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The MTV video awards are coming soon and it seems that Ariana Grande might not be attending. Grande and Taylor Swift received the most nominations for this year’s MTV video awards, they both received 10.  Swift will not attend the show itself but will be performing at the event. In contrast, Grande’s tour schedule will make it hard for her to attend; she happens to have two shows lined up in Europe the days before and after the VMAs event in Newark, New Jersey. The video of the year award will be an interesting battle to watch; Ariana Grande’s video “thank u, next” will compete against Taylor Swift’s video “You Need to Calm Down” for this coveted prize. Furthermore, this competition will be made more interesting by the fact that newly discovered fame will be competing against well-established talent; Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, two recent breakthrough stars, were also nominated for the video of the year award. The award itself might be determined by what MTV prefers; will it be well established talent or brand-new musical stars?

            Hearing is one of the five senses which technology has successfully aided. Hearing aids are common and successful technologies. Eyeglasses designed to help people to see well have existed since the Middle Ages. Recently, an artificial tongue has been developed by the University of Glasgow. So far, our sense of smell has been harder to enhance. However, a tech start-up called Cyrano Sciences is commercializing an electronic nose designed not just to assist human noses but also to assist sniffer dogs who are used for security purposes.

A New Zealand wine dealer has partnered with an artificial intelligence company called Spacetime in order to match wine drinkers with wines they would probably love. American companies IBM and McCormick & Company are trying to use artificial intelligence to learn about people’s taste preferences. There are many philosophical questions about how these new technologies might best be used. One concern is that enhanced tasting experiences might addict people to the foods they already like and prevent them from trying new foods that they don’t currently like; oftentimes people learn to like foods that they used to not like through exposure.

            An article published in the Economist in 2017 said that data is the new oil. Recent history has seen massive amounts of data becoming available on the internet, especially through social media. The data created in the social media universe can be accessed by data miners and artificial intelligence (AI) creators. A 2019 global report on internet use by Tech Jury claims that two hours and twenty-two minutes a day is the average amount of time spent socializing online. AI requires vast amounts of data in order to be successful. This is because it uses massive amounts of data to make predictions. The more data available, the better AI programs will function. As an internet user, you are creating AI just through your data alone. Facebook recently released 87 million profiles to the data analytics firm that was hired by the leave campaign advocating for the UK to remove itself from the EU. Allowing personal ownership of one’s data might be a way to overcome some of the privacy issues which emerged with the digital age. Recent companies such as Wibson have allowed users to own and sell their data on their apps. Time will tell if the public gets tired of the lack of privacy on sites like Facebook and turns to alternatives.

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are developing new policies to require games to disclose loot box odds on Xbox One, PS4 and Switch. Loot boxes are common in games such as Overwatch, Call of Duty, Middle-earth: Shadow of War and NBA 2k18. Originally developed for monetizing free-to-play mobile games, they are virtual tools that can be bought in the digital world. Full implementation of this feature is expected in 2020. Some loot box items are cosmetic with no influence on gaming success; however, others are designed to induce players who spend money to succeed. Example: The 2017 game Star-Wars Battlefront II has been criticized for loot boxes requiring full retail prices while not providing the items as expected. Previous industry efforts to limit loot box problems included ratings and password-protected spending controls. The new loot box odds will be presented in a clear and understandable way according to the Entertainment Software Association.

Here’s a quick summary of what’s happening with these new and exciting games.

  • Total Party Kill is a survival battle game based on the classic The Lost Vikings game. It involves leading three heroes safely through dangerous environments. Sacrificing one of the heroes is necessary for at least one hero to survive.
  • Learn to Walk is a hilarious stilt walking game featuring a goat on stilts.
  • Mighty Quest for Epic Loot has a user guide a knight to plunder by sliding a single finger or thumb.
  • Meridian 157 is a mystery problem-solving game in which the user must search for a solution to a power outage.
  • Tharsis is a iOS game about a disaster-prone research ship.
  • Minit is a throwback game filled with puzzles and combat.
  • Serial Cleaner is a 1970s-based crime investigation game.
  • Dr. Mario World is a health game involving killing viruses by releasing capsules.

Amazon Music doesn’t have nearly as many music streamers as Spotify or Apple Music; however, in an effort to recruit more student users Amazon has announced a benefit for Prime Student Members that gives them access to Amazon Music Unlimited for just $0.99 a month. Students without Prime Membership can get a six-month free trial. Amazon Music may be in third position, but its 32-million subscriber base, compared to Spotify’s 217 million and Apple Music’s 60 million, is growing faster, driven by low cost Amazon Echo speakers.  Now the price break is expected to keep the growth moving against their competitors whose services price out at $4.99 a month.

America’s epidemic of gun violence has been linked to video games by President Trump and some commentators.  The data suggests otherwise.  Naturally, the first to object was Stanley Pierre Louis, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association who claimed that video games have a positive influence on society. He cited examples of video games being used to support health and education efforts. He also claimed that scientific studies showed that there’s no link between videogames and violence.  What studies? Benjamin Burroughs, a professor of emerging media at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas says, “There are no longitudinal studies that show a link between violence and video games. Certainly, there is no linkage to gun violence.” An AP article in the subject states, “Indiana University researchers found [in a small study] that teenagers who played violent video games showed higher levels of emotional arousal but less activity in the parts of the brain associated with the ability to plan, control and direct thoughts and behavior.” Research by Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, led him to conclude, “The general story is people who play video games right after might be a little hopped up and jerky but it doesn’t fundamentally alter who they are. It is like going to see a sad movie. It might make you cry but it doesn’t make you clinically depressed.” It is pretty clear the video games do not lead to gun violence.  Still, some of these games can be disturbing to young kids and teens.  Their parents have a monitoring role to play. To help them, since 1994 The Education Software Rating Board has provided ratings designed to help parents decide what games are appropriate for their children with ratings that range from “E″ for “Everyone” to “Adults Only” for those 18 and older.  Reviews of games designed for parents can be found through Common Sense Media.
Luke Albert Combs is one of the most popular country stars today.  Inspired by country superstars Tim McGraw and Luke Bryan, he started singing with various bands in high school. Here are some quick Luke facts: The 29 years old is from North Carolina and he’s not the only one to have had a high school celebrity crush on Jennifer Aniston.  He went onto Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. He quit his two jobs after getting his first check for playing music and went on to have a debut hit single called “Hurricane.” Luke Combs loves food, fishing in the Cumberland River and has a talent for playing Basketball video games.
Lots of movies for kids are about to be released. Here’s a short list of fun films to watch out for. Angry Birds Movie 2 was just released on August 2nd. In the new version, our birds team in an uneasy alliance with pigs to fight a mysterious purple bird named Zeta. Together they struggle to avoid a new ice age from coming – apparently not having heard about global warming. Playmobil: The Movie, is the first ever movie version of the Playmobil toy series It’s scheduled for release on August 9th. Abominable, is coming out on August 11th. The movie follows a hero who protects a Yeti from a Yeti capturer. Dora and the Lost City of Gold follows later on August 16th. In this adventure an older, high school Dora, goes on a mission to rescue her parents and uncover the mysteries of the lost city of Gold. UglyDolls, a doll oriented musical, is coming on the same date as Dora, August 16th. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, is being released August 18th. This film is a sequel to Maleficent, which was about the villain from sleeping beauty. A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, is scheduled for the same day, August 18th. The film explores the interactions between sheep and extraterrestrials. Coming in the fall on October 25th is The Adams Family.  The movie is an animated take on the Adams Family TV series. Frozen 2, will be released in time for Thanksgiving on November 22nd.  Get your tickets now. The final movie of the series: Star Wars, The Rise of Skywalker, will be released on December 19th. On December 27th Playing with Fire, a film about a superintendent who babysits three children he saved from a fire, will be released. Finally, ananimated spy movie starring Will Smith called Spies in Disguise, will be released on December 27th.
Quentin Tarantino is known for crafting high-energy, violent, profane films that verge on the bizarre.  One of his common tricks is to cast actors who have not been seen in a long time as he did with Pam Grier and Robert Forster in Jackie Brown.  He does the same thing with music…he finds the songs we haven’t heard in a long time or obscure artists that are slotted in at just the right place in the movie.  It’s part of the Tarantino movie making style. Now, timed to coincide with the release of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, he has complied 70 of his favorite songs from all his movies on Spotify.  Here’s a sample of the breathe of his choices:
  • George Baker’s “Little Green Bag” from the title sequence of Reservoir Dogs
  • Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” and Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” from Pulp Fiction.
  • David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)” from Inglourious Basterds
  • The White Stripes’ “Apple Blossom” from The Hateful Eight.
Tarantino says immodestly that listeners can “sit back, relax and move into the soundscape of a Quentin Tarantino movie. You may never wanna leave.”  Once Upon A Time In Hollywood starring Leonardo Di Caprio, Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt (not obscure actors) opened to a strong box office and acclaim from reviewers.