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In a continuation of YouTube’s focus on user-generated content, the Google-owned video site is launching a video series to provide guidance for users that want to turn their channel from a hobby into a full-time gig.

‘YouTube Pro’ will give advice on a range of issues, such as crowdfunding, attracting and managing advertisers, using a manager, recording content series and more.

The videos will feature input from YouTube and video content pros who have been there, done that and lived the scenarios, as YouTube’s blog explains:

The first topic we’ll cover is “Working with Advertisers”. In these four videos, learn from Dane BoedigheimerSpencer Griffin of College HumorKurt Hugo Schneider and Elle Walker about all aspects of effectively pitching and executing branded content deals. They give advice on pitching an idea, what to include in a contract, how to price a deal, as well as to stay true to your audience through the process.

In addition, the company is also announcing live events that will take place in New York, Los Angeles and London soon.

YouTube recently passed its eight-year anniversary, and it revealed that users now upload 100 hours of video per hour on average. But the site has spent the last two years aiming to go beyond simply being the Web’s largest repository of video content, as it has taken steps to encourage original content and programming on its service.

This year, Google is taking the service into new territory with the recent launch of paid-for channels that are aimed at rivaling streaming services like Hulu and Netflix.

That isn’t YouTube’s first foray into original content. It kicked off its Channels program in 2011, which provides selected content partners with an undisclosed sum of funding to create content for YouTube channels. The money is not free, but instead is an up-front payment of future advertising earnings over the next year. But it does give partners a lump-sum that can be invested in equipment and talent to produce compelling shows — that’s the aim, at least.

Channels began in the US, but has since been expanded to a range of new markets, including, the UK, France, Germany and Japan, with more expansions planned.

The video series doesn’t complement Channels — such selected partners are usually at a fairly advanced stage already — it is aimed at helping those aiming to take their living from YouTube to take their first step…Channels would be a program they might later aspire to be part of.

Headline image via korosirego / Flickr

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A Telescope For Your Eye: New Contact Lens Design May Improve Sight of Patients with Macular Degeneration

Slimmed-down telescopic contact lens switches between magnified and normal vision using a modified pair of liquid crystal eyeglasses.

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013-Contact lenses correct many people’s eyesight but do nothing to improve the blurry vision of those suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among older adults in the western world. That’s because simply correcting the eye’s focus cannot restore the central vision lost from a retina damaged by AMD. Now a team of researchers from the United States and Switzerland led by University of California San Diego Professor Joseph Ford has created a slim, telescopic contact lens that can switch between normal and magnified vision. With refinements, the system could offer AMD patients a relatively unobtrusive way to enhance their vision. The team reports its work today in the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Optics Express.

Visual aids that magnify incoming light help AMD patients see by spreading light around to undamaged parts of the retina. These optical magnifiers can assist patients with a variety of important everyday tasks such as reading, identification of faces, and self-care. But these aids have not gained widespread acceptance because they either use bulky spectacle-mounted telescopes that interfere with social interactions, or micro-telescopes that require surgery to implant into the patient’s eye.

“For a visual aid to be accepted it needs to be highly convenient and unobtrusive,” says co-author Eric Tremblay of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. A contact lens is an “attractive compromise” between the head-mounted telescopes and surgically implanted micro-telescopes, Tremblay says.

The new lens system developed by Ford’s team uses tightly fitting mirror surfaces to make a telescope that has been integrated into a contact lens just over a millimeter thick. The lens has a dual modality: the center of the lens provides unmagnified vision, while the ring-shaped telescope located at the periphery of the regular contact lens magnifies the view 2.8 times.

To switch back and forth between the magnified view and normal vision, users would wear a pair of liquid crystal glasses originally made for viewing 3-D televisions. These glasses selectively block either the magnifying portion of the contact lens or its unmagnified center. The liquid crystals in the glasses electrically change the orientation of polarized light, allowing light with one orientation or the other to pass through the glasses to the contact lens.

The team tested their design both with computer modeling and by fabricating the lens. They also created a life-sized model eye that they used to capture images through their contact lens-eyeglasses system. In constructing the lens, researchers relied on a robust material commonly used in early contact lenses called polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). The team needed that robustness because they had to place tiny grooves in the lens to correct for aberrant color caused by the lens’ shape, which is designed to conform to the human eye.

Tests showed that the magnified image quality through the contact lens was clear and provided a much larger field of view than other magnification approaches, but refinements are necessary before this proof-of-concept system could be used by consumers. The researchers report that the grooves used to correct color had the side effect of degrading image quality and contrast. These grooves also made the lens unwearable unless it is surrounded by a smooth, soft “skirt,” something commonly used with rigid contact lenses today. Finally, the robust material they used, PMMA, is not ideal for contact lenses because it is gas-impermeable and limits wear to short periods of time.

The team is currently pursuing a similar design that will still be switchable from normal to telescopic vision, but that will use gas-permeable materials and will correct aberrant color without the need for grooves to bend the light. They say they hope their design will offer improved performance and better sight for people with macular degeneration, at least until a more permanent remedy for AMD is available.

“In the future, it will hopefully be possible to go after the core of the problem with effective treatments or retinal prosthetics,” Tremblay says. “The ideal is really for magnifiers to become unnecessary. Until we get there, however, contact lenses may provide a way to make AMD a little less debilitating.”

Paper: “Switchable telescopic contact lens,” E. Tremblay et al., Optics Express, Vol. 21, Issue 13, pp. 15980-15986 (2013).

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ASUS Announces PQ321Q Pre-Order:
The World’s First Consumer 4K Monitor

31.5-inch 4K Ultra HD Monitor features four-times the resolution of a Full HD display for incredibly detailed and lifelike images

Fremont, California (July 1, 2013) – ASUS, a worldwide leader in high performance large screen displays, today announced the exclusive pre-order for the highly-anticipated PQ321Q True 4K UHD monitor. Starting July 1st, US consumers will be able to pre-order the world’s first consumer 4K monitor through Newegg, Amazon, or TigerDirect at an introductory MSRP of $3,499 USD. The PQ321Q True 4K UHD Monitor, a desktop display with a stunning Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution, delivers a screen resolution equivalent to four Full HD displays combined. It has a 31.5-inch LED-backlit 4K Ultra HD display (140 pixels-per-inch) with a 16:9 aspect ratio, and supports 10-bit RGB ‘deep color’ for vibrant images with more natural transitions between hues.

Introducing Cutting-edge IGZO Panel Technology

The ASUS PQ321Q True 4K UHD Monitor uses cutting-edge Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide (IGZO) rather than traditional amorphous silicon for the active layer of its LCD panel. IGZO panels support much smaller transistors than amorphous silicon, enabling much smaller pixels. This allows the PQ321Q to have four times the amount of pixels compared to a 1920 x 1080 Full HD display. Despite the increase in pixels, the PQ321Q offers peace of mind by coming with a 30-day Zero Bright Dot warranty.

To ensure the ultimate visual experience, 176-degree wide viewing angles on both vertical and horizontal planes minimize onscreen color shift, while the 350cd/m² brightness rating and 8ms gray-to-gray response time ensure smooth, bright, and vibrant moving visuals. IGZO technology also gives reduced energy consumption compared to amorphous silicon and reduces bulk, maximizing your available space. At 35mm at its thickest point, the PQ321Q is not only the first True 4K UHD consumer monitor but also the thinnest available today.

Comprehensive Video Inputs for UHD Content

The ASUS PQ321Q True 4K UHD Monitor features DisplayPort and dual HDMI ports with Picture-by-Picture support. DisplayPort’s Multi Stream Transport mode allows 60Hz refresh rates at 3840 x 2160 resolution using graphics cards from NVIDIA, AMD, and integrated video from 4th Generation Intel® Core™ processors. Built-in 2W stereo speakers remove the need for additional desktop clutter and, in addition to being wall-mountable, the monitor stand offers full height, swivel, and tilt adjustments.


31.5″ (80.1 cm), 3840×2160, IGZO WLED Backlit, 0.182mm Pixel Pitch
1073.7 million colors /100% sRGB/80% NTSC CIE1976 / 72% NTSC CIE1931
Min < 80cd/m2 Max: 350cd/m2
Native 800:1
Horizontal: 176° / Vertical: 176°
8ms (GTG)
14 bit LUT
Standard, Vivid, and sRGB color modes. 18 levels of color temperature 3K-10K in 500K increments.
5 Gamma Modes: 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.4, Standard
DisplayPort 1.2, 2x HDMI 1.4, RS-232C
2W x 2 stereo, 3.5mm In, 3.5mm Out (for HDMI and DP only)
0 ~ 150mm / 0 – 5.9″
Swivel +45° to -45° / Tilt +25° to -5°
Picture-by-Picture, Screen/OSD Rotate, Kensington Lock
100mm x 100mm
750 x 489 x 256 mm (with stand) / 29.5 x 19.2 x 10 inches (with stand)
13Kg / 28.6lbs
UL/cUL, FCC, ICES, RoHS, WEEE, Windows 7 and 8 WHQL
Operating ≦ 93W / Standby < 6W / Low Power < 1W
DisplayPort cable, Power Cord, RS-232C conversion cable, Warranty card, Cable Tie
$3,499 USD

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Microsoft to wind down TechNet subscription service from August 31st

Many IT managers and early adopters cherish their TechNet subscriptions — for a modest annual fee, they get advance access to a treasure trove of Microsoft apps. Unfortunately, that too-good-to-be-true deal is coming to an end, as Microsoft plans to phase out TechNet subscriptions in the months ahead. The company will stop taking new customers and renewals after August 31st, while Microsoft Certified Trainers will lose their perks after March 31st. Outside of volume licensing, TechNet downloads will stop entirely after September 30th, 2014. MSDN subscriptions will remain, but their steeper prices will likely rule them out for most enthusiasts. If you’re not a professional, you’ll just have to buy software as it reaches the public — you know, like the rest of us.

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Terry Cavanagh’s Super Hexagon is challenging enough without throwing depth and lateral movement into the mix, but that’s what Kevin Messman has done with Rotational. Described by its creator as a “love letter to Hexagon,” Rotational involves similar slip-through-the-shapes gameplay while shifting the action to the surface of a sphere.

Like Super Hexagon, the music is retro and the visuals are sparse; also like Super Hexagon, you’re unlikely to last more than a few seconds before succumbing to the onslaught of geometry. It’s a free download for both Mac and PC.

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Play this: 'Rotational' adds a new dimension to 'Super Hexagon'
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Critical opinion is divided on the latest Pixar movie, Monsters University. Like many reviewers, we found it fun but predictable, a little bland, and not up to the studio’s historic standards. Still, Pixar proved it is able to push the envelope in animation with a stunning short film that precedes Monsters U.

Called The Blue Umbrella, it has won widespread praise as the most photorealistic piece of animation yet. If you’ve seen it, you’re probably wondering: Is every frame really computer-generated? (Answer: yep.) And what city is it supposed to be set in? For the answer(s), read on.

SEE ALSO Monsters University: What to Expect When You Enroll

If you haven’t seen it, The Blue Umbrella tells the story of two pieces of raingear who find each other, fall in love, and lose each other. (We won’t spoil the ending.) But most stunning are the cityscapes that it opens and closes with, the suddenly anthropomorphic buildings that give you a shock; the cloud-covered avenues and rain-filled puddles that almost make you want to pull your collar up tight and dash for the subway.

It may come as no surprise, then, that the short’s creator hails (no pun intended) from drizzly climes himself. “I grew up in Hamburg, which is known for being overcast 80% of the year,” director Saschka Unseld told Mashable. “So I wanted to show the rain as a beautiful thing.”

Not that Hamburg is is what we’re seeing on screen. The city is intended to be a composite: “nonspecific time-wise and place-wise,” as Unseld says. The director took his iPhone to a number of cities to snap pictures of facades that look like they have faces in them. Parts are drawn from Paris; there are a few buildings here and there that you may recognize in San Francisco.

But the streets themselves? They’re 100% Gotham. “New York City has the only avenues wide enough for a great mass of umbrellas,” Unseld explains.

It isn’t just the cityscapes that make the Blue Umbrella a minor classic, however. It’s Unseld’s dreamlike sense of timing, which is unlike just about any other kind of animation you’ll see at your local multiplex. It is slow, relaxed and hypnotic as rainfall. You look at a building facade for just long enough to pick out the face in it — when all of a sudden it curves into a smile.

In this, Unseld was inspired by a film by another German director — Wings of Desire by the great Wim Wenders, which had a sense of “patience and calm.” There may not be enough here to sustain a whole movie, although we’d certainly like to see Unseld try. But at the very least, it may transfix and inspire a few of the adults and kids waiting to enroll in Monsters U.

Image courtesy Pixar

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In a letter sent to Ecuador, Edward Snowden claimed that he is able to continue his whistleblowing activities unabated, despite his current legal and physical limbo.

Snowden has been in a Russian airport for a week. In the letter, which Reuters managed to view and excerpt, Snowden thanked Ecuador for its help in getting him to Moscow. He hopes that the country will grant him asylum, and therefore a legal home.

Currently, the United States is demanding his return to the country, and has axed his passport. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has stated that Snowden can stay in Russia, provided that he stops leaking classified United States information. “There is one condition if he wants to remain here: he must stop his work aimed at damaging our American partners. As odd as it may sound from me,” the Russian premier is quoted by a state newspaper as saying.

Snowden appears to have no such intention. Here are the key passages from his letter that Reuters published today:

I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest. […] No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world. If any of those days ahead realize a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank. […]

While the public has cried out support of my shining a light on this secret system of injustice, the Government of the United States of America responded with an extrajudicial man-hunt costing me my family, my freedom to travel, and my right to live peacefully without fear of illegal aggression.

If the letter will warm Snowden to Ecuador isn’t clear. The country recently slowed on idea of providing him asylum following meddling by Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. Assange is currently holed up in an Ecuadorian embassy, trying to set the record for longest time camped in a single building by an internationally known fugitive.

If I can be afforded a personal moment, I am consistently surprised at the tenacity of Snowden. He works constantly against his own self-interest, in terms of his physical safety and the chance of him ever leading a normal life, to continue the mission he kicked off in Hong Kong.

The impact of his efforts has been tectonic. The global flow of goods may be disrupted, and shaped by his revelations. Quite certainly the diplomatic landscape has shifted. And it appears that we are going to get still more from the man.

Separately, Snowden released a statement today that addresses his exile more generally. I’ve pasted it below [Bolding: TNW].

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

For decades the United States of America have been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.

As far as condemnations go, that is a corker.

The question now becomes which country that lacks a rendition treaty with the United States will offer him asylum. If not Ecuador, that is. How long Snowden can stay in one section of his current airport isn’t clear. However, so long as he doesn’t cross over into Russian territory, he can likely stay checked in for a few more days. I doubt the accommodations are pleasant or the room service any damn good.

Top Image Credit: thierry ehrmann

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When Brian Solis introduced the first Conversation Prism in 2008, the world was a seemingly simpler place. There were 22 social media categories, each of which had just a handful of brands. (“Video agreggation” had only one brand: Magnify.)

Flash forward to 2013, and the latest Conversation Prism (click here for the high-res downloadable version) has four additional categories with at least six brands in each. Like other Conversation Prisms, the data visualization attempts to illustrate the array of social media choices available to marketers. Various channels are classified by their function to the end user (i.e. “photos,” “music” and “social curation.”

The net effect: While the 2008 chart looked like a flower, the latest one resembles a kaleidoscope. Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group and a prominent social media marketing expert, says redoing the chart this time around has been instructive. “Things are changing so fast,” he says. “We don’t even realize [the landscape] is shifting.”

The chart also points out that, for many, membership in the social media ecosystem is fleeting. While some brands like Xanga, Kyte and Utterz have disappeared, others that weren’t around five years ago — like Path and Banjo — are now among category leaders.

Images courtesy of Brian Solis, Jess3

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2013′s Complex Social Media Landscape in One Chart
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