Tag Archives: apps

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.

Source:

Facebook brings Live broadcasting to its Spaces virtual reality app

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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.

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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/

Apple won’t let apps annoy you with their own review prompts anymore

Apple is putting an end to the scourge of review prompts that seemed to pop up inside of some apps every few days. In a change to the App Store rules this week, Apple said it will now enforce hard limits on how review prompts show up and how often users have to see them. The changes were first spotted by 9to5Mac.

 

Under the new rules, developers will no longer be able to display review prompts however and whenever they’d like. Instead, there’ll be two key restrictions that should reduce headaches for everyone: First, apps will be required to use a new Apple-made review prompt, which allows users to leave a rating without exiting an app. That’s a huge convenience that may well get a lot more people to leave ratings. Apple introduced the rating prompt a few months ago, but it’s been optional up until now.

The second restriction is on how often that prompt can show up. An app can only display the prompt three times a year, regardless of how often it’s been updated. And once a user has left a rating, they’ll never see it again. Users also have the option to completely disable app review prompts inside the iOS Settings app, preventing the prompts from annoying them at all.

This seems like it should be a win-win for users and developers. People have been annoyed by app review prompts for years, and this update seems to remedy the problem. It may even make people more interested in leaving a review, because it can be done without exiting the app and because it means they’ll be done with the prompt for good. If that results in more reviews — and reviews from users who aren’t annoyed about switching apps — that’s a good thing for developers, too.

 

Part of the reason developers have their apps show review prompts so often is because Apple has always reset an app’s rating after every update, even very minor ones. With the redesigned App Store, developers will have the option to change that, so that their app’s ratings are maintained between updates. That’s likely to become a common choice — for good apps, at least — since users will only be able to get prompted for a rating once.

Source:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/9/15768196/apple-ending-annoying-app-store-review-prompts

MEET THE TREND-CHASING DEVELOPERS FILLING THE APP STORE WITH FIDGET SPINNERS

It’s summer 2017 and the App Store is spilling over with fidget spinner apps. Their titles are largely uninspired, impossible to tell apart: Fidget Spinner, Fidget Spinner Toy, Fidget Hand Spinner, Fidget Spin. Most are lazy re-creations of the popular stress reliever. All are indicative of a larger trend in mobile gaming to identify and mass-produce the hot idea of the moment.

 

The fidget spinner — a cheap, easy-to-make object that you can pick up at your local bodega or gas station — exploded into popularity in late April. The toy, which comes in a variety of colors and shapes, has inspired techno music, phone cases, rocket-powered safety nightmares, and even the dry world of workplace art.

Fidget apps began to overflow in the App Store around mid-May. The rush to crank out clones and copies is a predictable aspect of the mobile ecosystem. Flappy Bird, Threes!, Pokémon Go: all of these games were followed by a surge of rushed rip-offs hoping to ride the wave of popularity and skim some cash in the process.

But fidget spinners are a strange take on this trend: a play off the popularity of a physical toy that serves very little purpose, translated into a digital app that does even less. The entire point of a fidget spinner is the tactile feel that no app can capture.

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Earlier this month, Ketchapp’s Fidget Spinner was the top free app in the App Store; it’s since fallen to number six. The app isn’t a high-quality game or a good stress-releasing spinner toy. As my colleague Paul Miller explained, “The whole app is basically designed to minimize your time fidget spinning while maximizing ad impressions.”

Developer Ketchapp has a history of controversial apps. The company has been accused of cloning games like Sirvo’s Threes! and ustwo Games’ Monument Valley with 2048 and Skyward. Ketchapp disputes these claims. Last February, co-founder and co-director Antoine Morcos told Tech Insider that Skyward was a different type of game that didn’t fall into the same genre Monument Valley. His response to 2048’s similarities to Threes! Was that “all [car] racing games look the same.”

Today, Ketchapp exists under the umbrella of publisher Ubisoft. The company behind AAA franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Watch Dogs acquired Ketchapp last year.

 

Fidget Spinner looks and functions like many other fidget spinner games in the App Store, but it’s hard to tell who’s mimicking who. It seems all parties are equally looking to cash in on a hot, albeit undoubtedly short-lived, trend. In an email to The Verge, Morcos says the idea was inspired by the popularity of real-life spinners. “Seeing [people] playing the Fidget Spinner everywhere has given us the idea to create a game based on this trend, that would be as addictive as the real toy,” he says. “We came up with something interesting and unique, the idea of spinning the fidget to earn coins, which in return would let you unlock new crazy models. Also, there is a concept of ‘the more you are good in spinning, the better you will improve the stats of your spinner over time.’”

Source:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/1/15720264/app-store-with-fidget-spinners-developer-ios

Amazon to pay out $70 million in refunds over unauthorized in-app purchases

Amazon is offering customers refunds for unauthorized charges their children have incurred playing games from the company’s Appstore.

The move comes nearly three years after the Federal Trade Commission sued Amazon in federal court over in-game charges that shocked unsuspecting parents.

“Amazon’s in-app system allowed children to incur unlimited charges on their parents’ accounts without permission,” the FTC’s then-Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said when the lawsuit was filed.

A judge concurred and the FTC says the company has agreed to refund up to $70 million in unintended charges.

Amazon spokesman Jonathan Richardson said in a statement to NPR: “We have contacted all eligible customers who have not already received a refund for unauthorized charges to help ensure their refunds are confirmed quickly.”

If you believe your child made an in-app purchase without your permission between November 2011 and May 2016, you may be eligible for a refund. The FTC says you can visit this Amazon webpage or log into your Amazon account and look in the Message Center under “Important Messages.” Or you can call Amazon at 866-216-1072. Refund requests are due by May 28, 2018.

Julie Comeaux is one of many parents who had no idea her daughter was continually spending money inside a game on her new Amazon Kindle. Comeaux described on Morning Edition last month how she typed in her password once to approve a $5 in-app purchase—then left the Kindle with her daughter.

“When we checked the account and we saw hundreds of charges from Amazon, it totaled near $10,000,” Comeaux said.

“She cried. I had to calm her down,” Comeaux recalled. “She was very upset, didn’t know she was spending real money.”

According to the FTC complaint, games often blur the lines between what kids can buy with virtual currency and what they’re buying with actual money. It cited the app Ice Age Village, in which players can use virtual coins and acorns to buy items — and can also pay real money to buy more of the virtual currencies, on a screen that looks very similar.

But Amazon’s Richardson said Wednesday, “Since the launch of the Appstore in 2011, Amazon has helped parents prevent purchases made without their permission by offering access to parental controls, clear notice of in-app purchasing, real-time notification for every in-app purchase and refund assistance for unauthorized purchases.”

The FTC asked the court to require that Amazon refund unauthorized charges and to prevent it from billing account holders for future in-app charges without their consent.

A year ago, federal district court Judge John Coughenour agreed to the refunds. He wrote: “The Court determines that the scope of Amazon’s unfair billing practices pertains to all in-app charges made by account users without express, informed authorization.” But he denied the FTC’s request for the future billing ban.

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Richardson noted, “The Court here affirmed our commitment to customers when it ruled no changes to current Appstore practices were required. To continue ensuring a great customer experience, we are happy to provide our customers what we have always provided: refunds for purchases they did not approve.”

The FTC appealed the judge’s decision in hopes of securing a future ban, and Amazon appealed the refund order. Last month, both sides agreed to drop their appeals so the refund process could begin.

According to the FTC, when Amazon introduced in-app charges in its Appstore in November 2011, it didn’t require any password to spend real money inside an app. In March 2012, the FTC said, the company updated its system to require the account owner to enter a password for single purchases over $20. That meant children could still make an unlimited number of purchases under $20 each.

Then in early 2013, Amazon began requiring a password for some charges, the FTC said. But even when a parent authorized a single charge, that permission sometimes lasted for up to an hour, allowing children to make more purchases without new authorization.

“Not until June 2014, roughly two and a half years after the problem first surfaced,” did Amazon begin to require account holders’ consent for in-app charges on its newer mobile devices,” the FTC explained in a statement.

The judge’s ruling noted that, “By December 2011, (Amazon Appstore Director) Aaron Rubenson referred to the amount of customer complaints as ‘near house on fire.’… Rubenson also referred to ‘accidental purchasing by kids’ as one of two issues the company needed to solve.”

Source:

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/31/530903237/amazon-offers-refunds-for-childrens-unauthorized-in-app-purchases

Drivers For Ride-Hailing App Juno Claim Company Misled Them With Promises Of Stock

Last year, drivers for ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft were excited about a new competing app, Juno, which promised to grant drivers stock in the company along with lower commissions and in-app tipping. Juno was recently acquired by yet another service, Gett, and the drivers have seen their equity evaporate, leading them to file a complaint with federal regulators.

The plan for Juno was to share more revenue with its drivers than rivals do. Retaining drivers is important, as it cuts down on costly expenses associated with recruiting new drivers, like referral fees and sign-on bonuses.

A source familiar with the startup’s finances told Bloomberg Technology that Juno was profitable, but unable to convince investors to help it expand to more cities. Instead, the company decided to pursue a deal with Gett, a ride-hailing app out of Israel which operates in multiple cities, including New York.

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Drivers acquired theoretical equity in Juno the more that they drove, and the plan was that drivers would own about half of the company by 2026. Gett, which paid $200 million to acquire Juno, has no such equity plan, which meant the end of the stock program.

Drivers learned in an email that they would receive a small cash payment, about 10% of what drivers had been told their accumulated stock was worth.

That’s where the Independent Drivers Guild, a group that’s not a union but represents New York City’s drivers with Uber, comes in. To maximize their time and income, drivers for ride-hailing apps often work for multiple services at once, accepting passengers as they come in. According to the group, 40% of its members also drive for Juno.

While the Independent Drivers Guild represents drivers for Uber in New York City, its members often drive for Juno as well. Yet Uber pays some of the group’s administrative expenses, which makes it a little awkward when the IDG is calling for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate one of Uber’s competitors.

Uber itself Uber paid $20 million to settle charges that it misled prospective drivers about what their pay would be.

In its letter to the FTC [PDF], the IDG says that it learned from mysterious “sources” that Juno had learned from the Securities and Exchange Commission that its stock plan may be illegal. Yet, the IDG alleges, that was a few months before the deal, and the company still used the idea of earning equity in the company to appeal to new drivers.

“Many IDG drivers have no access to traditional worker protections like retirement plans, group health insurance, or even paid time off,” the IDG notes in its letter. “The promise of a stake in the company attracted thousands of drivers seeking financial security for their families.”

The group also sent the letter to New York state’s attorney general, New York City’s Office of Labor Policy and Standards, Juno, and Gett.

Source:

Drivers For Ride-Hailing App Juno Claim Company Misled Them With Promises Of Stock

Forget 10 seconds, Snapchat now lets you replay messages forever

Snapchat was built on the concept of ephemerality: once you see a message, it disappears forever.

Starting Tuesday, Snapchat is making its messages feel less fleeting by letting them replay indefinitely. A new infinity icon will allow a photo or video message to be replayed forever until the receiver exits the conversation thread. Snapchat messages, called “snaps,” could previously only be seen for up to 10 seconds before they disappeared.

“We’ve all felt the frustration of not being able to fully enjoy a Snap – even after replaying it – and we wanted to give you the option of allowing the recipient to enjoy your Snap as long as they’d like,” the company wrote in a blog post on Tuesday. “After your friend finishes viewing the Snap and taps to close it, it will delete as usual.”

The change is a notable one for Snapchat, which in its early days earned a reputation for sexting because of how quickly its messages disappeared after being viewed. The app has since popularized the Stories format, which shows photo and video messages in chronological order that disappear after 24 hours. Facebook has aggressively copied Stories in its full suite of apps in recent months.

Snapchat’s change to one of its core features also comes a day ahead of the company’s first earnings report since it became a publicly traded company in February. Wall Street is looking for signs that Snapchat is still growing and that the competition from Facebook hasn’t taken too great of a toll.

Snapchat also added a few new creative tools on Tuesday, including the ability to draw with emojis and a “magic eraser.” A redesigned menu for the app’s editing tools will “provide a foundation for introducing even more creative tools for making fun Snaps,” the company said.

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Source:

http://www.businessinsider.com/snapchat-lets-messages-reply-forever-adds-magic-eraser-and-other-tools-2017-5

Driver-friendly ride-hailing apps Gett and Juno are combining

Ride-hailing app Gett today confirmed that it will acquire Juno, another app in the on-demand transportation industry, for $200 million, reports TechCrunch. The deal will combine Juno’s network of New York City-based drivers under Gett’s and continue to offer drivers a 10 percent commission rate while giving them 100 percent of tips. (Uber’s commission ranges between 20 to 25 percent.)

Juno launched in New York City just one year ago, and initially pitched itself toward drivers, not riders. It promised to be a more “ethical ride-sharing app,” offering drivers $50 a week to keep the app open during normal work hours and a rating system that deducted 5 percent of their lowest ratings on a weekly basis.

In light of recent press around Uber’s shady business practices, consumers have been rapidly switching to competitors like Juno, Lyft, and Gett. Just a few days after the #DeleteUber campaign began in January, Lyft surpassed Uber in app downloads for the first time ever. Gett also reported that in the last quarter, its revenue and rides completed grew 100 percent.

Gett currently services 100 cities worldwide, including New York, Tel Aviv, London, and Moscow. Its acquisition of Juno aims to help it further expand in the United States.

Source:

http://www.theverge.com/2017/4/26/15436222/gett-acquires-juno-driver-friendly-ride-hailing-apps

Feeding America launches new tech platform to help businesses fight hunger

For Earth Day 2017, Feeding America® is announcing the launch of MealConnectTM, an innovative technology platform that makes food donation as simple as a click. The new and free platform was developed to help reduce food waste, benefit the environment and put more food on the tables of families and individuals facing hunger in America.

Feeding America is already the largest food rescue and domestic hunger-relief organization, helping to provide food to 46 million people in need each year, and now with MealConnect is poised to play an even bigger role in reducing food waste. MealConnect helps to save food that previously might have gone to waste—such as a small load of meat from a local butcher or a box of tomatoes from a farmers market. The platform then directs that rescued food immediately to Feeding America food banks’ food pantries and meal programs that serve people in need. MealConnect allows food businesses of all sizes, from local mom-and-pop restaurants to large chain grocery retailers, to post surplus food on the MealConnect platform. An algorithm determines the best-suited local pantry or food program to quickly pick up and distribute the donation.

MealConnect is available to donors from any smartphone, tablet or computer to make an immediate impact in the communities where they operate. MealConnect is free for all users and all donations are tax-deductible. The technology leverages the Feeding America network of 200 food banks and 60,000 pantries and feeding programs across the country. In addition, Feeding America maintains stringent food-safety standards to ensure that all food distributed is safe for consumption.

This new technology enhancement has been made possible with a $1 million grant from General Mills. This funding also will help support efforts to scale MealConnect to communities nationwide.

“We are extremely grateful to General Mills for their incredible support of this major initiative. This donation is not only beneficial to our environment but also helps meet the needs of hardworking families throughout the country,” Feeding America CEO Diana Aviv said.

“For nearly 40 years, we’ve partnered with Feeding America to help rescue more food to help families facing hunger,” said Shawn O’Grady, group president of Convenience & Foodservice, and senior vice president of Global Revenue Development at General Mills. “We are encouraged that the new MealConnect technology will help food retailers and foodservice operators nationwide donate food safely and efficiently.” O’Grady has served on the Feeding America board of directors since 2013.

Starbucks, which announced a partnership with Feeding America in 2016, will use MealConnect to help achieve its goal to rescue 100 percent of unsold food from its U.S. company-operated stores.

“In 2016, we pledged to bring the excess food in our stores, that otherwise would have been thrown away, to families in need,” said Jane Maly, Program Manager at Starbucks. “By using MealConnect, we’re able to track our donations in real time, allowing for more streamlined reporting by store and food bank.”

Feeding America is the leading food recovery partner across the food industry, currently rescuing 2.8 billion pounds of good food from going to waste and providing it to families in need.

New information from ReFED, a collaboration of business, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders committed to reducing food waste in the United States, indicates that 72 billion pounds of good, safe food is wasted every year in the U.S. MealConnect aims to close that gap to reduce food waste and end hunger.

“Working with valued companies, including General Mills, Walmart and Starbucks, Feeding America has been able to distribute more than four billion pounds of food annually to people facing hunger,” Aviv said. “Now, MealConnect will allow us to supplement these great national efforts with donations captured from regional and local donors who may not have a consistent donation stream.”

MealConnect was initially funded and designed with support from Google.org with additional funding from the Walmart Foundation.

Google.org strives to identify and support innovations that improve our world, and MealConnect’s enhanced platform does just that. We are thrilled to support Feeding America and its network, which will allow MealConnect to scale across the country,” said Andrew Dunckelman of Google.org.

“Since 2005 Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have invested over $100 million in Feeding America,” Karrie Denniston said. “We made the investment in MealConnect because we saw an opportunity to strengthen capacity for the organization and its network of food banks.  This platform is a prime example of how innovative technology is being used to improve food recovery and address hunger.”

By connecting more donors with the Feeding America network of food banks, food pantries and meal programs, MealConnect will prevent more food waste, benefit the environment and help end the hunger crisis for millions of people in America.

For more information on MealConnect, visit MealConnect.org.

– See more at: http://3blmedia.com/News/Feeding-America-Launches-MealConnecttm-Technology-Platform-Help-Reduce-Food-Waste-and-End#sthash.HIc1aq5p.dpuf