Xbox One: Can it truly stake first place?

From a social media marketing standpoint, a multimedia video game platform sounds like a dream. The idea seems novel an appealing: combining the functionalities of networks like Facebook and communication vehicles like Skype and integrating them into your gaming experience. From a gamer’s standpoint, it’s something that some will appreciate, and the rest won’t mind – as long as the actual software is continually released at a constant pace.

But from what I’ve seen of the Xbox One so far, I can’t say I’m not skeptical. (Look, I even resorted to using a double negative.)

I may not be exclusively a Microsoft guy, but that didn’t stop me from reading a lot of the recent coverage about the Xbox One. After doing so, I noticed that their lineup of games wasn’t exactly robust – a big problem with any console launch. The only two exclusives that I was able to pick out from the list were “Forza Motorsport 5” and “Quantum Break,” with the rest seen on other consoles. It’s possible that more will be shown at this year’s E3 – but I have to wonder why there wasn’t a more fleshed-out showing out of the gate. Is it possible that Microsoft is attempting to make games less of a focal point in favor of other types of media?

If so, I can definitely see where the company is coming from, since gaming is continually being geared to a more diverse crowd. It’s all about broad appeal these days. How many games with “city” or “farm” in the title do you constantly see on Facebook, for example? As of now, I don’t see Microsoft doing anything that will stand out from Sony or Nintendo, or at least anything that will make gamers point at the Xbox One and say, “I want that.”

I’m not holding my breath, but there’s still time for the company to surprise me. Here are four key ways that the Xbox One can come across as a contender in all respects:

  1. Price the system well. The deluxe version of the Wii U retails at $349.99 while the PlayStation 4 has been rumored to cost around $400 at launch. In light of this news, wouldn’t it behoove Microsoft to keep an affordable rate by comparison? In the economy that we live in, appealing to people’s wallets is important.
  2. Do gamers a favor and take the requirement of constant Internet connectivity away. While a number of gamers are always going to have a steady connection, what about those who live in residential areas which may have shakier Internet access? For them, the Internet mandate only hampers the overall experience.
  3. Release information about upcoming Xbox One titles en route to E3. You don’t have to blow your wad all at once: bring out one or two each week or so and give potential consumers a taste of what they’re in for. Once E3 rolls around, it won’t be long until the proverbial video game omelet is served to them.
  4. Make sure that social media features remain exactly that: features. Building an entire console around it may be appealing to some but it stands the chance of alienating gamers who may not care much about Twitter. Many of us still just want to game. If there is a happy medium which can be found, I suggest staying in that area so that you can both have the cake and eat it, too.

Food puns aside, what is your take on the Xbox One? Are you excited for the console’s imminent release or could you not care less? Let us know your thoughts!

MyTime Brings an Interesting Concept that Makes Appointments and Services as Easy as Amazon

Need a haircut, an oil change and a massage? Don’t know where to go, or even where to start? Wouldn’t it be sweet if you could get the scheduling and research for all these errands done quickly, with one centralized tool?

Phew: A new website now makes scheduling all of your appointments in one place possible. MyTime is a new platform that allows users to check everything off of their to-do list in one place.

MyTime partners with local businesses to let you book appointments and get discounts through their site. The platform gives users access to ratings and reviews from other users right on their site and also notifies users of discounts for certain appointment times. The website claims that “booking an appointment and getting services you need is as easy as buying a book on Amazon!”

The concept sounds good, but how did they fare on the execution? I decided to put their claim to the test and see just how easy it really is to book all of your appointments in one place. I asked my girlfriend what she had planned for today, and decided to see how long it would take me to schedule her some appointments. She told me she needed to get her nails done, her teeth whitened, go to yoga and find a handyman to fix the door.

I started my search for these services at 1:10 PM. I finished at 1:16 PM and had everything scheduled that she needed. For $204 and six minutes of my time, I was able to check everything off of her to-do list and provide her with 5-star rated companies to do her bidding.

Not only is MyTime convenient, but it is a great way to save money. Had I booked these four services not using MyTime, it would have cost $413, according to prices given by calling the offices. So at the end of the day I saved my girlfriend the hassle of having to find all of these places on her own, and $209!

Currently, MyTime is only available in Los Angeles. However, they plan on expanding to other major cities around the country in the near future, and their model clearly works. I think MyTime is a smart Internet marketing strategy, and can’t wait until it reaches New York. MyTime saves you time, money and from the headache of booking all your appointments.

Facebook Home: Potentially capable, or dead on arrival?

Picture this: you go to a supermarket and you’re strolling down the frozen food section. You stop and take a moment to look at the pizza. Mmm – pizza. Just as you’re about to pop your selection in your cart, someone next to you pipes up. They tell you just how terrible that brand is, urging you not to buy it, saying it’s too salty, the cheese isn’t organic, and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Recently, it seems like Facebook Home has become the Internet equivalent of that frozen pizza supermarket debacle.

Facebook Home has been attracting a lot of discussion these days. The new ‘apperating system’ for Android was much-anticipated and the results have been, to put it kindly, lukewarm. The program has only 500,000 to one million installs to its name, a fraction of Facebook’s supposed billion-plus user base.

As of this writing, reviews of the platform average at 2.2 out of 5 stars. Among the criticisms seen, the most common were how the app managed to drain the battery in no time and how the app itself should have had more functionality. The interface has an unpolished feel – but even this minimal version can assure that the phone will die faster than the meme of the week. This knowledge is probably why so many Facebook users haven’t taken the plunge to install it.

I seem to have a bad habit of being critical about new tech, but I believe that Facebook Home has a chance of becoming a more effective program. A few changes are needed though:

  1. For an apperating system connected with such a social media conglomerate, Facebook Home doesn’t truly boast that many features, apart from full-screen status updates. Why not integrate this into the previously established Facebook app, which, by comparison, is pretty robust and fleshed-out? It’s difficult to fathom why users are expected to jump between these two apps – it makes the whole process of using your phone more arduous and annoying. No, an integrated version wouldn’t get that many downloads, but it’d be a simpler option for fans to utilize, and could avoid that sad, half-lit star rating.
  2. The battery problem has to be fixed. These are devices designed to keep us in touch with people – all the time. I understand that there are ways to alter the settings so that data usage and image quality are lower but why does that have to be a step people have to take in order to ensure a more operable program? If people are to continually use this system, it has to be done without the battery dropping like Glass Joe to Little Mac.
  3. Facebook Home is supposed to be a social media centerpiece of sorts for your phone, meaning that it should be usable if calls have to be made. We want the dialer to be easy to access and to appear on the screen, plain as day. It’s 2013 – it’s absurd that users are finding themselves using more effort to make a phone call than they would with an old rotary-dial phone. Users have cited this problem countless times, and I think it amounts to a heinous misstep on Facebook’s part. This device issupposed to help me contact people, right? If this problem can’t be rectified, it’s probably best to consider this system dead on arrival.

If you downloaded Facebook Home, what is your take on it? What chances do you think should be made? If you’d like to leave a comment, by all means!

Google Apps down. How do we function?

Wednesday morning, Twitter users flocked to the social media site to complain that Google Apps weren’t workingThe problems started with Gmail and Google Drive before spreading to Google Documents, Google Spreadsheets, and Google Presentations. Google quickly addressed the situation and users were advised to check the Apps Status Dashboard for updates as they investigated the case.

We are often inconvenienced by crashing servers or website maintenance, but Google? We take it for granted that giants like Google will be able to run their services smoothly, constantly. When they can’t, we’re reminded of how much we’ve come to rely on these platforms. Many people are sure to ask, “what can I do at work if I can’t access my email?”

Users of Google Apps were reassured as their Gmail or Google Drive returned to normal service from the disruption. But this isn’t the first time that Google has been hit by such problems – similar disruptions occurred just last month, and they could very well happen again. As we scuttle back to checking our mail and sharing documents, a question on many people’s mind is, what we would do without Google or social media?

Many companies run entirely on such platforms, such as online marketing companiesor other businesses that are Internet-centered – and if an outage occurs at the wrong time, it could be catastrophic for business. Apparently, only .007% of users were affected, but as an article on Forbes points out, “if Gmail has 425 million users, then the outage would have affected 29,750 people.” That’s a lot, and you could be one of those people.

And this isn’t just about work. The Internet has come to change the way in which we interact and solve everyday problems. In the past few days, we have seen the good that has come from social media. After the bombings at the Boston marathon, runners and spectators flocked to social media sites to let family and friends know that they were okay. Thousands of Bostonians used a Google Drive document offering a place to stay or food to anyone that was affected.  There is no doubt that these online services have been of great benefit to us in crisis situations and when the need for communication is dire.

It raises the question: As we become more dependent on these services, will we know what to do if Google or Facebook fails us at the wrong time? It is important to remember those (what seem like) prehistoric times when social media didn’t exist. Take advantage of these awesome new ideas and innovations – but have a backup plan. What’s yours?

New apps make your smartphones smarter as you get drunker

If you’re like me, you like to have fun, knock back a few drinks with your friends, and party the night away. Simple, right? Yes, this all may seem very carefree – but, shockingly, mistakes, misjudgments and social faux pas are made while under the influence. Consuming alcohol, as you may know, seems to have some kind of mysterious effect on our judgment and our ability to make smart decisions. This is perhaps the reason you can’t enter into a contract or operate a motor vehicle while under the influence. But what about when it comes to operating a phone?

Yeah, there’s an app for that. Fortunately for the tech-savvy merrymakers among us, several available mobile apps can help you avoid making those disastrous drunk-dials and texts. A couple of students from the University of Virginia created an iPhone app called “Drunk Mode,” which will block your phone’s contact list for up to 12 hours. Alerts will also go off every half hour, reminding you to drink and act responsibly and not make any bad decisions. Cuz, you know… we forget.

If you have an Android phone, you can turn to the Drunkblocker app to help you out.  Simply tell the app the time you plan to start imbibing, and the time you think you’ll be sobered up. This app also lets you choose which people you want to be banned from contacting. When you try and make a call, you will be given a test to see if you have your good judgment back (or whatever judgment you had to begin with). There’s also DrinkTracker, a blood alcohol content calculator app for the iPhone. Both of these apps also include convenient maps and taxi finders for when your night has reached the spilling-out-onto-the-pavement stage.

It was only a matter of time before we developed apps to babysit and counsel us to avoid those ultra-awkward exchanges. Eventually, smartphones will probably advance to the point where they’ll know our blood alcohol content from a single finger-swipe. Drop your phone more than once within 5 minutes? Instant sobriety test. Your phone will chirrup angrily, “don’t tread on me.” Where’s my breathalyzer app?

If only apps could do all the dirty work for us. What other capabilities do we want our smartphones to have in the future? Here are some choice selections from my fantasy app-development wishlist:

  • Teleportation app (duh)
  • Bottle opener app
  • Laundry/cooking/cleaning app
  • Gas-price reduction app
  • “Flush toilet” and “open door” app – never fear public bathrooms again
  • Social media agency mode” to repurpose loose content floating around in my brain and convert them into Facebook and Twitter status updates for me
  • An app that creates a surrogate version of me to go on dates and talk to people

Comment below with your suggestions!

Would You Be Willing To Merge With Technology?

Science fiction has long depicted the existence of androids, cyborgs, sentient holograms, and other technologically based life.  Interpretations on what life would be like with these beings vary greatly depending upon who creates the fiction.  Some portray these tech based life forms as cold, unfeeling, and even threatening.  On the flipside, others conjure up images of these beings with vibrant personalities that can live, socialize, and develop meaningful relationships.  These concepts in fiction are engaging and stimulating, but what if it wasn’t fiction?

I recently read an article that describes how a very wealthy Russian wants to turn the concepts captured by science fiction and make it a reality.  It is a bold move to be sure.  However, according to an article on Mashable, a sincere effort is underway that would allow humans to make a transition from their biological form to a technology based form.  The end goal is said to be achieving an indefinite existence and transcend the limitations of humanity’s physical form.

Dmitry Itskov is aiming to have humans capable of merging with technology in four separate stages.  The transference will start by allowing a robotic body to be controlled by the brain.  The following three stages involve transplanting a brain into a synthetic body, replacing the organic brain with an artificial copy, and ultimately transfer the human conscience into a pool of collective thoughts that can take holographic form at will.

The project that Itskov is looking to see for the future of humanity begs questions regarding the issue of whether it is even possible, ethical, and would spur endless philosophical discussion.  The question I would like to pose brings the issue a lot closer to home.  If the technology existed, would people do it?

People may reject this kind of embrace of technology.  It can be argued that people are who they are because of their physiology.  Our bodies are constantly subjected to chemical reactions and hormonal production.  To take it a step further, one may argue that our personality is a product of the decisions we make because of or despite those reactions.  Take away the biology and what does one become?  The radical change that a person would go through might make them very different.  The change might be compared to a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly.

Itskov states that his goal is immortality.  For the spiritual and the religious, this type of transformation may only introduce another set of boundaries restricting spiritual transcendence.  The new existence in technology might look like a prison, preventing a different kind of moving on.

To play the devil’s advocate, a variety of technology has become so much apart of every day life many would be lost without it.  The widespread popularity and use of social media may indicate that many would welcome the idea of being a more intimate part of a network of minds and personalities.  Cell phones are in constant use and are rarely outside of arms reach.  So many feel a deep need to be connected to others, information, or stimulus.  In this light, Itskov’s vision would almost certainly be embraced.

Right now there is no way of knowing if a feat like the avatar project is even possible.  Further more, the article indicates that Itskov has not gotten the support among his peers that he was vying for.  Regardless of whether or not this, or something like it, comes to pass it still begs the question…  Would you be willing to merge with technology?

 

Apple’s Acquisition of WifiSLAM: What’s The Marketing Potential?

The Internet marketing realm is evolving at a rapid pace. Marketers realize that flooding social networks with ads isn’t the best way to promote brands to consumers. Now, they are learning that it might be more beneficial to focus on specific demographics and social media agencies are following suit.

But let’s be serious—marketers have become obsessed with specificity more so than ever before. They want to know where you are, what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. This eagerness to pinpoint consumer locations and actions could be one of the reasons why Apple bought WifiSLAM, an indoor location tracker company, for $20 million.

WifiSLAM has the potential to identify your exact location within a 2.5-meter radius. According to its company profile on Angel List, the software uses “ambient WiFi signals that are already present in buildings.”

Google already provides indoor mapping technology, but it’s limited and mostly available in airports or malls. Apple could use this newly acquired technology to catapult itself back in the game after the devastating fail from its Maps app. But instead of using this highly sensitive GPS location software to strengthen it’s own mapping capabilities, Apple should take another route. How about close proximity-based marketing and brand engagement?

If Apple wants to distinguish itself from the rest of the marketing industry and prove that it’s a truly innovative company, it might want to start branching out from its traditional focus.

Potentially, brands could collaborate with social apps (like Facebook or Twitter) using Apple’s super sensitive GPS technology, which could allow consumers to check-in at specific sections within actual stores. Once checked in, brands could provide offers for related products. For example: Say you were at Target and Sony was offering a specific sale for followers on its television sets. You could check-in to the electronics area using Apple’s software and look at the available offers. When you find the Sony offer, you could redeem it on your phone and use it at the checkout.

A service like this could set Apple above the rest and thrust it into the online marketing industry. It would allow consumers to use offers for in-store purchases and promote engagement with brands.

Though Apple has not specified any details regarding the WifiSLAM acquisition, I have a feeling its part of a big plan that could change the future of proximity-based marketing.

Wii U May Need a Virtual Overhaul

Just because you love something doesn’t mean you can’t critique it. I feel like diehard fans of the Wii U have been quiet about the problems faced with Nintendo’s handheld gaming device. I could ignore the drought of games with this system in addition to the limited amount of storage space compared to the competition.

Well, Nintendo has seemingly made an attempt on correcting such problems; however, it’s an attempt that is as sad as being beat by your little sister at “Super Mario Kart” for the fiftieth time.

If you were recently at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) this year, you might have stumbled upon a flyer that outlined the differences between the current Wii U and the company’s last mega-seller, the Wii. I understand what Nintendo is doing, since it has to move more consoles, especially with stories about retail outlets scaling back on support being seen. However, this list isn’t the way to go about it, primarily because it makes the Wii U seem like only an upgraded Wii as opposed to its own system. The Wii U is an entirely different monster, yet casual players may not invest in seemingly a more powerful version whereas serious gamers have other systems to look forward to.

Nintendo is trying to perform damage control in terms of reputation management and it’s not working.

The Wii U is not a hopeless case; as an owner, I can tell you that there is a great deal of potential with the system. There has to be work done on the major problems, though.

1. Games sell consoles, ten times out of ten. If you bought a PlayStation 3 back in 2007 solely for the Blu-ray support, you might as well have bought the Blu-ray player and saved that extra money on student loans. With Wii U’s aforementioned game drought, some big titles have to come down the pipeline.

2. Create more solid intellectual properties which serious gamers can invest time into. You can only play Mario and Zelda so many times before you’re clamoring for something new. It wouldn’t hurt Nintendo’s reputation by featuring a darker, more prominent mascot to shake the proposed kiddie image a bit.

3. Air commercials more often on TV. Buy advertising space in public for people to see. Showcase the Wii U has its own system instead of a supposed upgrade to the Wii. Any of these actions would be much more impactful than Nintendo currently twiddling its thumbs.

A Little Something You May Not Like about “Likes”

Sherlock Holmes was notorious for taking the smallest, seemingly most insignificant details, and deducing a great deal about someone.  The conclusions that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero jumped to were fantastic.  Dr. Watson never ceased his amazement and readers, likewise, were left wondering what thought process lead Holmes to such scarily accurate conclusions.  What if you were the subject of such analysis?  Wouldn’t you feel a little exposed after Sherlock used his incredible deduction skills to reveal your inner most secrets?

Robert Lee Hotz wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal that claims people are likely putting out a lot more information about themselves than they realize.  The focus of the article centered on “Likes”.  Through a deep analysis of the Facebook Like, Hotz holds the contention that analysts can review an individual’s likes and extract a plethora of knowledge on a whole host of subjects.  Political ideology, religious affiliation, marital status, and personal habits were all deduced with a high degree of accuracy.

Sherlock…Eat your heart out.

But, unlike the Great Detective, the study was reported to have a margin for error, revealing that the sword of social media is double-edged.  Many use social media for the obvious reason for socializing, and therefore sharing personal information.  Often times it has the favorable outcome of positive experience and valuable networking.  With Facebook, the use of the Like option is common practice and natural extension of socializing.  However, it is a reasonable assumption to say that the vast majority of people still have information they don’t feel the need to share.

However, there are groups and organizations that would jump at the chance to have a formula or specialist able to break Likes down into useable information.

Marketers, investigators, and potential employers would find the temptation of reading people more effectively hard to resist. A particular “Like” might convince a prospective employer that you may not be the right fit.  Office holders would need to exercise caution with each “Like” because it is subject to vicious scrutiny.  A couple of unpopular “Likes” might lead to some pesky rumors and gossip for any high school student.

Even if a person is not particularly insightful, people still have a habit of jumping to conclusions based on your preferences.  Those conclusions, especially if wrong, could come back to haunt the Facebook user.

While not everybody is Sherlock Holmes, it couldn’t hurt to beware of Professor Moriarty.

Adapting to Survive the Digital Evolution: Will We Need Glasses To Be Social?

Social media is constantly evolving as well as the technology we use to access it. This technology (e.g., smartphone, tablet, etc.) affects how we interact with the world by forcing us to change our behavior patterns to function with it. Thus, user interface is essential to mobile marketing so online marketing companies should keep this in mind when they’re developing their marketing plans.

Throughout the years, we’ve adapted our behaviors to use laptops, smartphones, and, now, tablets. Since the birth of the first affordable personal computer, we learned how to use a floppy disk, then a mouse, and trained our eyes to scan the picture on a monitor to locate different features, like a button on a start menu. Today, we’re abandoning those behaviors so we can use tablets, a lighter, more mobile alternative with a touchscreen. Social media emerged from the ‘digital primordial ooze’ and is evolving rapidly and mobile technology is more pertinent.

Recently, Google introduced its new project Google Glass, a pair of glasses that uses voice recognition to access the Web. Though the project is still in the testing phase, Google hopes to revolutionize the way we interact with the Web. It’s a novel approach to allowing people to intimately experience the Web, but I’m curious about how this will impact social media. It will influence the social experience if:

  • The price is right: If it’s too expensive, then only a small handful of people will be able to experience the Web this way and it will have little effect on social media.
  • The voice recognition software works for everyone: Think Siri—if you have a speech impediment or a thick accent, the software could misinterpret your commands. For it to impact social media, the software has to be sophisticated enough to understand you under any and all circumstances or the ability to learn how you speak so it can adequately perform your requests.
  • It doesn’t lose its appeal: Similar to the Surface or a Windows-based phone, if you don’t have enough apps or functions, you’ll run out of things to do and move on. Constant innovation will be its saving grace. New features or add-ons to existing features will be key to social media because it will provide numerous ways to access social networks and use social networks.

Ultimately, I think Google Glass will be too cumbersome for people to use for social media because speaking will hinder your response time and continuously responding to tweets, for example, could be an arduous process. Instead, Leap Motion Controller might be more useful because by using “3D gesture control” to interact with your computer (i.e., think Tom Cruise’s computer in Minority Report), you’re still using your hands and fingers to access the Web.