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New York City Second Time Around

I was fortunate enough to visit New York for the first time around 7 years ago and, as a rule, I don’t return to the same place twice because I feel that you are missing out on somewhere else.

However, I had unfinished business with NYC and my first visit consisted of rushing around like a madman trying to see as much as I could racing to the top of the Empire State, Statue of Liberty and the Rock frantically attempting to tick as many things off my bucket list as possible.

Now that Grand Central Station, Central Park, Times Square, Wall Street and Brooklyn Bridge are a fading memory, I thought it was time to return and soak up the other things that New York has to offer at a more leisurely pace with 5 full days for our return visit.

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Arriving into Newark on an internal flight at 21:45, we got the train from the airport to Penn Station for only $12.50 which was only a 2 minute walk to our hotel the New Yorker and there were no safety concerns at all and everywhere was very busy despite the arriving in Manhattan quite late.

Day 1

It was time to learn and conquer the New York Subway so purchased a one-week unlimited subway and local bus pass for $30. NYC is a big place, so having the ability to zip around the city without scrambling around for loose change was the best decision I could have made.

Understanding the metro system offered a slight learning curve, but again the beauty of the unlimited pass means any mistakes were quickly rectified when I understood the difference between uptown and downtown or express and local service.

Next to the New Yorker Hotel Tick Tock restaurant is a subway station that allowed us to hop on the A, C or E line downtown to ground zero where the freedom tower has recently opened. Upon leaving the subway station, we were a little disoriented and unsure which direction to take but we turned a corner there it was and the sight takes your breath away. (more…)

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YouTube Gaming Aims Sights At Twitch

Last year Amazon raised more than a few eyebrows in beating Google to purchase Twitch for a cool $1 billion. As the gaming community continues its phenomenal growth, we shouldn’t be too surprised at the recent announcement of the unimaginatively titled ‘YouTube Gaming.’

A post on YouTube’s blog yesterday revealed that YouTube Gaming is built to be all about your favorite games and gamers, with more videos than anywhere else. From “Asteroids” to “Zelda,” more than 25,000 games will each have their page, a single place for all the best videos and live streams about that title. You’ll also find channels from a wide array of game publishers and YouTube creators.

And when you want something specific, you can search with confidence, knowing that typing “call” will show you “Call of Duty” and not “Call Me Maybe.”

More details will be revealed at E3 next week in Los Angeles where the world’s press will be soaking up a plethora of announcements. We can be sure that there will be a wealth of information that will dominate our newsfeeds along with tales of million dollar game releases and virtual reality with Oculus Rift.   (more…)

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Putting Your Goals Out For All To See

Have you ever noticed how some people you encounter on this journey called life seem to effortlessly inspire us after spending only a short amount of time in their company, whereas others somehow have the knack sucking the life out of you before leaving a trail negativity and despair in their wake.

The secret to success and happiness is said to consist of surrounded yourself with like-minded individuals who are also on a similar journey to make positive changes in their lives that in turn helps us all grow as people when we subconsciously influence each other with our everyday choices.

Role models do not need to consist of some misguided hero worship of celebrities and very often those who we aspire to become are people very close to you or who you communicate with on a regular basis, for example it was the great John Whiteand Paul Drury who are the reason I have written over 50 articles on LinkedIn.

It’s not rocket science to understand that surrounding yourself with those that want to embrace change or make a difference in this world will help you much more than allowing toxic individuals who drain your enthusiasm with negativity and re-enforce your greatest fears by constantly repeating phrases such as it won’t work, what’s the point or it’s a waste of time. (more…)

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Are You Ready For Virtual Reality?

Back in 2014, Google invested $542 million in a secretive and mysterious augmented reality glasses start-up known as Magic Leap, but it wasn’t until last week that we got our first glimpse of what we can expect from the project when a video called ‘Just another day in the office of Magic Leap‘, appeared on their YouTube channel.

It would appear that the race to bring a touch of virtual reality to our world is picking up pace as Facebook, Samsung and Sony also make advances in this area. As a user you will probably fall into one of two camps that consist of “wow this is the future” or “Not another pointless gimmick, didn’t we learn anything from 3D TV’s?

If resistance really is futile and we are all heading for a future where we plug ourselves into the matrix, let’s take a look at what the Oculus Rift rival brings to the table.

Although you cannot deny how visually impressive this fusion of a digital and physical world are, it doesn’t take long until you are left thinking that this is yet another case of style over substance that when stripped back doesn’t actually offer us anything new, other than leaving you stood in your living room with giant ski goggles waving your arms around blissfully unaware that the joke could be on you. (more…)

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iBeacons and Meerkat App Bring Human Element to SXSW

Over 100,000 attendees are expected at South by Southwest (SXSW) where the annual event offers a smorgasbord of music, film and interactive technology in Austin, Texas from March 13-22.

However, the big news is how once again technology is rapidly invading event space as the organisers of SXSW have teamed up with Eventbase to place over 1,000 Gimbal’s series 21 iBeacons in 265 of the events official venues to offer tracking and communication via the official mobile app, which is also the largest deployment of iBeacons for an event.

Typically this form of technology interacts with your mobile phone when you enter or leave an area and send messages depending on your interests along with any promotions that can be pushed to visitors, but this latest event partnership is concentrating on using beacons to offer a human element that will allow visitors to network effectively.

Finally it seems that there is a realisation that there is more to iBeacon technology than retail marketing or advertising which is refreshing as nothing frustrates people more than receiving unsubtle and intrusive messages telling us to buy more stuff that only annoy the recipient.

We have a low tolerance of being used as a walking billboard, but location-based interactions with other visitors are something that could revolutionise the event space. For example, imagine checking into a conference and instantly be able to see exactly who else is in the room and filter through the results based on profile tags that allow you to network effortlessly with other visitors. (more…)

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Life Lessons From the Words of Terry Pratchett

We all find inspiration from different sources that surround our everyday lives and as someone that has always harboured a hidden desire to become a writer, how could I write about anything else today after hearing about the sad passing of Sir Terry Pratchett.

In a digital world where the written word is slowly being replaced by the more visually appealing videos on websites and journalists or authors turn their back on writing due to the lack of financial motivation, but a true writer simply does not have a choice and has a simple desire to tell a story in their own natural voice regardless if there is a reward or not.

The prospect of Alzheimer’s disease taking away your own voice and how you communicate in this life is terrifying, but even in the face of adversity, the author filled with greatness that wrote over 70 books remained as philosophical as ever.

If I had been Terry Pratchett the farmer or Terry Pratchett the dentist, nobody would have paid any attention if I had announced I had Alzheimer’s. But there is something fascinating about an author losing the power over words.

There was something about those worlds he created that were full of misfit heroes that struck a real cord with me and there are so many quotes that we all know by heart that will forever inspire writers of all generations such as the line “If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story” from the Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.

In his passing we have inherited his beautiful words that will remain long after you and I have left this world, but in the words of the great man “Don’t think of it as dying, just think of it as leaving early to avoid the rush”

Here are just a few of my favourite quotes that have come from the brilliant mind of a great man with a fantastic sense of adventure.

  • Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to
  • I have no use for people who have learned the limits of the possible
  • A man’s not dead whilst his name is being mentioned

Pratchett was so much more than just an author of fantasy novels and there are so many life lessons to be found in his words such as the book Moving Pictures that perfectly illustrates what this crazy life is all about.

The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues. —from Moving Pictures

All too often we fail to realise the true effect we have on others in this life and whatever you background or outlook in life, I believe the most powerful line written by Sir Terry Pratchett is “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

Have the words of Terry Pratchett inspired you? I would love to hear your thoughts and favourite quotes.

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Really Getting to Know My Quantified Self

It seems that every news feed I look at has a story advising how we all spend far too much time sitting down, whilst a combination of our lack of motivation and sedentary lifestyle will quite literally be the death of us all.

However, we don’t need to worry because there is an antidote to this lazy behaviour and technology has the power to get everyone back on their feet again, if we all invest in the latest tech wearable that promises to kick start everyone with a healthy dose of motivation, at a cost of course.

Many combine the use of tech wearable’s with another set of buzzwords known as lifelogging, self-hacking, body hacking or the quantified self where people are increasingly using technology to track measure and analyse data from your daily life.

Quantified-self facilitates the tracking of diet, sleep, heart rate, activity, exercise, and moods and allows individuals to gain better insights on physiological parameters that were never examined earlier, advised Sumit Kumar Pa

Although I am usually quite cynical about this sort of thing and confess that I am happiest when sat down looking at a myriad of tech devices or playing on a games console, but equally aware that if you need a website to be successful you need to closely monitor google analytics to examine data and improve performance, so pondered if this same school of thinking could be applied our own life?

After reading that the smartphone you already own can perform that exact same tasks only more accurately, I decided to embark on an experiment for once week where I track every aspect of my life to see if it reveals anything different about me using only my smartphone to see if there really is a need for slight changes to my lifestyle.

For my experiment, I began by downloading the app called “Moves” that claims to be the activity diary of your life by simply counting how many steps you take each day. (more…)

Scholl GelActiv Everyday Insoles Review

I was recently asked to test the Scholl GelActive everyday insoles and my first impression was that they look great in a cool funky kind of way.

The hardest part of the whole process was opening the packaging, but once I had my hands on these squidgy gel fuelled wonders, I was able to fit them into my running shoes with minimal fuss as they are surprisingly very easy to cut down to size.

However, you need to be careful what shoes you use them in because the thickness of the insole could make your feet feel cramped in tighter shoes.

After a few shin and heel problems due to the impact of road running, I quite literally took the Scholl GelActive Everyday soles out for a run and ended up running the quickest 5 miles in a long time and they certainly make your feet feel more comfortable instantly thanks to the cushioning comfy goodness.

What was most pleasing after taking off my now super comfy shoes was that the usual aches and pains that come from a run were not there so have no problems saying that Scholl GelActiv Everyday Insoles can help with being on your feet for lengths of time and the cushioning of them helps tremendously with the impact of running on hard concrete.

At £14.99 they are a little on the expensive side, but as long as you have the room in your shoes you will notice a big difference and offer comfy support for walkers, runners and people who are on their feet all day.

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Disclaimer: As a BzzAgent, I received this item to review for free. All opinions expressed are my own. – no additional compensation was received.

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Are Retailers Ready for the Omni-Channel Revolution?

Brands are starting to realise that the key to success is to think like their customers and create seamless omni-channel shopping experiences that keeps customers engaged at all stages as they drift from phone, tablet, laptop and desktop PC without even giving it a second thought.

Every year there is a new industry buzzword which has previously consisted of offerings such as the Internet of Things, Big Data or Dark Social for example, but the majority of consumers are unaware that the hottest trend in retail at the moment is a strategy known as “omnichannel” and in simple terms just means giving customers the ability to shop anywhere and receive goods in the quickest most convenient way possible.

A few years ago, there was a concern that frugal shoppers and the art of “showrooming” would spell the end of the high street where consumers would test an item in a physical store, obtain advice and then leave to buy cheaper online.

However, the current trend of “webrooming” is the complete opposite, as customers are researching items online and then purchasing them in-store, thus the best method of retailers taking advantage of this is via omni-channel marketing.

This strategy is affecting all savvy businesses that not only see’s bricks and mortar stores increasing their online and social presence but much more interesting to see behemoths such as Amazon opening their first physical store which has coined the cringe-worthy phrase ‘digical’ (digital first and physical second)

Amazon is also reportedly in discussions to buy hundreds of retail stores across the US to showcase its products, such as the Kindle tablet and Fire smartphone, and act as delivery points for online orders.

Walmart President and CEO Michael T. Duke was clearly ahead of the curve when he advised shareholders in their annual report back in 2013 that “By bringing together best-in-class online, mobile and social capabilities and our over 10,700 stores, we are building what no other retailer – online or otherwise – can,” (more…)

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Rise of the Multilingual Robots

February is proving to be an interesting month as far as technology announcements go, first of all there was the news of a Japanese bank intending on using robot workers to deal with customers in banks, which could give a whole new meaning to the phrase “the computer says no” when applying for a loan.

Meanwhile, there was an interesting story of how California will allow the testing ofautonomous vehicles on public roads this year which suggests the world of automation is upon us much sooner than many realise.

However, in other news there is a 72-room hotel in Nagasaki, Japan that will open in July and will be staffed by robots who will not only greet guests, but also clean rooms and carry luggage, whilst the Japan Times reported that Hideo Sawada proudly stated “We will make the most efficient hotel in the world

Suddenly the worlds that we saw in movies such as Westworld and Total Recall, could now become a part of our reality here in 2015 as humanoid robots known as Actroid’s step into the world of hospitality, but thankfully there is no mention of the T-1000 or Ed 209 making an appearance just yet.

The hotel is named Henn-na Hotel which depending on your Japenese translation or sense of irony, could mean Strange or Change Hotel. This where things begin to get a little creepy, as the robots will look almost human be able to greet guests in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English.

In the future, we’d like to have more than 90 percent of hotel services operated by robots

Randomly you will be able to find the hotel inside a Nagasaki theme park called Huis Ten Bosch that just happens to be modelled to look like Holland and rooms will cost as little as $60 a night, but they also have strong ambitions for this new phenomenon to spread around the world with plans to build an additional 1,000 similar hotels worldwide

Actroids have been developed by Osaka University and manufactured by Kokoro, but are incredibly lifelike and understand hand gestures, eye movements and also use facial-recognition technology, but they are not quite ready to understand your poor jokes just yet.

These recent announcements will no doubt fuel various conspiracy theories about how our future world will be run by androids which will leave most of the human population out of work, not to mention the inevitable moment where they become self-aware.

The reality is that there is already a hotel called Yotel in New York that not only has a self-check-in kiosk’s but also features world’s first hotel robotic luggage handler, so we shouldn’t be too surprised at how technology is evolving at a breath-taking speed.

Even if you think a world of robots with jerky movements that look a little sinister are nothing but a gimmick, you can guarantee you will be hearing much more about this new form of hospitality as the summer approaches.

Are life like robots a step to far or is it something you find quite exciting? Is this the moment all those science fiction movies have prepared us for?