Star Wars stand-alone pic ‘Rogue One’ details surface; ‘Star Wars: Battlefront’ game trailer inside

Posted in Movies,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on April 19th, 2015

The Star Wars Celebration convention continues. Mere days after unveiling the universally enjoyable second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a second panel packed with franchise fans would parcel fresh intel regarding one of the two upcoming Star Wars stand-alone films. Today’s panel was originally supposed to feature Gareth Edwards and Josh Trank, but the latter director was a no-show due to an illness. So, only Edwards’ Rogue One spinoff film was discussed, and Trank’s still untitled Star Wars pic wasn’t brought up. Moving on!

Godzilla director Edwards was joined on stage by Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy and Kiri Hart. First and foremost, we’ve got a description for Rogue One: “A band of resistance fighters unite for a daring mission to steal the Death Star plans,” spills Star Wars’ official Twitter feed. At the panel, it was confirmed that The Theory of Everything‘s Felicity Jones will star as a Rebel soldier.

A brief teaser was screened at the panel; Lucasfilms has yet to post a clean copy of it online, but that never stopped the Internet before. You can search YouTube for cell phone recordings but be quick about it–they’ll be pulled before long. In case you can’t find it, here’s a quick description of the action. It opens with narration from Alec Guinness who played Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars film. The dialogue pulled from A New Hope went like this: “For more than a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.” The visuals start on a planet teeming with lush forestry. As the camera starts panning towards a bright sky, a TIE Fighter zooms by heading for what appears to be the planet’s nearby moon. As we follow it fly away, we realize that’s no moon–it’s the original Death Star hanging beyond the clouds. The teaser goes black, and just as solider radio coms chatter starts to get hectic, the Star Wars Rogue One title card appears.

Be mindful that this footage was made in collaboration with the folks at Industrial Light & Magic specially for this reveal. Edwards and his team are currently in pre-production with shooting set to begin this summer. The clip is a mere taste of what’s to come. In addition to the footage, concept art was also displayed for the rabid crowd; it depicts soldiers storming onto a rainy, muddy planet.

Edwards briefly expanded on Rogue One. “It’s the reality of war. Good guys are bad. Bad guys are good. It’s complicated, layered; a very rich scenario in which to set a movie,” he said. Don’t expect the film’s main set of characters to bring down their enemies with The Force or other mythological powers, because they won’t. Edwards says, “It comes down to a group of individuals who don’t have magical powers that have to somehow bring hope to the galaxy.” Sounds like a much more grounded, realistic approach to the franchise, one we haven’t yet seen. Edwards’ spinoff is very much a war movie; the director cited Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down as inspirations. “It’s called Star … Wars,” he reminded the crowd. In terms of where it fits in the Star Wars timeline: Edwards confirmed Rogue One takes place after Revenge of the Sith and before A New Hope.

Expanding Star Wars‘ inherently sci-fi tendencies and pushing the franchise’s genre in new directions is, in fact, the point here. “The idea behind these movies is that Star Wars, as much as it is a set of stories and characters we know, it’s also a place–a place we can explore in terms of character and time,” said Hart. Edwards’ Rogue One will showcase a heist story set in a gritty, war-torn environment with relatable soldiers who wield no magic. Though we don’t have information to go on yet about Trank’s spinoff, his film is also set to play with the genre and inject new storytelling elements into the franchise.

We should stop using the term “spinoff films” at this point, since Kennedy and Hart introduced a new branding term for all non-trilogy franchise films. All spinoff/standalone movies set in the Star Wars universe are to be referred to as films in the “Star Wars Anthology Series.”

Star Wars Rogue One, the first Star Wars Anthology Series film, is slated to hit theatres December 16, 2016.

An incredible look at Electronic Arts’ video game Star Wars: Battlefront waits after the break. (Click here for more…)

Rock on: ‘Guitar Hero’ returns with all new ways to play

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on April 14th, 2015

Guitar Hero is dead. Long live Guitar Hero! More, long live the rhythm-based video game genre!

In March, Harmonix–the developers behind Guitar Hero (2005), its 2006 sequel, and spinoff Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s (2007)–announced the revival of Rock Band with the fourth iteration in that long-running game franchise. Today, Activision followed suit by unveiling an unapologetically bold take on Rock Band‘s competitor, Guitar Hero. That’s right–the title that started the rhythm-based revolution is coming to current-gen consoles and it’s packed with fresh songs, a retooled guitar peripheral, and most exciting, new forms of gameplay.

Jump after the break for all the juicy details. (Click here for more…)

Apple Watch preorders going live: here’s what you need to know

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on April 9th, 2015

The Apple Watch is coming. Are you ready?

Today, one day before pre-orders go live on Friday, April 10, Apple outed a press release detailing how the big launch is going to work. If you want a Watch anytime soon, be ready to preorder online tonight at midnight–specifically, Friday morning at 12:01am PDT. All three styles including the Apple Watch Sport, Apple Watch, and Apple Watch Edition are bound to sell out faster than you can say Steve Jobs, so you’ll want your finger on the checkout button precisely at that time. After securing a preorder, customers can expect product delivery beginning Friday, April 24.

Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail and Online Stores, also mentions in the press release that the company “will be taking orders for Apple Watch exclusively online during the initial launch period.” I added the emphasis there because it’s important to note. At least at launch, you will not be able to walk into a store to buy the Watch; Apple is making it available for purchase solely at its online store for now.

However, that does not mean Apple Stores and select boutiques around the world won’t be showing off the newly minted timepieces. Visit a brick-and-mortar Apple Store “for a personalized session with a Specialist to try on, fit and size their band, and explore the amazing features of Apple Watch.” Though you won’t be walking out of the store with it, such a session will surely help you decide on which style and size are best, and then you make an informed buy online. Happy shopping, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Need something to do while you’re waiting for pre-ordering to go live tonight? Hop after the break to watch four recently uploaded official Guided Tours to learn your way around the Watch and its snazzy UI. A general overview, as well as focused looks at Messages, watch faces, and Digital Touch, will get you acclimated with Apple’s “most personal device.”

Is that not enough? There’s more. It’s not Watch-related, but it’s still something you should know. HBO NOW, the premium cable network’s standalone streaming service, has gone live across Apple devices including Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Get the app and get started with a free 30-day trial. Ready to dive in? Sign up for the $14.99 monthly subscription and you’re good to go. HBO releases its new streaming service just in time for the season premieres of Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, and Veep.

[Via Apple] (Click here for more…)

Sony teases Batman-themed limited-edition PS4 ahead of ‘Arkham Knight’ release

Posted in Image cache,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on April 5th, 2015

Sony’s got a new PS4 SKU in the works. No, it’s not quite as fancy (or incredibly rare) as the previously released 20th Anniversary console, but it’s something! Especially if you’re a fan of the Caped Crusader. To celebrate the upcoming summer release of the third and final entry in the Batman: Arkham video game trilogy, Sony is producing limited edition hardware featuring custom artwork. For $449.99, you can get the steel grey PS4 with a custom Batman: Arkham Knight faceplate, a matching steel grey DualShock 4 wireless controller, and of course a copy of Arkham Knight. Sony will also be selling an Arkham Knight bundle that includes the title and a standard jet black console and matching controller for $399.99. Both bundles will launch alongside the game on June 23. Preorder today.

[Via PS Blog]

Discover the Master Chief’s origins in ‘Halo 5: Guardians’ exploratory marketing campaign [Update: Two new trailers inside]

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on March 28th, 2015

Microsoft’s expansive marketing campaign for Halo 5: Guardians begins now. Watch the helmet-shattering teaser trailer above and at the end you’ll notice the hashtag #HuntTheTruth. Shortly after the televised teaser launch, MSFT opened up a “Hunt the Truth” Tumbler that further explores the mystery behind the shrouded plot of the upcoming game. Fictional journalist and war photographer Benjamin Giraud hosts a weekly podcast that promises an in-depth profile of the Master Chief with an aim to uncover the truth behind his origins and motives. Fans of the Xbox franchise (myself included) are going to eat this up.

Halo 5: Guardians is expected to release this fall on Xbox One.

Update (3/29): Microsoft unleashed two extended trailers for Halo 5: Guardians tonight during the season finale of The Walking Dead on AMC. The first features Spartan Locke threatening Master Chief: “All hail the conquering hero. The one who was supposed to save us all. But now I must save us from you.” The second spot reverses the roles, with Master Chief pointing his weapon and saying, “You’ve completed your mission, Spartan Locke.” What’s happening?! See for yourself after the break. Also confirmed: the next Halo comes exclusively to Xbox One on October 27. (Click here for more…)

Sony’s cloud-based TV service PlayStation Vue launches in three major U.S. cities

Posted in News,Technology,Television by Scott Meisner on March 28th, 2015

Four months after detailing its very own cloud-based TV service, Sony let loose PlayStation Vue in three major U.S. cities on March 18. If you own a PS3 and/or PS4 and live in Chicago, NYC, or Philadelphia, boot up your console to take it for a test run. As long as you have the latest firmware update running, you’ll find a new PS Vue app icon in your dash; click it to sign up for the service or start a seven-day trial.

Essentially, PS Vue streams live and on-demand TV (including TV shows, movies and sports) to your console and the service is boosted by a cloud-based DVR, all without a cable or satellite subscription. If you’ve been on the fence about cutting the cord, PS Vue may be your answer. Of course, you won’t find all of your favorite channels here; that being said, Sony is doing a fine job at boosting content provider support as new channels have been populating the service since launch. Click here to view the current channel lineup. Thanks to the cloud-based DVR, you won’t ever have to worry about recording conflicts or storage space; that’s the power of the cloud! PS Vue also makes it easy to record and get to your preferred content; by tagging a show you’ll have access to previously aired episodes of that show for 28 days.

The monthly subscription starts at $49.99 for the “Access” base package of channels; “Core” ($59.99) and “Elite” ($69.99) offer up additional content. See the breakdown here. Note that PS Vue does not lock consumers into contracts, and you’re free to switch between the packages at will. Sony says it’s hard at work on expanding the service’s outreach in the U.S., and you can expect support for iPad “in the near future.”

After fiddling with service for some time, I’m happy to report that the UI is slick and forward-thinking with its smart search tools and filters. Whether or not you’re ready to cut the cord today, services like PS Vue and Sling TV are the future of television and you best be ready.

[Via PlayStation Blog]

Nintendo wants to be on smart devices, still committed to home-brewed hardware

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on March 28th, 2015

It won’t be long before you can find Mario on your smartphone. After years of denying the importance of the smart device app space (read: games for phones, tablets, laptop PCs), Nintendo is changing its stance by debuting a new partnership and initiative to bring new games to consumers based on Nintendo intellectual property. Ninty has partnered with Tokyo-based developer DeNA (pronounced “D-N-A”) to make apps. “The alliance is intended to complement Nintendo’s dedicated video game systems business and extend Nintendo’s reach into the vast market of smart device users worldwide,” reads a press release. The PR also notes that “only new original games optimized for smart device functionality will be created;” what this means is that you should not expect ports of classic Nintendo titles such as Super Mario 64 and Donkey Kong Country to land on your iPhone. In addition, the video game companies are collaborating on an online membership service that will tie together consumers playing these new apps across devices including the Wii U home console and the 3DS handheld.

With Nintendo entering the highly lucrative app arena, does this mark the beginning of the end for Nintendo-made home consoles? Shortly after announcing its initiative with DeNA–on the same day, even–the house that build Mario made it abundantly clear that it is not ditching its core consumer base. In fact, they went on to confirm a followup to the Wii U and it’s codenamed “NX.” Here’s all the company revealed about it during a press conference: “Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated games platform with a brand new concept under the development codename NX.” Nintendo fanboys and fangirls, you can breathe a little bit easier now! Still, I’m certainly excited to see how Nintendo will go about making its mark in the crowded mobile app space.

Apple solidifies Watch release date & pricing, unveils HBO standalone streaming service, HealthKit, plus a shiny new MacBook

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on March 9th, 2015

On Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook hosted the company’s latest keynote dubbed “Spring Forward” and it packed quite a punch. Everyone was expecting more details about the anticipated Apple Watch–release date and pricing was finally made known–but before getting to all that, Cook announced an exciting launch with HBO, he introduced a forward-thinking platform called HealthKit that aims to support the medical field in new and exciting ways, and a brand new MacBook packed with all kinds of cool technology made its debut. For all the details, skip after the break. (Click here for more…)

@ Super Creative: ‘Coolest Discoveries in Smart Home Technology’

Posted in Super Creative,Technology by Scott Meisner on March 5th, 2015

Editor’s note: In February I announced my partnership with Super Creative. Going forward, whenever I contribute a post to SC’s site, I’ll be sure to hang a link here at [experience-it-all] so you don’t miss out.

Super Creative takes a look at innovations in smart home technology today. After perusing the selections, you might just feel inclined to spruce up your place with these intelligent, forward-thinking devices.

Click here for more.

Harmonix resurrects ‘Rock Band’ for Xbox One & PS4–get all the details here

Posted in Image cache,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on March 5th, 2015

Eight years after releasing the original Rock Band, developer Harmonix is readying the fourth iteration in the musical video game franchise. Rock Band 4 is coming to current-gen consoles only, namely Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Right off the bat, here are answers to questions you probably want to know immediately. The Rock Band Music Store will be accessible in the new title; this will allow gamers to download and play over 2,000 tracks when the game launches. Of course, those tracks are in addition to new tracks that will ship on the title’s disc. Due to licensing restrictions, songs featured on Rock Band 3 and The Beatles Rock Band will not be carried over to the Music Store. What about previously purchased songs you might have downloaded for Rock BandRB2, and RB3? The developer claims all your DLC will transfer from PS3 to PS4 and from Xbox 360 to Xbox One; purchases are tied to your console maker, so if you purchased songs on PS3 and want to play them on Xbox One, that unfortunately won’t be possible.

And what about those plastic peripherals probably collecting dust in your basements and garages? Harmonix is working closely with Microsoft and Sony to make your old-gen guitars and drum kits compatible with RB4. Keyboards, however, will no longer be supported. But of course, the dev is collaborating with accessory maker Mad Catz again to ship updated instruments with the game.

Besides all this, we really don’t know much about the game yet. In a behind-the-scenes clip, the team at Harmonix shares their excitement about creating a brand new Rock Band that will go back to the franchise’s roots in terms of gameplay; and at the same time, it will introduce new ways to play. “There is some evolution of the way that you play that’s in this game that really wouldn’t have been possible if we made the game a couple years ago,” teases company CEO Steve Janiak. Harmonix, whose self-publishing this passion project, says fans of the franchise should not expect a Rock Band 5 any time soon. They envision RB4 to serve as a platform that can exist for the entire length of a console generation; instead of saturating the market with new $60 titles every year, they will continually evolve gameplay with software updates and keep things fresh, of course, with new DLC tracks. Music to my ears!

You can sign up for preorder notifications today. Jump after the break to eyeball the familiar-looking instruments, and rock on!

Bonus! Check out this 15-year-old girl shredding on her custom-made Vigier Excalibur playing “Through the Fire and the Flames” and let all the good Rock Band memories come flooding back. (Click here for more…)

@ Super Creative: ‘Facebook aims to take virtual reality to new heights with Oculus VR, here’s how’

Posted in Super Creative,Technology by Scott Meisner on February 19th, 2015

Editor’s note: On Monday I announced my partnership with Super Creative. Going forward, whenever I contribute a post to SC’s site, I’ll be sure to hang a link here at [experience-it-all] so you don’t miss out.

Today, Super Creative discusses Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus VR, an innovative company at the forefront of the virtual reality revolution, and the ways in which VR can be used beyond gaming.

Click here for more.

Twitter & Snapchat updates you should know about

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on January 27th, 2015

This week, two of the most prolific social networks received some exciting updates. Let’s start with the little blue bird, and then we’ll talk about the playful yellow ghost.

Twitter is updating one feature and tacking on a completely new one. Direct Messages is getting a beefed up with the added ability to host group conversations. Private DMs can now entertain up to 20 people in one threaded conversation. You can start conversations with any of your followers and they don’t all need to follow one another in order to join and participate in the chat. When you’re added to a group chat, you’ll receive a notification about it.

I’ve been waiting for this next new feature for quite some time. Twitter is finally unleashing an official way to post video to its service. The update lets you capture, edit, and share videos that can last up to 30 seconds in length. iPhone users can upload videos from the camera roll as well (coming soon to Android). It’s a simple feature, but it has been desperately missing for ages. Twitter is confident its users will discover unique ways to interact with their followers using video–30 seconds is a helluva lot longer than Vine’s constrained 6. Video, along with group DMs, are rolling out to all users “in the coming weeks.”

Now, jump after the break to learn all about the latest addition to Snapchat’s growing story. (Click here for more…)

Apple reports ’15 Q1 results: $74.6 billion revenue & $18 billion net profit

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on January 27th, 2015

On January 27, Apple reported its 2015 first quarter financial results. Apple posted a record quarterly revenue of $74.6 billion and net profit of $18 billion. Compare this to one year ago, that’s up from revenue of $57.6 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion. Says CEO Tim Cook: “We’d like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high. Our revenue grew 30 percent over last year to $74.6 billion, and the execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal.”

Now let’s break it down by product category. Apple sold a record 74.5 million iPhones in the quarter (compared to 51 million in the year-ago quarter); 21.4 million iPads (compared to 26 million); and 5.5 million Macs (compared to 4.8 million). iPod sales surely declined as they do every year these days, and the company no longer discloses specifically how many units from this product line are sold.

Up to now, consumers have only privy to a somewhat large release window regarding the highly anticipated Apple Watch. In atypical Apple fashion, Cook narrowed that timeframe down to a specific launch month to eager reporters on an earnings conference call. The Apple Watch, previously pegged for an “early 2015″ release, will hit the market in April.

Looking ahead to the second fiscal quarter of 2015, Apple CFO Luca Maestri expects revenue between $52 billion and $55 billion.

Update: APPL stock is soaring following the release of these record results. That’s more than likely because of the unexpectedly high $74.6 billion revenue. At the end of last quarter, CFO Maestri expected revenue between $63.5 billion and $66.5 billion. The company undershot, and the market is currently respecting it for that.


[Via Apple]

Microsoft impresses with the renewed power of Windows

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on January 24th, 2015

On Wednesday, Microsoft held a press event to make some major announcements regarding its next operating system, Windows 10. That’s right–the company that Bill Gates built is skipping the number 9 and gunning straight for the solid number 10 for its next OS release. MSFT demoed many new features found in Win10, many of which highlight the fundamentally cohesive nature of the fresh new OS. With Windows 10, Microsoft aims to bridge the gap between hardware and software to create one unified Windows that stretches across phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and even the Xbox One. Also, Win10 will power a new product category for the company: augmented reality. For more, jump after the break. (Click here for more…)

Nintendo deems the New 3DS XL ready for US gamers

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on January 15th, 2015

At last, the house that built Mario is spreading the (portable) love. After releasing the New Nintendo 3DS XL in Japan in October of last year, Ninty is launching the updated dual-screen portable game machine here in the States next month. The latest version of the 3DS boasts a slew of enhancements; most exciting is the inclusion of not one or two but three new control input mechanisms. The C stick (that small round nub located above the ABXY buttons) allows for intuitive camera control in games that decide to support it. And new ZL and ZR buttons positioned behind and below the top screen add even more functionality for gameplay. Nintendo has also modernized the 3D display; new face-tracking technology makes for a more stable and immersive experience. Elsewhere, an NFC chip is packed inside and with an upcoming software update you’ll be able to push your amiibo collection to Super Smash Bros. 3DS. Last, the camera has been improved and a beefier CPU will have you noticing faster game start-ups and load times.

The New Nintendo 3DS XL hits the shelves February 13 in black and red paint jobs for $199.99. Watch a video reveal after the jump. (Also coming out that day is the 3D remake of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask–score!) [Note: Ninty is only releasing the New XL in the States; the New (regular-sized) 3DS remains an overseas exclusive, for now.]

[Via Nintendo 1, 2] (Click here for more…)

PlayStation Now game streaming service now offers subscription program

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on January 13th, 2015

Sony’s game streaming service PlayStation Now has been available in beta for months, allowing PS4 gamers to stream last-generation PS3 games on their shiny new consoles. As of today, PS Now is officially released in earnest and comes with more ways to play. In beta, gamers could only stream games a la carte, and pricing depended on the title and how long you rented the game for. Today, the service supports a subscription model; PS4 owners can cough up $19.99 for one month or $44.99 for three months of back-catalog gameplay. PS Now currently provdes “instant and unlimited access to a catalog of more than 100 PS3 games” with more on the way. This new model is launching exclusively on the PS4 first, and Sony promises it will reach other PS Now enabled devices in the future. Want a taste? The company’s offering a free seven-day trial to the subscription program; get it here or fire up your console. Click here to scan a list of all the currently available PS3 titles streaming today, and jump after the break for video.

[Via PlayStation Blog] (Click here for more…)

iTunes shares 2014’s top-selling music, movies, TV shows, apps & more

Posted in Movies,Music,Technology,Television by Scott Meisner on December 30th, 2014

Apple returns to reveal its best-selling media across the major entertainment industries including music, movies, TV shows, apps, and books. Consumers flock to the iTunes Store for the latest and greatest, and so it’s always fun to look back and discover which products made the biggest dent in their respective categories.

The top-selling album of 2014 is actually a soundtrack: it’s Disney’s Frozen! Included in the top 20 are T-Swift’s 1989, Coldplay’s Ghost Stories, Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour, Beyonce’s self-titled surprise album, and Lorde’s magnificent debut Pure Heroine. The top-selling song of the year is Pharrell Williams’ addictive “Happy,” a song that made waves in the animated feature Despicable Me 2. Also in the top 20 are John Legend’s “All of Me,” Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” A Great Big World’s “Say Something,” and OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars.” In addition to these top-selling lists, Apple likes to share hand-picked Editor Choice awards and they include: Best Artist (Beyonce), Best Album (Taylor Swift’s 1989), Best Song (Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”), and Best New Artist (Sam Smith).

Top-selling movies include FrozenThe LEGO MovieThe Wolf of Wall StreetCatching Fire, and Neighbors. Apple named Guardians of the Galaxy Best Blockbuster, The LEGO Movie Best Family Movie, Boyhood‘s Richard Linklater is crowned Best Director, and Obvious Child is Best Discovery. Moving over to TV, Game of ThronesThe Walking DeadDownton AbbeyBreaking Bad, and Scandal are amongst the year’s best-selling series. Apple named Fargo TV Show of the Year, The Honorable Woman is Best Discovery, Key & Peele is Best Breakthrough, and Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s performances in True Detective are commended.

Apple’s App Store truly houses the best app ecosystem–there are just so many to choose from. In 2014 people gravitated toward trivia game Heads Up!, which receives my personal Best App To Help Pass The Time Award. Other best-selling paid apps include Minecraft–Pocket Edition, Afterlight, Plague Inc., Sleep Cycle alarm clock, and Facetune. And I bet you can easily guess the top 5 best-selling free ones: Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. 5 for 5? Thought so.

Are you a reader? John Green’s The Fault in our Stars, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Veronica Roth’s InsurgentAllegiant, and Divergent are among the best-selling fictional tales. Top-selling non-fiction novels include Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson, Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, and Duty by Robert M. Gates.

We cannot forget about podcasts! I will share with you my favorite podcast this year. It’s Serial, from This American Life. It’s being called the most popular podcast of all-time and for good reason. It tells a highly serialized and incredibly addicting true crime story across 12 episodes. It’s like a riveting TV drama, except you get to imagine all of the characters and settings in your head. In addition to Serial, which Apple calls the Best New Podcast, other top-selling podcasts include works from NPR,, Joe Rogen, Carolla Digital.

Open iTunes to view all of the best-selling media across Apple’s digital storefronts.

Microsoft aims to break down language barriers with Skype Translator

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on December 16th, 2014

We’re living in the future, folks, in case you didn’t know. This week Microsoft is leading the charge in breaking down language barriers with its Skype Translator. Essentially, the new software allows Skype users to translate their conversations into another language in real-time. A perfect example of it in use is featured in the saccharine clip posted above. Students in America are video chatting peers in Mexico City; when an American student speaks English, the Spanish-speaking student on the other side can understand her completely (and vice-versa) as their spoken words are translated almost instantly. It’s quite magical, really.

Skype Translator is currently available as a preview and only supports English and Spanish. Skype promises that additional language support is on the way. You can help refine the incredible technology by signing up to become a preview user today.

[Via Microsoft]

Sony celebrates 20 years of PlayStation with a retro-designed limited edition console

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on December 6th, 2014

This December 3 marked the 20th anniversary of PlayStation. It was on that day in 1994 when Sony released the original PlayStation in Japan forever changing the gaming landscape and evolving the industry into what it has become today: a place to play and discover and wow with incredible, life-like graphics and intuitive mechanics.

To celebrate 20 years of PlayStation, Sony is manufacturing a special, limited edition PS4 with a design that harkens back to the aforementioned OG PlayStation. The bundle is packed with a 20th Anniversary Edition PS4, DualShock 4 wireless controller, PlayStation Camera, and a vertical stand all coated in the same Original Grey finish as the PS1. You’ll also spot the original PS logo across the new hardware, as well as a cool 20/X/Square/Triangle pattern design scheme embossed all over the console and the controller’s touch pad. And when Sony says “limited,” they mean it: only 12,300 of these bad boys will be made (that number matches the PS1’s release date–neat, huh?). Consoles will be specially marked with their number (as in x/12,300). Want one? Today (12/6) the company put it up for preorder on its online store and to nobody’s surprise it sold out in minutes. This is not to say Sony won’t release another batch, but eBay will likely end up being your best bet in the future.

Already own a PS4 and still want to get in on the celebration? Sony’s got you covered: fire up your console, download the latest firmware update, and you’ll be privy to a free PS1 retro theme that takes over your home screen with a predominantly grey color scheme with floating colorful O’s, X’s, Squares, and Triangles. It also features a familiar boot-up sound! Preview the theme here.

Elsewhere in PS Land, Sony is holding its inaugural PlayStation Experience this weekend in Las Vegas. Some cool announcements worth mentioning follow, in brief. Remember when Microsoft offered those customizable console faceplates for its Xbox 360? Well, Sony is following in their footsteps with new faceplates to spruce up the PS4 for those so inclined. “Project Skylight Beta” is currently offering two faceplates at $24.99 apiece featuring designs inspired by the games The Order: 1886 and LittleBigPlanet 3 with more on the way. Removing the console’s current faceplate and snapping in a new one is, well, a snap; Sony demonstrates the painless process here.

Also at PSX, the company held a keynote for fans brimming with upcoming titles for PS4, PS3, and PS Vita. Engadget‘s done a nice job of collecting trailers for the announced games. Ones that popped out for me include this new look at Hello Games’ trippy exploration adventure No Man’s Sky, this first look at Capcom’s fifth major installment in the Street Fighter franchise, and this 15-minute preview of stunning in-game footage from Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Oh, and speaking of games, EA is handing out three free (I’ll reiterate: free) games at this very moment. PS4 owners can download the addictive animated shooter Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, PS3 users can nab the uniquely first person Mirror’s Edge, and handheld Vita gamers are awarded Need for Speed: Most Wanted. You’ll want to hop on this fast–these awesome deals expire tonight at midnight PST/3am EST.

Jump after the break to continue the anniversary celebration with unboxing videos and a special clip featuring Sackboy and the rest of the LittleBigPlanet universe embodying the past 20 years of PlayStation. (Click here for more…)

Sony announces cloud-based TV service PlayStation Vue

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 19th, 2014

There certainly is no shortage of ways to consume entertainment these days, and Sony wants in. Sure, it’s got the PlayStation Store where gamers can stream movies, music, and TV shows to their big screen TVs. But the media giant is looking to capture even more eyeballs by providing a full-fledged cloud-based service whereby consumers can pay a monthly rate and watch their favorite TV programs to their heart’s content. Think of it as Hulu Plus or even Netflix, provided by Sony. Thankfully the company is securing deals with major content providers prior to PlayStation Vue’s launch and they include CBS, Discovery Communications, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks Interactive, and Viacom. Here are a couple of cool features to mull over:

-PlayStation Vue delivers catch-up and on-demand TV, freeing viewers to watch TV on their own schedules. The service makes the past three days of popular programming available without the need to schedule recordings.

-Viewers can save their favorite shows to the cloud without storage restrictions or scheduling conflicts. Once viewers tag a favorite show, they will automatically have access to episodes of that show for 28 days so that they can watch on their own time.

In essence, if you’re lacking a DVR and if you prefer to watch TV on your own time like the majority of the world, PS Vue sounds like a promising effort from team Sony. In the end it all comes down to content provider support; if Sony can continue to lure in the big guns like CBS, Fox, and NBC (ABC, where you at?), Vue has the potential to become a go-to destination for PS4 and PS3 console owners.

“PlayStation Vue reinvents the traditional viewing experience so your programming effortlessly finds you, enabling you to watch much more of what you want and search a lot less,” says Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. “PlayStation Vue brings the best of live TV and a robust catalog of the latest content, always keeping you connected to what’s popular, new and trending. Today’s announcement builds on the historic success of PlayStation 4 and demonstrates what our company is capable of when we embrace disruption and stay true to gamers.”

A beta preview for PS Vue is rolling out this month for select people, “with phased rollout starting in New York followed later by Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.” In time the service with become compatible with Apple’s iPad as well as more Sony and non-Sony devices. Sony plans to launch it commercially in early 2015. Stick it here for more details about pricing and availability as that becomes apparent.

[Via PRNewswire]