Saturday, October 04, 2014
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Technology Today Magazine:
What’s new in electronic entertainment: More interconnectivity, and yet evolving
By Derek Hurley

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[October 04, 2014]  LINCOLN - A person looking for entertainment has access to more media than ever before, but it can also be a little overwhelming. Here is a look at some of the ways in which technology has allowed for such a wide range of ways to stay entertained. While the technology itself is not so different from the last decade, it is the way we use it that has influenced entertainment.

Books and Reading

The reader of today no longer has to make a journey to the book store to find the latest best sellers. For those who wish to keep their hard copies safe on the shelves at home, the Internet has allowed for a greater distribution of books through online purchases.

The benefit for readers is the ability to purchase books online through Amazon or other popular websites. However, in recent years there has been a push towards digital copies of books. Books of all ages and genres are being uploaded to shopping sites in the form of PDF files and E-Reader documents.

With such technology, it has become possible for readers to read their libraries via a tablet or even their phone. It is easier to keep track of where they left-off, and the threat of spilling liquids or getting food stains on the pages becomes less of a problem. In addition, a series of books can now be stored on a flash drive attached to a key ring. It is certainly easier to carry a flash drive instead of a stack of books with pages numbering in the thousands.

The novel is not the only type of story that is benefitting from the creation of the digital library. Comic books and magazines have also become a popular purchase on the Internet. Companies such as Marvel and DC comics, or popular magazines such as People, have offered digital subscriptions for the past few years.

An overall benefit to these digital purchases comes in the form of repetition. It is entirely possible now for someone to download a book or a magazine multiple times, so long as they have purchased it once. Even if a reader’s hard drive is destroyed, they can rebuild their library with a click of the mouse.

For those readers who want to find older pieces, such as teachers and students, the technology of the Internet has also allowed for access to the texts of the past. Archives like Project Gutenberg contain thousands of texts that we often consider to be “classic,” so long as there is no current copyright issue. For example, if a teacher wants to assign a reading of Shakespeare, but they do not want to make the class purchase another book, an archive like Project Gutenberg will have multiple copies of Shakespeare’s work available for a free download.

On the part of the author, it has become easier for those who wish to write to post their material online with new methods of self-publishing. Web services are offered through Amazon, Lulu, or other similar websites.

These websites allow for would-be writers to submit their own written files, complete with options for covers and bindings. Some websites provide access to a network of editors who will review material for a fee. Due to the increase in popularity of these services, publishing companies have begun scouring these databases for new talent.

Music and audio entertainment

Related to reading, audio books have continued on into the new world of entertainment because of the Internet. In the past, books could be bought on tape and listened to with a portable tape player or in a car. While these types of audio books have not gone away, they are no longer the only method of hearing a book read aloud.

Services such as allow for narrated books to be purchased and stored online in a manner similar to electronic documents. Not only are books sold this way, but articles can be purchased and listened to as well. In addition, there are other services, such as Librivox, which allow for volunteers to narrate books (under public domain) for free downloads.

In addition to books, audio technology has allowed for a greater access to radio channels and music catered to the listener. Following in the footsteps of satellite radio, the Internet has become populated with websites that allow for listeners to create their own radio playlists based on genre or artist.

Listeners can also tag songs they like in order to hear more music that is similar. For example, using the Pandora radio app, one can create a station solely for classic rock or country or even classical music. In addition, these genres can be mixed together into one station.

Another popular audio-based piece of entertainment media is the podcast. A podcast is similar to NPR in the sense that most podcasts focus on a discussion among a group of people over certain topics. A search for podcasts yields results in discussions of politics, science, history, movies, video games, music, art and … almost anything one could have a discussion about. Podcasts can be saved on a hard drive and listened to repeatedly.

In the vein of radio, technology has allowed for audience participation in podcast discussions. With the availability of Twitter, it has become common online for popular podcast creators to inform their listeners of when they will be recording. As a result, it has become common to listen to a recording live and contribute via text messages in a manner similar to callers on a radio show.

Video Technology

Video cameras have become increasingly prevalent in today’s devices. Phones, laptops, tablets -- it seems like most devices come with a camera of some kind built in. As a result, it has become easy for people to find entertainment via the recorded escapades of other people.

The most popular name among video entertainment on the web is YouTube. More often than not any other website can support an embedded YouTube clip somewhere on the page. Due to the popularity of YouTube, it has become commonplace in recent years for viewers to supplement, or possibly even replace, their television viewing with regular uploads from YouTube channels. In addition, it is possible to find older television shows that are no longer airing on sites such as YouTube.

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With the rise of YouTube viewers has come an increase in content creators online. A new field of entertainers has risen in the last ten years as a result. It is possible now to partner with YouTube directly to receive compensation based on a YouTube channel. These channels typically come in the form of vlogs (shorthand for video blogs). Vlogs work the same as a written column, save for the format.

Another example, following in the footsteps of Myspace and Facebook, it is common for bands to host a YouTube channel.

Finally, for those who play video games or merely want to watch someone else, the “Let’s Play” video has become a source for literally hours of entertainment, thanks to the use video recording devices that can be hooked up to game consoles or computers. These videos can also be used as a form of game reviews, utilized visuals rather than written text. (A word of warning -- a lot of “Let’s Play” content on the Internet is rated for mature audiences.)

With the rise of digital technology comes the introduction of On-Demand video streaming. On-Demand streaming allows for the instant provision of a television show or movie, usually with advertisements. Unlike a televised broadcast, these videos can be played repeatedly, although some websites, such as Hulu, rotate certain shows on and off of their websites.

On the topic of Hulu, it is not uncommon today to find that websites are creating their own televised content without the need for television. Netflix, once known mostly for movie rentals through the mail, now has numerous shows available for streaming, as does Amazon Prime, who most people think of as only a shopping website.

Gaming and Consoles

Gaming consoles of the past could play music CD’s and DVD’s in addition to the games that were played. Microsoft and Sony, in designing recent consoles, stepped up their game, so to speak, by focusing on the increasing demand for online connectivity via consoles. However, modern entertainment-seekers are not always content with larger multiplayer options.

Much like a Smartphone, Internet connectivity has allowed for the creation of apps for the Xbox and Playstation lines. Owners of these consoles may download apps for video streaming, storing music, browsing the Web, and more. The most recent generation of consoles allows for the sharing of video clips between players via video streaming.

When Nintendo created the Wii in 2006, they opened the doors for the next addition to gaming; motion control. Since then, Microsoft has attempted twice to take motion control gaming to the next stage with the Kinect, meeting with varying degrees of success. Sony attempted the same with the Playstation Move.

In any case, motion control gaming peripherals allow for the body to become part of the gaming experience, as players have to move controllers (as seen with Nintendo products) or their whole bodies via cameras and sensors (seen with the Kinect). It is this type of technology that contributes to virtual reality consoles such as the Oculus Rift, a console that the player wears over their eyes to look into a virtual setting. The machine, which is still in development, tracks the user’s head movements in order to create a more immersive gaming experience.

In addition to apps and motion controls, modern gaming has also introduced the idea of disc-less gaming. Today’s game-player, through the use of Internet connectivity and the Cloud, can purchase and store games digitally, instead of having to purchase physical copies. In addition, because of the lack of necessity for discs or cartridges, game companies are re-releasing older titles from previous generations on to newer consoles, sometimes with updated graphics and tighter control schemes. Finally, the lack of a need for discs allows for independent developers to release games alongside the big-name titles.

In addition to consoles, the most popular games today, such as Angry Birds or Candy Crush, are played using touch screens on phones and tablets rather than televisions. In fact, the popularity of these games has led to an increase in game-playing by all generations, thanks to the relative ease of touch-screen control and easy access.

So, thanks to technology that has come along in recent years, especially that of the Internet, entertainment has entered a new age. This new age, while built on the technology that came before, is different in a very interesting set of ways, and it is hard to imagine anything that might come next.

NOTE: Many libraries offer digital and Internet related services. The Lincoln Public Library offers numerous types of media mentioned in this article for informative or entertainment purposes including audiobooks, eBooks, music and videos. Visit the Lincoln Public Library District services page or stop in and talk to the friendly staff to hear what the library has to offer. http://www.lincolnpubliclibrary

Read all the articles in our New
Technology Today Magazine

Introduction to Technology Today 2
Are we living in the "Next Generation?" 4
It might not be the weather you want, but forecasts have improved 8
What's new in electronic entertainment:  More interconnectivity, and yet evolving 13
What we can probably expect in the next verstion of Microsoft Windows 18
Internet Technology:  The ups and downs of computing in the cloud 21

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