It’s been a big year for me covering the hottest happenings in the world of technology: I’ve been to celeb-studded conventions, sat in on expert discussions, and tried out the latest gear. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the innovations that make our lives easier and social-networking with the industry leaders who are kick-starting what’s next.
These days, so much can happen in 15 minutes thanks to technology—including getting a great rate on car insurance, of course—that it’s easy to forget to stop and think about the components. Do you really know how touch tech works or what makes that ultra-cool digital alarm clock tick? After all, part of what makes technology so cool is how it works.
This year, the WIRED Store is all about deconstructing “What’s Inside” and getting back to basics in some incredibly cool ways. Inspired by the magazine’s popular editorial section, the store looks at today’s hottest products in parts. Were you that kid who used to take the screws out of your toys to see what was inside that remote-controlled car or flashing robot? That kind of curiosity is what fuels innovation and the WIRED Store is all about interacting, experiencing, and most importantly, remembering what makes technology cool.
But there’s still one thing I haven’t figure out: How did they get a full-size car through that regular-size store door? It’s like the boat in the bottle.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge proponent of good deals—15 minutes that could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance, anyone? Now if only fulfilling your holiday wish list were that easy, however there are still some tech-savvy tricks for scoring big savings on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Even if you’re keeping it old-school and hitting the brick-and-mortar shops the day after Thanksgiving, you can still use your smartphone to get amazing deals. Just make sure your batteries are charged before you head out!
Prep before Thanksgiving by subscribing to e-newsletters from your favorite brands and stores for early tip-offs on deals, and put your social networking sites to work for access to insider discounts and members-only-style flash sales. Beyond sales and real-time updates, use your tablet or smartphone to stay organized: Have a digital list going or at least a rough sketch of who and what you’re shopping for.
On Black Friday (and Cyber Monday), follow your top brands for up-to-the-minute sales, and if you’re heading out to the shops IRL, these days, there are even apps that reward you for checking in. On Cyber Monday, stay tuned for free shipping offers (oh yeah!) and compare prices (score!).
Some will say Cyber Monday is the new black because it’s fast, easy, and convenient, but I still like the adrenaline rush of shopping. It puts me in the holiday spirit—but I’ll still be in front of my computer on Monday with the rest of you!
In the middle of October, I had a chance to go to New York City for the first annual WIRED Health Conference: Living By Numbers. (We all live by numbers, after all; 15 minutes could save you 15 percent on car insurance, you know.) Over the last few years, wellness has become an area of great innovation, from the way medicine is practiced to how records are kept, and beyond. So WIRED felt it was time for a collective check-up.
Over the two-day conference, industry leaders from business, medicine, and technology met for thought-provoking conversations with WIRED’s editors. However, being that the focus was health, it wasn’t just our minds that got a workout. The organizers had put together a guide on easy exercises and stretches we could do from our chairs. Twenty lucky attendees also got a chance to run through Central Park with Olympic Gold Medalist Ashton Eaton. (Cue, “Chariots of Fire.”)
Discussions covered everything from data transparency to new developments in monitoring tech. Demonstrating the latter, Dr. Alan Greene held a device to his head, which in a few seconds delivered medical data, like heart rate and temperature, to his iPhone. These types of self-monitoring gadgets enable individuals to track changes in their health based on what’s normal for them, instead of a mass medical average. Talk about having your finger on the pulse of something big…
I may not be a brilliant technologist or anything, but a love of problem-solving is something I think I have in common with IT geniuses. Isn’t that what IT is all about? In simplest terms, technology is about finding faster, better, and more efficient ways to solve problems. It’s what motivates most IT professionals to get out of bed in the morning—that, and their smartphone app which gently wakes them between sleep cycles based on the optimal human sleeping pattern. I think you get my point. Thanks to technology, people have come a long way in resolving life’s little issues—like how to save money on car insurance in 15 minutes or less.
I had the honor of catching up with some of the best problem solvers out there at the PDS 2012 Tech Conference. This annual two-day event brought together hundreds of IT professionals in Milwaukee for networking and collaborating. The overarching theme was all about interactive problem-solving; you know, lots of talk about solving the problems of today to move into tomorrow. It was a great chance to get some pointers—for free—so I was taking notes.
I got to listen in on keynote speakers, take part in strategy sessions, and meet some very interesting attendees. Overall, it’s all about finding ways we can work together better—whether it’s saving bunches of money on car insurance or being up and ready for action thanks to an ingenious alarm app.
August kicked off with new records and achievements—and I’m not just talking about the athletic variety or the saving-15%-on-car-insurance variety. I was lucky enough to witness history in the making. Here, a few small steps from WIRED’s headquarters in Times Square, a crowd had assembled to watch another giant leap for mankind: the monumental Mars landing.
Now New York isn’t exactly known for being a city that’s easily impressed—celebrities and even little green men (not the Martian kind) can pretty much walk the streets here unnoticed. And yet, late on this extremely humid night, even this toughest of crowds sat staring up at the giant screen waiting for the first images from the Curiosity rover. It was just about to finish its long trek, some 350 million miles, and complete its “seven minutes of terror” landing, which relied on an untested procedure that a humble Gecko like me can’t even begin to understand.
It was a long wait for the NASA team to receive those first images, and we all shared in the delight as the team celebrated the successful landing. So while our athletes rushed for gold in London, back home NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena had achieved its toughest-ever-feat of robotic space exploration: landing the $2.5 billion Curiosity rover in a crater at the Martian planet and beginning the search for signs of microbial life. Short of being inside the NASA lab, this was easily the most exciting place to be. Where did you watch?
So far, I’ve had some very exciting assignments, but reporting live from Comic-Con this month was in a universe all its own—or dare I say, a galaxy far, far away. Well, at least San Diego felt extremely far from my everyday reality of saving people money on car insurance and questions about my accent. Between sneak peeks at eagerly awaited blockbusters to the nonstop energy of the floor, it was like stepping into an augmented reality, especially with all those diehard fans running around in costumes. The buzz of it all is an absolute rush, but there does come a point when you need a break. (That point usually follows a question like, “Wait, was that really a female Thor who just walked by?”)
That’s also when the WIRED Café came to my proverbial rescue. Located on an outdoor terrace across the street at the Omni Hotel, the WIRED Café is—in superhero terms—part Fortress of Solitude and part Hall of Justice. Hanging out in there this year, I caught a glimpse of everyone from top Hollywood directors to up-and-coming actors, all stopping by to catch up on the latest comic-book action. From Café to Con, and back again, it was nothing short of, well, super.
When you’re a fan of both video games and saving bunches of money, it’s easy to feel conflicted about E3, the annual videogame expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. With each new game and hardware reveal, the anticipation builds – and so does the potential cost of owning it all. But for the few days of the expo, getting lost in the spectacle of it all is almost as exciting as saving people money on car insurance.
While there weren’t any new console reveals this year, there was plenty of new technology. Both Microsoft and Nintendo will be putting screens into gamers’ hands, hoping to extend gaming and entertainment experiences off of the TV. Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console will include a tablet-like controller with a touchscreen that’s nearly as big as me! Microsoft’s solution may be more manageable in size for geckos like me, allowing gamers to use any mobile device, from cell phones to tablets, as a secondary screen for the console.
The other big story this year? Games. Every company, even the “big three” of Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, showed off brand new games and footage meant to make a strong statement: “Our games are the best.” So, with the press conferences and demos all over, who won this year’s E3? Who knows – once we all get our hands on this stuff, the only things we’ll remember are the games.
While I’m quite a big fan of the classic, “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance,” the “Disrupt or be Disrupted” rallying call for the fourth annual WIRED Business Conference caught my eye (ear?). This year’s event, called Disruptive By Design, happened on May 1st in downtown Manhattan—and I was there for my latest assignment as a WIRED Insider. By now, I’ve started to get the hang of this gig, so I was ready to keep up with the one-day symposium of super smart people (but, don’t get me wrong, I also needed a significant amount of coffee and tea).
This year, the speakers were hand-selected for their belief in the power of creativity to make lasting changes across industries. To me, it seemed fitting then that Yancey Strickler, the cofounder of Kickstarter, was among the first panelists to get the day going—especially since Kickstarter has spearheaded a platform where nearly anyone can launch a groundbreaking concept or product. Entire industries have seemingly changed overnight—everything from games to literature. In fact, I just helped some lovely gents with their mobile game Kickstarter for Saturday Morning RPG.
Speaking of innovation, one of the biggest highlights was being in the same room as James Dyson. Starting in 1983, Dyson pioneered a bagless vacuum system called the G-Force so potentially disruptive that no distributor in the U.K. would touch it. Rather than give up, Dyson took his concept to Japan and launched his company through catalogue sales. Now just imagine if he had had access to Kickstarter.
I may be just a bit taller than your average videogame controller, but I was still able to put my thumbs to good use in Boston for PAX East 2012, my latest WIRED Insider assignment. I was there with about 70,000-plus gamers who turned up for this newly minted Boston tradition, which is an offshoot of the Seattle con that started back in 2004. Since heading east in 2010, the convention has grown exponentially, becoming one of the industry’s largest events.
Aside from getting to meet up with great friends, new and old alike, PAX East is the perfect way to hole up in front of a console, computer, or tabletop and hunker down for some serious game-play in the hooked-up freeplay console areas, handheld lounge, and PC showcase. Daily panels provide insight into development, journalism, and even how to get your own game idea made. All the big developers and publishers were there, but the indie games are always the highlight for me. My mum always taught me to root for the little guy…I wonder why?
As if all that weren’t enough, the evenings were full of gaming themed music from some of the largest players in that admittedly niche subgenre. The best part, though? I managed to escape without coming down with the dreaded “PAX Flu,” that unidentified malady that infects the masses at every PAX. To all of my new gaming friends: feel better, and I hope the wait for all of these new games isn’t too unbearable for you.
Austin, Texas, could easily be one of my favorite places in the country—especially during the 19th Annual SXSW Interactive Festival. I got VIP access to the many panels and events thanks to my status as a WIRED Insider. I quickly remembered exactly why I want to spend a lot more than 15 minutes there. For starters, Austin is cool and the city knows it—after all, it is the self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World. It’s the perfect place to discover your inner techie rockstar. Is that a thing?
While Austin is a hub for cutting-edge ideas year-round, during these five days the intellectual volume is turned all the way up. Likewise, we had the sound loud in the WIRED (RV)IP Lounge, the mobile karaoke lounge we rolled around town in. Even three days of non-stop rain couldn’t stop the (RV)IP Lounge—or one painful performance of “Blame It on the Rain”—which admittedly was rather “meta.”
During the fest, I caught some ambitious product demos and great bands, but I still liked the keynote speakers and panels best. From “the Secret Lives of Links” to a lecture called “Making the Real World Easier to Use,” the speakers got me thinking about what’s next in tech—and what’s next for me as a WIRED Insider.