Tag Archives: apps

Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India that uses Audio QR to transfer money

After several weeks of speculation and leaked details, today Google officially unveiled its first big foray into mobile payments in Asia. The Android and search giant has launched Tez, a free mobile wallet in India that will let users link up their phones to their bank accounts to pay for goods securely in physical stores and online, and for person-to-person money transfers with a new twist: Audio QR, which uses ultrasonic sounds to let you exchange money, bypassing any need for NFC.

“Send money home to your family, split a dinner bill with friends, or pay the neighbourhood chaiwala. Make all payments big or small, directly from your bank account with Tez, Google’s new digital payment app for India,” Google notes in its information portal about the new app.

Tez is Google’s play to replace cash transactions and become a more central part of how people pay for things, using their mobile to do so. But it’s also a chance for the company to push out some new technologies — like audio QR (AQR), which lets users transfer money by letting their phones speak to each other with sounds — to see how it can make that process more frictionless, and therefore more attractive to use than cash itself. More on AQR below.

Tez is launching today on iOS and Android in the country and will see Google linking up with several major banks in the country by way of UPI (Unified Payments Interface) — a payment standard and system backed by the government in its push to bring more integrated banking services into a very fragmented market. There will also be phones coming to the market from Lava, Micromax, Nokia and Panasonic with Tez preloaded, the company said.

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Google debuts Tez, a mobile payments app for India that uses Audio QR to transfer money

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Spotify launches an iMessage app for texting songs to friends

Spotify has quietly launched its own iMessage application that let you text songs to friends with just a few taps. The new app hasn’t been officially announced, but appears to be similar in functionality to Spotify’s Messenger app, which went live earlier this spring as one of Messenger’s new chat extensions.

As with the Messenger bot, the new iMessage app also lets you quickly search across Spotify’s full catalog for a track you want to share, then tap a button to paste a preview of that song into your chat session. This preview includes an album image, song title, and artist information.

But in the iMessage app’s case, the image is much larger than on Messenger, and there’s no “play” button. Instead, a small Spotify logo at the top left is what indicates that what you’ve sent is a song.

The recipient then taps the image which launches a new window, overlaid on top of the chat session. From here they can play the provided 30-second clip, or tap the “Play on Spotify” button below to hear the full track, if you’re a subscriber. (We also noticed that once it knows you’re a paying Spotify user, the option to stream a clip goes away and you’re just directed to the Spotify app to stream.)

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Spotify launches an iMessage app for texting songs to friends

Facebook is testing features to help you make new friends

Facebook wants to show you more of what you have in common with potential new friends and make sure you don’t forget about your old ones either.

The company is rolling out a feature that allows you to get a closer look at your friend’s buddies. It’s not only showcasing connections you’ve yet to make but a lot of current friends as well, which seems a bit odd, but I suppose it helps you orient yourself with friends you haven’t interacted with in a bit.

Once you tap on a button urging you to “get to know [name’s] friends” you’re cast into a carousel of the connections. Previously, the most prominent way Facebook orients you with potential new friends was by showing you your mutual friends. This option digs deeper, showing you events that you both attended, pages you both like, places you’ve both worked or lived.

In February, Facebook began rolling out “Discover People,” a feature designed to help you find new connections largely through groups and events. The friend cards are the same here, but this roll out throws them into a more wide feature release.

Facebook is also looking to get you closer to some of the friends you already have in the app. Motherboard reports that a new feature is bringing some Tinder-like functionality to Messenger, allowing users to connect if they both indicate that they’re interested in hanging out. It’s also a little reminiscent of some of Snapchat’s efforts to get you to interact with friends you haven’t traded messages with in a while. Having this functionality inside Messenger is, again, a bit of an odd choice given that you’d have to switch to the main app to view a person’s profiles.

 

There doesn’t seem to be any clear “dating app” language present instead it’s more focused on friendly encounters, i.e. “Would you like to meet up with [name] this week?” The changes that would need to be taken to transform this feature into a Tinder or Bumble-like applet don’t take any major mental leaps though and dating could be a huge move for the company in the future.

Ultimately, Facebook is better with friends and even if the connection suggestions that Facebook comes up with are already stellar, it’s good to see some of the thinking that’s being done behind the scenes in terms of common interests.

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Facebook is testing features to help you make new friends

Mastering Apps: A Beginner’s Guide To Start Making Money With Apps

Communication technologies are constantly advancing to keep up with the times. Messaging apps are huge right now. Completely overtaking social media by becoming the primary way we communicate online.

When most entrepreneurs are starting out, they like to read articles on “how to make a killing with your first app,” “building the multi-billion dollar app” and most books related to this topic. They are glued to this side of the story and blinded to the other. To have your own success story you have to find out why other apps fail. The painful truth is there are more failed apps than successful ones.

Disney sued for allegedly spying on children through 42 gaming apps

A federal class action lawsuit filed last week in California alleges that the Walt Disney Company is violating privacy protection laws by collecting children’s personal information from 42 of its apps and sharing the data with advertisers without parental consent.

The lawsuit targets Disney and three software companies — Upsight, Unity, and Kochava — alleging that the companies created mobile apps aimed at children that contained embedded software to track, collect, and then export their personal information along with information about their online behavior. The plaintiff, a San Francisco woman named Amanda Rushing, says she was unaware that information about her child, “L.L.,” was collected while playing mobile game Disney Princess Palace Pets, and that data was then sold to third parties for ad targeting.

The class action suit says this violates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was enacted by Congress in 1999 and designed to protect the privacy of children online. COPPA requires that companies designing apps for children under the age of 13 obtain consent from parents before collecting personal information. In 2013, the FTC revised COPPA, expanding what counts as personal information to include things like geolocation markers and IP addresses. The update also requires third-party advertisers to comply with the rules.

Disney has responded to the lawsuit, saying:

“Disney has a robust COPPA compliance program, and we maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families. The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in court.”
This is not the first time Disney has faced COPPA violations. In 2011, the FTC levied a $3 million civil penalty against subsidiary Playdom after it illegally collected and disclosed personal information from “hundreds of thousands of children under age 13 without their parents’ prior consent.”

Source:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/9/16115352/disney-sued-spying-children-gaming-apps-disney-princess-palace-pets

How Rovio Fought Off Bankruptcy to Make Angry Birds

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Right?

For the maker of Angry Birds, everyone’s favorite time waster, it actually took 51 tries before they created the perfect casual game. Wired UK has an excellent profile of how the company battled back from bankruptcy to become one of the hottest entertainment companies in the world. It’s more inspiring than you’d expect.

First they had to save a company in crisis: at the beginning of 2009, Rovio was close to bankruptcy. Then they had to create the perfect game, do every other little thing exactly right, and keep on doing it. The Heds had developed 51 titles before Angry Birds. Some of them had sold in the millions for third parties such as Namco and EA, so they decided to create their own, original intellectual property. “We thought we would need to do ten to 15 titles until we got the right one,” says 30-year-old Niklas. One afternoon in late March, in their offices overlooking a courtyard in downtown Helsinki, Jaakko Iisalo, a games designer who had been at Rovio since 2006, showed them a screenshot. He had pitched hundreds in the two months before. This one showed a cartoon flock of round birds, trudging along the ground, moving towards a pile of colourful blocks. They looked cross. “People saw this picture and it was just magical,” says Niklas. Eight months and thousands of changes later, after nearly abandoning the project, Niklas watched his mother burn a Christmas turkey, distracted by playing the finished game. “She doesn’t play any games. I realised: this is it.”

I’ve long thought casual games are like pop songs. Everyone knows roughly what they’re supposed to sound like, but getting everything just right is stupendously unlikely. Since nearly every single casual game or pop song won’t be a hit, the key skill seems to be the right ear (or fingers) to feel when something isn’t good, but great. Or maybe you just have to get lucky.

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https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/03/how-rovio-fought-off-bankruptcy-to-make-angry-birds/72250/

Facebook brings Live broadcasting to its Spaces virtual reality app

In an effort to seemingly combine a couple of the top tech trends of the year, Facebook will soon be allowing users of its Oculus Rift virtual reality system to live stream themselves inside VR to their Facebook friends and followers as avatars.

The Facebook Live functionality will be arriving on the Spaces app, which is still in beta. Users will be able to go live to all their friends and can position a virtual camera to capture their experience. A lot of things will look familiar to a traditional Live broadcast for the streamer, but things like physically reaching out and grabbing a comment to show those watching are things only possible in VR.

Facebook Spaces may be just a preview of CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 10-year vision for virtual reality at the company, but with Messenger video calls and Facebook Live broadcasts already coming to the app, it’s clear that the company isn’t shying away from building a bridge between its loftier VR bets and its central 2D service, which now boasts 2 billion users.

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It may be a while before every feature sees a VR counterpart though.

 

“There are things that aren’t going to map one-to-one, but I think in a lot of ways Facebook is sort of the 2D metaverse,” Facebook VR guru Mike Booth told TechCrunch. “It’s a huge network of people, places and things, so it’s a question of how we present those things in VR and how we let people access them and interact with them, but it’s also huge so there’re a lot of things to figure out and explore.”

To Booth, bringing Facebook Live to Spaces is just as much about “evangelism” as anything else, allowing larger groups of friends to get exposed to the app and virtual reality in general.

Whether users see the need to return to a feature like this is the real question; VR systems have some pretty obtrusive setups and don’t lend themselves to the ease of use that going Live on mobile boasts. Whether seeing avatars is fun and quirky or just gimmicky seems to be something that might be up for debate after only a couple minutes of live streaming, but for Facebook, much of their VR strategy involves a lot of trial and a lot of potential for error.

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Facebook brings Live broadcasting to its Spaces virtual reality app

Microsoft’s new iPhone app narrates the world for blind people

Microsoft has released Seeing AI — a smartphone app that uses computer vision to describe the world for the visually impaired. With the app downloaded, the users can point their phone’s camera at a person and it’ll say who they are and how they’re feeling; they can point it at a product and it’ll tell them what it is. All using artificial intelligence that runs locally on their phone.

 

The company showed off a prototype of Seeing AI in March last year at its Build conference, but from today, the app is available to download for free in the US on iOS. However, there’s no word yet on when it’ll come to Android or other countries.

The app works in a number of scenarios. As well as recognizing people its seen before and guessing strangers’ age and emotion, it can identify household products by scanning barcodes. It also reads and scan documents, and recognizes US currency. This last function is a good example of how useful it can be. As all dollar bills are the same size and color regardless of value, spotting the difference can be difficult or even impossible for the visually impaired. An app like Seeing AI helps them find that information.

seeing-ai-app

The app uses neural networks to identify the world around it — the same basic technology that’s being deployed all over Silicon Valley, powering self-driving cars, drones, and more. The app’s most basic functions are carried out directly on the device itself. This means they can be accessed more quickly and in situations where there’s no stable internet connection. However, Seeing AI’s experimental features — like describing an entire scene or recognizing hand-writing — require a connection to the cloud.

 

Speaking to The Verge at a Microsoft event in London, Saqib Shaikh, the tech lead on Seeing AI, said he most commonly used the app for reading documents like signs and menus. He points out the app doesn’t just perform the basic task of optical character recognition technology, but also directs the user — telling them to move the camera left or right to get the target in shot.

Shaikh says that the difference between this and similar apps is the speed of the neural nets: “One of the things we wanted to do was face recognition on device, and we’ve done that so within a few milliseconds you’ll hear the result. It’s all about the speed, and we try to do as much as we can on the device.”

Source:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/12/15958174/microsoft-ai-seeing-app-blind-ios

Adidas’ All Day fitness app hits iOS and Android devices

Exactly three months after announcing its All Day fitness app, Adidas is finally launching it in the US. The application, which is available for iOSand Android, focuses on serving up insights about different health aspects, such as mindset, movement, nutrition rest.

 

Adidas says that All Day is designed for “versatile” athletes, meaning that the app’s goal isn’t just to help you with tough workouts, but also showing you anything from quick meditation moves to how to cook healthy recipes. While All Day is only available for those of you in the States right now, the sportswear giant tells Engadget that the app will be coming to other markets later this fall.

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Source:

https://www.engadget.com/2017/06/28/adidas-all-day-app-ios-android/