Click tests a new tool that promises to drastically increase your speed, but will you take any of it in? Start-ups fight for attention and investment at SXSW in Texas.
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Right, let's get started on this.
Hmm. Not bad.
A bit slow in the middle.
But not bad.
This week, Click is tearing up the page as we test a new technique
to help you read faster on smaller screens.
We'll follow a start-up's journey from Silicon Valley
to Texas, as it tries to make a name for itself
at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival.
We'll play the games pushing the next-generation games consoles
to their limits, and meet the man who gave up the glamour
to write a hit in his bedroom.
All that, plus the latest tech news
and Webscape definitely has YOUR number, but do you have ours?
Welcome to Click. I'm Spencer Kelly.
How good a reader are you?
More specifically, how fast can you read?
I tell you what, we're going to do a test.
In a moment, I'll show you a page of text
and all I want you to do is read it
at your normal reading speed
and see how far you get in 15 seconds.
OK, ready? Go!
Well, if you got to the bottom,
you read at a rate of 324 words per minute,
which is slightly faster than the average adult.
Although you'd have to go some
to beat the fastest readers on the planet.
4,700 words a minute. That's, quite frankly, ridiculous.
Well, there's a new reading system
that's been tantalising the tech world recently
that could boost your speed.
It's called Spritz, and it's been designed to enable faster reading
on devices with smaller screens.
Here, the so-called optimal recognition point,
the most important part of every word,
appears in exactly the same place on the screen.
According to researchers at Spritz, most of your reading time
is actually spent moving your eyes from one word to the next,
whereas, using this system, your eye doesn't have to move at all.
I caught up with Spritz's co-founder Dr Maik Maurer
in my office in the Cloud, to find out more.
What you are essentially asking people to do
is read fairly quickly and, for the most part,
they only get one shot at each word.
Do you have any evidence that people can still retain that information
as well as they could, if they had the freedom
to go back over a couple of words and linger a little bit longer
than it's Spritzed on the screen for?
If you have the right speed,
so that means not too slow, not too fast,
then, really, people have a higher comprehension of the text
than they have in normal reading, very often.
So this is, you know that, if you read tickers on TV,
they are always too slow.
And this is really horrible, because it's just annoying,
and you wait for new words coming up and so you get bored
and people can answer more questions about the content of the text
if it is Spritzed at the right speed,
which is a lot faster than conventional reading.
To put that to a wholly unscientific test,
I challenged Dr Catherine Brown, English lecturer
and Queen of Reading
to take in as much of this text as she can in one minute.
I'm reading the same text using Spritz,
running a bit faster than Catherine's reading speed.
Once we're done, we have to answer three questions
about the text we've just read.
But who will have retained more information?
-9-10 hours a day.
-I got 10-12.
OK. Question two?
I got the something, something, something park in South Africa.
I got the Addo National Park.
Addo National Park.
-Can I have half a point?!
-I think you should.
Question three, I have to say, I completely made up dolphins.
I thought big cats.
-It's actually whales!
-You were closer!
I know, but I just completely made it up!
Hmmm. All those years at university paid off
for at least one of us, then!
South by Southwest has grown from humble roots in the early '90s
to a vital date on the tech calendar.
For ten days every March, around 30,000 film, music
and tech creators travel to Texas to talk, party and pontificate
on issues of the day, on everything from digital movie-making
to wearable tech design.
It's also a place where start-ups
try and make a splash any way they can.
Richard Taylor has been on the road with one of them.
The important thing for us to look at also
as we're in South by South West is,
what is the marketing or acquisition strategy for us?
Finalising their South by Southwest road trip
from their Silicon Valley base, British entrepreneur Sachin Duggal
and his team are looking to the Texas festival to make waves.
The guys have quietly been working
on their mobile photo app, Shoto, for a year.
It offers friends the ability to automatically share their snaps
with others who are at the same location.
Now, it's time to bring the app out of stealth mode
and show it off to the masses.
South by Southwest is where a lot of big names have come to fruition.
It is where you sink or die to a certain extent.
It has been our plan, almost since the beginning, that it would be
the point at which we wanted our product to go to a wider audience.
South By, as it's known, certainly draws in
an eclectic crowd of cultural influences,
who descend on downtown Austin
for a chaotic, creative festival quite like no other.
South by Southwest brings together people from technology,
from creators, innovators, social entrepreneurs.
It's the hub where everyone comes together for the next few days
and it's so exciting to be here.
Inside the convention centre, they're treated to a stimulating agenda,
with over 800 sessions across ten days.
In one hall, the WikiLeaks founder remotely waxes conspiratorial
on the dangers of state surveillance.
Other panels span the gamut of contemporary culture,
many with a social media bias.
Twitter, now the subject of much discussion,
famously made it big here.
It's outside the convention centre that South By really spring to life.
At every turn, social interactions are liberally lubricated,
often by big-name corporate sponsors,
a growing presence here.
It's resented by some,
willingly overlooked by most.
For us, the value of South by Southwest
is totally in the parties and the networking
because it puts us in front of people
we normally wouldn't get to be in front of.
For start-ups without the corporate cash flow,
more guerrilla marketing comes into play.
Shoto has splashed out some of its 12,000 budget
on a party bus to lure in potential users.
Are you interested in a cup of coffee or something to eat?
We're picking people up and we're saying install the app
and if they do they can eat and drink anything they want on the bus.
Would you guys like to get out of the rain...?
Problem is, it's not going well.
Would you like some hot coffee?
Would you like some hot coffee?
But, after a hard tweak to the drinks offering,
the party bus finally starts filling up,
almost as quickly as the booze bottles empty.
Some punters even show what might be genuine interest in the app.
Other start-ups have chosen
a marginally more sober and certainly cheaper route,
like exhibiting their wares in this pop-up hotel lobby showcase.
One of the problems with South by Southwest is
that there is so much noise, not just literally but metaphorically.
For every Twitter or Foursquare that makes it,
there are thousands that you'll simply never hear from again.
But back on the Shoto shuttle,
the spirit of South By really is beginning to soak in.
Over the week, the team even find the time
to do some networking of their own, giving them party memories
that they at least will definitely want to share.
Next up, a look at this week's Tech News.
After 25 years, Sir Tim Berners-Lee,
father to the worldwide web,
has decided it's time for a few house rules.
In an interview with the BBC, Sir Tim called for
a Magna Carta bill of rights to protect its users
from mass surveillance
and for action to protect the democratic nature of the web.
Are we going to continue on the road and just allow the governments
to have more control and surveillance, or actually
now it is so important and so much part of our lives,
that it becomes, on a level, human rights?
Doctors in Swansea have used 3D printing in pioneering surgery
to reconstruct the face of a man
seriously injured in a motorbike accident.
Stephen Power is thought to be one of the first patients
in the world to have 3D printing used
at every stage of the procedure.
During the eight-hour operation, surgeons inserted
custom-made titanium implants, 3D-printed in Belgium.
Using the tech means doctors can be much more precise,
producing a better final result.
And finally, musician Neil Young has successfully crowd-funded
over 1.5 million for his fidelity-focused music player.
Backed by a host of stars,
the prism-shaped device offers a new hi-fi listening experience, with
some tracks containing 30 times more sound data than an average MP3 file.
The accompanying Pono digital music store plans to sell
ultra-high quality files,
with a maximum resolution of 9,216 kilobits per second.
Audiophiles, don't get your ear buds in a twist just yet.
The device isn't slated to start its set until late summer.
The next-generation video games consoles
PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched
to much fanfare at the end of last year.
But the games they launched with
had a decidedly last-generation feel about them.
That was true, until now.
Now we're starting to see games that use the full processing grunt
of these new devices, to give you a much richer picture
to have more things going on in the shot
and more detail in the background, for example.
Mark Ciesnak has been putting the latest batch of blockbuster games
through their paces.
Titanfall is none of these things.
It is, however, an Xbox exclusive,
featuring online multiplayer jet-pack-equipped futuristic grunts,
leaping tall buildings in a single bound, while blowing away
similarly-equipped enemy futuristic grunts.
While it may seem a touch unsporting,
giant mechs taking on infantry,
the balance between quick and nimble pilots
and the powerful but lumbering Titans
creates surprisingly satisfying gameplay.
A superior shooter, which helps demonstrate
the capabilities of Microsoft's take on the next gen, admirably.
Microsoft isn't alone in bagging exclusive games for its machines.
Sony's PlayStation 4 is about to receive
its very own much-anticipated next-gen title.
It's a game which thrusts the player
into the super-powered shoes of a character
who has most definitely ticked the sartorial box labelled "Emo".
Infamous Second Son is a third-person,
sandbox-style adventure, set in a totalitarian Seattle,
a world where superpowered humans are treated with fear and suspicion.
The protagonist possesses the power
to adopt the abilities of other superhumans.
This can manifest as turning into a cloud of smoke
or throwing beams of neon at enemies.
There's a saying that's often associated with superheroes.
"With great power comes great responsibility."
However, in this game, the player can choose to be heroic and nice
or villainous and very, very nasty.
In-game events and the story will alter
depending on the path the player decides to follow, good or evil.
Don't make me break that handsome nose of yours.
Flexing the PS4's processing prowess,
it makes jumping across rooftops or turning into a puff of smoke
before laying waste to gangs of enemies, look effortless.
A task which I suspect the previous generation's machines
would have struggled to achieve.
When it comes to sneaky, stealthy espionage action,
the acknowledged master of the genre is Hideo Kojima
the creator of the Metal Gear series of games.
Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes acts
as the prologue to the full Metal Gear Solid 5 game,
which will be released later this year.
Kept you waiting, huh?
And if that voice sounds familiar, it's because 24's Kiefer Sutherland
has lent his gravelly growl to the game's protagonist, Snake.
Set in the 1970s, there is one main mission and five side missions,
which providing about 4-5 hours of play time.
This is classic Metal Gear.
Sneaking and stalking,
avoiding guards, cameras and flashlights, in an attempt
to rescue prisoners from a mysterious military outpost.
The play environment is now pretty big. So big, in fact,
that Snake can commandeer vehicles to get from one place to another.
Items or equipment the player comes across, like
anti-aircraft emplacements, can be used to assist Snake in his mission.
As with all Metal Gears, a more stealthy style of play
is rewarded over a firearms-friendly all-guns-a-blazing gung-ho approach
which often leads to the player discovering
that their on-screen character has a severe allergy to bullets.
Fans eager to get their fill of Kojima's slick brand
of Hollywood-inspired stealth-em-up
will no doubt lap up Ground Zeroes, as a game perhaps best described
as the appetiser to Metal Gear Solid 5's main course.
Mark Cieslak. Now, the games we've just seen
are the equivalent of Hollywood blockbuster movies
and Triple-A companies can often have
more than 100 people working on each title.
But the games industry grew from people
writing computer programmes on their own,
and some developers are leaving the big companies
and returning to this bedroom-programming mentality.
One example is Papers, Please.
Nominated for a video-game BAFTA this week,
developer Lucas Pope left gaming giant Naughty Dog
to develop his low-res hit.
The concept for Papers, Please
is one I think is hard to convince others of.
If I'm working with a lot of people I've got to convince them
this kind of dumb idea is going to make a good game.
You man a border inspection checkpoint
and you're the guy who checks the documents.
So people come in your booth and they give you their papers,
their passport, their immigration papers,
and you check all the papers against them and their face and information.
And if it all checks out, you can then send them through.
It sounds really boring and stupid
but that correlation of disparate information, for me, is really fun.
As someone who has mild OCD
I like to make sure the information matches up.
I like the setting, 1984 kind of setting, of, like,
a Communist bureaucracy, more or less.
I work by myself in a small room as an office.
I just get up in the morning and work all day long.
I love to work, so it was easy for me to do this kind of project
where I need to do all of the art, music and sound.
So if I get tired of doing the programming,
I can take a break from that and do the music.
As far as like, working on a team of 150 people,
even when you're the game director, at the very top,
you still don't have complete control of everything.
And I guess I'm kind of a control freak,
so for me, I dialled the project way back, so I could handle it myself.
So far it's sold about 500,000 copies,
which is, like, unimaginably beyond what I ever expected.
When reviewers talk about the game, they say it's not fun.
But for me, just the core element of checking documents is fun.
The second thing is, people call it an empathy game.
I did try to put you in a difficult position throughout the game
so that you have a better understanding
of the kinds of issues that come up in this sort of situation.
I hope, it's not my main goal, but I hope people get a more balanced view
of the kind of issues that come up
by security and safety and freedoms in this sort of setting.
Lucas Pope in his own words.
Now, if you are properly into your maths,
you will know that prime numbers are not just interesting,
they're actually really important in science,
and are currently used for things like cryptology.
The largest one that has so far been discovered
is more than 17 million digits long
and if you wanted to print it out in normal-sized text,
you would need about six acres of paper.
But there are plenty more still waiting to be discovered,
as Kate Russell has been finding out this week in Webscape.
# 5, BLEEP, 3, 2, 1... #
The biggest known prime number was discovered in 2013
and is a huge number,
but there are also a lot of prime numbers missing,
and that is where citizen science project Prime Challenge
wants your help.
The focus of the challenge
is to find the lost primes,
those prime numbers that have remained so far undiscovered.
This visualisation from the developers behind the project
gives you an idea of just how big
the gaps between discovered prime numbers are.
You'll need to take up a free trial of Windows Azure,
which gives you some Cloud computing power that can be enlisted
to crunch through the numbers with a specially-written algorithm.
The project hopes to fill the gaps
between those prime numbers that we already know
and hopefully stimulate renewed interest in mathematics.
# 5, 4, 3, 2, 1... #
If you've got a lot of old photos on paper,
Pic Scanner is a new app on iOS that should save you loads of time
by letting you scan, auto-crop
and save up to four photos in one go.
The app is also packed with great tools for editing, adding captions,
tags and other enhancements that will be really useful
if you're scanning very old and fading photographs.
There is even an automatic perspective correction
and levelling tool, to help you capture
the best possible scan with your camera.
Scanning four photos is obviously fastest
but you will lose out on resolution.
Although they should be fine for posting online
The best balance between speed and quality
is achieved scanning two at a time.
And make sure the lighting is good for the best results.
Stanley worked for a company in a big building
where he was employee number 427...
When is a game not a game?
When it's the Stanley Parable,
an artistic and thought-provoking exploration of choice and free will
in video games.
Originally created as a fan modification
for the popular first person shooter Half-Life 2,
you play the part of Stanley,
otherwise known as employee number 427,
as he goes in search of his missing co-workers.
The narration is darkly humorous
and, coupled with the complete lack of choices, makes this feel
more like a piece of interactive linear fiction than an actual game.
..as though he'd been made exactly for this job.
Its creator bills it as a first-person exploration game.
Whatever you choose to call it is up to you.
At least you do have a choice about that.
Personally, I found it an atmospheric journey through a quirky world
that is definitely worth the download.
The free demo is available for Windows PCs
with expanded levels for a moderate price.
CACOPHONY OF OVERLAID "STANLEY" PHRASES
Kate Russell's Webscape.
And Kate's links are, as usual, available at our website
if you missed them -
That's the place to go
to find all the various parts of this week's programme, too.
Just before we go,
I feel a murmuration coming on.
This extraordinary video uses a relatively simple visual effect
to bring to life the flight patterns of birds.
As these starlings leave their digital trails in the sky
the creator says, as well as just looking cool,
this could also help scientists to better understand animal behaviour.
I was driving by a doughnut shop
and I saw this flock of birds up on the wires
and I got out and I took out my pocket camera
and shot it and went home
and did my process to the footage,
and I was absolutely amazed.
I've been in contact with people that are studying bird behaviour.
I'm engaged in some conversations about the flights of birds
and whether there are actually modes of communication
in why they do it, how do they do it,
and how do they fly in these tight formations?
What I'm doing is, I'm taking two seconds of time
and I'm taking all of the frames in that two seconds of time
and putting them on one frame.
And then I progressively go down and do it to the next frame
and then do it to the next and do it to the next,
and so these films are real-time films.
It's just fascinating to let your mind wander while looking at these.
It takes one hour to render one minute of this footage
and Professor Hylnsky has already covered a fair portion
of the animal kingdom.
It is, for me, I have to say, as much art as it is science.
And if you've found anything you think the world needs to see,
send it our way.
That's it for now. Thank you very much for watching
and we'll see you next time.
Click tests a new tool that promises to drastically increase your speed, but will you take any of it in? Start-ups fight for attention and investment at SXSW in Texas.
And the show gets hands on with the latest video game previews. Plus tech news and web roundup.