SPACE wants to move your office into VR

June 28, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Culture, Interaction, Participation, Technology, Video

Virtual reality can be used for a lot of things — and if Pygmal Technologies gets its way, you’ll be spending your office hours with a VR headset strapped to your face. It’s almost like Minority Report, except with Excel spreadsheets and TPS reports on six virtual monitors hovering in thin air in front of you.

Gone are the days that you could only have two or three monitors due to lack of space on your desk; SPACE simulates up to six screens at the same time. You can use and interact with the screens like you would anything else in a VR world. Once the product comes out of beta, the company says, the six-screen limitation will be lifted, so you’ll be able to surround yourself with as many screens as you like.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’d have to try this before I can become duly excited about the tech. Pygmal describes SPACE as “the future of work,” but honestly, it sounds like an insufferable hellscape — even if it’s possible to overlay the visual displays over a beach scene.

“As a software engineer, I use two 24-inch monitors daily at work,” says Xiao Jia, CEO and creator of SPACE, explaining how he came up with the idea. “I have tens of files I use at a time and switch between them. With just the VR platform and compatible goggles, users can work in the VR world — no more cluttered multiple windows and multiple large monitors required.”

For a preview of what it all looks like, check out the video.

And if you’re ready to try, here’s the Beta 


Facebook Live grows up with two-person broadcasts and waiting rooms for viewers

June 27, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Conversation, Interaction, Participation, Social Media, Technology, Video

Last Thursday at VidCon Facebook pre-announced three new big product updates for Facebook Live, their live-streaming platform built into Facebook. The platform will soon let you do two-person remote broadcasts, pre-schedule your streams and create a virtual waiting room for viewers and broadcast with MSQRD’s face masks.

Broadcast with a friend

The first upcoming update is the ability to stream a broadcast with two people in different locations — sort of like a remote interview.

Essentially, you can invite a friend to “drop in” on your broadcast and join the conversation. Mark Zuckerberg hinted at this during his Live Q&A last week, noting that it would be cool if he could have different guests and celebrities participate remotely in his Live videos.

The ability to stream with a friend will let content creators incorporate things like remote interviews and duets into their live videos, which will greatly expand the creative possibilities offered by the platform. This feature will go live later this summer, starting with Verified Pages, then roll out to other users.

Waiting rooms and pre-scheduled broadcasts

The company is also introducing waiting rooms, letting users hang out and wait for a broadcast to start. Content creators can pre-schedule the time they are going live, which will allow Facebook to send users a notification before the stream starts so they can be waiting when you go live.

This solves an issue TechCrunch has previously covered, which is that broadcasters don’t want to actually start their broadcast until a lot of people have tuned in, but early viewers leave because they get bored with watching the broadcaster wait for new users. It’s essentially a chicken and egg problem, and was a major issue for content creators on the Live platform.

Now, Facebook can get users excited and assemble them before the actual live-steam starts, so broadcasters have a full audience the second they go live.

Go live with a mask on!

Lastly, and on a more fun note, Facebook is adding the ability for users of the MSQRD app to go live on Facebook directly from the app.

MSQRD is the video filter app (similar to Snapchat’s lenses product) that Facebook acquired in March. Once the update launches, users will be able to try on different masks and effects from within MSQRD, all while the footage is being broadcasted live to your friends.


Tumblr to launch live video on Tuesday

June 20, 2016   |   filed under Community, Culture, Interaction, Social Media, Technology, Video

Twitter has Periscope. Amazon has Twitch. Google has YouTube’s live streaming. And Facebook has Facebook Live. Now, Tumblr is getting into live video, too. The company is preparing to launch a new live video feature on its service, beginning tomorrow, which will introduce a series of live broadcasts as well as a user-facing feature that could compete with Facebook Live, among other things.

However, Tumblr has yet to formally announce any official details about its forthcoming live video offering.

In addition, while there’s no indication on the blog that confirms this is an official Tumblr effort as opposed to that from a third-party, we’ve confirmed with sources that these are ads from Tumblr itself designed to promote the live video launch.

In the debut post on the Live Video blog, Tumblr briefly flashes what appears to be a schedule of live broadcasts it’s planning to air. Subsequent blog posts tease several of these upcoming streams, including things like a live broadcast from the surface of Mars, a Q&A session with Adam J. Kurtz, a basketball lesson from a Harlem Globetrotter, and some designed-to-go-viral events, like the odd announcement: “We will inflate a very big thing in a very small room.”

Another broadcast indicates that users will “learn the metaphysical truth about your Tumblr,” for whatever that means.

Beyond these community events centered around live video, we hear that Tumblr will introduce a user-facing feature for live video, too. This effectively would position the blog service to better compete with the tools for real-time content that users access today via Facebook Live or Periscope, for instance. However, what’s still unclear are the technical underpinnings – that is, if the feature offers a natively-built live streaming option, or is meant more as a tool that interoperates with existing live video services.

It’s likely that these live streams will be viewable in the mobile app or web browser, but then archived as video that can be played back at any time after the live stream wraps.

This is not all Tumblr has in the works around live video, we’re hearing. The company plans to introduce a larger strategy for real-time content on Tuesday.

The move comes at a time when Tumblr has been struggling to make good on its ability to generate the revenue parent company Yahoo hoped for when it acquired the service, in a risky bet to move into social and reinvent the Yahoo brand. Tumblr never hit the $100 million in annual sales goal set in 2014, according to a recent story on Mashable that focused on Tumblr’s many problems post-acquisition.

That said, it’s unclear to what extent live video can help to boost Tumblr’s popularity, user engagement, and ultimately ad dollars, as it will now be one of many live video options on the today’s web.


Apple Might Have Just Made Siri Into Something Really Good

June 17, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Interaction, Social Media, Technology

Until now, SIRI’S been little more than a slightly sassy sidekick for iPhone users. It’s gotten better over time, in the sense that it’s more accurate in understanding what you’re asking, but it’s not a whole lot more useful than it was at launch.

Today, though, Apple made a big move to make Siri work for more people, by opening it up to third-party developers and bringing Siri to the Mac. Long-term, this means you’ll be able to connect Siri to the apps you actually use, instead of having to use Apple Maps and Apple Music and Apple Mail and all the other apps that Techcrunch’s David Pierce stuck into a folder marked by the poop emoji.

Not only that, you’ll be able to use Siri on your PC, to make a lot of simple actions easier: adding things to your calendar, doing quick research and calculations, setting reminders, playing music, even searching your computer. Siri can search Finder, finding you files from last week about the offsite and then showing you the ones you tagged as draft. Click on a button and it pins into your notification center, for easy finding later. The voice assistant can do more on the Apple TV as well: Siri has improved topical searches for movies and TV shows (“Horror movies from the ’80s”) and you can now run voice searches for YouTube videos.

For the things Siri does well, it’s an unbeatably fast interface. Now Siri can do more things, and do them more places. Maybe Siri can fix its bad rap after all.



Pokémon Go could be released by the end of July, Go Plus accessory to cost $35

June 15, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Community, Culture, Interaction, Participation, Social Media, Technology

We already know a good amount about Pokémon Go — the crazy, augmented reality Pokémon game for iOS/Android built by the team behind Ingress. Hell, Techcrunch’s Greg Kumparak has played it!

But one thing is still a mystery: the release date. The company has been super quiet about the launch timing, but it seems some details just trickled out…

In a livestreamed Q&A panel between Nintendo, The Pokemon Company, and Niantic’s developers this morning, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto caught everyone off guard by dropping details on the release target for Pokemon Go Plus, the optional hardware accessory meant to act as a sort of physical tie-in to the game for when your phone isn’t handy.

Miyamoto says the Go Plus device should be available by the end of July, at a price of $34.99.

You could see much of the panel shifting a bit in their seats, realizing what that implied: if the companion hardware (which requires the game if it’s going to do much of anything besides look cool) is going to ship by “end of July”, the game should probably be out by then too.

Tsunekazu Ishihara, president and CEO of The Pokemon Company, responded quickly [via a translator]: “Mr. Miyamoto, I think you just announced the release date of the Go Plus device… and, obviously that means we’ve gotta have the application out there ahead of time.. So, we’re going to have to work hard to get it ready for everyone.”

So it’s not a concrete release date, but its just about the closest thing we have to one. A rep for Niantic told TechCrunch they “Don’t have a final launch date to share for the app itself yet :(”

Ishihara also confirmed a detail Techcrunch’s Greg Kumparak first noted in his initial writeup of Go: players won’t be able to trade Pokemon at launch, but the feature is being added sometime thereafter.

In case you’ve missed it: Pokemon Go is a conceptual departure from the Gameboy/DS games many of us know and love: rather than roaming an on-screen world in search of Pokemon, Go has you roam the real world and search for Pokemon through the augmented reality lens of your iPhone/Android phone’s camera. Check out Greg’s hands-on with it here.

SOURCE: TECHCRUNCH tries to bring that live TV thrill to online video

June 13, 2016   |   filed under Community, Conversation, Culture, Interaction, Participation, Social Media, Video is bringing some of the communal feeling of watching regular TV — you know, the sense that people are watching along with you – to the experience of streaming online videos.

“Watching videos alone is boring,” argued CEO Kareem Rahma.

The New York-based startup was previously known as NYC.TV, and it was supposed to recapture the “anything goes” spirit of public access television by funding local video creators. After NYC.TV ran a successful Kickstarter campaign last year and used that money to fund some New York-centric videos as promised, Rahma said the audience interest just wasn’t high enough.

So now the team is working on — it’s also inspired by the traditional TV-watching experience, but in a different way. The site aggregates videos from other platforms and lines them up as channels with names like Strangely Satisfying, Simpsonwave and Fashion Mag.

Everyone watching a channel is watching the exact same video as everyone else, and they can also chat in real-time with the other viewers. It’s like watching an episode of, say, Game of Thrones as it airs and talking about the developments as they happen — not on separate platform like Twitter, but alongside the video itself.

But I wondered: Is this channel-based model any different from old-fashioned TV? Isn’t it kind of a step backward as online videos moves to on-demand viewing?

“Instead of forcing [viewers] to watch 30-minute shows or reality television, we’re just serving up their favorite Internet videos,” Rahma replied.

In other words, in his view, what differentiates from regular TV is the fact that “the content is 100 percent different.” And compared to finding videos on, say, your Facebook feed, the experience is “more of a concentrated approach … without everything constantly distracting you.”


Facebook unlocks tilt-viewing of your panoramas with “360 Photos”

June 10, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Community, Culture, Interaction, Participation, Social Media, Technology

No more frustrating zoom-in/zoom-out. Facebook finally made a modern way to view panoramas and VR photos with your phone. Its new feature “360 Photos” rolls out tomorrow on iOS, Android, web, and Gear VR, and it will democratize creation of 360 and VR content. You can see Mark Zuckerberg’s example here from the top of One World Trade Center.

Upload an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy panorama, or photo from 360 apps or cameras like the Ricoh Theta just like any other image, and Facebook will convert it into a 360 photo. People who see a 360 photo with the compass icon can scan around it by tilting their phone or click/tap-and-dragging. And those with a Gear VR handy can hit the “View in VR” button in the top left corner, pop their phone into the headset, and look around by moving their head.


Facebook already has celebrities and publishers lined up to share 360 photos. You’ll be able to check out the International Space Station with NASA, look out a crowd of 100,000 fans while standing beside Paul McCartney, or go behind-the-scenes at the Supreme Court with The New York Times.

The social network’s product manager Andy Huang writes that “We introduced photos on Facebook more than a decade ago, and they quickly became one of the main ways that people share their experiences.” But Facebook believes video, 360, and VR are the future of sharing, so the feed is adapting. Perhaps one day Instagram will get 360 support too.

Facebook’s history as place to upload user generated content could help it win this frontier of social media. Snapchat doesn’t let you broadcast uploads, and Twitter is still thought of as a text-focused platform. But if great 360 content becomes prevalent on Facebook, it could give users another reason to keep coming back each day.

Meanwhile, 360 represents a novel opportunity for brands to create eye-catching marketing. Expect movie sets, tourism destinations, and more to end up as 360 photo ads.

Facebook first announced the new feature last month alongside the fact that the Samsung Gear VR has 1 million monthly users. But a big problem is that users are running out of content to view from big game and cinematic experience studios.

Facebook tried to answer this problem by building its 360 Surround camera and open sourcing the designs so professional creators with $30,000 and some elbow grease can build their own top-of-the-line VR capture device. But by letting average users create VR-viewable content, Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear headsets could stay interesting.

See Facebook’s demo video of it here


Apple’s live photos meet Google’s new app to make your photos less shaky and more awesome

June 8, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Participation, Social Media, Technology, Video

Apple’s Live Photos are, by design, something most people don’t really think about. You just take your still photos as you always would, and iOS automatically captures a bit of footage from before and after the photo was taken and turns it into a little animation.

Sometimes these animations are amazing – little coincidental gems that you never would’ve nabbed otherwise. Often, though, they’re blurry, shaky messes that you won’t want.

Google just released an app to try and fix this.

Called “Motion Stills”, the new app exists pretty much solely to improve your Live Photos. Borrowing much of what Google has learned from its video stabilization efforts on YouTube and other projects, the app analyzes your Live Photos and does a bunch of crazy stuff in no time flat:

  • Throws out blurry frames, and tries to crop out bits where you’re just putting your phone back in your pocket
  • Determines what’s in the background and what’s in the foreground and actually isolates them for better stabilization (note the intense parallax effect between the barn and the hills behind it in the stabilized GIF below)
  • Tries to determine the best start/end point for the loop
  • Makes a GIF for you to share

The app only exists on iOS for now — which makes sense, given that Live Photos are pretty much exclusively an iOS thing. Third parties have been working on their own alternatives to Live Photos for Android, but none really reign supreme.

With that said, this does further propel the idea that Google’s engineers are becoming more and more interested in iOS – it’s the second Google app in recent history to land on iOS first, following the May release of their (rather friggin’ good) iOS keyboard, Gboard. While Gboard borrows much from the Android keyboard, it also does quite a bit that the built-in Android keyboard doesn’t yet — things like GIF search, or emoji auto suggestions.

You can find Motion Stills in the iOS app store right over here.


This app builder is letting students turn their ideas into apps for free

June 6, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Community, Interaction, Participation, Technology

In 2016, everyone and their mother has an idea for an app. This is especially true on college campuses, where starting an app has seemingly replaced beer pong as the most popular extracurricular activity. The only problem is that there are far fewer developers than ideas, and no CS major is going to turn your napkin sketches into a full-fledged app for a 3 percent stake in the business.

That being said, the trend of students starting companies (app-based or not) is great. It provides a type of entrepreneurial education that is unobtainable in the classroom, and can even spur the economy if it turns into a full-fledged business.

So to help non-technical students get started, Bizness Apps, a DIY app development platform, has been giving free access to any student with a .edu account.

In the first few months about 30,000 students have registered for the platform, and the company has partnered with entrepreneurship departments in about 50 universities to onboard students.

What exactly does access to the platform get them? Either the tools to build an app for their own startup, or the ability to use Bizness App’s white-label solution  and sell apps to local small businesses, which could be a business in its own right.

But why is the company giving away a tool that normally costs $59/month per app, plus an optional $2,000 design fee for the white-label portion of the platform?

Mainly because Bizness Apps was started while its founders were still in school. Andrew Gazdecki, co-founder of Bizness Apps, explained that starting a company in college changed his life, and “if [he] can help one student do the same I would consider this mission accomplished”.

Of course, the more students using the platform, the stronger word-of-mouth promotion the company will get. But ultimately, the company is genuinely interested in helping create as many student entrepreneurs as possible. And in this app-crazed world we live in giving students access to an app-builder is probably the best way to make this happen.

Is using a platform as good as learning to build a native app? Of course not. But for many students, free access to this platform could help them build the minimum viable product they need to prove traction, which help them raise funding or recruit real developers.

Any student can register here, and as long as they use their .edu email address to sign up before September 1st they will receive free access forever. The company says that deadline is mainly to encourage students to get to work ASAP, and maybe even entice them to build something over the summer to bring back to campus in the fall.


Periscope Now Saves Broadcasts — And Streams From Your Drone

June 2, 2016   |   filed under Apps, Conversation, Culture, Interaction, Music, Participation, Social Media, Technology, Video


If you want to know what’s really cool right now, go to a concert. Any concert. Once you get there, don’t look at the musicians. Watch the smartphone screens everyone throws up in the air as soon as the headliner appears.

Look at the apps they run. Some people boot up the camera. Others choose Instagram or Snapchat. But more and more people are opening Facebook Live, or Periscope, or maybe even YouTube (but probably not YouTube) and streaming what they see to their friends who can’t be there.

Live streaming is a hot topic in the film and TV industries, and at developer conferences all over Silicon Valley. But many questions remain. How do you shoot it? How do you find it?  Where does it go when it’s no longer, you know, live?

This morning, Periscope attempts to answer a few of these unknowns. Most important, it will let you to keep your broadcasts forever, instead of having them disappear after 24 hours. This represents a fundamental shift for Periscope. Now you can build channels and maintain a presence instead of being exactly as cool as your last 24 hours. (It’s certainly also a response to Facebook Live, which from the start permanently preserved your videos.) Keeping anything for later, required downloading it and uploading it to YouTube or Facebook, which just crushes Periscope’s ongoing value.

Periscope has tested the feature for a few days now by letting people add “#save” to their video description, and it’ll roll out to everyone over the next few weeks. Everything gets saved by default, by the way, so deleting that dumb ‘scope where you accidentally started the selfie cam and caught yourself picking your nose, means doing it manually.

…For the complete article, please see the link below.