OCULUS RIFT BUNDLE

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Following news this week that the Oculus Rift bundle eadset is being bundled with its then-optional Oculus Touch controllers for $399 this summer, Oculus has now gone ahead and announced a permanent price drop for the pair. No, not $399, but when the “Summer of Rift” promotion ends in five weeks the Rift and Touch bundle will jump to $499 rather than the previous $599 price.

Not only that, but the “Rift and Touch bundle” is now the only way to buy an Oculus Rift. They’re even boxed together, with the headset, two Touch controllers, and two sensors all in the same package. It’s hard to tell if the Xbox One controller is still included in this new box, though I think it’s clear Oculus is finally capitulating on the sitting-down-with-a-gamepad-is-the-future-of-VR argument.

[UPDATE: Confirmed that sitting-down-with-a-gamepad-VR is “dead,” after years of Oculus messaging to the contrary. Oculus reached out and confirmed to me that there is no Xbox One controller included in the new bundle, which also goes a long way towards explaining the $100 price cut.]

And purchasing the new Oculus Rift bundle, whether now at the promotional price or later this year, nabs you six free titles—the standouts being Robo RecallDead and Buried, and the two art tools Medium and Quill, with Toy Box and ho-hum platformer Lucky’s Tale thrown in for good measure.

It’s a pretty attractive package. As I said earlier this week, I tend to favor the HTC Vive for my VR needs but it’s still saddled with an $800 price tag—or $900 if you buy the much-needed Deluxe Audio Strap upgrade. Oculus may be struggling in the early days of the VR wars, but with a $399 sale price and a permanent $499 package, I expect to see that gap closing.

I’m also doubly convinced we’ll see another Rift teased at this fall’s Oculus Connect 4 conference. Bloomberg reported yesterday that Facebook is set to release a wireless Oculus headset for $200 in 2018—similar to GearVR, but without the need for a separate phone purchase. Time will tell whether we also see another high-end PC headset at the show, but with three separate Oculus price cut announcements so far in 2017, I would not be even a tiny bit surprised.

New records for the solar cell of tomorrow

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), CSEM and EPFL have taken an important symbolic step forward. Working together, they were able to demonstrate the high potential of silicon-based multijunction solar cells: they raised the one-sun record conversion efficiency of III-V/Si solar cells to 32.8% for two junctions and 35.9% for three junctions.

These achievements, published in Nature Energy, are a world first in the highly competitive race to improve silicon-based solar cells (for example: SUNJACK 14W PORTABLE SOLAR CHARGER )efficiency, confirming the potential of this approach.

When you choose to go solar, you have to go for the optimum trade-off between conversion efficiency and cost! Efficiency rates of more than 35% have been reached in the laboratory, but with cells that only use expensive materials.

The existing photovoltaics (PV) market is rather dominated by cost-effective modules made of single-junction silicon solar cells, with efficiencies ranging between 17% and 22%. Just like many research centers and industrial players, NREL, CSEM and EPFL are working with what are known as ‘multi-junction’ cells, a technology that combines silicon with a cell that absorbs blue light from the sun more efficiently.

The transition from a silicon single-junction cell to a silicon-based multi-junction solar cell has the potential to push efficiencies past 30% while still benefiting from the cost-effective manufacturing expertise in making silicon solar cells.

NREL and Swiss scientists have devoted themselves to producing such solar cells with over 30% efficiency. In January 2016, this researcher’s team was able to reach 29.8% efficiency, setting their first joint world record.

NREL and CSEM demonstrate the potential for this new generation of solar cells By working together again, the scientists team from CSEM, a Swiss research and technology center, EPFL, and NREL, have beaten their own record and cemented their positions as the top experts in this technology: an efficiency of 32.8 % was achieved for a dual-junction solar cell made by combining NREL GaAs top cell to CSEM silicon heterojunction bottom cell, and an efficiency of 35.9 % was attained for a triple-junction solar cell by combining NREL GaInP/GaAs top cell to CSEM silicon heterojunction bottom cell.

Stephanie Essig of EPFL is lead author of the newly research paper published in the recent issue of Nature Energy, that details the steps taken to improve the efficiency of the multi-junction cell and the steps required for decreasing their manufacturing costs.

“This achievement is significant because it shows, for the first time, that silicon-based tandem cells can provide efficiencies competing with more expensive multijunction cells consisting entirely of III-V materials,” said Adele Tamboli, a senior researcher at NREL.

“It opens the door to develop entirely new multi-junction solar cell materials and architectures.”

Making solar energy more accessible
“These records show that combining crystalline silicon and other materials is the way forward if we are to improve solar power’s cost/efficiency ratio,” said Christophe Ballif, Director of CSEM’s PV-center and EPFL Photovoltaics laboratory.

“It affirms that silicon heterojunction solar cells, when integrated into the structure that we’ve developed, can generate multi-junction cell conversion efficiencies over 32%” said Matthieu Despeisse, manager of crystalline silicon solar cells activities at CSEM.

Game camera

Photo of a Chihuahuan raven catching a snake, taken using a remote motion-sensor camera located in the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge.

Another type of remote camera is the game camera (for example: MOULTRIE A-20 or trail camera. It is a device that records images, either as a still photograph or a video. It is a rugged and weatherproof camera designed for extended and unmanned use outdoors. The images it produces are used for game surveillance by hunters.

Most cameras come with a strap that allows it to be hung from a tree and a lock to prevent theft. It will automatically take a picture when it senses motion. Each image is stamped with Exif data which includes the date, time it was recorded, as well as a number of other data points. The game camera will usually function day and night by sensing game out to around 100 feet.

The first hunting trail monitor used heat sensing motion detectors to trigger a counter to count the number and record the time of animals passing by. The sensors are also known as passive infrared light sensors or PIR sensors. Normally, hunters are never around so they do not know what kind or size animal was being counted. Later, a camera was added. Game camera technology has evolved since then. Originally wildlife photography was only available by using film, but now there is a choice of film or digital cameras. The ability of game cameras to tell hunters where game is located is useful for pre-season scouting. The information when used in conjunction with trail camera software tells hunters where to best place their blind or tree-stand. For digital cameras, all images are recorded onto a memory card, such as a commonly available SD card. This also allows hunters to conveniently transfer the images to a home computer or they can be viewed, copied and deleted by a Viewer in the field. More expensive units have the ability to wirelessly upload captured images to a computer or website without any user interference.

Types available

  • Digital – Produce digital pictures instead of film
    • Cellular – transmit digital images via the cellular network instead of storing locally
  • Film – Instead of digital these cameras use film, usually 35mm
  • Laser aim – Produce a red light beam for aiming where the image location is to be taken from
  • Strobe flash – Incandescent flash that will usually reach out to 15 feet for nighttime images
  • IR – Sometimes available in addition to strobe flash or alone, for more stealth like performance
  • Sound producing – Game calls or sounds to attract any of a wide variety of animals, with sounding intervals adjustable from 1 to 24 hours

Technical details

Depending on how the camera is set up, a new photo can usually be taken every second for as long as motion/heat events are detected. Some game cameras give the user a choice of settings for regular camera flash or stealth-like LED flash. LED flash enables the hunter to discreetly image game in the night without a visible flash. This prevents the flash from giving away the hunters position in popular hunting areas. Some models have a manual switch to set an infrared filter for day or night mode.

Advantages of strobe flash cameras

  • Long range flash performance – Some have a flash range of over 60 feet
  • High quality color images during both day and night makes animal identification easy
  • Completely freezes animal movement so there is never any nighttime motion blur[8]

Disadvantages of strobe flash cameras

  • The flash may spook game
  • The flash can be noticed by other hunters
  • Cannot record night time videos

Advantages of Infrared (IR) cameras

  • Less likely to alarm an animal (as no visible light is generated)
  • Less likely to be noticed by other hunters
  • Battery life is much improved over cameras with flash.

Disadvantages of IR cameras

  • Nighttime images are black and white and have less detail and clarity
  • Infrared flash quality/range tradeoff: If the infrared flash is designed for maximum range the images may be overly white, or blur. If the infrared flash is designed for best image quality, range will be sacrificed.

Other uses of the game camera

Game cameras are also used by Bigfoot research groups and enthusiasts making an effort to capture a photo of the legendary creature.

Trail/game cameras also can be helpful for animal loss/rescue in documenting the presence and species of animals, such as determining whether a frightened runaway dog is returning to its home at night or verifying the species actually eating the food left for a stray/feral cat.

5 Ways Your Business Can Protect Its Online Brand

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Crafting a great brand is no easy task and can take months, even years, to solidify. But the effort is worth it when your customers are loyal and engaged, and your competitors try to mimic you instead of mock you.

Still, a brand, like a personal reputation, is a fragile thing. It can be damaged by rumors, or be outright disgraced by bad behavior — or poor press. This is especially true online. After all, once something is on the internet, it’s never truly gone.

Here are five steps to take to help ensure that when your next new customer Googles your brand, he or she will like the results:

1. Respond promptly — especially to negative reviews.

Reviews. Oy. Whether you’re a retail company or a B2B vendor, reviews make or break your success. If you’ve just built up your branding, you may be worried that a bad review will dismantle all your hard work. But don’t worry: Bad reviews can actually be a great opportunity to make your brand look even better. How? Respond!

Simply by responding, you show that your brand is listening. If you can explain how you’ll fix the problem that the customer is complaining about, even better. Come across as calm, collected, professional and polite; new customers who are researching your brand will be very impressed.

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6 Tools to Turbocharge Your Content Marketing in 2017

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A fresh year presents the perfect opportunity for your brand to recap its 2016 content marketing performance: You may want to examine ways to build upon those past lucrative strategies and reexamine under-performing ones. Did you meet your goals? What new tools are available to enhance your content marketing game plan for 2017?

exactly how are you going to increase your value in 2017?

One important development in 2016 was the major changes unveiled by Facebook. Content-marketing-centered businesses were deeply affected by Facebook’s News Feed algorithm changes, which drastically decreased organic reach. Publishers reported up to a 42 percent decrease in referral traffic from Facebook. These unexpected changes indicate that brands need to be increasingly focused on their own audience reach and retention in 2017.

Now is the time adopt new technology for the new year. To help you get started, here are six tools that will turbocharge your content marketing strategy in 2017.

Buffer

Buffer is a smarter way to post your content to social media. It’s like the Swiss Army Knife of social media tools and can really help with streamlining your social media syndication efforts.

Buffer lets you connect all of your social media profiles into one central hub. From there you can schedule content to all of your social media assets with just a few clicks. What sets Buffer apart is its post analytics, which helps you dish out content to your audience at just the right time.

Using Buffer to streamline your social media publishing saves time and eliminates any headaches from juggling multiple social media profiles. This gives you more time to focus on creating quality content, and less time scheduling it.

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4 Free Small Business Marketing Tools

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There’s only one thing better than finding a cool new marketing tool, and that’s finding a free, cool new marketing tool. Here’s a list of four marketing tools that add real value — but don’t cost a thing!

1. Portent’s Content Idea Generator

Ever get stuck trying to come up with ideas for your next article, blog post or free guide?  If so, this is a great tool for you. With Portent’s Content Idea Generator, you simply enter a subject of your choice and the tool provides you with a series of unique angles on that content in the form of a headline.

For example, “Small Business Marketing” becomes “The 18 Best Small Business Marketing YouTube Videos.”  While all the suggestions won’t be on the mark, it’s certain to help with your creative process!

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3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Diving Into Video Marketing

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If you’ve paused while scrolling through your Facebook Timeline to watch the making of chicken parmesan stuffed garlic bread or a happy shopper showing off her Chewbaca mask, you’ve contributed to the eight billion video views, which Facebook experiences daily. And that matters — a lot.

A recent Demand Metric survey found that 74 percent of B2B marketers are reporting higher conversion rates from video than any other form of content. But while businesses of all shapes and sizes are blindly boarding the video train, most entrepreneurs still struggle to make sense of marketing’s most influential form of content.

 

Video may seem intimidating, expensive and cumbersome, but if you ask yourself the following three questions during the production process, you’ll create something that’s not only watchworthy, but shareworthy.

1. What are my competitors not doing?

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” but I beg to differ.

Let’s not kid ourselves. For as much as you want to play your own game, you can’t ignore the competition. You have to pay attention to your rivals; it’s simply smart business. But this time when you watch them, put on a new set of lenses, and notice them not for what they are doing, but for what they are not doing.

There is joy to be found in doing what the competition doesn’t.

When you imagine video in the software industry, your mind zaps quickly to a product walkthrough or generic demo. So when my company decided to make a video, we did something that we noticed no one else had done. None of our competitors were incorporating humor or storytelling into their brand videos so we snagged that whitespace and brought our story to life. We also won a Telly Award.

As video becomes increasingly popular as a medium, consider capitalizing on the spots where you see your competitors aren’t.

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