Unveiled – Oculus Consumer Virtual-Reality Headset

Finally, the world got to see the first Oculus consumer virtual-reality (VR)  headset last week. On June 11, 2015 Brendan Iribe unveiled and showed the first Oculus Rift. Facebook acquired Oculus in 2014 for a little over $2 billion.

You can read more about Oculus VR headset here and here.

Advertisements

VIDEO: ROBERT EGGER ON THE POWER OF FOOD TO BUILD COMMUNITIES

 

Food is about  buiiding your community, your tribe, your family and the deeper hunger to be connected to each other to be loved and needed says Roger Egger. The power of food is what Egger digs and he shares how he came to dig the power of food. The kitchen is a beautiful bad ass machine of love and opportunity he points out. Egger’s twin objects are feed people and help create job opportunities in the process. I caught up with him at BiteSV, a food and technology conference held in Santa Clara (June 5-7,2015).

Egger is an activist, nonprofit leader and the founder of  DC Central Kitchen, one of the first community kitchens in America. He is now starting a new project in California called L.A. Kitchen to help tackle the issue of senior hunger. He is teaming up with AARP Foundation that is reportedly committed a million dollar for this latest project.

In this interview he talks about the power of food and kitchen in our lives. Egger sounds almost poetic when he talks about food and the power of the kitchen in helping build communities and empower people. Don’t waste food is his mantra. America wastes about 30 to 40 % of food that is produced he says. Egger worked on that concept of how not to waste food for  the last 25 years.

Growing up Egger heard leaders talk about real change and he wanted to be part of it. He ran right clubs and found music was an amazing Trojan Horse. You could get people reluctant to talk about equality and race to dance to those same ideas if it was put to music he says. Food and music are the same he says. He is using food as a Trojan horse to feed and help change people’s attitude towards food, hunger and food waste.

From music Egger went on to organize DC Central Kitchen, a non-profit organization.  This is  an organized central kitchen,where they  collected food from various restaurants and feed people. They got about 2 tonnes of food everyday that helped make about 5,000 meals 7 days a week.  They produced 30 milllion meals over a course of 20 plus years. During the interiew he underscores a couple of times how these meals were made from food that would have otherwise been thrown away.

Besides DC Central Kitchen, Egger helped create Campus Kitchen, which is is now in 40 different campuses. The idea of using a cafeteria in a small college to teach kids about food and cooking was wildly appealing to Egger.

Egger is now gearing up to work on creating healthy meals for seniors. He is the Founder and President of L.A. Kitchen and wants to help tackle senior hunger challenge. Hunger is going to be a  real challenge for many seniors in the coming years he adds. Just like what he was able to do for DC Kitchen, he he wants to get fruits and vegetables that would go to waste from Ventura and Central Valley and create meals. He  plans to work with celebrities in Los Angele with his mission to address senior hunger.

 

 

REVIEW: AR RAHMAN’S INTIMATE CONCERT IN SAN JOSE

 

AR Rahman Concert

AR Rahman Concert

 

Oscar winner AR Rahman did not disappoint his audience, and it was surreal to watch and hear the adulation that he got from his audience in Silicon Valley. AR Rahman’s Intimate Concert Tour was a sold out event on June 11 and June 12 in San Jose. AR as he is known is on a hectic tour of North America that started on the East Coast in May and is making it way around the US. The West Coast is their last leg of their hectic tour that ends with a concert in Vancouver, Canada next week.

 

AR Rahman San Jose

AR Rahman Concert in San Jose

 

While waiting for the concert to start I could not but help listen to people discussing in English, Tamil, Hindi and Punjabi about AR’s music and what they expect to hear. And AR did not disappoint his audience. We heard songs in Urdu, Tamil, Hindi, Punjabi, French and English.

 

AR Rahman Music

AR Rahman in Concert

 

AR’s eclectic selection of songs included different musical genres from Carnatic, qawwali, jazz, rap, Bollywood and Hollywood. They included songs from his films like  Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, RockstarTaal, Laagan Highway, 100 Foot Journey, 127 Hours, Delhi 6, and Slumdog Millionaire. Accompanying AR were vocalist Jonita Gandhi, Haricharan Sheshadri and Annette Philip. Rounding up the band were  a couple of percussionists, guitarists, a vilionist (fiddler?) and a dancer.

AR Rahman Concert

AR Rahman Concert

 

AR played multiple instruments from piano, keyboards to an accordion. At one point he also played requests from the audience on the accordion.  And for one of his songs he requested the audience to turn on their cell phones and hold it high. And boy! that was a sight to behold when you saw hundreds of brightly lit screens of cell phones waving in the air. Take a look at this picture, which barely captures the mood in the auditorium.

AR Rahman Concert

AR Rahman Concert

 

What took me suprise was a jazz number that AR and Philip sang. I was pleasantly floor to hear Philip scatting away with superb confidence. Philip is a an alum of Berklee School of Music and is an accomplished singer. This was the first time I saw her at a live concert.

Gandhi, a Indo-Canadaian singer belted out quite a few songs in Tamil, Hindi, French and a rap song in English. Sheshadri and Gandhi sang a few duets from the extensive repoitoire of AR’s discography.

The concert started a little after 8 pm and lasted till almost 11 pm.  “Don’t leave your seat after the concert is over, there is an encore,” advised our usher as she pointed us to our seats before the concert. She was right. At the enderafter AR thanked and waved goodbye to his audience, he came back with his troupe to sing a repertoire of songs from his various films. My sense was that folks were willing to stay for another hour had he wanted to continue with their singing. But, AR’s show must continue in a different city and this time it is going to be Seattle.

The hashtag for AR Rahman’s Intimate Concert is #ARRNAIT

 

VIDEO: SHILLONG CHAMBER CHOIR FUSES BOLLYWOOD + JAZZ

 

Baar Baar Dekho” means look and look again. I’d say listen and listen to this song again.

This delightful  track is from Shillong Chamber Choir of India. They do a great job of fusing a 1962 Bollywood or Hindi song with a jazz standard ‘S Wonderful, by Gershwin brothers from the 1927 Broadway musical “Funny Face.”

Bollywood meets Hollywood in this song  you say? For sure, and this goes back a long way as Prof. Greg Booth mentions in this interview I did with him on Bollywood music and the global influence, especially American influence that goes back to the 1940s.

Neil Nongkynrih founded Shillong Chamber Choir choir in 2002. The choir has won a clutch of awards at various competitions and have appeared on “Kaun Banega Crorepati,” or “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire,” hosted by Amitabh Bachchan,

By the way, does Providence have a plan for how I discover music? Lately it seems like I keep stumbling and tripping over new music from India, especially the Northeast. So happy to have discovered Shillong Chamber Orchestra’s  fantastic melange of music that fuses Bollywood, jazz, blues and a little bit of reggae.

Eco- Rock Band Solar Punch Sings Bollywood Song

I stumbled upon New York-based Solar Punch’s version of a popular Bollywood song from the film “Swades.”

Solar Punch is an unusual band. Once you read about this eco-rock band’s mission statement, it became instantly clear why they chose to sing this Bollywood song. It fits with the band’s mission and the connection between Bollywood and energy.

Here is how the band describes its mission:

We use music to sing about SCIENCE and the ENVIRONMENT and hold workshops to help explain solar concepts and provide examples of where SOLUTIONS are in use at locations around the world! 

“Swades” is about an Indian-American NASA scientist, who returns to his village in India and helps build a small hydro-electric plant. This helps solve their energy problem. This Bollywood film is about science and environment and helping find a solution for their energy problem.

Founded in 2007 Solar Punch has released 3 albums and travlled extensively around the world. Their last album Saurya Yatra is from their performance in Nepal. The album consists of Nepali folk songs along with Sanskrit and Buddhist mantras.

Alan Bigelow, a co-founder of Solar Punch is a scientist who works with One Earth Designs, a company that makes SolSource Solar Cooker. He is an advisor for the Institute of Solar Technology in Howrah, West Bengal, India.

VIDEO: NAGALAND’S TETSEO SISTERS SING “BARSO RE”

What a delighful musical discovery this one  turned out to be. I stumbled upon Bollywood Republic’s new music video of Tetseo sisters from Nagaland in Northeast India.

In this video the sisters sing their version of “Barso Re,” by AR Rahman  from the film “Guru.” What makes this version unusual is the Northeastern flavor of Nagaland that is infused into the song by the Tetseo sisters.

The Tetseo sisters learnt to sing traditional folk songs of their community from their parents and have blossomed to become fantastic singers. Here is one of their well-known songs “O Rhosi.”

Food And Technology Come Together At BiteSV

Josh Tetrick

Josh Tetrick

BiteSV was a 3-day conference held at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Food was center stage at the conference, and more imporantaly our relationship with food and the challenge to feed billions of people in a healthy way. Chefs, technologists, and others from the food industry came together to talk about  feeding 9 billion people, which is what the population is expected to be by 2050.

The first day consisted of panel discussions and the opening remarks were made by Chef Jose Andres. What are the challeges of feeding healthy food to billions of people? How do you decrease food loss? How do you manage food waste? How can technology help create healthy food? A couple of key takeawys stuck in my head. The first was the sharp focus on how to get people to move from a meat-based diet to a plant-based one. The second takeaway was a sharp focus to find ways to feed healthy meals to seniors and people in inner cities, instead of fast food. The third takesaway was the use of technology. How farmers are using technolgy to find answers to their questions, increase crop yield and find new way to sell their produce.

Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank addressed the issue of food loss and waste, supporting family farming, esp women farmers and educating people about eating. She highlighted how technology and mobile apps are helping farmers around the world to increase their yield and get their farming questions answered in real time.

It was an eye-opener to find out about Google’s holistic approach to food. The company feeds healthy food 75k people around the world said Michiel Bakker, Director of  Global Food Services at Google. He underscored that one of the key quesitons they are focused is how can they move their workforce to a balanced, plant-centric diet. The company operates teaching kitchens to help people learn to cook. If you have ever been to Googleplex you must have been the amazing range of food that is available in thier cafeteria. Now, you know what kind of thought and planning goes into feedng Googlers.

What can we do if we start all over again was the question Josh Tetrick asked himself when he started his company Hampton Creek. This food technolgy company’s goal is to help people eat better. The company is focussed on using plants in food products. For instance, their Just Mayo product is created out of plant-based proteins and not eggs. The San Francisco startup  has raised over $100 million in multiple rounds of fundings.

Chef Roy Choi of Kogi truck fame spoke about a new project he is working with Chef Dan Patterson. Their goal is to put the best chefs in inner cities and create healthy fast food consisting of fresh vegetables, grains and meat. Loco’l is the name of their project and they plan to open their first restaurant in Watts, Los Angeles.

The final panel was an interesting and renewed debate about GMO food. Dr. Robert Fraley, CTO of Monsanto was part of the panel, who fielded questions from his co-panelist Chef and Vintner Michael Chiarello and the udience. As expected there were quite a few questions about GMO food and its safety. It was interesting to hear Dr. Fraley say that they should have gone to consumers first, instead of the farmers with reference to GMO seeds. Reaching out to the consumers first might have helped dispel some of the criticism levelled against them he said. Dr.Farley clearly came  preapred to address questions about Monsanto’s GMO food. His team handed out a USB stick filled with information about Monsanto.

The second and third day was a combination of tasting and demos. This colorful collage of pictures will give you a taste of what we got to experience at BiteSV.

 

South Korean Team Wins DARPA”s Robotics Challenge

 

TEAM KAIST

TEAM KAIST

 

A South Korean team won $2 million dollars at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency DARPA Robotics Challenge held over the weekend (June 5-6, 2015)  in Pomona, CA. The challenge was launched in response to the 2011 Fukushima crisis. In a disaster situation, where toxins are involved the ability to rescue human life becomes a challenge. That is where robots come in and can navigate through obstacles and help rescue lives.

Robot DRC-Hubo or “Transformer” from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Kaist) of Daejeon successfully completed the task course to win the first place. HUBO stands for”HUmanoid roBOt” that was developed since 2002.

Two American teams won the second and third prize at the competition. The second place of $1 million  went to the “Running Robot” from IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, FL.  The third place went to CHIMP from Tartan Rescue of Pittsuburg, PA, who won $500,00.

Take a look at the tasks the robots had to complete. “It was a nail biting event,” writes IEEE’s Spectrum and  adds”DRC-HUBO had modifications, including wheels on its knees, that allowed it to perform tasks faster and, perhaps more importantly, avoid falls.”

There were 8 tasks assigned to the robots. Two of them were surprises. “One of the secret challenges required the robots to take out and put back a large black plug, requiring a high level of dexterity,” reports Wired.

Robotics Challenge Tasks 2015

Robotics Challenge Tasks 2015

 

23 teams from aroound the world particpated in the DARPA Robotics challenge.

 

Robotics Challenge Map

Robotics Challenge Map

 

Photo courtesy: DARPA

 

 

 

 

 

FIlm Notes: Paul Feig & Melissa McCarthy’s “SPY”

I missed the screening of Paul Feig’s “Spy,” which I was so looking forward to watching. Well, I made up for it by watching it on the first day. I was not disappointed, and neither was the audience in the theatre. It was a houseful show as they say in India when you have a packed cinema theatre.

I am not going to spend time on the storyline, and instead just make a couple of quick observations. The opening scenes reminded me of James Bond 007 with shades of Peter Sellers from his famous “Pink Panther,” series.  Mid-way through the film I thought I spotted dashes of Bollywood flavor. No, I am not talking about Nargis Fakhri, but a chase scene that takes place during a song and dance sequence. You will have to watch the film to see what I am talking about. Maybe, it was just me that saw that Bollywood flavor. There was a strong Anglophile flavor in the film and that is to be expected. Feig is a self-confessed Anglophile as he told me in this interivew for his film “Heat.”

McCarthy & Feig make a great team and it is clear that they are on the same wavelength. It is evident from the film that Feig is a big believer in McCarthy’s talent as an actor and a comic with brilliant timing.  McCarthy takes center stage in the film and does a superb job. This is, I believe, the first film where McCarthy plays the central character and carries it through with support from Jude Law, Jason Statham and others. And may I say that it is quite a treat to see Statham play a bit of a bumbling sort of a spy? That was a masterstroke on the part of Feig and his team.

The film stars Melissa McCarthy, Allison Janney, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose ByrneBobby Cannavale  and Miranda Hart.

  • Title: SPY
  • Running Time: 120 minutes
  • Status: Released
  • Country: USA
  • Genre: Hollywood

 

 

Chef Roy Choi On Revolutionizing Fast Food Restaurants In America’s Inner Cities

 

Chef Roy Choi of Kogi truck fame and a pioneer of the food truck movement in America has a crazy idea called Loco’l. He is working with San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson and others to bring this idea to fruition. They want to revolutinize the food movement in inner cities of America, which are often described as food deserts.

“Us chefs are really idealistic people,” he said in a talk at BITESV, a food and tech conference held for the first time in Santa Clara.  “That is what drives us as chefs … this idealism of …lets feed everyone and have fun that is rooted in deep pain and   complex emotions. But then there is always this hope.”

What Roy and Patterson are doing is going head-to-head with the big fast food giants and create healthy alternatives in inner cities, where healthy options are almost non existent. “People are starving up there,” he said.

Roy wants to take the best chefs and put them in inner cities and serve healthy food instead of the frozen brown stuff that comes in boxes and served in fast food places he explained. Loco’l will serve vegetables, grains, rice bowls and other healthy food with prices ranging from $2-6 he said.

Choi and Patterson raised money through a Indiegogo campaign are working on opening their first Loco’l in Watts in Los Angeles.