Watch European and Russian Crafts Touch Down in Mars

October 19, 2016   |   filed under Culture, Uncategorized, Video

As part of a joint ExoMars mission, the European Space Agency and Russian Federal Space Agency will be landing two spacecrafts in Mars soon. A progressing journey since March, the crew less crafts will measure hydrogen levels underneath the surface of the Martian planet, helping target ice deposits.  These sources of water would be marked for use later by human crewed missions. The landing of the two crafts will be broadcast live via stream by the ESA, beginning 9AM ET (6AM PT).  The stream will last roughly two hours, followed by update streams throughout the day.  Space reporter Emily Calandrelli will be reporting from TechCrunch on mission progress and findings.

Facebook’s $250 Million Dollar VR

October 7, 2016   |   filed under Interaction, Technology, Uncategorized, Video

Mark Zuckerberg revealed this week that Facebook-acquired VR entity "Oculus" will put forth an estimated $250 million towards new virtual reality content and a 'standalone, affordable' headset.

“More than a million people actively use virtual reality products every month,” Zuckerberg said, calling Samsung Gear VR, produced with Oculus, and the Oculus Rift “amazing” experiences. “This is happening, and we have a lot to be excited about.”

While the current Oculus setup is rigged to a PC, Zuckerberg announced Facebook's new headset will not need to be tethered to a machine.

Working with partners Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices - Oculus has made strides since Facebook bought the company for a whopping $2 billion before a single product was launched.


NBC will stream the debates and other election coverage in VR, starting tonight

September 21, 2016   |   filed under Community, Conversation, Culture, Interaction, Participation, Technology

Facebook is live streaming the presidential debates with help from ABC News, and Twitter this morning announced it will host its own live streams, courtesy of a Bloomberg partnership. NBC, however, in an effort out-tech them all, will instead stream the debates in virtual reality. Welcome to the future, where watching TV is that weird thing that only grandma still does. NBC says it’s working in partnership with AltspaceVR to launch a number of election-themed virtual reality events, starting tonight, September 21st. At 6 PM ET, you’ll be able to “tune in” (can we still call it that?) to meet NBC’s Al Roker – well, his VR avatar – where he will debut NBC’s “Virtual Democracy Plaza.” This is the VR version of the real “Democracy Plaza” at Rockefeller Center that NBC News runs during presidential election season, which includes a national map projected on the ice skating rink. Roker will be there to chat about his favorite moments from the plaza and to answer viewer questions, says the network.  Leading up to Election Night, NBC will host a variety of different VR events, including debate watch parties, Q&A’s with political experts, political comedy shows, and more. The current lineup also includes MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki, who will join on Sept. 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET to analyze the state of the election, as well as CNBC’s Sharon Epperson, host of “Your Money, Your Future” and the digital video series “Retire Well.” She will arrive on Oct. 11 to answer visitors’ personal finance questions about the election. Viewers can attend using the AltspaceVR app on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or Samsung Gear VR. However, for those who are curious but lacking equipment, a 2D version of these events will be offered via Mac and PC at Founded in 2013 and backed by over $15 million in fundingAltspaceVR officially launched its VR chat room platform in June 2015. It has since hosted a number of VR events, including film screenings, e-sports events, gamer gatherings, meetups, live concerts, comedy specials, and more. A May event with Reggie Watts in VR may have helped to prepare the startup for this forthcoming election coverage, as it drew in the largest crowd ever and saw peak usage of over 1,200 simultaneous viewers. The company admitted technical difficulties prevented some users from getting in, and the event also helped it to uncover scaling issues it still needed to address. Hopefully, those have been resolved in time for NBC’s election coverage. But we’ll find out tonight, it seems. SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH

Tumblr brings Apple’s Live Photos to the web

September 20, 2016   |   filed under Uncategorized

Tumblr today is bringing Live Photos to the web version of its service, while also rolling out tools that will allow other web developers to do the same. The company has released an open source JavaScript library it calls “Laphs” – or Live Anywhere Photos – which lets you support Live Photos on any website. To activate a Live Photo on the web, you use a click-and-hold instead of a hard press, as on mobile. Apple’s Live Photos, a file format introduced with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, are the combination of a still image and a short video which are combined to create a unique playback experience. To make this work on the web, Tumblr receives a copy of both the still image (.jpeg) and the video (.mov) after a user posts a Live Photo from their iOS device. It transcodes the .mov file to a .mp4 to make it work properly on all browsers. Tumblr then uses its Laphs solution to bring Live Photos to the Tumblr web experience, by combining the .jpeg and .mp4 files to recreate the Live Photo playback effect. Tumblr was already an early adopter of Live Photos, which appear still until pressed, using the iPhone’s 3D Touch-enabled screen. Then they animate, giving your photos a Harry Potter-like feel.  Because of Live Photos’ similarity to GIFs, which are hugely popular on Tumblr, the blogging site was quick to roll out support for the new format on mobile. In fact, it became the first third-party service to do so – even beating Facebook by weeks, and Google Photos by months. It also supports turning Live Photos into GIFs via its GIF Maker feature on mobile. Now, through Laphs, Tumblr could potentially drive further adoption of Live Photos even beyond its own site. And the company is working to bring Live Photos to Android, as well, it says. Live Photos on Tumblr’s site are marked with the Live Photo icon – the familiar concentric circles. This is found at the top left of the image in question. For example, there’s a Live Photo you can see here on Tumblr’s announcement about the new feature. To view the Live Photo in motion, you simply click on it with your mouse and remain pressing down. SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH

Two million people streamed the NFL on Twitter last night and loved it

September 19, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Community, Interaction, Participation, Social Media, Technology, Video

The NFL just released numbers on last night’s debut of NFL’s Thursday Night Football on Twitter, and they are pretty damn good. More than 2M people watched the game on Twitter, compared to 48M who watched it on TV. The average user also spent 22 minutes watching on Twitter, compared to 25 minutes watching on TV (which is the only stat that is almost identical). More specifically, an average of 243,000 people were watching on Twitter at any given time, compared to an average of 15.4M watching at once on CBS and NFL Network (the two networks showing the game on cable). While the numbers seem low compared to cable, it’s actually a pretty big win for the network, which was able to show investors and the rest of the industry that at least some people will actually watch a live streamed game on Twitter. But perhaps even more important than the numbers was the very positive reaction almost anyone had that watched the game. Thousands of people (including myself) took to Twitter to share how impressed they were with the quality of the stream – even over LTE or 4G. At certain points Twitter’s stream was even more current than cable, which can lag behind 10 – 15 seconds. Many also commented that the Apple TV viewing experience (which put a timeline next to the stream) was a great way to watch the game. One pain point some had (including myself) is that the timeline of tweets embedded next to the stream was from essentially anyone who used certain NFL hashtags. I get being inclusive, but I don’t want to see random people’s commentary when watching football. Twitter should figure out a way to make sure these tweets are high-quality content that will enhance (and not distract from) the viewing experience either by hand-curating the tweets or only showing tweets from verified users. The next question is whether the stream will bring new users to Twitter that have never used the platform before. As of now you don’t have to log in to watch the stream, but Twitter it tempting users to log in so they can comment in the livestream (which almost reads like a troll box). However, some users post last night that they had totally forgot they had a Twitter account, and the Thursday Night Football stream is what brought them back to the platform. SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH

Twitter launches on Apple TV, Fire TV and Xbox One

September 14, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Community, Interaction, Participation, Social Media, Technology, Video

Twitter needs to figure out a way to continue to grow — and it certainly seems open to looking into a lot of new places outside your phone to figure out how to do that. Today, the company said it is launching an app on the Apple TV, Xbox One and Amazon Fire TV, which will allow users to view Twitter content through the apps on their televisions. That includes live streams of 10 NFL Thursday Night Football games, as well as other live streaming footage that’s available on Twitter. On the Apple TV, users will be able to view live streaming and top tweets side-by-side on their televisions, as well as top Vines and Periscopes. So this is an interesting one for a couple reasons: First, it opens up a whole world of live streaming content to Apple TV and such owners. That’s going to be a boon for cord cutters that are always on the hunt for new content, and as Twitter continues to sign new partnerships with organizations like the NFL for additional live streams, it’s going to open a lot of doors to new content for people that aren’t interested in investing in cable subscriptions. Secondly, and also eyebrow-raising, the company said that people don’t need a Twitter account, nor cable or satellite subscriptions, to access HD Streams. It’s worth paying attention to its so-called logged-out users, which are harder to track and target due to a lack of an interest graph. But those users can still consume Twitter content — and a lot of that content is likely consumed through distribution in front of logged-out users. Twitter has an opportunity to get its content in front of a ton of new eyeballs with an app like this. Instead of simply treating the app as something that serves as a bit of a second screen, it shows the company is willing to explore new kinds of form factors and potential platforms to get the best of Twitter in front of as many people as possible. For example, just a few days ago Twitter launched an Alexa app. With that app, users can listen to the latest tweets and contents through an Echo speaker. Again, we’re talking about a new form factor — and it again shows that Twitter is clearly interested in looking beyond just the traditional second screen experience it’s been known for. (It also speaks to the increasing importance of the Alexa ecosystem, but that’s a bit of a different story.) As usual, the more eyeballs it attracts, the more advertising it can attract and partnerships it can continue to sign if it shows that it’s able to create a highly engaged audience around live events. An app tied to live streaming on the Apple TV, of course, makes a lot of sense because live events have always been Twitter’s sweet spot, whether that’s the Super Bowl or the Olympics, or the election. Twitter’s core app growth is clearly stalling a bit — and it’s punishing the company, with its stock down almost 35% in the past year, and plenty of quarterly misses to go along with it. It’s going to have to get creative in order to re-ignite growth and show the world, and Wall Street, that it can be a strong independent company that can deliver positive results. And that willingness to step out of a comfort zone may be a good sign that, at the very least, they’re going to look for the next generation of the Twitter experience beyond just 140 characters. SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH

Amazon adds another Prime benefit: free podcasts from Audible Channels and free audiobooks

September 13, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Community, Conversation, Culture, Interaction, Participation, Technology

Amazon this morning rolled out another perk for subscribers to its Amazon Prime membership program: free access to Audible’s short-form digital programming called Audible Channels, as well as a selection of free audiobooks. Amazon says members will have access to a rotating selection of over 50 audiobooks from Audible’s catalog. That’s similar to how the Kindle Lending Library also works – members don’t get to check out just any book, but instead can pick and choose from a selection of those available for lending. The audiobook selection will include a mix of best sellers, family favorites, and celebrity-narrated classics, the company says. Audible Channels, meanwhile, is a newer service Amazon-owned Audible launched in July, which aims to tap into consumers’ growing interest in podcasts and other audio programming. However, Channels isn’t exactly a podcast service, but rather features a mix of bite-sized, ad-free content from original content producers, as well as spoken-word recordings from publishers like the The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Foreign Affairs, Charlie Rose, McSweeney’s, The Onion, and other periodicals. Audible Channels also organizes some of its content into 20 Audible Playlists, like the “essential stories of the day,” meditation, as well as commute-sized comedy, and compilations on science, history, technology and more. This is the first time Amazon has really leveraged Audible, a company it acquired by in 2008 for $300 million, in order to boost its Prime membership numbers. While it had made discounted trial subscriptions to Audible available at times, it never actually gave away Audible’s content for free like this. The rollout of free audio comes at an interesting time for Amazon, as its voice-powered platform Alexa is really taking off. Audible Channels and free audiobooks are just the sort of programming it makes sense to offer on Alexa devices, like Amazon’s Echo speaker and others. That could be the little extra nudge customers need to either buy an Echo speaker, subscribe to Prime, or both. Amazon Prime today has an estimated 63 million subscribers, and includes a growing range of benefits, including free, 2-day shipping, unlimited photo storage, free streaming TV and movies, free access to Kindle e-books through the Lending Library, free music through Prime Music, exclusive access to discounted deals, and more. SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH

Twitter launches an Alexa app

September 12, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Community, Culture, Interaction, Participation, Social Media, Technology

Too lazy to read your tweets? Now, Amazon Alexa can just read them to you instead. Yes, that’s right: Twitter today has launched an app for Amazon’s voice platform Alexa, which means you can listen to the latest from Twitter right on your Echo speaker or other Alexa-powered device. The new app can give you general information on trends, or deliver information from your own account, says Twitter. According to the app’s description (or its “Skill’s description, in Amazon parlance), you’ll need to authenticate with your Twitter account in order to get started. Afterwards, you can launch the app by saying “Alexa, open Twitter.” The virtual assistant can then read your home Timeline to you, as well as your Mentions, Retweets, and Likes. As with other Alexa Skills, you’ll have to learn how to ask for these items, by saying things like “Alexa, ask Twitter for my own tweets,” “Alexa, ask Twitter has anyone retweeted me?,” “Alexa, ask Twitter for my Mentions,” “Alexa, ask Twitter what is happening?” and so on. In addition, the app can provide more general information from Twitter’s service, like the current trends or the local trends — meaning, trends for your particular location (e.g. “Alexa, ask Twitter for trends in Seattle”). None of this seems to be a particularly efficient way to consume the rapid-fire information that’s published to Twitter’s network, but the fact that Twitter felt compelled to launch an app on Alexa speaks to the growing importance of Amazon’s voice computing platform in consumer’s lives. As of June, Amazon said there were tens of thousands of developers working on Skills for Alexa, whose app store had grown to house over 1,400 of these add-ons. Of course, we all wish that Twitter was spending its time building a feature that would let us edit our tweets, instead of rolling out things like Read Receipts for messages (the horror!) or new ways to hear our tweets read aloud, but I guess Alexa was a box the company felt the need to check. You can switch on the new Twitter Skill in the Alexa app on mobile or web, then authorize it to access your Twitter account. SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH

Adobe reveals video collaboration, VR and animation updates for Creative Cloud

September 6, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Participation, Technology, Video

Adobe has a host of new features for its Creative Cloud video tools it’s debuting at IBC 2016 this week. The improvements include new team collaboration features, as well as new improvements to its VR video workflow, as well as updates to its beta Character Animator software. There are also performance improvements throughout, hopefully helping speed up your video editing workflow. The new collaborative features let teams working on Premiere Pro, After Effects and Prelude access shared Team Projects, which can operate without dedicated server hardware. They include smart version control, including automatic intelligent conflict resolution so that even when you’re all working on the same files no one’s rewriting one another’s work. Reversions are made easy in case there are any issues, and Creative Cloud or local storage of project files are both supported. You can also easily turn legacy project into Team Projects. Beyond the team-focused features, there’s a big emphasis on tools built for VR, 3D and animated content creation. One big new change for Adobe Premiere is that it will automatically detect VR source video on ingest and correctly set it to either stereoscopic over/under, left/right or monoscopic output and apply the right settings. Newly improved Live Text Templates make it easier to work on lower thirds and other simple motion graphics right within Premiere without jumping out to After Effects, and there’s a new file format for Live Text Templates that makes for easy sharing (even if you only have a Premiere license, and aren’t a subscriber to After Effects). It’s generally way easier to create and edit captions, as well as target other languages, which is huge for the growing trend of silent caption videos for use on Facebook. Adobe is also bringing more of Audition’s fine-tuning features to Premiere for direct audio editing, which further helps with making it a one-stop solution for your entire video editing workflow. Premiere also gets a Behance publishing option, giving you an easy way to post your videos directly to your portfolio on the Adobe-owned creative professional network, and support for HDR10, which will let creators better control how their content looks on HDR-enabled TVs and other displays. After Effects gets a new 3D Render Engine, which is designed to improve rendering performance across a range of devices from low-end to high, and other improvements to the workflow tools now allow real-time raw footage playback, dropping the need for a preloaded cache. More features now take advantage of GPU acceleration, too, to speed up those times when you have to wait for an effect to process and load. Adobe Character Animator, which was launched as a public preview last year, also gets some updates (as well as a ‘Beta’ tag in place of the ‘Preview’ label). The software almost magically lets you use your computer’s webcam to animate a cartoon puppet of your own creation, which is terrific for creating quick and easy animated segments. The new updates include faster puppet creation, letting you “mash-up” different body components from different illustrations to generate a range of puppets more quickly. It’s also easier to edit using Photoshop and Illustrator with a better round-trip workflow. I still think this is one of the coolest things Adobe has done in recent memory, so it’s great to see it getting some attention. Audition gets some improvements, too, though these are focused more on highlighting existing features for new users. Onboarding walkthroughs will now show new users how to remove background noise or produce a podcast, for instance, among other tasks. It’s a good idea for a powerful piece of software than can seem a tad inaccessible at first glance. All of the updates announced today are currently planned for a roll-out via Creative Cloud sometime before the end of 2016, though specific availability dates have not yet been announced. SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH

Twitter adds new ways to monetize live video via Periscope

September 2, 2016   |   filed under Uncategorized

Twitter announced a new monetization option today, adding live Periscope content to its monetization options, which lets approved creators and brands earn a share of ad revenue on their media posts. Including live content produced via Periscope in the program is new, and the first partners to take advantage are Chase and Grey Goose, which are creating broadcasts with tennis legend Andy Roddick to coincide with the U.S. Open. Roddick will be tweeting his broadcast to followers using the #USOpen hashtag, and he’ll be offering up commentator-style perspective on matches, with the aim of supplementing the actual live broadcast of the tournament itself. He’ll also be fielding Q&A from his audience, again transmitted live via Periscope and Twitter. It’s a pilot example case designed to help illustrate how brands and other content creators might be able to take advantage of Periscope as a mechanism for delivering sponsored content and reaping the reward in the form of shared revenue. Twitter claims an “industry leading” revenue share arrangement with participating content creators, but doesn’t specify the actual numbers behind the breakdown. A CNBC report claims a roughly 70-30 split in the creator’s favor, citing an anonymous source. SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH