The Space Shuttle Enterprise and the Smart TV: Unlikely Friends

Confused about the future of the television? No more so than the people who are building it. Research states that more than half of households in North America and Western Europe will be connected to the Internet through their television sets within five years, but how they’re going to connect is anybody’s guess.

Today, the majority of people who use Internet on their TV get there through Game consoles like Kinect, Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation. Each has their own Internet world with a variety of online services and offerings – everything from movies to games.

But forecasts are giving consoles the thumbs down as Internet TV devices. The second generation of products like Apple TV, Roku, and Boxee are tiny little inexpensive boxes that are pretty good at delivering content like movies, games, photos and more to your TV. For $99, the Apple TV lets you play anything off of your iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone but it also offers Netflix, YouTube videos, and sports stations. Boxee offers similar services for the non-Apple crowd.

Still these boxes are probably just a stepping stone to what we really want – an Internet that’s really built into your TV. There have been many failed attempts in the past, mostly because installation involved a PhD in computer science. However, that’s about to change. I had a chance to play with the crème de la crème of Internet TVs the other day at a bizarre event (“Space Fest”) that Samsung sponsored on the deck of New York’s Intrepid Air and Space Museum.

At Space Fest, designed to introduce the public to the newest exhibit at the Intrepid, Space Shuttle Enterprise, Samsung set up a tent and showcased its flagship 75-inch ES9000 LED Smart 3D TV. Seventy-five inches of flat screen ($10,000) is awesome but more awesome was the integration of a really robust Internet experience. 10K seems like a lot to play a game of Angry Birds, but the featured activity on the TV was, in fact, a special version of Angry Birds controlled by gestures as you stood in front of the TV.

The new set also comes with 3D support and four pairs of 3D glasses, as well as a built-in camera. The interface lets you use voice command, gestures, and face recognition to enable many of the features. The UI featured a number of Samsung partners all accessible via a shockingly easy-to-use menu.

The Space Fest had its share of hokey moments, like the Samsung dome that projected a facetious journey through space as navigated by booth babes in astronaut suits that told a barely coherent story about a near disaster in the control room. I snapped these photos, feeling every bit like I was on a bad Disney ride.

And in middle of the fest a totally exciting (real-life!) lightening and thunder storm shook the deck, the domes, and the journalists to the core.

Still, seeing the space shuttle was a throwback to a glorious past of space exploration, and seeing Samsung’s TV was a good glimpse into how strong a player TV manufacturers will be in this emerging world of Internet TV.


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Video Game as Art

I stopped by the Art of the Video Game at the Smithsonian in DC last week.  The exhibit took viewers on a waltz through video gaming from Atari to Xbox. While the kiosks were ok, the conversations that these machines evoked were positively marvelous.  Dads turning to their young kids, and telling them about their early Pong experiences with that badge of honor sound in their voices.  Kids recalling Zelda and early Nintendo as their own right of passage.  A conversation starter, a family experience, and a look a history that’s very much in the moment versus the stodgier versions of typical art exhibits made this a delight. See how many you remember. (Answers below).  


Much ado was made of the range of emotions that people express while engaged in a video game.  From astonishment to embarrassment to sheer bliss — the gamut was evident.  



Early Nintendo System

Nintendo Entertainment System, Cartridge Based

The Nintendo Entertainment System was an 8-bit system released in 1985. 

The Intellivision System was loved because it rose to the challenge of animating blocky pixels well.  Intellivision titles on display at the exhibit included Utopia, Star Strike and TRON Maze a Tron to name a few.
 The Nintendo Game Cube was the first to use non-cartridge based storage — optical storage. The Nintendo GameCube Game Disc was the software storage medium . Some games which contain large amounts of voice acting or pre-rendered video making them disc-heavy.

Sega Genesis

The  The Sega Genesis was Sega’s most successful console.  Introduced in 1988,   Some of its games, like M Mortal Kombat  forced the issues of  content rating systems.
Stay tuned for the next installment where we walk through some of the classic games.  Later, the Sega DreamCast introduced in 1999 took the world by using state of the art video and graphics.  It soared to success only to plummet at SONY PlayStation hit the shelves. Dreamcast was widely hailed as ahead of its time. It saw the release of many including  Crazy TaxiJet Set Radio, and Shenmue, which was the most expensive game produced at the time. The console pioneered online console gaming; it was the first console to include a built-in  modem for online play.

Got Ideas to Keep Seniors Independent? There’s a Contest For That

Put on your high tech thinking caps: the HelloAgain Challenge is asking you to share your ideas for the future of senior-centric mobile phones, phone accessories and applications. And it just kicked off this week.

You don’t need to be a techie to enter. Ideas from seniors, caregivers, or other consumers are all welcomed, with no technical expertise required.

Judges include executives from The Blindsight Corporation, emporia Telecom, AARP, Verizon Wireless, GreatCall and the University of California’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Internet Society (CITRIS).


Nostalgia: The Next Big Old Thing

It all starts with the Furby, which is being readied for a 21st century makeover.

Furby’s new LED eyes make bizarre designs, and motion sensors make Furby laugh when tickled. An app that comes with Furby lets you shoot it some food and even train it talk. They’ll cost $60 and come out in September. If they drove you crazy in their first incarnation, they’ll likely do it again, only with a high-tech flair.

Videogames have become richer, but the old stories buried deep inside of Disney are meeting the new videogames. The best evidence is a new game announced at San Diego Comic Con, Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. Of course it’s coupled with a new movie: Disney Epic 2. The story involves Mickey, and drags in Oswald the lucky rabbit (Oswald actually looks very much like Mickey, with bigger ears).

The two heroes head off to Wasteland – a land populated with 80 years of forgotten Disney characters and theme park attractions – to teach kids a bit about saving the planet as they play. Mickey gets a paintbrush as his weapon of choice, while Oswald gets a remote control. It’s a colloborative play experience which many parents will cherish, minus the setup headache. The game will be available this holiday season for Nintendo, Xbox 360, and the PlayStation3. Check out their YouTube video


Digital Health’s Summer Summit Wrap-Up

No moss growing under our feet this summer. We’ve been busy at work, running some new summer summits as well as planning for an exciting year at CES in 2013.  Whether you’re a digital health professional or just someone who’s going to have to visit a doctor someday, this overview of our Digital Health Summer Summit  is required reading.

Held during the height of San Diego’s June gloom, at the Omni Hotel, the mission was to take a deeper dive into the digital health waters by creating an environment where all of the various stakeholders could exchange ideas and best practices.

Thanks to Amanda Goltz of Pacific Business Group for sharing her top twitter captures with us:

“Instead of looking for healthcare, I want to see consumers care about health.”
Nick Martin, UnitedHealth Group

“The government’s burden is the entrepreneur’s opportunity!”
Jody Holtzman, AARP

“FDA is an evolving hurdle that needs to be understood and respected.”
Aidan Petrie, Ximedica

“The US takes 90% of the world’s pain killers.”
Aidan Petrie, Ximedica

“Starbucks spends more on employee healthcare than coffee beans.”
Amanda Goltz, Pacific Business Group on Health

“Your zip code can play more of a role in your health outcome than your disease state.”
Richard Migliori, UnitedHealth Group

Our personal favorite tweet came from attendee Aidan Petrie: “For every line of code, you need 20 lines of justification for FDA clearance. 

Who looks at health care websites? Sharecare@sharecarenow , a growing web health portal explained that their users came in “thirds” – a third of visitors to their site come directly from Dr. Oz (a celebrity medical advisor), a third from Google search, and  a third from partners like Weight Watchers. If you’re looking to create a media property with any sort of respectable following, the ShareCare prescription is a good one to follow.

Platform Development: Apple vs. Android was a hot topic of discussion for medical app developers and institutions. The consensus, reached through discussion led by Agamatrix, was that the Apple platform is more carefully curated. Apps are more apt to be vetted for quality on iOS, and the Apple infrastructure is more stable, with less versioning problems. Hope Google is taking notes.

Ten Commandments: In a fascinating and far-reaching conversation, Lisa Suennen, Managing Member of Psilos Group, and Don Jones, Vice President of Wireless Health, Global Strategy spilled the beans on what’s behind the digital curtain in health care. Journalist and brand builder Denise Lee Yohn summed up the conversation in her Ten Commandments of Digital Health.

Patients: Entitlement vs. Responsibility: OK. Patients take their fair share of abuse – mostly for non-compliance with doctor’s orders. CEO Robert Pakter of PillJogger, Inc says, “When patients don’t take their medicines for chronic problems such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma and the like, it’s well-documented that they’ll have more acute illnesses” said Dr. Pakter. Each year, it’s been estimated to cost up to $300 billion in avoidable health costs in the US, and cause up to 100,000 avoidable deaths. Sharecare chimed in by reminding us that diabetes costs the US $175 billion annually, and 95% of that cost is preventable. Ben Chodor, CEO of Happtique, a boutique for health applications, reminded the audience that health apps are not just websites on your phone. The difference? Customization, personalization  and most important of all, the ability to change behavior.

It’s All in the Execution: Qualcomm’s Jack Young, from the Qualcomm Ventures Group, was generous enough to share his abundant and astute knowledge of how to get a product from idea to a funded, executable reality. Deciding between venture capital, a loan, family and friends, and angel investors is a job in and of itself. Advice on how not to be a perpetual fundraiser, and finding the right partnerships made us begin to believe that getting any medical product out the door is a miracle.

The Connected Health Network: Independa focused on home connectivity by showcasing the capabilities of their new tablet as the center of the home/health universe. Their tablet, which uses Qualcomm’s Bnet system for interconnectivity, allows everything from patient care to home control, television remote to email, to all be controlled easily from a single tablet device.

Who Will Pay for What: The big question of “who’s  going to be paying for the adoption of all of these technologies” had about as many answers as a centipede has legs. Consensus wasn’t betting on the consumer, but on changes in health benefits laws.

The onus on patients was for more involvement in their own care, more compliance with procedures, and more benefits for those who stay healthy by doing the right things. Gamification and reward principles will ultimately play heavily as much of United HealthCare’s pioneering research has indicated.

United HealthCare offered a compelling testimonial of how individual patient care becomes an aggregate of crowd-sourced information that can help create better treatment and compliance plans where the ROI is justified by the outcomes. Comprehensive wellness programs and rewards indicate serious gains in patient health. Through its Optum program, UHC saw patients taking responsibility (rather than entitlement) for enrolling in wellness programs, losing weight and reduced ER usage to name a few. Online systems that lets users download ID cards, use GPS coordinates to identify healthcare locations, and personalize with their own notes are a few of the success stories shared.

We’re not going to even try to synthesize the copious volumes of information that Frost and Sullivan supplied about the overall health of the telecare health systems, but this look at the top areas for growth sums up the landscape: 


Other sessions included step-by-step procedures for winning FDA approval, where Stuart Blitz and John Flaherty of Agamatrix took extraordinary pains describing the various classes of FDA approval and how to budget and get it right the first time. As if the FDA wasn’t daunting enough, Blitz and Flaherty took us on an international tour of regulatory procedures. Hint: Europe is the easiest place to start.

As for insurance providers versus the consumers, it’s a matter of who will pay for what, and when. Blitz and Flaherty summed it up in this graphic:

 Interesting ideas abounded, from HealthTap’s novel solution of having doctors reply to patients questions online incentivized by trust and ratings, to the role of health media properties, to a group of young rockstars from RockHealth, a San Diego-based digital health incubator. Their members showed everything from AchieveMint, an intelligent incentive network that rewards consumers who make healthy choices, to one of our favorites, Cardiio. Cardiio is software that turns ordinary cameras into biosensors, allowing people to use mobile devices they already own to gain insight and take charge of their wellbeing.


Growing in LeapPads and Bounds

LeapPad 2

The original Leapad looked like a talking book and was introduced in 1999.  

A lot of kids cut their reading teeth on these books . Your book could read you a story, or you could or use the attached stylus to press on a word or sentence to hear with a mere tap of your pen. Pressing on pictures yielded other surprises.  And it had pages, just like a real book.

 The device has continued to evolve, almost to a fault.  A few years ago the Leapfrog product line was a bit of a disaster with too many products and no salient message to the consumer..  

With the launch of  the LeapPad 2 and the Leapfrong GS that’s about to change.  The focus is on providing kid friendly experiences on grownup looking devices.  Last holiday season the surprise winner at retail was the LeapPad , a newer hipper/ electronic book form factor  that cost a quarter of the price of  “grown up tablets” like the iPad. Included in the line were some very grown up features and a full bevy of carefully plotted learning software. The net result was to take te burden of choice off of poo

 This fall you’re about to meet the next incarnation, LeapPad 2  and Leapster GSl The  LeapPad 2 is a full multimedia tablet. Its major enhancements for the are significant.  Ther parents struggling with voluminous iTunes libraries of no special repute and the cost buying an expensive device.

Apps include a music player, a cartoon creation app,, an Art Studio creativity app for drawing and the Pet writing app.  Plus you can watch movies and read books. All for $99.  Content is increasingly including full length movies as well as educational adventures.  Partners have included Disney, Discovery and now Sesame Street.   Parents will be able to track progress and get suggestions on a special online parenting area

re’s   higher resolution  front and rear cameras / a video recorder, twice the memory (4GB)  and a faster processor.  Better battery life and an  add on alternative rechargeable pack made me feel a bit better about the environmental side of the equation.  The apps that come with the LeapPad 2 are designed to inspire reativity and exploration. 

 The Leapster GS ($69.99) is a revised gaming system offering a thinner design, larger screen 3  ½ inches),, built-in accelerometer, 2GB of memory and a camera / video recorder.   The GS is the Gaming System – meant for educational game learning, while the LeapPad 2 focuses on mimicking the diversity of the iPad experience.  The GS has bigger buttons and feels a bit faster on response time. Augmented reality games that put the child in the game and through learning portals bring a smack of hipness-next gen to the machine. letts

Here’s Techmemes video of the GS  in action 

And a look at LeapPad2 from LeapPad 

What Boomers Want in a Website

Baby Boomers are defined as the 78 million Americans born from 1946-1964. They control 77 percent of the nation’s wealth, they buy 45 percent of all consumer goods, and they spent $2.5 trillion in 2010, according to the Pew Institute. Each month 1,000 people in the US turn 65.

An article that summarizes what type of technology will captivate the hearts and minds of this most significant audience is discussed in an article by Suzi Mitchell on the Business to Community website


It’s 11PM, Do You Know Where Your Contract Is?

It’s Friday night at 11, and suddenly I find myself with that all-important contract that needs to be signed and countersigned by Monday morning. I don’t know about you, but I junked my paperweight cum fax machine (recycled actually) about a decade ago. I lost my password to the fax email service I used to use. And I hate wasting trees to print out a contract only to sign it, scan it, turn it back into a PDF, and send it on its way.  Especially knowing that the guys on the other side are going to have to repeat my actions to countersign.

I discovered DocuSign when they signed up for our Mobile Apps Showdown in NYC, and now I can say it actually rescued my Friday night (Clearly 15 million others have discovered it before me, at least according to the company’s website).

The steps are pretty simple. Create an online profile replete with your signature and photo. You can use a drawing program to create the signature, or use your finger or stylus on a tablet PC, or just choose from one of the signatures created on your behalf by DocuSign.

Next, you choose the contract you want to send. It’s imported so that it can be marked up, a revision history initialized, and includes a space for your electronic John Hancock. Fill out the recipients’ email address (the envelope) and your document is signed, sealed and delivered. If you’re into showmanship, you can sign the document and send with one hand tied behind your back.

You can track the status of your document as its read and counter-signed – and because your document is stored in the cloud on DocuSign’s safe service, rather than in your email, the security of the contract is excellent.

The smartphone versions can capture your location – another security check that keeps my Friday night mellow. The basic app is free and can be run on iOS, Android, Windows Live and even works with Saleforce and other more vertical programs

The only downside to this app is the human one – it’s way too easy to buy a car, a house or anything else that requires your signature. The only thing I have to fear is myself. The basic app is free but you can upgrade to versions that let you do things like add multiple recipients, for example.

View DocuSign’s YouTube video here.


You Are Your Own Brand so for Pete’s Sake, Deal With It

I first talked to Patrick Ambrose while he was still a student at Syracuse University, working on the earliest version of BrandYourself. Ambrose and his co-creators saw first-hand how otherwise good kids were getting bad reps from silly social networking mistakes. The idea behind BrandYourself is to create a service to surface the good stuff about their online reputations but not break the bank paying some high-falutin SEO expert to do it for you.

So, how do you fix a reputation? The first is to know about it. The second is to do something about it.

Free of cost, BrandYourself lets you grade your reputation by taking a simple test. Identify yourself to the program, and it searches through Google, pulls up references to you, and asks you to identify whether the references are positive, negative, or don’t apply to you (I must admit I posed as one of my kids and checked out their online reputation, too so it’s not difficult to scam the system).

The next step costs anywhere from $2 to $10 based on your action plan. BrandYourself offers advice and tips every step of the way. You create a BrandYourself profile, submitting positive links about yourself.  The website analyzes those links and suggests things you can do to boost the good links to the top. For example, you can share the good links with friends on social networks and keep adding more links. A meter keeps you informed on your improvement.

Your BrandYourself profile (which can be linked to all your other online profiles) automatically keeps watch for your name and can optimize the search engine results.

Pretty darn impressive: it’s basically the democratization of SEO. Without having to understand any optimization techniques, you can bring out the best in your online profile. Better still, you can identify a listing that’s not yours (even if it’s a person with the same name). One of the company founders got the idea for BrandYourself after looking for jobs only to find out that he and a convicted felon shared the same name.

Now, I don’t want to oversell this. James Holmes is not going to look good on the Internet no matter what he does, but BrandYourself gives you some modicum of control of your person Internet presence. It is a problem that it’s not hard to pose as someone else and actually give their online brand a walloping – all you need is an email and some links about them.

But if you’re out there trying to make yourself look good in a world where Google searches have become routine parts of the decision-making process, it couldn’t hurt to BrandYourself.


A Few of My Favorite Tech Things blogger Jenna Burch asked me for a few of my favorite things when it came to kid’s tech toys. Jenna ran with it and produced this lovely and thoughtful article.