Watchmaker Robert Forsey talks about the smartwatch problem

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Watchmaker Robert Forsey, co-founder of Gruebel Forsey, isn’t worried. This plain-spoken creator of some of the most complex and beautiful watches in the world sees the Swiss Watch industry to be in turmoil but not in peril. “They made too many watches,” he said simply. And now they can’t sell them.

When asked about the rise of the smartwatch, Forsey laughs. His company creates wildly unique timepieces which he calls “smart mechanicals.” His watches include tiny representations of the spinning earth and other unique complications that you won’t find on an Apple Watch. In short, there is a place for cheap plastic and a place for mastery. Forsey prefers to remain in the latter camp.

I talked to Forsey about the perceived doldrums in the industry and he was unconcerned. After all, people will always pay lots of money for beautiful things. Take a listen below.

Technotopia is a podcast about a better future by John Biggs. You can subscribe in Stitcher or iTunes and download the MP3 here.

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Watchmaker Robert Forsey talks about the smartwatch problem

Standard

Watchmaker Robert Forsey, co-founder of Gruebel Forsey, isn’t worried. This plain-spoken creator of some of the most complex and beautiful watches in the world sees the Swiss Watch industry to be in turmoil but not in peril. “They made too many watches,” he said simply. And now they can’t sell them.

When asked about the rise of the smartwatch, Forsey laughs. His company creates wildly unique timepieces which he calls “smart mechanicals.” His watches include tiny representations of the spinning earth and other unique complications that you won’t find on an Apple Watch. In short, there is a place for cheap plastic and a place for mastery. Forsey prefers to remain in the latter camp.

I talked to Forsey about the perceived doldrums in the industry and he was unconcerned. After all, people will always pay lots of money for beautiful things. Take a listen below.

Technotopia is a podcast about a better future by John Biggs. You can subscribe in Stitcher or iTunes and download the MP3 here.

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Tech Hunters: Refreshing Casio’s classic calculator watch

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Thanks to the rise of Fitbits, Apple Watches and other smart trackers, wearables are the new frontier of fashion, often mixing cutting-edge technology with the latest designer trends. However, they aren’t a new idea: companies like Casio have been doing the same since the 1980s.

Cast your mind back and try to remember the digital Casio watches of yesteryear. Chances are you’ll land on the Casio C-80, the original “calculator watch.” Billed as “the watch that replaces everything,” the C-80 — with its tiny rubber buttons — shunned the stylus prized by watch makers like Citizen and Seiko at the time. It also made way for newer Data Bank models that could convert currencies, store phone numbers and, like today’s Apple Watch, read your pulse.

In 1980, you’d pay $75 for the C-80, which is about £185 in today’s money. Fast forward to today and the vintage timepiece can fetch upwards of £400, if it’s been kept in mint condition. Casio has released a ton of other calculator watches since the C-80, but they’ve become a bit boring. Julia Hardy meets up with Jonah Ripley to see if we can make the retro smartwatch a little more 21st century.

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Want to become a social media celeb? There’s a college degree for that

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Wanna become an Instagram star? Now, you can get a formal education for that.

A university in China is offering courses that are meant to equip students with the skills they need for online fame.

From make-up classes, catwalk practice to dance performances, the Yiwu Industrial and Commercial College (YWICC) near Shanghai says it knows what you need to become a social media celeb. 

This picture taken on March 14, 2017 shows Wang Xin (C) attending a dance class at the Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province.  Hordes of Chinese millennials are speaking directly to the country's 700 million smartphone users, streaming their lives to lucrative effect, fronting brands and launching businesses. They are known as "wanghong" -- literally hot on the web -- and they now represent a multi-billion-dollar industry, becoming so big that it has its own university curriculum. At Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, classrooms for the 34 mostly female students are typically dance studios, catwalks strafed by flashing lights, and bustling makeup rooms.   / AFP PHOTO / Johannes EISELE / TO GO WITH Lifestyle-celebrity-retail-China-internet, FEATURE by Albee ZHANG        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

In a country with over 700 million phone users, it can be tough standing out. 

But top-earning internet celebrities, known as Wang Hong in China, can earn up to $46 million a year. It’s no wonder everyone’s jostling to become the Next Big Thing.

The skills you need for viral fame

At the YWICC, students are practicing in dance studios and being taught how to dress fashionably.

21-year-old Mengna Jiang is one of 33 students — mostly women — majoring in the school’s Modelling and Etiquette course. Students who complete three years of the course will be awarded with an associate degree.

These are just some of the many modules offered at the University under this major.

Some of the courses available at YWICC

Some of the courses available at YWICC

Image: YWICC/screenshot/google translate

To cut it as an influencer, you’ll need to know, for a start: “aesthetic cultivation” and “fashion sensitivity”; “public relations etiquette” and photo processing skills.

This picture taken on March 14, 2017 shows students attending a dance class at the Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province.  Hordes of Chinese millennials are speaking directly to the country's 700 million smartphone users, streaming their lives to lucrative effect, fronting brands and launching businesses. They are known as "wanghong" -- literally hot on the web -- and they now represent a multi-billion-dollar industry, becoming so big that it has its own university curriculum. At Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, classrooms for the 34 mostly female students are typically dance studios, catwalks strafed by flashing lights, and bustling makeup rooms.   / AFP PHOTO / Johannes EISELE / TO GO WITH Lifestyle-celebrity-retail-China-internet, FEATURE by Albee ZHANG        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

This picture taken on March 14, 2017 shows students looking at their smartphones during a class at the Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College in Yiwu, east China's Zhejiang Province.  Hordes of Chinese millennials are speaking directly to the country's 700 million smartphone users, streaming their lives to lucrative effect, fronting brands and launching businesses. They are known as "wanghong" -- literally hot on the web -- and they now represent a multi-billion-dollar industry, becoming so big that it has its own university curriculum. At Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, classrooms for the 34 mostly female students are typically dance studios, catwalks strafed by flashing lights, and bustling makeup rooms.   / AFP PHOTO / Johannes EISELE / TO GO WITH Lifestyle-celebrity-retail-China-internet, FEATURE by Albee ZHANG        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

“I like dressing myself up really pretty and take [sic] pictures, I feel like this major really suits me,” Ms Jiang told news wire AFP.

Mengna Jiang is one of many hoping to make it big

Mengna Jiang is one of many hoping to make it big

If you make it in a country with over a billion people, your reach could be astronomical.

Papi Jiang, one of China’s most popular online celebrities, has a following of 44 million across multiple platforms.

Papi Jiang has 23 million subscribers on Weibo, China's twitter-like platform

Papi Jiang has 23 million subscribers on Weibo, China’s twitter-like platform

In comparison, Ryan Higa of YouTube fame has 19 million subscribers.

Making money and virtual gifts

Turning your popularity into actual moolah in China is a little different from how Western influencers do it.

The majority of China’s online celebrities host live-streaming events, where they film everything from their latest shopping haul to just a regular Q&A session.

Their fans who tune in to watch can buy them virtual gifts that can be redeemed for cash. For example, a virtual car bought by a fan could be cashed in for $20 — with a share of the profits going to the live-streaming platform. 

Influencers can also monetise their video channels the conventional way — through advertising. 

A series of icons at the bottom right of the screen show the different virtual gifts you can purchase

A series of icons at the bottom right of the screen show the different virtual gifts you can purchase

For Mengna Jiang, 30 minutes spent live-streaming to her online audience recently earned her $12 in gifts.

According to Analysys International, an internet consultancy firm, China’s Wang Hong industry was worth $10 billion in 2016, and could double by 2018. 

Looks like the popularity of these courses aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

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Man tweets very gross incentive to always wear sun cream

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Warning: The tweet below the scroll-line contains some fairly unpleasant close-ups of a man’s sun-burned skin. Proceed with caution.

As soon as the sun comes out in Britain, two things happen: 1) everyone complains about the weather, and 2) everyone forgets to put on sun cream.

When it’s over 32 degrees Celsius, though, the latter can have some very unpleasant results.

On Monday, following a very hot weekend in the UK, a man from Edinburgh, Scotland, began tweeting about his sun burn.

You know the sun burn’s bad when you have to take time off work.

But until @grgbinnie shared the photos of himself, no-one probably realised just how bad.

Brace yourself:

Yep: 2nd degree burns, and some very blistered skin.

If that’s not an incentive to wear sun cream, we don’t know what is.

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AvaTrade adds several new cryptocurrency pairs for trading

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  • AvaTrade adds several new cryptocurrency pairs for trading

    From smnweekly.com

    The Irish forex and CFDs brokerAvaTradeannounced it expands its already rich cryptocurrency portfolio with two new pairs. Namely, these are Ethereum Classic vs the American dollar (ETCUSD) and Bitcoin vs Euro (BTCEUR) and the broker�s clients can use leverage up to 1:20.

    Last week Bitcoin�s price surged to almost $3,000 and this all-time high created euphoria throughout the financial markets. Digital currencies gain a momentum and more and more forex brokers extended their offering with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies lately. Most recently major UK and Cyprus-regulated forex and CFD brokerHYCM launched Bitcoin trading, while XTB … (full story)

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    Roland SE-02 is $499 analog synth with sequencer, actually boutique

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    Roland today has announced a desktop monosynth that’s all-analog at US$/EUR 499. It’s got a bunch of nicely balanced sound features, plus a sequencer. And it represents a new collaboration for Roland, working with an actual boutique synth maker – Studio Electronics.

    Roland has already called a cute set of synths “boutique,” but … it was unclear they knew what that word meant. (Like, small?) But Studio Electronics qualifies as genuinely boutique. Sure enough, Roland is adding this to a new line called the Boutique Designer Series. (Note the additional word “designer.”)

    And that means a new direction for the industry, possibly – a small maker doing the design, but a big maker providing the scale (and thus lower cost). I think this could also lead to a bizarro universe where, now that big brands are doing analog at lower cost, boutique manufacturers may wind up embracing digital technology to continue to do things at smaller scale. That contrasts with the landscape from just a few years ago, when it was small makers embracing the analog tech bigger manufacturers had more or less abandoned. (Stay tuned and see if I’m right, or feel free to argue.)

    Back to the SE-02, though, it looks great. Oh, yeah, and remember how a certain German manufacturer was going on forums crowing about how it was the only one providing low-cost synths to starving musicians? Uh… about that.

    Let’s have a look:
    roland_se-02_angledjpg

    Three oscillators, temperature stabilized / automatic tuning
    Six waveforms
    Three types of cross modulation
    24 dB low-pass filter
    Filter feedback loop
    Tempo-syncing LFO with nine waveforms, envelope sweeping and inverting
    Oscillator sync
    Noise generator
    Tempo-synced delay
    Nearly one-to-one correspondence of controls to function

    So, you get a lot of additional synthesis and sound design functions – which to me is more interesting than another Moog clone, even if this may have a three oscillator architecture like the Minimoog.

    That’d really be enough, but in deference to today’s appetites, there’s also a step sequencer with per-step gate, per-step automation of any parameter on the front panel, and adjustable glide, plus sync via trigger, USB, or MIDI DIN. Also, while presets themselves may or may not be interesting to you (there are 384 of them if you do care), what’s really nice is the ability to store presets with the sequences – making this really appealing for live. (There’s ample user memory – 128 (Patch), 128 (Pattern), 16 (Song).)

    Per-step control of every parameter is reason enough to have a look at this instrument.

    You can also connect to modular rigs with trigger I/O and CV ins.

    USB does both audio and MIDI.

    Did I mention this is only five hundred bucks?roland_se-02_straight

    That puts the Roland head to head with Novation’s Circuit Mono Station, which has its own unique voice architecture and sound capabilities, and the advantage of an 8×4 grid controller (in place of the more conventional step sequencer here). They’re each totally new, totally unique in character, and take a very different approach from one another. I think that adds up to a real win for new designs.

    We should have access to the new Roland by next week here in Berlin, so stay tuned for a hands-on.

    In the meantime, Roland have done us the favor of posting a sound-only demo. And I love it – it sounds a bit raw and alive and very Studio Electronics. Still, it’s tough to judge by these videos alone; our hands-on will hopefully help. (Just don’t expect me to play live … there’s a step sequencer for a reason, I say. Sorry to my various piano teachers. 😉 )

    Full details:

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    The post Roland SE-02 is $499 analog synth with sequencer, actually boutique appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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    Global risk analysis gets an artificial intelligence upgrade with GeoQuant

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    The global risk analysis used by big banks, hedge funds, and governments to inform their decision-making around everything from foreign currency investment to foreign aid is getting the machine learning treatment with the launch of the new startup GeoQuant.

    In the months since the company launched its service, GeoQuant has accurately predicted increasing political stability in Italy and Mexico before a corresponding rise in the value of those countries’ capital markets and a collapse in political stability in Brazil before markets fell in that country, according to chief executive Mark Rosenberg.

    “Large asset managers and large corporations increasingly recognize that political risk is a growing factor in this investment climate,” says Rosenberg.

    The former head of product development at the global risk consulting firm, The Eurasia Group, Rosenberg had long wanted to come up with a simpler measurement tool for gauging political risk, but felt it would have eroded much of the value in the bespoke reports that companies like the Eurasia Group rely on for income.

    Like many entrepreneurs before him, Rosenberg thought the process could be automated with a bit of technology.

    Though it’s hard to quantify the global market for risk analysis, Rosenberg puts its current value at roughly $8 billion — which includes crisis management services (not nearly enough to build a venture capital investable business around). But Rosenberg also said that the size is capped by the bespoke nature of the services on offer. He views his business as cents on the dollar of the roughly $2 trillion in global foreign direct investment that happens annually.

     

    Geoquant hoovers up all kinds of data to make its risk assessments. The company pulls from traditional country data from institutions like banks and non-governmental organizations (what Rosenberg calls the structured data). The rest is information from social networks in the country and high frequency opinion polls.

    All of that data (roughly 250 risk variables) are fed into the company’s software to come up with a real-time score for political risk in a country.

    The company is backed by a $4 million seed investment from Aleph VC and XL Innovate. GeoQuant sells its data and analysis tools to Bloomberg and went live with its initial service on the terminals in June.

    Eventually, Rosenberg said the company will have a software as a service platform that will deliver political and country risk assessments in real time through a customizable dashboard.

     

    Featured Image: agsandrew/Shutterstock

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