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Bitcoin surges to record high $4,500 — but is the bubble about to burst?

Bitcoin today reached an all-time high, surging past $4,500 for the first time. The cryptocurrency has more than quadrupled in value since December, and experts are beginning to get nervous. Peter Schiff, a longtime opponent to the idea that cryptocurrency has any long-term potential, decries this moment as further evidence that Bitcoin is a bubble about to burst.

If you believe him, it’s time to get out, and sooner is better than later. Schiff spoke to CoinDesk and dismissed the promise of Bitcoin as hyperbole:

There’s certainly a lot of bullishness about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, and that’s the case with bubbles in general. The psychology of bubbles fuels it. You just become more convinced that it’s going to work. And the higher the price goes, the more convinced you become that you’re right. But it’s not going up because it’s going to work. It’s going up because of speculation.

It’s very possible he’s correct, however TNW spoke with another expert, who had an entirely different point-of-view. Zen Protocol CEO Adam Perlow said:

People aren’t speculating in Bitcoin with Bitcoin. It is an asset. It’s very good at being an asset and providing value. If it is a bubble, It’s very much like the internet. That was a bubble too, and it burst. The internet is still here.

Schiff might not be as optimistic about Bitcoin because he’s not really a fan. He also said:

The main benefit of bitcoin – the only segment of society where it’s used for something other than speculation – is crime.

When we spoke to Perlow a few days back we asked him a question about the misconception that Bitcoin is only useful to criminals, he provided us with a different point of view:

Cryptocurrency can serve a lot of great purposes that regular currency can’t. We’ve seen India make most of its currency, the biggest denominations, illegal – they’re crazy for cryptocurrency. Everyone there has digital wallets. In other places, places where you might have a totalitarian government, it could be impossible to conduct financial transactions any other way.

Cryptocurrency, for example, can help to fund aid for people stranded in places where they can’t report any money they have or recieve. It also solves a lot of smaller problems too, such as working with international companies without needing banks to insure transactions  — and take a cut. Right now, Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency, and thus has the most potential.

That’s neither here-nor-there if you’ve already got skin in the game, though. The real question is: how high will Bitcoin go?

A popular investor who goes by masterluc, referred to as legendary by cryptocurrency website Coin Telegraph, says we’ll hit 15,000 by December. Take that with a grain of salt, but there’s plenty of others who are predicting that the upward trend is going to continue, including Goldman Sachs who’ve gotten it right so far.

As for me – the humble tech journalist reminding you that you shouldn’t get your financial advice from a writer, but instead consult legit finance people – I’d wager we’ll see $7,500 before Halloween, and $10,000 by Christmas.

Then again, I just love a good story with a happy ending.

Bitcoin Bear Peter Schiff Doubles Down: Even at $4,000 It’s Still a ‘Bubble’ on CoinDesk

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Gadgets

The secret to avoiding CES cynicism is never really going

I’ve been going to CES for almost ten years now, and it amazes me that really, nothing has changed that whole time. The same people are saying the same things on the same stages, selling the same people the same junk with slightly higher price tags. But this year I had a great time and found some amazing companies — because I avoided at all costs actually stepping foot on the show floor.

The math is simple: when a company gets big enough to get itself a big booth showing off its products, it is almost always at that point that it ceases to be a source of real innovation — or at least the kind of innovation I think is worth tracking down and writing about at CES. They don’t do anything truly cool, nor anything truly dumb.

And I’m not punishing them for their success. I’ve seen some of these companies grow up from nothing to a flashy booth staffed by dozens, and that’s great. But they exist on a different plane now: they seed their news with sites ahead of time, they have private press conferences, they’re working in suites to set up sweetheart manufacturing deals. They’re part of the machine now. Congratulations!

(The most eloquent summary of this side of the show came from a cab driver. After he asked about the latest advances to the TV ecosystem, we explained — something about OLED versus Micro-LED and refresh rates and other things that make almost no difference. “And is it cheaper or more expensive?” he asked with a straight face — then he cracked a grin and laughed uproariously. He knew the score, and with a single question reduced the whole industry to a pack of charlatans, which is exactly right. That was probably my favorite moment of the entire week.)

It’s for this reason that I spent my entire time at CES roaming the hot, shabby wilds that are “Eureka Park.”

A small portion of the Eureka Park map.

Technically it is part of the show, but it’s also like hell. Hundreds of booths perhaps six feet wide and deep are crammed in, CEOs displaying their wares like butchers or street merchants. It’s hot and humid (even in the cold, usually dry Las Vegas January), there’s barely room to move along the inadequate aisles, and if anyone sees you’re media they make a sort of flying pitch at you to pique your interest au volant.

Normally I’d hate this kind of thing, but of course I’d do anything for our glorious parent companies. And actually, this is where pretty much everything cool is.

Sure, you can find crazy gadgets and knockoffs in the innumerable Chinese manufacturers, and the likes of LG have things like roll-up OLED screens, but these are no more than novelties, both for the companies themselves and those viewing them. The companies at Eureka Park are generally startups with one product or service that they’ve put all their money and time behind; they really care about this stuff.

That earnestness is endearing and makes for a good story — though not necessarily a good idea. I passed by hundreds of booths full of things no one needs and I suspect no one wants, services doomed to languish in obscurity, or devices surfing on a trend that won’t last out the year. (Just how many smartwatches do they think we need?)

Every once in a while, though, you hit the trifecta: a smart piece of technology being created for a worthwhile purpose by people who actually care about both. I dare you to find anything like that in any of the main halls.

This year I found a few examples of this. The first one I visited was LifeDoor, a device that closes a door it’s attached to when it hears a smoke alarm go off. Here’s something that could save lives (really), is simply yet purposefully designed, and created by a few people (including firefighters) who saw a chance to make something that helped others.

Another gadget I found seemed too good to be true, so much so that I requested third party documentation that it works. It was Lishtot’s TestDrop, a device smaller than a keyfob that instantly and reliably tells you if water is drinkable without even touching it. Wouldn’t you be skeptical? This company didn’t really even have its own booth; it was listed under the “Israel Export Institute.” An affordable device that could save thousands of lives, and it has less room dedicated to it than Samsung’s cheapest TV!

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Apps

Why Snapchat Spectacles failed

How come only 0.08% of Snapchat’s users bought its camera sunglasses? Hundreds of thousands of pairs of Spectacles sit rotting in warehouses after the company bungled the launch. Initial hype and lines for its roving, limited time only Snapbot vending machines led Snap to overestimate demand but underdeliver on quality and content.

Massive piles of assembled and unassembled video-recording sunglasses sit unsold, contributing to Snap’s enormous costs and losses, says The Information. Internal Snap data shows less than 50 percent of buyers kept using Spectacles a month after purchase, Business Insider’s Alex Heath reports. A “sizeable” percentage stopped after just a week, with a source calling the retention rate “shockingly low”.

What was the problem? Snap generated huge hype for Spectacles, but then waited 5 months to openly sell them. Once people actually tried Spectacles, few kept wearing them, and word of mouth about their disuse spread. Snap never got visionary video markers onboard. And as Snapchat’s popularity waned in the face of competitors, the fact that Spectacles only interfaced with its app rather than a phone’s camera roll became a burden.

Snap did some things right with Spectacles. The fashion photo spread announcement felt classy and surprising despite clues and photos of CEO Evan Spiegel trickling out ahead. The initial launch was a marketing extravaganza, with multi-hour lines of cool kids waiting on the Venice Beach boardwalk to buy them. And the Snapbots being dropped in random locations was exciting and made people feel special if they got ahold of them. But once people put them on their face, the excitement died off.

Karl Lagerfeld’s photo of Snap CEO Evan Spiegel donning Spectacles for their September 2016 reveal

Here’s a breakdown of the major flaws that emerged with Spectacles in the year since their debut, with a focus on the stilted launch strategy:

Botched Roll Out

Snap first announced Spectacles with some Karl Lagerfeld photos of Spiegel wearing them on September 24th 2016. Hype was high despite the beachey color options that turned some people off. It took until November 10th for the first Snapbot vending machines to launch. While the hype had cooled slightly, demand was huge as people wanted to be the first on the block with Spectacles, and lines stretched down streets.

But Snap whether it was because Snap wanted to milk the Snapbot promotion, couldn’t tell if Spectacles should be exclusive or widely available, or it had supply chain problems, it took until February 20th for Snap to start openly selling Specs online.

Waiting five months after the initial announcement was an eternity in the fast-moving teenage fad cycle. They weren’t cool by the time they were buyable. Everyone had already seen the sunglasses and circular video all over the Internet, most owners had long since stopped using them, the holiday season had passed, and few people wanted to buy so late. It took until June, 8 months after their debut, for Spectacles to become available in Europe.

If Snap had instead made its announcement, quickly outfitted some lucky normal users and celebrities with Spectacles, then launched a giant Black Friday sale at the peak of its hype, all those people fascinated with the gadget might have bought immediately. Everyone would have paid before word got out that people weren’t going to wear camera glasses all that much.

Alternatively, Snap could have gone the path of exclusivity lit by its fashion-focused debut. Rather than ever selling Specs openly, it could have gotten them into runway shows and magazines while sticking with the limited-edition Snapbots. Then after a few months it could have ceased all sales, turned existing pairs into fought-over collector’s items, and saved the mainstream rollout for an eventual v2 launch. Unfortunately, Snap seems to have got stuck between these exclusive and mass-retail strategies.

Where Were The Spectacles Influencers? – To drive demand, Snap needed to demonstrate all the creative things you could do with Spectacles, and the cool people who wore them. Yet at the time, it still had a very hands-off approach to dealing with traditional celebrities and web influencers. Snap didn’t make outfitting creators with Specs and training them to use the camera glasses a priority. Instead of top Snappers constantly posting circular videos and encouraging fans to do the same, Snap effectively left the gadget out to dry. Snap let random Spectacles buyers, often over-enthusiastic social media amateurs, define the image of the product, similar to how Google’s core mistake was allowing geeky developers to become the face of Glass.

TechCrunch’s video host Tito Hamze became a de facto face of Spectacles as there were so few influencers using them

Few Examples Of Great Content – Stemming from Snap’s failure to foster a Spectacles creator scene, it did a terrible job of showing off how Spectacles could be used beyond the initial commercial. Neither Snap’s in-house team or independent social stars were recruited to make videos exposing the creative opportunities of the device. It did little through event marketing or in-app promotion to encourage Spectacle content creation. Karen X. Cheng was perhaps the only Spectacles influencer lighting the path, with her first-person mirror dancing video and Spectacles-on-babies ad she helped Brawny make. But Snap should have ensured the Internet was flooded with these videos proving what you can’t do with your phone’s camera, and why you should buy Spectacles.

People Are Still Freaked Out By Camera Glasses – Google Glass tainted the market with its “not sure if you’re recording me” design. Even though Snap put more obvious recording signal lights on Spectacles, people would still question you about whether they were on camera. That not only made people uncomfortable being around Spectacles, but made you feel like a bit of a creep just wearing them even if you never tapped the shutter button. Their appeal was further limited by their polarizing  “fashion-forward” design (some would call ugly), while the only non-black colors were aggressively bright teal and coral.

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Insider

Virtual reality – the only way same-sex marriage is legal in Australia

As Australians agonizingly await the final results from the same-sex marriage survey (which doesn’t even guarantee a change in the law), gay couples continue having to tie the knot elsewhere, as it’s insanely the only way.

A dedicated group from Sydney have done their best to try and change this with an event they termed Virtual Equality. The project gives Australians the possibility to experience a same-sex wedding the only way legally possible in Australia – through virtual reality. Giles Clayton, one of the organizers, wanted to emphasize that same-sex marriage is nothing to be afraid of:

The goal was for Aussies to get the chance to experience something they can’t right now and hopefully change perspectives about the fear of legalizing same-sex marriage.

The project was funded by J. Walter Thompson and Luscious International, both major players in the Australian advertising and video production world. To bring the event to life, the first step was finding a same-sex couple looking to get hitched.

Through a few degrees of separation, they came across Dan Thurston and Thomas Crow, a soon-to-be-married Kiwi-American couple based in New Zealand. The loving pair volunteered for the project, allowing J. Walter Thompson and Luscious International to attend their Kiwi wedding on September 22 and film the ceremony in 360-video. You can watch the ceremony here.

Credit: Emily Raftery

After attending the NZ wedding, the Virtual Equality team began organizing a second wedding for Dan and Thomas in Australia – only this time, in virtual reality. They invited the public, politicians and some of the couple’s Australian friends to attend and appreciate how great a same-sex marriage in Australia can be. Dan was hopeful that seeing would be believing.

I hope that, in seeing us as a positive model for marriage, Australians can see that marriage equality is a no-brainer and any debate about such basic human rights is dumb.

The ‘virtual ceremony’ took place in First Fleet Park in Sydney on October 10, with each guest receiving a VR headset and headphones to experience the Kiwi ceremony. Hundreds of people of all ages lined up to be part of the event, with responses ranging from joy and laughter to tears. Directed by Lou Quill, watch how it went below:

Guests included Sally Rugg, director of GetUp’s campaign for marriage equality and Jenny Leong, member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly representing Newtown for the Greens. Leong was deeply affected that something so simple and natural can’t legally happen in Australia.

It’s bizarre that in Australia we can only experience a same-sex marriage through virtual reality. Especially in Sydney where we fly the rainbow flag so bright. Love is personal but should be inclusive of everyone and this is why we need to change the ban on same-sex marriage.

The legalization of same-sex marriage has been a controversial issue on Australia’s political agenda for several years. The current Marriage Act 1961 in Australia narrowly states that marriage is “the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others.” 

Australia is currently in the midst of a non-binding, non-compulsory postal survey which asks the question “Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?” Unlike a referendum which seeks to amend the Australian Constitution if a majority of Australians vote “Yes” in the majority of states, the postal vote merely seeks to gauge public opinion on the issue.

That means, even if the postal vote delivers a majority “Yes” result, there’s no guarantee the law will change. Instead, the government will introduce a private member’s bill to amend the current Marriage Act. Members of parliament will then be allowed to freely vote for or against the bill. On the other hand, if the postal vote delivers a majority “No” response, the decision is binding and no bill will be introduced…

The team behind Virtual Equality are hopeful it won’t get to that. They have distributed hundreds of rainbow-branded Google Cardboard headsets to influencers and politicians around the country, letting them experience the same-sex wedding in VR. Rachel Wintle, one of the organizers from J. Walter Thompson explained:

With many Australians still fearful about same-sex marriage both companies urge positive responses from anyone who wishes to share or comment on the campaign, to counteract the often hateful messages that have been shared by members of the NO campaign over the voting period.

While the absolute deadline to return your ballot is November 7, 2017, both companies encourage Australians to vote “Yes” for marriage equality by this Friday, October 27th.

With same-sex marriage now legal in 23 countries, let’s hope that Australia will be the next to recognize loving relationships like that of Dan and Thomas. And the message to take away from Virtual Equality’s campaign: it’s time to make marriage equality a reality.

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