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Big Announcements From The Microsoft Surface Event



Surface Studio Microsoft
Image Credit: Microsoft

In a year that has seen PC sales declining (although somewhat better in the United States), Microsoft has been leading the charge to reinvigorate excitement in the Windows PC once again. Microsoft continued that charge with a renewed focus on creativity by unveiling several new enhancements to Windows 10 as well as total reinvention of how we use desktop computers with a brand-new Surface computer.

Windows Creator’s Update

Microsoft announced that the “Windows Creator’s Update” will be released in the Summer of 2017. This release is aimed at creative types and brings several new ways to create and interact with content including 3-D, VR, and augmented reality.

The Future is 3-D and VR

Microsoft showed off a brand new version of the ubiquitous Paint app (yes, THAT Paint app) that allows users to turn their 2-D creations into 3-D images. It even allows users to import photos and turn parts of the photo into 3-D images. In fact, a smartphone can even be used to do a “3-D scan” of an object with the camera (the demo used the HP Elite x3 to scan an actual sand castle model). Microsoft also integrated Minecraft into the experience and allowing users to export their Minecraft creations to Paint 3-D and even allowing 3-D printing directly from the Paint 3-D app. 3-D creations also extends into Powerpoint in which a presenter showed off placing 3-D images into a Powerpoint presentation.

Continuing in the vein of 3-D, Microsoft announced that several PC hardware makers will be making $299 VR devices for Windows 10. These VR devices will utilize inside-out tracking which essentially eliminates the need for an external camera or lasers for tracking. Interestingly, there was no mention of Oculus, whom Microsoft previously collaborated with to bundle the Xbox One controller with the Oculus Rift. Windows chief Terry Myerson even bemoaned how VR platforms such as the Rift and the HTC Vive need expensive computers and dangling cords.

Of course, no Microsoft virtual reality demo would be complete without the HoloLens, Microsoft’s augmented reality platform. Microsoft showed several demos of using HoloLens to interact with 3-D objects created using Paint 3-D (including the aforementioned sandcastle).

Xbox Live

Earlier this year, Microsoft launched Arena, an e-sports platform that lets players compete in tournaments. Whereas in the beginning, tournaments were created by developers and e-sports leagues, Microsoft is now allowing players to create their own tournaments to compete in with Microsoft’s Jenn McCoy stating, “We want to give gamers the ability to create their own tournaments and challenges”.

The other big announcement for Xbox Live deals with interactive live streaming. Microsoft acquired game streaming service Beam back in August of this year. Now, Microsoft is leveraging Beam’s live streaming platform to allow gamers to live stream their games without having to download a separate program. Other players will be able to interact with the player during the live stream, including clicking on buttons that audibly tell the player in a hilarious voice what to do. Obviously, this faces competition from heavy hitters like Twitch but Microsoft’s goal here is to simply live streaming and make it less intimidating for people who are new to live streaming their games.

Surface gets more powerful and creative

The highlight of the event was clearly the Surface announcements. The first announcement was the addition of a more powerful Surface Book, dubbed the Surface Book i7. Surface chief Panos Panay, who by the way is one of the most passionate and entertaining presenters I’ve seen, explained that most of the feedback they received about the Surface Book was that users wanted more power and longer battery life. To accommodate that, the Surface team revamped the cooling system with an additional fan. Spec-wise, it sports an Intel 6th-gen i7 processor (Skylake), an NVIDIA GTX 965M graphics card, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB SSD. Microsoft calls it “the most powerful device in its class”. Microsoft even compared the new Surface Book directly to a 13 inch MacBook Pro saying it “has twice the power of a MacBook Pro 13”. Oddly enough, there is a glaring omission of any USB Type C ports which is disappointing given the high end nature of the Surface Book. Save up those pennies though because the new Surface Book i7 starts at $2,399 while a fully loaded model tops out at $3299. Microsoft is clearly aiming for the MacBook Pro crowd. While the Surface Book i7 will release on November 11th, you can preorder the Surface Book now.

The second announcement was a brand new all-in-one PC called the Surface Studio. The newest entry in the Surface lineup competes squarely with Apple’s iMac. The Surface Studio is dominated by a beautiful 28” PixelSense touch screen display with a 4500 x 3000 resolution and connects to a square metal base via two chrome arms. Microsoft says the display is the thinnest LCD display ever. The base holds either an Intel i5 or i7 processor and is paired to a NVIDIA GTX 965 or 980M. It’s interesting that Microsoft didn’t opt to put NVIDIA’s new 10-series graphics cards which are more powerful and power efficient. Being a Surface, you’re able to use a Surface Pen to draw/write on the screen. To help facilitate that, the screen folds down nearly flat to allow a more natural position to use the Surface Pen. Likewise in Surface fashion, the screen has a 3:2 aspect ratio. The Surface Studio will be released in December but preorders are available now starting at $2,999 and topping off at an eye-watering $4,199.

Alongside the Surface Studio, Microsoft also unveiled a brand new accessory called the Surface Dial. The Dial is sort of like a round puck like device that can be placed on the screen to allow artist-centric functionality. For example, placing the Surface Dial on the screen while a paint app is open activates a sort of paint palette that allows you to switch colors by twisting the dial. Keeping the Dial on the table, you can twist the dial to quickly scroll through items on the screen. It can also be used to navigate and pan around. Other apps can take advantage of the Surface Dial such as volume scrolling or zooming in on pictures.

Apple is expected to unveil all new MacBook Pros at an event on October 27th. With Microsoft gunning directly for the MacBook Pro users with a more powerful Surface Book and the all new Surface Studio All-In-One PC, all eyes will be on Apple to see if they can respond with an equal amount of innovation.

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Supercharge Your Online Business With Offline Meetups



offline meetups

Online entrepreneurs forget about the importance of connecting with other people locally. These types of relationships are still one of the best ways to get the word out about your online business to supercharge your opportunities to the sky. Although online businesses run 100% in the digital world and can operate from anywhere in the world, building face to face relationships is still one the best techniques for business development and to get the word out about your brand. Although online businesses need many factors in place for them to succeed, offline meetups has been one of my secret weapons through my journey. Small live events can turn any business around, especially when you’re starting out! Whether you have a B2C or a B2B, meeting people in an offline atmosphere will get you much farther than cold calling or cold emailing.

In 2015 I used local meetup events to turn my side-business doing web design and SEO services into a team making 6 figures in the first 12 months. I also used these same tactics to turn my side-business selling matcha green tea into a 6 figure brand with a physical location inside a mall. Now, keep in mind I don’t live in Silicon Valley or any sophisticated city, but this applies to really anywhere in the world where there’s more businesses around you!

As crazy as this story sounds (it was in fact a crazy ride), local offline meetups play a big role on many success stories out there. These types of events allow you to connect not only with potential clients, but also with local media celebrities or can open the door to connect with somebody else that can give your online business a huge boost.

Go out and meet people

Although social media makes it easy to meet new people, it takes a long time to build trust with somebody you met online. It’s much more effective to connect off-line on small live gatherings than it is to spam or stalk somebody online.

Most offline meetups are between 50-100 people sharing a meal or a cup of coffee. Not only are they useful, but they are so much fun! Is not necessary to introduce yourself to every single attendee; you only need to connect with key people on that event.

For example, introducing yourself to a few attendees will give you a generic idea of what type of people are standing around you. Most times, when you share more about your story and your online business, people will guide you in the right direction on who you should be talking to. You never know who you might run into on the next meetup event. It’s common to run into local PR and media people that are looking for stories like yours which could get you featured on a local magazine or TV show. It’s also easy to run into that one person who can help you get into the next retail store or simply connect you with one of the biggest players in town that might need your services too.

Find local meetups in your area

As you know, thanks to all the majestic tools we have on the internet, we’re only a few clicks away from finding what we need. The best tools to find a local meetup gather is, or you can also look them up on Facebook Groups or LinkedIn Groups. Start by looking for groups that are in your niche. If you’re into fitness, it’s very easy to find fitness gatherings or classes that you can attend. On the other side, if you’re looking to connect with other entrepreneurs, type in “business” or “entrepreneurs” + your city and I promise you will find at least 1 group close enough to you to attend this week. After you have found that perfect meetup gather that you want to attend, these are some of the tips and tricks you need to know to get the most out of your first (and every other) meetup events.

  1. Find more about the organizer of the offline meetups and reach out to them. Organizers are passionate about meeting people, so they will be thrilled to hear from you!
  2. Shoot the organizers a message in a non-salesy way and offer value to them by offering some of your tips or knowledge on an upcoming event. Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them solve any of their problems.
  3. Assist the next meetup event they have without making it a sales tactic. Make sure you introduce yourself to the organizers in person as well. Ask the organizers if they know anybody in the room that you should be talking to about your online business. They will be happy to introduce you to the next contact that can open a new door for you.
  4. The key to this technique is to focus on building strong relationships and to create opportunities, without selling anything! The moment you start selling your products, people will start stepping away from you. Focus on building strong relationships by offering value to everyone you meet and when the moment is right, you will be able to pitch to them if they’re ready for it.

Most online entrepreneurs are afraid to go to offline meetups and meet people and for that reason they’re missing out on huge opportunities. For this same reason, you need to go out and meet as many people as you can.

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IFA 2017: Highlights Of The Newest Tech From Berlin



IFA 2017

IFA is the largest consumer technology trade show in Europe. Each year in Berlin, thousands people flock to see some of the latest announcements from the some of the biggest names in the tech industry. Let’s take a look at the top five products to come out of IFA 2017:

LG V30

The star of the entire show at IFA 2017 was definitely LG’s successor to 2016’s V20. The V30 is an important milestone for LG. While LG’s earlier flagship, the G6, was a great phone it could not compete with the newer phones from Samsung and HTC. Apparently, even LG admitted that the G6 underwhelmed in sales. However, the V30 may end up being a serious contender among Android phones, especially with content creators.

The screen switches from an LCD to OLED. This results in vivid colors, sharp contrasts, and a screen that should result in better battery life. Like the G6 and almost every other flagship this year, the V30 has minimal bezels with an 82 percent screen-to-body ratio. Also like 2017 flagships, the V30 also has the latest Snapdragon 835 processor and 4GB or RAM which makes everything snappy.

The camera is probably going to receive the most buzz. It sports an f/1.6 aperture lens as part of a dual camera setup that is the largest in a smartphone. A larger aperture allows more light to reach the sensor which ultimately leads to better low-light performance and better pictures.

Garmin Vivoactive 3

For the more fitness conscious among us, Garmin announced the new Vivoactive 3. This update to the former Vivoactive HR tries to turn it into a true smartwatch with a rounder body, NFC payments, and more. A new feature called “side swipe” allows users to scroll up and down the display and is activated by running a finger along the left side of the watch.

Garmin is also bringing Garmin Pay to the Vivoactive 3. Garmin Pay is powred by FitPay, a third-party developer of contactless payment systems. Like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay, Garmin Pay works with Visa and MasterCard from select banks.

Sony LF-S50G Wireless Smart Speaker

Sony introduced quite a few number of products at IFA 2017. One of which was a wireless smart speaker called the LF-S50G which has the Google Assistant built in and looks suspiciously like Apple’s HomePod but costs much less.

Design-wise, the HomePod similarities are clear. A grey or black speaker mesh encircles the entire device while the sides have an LED clock display. The top contains various sensors that allow gestures for playback and volume control if using your voice isn’t feasible. The unit itself is a 360-degree, vertical two-way facing system that includes a dedicated subwoofer for bass along with an omnidirectional two-stage diffuser that provides “maximum sound coverage” in an average-sized room.

The LF-S50G can pair over Bluetooth, NFC or Wi-Fi and supports multi-room controls for audio. Users will also be able to control other smart home devices including wireless speakers that have an integrated Chromecast.

Sony is positioning the LF-S50G as a kitchen assistant and touts its superior audio as the primary differentiation from Google Home. Of course, other major players in the game such as Amazon and Apple will offer significant competition. However, given the LF-S50G’s price tag of $199, it may just sway over people who aren’t keen to live in Apple’s ecosystem or prefer the intelligence of Google over Amazon.

Moto X4

Not be left out, Motorola/Lenovo announced the Moto X4 at IFA 2017. Many astute readers may remember that the Moto X line used to be Motorola’s flagship line of smartphones. That title now belongs to the Z2 lineup. Instead, the X4 covers the midrange. The two new features on the X4 include a dual-camera setup and support for the Amazon Alexa voice assistant.

Being a midrange phone, it doesn’t the latest and greatest specs but the included Snapdragon 630 chip and 5.20-inch, 1080p display is probably good enough for quite a few people. While it may not be as powerful as the high-end phones, Motorola claims that the X4’s 3,000mAh battery should last up to 24 hours of use. The TurboPower charger also provides six hours of use on just 15 minutes of charging.

The Moto X4 has a 12-megapixel camera paired with an 8-megapixel wide angle camera. This will allow depth of field effects such as selective focus and color. The front facing camera is 16-megapixels and has an “adaptive low-light mode” that trades better low light performance for resolution.

Samsung Gear Sport

After launching the excellent Gear S3 last year, Samsung is following up with the Gear Sport at IFA 2017. As implied by the name, this smartwatch is focused on fitness. As such it comes preloaded with the Speedo On app to enable recording of swimming sessions. Samsung partnered with Under Armour to give Gear Sport owners a yearlong premium membership as well as access to Under Armour’s suite of apps including MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun. The watch is also does the usual fitness tracker stuff like heart rate tracking, activity detection, and customizable fitness goals and alerts.

Like most of Samsung’s smartwatches, the Gear Sport runs on Samsung’s Tizen operating system instead of Android Wear. The watch itself has a 1.2-inch AMOLED display with Gorilla Glass 3 and a 360 x 360 resolution. It also comes with a dual-core processor, 4GB of onboard storage, 768MB of RAM, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC for Samsung Pay support. Samsung claims that the Gear Sport will last four days on a single charge although that’s without GPS. With GPS on continuously, that battery life number shrinks to 14 hours.

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Otakon Welcomes Writers Roland Kelts And Frederik L. Schodt



Frederik L Schodt Roland Kelts

Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica: How Japanese pop culture has invaded us, and writer, translator, and conference interpreter, Frederik L. Schodt have both joined as guests for Otakon 2017. Fans of the writers were thrilled for their appearance at the convention, as they share their most popular and influential works. Frederik writes exclusively on pop culture, technology, and history, while Roland is currently a 2017 Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, where he is currently working on a new book. Both Frederik and Roland are devoted writers, with similarities in expressing Japanese culture in their writings.

While living in Tokyo and New York City, Roland writes for a variety of well known publications that includes, “The New Yorker, Time,” “The New York Times,” “Harper’s Magazine,” “The Christian Science Monitor,” “Newsweek Japan,” “The Los Angeles Times,” “The Yomiuri” and “The Japan Times,” and is an authority on modern Japanese culture and media. His writings are spread throughout, though his recognition are from Japanese fans especially. Likewise, he is a frequent commentator on CNN, NPR, NHK and the BBC. With additional lectures for TED Talks in Tokyo and The World Economic Forum in Tianjin, Roland is looking for various opportunities to share his work, in order to spread awareness to the Japanese culture.

Otakon is an annual celebration of Japanese and East Asian popular culture, with a title of holding in one of the largest gatherings of fans in the United States. In the celebration of anime, manga, video games, and especially music from the Far East, Otakon attracts like minded fans. Created from devoted fans for fans, the staff is directed by an all-volunteer, unpaid staff. The conventions are solely for the purpose of celebrating and sharing Japanese and East Asian cultures.

Frederik is best known for his many works on manga that includes, “Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics” (1983), “Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga” (1996), and “The Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution” (2007). He has won numerous awards for his talent in the past as a result. In 2009 especially, the emperor of Japan awarded him the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for his success in introducing Japanese popular culture to North America. His most influential work gave recognition to both him and to what Japan has to offer. As of recently in 2013, his book, “Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan—And Japan to the West,” won the Circus Historical Society’s Stuart Thayer Prize. Doing so, for the last three years, he has served on the executive committee of the Japan International Manga Award. Additionally, he is an active translator and has worked on many well-known manga series, as well as novels including Yoshiyuki Tomino’s “Mobile Suit Gundam” trilogy. Frederik has been involved in spreading Japanese culture and will continue as he attends Otakon 2017. The convention holds determined fans who wish to express their culture with other similar people. In Otakon 2017, writers Roland Kelts and Frederik L. Schodt are invited to continue the tradition. All while cementing their writings and work to Japanese culture, the awareness can now be shared in North America.

Otakon will be continuing their gatherings next year on August 10-12 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington D.C. 

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