- THE INTERNET OF THINGS 2017 REPORT: How the IoT is improving lives to transform the world
- Intel CEO: Google discovered the chip security flaw months ago (GOOG, INTC)
- The storm that's about to pummel the East Coast could become a 'cold weather bomb' — here's what that means
- A 'bomb cyclone' and 'polar vortex' are headed for the East Coast — here's what those weather terms actually mean
- It’s a new year in tech — here are the products, gadgets and games we’re looking forward to in 2018
- How to check if Apple is slowing down your iPhone
- Evidence of an 'alien megastructure' 1,300 light-years from Earth is rapidly turning to dust
- POINT-OF-SALE TERMINALS: How evolving merchant demands are pushing POS terminal providers to up their game in an increasingly competitive environment
- Forget ‘raw water’ — there’s a safer off-grid alternative to the dangerous craze sweeping Silicon Valley
- Security fears have held companies back from adopting cloud services — but they're starting to get over them (AMZN, GOOGL)
- The biggest game of 2017 will eventually release on PS4 — but it could be awhile
- Here are all 45 accounts Trump follows on Twitter
- Ripple's XRP explodes to record high above $3
- YouTube is streaming multiple copies of Logan Paul's video of a suicide victim — showcasing again its troubles monitoring its site (GOOG)
- CHATBOTS EXPLAINED: Why businesses should be paying attention to the chatbot revolution (FB, AAPL, GOOG)
- The rise and fall of Kinect: Why Microsoft gave up on its most promising product
- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tried the meditation craze that requires no sex, drugs, or talking for 10 days
- The Chevy Bolt is crushing the Tesla Model 3 (GM, TSLA)
- Twitter will never — and should never — ban Trump. So let's stop talking about it and move on
- After an investor bailed, a 20-year-old filmmaker spent her entire college fund finishing her award-winning debut
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 02:00 PM PST
This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is disrupting businesses, governments, and consumers and transforming how they interact with the world. Companies are going to spend almost $5 trillion on the IoT in the next five years — and the proliferation of connected devices and massive increase in data has started an analytical revolution.
To gain insight into this emerging trend, BI Intelligence conducted an exclusive Global IoT Executive Survey on the impact of the IoT on companies around the world. The study included over 500 respondents from a wide array of industries, including manufacturing, technology, and finance, with significant numbers of C-suite and director-level respondents.
Through this exclusive study and in-depth research into the field, BI Intelligence details the components that make up IoT ecosystem. We size the IoT market in terms of device installations and investment through 2021. And we examine the importance of IoT providers, the challenges they face, and what they do with the data they collect. Finally, we take a look at the opportunities, challenges, and barriers related to mass adoption of IoT devices among consumers, governments, and enterprises.
Here are some key takeaways from the report:
In full, the report:
To get your copy of this invaluable guide to the IoT, choose one of these options:
The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you’ve given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the IoT.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:56 PM PST
Google discovered the critical flaw in computer microprocessors that leaves PCs running on Intel and other chips vulnerable to hackers, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said in an interview on CNBC Wednesday afternoon.
"We were notified by Google a while back ago, a couple months ago," Krzanich told CNBC.
Krzanich went on to say that it was working with other companies to come up with a fix, including "OS partners," as well as rival chipmakers AMD and ARM.
The revelation of the security flaw sent Intel's stock tumbling on Wednesday. Initial reports indicated that the security flaw was limited to Intel processors, but chipmaker ARM has since said that chips based on its technology are also affected.
Intel is hosting a conference call this afternoon to provide more information on the situation.
This story is developing...
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:47 PM PST
A massive storm bearing down on the East Coast could bring record-breaking freezing temperatures and snow. The event is forming because of "bombogenesis," a rapid drop in atmospheric pressure that intensifies a storm. Following is a transcript of the video.
A "cold weather bomb" is making its way up the East Coast. Also known as a "bombogenesis," it could bring lots of snow and record-low temperatures. "Bombogenesis" is a two-part process.
First, the storm has to move out over the ocean. Then, the center of the storm quickly becomes more intense. Meteorologists call this type of storm system a "weather bomb." As the storm strengthens, wind and precipitation spike. It happens when atmospheric pressure nose dives over a short time period.
Causing an average snowstorm to morph into one with hurricane-force winds. The storm could blanket the East Coast in snow from Florida to Maine.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:33 PM PST
If you're wondering whether that term was only created to make you pay attention to the weather, you're not alone.
But "bomb cyclone" is a real meteorological term — as are the "explosive bombogenesis" and "polar vortex" coming along with this storm. Those names can make the phenomena sound more intense than the normal (though still potentially dangerous) winter events they describe. But the cold that comes with the polar vortex is no joke.
The term bomb cyclone dates back to a 1980 paper by Frederick Sanders and John Gyakum, which described the phenomenon as a "bomb." That sounds dramatic, but it actually refers to an extratropical surface cyclone: a storm occurring outside of tropics, usually between 30 and 60 degrees latitude if it happens in the Northern Hemisphere, whose central pressure falls at least 24 millibars over a 24-hour period.
Central pressure is the measure of how much the atmosphere in the middle of a storm weighs, and it's one of the key indicators of any cyclone's intensity. The lower the air pressure in the middle of the storm, the more intense that cyclone is. Normal air pressure is about 1010 millibars; when central pressure is lower than that, things become more turbulent, with more air movement and wind kicking up.
This particular storm looks like it's going to be intense, potentially dropping 45 millibars in 24 hours.
That could put it on an intensity level close to that of Hurricane Sandy.
When a storm undergoes a rapid pressure drop, that's known as "explosive bombogenesis." It happens on average between 40 and 50 times in the Northern Hemisphere each year, according to meteorologist Ryan Maue.
A storm that becomes this intense in such a quick period of time is worth paying attention to. The flooding and wind gusts that will come with the current weather system will be enough to down power lines. That's especially bad when it's really cold out — and if you've stepped outside on the East Coast lately, enough said.
The intense cold is likely to become worse in the aftermath of the storm, due to an expanded polar vortex.
The term polar vortex, which most of us didn't hear much about until 2014, describes the swirling low pressure masses of cold air that always surround Earth's poles, according to the National Weather Service.
Sometimes, that mass of air expands and gets pushed south, carried along with the jet stream, a stream of wind that extends around the hemisphere and divides the air masses in the polar region from those further south.
The air circulation coming with this imminent storm could help pull the jet stream and even more arctic air south, bringing temperatures to parts of the US that are simply too cold for people to safely be outside.
NOW WATCH: How El Niño and La Niña affect weather
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:19 PM PST
The new year is upon us, which means new technology is coming down the pike.
Last year saw the launch of a nearly bezel-less iPhone, fantastic new games like "PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds," a stunning (and not exploding!) Galaxy Note 8, and the ultra-loud Google Home Max — but the tech world isn't slowing down in 2018.
In order to prepare for the exciting year to come, members of Business Insider's tech team weighed in on what they're most looking forward to in 2018.
From new VR headsets to flagship phones, here's the tech we're most excited about:
SEE ALSO: The 17 biggest tech scandals of 2017
Oculus Go / Oculus Santa Cruz
Steven Tweedie, deputy editor:
"Oculus Go is Facebook's upcoming standalone headset, which will be its first to not require a gaming PC or Samsung smartphone — everything you need is contained in the headset itself. The relatively low price point and enclosed design should make casual VR use more of a thing, and should get more people trying out the medium, which is exactly what the VR ecosystem needs right now.
"The tracking will still be limited compared to the Oculus Rift when it comes to the level of tracking, but it comes with a motion controller and Oculus' library of games, which immediately gives it an advantage over other entry-level headsets, like Google's Cardboard or Samsung's Gear VR.
"Facebook's Santa Cruz headset will be the high-end alternative to Oculus Go, in that it won't require a PC or smartphone, but it will have a more robust tracking solution, allowing for people to lean down and around in addition to rotating their head. It will also feature hand controllers similar to Oculus' Touch controllers for the Rift. Oculus says Santa Cruz will be given out to developers in 'early 2018,' but there's no firm launch date for the consumer edition."
Samsung's Galaxy Note 9
Jim Edwards, editor-in-chief of Business Insider UK:
"I was a Note 5 user, and I considered it the most fun phone I've ever had. The stylus and the drawing app are much, much more powerful than you think they're going to be. The ivory-gold edition was also the most beautiful phone I ever used ... until I dropped it and put a big crack in the glass back.
"Anyway! One rumor is that Samsung will give the Note 9 a dual, or foldable, screen. I have no idea what this might be useful for, but one thing I like about Samsung's flagship products is that they are not afraid to add some crazy new thing to a phone, just to see what happens.
"If Samsung puts a bigger battery in the Note 9, or does something to make the battery last longer, that's going to make the Note 9 very tempting for me."
Microsoft's hinged tablet
Edoardo Maggio, tech reporter:
"I'd like to see some entirely new product, but I don't expect that to happen.
"If it does, however, I think Microsoft will make the biggest splash. I think at this point it's safe to assume that this Courier-like Surface [tablet] does exist, and we can bet that Microsoft will want to make sure it's a heavy hitter.
"And, considering their past few years in hardware, I'm not just excited, but pretty sure it might be a real bomb!"
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:14 PM PST
Apple recently admitted that it has been throttling the performance of certain iPhones with older batteries to prevent unexpected shutdowns.
For those curious, it turns out that it's not too difficult to see if your iPhone has been affected.
The reason behind the performance throttling actually makes sense: As older batteries degrade over time, they can't cope with the high demands of the iPhone's processor. To prevent unexpected shutdowns that sometimes occur when processors don't get enough power, the company dialed down the speeds of iPhone processors in units with overly degraded batteries.
Still, it's no secret that the company should have been more transparent about the practice. When owners of older iPhone experience slow performance, the usual course of action is to buy a new iPhone. But had they known that their iPhone's slowing performance was due to an aging battery, perhaps those users could have opted for a battery replacement, which is much cheaper than buying a new iPhone.
Here's how to see for yourself if your older iPhone's performance has been throttled:
1. Download an app that tells you the speed of your iPhone's main chip.
The app I'm using here is the free Lirum Info Lite, which provides a lot of information about your iPhone's internal activity.
2. In the Lirum Info Lite app, check the speed of your iPhone's main chip speed.
From the Lirum app's home screen, tap the options button on the top left (three horizontal lines) > tap "This Device" > tap "CPU" > and check the "CPU Actual Clock" against the "CPU Maximum Clock."
If both numbers are the same, then your iPhone isn't being throttled.
Here are the chip speeds for the iPhone 6 and newer.
Apple rolled out its performance throttling measures for the iPhone 6 and newer models to prevent unexpected shutdowns. Here are the original "clock speeds" – the measure of speed for a processor chip – for the iPhone 6 onwards:
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: 1.4GHz
iPhone 6S and 6S Plus: 1.84GHz
iPhone SE: 1.84GHz
iPhone 7 and 7 Plus: 2.34GHz
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:09 PM PST
A strange brightening-and-dimming behavior of Tabby's Star, or KIC 8462852, was first studied by professional astronomers in 2015. The researchers hadn't seen anything like it, and said they could not rule out alien activity as one remote yet possible cause, such as a Dyson sphere or "alien megastructure" built around the star to harvest its energy.
"It's been called the most mysterious star in the galaxy," Jason Wright, an astronomer at Penn State University who's studied Tabby's Star, told Business Insider. "We call it the 'WTF' star" (an abbreviation, he added, that stands for "where's the flux?").
Following a crowdfunded campaign to observe Tabby's Star in the most detail ever recorded, however, more than 200 scientists are now debunking the wildest explanation.
"There's no reason to think aliens have anything to do with Tabby's Star, given these data," Wright said.
Wright coauthored a new study about the star, published Wednesday in Astrophysical Journal Letters, that was led by Tabetha Boyajian, an astronomer at Louisiana State University who also spearheaded the new observations.
"Dust is most likely the reason why the star's light appears to dim and brighten," Boyajian in a press release.
The mystery of Tabby's Star
The weird dimming of Tabby's Star was first detected by NASA's Kepler space telescope, which stared down about 145,000 stars and measured their brightness from 2009 through 2013.
But the actual discovery was made in the 2010s by the "Planet Hunters," a group of volunteer citizen scientists who combed through Kepler data looking for tiny, characteristic dips in brightness caused by orbiting worlds. The project helped discover thousands of planets beyond the solar system, including a few dozen Earth-size and potentially habitable worlds.
During this effort, multiple volunteers described KIC 8462852 as an "interesting" and even "bizarre" star. Over periods ranging from five to 80 days, its brightness would dip a whopping 22% — an amount far greater than any planet in the solar system could cause by passing in front of the sun (and Tabby's Star is 50% larger and 1,000 degrees hotter than our sun).
By September 2015, Boyajian and other professional astronomers took a closer look at the data and confirmed the never-before-seen oddity.
Over the past two years, the scientists have floated a number of possible explanations (beyond the improbable suggestion of alien activity), including debris left by a destroyed planet, an oblong star that appeared to dim as it rotated, swarms of giant "exocomets", huge dust clouds, and dramatic changes within the star itself.
Without new observations, however, no one could be certain.
A crowdfunded astronomical discovery
Lacking quick access to a government observatory or a large source of funding for private observations, the research team turned to amateur astronomers and crowdfunding for help.
"If we can catch it in the act of getting dimmer, then we can point our telescopes at it, and we can study the material that's blocking the starlight," Wright said in a video for the group's 2016 Kickstarter campaign.
The effort ultimately raised over $107,000, and Boyajian, Wright and others purchased time on the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, which uses observatories contracted all over the world to continuously monitor an object of interest in space.
Observations for their "Where's the flux?" project, conducted from March through December 2017, measured Tabby's Star in a variety of wavelengths or "flavors" of light. The data show that whatever anomaly is obscuring Tabby's starlight doesn't block it completely — much more red light gets through than blue light, for instance.
"Whatever is passing between us and the star is not opaque, as would be expected from a planet or alien megastructure," Boyajian said.
The observations also suggest that the star, which is nicknamed after Boyajian, is not oblong-shaped. And it's unlikely that a planetary collision is causing the dimming, since a spike in temperature that such an event would cause hasn't been seen.
Wright likes the idea that a black hole surrounded by a bunch of dust is to blame, yet said it's a "dark horse idea." Not much else is yet known, he added, since the research team has analyzed only about 10% of its mountain of new data.
"It's overwhelming," Wright said. "It sort of feels like a Christmas where everyone gets you books, and at the end of the day you have this enormous stack — but you have no idea where to start or how long it's going to take to get through it all."
However long it takes, Wright says it's important to solve the mystery of Tabby's Star.
"Kepler only looked at one part of the sky, and this was one of 100,000 stars. But there are hundreds of billions of stars in the galaxy," he said. "So there could be billions of these out there, too."
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:08 PM PST
This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.
The downfall of US brick-and-mortar commerce is overblown — despite sharp gains in e-commerce, which will nearly double between now and 2021, the lion’s share of purchasing continues to take place in-store. And that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, since the online environment can’t yet compensate for the reasons customers like brick-and-mortar shopping.
That means the point-of-sale (POS) terminal, which merchants use to accept payments of all types and to complete transactions, isn’t going anywhere. But that doesn’t mean it’s not changing. As merchants look to cut costs amidst shifts in consumer shopping habits, POS terminals, which were once predominantly hardware offerings used exclusively for payment acceptance, are evolving into full-service, comprehensive solutions. These new POS terminals are providing an array of business management solutions and connected offerings to complement payment services.
This is where the smart terminal, a new product that’s part-tablet, part-register, comes in. Merchants are increasingly seeking out these offerings, which afford them the connectivity, mobility, and interoperability to run their entire business. And that’s shaking up the space, since it’s not just legacy firms, but also mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) players and newer upstarts, that offer these products.
As merchants begin demanding a wide variety of payment solutions, terminal providers are scrambling to meet their needs in order to maintain existing customers and attract new ones. This is leading to rapid innovation and increased competition in both the POS terminal hardware and software spaces.
BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has put together a detailed report on the shifts in this landscape, how leading players can meet them, and who’s doing it most effectively.
Here are some key takeaways from the report:
In full, the report:
Interested in getting the full report? Here are two ways to access it:
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 01:03 PM PST
Not every company in the off-grid water space preaches drinking unfiltered water, however. Zero Mass Water makes a type of solar panel array, called Source, that pull drinking water from vapor in the air. The system still filters the water and adds minerals to it.
At Rainbow Grocery, a co-op in the city's Mission District, a 2.5-gallon, glass orb of untreated water sells for $36.99. Proponents of "raw water" are particularly concerned about tap water because fluoride is added (which has been shown to improve dental hygiene) and some tap water flows through lead pipes.
Meanwhile, several health experts have warned that drinking untreated water can have serious health consequences. Even from the cleanest streams, unfiltered water can contain animal feces and spread diseases and contaminants including Giardia, Hepatitis A, cholera, and E. coli.
The hunt for off-the-grid water in the United States is not new, but several startups have popped up in recent years. A few of the most popular include Tourmaline Spring in Oregon (which bills its untreated water as "sacred, living water") and Live Water in Maine (which calls its product an "ancient life source").
A different type of off-grid water
Though Zero Mass has installed Sources everywhere from multimillion-dollar mansions in California to an orphanage in Lebanon, the company's goal is to make clean water easily accessible to more people around the world, according to CEO Cody Friesen. Zero Mass launched in late 2015, and Source became available in the US in late 2017.
Comprised of proprietary materials, the panels use sunlight to produce heat, which allows them to collect water vapor from the air. Friesen wouldn't disclose what the materials are, but said they are ideal for attracting humidity.
"Our technology pulls pure water from vapor in the air, yielding clean drinking water and leaving out any other materials. This is the opposite of 'raw water,' which is essentially untreated ground or surface water, which almost certainly contains any number of pathogens," a spokesperson from Zero Mass Water said.
Each panel costs $2,000 (plus a $500 installation fee) and generates an average of two to five liters of water daily, depending on humidity and sunlight. Source can work anywhere, and many arrays are deployed in deserts where water is scarce, Friesen said.
There are competitors in this space. Another similar water generator, the Off Grid Box, was developed by an Italian company in 2017. Like Zero Mass, the Off Grid Box uses solar panels and condensation to collect water from the air.
It's comprised of a 216-square-foot shipping container with a solar array on top. Once the extracted water is sterilized, the system deposits it into a storage tank inside the box. Off Grid Boxes are currently only available for preorder, but they were deployed in several areas in Rwanda and Puerto Rico last year.
Since 2000, NASA has also used atmospheric condensation in space stations, and the agency is working toward designing a device that will produce clean water from the Martian atmosphere.
While "raw water" may be sweeping Silicon Valley, there are clearly safer alternatives for those who don't want to drink traditional tap water.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 12:52 PM PST
But that's not true, and one big concern has kept many companies on the sidelines: security.
Companies have been slow to move from running applications and storing data on their own private servers to doing them on public clouds such as Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, a new study by McKinsey found. Only 40% of the companies studied had more than 10% of their workloads on public clouds.
Concerns about cybersecurity were holding many companies back, although attitudes are changing, McKinsey, a consulting company, found in the study, which surveyed 90 companies across multiple industries.
"Despite the benefits of public-cloud platforms, persistent concerns about cybersecurity for the public cloud have deterred companies from accelerating the migration of their workloads to the cloud," McKinsey said in its report. "Executives cited security as one of the top barriers to cloud migration, along with the complexity of managing change and the difficulty of making a compelling business case for cloud adoption."
Despite the lag, 80% of companies in the study said they plan to move more than 10% of their workloads onto public cloud systems or plan to double their use of cloud services in the next three years.
This prospective embrace of cloud services may be due to companies' chief information security officers (CISOs) beginning to trust the security provided by large service providers, according to the study.
Instead of asking whether big cloud providers such as AWS and Google are secure, CISOs are now primarily concerned with figuring out how to update their own security practices and hardware to be as secure as possible while using cloud services, McKinsey found.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 12:45 PM PST
It launched exclusively on PC back in March 2017, a $30 game available through the popular Steam digital storefront, and more recently on the Xbox One. Nearly 30 million people have already spent $30 for "PUBG" — yet, you can't play the biggest game of 2017 on a PlayStation 4, nor can you play it on Nintendo's wildly popular Switch console.
Eventually, you may be able to do just that — the matter of when is still up in the air.
"It’s going to be an exclusive title on Xbox One for some time," PUBG Corp. CEO Chang Han Kim told Inven Global in a recent interview. "The final goal," he said, "would be to launch the title on every platform."
A spokesperson for PUBG Corp. wouldn't even offer up that much when we asked for the official statement. "The team is focusing on the game’s PC and Xbox Game Preview versions, and has nothing further to share at this time," we were told via email.
The truth, of course, is more complicated.
With over 70 million PlayStation 4 consoles sold and an expected 14 million Nintendo Switch consoles sold by March, there's plenty of good reason to bring "PUBG" as many places as possible. But "PUBG" has an exclusivity agreement with Microsoft that keeps the game locked to the Xbox One for an unknown amount of time. It could be a year, or three months, or something completely different! All we know is there's some form of agreement.
The game's creative director, Brendan "PlayerUnknown" Greene, told us in June 2017 that the decision to go with Microsoft was a measure of the Xbox One "Game Preview" program, a version of Steam's Early Access program that allows the public to buy and play unfinished games.
"It allows us essentially to do Early Access on a console," Greene told us.
There is no equivalent game on Sony's PlayStation 4, same with Nintendo's Switch (the one exception on PlayStation 4 being "Fortnite"). Since the game's launch for Xbox One on December 12, "PUBG" has received several major updates — but it still has a long way to go before it's considered "complete." The game feels incomplete, with seams showing everywhere. There is no projected "launch" window for the game's 1.0 version on Xbox One, and without that, it's hard to guess when the game could arrive on the PS4 and Switch.
"We definitely do have plans for other platforms," Kim told us in an interview in June 2017. "But no details have been finalized yet."
It took the game's development studio, PUBG Corp., all of 2017 to get the game's PC version to 1.0. It's entirely possible that the Xbox One version will take the same amount of time, to say nothing of versions on other consoles, but we just don't know. But given how the game is available on PC and Xbox One right now, Kim mentioning "other platforms" — platforms being plural — the PlayStation 4 and Switch are obvious choices.
It's easy to understand why "PUBG" caught on: It's a crazy game that's different every time you play it. You're one of 100 people parachuting to a massive island that's been deserted, but only after it was heavily furnished with weapons, ammunition, energy drinks, and medical packs. As time counts down, early scrounging turns to tense skirmishes with one or many players. Will you be the last one standing?
"PUBG" arrived as an "Early Access" game on PC, meaning it wasn't fully complete. Audiences took to the game anyway, embracing its janky nature as key to its charm. For now, that experience is exclusive to PC and Xbox One owners, but "PUBG" will eventually come to other platforms.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 12:44 PM PST
President Donald Trump is following a mixed bag of characters on Twitter.
While his follower count rises — 45.8 million and growing — his following list is a fraction of the size.
So what are the 45 accounts Trump follows? They're his children, a bevy of Fox News hosts, and his own hotels and golf courses.
Here are all the accounts Trump follows on Twitter.
Ivanka Trump, Trump's eldest daughter.
Ivanka Trump is Donald Trump's second-eldest child and one of his closest advisers. She has stepped away from her business ties with the Trump Organization and her fashion label to move to Washington, DC, and work as an advisor to the president.
Donald Trump Jr., Trump's oldest son.
Donald Trump Jr. is the oldest son of Donald Trump and his first wife, Ivana, and has been working for the Trump Organization since shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania.
Piers Morgan, co-host of "Good Morning Britain."
Piers Morgan is a presenter on the British morning show "Good Morning Britain" and the US editor at large of Mail Online.
Morgan is a close friend of Trump's — Trump spent more time talking to Morgan on the phone after the election than he did with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 12:28 PM PST
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 11:28 AM PST
YouTuber Logan Paul apologized for and deleted the video, which depicts him coming across a body in a so-called suicide forest in Japan, on Monday. But by Wednesday, multiple copies of the video, which was originally posted late last month, were available on YouTube and had already garnered millions of views. Indeed, on Wednesday morning one copy was ranked second in YouTube's trending videos section, and another ranked 20th.
Those videos later disappeared from the trending section. But before they did, YouTuber Pia Muehlenbeck posted screenshots showing their ranking in the site's top-trending charts:
YouTube is removing some of the complete and partial copies of Paul's video when it determines they violate its guidelines, a company representative said in a statement. But the company isn't planning to remove all such videos.
"Videos containing parts of the original content without the graphic footage may remain up if they do not violate our guidelines," the representative said. "We are not removing these videos because many of them offer commentary and discussion on the original video."
Some of the copies of Logan's video include information about suicide prevention, a move that may have been designed to skirt YouTube's rules for posting graphic content.
On Tuesday, YouTube said Paul's video violated its policies and the company issued a "strike" against his page. But the fact that the video was uploaded again by other users and reached featured spots in a prominent section of the site echoes other problems the company has had maintaining control over what gets posted to and is promoted on its service.
In the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October, for example, YouTube highlighted fake news clips about the incident in its search results. In response, the company rushed out a change to its search algorithm that was designed to prevent it from promoting fake news stories by pushing up results from established media outlets and users.
But the Paul video illustrates another weakness in YouTube's systems. Users can copy a controversial video, upload it, and game the site's search engine to reach the top of its list of trending videos, even if the video is in violation of YouTube's standards.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 11:03 AM PST
This is a preview of a research report from BI Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service. To learn more about BI Intelligence, click here.
Advancements in artificial intelligence, coupled with the proliferation of messaging apps, are fueling the development of chatbots — software programs that use messaging as the interface through which to carry out any number of tasks, from scheduling a meeting, to reporting weather, to helping users buy a pair of shoes.
Foreseeing immense potential, businesses are starting to invest heavily in the burgeoning bot economy. A number of brands and publishers have already deployed bots on messaging and collaboration channels, including HP, 1-800-Flowers, and CNN. While the bot revolution is still in the early phase, many believe 2016 will be the year these conversational interactions take off.
In a new report from BI Intelligence, we explore the growing and disruptive bot landscape by investigating what bots are, how businesses are leveraging them, and where they will have the biggest impact. We outline the burgeoning bot ecosystem by segment, look at companies that offer bot-enabling technology, distribution channels, and some of the key third-party bots already on offer.
The report also forecasts the potential annual savings that businesses could realize if chatbots replace some of their customer service and sales reps. Finally, we compare the potential of chatbot monetization on a platform like Facebook Messenger against the iOS App Store and Google Play store.
Here are some of the key takeaways:
In full, the report:
Interested in getting the full report? Here are several ways to access it:
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 10:54 AM PST
On Tuesday, Polygon reported that Microsoft had killed the USB adapter for the ahead-of-its-time motion sensor for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. That adapter let the Kinect work with the modern Xbox One S and Xbox One X models, as well as Windows PCs. Microsoft had officially discontinued manufacture of the Kinect sensor itself in the Fall of 2017.
Back in 2015, we took a deep look at the history of the Kinect and its downfall. The story below was originally published on September 8th, 2015, now updated to reflect current facts.
When the Kinect for Xbox 360 was first demonstrated in June 2009, it looked like the future of technology.
By tracking your body with an advanced infrared camera, sensors, and a microphone, the $150 Kinect accessory let you control games and media using just your body and voice.
But then, after Microsoft sold about 29 million of them for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, it just kind of faded away.
Even Microsoft appears to have given up on it — the Xbox One originally required Kinect to function, but Microsoft dropped that requirement last year.
There are only a handful of Kinect games available for the Xbox One. And the current-model Xbox One S, and the forthcoming Xbox One X, no longer have the correct port to directly plug in a Kinect — you need an optional $40 adapter.
It looked like the future
The goal of Kinect was to broaden the Xbox 360 console's appeal beyond who you would typically think of as "gamers." Instead of playing games with intimidating and complicated controllers, you just had to move.
The Xbox 360 had been selling well since its 2005 introduction, but now needed something to set itself apart, as the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii were providing stiff competition.
The Kinect was intended to be a shot in the arm, extending the Xbox 360's appeal and providing a new platform for games and content that could take it into the future. Microsoft Corporate Vice President Shane Kim once claimed that the Kinect would mean that the Xbox 360 could stay on the market through 2015.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer even tellingly referred to the Kinect as a "new Xbox" in one presentation.
At first, everything looked like it was going according to plan.
The Kinect launched with tons of fanfare — and a $500 million marketing budget — November 4, 2010, with the tagline "You Are the Controller." Oprah Winfrey even gave away Xbox 360s and Kinects on an episode of her show.
You could either buy it separately for $150 or with an Xbox 360 in bundles starting at $299. The Xbox 360 interface itself was given a revamp to be more Kinect-friendly.
The press, especially the non-gaming mainstream media, ate it up and gave the Kinect glowing reviews. And within 60 days, Microsoft sold 8 million Kinects, earning it the Guinness World Record of "fastest-selling consumer device."
Developers started to line up to make games for the device, too, with 17 available at launch, including "Kinect Adventures," a Microsoft-made game that came packaged with the Kinect sensor.
Most of those games were panned by reviewers: "Critics are complaining about a lack of solid launch titles for the new control system; only 'Dance Central' seems to have anything to recommend it," said a Metacritic roundup of launch titles at the time.
But people realized it was new technology, and they were willing to give it time. Even when people noticed that you needed a lot of space to make good use of the Kinect sensor, nobody seemed to mind moving their furniture.
At least, not at first.
Problem #1: Not enough great games
A slow but steady trickle of Kinect games came out over the following months, but a lot of them fell into the "family entertainment" or "fitness trainer" veins, far from the core gamer demographic that made up most of the Xbox 360-owning audience.
Worse, a lot of the titles got poor reviews, alienating those many who bought an Xbox 360 just to play Kinect games.
Microsoft convinced a lot of larger publishers of marquee franchise games to integrate Kinect features into their gameplay, but they were largely gimmicky — I'll never forget the time my friend got a red card in "FIFA 15" soccer for the Xbox 360 because the Kinect's microphone caught him swearing.
We asked a former Xbox insider familiar with the development of the Kinect why it was so hard to find any good games that did cool things with the sensor.
The simple answer is that the best of the best developers simply weren't interested because they had invested so much in making their existing, lucrative, big-budget franchises work frighteningly well with a traditional controller.
"'Halo' doesn't need Kinect — it has an incredibly precise and detailed control set, and further, can't give a Kinect user an unfair advantage over non-Kinect owners," the former Xbox insider says.
In other words, even if top-tier developers thought it was cool, they weren't going to blow the time and budget to make it work with their existing games.
Plus, you didn't need a Kinect to play those games, so many players likely didn't even know there was any integration in those games at all.
At the same time, circa the early 2010s, those developers who were best suited to creating really new, innovative games for non-gaming crowds were starting to shift their efforts toward the iPhone and Android platforms, where there was cash and a rapidly growing audience to be found, the insider says.
Problem #2: "85% magic, 15% frustrating"
The Kinect also introduced voice commands and a gesture interface to the Xbox 360 itself. You could pause a movie with your voice, or log in to your account on the console by standing in front of the camera.
But as cool as that all sounded, the Kinect was still a new technology, and there were some glitches with those cool new interface tricks.
"It does do magic, but only 85% correctly. When you encounter the 15%, it's frustrating," the former Xbox insider said.
Serious gamers care about precise movements, like landing a perfect Super Combo in "Street Fighter IV" or nailing a headshot in "Call of Duty." Similarly, if you have voice controls for a movie, it had better work the first time, or else you're just shouting "pause" at your TV over and over.
In both cases, it wasn't quite the totally accurate experience that people wanted.
"It's essentially a less precise replacement for a lot of things which, once the novelty wears off, is not valued by the market. So it's real value is for new experiences impossible before without it. There isn't enough interest or investment in those," the ex-insider says.
Problem #3: It required a lot of space.
Worse, the longer people used Kinect, the more they found places and situations where it just fell short and didn't work as well as it should have.
In my apartment, playing a Kinect game requires moving furniture around to give the sensor the field of view that it needs to work well. It's a big problem for lots of gamers, since you need 6 to 10 feet between you and the sensor.
Try playing that in a dorm room or small apartment.
"I'd be surprised if even 20% of rooms with Xboxes 'work well' for the really new/fun experiences," the former Xbox insider says.
Meanwhile, you can sit on a couch in a room of any size and play a more traditional video game.
A second push with the Xbox One
Despite these pros, Kinect adoption was fairly strong, at least partially because Microsoft was pushing it as part of those bundles with the wildly popular Xbox 360 console.
But not every Xbox 360 owner took the plunge: In January 2012, Microsoft announced that it had sold 18 million Kinects versus 66 million total Xbox 360 consoles.
A year after later, in February 2013, Microsoft Xbox community relations head Larry Hryb announced on Twitter that the company had sold 24 million Kinects for 76-million-plus Xbox 360 consoles, which suggests — but doesn't prove — that most of them were sold bundled with the console.
Microsoft wasn't ready to give up on the Kinect just yet, though.
When the Xbox One was first introduced in November 2013, Microsoft made the shocking announcement that the new console would come with and require a new version of the Kinect sensor. That meant the Xbox One would cost $499 versus the competing Sony PlayStation 4's $399 price tag.
In exchange for the $100 premium over the competition, Microsoft promised that the new system would provide an unprecedented user experience, including immersive games and television shows that you could actually interact with. Plus, it shipped with Bing-powered search and the Internet Explorer browser preinstalled.
For Microsoft, it was all part of its long-time ambition to place a computer in the living room. With the Kinect, Microsoft thought it had made a user-friendly multimedia hub with a natural interface that anybody could use for both games and media.
The Xbox One's core gamer demographic hated the idea. When the Xbox One hit the market in November 2013, it was quickly outsold by the cheaper PlayStation 4 for months after its launch. At one point, the PlayStation 4 outsold the Xbox One at a factor of 3 to 1. That early lead means PlayStation 4 still dominates the Xbox One in sales.
Microsoft refused to relent and doubled down on its message that the Kinect was the future.
That message was undercut by the fact that the Xbox One only launched with one game that needed the Kinect: The incredibly, poorly reviewed "Fighter Within," with a 23% average on review aggregation site Metacritic.
Furthermore, the actual Kinect for Xbox One sensor itself turned out to only be a minor improvement on the first, with some new, but still gimmicky, integrations with the interface. For instance, you could take a screenshot in a game by asking the Kinect, nicely, to do so.
The final retreat
In April 2014, the flagship "Kinect Sports Rivals" came out for the Xbox One. Published by Microsoft, it was going to be a big, if belated, showcase for what the new Kinect could do. It was a big bet for the company, with a team of 150 working on the title.
Instead, it ended up wildly underselling, ultimately getting written off as a massive loss that led to layoffs at developer studio Rare, according to reports at the time.
In May 2014, Microsoft finally relented on its insistence on the Kinect sensor and announced that it would sell a version of the Xbox One console without it for $399 — recently marked down again to $349. You can still buy a Kinect bundled with the Xbox One system for $499 or by itself for $150.
The move has significantly helped Xbox One's sales, and the gap between it and the leading Sony PlayStation 4 is getting smaller by the quarter.
But it meant that the estimated 5 million Xbox One owners who had bought their console before the Kinect unbundling were stuck with an accessory they didn't necessarily want in the first place. Meanwhile, only a handful of games support Kinect for Xbox One at all, and of those only a few received decent reviews.
And with the novelty gone after the first generation of Kinect for Xbox 360, even the most optimistic Xbox fans were out of patience with the device.
"Microsoft has only itself to blame for Kinect's failure," said a headline on Microsoft news site Neowin in May 2014.
The gloves were off.
The article's author noted that no new big flagship games had been announced for the Kinect for Xbox One — not even from Microsoft itself. That remained true for the rest of the lifetime of the Kinect.
In addition, Microsoft actually closed the TV studio it had opened to provide interactive TV content with Kinect in October 2014. In 2016, with the release of the Xbox One S, Microsoft removed the built-in Kinect port, requiring users to use an external USB adapter. That adapter was, in turn, officially discontinued at the end of 2017.
In other words, it really seems like Kinect had been swept under a rug, even before the official discontinuation.
Not game over
There's an interesting coda here: The Kinect has found a strange second life outside gaming.
Its nifty motion-tracking tech has a ton of other applications. In 2010, Adafruit CEO Limor Fried released a set of unofficial drivers to make the Kinect for Xbox 360 work with Windows — which allegedly annoyed Microsoft at first, but they came around and released an official version down the line.
From there, artists and robotics hobbyists started working the Kinect into all kinds of projects, Fried tells Business Insider.
This bizarre "PomPom Mirror" art piece uses a Kinect to match your motion, for example:
Elements of the Kinect made it into Windows itself: Windows Hello, the facial recognition system built into select Windows 10 PCs, uses similar infrared-tracking technology as the Kinect to work.
In short, with 23 million Kinects sold for the Xbox 360, and at least 5 million Xbox Ones sold that included the sensor, it's a little funny, and a little sad, that Microsoft couldn't make it work as the future of gaming.
But at least it's getting good use somewhere.
And when the Microsoft HoloLens, its futuristic wearable computer, comes out with a consumer version down the line, it's going to face a lot of the same problems with finding a niche. Notably, Kinect's product lead, Alex Kipman, is also responsible for the HoloLens.
Microsoft has become wary of trying to appease hardcore gamers alone, it seems.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 10:39 AM PST
Over the holidays, dual-CEO Jack Dorsey took a break from running Twitter and Square to try a silent meditation known as Vipassana for 10 days.
Vipassana — an ancient Buddhist meditation technique that frequently involves 10 days of silence — is gathering fans in Silicon Valley. The practice aims to calm and focus the mind through a strict code of silence and promises increased awareness, self-control, and peace. In a tweet, Dorsey revealed that he carried out the practice over Christmas and New Year's.
"Just finished a 10 day silent meditation. Wow, what a reset! Fortunate & grateful I was able to take the time," Dorsey wrote on Twitter.
An increasing number of tech workers, from author-podcaster Tim Ferriss to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, swear by meditation as the secret to their success. Companies are embracing the idea that employees' mental health is directly tied to their performance, with Facebook and LinkedIn shelling out for on-the-clock "life coaching" for mid-level managers. At Benioff's behest, Salesforce will add a meditation room on every floor of its new tower in San Francisco.
Dorsey's decision to try Vipassana meditation shows the lengths that some tech moguls will go to find peace in and out of the workplace.
Vipassana is an extreme type of meditation
Vipassana, which means to see things as they are, dates back thousands of years to the teachings of the Buddha. After his enlightenment, the spiritual leader was said to rediscover the ancient practice and share it with millions of people across northern India.
The practice fell out of popularity until Burmese-Indian meditation guru S.N. Goenka began teaching classes on Vipassana in India in the 1970s. By the time he died in 2013, Goenka's students had established 200 retreat centers around the world for meditation.
In Goenka's tradition, beginners are required to learn the art of Vipassana over a 10-day silent retreat. Participants abide by a set of rules: no sex, drugs, lying, stealing, religious worship, reading, writing, or physical contact. Communication is strictly prohibited, whether by speech, gestures, or notes.
Supporters say that such a disciplined approach allows the mind to turn inward and reflect. The result is a purging of negative thought patterns and habits and an understanding of how one creates suffering and how to be free from it, according to online resource Dhamma.org.
Silicon Valley goes all in
The Bay Area Vipassana Trust organizes the largest annual retreat in the US with over 240 participants, and is working to establish a center in Silicon Valley. Karen Donovan and her husband, Tim, have been teaching classes in Goenka's tradition for more than 20 years and oversee the non-profit group.
"Most people come to our courses because they're seeking some kind of peace of mind, some perspective on the things that are making them unhappy in their lives," Donovan told Business Insider. She added, "people who just want to learn to meditate" can find instruction elsewhere.
A schedule for a typical day of one of their retreats shows how intense it can be.
All retreats are paid for by the donations of grateful past participants.
Donovan was unsurprised to learn that Dorsey has dipped his toes in Vipassana. Many of the volunteers who support the Bay Area Vipassana Trust, through teaching or serving on a committee, come from the tech industry. Donovan and her husband hold their massive annual retreat in Occidental, California, around the holidays to accommodate their schedules.
"We love the idea of serving so many students at that time of year when so many companies have forced shut downs, like in the tech world," Donovan said.
She suggested that Vipassana may appeal to high-profile tech bosses like Dorsey because it requires critical-thinking and logic.
"Anyone who thinks about how the mind works and realizes how they suffer starts to look around for some relief. Our practice of Vipassana means'insight,'" she said.
Dorsey uses meditation to run both Twitter and Square
On December 21, Dorsey fired off his last tweet before a 10-day meditation: an emoji showing hands clasped in prayer. He returned to Twitter on New Year's Day — hashtag "#Vipassana."
Since 2015, Dorsey has served as the CEO of both Twitter and Square. Dorsey finds balance by following a uniformed schedule. He spends mornings at Twitter and afternoons at Square. And in 2015, he said he begins his day at 5 a.m. with a brief meditation.
Tech workers took to Twitter to praise Dorsey for his Vipassana practice.
The Twitter CEO didn't reveal much else about his meditation, other than saying that the "only music I wanted to listen to after 10 days of silence" was Kendrick Lamar's "Damn" album.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 10:36 AM PST
That's because Tesla had racked up an unprecedented 400,000-plus preorders for the Model 3, and it was assumed that once the car launched in mid-2017, it would rapidly outpace the Bolt in deliveries.
The outpacing hasn't happened yet — far from it. Tesla will probably deliver only a few thousand Model 3's for all of 2017. (We'll find out this week, most likely, when the company releases its fourth-quarter and full-year numbers.)
Meanwhile, the Bolt has exceeded expectations, with almost 24,000 sales in total in 2017 and a fairly impressive 3,000-plus in December. If the trend continues, Chevy could see 5,000 monthly Bolt sales well before Tesla gets anywhere near that mark.
I suspect some of those Bolt sales could be attributed to, ironically, Tesla. The Model 3 hyped up the idea of an affordable, long-range EV, pressured GM to get into the game, and now that the Model 3 is falling far short of Tesla's goals, a significant number of buyers are choosing a Bolt.
This, unfortunately for Tesla, is what happens when demand can't be matched by product. It's a common occurrence in the auto industry; automakers suffer, for example, if they're trying to sell passenger cars when everybody wants to buy compact SUVs. Obviously, it's not as if people don't want to buy the Model 3 — and I think there's a good chance that the market is much bigger than the huge preorder tally would indicate.
For much of 2016, it was easy to scoff at all the "Tesla-killers" en route to market. That mountain of Model 3 preorders made the scoffing effortless. But with the Bolt a sudden success, a Tesla Model 3 killer, at least, is what GM has on its hands.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 10:35 AM PST
"Twitter should ban Trump!" "Doesn't this violate Twitter's terms of service?" "Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is complicit!"
That entire line of thought is ill-conceived.
But first, the tweet.
Amid what was really a days-worth of tweetstorming about everything from the "deep state" to promising a "fake news" awards ceremony on Monday, Trump unloaded a tweet that had many fearing the possible outbreak of nuclear war with North Korea.
Responding to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's New Year's Day claim that the entire US is within range of their nuclear weapons and that "a nuclear button is always on my desk," Trump went full Trump.
"North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the 'Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,'" Trump tweeted. "Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"
The backlash was instantaneous. Pundits, politicians, and foreign policy wonks were questioning his mental state. And, as is the case with many of Trump's tweets, Twitter users began flagging it to the company for abuse.
One group, calling itself "Resistance SF," projected a message on the side of Twitter's San Francisco headquarters reading "@jack is #complicit," obviously aimed at Twitter's CEO.
The group claiming responsibility for the projection, "Resistance SF," explained the message via its Facebook page:
"@jack breaks the rules of his own company, Twitter," the group explained on Facebook. "Jack Dorsey must resign or ban @realDonaldTrump."
Responding to the backlash, Twitter said the provocative tweet does not violate its terms of service, insisting that the tweet did not amount to a "specific threat," and thus didn't warrant any disciplinary action. Last month, Twitter introduced a new abuse policy virtually exempts Trump from punishment on the platform.
And that's exactly how it should be.
"Suspending Trump’s account is a singularly idiotic idea"
The president of the United States — or any other world leader — should not be treated in a similar manner as some neo-Nazi launching harassment campaigns at fellow tweeters. Trump's tweets, as potentially harmful as they may be, provide a window into his thinking that has proven invaluable in the course of public action that has followed his presidency.
His tweets have been used against him in courts reviewing, in particular, his travel ban. They're certainly under consideration by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia's role in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump is the president — and no matter your thoughts on him, it's important to have his tweets as a part of the national discussion.
As liberal New Republic writer Jeet Heer wrote earlier this year:
"Suspending Trump’s account is a singularly idiotic idea."
"The problem with Trump is not that he tweets out mean things but that he’s president of the United States," he continued. "Because he’s a powerful figure, there is a manifest public interest in being able to access his thoughts and get a sense of what he considers to be important, which Twitter allows the public to do."
Additionally, say Twitter bans Trump from its platform. What's to stop him from putting out the same commentary on Facebook, Instagram, on TV, through the White House press office, or through any of the other means by which the leader of the free world can project his thinking to the masses.
Banning Trump from Twitter doesn't stop anything other than his ability to convey the message in a tweet.
After CNN's Brian Stelter brought up the possibility of the tweet violating Twitter's terms of services, White House social media director Dan Scavino said the following:
"You and all of your liberal friends have NOTHING," he said. "Keep calling Twitter 😭 "
He may just have a point.
Posted: 03 Jan 2018 10:31 AM PST
That's how 22-year-old actress-turned-director Quinn Shephard began when she sat down at a coffee shop in Manhattan's East Village to talk with Business Insider about her feature directing debut, "Blame" (opening Friday in theaters and On Demand).
Shephard has acted professionally since she was five years old, and has the personality and looks that could easily get her on an upcoming series made by The CW, but these days she's more interested in music rights and color correction. That's because for the last two years, she has dedicated her life to making a feature-length movie that's been developing in her mind since she was 15.
A storyteller since birth
Growing up in Metuchen, New Jersey, Shephard's teenage years were filled with telling stories. When she was 12 she hand wrote a 300-page novel. It's currently in a binder somewhere in the basement of her parents' house. Also around that time, she began to make short films after taking a filmmaking class at school. Then at 15, after reading "The Crucible," she decided she would do a feature-length modern retelling of Arthur Miller's classic play.
"I've always loved writing," Shephard said. "This movie is me making something that I really wanted to do since I was a teenager."
Shephard's script for "Blame" went through numerous phases in the years before shooting began, but the basic story was always there — a girl (played by Shephard) is fixated on her high school drama teacher, and that leads a jealous classmate to concoct a witch hunt-like investigation to reveal the alleged taboo relationship.
To get the script from an unmakable 130 pages to a point where she was able to cast "The Mindy Project" star Chris Messina in the teacher role, and Nadia Alexander (USA series "The Sinner") as the jealous classmate (Melissa), Shephard honed her storytelling technique by writing more feature scripts. She also made short films, including "Till Dark" in 2015, about a boy's obsession with his childhood friend.
"Till Dark" was an exciting moment in the process for Shephard. Many of the crew on the short would make "Blame" with her the summer of that year. There was finally a light at the end of the tunnel.
Looking back, Shephard said making "Till Dark" was a great calling card to land Messina and other key crew members, but in getting ready for the rigors of feature filmmaking, "it doesn't prepare you at all" she said.
When everything that could go wrong, does
Shephard produced "Blame" with her mother, Laurie. The only career experience they had making movies was their time on set as actresses — Laurie's main highlight was being on a few episodes of "Days of Our Lives" in 1993; Quinn has been in numerous TV series and movies since she was five, her biggest being a regular on CBS' "Hostages" in 2013.
Despite their efforts to land an experienced producer to come on the movie, it never materialized. This left the Shephards to learn on the fly what producers do behind the scenes.
"Everything that possibly could go wrong did go wrong," Shephard said, recalling her mom constantly reading the book "Producer to Producer: A Step-By-Step Guide to Low-Budget Independent Film Producing" for guidance.
"That was her go-to," Shephard said. "It was that level of inexperience on how to produce."
Then the movie was hit with what all producers fear the most — its sole investor suddenly disappeared.
It happened the first week of shooting "Blame." With cast and crew flown to Metuchen, where the movie would be shot, a wire transfer of money that was promised to the Shephards never appeared.
"It was literally, 'Wire transfer coming on Tuesday,' and never heard from him again," Shephard said (she would not give the investor's name, only saying he was a filmmaker that she and her family had known for a long time).
"We never got an explanation, he just ghosted one day," Shephard continued. "I never heard from him again."
Shephard then had to make a vital decision: pull the plug or continue on with the movie.
"We felt we couldn't turn back," she said. "This was something we had spent so many years trying to get off the ground, if we had to bail on it when we were right there it would have been the most heartbreaking thing."
Shephard decided to cash in her college fund and take the money she had from being on "Hostages" to self-finance her movie.
"I felt, I would rather be totally broke than have a broken spirit," said Shephard, who would not give a specific budget for "Blame," only saying it is under $250,000.
Finishing the movie at any cost
The money got Shephard through the 19-day shoot — which was mostly shot in her old high school in Metuchen — but it pretty much left no funds for post production.
So Shephard edited the movie herself.
Thanks to discounts and in-kind support from a post-production house in Montreal, and the kindness of a few crew members, Shephard took two trips to Montreal to edit, score, and do other post-production elements (sound mix and color correction).
For her first trip, Shephard stayed in the studio of composer Pierre-Philippe Côté as they created the score. She then lived with his aunt while editing at the post-production house. On the second trip, she stayed in the basement of Sylvain Brassard, her sound mixer.
"The second trip I couldn't afford a plane ticket so I took the Megabus to Montreal," Shephard said. "I did this thing at any cost."
The post-production hustle paid off. When Shephard began to show the movie around people were shocked by its look, which to someone who doesn't know the backstory looks like it was made for the high six-figures to $1 million.
"Blame" got its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, where Alexander won the best actress award for the Melissa role. Soon after the festival, Samuel Goldwyn Films bought the North American rights to the movie.
Telling teen stories with adult topics
Alexander told Business Insider she believed it was the comfort of being directed by someone the same age as her that led to her acclaimed performance.
"It gives you your own unique power that you wouldn't necessarily get on a set with a 45-year-old director and producers running around," Alexander said of working with a peer. "Making Melissa a lot more crass with the boys was my suggestion to Quinn, so I had a comfort to come forward and say to her, 'I want to do this with the character.'"
Actress Sarah Mezzanotte, who plays Melissa's friend Sophie, said she could feel the movie's authenticity right from the pages she read for her audition.
"I knew immediately that it was written by a young female," she said. "You can tell when something isn't written authentically. I could tell this was by someone who understands what it's like to be a young woman struggling with identity and fitting in."
Shephard is now preparing to tell her stories on a larger scale.
Following Tribeca, she landed an agent at WME and plans to cut down her acting considerably to focus on writing and directing. She said she's close to landing a feature directing project at a studio as well as a TV project.
"'Blame' is a proof of concept," Shephard said. "It has shown that there's a place for me to do my genre, which is teens dealing with adult topics. Giving three-dimensional plotlines to young women in a way that I don't think is represented right now. Many of my favorite shows and movies are these complex stories about middle-aged men. I think it's time to tell complex stories focused on teenage girls."
Shephard is at that moment in a career when being in the same room with movie stars, and taking meetings with executives, can lead to getting too caught up in the glossy side of Hollywood. But she said she's stayed grounded. She only recently created an Instagram account, and it was because she wanted to better connect with teens who are searching for inspiration.
"I've gotten emails from girls who are 15, 16 years old, who said they read about me and now have signed up for a filmmaking course or started working on a script with their friends," Shephard said. "They said, 'I didn't think there was any point for me trying to do this at this age because I thought I would have to go to college or film school.' It's important that we have young women in the media. I'm not trying to say I'm a role model, but it's important if you have an opportunity to reach young women you make them see that they can be businesswomen and run the show. So if my story makes them feel that in any way then it was worth it."
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