Netflix’s Interactive Stories Are Entertaining Even If You’re Not a Kid

On Tuesday, Netflix released its first interactive story. Like the choose-your-own-adventure books from our childhoods, Netflix’s television show lets viewers pick where the story should go, and it’s the best thing ever.

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Right now, there’s only one interactive story available: “Puss in Book: Trapped in an Epic Tale.” Luckily, it’s entertaining and well-written enough for both adults and kids.

In the episode, viewers get to follow Puss as he goes through remixes of popular fairytales. They encounter a book that prompts them to choose between two options while the narrator and Puss comment on both choices. Instead of a progress bar that tells you how far you are into watching a video, there are interactive book pages at the bottom of the screen that let you jump to decisions you can make. If viewers don’t decide in time, Netflix will automatically make a choice for them.

There are also characters from Puss in Boots upcycled to play new roles—like Toby the pig, who plays a pirate. There are the three little bears who can either be kind or not, depending on what viewers pick. And there’s my favorite character, an evil queen that enters the story, saying to her mirror: “I’m just saying maybe we could occasionally have a conversation about something other than who’s the fairest. Like, I don’t know, art, music?”

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Unfortunately, the episode is only interactive on smart TVs, game consoles, iOS devices, and Roku devices, per Consumerist. On the web, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Androids devices, the episodes play as if Netflix were making the choices for you.

Apparently creating interactive stories has been an idea that took two years to execute. Netflix will release another interactive episode from the “Buddy Thunderstruck” series on July 14. In 2018, there will be an interactive episode of “Stretch Armstrong.”

Because it’s interactive, it’s not as easy to binge-watch a bunch of episodes in one sitting. There are other benefits, too, like letting kids think about the different pathways to creating a story and the potential consequences of a choice (Puss ends up getting injured a lot).

Hulu is also tinkering with choose-your-own-adventures. They’re developing a series called “Door No. 1″ on its VR app, but the audience is for adults.

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Comcast accused of cutting competitor’s wires to put it out of business

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A tiny Internet service provider has sued Comcast, alleging that the cable giant and its hired contractors cut the smaller company’s wires in order to take over its customer base.

Telecom Cable LLC had “229 satisfied customers” in Weston Lakes and Corrigan, Texas when Comcast and its contractors sabotaged its network, the lawsuit filed last week in Harris County District Court said.

Comcast had tried to buy Telecom Cable’s Weston Lakes operations in 2013 “but refused to pay what they were worth,” the complaint says. Starting in June 2015, Comcast and two contractors it hired “systematically destroyed Telecom’s business by cutting its lines and running off its customers,” the lawsuit says. Comcast destroyed or damaged the lines serving all Telecom Cable customers in Weston Lakes and never repaired them, the lawsuit claims.

Telecom Cable owner Anthony Luna estimated the value of his business at about $1.8 million, which he is seeking to recover. He is also seeking other damages from Comcast and its contractors, including exemplary damages that under state statute could “amount to a maximum of twice the amount of economic damages, plus up to $750,000 of non-economic damages,” the complaint says.

CourtHouse News Service has a story about the lawsuit, and it posted a copy of the complaint.

A “severed mainline cable”

Luna says he did not oppose Comcast’s entry into Weston Lakes. Before Comcast began construction, Telecom Cable “made special efforts to mark its lines and equipment to prevent any inadvertent damage. Using an RF modulated transmitter and inductive connection to the cable, Mr. Luna located Telecom’s underground lines and marked the lines with industry-standard orange paint, as well as ‘buried cable flags’ for prompt and easy identification,” the complaint says. “Mr. Luna also mailed a map of Telecom’s system to the Director of Construction at Comcast’s Tidwell office.”

But then Luna was notified of service outages and “rushed to the job site” where he “found his severed mainline cable” along with Comcast contractors who were installing their own cable, the complaint says.

“The foreman acknowledged that Telecom’s cables had been marked—freshly marked, in fact—but the crew had inexplicably ignored the markings, purportedly because they assumed that the fresh orange paint marked an ‘abandoned’ cable plant,” the complaint says.

Luna says he repaired his own company’s cable and then made “futile” attempts to contact Comcast and a Comcast contractor. The lawsuit continues:

[D]uring the time Mr. Luna spent calling, the contractors had cut three additional cable lines. Defendants paid no notice to Telecom’s markings and continued to destroy Telecom’s lines, and Telecom’s complaints fell on deaf ears. One would like to believe that the destruction was accidental, but the comprehensiveness of it—coupled with Comcast’s prior interest in Telecom—renders such a conclusion doubtful. Within six weeks, Defendants destroyed or damaged the lines servicing every single Telecom customer in Weston Lakes, and not one of of those lines was ever repaired by Defendants.

Even if the first cable cuts were unintentional, “Defendants’ pattern of continuing to cut Telecom’s lines after being notified, and their refusal to repair the damage they caused, indicates conduct that was clearly willful and intentional,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit was filed against Comcast and contractors Aspen Utility Company and A&A Cable Contractors. The contractors “acted as Comcast’s agents on Comcast’s authority,” and “their actions were done on behalf of Comcast and for Comcast’s benefit,” so “Comcast is equally liable for those actions,” the complaint says.

Customers desert Telecom Cable, go to Comcast

While Luna tried to repair Telecom Cable’s destroyed equipment, he says his company did not have enough time to obtain replacement cable and “reinstall its entire system in time to keep its customer base.”

“As Comcast well knows, cable television and Internet customers will not wait indefinitely for resumption of their service,” the lawsuit says. “Predictably, Telecom’s customers deserted it. By August 1, 2015, Telecom had no customers in Weston Lakes. Upon information and belief, Comcast has now taken over the vast majority of Telecom’s former customers in Weston Lakes.”

Telecom Cable went out of business, and Luna and his wife moved to New York in order to find new jobs.

“Through no fault of their own, they were forced to say goodbye to the life they knew, uproot their three children, take lesser-paying jobs (and make ends meet in a place with a much higher cost of living), move 1,500 miles, and cram into a 900-sq. ft. rental home while they sold their 4500-sq. ft. home back in Texas,” the complaint said.

Comcast has not yet filed an official answer to Luna’s complaint. We contacted Comcast about the case today and will update this story if the company provides a response.

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Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 Recreated as a Life Size Augmented Reality Game

Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 Recreated as a Life Size Augmented Reality Game

VIDEO

Super Mario Bros meets Augmented Reality in this crazy life sized first person experience! For this project Abhishek Singh recreated the iconic first level from the original Super Mario Bros. game and played it in Central Park, NYC. The game was built in Unity3D for the Microsoft Hololens platform.

[Abhishek Singh]

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Five airlines want you to fly supersonic again

The list of airlines that want to bring back supersonic travel is growing.

Boom Aerospace, an ambitious aerospace start-up, says it has convinced five airlines to buy into its vision for developing a airliner that flies faster than the speed of sound.

Blake Scholl, founder and chief executive of Denver-based Boom, said during a presentation at the Paris Air Show Tuesday that the five carriers have reserved their spots for 76 of Boom’s successor to the Concorde. That aircraft was taken out of service in 2003 after 27 years of commercial flights at more than twice the speed of sound.

With a planned speed of 2.2 times the speed of sound or 1,451 mph, the project’s lofty goals include sharply cutting flight time: New York to Paris to three and a half hours, San Francisco to Tokyo in less than five and a half hours and Los Angeles to Sydney in just seven hours.

Only one airline interested in Boom, so far, has made itself known. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airways in 2016 has an option to take the first 10 aircraft the company builds.

Related: Virgin Atlantic faces a test: Is it enough just to be cool

Scholl won’t say who the four unidentified “world airlines” are. He promised the individual carriers would identify themselves at a later point to explain how a new generation of supersonic travel fit in their business.

“The airlines that are placing reservations with Boom now are putting real money against them, not small amounts, significant amounts of cash,” he said during a presentation at the Paris Air Show.

Two-steps to supersonic flying

Boom is advancing on a two-stage process to revive supersonic commercial air travel. Its first step is to develop a small aircraft called the XB-1 “Baby Boom” to validate many of the technologies for flying at Mach 2.2. Boom will first need to prove these work if it is to go forward with a full-size 45 to 55-seat airliner.

That small two-seat model begins assembly this year and flies late in 2018, Scholl said.

Scholl said that computer simulations have significantly sped up its initial process of finding the the right design of the full-size Boom jet.

“We’ve tested about a 1,000 design variations…most of them aren’t very good,” Scholl said. “But we’ve had a few that are.”

Related: Boom lands $33 million to test supersonic aircraft

To date, the company has raised $41 million, which Scholl said will get the XB-1 airborne for the first time.

But Boom is going to need considerably more capital to turn its initial airborne technology trials into a full-fledged commercial aircraft program.

Japan, Russia and China have all offered significant state support as part of the development of new homegrown airliners. The barriers for a new commercial aviation start-up, especially a private one, are enormous.

“I think healthy skepticism is only fair,” Scholl said. “This is not a simple project.”

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Trump climate decision energizes business for Proterra electric bus

Electric-bus maker

Proterra

may be benefiting from President Donald Trump’s decision last month

to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement

. The US-based company, which has factories in South Carolina and Southern California, just received

a $55 million round of equity funding

led by Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management and

BMW’s i Ventures

. In fact, Proterra represents the Bimmer venture group’s first-ever investment in heavy-duty transportation. That round, Proterra’s sixth, follows up a funding round earlier this year worth about $140 million.

More important, Trump’s decision

may have spurred more orders for the buses

, which can go between 200 and 350 miles on a full charge,

Forbes

says. Many cities took issue with Trump’s decision and, as a result, municipal leaders decided to

trade in

more

diesel

and natural-gas powered buses for the electric variants, which cost about $750,000 each.

Proterra, whose headquarters are in the Silicon Valley, says there are about 400 buses on order, with cities such as Dallas, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Seattle taking the plunge. The company more than tripled its sales in 2016, and is tripling production this year. Proterra estimates that it has a 60 percent market share of the North American electric bus market. The company is also working on an autonomous bus program with the University of Nevada, Reno.

Last year, Proterra made news in these pages by

releasing about two-dozen of its fast-charging patents

to the general public. Because of such fast-charging capabilities, Proterra says its buses can go as far as 700 miles in a single day.

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Autonomous shuttles start this fall at University of Michigan

Starting this fall, the University of Michigan will start

offering students rides

on fully autonomous electric shuttles. The two 15-passenger vehicles will operate on U of M’s north campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The project is part of Mcity,

the faux town set up in Ann Arbor

that was designed as a testbed for

autonomous vehicles

. Mcity itself is a U of M-led collaboration among several public and private enterprises.

The two shuttles are manufactured by French company Navya. The Arma model looks similar to the

Local Motors Olli

, no surprise as both vehicles serve essentially the same sort of purpose. Arma shuttles have been

operating in Sion, Switzerland,

for more than a year now, proving that the technology works well enough in limited applications. We even had a chance

to ride along in one

at this year’s CES.

The Arma uses a 33-kWh LiFePO4 battery and has a run time of about nine hours, good enough for a full day’s duty on Michigan’s campus. Recharging can be done both with or without wires, through wireless charging does take significantly longer. The run speed is 15 mph, though an Arma can reach a blistering 28 mph with all tethers removed. The shuttles use Lidar,

GPS

, WiFi, and traditional cameras to navigate around a pre-set route.

In this case, the two shuttles will run on a nonstop loop from the Lurie Engineering Center and the North Campus Research Complex. Both shuttles will cover the route in 10 minutes, and there is no charge for passengers. The project will be used to gauge reactions from both passengers and surrounding pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

Mcity and Navya seem to be making a big leap with their partnership. The French company just announced

a new manufacturing facility

in Southeast Michigan. The facility will produce more Arma shuttles, presumably for use at locations around the country.

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Classic Sega Games From Genesis To Dreamcast Are Going Free (With Ads) On Mobile

Sega is bringing a catalog of its classic games to mobile devices via a new service called Sega Forever. The service will encompass titles from every era of Sega consoles, including Master System, Genesis, Game Gear, Sega Saturn, and Dreamcast.

Each game available through Sega Forever will be free to download and features in-game ads. Like the recent mobile release of Crazy Taxi, however, players have the option to remove the ads via a $2 in-app purchase per game. Every title will also support new features such as leaderboards, cloud saves, offline play, and controller support.

The first batch of Sega Forever titles goes live worldwide tomorrow, June 22, and consists of the following five Genesis classics:

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The service will be updated with additional titles every two weeks, according to a press release. Each Sega Forever game will be available to download individually on Android and iOS devices from the Google Play and App stores.

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