Pharrell makes me HAPPY

happy_pharellPharrell’s HAPPY video is the best music video of the 21st century. I know – that’s quite a bold statement. I lived through the birth of the music video, MTV, and of course, Thriller. When I learned of Pharrell’s project, the world’s first 24-hour music video, I was “meh” – until I saw the website for myself.

Amazing.

Forget about the fact that just post-production of a 24-hour final cut is an enormous and costly task; forget about the logistics of finding people (over 200 extras and celebrities) at all hours of the day to shoot; forget about the risk the muscian and studio took on this crazy project.

Just focus on the concept: Here’s this vast uncharted mountain of content. The web site (24hoursofhappy.com) starts you off at your current location’s time, but allows you to scroll back and forth to any other spot in the video. This is your chance to find some gold in that mountain. You can discover a silly dance move that a random extra is doing or find out what a specific celebrity is wearing. It’s the discovery and sharing that makes this so perfect for our social media world: unearth something unique and earn social street-cred, or the “I’m cool because I found it first” syndrome.

Think of all the strange things people have found on Google Earth or Street View. This is another example of a large uncharted mountain of content. People can search every square foot of the Earth for something strange or funny to share.

As it relates to HAPPY, here’s my discover of three well dressed elderly ladies getting their groove on at 11:36 in the morning. I’m sure my friends will love it. At least I really hope so.

Connected Devices and Earl Grey Tea

The Captain.

The Captain.

“Connected devices” is a slightly more practical description of what we would characterize as a “Star Trek” future. When Captain Picard walks up to a replicator station in his ready room and demands, “Tea, earl grey, hot,” it’s only obvious to us watching that a hot mug of dark tea materializes for his enjoyment. But if you think about it in terms of our understanding of computers, so many questions arise.

For example:

  • How did the replicator know Picard was nearby?
  • How did the computer know how hot is “hot” for Picard? Did he have to setup his “tea preferences” when he first assumed command of the Enterprise?
  • How did the computer know he was giving an order to the replicator to serve him tea? Perhaps he just wanted to know more about the health benefits of Earl Grey tea. Or maybe Picard was having a laugh with Riker about, “This one time how I ordered ‘tea, earl grey, hot’ and I totally spilled it on my new uniform,” (which is exactly how Picard talks).

These questions may sound like a bunch of Trekkie nerds arguing over a lunch of ramen noodles and Mt. Dew, but a ton of research and product development is happening to bring our world closer to Picard’s reality. Work in this area can be called the “Internet of Everything” (IoT) or “connected devices”. The idea is that EVERYTHING – not just our laptops, tablets, and phone – will be connected wirelessly. Toasters, thermostats, cars, elevators, jewelry, clothing – all collecting sensory data and sharing it with other devices. What kind of world would that be? Some situations can be obvious (like your car talking to your phone), but others – not so much.

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As technology improves, are our devices sneaking up on us?

Are our devices getting closer and closer?

Isn’t it a little strange that as technology advances, the distance between our eyes and the particular device we’re using is getting shorter and shorter? The humble TV is kept safely across the room. The laptop lives within arm’s length. Tablets and phones are now within one foot. What’s next? Google Glasses puts information within an inch from our eyes. If you are paying attention to thin display improvements, researchers Ghent University as put an LCD display on a contact lens. Next up? Ocular implants?

HTML5: The Web App Promise Land?

HTML5 leading us to the promise land.

We’ve heard a lot about all the fantastic things HTML5 can and will do. But its most intriguing promise is to completely disrupt the world of apps that you download to your phone. The same smooth user experience that you experience (with all the cool buttons, sounds, music, motion, pictures, etc) on your favorite app from the App Store or Google Play will eventually be brought to the humble web browser, instantly. But there are many challenges that need to be dealt with first.

I’m going to use phrases like “native apps” and “web apps” quite a bit, so let me define these terms here. A “native app” is what you download from an app store that stores data within the app, manipulates that data within the confines of that app, and utilizes many of the phone’s other functions that is allowed by the respective operating systems. Games (like Angry Birds) and photo apps (like Instagram) are perfect examples. Instagram uses the phone’s camera to take pictures and its own software to add filters or effects.

A “web app” by contrast is more like a shell of a native app, but really encases a lot of web-based data. Think of it like a fancy web browser that only shows one web page. Apps for Facebook or LinkedIn are perfect examples. Other than the camera feature, you can access all aspects of these two sites from the mobile browser (like iOS Safari or the Android browser).

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Unfriend your best friends to save your friendship.

Image courtesy of Flickr user B Tal.

Here’s an idea my wife suggested: Go through your friend list on Facebook and Twitter. Select the ones you get along with the best (the ones you consider close friends, confidants, etc). Then unfriend them. Stop following them. That’s it. Sound crazy? Why would you do such a thing? Because Facebook and Twitter may have warped our perception of “closeness” of friends. The constant stream of updates from our friends saturate our brain. We experience the daily events of everyone, regardless how close or distant we are, at the same “volume”. Things get worse when mere acquaintances post far more frequently than our best friends. These close relationships get pushed aside to make room for noise of all the other people we “friend”. Why is this? Because unlike our social media outlets, our brains have a finite capacity for simultaneous connections. It’s called the Dunbar Number.

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