21 April, 2012



Chumby calls it quits after tricky move from hardware to software

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 04:04 PM PDT

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ardvaark/

Remember Chumby?

A lovable touchscreen gadget with beanbag mystique called Chumby, very much the precursor to today’s tablets, has long been a relic of simpler times. Now, the San Diego company behind the device, which eventually pivoted to focus entirely on software for televisions and tablets, is also a thing of the past.

Chumby the company is officially kaput, without a buyout offer, and its employees have moved over to home entertainment services business Technicolor, The Verge confirmed Friday afternoon.

CEO Derrick Oien told The Verge that Chumby’s assets, which include widget technology, patents, and the platform, are being shopped around by a corporate trustee. The content and apps platform, however, will stay operational for the immediate future.

When I last spoke with Steve Tomlin, Chumby co-founder and Avalon Ventures partner, things didn’t appear to be so bleak — but that was in July of last year. Then, Tomlin was optimistic about the company’s transition away from hardware to software and its attempt to become a media company monetizing attention through advertising.

“[Chumby] started out as the device, which was good. It’s what we had to do to get to market,” Tomlin told me. “The need for Chumby to do hardware … went away post iPad. The notion of … connected touchscreen-based devices in the home is what we had to invent early on, at a reasonable consumer price point, because they didn’t exist before that. Now they’re everywhere.”

Chumby, he explained at the time, was best positioned as a software and application company with a large library of applications capable of running on all devices.

“It’s either a really bad idea and we just keep kidding ourselves, or it takes the right kind of technology, timing, and consumer interest.”

Photo credit: The Aardvark/Flickr

Filed under: deals, mobile

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Get social and eco-friendly this Earth Day (infographic)

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 02:36 PM PDT

Get social on Earth DayEarth Day is Sunday, April 22, and if you have no idea how to celebrate, we can help.

This weekend people will unplug their electronics, get out of their houses, and ride their bikes to a tree planting Earth Day celebration, hoping to make up for all those times they sent a water bottle to a landfill or poured paint down their drains. But if the thought of going outside and interacting with nature makes you shudder, you can do your eco-friendly part from the comfort of your couch.

Recyclebank, a company that rewards people for doing earth-friendly things like recycling and planting trees, put together an infographic of social actions you can take to be more eco-friendly.

If every one of Facebook’s 845 million users cut one minute off their shower time, the amount of water saved would fill 1.1 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. If every person on Twitter turned their computer off for one hour, the energy and carbon emissions savings would be equivalent to taking 9,128 cars off the road each year.

Given Pinterest’s ever-growing popularity, if every person on Pinterest pinned a green tip to one of their boards, there would be 12 million green tips pinned every month. This tip may be the least energy-saving of the bunch, but spreading the green love around can’t hurt.

Whether you celebrate Earth Day indoors or out, you can reduce your carbon footprint by shutting down your computer, taking a shorter shower, and recycling those water bottles already.

Click on the infographic to enlarge.

Holding leaf and Earth image via Shutterstock

Filed under: green

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Validas lands funding to make sense of your cellphone bill (exclusive)

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 02:16 PM PDT

As our cellphone bills get increasingly expensive and complicated, a startup called Validas has come up with a technology, dubbed VERA, that can help make sense of the mess.

Thanks to a new round of funding from existing investor Huntsman Gay Global Capital, the company is emerging from stealth with the hopes of eventually delivering its analysis technology to consumers, Validas told VentureBeat exclusively. The company wouldn’t divulge the funding amount, but we’re hearing it may between $50 and $100 million.

Validas was founded in 2007 by former Verizon employees Tom Pepe (CEO) and Todd Dunphy (President), who tell me they were fed up with the general confusion around cellphone bills and services in the mobile industry. “Ultimately what we’re doing is revealing the information that’s locked in your cellphone bill,” Pepe said.

While phone bill analysis isn’t exactly a new concept, the pair tell me that their experience at Verizon has given them some useful insight into fixing confusing bills.

Validas’ VERA platform automatically analyzes your cellphone bill, compares it to similar bills, and offers up recommendations on how you can save money. It’s also unique because it lets you communicate directly with your carrier. Validas has been operating in stealth since 2009 and has focused on Fortune 500 companies and government customers so far.

The company counts the state of California as one of its biggest success stories. Using Validas’ technology, the state was initially able to save over $500,000 monthly, or 28 percent of its wireless bill, across 50,000 lines. California has since doubled those figures and is now saving $1.25 million monthly.

Pepe and Dunphy tell me that Validas’ VERA platform will launch later this month. They specified that VERA isn’t about convincing customers to leave their carriers; instead it will help them discover aspects of their bill that could be easily cancelled to save money.

The Missouri City, Texas-based company has raised small angel and seed funding rounds before, but this latest round is its biggest yet.

Top photo via Shutterstock

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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One doctor explains why the Internet hasn’t really changed medicine

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 02:11 PM PDT

Every single person in the world has a health story. As a doctor, my job is to help people edit the story that your health is telling and to treat your story as unique to make you healthier. It's our signature challenge to become more efficient and accurate editors as digital healthcare begins to scale worldwide, which can create 8 billion health stories.

My own story as an MD — and my interest in Big (Health) Data — started when I was an intern in my hometown at St. Louis City Hospital in 1985. I thought I could make a contribution treating people in the inner city.

I spent many on call nights in the ER. The ER itself was like a war zone: violent, dirty, full of law enforcement officials, and in the middle of this chaos, families bringing in their sick kids for elective things. There wasn't and still isn't an evening option for working parents, and the system fails the indigent poor most dramatically.

After three years in the inner city hospital system, I realized that neither patients nor providers had the tools to deliver effective care and that the solutions to health problems there were largely political and out of my control.

I left St. Louis and moved on to training as a cardiologist and then as an interventional electrophysiologist. Seven years later, I became a high-tech specialist working at a major university in San Francisco, implanting sophisticated devices that treat and actually prevent sudden cardiac death.

It was lucky timing: 1995 was the beginning of an incredible 10-year high-tech wave in heart disease innovation. When I was in San Francisco during the 1990s dotcom boom, I watched as Silicon Valley introduced us to the Information Age. It has changed my world, but it hasn't much changed how I practice medicine. Back then, we doctors and dotcomers were sitting in the same restaurants, but we weren't drinking the same Kool-Aid.

It took a decade but the digital revolution finally started coming to medicine. I found myself sitting in meetings on Sand Hill Road with venture capitalists and technologists talking about the big opportunity in health: scaleable health care that could help hundreds of millions of people. But technology companies were too afraid to assail — or too timid to tame — the beast of healthcare.

Mostly, they still are. Today, we have thousands of health and fitness apps connecting us to digital "coaches" and helping us socialize with our friends, but we don't have a medical platform. We don't have a medical Google, or an Amazon, or a Facebook. We don't even have an AOL of medicine. What we mostly have is a Wikipedia for medicine, which I and my fellow clinicians and colleagues quote daily. (That's a good thing.)

We have had some big successes with digital medicine. In my field about six years ago, device companies started putting antennas into implanted devices. We now analyze data from those devices in more than 200,000 patients. We've collected information on 20 million device downloads, recorded 150,000 life-saving interventions, and collected millions of pieces of valuable additional data. The numbers were clear. Here is what we've learned:

If you open up this implanted device to the network, people live longer.

We live longer and healthier lives when our health is continuously monitored by a device and exceptions to normal health are reported by the device to our caregivers. The technology exists and is often very inexpensive. It keeps people out of hospitals; saving money and lives. We've proven that.

So why aren't we doing more monitoring? It's not a regulatory problem or a lack-of-vision problem in the medical and technology companies; it's that there's too much perceived risk in changing the medical structure.

These technologies could profoundly improve the basics of how we practice medicine. Being connected fundamentally changes the doctor-patient relationship.

We get continuous data, review exceptional events daily, and can alert patients when they need help. We can catch disease patterns as they are happening. We have the potential to act within minutes or hours versus months in the traditional follow-up clinic. Patients can learn to partner in their care. They can be meaningfully engaged and empowered. We live in the so-called Information Age. A time when you can look up anything: bank records, flight information, and the price of tea in china. Just about anything.

But how many of us have a copy and control of our own health records or that of our family members? How many of us interact with our own health data as fluently and seamlessly as we do with our finances or sports scores?

A common view in the medical community is that people don't know how to handle their own health information. That it takes a professional to interpret it. How would we feel if we were told we couldn't handle our own banking information or our kids' report cards? Meaningful access to our personal health information is a right, and encouraging that access will become one of the most important civil rights issues of our era.

Over the next two years mobile phones and inexpensive sensors will better connect us, if we choose this path. We will see individualized care on a scale that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago.

Imagine your doctor calling you to schedule an appointment because she knows the condition of your body, rather than vice versa. We see products at the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing before they hit the market: sensors are becoming more powerful and much smaller.

At the USC Center for Body Computing, we conducted a study using the AliveCor ECG case. (We presented the results a couple weeks ago at the American College of Cardiology.) We gave it to 50 people with iPhones who attend our yearly Body Computing Conference. We found people transmitted an average of 36 30-second tracings a week.

I personally reviewed all the tracings. In one situation, I was able to diagnose acute cardiac ischemia in a Nigerian gentleman in Mumbai from my home in Los Angeles by reviewing a 30-second ECG collected on the iPhone. Helping this person was personally gratifying and represents a brilliant example of leveraging our experts across the globe.

We have a global wireless network that is ruthlessly efficient, more mobile phones than people, and global carriers that can deliver medical data continuously. We have tablets with medical grade image and video quality capability. We have diverse digital storage capabilities. We have vast social networks. The most successful companies in the world right now make or enable most of these products. That means there is a lot of interest. That means there is a lot of investment.

Sensors are becoming ubiquitous and advanced. They are in phones, in shoes, in your teeth, in small patches. At the CBC we're testing them in cars, in athletes, and in kids games.

This is an important advance for several reasons. One night a few months ago, I was playing tennis with a 19 year-old who plays for a local junior college. On our last point, at the end of the 90-minute game, I was at the net and she missed a ball. She stumbled to the back fence and collapsed against it.

I ran over and felt her pulse and it was going extremely fast. I used the AliveCor case to diagnosis her arrhythmia and was able to terminate it with a physical maneuver before she passed out. Turns out that she'd already played several hours of tennis that day, hadn't really eaten or hydrated and hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before.

I had been thinking about, doing research on, and implanting devices in patients (including athletes) at risk for sudden cardiac death for 20 years, and yet I never considered that some of those sudden deaths occur because of the type of rhythm I witnessed first hand in the tennis player that night. What is generally considered a more pedestrian nonfatal rhythm in others can be deadly in an elite athlete.

This is the kind of on-demand medical information I was looking for my entire professional life.

By simply collecting basic vital signs we can help a kid in Ecuador with a heart arrhythmia, and a kid in Washington DC with diabetes. We can create ways to eventually help billions of people. The 21st Century version of the house call will be as far away as a smartphone.

So how do we start to deliver on the outrageously great and transformational potential that personalized digital medicine holds? We think it starts with that first point of contact. We need to get everyone connected—at least once—to the digital health ecosystem

To encourage wide adoption, we are building a platform to bridge the digital divide and connect the more than 5 billion mobile phones in the world to the health ecosystem. We want to use every day mobile phones to collect one piece of the world’s health data stream to increase the health information flow and to create "Big Data" life analytics. Our initiative is called www.everyheartbeat.org. By 2013 we hope to create a system in which anyone can log-in and start recording their health narrative through their wireless phone. We estimate that recording 6 billion people's heart rates will consume 1 terabyte of information a day; that is 1000 less than the movie Avatar. (As part of an ongoing study we have already recorded heart rates from 20 million device downloads.)

I think about the world in a few years and imagine owning and sharing health data just like we can share our life on social networks.

What will billions of heart beats show us?

It's like the Human Genome Project.

We can use Big Health Data to study life patterns, identify disease, solve endemic health problems, and give us more control over our health.

It's the beginning of an evolution toward knowing oneself and accepting the commonality of health needs and awareness across humanity. We are trying to tell the story of eight billon heart beats because we know it will help that sick kid in the ER at 3 a.m. in Mumbai, in Bangladesh, in Sao Paulo, in the Bronx, in East Los Angeles, in St. Louis. Everyone in the world can participate, and push medicine toward a health information revolution. This is the Internet of You. That helps 8 billion people. That helps all of us. One heartbeat at a time.

Leslie A. Saxon, MD, is the Founder and Executive Director of the University of Southern California Center for Body Computing, and the Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. This essay was adapted from Dr. Saxon's 2012 TEDMED talk.

Image courtesy of Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

Filed under: VentureBeat

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GamesBeat Weekly Roundup

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 01:59 PM PDT

Fez, a new indie platformer hitting Xbox Live Arcade from Polytron Corporation

If you follow VentureBeat, but don't regularly check our GamesBeat site, here's a list of the best games stories we ran over the last seven days that you may have missed.

This week in news: Polytron admits to bugs found in Fez, Kickstarter is on track to triple their earnings this year, and THQ reports its revenue is slightly higher than expected.

You will also find reviews of Trials: Evolution and Skullgirls.

Other GamesBeat stories included:

The DeanBeat: GamesBeat 2012 to focus on crossover strategies

Diablo III open beta weekend begins today

Awesome art: Disney princesses reimagined in Final Fantasy X-2′s dresspheres (gallery)

Blade Games World brings 3D game creation to everyone with Jumala

BBC to publish games with 6waves as the Brits invade Facebook

Prey 2: Not canceled, just delayed

Update: Sony confirms God of War: Ascension (with video)

Tim Schafer shares 5 tips to Kickstarter success

Temple Run sprints past 10 million downloads for Android

Zynga adds new social features to Draw Something, raises streak cap to 999

Sci-fi author sues Ubisoft over alleged Assassin's Creed copyright infringement

Trials Evolution hits the throttle and never lets up (review)

XEOPlay's beautiful iOS game Tilt World strives to make a real-world impact

Rock Band Blitz developer discusses dropping the plastic instruments

Beating Ocarina of Time in under 25 minutes and other crazy speed runs

Zynga's got $1.8 billion in cash and is aggressively looking for the next OMGPOP

Electronic Arts announces Crysis 3 for Spring 2013 along with preorder packs

Skullgirls revisits the Golden Age of fighting games and animation (review)

How Fez's first-day sales compare to Braid, Limbo, and other XBLA hits

Polytron acknowledges "pretty serious" bugs in Fez

Stories that also appeared on VentureBeat:

Author David Kushner tells the inside tale on Grand Theft Auto and the video game violence wars (interview)

Bicycle card game owner to launch Zeniz mobile social casino games platform (exclusive)

Can minors buy Facebook Credits? Parents demand refund in class action suit

Kickstarter funding explodes, on pace to triple this year to around $300M

With Xbox 360 sales slowing down, Windows Phone desperately needs to succeed

World Golf Tour, now simply WGT, launches Major League Baseball game on Facebook (exclusive)

Bluega takes web-based HTML5 touchscreen interface across platforms

THQ reports revenue to be significantly higher than expected

Aeria Games gets strategic investment from Sony division

Behind the scenes of how Bethesda marketed giant fantasy hit Skyrim

Finally shipping: The $35 Raspberry Pi computer that can play Quake 3 Arena

Social mobile game maker Zattikka goes public on London Stock Exchange

Filed under: games

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VB’s Dylan Tweney to interview Dan Shapiro at 10th Founder Showcase (20% off)

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 01:12 PM PDT

Founder ShowcaseThis sponsored post is produced by Founder Showcase.

We are excited to announce that VentureBeat's Executive Editor, Dylan Tweney, will be conducting an on-stage interview at Tuesday's 10th Founder Showcase event in San Francisco.

Dylan will be interviewing Keynote Speaker Dan Shapiro, former Founder & CEO of Sparkbuy and Ontela. Shapiro sold his most recent company, Sparkbuy, to Google within 6 months of inception, and merged his previous company, Ontela, with Photobucket. We are excited to see Dylan interview Dan on stage and unearth some great gems on technology entrepreneurship, as well as why he decided to sell his company after such a short timeframe.

Tickets start at just $75, but time is running out. Register here. VentureBeat readers get 20% off with the code vbeat.

The Founder Showcase is Silicon Valley's Leading Seed-Stage Pitch Event, bringing together over 500 investors, founders, and press for one action-packed day to network, hear talks from leading CEOs, and help launch a startup to greatness. In addition to Dylan's interview of Dan Shapiro, guests will also see a talk by Kevin Hartz, Co-Founder and CEO of Eventbrite, who will talk about how he is pushing the company towards a billion in sales after just five years in business.

There will also be a special panel on global entrepreneurship featuring international winners of the Founder Institute's 2011 Mentor Awards, who will discuss how the current wave of innovation is not limited to the United States.

Want to win a free Demo Table and a chance to pitch on stage? Just tweet a message with the hashtag #foundershowcase and the URL http://bit.ly/9OlVo8, and, on Friday, April 20th, we will randomly select one winner on our @founding account. A sample message is below:

- Are you going to #FounderShowcase on 4/24 in San Fran? @kevinhartz & @danshapiro are speaking. http://bit.ly/9OlVo8 via @founding

For more information visit http://foundershowcase.com.

Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company, which is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact garrett@venturebeat.com.

Filed under: Entrepreneur, VentureBeat

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NY Companies: Get feedback from VentureBeat and RRE in May

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 12:39 PM PDT

After enjoying all of the great companies and speakers on stage at DEMO Spring, we’re already gearing up for the next DEMO event. DEMO Fall is six months away, and we’re not going to waste any time before we start hunting down the best companies for it, which is why we’re heading to New York in two weeks to host a day of presentations with RRE Ventures.

If you’re based in the New York City area and are working on the next big tech project, come join us at RRE’s Manhattan offices on Wednesday, May 2. We’ll be bringing in up to ten companies to present. This will be a fairly casual day of meetings, where we’ll be at your service to provide feedback or advice on anything you’re working on. If you’re interested in attending, fill out this form by May 26, and we’ll be in touch with more details shortly if you’re selected.

Also, make sure to check out VentureBeat for extensive coverage on all of the companies that launched at DEMO this week, and we’ll see you in New York!

Filed under: DEMO

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5 tech deals that need to happen

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 12:13 PM PDT

Google buys Twitter and four other deals that need to happenFacebook’s $1 billion purchase of Instagram was the topic on everyone's lips at Mega Startup Weekend last Saturday and Sunday. The world’s most expensive “Like” has clearly gotten tech entrepreneurs buzzing about who will be next. While there’s no way to know which big deal will be next, here are five tech deals that make sense and need to happen:

Google buys Twitter: I know what you’re thinking: “Good idea, but with Twitter’s $10 billion valuation it’s too late for this to happen.” And you’re half right. While the price is steep, Twitter needs a home and Google still needs social. Google+ isn’t doing much other than collecting demographic info on users, and it’s silly to think that Google is going to build a competitor to Facebook. Google's famous algorithm surely knows your shoe size, but friendship does not compute. So Google should quit trying to build MySpace 2.0 and instead buy a social network that would enrich its search data and integrate nicely into its email platform. (Free advice to Larry & Sergei: Wait until a few days before Facebook’s IPO to announce the deal if you really want to mess with them.)

Microsoft buys Pinterest: I still don’t understand what Pinterest is all about, but I'm told that’s because I’m not a 45-year-old Midwestern woman. Even if the user experience is lost on me, Pinterest is a big deal, and it's mapping a graph of images, content, and preferences in a way that even Google's algorithm can't. This is why it'd be a great buy for Microsoft, a company that's quietly doing a slew of crafty initiatives just beyond the glare of the Silicon Valley hype machine. Imagine how Microsoft's search capabilities could become so much smarter and personalized than Google's by leveraging Pinterest's vast trove of data. Altogether, let's say "Bada Bing!"

Groupon buys Foursquare: If Groupon actually had revenue last quarter, they should write a check for everyone’s favorite check-in app. This might be the first time since 1999 that someone has suggested a big company with a shitty business model should buy a smaller company with no business model. But in a weird way it makes sense. Groupon spends tons to acquire small businesses that do one-off marketing campaigns to deal-seeking customers with zero loyalty. Foursquare spends nothing to track the customers of small businesses who have tons of loyalty. Methinks there’s a powerful small-business CRM play in there somewhere.

Box merges with Yammer: Write this down — enterprise is finally sexy. In Silicon Valley, consumer plays usually get all the love, but these two business-to-business companies are killing it. Box is nailing the Fortune 500 space with great collaboration tools, and Yammer’s enterprise social network is blowing away the competition. (Sorry, Salesforce.) So what’s the logic for merging these two? Admittedly, this suggestion is probably the biggest stretch on my list, but think of this merger like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup: social and collaboration are two great tastes that should be better together. If nothing else, it would instantly create the most important enterprise software company in the world.

PayPal buys Square: The company formerly known as eBay needs to remember that the old “if you can’t beat them, buy them” mantra has served it well in the past. Square is running laps around PayPal in terms of innovation right now, and the marketplace is recognizing this, as witnessed by its rumored $4 billion valuation. With Google chomping at the bit to seize the mobile payments space, PayPal needs to do whatever it takes to defend its home turf. Buying Square goes a long way in solving that problem. (Free advice to PayPal: As part of the deal, negotiate to keep Keith Rabois around for at least six months and just do whatever he tells you.)

Eric M. Jackson is CEO and co-founder of CapLinked, a private investing platform that gives companies, investors, and advisors tools to network, manage a capital raise or asset sale, and exchange updates. Eric previously served as PayPal's first marketing director and is author of the award-winning book The PayPal Wars.

[Top image credit:  Dmitriy Shironosov/Shutterstock]

Filed under: deals, mobile, social, Top stories

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Author David Kushner tells the inside tale on Grand Theft Auto and the video game violence wars (interview)

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 11:00 AM PDT

David Kushner has been on the front lines of the video game culture wars. In 2004, he published Masters of Doom, a portrait of the founders of id Software (the makers of the seminal first-person shooter game Doom). Now he has published a book about Rockstar Games, the company at the heart of the culture war on game violence and creator of the Grand Theft Auto series.

His groundbreaking book, Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto, debuted in April. It follows the story of Sam and Dan Houser as they grow up in a privileged entertainment household in England and then migrate to New York to make video games for adults. The story captures the passion of the Housers as they try to push all of the boundaries that pigeonholed games into children’s fare. Thanks to the Housers, we have open-world games that have the same content and themes as R-rated movies.

But we also have a world divided about whether violent games cause children to act out murderous fantasies. As Kushner tells the inside story of the Housers and their travails within Rockstar Games, he also chronicles the rise and fall of anti-violence lawyer Jack Thompson and the firestorm of controversy that arose around incidents such as Hot Coffee, the (accidental) sex mini-game that was unearthed in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. It incited politicians to propose laws banning the sale of violent games to minors — an issue that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The grudge match between Rockstar and Thompson became the defining conflict of the video game era. When you read this book, it will force you to decide whether the players or the haters were the real freedom fighters. We interviewed Kushner about his book and the 10-plus years of research that went into it. Here is an edited transcript.

GamesBeat: How is your book being received?

David Kushner: Well, it just came out, but it’s getting covered, and people are reading it, which is all I can hope for. Obviously, the last time I did this was 2003 with Masters of Doom, and it’s kind of interesting to do a book like this now with the Internet being what it is. In 2003, obviously, there wasn’t Facebook and Twitter. It’s a completely different experience. Everybody would love to have a cover on the New York Times Book Review, but then there’s Twitter and Facebook, so that’s fine. It’s just a different climate for an author now than it was back then. It’s been interesting to see that unfold.

GamesBeat: It must have been fun. How long do you think you worked on this? There’s probably a lot of magazine stories in there that got it going, but when did you really start working on a book?

Kushner: I got the green light to do it a couple of years ago, I would say? But as you know, you’re in the same position as me; I’ve been out there covering it, seeing you at E3 since the beginning of the decade and probably around the time of the first GTA. To write a book, it’s nice to be able to draw from having been on the front lines and reporting there as things were unfolding. I was able to draw from all that but also now, because all this time has passed, take a step back and connect the dots. That’s my favorite thing to do. That’s why I like books. You can take a breath and put the pieces back together. Because we all lived through this. In the course of going through it, there’s so much happening that I didn’t even realize was happening at the time. I think that’s something you can only realize when you’ve got the time to sort through it. So that’s what I did. I took everything I had done, everyone I had spoken with over the years, went through that, and then just did a whole new round of interviews and research and core documents. That’s what became the book.

GamesBeat: It’s very interesting as a narrative to read all of the different things that you captured that were happening at the same time. It was interesting to see both sides of the fence: inside Rockstar and also what’s going on with Jack Thompson. 

Kushner: I was writing a book for two audiences just like I did with Masters of Doom, and I had to do this as well. You’ve got the gamers, and you’ve got the non-gamers, or as I oversimplify in the book: the players and the haters. I’m being a bit cheeky about that. But of course that’s not to say that people who don’t play games necessarily hate the industry or hate video games, but when I did take that step back and ask myself, “Okay, what’s really the story here? What’s the story that I’m trying to tell?”

The story I was trying to tell with Doom was really about the developer’s side of the story. That was really about how these two guys with similar backgrounds and very different points of view came together to make something they wanted to play and that was just unlike anything anyone had seen. Something that gave rise to this modern game industry. They had controversy along the way, but it was ultimately a buddy story.

I always looked at this book a little differently. To me the story was always that players versus the haters idea. I looked at what I call the GTA decade as being the defining decade for the modern game industry. Just like rock and roll in the ’50s and ’60s and comic books and heavy metal later after that kind of went through their period of being considered dangerous, video games had that happen, and GTA was at the heart of that.

Ultimately, I think it was a necessary period of growth. We grew up playing games. For us it was always sort of silly to hear people suggest that you could play a video game and want to go kill somebody. But as silly as that seemed to us, it was very real to a whole other camp. The biggest thing I wanted to avoid was to be patronizing or to make fun of that. Ultimately, you’ve got people who were concerned about their children, and whether they were right or whether they were wrong is another matter. But I try to come at it with that sort of empathy or sympathy, trying to tell it from all of the sides. Really more than anything, I wanted to reach the people who don’t feel like they care about games, who don’t know about games. I thought that this was the narrative through which I could do that.

Filed under: games, gbunfiltered

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Can minors buy Facebook Credits? Parents demand refund in class action suit

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 10:27 AM PDT

Child using a computer

Social media giant Facebook is facing a new class-action lawsuit that involves minors purchasing Facebook credits without parental consent.

Facebook Credits are the currency on Facebook’s platform. People can exchange real money for a number of Facebook Credits and use them to buy virtual goods within games hosted on Facebook. For example, you can purchase chips to use in a poker game, or a virtual tractor for Zynga’s Farmville. Facebook then takes a 30 percent cut of all transactions.

The class-action suit was filed by Arizona-resident Glynnis Bohannon, who is seeking a refund after her young son purchased Facebook Credits. The suit is questioning Facebook’s terms of service requirement that its users not provide any false personal information. If some, or all, of a person’s information is false, the court could rule that the Facebook Credit transactions are void, and are likely subject to a full refund.

The suit also questions the vagueness behind Facebook’s terms for minors who use Facebook Credits. Currently those terms state: “If you are under the age of 18, you may make payments only with the involvement of a parent or guardian. You should review these Payments Terms with a parent or guardian to make sure that you both understand them.”

With this kind of stipulation, it could be very easy to convince a judge that Facebook isn’t doing enough to verify a user’s personal account information and to provide a system of checks and balances to ensure that children under the age of 18 have parental consent. And as PaidContent points out, U.S. law allows minors to back out of financial agreements in some cases.

Facebook has requested to move the class-action lawsuit to a federal court (PDF). We’re reaching out to the company for a statement and will update the post with any new info.

Photo via Arvind Balaraman / Shutterstock

Filed under: games, social, VentureBeat

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This ad was shot entirely with the killer 41MP camera on Nokia’s 808 PureView

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 10:04 AM PDT

Drumming up even more hype for its 808 PureView smartphone, Nokia today released an ad filmed entirely with the phone’s 41 megapixel camera. And boy, does it look good.

The ad shows how you can zoom into the 808 PureView’s photos without losing much quality, as well as how the phone performs when recording high-definition video. Unfortunately, Nokia has only released a 720p HD version of the ad. I’d be interested in seeing how it performs at full 1080p.

If anything, the ad proves that the PureView camera technology on the Nokia 808 is more than just hype. A Nokia engineer explained to us how the camera gets such killer shots back at Mobile World Congress (where it also won best-in-show), and the company has also put some excellent sample shots online at Flickr.

It looks like Nokia doesn’t plan to bring the phone to the U.S., but it has said it intends to bring the PureView technology to future phones. You can expect to see killer cameras in some Windows Phone devices from Nokia within the next few years.

Filed under: mobile, VentureBeat

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WeVideo gets $19.1M to collaboratively edit videos online

Posted: 20 Apr 2012 09:36 AM PDT

wevideo-youtubeWeVideo, a cloud-based collaborative video editor, just raised $19.1 million in its first round of funding. The service lets you edit videos in a browser, instead of using pricey software like Final Cut Pro.

WeVideo launched at the fall 2011 DEMO conference and showed off its premium and commercial offerings. The company impressed the DEMO crowd enough to win a DemoGod award for its Adobe Flash-based video editing service.

Going after dedicated video editing software, WeVideo offers low-cost plans for journalists and marketers. There are three plans to choose from: Plus for $7 a month, Ultra for $40 a month, and Commercial for $80 a month. The Ultra and Commercial plans boast 50GB and 100GB of storage respectively, 50 invites to each project, and the ability to edit 720p high-definition video. The Commercial plan also gives you a commercial license for your final video product.

Since the DEMO conference last fall, the company has launched an Android application for video capture on the go. You can add music and images to the video, then send it off to the WeVideo cloud for later editing.

WeVideo integrated with YouTube in late 2011 to allow the video-hosting service’s massive amount of users edit videos. The tools are included in YouTube’s Create page, alongside Magisto’s “magical” video editing feature. Magisto is a WeVideo competitor.

Another WeVideo competitor appears to be Novacut, which is not yet available to the public. Novacut was born out of a Kickstarter campaign and will offer a collaborative video editor when released.

Crest Capital Ventures led the round, which will be used to grow WeVideo's consumer business.

WeVideo was founded in 2011 and is based in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Filed under: deals

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