BLAZECON, the Outblaze sharing conference

BLAZECON Spring edition!

February 14, 2014, wasn’t just Valentine’s Day, it was also BLAZECON, the pan-Outblaze sharing conference! On that day, the people of Outblaze and associated companies gathered to share information about their projects and learn about other projects happening around the sphere of influence that is Outblaze.

Although many subjects were Top Secret stuff that we need to keep under wraps for a while longer, here are some photos from the event. For additional images you can also check out the Facebook album!

 

A drone hovers on stage as Outblaze CEO Yat Siu prepares to start the event

A drone hovers on stage as Outblaze CEO Yat Siu prepares to start the event

Outblaze people learning and sharing

Outblaze people learning and sharing

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

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StartmeupHK Venture Programme highlights Hong Kong as world’s most promising start-up hub

Outblaze founder and CEO Yat Siu will be one of the judges at the StartmeupHK Venture Programme, THE definitive entrepreneurial contest in Hong Kong in 2013! We are ecstatic at the chance to support this initiative launched by the Hong Kong Government’s InvestHK.

Enter the StartmeupHK Venture Programme to grow your business! Become one of the 12 high-impact entrepreneurs who will be invited to join an intensive programme in Hong Kong from 4-7 Dec 2013. You will enjoy exclusive access to financial capital and partnership networks, high-level mentorship, market knowledge, and marketing opportunities. You will also participate in the StartmeupHK Venture Forum where you will pitch your idea to potential investors and business partners. The 3 most outstanding ventures will receive the Grand StartmeupHK Awards worth over USD 300,000! Apply on or before August 26, 2013, via the StartmeupHK website.

Additional details in the official press release.

 

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Outblaze sends Android tablets to school in mountains of Nepal

Outblaze has donated a shipment of low-cost Android tablets, apps, SD cards, notebooks, writing tools and other supplies to the Sundardevi Lower Secondary, a school for about 170 students in Tame village in the mountainous Nuwakot district of Nepal (see Nepal Green Tara Foundation). This required us to overcome a number of challenges.

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Here at Outblaze we always have our eye on the potential of inexpensive Android devices for good social causes. Last year we cooperated with Animoca to equip kids in a local school with Android tablets, and we conducted a follow-up study on how the children were affected by the new technology. It is our belief that exposure and access to relevant technologies are essential to children’s education and to their future economic opportunities. The availability of inexpensive technology is therefore critical when addressing the digital divide, especially in developing economies.

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Donating tablets to a school in a remote village 2,500 metres up the Himalayans, however, is not easy. With no prior exposure to digital technology, no Internet access and scant electrical power, we were concerned about the students’ ability to get the most out of the tablets. Fortunately, we never let the finer details stop us.

The tablets donated were PIPO U1 7” DualCore HD-IPS , a relatively high-end but very affordable 7-inch 720p Android device with graphical quality and CPU power roughly equivalent to an iPad 2. The PIPO’s support for an external SD card allowed us to install software without the need to connect to the Internet; we simply loaded a few SD cards with several apps and showed the new users of the tablets how to install and uninstall apps using the expansion slot instead of an app store. Apple devices as well as Android devices lacking SD card expansion would not have been very useful in this situation.

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The reception of the tablets was extremely interesting. After some initial hesitation – and even outright fear on the part of some of the shyer kids– the students clustered together in small groups to explore the new technology. None of them had ever held anything of the sort in their hands before, yet they clearly found the touch interface very friendly and pretty soon they were cheerfully sharing each discovery they made. Of special emphasis is that the children required very little instruction in the use of the devices, preferring instead to learn organically and intuitively by sharing in clusters of 3-4 people.

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ThinkBlaze, the Outblaze idea-generation entity,was also a sponsor of this initiative. Animoca kindly donated Baby Cortex edutainment software including Alphabet Car, Word Magic, Baby Writer, Baby Flash Cards, Baby Shapes & Animals, and Baby Mozart.  In addition to the tablets, the donation also included pens, pencils, notebooks, and other school supplies.

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Outblaze partner FON joins forces with Deutsche Telekom to blanket Germany with WiFi

Outblaze and FON have been partners since 2006, when Outblaze formally brought FON to Hong Kong and Outblaze CEO Yat Siu became the Fonero Leader for the entire Asia Pacific region. Now we are proud to announce that FON has struck a deal with Deutsche Telekom to provide over 2.5 million WiFi hotspots in Germany! As Techcrunch reported the joint FON-DT network will be called “WLAN TO GO”:

DT has 12 million broadband subscribers and more than 12,000 existing Wi-Fi hotspots across [Germany]. Commenting on the partnership in a statement, Rene Obermann, outgoing CEO of DT, said: ”By 2016, we want to provide nationwide WLAN TO GO at more than 2.5 million additional hotspots.”

It’s a great step forward for the Spanish crowd-sourced WiFi provider, which has been profitable for 3 years. If you’re still not familiar with FON, the concept is easy: you set up a nifty little FON WiFi router that shares a portion of your Internet bandwidth with other FON users (called Foneros). This allows FON members to use your hotspot and also gives you access to the almost 8 million and growing FON hotspots provided by other Foneros around the world. Add to that 2.5 million new hotspots in Germany and you have a powerful network of free Internet access – especially in Europe, where coverage is strongest.

Congratulations to FON and its dynamic leader, Martin Varsavsky!

 

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CEO Yat Siu discusses impact of mobile gaming on Bloomberg Television

Outblaze CEO and founder Yat Siu was invited to ‘Asia Edge’ on Bloomberg Television to discuss the launch of Sony’s PlayStation 4 and how mobile development is changing the gaming market in radical ways. Watch this vivacious and entertaining interview below, or view it on Bloomberg Television:

 

 

 

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The Outblaze Christmas Party 2012

The holidays are nearly upon us and that can only mean one thing: another legendary Outblaze Christmas party! In this case, an Outblaze Christmas Masque complete with Batman, samurai, men (and women) in black, pussycats, walking sushi, zombies, assorted psychos, Pokemon, Ben 10 characters, a kung fu master, masked killers, and more – much more.

Check out the entire Outblaze Christmas party album on Facebook for dozens of entertaining photos. We wish you all a great holiday!

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ThinkBlaze launches with study on low-cost tablets for the classroom

 

 

ThinkBlaze is a project we’ve been working on the last few months; it is a research and idea generation organization backed by Outblaze – an Outblaze think tank, in other words. Today ThinkBlaze has issued its first work, a study titled “Does the Learning Medium Matter?” It looks at the impact of low-cost tablets on children in elementary school with some considerations about the very serious problem of the Digital Divide. You can get the entire report at the ThinkBlaze web site (it’s free and no registration is required).

Summary

The report is pretty long and attention spans are not, so here is the summary of findings from the introduction; we do recommend reading the paper as it provides some important information and background that are highly relevant to these results.

Reading comprehension: fourth-grade students scored higher when reading on paper than on tablet, whereas grade 6 students scored similarly on both media.

Perceived performance: fourth- and sixth-grade students who completed the reading comprehension tests reported their perceived performance. We found an interaction effect between “medium” and “gender” in the perceived performance of fourth-graders: boys reported higher perceived performance when reading on tablets, while girls reported higher perceived performance when reading on paper. Among the sixth-graders we found no statistically significant differences between paper and tablet use for perceived performance scores.

Memory retention: first-grade students who attempted to memorize a set of images presented on paper and on tablets obtained higher correct memory scores when they viewed the images on paper; however, their lower scores when using tablets could be explained by experimental procedure (see discussion).

Academic performance: the teachers of grades 1, 4 and 6 students participating in this study reported no effect on academic performance after one month of regular in-class tablet use, although we suspect that longer exposure is necessary to determine the impact of tablets on academic performance.

Outblaze and ThinkBlaze would love to receive your thoughts on this. We are still new to this area and have a lot to learn – please feel free to give us your opinion. Contact us about this project by writing to feedback@thinkblaze.com.

We leave you with an especially interesting bar chart showing the differences in performance and perceived performance between boys and girls who used tablets or paper to complete an assignment. You can find this and other graphics in the downloadable report (PDF).

 

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Hardships of working at Outblaze: receiving bags of presents

Last week at Outblaze was so action-packed that writing about it has spilled over into this week. On Wednesday we had the Pumpkin Challenge, on Wednesday night we received an award as one of Hong Kong’s Most Valuable Companies, on Thursday we went hiking in the metropolis that inspired Blade Runner, and you’d think that would be enough for one week. But no. Here’s what happened before all that, on Tuesday

Click an image to view it in full size. The company gathered for a surprise event:

 

The curiosity was plain to see on everyone’s face:

 

Suddenly, we all received a mysterious black sack nearly bursting with stuff. What could possibly be in there?

 

The first items to emerge are… videogames!

 

But there’s so much more! A T-shirt, a USB charging hub featuring all manner of plugs, a portable mobile battery, a hoodie, a set of coloured pencils, a beautiful sketchbook, a bag full of coloured building blocks, a large bouncy ball, a mousepad and more, all gloriously branded by Outblaze or our sister companies like Animoca and TurnOut Ventures.

Armed with these amazing toys, we all split up to participate in a game: each team had to build the most fantastic thing possible using only the contents of the sack they’d all received. Some frantic construction ensued.

Here are members of senior management attempting to build a racing car. The observant eye will quickly note that only two of the team members have succeeded in maintaining the required supervisory stance:

 

And here are the efforts of more talented block-builders:

 

Everyone is impressed with the results:

 

Outblaze CEO Yat Siu concludes the day of fun by declaring the winners:

 

And that was Tuesday. Little did we suspect that the next few days would unfold in a frenzy of pumpkins, awards, and insanely fun hiking trips. And that was our week of work @ Outblaze. Thanks for reading!

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Outblaze takes a hike in the metropolis

When Ridley Scott worked on the monumental film Blade Runner he drew inspiration from the landscape of “Hong Kong on a very bad day”. It’s known for being visually impressive, but not everyone knows that Hong Kong also has miles and miles of stunning natural parks and scenery – within the city boundaries. Here are pictures of the Outblaze company hiking trip on November 1, 2012.

 

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Outblaze one of Hong Kong's Most Valuable Companies

Receiving the award: Lobson Chan, Yat Siu, Ibrahim El-Mouelhy

 

In what turned out to be a pretty busy week, Outblaze was honoured as one of Hong Kong’s Most Valuable Companies at the Mediazone event of the same name. We’d like to thank the organizers of the event and especially all the amazingly talented and dedicated people who made this possible: our fellow Outblazers! The criteria for inclusion in this distinguished club included:

- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Innovation
- Quality of training
- Track record
- Proven contributions to Hong Kong
- Proven management team
- Value-added components
- Recognition for best business practises
- Accolades and other merits from industry peers & organizations
For more information please see the event web site.
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