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Net neutrality could affect more industries than you think

Charmaine Blake

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Oh yeah, that.

Image: cofotoisme/getty

With a historic net neutrality vote set to take place tomorrow, people across the United States are rightly concerned about the future of the internet. Visions of price-tiered online spaces dancing in their heads, constituents all over the country are reaching out to their elected officials in a likely doomed effort to forestall what many see as the inevitable destruction of our mostly level digital playing field.

But tomorrow’s vote is about more than whether Comcast can charge you extra for streaming movies on Netflix. Just as the internet has seeped into many unexpected facets of our lives, abandoning net neutrality could have unexpected consequences in places you might not expect. 

Self-driving cars

If Elon Musk is correct, driverless cars could soon be everywhere.  

Those vehicles will require sophisticated onboard computers, and those computers will probably come with some form of internet connectivity. 

We’ve already seen the benefit of this. Tesla vehicles can download “over-the-air software updates” when linked up with Wi-Fi, negating the need to take a car into the shop to address recalls. This is both a cost- and time-saver for car owners, and will likely become a widespread feature as older cars are phased out over time. 

Throttle this speed.

Image: JustSuper/getty

But what if, say, your home internet provider felt like making a little extra cash. It might reasonably assume that anyone with a self-driving vehicle is on the wealthier side, and could conceivably charge extra for access to the Tesla network issuing the patches. Oh, you want your Model S to be able to perform regular self-maintenance? That’ll be an extra $20 a month. 

Also, while self-driving cars will likely not be constantly connected to the internet for security reasons, it’s hard to predict just what features will and will not become standard. Doing away with net neutrality gives internet providers the ability to shape how our cars connect to the online world.

The Internet of Things

The ever-growing Internet of Things has made it clear that no device or gadget is too small or “dumb” to be saddled with some form of connectivity. From doorknobs to dildos, manufacturers are rushing to ensure that every damn thing has a place in our connected future. 

And, to be clear, many people enjoy these products! Think of your smart speaker, or your internet-connected teddy bear. If you’re the type of person to buy one of these things, you probably love it. The ease with which those devices put the internet at your fingertips is one of their big selling points. But what if it wasn’t so easy?

While companies like Netflix may pay up for fast-lane privileges, the maker of your Wi-Fi-connected coffee pot may not feel likewise inclined. Essentially, this could translate into a de-prioritization of IoT traffic. In other words, your smart home could become a tad bit slow. 

Healthcare

In addition to just being a pain in the ass, the repeal of net neutrality could do real harm to your health. That’s because the modern medical field has come to depend on that aforementioned free and open internet — something very much at odds with Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai’s plans. 

These days, electronic health records are often kept in the cloud, and fast and reliable access to this data is vital to patient care. What’s more, telemedicine — remotely providing healthcare via some form of telecommunication — is super data heavy. Whether that’s remotely analyzing X-rays, or a rural patient connecting with a doctor in a far-off city, this stuff takes a lot of bandwidth. 

Will your small-town hospital be able to compete with the Facebooks of the world when it comes to buying a piece of bandwidth pie? Unfortunately, we may soon have to find out.  

Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin and the wide assortment of altcoin in the world are big business. Like, very big business. This magic internet money is bought, sold, and traded on exchanges like Coinbase. People depend on access to these exchanges in order to manage their cryptocurrency, and any restriction of that access could have huge financial and structural implications. 

Blocking the blockchain.

Image: martinwimmer/getty

With no net neutrality to stop them, ISPs could in theory throttle access to exchanges not of their liking. While diehard cryptocurrency enthusiasts would surely find a way around such a step, the common person may not have the skill or patience to do so. 

This could impact the price of some cryptocurrencies. If the main exchange offering your altcoin of choice is suddenly given the short shrift by Verizon, well, then associated trading and the coin’s value could possibly decline as a result. 

So, what now?

The loss of net neutrality will likely have far-reaching implications, and it’s still too early to know exactly what those will be. It’s not too early, however, to predict that many of them will be unpleasant. From self-driving cars to cryptocurrencies, tilting the scales in favor of established players with deep pocketbooks is unlikely to benefit the little man. 

However, with the fate of tomorrow’s vote all but certain, net neutrality appears to be on its deathbed. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take us and our internet-connected world down with it. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/13/net-neutrality-impacts/

New Movie Tech

8K TVs are coming, but you probably shouldn’t buy one yet

Charmaine Blake

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8K TV. Can you tell?

Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

“Every now and then, TV manufacturers start a new trend to keep the hype for their products going. If you bought a TV in the last year, a salesman probably told you that some iteration of HDR is a must-have. Your current TV likely supports 3D — and I bet you haven’t used that feature in ages.

The hot new thing at this year’s IFA, Berlin’s trade show which gathers the largest consumer electronics manufacturers, was 8K TVs. I’ve seen those TVs, and I can tell you, they all had an absolutely stunning picture.

I can also tell you that you absolutely don’t need one.

TVs with 8K resolution — that’s (typically) 7,680×4,320 pixels — have been around for a while, in the form of concept devices and prototypes. But the difference this year is that you’ll actually be able to buy one.

At IFA, Samsung unveiled its first-ever QLED 8K TV, the 85-inch Q900FN. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a top-of-the-line Samsung TV, including crazy-good contrast, brightness and HDR10+ support. I’ve seen it, and it’s gorgeous. It displayed a short video showing owls and bridges and a lady walking over a meadow and I could clearly see every blade of grass, every feather.

LG, Toshiba, and other manufacturers also had 8K TVs on display at the show, their picture equally beautiful to my eyes.

Toshiba’s 8K TV, displaying a static photo of buttons.

Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

It’s tempting to think that this is the next big thing in TVs — after all, Full HD TVs were so much better than the HD Ready ones, and 4K TVs are so much better than Full HD TVs. It’s just natural that the resolution keeps increasing, right?

Well, no.

While it’s possible to tell the difference between 4K and 8K picture, the difference is nowhere near as stunning as the difference between 4K and 1080p a.k.a. Full HD resolution. Your eyes are the limiting factor here, and while the actual numbers get a little complicated, the simple test of actually going to a store and looking at a 4K vs. 8K TV will show you that the difference is not dramatic………………………”

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/8k-tvs/

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New Movie Tech

Streaming TV services now reach 5% of U.S. Wi-Fi households, up 58% since last year

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“The number of U.S. households watching streaming TV services – those that deliver cable TV-like programming over the internet – has grown a remarkable 58% over last year, according to new data from comScore. However, these services still account for a small portion of the overall market, as only 5 percent (4.9 million) of U.S. households with Wi-Fi streamed TV over one of these services in April 2018.

In citing that number, comScore was specifically looking at what it called “pure-play” vMVPDs (virtual multichannel video programming distributors) – a variation on a fancy industry term that refers to live TV services like Sling TV. These services stream multiple channels over the internet without supplying infrastructure like coax cable to do so, and don’t offer other content like original programming or user videos.

Today’s lineup of these “vMVPDs” includes: Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue, fuboTV, Philo, YouTube TV, and Hulu with Live TV. These “pure-play vMVPDs,” as comScore referred to them, are basically that same list, excluding Hulu Live and YouTube TV, as those also include access to non-linear, digital-only content like original programming.

The firm found that consumer adoption of these “pure-play” live TV services is growing significantly, as more people cut the cord with traditional pay TV………………”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/16/streaming-tv-services-now-reach-5-of-u-s-wi-fi-households-up-58-since-last-year/

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Amazon is looking beyond the small screen with potential cinema chain

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Amazon could be looking to buying a chain of cinemas.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

“Amazon has already established brick-and-mortar stores selling its products and groceries, and now it apparently wants a slice of the cinema business.

As reported by Bloomberg, Amazon is looking to acquire Landmark Theatres, which claims to be the largest cinema chain dedicated to independent and foreign films, with 52 theatres in 27 markets.

The e-commerce giant is reportedly working with other suitors to buy the chain from Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner-backed Wagner/Cuban Cos. There have been no decisions made, and with talks still to come, it’s not set in stone that a deal will go ahead.

The potential move into brick-and-mortar cinema echoes Amazon’s efforts to look further than its online presence in recent years, as evidenced by its real-life bookstores and its foray into checkout-free grocery shopping, Amazon Go, not to mention its $14 billion acquisition of grocery chain Whole Foods.

But Amazon’s potential entry into physical cinemas could help further sure up the profile of its Amazon Studios films, such as Manchester by the Sea, an Amazon Original which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017.

Despite the accolades, there is general tension between newfangled streaming services and the film industry. These concerns are primarily directed to the biggest disrupter of them all, Netflix, which is aggressive in its stance to only show its own films on its service.

Steven Spielberg said earlier this year that Netflix films which either don’t show in cinemas, or only for a short time to satisfy movie awards criteria, shouldn’t get accolades like an Oscar.

“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie. If it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar,” Spielberg told ITV News.

“I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

Although Amazon is also a disruptor, it sticks to convention when it comes to distribution. It runs movies in cinemas for months before they sit on Prime Video, and is public about ensuring its films screen in theaters.”

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/08/16/amazon-cinema-landmark-theatres/

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