Netflix’s Interactive Shows Let You Drive the Plot

Netflix’s first attempt at interactive storytelling hit the service on Tuesday, starting with a new standalone animated episode called Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale. During the episode, viewers – kids, predictably – will be asked to make a decision about a dozen times, which will affect the story and length of the show.

For example, viewers will have the option to choose whether the bears faced by Puss in Boots will be friends or foes, and whether it should kiss a queen or just go for a simple handshake. Depending on the choices made, the new episode – Puss in Book – will last anywhere between 18 to 39 minutes, with prompts coming in every two to four minutes.

The new experiment, as Netflix is calling it, is only available on modern smart TVs, streaming media players, game consoles, and iOS devices for now. With a TV, you’ll need a remote control, while a finger tap is enough on a phone. It won’t work on the Netflix website, Android, Chromecast, and Apple TV, where the episode will play as a linear 23-minute version.

“The children’s programming space was a natural place for us to start since kids are eager to ‘play’ with their favourite characters and already inclined to tap, touch and swipe at screens,” Netflix’s director of product innovation, Carla Engelbrecht Fisher, said in a blog. “They also talk to their screens, as though the characters can hear them. Now, that conversation can be two-way.”

Netflix's Interactive Shows Let You Drive the PlotNot only does it put viewers in control of the experience, it also gives kids a reason to rewatch the same episode to find out the different storylines if they so desire. For Netflix, as always, the data will be illuminating and all-important, as to what choices surface to the top, and how popular the format is with its over 100 million members.

Of course, creating interactive storytelling is much more cumbersome and expensive on a live-action original, though Netflix hasn’t ruled it out yet. Meanwhile, the experiment will be rolled out for two more animated kids shows: Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile on July 14, and Stretch Armstrong: The Breakout next year.

Watchmen TV Show Reportedly in Development at HBO With Damon Lindelof

DC Comics’ Watchmen is in development again at HBO as a TV series, according to multiple reports. Damon Lindelof – co-creator and showrunner on Lost – is said to be in talks with the network, fresh off the completion of his critically-acclaimed drama The Leftovers.

According to unnamed sources who spoke with Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the project is in the early stages of development, with no official deal in place as yet. Hence, both HBO and Warner Bros. Television – which holds the rights to Watchmen – have declined to comment.

If true, this is HBO’s second attempt at getting the iconic limited comic book series to its platform, after an initial attempt back in 2014. Zack Snyder, who directed the Watchmen feature film in 2009, was attached to the TV project, but isn’t a part of the new discussion. That seems obvious, given Snyder temporarily stepped away from film-making last month to focus on his family after his daughter’s suicide.

Watchmen TV Show Reportedly in Development at HBO With Damon LindelofLindelof will be starting from scratch on the revived series development, according to Variety. Though The Leftovers failed to ever get a sizeable audience on HBO, it was a hit with critics, particularly towards its end. That seems to have been enough for HBO to place its trust with Lindelof.

For those unaware, Watchmen – created by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colourist John Higgins – ran for 12 issues between 1986-87. It depicted an alternate sci-fi history where the emergence of superheroes in the 1940s helped US later win the Vietnam War, and followed a bunch of former heroes come out of retirement to investigate the murder of one of their own.

Lindelof has co-written a number of sci-fi films previously, including Star Trek into Darkness, Prometheus, Cowboys & Aliens, and Tomorrowland. For HBO, a Watchmen series – which would take at least a few years of development – would help fill the gap that Game of Thrones is soon going to create.

Google Catches Fidget Spinner Fever, Has One as an Easter Egg

We’ve officially reached peak fidget spinner, as Google has added one to the ever growing list of Easter eggs in search. The search giant has a long history of adding funny results in search, and with the latest one, you can actually bring up a virtual fidget spinner and play with it right in your search results. To bring up the Google fidget spinner, just search for the word ‘spinner’ and you’ll see the result. There are actually two different spinners – a number wheel that you can spin to randomly generate a number between one and six, simulating the results of a dice roll, or a fidget spinner. The number wheel moves slowly and delivers results quickly enough, but if the toggle is set to Google fidget spinner, it moves fast and keeps you watching for a long time.

What is a fidget spinner?

If, in all this, you’re scratching your head and wondering what we’re talking about, then here’s a quick explanation. Fidget spinners are a hugely popular type of fidget toy that has pretty much taken over huge swathes of the world by now. As we noted in an earlier article, fidget spinners are just one type of fidget toy, which also include fidget cubes, and other toys based around springs and magnets. The spinners, however, have eclipsed all the others by now, and you can find them all over the world and in India too.

In the US, fidget spinners are being sold on the streets and in souvenir shops. In India, they were the preserve of online stores just a month or two ago, but now they’re being found in supermarkets and toy stores. The question here has moved from “what is a fidget spinner”, to “where can I buy one”.

The idea is that a fidget spinner gives you something to do with your hands and helps you to otherwise focus and concentrate, and can be genuinely helpful to people with conditions such as ADHD. However, these have largely just caught on as toys, and are popular with children and adults both, looking for something new to play with.

fidget spinner copper

In Germany recently customs officials in Frankfurt prevented the entry of 35 tons of fidget spinners, saying that the toys were choking hazards, and the government plans to crush these toys to destroy them.

Google fidget spinner

With the rising popularity of the fidget spinner, it was only natural that others would try and cash in on the trend. That’s why you have, for example, a number of different fidget spinner apps that promise the experience. Of course, a large part of actually playing with a fidget spinner is to give you something other than your phone to fiddle with, and there is a strong tactile element to it as well, as you feel something solid moving around in your hands, and that’s not something you can replicate on the phone.

The apps largely miss the point of why people like fidget spinners, but now, Google has gotten on board the bandwagon as well. We searched for ‘spinner’ in Google and took the fidget spinner for, well, a spin. It loads quickly and there’s a certain hypnotic quality to it, true, as the spinner turns and slows steadily, much like the real thing. There’s no sound though, and of course, it’s just an animation on your screen, so it’s the kind of thing that you might want to spin once or twice, but after that the gag loses a fair amount of charm.

Still, if you are obsessed with fidget spinners but your boss won’t let you carry one to office, or your teacher won’t allow them in class… this could tide you over.

Amazon Prime Wardrobe in Testing, a ‘Try Before You Buy’ Fashion Service

Amazon.com wants to turn your living room into a fitting room.

The e-commerce giant, already one of the biggest apparel sellers in the United States, on Tuesday unveiled a test programme called Prime Wardrobe. Part of the Amazon Prime shopping club, the new feature will allow members to order three or more items without paying for them up front.

Customers will have a week after receiving their shipment to decide which items they want to buy and which they want to return before being charged.

It is the latest foray by Amazon into apparel and groceries, categories that have been slower to shift online. Last week Amazon said it would buy grocer Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion, an aggressive step into the brick-and-mortar retail world and potentially a strategy for getting products to urban customers’ doorsteps faster.

Prime Wardrobe represents another way Amazon is encouraging people to sign up for Prime, its $99-per-year programme that includes two-day shipping and streaming video. The company has found that assuming these extra costs is worth it because Prime members buy more goods, more often on Amazon.

Surging apparel sales are already helping Amazon challenge Macy’s as the dominant retailer in the category. Prime Wardrobe may add further pressure.

“If I were Macy’s, I’d be scared by this,” said Morningstar analyst Bridget Weishaar. “Amazon is offering a very convenient way to avoid going to stores,” adding that experience-driven millennials are happy to skip the trip.

Amazon Prime Wardrobe in Testing, a 'Try Before You Buy' Fashion ServiceThe Prime Wardrobe programme includes more than a million items from shoes to accessories and clothing. Shoppers receive a 20 percent discount when they keep five or more items. Items are shipped in a resealable box with a prepaid label for returns.

Brands include Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss, Adidas, Levi’s, and possibly Amazon’s private-label clothing – and the Prime Wardrobe programme may be key for growing shoppers’ awareness of this, Weishaar said.

The programme is perhaps a play by Amazon for data, too. Like Amazon’s voice-controlled camera, the Echo Look, and an accompanying app that recommends which of two outfits is best, Prime Wardrobe has the potential to offer the retailer insights on which fits and styles shoppers prefer.

The service is similar to a number of “try-before-you-buy” services including Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, which is part of Nordstrom.

Flipkart Dream Phone Sale Offers: Discounts on iPhone 7, , Google Pixel, and Other Deals

Another day, another e-commerce sale. Flipkart is hosting a three-day sale on select smartphones by Apple, Samsung, Google, and Moto. Named #OwnYourDreamPhone, the new Flipkart sale starts just a day after a similar Amazon sale ended. These consecutive sales are not only because of the hyper-competitive environment in the e-commerce industry but also because of the GST rollout. Separately, Flipkart is hosting a ‘Back to College’ laptop sale as well, with Intel-powered budget laptops available for as low as Rs. 9,999.

Flipkart sale offers on mobile phones

In the ongoing Flipkart sale, which ends June 24, you will get flat discounts, exchange offers, and no-cost EMI options on iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone SE, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro, and Moto Z. Smartphone prices are down by minimum Rs. 2,000, and the exchange discounts go up to Rs. 17,000.

Flipkart Dream Phone Sale Offers: Discounts on iPhone 7, Moto Z, Google Pixel, and Other DealsStarting with iPhone 7, the 32GB and 128GB variants of the smartphone are available for Rs. 42,999 and Rs. 51,999, respectively. There are also discounts on the iPhone 7 Plus 32GB and 128GB model, which can now be purchased at Rs. 55,999, and Rs. Rs. 59,999, respectively. As for iPhone 5s (16GB), iPhone SE (32GB), and iPhone 6 (16GB), you can get them for Rs. 14,999, Rs. 21,999, and Rs. 22,999, respectively. The Flipkart sale page mentions a price drop for iPhone 6s 32GB also, but the listing page for the smartphone shows the price as the standard Rs. 47,999. All of the above smartphones come with exchange discount of up to Rs. 15,000, and additional 5 percent discount on Axis Bank Buzz Credit Cards.

As for Android phones, you can get the Moto Z with Style Mod at Rs. 29,999 instead of its standard price of Rs. 39,999 in the Flipkart sale. There’s exchange discount of up to Rs. 17,000, and Axis Bank Buzz Credit Card discount of 5 percent on top. Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro can be purchased for Rs. 39,999 and Rs. 31,990, respectively, both with exchange discount of up to Rs. 15,000. While the 5 percent Axis Bank Buzz Credit Card discount is available for the former, it is not provided with the latter. Both smartphones come with Bajaj FinServ no-cost EMI option.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer: A Forgotten Common Enemy Amidst All the Infighting

HBO released a new trailer for Game of Thrones’ upcoming season 7 on Wednesday night, which begins with a teary-eyed Sansa Stark solemnly walking in Winterfell, and ends with her narrating a powerful line that’s reminiscent of Rudyard Kipling’s law of the jungle.

In between, the two-minute clip expands on the several Westerosi conflicts that need resolving in the new season, providing us glimpses of more than a dozen favourite characters. It’s all set to composer Ramin Djawadi’s rousing masterpiece from the season 6 soundtrack, Light of the Seven.

Where the first trailer focused on the ruler-trifecta of Cersei Lannister, Jon Snow, and Daenerys Targaryen, the second expands its worldview to show snippets of what other characters will be up to. In the beginning, Bran and Meera are waiting for one of the Wall gates to open, and it’s hinted that Jon is waiting on the other side.

Game of Thrones Season 7 Trailer: A Forgotten Common Enemy Amidst All the InfightingThen, it quickly runs through Cersei, Daenerys, Arya, Jaime, and (a creepy) Littefinger, before a voiceover from Jon: “For centuries, our families fought together against their common enemy. Despite their differences. Together,” to shots of Daenerys exploring her new home, and Tyrion looking at the three huge dragons. He then adds: “We need to do the same if we’re going to survive. ‘Cause the enemy is real. It’s always been real.”

Post that, there’s a ton of action in the new trailer, including shots of The Hound, Beric Dondarrion with a flaming sword, hundreds of Greyjoy ships, the Unsullied, Jaime charging through an empty blazing battlefield, and Drogon flying low over a Dothraki horde.

Game of Thrones returns July 16 on HBO, July 17 on Hotstar, and July 18 on Star World.

eBay to Match Amazon and Other Rivals’ Prices in Bid to Attract Shoppers

eBay on Wednesday said it would match top competitors’ prices for a number of popular products in an effort to lure customers.

The news follows a string of initiatives by the seller marketplace to catch up to e-commerce rivals, and ultimately set itself apart as a haven for finding treasures online rather than commodity products.

In the fall, eBay will guarantee three-day delivery for tens of millions of items for the first time – a logistical feat that Amazon.com has already mastered. eBay has also shifted away from its former core – online auctions – toward fixed-price sales in line with big retailers.

eBay to Match Amazon and Other Rivals' Prices in Bid to Attract ShoppersNow, eBay will guarantee that the roughly 50,000 new products on its Deals site will be at least as cheap as identical items sold by Amazon, Wal-Mart Stores, Target and other major retailers on the web. Shoppers must contact eBay’s customer service team about relevant price disparities to receive a coupon they can apply at checkout.

The move may be a jab at Amazon, which cut back on price-matching last year.

“Consumers are still very price conscious,” said Hal Lawton, senior vice president of North America at eBay, in an interview. “Post 2009 and 2010, value just became an even stronger consideration for where they shop and what they buy. That really hasn’t waned even though the economy has strengthened.”

eBay Deals accounts for more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,450 crores) of the company’s annual gross merchandise volume – the total value of all goods sold on its websites. Gross merchandise volume for its marketplace was $79.4 billion (roughly Rs. 5,12,156 crores) in 2016.

LG V30 Launch to Be Held Ahead of IFA 2017: Report

Last month, leaked LG V30 mockups suggested that the smartphone could possibly feature a secondary slide-out display and now the handset has been tipped to launch in September this year. The LG V30 will reportedly be unveiled right ahead of IFA 2017 event, which will kick off in Berlin on September 1.

According to a report by South Korean news website ETNews, for the first time for a handset in its V-Series, LG will be launching the V30 smartphone ahead of IFA 2017 event in Germany. Apart from this, LG is also planning to hold pre-order sales for V30 in South Korea, which will also be a first for any phone from V-Series, in an attempt to promote V30, as per the report.

LG has been tipped to hold pre-order sales for “about a week or two” via three South Korean mobile network providers after the launch event of V30. ETNews has suggested that the smartphone will be officially released in South Korea during September. Notably, the report has not mentioned whether there will be pre-order sales for other markets as well.

LG V30 Launch to Be Held Ahead of IFA 2017: ReportThe South Korean news website says that LG V30 is expected to be priced by the company around “latter end of KRW 800,000 (roughly Rs. 45,200).” As per the report, LG V30 comes with a near bezel-less design just like the company’s current flagship LG G6 and will feature a dual-camera setup at the back just like its predecessor LG V20. The smartphone has been suggested to house a 3200mAh battery as well. It has been tipped to be powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC and come with IP68 water and dust resistance rating.

In audio department, LG V30 has been suggested to come with ESS’ new Quad DAC, which should allow it to deliver impressive performance. Notably, the phone has been tipped to retain the 3.5mm audio jack as well. Finally, LG V30 is expected to be offered in 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB storage options.

To recall, LG has previously been tipped to use OLED display on LG V30 and “old-ish” mockups have suggested that the early designs of the smartphone included a slide-out secondary display as well.

As these are just leaks, we would advise you to take this information with a pinch of salt on the side and wait for the official information from the company.

Nokia 3310 Durability Test Sees It Struggle to Handle Scratches, Burns

The original Nokia 3310 was well known for its durability and if you have been following Internet memes over the past decade, you would know this by now. However, as it turns out, the new Nokia 3310 doesn’t seem to match up to its competition in terms of scratch resistance as well as build quality thanks to the use of plastic screen and body on the handset.

In a test video posted by channel named VoloKin Project on YouTube, the Nokia 3310 (2017) offered little resistance against scratches when the tester tried to use a level 5 knife, which doesn’t scratch modern flagships including Samsung Galaxy S8. Due to the presence of plastic screen and body, the new feature phone from Nokia fell victim to permanent scratches even with keys that are likely to be placed in users’ pocket often times.

Not only did the camera lens scratch easily with the knife used in test but the entire camera panel popped out fairly easily on applying some pressure with the knife on the sides, as can be seen in the video embedded above. While it was expected due to presence of plastic screen, the phone’s front got burned rather easily in the burn test and produced irreversible marks at the front of display.

Nokia 3310 Durability Test Sees It Struggle to Handle Scratches, BurnsThe only solace that the new Nokia 3310 got from entire routine was from the bend test. While the tester seemingly applied all the force at his disposal, he couldn’t bend the phone with his bare hands. While the phone’s body popped out a little in the bend test, it was easily fixed by merely pressing the phone from both ends at once.

Although the durability offered by the original Nokia 3310 is a stuff of legends, it seems like the smartphones are now moving in the right direction with the use of glass and metal instead of plastic to enhance the build quality. Nobody likes their phone all scratched up and if this is a concern for you, you might want to think twice before buying the revamped Nokia 3310 despite it costing just Rs. 3310 in India.

To recall, the Nokia 3310 (2017) was launched in India last month. If you want to get in-depth information about its performance, you might want to check out our review of the feature phone.

Massive Disk-Shaped Dead Galaxy Discovered

Astronomers have detected a first-of-its kind compact yet massive, fast-spinning, disk-shaped galaxy that stopped making stars only a few billion years after the Big Bang.

Finding such a galaxy early in the history of the universe challenges the current understanding of how massive galaxies form and evolve, the researchers said.

The finding, published in the the journal Nature, was possible with the capability of NASA’s Hubble space telescope.

When Hubble photographed the galaxy, astronomers expected to see a chaotic ball of stars formed through galaxies merging together.

Instead, they saw evidence that the stars were born in a pancake-shaped disk.

This was the first direct observational evidence that at least some of the earliest so-called “dead” galaxies – where star formation stopped – somehow evolve from a Milky Way-shaped disk into the giant elliptical galaxies we see today.

“This new insight may force us to rethink the whole cosmological context of how galaxies burn out early on and evolve into local elliptical-shaped galaxies,” said study leader Sune Toft from University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Massive Disk-Shaped Dead Galaxy Discovered“Perhaps we have been blind to the fact that early ‘dead’ galaxies could in fact be disks, simply because we haven’t been able to resolve them,” Toft said.

The remote galaxy was three times as massive as the Milky Way but only half the size.

Rotational velocity measurements made with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) showed that the disk galaxy was spinning more than twice as fast as the Milky Way.

Using archival data from the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH), Toft and his team were able to determine the stellar mass, star-formation rate, and the ages of the stars.

Why this galaxy stopped forming stars was still unknown. It might be the result of an active galactic nucleus, where energy was gushing from a supermassive black hole.

This energy inhibits star formation by heating the gas or expelling it from the galaxy. Or it might be the result of the cold gas streaming onto the galaxy being rapidly compressed and heated up, preventing it from cooling down into star-forming clouds in the galaxy’s centre.

But how do these young, massive, compact disks evolve into the elliptical galaxies we see in the present-day universe?

“Probably through mergers,” Toft said.