “last mile” – the lines that run to individual homes or businesses.
Where already in place, the project will take advantage of existing infrastructure, thus partnering with local telecommunications companies, municipalities and major carriers to deliver the network more quickly and reduce construction costs.
Improved cell phone coverage is anticipated as part of the initiative. Cell phone companies may choose to use the state’s “middle-mile” fiber network to add capacity and broaden coverage areas throughout the Commonwealth that have traditionally had poor cell phone reception.
When completed, the more than 3,000 miles of fiber will be in place across the state. This “middle-mile” fiber infrastructure is key to reaching much of Kentucky’s large rural population.
Fiber will be available in all 120 counties, and the underserved eastern Kentucky region will be the first priority area for the project. The Center for Rural Development in Somerset will partner with the Commonwealth, focusing on communities east of Interstate 75. The Center will also host education workshops to help communities learn how to connect to the new network.
The push for reliable, accessible high-speed broadband is one recommendation that emerged from SOAR, the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” initiative.
“We’re laying the first bricks for what could be ‘Silicon Holler.’ This new Super I-Way is the cornerstone of SOAR’s mission to diversify the economy in eastern Kentucky with improvements in business recruitment, fast-tracking telemedicine in the mountains, and adding high tech advancements in education,” said Congressman Rogers. “I commend all of our federal, state and local partners for working together on this project that will undoubtedly chart the course for a better future in the coalfields and across the Commonwealth.”
Over the past several months the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the Center for Rural Development, released the request for proposal solicitation and negotiated with private sector vendors including Macquarie Capital.
Macquarie Capital has assembled a team of market-leading specialists to design, develop and operate the network over the next 30 years. While the private sector partners will bear developmental and operational risks of the project, the Commonwealth will retain ownership of the network.
Macquarie will begin work immediately on phase one to design the overall statewide system and determine the project’s scale. The design and cost estimates are due by the end of February 2015 with construction of the first segments expected to begin in the summer and completed by April 2016. The total cost of the project will depend upon the ability to leverage existing infrastructure versus deploying new routes, which will be determined during the design phase. Overall, the project is estimated to cost between $250 million to $350 million, and will be supported by approximately $30 million in state bonds and $15 to $20 million in federal grants.
Work along I-75 from northern Kentucky to Williamsburg will form the “spine” of the network, with work in the priority region of southeastern Kentucky occurring simultaneously. More than 100 key facilities will be connected, including universities, state government buildings and community and technical colleges.
The initiative will be a partnership of government at all levels and the private sector. The public-private partnership – often referred to as a P3 – allows the state to leverage resources to fill service gaps. In this case, private capital will be used to build the network at no additional cost to Kentucky taxpayers. This project likely would never be undertaken with traditional state financing methods.
The state chose to use a P3 for several reasons. The P3 model is well-established and enables projects to be completed on an accelerated timetable while transferring risk to the private sector partners. These partners also bring expertise, innovation and flexibility to the project.
Bringing private sector investment to build the network significantly decreases the time needed for design and construction, making broadband access available sooner for families and businesses. Finally, with the state’s oversight of the main broadband lines, consumer costs may be lowered by eliminating the need for private providers to build duplicate network infrastructure; that means Internet service providers can instead invest in cell phone service or “last-mile” service.
“Macquarie Capital and its partners are extremely excited about the opportunity to develop this network under the public-private partnership model, bringing together a team of market leading specialists focused on implementing the network as quickly as possible,” said Nick Hann, senior managing director at Macquarie Capital. “We believe that this project will be the centerpiece of Kentucky’s long-term economic infrastructure, demonstrating the core principles of value for money and risk transfer to the private sector that will translate into a successful long-term partnership with the Commonwealth.”
Macquarie’s consortium partners include First Solutions, Fujitsu Network Communications Inc., Black & Veatch, and Bowlin Group.
In today’s economy, high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury, but is as essential to a community as water or electricity.
A modern, high-capacity fiber infrastructure allows businesses to compete globally, educators to expand their use of rich teaching resources, students to access the knowledge of the world, health care entities to collaborate and first responders to communicate easily in emergency situations.
The project scope is similar to building other public utilities. Consider the broadband fiber lines to be like the main water lines in a community. The largest water lines are built in central community areas, and then smaller lines branch off the main line. Finally, someone connects the street line to an individual home or business. The broadband project will act in much the same way. The first phase of the project is to build the main broadband fiber lines across the state, then construct branches off the main line to deliver into communities. These major fiber lines are the “middle mile,” and other Internet service provider companies, cities, partnerships, or other groups may then tap into those lines to complete the “last mile” – the lines that run to individual homes or businesses.
The project will leverage state government’s existing Internet networks to build a kind of high-speed delivery line throughout the state.
One of the most important features is that the network will be truly “open access,” meaning many other Internet and cell phone service providers can lease portions of the network. More important, those leases will not be limited to one provider per county or community; several groups may lease the network, which will give consumers a choice in purchasing their broadband. By partnering with the network, providers will be able to reduce their costs when building out “last mile” service to customers. That competition should result in lower consumer costs.
Kentucky ranks 46th in broadband availability and 23 percent of rural areas in Kentucky do not have access to broadband.
Most households in the state have access to an Internet Service Provider (ISP), but that’s not the same as high-speed broadband. High-speed broadband is capable of carrying much larger amounts of information to a larger group of users at much faster speeds.
As the federal definition of broadband changes, and minimum speed increases (often in megabits per second, or MBS), Kentucky falls further behind because the service available to citizens does not meet these minimum qualifications.
Today, only about half of the state’s households use broadband service, and nearly one-quarter can’t access broadband at all.