On this day in 1963, American folk group, Peter, Paul and Mary, released their beloved single, “Puff The Magic Dragon.” The lyrics of the song were written by Leonard Lipton, a friend of Peter’s at Cornell University, back in 1959 while they were in school. “Puff” recounts the story of a little boy, Jackie Paper, and his imaginary dragon friend, Puff, who go on adventures together during Jackie’s childhood. But eventually, Jackie grows up, leaving Puff to retreat back into his cave, awaiting his next child companion. The song was an instant success, reaching number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming another standard in a broad series of Peter, Paul and Mary folk hits that dominated the 1960s. However, as early as 1964, speculation over the song’s true meaning arose, leading many to believe that the seemingly innocent lyrics about childhood and growing up actually serve as a veiled metaphor for smoking marijuana. The group, as well as the lyricist Lipton, have since vehemently denied the allegations. But the song, to this day, remains heavily associated with drug culture.
In the wake of the sudden passing of Prince last year, there has been an overwhelming demand for the legendary music icon’s body of work to be made available on music streaming services. As of February 12, many fans got their wish. Warner Bros, who owns the rights to much of the late musician’s work, including renowned albums 1999, Purple Rain, and Dirty Mind, has reached an agreement with Prince’s estate to allow all his music (released prior to his 1996 split with Warner Bros) to be made available on music streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and Pandora. The February 12 release date coincided with the Grammy Awards, which honored Prince with a tribute performance by The Time and Bruno Mars.
Warner Bros has also announced that, on June 9th, they will release a remastered version of Purple Rain, as well as two previously unreleased Prince albums and two concert films from Prince’s personal vault at his Paisley Park recording complex.
Prince did once have his music available for streaming on some digital platforms, but, with the exception of Jay Z’s Tidal (which gives artists a larger share of profits) took his music down in 2015. An advocate for artist rights, Prince split with his long-time record label, Warner Bros, in 1996 because, as a prolific songwriter, Prince wanted to release new music as soon as it was ready, but Warner Bros refused his request. This dispute and eventual split was what prompted the singer’s infamous name change to the un-pronounceable emblem combining the astrologically inspired Mars-male and Venus-female symbols. In a press release at that time, Prince wrote: “Warner Bros took the name, trademarked it, and used it as the main marketing tool to promote all of the music I wrote…The company owns the name Prince and all related music marketed under Prince. I became merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Bros.”
Once the Warner Bros contract expired in the year 2000, Prince went back to using his name, creating his own record label and innovating new ways for fans to access his work, becoming one of the first artists to sell their albums online.
Last week I shared my thoughts on the significant progress Virtual Reality (VR) has made towards mass adoption. This week, I’ll discuss the commercial and technical problems that I see facing VR technology.
Right now, at the very early stages of VR, we are experiencing a “chicken and egg” conundrum that is ultimately slowing down the industry’s growth and market reach: game developers don’t want to commit millions in launching a “first gen” title (that is bound to be superseded within a few months of launch) until the hardware installed base is bigger; and the hardware volumes won’t ramp up until there is a killer, interactive, multi-user game title made exclusively for Virtual Reality that will attract mainstream users like a “World of Warcraft” or “Halo”.
To compound the situation, manufacturers are figuratively shooting themselves in the foot by deliberately making incompatible hardware, forcing game studios to develop for each platform and deterring consumers from purchasing VR systems altogether. The nascent VR industry won’t survive a Betamax/VHS -style platform fight because this time around, the technology is too expensive and too intrusive in the home. Setting up a full-room VR system is a pretty big commitment at this stage, and consumers don’t want to spend upwards of thousands of dollars on a system for Christmas only to have the technology immediately superseded.
Technical hurdles abound for room-scale VR systems in these early stages, but none more so than mobility. The best VR experience still requires a physical connection between the Head Mounted Display (HMD) and its host PC or game console. The fact that they are tethered to an external processor not only hinders the user’s ability to move freely and engage in a true immersive VR experience, but it also creates a fairly annoying weight that’s left dangling from the back of the user’s head and neck.
Concepts for wireless HMDs that can compete with the powerful, tethered room-scale systems currently on the market are slowly beginning to take shape, but solving the latency problem is still a major issue for engineers looking to cut the cord.
The virtual environment must sync with the users head and body movements, or else risk motion sickness and a disjointed experience. In fact a latency of 20 milliseconds is the point most people start to experience nausea.
Achieving this perfect sync requires wireless technology that not only achieves extremely low latency, but also a connection that is lossless, synchronous, and can support high quality sound and video without jamming up the rest of the user’s network. The solution itself must also have an extended range, especially if, in the near future, users and manufacturers want to experiment with multiroom setups.
Virtual Reality, once fully developed and widely adopted, will not only change the way we interact with art, with the world, and with each other, it’ll change standard methods of education (students will be able to take extensive field trips or practice dangerous surgeries, from the safety of a classroom), travel, social networking, shopping, and beyond.
Having worked with VR technology investors and developers over the years, I am particularly excited about the potential of Blackfire’s WiFi protocol to help overcome some of these issues, and create an even more immersive VR without wires.
Blackfire Research wishes you a very happy Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re in love with your wireless home theater, surround sound system, or the ease of streaming music wirelessly from your smartphone to portable speakers, celebrate today by snuggling up on the couch and enjoying unrivaled audio enabled by Blackfire’s patented technology. (Because flowers and chocolates are so overrated.)