It seems Twitter decided to do a soft launch of its sports live-streaming tool today, but you should save the link. Seriously, because it’s not easy to find.
The company began streaming Wimbledon, with coverage beginning on day 9, with the men’s quarterfinals. But tennis fans who also happen to be Twitter users were left in the dark about the new feature. There were no messages about it while logging into the social network, and typing the hashtag #wimbledon only resulted in a plethora of enthusiastic tweets about Roger Federer’s comeback against Marin Cilic.
Early Wednesday morning, Wimbledon’s official account tweeted a link to the live coverage of the Grand Slam tournament. The tweet was pinned for a while and then was apparently removed.
So far, the best way to find the link is to search on “Twitter” and “Wimbledon” and then select “Live @ Wimbledon Day 9.” Tennis fans can access the Twitter coverage here, even without a Twitter account.
The Twitter product is very basic. On laptops, viewers can see the video coverage on the left of their screens and a Twitter timeline on the right. On mobile, the video appears on top of the screen, while the feed is displayed at the bottom.
The coverage of Wimbledon is provided by ESPN, which broadcasts Wimbledon on its website at no additional cost for selected television and broadband providers.
After having signed a $10 million deal with NFL to stream Thursday Night Football in the fall, Twitter probably needed to play around with live streaming and decided to test things out with Wimbledon. Let’s hope that football games will be easier to find and watch next time.
Airborne drone delivery is still more PR than public reality, but wheeled, self-driving delivery bots could be trundling down a sidewalk near you sooner than you think. London-based Starship Technologies, which counts Skype co-founders Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis among its founding team, is launching a broad testing phase of its autonomous delivery bots in parts of the UK, Germany and Switzerland starting this month.
London, Düsseldorf, and Bern can expect to see the robots in action first, with other cities in Europe and America to follow as the trial progresses, with a full commercial deployment currently targeting 2017, pending progress of the trials.
As for the goal of the tests, Harris-Burland says they are many and varied, including “public acceptance, testing the reliability of the technology, testing human reactions, and testing transportation of hot food, cold food, parcels and groceries.”
Darrell Etherington of Techcrunch asked Harris-Burland whether the robots might prove a target of abuse (there’s precedent).
“Abuse is rare and in over 5,000 miles of testing, we haven’t had an issue of abuse yet,” he explained via email. “However with more and more robots out on the streets, it is a matter of time before something happens and we’re ready for this. It is another reason why we’re testing the robots in real world environments. The robot obviously has 9 cameras, tracking to the nearest inch and alarms to prevent any sort of incident. The robot has come into contact with 400,000 people and there hasn’t been an incident yet.”
Starship Technologies has clearly given a lot of thought to the part of robot tech that too often gets ignored: how to integrate its use into human society. Hopefully that means these bots will continue to make their deliveries efficiently and effectively without fear of unwanted human intervention.
NBC has already hinted at plans to capitalize on the exponential interest surrounding VR by adding the format to its planned wall-to-wall Olympic coverage, but for the first time, the Rio broadcasting network is shedding some real light on how it intends to do so.
The plan revolves around Gear VR — exclusively, in fact. Owners of Samsung’s headset (and compatible Galaxy phones, naturally) will get access to 85 hours of VR content, accessible through the NBC Sports app. The list includes the opening and closing ceremonies and a decent cross-section of sports, including men’s basketball, track and field, gymnastics, boxing, beach volleyball, fencing and diving.
All the content will be available on a delay of a day or so, throughout the games. The network will also be editing together VR-enabled highlight reels of the aforementioned sports. The Rio opening ceremony is set to kick off on Friday, August 5.
Samsung is, go figure, the Official Smartphone Partner for the Summer Olympics. For its part, NBC has previously announced some 4K and 8K content during what it’s calling the “most live Olympics ever,” thanks to the 4,500 hours of coverage it plans to stream through its app.
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
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.
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.
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.
WATCH THE FULL VIDEO FROM TECHCRUNCH HERE
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.
Nameless.tv 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 Nameless.tv — 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 Nameless.tv 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.”
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