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Black Mirror releases interactive episode

A new one-off special episode of Black Mirror allows viewers to select the storyline, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Video streaming giant Netflix today released an interactive special edition of the hit series Black Mirror that allows viewers to choose how the story develops and, eventually, ends.

On 28 December at 10:03am South African time, Netflix released an extended 90-minute episode of Black Mirror, titled Bandersnatch, to showcase its new interactive technology. Depending on choices made by the viewer, running time can be even longer.

The episode provides a tutorial when accessed for the first time, instructing the viewer to “keep your mouse or trackpad close at hand” in order to select the storyline options when they arise. For Smart TV viewers, the TV’s remote control can be used to select the options. If viewers choose to leave halfway, all plot choices are lost, so choosing a comfortable platform to watch the show is essential. The show can be rewatched to select different paths and outcomes.

Keeping the format simple, Netflix has restricted the episode to a few options per scenario, for now, in what the character should do.

Black Mirror focuses on fears linked to rapid development and adoption of technology in a dystopian alternate reality. The latest episode follows a young coder who helps create a computer game based on an adventure novel.

Bandersnatch is also the title of a real computer game made in 1984 but never released. Made by Imagine Software for the ZX Spectrum computer, it was renamed after being sold by its creators.

According to early feedback, fans of the series should “expect to have their minds blown”. They should also expect to revisit the beginning several times to experience different outcomes.

*The episode is available to stream now on Netflix. It is available on computer, Smart TV, gaming consoles and the latest Smart TV boxes. If you don’t see the star icon shown in the image below, it means your device is not capable of the interactive story experience.

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CES: Most useless gadgets

The worst gadgets of CES also deserve their moment of infamy, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s fairly easy to choose the best new gadgets launched at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week. Most lists – and there are many – highlight the LG roll-up TV, the Samsung modular TV, the Royole foldable phone, the impossible burger, and the walking car.

But what about the voice assisted bed, the smart baby dining table, the self-driving suitcase and the robot that does nothing? In their current renditions, they sum up what is not only bad about technology, but how technology for its own sake quickly leads us down the rabbit hole of waste and futility.

The following pick of the worst of CES may well be a thinly veneered attempt at mockery, but it is also intended as a caution against getting caught up in hype and justification of pointless technology.

1. DUX voice-assisted bed

The single most useless product launched at CES this year must surely be a bed with Alexa voice control built in. No, not to control the bed itself, but to manage the smart home features with which Alexa and other smart speakers are associated. Or that any smartphone with Siri or Google Assistant could handle. Swedish luxury bedmaker DUX thinks it’s a good idea to manage smart lights, TV, security and air conditioning through the bed itself. Just don’t say Alexa’s “wake word” in your sleep.

2. Smart Baby Dining Table 

Ironically, the runner-up comes from a brand that also makes smart beds: China’s 37 Degree Smart Home. Self-described as “the world’s first smart furniture brand that is transforming technology into furniture”, it outdid itself with a Smart Baby Dining Table. This isa baby feeding table with a removable dining chair that contains a weight detector and adjustable camera, to make children’s weight and temperature visible to parents via the brand’s app. Score one for hands-off parenting.

Click here to read about smart diapers, self-driving suitcases, laundry folders, and bad robot companions.

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CES: Language tech means no more “lost in translation”

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Talking to strangers in foreign countries just got a lot easier with recent advancements in translation technology. Last week, major companies and small startups alike showed the CES technology expo in Las Vegas how well their translation worked at live translation.

Most existing translation apps, like Bixby and Siri Translate, are still in their infancy with live speech translation, which brings about the need for dedicated solutions like these technologies:

Babel’s AIcorrect pocket translator

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The AIcorrect Translator, developed by Beijing-based Babel Technology, attracted attention as the linguistic king of the show. As an advanced application of AI technology in consumer technology, the pocket translator deals with problems in cross-linguistic communication. 

It supports real-time mutual translation in multiple situations between Chinese/English and 30 other languages, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Russian and Spanish. A significant differentiator is that major languages like English being further divided into accents. The translation quality reaches as high as 96%.

It has a touch screen, where transcription and audio translation are shown at the same time. Lei Guan, CEO of Babel Technology, said: “As a Chinese pathfinder in the field of AI, we designed the device in hoping that hundreds of millions of people can have access to it and carry out cross-linguistic communication all barrier-free.” 

Click here to read about the Pilot, Travis, Pocketalk, Google and Zoi translators.

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