28 September 2016

Why an iPhone with stereo cameras would be the next disruptive technology

4 in 1 iPhone 6 /iphone 6s Lens Case Camera Lens Kit Fish Eye Lens / Macro Lens / Wide Angle Lens / Telephoto Lens Black(4.7 inch)
A. Dual Lens Camera System

Apple has released the Iphone 7 this month with a dual lens camera system:
While the larger model should boast identical specs for its wide-angle lenser, the non-OIS telephoto module and lens pairing has yet to undergo rigorous testing. In addition to 2x optical zoom, the dual-lens configuration allows for a new portrait mode — coming in a future iOS update — that analyzes and merges data from both cameras to create a shallow depth of field effect, keeping the subject in sharp focus against a creamy bokeh. (Apple Insider)
The depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image. A small depth of field would have a shallow focus, which is ideal for taking photos of portraits: the face of the subject is made sharp at the expense of blurring the background.

I think a dual lens camera system, as its name implies, allows for extended zooming range. If you're doing the wide angle shots, the wide-angle camera would take over, while the smaller camera shuts down or simply takes a support role. But if you're doing close up shots of a bee frolicking sunflowers, with the pollen grains gathering like dust on the bee's body, the smaller lens takes over doing the hard work.

B. Stereo Camera System

Unlike a dual lens camera system where different lenses operating in zero-sum game, a stereo camera system would require at least two identical lenses operating simultaneously, just like the human eye. The difference in the two images would allow the camera to make a reasonable estimate on the distance of each point in the object with respect to the center point of the line joining the two cameras. A stereo camera system is used for example in NASA's STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory). As the name implies, there are two satellites orbiting the sun at two Lagrange points in the earth's orbit. These two satellites take picture of the sun at different electromagnetic wave frequencies. The data of the two satellites are then used to make 3D images of the sun.

What's are the implications of this stereo camera system technology for the iPhone? Here's a rundown:

  • AutoCAD. You take a stereo photo of a building and you use an app to instantly create a wire mesh model in AutoCAD file format. It would be like Iron Man making his designs in virtual reality.
  • Skype Do you notice that when you meet with your colleagues or friends in a video conference in Skype, you cannot really see each other eye to eye? The reason for this is the camera is at the top of the screen. With a stereo camera system, two or more cameras can take your video simultaneously, reconstruct your 3D avatar, overlay it with the stitched images from the different cameras, and project the result back to the screen, so that you can see each other in the eye.
  • Street Fighter. Four posts may be installed as corners of a ring, just like in boxing, which can serve as reference points for the iPhone's stereo cameras. Unlike Pokemon Go which is based on GPS technology with horizontal accuracy of 3.5 m, the fight in a four-corner ring for a Street Fighter app would have accuracy of a few millimeters in tabletop settings, which would be enough to see Ryu and Bison fight like in an arcade game, with other iPhone users watching the show from different directions.
  • Snapchat. Oh, it's Snap Inc now. Snap has made its mark in social media by making filters that are based on facial recognition software, so that princess crown filters would fit just right in your favorite profile pic. With a stereo camera system, Snap can create a 3D filter to make a gif of you waving your hands demurely as the newly crowned Miss Universe. For marketers, a Snap filter for new blouse or jacket would be the excellent way to test the product before you head off to Amazon's One-Click.
And there's so much more. With the increase in computing power and machine learning technologies in the coming years, an iPhone with a stereo camera system would truly be the next disruptive technology.


26 September 2016

Are you blogging for yourself or for your audience?

Blogging for Creatives: How to Build A Blog Readers Love (Blogging Guides): 101 Questions to Ask Before You Launch Your Blog
This blog is due for another overhaul. What keeps me up at night is how to properly classify my blog content. I am stumped with the following question:  Am I blogging for myself or for my audience?

A. Am I blogging for myself?

I can treat my blog as primarily for myself to define my personal brand. What is my personal brand? In Twitter and in LinkedIn, my tagline is Social Media and Space Weather Scientist. So my blog header should have at least two menu categories: social media and space weather. Or what I broaden the menu to media and science. I can add another one: teaching, but it's not in my main tagline. Of course, in my university, I am more known as a physics professor and less as a content marketer. This would create a triumvirate: social media, space weather, physics teaching. These three categories should be orthogonal: any article should fall on one and only one category.

Social media, space weather, and physics teaching looks like orthogonal categories, since they correspond to my different day jobs:

  • Social Media: Blogger, Webmaster, and Social Media Manager of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University
  • Space Weather: Head of the Upper Atmosphere Dynamics program of Manila Observatory and currently a visiting professor of the International Center for Space Weather Science and Education of Kyushu University
  • Physics Education: Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics of Ateneo de Manila University

B. Am I Blogging for My Audience?

Ideally, one audience is to one blog. If my audience are business people, then my blog should only contain business related writings. If my audience are physics teachers and students, then my blog should only contain things related to physics education. My problem is that I am interested in too many things and I spread myself out too thinly like butter. I need a blinder, such as those of a horse, so that I can keep focus.

Focus. I need to focus.

I already have a good audience in Twitter. They're mostly people interested in social media and technology. If my Twitter audience is my priority, then this blog should only contain those that caters to my audience's interest.

On the other hand, I already gave my blog address as part of my signature in my work email: qsugon(at)ateneo.edu. So my administrators and colleagues will definitely take a peak on my blog, and maybe even those scientists whom I correspond with. They are my audience, too. Also, next year my co-authored physics textbooks for college and high school may be published. I need a Blog and Twitter platforms to promote these books. It is already difficult to manage multiple blogs and Twitter accounts. Maybe I'll just stick to one blog and one Twitter account for both marketing and physics related topics.

C. Possible Solutions: Google+ Collections and Twitter Time Splicing

This may not be an either or problem. Perhaps there are creative solutions.

Google+ collections, for example, allow bloggers like me to classify my blog content into different collections intended for different audience. In this way, I only have one hub for all my content.

In Twitter, I can also splice each hour as follows:
  • 0 min: Curated content on social media related news and technologies
  • 30 min: General interest articles on marketing and from my blog
  • Random: Content for physics teachers and students
But I am wary of doing this since adding physics education to my content mix may dilute my Twitter brand. Wait. My problem before was that my Twitter deck of tweets is indistinguishable from others in my community. How do I stand out then? Perhaps those physics tweets would reinforce my personal brand:
  • Quirino Sugon Jr: Space weather and social media scientist 
Once I decide on what to do next would change the flavor of my tweets and my audience mix as well. These blog changes are structural and long-term and it would be difficult to overhaul again if my brand positioning takes root as my audience grows. I do not wish to be the person who planned to make a store house but only accomplished in laying the foundations:
Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion?  Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say,
‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ (Lk 14:28-30)
So right now, I am still weighing the pros and cons. Maybe I need a blogging retreat to make a good discernment on what to do with this blog.


24 September 2016

Why marketing is like creating a religious cult around your brand

The Power of Cult Branding: How 9 Magnetic Brands Turned Customers into Loyal Followers (and Yours Can, Too! )
Marketers peddle products that solve mankind's desire for comfort, health, and long life. That is why marketers sell air conditioning system during a hot summer, antibiotics when we get ill, and vitamin supplements for removing our wrinkles. But the greatest marketers are those who market an idea that solves mankind's greatest problem: death. One such marketer is Sauron. To Ar-Pharazon the King of the Numenorians who sensed his impending death, Sauron made his marketing spiel:
The Valar have possessed themselves of the land where there is no death; and they lie to you concerning it, hiding it as best they may, because of their avarice, and their fear lest the Kings of Men should wrest from them the deathless realm and rule the world in their stead. And though, doubtless, the gift of life unending is not for all, but only for such as are worthy, being men of might and pride and great lineage, yet against all Justice is it done that this gift, which is his due, should be withheld from the King of Bangs, Ar-Pharazôn, mightiest of the sons of Earth, to whom Manwë alone can be compared, if even he. But great kings do not brook denials, and take what is their due. (Silmarillion)
And similarly in our history, we see the rise of religious movements that promises life after death, such as Paganism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity: from man becoming a god to God becoming man. Today, businesses who wish to succeed must also create a cult of religion around their products, with customers acting as believers, buying whatever product the company releases, relying on faith that what the company says is true, even without knowing all the the nitty-gritty details of how the iPhone works or how the Intel transistors compute those millions of bit operations for you to send a smiley face halfway across the globe.

Religious fanatics for the company's product may be good for the company's profits, but what turns an ordinary man into a believer are evangelists and apologists. The word evangelist comes from the Greek words evangelistes, the preacher of the Gospel or literally the bringer of the good news; on the other hand, the word apologist comes from the word apologia, which is not an apology, but a speech in one's defense against accusations, in the same way Plato's Apologia narrates Socrates' defense of the truth of the afterlife, even willingly accepting the poison offered to him as capital punishment to prove his point. Today, an evangelist in marketing is called an influencer, whose word can ripple across hundreds of thousands of listeners, while an apologist is the expert, who can be called upon to give his opinion on the technical merits of the case, e.g. Apple's wireless earphone. The task of the content marketer then is to magnify the expert's opinion through the influencer in order to drive up sales. If the content marketer is himself an expert and an influencer, then so much the better.

With the rise of search engines like Google, content marketing becomes a leverage for small businesses to become visible in search rankings. How to make Google love your content over others becomes the domain of web design: to incorporate metadata in your content, such as Google Schemas, so that search engines, who are not humans, can understand what your text, image, audio, or video is all about, in order to decide whether your content is a good match to the user’s search engine query. It is like the ancient Greeks and Romans trying to appease the gods with offering of food and wine, as the stories of Homer and Virgil tell us, except that now the god is the Google search engine with names like Panda and Hummingbird. Before, the ancient Greeks would ask the Oracle of Apollo for answers. Now, modern man types phrases in the Google search form, and Google spew out a list of possible answers.  Google knows everything, but not exactly the one thing you wish. So you need wisdom to differentiate the wheat from the chaff (c.f. Mt 3:12)

22 September 2016

What is content marketing?

Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses

Content marketing is marketing that uses text, images, audio, and video not to stop people in their tracks and advertise to them, like a salesman handing you a flyer while you're walking to the restaurant for dinner, or like a TV commercial that stops your favorite Japanese or Korean drama for 30 seconds to tell you about sanitary pads, the low calorie beer, and the new smartphone. Rather, content marketing is like a friend who passes by, who invites you to read or listen or watch something that you may need--a word of advice, a useful information, a compelling story, a wonderful picture, a moving film. In content marketing, you really need to be like a good friend: you create a reputation of trustworthiness so that the products that you sell that are related to your content cease to become merchandise in your customers’ minds, but a way for you to help them solve their problems--an aching tooth, a financial loss, or a broken heart.

The job of a content marketer is two-fold: create content and market it.

Content is anything that conveys information. Right now, the content at the content marketer arsenal are limited to text, graphics, audio, and video--essentially for the sense of sight and hearing. Those for the senses of touch, smell, and taste are subsumed into these two senses, through metaphors such as smooth as silkfragrant as a rose, or sweet as honey--metaphors which conjure memories of the experiences in the brain, making those memories alive again. The skills needed to do content marketing covers a wide spectrum: writing, graphic design, programming, photography, video editing, podcasting, etc. It is difficult to master all these skills, so some people specialize on a few set of skills, while others specialize in how to bring skills from other people together.

Marketing, on the other hand, is the promotion of content in in flyers, brochures, billboards, blogs, websites, and social media. And, of course, there's the word of mouth marketing--the oldest form of marketing that began when men learned how to speak. In marketing, we try to convince another person about the truth of what we are saying, assuming that we are not trying to deceive. This is called truth in advertising. In marketing, we proclaim a good news that there exists a solution to some of the problems that ails mankind, e.g. illness, hunger, thirst, cold, heat, etc. That is why we propose to the other medicine, food, drink, clothing, shelter, etc. And in exchange, the other gives us what we wish to have: gold for silk, cacao for corn, meat for rice, etc.

Notice

The author is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for him to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.