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Dallas Cowboys Use Virtual Reality to Train Quarterbacks

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

Dallas Cowboys Use Virtual Reality to Train Quarterbacks

It's pretty cool when the sports world and the tech world combine. Usually it means we see great strides in progression for sports and see new ways to integrate tech into that. The Dallas Cowboys, along with their monstrous new stadium, has now brought virtual reality to the gridiron with a new VR training regimen.

Quarterback Tony Romo and his offensive line have already started using virtual reality to better review their play on the field. Behind the QB who throws more interceptions than touchdowns is a 360-degree camera mounted onto a drone that records the action around it. The team can then put on VR headsets and see the plays they just ran in a first-person view.

The coaches will also gain benefit from this new gear. Coaches can actually use headsets to watch the plays as the linebackers and safeties on the field - the defensive players - so that they can properly adjust their schemes and see the plays develop like never before. They'll be able to identify gaps, flaws and open players on the field that could be otherwise overlooked.

A video about the new technology is after the break. Will all of this tech lift the curse on the Cowboys over the last 20 years? Probably not. Is it cool? Definitely yes. Tony Romo may throw less interceptions but it certainly won't change how distracted he gets by pretty girls in the stands.

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SoundCloud Squares Off Against Sony and Universal in Infringement Dispute

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

SoundCloud Squares Off Against Sony and Universal in Infringement Dispute

SoundCloud has proven useful for a lot of unknown artists to get their music out there and seen by the world. It's also been a place for podcast storage and a venue for commercial artists to release music that may or may not appear on their albums. SoundCloud is so popular that even music labels are putting music on the site, accompanied with ads, of course. The success has been so high for SoundCloud that the company has been exploring offering a paid service on the site to compete with Spotify, Apple Music and the like. Cue the expected infringement lawsuit, this time from Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment.

SoundCloud has been busy working on deals with different companies and record labels, including UMG and Sony. Things looked to be going well until SoundCloud said that it would be leaving the free, ad-supported service up and running, and just offer a premium service on top of that. This was back in October and that's when Universal pulled out of negotiations entirely. In March, Sony then pulled a good portion of its music from the site. Now, the two labels have banded together to serve SoundCloud with a "massive copyright infringement" lawsuit.

An executive who wished to remain anonymous said that the labels don't like SoundCloud's "attitude" during negotiations, which led to the brash decisions. The labels believe no service should be free and that SoundCloud should have moved to a strictly premium platform. For SoundCloud, that would've been sure to kill a lot of the site's momentum, considering that there are 175 million active users per month, with over 10 million accounts uploading content to the site.

A leak at the beginning of this month showed some internal documents about SoundCloud's business models moving forward, with users being able to opt for limited service that would include no ads and additional features for a small monthly fee, or paying a bit more for SoundCloud's full catalog. The documentation also showed that there was no intention in departing from an ad-supported free tier.

We'll have to see if SoundCloud will choose to settle with UMG and Sony, or if they will fight this thing in court. It seems that the lawsuit could be construed as a little unfounded, as it appears to have come to fruition because of a disagreement in business models. Either way, I wouldn't expect SoundCloud to move away from offering a free service, since that is what made the site.

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SiriusXM Settles Pre-1972 Song Copyright Dispute for $210 Million

posted Sunday Jun 28, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

SiriusXM Settles Pre-1972 Song Copyright Dispute for $210 Million

While music streaming is becoming a hot topic, there is still a high demand and following in SiriusXM. However, SiriusXM currently settled a small copyright fiasco that is going to set them back $210 million. The dilemma may also prove a problem for music streaming companies in the future.

Before 1972, songs didn't really have a form of copyright attached to them. Once the popularity of radio took off, and people began using music in films, TV shows and for commercials, it was apparent that copyright would need to be applied to songs as well. States have granted copyright to these songs but not everyone was following the rules and playing fair.

This takes us to documents filed this week with the SEC against SiriusXM for playing those pre-'72 songs without paying out royalties or buying licenses. Instead of fighting through the courts on who's right and who's wrong, SiriusXM recognized the issue at hand and has agreed to pay out $210 million to record labels, settling the dispute.

Major record labels currently own the rights to about 80 percent of the pre-1972 music SiriusXM plays, so the settlement takes care of the majority of the problems. Still a lingering issue is the class-action lawsuit that is ongoing, filed by The Turtles, a 1960s band. The lawsuit was filed in 2013 and has yet to be resolved, however Florida has already thrown the suit out. The Turtles have also sued Pandora in 2014 and are currently seeking more targets to acquire.

As far as the multi-million dollar settlement, SiriusXM will be able to play the songs in question until 2017, at which time they will enter negotiations for a new five-year deal through 2022.

The Recording Industry Association of America is obviously happy about the ruling, but for once I can't say I disagree with them. CEO Cary Sherman said, "This is a great step forward for all music creators. Music has tremendous value, whether it was made in 1970 or 2015. We hope others take note of this important agreement and follow SiriusXM's example."

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Apple Fights Through Artist Pullout Over Free Period Policies

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Apple Fights Through Artist Pullout Over Free Period Policies

When Apple announced the rebranded Beats Music, now called Apple Music, a few weeks ago, they made a lot of waves announcing that the first 3 months would be free for all users. The problem for Apple was the waves were not all positive. In fact, very few of the talks surrounding the announcement was positive. Most tech sites and even Apple fans were pretty unimpressed with the rebranding, as well as the majority of the announcements that day.

Those who were least impressed, however, were musicians who were to have their music on the platform. As it turns out, Apple's genius idea for how to support a full quarter without revenue was to pass every penny on to the artists. That meant that for 3 whole months, artists were going to make absolutely no money from Apple. With Apple's plans to damage the plays from other services, this meant that artists were actually going to be hurt overall, rather than helped.

Taylor Swift, you remember her, wrote an open letter to Apple, complaining about the policy. Apple responded quickly by changing their policy and offering as much as 2 cents per listen. That is a lot of money, and certainly more than could have been decided upon in the short window between the letter and the decision. After Apple's reversal, Taylor Swift came out of her streaming isolation and announced that her most recent album would be available on Apple Music.

The natural line to be drawn here is that the initial policy was not true and that Swift's "open letter" was likely penned by Apple themselves, with Swift being paid to publish it. The result of the letter being published is that Swift looks tough on bullies, yet remains "America's sweetheart" and Apple looks like they are giving fans and artists what they want; everyone wins. Except, potentially consumers, who might be upset about what appears to be a paid publicity stunt to promote an exclusive streaming deal.

The Attorneys General of New York and Connecticut are crying fowl, launching an investigation into whether or not Apple is pressuring artists and music groups to sign exclusivity deals. In addition to the Swift announcement, which she ensures is not exclusive to Apple but is currently exclusive to Apple, other artists, including Pharrell, have announced Apple Music exclusivity deals. Unless Apple is offering A LOT of money, which could be possible, though not probable, or threatening the artists or music groups with overall delisting, exclusive deals like these don't make sense.

The best way for consumers to speak out against deals like these is to not support the platforms that are, ultimately, trying to hurt the streaming industry as a whole: consumers, artists, producers, etc. It will be interesting to see what the final finding from the states is, because another major suit against Apple on intimidation practices will likely not go well for them.

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Google Adds, Removed Extension to Chromium Browser

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google Adds, Removed Extension to Chromium Browser

If you are not an open-sourcer, you are unlikely to know about Chromium. Chromium is Google's open-source basis for their Chrome browser. The parts of the browser that Google does not necessarily care about get included into the base, and that code is released to the world for whatever purposes. I'm not sure why anyone would want it, but there it is in case you do.

Recently, Google began post-loading an extension into the browser: its OK, Google voice prompt feature. This extension was not directly included into the open-source release, but the call to install it was. Therefore, this does not EXACTLY violate general open-source policy, but it certainly rubbed the open-source community the wrong way. Mostly for two reasons: the code for the extension is not open-source, and the extension was always listening to you waiting for "OK, Google" to be spoken.

Now, it is important to mention that this community is interesting. They believe that data should be open, but are afraid of their privacy. So, information that is collected about you online should be shared with everyone, but not about them, I suppose. Because of this, and the lack of code for the extension, the community panicked about what Google might be storing and how it might be used. This is a good fear, as Google has never proven itself to be particularly trustworthy or ethical about its intentions.

In this particular case, however, it is easy to see in the task manager that the feature is disabled and that the microphone is not engaged, nor is any data being transferred, but that was not enough to satisfy them. Google has since decided to stop including the feature as part of the standard install, hoping to pacify the loudest of the loud, and possibly to try and do a little damage control.

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Apple Removes, Muddles Reasons for Removing Games Featuring Civil War Era Flag

posted Saturday Jun 27, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Apple Removes, Muddles Reasons for Removing Games Featuring Civil War Era Flag

This week has been a very weird one for flags. The strangest has certainly been the national outcry over the Battle Flag of the Army of Tennessee. This flag, easily identified by its rectangular design, red field and blue X with 13 stars, was used by one of the several state-sponsored armies during the American Civil War while in battle. For whatever reason, many have associated it with the Confederate States of America, which is an odd association.

Many retailers this week announced that they would no longer be selling products with the "Confederate Flag" on them, actually meaning the Battle Flag, as a reaction to a shooting in South Carolina. During this process, Apple decided to take it a step further and tried to alter history by pretending that the flag was never used. They did this by removing games from the App Store that are set within the Civil War era. These games, clearly, featured the Battle Flag, as it was actually used during said battles.

Apple claimed,

We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines.

However, Civil War: 1863 featured the flag in 2 places: on the main screen to differentiate the two playing teams, and on the actual game board, again to differentiate the two teams. The use of this flag is accurate and in historical context for the era and for the game, and is clearly not being used in an inflammatory way. In fact, it is an incredibly sensitive and accurate portrayal of a Battle Flag: in battle.

Another affected game, Ultimate General: Gettysburg, posted a statement on the game's website, saying,

Spielberg's "Schindler's List" did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical "Gettysburg" movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money.

Therefore we are not going to amend the game's content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple's decision will achieve the desired results.

We can't change history, but we can change the future.

That is truly a wonderful way to sum up the reality of what Apple is doing here. These games are not using the flag in "offensive or mean-spirited ways." Instead, Apple is trying to change the telling of history. What is interesting is that nearly identical games featuring the Nazi flag vs. the US flag have not been removed under the same policy.

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