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Blizzard hits Twitch

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Social video platform Twitch and Blizzard Entertainment have announced a two-year worldwide collaboration that includes third-party live streaming rights to select Blizzard esports content, as well as special game content for Twitch Prime subscribers.

Through this collaboration, Twitch will have the third-party rights for streaming many of Blizzard’s biggest esports events through 2018. As the premier social video platform and community for gamers, fans can look forward to watching and interacting with top-tier competitive gaming content from Blizzard while benefiting from a convenient, consistent, and reliable viewing experience on Twitch. In addition, Twitch Prime gamers will rake in several stellar perks for their favorite Blizzard games.

As the first part of this landmark license deal, Blizzard is licensing third-party streaming-platform rights to Twitch for a range of Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and Overwatch esports content. The deal, which reflects Blizzard and Twitch’s long-term investment and ongoing commitment to their passionate communities, supports the world-class competitive ecosystem across all of Blizzard’s esports properties. This includes the following programs and comprises more than 20 major individual events:

  • Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (HGC)
  • StarCraft II World Championship Series (WCS Circuit)
  • Hearthstone Championship Tour (HCT)
  • Hearthstone Global Games (HGG)
  • World of Warcraft Arena Championship
  • Overwatch APEX League
  • Overwatch Premier Series

For the second part of the collaboration, Twitch Prime members in over 200 countries and territories will get special in-game loot and deals for Overwatch, Hearthstone, and Heroes of the Storm. Starting on June 20 and running through August 10, current and new Twitch Prime members will receive a Golden Loot Box for Overwatch, containing a guaranteed legendary item for one of the game’s heroes along with three additional in-game items, such as emotes, voice lines, or character skins. Over the coming months, Twitch Prime members will receive 10 additional Overwatch loot boxes containing more in-game content. Overwatch players can learn more at https://twitch.amazon.com/overwatch. Similar promotions will begin later this year for Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone players.

“We founded Twitch as a gaming platform heavily based on our community’s reaction to games like Blizzard’s StarCraft II,” said Kevin Lin, COO, Twitch. “Since then, our large, but tight-knit community, our constantly evolving suite of interactive features, and a native emote-driven chat language celebrated by viewers enable us to support and grow Blizzard esports in a manner that best serves our collective fans. This includes providing Blizzard fans with exclusive in-game content for those who subscribe to Twitch Prime, another defining and cherished component of our brand.”

“We’ve had great experiences and a long history of working with Twitch, and we’re thrilled that this landmark agreement with them will help us bring some of the most exciting esports action in the world to Twitch fans and everyone who follows Blizzard esports,” said Frank Pearce, chief product officer and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Our esports communities are vital to us. We know there are millions of people out there who love Blizzard esports as much as we do, and we’re committed to making sure they’ll be able to cheer on their favorite players in all of their favorite Blizzard games for a long time to come.”

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Smart home arrives in SA

The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.

The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.

The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.

The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.

The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.

My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.

Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.

Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?

These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.

Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.

Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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