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When all the diplomatic cards have been played, all the threats have been made and all the sanctions enforced – maybe, at the end of the day, it’s the all-mighty power of money that will sway Vladimir Putin. The Virgin Group founder is staking his cred and his entire business network on that assumption, as he wades into the Cold War-like tensions between Western leaders and Putin’s Russia. The intervention staged by Richard Branson comes in the form of an open letter, which he got major business leaders from both sides of the current Ukrainian drama to sign – most notably, five of the top-ranking businessmen in Russia!

The signatories include high-profile names from the West (the chief executive of Unilever, PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, former eBay president Jeff Skoll among them), but also the “self-made” heads of Russian businesses that stand to lose their a villa or two, should their president stay the warmongering course. The cooler heads at the helms of mobile phone retailer Svyaznoy, retailer Foodline Group, the Rolf Group, as well as business lobbyist Igor Yurgens and serial restaurateur Arkady Novikov, have all answered Branson’s clarion call. The letter they signed aims to make the Russian president see the error of his ways and get him to the negotiating table.

But can this really make a dent in Putin’s stance toward the Ukraine? It’s unlikely that he’ll turn around and defuse tensions with a snap of his finger, but I guess it can’t hurt to have him backed into a wall by his own people – the rich oligarchs, that is, whose woes might actually count for something in his eyes. Or this stunt of Branson’s – a decidedly Western approach – might just fuel Putin’s land-grabbing fire even more. Either way, it’s great to see the business world waking up to the fact that war doesn’t pay.

This has got to be a sign that we’re edging ever closer to the pinnacle of robot evolution – introducing JIBO:

Having already reached and surpassed its $100,000 goal tenfold and then some on KickStarter, this cute white family robot designed by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. To get the obvious questions out of the way, JIBO is a “he.”  He’s programmed to be a communicator (he has the smoothest voice!), an emotional presence around the house, an autonomous camera-operator, a nanny for your kids, a conveyor belt for texts, voice call messages and everything in between and so much more. The pint-size robot (11-inch tall and as light as a laptop) is also connected to the cloud, so no data will ever be lost.

This is, in effect, the next major leap towards that new lifestyle the tech world’s raving about: the Internet of Things. So hurry up if you want this little guy in your home: with just a couple of weeks left of the crowdfunding campaign, time is running out fast on your getting your mitts on the JIBO Home Edition at a veritable bargain! And another thing – don’t you find JIBO vaguely familiar? (Hint: That’s Eve from Wall-E on his right, there! A match made… right here on Earth.)

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The upscale (to say the least) residence sitting atop a 560ft double skyscraper, the second tallest building along the Mediterranean coast, will let its owner look down on the world in style. It’s been dubbed the world’s priciest penthouse and, looking at the facilities alone, you get why someone would shell out a fortune (it’s expected to go for upwards of €300m) to get their hands on it. Wouldn’t you?

To watch this bee-stung babe traipse around the tower, looking for her date who, wouldn’t you know it, she finds grabbing a massage… you’d be tempted to fly over there in a jiffy and take a gander at the amenities offered by the luxury dwelling. Or you could just settle into your chair and drool over the specs and photos below:

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The foremost eye-catching feature of this sprawling, four-story penthouse is its private infinity pool that overlooks the sea. It even comes with a waterslide that connects the top floor to the pool, located several floors down – the best bit of a waterpark, right at your fingertips! Designed by Albert Pinto, the peerless penthouse also has the foodies covered, with a kitchen on each floor, and features five bedrooms, a dining room and a living room – all affording awe-inspiring vistas in every direction.

And, if you’re wondering what prompted the high-rise being built in the first place, it’s all about the money – unsurprisingly enough. Monaco has long been granting shelter from taxes to the super-rich, but given the latest globalization trends, it’s quickly becoming the only option for billionaires who want to flaunt their stuff without anyone looking under the hood. Switzerland, the other go-to safe haven in Europe, has recently been pushed into releasing its citizens’ banking behaviors to tax authorities elsewhere, which made its jet sets jittery enough to jump ship into Monaco.

So you’ve got one year left to grow your fortune: come September 2015, when the works on the Tour Odeon are scheduled to wrap up, this jaw-dropping piece of real estate will be commanding its price, and taking a lot of hearts prisoner, I bet!

Leave it to an inventor-artist to start our day off on cloud nine! David Bowen is the brains behind kinetic devices that bring the outdoors in: by tapping into the power of water, wind and, now, clouds, the innovator manages to scale nature down, translate it into movements that our minds can grasp, and fit it all under our roofs. Look at his latest contraption, for instance:

The whole rig might look complicated, because it probably is, but the gist of it comprises a video camera pointed at the clouds and connected to a robotic mechanism that mimics their shapes, billows and sways. By taking a regular run-of-the-mill grand piano and mounting this one-of-a-kind thingamajig (yes, we’re going with that) inside, Bowen basically brings the clouds down to earth. Or takes us up to the heavens – however you want to look at it.

If you find yourself in France this autumn, you should check out the artist’s latest work at L’assaut de la Menuiserie, where he’ll be putting on a solo exhibition. Until then – if you’ve finished picking up your jaw from the floor! – take a look at some of Bowen’s other, equally amazing installations:

In the very near future, flying will be an altogether different experience – if Technicon Design has anything to say in the matter. The design company’s French branch saw their specs for the IXION windowless private jet win an International Yacht & Aviation Award back in May, and for good reason. The concept they came up with would scrap the window and seating arrangements we all know and loath, advancing the more streamlined look of one all-round screen, running the length of the cabin, which would project images from outside the plane for all the passengers inside!

victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project6If these designers have their way – and the signals from other innovators all point in that direction – our future airplane rides will be as immersive as an IMAX screening, with the added bonus that the motion picture would actually be a live show. The live feed would come courtesy of cameras mounted all over the wings and outer body of the plane, that would capture everything along the aircraft’s path… on the fly!

victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project4 victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project3 victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project2 victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project1victorstuff-Technicon-IXION-project5As a frequent flyer myself, I wouldn’t think twice about boarding one of these jets, but I imagine they look even more appealing to those who are afraid of flying: the mammoth floor-to-ceiling window into the clouds virtually clears up cabin fever. Sure, there’s an off chance that a glitch in the system might crash the live feed, leaving passengers with no choice but to stare into the daunting blackness and feel the claustrophobia creeping back in… But that’s a brain-twister for another day, the date these babies go into production, and we’ve no word yet on when that will be.

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In “Mass Flourishing: How Grassroots Innovation Created Jobs, Challenge, and Change,” which came out as an audio book just last month, Nobel Prize laureate Edmund Phelps goes on the hunt for homo economicus and makes some interesting discoveries. On the back of these, he argues that, in today’s money-oriented culture, America is less prone to innovation, and its economy is thereby less flourishing than it could be. He goes on to propose switching from the current paycheck-centric frame of mind to one where the rewards we seek are non-material.

His ideas are likely to hit home with the Millennials whose individualistic mindsets have come into some (undue) media fire of late. Phelps posits that it’s exactly that sort of creative oomph that should be nurtured if we are to grow our economy back to its boom levels.

How does one even go about renovating the economy from the ground up? “It starts with the right attitudes, the right beliefs,” Phelps suggests in the interview he gave Inc.com editor-in-chief Eric Schurenberg. Watch a snippet from that discussion below and chime in with your comments on the economist’s outlook as to what constitutes a flourishing economy.

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We live in a world where entrepreneurship is the first go-to option for youths everywhere, from all walks of life. It’s almost daily now that we hear about a startup’s road to success – be it measurable in seed money or a record-breaking IPO – and its humble starting blocks leave us amazed and inspired to strike out on our own too. Get a load of this infographic devised by the Carlson College of Business at Washington State, which tracks the larger-than-life high-flyers of today down to their considerably less impressive beginnings:

 

 

Inspiration crops up in the unlikeliest of places, a startup‘s birthplace will sometimes be a dump, and the gung-ho entrepreneur will likely cling to it as their last-ditch solution above all others. Given this recurring scenario, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the entrepreneurial ethos has trickled down to what would seem to be the unlikeliest of places: poverty-ridden developing countries are churning out entrepreneurs, as is the prison system! I kid you not:

For a reality check on stellar ideas coming out of that hotbed of invention that currently is the African continent, I keep a close eye on CNN’s African Start-Up that airs every week. Look for yourself at the latest video from the series, you won’t be able to help feeling in awe of this high school dropout’s business acumen:

There’s probably no doubt in anyone’s mind that LinkedIn is the first and foremost social networking site for professionals – and that isn’t a status it lays claim to, so much as one that its global, growing network is reinforcing through regular use. So it stands to reason that its founder would know how to improve on every cog and wheel in the professional’s handbook for hiring/getting hired, putting together a team, keeping it tight-knit and productive, and so on. That is why the news that Reid Hoffman has just published a book (co-authored by Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh) gave us such a rush here at VictorStuff – it can’t be a waste of time flicking through advice given by a pioneer in his field, one who effectively changed not only the way we interact, but the way we understand and learn to benefit from the new, modern-age employer-employee relationship.

On the Amazon page where the book, “The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age,” has been made available since July 8th, you can find an in-depth interview with its authors, where they explain the reasoning behind writing it. Briefly put, they have witnessed the so-called “family model” go by the wayside in companies of late, as the employment relationship was breaking down due in great part to layoffs that belied the model. On the back of this demise, they propose (and Reid actually put this practice to the test at LinkedIn, with great results so far) that employers form an alliance with their employees, engaging their help for only a limited time frame, a “tour of duty,” the length of which they’d agree on at the interview stage.

The paradox of the tour of duty idea is that acknowledging the fact that an employee can and might leave your company in the future improves your ability to construct a tour of duty that convinces him or her to stay.

Inc.com editor in chief Eric Schurenberg sat down with Reid Hoffman for a one-to-one discussion that would bring home the points he’s making in the book – below, you can watch one of the clips from that interview:

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And for more from Reid Hoffman, you can go check out the other enlightening snippets at Inc.com’s Idea Lab.

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This week we’ve witnessed the groundbreaking announcement by Amazon that it will make a $ 9.99 reading subscription service available for Kindle users. And, though the opening of this all-you-can-read buffet is a great development from Amazon, one-upping the slimmer stocked Scribd and Oyster, it brings reading to the same level as other activities we’ve come to do in bulk sessions: like binge-watching movies or binge-listening to songs. While the Kindle Unlimited will probably pay off for Amazon, how will it change the book landscape as we know it, and how will it fare with authors?

While this is a million-dollar question the media is abuzz with, it’s worth remembering that, at the bottom line of all this, stands a better, more streamlined reader experience – and that’s always a plus in my book.

Looking for a starter pack of books that will hone your leadership skills? Look no further than CNN’s “Reading for Leading” series, where, for instance, we could recently hear the Ernst & Young CEO heap praise on Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”.

In the video, Mark Weinberger makes a few valid points, which we should remember:

  • However much you strive, you will never have all the information needed to make a decision
  • Some of the best decision are those we make out of instinct, or those we base on our initial reaction to the problem
  • While in the process of coming to our decision, it’s crucial to pinpoint and weed out our biases.
  • Reading is important, but just as important today is prioritizing between all the information platforms at our disposal 

… In other words, you’ll need to bookmark this CNN series, but also remember to actually read the books that these leaders swear by!

Most of us frequent travelers have a pretty good idea of how long we can spend on an airplane without climbing the walls – now it’s time to rethink that, and the whole air travel business to boot! Imagine staying up in the air for three weeks! That’s how long the hybrid Airlander, a cross between a plane, an air balloon and a hovercraft, can stay up and that’s going to be the next big thing in the luxury travel industry. Check it out below:

Presumably, the sky-high costs entailed were too much for the US Army to handle, so now the Airlander is back in the British hangars, getting a make-over. The Airlander 2.0 will be bigger, better and reassigned to the travel industry – meaning, they’re hoping it will take off with the public as a cruise ship, rather than a means of transportation from A-to-B.

The voice-over ends on a futuristic note: “Luxury airship cruises – think about it!” If you’ve seen the Oscar winner animation movie Up, you’ll probably be down with the idea, but will it appeal to everyone?

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With 17 million views so far, Simon Sinek’s talk on leaders who inspire action holds third place on the TED podium, but we’d rank it first for the insight it gives us entrepreneurs into the pattern behind great leadership. Now, almost five years after this was recorded, his “Golden Circle” idea still holds true and has been stated over and over again in articles and books geared for entrepreneurs ever since. “People don’t buy what you do,” he claims, “people buy why you do it,” and he explores this further in his latest NYTimes bestseller, “Leaders Eat Last.”

Renowned author of “Start with Why,” Sinek puts Apple’s raison d’être, challenging the status quo, at the core of his presentation, proving that the quality of a product should always come second to a company’s ethos. If the “why” is convincing enough, the “what” will be embraced by customers, he reiterates, while overlaying our own biology on top of his three-pronged why-how-what structure. Give him a listen and download a chapter of his book on the makeup of inspiring leaders, for free, here.

 

 

As mobile browsing and apps are overhauling our way of engaging with the Internet, each other and the world, there seems to be a plethora of new uses of smartphone tech being discovered every day. From keeping you safe to keeping you connected, they promote the kind of control that matches everything else in our busy, tech-packed lives. And the style-conscious among them even match our eyes… With the 6th Annual Fashion 2.0 Awards now only ten months away, it’s time to get a move on putting together the most digitally dazzling attire, wouldn’t you say? So without further ado, here’s our top ten must-have wearables that not only signal the start of a paradigm shift, but also look as sleek as any fashion accessory.

1. BiiSafe Buddy – This two-way tracking device is perfect for parents wanting to keep track of their kids, but it could also conceivably take off as a key helper for caregivers assisting Alzheimer’s patients. It comes in handy at other, more mundane, junctures: when, say, you’re on vacation with friends, this device lets you see the whereabouts of everyone in your party. With this nifty little tool that you can attach to your keychain, you’ll never lose sight of your loved ones, and vice versa, again.

2. MEMI – The smartbracelet for women, which you could try out these past days at the TechCrunch Startup Alley, vibrates when a new notification comes through on your phone. That way, women won’t need to glue their phones to their hands when they’re wearing a pocket-less skirt and their jeans pockets will deflate back to their original, body-hugging line. Moreover, fashionistas will breathe a sigh of relief to learn that the bracelet looks and weighs the same as the “real” thing, instead of a cheap gewgaw.

3. Google Glass – The smart glasses from Google, we all know full well by now, with everyone from movie stars to CNN’s Richard Quest wearing them over the past months. They might just be the easiest hands-free way of accessing the Internet, playing and shooting videos, navigating through a new city and so much more – but they’ve also come into a bit of a backlash from those who fear the wearer could use the spectacular spectacles to invade other people’s privacy. Having said that, if you’re not the peeping Tom type and you take the glasses off when driving, you should be just fine with a pair of these on hand.

4. Pebble Steel – After taking Kickstarter by storm, Pebble is well on its way to cornering the smart watch market, with most techies foreseeing little competition, but for the iWatch (rumored to be incoming soon). The new and improved (with leather and metal bands) Pebble is smaller and styled to look all but indistinguishable from an actual watch – still, it’s so much more than your average timepiece! It comes with an app store of its own, allowing you to check in on Foursquare, among other things, and it instantly receives any notification pushed to your phone. Caveat emptor: it works far better with Android smartphones than iOS!

5. Samsung Gear 2 – After the Galaxy Gear Smart Watch, this recent unveiling of Gear 2 is bringing the Samsung wearable stable up a notch. You can make and answer calls from your wrist, take photos as well, play music, plus enjoy all kinds of apps you’ve previously downloaded on your phone. It can even double as a TV remote in a pinch! In fact, the only downside to this device is Samsung’s controlling hand that keeps its functionality tethered to the parent company’s smartphones.

6. The Dash – These wireless earbuds from Bragi are the perfect jogging companion! While not having to worry about wires is implied, these in-ear phones also come with 4GB of storage, allowing you to run like the wind in step with your favorite earworms, without giving your phone a moment’s thought. That, you can just leave at home, safe in the knowledge that The Dash will monitor your activity all by its lonesome, to the very last burnt calorie.

7. Nod Bluetooth – What if you could swipe through TV offerings or answer a call on your smartphone remotely, with just a flick of your finger? The team behind Nod developed this gesture-controller ring to do that and more, like typing and surfing on a tablet, all via its bluetooth connection.

8. Nike+ Fuelband – Decribed as “the perfect intersection of sport and style,” Nike’s wristband will track every movement you make, whatever your gender or age, keeping you updated on your jogs or your iron pumping through its corollary smartphone app. Have the Fuelband on your side, and on your person at all times, and you can work toward a target weight, training schedule etc. – while the inner workings of your body will look like less and less of a mystery with every new workout!

9. Cuff Jewelry – It’s being marketed as a sort of rape whistle 2.0, with its creators insisting on the security advantages to wearing it, but I’d shell out for it regardless. It’s set to hit the stands in the fall and, given the subtle, classy look of the jewelry the tech comes encased in, it’s sure to sell like hot cakes. Working much the same way as BiiSafe, the device is probably the fashion-friendliest example on this list, with a wide range of trinkets to choose from, as a mount. Come to think of it, I’d go ahead and get them all, to have a matching Cuff for my every outfit!

10. Cyborg Antenna – This gadget’s not on the market per se, it isn’t wearable as much as implanted, and it’s not multi-functional. So why am I cheating you out of a more viable and available item on this list? Because the contraption lets the user hear paintings and paint symphonies! While some might even see it as an eye-sore, the antenna sticking out of color-blind artist Neil Harbisson’s head in fact complements the eyes. It acts as an aid that lets Neil perceive colors as aural frequencies. Moreover, the spectrum he can “hear” outranges that of an ordinary pair of eyes, as Neil’s antenna lets him also tune in to infrared and ultraviolet light!

Why would we bother going out for groceries when we can print our own yummy treats at home? Why should we stress about putting our liver through the wringer when the doc can print another one for us if push comes to shove? These and similar questions may now be just a glimmer in inventors’ eyes, but you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be rolling off the tongues of the next generation. Here’s a look at how the 3D industry and the world’s best minds devoted to its furtherance are faring – here’s a hint: printing is the hottest disruptor out there and it’s progressing by leaps and bounds!

1. 3D in Outer Space – the Final Frontier?

After last year’s announcement that NASA will be firing up a 3D printer in space, Wired got in touch with all the players in this innovative project and put together a teleconference via You Tube where they could all tell us more about it. The talk brought together a NASA representative and the co-founder of Made in Space, the company that will tinker with the existing printer to ensure it’s fully operational in microgravity. So, come summer, when they’re planning the first test flight for the 3D printer, we just might be able to envision building whole cities on Mars through unmanned printer-fitted drones!

2. 3D from the Ground Floor Up!

While many of us can’t wait to get our hands on the soon-to-be pocket-size and travel-friendly 3D printer, others are shooting for the stars, by asking: how about turning the devices into construction-friendly behemoths? MIT, for instance, has been looking to silkworms in their attempt to develop the necessary tech that would put bricks-and-mortar construction companies out of business – at the same time, construction has already started on the world’s first printed house, in Amsterdam! While the added incentive of how much labor (and money) would be saved if we might print, instead of build, our houses – for the early-bird stage we’re at now, the driving force must surely be the sheer coolness of it all, the prospect of disrupting something we’ve been doing pretty much the same way since the pyramids!

3. 3D to End World Hunger?

While 3D printing is still in its infancy, the fight to end world hunger, along with the relatively smaller scale of the process, is helping move the projected “printed food” along faster than other output niches. There are already devices out there that are dedicated to molding a ready-made paste of food into whatever shape or form your heart desires – but the real victory, yet to be achieved, is making edible food out of thin air (as it were). Until we cross that bridge, here’s a first look at the “first food-safe 3D printers,” which were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, just 4 months ago:

4. 3D for Art’s Sake

Possibly the most readily tangible upshot of 3D printing can be found in art. It’s the one space where every single loopy thought can be spat out by a 3D printer and then displayed for the world to see and appreciate – working with a medium so new, artists can do no wrong. The 3D Printshow held in New York in February is one place where you can be sure to find a comprehensive collection of everything artsy-techy being printed out nowadays – but pretty soon, art scenes everywhere will be crawling with 3D-printed oeuvres.

5. 3D Organs to Make Us Whole Again!

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Amputees like Daniel Omar, pictured above, are already benefitting from the cost-effective option of 3D-printing missing limbs – but doctors are already looking further down the yellow-brick road. The next step is printing organs, which has already been achieved in Eastern China – but for the “small snag” of the printed kidneys only being viable for four months. If this tech were successful – or, rather, when – it would render UNOS’s long waiting lists obsolete and make a real dent in the many, but for now unavoidable, related deaths. Between stem cell research and printing organs, I’d say we’re well on our way to curing a sizable chunk of humanity’s health problems.

The first series devoted to entrepreneurship is – what else but – a comedy. The HBO series Silicon Valley will be eight-episodes long and, judging from the pilot that aired last Sunday (April 6), the tail end of our weekends will be a hoot from here on out! What’s it about, you ask?

It’s the show that best captures our entrepreneurial age.

 

Take a look at the trailer below and check back after the jump for a brief overview of the pilot:

The mirror series co-creator Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead alum) holds up to Silicon Valley seems pretty spot-on – if you’ve ever found yourself in the company of code-loving nerds and/or hungry wannabe entrepreneurs, you’ll recognize the “symptoms” right away. The best thing about the show is that all that social awkwardness, cryptic inside joking and general geekiness isn’t out of place here. Silicon Valley is pretty much the capital of techie-dom, so there won’t be any jokes lobbed at whip-smart programmers, because there’s no “jock,” “actress” or “average Joe” character around to make them!

Working within this convention gives Silicon Valley a certain edge over other satires poking fun at today’s growing nation of geeks (like The Big Bang Theory). 

It’s a show about a programmer’s journey from mere employee and incubator resident to startup owner. In other words, it’s pretty much a fictionalized and jazzed-up version of bytes-to-riches stories we’ve read countless times before. This particular coming of (digital) age will surely stand out through its quick-fire dialogue, irreverent humor and likable stars, as well as become the most quoted series ever to grace the pages of tech blogs everywhere.

 Entrepreneurs have now conquered another frontier. Television.

I’ll be watching for the hilarious namedropping – I have a feeling there’ll be no shortage of snappy cracks at all the bigwigs in the Internet world today. Why will you be tuning in this coming Sunday?

A self-styled “digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist” and the author of the best-seller What’s the Future of Business (WTF) Brian Solis was invited to speak at The Next Web conference in Amsterdam on where business is headed, in these disruption-prone times. His insight was forged through years of analyses of how the tech is making inroads into business, marketing, culture, society, everything really – and it boils down to a few calls to action: BE the disruption, BECOME the future, QUESTION everything!

He asks the people in the room if they’re going to let the future happen to them or strive to take it into their own hands. And he doesn’t let up until impressing on everybody that innovation has to happen in step with a complete overhaul of the old, outdated systems. They are going to be disrupted anyway, we might as well play a part in it, instead of watching from the sidelines and cry about it. In other words, if it isn’t broke… fix it nonetheless!

Out of the many, many ways the 3D printer has shown itself capable of changing the world as we know it, this innovative one that you can check out below might just be the most mind-blowing. True enough, the strength of this video made by Vimeo user J0n4s lies more with the 6 GoPro-shot pieces of footage that he spliced together, than the 3D-printed mount itself.

All in all though, this 360° panorama timelapse offers a rare glimpse, the first of its kind to be shot in video form, not just snapped, into an eagle’s-eye view. Take a gander at this fabulous eye-candy and check back after the jump for more on the “how” behind it all:

To realize this visually arresting clip, J0n4s 3D-printed a mount for all 6 GoPros he had on hand, then put each of them in its designated place and went for a bike ride. Having such a vista all day, every day might be a bit too much detail for most of us to handle – would we even be able to focus anymore? – but it makes for one killer daydream!

And now for the absolute topper, j0n4s has also shared his blueprints to building the 3D/GoPro contraption, so feel free to mimic his sweeping view of the world on your own bike! Here’s where you can download all the technical specs.

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When all the diplomatic cards have been played, all the threats have been made and all the sanctions enforced - maybe, at the end...