Welcome to this week’s juiciest digital stories, hand-picked for you by the beady-eyed Brasscals, including Tupac lives (or does he), spies and video games, digital v analogue, the first interactive car configurator on YouTube and Instacanvas galleries. Read on and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments bit as always!
Andrew Brown, Creative Director
So the US Government has awarded a £110,000 contract to San Francisco-based Obscure Technologies to develop technologies that will allow them to capture date from players communicating on games consoles over voice or instant messaging. They fear terrorists and paedophile rings may be using these channels to communicate.
Encryption of secret communications has a long and fascinating military history, from substitution ciphers used to protect commercially sensitive information on Mesopotamian tablets three and a half thousand years ago, to the famous Enigma code of World War II. It’s interesting to imagine secret agents tramping around the Eastern Kingdoms in World of Warcraft, trading unusual items stuffed with coded information with other agents across the world:
Thisur: The… spotted cuckoo is flying backwards?
Elándil: It’s a cold day for pontooning.
Pundits are unsure why the US Government believes terrorists might be using these in-game communication channels rather than just the instant messaging services that come as standard on consoles like the XBox, but I’d like to believe it’s because that’s what US spies themselves are using. But which games would spies favour? Call of Duty seems like a safe bet for both secret agents and terrorist cells alike.
James Wheatley, Technical and Scoping Director
I’m not usually one for regrets but I have had a few. The biggest one was that I was unconscious in my tent during James Brown’s set at Glastonbury 2004. It was my maiden voyage to the festival and the general euphoria led me to underestimate my need for sleep. This critical misjudgement meant I completely missed the gig. My initial disappointment was further compounded when the hardest working man in show business died a couple of years later, along with my chance to see him live.
Or so I thought, until I saw this week’s news that despite his murder in 1996, legendary rapper Tupac Shakur made an on-stage appearance with Dr Dre and Snoop Dog at the Coachella festival. Dying has never really been a problem for Tupac; a string of posthumous releases and a massive online conspiracy theory, ‘Tupac Alive’, has insured his continuing success.
This latest feat was actually achieved through an old technology; it’s based on a 19th century effect called Pepper’s Ghost and was originally created by reflecting an image of glass. The technology has been used before by the Gorillaz and other artists, but Tupac’s impromptu appearance at the festival blew a few minds.
This has prompted a flood of speculation that we will all be going to see our favourite deceased artists in the not too distant future. This will certainly provide some novelty amusement, though personally I think only Tupac and Elvis can really pull this kind of thing off as they didn’t really die in the first place…
Check out the video below. Be warned, the lyrics are NSFW!
George Hurrell, Digital Designer
The format/media that is used to distribute music to the masses has changed massively over the past 20 years. From vinyl to cassette to CD, to minidisc to MP3, to streams such as Spotify and Last FM. The ease, price and convenience that has come about from the rise of MP3s, and now services such as Spotify, mean we can access music where ever and whenever we like, but at what cost? Quality? Even 320kbps mp3s and lossless fomats such as AAC are only a quarter of the quality of something like a CD or vinyl.
2011 saw a 55% rise in sales of vinyl, which seems quite strange considering the current financial climate. Generally you will pay around £6 for two tracks on vinyl compared to 69p for an MP3 bought online. So what is it about vinyl that people are coming back to? Just a retro fad, the warm rich sound, the 12” artwork? For a vinyl junkie such as myself it’s so much more fun to receive a 12” pressed heavyweight vinyl with full colour artwork, than to watch a progress bar as your MP3 downloads.
This all brings me onto this fantastic music video I found which prompted me to throw up the discussion: quality or convenience? Watching this reminds me of listening to a track on Soundcloud where you watch the ‘sound wave’ as you listen to the track/mix. Each piece of vinyl (960 in total) has been pressed, hand labelled, numbered and polished and each one represents that particular frequency in the track.
Such a simple idea and really well executed.
Check out the video here: Benga – I will never change.
Ben Brearley, Senior Account Manager
Breaking the mould of traditional car manufactures, Toyota US has launched the first interactive car configurator on YouTube to promote its Prius C model, aimed at the new generation of tech-savvy first time car buyers. The interactive configurator is like a Flash website, but embedded within the YouTube video interface, which is something I’ve not experienced before. Through a blend of clickable components you can customise your car and choose to watch the background video of the change being made or skip to the next component. Very slick! Gone are the boring drop-down menus of the majority of manufacturer websites.
As well as the innovative configurator there are useful, fun videos that deliver messages about the vehicle’s technical specification from some American comedians. A personal favourite line in the tech talk section: “young adults use the internet to perform their most important tasks from managing bank accounts, to watching cats play musical instruments!”. There are also humorous tutorials on financial planning for purchasing a car, how a dealership works and an MPG calculator. All of these elements have been wrapped up within ‘The Game of Life’ board game setting with the strap line ‘The game of life is full of challenges. Be a winner with the all new Prius C’.
It will be interesting to see how more brands use the YouTube channel to deliver interactive content in the future and if this type of configurator gets adopted by other car manufactures.
All that’s left now is to decide if I want the optional ‘Moon roof’!
Ally Manock, Head of Digital Strategy, Planning and Insight
Lovers of Instagram will be happy to know that Instacanv.as is now offering to turn your photo filtered efforts into art. The website has been inviting Instagrammers to open up their own ‘gallery’. The catch is that to get your gallery open, you have to ask people to request that it opens. In a last minute attempt yesterday to get more visibility, they asked people to post a photo of themselves and at least five friends holding an “I love Instagram” sign.
This was my entry. Fingers crossed!