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frackulous technology podcast

Frackulous: a Technology Podcast for Humans

Frackulous is a technology podcast (for humans) featuring tech journo-turned-video whizz Will Head, Guinness World Record botherer-turned YouTube train traveller Geoff Marshall – and me.

Will, Geoff and I chat about being content creators and the tech that we use (with no apologies for geeking out on that part). What’s more, because we don’t like doing things the easy way, Frackulous is both a video and an audio podcast.

For his latest project, Geoff has been visiting all 2,563 UK mainland train stations, so recording has been a little sporadic of late. But with this latest episode, we’re back on track.

Here is that latest ep. After the gap.

Subscribe to Frackulous: a Technology Podcast for Humans on iTunes (audio and video), YouTube and lots of other places too. Visit frackulous.com to see previous episodes and shownotes.

The One Show - Toddlers and Tablets

Healthy Habits with Smartphones and Tablets – The One Show

This week I appeared on BBC1’s The One Show sharing advice on how parents can help their children to develop healthy habits when using smartphones and tablets.

One Show - Toddlers and TabletsFor the film, we visited a high street phone store and let a dozen under-elevens loose to observe how they used the selection of phones and tablets on display.

I’m a dad, and like most parents, I feel as if I’m making it up as I go along – which, of course, I am. How I introduce my children to technology is no exception.

Understanding a little about how children develop, what their needs are at different ages, and how easily influenced they are by adults around them, can all help make sure that children – and their parents – have a happy relationship with gadgets.

Technology offers amazing opportunities but, for me, the old adage that ‘too much of a good thing is a bad thing’ stands as true with smartphones and tablets as it does with anything else.

The One Show is on BBC1 at 7pm most evenings, viewers in the UK with a television licence can watch here.

Tech TV at London Tech Week 2017

It’s London Tech Week 2017 and all week I’m fronting Tech TV, the festival’s official broadcast channel.

Based at London Tech Week’s flagship event, TechXLR8, I am interviewing inspiring industry leaders, getting hands-on with some cutting-edge tech and…

…watching people fly around in jetpacks:

Richard Browning, the founder of Gravity, built the rocket man suit with the help of friends over eighteen months and is already a world record holder with it. Richard spoke live on the main stage at #LTW before heading outside and giving us a demo.

Now in its fourth year, London Tech Week showcases the capital’s bustling technology scene, bringing together cutting-edge developments in 5G, VR and AR, AI and Machine Learning, Connected and Driverless Cars, and more.

The RTE MoJoCon Mobile TV Studio

Live from Mojocon 2017: How mobile powered RTÉ’s pop-up multi-camera TV studio in Galway, Ireland

Last week, I was working with the RTÉ team at MoJoCon in Galway, Ireland. For the event’s live-streamed interviews, RTÉ set up a multi-camera TV studio. But, being MoJoCon, there was one major twist…

MoJoCon brings together broadcasters, journalists, filmmakers and social media specialists from around the world. Now in its third year, the event explores how new technologies – from smartphones to 360-degree cameras – are revolutionising the way we tell stories on television and online.

Teradek Live Show studio at RTE MoJoCon 2017

Teradek Live Show studio at RTE MoJoCon 2017 (image: Live X)

As was appropriate for a show focusing on mobile tech and the media, the RTÉ pop-up TV studio from which we live-streamed our interviews was powered by mobile.

It’s an impressive setup: the five studio cameras were Apple iPhone 6s plus smartphones, each kitted with superb quality Zeiss ExoLens lenses mounted on a Helium Core iPhone Rig; the vision mixing and encoding was handled by Teradek Live:Air running on an Apple iPad Pro 12.9 tablet.

For day-long power and belts and braces connectivity, the devices were hard-wired to Ethernet, although a wireless setup is perfectly possible too. I would say the only non-mobile component of the studio was the sound: traditional XLR-connected lavalier mics supplied a standard mixing desk, the master output of which fed into one of the mobile devices from which the Teradek software took its audio feed.

Here’s a clip from the end of day two where my co-host, the lovely Róisín Ní Thomáin, and I embarked on a quick studio tour.

Over two days of the show, Róisín and I interviewed some inspiring broadcasters, journalists and innovators including BBC Sport’s Conor McNamara, Story-Up’s Sarah Hill and Video Journalist Michael Rosenblum. The topics we covered were as broad as How to be an App Store Millionnaire, to The Evolution of 360, VR and AR Storytelling.

Further technical stuff about mobile studio has just been posted on the Teradek website, and all of the interviews are available on demand from the RTÉ MoJoCon YouTube channel.

The Metro

Fantastic Visual Effects and Where to Find Them

In today’s Metro I embark on a tour of Soho to see how London’s Oscar-winning visual effects firms are lighting up cinema screens around the world.

Visual Effects Feature in The Metro

Central London is home to many of the movie world’s most innovative visual effects firms. With the 89th Academy Awards this Sunday I wanted to understand more about what goes into making VFX-heavy Hollywood films.

In researching the feature I spoke to Foundry co-founder Simon Robinson. His company’s software titles Nuke, Mari and Katana are used by post-production houses the world over – in fact, every film nominated for a best VFX Oscar in the last six years has used its software.

I also spoke with Matt Fox, joint MD for film at Framestore; his team worked on year’s Best VFX Oscar nominee Doctor Strange as well as 2013’s six-time Oscar winner Gravity.

As well as talking technology I also learnt about the immense manpower required to turn around a typical movie, and ethics around the digital character resurrection that saw Peter Cushing and Paul Walker brought back to life for the big screen.

The 2017 Oscars take place this Sunday 26th February 2017, with five films nominated for Best Visual Effects: Doctor Strange, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Deepwater Horizon, The Jungle Book, and Kubo and the Two Strings.

Read the full story in the Metro e-edition here.


Alexa: How to secure my Amazon Echo?

My feature on how to secure your Amazon Echo was published in TechRadar last week. Here is my take on why securing these intelligent home hubs is of vital importance.

Muting your Amazon Echo

Hear no Evil? Muting your Amazon Echo (Credit: Flickr / Rob Albright / CC BY-NC 2.0)

Voice-activated intelligent virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are starting to play an important role as the hub of our connected homes.

Buttons are obsolete. Simply by conversing with my Alexa I can control my central heating and the lighting around my house and garden; I can buy products with my voice, check my personal calendar, set alarms or reminders, update my things to do list, read my favourite book or play any song, album or playlist on Spotify. With my voice.

Hear no Evil

The convenience this offers is staggering and, in a little over three months since I plugged it in and powered it on, my Amazon Echo has already changed many behaviours in our household. For the better? I think so. However…

With convenience comes compromise, especially when it comes to security. We should never be blinded by the utility of any new piece of technology.

I made one mistake in extolling the virtues of our Amazon Echo above. You see, all of these amazing things and more can be commanded not only with my voice, they can be asked by anybody’s voice.

Voice Recognition versus Speech Recognition

While Alexa has enviable speech recognition – the ability to understand and interpret natural language input by speech – she has yet to learn the skill of voice recognition. Often confused, voice recognition is the ability to uniquely distinguish between different people’s voices by analysing physical and behavioural characteristics.

With voice recognition Alexa would know whether it was me (ie authorised) ordering that Nintendo Switch console from Amazon Prime, or if it was my Mario Kart-loving daughter trying her luck (sorry, denied). Did I just ask Alexa for a 2am alarm call or was somebody outside my living room window attempting to play a prank?

Amazon has no plans to introduce voice recognition into the Amazon Echo just yet. Nevertheless, there are steps that Echo owners can take to make sure they enjoy the convenience of a virtual assistant without the worry of being woken up by a 2am prank alarm call.

Pop over to TechRadar to read my 8 top tips to lock down your Alexa.

Data-Driven Olympic Gold and Commoditised Artificial Intelligence: Supernova 2016

As much as I find reading eBooks quick and convenient there’s something about the authority of a hefty hardback that really attracts me.

The Inevitable, by Kevin KellyWhile inky words on reams wood-pulp paper might have a whiff of the past, Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable – the pages of which I’ve been thumbing through and scribbling upon over the past week – tastes very much of the future.

Kelly’s forthright views and predictions on the inevitable forces that shape our lives by 2046 are honed from a lifetime chasing the red rag of technology’s bleeding edge. They are rooted in humility, however, grounded by a confession that he hasn’t a clue what technologies are coming next. But then again, nobody does:

Most of the important technologies that will dominate life 30 years from now have not yet been invented.

Instead the Wired co-founder concerns himself with describing the twelve technological forces that will define humanity’s what’s next.

Confession time: as of writing this I’ve not finished reading the whole book, instead diving between chapters. That The Inevitable supports this is to its credit, each trend depicted is sufficiently standalone in substance.

Of those I’ve digested ‘Cognifying’ impacts the most, breaking down the monolithic AI concept into the tangible ways artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence will become commoditised and work with us, alongside us in our everyday. Kelly steers well clear of the graver questions around technological singularly – his tone is optimistic, genuine concerns well masked if they exist.

Supernova 2016As well as reading Kevin’s fascinating thoughts I’m thrilled to be hosting an audience with Kevin at the annual Supernova digital marketing event in London on November 18th 2016. During our fireside chat we’ll be discussing some of the key themes in the book – artificial intelligence in particular, and what accelerated change catalysed by technology means for entrepreneurs and businesses, consumers and society.

Later on in the day Team GB Olympic gold medalists Laura Kenny (née Trott) and Jason Kenny OBE will also be on stage with Olympian-turned-coach Paul Manning to give an insight into how British cycling’s data-driven approach yielded so many medal-winning performances at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

There are panel sessions throughout the day too with leading figures from the technology, media and telecoms industries as well as motoring and advertising who will be revealing insights on consumer trends, online behaviours, and how businesses can embrace innovation in the digital world.

Find out more and register on the Quantcast Supernova website.

Speech Recognition – Rip Off Britain: Live

Among the topics I cover in this series of Rip Off Britain: Live on BBC1 is speech recognition. In Tuesday’s show I went to Liverpool to investigate how viewers are talking to their tech to help make their everyday lives easier.

According to researchers at Stanford University we can talk three times faster – and with 20% more accuracy – than we can type or swipe on a mobile phone.

Proof that it’s good to talk, right?

It was no surprise, however, to find that many I spoke with were initially sceptical about the effectiveness of speech recognition. But I had a hunch that their lack of confidence was misplaced, with judgements on poor comprehension based on older generations of the technology.

Our day of filming in and around Liverpool proved my point: I found that Apple’s intelligent personal assistant Siri was better than even I was at comprehending commands, irrespective of accent or background noise.

Speech recognition technology – and Siri is far from the only or even the best example at present – has now reached a level of useful maturity. What is needed next to help more to benefit from it is further accessibility and behavioural change.

In the main Rip Off Britain series in September I also took a look at how voice biometrics are being used by major service providers as an authentication factor to make logins to our online accounts safer, simpler and more secure.

Check out further clips from this series of Rip Off Britain here on the BBC website.

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