E3 slouches towards irrelevance again as Sony announces it’s skipping the show

I like E3 . I really do. But it’s also monumentally dumb: game companies spending millions to show off essentially faked content to an increasingly jaded audience. And it’s increasingly out of step with how the gaming industry works. So it should come as no surprise that Sony will be skipping the show more or less altogether this year, joining Nintendo in taking a step back from spectacle.

Sony has been a part of CES for 20 years and this will be the first one it’s ever missed. I’ve gone to their events every time I’ve attended; I was there for their historic putdown of Microsoft after the latter announced some hugely unpopular restrictions on used games. I think you can actually see me near the front in the broadcast of that one. (You can! I’m at 1:29.)

And E3 has been a part of Sony’s yearly cadence as well. Like other companies, for years Sony hoarded information to debut at E3, TGS, and Gamescom, but E3 was generally where you saw new consoles and flagship titles debut. But as even E3’s organizers have admitted over and over again, that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Too often we have seen half-finished games on stage at E3 that end up cancelled before the year is out, or commitments made to dates the companies can’t possibly keep. Assigning a complex, creative industry to a yearly schedule of major announcements is a great way to burn them out, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

Variety first noticed Sony’s absence from ESA communications. In a statement issued to multiple outlets, Sony said:

As the industry evolves, Sony Interactive Entertainment continues to look for inventive opportunities to engage the community. PlayStation fans mean the world to us and we always want to innovate, think differently and experiment with new ways to delight gamers. As a result, we have decided not to participate in E3 in 2019. We are exploring new and familiar ways to engage our community in 2019 and can’t wait to share our plans with you.

They won’t be alone. Nintendo hasn’t had a real proper E3 press conference in years. Instead, they host a live stream around the event and have a big booth where people mainly just play games. Their Nintendo Direct videos come out throughout the year, when the titles and developers are good and ready.

Microsoft is still there, and still puts on quite a show. I remember the original announcement of the Kinect, probably one of the weirdest and dumbest things I’ve ever taken part in. It was memorable, at least.

But Microsoft is also doing its own thing, announcing throughout the year and on its own terms. The Xbox One X was only hinted at during E3, and announced in full much later. I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft also announced they were taking it easy this year at E3 — though this might also be a good opportunity for them to double down. With the schedules these huge shows go on, they might already be committed to one course or another.

Sony actually has its own PlayStation Experience event where it announces things and lets gamers and press play the latest, but even that was cancelled ahead of its expected December date. Is Sony just getting shy?

More likely they are leveraging their dominance in the console market to be a market leader and “decider,” as they say. They have no shortage of amazing games coming out, including lots of hot-looking exclusives. What have they got to prove? Although Sony itself is not participating in E3, the developers it backs will almost certainly be there. What better way to school the competition than to not show up and still have everyone talking about you?

With the PS4 Pro out there and a solid line-up already confirmed, Sony is sitting pretty for 2019, and the company probably feels this is a safe time to experiment with “inventive opportunities to engage the community,” as the statement put it. E3 will still be big, and it will still be fun. But the trend is clear: it just won’t be necessary.

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Intel moves towards production quantum computing with new 17-qubit chip

 Intel’s quantum computing efforts have yielded a new 17-qubit chip, which the company has just delivered to its partner in that field, QuTech. It’s not a major advance in the actual computing power or applications — those are still in very early days — but it’s a step towards production systems that can be ordered and delivered to spec rather than experimental… Read More

Gadgets – TechCrunch

The Bathys Atomic Watch Is Heading Towards A Crowdfunded Future


Bathys, a boutique watchmaker based on Kauai, Hawaii and run by one determined man, first announced their wild Cesium 133 atomic watch in October. Now, a few months later, the company is nearly ready to hit the shoals of crowdfunding.

The company made a name for itself by building sturdy dive watches for the surfer set. We haven’t heard much from them, however, until recently when they announced plans to make a watch that will remain accurate until your children’s children jet off in their moon cars to Juno. It uses a Symmetricom SA.45s CSAC atomic clock on a chip to power a standard quartz face salvaged from an older Bathys model.

Created by John Patterson, the watch is still a work in progress but there is some talk of crowdfunding the product once it is ready for prime time. At this point ABlogToWatch estimates that the piece will cost $ 8,000 or so when complete with discounts offered to early adopters.

Obviously this thing is comically large and obviously battery life is an issue but this is the first standalone device that will be more accurate than some GPS units. Because it doesn’t depend on a satellite sync it will be accurate all the time and even far into the future. While you’re not going to wear this on your next surfing safari I don’t see why you couldn’t wear it stargazing or, barring that, while manning the tubes at the Large Hadron Collider.

TechCrunch » Gadgets

Neil Young Begins His Long Quest Towards True Audio Fidelity With Pono, A New Music Service And Device


Singer-songwriter-rocker Neil Young has been talking about problems with modern audio codecs for decades. He was angry at CDs back in the 1990s and most recently he lashed out against MP3s and digital audio compression at a popular tech conference, saying “My goal is to try to rescue the art form that I’ve been practicing for the past 50 years. We live in the digital age and, unfortunately, it’s degrading our music, not improving it … It’s not that digital is bad or inferior, it’s that the way it’s being used isn’t doing justice to the art. The MP3 only has 5 percent of the data present in the original recording. … The convenience of the digital age has forced people to choose between quality and convenience, but they shouldn’t have to make that choice.”

Luckily old Bernard Shakey knows a few people with some tech chops and is launching a service tentatively called Pono that will allow folks to convert, download, and play high quality music on a player designed specifically for the service. He showed off his little player – a prismatic device that looks like a cross between a Shanzhai PMP and a box of Toberlone – on Letterman last night and he’s aiming to sell 192kHz/24-bit audio files to purists who demand to hear every aural nook and cranny.

Young is working with labels to transfer the original master tapes from each artist including a number of albums from Bob Dylan and other greats. Young says the “audio doesn’t get dummied down” when played on the Pono.

While seemingly Quixotic, I think it’s charming that Young is maintaining this effort even in the face of an onslaught of low bit-rate monstrosities. High quality music has long been the provenance of the rich and/or aged and, although I suspect this will appeal more to the older listener, at least Young is tackling one of the roadblocks to dulcet, high quality tracks.

via TheVerge

TechCrunch » Gadgets