Marketplace - American Public Media

Syndicate content
Updated: 35 min 38 sec ago

Movie theaters move beyond the ticket price

Wed, 2014-03-26 12:55
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 13:50 Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

AMC movie theater in Monterey Park, California on May 22, 2012.

The president of the National Association of Theater Owners, John Fithian, just announced plans to test the idea of offering discounted movie tickets one day a week. He said he is working with one state in particular -- but wouldn't name it. Box office attendance is on the decline in this country, and yet, at the same time, box office revenue hit an all-time high in 2013.

The simple explanation is that fewer people are going to the movies, but they are paying more for their tickets. Mostly we're talking about 3-D movies, which are more expensive. But higher ticket prices aren't necessarily great news for theater owners. Theaters have to share box office revenue with studios, says business professor William Greene of the Stern School of Business at NYU.

So it's not always in their best interest to raise ticket prices. And for the most part they haven't. When adjusted for inflation, seeing a movie today isn't much more expensive than it was decades ago.

"Most of the revenue theater owners make is through concessions and ancillary revenues," says *Abraham Ravid. That ancillary revenue includes money that theaters are now charging studios to show trailers for upcoming films, like Divergent.

 

Because tickets are already relatively cheap, a discount day probably would not raise attendance dramatically, but it could be a good marketing strategy. Ravid says: "Nevertheless, you would expect the decline in theater attendance will continue as more ways of delivering movies become available."

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Abraham Ravid's name. The text has been corrected.

Marketplace for Wednesday, March 26, 2014by David WeinbergPodcast Title: Movie theaters move beyond the ticket priceStory Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Are college football players employees?

Wed, 2014-03-26 12:48
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 13:45 Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Kain Colter of the Northwestern Wildcats is grabbed by Ryan Shazier of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ryan Field on October 5, 2013 in Evanston, Ill. Colter had previously testified that ”there's no way around” the fact that football is a “job.”

In a decision by the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, football players at Northwestern University are now recognized as employees of the university and are able to hold union elections.

Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago explained the ruling in a statement:

 "The record makes clear that the Employer's scholarship players are identified and recruited in the first instance because of their football prowess and not because of their academic achievement in high school."

Ohr gave the rationale that the players are employees because they receive compensation in the form of scholarships. He said the players are subject to the employer's control in their performance, which directly benefits the university.

This is consistent with the history of the NCAA, which didn’t start paying players until the 1940s, according to sports economists.

"At the beginning of the NCAA, in 1905, they stipulated no scholarships at all because scholarships were a form of compensation," said Andrew Zimbalist at Smith College.

Zimbalist said that the ruling only applies to private colleges, so it doesn't apply for the majority of schools in the highest levels of college football, since most of those institutions are state universities.

Zimbalist said that if the players at Northwestern do unionize, then the NCAA will disqualify them on the grounds that college athletics are amateur. However, he said the possibility of unionization comes with other benefits.

"Say they want a cost of living adjustment or they want to have catastrophic injury insurance for those players who are injured and can't go on to play in the pros," said Zimbalist. "Then they could stay within the NCAA rules and presumably they could then trigger other universities that are private to unionize and asks for the same thing."

Northwestern has announced that it will appeal the ruling to the entire National Labor Relations Board in Washington.

Marketplace for Wednesday, March 26, 2014Full NLRB statement and releaseInterview by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title: Are college football players employees?Story Type: InterviewSyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

U.S. is running low on some basic medicines

Wed, 2014-03-26 12:31
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 13:25 Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Registered Nurse Tung Tran hangs an IV bag for a patient at the University of Miami Hospital's Emergency Department on April 30, 2012 in Miami, Florida.

The drip, drip of IV fluid at hospitals, the drug doctors give people having heart attacks and medicines for cancer patients are all in short supply.

“On any given day we’re tracking usually 300 drug products that are in shortage,” said Cynthia Reilly with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

She says, right now, the shortage of IV fluid is at the top of everyone’s critical list.

“It’s almost, really like not having access to water,” Reilly says. 

 “When we run out of absolute basics, like we’re running out of now, that’s when things get really frustrating,” said Erin Fox, director of drug information at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics.

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the number of shortages tripled between 2007 and 2012. Sixty percent of the shortages are generic drugs, which are cheaper drugs.

“Drug manufacturing, in the U.S., is a business,” Fox says. “No company has an obligation to make any product, no matter how essential it is for patients.”

The FDA reports the number of new shortages has been falling since new rules went into place in 2012. But, says Capt. Valerie Jensen, associate director of the drug shortage program at the FDA, “some shortages are just not able to be avoided.”

Basic drug shortages are hard to fathom in a wealthy country like the U.S., but some of these drugs are produced by only one or two companies.

When a manufacturing line shuts down, or demand goes up, supplies run low.

Marketplace for Wednesday, March 26, 2014by Adriene HillPodcast Title: U.S. is running low on some basic medicinesStory Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Let's give a hand to the X-ray

Wed, 2014-03-26 11:08

From the Marketplace Datebook, here’s a look at what’s coming up Thursday:  

  • In Washington, the Labor Department releases its final fourth-quarter gross domestic product report.
  • President Obama continues his spring trip with a visit to Vatican City where he's scheduled to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis.
  • The National Association of Realtors releases its February pending home sales index.
  • And speaking of homes, Graceland, home to Elvis Presley, was declared a national historic landmark eight years ago.
  • The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee discusses "Strengthening the Federal Student Loan Program for Borrowers."
  • On March 27, 1998, the FDA approved Viagra.
  • Lastly, physicist and Nobel Laureate Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was born on March 27, 1845. While working with electromagnetic radiation he took a picture of his wife's hand revealing her bones. Fortunately, they weren't broken. Voila, the first X-ray!

Movie theaters move beyond the ticket price

Wed, 2014-03-26 10:50

The president of the National Association of Theater Owners, John Fithian, just announced plans to test the idea of offering discounted movie tickets one day a week. He said he is working with one state in particular -- but wouldn't name it. Box office attendance is on the decline in this country, and yet, at the same time, box office revenue hit an all-time high in 2013.

The simple explanation is that fewer people are going to the movies, but they are paying more for their tickets. Mostly we're talking about 3-D movies, which are more expensive. But higher ticket prices aren't necessarily great news for theater owners. Theaters have to share box office revenue with studios, says business professor William Greene of the Stern School of Business at NYU.

So it's not always in their best interest to raise ticket prices. And for the most part they haven't. When adjusted for inflation, seeing a movie today isn't much more expensive than it was decades ago.

"Most of the revenue theater owners make is through concessions and ancillary revenues," says *Abraham Ravid. That ancillary revenue includes money that theaters are now charging studios to show trailers for upcoming films, like Divergent.

 

Because tickets are already relatively cheap, a discount day probably would not raise attendance dramatically, but it could be a good marketing strategy. Ravid says: "Nevertheless, you would expect the decline in theater attendance will continue as more ways of delivering movies become available."

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Abraham Ravid's name. The text has been corrected.

For movie theaters, the price of a ticket really isn't the point

Wed, 2014-03-26 10:50

The president of the National Association of Theater Owners, John Fithian, just announced plans to test the idea of offering discounted movie tickets one day a week. He said he is working with one state in particular -- but wouldn't name it. Box office attendance is on the decline in this country and yet at the same time box office revenue hit an all-time high in 2013.

The simple explanation is that fewer people are going to the movies, but they are paying more for their tickets. Mostly we're talking about 3D movies, which are more expensive. But higher ticket prices aren't necessarily great news for theater owners. Theaters have to share box office revenue with studios, says business professor William Greene of the Stern School of Business at NYU.

So it's not always in their best interest to raise ticket prices. And for the most part they haven't. When adjusted for inflation, seeing a movie today isn't much more expensive than it was decades ago.

"Most of the revenue theater owners make is through concessions and ancillary revenues," says Abraham Rabid. That ancillary revenue includes money that theaters are now charging studios to show trailers for upcoming films, like Divergent.

 

Because tickets are already relatively cheap, a discount day probably would not raise attendance dramatically, but it could be a good marketing strategy, Rabid says "Nevertheless, you would expect the decline in theater attendance will continue as more ways of delivering movies become available."

Are college football players employees?

Wed, 2014-03-26 10:45

In a decision by the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago, football players at Northwestern University are now recognized as employees of the university and are able to hold union elections.

Peter Sung Ohr, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board in Chicago explained the ruling in a statement:

 "The record makes clear that the Employer's scholarship players are identified and recruited in the first instance because of their football prowess and not because of their academic achievement in high school."

Ohr gave the rationale that the players are employees because they receive compensation in the form of scholarships. He said the players are subject to the employer's control in their performance, which directly benefits the university.

This is consistent with the history of the NCAA, which didn’t start paying players until the 1940s, according to sports economists.

"At the beginning of the NCAA, in 1905, they stipulated no scholarships at all because scholarships were a form of compensation," said Andrew Zimbalist at Smith College.

Zimbalist said that the ruling only applies to private colleges, so it doesn't apply for the majority of schools in the highest levels of college football, since most of those institutions are state universities.

Zimbalist said that if the players at Northwestern do unionize, then the NCAA will disqualify them on the grounds that college athletics are amateur. However, he said the possibility of unionization comes with other benefits.

"Say they want a cost of living adjustment or they want to have catastrophic injury insurance for those players who are injured and can't go on to play in the pros," said Zimbalist. "Then they could stay within the NCAA rules and presumably they could then trigger other universities that are private to unionize and asks for the same thing."

Northwestern has announced that it will appeal the ruling to the entire National Labor Relations Board in Washington.

U.S. is running low on some basic medicines

Wed, 2014-03-26 10:25

The drip, drip of IV fluid at hospitals, the drug doctors give people having heart attacks and medicines for cancer patients are all in short supply.

“On any given day we’re tracking usually 300 drug products that are in shortage,” said Cynthia Reilly with the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

She says, right now, the shortage of IV fluid is at the top of everyone’s critical list.

“It’s almost, really like not having access to water,” Reilly says. 

 “When we run out of absolute basics, like we’re running out of now, that’s when things get really frustrating,” said Erin Fox, director of drug information at the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics.

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, the number of shortages tripled between 2007 and 2012. Sixty percent of the shortages are generic drugs, which are cheaper drugs.

“Drug manufacturing, in the U.S., is a business,” Fox says. “No company has an obligation to make any product, no matter how essential it is for patients.”

The FDA reports the number of new shortages has been falling since new rules went into place in 2012. But, says Capt. Valerie Jensen, associate director of the drug shortage program at the FDA, “some shortages are just not able to be avoided.”

Basic drug shortages are hard to fathom in a wealthy country like the U.S., but some of these drugs are produced by only one or two companies.

When a manufacturing line shuts down, or demand goes up, supplies run low.

Is Facebook just a big venture capitalist?

Wed, 2014-03-26 10:18
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 17:00 JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images

A big logo created from pictures of Facebook users worldwide is pictured in the company's Data Center, its first outside the US on November 7, 2013 in Lulea, in Swedish Lapland.

Facebook is buying Oculus VR for $2 billion. A Virtual Reality company.  Really? 

Yes. Not because Facebook thinks people are thirsting to experience their status updates in a more ‘realistic way’, but because it thinks Virtual Reality is going to be the next big thing. 

 “They’re really trying to become a  holding company if you will,” explains David Rogers at Columbia’s School of Business. “They want to own a key stake in all the major platforms for social connection.”

That’s “all fine well and good,” says David Nelson, chief strategist at Belpointe Asset Management. Fine, if Facebook wants to treat its acquisitions like a venture capitalist. But Nelson – like the many investors who sold shares of Facebook on the news – wanted Facebook to give him hard numbers:  future earnings, monetization, anything with a $ sign at the end of it. 

“They’re not able to do that. They’re just saying trust us this is going to be amazing,” he says. “And we’re looking five six seven even ten years out for the return, I think that’s too far. At least for me. I sold my stock after the what’s app deal.

This not uncommon reaction may involve a difference in culture between Silicon Valley and Wall Street as far as innovation is concerned.  Victor Hwang, CEO of T2VentureCreations, a Silicon Valley Venture firm puts it this way:  “On Wall Street, the biggest fear is missing the numbers, not making earnings.  In Silicon Valley, in the startup world, the biggest fear is obsolescence.  Because obsolence is the equivalent of death.” 

He says looking only at a future earnings stream misses the fact that in an environment where industries are routinely disrupted and transformed, the foundations of earnings streams are vulnerable.  There are existential costs to not innovating – something that can happen to any company, no matter how dazzling it appears at the moment. 

“It wasn’t that long ago that Microsoft was the cool company, now it’s a dinosaur,” says Hwang.  Even Google is losing its sheen, he says.  “I think Mark Zuckerberg asks himself every morning: how do we not become a dinosaur?” 

All of that said, an investment of two billion dollars is no small gamble.  Unfortunately, hindsight is the only way to see if it pays off.  As Hwang put it, Facebook’s gamble with Oculus is “either extremely visionary or extremely foolhardy, and that’s the thing about innovation – you won’t know until later.”

Facebook's VC shopping list 

by Tobin Low

With a host of high profile acquisitions in recent years, Facebook has become that friend who has to own the coolest, most expensive thing before anyone else. With multibillion dollar purchases of Instagram, WhatsApp, and now Oculus VR, the social media giant has been putting its money towards buying the newest "it" thing. That doesn't mean they purchase only sure-bets, though. Facebook has acquired a lot of companies over the years, some of which offer very similar services and use very similar technologies to the big name companies already in their shopping cart. Always a bridesmaid, sighed MySpace. 

Here are a few other companies that Facebook has purchased over the years.

Beluga - Group Messaging

Long before the purchase of WhatsApp made your jaw drop with its $19 billion price tag, Facebook acquired Beluga - another mobile messaging service - in May of 2011. Unlike previous acquisitions where they essentially bought the talent but not necessarily the technology, Facebook stated that they wanted to make use of Beluga's product in addition to adding its designers to their team. Later that year, Beluga was shut down after its design was integrated into Facebook Messenger.

Lightbox Photo Sharing App

Even after its $1 billion purchase of Instagram, Facebook purchased another mobile photo-sharing service called Lightbox. The app allowed android users to filter photographs and then share them to social media. Sound familiar? Though the Lightbox team and Facebook alike made it clear that the aquisition was more about working on engaging Facebook mobile users as opposed to maintaining Lightbox as a separate entity. The app was shut down shortly after the acquisition.

American Farm Bureau Federation FB.com

This one's a little strange. Back in February of 2011, Facebook purchased the "FB.com" domain name from the American Farm Bureau Federation so that internal emails could be anchored to Facebook.com. What wasn't made immediately clear was that the purchase price was $8.5 million dollars. That little fun fact was revealed by a not so subtle announcement at the Farm Bureau's annual meeting in Atlanta.

Marketplace for Wednesday, March 26, 2014by Sabri Ben-AchourPodcast Title: Is Facebook the biggest VC in the game?Story Type: News StorySyndication: Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond: No

PODCAST: Facebook buys Oculus, and its headaches

Wed, 2014-03-26 09:53
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 10:26 ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Attendees wear Oculus Rift HD virtual reality head-mounted displays as they play EVE: Valkyrie, a multiplayer virtual reality dogfighting shooter game, at the Intel booth at the 2014 International CES, January 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Orders for expensive, longer-lasting things went up briskly last month with durable goods up 2.2 percent. That's a nice enough sign, but it might not be more than that. David Kelly, the chief global strategist with JP Morgan-Chase joined us to discuss.

Meanwhile, Facebook shelled out $2 billion in cash and stock for a company that makes a headset that lets users look around digital environments. The 20-month-old company, Oculus, is viewed as a potential leader in the virtual reality gaming industry. Some users though, report an issue with Rift that could impact its growth: motion sickness.

Plus: Where’s the beef? As a nation, we might really need to know that. For the first time in more than a century, Americans are eating more chicken than beef. Why is poultry taking flight?

Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday, March 26, 2014by David BrancaccioPodcast Title: PODCAST: Facebook buys Oculus, and its headachesSyndication: All in onePMPApp Respond: No

Syrian aid that hits home

Wed, 2014-03-26 09:15
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 11:44 Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Refugees from Syria collect blankets and supplies from the UNHCR as they arrive at the Za’atari refugee camp on January 30, 2013 in Mafrq, Jordan.

.awesome, .awesome:visited { background: #222 url(alert-overlay.png) repeat-x; display: inline-block; padding: 1px 15px 2px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px rgba(0,0,0,0.5); -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px rgba(0,0,0,0.5); text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.25); border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0,0,0,0.25); position: relative; } .awesome:hover { background-color: #111; color: #fff; } .awesome:active { top: 1px; } .small.awesome, .small.awesome:visited { font-size: 10px; } .awesome, .awesome:visited, .medium.awesome, .medium.awesome:visited { font-size: 13px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.25); } .large.awesome, .large.awesome:visited { font-size: 15px; padding: 8px 14px 9px; } .blue.awesome, .blue.awesome:visited { background-color: #2daebf; } .blue.awesome:hover { background-color: #2daebf; } .awesome{ line-height: 1.0em; padding-right: 12px; font-family: helvetica,sans; margin-right: 12px; text-align: center; float:left; width:15%; }

The war in Syria has sparked one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Millions of people have fled their homes and are in need of assistance.

Humanitarian organizations say raising money for victims of a complex conflict can be a challenge, particularly when compared to a dramatic natural disaster.

"In the case of the Haiti earthquake, Oxfam America was able to raise over $30 million from the American public," said Noah Gottschalk, a senior humanitarian policy advisor with Oxfam. "Most recently, with Typhoon Haiyan, we we've raised over $6 million. In the case of Syria, we've raised less than $1 million."

Syria's conflict, by the numbers

2,551, 712 | refugees registered with the UNCHR

221,791 | refugees in Iraq

587,308 | refugees in Jordan

135,451 | refugees in Egypt

985,346 | refugees in Lebanon

6,500,000 | displaced inside of Syria

9,300,000 | in need of aid inside Syria

100,000+ | killed (Mar '11 - Sept '13) The UN stopped updating the death toll in Syria in September, 2013, citing difficulties with obtaining accurate numbers.

3 million | living in hard-to-reach areas inside of Syria

240,000 | living under siege

Some aid groups have begun a new approach: attempts to "bring the conflict home" to donors, by asking them to imagine if it was them -- or their children -- who needed help.

Save the Children released this video, of a young girl whose life is shattered by war. She is British, not Syrian, and it is set in London, not Damascus. The video has 26 million views so far, and donations to Save the Children's peer-to-peer network more than quadrupled upon its release.

SOS Children's Villages, meanwhile, saw a video produced by the organization's Norwegian chapter go unexpectedly viral. "Would you give Johannes your jacket?" the video asks, and shows strangers interacting on hidden camera with a shivering boy alone at a bus stop on a winter day in Oslo. The video was intended for Norwegian viewers, but to date it has 13 million viewers from across the world. What was expected to be a small, local appeal has instead raised more than $350,000.

Marketplace for Wednesday, March 26, 2014by Noel KingPodcast Title: Syrian aid that hits homeStory Type: FeatureSyndication: Flipboard BusinessSlackerSoundcloudStitcherBusiness InsiderSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Syrian aid that hits home

Wed, 2014-03-26 08:44

.awesome, .awesome:visited { background: #222 url(alert-overlay.png) repeat-x; display: inline-block; padding: 1px 15px 2px; color: #fff; text-decoration: none; -moz-border-radius: 5px; -webkit-border-radius: 5px; -moz-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px rgba(0,0,0,0.5); -webkit-box-shadow: 0 1px 3px rgba(0,0,0,0.5); text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.25); border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0,0,0,0.25); position: relative; } .awesome:hover { background-color: #111; color: #fff; } .awesome:active { top: 1px; } .small.awesome, .small.awesome:visited { font-size: 10px; } .awesome, .awesome:visited, .medium.awesome, .medium.awesome:visited { font-size: 13px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; text-shadow: 0 -1px 1px rgba(0,0,0,0.25); } .large.awesome, .large.awesome:visited { font-size: 15px; padding: 8px 14px 9px; } .blue.awesome, .blue.awesome:visited { background-color: #2daebf; } .blue.awesome:hover { background-color: #2daebf; } .awesome{ line-height: 1.0em; padding-right: 12px; font-family: helvetica,sans; margin-right: 12px; text-align: center; float:left; width:15%; }

The war in Syria has sparked one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Millions of people have fled their homes and are in need of assistance.

Humanitarian organizations say raising money for victims of a complex conflict can be a challenge, particularly when compared to a dramatic natural disaster.

"In the case of the Haiti earthquake, Oxfam America was able to raise over $30 million from the American public," said Noah Gottschalk, a senior humanitarian policy advisor with Oxfam. "Most recently, with Typhoon Haiyan, we we've raised over $6 million. In the case of Syria, we've raised less than $1 million."

Syria's conflict, by the numbers

2,551, 712 | refugees registered with the UNCHR

221,791 | refugees in Iraq

587,308 | refugees in Jordan

135,451 | refugees in Egypt

985,346 | refugees in Lebanon

6,500,000 | displaced inside of Syria

9,300,000 | in need of aid inside Syria

100,000+ | killed (Mar '11 - Sept '13) The UN stopped updating the death toll in Syria in September, 2013, citing difficulties with obtaining accurate numbers.

3 million | living in hard-to-reach areas inside of Syria

240,000 | living under siege

Some aid groups have begun a new approach: attempts to "bring the conflict home" to donors, by asking them to imagine if it was them -- or their children -- who needed help.

Save the Children released this video, of a young girl whose life is shattered by war. She is British, not Syrian, and it is set in London, not Damascus. The video has 26 million views so far, and donations to Save the Children's peer-to-peer network more than quadrupled upon its release.

SOS Children's Villages, meanwhile, saw a video produced by the organization's Norwegian chapter go unexpectedly viral. "Would you give Johannes your jacket?" the video asks, and shows strangers interacting on hidden camera with a shivering boy alone at a bus stop on a winter day in Oslo. The video was intended for Norwegian viewers, but to date it has 13 million viewers from across the world. What was expected to be a small, local appeal has instead raised more than $350,000.

PODCAST: Facebook buys Oculus, and its headaches

Wed, 2014-03-26 07:26

Orders for expensive, longer-lasting things went up briskly last month with durable goods up 2.2 percent. That's a nice enough sign, but it might not be more than that. David Kelly, the chief global strategist with JP Morgan-Chase joined us to discuss.

Meanwhile, Facebook shelled out $2 billion in cash and stock for a company that makes a headset that lets users look around digital environments. The 20-month-old company, Oculus, is viewed as a potential leader in the virtual reality gaming industry. Some users though, report an issue with Rift that could impact its growth: motion sickness.

Plus: Where’s the beef? As a nation, we might really need to know that. For the first time in more than a century, Americans are eating more chicken than beef. Why is poultry taking flight?

Facebook buys Oculus for $2 billion

Wed, 2014-03-26 07:23
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 09:41 ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Attendees wear Oculus Rift HD virtual reality head-mounted displays as they play EVE: Valkyrie, a multiplayer virtual reality dogfighting shooter game, at the Intel booth at the 2014 International CES, January 9, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Facebook shelled out $2 billion in cash and stock for a company that makes a headset that lets users look around digital environments. The 20-month-old company, Oculus, is viewed as a potential leader in the virtual reality gaming industry. Some users though, report an issue with Rift that could impact its growth: motion sickness.

People using virtual reality technology have, for years, been dogged by the very same condition that afflicts real-life sea voyagers, car passengers, and those who have braved a particularly terrifying roller coaster. 

Shun-nan Yang, Director of Research at the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University's College of Optometry explains why virtual reality technology can cause dizziness and nausea:

Head-mounted displays are likely to cause motion sickness symptoms (including disorientation, nausea, dizziness, and vertigo) because the simulated visual world often does not match the other physiological signals generated by the body (vestibular [head rotation] or proprioceptive [body motion] sensation).  For instance, the VR might simulate a pilot flying an airplane, but the actual non-visual signal suggests little motion, compared to what is expected for such episode/experience.  The brain (mid-brain more specifically) detects such mismatch and generate undesirable sensations in an attempt to dissuade such circumstances/activities.  Viewing 3D movies would cause the same symptoms because of the mismatch perceived by the viewers.  The same "warning" signal (e.g., nausea) is deployed to warn the body of undesirable smell or toxic foods.     

Oculus is aware of the problem, and is working to improve it before Rift hits the shelves some time in the future. Real-world sufferers will, for now, have to keep relying on diphenhydramine. 

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the company Oculus. The text has been corrected. 

Marketplace Morning Report for Wednesday, March 26, 2014by Noel KingPodcast Title: Facebook buys Oculus for $2 billion Story Type: News StorySyndication: SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond: No

Facebook buys Oculus for $2 billion

Wed, 2014-03-26 06:41

Facebook shelled out $2 billion in cash and stock for a company that makes a headset that lets users look around digital environments. The 20-month-old company, Oculus, is viewed as a potential leader in the virtual reality gaming industry. Some users though, report an issue with Rift that could impact its growth: motion sickness.

People using virtual reality technology have, for years, been dogged by the very same condition that afflicts real-life sea voyagers, car passengers, and those who have braved a particularly terrifying roller coaster. 

Shun-nan Yang, Director of Research at the Vision Performance Institute at Pacific University's College of Optometry explains why virtual reality technology can cause dizziness and nausea:

Head-mounted displays are likely to cause motion sickness symptoms (including disorientation, nausea, dizziness, and vertigo) because the simulated visual world often does not match the other physiological signals generated by the body (vestibular [head rotation] or proprioceptive [body motion] sensation).  For instance, the VR might simulate a pilot flying an airplane, but the actual non-visual signal suggests little motion, compared to what is expected for such episode/experience.  The brain (mid-brain more specifically) detects such mismatch and generate undesirable sensations in an attempt to dissuade such circumstances/activities.  Viewing 3D movies would cause the same symptoms because of the mismatch perceived by the viewers.  The same "warning" signal (e.g., nausea) is deployed to warn the body of undesirable smell or toxic foods.     

Oculus is aware of the problem, and is working to improve it before Rift hits the shelves some time in the future. Real-world sufferers will, for now, have to keep relying on diphenhydramine. 

*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the company Oculus. The text has been corrected. 

America's game of chicken

Wed, 2014-03-26 01:06

Where’s the beef?

As a nation, we might really need to know that. For the first time in more than a century, Americans are eating more chicken than beef. Why is poultry taking flight?

"People are more conscious about health, and so they will eat red meat a little less often and white meat more often," says Ariane Daguin, CEO of D'Artagnan, which sells organic, free-range chicken to high end restaurants and grocery stores all over the country. Her business is growing 15 percent per year, a lot of that is thanks to rising chicken demand.

But a lot of the reason for the rising popularity of chicken has to do with beef.

"The real trade-off that we’re seeing in consumption is escalation in poultry and decline in beef," says Don Close, cattle economist with Rabo AgriFinance. Beef prices have skyrocketed and are expected to jump by as much as 15 percent this year. (Here's a look at why that's happening)

"We saw pretty heavy substitution on the part of consumers, substituting ground beef for ground chicken and thereby driving up the prices of those products," says Ricky Volpe, economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Chicken prices are expected to rise by about 10 percent this year. Even still, chicken will remain far cheaper than beef and pork. 

But even if beef prices come back down, Ariane Daguin doesn’t think Americans will go back to beef.

"It is not a trend," she says. "Trend means there is an end to it. There is no end to good food. People in America are more and more conscious that you are what you eat."

And right now, that’s chicken.

 

The sweet smell of King Digital's Candy Crush success

Wed, 2014-03-26 01:00

Look up from your phones, everybody.

The maker of the highly addictive puzzle game Candy Crush Saga goes public Wednesday. King Digital Entertainment racked up $1.8 billion in sales last year, largely using a "freemium" business model -- when you download a game for free, but spend on extras inside the game.

Analysts say King Digital's success comes from marrying good data analytics – understanding when casual gamers spend and why – with good game development.

 

 

Robo... traffic cop?

Wed, 2014-03-26 01:00

Imagine pulling up to an intersection and seeing a giant, solar-powered, traffic-directing robot wearing 80's sunglasses. You might expect Marty McFly to speed by on a hoverboard, or the Iron Giant to take off into the sky as he blissfully declares himself, "Suuuperman."

If you're a resident of Kinshasa, the sprawling capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, these huge, man-like traffic signals might be part of your daily commute. So far, two of these robots have been installed, and in spite of their imposing apperance, the residents enjoy having them around. According to BBC reporter Maud Jullien, it's because the work of traffic directing is often done by policemen; a force not respected by the general public because of frequent harassment. One Kinshasa resident told Jullien that he actually prefers the robots to policemen simply because they do their job:

"The robot is better than policemen because it does its job according to the order. It doesn't bother us, ask for documents, or arrest us."

Traffic and unemployment are making you sick

Wed, 2014-03-26 00:52

Commuting can make you sick.  

A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines health in the U.S. county by county, looking at less obvious causes of illness, including joblessness and traffic. 

“You might ask, what does that have to do with my health,” says Michelle Larkin,  assistant vice president of  the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “But think about it. When we’re in the car taking long commutes we’re probably in a heightened state of stress.”


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

And stress can lead to problems like heart disease. Turns out unemployment is unhealthy, too, because without a paycheck you can't buy good food, and may not be able to see the doctor when you’re sick.

It all adds up.  The premature death rate in the least healthy counties is twice the rate of the healthy ones.   Same thing for children living in poverty, and teen births.  

George Soros: U.S. could tap oil reserves to punish Russia

Wed, 2014-03-26 00:32

The U.S has yet to use a weapon in its economic arsenal in its dispute with Russia over Ukraine. The administration could release oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, in a bid to reduce global oil prices and damage the Russian economy, says billionaire investor George Soros -- though he hopes it doesn't come to that.

"The strongest deterrent is in the hands of the United States because it can release oil from the strategic oil reserve," Soros says, "which would then reduce the price of oil and that would ruin the Russian economy, which lives on oil."

In an interview to promote his new book, "The Tragedy of the European Union", Soros told Marketplace that the sanctions the West is imposing on Russian oligarchs could be counter-productive. 

"The Russian economy is very weak because  the oligarchs who run the country don't trust it and they send their money abroad," Soros says. "So if you stop the inflow of funds, that will bring the Russian economy to its knees."

He says when Russian investors and oligarchs take their assets out of the country, it helps weaken the Russian economy. The sanctions, which impede the flow of money out of Russia for targeted individuals, may actually benefit Russian president Vladimir Putin's attempts to bolster his country's economy.

Soros says the U.S. and Europe need to back Ukraine's position in this dispute, rather than punish Russia.

"Ukraine is determined to reform, but it needs protection," he says. 

Soros, who worries about the state of Europe and the European Union in his book , points to the crisis in Ukraine as an example of why the world needs a strong Europe.

"It was the euro crisis that transformed this voluntary association of equals into a creditor-debtor relationship," Soros says. "And because of this transformation, we have now reached a state where you are going to have one political crisis after another."

KBBI is Powered by Active Listeners like You

As we celebrate 35 years of broadcasting, we look ahead to technology improvements and the changing landscape of public radio.

Support the voices, music, information, and ideas that add so much to your life. Renew here or visit KBBI by April 21 to enter to win one round-trip airfare with Era between Homer and Anchorage. Thank you for supporting your local public radio station.

ON THE AIR

FOLLOW US

Drupal theme by pixeljets.com ver.1.4