• 2015 NWI Comic Con | Something of our own!

    2015 Northwest Indiana Comic Con

    In February 2014, the first-ever NWI Comic-Con was held in Schererville. The convention was a rousing success, as some 2100 fans young and old came out to browse comics and other collectibles, compete in tabletop gaming tournaments, dress up as their favorite characters, and meet artists and writers.

    The convention was the brainchild of Brian Grabinski, a diehard comic book fan and the event’s showrunner. After a strong first year, the NWI Comic-Con will be returning on February 21. Grabinski and company are hard at work toward their goal of making the second incarnation bigger and better.

    In the case of event space, the bigger element is very literal. The 2014 convention’s high turnout resulted in attendees being packed closely and tightly on the convention floor. While he hasn’t lost track of the convention smaller, local scale, Grabinski has opted for the larger Halls of St. George in Schererville as this year’s host.

    Northwest Indiana Comic Con Brian Grabinski"Some of the biggest concerns were a larger space, more parking,” Grabinski said. “I don't want to grow too big too fast so we decided on a mid-sized location that we're hoping will accommodate everyone."

    “Bigger” also means more special guests. Among the artists and writers are former Disney animator Phil Barnhart, Image Comics talents Mike Norton, Tim Seeley, and Jim Terry, and author and Northwest Indiana native Emily Goodwin. In addition to autograph opportunities, performers and entertainers will also be one the schedule. Among them are contestants from SyFy’s makeup artist competition series Face Off, one of the things for which Grabinski is most excited.

    "There are so many things going on it's hard to pick a favorite", Grabinski said. “The FX demo by Scott Mitchell and Gabby Leithsceal from SyFy’s Face Off TV series is going to be a unique draw. Personally if I can find the time, I'd like to sneak over there and watch it happen.”

    Also in attendance will be organizations famous for their costumes, such as the Bristol Renaissance Faire and the Northern Darkness Garrison of the Star Wars global fan club the 501st Legion. For attendees looking to show off their costume design flair, there will be a cosplay contest. “We definitely have something for everyone," Grabinski added.

    2015 Northwest Indiana Comic ConFor all this expansion, it was also important to Grabinski to keep prices low enough so as to not price fans and families out of the convention.

    "My goal is to have an affordable, family-friendly event in Northwest Indiana that involves pop-culture, comic book creators, is fan-friendly and tons of fun."


  • Are you subscribed to the future?

    The advancement of technology has allowed us to gain expanded foresight in our everyday lives. This foresight has allowed us to plan our personal and professional lives much more than in the past. Planning our consumption has always been something on our daily agenda, and once subscriptions were introduced we had to plan on what to consume. What newspaper we were going to subscribe to. How were we going to make the most of the Sam’s Club membership. Companies have taken notice of our willingness to do some extra planning to save money and started offering subscription based services for other things like music, where the subscription based model didn’t really work in the past (Looking at you Zune). Why is it working now? Why are consumers more open to the idea to not owning something that they are paying for? I will examine those questions and a few others for Technology Tuesday.

    First, why have subscription based models become so popular recently? The answer is pretty simple. For companies, the idea of essentially renting content is really ideal. Because managing content is a lot easier than maintaining a fleet of cars. Right now, the cost of using a musician's album is dirt cheap. The payout checks to artists from services like Spotify are laughable (as low as $0.006 per play) and some are starting to fight back. TV and movie rates are much more controlled, much like the history of those industries. You don't see movie studios complaining too much about their returns from Netflix.

    Now what does planning have to do with all of this? I believe that this has to do with Americans becoming increasingly involved with activities resulting in busy schedules. This leaves less free time to devote to activities like listening to new music or renting a movie. Heck, people barely listen to albums all the way through now. People seem to just want playlists with all their favorites and that is what services like Netflix and Spotify have noticed.

    What industry will be next to offer a subscription based model? Jewel Osco? You may laugh now, but the grocery stores are starting to be pushed towards something like that by companies like Amazon and Uber who are starting to offer food delivery in select cities. I believe that food delivery could be Uber's ticket into more rural areas like northwest Indiana.

    What industries would you like to see embrace a subscription model?

  • CRT TVs: Trash or Tourney?

    Old CRT TVs new usesAn all too familiar sight, an old CRT television being left to the elements until the garbage truck comes to take it to the big retailer in the sky. With advancements in technology, it seems everyone has a flat screen in their living room. In fact, it would be very odd to see an old CRT TV in someone’s living room in 2015. However, the CRT TV is still getting some extended use in one circle. Competitive gaming. 

    Why would competitive gamers choose to play tournaments on a television that does have the best screen quality, or even a television that is considered modern? The answer is something called input lag. Input lag is the time that it takes for a controller input to register on-screen. This time is measured in milliseconds, and in highly competitive video games like “Super Smash Bros. Melee” every millisecond counts. What sets CRT TVs apart from modern flat screens is that CRT TVs have less input lag and the input lag is fairly consistent across almost all CRT TVs. Flat screens have more input lag and varying input lags across brands and types (plasma, LED, 4K and now 5K or quantum dot).

    Controllers also play a big factor in the input lag equation. Wired controllers have a big advantage over their wireless counterparts. So much so that you will almost never see a competitive gamer using a wireless controller. It is that much of a disadvantage.

    competitive gaming controllers input lagTelevision technology has come a long way in the past 15 years in regards to picture quality, but at the cost of input lag. Will we see a flat screen tv with as little input lag as a CRT tv in the future, or is the niche too small to create a demand? My guess is that someone will fill the void in some form since competitive gaming is only getting bigger and more reputable.


  • NFL in NWI? Dream on!

    State Representative Earl Harris of East Chicago spoke during the NFL season of placing a team right here in Northwest Indiana. Imagine: one day years from now, around this time of year, the Region might be hosting the Super Bowl…

    Yeah, I don’t have to elaborate on how farfetched this idea is. But I’m going to anyway.

    An NFL team would need a pricey, state-of-the-art stadium. The Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis cost over $700 million, and that was actually on the cheaper end of things. Stadiums built since its opening in 2008 have soared past $1 billion, and in most cases, the cities or counties had to pay a good chunk of it.

    It’s been so hard to get towns to raise funds for expansion of the South Shore that the project seems as if it’s decades from ever happening. But who knows? Maybe citizens and communities will be more willing to fund a new complex that many of them won’t be able to afford to attend.

    Even if they are, there’s also the question of where such a stadium would be located. We wouldn’t have to just make room for the stadium itself, either; the state of the Region’s public transit would make driving the default mode of transportation to games. This would require many acres of parking lots, or at the very least a number of parking garages. For reference, the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium complex, including parking, spreads across 150 acres.

    Then there’s the task of building a fan base. Northwest Indiana has historically been Bears territory and also has healthy contingents of Colts and Packers fans. In addition to competing with those teams, the structure of the NFL’s TV contract (where the whole league negotiates with the major networks, rather than each franchise seeking their own TV deals) would put the Region team at a disadvantage. All our “local” network affiliates are, in fact, Chicago stations. And while they might conceivably show Northwest Indiana’s team as their second game each Sunday, they’re always going to give the Bears precedence.

    Believe it or not, an NFL team in the Region is not entirely unprecedented. The Hammond Pros played seven seasons in the 1920s. But back then, television didn’t exist, and the NFL was a nascent organization of small-town teams playing in tiny stadiums in front of handfuls of fans for little profit. The Pros were also only based in Hammond, playing all their games on the road as a travelling team.

    In that NFL, the Region was capable of housing a team. Now, it’d be like trying to drive a golf cart in the Indy 500.

  • Oculus Rift: best in show

    Last week I finally got my hands on an Oculus Rift for the first time from a very unexpected place. The Perky Jerky booth at the Sweets and Snacks Expo hosted at McCormik Place. That expo was probably the last place I expected to see any virtual reality technology ever. But back to what the people want to know: what was virtual jerky like? I couldn’t tell you, but I wish I could. The Perky Jerky people thankfully spared us that experience and instead opted for a virtual roller coaster ride in the screen of the Oculus Rift. Maybe next virtual jerky will be ready for show next year.

    While not every trade show will be graced with the potential of virtual jerky, I definitely think the Oculus Rift could have a major presence at most trade shows in the future. I think this will be true because it does one thing better than any booth representative can on their own. The Oculus Rift is almost unrivaled at showing a user just about anything and leaving very little up to imagination. Virtual reality can be used to demonstrate just about anything from just about any angle. Those kind of possibilities could probably answer any product questions a potential buyer might have.

    I think the Oculus Rift will also put even more heat on brick and mortar retail locations. Online retailers could easily eliminate the need for “showrooming” by developing applications that would allow consumers to check products out using virtual reality. The Oculus Rift and other virtual reality devices could be another nail in the coffin for brick and mortar retailers. Maybe even the last nail. With companies like Amazon achieving one-day shipping in some markets, same-day shipping is right around the corner. And when that happens, what advantages are left for brick and mortar retailers?

  • SpeakerCone Relaunches

    SpeakerCone Relaunches by Mystic Waters Media

    Mystic Waters Media is proud to announce the relaunch of SpeakerCone. In the past it was known as a music-focused web magazine that focused on the Chicagoland market. In this new relaunch it will expand into reporting about experiences of all kinds.

    SpeakerCone Relaunched by Mystic Waters Media

    The rebranding expands from listening to visiting, seeing and participating.

    SpeakerCone's relaunched was set to coincide with the NWI Comic Con. The site will be featured and promoted at the Mystic Waters Media booth in the Exhibition area of the convention. The are plenty of SpeakerCone stickers and buttons for the visitors in attendance. Look for the crew throughout the event.

    If you represent any interesting talent, please get in contact via social media to arrange coverage.


  • Tech Guide to Independence Day

    The 4th of July is always a great cause for celebration, especially here in northwest Indiana. Cookouts, fireworks and games that involve tossing something. With the holiday weekend just ahead, let's make sure that the celebration isn't independent of some great tech devices out there.

    This first device is one that solves an age old problem: lighting the grill without having your food taste like lighter fluid. The Looftlighter uses superheated air to easily light up the charcoal in any grill. And hey, it has a built-in bottle opener, too! The only drawback to the Looftlighter is that it has to be plugged into a power outlet.

    Any good 4th of July party is going to need some good tunes. To get a playlist up and running quickly, I would recommend the Turtle Shell 2.0. This small bluetooth speaker really produces some great sound and can hang with the craziest of parties since it is shock resistant and waterproof. With a battery life of about 16 hours, the Turtle Shell 2.0 will also keep the jams going late into the night.

    Okay, I hate to include two speakers on this list, but this next one does a lot more than just play music. In fact, it is the same company as the other speaker on this list, Outdoor tech. The Buckshot Pro is a speaker, flashlight, and powerbank for smartphones. It also has the ability to be mounted onto bikes as well. The sheer versatility of this device makes it a must have for almost any on-the-go plans.

    Finally, let’s get to the brews. Specifically the local ones like 18th Street, 3 Floyds, and Devil’s Trumpet. Grabbing some of the brews from these places can be tricky. 3 Floyd’s Zombie Dust flies off of the shelf of almost every six pack shop, but you can guarantee that you will be enjoying your favorite beer by getting a growler. The Miir Growler is well insulated and vacuum sealed to ensure that your beer will be fresh, even if you have to get it the day before the party.

    Not really much in the way of smart fireworks out there yet, so the smart part is still going to fall on the user. Please stay safe out there and have a great Independence Day!