Halo Channel Prepares For Integration

Unlike general opinion of the console as a whole, the Xbox TV brand appears to be making efforts towards positive technological developments, with viewers on the Xbox One set to experience a unique form of new channel.

halo_channel_logoNaturally choosing their most popular brand as the focus of the network, the Xbox’s exclusive ‘Halo Channel’ is edging closer to release, with the confirmation that there will be integration between the TV schedule and the gaming side of the ‘entertainment product’.

It is noted by Halo developers 343 Industries that watching content on the network will unlock in-game content for the player, specifically for titles Halo 5: Guardians and The Master Chief Collection.

343′s Kiki Wolfkill claimed that rewards can be claimed by watching and interacting with original series such as Halo: Nightfall, stating to Polygon: “When you get to the end of a show it will show you all the things you’ve unlocked and experienced, and another key part of that is rewarding you for the things you’ve done in the channel and ecosystem. So, Halo: Nightfall for instance will have unlocks in The Master Chief Collection and in the Halo 5 beta that will carry into Halo 5, and vice versa. What we really want to do is create this really seamless ecosystem that allows you to experience different things together, and be rewarded for that.”

She added of the channel’s contents: “We will always curate a stream so that it almost feels like a traditional television network, but also has video on demand underneath it so you can always choose what you want to watch, when you want to watch it and create your own queue, your own playlist.”

First announced at the gamescom briefing of Microsoft in Cologne (Germany) last week, the Halo Channel is designed to be a hub of Halo content, with video highlights of multiplayer games, original Halo-related programming, and features offering more information on the universe of the futuristic game franchise. Will a dedicated network for a single brand be a successful move for a 13-year-old gaming franchise. Being a Microsoft-exclusive property for its entire life, it’s at least in the right place for it…

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Technology Giants Chill In Viral Ice Bucket Charity Campaign

The online world has been home to many crazes over recent years, with people indulging in crazy tasks such as planking, fall-ing, Tebow-ing, milk-ing, and cinnamon challenge-ing, but it appears as though nothing is going to compare in sheer video numbers to the newest one, ice bucket-ing.

ice_bucket_celebrities_nbcFortunately, though, it is not in with the others as merely a fun and unique pastime, but has taken on a means of promoting awareness and raising money in America for the ALS Association, aiding the cause of fighting amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurodegenerative disease better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the famed baseball player of the 1930′s.

Taking off in mid-July through a a social media web, the past week has really seen the challenge come to the fore, with many celebrities (pictured) and technology personalities taking part. With the unofficial rules stating that a participant may challenge up to 3 more people to pour a bucket of ice water over their heads within 24 hours (otherwise they ‘must’ pay $100 to the ALS Association), it is one that could go on a while.

Notable celebrity participants include Justin Timberlake, Justin Bieber, Oprah Winfrey, and Weird Al Yankovic (who called out “Barack Obama, the Dali Lama, and the Pope” as his nominees), whilst the celebrities of the technology industry have included Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Tim Cook, and Reed Hastings, though it was the Microsoft man who made the most notable mark with a string-pulled bucket tipper, creating one of the biggest videos in the genre to date with over 5 million views.

To show all of these clips in a pile would be using up bandwidth, so below is a compliation that the internet has thrown together of the best ALS Ice Bucket Challenges so far:

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Pop-Up Advert Creator Apologises For Invention

It is a classic trope of disaster movies, a scientist working on research will release something which seems beneficial but then completely takes over the world, at which point the creator apologises with a sorrowful “I didn’t know!”.

ethan_zuckerman_mit_roflcon_pop-upUnlikely as it seems with no clear impending global-scale apocalypse on the horizon, there is a case of life imitating art currently around the news, as an Ethan Zuckerman, currently head of the MIT Media Civic Centre in Cambridge (USA), stating a public apology for his creation of the pop-up advert.

The invention was first written in code over 20 years ago for commercially-funded site Tripod.com, and Zuckerman claims that when doing so his intentions were good and reasonable ones, not anticipating the huge growth that the internet (and its userbase/marketing potential) would experience, or that so many suppliers would use the format to pack viruses and/or scams.

Because of this, he has written in a recent essay on The Atlantic that he is sorry on behalf of his team, that he did not realise what the world’s first pop-up advert would become. He wrote: “I’m sorry. Our intentions were good. It was a way to associate an ad with a user’s page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page’s content.”

Adding that internet services must turn away from an advert-supported business model (which he describes as “…the original sin of the web”), will Ethan Zuckerman’s apology be able to be accepted by the masses, or will his name be cursed every time a questionable streaming website is visited? Bear in mind that if he didn’t create it, surely someone else (a potentially less remorseful person at that) would have done…

BBC Put Story In Second Screen For Our World War Bonus Episode

The BBC’s new historical drama series Our World War has been well-received by viewers and critics, and those in praise of the show will have another opportunity to enjoy it, after the broadcaster yesterday announced the official launch of an online-exclusive ‘fourth episode’.

bbc_ourworldwar_secondscreenHowever, while the BBC have a strong reputation for openness towards new broadcasting technologies, it is not the online-exclusiveness (that the BBC are experienced in) that is the main focal point of the news. Instead, the show aims to offer a new form of ‘second-screen experience’ for the BBC’s programming and a potential future option for other digital content.

The episode, entitled “High Wood”, is to be used as an interactive story, similar to a number of video games, apps, or classic ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ stories, the difference being the scenes playing out afterwards by actors for each scenario after different choices.

Following a selection of new characters battling through High Wood (France) in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, the small team are guided through the episode by the viewer (as “Corporal Arthur Foulkes”), who at intervals will receive a multiple-choice question that in the context of the story can be several life-or-death ones.

With harsher time-limits imposed on some of the more pressing situations, the 20-minute episode aims to provide an immersive and unique experience for those learning about the war (perhaps leaning slightly towards the young). Following each sequence, viewers will receive scores and detailed feedback on their decisions and of the consequences they would likely have had a century ago in World War I.

Adrian Van Klaveren, the controller of commemorative organisation World War One Centenary, said of the modern-day effects applied to telling such a story: “The BBC’s World War One season is aiming to help people have a better understanding of the First World War. Part of that is trying to imagine what it must have felt like to be thrust into combat – literally fighting for your life and that of your fellow men. Based on a real battle, this interactive episode of Our World War gives younger audiences the opportunity to understand how strategic decisions made in the heat of battle really did mean the difference between life and death.”

Chris Sizemore, the executive editor of the BBC’s iWonder online learning brand, stated: “We commissioned this interactive episode because we saw a unique opportunity to reach younger audiences with an innovation that turns viewers into participants. Can people today gain a greater degree of empathy for the soldiers of World War One by stepping into their shoes? iWonder is all about creating formats that can unlock the learning potential of great stories right across the BBC in a way that’s entertaining, engaging and thought-provoking. We’re really looking forward to hearing what our audiences think of this highly immersive experiential drama.”

With reports suggesting that the episode was fairly easy to produce given the already-constructed set for the main show, there now appears to be a belief that the format could be taken on to other programming for fun and/or educational purposes. Will C.Y.O.A. streaming stories catch on?

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World’s Smallest Woman Starts Acting Career

As far as the acting world is concerned, there is not a much tougher industry to break into considering the amount of people wanting to or just dreaming of doing it. However, the latest addition to the cast of American Horror Story may beg to differ – even if she only got in by virtue of her size.

jyoti_amge20-year-old Indian Jyoti Amge, Guinness World Record-certified as the world’s smallest woman since turning 18 with a height of 62.8cm (2ft in backwards American money), is joining the cast of FX‘s popular horror anthology American Horror Story.

The upcoming 4th season of the show, to be known as American Horror Story: Freak Show, will see Amge – revealed by series co-creator Ryan Murphy – portraying a member of the titular attraction. Not exactly helping any stereotypes, but an acting break that she has believed to be after for over a year and happy to have received, making up for a lack of American acting experience by using her niche celebrity status.

In the role, Amge will be working frequently alongside lead actress Jessica Lange (In Secret), who portrays the manager of one of America’s last ‘freak show’ attractions in 1950′s Florida.

Murphy tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of those two female cast members, captioning: “Jessica and our newest cast member Jyoti Amge… the world’s smallest woman.”

Also featuring returning cast members Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters and Emma Roberts, and newcomers Wes Bentley, Michael Chiklis, Patti LaBelle, Finn Wittrock, and John Carroll Lynch as the season’s main villain, FX will have high hopes (no pun intended) for their new season starting in October, and so will one of the world’s shortest people – will she be able to leave a lasting impression in her first major role?

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British Airways Announce In-Flight Cat-ertainment

It is a well-known fact that cats dominate the internet in picture and video form… and now it looks like they’ll be able to dominate the skies, after British Airways announced plans to fill the clouds with cats and dogs through a new exclusive in-flight channel.

cat_in_a_hat_british_airwaysThe network known as ‘Paws & Relax’, will be showing feline and canine clips through its entire schedule on long-haul, with the wall-to-wall (and presumably looped) coverage showcasing programming including America’s Cutest DogThe Secret Life of Cats, animated YouTube series Simon’s Cat.

Not averse to rolling around terrible cliche puns, in-flight entertainment manager Richard D’Cruze said of the benefits to “overall well-being” and reduction of stress that the new channel can offer: “It might sound barking, but there’s lots of research to suggest that watching pets can enhance overall well-being. We have sniffed out some fantastic content that is cute, comforting and sure to appeal to travellers of all ages.”

On a more serious note, the well-renowned airline is using its status with the Paws & Relax network to partner with the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in London (England) to launch a fresh campaign in finding new homes for its abandoned animals.

The home’s ‘rehoming & welfare’ representative Laura Lambertat said of the news: “We know that people love watching dogs and cats. They can make you laugh, smile, and cry. They are wonderful companions when you’re feeling anxious or just need a lift, and we believe that British Airways’ Paws & Relax channel will be the perfect way for passengers to sit back and relax.”

Following on from a partnership with Slow TV (a division of Norwegian national public broadcaster NRK) to feature a filmed 7-hour rail journey from Bergen to Oslo (because who wouldn’t want to watch being in transit whilst in transit, regardless of how beautifully Norwegian the images are?) British Airways’ newest entertainment innovation will attempt to combine some known popular genres, but will they be able to have it carry an entire network?

We have already undercut some of their ‘unique content’ by embedding the entire series of Simon’s Cat below (and for good measure, YouTube footage of the Bergen-Oslo line), although they may hold an advantage on a moving plane where passengers wish to conserve device energy…

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