How Technology Has Made Home Business Easier

Entrepreneur working from home looking very relaxed in his sofa browsing the web in his laptop computerOf the 28 million small businesses in the United States, 52 percent of them are home-based. Maintaining and organizing your business from home is easier with the advancements in mobile technology. With the latest apps and services you can organize your business’ finances, organize your team, market your product, and provide your customers with top-notch customer service. These technologies have made it easy for home businesses to streamline processes and produce products that mimic larger organizations.

Managing Finances

Managing your business finances can be challenging, to say the least. While you may want to consider contracting this job out to a savvy accountant, programs and apps can help you manage the task yourself. With a great business data plan from T-Mobile on a tablet like the iPad Air, you can even enter invoices and payment in the field or on the go. Quickbooks: The cloud-based platform from Intuit has been a stalwart in tracking expenses for businesses both large and small. The all-encompassing account software allows you to send invoices to customers and accept payment for any sales as well as track any expenses towards you make for your business. Also, if you have employees, it has a payroll feature to cut checks to your employees. Paypal: Paypal also allows you to receive or send payments through your mobile device. If you are on the go you can make sales on the spot. For an extra $30 a month you can customize the experience for your shoppers and even receive payments via phone, fax, and mail.

Organizing Your Team

If your team works remotely, the latest technology enables you to communicate with your team and track milestones: DropBox: Share files with team members seamlessly and securely through DropBox. Share large files with important data with your team members without the need to physically hand it to them. Skype: The leader in video conferencing software, Skype enables your team to communicate face to face and discuss anything related to the business. Omnifocus: This multi-faceted app allows you to organize your team and yourself, as well. Omnifocus let’s you create tasks for your team to complete and provide them with any material to complete any goals you place for them.

Marketing Your Business

The advent of social media has made marketing easier for all types of businesses, but there are plenty of tools home-based businesses can leverage: BufferBuffer allows you to manage all your social media accounts on one platform through your iPad. It enables you to schedule your content to publish when you think the most interaction will occur. TweetDeck: This is a great app for you to directly engage with the followers of your business and track what your customers and potential customers are chatting about. This allows you to engage swiftly and produce content towards your target audience.

Customer Support through Mobile Applications

These mobile technologies have allowed home businesses to provide top-notch customer service to their customers. Zoho CRMZoho gives you access to to your customer’s data through its mobile app. It saves and tracks all communication and transactions with the customer so you have all the data in one place wherever you are. ZendeskZendesk is used by companies worldwide, large and small, and creates a platform for addressing the issues your customers face.

Until next time,

Kelli Richards CEO of The All Access Group, LLC

PS, The right mentor should also have the right CONNECTIONS to move you forward.

Be sure to ask who they think they can bring to the table around advisorship, possible collaboration and even funding.

 

 

A Hard Day’s Night for Digital Legacy – The Lost Beatles Recordings

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Great work will never die in today’s ever expanding online digital world. According to the IDC “The digital universe is growing 40% a year into the next decade. By 2020 it will contain nearly as many digital hits as there are stars in the universe.” In fact, according to Science Daily, 90% of all the world’s data has been written in the past 2 years. Wow. That is an incredibly daunting idea. Literally 90% of the information that is readily accessible to the world today was not available only 2 years ago.

While imagining the sheer magnitude of all this data is overwhelming, studying this information on a more local, individual level is far easier to wrap your head around.

Let’s take a look at the Beatles first Big Screen appearance in the film, A Hard Day’s Night, for example. In examining the 50th anniversary restoration process for the film, technicians needed to compensate for the original recordings (which had been lost) of what is now widely considered the most inspirational musical group ever. Imagine that, the original recordings were lost.

An incredibly foreign idea today in a day and age that with one quick internet search can find you thousands of Kids Pop covers of every song ever done. So how were these recordings lost in history? Well, despite Beatlemania, apparently some doubt still existed as to whether or not The Beatles would make a serious lasting impact; and who wants to track down and organize a possible “one hit wonders” second and third album? I’m 1960, the answer was no one; apparently not even for the Beatles. Today, this is routinely done for even small artists. It may have been a Hard Day’s Night to make a lasting footprint back then, but now, there’s almost no one left without an online footprint. The solid win for all of us is that great work never dies in today’s online digital world, and as a result, we are all, always building a digital legacy for lifetimes to come.

Let’s look at the Lennon legacy. Everyone is probably aware of John’s journey from Liverpool, his work with the Beatles, his marriage with Yoko Ono and his untimely death. But what about his children? Julian, John’s eldest son, has expanded his own musical career, fighting through adversity often faced by platinum artists children, attempting to get out of the shadow of their musical parents. (Luckily for humanity, in addition to his music, Julian has made great strides in his White Feather Foundation, raising funds for a more sustainable future for the planet.) And Sean, John’s youngest son is touring with bands like the Flaming Lips and Tame Impala while releasing his own albums and unique sound.

Our digital footprints go beyond music, of course, Paul McCartney’s daughter Stella need only be Googled to find pages and pages of images of her enormous impact on fashion. And of course, the remaining Beatles themselves continue to make great music and build their legacy, both online and off.

So while the early pieces of Beatles history have been lost, their legacy will not be forgotten and in fact, continues to grow and grow. Living on in their new accomplishments, their children, their fans, and in an online database for everyone to access, so no one will forget.

 

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

PSS: Listen to an entire library of intimate discussions with industry visionarieshttp://bit.ly/AllAccessPodcastSeries  (Priceless)

Dear HBO, Please Keep ‘Silicon Valley’ Real!!!

Startup life is a hot topic in Hollywood right now. From Joshua Michael Stern’s “Jobs” to the Amazon original series “Betas” there’s an undeniable appeal to life in Silicon Valley for those both inside and outside the startup bubble.

Of course, Hollywood is famous for exaggerating or overlooking important aspects of reality for entertainment purposes, but so far, HBO’s “Silicon Valley” looks promising. Despite the dramatic plotline and startup stereotypes, the show provides a mostly accurate portrayal of entrepreneurial life and may even help demystify some aspects of startup culture.

ID-10014351Can ‘Silicon Valley’ Avoid Hollywood Startup Myths?

“Silicon Valley” follows the lives of near-genius, socially awkward computer programmer Richard Hendrix (played by Thomas Middleditch) and his friends as he attempts to launch his company in the star-studded world of Silicon Valley.

The show was inspired by the real-life experiences of director Mike Judge, who was a Silicon Valley engineer in the ’80s. Living up to his “Office Space” brilliance, Judge carries the mindset of the tech community to the small screen and introduces a number of well-cast (if stereotypical) characters we can all relate to: that bright but socially awkward programmer and the naïve entrepreneur with a lot to learn.

“Silicon Valley” seems like a winner so far, but the question is whether it can avoid falling prey to a lot of the common myths Hollywood likes to perpetuate about startup life.

Myth 1: A good idea automatically equals success.

When all you read about are the multibillion-dollar success stories, it’s easy to think that success is a sure thing if you have a good idea — or that good ideas are immediately rewarded with plentiful funding.

In reality, it’s not that simple. The venture capital world is complicated, and there’s a lot of competition to secure funding of any kind. A good idea needs a good plan, a good team, and a lot of luck. And even with all those things, failure is all too common.

Myth 2: Genius and social skills are mutually exclusive.

In shows like “The Big Bang Theory” bright, technology-obsessed characters are often stereotyped as socially awkward geeks. Or, as we saw in “The Social Network,” brilliance in Hollywood often translates to arrogance, self-importance, or standoffishness on-screen.

While there are plenty of antisocial geniuses, tech shows distort reality. Succeeding in Silicon Valley is not for wallflowers. By and large, entrepreneurs must be bright, motivated, and willing to listen and learn, as well as equipped with good social skills.

Myth 3: It’s easy to put together the perfect team.

Television shows often give the impression that it’s easy to pull together a highly skilled, highly compatible team right off the bat. But in the real world, there’s no casting call for the right skills and the right temperament. The perfect team isn’t just sitting around waiting for your breakthrough. The right people can be challenging to find and motivate to join the team. Your team’s chemistry relies on a combination of referrals, trial and error, and luck.

Shortly into its debut, “Silicon Valley” has done a good job of presenting a microcosm of the real Silicon Valley, especially for first-timers. And it’s popular for a reason: To those outside the startup bubble, it’s a fascinating world with a mysterious way of doing business. Anyone who has spent time in the tech industry will see where Judge gets it right, and anyone who hasn’t will find themselves more informed about the realities of Silicon Valley.

But the truth is that startup life is not particularly glamorous or mysterious. It’s not about fancy campuses or billion-dollar algorithms — it’s about bright, motivated people who work very hard every day to make an impact on the world.

 

Until next time,

Kelli Richards
CEO of The All Access Group, LLC

 

PS, The right mentor should also have the right CONNECTIONS to move you forward. Be sure to ask who they think they can bring to the table around advisorship, possible collaboration and even funding.

 

Originally posted: http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2014/05/06/dear-hbo-please-keep-silicon-valley-real/

3 SEEMINGLY OBVIOUS TECH MERGERS WE’RE STILL WAITING FOR

THESE TOP COMPANIES DO BIG THINGS SEPARATELY; IMAGINE WHAT THEY COULD ACCOMPLISH TOGETHER.

 

ID-100217410One of the best parts of working in the tech industry is having a ringside seat to watch heavyweights like Google and Apple duke it out for market share and to be the first to develop the next big thing.

When tech titans acquire smaller, hotter companies or struggling enterprises that have been around the block, the result is often an exciting jolt of innovation and a threat of a bold industry upset.

When Google acquired Nest Lab this year for example, it was great for business and the consumer. Google had a vision for Nest as a game changer in the smart home category, and Nest enjoyed a long list of benefits. Google accelerated Nest’s strategic initiative, took it off the market to prevent its competitors from acquiring it, and boosted its own brand appeal. Nest was young, sexy, and desirable–an image that Apple has dominated for years.

Likewise, Facebook acquired Instagram in April 2012, when it was extremely small, for $1 billion–inheriting a rock-solid user base and carving out a larger chunk of the social sphere.

Successful mergers drive the tech industry forward and make new devices and services accessible to the average person. In the case of Nest, it made the young company able to reach more consumers with its clean tech initiative, and Instagram’ following quadrupled to more than 150 millions monthly active users after its acquisition.

There are several tech giants that have been dancing around some promising acquisitions for a while now, and I think I speak for everyone when I say they just need to do it already!

1. APPLE ACQUIRING DISNEY OR NETFLIX

Everyone knows that Apple has a huge war chest to buy relevant companies, and of course they’ve employed it several times over the years.

While Apple devotees around the world were disappointed to learn an Apple-Tesla merger was not in the cards for Elon Musk (at the moment, anyway), a more likely scenario is that Apple will try to acquire a major content company like Netflix or Disney in the near future.

Of course, Disney would be a big catch for Apple. The brands both embrace creativity, innovation, and delivering an amazing customer experience. In a merger, Apple would be able to ship the long-awaited Apple TV with access to ESPN, Pixar movies, and other Disney content. Consumers would have access to a much broader content library largely on-demand in the cloud, and Bob Iger and Tim Cook would be a dynamic duo that could boost shareholder confidence and inject innovation into both brands.

Netflix boasts a similar advantage of on-demand streaming and high-quality original content. An acquisition would reinforce Apple’s commitment to a seamless customer experience by offering a completely integrated content ecosystem. Owning a major content company would give Apple greater leverage when negotiating other forms of movie, TV, and sports content and make it virtually unstoppable in the media space (beyond its existing bench strength).

2. AMAZON ACQUIRING RADIO SHACK OR BEST BUY

Amazon has long expressed a desire to have a retail footprint, and Radio Shack and Best Buy both need a savior.

Brick-and-mortar electronics stores can’t match Amazon prices, but people still want to go into a store to play with the products or speak with a knowledgeable representative. Most people will go to Best Buy to kick the tires, then turn around and buy a product for less on Amazon.

It makes perfect sense that Amazon would want to offer the best of both worlds. Jeff Bezos has expressed the idea that he would be interested in physical retail locations, but only if Amazon had a “truly differentiated idea.”

What better way to accomplish that goal than to acquire a chain of established stores and existing real estate in local neighborhoods?

3. SAMSUNG OR GOOGLE ACQUIRING FITBIT

These companies are focused on innovation, delivering seamless data integration across all their devices, and creating functional, stylish products that consumers rely on daily.

The race for the ultimate wearable is on, and both Google and Samsung have thrown their hats into the smart watch solutions ring.

Samsung released its Gear Fit fitness tracker in April. The verdict is still out about Gear Fit’s performance, but if it’s not a blockbuster success, Samsung may want to consider buying Fitbit to knock out its chief competitor. Samsung would also gain Fitbit’s audience, technology, and great customer experience.

Google hasn’t come out with a smart watch yet, though the Google Gem is rumored to be almost ready for market. The Gem is reportedly clunky, so it may fail to take off simply because it’s too large and unwieldy. The ability to offer consumers the sleeker Fitbit may appeal to Google, especially because it would take the company off the market for Apple or Samsung.

Industry behemoths will only make a move to acquire another company when they see the potential for huge returns (or a threat from a partnership with their competitors).

These players are primed to disrupt the industry together, and these acquisitions would also bring exciting changes for the consumer. These companies already provide a great customer experience individually–just imagine what they could do together.

 

Until next time,

 

Kelli Richards, CEO of The All Access Group.

 

PS, The right mentor will also have the right CONNECTIONS to move any effort forward. Be sure to ask who they think they can bring to the table around advisorship, possible collaboration and even funding.

 

Originally posted: http://www.fastcompany.com/3029955/3-seemingly-obvious-tech-mergers-were-still-waiting-for

 

4 Steps to Ace an Early-Adopter Culture

Untitled12In this era of rapid innovation, a new technological breakthrough can shake an entire industry in an afternoon, and consumers are hungry for the most advanced gadgets available. Businesses are constantly expected to be at the forefront of emerging technology.

When Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass” video series went viral in 2011, the company leaped in the spotlight. In the process, consumers and businesses alike found themselves considering the company’s role as an innovator in specialty-glass technology for a wide range of uses.

 

For consumers, the roles of early adopter and a thought leader often become intertwined. Customers tend to gravitate toward companies that can speak credibly about new technologies and apply them to product development and business processes.

Related: ‪Why Every Employee Needs to Be Part of Your Tech Team

Being at the forefront of emerging trends will make your business more sought after by the media as an authority within your industry sector and your staff will be viewed as capable of speaking with intelligence about the latest developments’ impact on your niche or sector.

But being an early adopter doesn’t come naturally to every business — nor can it be achieved overnight. Creating a culture of early adoption and keeping your business ahead of the curve requires a change in mindset at the leadership level. To grow a thriving business on the bleeding edge, savvy leaders would be wise to take some of the following steps:

1. Make the latest tools available to employees. Having the latest gadgets available for staffers to play with encourages a culture of innovation, experimentation and evangelism. It gets employees thinking about how new technology can be used and it encourages a cross-pollination of ideas. For example, when Google Glass was released, forward-thinking businesses made the product available for their employees to try and discuss.

Related: ‪How to Motivate Creative Employees 

2. Encourage team members to engage with new technologies. For its own part, Google requires its employees to take days off to simply experiment with the latest technologies and test ideas. Ensure that your employees engage with the latest from Silicon Valley by asking them to take an hour from their workday to acclimate themselves with a gadget or tool. Or have an employee do a presentation summarizing the applications of a new device so your team can focus on its possible impact on your industry.

3. Create incentives and reward innovators. Give your employees a reason to keep up with tech news and drive innovation by rewarding those who do so. Grant the employee who discovered and implemented a new task-management platform a paid day off. Reward the staffer who forwarded the latest news to the rest of your team with a free lunch.

4. Lead with an early-adopter spirit. Cultivate a company mindset of curiosity by being a leader who embraces change and risk in the name of progress and cutting-edge disruption. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz revealed his hunger for innovation when he invested $25 million in Square — a startup few knew about at the time. What seemed like a risky and questionable move to some ultimately paid off. Through collaboration with Square, Starbucks now accepts mobile payments globally, paving the way for other companies hopting to implement mobile-payment systems in their operations.

The pace of technological change is faster than ever before and businesses that wait too long to embrace innovation can easily be deemed irrelevant by consumers. Instead, infuse the early-adopter mindset throughout your company’s culture — and you may well end up being celebrated as a forward-thinking visionary within your industry.

 

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

 

4 Tech Dinosaurs That Will Finally Die in 2015

In recent years, technology has changed the way we view work, entertainment, media, and even our workout habits. While most people are focused on what’s next for wearables, cloud computing, and syncing gadgets, few have taken the time to consider the tech we’re going to be sending into retirement in the coming years.

Here are the tech trends that are coming to an end in 2015.

1. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

With cable-cutters everywhere, cable and satellite providers across the country are scrambling to lock consumers into their tiered contracts. Millennials, however, aren’t as attached to their TV sets as older generations. Netflix, Hulu, Apple, and Amazon already provide great streaming options, while cable favorites like HBO and ESPN are moving to mobile devices.

By 2015, content providers will have much more control than cable companies. Cable companies won’t go down without a fight, though — the majority of them also provide digital cable, DVR, and Internet services. However, with lightning-fast Google Fiber expanding into more major cities, it’s only a matter of time before these services will need an upgrade, too.

2. Home Entertainment Is Entering a New Dimension

Your television set won’t end up a nostalgic antique like your grandfather’s eight-track cassette player, but the TV industry is upping the ante in the age of high definition.

  • While Nintendo focuses on integrating its content into mobile platforms, Sony and Microsoft are pushing forward with ways of integrating their gaming consoles into your entire home, allowing for interactive entertainment options we’ve never seen before.
  • Glasses-free 3D and curved screens are changing the way studios create and release both theatrical and home content.
  • Set-top boxes and streaming options by Apple, Google, and Roku even further blur the line between our TVs and computers. By 2015, there will be little (if any) difference between your television set, mobile phone, and computer as cloud computing creates a seamless web experience.

3. Call Somebody Who Cares

Millennials have come of age with cell phones. Gone are the days when you couldn’t get reception unless you were directly underneath a cell tower. These days, landlines are used strictly for emergencies such as Hurricane Sandy, and most are Internet-based VoIP services.

The days of Ma Bell and her Baby Bells are a distant memory, as those former communications giants struggle to maintain the outdated infrastructure of their phone lines. Cell phones are as likely to drop a call as a landline, and less than 10 percent of households in the country have only a landline phone. As current generations age, landline telephones will disappear altogether.

4. Goodbye, Gutenberg

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, the machine made it possible to put magazines on every shelf, books on every desk, newspapers on every porch, and Bibles in every hotel nightstand.

We all know the newspaper and magazine industries are struggling, but 2014 looks to be the year when we drive the final nail in the coffin and bury these struggling industries for good. After J.K. Rowling authorized the release of the Harry Potter series on Amazon’s Kindle, the publishing industry essentially crumbled. Major magazines and newspapers started shutting down, and the only holdouts seemed to be textbook publishers.

Apple took this market by convincing McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to create iBook textbooks to integrate the iPad into schools, while Dynamic Books allows instructors to create customized textbook content for their SMART Boards.

It’s not just books, either. The whole world has gone paperless. Your tablet and smartphone allow you to travel without a boarding pass, publish your own e-books, attend concerts without a ticket, and even pay without cash, a credit card, or coupons. Gutenberg must be rolling over in his grave.

Much like video killed the radio star, the Internet is demolishing them both. Every innovation we come up with disrupts another. Nobody knows where we’ll be in 2015, but I’m sure we’ll have our smartphones in hand, ready to check in on Foursquare to prove it.

 A highly sought-after consultant, mentor, speaker, producer, coach, and author, Kelli Richards is the CEO of The All Access Group. She and her team facilitate strategic business opportunities in digital distribution between technology companies, established artists and celebrities, film studios, record labels, and consumer brand companies in order to foster new revenue streams and deliver compelling consumer experiences. Kelli is also the author of the bestselling e-book, “The Magic & Moxie of Apple — An Insider’s View.”

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

 

 

How to Vet a Crowded Industry for Hidden Innovation Opportunities

06ccbb3Few people look at a thermostat and think, “Now there’s an exciting business opportunity!”

As a device, it’s a boring commodity — a relic of a stagnant, saturated market. So why did the co-founders of Nest decide to build a multimillion-dollar company around the reinvention of the thermostat?

Where others saw an industry that offered no room for new ideas, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers saw potential. Most of the 10 million thermostats sold every year throughout the U.S. were clunky, inefficient, and impossible to program, but a simple, Wi-Fi-enabled device that could be programmed via a smartphone — that could be a game changer. Fadell and Rogers saw this opportunity, left their jobs at Apple, and got to work.

Within just three years of unveiling the Nest Learning Thermostat, the company has reduced energy usage across the U.S. and Canada by at least 225 million kilowatt-hours. They’ve saved consumers more than $29 million in heating and cooling bills. And earlier this year, Google bought Nest for $3.2 billion in cash.

What gave Fadell and Rogers the confidence to dive into an overcrowded market? They saw room for innovation. Here’s how you can see through the crowd to the opportunity.

How to Vet a Crowded Industry

When a market has a reputation of being fully saturated or crowded, many potential entrants will steer clear without a second thought. But popular perception isn’t always reality. Though it may not be immediately obvious, there’s often room for innovation and more than one player in the most stagnant of industries.

If you’ve got an idea that you think could disrupt a crowded market, it’s critical that you vet the industry before launching.

Do your homework. Who are the key players in the industry? What are their strengths and weaknesses? A comprehensive understanding of the competitive landscape is vital for determining your strategy.

Clarify your value-add. What makes your idea different? Are you cheaper, faster, better, or more innovative than everyone else? You can’t survive in a saturated industry without clearly being different and better.

Know your customer.Are consumers satisfied with the current market? If your product or idea can effectively address unmet needs and pain points, you’ll be able to capture significant market share.

Position yourself as a trailblazer. People aren’t expecting innovation in a stagnant market. Find the gap by researching industry trends, then stake a bold claim as the “next big thing.”

Prepare for scale.When you unveil a great idea on a commodity market, you have to be ready to handle a sudden wave of demand. Had Nest not been able to keep up with the brisk pace of adoption, the company would have tanked. They were prepared, though, and rode the wave all the way to a multibillion-dollar acquisition in a relatively short period of time based on mass adoption by consumers.

Surviving the Changes in Your Industry

Once you’ve made the leap into the market, you need to be proactive to survive your industry’s lifecycle changes. Achieve the following, and you’ll not only keep your head above water — you’ll thrive.

  • Stay up to speed on the latest trends and technologies. That way, you can remain nimble and capable of edging out competitors.
  • Get the word out. Make sure customers know about you — and know that your solution is superior.
  • Make sure you offer the best possible customer experience. You’ll garner loyalty and brand equity, and you’ll reduce the churn factor.
  • Optimize key elements: pricing, service, process, and customer satisfaction. Piece these components together in a way that tells a compelling brand story to attract your target audience.
  • Always strive to stand out from the crowd through your marketing, products, and customer experience. When you delight your customers, they’ll become brand advocates and stay with you in the long run.

A Matter of Perception

When an industry undergoes a fundamental transformation, many people wrongly assume it’s vanishing forever.

Consider the entertainment industry, for example. Just 15 years ago, film studios, record labels, and media distributors believed that file-sharing technology would ruin their entire livelihood. Those who were stuck in their ways wanted to put an end to the technology.

Savvy, forward-thinking tech entrepreneurs, on the other hand, saw an opportunity to pioneer change. While everyone else was lamenting the death of entertainment, they harnessed the disruptive power of technology to meet market needs.

Now, decision makers in the industry are embracing next-generation distribution technology because it enables them to reach global audiences and create new revenue streams.

It takes a keen eye and a great idea to capitalize on lifecycle changes in a crowded market. The risks, however, are often a matter of perception. By seeing potential where others don’t, you can access a world of opportunity and profits.

 

A highly sought-after consultant, mentor, speaker, producer, coach, and author, Kelli Richards is the CEO of The All Access Group. She and her team facilitate strategic business opportunities in digital distribution between technology companies, established artists and celebrities, film studios, record labels, and consumer brand companies in order to foster new revenue streams and deliver compelling consumer experiences. Kelli is also the author of the bestselling e-book, “The Magic & Moxie of Apple — An Insider’s View.”

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

 

Step Away from the Smartphone

Screen Shot 2013-11-20 at 10.57.12 AMOf the 93% of Americans that use cell phones or wireless devices, one-third of them are using “smartphones,” with which you can browse the Web and check e-mail. In other words, most of us are spending our days walking around with our eyes glued to our phone screens, as chillingly demonstrated in this telling YouTube short.

Some experts say it’s time to take a step back and reassess. They worry that kids won’t know what it’s like to have a conversation or actually look someone in the eyes when they tell a story.

In her powerful TED talk, Sherry Turkle claims that the little devices in our pockets are so psychologically powerful that they not only change what we do – they’re also changing who we are in our minds and our hearts, by allowing us three gratifying fantasies: that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; that we will always be heard; and that we will never have to be alone.

But that’s just what they are – fantasies. And while we’re indulging in them, we’re tuning out the people who are physically present in the room with us. Some of the familiar things we now do with our devices – taking calls while out to dinner, checking Facebook during board meetings, texting while on a date – are things that only a few years ago we would have found odd or disturbing. Now it’s simply how we do things. Instead of never being alone, it seems we are getting accustomed to “a new way of being alone, together.”

“Parents text and do email at breakfast and at dinner. Their children complain about not having their parents’ full attention, but then these same children deny each other their full attention. We even text at funerals. I study this. We remove ourselves from our grief, or from our reverie, and we go into our smartphones.” If it’s true that attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity, then one could argue that smartphones are making us less generous human beings, unable to give each other the attention we crave.

Real conversations are unpredictable – and un-erase-able – and real relationships are engrossing and messy, but technology renders both neat and clean – keeping others at just the right distance: not too close to see the real you, and not too far that they can’t “hear” what you’re saying.

But having real conversations with each other is how we learn to have conversations with ourselves. Hiding from real, unscripted, unpredictable conversations with each other can compromise our capacity for self-reflection. And as smartphones burrow ever deeper into our lives, and Google Glass threatens to erode our personal space even further, finding ways to unplug is becoming more appealing – perhaps even more vital – than ever.

If you or someone you love is struggling with smart phone addiction, download Fast Company’s printable guide to unplugging and check out their collection of thought-provoking articles on the subject here.

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

PSS: Listen to an entire library of intimate discussions with industry visionaries http://bit.ly/AllAccessPodcastSeries (Priceless)

iPhone: Hover Technology Coming Soon?

While the idea of the phone reading my eyes is cooler than my fingers, I found this technology to be far more practical. Imagine having dirty or wet hands, not wanting to touch your phone, but still needing to use it- you can. It takes new phone anxiety and consequent over protection to a whole new level. But beyond aiding neat freaks in protecting their phones, this technology has immense potential, and really left me wishing that my phone could do the same cool new tricks. Well iPhone users, the wait for such technology may not be too long as Apple has recently obtained patents for such hover technology, but also includes technology meant to better analyze accuracy and better understand unwanted touching of buttons or typing.

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 9.33.50 AMEye recognition software and finger hovering technology: would taking your eye away from the screen result in the pausing of the video? Would you be able to scroll through documents with your eyes instead of your fingers? The finger hovering software will allow you to click and scroll without touching the screen, rather just by hovering your finger above the glass.

The new Apple technology also involves software for analyzing users’ heart rates. And in a day and age with countless advancements in health and fitness applications, this could result in amazing innovation. Analyzing heart rates can take workout apps like Nike+ to a whole new level, and can also greatly influence health applications to better aid physicians in treating patients from a distance. Patients with high blood pressure can check their heart rate from the comfort of their phone, and relay such results to their physician. And with the FDA’s recent installment of laws regulating healthcare applications, the future reliability of such technology will be trustable. Such regulation will extend to applications focused on the tracking of medications, health records, dieting and exercise.

And if dirtying your screen causes you too much stress wait it out, the App Store may soon have an app for that.

Jesse Hoppenfeld, Blogger for the All Access Group

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

PSS: Listen to an entire library of intimate discussions with industry visionaries http://bit.ly/AllAccessPodcastSeries

Live Viewing Services for YouTube Verified Users?

In a day and age largely defined by the creation and expansion of social networking, and sharing, YouTube’s expansion of live video services to all verified users, may not seem so revolutionary or even like a new idea, but it will no doubt prove its versatility. The live viewing services offered by YouTube have slowly been released to the public. The minimum YouTube followers needed to use live feeds has been decreased from its original 1,000, to 100, and now to all verified users. Becoming a verified YouTube user requires the release of various personal information and access to your past YouTube activity, but such data releases seem to be a common practice at this point- used in large part to supplement your user interface, making it a more personal experience. (But this is also a very appealing source of information for marketers attempting to target specific audiences, which can be determined through internet and YouTube use.)

Youtube-live

*Image from http://blog.irocke.com/

Besides the business arena, on the personal level the options for live sharing on YouTube seem endless: High School football game, Reunion, Graduation, Holiday Dinner? You can share live feeds of all these life and family events with everyone who is unfortunately unable to attend. But such live sharing can extend far beyond the family sharing dynamic. The potential for such streaming was previewed by Red Bull Stratos Mission, which saw a man free fall from the edge of our atmosphere. The event drew 8 million viewers.

Live sharing on YouTube may have just solved problems that die hard sports fan, music fans, and over protective parents have had for years. Is your favorite sports team’s game blacked out, or not being aired while you’re away? You will be able to Tube it.  Who needs Slingbox or similar services when you can YouTube it? It is music to the music fans ears; all those who can’t afford concert tickets, or have to work the one time Beyonce is in town? They can Tube it. The point is that YouTube’s live streaming really brings YouTube into a different genre of entertainment; one that may at some point rival television, or if not supplements television, like Xbox One’s new interface, or Google’s attempts at Google TV.

However, perhaps the most immediately useful aspect of YouTube’s live streaming application is that it can work with Google+ Hangout which brings the live streaming to a two-way video broadcast, making meetings, marketing events, or interviews accessible from all over the world, live.

YouTube has put something really special together with its new live streaming service, I don’t want to pay for similar devices but I would definitely spend the extra 30 seconds to verify my YouTube account and reap these awesome benefits. 

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

PSS: Listen to an entire library of intimate discussions with industry visionaries http://bit.ly/AllAccessPodcastSeries (Priceless)

Coin: Access to All of Your Cards in One

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 11.01.18 AMMeet Julie. She is in the grocery store check out line with bags of food piled high on the counter and the cashier says “$51.05.” She takes out her purse and balances it on the very small ledge by the card-swiping machine so she can dig through it to find the family credit card. Julie finds her business account card, the gas card, her Macy’s credit card and even the Barnes & Noble rewards card, but her personal card is lost within the shuffle. After a few more minutes of frantic searching, while the line behind Julie inevitably grows longer, she finds her personal card, swipes, and leaves the store flustered and annoyed.

What if finding your credit cards could be easier…because they were all in the same space. No, I don’t mean just in the same physical space or pocket in your wallet –what if you only had one card, for all of your accounts? Coin, the all-in-one credit card is the solution to Julie’s (and your) frustration.

Coin is a new type of credit card that stores all of your accounts on one card. How can this be possible, you ask? Coin works just like any other credit card and you can swipe it in any machine, only this card comes with out hassle. To choose which account you want to use for each particular purchase, simply click the round button on the card and scroll through each account on the small display screen until you find the correct account.

You’re next question: How do you get all of your cards on Coin? Simply swipe each card using a card reader that plugs into your smart phone and works with the Coin app. Then take a picture of each card so you can keep track of them all.

As for security, Coin is constantly in sync with your phone using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and if you leave it behind, the card recognizes its distance from your phone and will notify you. Doesn’t get much more convenient, does it?

TheVerge.com states that, ”Coin is up for pre-order today for $50, but will cost $100 for new buyers when it ships in summer 2014.”

Will you be taking advantage of Coins simplicity and ditching all of your credit cards that just take up space in your wallet? I know I will.  Do you think Coin will be a game-changer for the credit card industry? My guess –in years to come, many more companies will jump on this idea and managing your accounts will become second nature.

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

PSS: Listen to an entire library of intimate discussions with industry visionaries http://bit.ly/AllAccessPodcastSeries (Priceless)

 

EOS 3D: A Radical Step Forward for 3D Technology

3dIn recent years, Three-Dimension (3D) technology has seen a steady increase in quality as well as quantity in our everyday lives. Ever since Honey I Shrunk the Kids provided the first interactive movie experience by combining rudimentary 3D film with other sense-tickling technologies, 3D technology has evolved to the sophistication of James Cameron’s groundbreaking film “Avatar,” which revolutionized 3D film. (It is worth noting that the making of the film was delayed 10 years in anticipation of how this evolving technology would enable the film’s intended effects). 3D has now moved even further, creating more interactive experiences in an attempt to render inanimate technology more “life-like.”

Various advances demonstrate this progression: Leap Motion, which creates an interactive cloud that reads hand movements, gestures, and grabs, allowing total control of what you are researching or creating on your computer; indoor Google Maps, which creates a 3D model of the inside of buildings, allowing for a far easier, more interactive option for finding a doctor’s office or mail room; and Google Glass, which combines social media with 3D technology, in effect documenting your life in a 3D platform for all your social network “friends” to see.

However impressive all these innovations may be, they have achieved interactivity only in the abstract sense. The film industry creates 3D entertainment; Leap Motion creates some Star Wars-esque cloud of interactivity; and Google Glass records and shares what’s around you – but none of these 3D technologies succeed in creating something tangible that can be held and beheld, in appreciation of the true genius behind the creation.

But all this has changed with the introduction of EOS 3D – which literally prints 3D objects. These machines are capable of “printing” in plastic, metal, and sand manufacturing, and the appeal to various industries – ranging from aerospace to medical and lifestyle products – is undeniable. Working with tool-less laser technology, EOS 3D manufacturing can produce light-weight yet high-tech components – and for cheap. For those of you who watch Orange County Chopper, the “printing” works in a way similar to how motorcycle enthusiasts customize various parts.

This technology marks a very interesting point in the 3D technology industry. While it may be true today that e-manufacturing relies on clunky, massive devices, the first computer wasn’t exactly pocket sized either – and if you hadn’t noticed, change tends to happen a lot faster these days.

Just imagine owing one of these e-manufacturing devices in the year 2020, a time when they’ll have decreased to the size of a toaster, and being able to materialize whatever you want without leaving the house. Need a screw? Print it. A pen? Print it. A sandwich? … Print it?

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletterhttp://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

PSS: Listen to an entire library of intimate discussions with industry visionaries http://bit.ly/AllAccessPodcastSeries (Priceless)

 

The War of Superiority: Technology vs Manpower

Video games not only act as a watermark, illustrating modern technological advancement, but may also be a platform to launch further innovation. In the past, we had Nintendo’s revolutionary Wii device that allowed for interactive video game play; today we have Xbox’s Kinect, Playstation’s Move, and Nintendo’s most recent installment of Wii, all allowing the user to step into the virtual video game world and react to simulations with real life movements. In a similar way, scientists have attempted to utilize video game-esque technology to explore, or destroy places and things miles away. From computer simulated and controlled Mars rovers, to the US military’s use of unmanned drones, “video game technology,” may be more vital than you realize for modern advancement. But are wireless, unmanned, technologically driven devices the answer, or is the man behind the toy more important? 

In 2009, Spirit, a Mars rover, drove over an unstable top layer of Martian soil and plummeted to its shallow grave, unable to maneuver itself free. But Karl Iagnemma from MIT, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, as well as the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, have developed Artemis- a program which analyzes the physical rover movement in accordance to soil composition to aid the safe travels of such rovers. Such a model is eerily similar to video games, as the user gives commands, and reacts to movement and stimulus through a screen, as a simulation analyzes every conceivable variable. This invention places more responsibility into the “hands,” calculations, of the program, rather than the “pilot.” 1

TechnologyIn contrast, the United States operates over 7,000 drones, more than 40% by the Department of Defense, many of which are controlled remotely from several thousand miles away. While such technology is so closely related to video games (the “pilots” even control the drone with a joystick,) drone pilots have declared, “It’s irrelevant where you are physically sitting. You’re attached to the airframe, you’re attached to the view that you see, and you’re attached to the laws of armed conflict ……The plane cannot start, cannot fly and cannot release a weapon without us coin it. Human beings are in the cockpit… We just happen to be 8,000 miles away from the plane.” While I don’t doubt the skill and experience it takes to “man” a drone, such proud defiance that the pilots’ skill rather than the drone technology which makes it so deadly overshadows the incredible technological feat that is unmanned drones. 2

So while it may still be up for debate as to whether or not technology or manpower is superior, we can all agree that technological advancements are driven by various mechanisms, one of which is definitely videogames. 

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President, CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

PSS: Listen to an entire library of intimate discussions with industry visionaries http://bit.ly/AllAccessPodcastSeries (Priceless)

 

Footnotes:

1.         Chu, Jennifer. “Terramechanics Research Aims to Keep Mars Rovers Rolling.” MIT’s News Office. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

 2.         Blackhurst, Rob. “Drone Pilots Say Their Job Is Not Like A Video Game.” Business Insider. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2013.

 

 

NASA’s Stunningly Beautiful Space Now on Instagram!

InstagramEarly last month NASA announced its decision to enter the social media game, creating and maintaining a presence on Instagram. While such a decision may not have monumental significance to either NASA’s space programs or the every day lives of the majority of people, it is definitely an awesome decision with various benefits that may brighten all of our days.

Instagram created a pretty ingenious niche in the social media industry, by basically combining key features of its two largest predecessors: Twitter and Facebook. By taking the best of both worlds, Instagram is an incredible social media magnet (and entertaining time waster.) Twitter thrives on the idea of short, to the point, messages, almost trains of thought, being shared across the web, while Facebook focuses more on longevity, providing easy to scroll timelines of the “social life” of users, for the most part documented through images and pictures.

Well Instagram does both. Bringing quick, thought “process-esque,” sharing to photographs (of course with pretty cool, retro picture effects.) And while Facebook focuses on connecting “friends,” we can probably generalize that statement to “acquaintances,” and Twitter connects friends but most importantly celebrities and athletes to the average Joe, Instagram once again does both, which  brings us back to NASA.

Beyond seeing what your friend’s eating in the “Valencia” color effect, or a squirrel searching for a nut, you can see the New York Knicks pre game workouts, Snoop Dogg, or Lion, smoking, and now beautiful images of space, courtesy of NASA.  NASA’s public visibility has shrunken over the years as the Space Shuttle program is no more. So, what better way to keep the public informed about the amazing space exploration that is still going on than to share amazingly stunning photos from space? “We’re constantly looking to expand our social media portfolio to include tools that will best tell NASA’s story of exploration and discovery,” NASA Press Secretary Lauren Worley said in the statement announcing the new initiative.

So next time you’re waiting for a train or standing in line for coffee, check out NASA’s Instagram, stare at some star formations, some nebulas, comets, cool stuff; and it may spark your interest. This may be a genius way to increase interest in space exploration, especially amongst the younger crowd who’s on social media 24/7.

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President & CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

Hooked on TV or Apple TV or Maybe Both?

I have been hooked on my Apple TV ever since I set it a few months ago.  The small sleek black box lounging comfortably next to my cable box has become a symbol of home and comfort. My Apple TV is my friend. It carries all of my music, movies, and TV shows around for me. I access iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, HBO Go, ESPN, etc.

It seems that a lot of people have also thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment possibilities Apple TV provides. Since January 1, 2013, 6 million 3rd generation Apple TV units were sold. According to Nielson, 98 percent of homes own a TV. Most people have some kind of device hooked up to their television whether it be the Apple TV or some other DVR entertainment device.

step1-appletv-heroThe updated software, which integrated iTunes Radio and various other applications included several Disney channels, the Smithsonian Channel, the MLS, Vevo, and the Weather Channel. While I continue to find new and fun ways to use Apple TV, the honeymoon period of owning such a fantastic device has not subsided. Being able to access an entire iTunes library on a TV seems like an incredibly exhilarating experience. Apple even manufactured an incredibly sleek controller that screams Cupertino!

Not to undermine the obvious success that Apple TV has accumulated, Keith Loria, a writer for CMO.com, has written an extensive article documenting the short falls of “television complimenting devices,” and points to societal norms as a possible reason for a plateau effect on sales and uses. He writes, the TV is still very relevant, “because of the family and group dynamic of watching TV together in households.” (1) He goes on to quote Jay Miletsky, CEO of Sequel Media Group, stating, “The TV experience is a completely different experience that the experience of watching video content on a PC or mobile device. For one thing, TV is more communal- you watch with your friends or family, while PCs and mobile devices are more isolating… TV is a more of a ‘lean-back’ vs. ‘lean-on’ experience, where people watch TV with more of a relaxed attitude that they do strictly Web content.” (1)

While such societal tendencies to communally watch television –or entertainment in general –may for the time being put a ceiling on auxiliary entertainment devices. Erik Dochtermann, CEO of KD+E, a media research agency, believes that in “the long term, the spread of TV viewing to other mobile devices will be more rapid as the younger generation gets older, as their viewing habits are significantly different than the previous generation.”(1) Which may lead to way more impressive and integrated entertainment devices, but for now Apple is the King of such a genre of entertainment, and I would put my money on them continuing its superiority in the future.

1. Loria, Keith. “Insight/ Traditional Media.” New Life For Old Media. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2013.

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, President & CEO of the All Access Group, LLC

PS: Subscribe to my FREE All Access Group Newsletter http://bit.ly/AAGNewletter

PSS: Listen to an entire library of intimate discussions with industry visionaries http://bit.ly/AllAccessPodcastSeries (Priceless)

 

iTunes Radio: Have They Hit It Out of The Park?

radio_1xCustomizable, user integrated, radio stations have become the norm on music playing services, from Pandora to Spotify to fm.Radio; so it was just a matter of time before Apple’s iTunes developed and released a radio application of its own. And in classic Apple style, the iTunes Radio (accessible directly through iTunes, after downloading the new software) hits it out of the park.

Similar to its competitors, iTunes Radio, allows the user to create personal radio stations based on a specific artist, song, or genre. But where iTunes Radio differs from other learn-on-the-fly radio stations is the option to listen to 250, DJ created and genre organized stations. Featured stations range from The Beatles Radio, to the Voice, to “Miley Cyrus Bangerz,” Diplo tracks, and of course iTunes Top 100. In this way iTunes Radio reminded me of Sirius Satellite and other satellite car stations, offering unique, specific music.

But in exploring iTunes Radio, I picked several categories to study in comparing it with its competitors; the categories being: price, and music recommendations. In terms of price you can listen to iTunes Radio for free if you’re okay with listening to advertisements. However if you own an iTunes Match account, $25 a year, which allows you to store all your music in the iCloud and access it on any device, you can listen to iTunes Radio ad-free. Such a deal. Pay for music accessibility and the absence of ads is offered through Spotify as well; Spotify offers free use, with ads, uninterrupted music on a laptop or desktop for $4.99 a month, or uninterrupted music anywhere on all devices for $9.99 a month.

Pandora also offers a free service with advertisements, or an upgrade with similar deals to iTunes Radio and Spotify for either $36 a year, or $3.99 a month. Another great feature of iTunes Radio that can’t really be matched by its competitors is the ability to purchase a song you have recently discovered, again through iTunes Radio, and have it available in your music library. And you own this song, its not just saved in a queue!

Now on to what I think is obviously the most important aspect of iTunes Radio: the music. In this field, at least at the moment, I don’t quite see iTunes Radio competing with Pandora, in that Pandora offers more than 500 genre-based stations, and more than a million songs from more than 100,000 artists. (iTunes claims they have the most, but haven’t put a number on the “most”). It may be this extensive music catalog that Pandora has acquired that makes its music recommendations not only more accurate but more fun.

I can’t tell you how many new songs and artists I have discovered listening to Pandora radio, and in the few hours that I experimented with iTunes Radio I didn’t come across one “new” artist that I hadn’t heard of. This may just be a result of Pandora being in business longer and perfecting the art of recommending music, but to me they clearly had the advantage in this area. In addition, Pandora’s option to learn more about the playing artist and song lyrics is just a nice touch, aiding in your ability to “discover” new musicians.

That being said, iTunes Radio claims the more you use it, the better the recommendations. (Would you expect them to say anything different?). But for now it reminds me of iTunes “Genius recommendations on steroids.” But they have room to grow and most likely will.

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, CEO of The All Access Group, LLC

Discover Your Next Favorite Artist With Set.fm

set-fm-logo-july-24-with-tag-reversedIn this age of digitalization, everything we once did, read, learned, heard, saw, a mere decade ago, has been coded, miniaturized (handheld accessible) or blown up to the big screen, putting a whole meaning to the Disney “it’s a small world after all,” jam.

In this ‘small’ world we can find receipts or reservations, read books, watch movies, and yes listen to music, without putting one device down. And as new ideas, inventions, applications surface one has to begin to wonder where the next advancement will come from? How revolutionary will it be? Who will think of it?

But the reality of the situation is that when most new inventions are described, they don’t seem that revolutionary, that incredible, rather pretty basic, intuitive notions. Everyone can admit the iPod and iTunes were groundbreaking inventions, being able to store and access your whole music library in one place. Being able to share this music? Seems like a pretty simple idea. So now that there is a seemingly never-ending advancement in the finding, sharing, and producing of music from iTunes to Spotify to Pandora to last.Fm, it seems difficult to imagine the next big step in the music industry.

Well, once again, that revolutionary idea may not be so crazy, so out of left field, instead it’s probably right in front of your face resulting in the proverbial: “why didn’t I think of that?” And it appears that set.fm has come up with an idea to share, almost immediately, live music performances. Now when I first read this, I didn’t quite see the scope of the idea, nor its implications.

The scope and implications of this advent both revolve around the new popular musical sounds of the generation and the festivals and live concerts that they foster. Bass, synthetic, and hi-hat heavy sounds have taken over the music industry in the form of “Trap” and “House Music.” But where is the connection between Trap music and set.fm‘s attempt to bring live shows to your home?

Well what sets House and Trap music apart from other genre’s is the live show artists put on. No longer does a musician stand idle in the middle of the stage eloquently annunciating, or pace back and forth across stage slamming guitars against the floor and kicking over amplifiers. Instead, concerts have turned into light shows- manipulating lights and laser to coordinate with bass heavy music, attempting to form a bridge between the visuals and acoustics.

Imagine basic star gazing, sitting in an open field with a telescope, admiring stars light years away; versus sitting in a massive planetarium, watching the light years fly by your face, feeling the heat emitted from the stars, and the massive empty space in front and behind you. Suc concerts have in turn fostered countless large music festivals all over the world- from England to Spain, Australia to Germany, and Los Angeles to New York. The set.fm will give you access to all these venues from the comfort of your home, minus the grossly expensive weekend pass…. I wish I thought of that.

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, CEO of The All Access Group, LLC

 

Playground Sessions: The Untraditional Piano Teacher

 

Playground_Sessions_QuincyJonesPlayground Sessions may be your opportunity to learn to sooth crowds with melodic sounds of the piano like Mozart or Chopin did before us. Co-created by the music legend Quincy Jones, Playground Sessions is an interactive music curriculum that allows users to learn to play the piano in the comfort of their own home, with no physical teachers present.

The program is unique in its take on traditional learning. The curriculum focuses on playing popular radio hits that the user already knows, “to demonstrate music theory as [he or she] goes,” states the program’s website.

So if there is no one sitting beside the user and teaching him or her how to play, then how do they learn? A virtual teacher, David Sides, a self-taught musician and composer and YouTube sensation, with his rendition of One Republic’s “Apologize” racking up over 10 million views. Through tutorial lessons David guides students through the songs step by step. He first shows the user how to play a song and then plays it along side him or her, providing feedback all the while.Playground_Sessions1

There are several play modes in which a user can practice. Practice mode allows users to play on their own with, “real-time visual feedback that’s clear and instantaneous.” Users can also play with a band, “with accompaniments arranged by David.” The Performance Mode is, “where the pieces come together,” states the program’s website. Students can play, compose, and record a song and then share it with friends.

The scoring and badging component of the program offers students a little motivation. The program gives the student badges when he or she achieves different levels of accuracy, rhythm, etc.

The interactivity of the curriculum is enhanced by the user’s ability to social network with other students. Students can, “create a network with other users around the world to practice with, support, chat to, or challenge.”

Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced levels allow users to progress to more difficult songs at a faster pace. The program charts a user’s progression so he or she can visually see how they’ve done over a period of time.

Will the Playground Sessions change the dynamics of tradition piano lessons and allow students to bypass the car travel, scheduling issues, and excessive price that come along with a live teacher? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Want to hear more about Playground Sessions? Watch this short video with Quincy Jones:


Until next time,

Kelli Richards, CEO of The All Access Group, LLC

Tech’s Bringing Sexy Back: Taking Advantage of Technology’s New Image

Hollywood exudes sex appeal, glamour, and stardom. Now, that glamour is spilling over into other industries — including the tech world. Hollywood stars are funding and branding startups. Celebrities are joining companies as CMOs or creative directors. And now, they’re developing their own brands on the side, too: think Jessica Alba’s eco-friendly baby business, The Honest Company.

This trend goes the other way as well. With late-night TV appearances and commercial cameos, tech stars are going mainstream. And shows like “Shark Tank” are giving entrepreneurship a new reputation.

Tech entrepreneurs — and the industry itself — need to take advantage of this newfound interest for pitches, funding, marketing, and more. Technology isn’t nerdy; it’s sexy. And it’s time for the tech industry to start acting like it.

Hitching to a Star

It’s a trend: Next-generation startups are collaborating with tech-savvy artists and celebrities for even more reach and influence. Why? These public figures have made careers of staying relevant, artistically and culturally — and they’ve often got great ideas for connecting with audiences that are tricky to engage.

Likewise, for celebrities and artists, embracing technologies that help them connect with their audience can only bring more money, engagement, and a cool factor of being cutting edge. When a tech company can partner with an artist with vision, an even more interesting, engaging product can result.

Here’s a great example: Last June, teenage pop sensation Justin Bieber landed on the front cover of Forbes as one of the most unlikely venture capitalists. But contrary to his bubblegum image, Bieber is actually a formidable investor: He has stakes in at least a dozen startups. This isn’t as unusual as people may think.

Often, specific kinds of startups draw the attention of celebrities. Social media is an obvious choice to invest in, culturally and financially. Lady Gaga and her manager, Troy Carter, even created Backplane, a Silicon Valley-based startup that helps celebrities and brands connect with fans and foster community.

Often, companies will recruit stars for creative consultation, innovation, and brainstorming. Alicia Keys was named Global Creative Director of Blackberry in January. And Lady Gaga was recently appointed as the Creative Director at Polaroid. These creative partnerships give tech companies broader exposure and relevance in pop culture. The artists benefit with forward-thinking endorsements — and the financial benefit of a successful investment.

Going Mainstream

Celebrities aren’t the only ones making headlines thanks to tech innovation. The entrepreneurs, thinkers, and creators behind the keyboard are becoming celebrities in their own right, too.

Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook and seized a generation’s attention. He’s been immortalized in pop culture and film. Steve Jobs has become a similar cultural force: His legacy at Apple and Pixar has created legions of loyal followers.

Why the interest in technology rock stars? Creative minds are fascinating, no matter what field they work in. And, as technology becomes more accessible and integrated with our daily lives, it becomes even more interesting to see who’s making the products that we live with every day — and what their life stories are.

New Image, New Future

When tech companies are looking to find funding, launch a product, or create marketing materials, taking this new cultural phenomenon into account can only help the companies and their brands. Here are a few ways to take advantage of this newfound interest:

Think about how your company fits into pop culture’s current moment. Can you make your company, product, or service even more relevant? How?

Remember, there are more ways to make money with media than ever before. Tools and services can now give customers the content they want on any device, anywhere in the world. And that’s changed content distribution and monetization — forever. Think about how new distribution avenues could work for your company.

Pave the way with a powerful partnership. Not every brand can afford the star power of a pop artist or a tech rock star — but a smart collaboration could double the power of your innovation. Don’t be afraid to partner with someone outside the tech industry. Think about how an outside perspective can make your company even more marketable. Make sure it’s a win-win.

Tech isn’t just for nerds anymore. And this isn’t just good for the industry — it’s good for everyone, from consumers to creative minds. It’s time to seize the moment, take advantage of this trend, and create something truly sexy as two very powerful industries converge.

View the Original posting on Steamfeed.com here.

Innovation: Goodyear married to Zeppelin; Boeing delivered “Sky Interior”

Goodyear BlimpInnovation in the skies: Goodyear married to Zeppelin; Boeing delivered “Sky Interior”.  The Goodyear blimp is almost as recognizable as Shaq in kindergarten. The blue, silver, and yellow balloon looking like a floating football, periodically floats around during the summer and sticks out like sore thumb; offering an ingenious marketing play for the tire company. But what are the uses of Goodyear blimps besides causing an association between flying footballs and car tires? Well in truth not much.

Today blimps are used mainly for advertising purposes and occasionally work during sporting events, offering unique perspectives of venues. They are not so distant relatives of Zeppelins, which were pretty influential during the First World War, especially during the bombing of London, but soon proved to be inefficient. After the war, they continued in the skies as a popular form of transportation.

Zeppelins differ from Blimps in that they have hard outer shells- lizard versus turtle. Fast forward 20 some-odd years to the creation of, at the time, the largest airship ever built- the Hindenburg, a Zeppelin. Filled with hydrogen as opposed to Helium, the Hindenburg burst into flames. Needless to say that was quite a stain on the Zeppelin name… until now that is. It has been announced that Goodyear will install its first Zeppelin into its armada of flying contraptions in 2014.

Now that we’ve had a brief blimp history lesson lets examine Goodyear’s new marketing machine. The Zeppelin will stretch 55 feet longer than current blimps and will sport a massive “envelope”- the balloon that inflates, keeping the machine airborne. It will no doubt be a sight to behold- a marketing scheme. Is it a match made in heaven: a massive seemingly useless sack of air and a company simply improving its unique marketing niche?

All Access Group’s vision is related strongly to Innovative results that exceed wild image002expectations in technology. Now while were on the topic of flying, spacey, device, capsules let’s move on to Boeing’s newest invention. Boeing, the company that has brought the world massive luxury airplanes, has brought us, well NASA at least, a new commercial vehicle in order to transport astronauts back and forth from Earth and the International Space Station. The capsule looks like something out of a Spy Kids movie; it’s a 14.8 foot wide tear-drop shaped vehicle that fits five comfortably- however the capsule has two additional seats if necessary.

image003The Boeing CST-100 features state of the art touch control digital displays, a built in freezer, front and rear windows offering incredible views of space and awesome blue LED lighting, nicknamed the “Sky Interior.” While the capsule is an absolutely incredible engineering creation, the most glaring aspect of the machine is what it’s lacking. We will introduce humor to the outer space.  A lavatory; … somehow Boeing didn’t find it necessary to implement a bathroom into the “Sky Interior”. What are the astronauts supposed to do for 6 hours?

Until next time,

Kelli Richards, CEO of The All Access Group, LLC