Monday, July 4, 2016

California Ivory Ban Now in Effect

Signed by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. last October, a new law banning the sale of nearly all ivory in the state of California is effective as of July 1, 2016. 

The ban, which can be found in California Fish and Game Code, section 2022, encompasses teeth and tusks of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, warthog, whale and narwhal, as well as rhinoceros horn, regardless of whether it is raw, worked or powdered, or from a store or a private collection. Under the law, advertising the sale of any items containing ivory is also strictly prohibited.

“The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) continues its active role with our federal partners to end wildlife trafficking, which poses a critical threat to conservation throughout the world,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “This law provides another tool to aid in this effort.”

Under the new law, raw ivory and most crafted items that include ivory may no longer be purchased, sold or possessed with the intent to sell, with limited exceptions, including the following:

  • Ivory or rhino horn that is part of a bona fide antique (with historical documentation showing the antique is at least 100 years old) provided the item is less than 5 percent ivory or rhino horn by volume;
  • Ivory or rhino horn that is part of a musical instrument (with documentation of pre-1975 construction) provided the instrument contains less than 20 percent ivory or rhino horn by volume; and
  • Activities expressly authorized by federal law, or federal exemptions or permits.
California has a long history in the legal and illegal trafficking market of ivory within the United States. Although the sale of ivory and elephant parts has been illegal in California since 1977 (and nationwide since 1990), the new law closed a loophole that allowed the continued sale of ivory that was imported into the state before 1977.

The sale of ivory, rhino horn or products that contain ivory will be a misdemeanor, punishable by fines up to $50,000 and one year of incarceration.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Faraday Future Join All Electric Racing Series

It’s the announcement that California-based electric car company Faraday Future – or FF as they prefer to be known - and FIA Formula E fans have been waiting for since FF debuted its show-stopping FFZero1 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year - FF will be joining Formula E, the all-electric racing series.

At a press conference today at the 2016 FIA Formula E London ePrix, FF announced a long-term alliance with Dragon Racing, one of the 10 existing Formula E teams, becoming the core technical partner and title sponsor of the team. The new team name will be Faraday Future Dragon Racing, and the partnership will officially initiate at the beginning of Season 3 (2016/2017) at the Formula E Hong Kong ePrix on October 9, 2016. LeEco — the Chinese company that is financing Faraday Future while working on its own electric car — will also be involved in the sponsorship with Dragon Racing.

Faraday Future and Dragon Racing will work together in Season 3 (2016/17) to develop key technology software solutions to maximize performance capabilities within the vehicles’ powertrains while Faraday Future’s R&D team will look for opportunities within the Dragon Racing platform to improve overall drivetrain performance. They will also refine data acquisition and analytics to improve vehicle simulation models, which will aid in more accurate predictions of vehicle performance and efficiency.

The announcement was made by FF executives including Marco Mattiacci, Global Chief Brand & Commercial Officer and Nick Sampson, Senior Vice President, Global R&D and Engineering.
 “Formula E has placed a significant emphasis on electric performance and connectivity, which makes it a great fit for Faraday Future,” said Mattiacci. “Formula E has leveraged a community of fans and embodies the competitive spirit that we also share.”

At an executive level, Mattiacci will oversee the company’s partnership with Dragon Racing, while Sampson and his team will lead the technical co-operation.

“Partnering with Dragon Racing allows us to further showcase our electric vehicle leadership and technical capabilities in one of the most exciting Formulas in the world,” said Sampson. “I clearly see Formula E as the right venue to challenge our engineers and technologies in the most extreme performance conditions.”

“We are thrilled to welcome Faraday Future into Formula E. Faraday Future is a brand that is targeting the highest standard in terms of design, R&D, and manufacturing of electric cars,” said Alejandro Agag, FIA Formula E President. “We couldn’t be happier that they have chosen Formula E to challenge some of the greatest car companies in the world. This announcement again proves that Formula E is truly the future of motorsport.”

In the Season 4 (2017/2018) and beyond, Faraday Future and Dragon Racing will work together to implement various Faraday powertrain components, software, firmware, and other hardware as the team sees fit. This could include Faraday Future motors, gearbox, and the FF Echelon Inverter – the same inverter that will be installed into every future Faraday Future production vehicle. While competing in the Formula E World Championship Series, FF technology will encounter some of the most challenging and strenuous conditions the world has to offer.

First Production Vehicles?

Joining Formula E will give Faraday Future another way to test out the technologies that could wind up in a first mass-market car. The first question that is almost always asked by FF’s fans is “When will the first production models hit the streets?”

When I recently asked the FF PR team about when one could expect to see the first production vehicles, the reply I received was, “FF’s first production vehicle will combine innovative connectivity, autonomous ready, holistic design, and assertive performance in tandem.” In terms of autonomous driving, the key words seem to be “autonomous ready.”

Regarding a question about FF “mules” that may or may not have been driving the roads in Michigan and other states, FF had this to say, “Regarding the Michigan plates, they will be used to help test various FF vehicles prototypes and features on public roads. Michigan is an important state for automotive manufacturers, and the manufacturer plates provides Faraday Future with flexibility and options for testing future prototypes on public roads. However, no dates have been confirmed for testing at this time.”

I also asked how FF was planning to unit extreme tech/entertainment/environmental responsibility. The reply was, “From a connectivity and entertainment perspective, FF will benefit from our strategic partnership with LeEco, providing a breakthrough experience in streaming content, platforms and smart devices.” The importance of internet connectivity was stressed by Jia Yueting, the LeEco founder, during the London press conference.

According to FF, “In terms of vehicle performance, FF’s VPA platform gives us the ability to add or remove battery strings based on vehicle wheelbase and decrease production time by not having to develop a new platform from the ground up. The entire platform and various hardware components are scalable, quickly.”

“From a safety perspective, unlike a conventionally powered car, EVs have no large engine up front to intrude into the passenger compartment during a collision. This means the front and rear crumple zones can effectively dissipate the kinetic energy of a crash.”

“Finally, from an environmental perspective, power for EVs can be produced domestically, and from renewable resources.”

As to the question about when the first production vehicles will hit the road in China or the U.S., the answer was, “We will bring a car to market in the next couple of years that will be in the premium segment.”

While the first production vehicles may not be exactly as drop-dead gorgeous as the hormones-into-overdrive inducing FFZero1, it doesn’t sound as if they going to be of the anonymous blob variety either. Unlike those FF mules which may or may not be driving themselves in the lanes next to us on the interstate.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

So You Want To Get Into VR?

Photo: The Virtual Reality Company
When it comes to advice on how to get into virtual reality or VR, it's hard to imagine a better two people to give that advice than two of The Virtual Reality Company's (VRC) co-founders, two-time Academy Award-winning director Robert Stromberg and entertainment executive, Guy Primus. 

VRC recently raised $23 million as part of a large equity-financing round, and is a producer of first-class VR content, including the critically-acclaimed "tentpole" VR experience, The Martian VR, a 20-minute interactive and fully immersive journey created for the 20th Century Fox Innovation Lab.

I recently had an opportunity to talk to Guy and Robert, and asked them about advice they had to give for anyone wanting to get into the industry.
Guy: "I always give advice, I got started in the entertainment industry in New York in the music industry. The first piece of advice is probably the same that I would give to anybody who's looking to do anything, which is you have to be in it to win it. If you're really serious about it, you have to invest your time in either going back to school or even picking up and moving to Silicon Valley or Los Angeles where it's all happening and really get involved. That involves going to meetups and really sacrificing your time, but I think mostly just creating. It sounds simple. I don't think it has to be great but picking up a camera and shooting with it and putting together something and just experimenting with what works and what doesn't because even if it doesn't look the best and it's not the highest quality output, the input and the process is really where the value is. That's kind of the key piece of advice I have for anyone looking to get anything that they are potentially passionate about, just get involved and immerse yourself in it."
Robert: "I think that what's interesting about this new medium is that it really is a new medium, as different as radio is to television as films is to stage plays is to books. It's just a new way to experience or tell stories. What's really interesting is that it's a field that's somehow cross-pollinating the world of film, the world of visual effects, the world of gaming. Still, at the end of the day it all requires creativity and art and storytelling. It's really pulling elements and occupations from really every direction and sort of focusing on this new thing. The opportunity is potentially enormous for this budding business." 
"Not many films are filmed in Los Angeles anymore. Visual effects, citizen communities are spread all over the world now. In a weird way Los Angeles has sort of become this fledgling hub of VR. I know there are companies in Silicon Valley and everywhere else but it seems to be focusing here, which is really exciting for us because it gives Los Angeles the careers here, a new pathway to something that doesn't change where they were going but only enlightens and heightens what they've already spent years learning how to do."
There you have it. When it comes to career advice, it doesn't get much better than that.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Thoughts And Prayers

In this powerful song Roger McNamee of Moonalice and Doobie Decibel System puts words to what so many are feeling and thinking in the wake of the worst mass killing in U.S. history. 

Thoughts & Prayers
Words and music by Roger McNamee

News alerts cut through the noise
Bodies broken like fragile toys
Shooters rule another day (while)
Politicians say it’s time to pray

Every day another story
Images both sad and gory
Bullets rule another day (while)
Politicians say it’s time to pray

Take your thoughts and prayers
And scatter them across the sea
If thoughts and prayers are all you have
Then stay away from me
Stay away from me   ….  

Legislators love their guns
In courtrooms gats have mostly won
Ninety people killed each day (while)
Politicians say it’s time to pray

We’re only safe when packing heat
In schools and churches, on the street
The handiwork of the NRA (while)
Politicians say it’s time to pray


Orlando, Blacksburg, Newtown, DeKalb
Tucson, Red Lake, Charleston, and Flint
Roseburg, Oakland, Santa Monica
Aurora, Columbine, and every town we love

Second bridge
The time has come
The time has come
The time has come to stand and fight
Not getting shot is a human right
Join us and make a stand
Stand up and hold my hand
Together we’ll make a stand
Stand to be free

Friday, June 10, 2016

Creators Of The Martian VR Build First Great VR Content Studio

The Virtual Reality Company (VRC) recently raised $23 million as part of a large equity-financing round. The funds will be used toward producing original virtual reality content and positioning VRC as the premier VR storyteller and industry leader. 
Founded and managed by two-time Academy Award-winning director Robert Stromberg and entertainment industry executive Guy Primus, VRC is a producer of first-class VR content, including the critically-acclaimed tentpole VR experience, The Martian VR, a 20-minute interactive and fully immersive journey created for the 20th Century Fox Innovation Lab.
Robert Stromberg - The Virtual Reality Company
"VR is no longer just a dream of visionaries," stated Robert Stromberg, VRC co-founder and Chief Creative Officer. "Leaders across a number of industries, who months ago dismissed VR as a passing fad, are racing to participate in this rapidly evolving landscape. The assurance of VR's longevity has never been more evident than it is today."
"The limitless potential of the technology has enabled us to unlock characters, dreamscapes and adventures that for decades have been captive thoughts of my imagination. We cannot wait to share these experiences with the world," explained Stromberg.
VRC already has several notable projects on its slate, including an original family-oriented VR program created with VRC advisor and shareholder, Steven Spielberg.
The timing of the investment is advantageous to VRC's team of artists, storytellers and technicians, who are now able to execute exclusively on their creative ambition. The team is focused on delivering original, cinematic, story-driven experiences that will forever shape the marketplace and define VRC as a first-rate VR content studio and premium story-telling household brand.
The equity investment made by Hengxin Mobile Business Co., Ltd., a Beijing-based mobile services and technology provider, was a strategic decision, securing for VRC a platform for the distribution of its content in the greater China region. 
"This recent injection of capital allows us to discover new creative territories and stake our claim in this exciting frontier," said Stromberg.
Guy Primus - The Virtual Reality Company
Investors in VRC also include Metallica lead singer James Hetfield, Rothenberg Ventures, and Elementum Ventures. "We were approached by dozens of investors, but ultimately chose to accept investment from Hengxin because of the complementary nature of its operations," stated VRC CEO and co-founder, Guy Primus. "Hengxin opens up the world's most populous country to us in ways that few western companies will be able to match."
In addition to its in-house creative and VR technical teams, VRC has a significant competitive advantage in the creation of VR experiences through its partnership with Hollywood pre-visualization studio, The Third Floor, which is led by another VRC co-founder, Christopher Edwards. The alliance uniquely positions VRC to benefit from the pipelines used by TTF to prototype through previs the majority of Hollywood's blockbuster films.

Large Investments in VR in Q1 2016 

Data from VBProfiles shows that last quarter saw the largest amount of investments in the VR landscape in the last five quarters. Compared to the same period of time last year, the budding industry has seen four additional investments and almost $588M more in funding — an increase of over 120 percent. 

While the total number of investments has decreased, with only 19 investments in Q1 2016 as compared a high of 32 in Q2 2015, the total amount of funding has skyrocketed, with more than $1 billion invested — mostly in Magic Leap and MindMaze. 

With the current financing for The VRC, the yellow brick road to the Internet Of Experiences just got a little brighter and shinier!

Source for The VRC material: PRNewswire

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sheffa Foods Doing Everything To Play Its Part On World Environment Day

This Sunday, June 5th, is known as World Environment Day (WED) and was created by the United Nations General Assembly to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.  Since it began in 1974, it has become widely celebrated in over 100 countries as a global platform for public outreach.  Above all, WED serves as “the people’s day” for doing something to take care of the Earth or become an agent of change. 

One brand looking to do its part is Sheffa Foods out of New York.  Their newest project, Better for the Planet (BFTP), was created to introduce eco-friendly packaging for their line of healthier snacks.  Their goal is to help revolutionize the food industry with 100% compostable packaging made of bio-based raw materials.  This new packaging, made by TIPA, a clean-tech startup, is designed to break down and fully return to nature. 

Sheffa is currently raising money on the Indiegogo crowdfunding platform to bring to market their coffee-house inspired Granola Bars in 3 flavors in this new packaging.  Also choosing to partner with 1% for the Planet, which connects consumers, businesses and non-profits, 

Sheffa is on their way proving that small companies can have a big impact and change the way we think about packaging and sustainability. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

World Dairy Innovation Awards 2016 Judging Panel Announced

Now in its 10th successful year, the World Dairy Innovation Awards are designed to celebrate excellence and innovation across every category of the global dairy industry. 
With categories ranging from finished products, packaging, technology, marketing to sustainability, these awards ensure all aspects are covered. 
All entrants gain major exposure and are a great way to increase knowledge of their brand in front of the leading decision makers.
I am honored to be joining the judging panel for my third year as a judge along with Powerful Yogurt CEO and founder Carlos Ramirez Zavarce, Tetra Pak global marketing manager Christopher Lazaro, and dairy industry consultant Donna Berry. Also on the panel are Natasha Case, CEO and co-founder of ice cream brand Coolhaus; Mark Driscoll, head of the sustainable food programme at Forum for the Future; Stephen Gaither, CEO of marketing agency JB Chicago; Depot WPF managing director Anna Lukanina; Esther Renfrew, market intelligence director for food and drinks industry consultancy Zenith International; and Monica Lee, Brand Union CEO, North Asia.
Click here to enter. Entries close 20th May 2016.
The 2016 World Dairy Innovation Awards Judging Panel.

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