Zombie head bowling balls |

zombie-bowl

Guys, guys – the next time you want to organize an evening with the rest of the gang, why not take up bowling as an alternative to just drinking yourselves silly in a bar or at a club? After all, you can still get your favorite ale at most bowling alleys, not to mention this is an extremely social environment for you and the gang to chillax. Of course, being testosterone-laden, you will definitely want to stand out from the rest of the pack – so why not go all the way and send these bowling balls down the lane to knock ‘em pins while scaring your neighboring lanes? After all, it is not every day that you throw a zombie head down a bowling alley, right?

These bowling balls were the brainchild of advertising agency Jung van Matt, who decided to take the road less traveled and printing different zombie heads in various stages of decay and grossness in an advertisement which promotes the 13th Street chain. Definitely eerie when they are at a standstill, what with gouged out eyes and blood splattered all over the place.


Zuckerberg in Moscow to boost Facebook’s Russia presence –

Zuckerberg_in_russia

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was Monday in Moscow on a visit the government believes should stimulate innovation in Russia and the social network hopes will boost its position in the Russian market.
Zuckerberg was to meet Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev along with the main government pointmen on innovation in Russia, Deputy Prime Ministers Arkady Dvorkovich and Vladislav Surkov.

The government has said they will discuss cooperation in IT technology and start-ups in Skolkovo the technology hub outside Moscow that has been championed by Medvedev as a Russian equivalent of Silicon Valley.

Zuckerberg, 28, wasted no time in exploring the Russian capital after his arrival, posing for photographs in Red Square like an ordinary American tourist in one of his trademark hooded tops, Russian press reports said.

Staying true to his roots, he then headed for a meal at a nearby branch of McDonalds.

Regularly brandishing an iPad at government meetings and publishing comments on Twitter, former president Medvedev likes to promote himself as the main proponent of a drive to give Russia a more innovation-based economy.

Critics have regularly ridiculed his often banal utterances on Twitter and noted that making Russia a true innovation-based economy is still just a pipe dream.

Zuckerberg will be hoping his visit boosts Facebook’s presence in Russia, one of the few major countries worldwide where it is not the number one social network.

Facebook lags well behind Russia’s most popular social network VKontakte, founded by Saint Petersburg native Pavel Durov, 27, often described as the “Russian Zuckerberg.”

VKontakte is aimed firmly at Russian speakers, allowing it to better respond to a very specific local market.

Zuckerberg’s visit is not entirely free of controversy, with Russian firms saying his main aim is to headhunt Russian tech talent and lure recruits back to California.

While this is his legitimate right, the government should do more to keep homegrown talent in the country, the Vedomosti business daily quoted as saying the chief executive of the country’s biggest IT holding IBS Group, Anatoly Karachinsky.

“If the authorities are interested in helping Russian companies then they should encourage Western firms to make their orders here just like India and China have done,” he said.

Representatives of Vkontakte and Russia’s largest Internet company Mail.ru confirmed to Vedomosti that Facebook had made attempts to tempt their employees out of Russia.

High standards of education in Russia and strong traditions in research make Russian programmers highly sought-after worldwide, even if now the differences in pay are not so stark between Russia and the West as they were in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, Russian also has its own homegrown Internet industry with Russian-language firms like VKontakte and Mail.ru having tens of millions of users and start-ups enjoying success in both Moscow and Siberia.

Although it is believed to be his first visit to Russia, Zuckerberg’s company already has close links to the Russian Internet sector.

Russian technology investment firm DST Global, whose main shareholder is oligarch Alisher Usmanov, has a stake of at least five percent in Facebook although some observers estimate that the holding is even higher.

The anti-Kremlin demonstrations that rocked Russia since December have largely been coordinated through social networks and analysts say that the increase in Internet use poses a significant challenge for the domination of President Vladimir Putin.

Source: NDTV


YC-Backed HiMom Helps Your Parents Keep Up With Your Life, One Postcard At A Time |

HiMom

 

Social media sites like Facebook have become a central part of the lives of many families, letting them keep tabs on each other’s lives through pictures. But they’re not for everyone. My mom and dad, who live in the U.S., have no interest in joining Facebook. They are okay with email, and my dad will even video Skype if his wife, my stepmom (a computer scientist, as it happens), sorts it out for him. But you know what? They still really love it most of all when I send them a real letter with photos of me, my husband and our two kids. And you know what else? I’ve really fallen off the wagon where letters are concerned. I’m terrible at finding time to sit down and write them, and then getting around to sending them.

So I was especially excited to hear about HiMom, a YC-backed mobile app, part of the current class, that lets you create postcards from pictures you’ve taken on your phone, and then send them to your parents — or anyone else you’d like to keep in touch with on a regular basis. To me, it seemed like the perfect union: it takes something I am already doing to record and create things (using my phone) and matches it up with how my parents like to get their content (in a physical form).

“HiMom is about improving engagement between the young social networking generation and those who are not connected there,” co-founder Martin Poschenrieder says. As with a lot of YC products, the founders have been using their YC classmates and past work contacts as guinea pigs, and the service, they’ve found, is being used just as much by those living near to their families as it is by those who are many miles apart — the latter use case coming out of the founders’ own backgrounds, two Germans in Silicon Valley whose families are still back in their home country.

The app works simply enough: with the iPhone app, you can use any picture you have taken on your phone, or from your iPhone library via iCloud, and turn it into a postcard. You have some options for borders and filters on a full-sized postcard picture; and you can type a message. And in a nice touch, you can also “sign” the card either with a scribble of your name or another doodle. You can then send it as a postcard for $ 1.99 or as a free email.

Before I go any further with this, I’ll say yes, I know there are already a bunch of photo sharing apps, and even hundreds of postcard apps, out there already.

Touchnote says it has 2 million monthly active users on Android, and a further 50,000 active monthly users on Facebook. Postagram is another popular postcard-making app, and its developers Sincerely are now working with Facebook on a postcard service to create images out of Facebook photos specifically. And with so many more, is there really room for another?

I think yes, particularly if HiMom follows through on the trajectory its founders have started. HiMom does what its name says: it is about creating and sending postcards, and building up a relationship specifically around one or two particular people — in this case between you and your parents, grandparents or others who are not necessarily connecting with you in your busy life.

By narrowing the focus, it becomes something you could potentially use more regularly as part of that specific relationship. In that sense, it’s not unlike Pair and Cupple, social networking apps designed for groups of two. By focusing on building social relationships outside of the more established social networking norms, it’s not unlike YC alum Family Leaf (a family-based social networking platform for families who don’t want to or can’t use Facebook).

HiMom has some automation built into it as well: an upcoming update will offer a weekly alert at 11am, and future versions of the app, Poschenrieder says, will let users change how often and when this alert comes, to remind you to send over a card your contacts. Other features to come will include a read receipt, “so that you see when your mom opened the notification email,” Poschenrieder says, as well as a “thank-you” button for your recipient to reply automatically, as well as address book integration: right now you have to enter recipients’ addresses manually. Integrating the address book might widen the number of people you would use HiMom for as well.

What’s potentially even more interesting is how the HiMom framework could be developed for more than just postcards: think of how, say during a birthday or special occasion, you can add a bouquet of flowers or chocolate (or other gift) delivery, in addition to the postcard.

And that could loop in with some of the e-commerce knowledge of Poschenrieder and his co-founder Markus Jura.

The pair are both German and met while working for Accenture in Europe. When they were in London applying for Y Combinator, they actually pitched a completely different idea, around product sharing between people. (That idea was parked when they realised that “acceptance from local merchants in the U.S. was different than in the UK,” Martin told me.) It’s not too surprising to see YC startups changing this way; after all, the incubator has an ethos of backing talent, not specific ideas.

Things like physical gifts could be something to explore further down the line. For now, it’s about sending a beautiful postcard in place of what was there before… which, for many busy professionals, may well have been nothing.


Zuckerberg’s Disrupt Talk Pushes Facebook Stock Up 8.9% To High of $21.16 |

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

 

Facebook stock rose 8.9% to a high of $ 21.16 per share today, the first day of trading after CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s first public interview since the company’s IPO. The stock rose in after-hours trading immediately following Zuckerberg’s fireside chat at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco yesterday, and then jumped again when the market opened today.

The new high today is the highest the stock has traded at in almost a month. The stock closed at $ 20.91, still a 7.62% increase over yesterday’s close of $ 19.43.

In his talk with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington yesterday, Zuckerberg shared details on Facebook’s mobile strategy, a major question mark for investors.

He explained that Facebook acknowledged it had misjudged HTML5 and refocused on its own apps. The social network saw users’ consumption of news feed stories double following the launch of its new iOS app. That’s a simple but astounding statistic. Double the content consumed. Double the advertising opportunity.

While the stock price surge is nice for Facebook and Zuckerberg, it only really matters if it signals a long-term shift in investors’ perception of Zuckerberg as CEO. If the stock drops again in a few days, then this was just another rise and fall in the long, downward trajectory of a volatile stock.

However, if Zuckerberg’s widely acclaimed talk convinced shareholders of his strength not just as a founder and entrepreneur but as a professional, mature CEO, then we could be seeing the beginning of a longer, potentially more steady rise for the stock.

Apple announced today that it has integrated Facebook into iOS 6, a long expected move, which also could have contributed to the increase in stock price.


TechCrunch » Social


Wii U Launch Sells Out, But Some Fans Are Frustrated |

wii-u-nintendo

The Wii U launched on Sunday in the United States with the promise of an improved entertainment experience, but the experience of many fans is off to a rocky start. Stock shortages, combined with an unanticipated download requirement for the device, have dampened the excitement of the Wii U release for some users.

Nintendo’s latest console was highly anticipated, and avid fans lined up Saturday night for its midnight release. However, the mixture of supply shortages and reported hardware issues is causing frustration for gamers. Last week it was reported that many major retailers such as BestBuy and Wal-Mart were selling out of pre-order hardware, and since its official release the console has been flying off the shelves.

This is good news for Nintendo, but not so great for consumers.

In addition, reports indicate that the Wii U requires a sizable update the first time it is switched on. The update takes about an hour to download from the Internet and takes up 1-2GB of precious hard drive space, which is a considerable sacrifice on the 8GB model.

There have also been reports of issues with the Wi-Fi configuration and HDMI output; as well, the TVii video-on-demand channel is not available until December, but users can still access the Netflix app.

President and COO of Nintendo of America, Reggie File-Aime, calls Wii U “an everyday connected device” which offers “a combination of games, entertainment, online connectivity and social activity that will make people want to interact with it daily.”

The Nintendo Wii U boasts a touchscreen tablet-esque controller with HD graphics. The basic Wii U package is $300 for an 8GB hard drive, but for $350 you can upgrade to a 32GB drive that comes with a copy of launch title Nintendo Land, which has already received positive responses.


With JOBS Act Becoming Law, Crowdfunding Platforms Look To Create Self-Regulatory Body |

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With JOBS Act Becoming Law, Crowdfunding Platforms Look To Create Self-Regulatory Body

05 April 2012

Screen shot 2012-04-05 at 1.15.09 AM

Today, President Obama signs the JOBS Act into law, legalizing crowdfunding in startups by non-accredited investors, so that anyone and their mother can invest. The new law stipulates that entrepreneurs can now raise money from any and all, however, startups are limited to $ 1 million per year, and must stick to portals approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission. What’s more, the legislation dispenses with the 500-shareholder rule, which put a limit on the number of shareholders a company was allowed before registering with the SEC (and going public).

The new law gives high-growth companies a longer grace period, or on-ramp, leading up to IPOs, and lifts some of the one-size-fits all regulation that likely has been hampering the IPO market. While this is a big win for startups, it puts significant pressure on the crowdfunding market to self-regulate — which is risky. That’s why 13 equity and debt crowdfunding platforms and insiders have come together to form a leadership group to bring attention to the need — really, requirement — for the industry to develop effective self-regulation, best practices, and investor protection.

As the JOBS Act requires all crowdfunding sites to be members of a national securities association, the group is on a mission to find the best way to do that in a way that encourages the new industry while protecting investors. The “leadership group” is to include members of the crowdfunding industry, (duh), who will be working in collaboration with legal, securities, and SEC experts — many of the same people who helped push the JOBS Act forward.

According to the its statement, the leadership group will seek to “agree upon a set of principles as well as explore the development of a robust industry regulator.” The group will be collaborating with the SEC during its 9-month rule-making process that will enact the crowdfunding rules.

The group aims to create principles to:

Establish strong protections for investors in the form of an Investor’s Bill of Rights, including tests to assess investors understanding of risk, criminal background checks on issuers, and adequate disclosures by issuers;Ensure confidentiality of investors’ personal financial information;Ensure that investors do not exceed statutory investment limits, by implementing standardized reporting and communication among platforms;Establish standard communication processes for transparent flow of information between the issuer, the investor, the intermediary and the regulatory agency;Develop a code of conduct for crowdfunding platforms, with enforcement mechanisms to punish bad actors;Create a recognizable brand common to trustworthy intermediaries (akin to VeriSign or BBB).

In the end, it’s all about implementation, and how effectively these principles can be established and protected on the wild and woolly web that’s seen its fair share of fraud. Plus, a cynic might raise an eyebrow at asking the very platforms that stand to gain financially by an explosion of crowdfunding to police themselves. That being said, this is an important step for the crowdfunding industry to take — as long as it’s not simply for show.

The passage of the JOBS Act is a veritable miracle, in the sense both parties’ political interests actually aligned. It seemed for once it behooved them to dispense with the typical partisan tomfoolery, and send a message to their constituencies (in an election year, by the way) that they are taking the necessary steps to create jobs. By starting work right away on regulation that protects investors and enables a strong crowdfunding market, the group is demonstrating a willingness to work with the SEC for the good of mom and pop investors and to take self-regulation seriously.

Crowdsourcing.org, a neutral professional association and industry resource that offers news, articles, videos, and site information on all things crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, has established the Crowdfunding Accreditation for Platform Standards (CAPS) program to create standards for crowdfunding operations, and while the industry creates self-regulatory frameworks, CAPS has been designed to govern the accreditation of crowdfunding platforms.

With more than 400 crowdfunding platforms already operating in January 2012, and a new wave of sites likely to launch in the wake of Obama’s approval, the initiative to establish accreditation criteria — in collaboration with the SEC — to ensure crowdfunding platforms adequately protect fundraisers and investors is essential. Council member and founder of Crowdsourcing.org, Carl Esposti, said that more than 200 crowdfunding platforms are expected to apply for accreditation in 2012.

The leadership group’s goal is to use CAPS criteria as a way to mandates for SEC approval, along with building a united voice that can work carefully and quickly to launch equity crowdfunding in the U.S. so entrepreneurs can innovate and create new jobs, Esposti said. [The leadership group includes, thus far, CAPS, Crowdfunder, Funding Roadmap, Gate Technology, Indiegogo, Launcht, Motaavi, RocketHub, and more.]

There is no doubt that the JOBS Act can have a big effect on later-stage startups on the path to IPO. When asked about the potential consequences, Rally Software CEO Tim Miller told us:

“Before the JOBS Act, emerging growth companies were subject to the same stringent regulatory rules as multi-billion dollar corporations like Apple. The JOBS Act will loosen some of these requirements on emerging growth companies, creating a more vibrant and diverse IPO market and allowing companies like Rally to reinvest the money they would have spent on regulatory filings back into jobs.”

There are likely very few entrepreneurs who would disagree, but that deregulation has to be managed very carefully, or the industry will be in for a very bumpy ride. CAPS and a crowdfunding leadership group doesn’t sound like a bad place to start.

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With The Clicky Value-Wheel, Groupon Puts The “No” In Innovation –

clicky

You can say a lot of things about Groupon, but not that they lack a great sense of humor over there. This morning, the company distributed a press release touting a new invention called Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel (make sure you watch the behind-the-scenes video below too).

The company invites players to sign in with their Facebook account and then spin the wheel to potentially score a discount on select Groupons ($ 5, $ 10, $ 50 or $ 100).

According to the Clicky terms, only US residents are allowed to spin the wheel.

From the amusing press release:

Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel was designed to provide momentary distraction and meet the minimum threshold of amusement necessary for users to share Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel through social media channels, thereby virally spreading Groupon and increasing its number of active customers.

“The chances of winning are slim, but not impossible,” said Mike Bennett, Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel lead developer. “We designed the wheel to spin in a way that appears random – like you could potentially win on any given spin – but it’s not actually random, it’s programmatically predestined to ‘win’ 1 out of 1,000 times.”

As with many online computer games, the win ratio was determined to ensure that the lifetime value of the new customers attracted to Groupon by Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel will be greater than the total cost of the program, thus making the program a practical and sustainable investment for Groupon.

And since spinning is moderately enjoyable, every user of Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel is a winner – metaphorically. Literally, most people will not win anything.

Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel, is one of several potential marketing instruments Groupon has and will continue to test over time, some of which will be successful while others will not. Continuously experimenting with new marketing mechanisms is an important part of the growth of any company. The “win wheel” is not in itself a new concept.

Groupon will begin promoting Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel gradually over the next several months throughout Groupon’s more than 170 North American markets. The exact speed of deployment is dependent on the accuracy of ROI assumptions as determined by actual data gathered from Clicky, the Clickable Value-Wheel usage.

“Seeing Clicky spin for the first time, was like watching your newborn baby take his first steps. It was like an orphan who’d never seen the ocean, getting to see the ocean, while he’s getting adopted”.

Well played, Groupon, well played.


Wikia Rolls Out Big Redesign To Bring Accessibility, Discovery To 20M Pages Of UGC |

wiki

Screen shot 2012-04-04 at 12.51.54 AM

You may not be familiar with Wikia, but the collaborative media company has been quietly growing into a giant, recently passing IGN, for example, as the largest network of gaming sites on the planet. Led by both its gaming and entertainment verticals, Wikia’s content-driven social network is home to one of the largest and most active communities on the Web. For those unfamiliar, building on the popularity of its non-profit predecessor (Wikipedia), the site allows anyone (even you) to create new communities around any subject they’re passionate about — or participate in one of its 200K existing communities — for free.

Wikia now boasts 20 million pages of user generated content, all of which are viewed by 50 million-plus global visitors each month. So, really, if you’ve come across any wiki outside the confines of Wikipedia — be it an article, a video, a review, or a demo — it’s likely that sucker was created by a Wikia user. The open, collaborative nature of Wikia’s content production, minus the hierarchy of a traditional media platform, has proven surprisingly successful in and of itself. Thanks to a simple ad-supported rev model, Wikia CEO Craig Palmer says that the company has managed to remain “profitable for years.”

However, as publishing models change, Wikia is looking to more strategically marry the world of professional content creation with the open, free-for-all of UGC, without fundamentally changing or restricting the formula that got it here. As its communities have been largely disaggregated and separate from one another, Wikia is today officially unveiling its biggest redesign in years, which aims to collect its communities under one, sleek-looking roof while improving both engagement and discovery for a more mainstream audience (i.e. new users).

To do so, the company has launched new category “hub pages” that will curate the site’s content into entertainment, gaming, and lifestyle verticals, which makes it significantly easier for users to interact with pages according to preference and to discover new, previously obscured Wikia content. It’s also a move aimed at more effectively piquing the interest of advertisers, which will be able to expand their footprint beyond individual articles to category verticals and the front page — both of which, as the site’s new entry points, will be likely be seeing increased, and more targeted traffic. After all, Wikia is a for-profit enterprise, and advertisers keep the wheels spinning.

All in all, the site’s new look is far more professional in the way its visually representing its UGC, giving its portals an editorial, magazine-like interface — a change that may seem drastic to core users, but will be far more familiar in terms of navigation and browsing for first-timers.

The content Wikia will be surfacing on its front page and in each hub will continue to be fueled by the community, through promoted submissions and by way of popularity as measured by the amount of traffic. On top of that, probably the coolest feature of the redesign would be its new remix function, which allows users to shuffle top content with the click of a button, introducing new wikis to browse, etc. (not unlike Wikipedia’s “random page” option).

The new home and hub pages now display current wiki stats, not only making it easier to find out how many people are visiting per month, or the number of edits made on the given day, but to discover trending content, including top picks, popular videos, etc.

Without a doubt, Wikia’s new design has created a much softer landing for new visitors, and it will be up to the hardcore users to determine whether or not their voices still jive under the new paradigm. The Wikia CEO tells us that he thinks that the site’s new verticals and filtering, in fact, offer a more effective way to make individual voices heard. And that’s really what has made Wikia great, as diving into the depths of communities and individual pages feels makes one feel as if they’re visiting a meeting of fellow gamers in their basement.

Palmer believes that Wikia’s current trajectory places it in a comparable position to early YouTube. That is to say, the site has a presence, but it really hasn’t established itself as a brand, nor has it created that bullhorn mechanism on behalf of its community. Wikia is sitting on this pandemonium of unique voices, and the CEO thinks that it has become imperative to showcase and share the work of those active, and loyal community members. In the long run, Wikia is looking to find ways to bring these users increased exposure, and a more meaningful voice.

In the same way bloggers and YouTube’s videographers have turned passions into careers, Palmer said that the company is set on finding the most effective way to do that for its users. If that means taking a cue from YouTube and creating channels, or offering some sort of hybrid profile, Wikia will likely consider it. But, in the meantime, an aggregated, hub-centered redesign is a good start.

Certainly, the other side of creating a more refined editorial ecosystem is intended to strengthen the site’s appeal to brands and advertisers. With its redesign in place, Wikia will look to expand these relationships, bringing in pre-release content from movie or game studios, for example, to build early, organic excitement for a new title, or increase its reach post-release.

In sum, it provides a telling snapshot of Wikia’s evolution, and it will be interesting to see how the company walks the line between niche and mainstream, and professional content and good, old-fashioned UGC.

For more, check out the new Wikia at home here.


Wikimedia Foundation Raises $20 Million From 1 Million+ Donors –

wiki

Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia and other sites, this morning announced that they’ve raised $ 20 million from more than a million donors, shattering a record once again. The organization says donations have risen every year since its global fundraising campaigns began in 2003.

Wikimedia Foundation claims its sites now serve more than 470 million people every month. Wikipedia, which will celebrate its 11th anniversary in about two weeks, now boasts over 20 million articles in 282 languages.

The organization says more than 100,000 volunteers work on Wikipedia and sister projects.

The foundation employs approximately 80 people full-time.

From the press release:

The annual fundraiser is how the Wikimedia Foundation pays its bills. Funds raised in this campaign will be used to buy and install servers and other hardware, to develop new site functionality, expand mobile services, provide legal defense for the projects, and support the large global community of Wikimedia volunteers.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s total 2011-12 planned spending is 28.3 million USD. The bulk of that is raised during the annual campaign, and the remainder comes throughout the year in the form of grants from institutions such as the Sloan Foundation, and many other small donations year round.

If you’d like to learn more about the organization’s annual plan for 2011-2012, start here.

Also read:

A Personal Appeal TO Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales

Wikipedia Programmer: We Do The Funny Portrait Placement Thing Because It Works


TechCrunch » Social


World’s First JVC GY-HMQ10 handheld 4k camcorder |

Untitled-11


JVC has announced that they have just released the world’s first handheld 4K camcorder, known as the GY-HMQ10, where it is capable of capturing, recording, and playing video images at four times the resolution of high definition television. Using JVC’s Falconbrid large-scale integration (LSI) chip, it is capable of delivering high-speed signal processing and a 0.5″ CMOS imager with 8.3 million active pixels. All that graphical firepower translates to the ability to deliver real-time 3840 x 2160 footage at 24p, 50p, or 60p.

Might this signal the start of a broad market for full 4K end-to-end production? Perhaps, and the GY-HMQ10 could very well, be hailed as a breakthrough product that opens up 4K imaging to users who previously would not even give it the time of day, years down the road should it take off in a big way. While high resolution 4K still picture imaging has been available for some time now in DSLR cameras, motion video capture still remains lagging behind simply because there was no processor fast enough to get the job done – until now, that is. The GY-HMQ10 will ship with manual level controls for audio, with audio metering in the LCD and viewfinder displays, while a microphone holder and two balanced XLR connectors with phantom power are located on the handle. It is not going to be cheap though, selling for $4,995 a pop as it arrives at world markets in March.