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  • Twitch was an accident. The live video streaming service, which boasts over 55 million unique users each month, began life in 2007 as "Justin.tv": an all-hours video livestream of co-founder Justin Kan's life. That wasn't the whole point of the service, of course; later that year, "Justin.tv" opened up to the public, who could then "livestream" to various "channels." At its inception, Justin.tv was a form of internet television, offering live broadcasts across a variety of topics. One such topic -- gaming -- took a particularly large portion of Justin.tv's audience. So much so that, in 2011, the company spun out gaming into its own website: Twitch.tv. Three years later and Justin.tv is dead, the company is now known as "Twitch Interactive," and Amazon just bought it for $970 million. Not too shabby for an "accident".

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  • Samsung Curved Soundbar

    Let's say you bought a pricey curved TV, only to remember that your existing soundbar is (gasp!) flat. Will you have to live with that geometry mismatch for the life of your set? Not if Samsung has its way. It just unveiled the Curved Soundbar, which it says is the first audio system designed to match curved screens -- specifically, the company's 55- and 65-inch sets. The aluminum-clad device looks the part, of course, although it also promises some better-than-average audio with 8.1-channel surround support and side speakers that add to the immersion. There's no word on just when the curvy peripheral will show up or how much it will cost, but it's likely to sit on the higher end of the price spectrum.

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    Source: Samsung Tomorrow

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  • What good is having an ultra-powerful PC if you're still connecting it to a dusty old monitor? We reckon doing so would be pretty silly. Good thing that alongside the new Alienware Area 51, Dell's pulled the curtain back on its 34-inch Ultrasharp U3415W display then. It boasts a wider-than-widescreen 21:9 aspect ratio that's paired with 3,440 x 1,440 lines of resolution (just under 4K's 3,840 x 2,160) and a curved screen. Dell says that the monitor's wide field of view mated with its curves will give gamers a leg up on the competition because, compared to flat monitors, less eye movement is needed to take advantage of the player's peripheral vision. Intrigued to test that claim? You can do so come this December. We're hoping that regardless of size, though, a curved screen doesn't necessarily equate to an expensive screen -- Dell hasn't announced pricing for these displays just yet.

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  • So we know that Twitch's online broadcasts trump those of WWE and traditional sports, but how does it stack up against cable networks like CNN? According to the New York Times, the game-streaming giant's peak viewership numbers have surpassed the average prime-time viewers for Headline News, CNN, E!, MSNBC and TruTV since this January. At its best, Twitch had over 720,000 viewers in July alone, but as the NYT points out, it's still pretty far behind the likes of Netflix and YouTube when it comes to total hours-viewed per month. It's all pretty fascinating stuff, and there are even breakdowns for what competitive gaming tournament broadcasts are getting the most eyes, too. Spoiler: for this month it's Riot Games' League of Legends. Considering that we've seen Twitch expanding into more than just gaming broadcasts recently (hosting concerts and even entire conventions) it's pretty likely that the outfit's numbers will only continue to climb. Surely Jeff Bezos wouldn't mind.

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    Via: Joystiq

    Source: New York Times

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  • Amazon is loading up a new pilot season of original TV shows, and while Netflix's content juggernaut was shut out at the Emmys, at least it was nominated. So what can Hulu do? In addition to its own list of original shows, exclusively licensed content from UK channels and Criterion, it's added the Starz hit series Party Down, just in time for your Labor Day weekend viewing binge. The show only ran for two seasons, but all 20 episodes are ready to watch for Hulu Plus subscribers, featuring Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Jane Lynch, Ken Marino, Martin Starr and Megan Mulally as employees of a Hollywood catering service. If you've somehow missed it until now, this is the perfect time to watch -- we teared up when the show disappeared from Netflix along with all of the other Starz Play content a couple of years ago. Now Hulu has picked up the license, and even if you're not a subscriber you can watch the first five episodes for free on the show page right here.

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    Source: Hulu Blog, Party Down (Hulu)

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  • Chromecast and YouTube are like a match made in heaven. And, since they're both part of Google's big picture strategy, it makes sense for both things to be as friendly as possible with each other. To that end, YouTube's taken to to Google+ (how meta, eh?) to reveal that Chromecast owners can now use its site (as in YouTube.com) to queue videos -- essentially, this is meant to simplify the process, since it lets you arrange what to play next from a single tab on your browser. Just as well, there are more changes coming to the YouTube watch page on the web (pictured below), including an easier way to create playlists and share videos across social networks, plus a new description box. The Chromecast feature is available now, while the other tweaks are expected to rollout over the next few days.

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    Source: YouTube (Google+)

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  • Exchange People

    Binging on Mad Men via Netflix or Blu-ray has a few advantages over watching the show when it broadcasts. Namely, not having to sit through commercials that jump higher in volume than anything heard in the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. As spotted by The Hill, the FCC is hoping to change that last bit with an update to 2011's Commercial Advertisement Litigation Mitigation (CALM) Act; the outfit recently ruled for further volume-fluctuation restrictions for certain TV ads. Starting June 4th next year, an improved loudness measurement algorithm will be implemented that should make watching TV a bit more pleasant. How? It won't count the silent parts of an ad that can offset the commercial's average volume measurement, thus bringing the overall audio level down -- something that apparently hasn't been done before. We can't imagine that Harry Crane would be pleased by any of this.

    [Image credit: Associated Press]

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    Via: The Hill

    Source: FCC (PDF)

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  • On the B-side of LG's announcement that it will start selling two 4K OLED TVs, is the bad news for plasma. Korean papers Yonhap News and The Korea Times report home entertainment division lead Ha Hyun-hwoi's comments that the company will end production of plasma TVs soon. According to Ha, LG is conducting an internal study to decide when it will end plasma production -- not a bad run after rumors said it would shut down in 2008 and 2009 -- and will make an official announcement on the issue soon. LG is the last major brand making plasmas after Samsung announced its exit earlier this year, and Yonhap says that once LG shuts down, China's Changhong Electric Co. (the same company once on the receiving end of $1 billion worth of stolen plasma tech from LG) will be the only major manufacturer left in the game. If you don't love LCDs and you're not ready to drop $3,500 on a 55-inch OLED, it may be time to grab one of the few remaining plasmas and ride that out for the next few years.

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    Source: Yonhap News, The Korea Times

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  • Well, that happened a bit sooner than we expected. The Xbox One update detailed earlier this month is rolling out to everyone over the next few days, according to Xbox Live's Larry "Major Nelson" Hyrb. The patch brings a revamped party app and multiple simultaneous deletes from the Game DVR in addition to the new GIF-capable (but not MKV-ready as of yet) media player app and bandwidth usage monitor. The latter of which will be very handy to those living with data caps and the multiple-gigabyte updates that have become de rigueur with this generation of gaming. There are a few more bits and bobs packed into the 258MB update, and if you're feeling impatient you should be able to force the patch this very instant.

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    Via: Larry Hyrb (Twitter)

    Source: Major Nelson

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  • Just in time for the start of a new NFL season, ESPN has updated its SportsCenter application on iOS and Android. The main highlight here is the addition of an On-Air feature, which allows users to get access to broadcasts of live events, like games or shows, with a simple tab. ESPN's newly added one-click access, not surprisingly, only applies to content it owns or has the rights to, so the SportsCenter app redirects to the ESPN Radio or WatchESPN apps, depending on the program. The Worldwide Leader in Sports notes that it also made alerts smarter in this fresh release, letting fans see related stories and videos each time they click on a notification. It's definitely an improvement over previous versions, but let us know what you think in the comments section.

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    Source: App Store, Google Play

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  • If you didn't think the National Football League was really serious about its new digital network, think again. A mere week after arriving on the Apple TV, NFL Now is adding Yahoo Screen to the growing list of platforms it is currently available in. While the experience on Yahoo's internet video service won't be as fully fleshed as on Apple's streaming box or the NFL's own apps, it still gives football fans another way to keep up with their favorite teams and players -- after all, NFL Now is all about personalization. Yahoo says NFL Now content is limited to Yahoo Sports on the web and the Screen iOS app, but that integration with its Android equivalent is "coming soon."

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    Source: Yahoo Screen

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  • Microsoft has been working hard to make Xbox One SmartGlass more useful and appealing for users, and it's doing a great job so far. The most recent update to the app, however, may just be its best yet. Most notably, you can now record Xbox One game clips directly from the SmartGlass application, making the process easier for gamers who, for example, have a Kinect-less console. In addition to that, you can use the app to view your profile's activity feed, post status updates on it and share stuff that pops up there. New TV and OneGuide features are here as well, although those had been available previously in beta on some devices. Speaking of which, perhaps the nicest part of this refresh is that Microsoft is doing it across the board -- the revamped Xbox One SmartGlass is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

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    Source: App Store, Google Play, Windows Phone

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  • All of the popular football apps are getting their annual update ahead of the NFL season kicking off September 4th, and the league's own option is doing the same. Thanks to the newfangled NFL Now video service, national and personalized video feeds are beamed to your mobile device for all of the latest updates. You can also stream "Fantasy Live" in order to get your roster set before the slate of games starts each week and browse the programming schedule for the league's TV network. As is the case with regular app updates, sharing content across the social streams gets a boost as well. Verizon Premium and More Everything customers gain the ability to live stream local CBS and FOX games each Sunday, and that latter group has the option of tacking NFL Redzone for an extra $2/month. Android, iOS and Windows Phone apps have all been updated, so if your device hasn't yet alerted you to the new goods, they're available via the source links below.

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    Via: 9to5Mac

    Source: iTunes, Google Play, Windows Phone

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  • Cinema screens are huge, which is odd, because the eye can only focus on a small portion of what's in front of it at any one time. That's what prompted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to team up with eye-tracking firm Tobii and neuroscientists from Birkbeck, University of London. The trio embarked upon a project to determine where in the movie people concentrated their gaze. Then, by using Tobii's hardware, were able to create a heat map that can be overlaid on the frame, much in the same way that SMI analyzes sports matches. The conclusions from the research aren't particularly surprising, but does confirm a long-held suspicion that people's innate ability to detect and ignore fakery hasn't diminished, even in an era of photo-realistic CGI.

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    Via: Wired

    Source: Oscars.org

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  • It took 2K Games a little longer than originally expected, but the publisher has finally released its iOS version of the original BioShock. The mobile version of the popular title is compatible with newer iPhones and iPads, which means you're out of luck if you have, say, an aging 4S handset or an older tablet from Apple. Naturally, you can expect a familiar storyline, so be ready to shoot a lot of weird-looking creatures. For those of you looking forward to it, just be prepared to pay a premium -- BioShock for iOS is a whopping $15 on the App Store. There are no in-app purchases in sight, however, meaning that you'll get the full game experience from the get go, rather than having to buy add-ons here and there.

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    Source: App Store

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  • Thrift stores: better known for dusty shirts, potential Halloween costumes and used Jenga sets. Well, Goodwill wants to change that a bit with its recent launch of The Grid, a dedicated electronics and video game specialty shop located in North Carolina. The outfit tells IGN that not only will it sell video game hardware itself, but it's arranged a deal with vendors to supply each console (even retro units) with new power and A/V cables -- stuff that can often be a bear to source. Oh, and there's Raspberry Pi and a selection of flat-screens on offer too. But what if console gaming isn't your bag? The Grid also sells laptops and gaming PCs, and, as the video below shows, even has an Oculus Rift demo station set up.

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    Source: IGN

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  • Earlier this year, Amazon said that its 2014 original series lineup would be shot and eventually streamed in 4K to Samsung UltraHD TVs, and now we know when -- sometime this October. It was Samsung that actually revealed the date, saying it would support Amazon's Prime Instant Video UHD streaming on most Samsung 4K TVs. There's no word if Amazon's 4K service will hit other manufacturer's UltraHD models, but Samsung noted it has also expanded 4K content in Europe to Netflix, Wuaki.tv, Chili and Maxdome. Like Sony, Samsung has other plans to make sure you're not wasting all those pixels, as well. It recently did a live 4K stream of a Placido Domingo opera in Europe and released a 500GB drive with 40 recent 4K movies and documentaries.

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    Source: Samsung

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  • Sky Sports News HQ Now TV App

    Following Sky's big Sky Sports News rebrand, it was only a matter of time until the updated channel made its way to the broadcaster's Now TV set-top box via an app. Already delivering breaking news on smartphones and tablets, the new Sky Sports News HQ app comes to the £10 streamer today, offering 24/7 access to sports updates, breaking news and highlights. While access to the app isn't free, there are a couple of easy ways unlock it, as long as you subscribe to Sky's existing Now TV packages. One way is to buy a Sky Sports Day Pass or the new Sky Sports Week Pass, which will allow you to access the channel for up to 30 days after your current pass has expired. Sky's making it available to Entertainment or Sky Movies pass holders too, meaning that if you're already putting money down to catch up with the Lannisters or watch Sandra Bullock float around in space, you'll be able to follow all of the latest player movements come Transfer Deadline Day.

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    Source: Sky

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  • In order to properly celebrate the first year of Spotify Connect, the streaming outfit is rolling it out to a new set of devices. The feature already played nice with a smattering of wares, and now, you'll be able to leverage the seamless listening experience on that smart TV. Starting with Philips' Android-powered units, beaming tunes from your smartphone or tablet will be a breeze -- all while sorting the controls from that mobile device. According to Spotify, this is "the first in a long line of smart TVs" that will hit shelves with the add-on. Alongside Libratone, B&O and Sony, Connect is now available on Bose, Panasonic and Gramofon audio gadgets with support multi-room systems tacked on for good measure. With the news of new partners, the feature will be available on over 100 wares by the year's end.

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    Source: Spotify

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  • Simply put, Doctor Who and Minecraft are two worldwide sensations, each extremely popular in their own entertainment category. Thus, it just kind of makes sense to bring the two together. Thankfully for those of you who are into both, Microsoft and the BBC have partnered up to do exactly that, by way of digital downloadable content for Minecraft on the Xbox 360. Starting next month, players will have access to character packs from Doctor Who, including skins of The Doctor himself, his companions and his mad enemies -- all from throughout the show's entire history, not only from most recent seasons. No word yet on if this also applies to the upcoming Xbox One edition of Minecraft, but it wouldn't surprise us if that was the case.

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    Source: Microsoft

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  • The digitally created city of Meereen in 'Game of Thrones'

    We've already seen how digital effects make Game of Thrones' world more believable, but there were some spectacular scenes in the show's fourth season: giant city-states, an undead horse and battles involving thousands of cavalry. Want to know just how important computer graphics were in bringing those moments to life? Graphics house Rodeo FX will gladly show you. As you'll see in the footage below, some environments (such as Meereen's pyramid-laden landscape) depended very heavily on computer effects, with only a few live humans and real-world places involved. And that cavalry battle demanded even more work -- animators populated the field with "smart" horse soldiers that reacted both to each other and the world around them. You may not want to watch the demo clip if you haven't caught up on the show, but it's otherwise worth checking out to see how fantasy and reality can blend together.

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    Via: io9

    Source: Rodeo FX

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  • Russia's recent crackdown on "things it doesn't want to hear" may take a nostalgic turn if culture committee member (and kickboxer) Batu Khasikov has his way. He wants to invoke the USSR days by banning foreign films that "demonize or present Russia in a primitive, silly way." He said films showing the nation's citizens as a "threat to mankind" should also be a no-no -- like A Good Day to Die Hard and other recent flicks with cliché Russian baddies. Fortunately for Russian action fans (or not, depending on your taste) that film and others would remain, as any ban passed would only apply to new titles. Oddly, the cultural ministry recently made a list of its top foreign film picks, including Apocalypse Now, which it ironically called a critique of "capturing foreign territories."

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    Via: AV Club

    Source: 9AM News (translated)

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  • Ever since Microsoft cut its motion- and voice-sensor from the Xbox One package, the second version of Kinect has been in limbo. Sure, you could still get one if you shelled out $500 for the deluxe version of Xbox One, but there was no way to pick one up on its own. What if, say, a new Dance Central game for Xbox One were to be announced? Microsoft always said it would offer the device standalone, and now it's got a release date and price: October 7th for $150 ($50 less than the Windows version, for those wondering). Even better: Kinect on Xbox One comes with the aforementioned new Dance Central game. Not a terrible nod to the most important third-party game studio making Kinect games.

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    Source: Microsoft

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  • The generous group over at Good Old Games is prepping to bring another medium into its trademark DRM-free digital distribution platform: movies. Starting today, you can head over to GOG.com and download or stream a handful of gaming-and-geek focused documentaries. What's on tap? Art of Playing, TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard and Indie Game: The Movie (seen above) among others, and you can check out the first two flicks in this list absolutely free of charge. If none of those strike your fancy the company promises more titles will be added on a weekly basis. Don't expect to see Guardians of the Galaxy pop up on the site's digital shelves in the coming months, though.

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    Source: GOG

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  • Large chunks of the US will have woken up this morning in a panic. No, not a natural disaster, their Time Warner Cable internet was down. A mother-of-all-outages saw TWC's Internet service down from New York to, well, pretty much everywhere (see map below). What's more curious, is that a statement from the company claims it was due to planned maintenance that went awry. Still, for at least an hour and a half, Netflix's main beef with the company won't have been about neutrality.

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    Source: Re/code, TW Cable Untangled

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