The Greatest Idea Since The Lightbulb – GE LED+ Line

The Greatest Idea Since The Lightbulb – GE LED+ Line

“There’s a way to do it better – find it– Thomas Edison.

Over the years, the GE brand has been synonymous with Thomas Edison, America’s greatest known inventor. Though he wasn’t the original inventor, he improved on the original light bulb and took it a big leap further. He modernized it to last much longer compared to any of his other counterparts could have done, thanks mainly with his brilliant idea of the development of a more durable incandescent material, better elimination of air from the bulb by the creation of a vacuum, and a filament material with a higher resistance which promoted economically efficient power distribution.

Needless to say, he practically changed the world “overnight” as electric lighting became widespread everywhere.

By the flick of a switch it was “night and day”.

Thanks to dramatic improvements of LED lighting over the years, smart-lighting technology has been catching on with consumers everywhere. People are ditching traditional incandescent bulbs in favor of LED lights that last up to fifty times longer, use less energy, and do not contain any mercury. More recently, the traditional incandescent bulb has been banned by many governments around the world as they are not energy efficient and is unsuitable for the environment.

GE Lighting, a Savant company, purchased General Electric’s Lighting Company just less than a year ago and introduced the LED+ Collection line. Just like Thomas Edison did back 129 year ago, Savant, went to the drawing board with their engineers to design and improve the GE LED light bulb. The LED + line has improved on the solo light bulb, as each bulb in the LED+ series has one extra feature to make life a little better. What makes this collection unique is that the features are built right into the lights, eliminating the need for apps or additional hardware for seamless set-up and ongoing use.

The LED+ Collection:

There are six different LED+ products so far in their lineup: LED+ Color not only remits white light, but also has the option to light ten different colors with the use of a remote. The LED+ Battery Backup is quite practical when your electricity goes out, the bulb will go to a battery backup and you will have light for at least five or more hours. You can even use it as a flashlight backup and take it where you need it. The LED+ Dusk to Dawn bulb automatically turns on your bulb in the evening at sundown as it gets dark and turns off when daylight approaches, perfect for porch lights. The LED+ Linkable Motion turns on automatically when it detects motion outside for safety, as well as scaring off intruders for security purposes. The LED+ Timer turns on and off at any time you set it to.

GE Lighting’s line seems to just put one bright idea on top of another for the home connected space.

The product I was most thrilled about reviewing from the LED+ line was GE’s LED+ Speaker Bulb, It comes in the traditional A-line bulb and a BR for recessed can applications. My review is based on the A21 bulb.

One bright idea on top of another. The LED+ Speaker Bulb. Courtesy of GE Lighting, a Savant Company.

THE SET-UP

It certainly didn’t take much effort or time to set up the GE LED+ speaker bulb up; perhaps, about a whole minute. There are basically three simple steps: screw in the light bulb in the light socket, pair and connect the Bluetooth to the GE speaker bulb, and stream whatever media you would like from your device, such as a smart-phone, tablet, or laptop.

Using my smart-phone, I immediately found myself playing songs from my favorite musical apps like Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon. I was even able to stream my favorite local radio stations on radio.net. Of course, if you have music files on your phone, you can play those, as well.

I was pleasantly taken with the sound quality of the bulb. The speakers produce a very nice respectable sound considering how they are built right on top of the bulb with its circumference being about the size of a half dollar coin.  The LED+ speaker also has a remote that comes with it so you can turn on/off the light or adjust the volume on it. Regardless of whether you are increasing or decreasing the volume, the clarity of the speaker is very clean with no hint of any distortion, which is quite impressive. The remote also allows you to connect and disconnect your Bluetooth, as well as being able to dim or increase the brightness of the light.

One advantage of having an LED+ speaker is when you are at home with a group of friends and want to share media from your device. For example, a typical situation might be when you are trying to share a video on your smart-phone, but unfortunately, even though everyone is gathered around it closely, not everyone is able to clearly hear the dialogue clearly enough due to the sound limitations from the smart-phone’s speakers. Of course, it also doesn’t help when your environment gets a little noisy.

With the LED+ speaker bulb, you won’t have to suffer through this type of scenario. It’s astounding how clear and audible this speaker can get. Some may confuse it as being primarily a Bluetooth speaker that also contains an LED light bulb instead of the other way around. The party continues.

For those with multiple lamps or light fixtures next to each other in a room, you have the option of putting up to ten speaker bulbs across the room all at once. While these aren’t multi-channel or stereo speakers, the more you have, the more robust the sound, especially coming from a ceiling space. With these built-in speakers camouflaging as a light bulb, I love the idea that they aren’t taking any additional space in the room. Watch for house guests to glance around the room wondering where the sound is coming from.

Given how simple these are to setup without any complex configurations, GE Lighting made me a believer that everyone should install LED+ speaker bulbs in all the rooms in their homes. I just love the idea of knowing I can just stream anything from any device in any room in the house and and knowing I can have instant music without having to turn on any electricity from something plugged into an outlet, like a radio, stereo, or even Alexa. It’s instant gratification at its best.

Thomas Edison would have been proud with the GE LED+ speaker, if he were alive today. It’s as close as you can come to with two of his greatest inventions that were invented within two years of each other: the light bulb and the phonograph cylinder. The LED+ speaker is basically the combination of one great Edison invention built on top of another. The fact that you are able to reproduce music through a light bulb instead of a phonograph cylinder may be one of the greatest inventions that Edison has never seen. If he was alive today, it would be music to his ears.

Previously published on mlsentertainment

Dolby: Taking Sound and Vision to an Entirely New Level

Dolby: Taking Sound and Vision to an Entirely New Level

At the CES Pepcom “Digital Experience” show online, I was fortunate to spend some considerable time at the Dolby virtual booth learning about the company’s recent announcements at CES, as well as the company’s rapid progress during the last few years.

It was just a mere four years ago when I wrote about the launch of Dolby Cinema which dramatically changed the movie going experience with its immersive combination of Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos with their collaboration with AMC theaters wowing audiences around the world. In movie houses around the world, nothing looked or sounded better.

Dolby Vision has also been the benchmark for TV’s since its introduction. It is the HDR standard that uses dynamic metadata which will give you better visuals and improve the image quality.  The main difference between Dolby Vision and HDR10 is the colour depth and brightness the content and equipment is capable of achieving, with Dolby Vision giving you the darkest of darks and the brightest of brights.

In 2015, Vizio was the first company in America to release Dolby Vision TV’s. Two years later, LG was the first company globally to utilize Dolby Vision on their top of the line OLED TV’s. Every year since, LG won the “Best of CES” awards for TV’s, including one for this year’s CES. During that span, the majority of TV manufacturers have jumped onto the Dolby Vision bandwagon; TCL, Sony, Panasonic, and Phillips, to name just a few.

Within the last year, with the help of the pandemic with people staying home, the adoption and demand of Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos in the home has been widespread, and not just exclusively associated to TV’s, but also mobile devices.

As the pandemic worsened during 2020, Dolby conducted a global survey and discovered a significant shift in consumer behavior. Fueled by a majority who uses their smartphone, tablet, PC as their primary device for consuming entertainment over the past few months, Dolby found out that the majority of them wanted, desired and planned to upgrade and pay for more immersive experiences. The survey also noted that 82% of the respondents in the survey said that they were planning to purchase a new device in the next few months to upgrade their entertainment experience.

“That’s very exciting for us!”, Cairon Armstrong, the PR Manager at Dolby exclaimed, “because with our partners there’s a lot of new devices coming out that support Dolby Atmos and Dolby vision that they can use to get those great experiences”.

NOT JUST FOR MOVIES ANYMORE…

With consumers having more time than ever before to engage with entertainment on their mobile devices, the survey also showed that most consumers, many for the first time, are interacting with friends and family while enjoying entertainment, such as talking on the phone, texting, and video chatting while watching the same content simultaneously, as well as spending more on premium subscriptions in order to receive a better quality and shared experience.

Certainly, at least for now, our mobile device has become our new “best friend” that connects are friends, given the COVID-19 stay at home orders. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to “socialize” with the people we know, as the pandemic has pretty much dissipated the large groups of social gatherings that we used to have.

However, the stark reality is that most consumers are still stuck at home with the technical limitations of their mobile devices and will never be able to replace that real-life experience of, for example, going to a live concert with their group of friends.

Watching a streamed pay per-view concert on any mobile device is certainly dwarfed in comparison to experiencing a real live concert, but if you add Dolby Vision or Atmos, it will significantly boost the the enjoyment level a big notch. This is an example of what users want as a more personal and immersive entertainment experience.

Dolby have made lots of announcements in a lot of ways for consumers to get content both in the movie and TV space, as well as the music and games, and even in content creation that allows them to experience Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos.

It was just last year when Dolby launched Dolby Atmos music at CES, not just with Amazon Music and Echo Studio but also with titles from Universal Music Group. Soon, new tracks and albums will be launched by huge artists like Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Post Malone, and The Weeknd in Dolby Atmos.

“On the gaming front, Microsoft announced the new Xbox with support for Dolby Atmos, but more importantly it was the first console that also supported Dolby Vision,” Armstrong continued, “There were a lot of big game titles, such as “Cyberpunk 2077”, and “Call of Duty – Warzone” that support Dolby Atmos…we’re excited this year to see the first Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos game titles coming out”.

“On the mobile front, with the launch of the iPhone 12, we launched Dolby Vision capture together with Apple giving consumers a way to create, share and watch Dolby Vision content on their own without all of the complications and difficulties that they used to take,” Amstrong explained, “and so taking this really premium high quality experience allows them to capture their worlds and share it in a much easier way.”

Though Dolby was primarily at CES to promote the wonderful products in the home entertainment space, they were also here because of a new innovation in the PC audio conferencing space from one of their PC partners.

One of their partners, Lenovo announced and unveiled three new innovative and redesigned ThinkPads at CES; the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga (their thinnest ever), ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 and the X1 Yoga Gen 6. Though their entire line of X1’s and Carbons all feature Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, this line is the very first to support Dolby Voice.

Dolby Voice delivers a supreme conferencing experience that feels more natural, reduces listener fatigue, and sounds stunningly clear to make meetings more productive. It also optimizes speaker and microphone performance with features such as dynamic levelling to automatically adjust for voices that are quieter or further away and noise suppression that reduces unwanted background noises and echo no matter what meeting platform you use. Productivity is further enhanced with improved speech recognition for voice assistants.

“We’re particularly excited about how we can bring our Dolby technology to bear on making PC video conferencing an even better experience.”, Armstrong said.

Whether at work or play, it looks like our global landscape will continue to improve for the better as we will soon be able to see and hear Dolby just about everywhere we go. 

Previously published on mlsentertainment

CES – Goes virtually Digital

CES – Goes virtually Digital

With less than two weeks to go, the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show returns to Las Vegas on January 11th thru the 14th. With its continuous record breaking attendance year after year, attracting 171,268 attendees in 2020, they have gotten to the point where they have simply outgrown the Las Vegas Convention center and its side venues due to lack of space.

COVID-19’s pandemic may have solved this problem temporarily, as CES had announced that the show will be completely digital and exclusively online.

It shouldn’t be a big surprise to any of us considering how COVID-19 has completely turned our lives upside down. With most of the restrictions that the pandemic has given us, it at least keeps everyone safe at home rather than to try to accommodate its massive crowds in the finite space that they have to roam around in.

This year for returning CES attendees, there will be no need to keep tabs of travel expenses. There will be no need to book a flight or a hotel in advance at absorbent rates. There will be no need to compete for limited ground transportation from hotels with other attendees who are all stressed to get to their destination on time. Nor will they need to deal with the cold freezing temperatures early in the morning to get to the convention floors before the doors open up.

With the strict stay at home in orders preventing us not to be there in person, the show must go on. In any event, the CES show will continue to thrill us with major new announcements from all the top consumer companies in the world, as well as give us a preview of their latest technological lineup of gadgets on the “virtual” showroom floor. It gives us a preview glimpse into the future.

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Expect companies, such as Toyota to announce next generation vehicles and next generation cities that will be here before you know it. Photo by Marcus Siu.

Last year’s CES in Las Vegas with 171,268 attendees now seem like a blur. This year the show will be virtual. Virtually no one there to see the amazing products in person…only online. Photo by Marcus Siu

Several keynotes will be given: Hans Vestberg, the CEO of Verizon will be discussing 5G as the framework of the 21st century and how they will plan and develop smart cities into a very real possibility; Mary Barra, the Chairman and CEO of General Motors will be speaking about GM’s transformational strategy to advance mobility for communities around the world and how they are leveraging new trends to drive the adoption of next generation vehicles and next generation cities; and Brad Smith, the President of Microsoft, will be discussing “the promise and peril of the digital age”. Several other companies, such as AMD, Best Buy, and Walmart are also expected to attend.

In addition, there will be more than 90 conference sessions an incredible lineup of speakers and surprise guests.

This year, expect many of the TV manufacturers to announce their latest 8K lineup, including Sony, pictured here from the 2020 CES Show in Las Vegas. Photo by Marcus Siu.
Product Review: Tivic ClearUp

Product Review: Tivic ClearUp

I vividly remember my very first personal bout with allergies. I was sitting in a movie theater for the highly anticipated movie, “Topsy Turvy”, which was getting lots of buzz. Unfortunately at the time, I was also suffering from post nasal drip, which I had never experienced before. As I sat among the full capacity crowd, I was doing my best to suppress my cough to not disturb them, but failed. There were times that I was so disruptive that I imagined the crowd probably wanted to throw me out of the theater for disturbing them every time I had an abrupt cough attack. After the movie ended, I was never happier to leave the theater as I ran into the men’s room just to clear out my throat as though I was gagged. This was not symptoms of a simple flu or a cold, but sinus allergies, which I never thought I would ever get.

For the next twenty years, I have suffered annual seasonal allergies from the late part of April and lasting thru August. During this usual three to four month span, I was completely miserable and had very little energy. It affected my productivity at work as well as my physical mental state. I just wanted to be able to go through life without the usual runny nose, congestion, and exhaustion that came from allergies. For a few years, my allergies worsened and even resulted in me having a bronchial infection which needed anti-biotics for treatment, as I would be coughing 24/7 non-stop for six to eight weeks. Before they were OTC, I used to take medical prescriptions of claritin, allegra, flonase, and codeine every single day, as well as local honey, which I heard was a good way to fight allergies. I also heard about neti pots, but felt that would be too intrusive for me to take as the idea of blowing water out of my nose didn’t sound quite appealing to me.

Last year, I attended the Pepcom show in San Francisco at the end of May. Though, weakened by my seasonal allergies, I was still a trouper and attended the show. I randomly stumbled at the Tivic booth and asked about their new product, though my interest and focus is with personal entertainment technology. When I heard that the product was for allergy sufferers providing instant relief by just gliding the ClearUp across the face, I was very skeptical. I was given a five minute demo and for some reason, my allergies were gone for the evening… with just one treatment. It really surprised me that my allergies last summer didn’t return. It was as though a wizard waved a magic wand and removed my allergic symptoms .

The following January of this year, six months later, Tivic was present at CES Unveiled in Las Vegas. At the booth, I asked if I could obtain a review sample for myself that I could use so I can post a review online. Little did I realize, at that point, Tivic was garnering positive reviews and accolades everywhere. Tivic Health was named an CES 2020 Innovation Awards Honoree. In addition, Time magazine recently called Tivic’s ClearUp as one of the ten greatest inventions for 2019. It was also featured in “Last Gadget Standing” as one of the finalists.

As my allergies returned for the year in late April, I decided that I would go ahead and buy one for myself instead of paying the pharmaceutical companies for OTC products, such as flonase and benadryl, just because I didn’t want to keep injecting drugs into my body. As I started feeling the allergies worsen within the first week, luckily the product arrived at my doorstep during the first week in May, which was perfect timing.

After charging the Tivic ClearUp that just took a few hours, I started using it about four to five times a day for the first ten days or so, about once every four hours using the lowest of the three settings. There is no real strict schedule that is mandatory, which is great, since it’s one less thing you need to worry about. When symptoms arose, such as congestion or a runny nose, I used it on the spot and it would relieve those symptoms fairly quickly…within 30 minutes.

There were times when I would wake up in the middle of the night with my head stuffy and a nasal drip making me cough. That’s when I would reach for the Tivic for a five minute session and within five to ten minutes I would find myself sleeping peacefully again. In the past, I would get up and go to the kitchen to make green tea to mix it with lemon and honey, or perhaps eat raw garlic…anything to relieve my throat and stop it from coughing. However, that would take well over an hour and disrupt my sleep pattern. Not te case anymore.

I have been using ClearUp to relieve my allergies for about three weeks now, about three to five times a day. I am happy to report, I have not been using it for a few days, as my allergies have subsided after three weeks. The product had pretty much dissipated my allergies, though you can tell that some days I was a little more congested on certain days for the first week or two from the sound of my voice. This was the shortest allergy season I have ever had.

My regular lifestyles activities were never affected, as well, unlike the past twenty years taking allegra, flonase, and cough syrup. It freed me from using benadryl, which make me nod off and want to go to sleep. It also freed me from using flonase, which most people don’t know is a steroid, which is very unhealthy.

I also love it’s portability and the fact you can take it anywhere. It comes with a nice blue zippered pouch that has two compartments; one for the ClearUp and the other for the usb-c charger. The charge lasts quite awhile, as I have not even needed to charge the ClearUp for a second time yet.

Box Contents – Courtesy of Tivic Health

So how does this work?

Besides being 100% drug-free with no chemical side effects and being FDA cleared and clinically proven, it is so simple to use. You just push a button, choose a level of how powerful the treatment you want and basically circle around from the bottom of your cheekbone toward the nose and below the brows in a “c” fashion around the face. If it vibrates, it has found a location spot to treat the area and applies microcurrent waves at a very low level electrical current to relieve sinus pain. Usually there are about seven to ten areas which need treatment and it takes a total of five minutes.

The Tivic ClearUp is designed to provide temporary relief of sinus pain associated with allergic rhinitis. For me, it seemed that it had gotten rid of my allergies, but once in awhile, my head might feel a little stuffed with my nose getting runny and I would go ahead to go in for a treatment. My allergies are seasonal, but it also helps all-year around allergy sufferers who suffer from sneezing, congestion, runny nose, watery eyes, itching of the nose or roof of the mouth, coughing and sinus pain.

This is a truly innovative product. This is a product that I truly believe in and testify that it is a game changer. It’s non-evasive and chemical free. If you want to control your allergies, you will not regret this purchase. It will help you live your life during the allergy season rather than suffering during it with OTC drugs that come with its unwanted side effects.

Are movie theaters left in the dark in the age of COVID-19?

Are movie theaters left in the dark in the age of COVID-19?

It’s 6pm on a Friday night in the East Bay at the historic landmark Orinda Theater, just 15 miles east of San Francisco. With its impressive luminous flashing neon lights on its marquee displaying a spectacular view to those who pass along Highway 24 at night, it gives pride and joy to the citizens of Orinda to have its city name in glittering lights, as not many intimate cities in the Bay Area can claim.

Outside, underneath the retro ceiling before the entrance doors of the theater, newly installed neon lights bounce off eye-popping colors onto the reflective glass cases that display the movie posters of Hollywood’s latest offerings; “Emma” “Onward”, and “Call of the Wild”. Cars full of movie going customers are coming from all different directions from the East Bay while the percolating sounds of the popcorn machine make noise non-stop in the lobby at the concession stand getting ready for the crowds.

You would think this would be a typical Friday movie night for this majestic theater, but it is quite the contrary. No movies are playing at any of its three auditoriums. Nor are there any customers inside the lobby that are normally filled with crowds waiting in line at the concession stand or hanging out at Cine Cuvée, mingling in groups at its attached wine bar.

MOVIE NIGHT IN

Tonight’s event is called “Movie Night In”, an ingenious promotion posted on social media from the theater’s Facebook page, where for a mere $20, customers can get a large bag of fresh popcorn, a box of “official” movie theater red vines, and either a bottle of quality wine or four beers that are normally sold at the theater and wine bar. Best of all, customers need only drive up to the curb where theater owner, Derek Zemrak, would personally deliver their orders straight to their car, just like a the old carhop waiters did in the the 60’s. The promotion is in response to the “shelter in place” order by the county that forced all movie theaters to close its doors in mid-March around the country due to the COVID-19, more commonly known as corona-virus.

Of course, with the “Movie Night In” promotion, customers still needed to provide their own entertainment at home. Despite this, it seems just bringing a few goodies from the local movie theater can certainly make the evening more enjoyable, even if the participants are just stationed in front of the TV right in their own living room on a La-Z-Boy sofa or recliner.

Unfortunately, with the building’s high astronomical rent and utilities due each month, Zemrak was forced to close the theater and lay off his entire staff.” At least they can get unemployment…you can’t make money on zero revenue”, Zemrak noted.

Though “Movie Night In” generates a very small fraction of income, it has now become a regular Friday night ritual for some of the patrons. Some customers have gotten used to the idea. Still every little bit helps. “Not too many people realize how expensive it is to operate and rent a movie theater. People see the movie theater and don’t even think anything about how expensive it is to operate”, Zemrak said.

“We just need to sell a thousand $25 gift cards and we’ll be fine”.

The majestic Orinda Theater’s landmark neon lights.

TO STREAM OR NOT TO STREAM – THAT IS THE QUESTION

Ironically, the movies that had to immediately cease playing at the theater at the time of the “shelter in place” order came into effect are now streaming on VOD (video on demand). While not all of the theaters were forced to shutdown in the country before the federal government stepped in at the time, NBC Universal announced that its own movie studio Universal Pictures and specialty label Focus Features would be releasing their films in theaters and on-demand simultaneously. This was the path taken by the studios to help salvage their box office gross for their current lineup of their theatrical releases if all theaters were forced to close, which it did.

Instead of watching “Emma”, “Onward”, and “Call of the Wild” in movie theaters, moviegoers can now only watch them only on VOD . It seems as streaming services, such as Disney Plus, VUDU and Amazon Prime, overnight has made the “home movie going experience” much more exclusive to the audience as they “shelter in place”.

In addition, NBC Universal is planning to launch a brand new upcoming streaming service called Peacock in mid July. This will make it much easier for Universal to release theatrical movies and stream it at the same time, if they ever decide to. They could completely eliminate or reduce the “theatrical window”, which is typically 72 to 76 days for most movies before it reaches home video or VOD. Nonetheless, the ease of home viewing could continue to be destructive for movie theaters, big or small, struggling to stay afloat in an age of shrinking theatrical window dates, let alone the dreaded, coronavirus. If movie studios decide to follow Universal’s suit, then all movie theaters will be in peril; the movie theater chains, like AMC and Cinemark, as well as the small independent theaters, like the Orinda.

“If you look at the business model that’s the way to go… there’s no question, go streaming…but it’s not the right thing to do to movie theaters”, Zemrak explains. “I would have never expected Universal to be the first studio to do that”.

“If Disney, Universal and Paramount decide to go streaming at the same time… the general population are going to stay home”, Zemrak said.

“The chain theaters are in more jeopardy than independent theaters because independent theaters show art films, foreign films – stuff that you can’t see…so if Disney decides to go streaming the same day the theatrical release is..”, Zemrak continued, “….you have a better shot with the independent and foreign films than the blockbusters.”

“It’s going to be really interesting in the next three months to see really what happens when the theaters reopen – how studios are going to say we’re going on streaming – if that’s the case corporate theaters like AMC and Cinemark – they’re screwed, whereas we can we can survive because we have art films.”

As an independent movie theater owner at the Orinda, Zemrak is also responsible for its film programming, as well as musical and special events. With so many movie theater chains around the area, he prefers to concentrate not so much on obtaining big Hollywood blockbusters for the theater, but the non-mainstream gems that mature audiences will resonate with. One such film was “Parasite”, which was one of Zemrak’s prime choices that he selected to play at the theater immediately after it had won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film in early January and before the Oscar nominations were announced. At that time, it was not a wide release film and played a record run for 12 straight weeks at the theater and turned into an unexpected blockbuster due to the Oscar buzz and year-end awards it received, including winning “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards, the first foreign film to ever accomplish this, which Zemrak rightly predicted after the nominations were even announced and even putting his reputation on live radio.

Just like there is an audience for seeing films on the big screen, there is also an avid audience for watching movies at home. Unfortunately, the more streaming movie studios do, it becomes more and more destructive for movie theaters. It becomes a balancing act when it comes to satisfying both the studios and theaters.

“I’ve been talking to all of the independent film distributors because they’re doing things with movie theaters, to say “stream your things online and we’ll give you 40% of the take!”, Zemrak added. “That sounds good but here you have a brick and mortar building and the sub studios are saying we’ll give you money to go streaming. It’s opposite of what your base product is…but if all the major studios are going to go online and stream…movie theaters are dead.”

GENERATION GAP – BABY BOOMERS VS GEN X & Y

Zemrak also noted another major obstacle for movie theaters: the generation gap between the older and younger audiences. Whereas baby boomers want the big screen experience, the younger “i-phone mp3” generation of movie goers are content to watch the latest movies on their mobile device and be done with it. It’s about instant gratification.

“So it’s like you have this crossroad of people… this complete divide of people who say I’m passionate about supporting a theater”, Zemrak continues. “If I’m passionate about supporting a theater, I’m going to support an independent theater. I’m not gonna go the Regal, the IMAX or the Luxe. I’m going to go to an independent theater because that’s what I remember. I remember going to these movie theaters that are special whereas the younger generation have no connection whatsoever to a movie theater.”

“It’s not about the Cinemark with the recliners and the comfort of the room, it’s what I want to reminisce about when I used to go to the movie theater. It was something special – like the Roxy, the Castro, the Orinda Theater. I can go and feel something from my past and go to see a movie. That’s what it’s about…but the other generations – the Generation X and the Generation Z (millennials). – they’re not going to go to the movies. They watch it on their tablets, on their iPhones, and watch it at home.”

HOPE AFTER POST CORONAVIRUS

As “Movie Night In” comes to a close for the evening, Zemrak was pleasantly surprised at the number of incoming online orders for movie gift cards. In these difficult times for small businesses, there is still a glimmer of hope and encouragement from local supporters who actually care, but unfortunately, COVID-19 will still lead the economy into a recession for the majority of businesses, at least in the short term.

Once the pandemic is over however, theater owners will have a difficult time to entice moviegoers to return, especially with the older crowd who are highly susceptible to the COVID-19 virus. Perhaps, the social distancing of six feet from another may still need to be enforced for awhile and the addition of a Hazmat suit until we discover a new vaccine for COVID-19 and will become the new norm. If this were the case, Zemrak believes it would completely eliminate the need for reserved seating, but given the alternative, I believe people will strongly prefer being six feet apart than being six feet under.

Regardless of the outcome, there are lots of moviegoers who absolutely can’t wait to leave their homes and rush into movie theaters. They want the option of being able to dream and escape to the movies when needed. If they can’t do that, it might as well be the end of Western Civilization, as we know it.

However, it’s the major Hollywood studios, like Disney, that would really like to see the dreaded COVID-19 to come to an end immediately. Disney’s lineup for 2020, like most movie studios, has a string of global blockbusters for the entire year and has recently announced an upcoming June 6th release date with “Mulan” which was originally postponed from March due to the pandemic. With the newly revised June 6th release date and the ever increasing number of COVID-19 cases around the world, it may seem overly optimistic by the studio…but when you wish upon a star – your dreams come true.

If anyone knows how to put people back into movie theaters, it’s magical world of Disney.

GM’S path to autonomous vehicles at RSA 2020 – Future looks good

GM’S path to autonomous vehicles at RSA 2020 – Future looks good

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of General Motors, Mary T. Barra, gave a keynote onstage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco at the 2020 RSA Conference addressing the future of GM’s autonomous vehicles, as well as the company’s ongoing cybersecurity challenges they will face within the rapidly growing autonomous technology.

When automobiles were produced on mass scale over a hundred years ago, Barra explained, they had re-shaped our physical environment and gave us freedom.  If you were around during the bleak thirties growing up during the Great Depression or living in the Dust Bowl, you probably wouldn’t have thought that this could be possible.

However, over the years, the automobile has also given us unintended consequences, as well: crashes, pollution, and too many hours of our lives driving our cars.  One stat that really stands out is that according to the World Health Organization, more than 1.3 million people die each year in traffic accidents across the globe, and according to the NHTSA – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 94 percent of crashes are caused by human error.

“Advanced technologies such as all-electric autonomous vehicles are poised to alleviate these challenges.  More importantly, in contrast with today’s data age, autonomous vehicle’s (AV’s) will continue to improve people’s lives.”, Barra remarked.

As cybersecurity becomes ever so important with each and every new device, perhaps its biggest challenge is to defend cyber attacks against autonomous vehicles since people’s physical lives will continually be at stake.   We’re not just talking about the typical hacker trying to take total control of your computer at home, such as in ransomware, but a more of a terrorist hacker that not only will be compromising your data from your vehicle, but also possibly endangering all the passengers in your vehicle.

“There are virtually no industries today that are not vulnerable to cyber-attacks and the auto industry is no exception.  We are bringing to market technologies and features that are radically changing what vehicles can do for people and to improve their lives.  At the same time customers are bringing more devices into the vehicle and expecting seamless integration.  Part of our job is to ensure that our customers and their data are always safe secure and private.  Privacy is an extension of security that we fiercely protect.”  

Barra mentioned AUTO-ISAC, (Information Sharing and Analysis Center), which provides automakers collectively, including GM, to create and share best practices for the entire industry as opposed to individual automakers defending themselves alone.  The industry acts as a united front to collaborate and share best practices rather than invest cybersecurity as competitive advantage for each automaker.  

“Collectively, we incorporate strong security measures into every phase of the vehicle development process and is this group knows all too well the threat landscape is continually evolving with sophisticated attacks specifically designed to circumvent even the most robust defense systems.  Our enterprise defense strategy has to be integrated and multilayered because when a cyber criminal only needs to be affected once, we must get it right 100% of the time.”

ZERO CRASHES, ZERO EMISSIONS AND ZERO CONGESTION

By 2039, General Motors’ vision is to create a world with zero crashes, to save lives; zero emissions, so future generations can inherit a healthier planet; and zero congestion, so customers get back a precious commodity—time.  Technology is a key enabler to achieving this vision by developing connected, electrified and autonomous vehicles that will help us get there.

“It’s not a pipe dream.   We know it’s achievable.”…for our customers it means providing the safest product and the strongest cybersecurity possible will also giving them greater convenience better accessibility and all while doing it at it affordable cost.”

“Technology is a key enabler to achieving this vision by developing connected, electrified and autonomous vehicles that will help us get there….before consumers invest their trust in us, they want to be assured that AV’s will operate safely and securely every time without being hacked by outside forces.”

We have nearly 500 men and women including penetration engineers, cryptologists, mathematicians, data analysts, program managers and true hackers. We’re developing in depth defense modern touring in detection and incident response capabilities that we continually test, rework and refine”.

A critical cyber breach involving any one AV car company will be an incident that affects everyone in this space.  It could severely undermine the consumer confidence in this type of mobility and even delay the industry’s ability to share these benefits with customers and society. 

Cruise car in Hayes Valley, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Cruise.

CRUISING ALONG

GM acquired Cruise in 2016, a self-driving car company headquartered in San Francisco, where they have been test driving through one of the most challenging cities to drive autonomously.  Since their acquisition, GM has allowed them to remain responsible for both technology and commercialization, giving Cruise independence in order to avoid the pitfalls common when technology startup is acquired by a big corporation.

In addition, GM re-engineered their vehicle development process to include cyber security from the earliest stages of vehicle design with multiple layers of protection to defend the vehicle and its systems.  GM will also introduce the first vehicle models with our new vehicle intelligent platform (VIP) this year, which supports new EV technologies, active safety systems, over the air updates, 5G networks and enhanced cyber security protections. 

Barra acknowledged the critical need for cybersecurity jobs that would need to jump from 1.8 million to 4 million by 2022, and emphasized that women and minorities continue to be severely under represented in the engineering fields. 

With GM’s outreach, they have encouraged nearly 300,000 young students and teachers across the US, to pursue such rewarding careers.  Two years ago, working with the Society of Automotive Engineers, GM introduced a new interactive student cybersecurity challenge and curriculum teaching them how digital information is transferred and protected in their every day lives as well with opportunities in STEM careers in mobility.

This is why it’s important for the automotive industry to work together to secure a strong enterprise-wide cybersecurity posture and why STEM education and careers will be even more critical in the coming years.

“If we want to cultivate young people to be part of our future we need to invest in theirs.”, Barra explained, as she came to a close with her keynote. 

“It’s a crucial time for the auto industry but it’s also an incredibly exciting time.”

Just like a futuristic vision of the 1939 World’s Fair, it will be a fascinating ride for all of us to see how the AV revolution will unfold.