Pied Piper Is Like Empty Tables, and Empty Chairs (Silicon Valley – Episode 27)

“Not much to report this week, dear readers! Everything is perfectly fine.”  Or so says Jared.  But as Gilfoyle is quick to point out, “That’s a lie.”  The problem is that even though the Pied Piper product has incredible buzz, and celebrates half a million downloads, regular people can’t stand using it once they have it.  Pied Piper has a scant 19,000 daily active users, and the product is being savaged in focus groups.  Richard pours his efforts, and almost all of Pied Piper’s remaining funding, into trying to educate the public about what Pied Piper is and how to use it.  But all his efforts yield only one convert, Bernice… and “Pipey,” a horrifying animated flute that pops up to give tips on using the product.  In other words, Pied Piper is “fine” in the same way someone who lost their job and their dog in the same day is “fine”—they’re wretched and nearly broke.  In desperation, Jared goes rogue and secretly starts buying daily users from a “click farm” in Bangladesh.

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Weekly Web Wrap-Up: June 22, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

Bethesda E3 2016

The annual gaming extravaganza— which boasted over 2,000 products, 130 announcements and 50,000 attendees—has come to an end.  Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest moments and surprises from E3, and a two-minute preview of some of the hottest new games.

The Rolls-Royce of Tomorrow

Technophiles and gearheads, eat your heart out.  The newly announced, fully autonomous Rolls comes with some incredible technology, including personal assistant Eleanor, autonomous driving, and more.

WWDC 2016

With no new products on the horizon, you might think Apple’s annual developers’ conference underwhelmed.  But Apple rolled out some major announcements that, among other things, taught us some important things about Apple, the community, and how consumers will eventually use their Apple devices.

Improving Public Transit One 3D-Printed Autonomous Bus at a Time

Meet Olli: Local Motors has unveiled its crowd-sourced, partially-recyclable, autonomous electric shuttle vehicle in D.C. this summer.  Olli utilizes IBM’s Watson cognitive learning software to take input from any language, translate it, take users to their destinations, and even learn user’s habits.

Hearing Things: MIT’s AI Learns and Reproduces Sound Effects

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has created a machine-learning system capable of matching sound effects to video clips.  The computer-vision algorithm “watches” videos of various objects being whacked by drumsticks—tracking the object’s physical appearance, the drumstick’s movement, and the resulting sounds to learn connections between physical objects and the sounds they make when struck.  What does this mean for the future?  Beyond generating fun sound effects, the technology could help robots identify an object’s materials and physical properties by analyzing the sounds it makes.

45 Million Potentially Impacted by VerticalScope Hack

Time to change that password again.  Joining 2016’s long line of data breaches, the latest mega hack is a breach of VerticalScope, which is responsible for more than 1,000 popular websites and forums.  The data taken apparently includes email addresses, encrypted passwords, usernames, and IP addresses.  The danger in such a data breach lies in consumer password reuse across platforms and websites.

…And The Unicorn You Rode In On (Silicon Valley – Episode 26)

Alas, poor Erlich!  We knew him; ‘a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne us on his back a thousand times; and now,’ as Jared poetically recounts, “Erlich’s Bachmanity boondoggle has led to his being unceremoniously bucked off the Pied Piper unicorn, [lock-] stock-and-Board-seat-wise.”  Unfortunately, Erlich’s lavish over-spending of Bachmanity’s capital, combined with his personal liability for Bachmanity’s debts, have brought Erlich to the brink of bankruptcy.  He’s so desperate for funding he’s willing to sell his Pied Piper shares to dig himself out of his hole.  But yet again, the “onerous terms” that Richard accepted when he took Russ Hanneman’s investment rear their ugly head.  Previously these terms enabled Raviga to take control of Pied Piper’s board and fire Richard.  Now Laurie uses the terms to block Erlich from selling half his shares to Russ for $5 million, and forces Erlich to sell all his shares to Raviga Capital for the exact amount of Erlich’s debts ($713,000).  This leaves Erlich with nothing except extreme public ridicule.

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Happy Times, High Crimes and Misdemeanors (Silicon Valley – Episode 25)

In this week’s episode of Silicon Valley, Richard enjoyed an unprecedented run of success, culminating with the official launch of Pied Piper’s platform.  Richard has suffered so many setbacks, it’s little wonder he is initially reluctant to launch even a beta version—certain that the platform is buggy and will only subject Pied Piper to further mortal embarrassment.  But the team convinces him to try a very limited, private beta, and the embarrassment never comes.  Everyone loves it, from the beginning to the shockingly happy ending… everyone, except Monica.  (But that doesn’t matter because her dissatisfaction just convinces us that we aren’t dreaming.)  The team even manages to foil Gavin Belson’s attempt to steal the beta, turning the tables on him and leaving him screaming to “cut the power to building” in order to shut down the team’s zip bomb.

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Weekly Web Wrap-Up: June 10, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

Facebook and Activision Level Up Gaming Partnership

Live streaming is big business these days.  In a follow up to last month’s announcement that Activision’s e-sports platform MLG.tv would begin broadcasting live competitive gaming tournaments directly on Facebook, the titans announced a further collaboration that will allow players to live stream gaming experiences using Facebook Live.  Blizzard will integrate a Facebook Login into its games and Blizzard will introduce a “Go Live” button to let players stream in-game content directly to their Facebook profile.  The new features are expected to arrive by next month.

BBC Pioneers Exploration of VR’s Broadcasting Applications

When it comes to the practical applications of VR there is no rulebook . . .  yet.  The integration of every new technology begins a quest to find out what works and what doesn’t, which features are mere gimmicks and which have a profitable future.  BBC’s R&D department is in the dark with the rest of the industry.  But with public funding comes the freedom to experiment with the challenges VR brings.  Here are some its experiments—from 360 news videos compatible with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets to interactive experiences that would be at home in the science museum.  Say hello to the future of broadcasting.

Daily Fantasy Sports: Coming Soon to a Nevada Casino Near You?

The Gaming Control Board voted unanimously this week to recommend to the U.S. Gaming Commission the licensing of Las Vegas race and sports-book pioneer Vic Salerno and his company, US Fantasy, for an off-track, pari-mutuel sports system operator’s license.  If Salerno wins final approval from the Gaming Commission, he would be the first to offer betting on fantasy sports contests through Nevada casinos.

E-Sports Bandwagon Keeps Rolling

Italy’s largest gaming company SNAI has partnered with Betradar to offer the first regulated     e-Sports betting option to Italian customers.  Italian regulators Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) have committed to the philosophy that the best way of channeling customers away from black-market gambling is to offer the products they want.  The ADM has created numerous safeguards to ensure the system’s integrity—from fraud detection to censorship of graphic violence.

SPACES and Songcheng to Bring VR and MxR to Popular Theme Parks

Los Angeles-based SPACES, a developer of virtual reality content announced a $30M joint venture with Chinese theme park operator Songcheng Performance Development Co. Ltd. to bring virtual and mixed reality to Songcheng’s theme parks and stage shows.

Bachmanity – From Sizzle to Fizzle and Maybe Bachruptcy (Silicon Valley – Episode 24)

At its heart, Episode 24 was about relationships – from the wayward dating lives of Richard and Dinesh to Big Head and Ehrlich’s marriage of “Bachmanity,” the Pied Piper entourage found themselves faced with the messy unraveling of unsuccessful relationships.  To recap some of those relationships, Richard loses a girlfriend over his obsession with code formatting, Dinesh sabotages his chances of dating a coworker by improving the video streaming and revealing “Pakistani Denzel” to be more of a “Dogface,” and Bachmanity faces the cold consequences of profligate and unnecessary spending and lack of accounting oversight.  Perhaps Jared’s “spreading his plumage” to display his dating prowess was the only silver lining.  Even though this episode left us feeling like the Pied Piper guys need the advice of a “Love MD” more than that of a J.D., some of their problems may still be solvable with a better understanding of the law.

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Weekly Web Wrap-Up: June 3, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

A startup that lets you anonymously review your boss and job just raised $40 million

This latest round of funding takes the total raised by the California-based startup Glassdoor to over $200 million.  Glassdoor is fundamentally changing the way job seekers search for jobs and companies recruit talent.

AMC is experimenting with Facebook Live

The TV network streamed the pilot episode of its new series “Preacher,” based on the graphic novel of the same name, this week

Computex 2016: Here’s What You Need to Know

The convention was not just laptops, tablets and smartphones this year.  This year’s VR-focused show included HTC’s Vive demos; MSI’s Backpack PC; AMD’s announcement of its $199 Radeon RX480’s graphics card to lower the entry barrier for VR; and even Microsoft is opening up its Windows Holographic platform to embrace the virtual world.

Illinois Daily Fantasy Sports Betting Bill On Hold

Legislation to regulate daily fantasy sports betting in Illinois was shelved Sunday after the proposal became mired in vote-buying allegations.

Big Head, Big Dreams, Big Mistake?

At least on paper, Episode 23 was a heartwarming story of new beginnings.  Sure, Richard was subjected to an excruciating limbo during which Laurie interviewed other people for “his” job as CEO.  But it turns out that was only for Richard’s own good—to make sure Richard would be seen as the best choice after a rigorous selection process—not as the guy who got his job back because he was hanging around the office.  There was a smallish hiccup when the indignity of Laurie’s process caused Richard to snap and air all his pent-up grievances to a Code/Rag reporter, who could have ruined everything for Richard by printing his tirade.  But fortunately, Big Head saved the day by providing the reporter an even bigger story about how Gavin Belson “scrubbed the internet” of negative references to Belson or Nucleus.  By the end of the episode, Richard is reinstated as CEO and Pied Piper is relaunching work on the platform with a brand new batch of cheap, foreign engineers.

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Weekly Web Wrap-Up: May 20, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

Amazon Launches YouTube Competitor

As the streaming video war continues, Amazon has announced the launch of its own video platform, Amazon Video Direct.  Like YouTube, the platform will host video content of any kind, uploaded either by corporate partners or by individual content creators, with a variety of revenue-generating options built in.

SPACES Launches with 3 Million in Initial Funding

Led by Comcast Ventures, the independent company is already working with companies Microsoft, NBCUniversal, Big Blue Bubble and The Hettema Group, among others, to develop and produce a wide range of projects across all VR and MxR platforms and technologies.

The 10 Biggest Announcements from I/O 2016

At I/O this year, Google made some big announcements, including a much-anticipated mobile VR platform, a slew of new Google products, and improvements to Android.  Here’s your guide.

Twitch and Blizzard Team Up to Combat Harassment in Gaming

Blizzard Entertainment and Twitch are working together to develop a pilot program targeted at combating online harassment following an incident during a recent Hearthstone live stream.  Blizzard CEO: There’s no place for racism, sexism, harassment, or other discriminatory behavior, in or outside of the gaming community.’

Sony Finally Makes Move Into AI

The tech juggernaut announced it is joining the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google by diving into artificial intelligence.

Laurie & Monica Out-Action Jack…and Other Fiduciary Duties (Silicon Valley – Episode 22)

Episode 22 provides a decisive and satisfying showdown between Jack’s Box plan and Richard’s consumer platform option.  Richard’s not-so-secret skunkworks project is dead, and the team sets to work on the Box believing that as soon as they deliver a working prototype, they will be free to build the platform.  But when they deliver the Box, they find Jack is prepared to double-cross them.  As Jared explains, Jack has negotiated a contract “with ’90s-era tech dinosaur Maleant Data Solutions that **exclusively** licensed the Pied Piper algorithm to Maleant for five long years!”  Jack calls a meeting of Pied Piper’s board expecting it to approve the deal.

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