- NES Classic Edition can save retro gamers hundreds of dollars
- Revealing an actor’s age is illegal? IMDb website sues California
- The election was so bad Facebook thinks everyone is dead
- What happens when chatbots understand us
- Bethesda: Dishonored 2 for PC will get patch to fix framerate and mouse problems
- GamesBeat weekly roundup: Old is new with PlayStation 4 Pro and NES Classic
- Square Enix’s mobile title Final Fantasy Brave Exvius hits 8 million downloads
- This dude getting owned by Paper Mario is all of us
- Dishonored 2 is a mess on PC
- Encrypted email service ProtonMail says new signups doubled after Trump win
- Girls in Tech Amplify event will pick the best female-led startup
- Indian national game contest names 4 winners
- The DeanBeat: The game industry reacts to Trump’s triumph
- Facebook buys CrowdTangle, a social analytics tool for publishers
- Facebook to block ‘ethnic affinity marketing’ for ads on housing, employment, and credit
- Bossa Studios announces big playtest for Worlds Adrift online game
- Intento wants to build the Google for messaging and chatbot content
- MacPaw wants to reinvent the Mac App Store experience with a subscription service called Setapp
- Samsung plans to boost Tizen mobile app inventory by offering developers $10,000 cash prizes
- HTC ditches the headphone jack with the $600 Sprint-exclusive Bolt smartphone
- Facebook Messenger chief says platform’s 34,000 chatbots are finally improving user experience
- Tesla tells Germany that 98% of drivers don’t find the term ‘autopilot’ misleading
- Facebook CTO explains social network’s 10-year mission: Global connectivity, AI, VR
- BotBeat: This week’s top bot stories
- Judge orders Amazon refunds for children’s in-app purchases
- Chip trade group pledges to work with Donald Trump and fight for open markets
- Yahoo Mail now lets you import contacts from more than 200 email service providers
- Unicode Consortium proposes 51 new emojis including T-Rex, woman in hijab
- Here’s how media companies will make money with VR
- How the first person to get a PlayStation 4 feels about being the first to get PS4 Pro
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 01:30 PM PST
Retro gaming isn’t cheap.
The NES Classic Edition is now available (if you can find one). The miniature device has 30 built-in games from Nintendo’s classic system and comes with a controller … even if its cord is incredibly short. The whole thing costs $60.
Now, you may think, “Why should pay that much money for a bunch of old games?” Well, after doing some math, it turns out that the NES Classic Edition is quite a bargain. I used the site Price Charting to look at the loose item (that meaning it’s just the cartridge, no box or manual) average price of each NES game included in the Classic Edition, along with the cost of an original NES system and controller.
It turns out that just getting the games will set you back hundreds of dollars. If you went on Ebay or some other store for second-hand products, you would have to spend around $425.70 to buy all of the games that come in the Classic Edition. A console will cost about $61, while a controller goes for $15.79.
Together, that’s $502.49. You save $442.49 by getting a Classic Edition instead.
Now, that’s not to say that owning the originals isn’t worth it. They’re certainly more collectible, and you can’t display digital versions of games on a shelf. I myself love to buy old games, and have happily spent hundreds of dollars this year on everything from a Chrono Trigger cartridge for the Super Nintendo that cost $100 to a copy of Barkley: Shut Up and Jam for the Genesis that went for about $2.
But this definitely shows that despite any flaws (with that stupid controller cord really being the only one), the NES Classic Edition is definitely a good deal. And if you tell me it’s still cheaper to download ROMs onto your computer, you’re a bad person and shame on you.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 01:05 PM PST
(Reuters) – Many actors think there ought to be a law against posting their ages online, and California has obliged critics of ageism in Hollywood with legislation targeting a leading online source for information on movie and television figures.
The law, passed earlier this year, has been challenged in a lawsuit by the company IMDb, which is owned by Amazon and operates a repository of information on the film and television industry.
The lawsuit filed on Thursday in federal court for the Northern District of California alleges the legislation violates free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution.
The bill, which supporters described as an effort to prevent age discrimination, requires officials at IMDb.com to remove from the website the ages of figures in the entertainment industry, including actors, directors and writers, if those individuals request the deletion.
Actors and others in Hollywood have long complained they are passed over for roles as they get older, in an industry that values youth and beauty.
Female performers in particular say a double standard gives women fewer opportunities as they age, while men can still land leading roles in movies and television shows late in their careers.
“By the time you’re 28 you’re expired, you’re playing mommy roles,” actress Zoe Saldana, now 38 and female lead of the blockbuster film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” told The Telegraph in 2014.
The lawsuit said the law, known as AB 1687, was unfair because it was carefully tailored to apply only to the Delaware-based IMDb.com Inc, and not other sources of information such as media websites.
“IMDb shares the worthy goal of preventing age discrimination,” the lawsuit stated. “But AB 1687 is an unconstitutional law that does not advance, much less achieve, that goal.”
The lawsuit seeks a court judgment blocking enforcement of the law. It names the California attorney general as a defendant.
Brenda Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Kamala Harris, said in an email Harris’ office was reviewing the complaint.
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists lobbied for passage of the bill.
A representative for the union could not be reached for comment.
In 2013, a jury in Seattle ruled in favor IMDb in an age discrimination lawsuit by actress Huong Hoang, known professionally as Junie Hoang, who did not want her age listed on the site, according to media reports at the time.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by David Gregorio)
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 12:40 PM PST
Facebook, I know the election was bad, but we’re not all dead yet.
The alert reads “Remembering [name]. We hope people who love [name] will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate his life. Learn more about memorialized accounts and the legacy contact setting on Facebook.”
We’re reached out to Facebook for more details. And if you see a memorial notice on Facebook, proceed with caution.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 12:10 PM PST
The world’s big tech companies all agree that conversational interfaces are the next big thing. They’ve spent much of 2016 telling us about the amazing things we’ll be doing with bots in the near future.
But there’s one thing they haven’t said much about: personality.
Hey Siri, how do you really feel?
The first bot to become a household name was Siri, Apple’s ubiquitous digital assistant. We liked Siri. She had a name. She even had a sense of humor. But it would be a stretch to say she had, or has, a personality. She’s polite, straightforward … and just a little bit dull.
The same is true of Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant (who doesn’t even have a name), and most of the news and travel bots that have cropped up recently.
It’s not surprising. These bots need to work for everyone, and we all have different ideas about what’s funny and what’s annoying. Better to play it safe than create a personality some people can’t stand.
That’s doubly true when the bot doesn’t work very well. Nothing makes tech frustration more frustrating than a peppy personality, as CNN recently discovered. But the right personality can make a bot much more engaging. It’s a powerful tool — if you can get it right.
A little more conversation
The golden rule of writing conversational interfaces is: Tell people what to do next.
“What do you want to do today?” is a question with twenty different answers. Say I want to buy a red cable-knit sweater, like the one Ken Bone wore at the presidential debate. Do I respond, “I want to buy something” or “Shop for sweaters” or “Red cable-knit” or “Ken Bone”?
If your AI can deal with all of these responses, great. If not, you’re going to frustrate a lot of people. That’s why early bots talk like this:
Technical constraints have led us to simple, neutral copy. But you can keep things clear while injecting some warmth:
Or you can dial things up:
Now, the interaction feels more engaging — and it’s just as clear.
There are two corner stores near where I live in London. I always go to the same one, because I like the guy who works there. It’s not a decision I’ve thought much about. But over the years, it must have providing that store a nice influx of cash.
People choose couches and laptops and wedding dresses based on which stores have nicer sales staff, simpler websites, or better call centers. Soon, bots will be an important piece in this puzzle. You may even find yourself saying “Alexa found it for me” instead of “I bought it on Amazon.”
Some companies will probably ask us to choose which bot we talk to, like choosing the voice on a GPS in your car. (Siri already comes in male and female versions, though for now they say the same things.) Others will invent characters with rich back stories, or ask us to chat with dogs or superheroes or Roman centurions. A few of these experiences will be fun. Most of them will be terrible.
But being able to buy insurance from Homer Simpson or a sardonic poodle isn’t really what it's about.
Passing the test
As bot tech matures — and as we get used to talking to bots — the kind of interactions we have will change. Open-ended questions, like “What are you looking for?” will go from being a bad idea to a great one, because they’ll allow a bot to find out more about that customer. Just like a real sales assistant, a bot will pick up on extra information and use it.
This only happens if we talk naturally to bots. And that only happens if those bots have enough personality to cultivate a natural conversation. This is a key point: Personality isn’t just a layer of gloss that sits on top of a bot’s functionality. Done right, it can transform what a bot does.
In 1950, Alan Turing devised the Turing test, a point in AI development when humans can’t tell the difference between interacting with a human or an artificial intelligence. Right now, bots are a long way from this point. But personality will be a big part of what bridges the gap. Soon, the conversation will be worth having.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 12:00 PM PST
Bethesda’s interesting — and potentially excellent from what I’ve played — stealth action game Dishonored 2 isn’t functioning as it should on a lot of people’s PCs, but the company is working to address that.
Bethesda and developer Arkane claim the patch will focus on the framerate and mouse-stuttering problems that are affecting a significant number of players. At the moment, many PC players (at least enough to drag down the game’s Steam rating to Mixed), are reporting issues with crashes and overall performance kinks — but the framerate is the primary offender. The companies did not give a timeline for the update beyond saying it would hit in the coming days.
“We have been monitoring the PC forums and social channels and while we’re excited to hear that many of you are enjoying the game, we are disheartened that some of you are experiencing PC performance issues on some systems,” reads a Bethesda blog post. “With the feedback our support group has received, we are preparing a patch intended to provide improvements to allow for more consistent framerates on affected systems and provide an update to the mouse code for smoother input.”
These issues are coming before most professional critics have had time to dig into Dishonored 2 due to the company’s recently announced policy to eliminate pre-release game reviews of its products.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 10:45 AM PST
Welcome to another GamesBeat weekly roundup! This time, we got better looks at the sci-fi Mass Effect: Andromeda and snowboarding Steep, and we discovered how the gaming industry has reacted to Donal Trump’s presidential win.
Enjoy, and have a great weekend!
Pieces of flair and opinion
Mobile and social
Previews, reviews, and interviews
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 10:30 AM PST
The free-to-play mobile game Final Fantasy Brave Exvius has been downloaded more than 8 million times to date, according to Japanese game publisher Square Enix. And to boost the engagement, today Square Enix and Gumi are announcing an update with a limited time crossover event featuring characters from Gumi’s Brave Frontier.
The update also adds a player-versus-player gameplay mode, and a special login bonus campaign will be available to all players in celebration of the game's 8 million downloads milestone. The collaboration shows what can be done to boost mobile games after they launch. Final Fantasy has sold more than 115 million copies over time.
From November 11 through November 24, the worlds of Gumi’s popular game, Brave Frontier, and Final Fantasy Brave Exvius will collide. Brave Exvius players will venture into the Grand Gaia Chronicles through the Vortex, unlocking various reward tiers in Brave Frontier. Clearing the Overwhelming Darkness stage in Brave Frontier will unlock reward tiers for Brave Exvius players. If all reward tiers are unlocked for both games, players will receive a bonus Unison Reward.
Characters from Brave Frontier will also make an appearance in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, including Tilith, Karl, Seria, and the worldwide version-exclusive Elza. Each hero has been uniquely transformed into a pixel art version of their character and will be available through Feature Summon for the duration of the event.
PvP Mode also makes its debut with this recent update — players face off against teams formed by other players in the arena, battling head to head for the chance at in-game rewards. Players who log in between November 1 and November 30 can obtain additional daily login rewards.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 10:10 AM PST
Remember that time you complained about how unfair a game is only to find out that you really didn’t try that hard in the first place? You’re not alone.
Dion Anderson, a game streamer known as PaperBat, just had a rough experience in Nintendo’s Paper Mario: Color Splash for the Wii U. After struggling to figure out how to get past a certain area in the game, he stumbled across a solution that involved sailing through the water in a bucket until a bridge raised up. PaperBat took issue with that and started laying into Nintendo for its shoddy design because he believed that the game gave no indication that the bridge worked like that.
PaperBay’s rant did not last long because — hell, just watch the video to the right.
If you can’t see the clip or aren’t allowed to watch at work, it shows PaperBat complaining about the game not telling him about the bridge only to immediately talk to a character who explains how the bridge works. This leads him to throw down his controller in disgust with himself before walking out of the frame.
Don’t worry, Dion. We’ve all been there.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 09:35 AM PST
I’m sorry that we couldn’t tell you this sooner, but publisher Bethesda’s Dishonored 2 isn’t working that well on PC.
Players across that platform are reporting issues with optimization that are preventing the stealth adventure from performing well even on powerful, modern rigs. On top of that, others are seeing strange bugs that are causing crashing, mouse-sensitivity issues, and jittery audio. These issues have led to numerous negative reviews on the Steam PC-gaming platform, and Dishonored 2 director Harvey Smith has acknowledged that his team is looking into the problems. At the same time, this is the first major release to come after Bethesda solidified its policy to not send out early review copies to critics.
When Bethesda reached out to me a couple of days ago to ask if I wanted the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, or PC version for my review, I asked for a PC copy. Without explanation, they sent me a code for Xbox One instead, so maybe I should’ve known something was wrong. Or maybe it was an honest mistake (those sorts of thing happens). But the point is that I’m starting to see all of the publisher’s actions through the lens of secrecy. It’s easy to interpret any decision the company makes as an attempt to further obfuscate analysis of the quality of its products from the people who will spend money on its products.
In its blog, explaining its decision to withhold review copies, it used Doom as a defense.
“Earlier this year we released Doom,” Bethesda blogger Gary Steinman wrote. “We sent review copies to arrive the day before launch, which led to speculation about the quality of the game. Since then, Doom has emerged as a critical and commercial hit, and is now one of the highest-rated shooters of the past few years.”
So, I’m assuming that convinced you, the consumer, to completely end your skepticism of games without early reviews, and look at how well that is already working out.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 09:07 AM PST
ProtonMail, an encrypted email service that has previously touted itself as “NSA-proof,” has claimed that it has seen double the number of new signups since Trump’s election victory compared to last week.
The company claims that, as a Swiss entity that benefits from support from the Swiss government, it is officially neutral in terms of political leanings. “We do not have any position for or against Trump, or any position for or against any particular country or government,” the company said in a statement. “Privacy is a universal value, so therefore, there are no sides to take.”
However, ProtonMail makes its position on Trump’s impending rise to the U.S. presidency perfectly clear, one that will “put him in charge of the world’s most powerful mass surveillance infrastructure,” namely the National Security Agency (NSA).
Founded out of a CERN research lab in 2013, Geneva-based ProtonMail launched in beta in 2014, and went on to raise more than $2.5 million in funding ahead of its full global launch earlier this year. The core raison d’être of ProtonMail is to provide a secure email service that uses client-side encryption, meaning all data is encrypted before it arrives on the company’s servers.
There have been growing concerns about what Trump's election victory will mean for U.S. surveillance and encryption policy. Indeed, Trump made a number of public attacks against the technology industry during his presidential campaign — for example, he called for people to boycott Apple products over the company’s refusal to help the FBI unlock an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino killers. And the reelection of Republican Senator Richard Burr under a Trump presidency also raises concerns, given that Burr led a recent failed attempt to pass legislation that would require technology companies to build secret “back doors” into their products, permitting authorities to bypass built-in data-protection tools.
Many of ProtonMail’s million-plus users live in the U.S., so it’s interesting to note the rise in signups the company has seen over the past few days, and it is indicative of the concern among the U.S. public of what Trump may usher in once he’s in the White House hot seat.
“Many of our new users have voiced a few common concerns both on Twitter and also in emails to us,” the company said. “Given Trump’s rhetoric against journalists, political enemies, immigrants, and Muslims, there is concern that Trump could use the new tools at his disposal to target certain groups. As the NSA currently operates completely out of the public eye with very little legal oversight, all of this could be done in secret.”
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 09:00 AM PST
The nonprofit Girls in Tech has identified 10 female-led startups that will compete for a cash prize for the “next great female-founded startup.”
The second annual pitch competition will take place in San Francisco in an event dubbed the Amplify Women’s Pitch Night Competition. Girls in Tech says the female founder-only pitch competition is the largest of its kind in the world, bringing together top tech leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors.
“We want to highlight female entrepreneurship,” said Adriana Gascoigne, founder and CEO of Girls in Tech. “Many technology companies took a great first step by releasing their internal diversity figures, which only made it more apparent the need for opportunities and exposure for women working in technology. With Amplify, women don’t have to wait for companies to do the right thing; they can be their own companies and leaders. We’re proud to spearhead Amplify, where they will be able to network with top investors and business leaders in their company’s early growth stage.”
The ten finalists were chosen from over a hundred applicants from around the world. The winner of the competition will be given $10,000 funding, laptops, and six months of office space at RocketSpace.
The ten startup finalists are: AdmitSee, Dot Laboratories, Findmine, Give InKind, Indian Moms Connect, Pace Match, Penta Medical, ResultCare, Stilla, and Vidcode. Founders of the companies come from diverse backgrounds, including a medical doctor, students, and a woman who worked for the Obama administration.
Kym McNicholas, an Emmy award-winning reporter, will emcee the event. Michelle Zatlyn, cofounder of CloudFlare, will give an inspirational talk during the event, as will Magdalena Yesil, founder of Broadway Angels. The event is expected to draw about 350 people.
Sponsors include: Airbnb, Snapchat, Autodesk, Wells Fargo, Zendesk, Samsung Accelerator, Stella & Dot, OSIsoft, LoopUp, GoDaddy, Veritas, Paxata, Infor, and Glenfiddich. The competition has dozens of judges who screen the applicants.
Gascoigne founded Girls in Tech in 2007. It has more than 50,000 members and 60 local chapters.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 08:30 AM PST
India’s major game trade group, NASSCOM, held its 2016 event and named four winners for its best video games.
The event was held by India’s National Association of Software and Services Companies at its National Gaming Forum event in Hyderabad, India. The event is a sign of India’s growth in the global games market.
The Indie Game of the Year was Missing: Game for a Cause on Android by Leena Kejriwal. The Student Game of the Year was Proximity for the PC by Aditya Bhadana. And the Upcoming Game of the Year was Ultimate Parking Simulator, a mobile game from Underdogs Gaming Studio.
"The NASSCOM Gaming Forum Awards 2016 honor Indian developers creating the best video games across all platforms. The quality and innovation demonstrated from this years winners and runner-up's, shows off how far the Indian games development and publishing sector has come", said Rajesh Rao, chairman of the NASSCOM Gaming Forum, in a statement. "This years winners, MaskGun Multiplayer FPS, Missing: Game for a Cause, Proximity and Ultimate Parking Simulator, showcases the best games development talent that the Indian industry has to offer and demonstrates how brands build by Indian developers can appeal to players everywhere".
NASSCOM was set up as a trade group 10 years ago to provide a common platform to share best practices and knowledge to developers and businesses within the Indian gaming industry. The group has 1,800 members.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 08:00 AM PST
Donald Trump has many targets for change, but he hasn’t drawn his cross hairs on the video game industry yet. In fact, it’s hard to see what kind of economic impact Trump’s presidency would have on the game business, as his economic strategies seem vague.
But everybody I’ve spoken with in the game industry has a strong opinion on Trump, and they’re worried about the uncertainty. I solicited some opinions from game industry leaders, and this column is about the impassioned responses that came back.
I asked what kind of impact Trump could have on the game economy, and how game companies should respond. I also asked how game people as artists should respond.
Some people are still keeping a sense of humor. Tom Kalinske, former head of Sega of America and chairman of Gazillion, said, “On a positive note, he’s such a caricature, might be fun to see how he appears in games.”
Here are some excerpts from a small group of responders. Thanks to everyone who participated.
Kate Edwards, head of the International Game Developers Association, called upon game developers to use their influence in creating art to make an impact on society.
Michael Pachter, analyst at Wedbush Securities, looked at Trump’s impact from a purely economic view.
Trump’s divisive politics around race and women made a big impression on Dmitri Williams, associate professor at USC and a game industry executive. He said that his problem with Trump’s campaign was the “marginalization and demonization of people of color and his disrespect of women.” On this front, Williams felt the game industry was complicit over the years.
Adam Creighton, general managerPanic Button:
Aaron Loeb, president of worldwide studios and live services at Kabam:
Mike Gallagher, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association, the game industry’s trade association:
Margaret Wallace, CEO of Playmatics:
Nick Fortugno, cofounder at Playmatics:
Wanda Meloni, executive director at the Open Gaming Alliance and analyst at M2 Research:
Steve Peterson, game designer and journalist:
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 07:26 AM PST
Facebook’s latest acquisition is CrowdTangle, a startup that tracks how links are shared on social media services like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
CrowdTangle appears to be most popular with media companies — customers include NPR, the BBC, BuzzFeed, and Vox — but the service also boasts of customers across marketing agencies, sports leagues, and nonprofits.
Facebook says “publishers around the world turn to CrowdTangle to surface stories that matter, measure their social performance, and identify influencers. We are excited to work with CrowdTangle to deliver these and more insights to more publishers."
While CrowdTangle helps publishers track stories online, it’s unlikely the service will address one of Facebook’s biggest editorial challenges.
Facebook’s on-again, off-again relationship with publishers has been abrasive at best lately. And following the 2016 U.S. election, as numerous news organizations have documented and critiqued Facebook’s role in the spread of misinformation, some journalists are pleading with Facebook to improve its news feed.
CrowdTangle will live on following the deal. A spokesperson declined to share how much Facebook paid for the company.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 07:02 AM PST
Facebook is no stranger to controversy, and the social network found itself in the spotlight again last month when a report found that brands could use a Facebook ad-targeting feature called “ethnic affinities” to exclude users of a specific race from seeing certain ads.
While Facebook has argued that the tool is designed to give brands a way to “reach multicultural audiences with more relevant advertising,” that isn’t necessarily how the tool will be used. For example, a company seeking to rent / sell houses, or find employees, could in theory elect to exclude African-American or Hispanic users from seeing the ad. This revelation was controversial for a number of reasons, but chiefly because federal law prohibits ads for housing and employment that exclude people based on gender and race.
In response to the outcry, Facebook has announced it’s making some changes to how the tool works. Indeed, the company says that it is building tools that will automatically detect and disable ethnicity marketing for certain ads, specifically those involving housing, credit, or employment. “There are many non-discriminatory uses of our ethnic affinity solution in these areas, but we have decided that we can best guard against discrimination by suspending these types of ads,” explained Erin Egan, VP of U.S. public policy and chief privacy officer. “We will continue to explore ways that our ethnic affinity solution can be used to promote inclusion of underrepresented communities, and we will continue to work with stakeholders toward that goal.
Additionally, Facebook says that it will “offer more clarification and education” by updating its advertising policies to require that advertisers confirm they won’t discriminate in their advertising on Facebook.
“We are constantly trying to find ways to improve enforcement of our anti-discrimination policies,” added Egan.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 07:00 AM PST
Bossa Studios is announcing the biggest playtest to date for its Worlds Adrift massively multiplayer online game.
Worlds Adrift is an ambitious game set in a shattered world with floating islands. In the physics-driven sandbox MMO, players take on the role of survivors. They team up to build sky-ships and become scavengers, explorers, heroes or sky-pirates in a vast, mysterious open world.
This upcoming playtest adds new features, including the Shipyard where players can create unique ship designs of any shape or size, updated user-interface and controls, improved framerate, new creatures, and more.
Bossa said it is also showcasing progression mechanics for the first time, allowing players to explore the Knowledge tree to learn how to build proficiency in certain skills, discover ancient data banks filled with rewards, and unlock pieces of lore that will give players insight into the history of the shattered world.
Sign-ups start today at the game's official site, and run until November 18, with the playtest launching later this month.
Worlds Adrift is harnessing the abilities of SpatialOS, the distributed operating system for creating virtual worlds created by London-based technology startup Improbable. Using SpatialOS, Bossa Studios can create a huge universe able to provide unprecedented density of objects and items, abundant animal life with its own ecosystem, and a persistent world where actions have real consequences: ships can be stolen, wrecks can be scavenged and each island's forests and animal life can flourish or diminish.
Bossa also announced its newly revised and expanded Island Creator, available now for free on Steam. Using the Island Creator, players can create and upload unique islands, that may feature in the game itself. The simple but powerful tool set is being expanded with a host of new features for aspiring game designers to experiment with, including the ability to create complex ruins containing valuable loot, hide containers and chests that will spawn in the live game, and encode murals and ancient data banks that need to be deciphered by other players to gain powerful knowledge.
Bossa launched the original Island Creator for Worlds Adrift in April, and players have already hand-crafted over 2,000 creative islands, with more than 100 player-designed islands making it into the recent Alpha test version of the game.
London-based Bossa Studios is an indie games developer and publisher founded in 2010. It has created games such as Monstermind, Surgeon Simulator, and I am Bread.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 06:35 AM PST
As instant messengers (IM) are getting increased traction — even more than the classic internet and social networks for certain user categories — Intento offers a new way to explore their content, which is generally ignored by traditional search engines.
The startup claims to have developed “the only automatic crawl-and-search engine indexing the content of public channels and chatbots” — including those in Telegram, Viber, ICQ IM, and, since last week, Facebook.
Heavily funded by venture capitalists, the chatbot ecosystem is developing fast. According to ManyChat and ChatFuel data, more than 34,000 bots have been created for Facebook, over 20,000 for Kik, and many thousands for Telegram. “But there’s no single way to discover them. Discovery often fails in messengers and public chats as well,” Intento cofounder and CEO Konstantin Savenkov said in an exchange with East-West Digital News. “As a result, more and more messengers rely on external discovery engines that provide deep links for the web and graphic codes for scanning. There are many catalogs that use those links (e.g. Telegram Channels Catalog, Storebot.me), but their functionality is limited,” he added.
Referring to the change brought by Google in the late 1990s, when manually curated catalogs were used to search information across the web, Savenkov added, “For messengers and chatbots, a similar curation approach could work when they were just hundreds or thousands. It is not enough anymore. Intento and its automatic crawl-and-search engine solve this problem.”
The demand for such function will be all the more considerable as business activity on messaging platforms will explode, believes Savenkov, “providing a myriad of interesting things to discover.”
From ‘interface apps’ to ‘assisting apps’
In the future, Intento intends to address another issue: the lack of connectivity between apps.
“We observe a great shift from ‘interface apps,’ which enable us to do something, to ‘assisting apps,’ which enable us to delegate something to the app,” continued Savenkov. “Assisting humans requires a great deal of discovery and cooperation, and that’s something modern apps lack. You need humans to be involved multiple times before two apps can find each other and talk.”
As such, Intento is going to crawl not just the information, but the APIs and services themselves. It will let apps programmatically use the Intento search engine to discover and interact with other services.
Intento claims to have attracted some 550,000 users in October, up from 400,000 in September. “Most of our users come from organic search, and about 25 percent of the traffic is direct, meaning that people stick to Intento,” says Savenkov.
The better part of this initial audience comes from Latin America and the Middle East, reflecting the geographic influence of Telegram and Viber. By adding Facebook Messenger and other platforms, Intento expects to attract more users from other areas.
Launched in early 2016, the startup is incorporated in Delaware, U.S., but has its R&D team based in Moscow. Grigory Sapunov, a deep learning and artificial intelligence expert who worked five years at Yandex, cofounded the startup with Savenkov.
In September, Intento secured $210,000 from an unnamed Russian businessman. This funding was intended to strengthen the startup’s team, add new types of indexed data, scale infrastructure, and expand to other platforms.
This post first appeared on East-West Digital News, an international resource about innovation in Eastern Europe.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 05:37 AM PST
As Apple’s Mac App Store has exploded in size and popularity, it has also faced a growing number of complaints from developers. It can be hard to get your app discovered, there is frustration with terms of service, and updates can pose challenges.
Ukrainian-based MacPaw, maker of popular apps such as CleanMyMac, thinks it has a solution that would drastically change the way users find and pay for apps. According to Oleksandr Kosovan, founder and CEO of MacPaw, the search for an alternative was motivated by his own company’s experience on the Mac App Store.
“We're constantly thinking about how we can move forward,” he said. “We’re constantly thinking about how to make the ecosystem better.”
MacPaw’s solution: a new service called Setapp. With Setapp, users pay $10 each month and receive unlimited access to a suite of curated apps forever. No in-app purchases. No need to possibly pay for upgrades. And the apps are already in a folder on your Macbook if you want to download and install them.
Kosovan said he has a lot of love for Apple and the Mac. His company has built a nice business over the past eight years, one that brings in $25 million in annual revenue with its own software for the Mac.
But MacPaw has also been frustrated by some of the limitations of the Mac App Store. He noted that there is no ability to try software before you buy it — beyond the ability to try stripped-down versions with limited features. Refunds are not allowed. And finding the right software through search, customer ratings, and reading descriptions can be time-consuming and frustrating. That means that many developers don’t even put their software in the Mac App Store, preferring to sell it directly.
Earlier this month, MacPaw began its private beta testing of Setapp, which the company believes reduces risk, creates more flexibility, and delivers a better experience for developers and users.
MacPaw is in the process of signing up partners, but 45 developers have already made their software available for the subscription service. On MacPaw’s end, the team tests the software and evaluates it before inclusion to ensure the quality is high, he said.
Users who sign up for the subscription download the Setapp software, which creates a folder on their Mac. Inside the folder is the suite of apps. Users can then click on any app to install it. They continue to have access to the software and the folder as long as they are paying for the subscription, and updates are delivered continuously.
“It’s always up to date and you don’t have to pay extras,” Kosovan said. “We want to go away from major upgrades, but rather [offer] continuous updates so you always feel like you have the latest version.”
Kosovan said developers of the apps in Setapp are still allowed to sell their software directly to users, or via the Mac App Store. There’s no exclusivity.
“We see this as an additional opportunity,” he said.
The company has funded the development on its own, so far. It hopes to launch a closed beta to more customers next month, followed by a public launch in late January. It’s still hoping to sign up a handful of additional developers to be part of the beta and launch.
This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 05:17 AM PST
Samsung has revealed one of the ways it plans to entice developers to port apps over to Tizen — by giving out cash prizes for the top apps each month.
With the Tizen Mobile App Incentive Program, Samsung is offering developers a substantial $10,000 prize if they can edge their app(s) into the top 100 most-downloaded apps from the Tizen Store. This is a sizable investment by Samsung, amounting to $1 million each month from February through September, 2017. But it’s indicative of the current state-of-play with Tizen as a platform.
The “Android-alternative” open-source, Linux-based operating system (OS) has been a core part of Samsung's smartwatches, TVs, cameras, and the company's push into the internet of things (IoT). But in terms of smartphones, Tizen has been limited to just a handful of devices, with India a key market for the OS.
Back in August, Samsung announced the Z2, a $68 device and the first Tizen-powered 4G smartphone, but a high-end flagship device has yet to make it to market. Though rumors abound that a flagship is in the works, in an interview with GamesBeat back in May, Mihai Pohontu, vice president of emerging platforms at Samsung, said that Android would remain its OS of choice for high-end devices. “Tizen is becoming more important for us — it's one of the ways we can sell smartphones at very low cost in emerging markets,” he said. “Also, Tizen powers our TVs. It powers our wearables and IoT. It even powers our security solution, KNOX. We're very serious about Tizen. It's a wonderful operating system. We're committed to Android, though. Our high-end handsets will run Android for the foreseeable future.”
For Tizen to flourish on mobile phones, it needs a strong ecosystem, one that developers embrace. Offering $10,000 cash prizes is certainly a huge incentive, but whether a nine-month push is enough for Tizen to achieve scale in the long term remains to be seen. “As a committed leader of the Tizen platform, we strive to further benefit, expand upon and evolve the Tizen ecosystem,” said Woncheol Chai, VP of global product management, at Samsung. “We're excited to launch this new incentive program to help develop and bring the best of mobile apps to the Tizen community as well as provide customers with a better mobile experience.”
Today’s news comes less than a month after Samsung announced the Tizen App Challenge, a reward program that offers Unity game developers $185,000 in cash prizes for porting their apps over to Tizen from Android and iOS.
The latest program is open to new apps, as well as those already available in the Tizen Store, but all developers must first register their apps in the program here.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 03:49 AM PST
As we reported last month, the HTC Bolt follows what seems to be a growing trend in the smartphone realm, in that it has no 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead, the USB Type C port doubles as the headphone port, and compatible headphones ship with the device. This move comes four months after Motorola ditched the headphone jack for its Moto Z flagship phones, and shortly after Apple followed suit with the iPhone 7.
There are a few other notable facets to the Bolt. For example, it is HTC’s first water-resistant aluminum device, and it’s the first HTC phone to gain support for Android 7.0 Nougat. Though it resembles the company’s recently launched HTC 10, the HTC Bolt packs a bigger screen, at 5.5″ (compared to 5.2″), and has slightly better rear- and front-facing cameras, at 16MP and 8MP, respectively.
On the flip side, the Bolt ships with the older Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM, compared to the HTC 10’s Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM.
“The HTC 10 released earlier this year was the most advanced smartphone we've ever built, so we knew we had to raise the bar even higher for Sprint's most advanced ever network,” explained André Lönne, president of HTC America. “For HTC Bolt, we took everything that was so great about the HTC 10 and made it even better. We took the award-winning design and made it water-resistant. We took the awesome audio and made it more personal. And, of course, we took the wireless speed and supercharged it with Sprint, turning HTC Bolt into a smartphone unlike any you've ever experienced."
As alluded to by Lönne, the HTC Bolt has apparently been designed to bring out the best in Sprint’s LTE Plus network, a service Sprint introduced last year that promises double the network capacity and speed and an all-round more reliable network, thanks to three-channel carrier aggregation. This allows network operators to combine multiple LTE carriers to enhance data rates and capacity — however, as of today, Sprint has only deployed it in a handful of cities, including Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Denver, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Columbus, and Cleveland.
At any rate, if you live in one of the aforementioned conurbations and are looking to check out some super-fast LTE speeds, the Bolt can be procured via Sprint for $25 / month over 24 months, or $600 up front.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 02:55 AM PST
Six months after Facebook helped catalyze the use of chatbots by launching them in Messenger, the company says the platform’s bots have overcome a rough start and are now showing dramatic improvement.
In an interview on stage at Web Summit in Lisbon this week, David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products, said there are now 33,000 developers who have written 34,000 chatbots for Messenger. Marcus acknowledged that there were growing pains, with many of the early offerings being “really bad.”
“The same things happened with the first apps and websites,” Marcus said. “The first couple of bots on Messenger were really bad. But six months in, we’re really starting to see good experiences on Messenger.”
According to Marcus, the best use cases include: Driving people toward subscriptions, facilitating small transactions, and customer service.
Now that the company is feeling more confident about chatbots, it announced this week that developers can buy ads that run in the main Facebook news feed and open threads with chatbots in Messengers. Marcus stressed that users will still be in control, and that brands can’t contact them unless the user starts chatting in the bot.
Here is the full interview with Marcus:
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 02:22 AM PST
Tesla has responded to Germany’s request to stop using the word “autopilot” in its advertising, due to safety concerns, by carrying out a survey of Tesla owners in Germany. The company says that the overwhelming majority of customers it surveyed did not find the term confusing.
Last month, German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt had asked Tesla to stop using “autopilot” in its messaging, as he felt the term implied that drivers could operate their vehicles without applying their attention to the roads. Tesla responded by saying that “autopilot” has been used in aerospace for a long time to describe a system that works in conjunction with a human operator. “Just as in an airplane, when used properly, autopilot reduces driver workload and provides an added layer of safety when compared to purely manual driving,” a spokesperson said at the time.
Without divulging exact numbers, Tesla now says that it has “worked with a third party” to survey owners of its cars in Germany to “better understand how they perceive Autopilot.” The company found that 98 percent of those surveyed “understand that when using Autopilot, the driver is expected to maintain control of the vehicle at all times.”
For the uninitiated, Tesla autopilot is a semi-autonomous “driver assist” feature that was first introduced with the company’s Model S cars, and later added to other vehicles. Though all Tesla cars produced after September 2014 have the necessary hardware to enable autopilot, the software is an additional $3,000 add-on for those who opt in. A $5,000 add-on that offers an enhanced autopilot with more cameras is also available. The technology can automate speed, steering, parking, and lane changes, though drivers are required to be on hand to take over, should the situation require it.
Tesla hit the headlines earlier this year after the first known fatality relating to its autopilot feature was made known. The driver was killed after the Model S car hit a large tractor-trailer, with Tesla revealing the circumstances that led to it: “Neither autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor-trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied,” it said.
The company recently revealed that autopilot had clocked more than 200 million miles around the world. But it’s clear there are still concerns that autonomous — or semi-autonomous — cars aren’t ready for prime time, and this is something that Tesla and other automobile and technology companies are seeking to address by increasing road-testing and, it seems, carrying out surveys.
Posted: 11 Nov 2016 12:27 AM PST
The future is almost here, but still maddeningly far away.
That was the message this week from Facebook chief technical officer Mike Schroepfer, who gave the opening keynote address at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. He explained that the social networking company was optimistic about that future, even as it knew it would stumble on the way there and must remain patient.
“These are big bets,” he said. “And you don’t make big bets without having big failures.”
The company is focused on three areas that it has been discussing publicly in recent years. The first is bringing connectivity to 4.1 billion people who are still not online. While Schroepfer talked about some of those efforts, he also highlighted the recent rocket explosion that destroyed a Facebook satellite that was meant to deliver internet access to parts of Africa.
“That’s a bummer,” he said. “That’s going to set back our work in space for a little bit.”
He also cautioned patience on artificial intelligence. As much progress as has been made, he said the ability of machines to match human intelligence is still years away.
On the other hand, he said that virtual reality is finally here, after decades of waiting. He explained that components and pricing have finally caught up so that truly immersive experiences can be delivered in a meaningful way.
Here’s a video of his full talk this week:
Posted: 10 Nov 2016 11:51 PM PST
VentureBeat's Bots Channel tracks the most important news and analysis from the exploding field of bots and messaging. Each week, we select the top stories and present them in our free weekly newsletter, BotBeat. We include news stories by VentureBeat staff, guest articles from leading figures in the bots community, and a good number of posts from a wide variety of other outlets. You can subscribe to our BotBeat newsletter to receive this information in your inbox every Thursday.
Here's this week's newsletter:
While there are more than 34,000 chatbots on Facebook Messenger, finding one you want to try can be a vexing experience. As we've reported before, there is not yet a Bot Store for Messenger. But this week, the social networking giant took one small step towards connecting users with the bots they seek by allowing developers to begin advertising them in the Facebook news feed.
Of course, Facebook's motives are self-interested. The company makes money from advertising after all. But the change is something that developers had clamored for since Facebook opened Messenger to bots in the spring. It also followed measures this summer that allowed chatbots to send subscription-based messages, as well as promotional messaging, to their users.
On balance, then, while it's hardly a giant leap towards a Bot Store, the ability of developers to promote their bots will help users find and access them.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Please enjoy this video of Facebook Messenger's David Marcus in "Bots: What are they good for?" from Web Summit 2016.
From the Bots Channel
Facebook now lets developers advertise bots in the News Feed
Facebook Messenger will begin to let bot creators buy News Feed ads to target specific groups of people, the company announced today. Beta versions of subscription messages and News Feed ads for Messenger have been available since August and September respectively. A public release and slow rollout of both features begins this week. The combination of sponsored […]
5 bots to try this week: Icon8, Azkarbot, Flow XO, Octane AI, and RooBot
This week, our 5 bots to try list features three services that our Bots Channel readers may be familiar with. Two of them, Icon8bot and Azkarbot, were featured two weeks ago. And Octane AI, which makes its debut, became embroiled in a controversy shortly after launching, as reported by VentureBeat. But it's not enough to […]
How our dumb bot attracted 1 million users without even trying
Three months ago, we released a modest chatbot that we thought could be fun to use in group conversations. The bot, which we called Roll, did one simple thing: It randomly selected a participant in the conversation as the answer to such pressing questions as "Who is the biggest flirt?" and "Who's calling the Uber?" and "Who […]
7 takeaways from the White House report on AI
The White House released a much-anticipated document entitled "Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence." Sent from the Office of the President and the National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology (or NSTC), the report is 58 pages of research, documentation, and recommendations on how the United States government plans to respond to artificial intelligence […]
You can now shop for Alexa skills on Amazon.com
You can now shop for Amazon Alexa skills the same way you shop for anything else on Amazon.com, the company announced today. Owners of Amazon Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo or Tap can find, enable, or disable skills via an Alexa skills marketplace or dedicated URLs for individual skills. The single website to find all Alexa skills launches […]
Bot community leader accused of using 100 pitch decks to help his own startup
Startup founders and some members of the Bots Facebook group are accusing its creator, Matt Schlicht, of misleading them about his intentions. In May, Schlicht asked for and received more than 100 pitch decks from entrepreneurs after offering to help connect them with investors. The furor erupted this week when Schlicht launched his own bot startup, […]
How the Bot-y Politic Influenced This Election
Nearly 20 percent of all election-related tweets come from an army of influential robots. (via MIT Technology Review)
Mark Zuckerberg just explained how close Messenger and WhatsApp are to making money
A big question investors have for Facebook is when it will start making money from its collection of standalone apps. (via Business Insider)
Samsung’s Siri killer to debut on the Galaxy S8
Partially thanks to the Note7 fiasco, Samsung has been unusually open about its next batch of flagship phones, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Note8. Owners of Note7 in some markets can replace their device for an advance discount on these upcoming phones, and now we know about one feature that will debut on the S8. (via Mashable)
Automating Your Customer Interactions: Get Ready for Chatbots
"Markets are conversations," the Cluetrain Manifesto said in 1999. Today's markets are more conversational than ever, especially as more and more companies create chatbots for messaging apps. (via Content Marketing Institute)
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Posted: 10 Nov 2016 10:00 PM PST
(By Jonathan Stempel, Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday directed Amazon to set up a year-long process to reimburse parents whose children made in-app purchases without permission, but rejected a U.S. regulator’s request for a $26.5 million lump-sum payout.
U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, issued his order more than six months after finding the online retailer liable, in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC in July 2014 accused Amazon of making it too easy for children to run up bills while playing games such as “Pet Shop Story” and “Ice Age Village” on mobile devices, resulting in an estimated $86 million of unauthorized charges.
Thursday’s order calls for Amazon to set up a notice-and-claims process beginning in early 2017 to alert parents of their eligibility for refunds, and then to reimburse them.
Coughenour said this approach “removes the uncertainty of the proper lump sum amount that the parties have vigorously disputed. Moreover, it accomplishes the goals of placing liability on Amazon and refunding eligible customers.”
Coughenour called the FTC’s $26.5 million damages request “too high,” agreeing with Amazon that it might have taken into account failed password attempts unrelated to unauthorized purchases by children.
But the judge rejected Amazon’s request to issue refunds in the form of gift cards, saying the company would “undoubtedly recapture some of the profits that are at issue.”
Neither Amazon nor the FTC immediately responded to requests for comment.
The FTC in 2014 settled similar cases against Apple and Google, now part of Alphabet, with Apple agreeing to refund at least $32.5 million and Google at least $19 million.
All three companies have improved their password and other controls to help thwart unauthorized charges.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)
Posted: 10 Nov 2016 08:16 PM PST
Let the lobbying begin. With Donald Trump as U.S. president-elect, many industries are ready to begin lobbying for their causes. And the Semiconductor Industry Association started in earnest on Thursday night, as the chip industry trade group held its annual SIA industry dinner.
John Neuffer, CEO of the SIA, said at the dinner in San Jose, Calif. that the industry is committed to working with Trump to double down on its agenda to promote technological research, expand open markets, and defend against threats such as anticompetitive behavior.
The $330 billion chip industry employs more than 250,000 people in the U.S. and is the third-largest exporter of manufactured goods. As a business man, Trump will surely see a lot of common ground with the chip industry, which Neuffer said is at the heart of a trillion-dollar electronics industry.
But the details will matter. Neuffer said that the SIA will unite to fight for policies that encourage growth and open markets around the world. He said that the industry wants to “double down” on its innovation agenda and pour more money into basic research.
Neuffer also said that the industry benefits from having open markets around the world, as that means more American jobs. Trump, however, took a protectionist stance in the presidential campaign and said he would re-negotiate numerous “bad” trade deals. Neuffer, by contrast, applauded the recent World Trade Organization agreement to eliminate tariffs on $1.3 trillion in goods, including semiconductors, and to expand access to global markets.
Perhaps in reference to arguments about trade made by both sides during the campaign, Neuffer said it was important to “rebuild the stuttering consensus on trade.”
Neuffer also said that the SIA’s agenda included a mission to “defend against risks.” He said he welcomed China’s attempts to build its own semiconductor industry, but he added, “We must ensure a level playing field.”
China is a frequent target of criticism by Trump. Neuffer noted that Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker last week gave the first federal government cabinet official speech on the chip industry in decades. The chip industry worked to build that relationship with the Obama administration over time.
Last week, President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology (PCAST) announced the launch of a new Semiconductor Working Group that will provide recommendations to address the rapid rise of semiconductor businesses abroad. Neuffer said the goal was to keep the chip industry as the “tip of the spear of technological leadership.”
SIA chairman Tunc Doluca, CEO of Maxim Integrated, said that chips are stitched into every piece of our lives.
“We are the backbone of the tech industry in everything we do,” he said. “We have to make sure that everybody understands that in the new administration. I will make it a priority to work with John to advance those priorities, especially
He said it remains critical for the industry to recruit the best and brightest young people to become engineers and bring them into the industry. Moore’s Law, which predicts that the number of components on a chip doubles every couple of years, is in its 50th year. As a driver of the industry, Moore’s Law ensures continuous electronics industry progress.
It’s getting harder and harder to uphold that law, but the winners of the industry’s highest honor, the Robert N. Noyce Award, said they believe that it will continue.
“People have been predicting its demise for many years,” said Morris Chang, founder of TSMC, the major chip industry contract manufacturer. “I said in 1999 it will last maybe 15 years. Craig said 10 years.”
Martin van den Brink, president of ASML Holding, was the winner of the Noyce Award for 2016. He said that, in terms of upholding Moore’s Law, he sees the industry making progress for several more generations. Craig Barrett, former CEO of Intel, said he was encouraged by that prediction.
The industry has seen huge mergers and acquisitions in the past couple of years.
Chang predicted there would be more consolidation of chip industry companies in the next five years, and he wondered how many of those mergers would be successful. Barrett said, “I am bullish on the semiconductor industry, and I have been my whole life. The industry is going to continue. There’s an infinite amount of possibility going forward.”
The industry remembered one of its great contributors with a video dedicated to Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, who died in 2016 and was one of the legends of semiconductor history.
Stata said that — in contrast to other areas of technology — it’s hard to find dedicated students who are inspired by chip engineering, which he said is “troubling.” He added that more work has to be done to get enough students ready to continue the chip industry’s growth.
“The financial industry has given up on startups in the semiconductor industry,” Stata said. “MIT is setting up a program, an incubator, to become a venture capitalist and provide money for projects that take time and money.”
Posted: 10 Nov 2016 08:01 PM PST
Yahoo today announced a change that makes it a little easier to find the names and email addresses you want to contact in Yahoo Mail. The Contacts section of Yahoo Mail on desktop now lets users type in their email addresses for more than 200 email service providers in order to access their contacts and import them into Yahoo Mail.
Until this point, Yahoo only let users pull in contacts from Google’s Gmail, Microsoft Outlook, Facebook, and a second Yahoo account, Yahoo senior product manager Sumeet Solanki wrote in a Tumblr post. Yahoo isn’t providing the full list of all of the newly supported services, but Solanki does call out AOL, Apple’s iCloud, Comcast, and Mail.ru.
The move comes a few weeks after Reuters reported that Yahoo scanned emails from hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts following a government request. A few weeks before that, Yahoo disclosed that it believed a “state-sponsored actor” was behind theft of data from at least 500 million Yahoo accounts.
Presumably, Yahoo wants to make it as easy as possible for people to stick with Yahoo Mail and eliminate any possible reasons to them to abandon their accounts. Last year, Yahoo made a similar effort: It started letting people use Yahoo Mail to manage their Gmail inboxes right alongside Yahoo Mail inboxes.
Verizon announced its plan to buy Yahoo for $4.8 billion in July.
Posted: 10 Nov 2016 06:25 PM PST
The Unicode Consortium’s Emoji Subcommittee proposed 51 new emojis for version 10.0 of the Unicode due out next June, among them a vampire, mermaid, flying saucer, breastfeeding woman, and a woman in a hijab.
The consortium decides which characters and emojis appear in keyboards. Unicode is used by companies like Apple, Google, Oracle, and IBM as a character encoding standard.
If approved, the hijab emoji proposed by a group that includes Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian and a Muslim teenage girl will be the first depiction of a Muslim woman in emojis provided by Unicode.
Winter sports emojis were also requested, so a curling stone and sled are emoji candidates. A man and woman in the sauna, proposed by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Finland, also made the shortlist.
In the food category, a number of new emojis — broccoli, coconut, pie, pretzel, and a sandwich — have been proposed.
A grinning smiley face with star eyes, face with open mouth vomiting, and shocked face with an exploding head are also among expressions being considered this year.
Mythical creatures are making an appearance too, with a fairy, vampire, mermaid, genie, elf, and zombie.
Emojis that did not make the cut this year include an almond, leafy greens, a face with lightbulb, and a face banging against a wall, according to emoji subcommittee member and Emojipedia CEO Jeremy Burge.
Once approved by the Unicode Consortium in May 2017, Unicode version 10 and final versions of proposed emojis will be released in June 2017. The Unicode Consortium is made up of more than 100 individuals, as well as major tech companies like IBM, Apple, Oracle, and Google.
Posted: 10 Nov 2016 06:05 PM PST
In late September, on the night of the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I made the anti-social decision to pass on an offer to grab drinks and watch at my friend's apartment. Instead, I chose to watch alone in my bedroom with a screen fixed to my face. That decision, however, wasn't too anti-social since I'd chosen to attend a virtual reality watch party hosted by Altspace, a VR startup that hosts these types of social experiences.
When I plugged into my headset, I was taken to a video game version of New York's Rockefeller Plaza, where a collection of avatar people were wandering around waiting for the candidates to show up on a giant screen suspended over 49th Street. The experience wasn't anything mind blowingly crazy — it was just people standing around New York watching a political event on TV. What was mind blowingly crazy was how much it felt like I was actually standing around in New York watching a political event on TV. While it turns out that watching debates on noiseless streets is not generally a sweet experience (in VR or not), the whole thing taught me two lessons about the future of VR entertainment.
The first lesson is the quite obvious fact that VR is better with friends. During the debate, I came down with a rather distressing case of FOMO, knowing that my friends were somewhere sharing hilarious Twitter comments and generally mocking the U.S. political process.
Companies like Altspace and others know this and are working to make their VR experiences ones you can share with your friends. (I don’t have any relationship with Altspace, by the way, it’s just the best example currently of a company doing social VR.) The first time I stumbled into how real that can feel was weeks later in EchoSpace, a VR dance party Altspace hosts on Wednesday nights. While moving around the video game nightclub, I bumped into my friend Mike (for now, the only other person I know who routinely hangs out in VR), and the ability to feel that this was actually him was stunning. Although Altspace only makes a few generic-looking avatars available to its users, I could tell from the way this particular avatar moved their hands and tilted their head, that this was distinctly Mike.
If simply hearing someone's voice and seeing a few body-tracked mannerisms is enough to convince my brain that I'm hanging out with someone I know, I can only imagine future social VR experiences that build on that sensation to make me believe I'm actually hanging out with friends.
The second lesson the VR debate taught me helps answer a question a media executive recently asked me: How the hell can a media company make any money with virtual reality?
My guess is that the future of the VR entertainment business will look more like today's events business, since users will be drawn to social experiences rather than the 360-camera filmed stuff many are pursuing today. That means traditional media companies will need to reframe how they approach VR, and it might be a good idea for a media company to go spend time with an events company — perhaps like the ones that produce music festivals. Media execs could learn from their business models and try to pick up their terminology. In VR, companies will be more likely to compete for users "paying cover" at an event than worry about customers "changing the channel."
There's already an emerging contrast between those startups co-opting the conventions of today's media business (and simply attaching VR) and those building experiences with VR as a social communication tool in mind. For example, no matter how cool it is to sit courtside in VR (and it's cool!), I'm not likely to spend much time watching NBA games broadcast into an isolating headset if I'm far from my Twitter and friends. I would, however, pay for a ticket to visit a VR sports stadium if I could be there with them.
Take more traditional entertainment like late night talk shows. Anyone who has enjoyed attending a live taping of something like the Daily Show is sure to enjoy tech journalist Will Smith's new virtual talk-show experiment, FooVR. The experience of watching The Foo Show, which invites game developers on to showcase their creations, is far more like showing up to a studio taping of a talk show than watching one on a screen at home.
What makes Foo stand out is that viewers can physically move about and pick up objects inside whichever videogame space is on hand for that episode. Smith has created an interactive "place" you can visit rather than mere content to be consumed. And soon, hopefully, I can visit with friends.
Altspace has also been venturing further into social VR entertainment by hosting performances from popular standup comedians like Reggie Watts and Duncan Trussell. Until now, a key limitation was that there was no way to record and playback these experiences. As a user, that means if you couldn't get to a headset at the right time you'd miss the show.
But expect to see new systems soon that let entertainment companies record performances and schedule opportunities for anyone who missed them the first time. Altspace, for example, announced a new system this week called VR Capture that will enable this kind of recording and playback. With this capability, users can come back and relive recorded experiences as if they were there. This means that once more of my friends are using VR, we'll have control over scheduling where and when we want to meetup for these shows.
With VR’s ability to record real experiences for later consumption, something that would be an impossibility in the real world, virtual reality entertainment will be built on social events rather than merely consuming content alone. The VR entertainment business, then, is not likely to fit neatly into current advertising-based models for broadcast and distribution.
Media and entertainment businesses may still make money producing content that users of VR might consume, but if it can't be consumed socially, it may not be much of a business opportunity.
Aaron Frank is Principal Faculty at Singularity University, where he lectures on augmented and virtual reality. He is also a technology writer with articles in Vice's Motherboard and WIRED UK. Follow him on Twitter: @aarondfrank.
Posted: 10 Nov 2016 05:18 PM PST
Three years ago, I was standing in a New York City bar that Sony Interactive Entertainment (then Sony Computer Entertainment America) had rented out for its PlayStation 4 launch event. And while I tried to get my hands on games like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I also spoke at length with Joey “Shinogu” Chiu, an acquaintance of mine.
I had no idea at the time, but Joey would go on to purchase the first of the 49 million PlayStation 4s Sony has sold so far. He would also end up as the subject of a gigantic mural that Sony would commission to celebrate its gaming properties and its fans. It’s now November 2016. I’m nowhere near NYC, but Joey has once again snagged the first Sony system by waiting in a line. This time it’s the PlayStation 4 Pro, 4K-capable gaming box that is going to amp up resolutions and framerates for PlayStation 4 games going forward.
In my review, I note that the PlayStation 4 Pro seems like a way to get someone like Joey — a diehard fan — to come out and spend another $400, but I wasn’t sure if Sony’s messaging had conveyed why he would want to do with. It turns out that he did, and that got me wondering what his thoughts on the machine are and how he thinks about the two launches.
So I asked him a few questions while he stood in line for his PS4 Pro.
“Compared to the original PS4 launch, which was lots of excitement and wonder for what was to come, PS4 Pro being a mid-gen iteration, there’s more a curiosity of how this is going to play out,”Joey said. “[And how it will benefit] what we have in our existing game libraries and how developers will handle multiple hardware options in the wild.”
When I talked to Joey last week about whether he was planning to go the debut or not, he didn’t seem sure. But he has faith that the system will have a positive effect on the quality of his games and that Sony will stand by it. Joey also likes some of the enhanced features.
“It was the assurance of software support for the new PS4 Pro that ultimately swayed me,” he said. “Can’t play hardware without software, after all, and the enhanced functions like higher quality live-streaming were really enticing to me.”
I asked Joey what he plans to do first with the Pro, and he is looking backward before picking up anything new.
“First off, I’m going to deep-dive into the games that got patched with the PS4 Pro support like Infamous: First Light, and then I’ll get into the more recent releases,” he said.
It’s a good sign for Sony that it won over Joey. Its biggest fans are the ones that made the 2013 PlayStation 4 such a huge success from its launch, but Microsoft is starting to string together some momentum thanks to strong games and competitive pricing on the smaller, revised Xbox One S. Microsoft will also introduce its own take on the PS4 Pro in the form Xbox One Scorpio, which will debut in late 2017 and have significantly more power than the Pro. But if Sony fans are already lining up alongside Joey, then the publisher may have nothing to worry about.
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