Tecla’s tech makes Pokémon Go more accessible for wheelchair users

Tecla’s tech makes Pokémon Go more accessible for wheelchair users

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Toronto-based B corporation Komodo OpenLab thought Pokémon Go using its Tecla product, an assistive hardware device designed to make it easier to use smartphones, tablets and users for people who might not generally be able to interact with these gadgets, including, for example, wheelchair users with spinal injuries or multiple sclerosis.

As you can see from the video above, the Tecla controller installed on the users’ wheelchairs allow control over iOS or Android devices paired via Bluetooth. A control unit switches the target device for the hardware controller between their wheelchair, and the smartphone, and it also works with single or dual switches, including those that respond to light touch and sip-and-puff switches for users with less range of motion in their hands.

The team behind Tecla first did some feasibility testing around use of their system with Go in late July, but were able to run an actual field test with the help of local Toronto Tecla users Neil and James. The result? Some freshly caught Pokémon, as you can see in the video above.

Source: TechCrunch

Facebook snatches up team from Eyegroove, a musical selfie app

Facebook snatches up team from Eyegroove, a musical selfie app

The team from a startup called Eyegroove, a “musical selfie” app, has joined Facebook. According to a message on the company’s website, most of the small team who worked on the app will now be focused on building new experiences for Facebook users that will help them to “create, share and connect.”

Founded in late 2013, the Eyegroove application was the brainchild of Scott Snibbe, an interactive media artist who worked on Bjork’s Biophilia app, acquired by MoMA. Eyegroove was aimed at helping users make their own, high-quality videos using their smartphone. As Snibbe explained in a 2014 interview, the idea behind Eyegroove was to be an “Instagram for interactive music.”

eyegroove-2-ws-385editLaunched to the public a couple of years ago, Eyegroove worked with SoundCloud, allowing users to make 19-second videos for any of the songs on SoundCloud’s service. It offered a social networking component, as well, where users could share their “Grooves,” as these videos were called. These Grooves could include special effects like a kaleidoscopic view, for example, or other video filters.

However, in the years since its launch, Eyegroove was overshadowed by other social video apps, including Dubsmash and Musical.ly, the latter which recently raised a whopping $100 million at a $500 million valuation. Meanwhile, Eyegroove failed to get traction.

Its last ranking on the iTunes App Store before being removed was in the low 500’s within the “Music & Video” category, according to data from App Annie. It wasn’t ranked on any other charts.

Eyegroove was backed by $3.5 million in seed funding from a range of angel investors, including Matt Papakipos, Roger McNamee, Amarjit Gil, and Bill McLean, as reported by CrunchBase and on the Eyegroove website.

While the team is joining Facebook, we understand that this is more of an acqui-hire – Facebook did not buy the company, the tech or IP. It’s more about bringing in talent who can help with the development of more creative tools on the site, but not necessarily those that would be a direct answer to Musical.ly.

The move – which took place within the last week – comes at a time when Facebook is ramping up its efforts in the video space, with Facebook Live, its Periscope competitor, and integrations between its acquisition MSQRD and the social network itself, announced earlier today.

A note from Snibbe on the startup’s website explains that the app is shutting down, and thanked its users for the “amazing community.” It also confirms that much of the team is joining Facebook.

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The startup had a small team of under a dozen according to AngelList and LinkedIn. (No one has yet to update their LinkedIn profiles to indicate they’re now at Facebook.) Along with the Eyegroove team, founder Scott Snibbe is also going to Facebook.

Emails to Snibbe were not returned. Other messages to the Eyegroove domain bounced. Facebook declined to comment.

Source: TechCrunch

Incipio acquires Griffin, adding yet another accessory maker to its portfolio

Incipio acquires Griffin, adding yet another accessory maker to its portfolio

Incipio just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Shortly after after announcing that it had acquired up budget headphone maker Skullcandy, the Irvine-based accessories conglomerate has picked up Griffin for an undisclosed amount. The Nashville mobile peripheral manufacturer will join an sizable brand portfolio that already includes Incase, Braven, ClamCase and Incipio’s own titular in-house brand.

The latest score in Incipio’s supermarket sweep of mobile brands brings Griffin into the fold, but will maintain the standalone brand, including its headquarters, which will stay put in Tennessee. Griffin has been in the accessory game for a quarter decade, primarily making a name for itself in the world of Apple devices, including, perhaps most notably, the iTrip, an in-car FM transmitter for the iPod.

Two days ago, Incipio announced an amendment to a deal announced in June that would find the company picking up budget headphone maker Skullcandy, following the Incase deal, which went down last September. What does all of this mean for the rapidly growing hardware companies? Why, exciting new verticals, of course!

Here’s Incipio founder and CEO Andy Fathollahi in today’s official announcement, “As part of Incipio Group, Griffin strengthens our product development and manufacturing capabilities, complements our existing product lines in rugged cases, power and connectivity, and allows our brands to reach a broader domestic and international audience through enhanced distribution in the business-to-business, enterprise and education verticals.”

Verticals!

Source: TechCrunch

Apple acquires Turi, a machine learning company

Apple acquires Turi, a machine learning company

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Word just started going around the rumormill that Apple has acquired Turi, a company that describes itself as a “machine learning platform for developers and data scientists”

In addition to their machine learning products, Turi also runs the Data Science Summit — a two day conference focusing on, as the name implies, data science.

We reached out to Apple for confirmation, and sure enough — we got the standard reply they give when they’re confirming an acquisition but not saying much else:

“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

Apple declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, but Geekwire suggests that it was upwards of $200 million.

This isn’t the first acquisition Apple has made in the AI/Machine Learning space — for example, they acquired Perceptio, a company that specialized in machine learning and image recognition, back in September of 2015

Turi was previously known as “Dato” (and before that, “GraphLab”), but changed their name in July of this year after a trademark dispute.

Turi began reaching out to its customers to let them know their products would no longer be available at the end of July, the first indication that an acquisition had occurred. Turi’s own blog, meanwhile, no longer loads.

We’re hearing that Turi’s team will remain in Seattle, rather than moving down to Apple’s Cupertino HQ.

Source: TechCrunch

Christoph Waltz gets goofily patriotic in Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 7 spot

Christoph Waltz gets goofily patriotic in Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 7 spot

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He’s won a couple of Oscars, he’s worked with some of the best directors in the biz, and he’s even played a Bond villain. So, where does Christop Waltz go from here? Phone commercials, obviously. The acclaimed Inglourious Basterds actor has signed on with Samsung for a silly new ad touting the company’s eagerly anticipated Note 7 phablet.

In the spot, Waltz actor praises/complains about the American work ethic, while multitasking through a series of increasingly ridiculous costumes, as a housewife, car sales, short-shorted child and track and field runner, before launching into a love fest for American ingenuity. An interesting creative choice for a team up between a South Korean company and an Austrian-German actor.

But hey, whatever it takes to put Christoph Waltz in a Lincoln costume is certainly worth the effort.

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God bless America.

Source: TechCrunch

The social app redundancy engine

The social app redundancy engine

Tumbled glass has a definite appeal: It’s eye-catching, has a pleasant variety of colours, and feels nice in the hand. And making it just takes time, and repetitive motion – throw some glass in a rock tumbler for about a week and voila – what comes out is better than what came in. But it’s also ultimately just glass.

The social apps we use every day are starting to look a lot like tumbled glass.

If you subscribe to the notion that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this past week has made Facebook the sincerest technology company in existence, and Snapchat the most flattered.

On Tuesday, Instagram launched Stories, which didn’t even bother changing the name of the product it was copying, Snapchat Stories. Facebook-owned Instagram wasn’t shy about the similarity, either: Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom freely gave Snapchat credit for the concept, which if you’re out of the social loop, involves letting users post photos and videos strung together in a “story” that expires after 24 hours.

Then, on Friday, Facebook proper began testing an experiment whereby the mobile app opens directly to a camera window atop a user’s feed, which makes use of Facebook acquisition MSQRD’s selfie filters for an Olympics tie-in. Sure, it’s a special case tied to a specific event, and available only in Brazil (makes sense, Olympics are there) and Canada. Canada is the more interesting component, because the great white north is normally where companies run tests ahead of big U.S. roll outs, since the market is so similar but low-risk due to its much smaller size.

TechCrunch Facebook Camera Feed

Opening direct to a camera definitely drives that kind of engagement, especially with younger audiences. We know that because that’s how Snapchat works. Which is where Facebook got this idea. In an interview with The Verge, FB product manager Sachin Monga explained it’s designed to give everyday users “this magical AR experience.” It’s no Systrom-style shoutout, but Snapchat is widely regarded as pioneering broad consumer use of augmented reality through its own dynamic selfie filters.

These two examples so close to one other in time would probably be enough to make my point, but TechCrunch’s Josh Constine also found out that Facebook had fully built but then scrapped the launch of a Snapchat Stories clone on Facebook itself.

Meanwhile, it’s not entirely a one-way street. Snapchat launched Memories earlier this month, which is a pretty directly comparable offering to Facebook Moments. It not only brings some Facebook style permanence to a social network that perviously leaned heavily on ephemerality, but it also introduced the ability to pull content from your camera roll to snap, which allows brands and publishers to treat it more like Facebook and Instagram as an audience engagement channel.

Snapchat MemoriesI’m all for refinement, and I don’t think any technology company is wrong for identifying an effective interaction model or product, and trying to make it even more effective, or better suited to their own audience: That’s how we get nice things. But I can’t escape the feeling that the social space is starting to feel like so much tumbled glass, with a lot of retread and few new paths.

Sure, with more novel efforts, we’ve had some goofs. Beme. Peach. Twitter (I kid, sort of). It’s a list that includes some companies with a lot of early excitement, and founders who should know a thing or two about social. At least, though, they had some sharp edges, and it’d be nice to see a few more of those coming from the players who can stand to absorb the most risk.

Source: TechCrunch

Amazon wants more people to develop speech-based adventure games for Alexa

Amazon wants more people to develop speech-based adventure games for Alexa

Amazon’s plucky little voice assistant already has a fairly broad skill set – but gaming has never really been Alexa’s strong suit. Granted, the AI is no Xbox, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some potential for a little gaming fun. A few developers have already created titles for the platform, adventure games that a bit of a throwback to the text-based titles that graced early home computers.

The Wayne Investigation is of particular note, a Batman v Superman promotion written by DC Comics creators that managed to get better reviews than the big budget blockbuster it was tied into, asking users to help solve the mystery being the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents (spoiler. Also he’s Batman. Double spoiler).

The help ease game creators into the process, Amazon is offering up a tool to make it easier to create titles for its home-ruling robot voice. The development tool, available now through Github breaks game creation down into a graphical interface, offering up a sort of decision tree to map out the turn-by-turn game play.

The company’s got a turn-by-turn breakdown of the Interactive Adventure Game tool on its developer blog.

Source: TechCrunch

Weekly Roundup: Didi buys Uber China, Instagram’s Snapchatty ‘Stories’ and new emoji

Weekly Roundup: Didi buys Uber China, Instagram’s Snapchatty ‘Stories’ and new emoji

This week tech companies worked their angles for the Rio Olympics, Uber China gave into Didi Chuxing and Instagram cloned Snapchat with an ephemeral new feature. Here are this week’s top stories in tech. You can receive the Weekly Roundup in your inbox every Saturday, if that’s your kinda thing.

1. Didi Chuxing will buy Uber China, its former competitor. The two companies will retain distinct brands, app and business operations, and it sounds like the backends will be merged. While at first this may seem like an admission of failure for Uber, it’s actually a win-win. 

2. Instagram shocked the social world by launching “Stories,” a Snapchatty new feature for imperfect, ephemeral sharing. We spoke with Instagram’s CEO about the decision to essentially clone Snapchat, and he claimed that “Snapchat deserves all the credit.” Facebook also went as far as adding Olympics-themed filters and frames in further examples of copying Snapchat. Still puzzled? Here’s how “Stories” works. 

3. Theranos is still fraught with possible criminal charges, lawsuits, test result recalls and Congressional inquiry. The blood analysis startup was supposed to reveal their tech this week, but instead introduced a whole new hardware product. Theranos unveiled a Zika-detection box – sending the scientific community into further skepticism.

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4. Facebook introduced a new anti-clickbait algorithm that punishes headlines based on a ranking scale.

5. Apple dropped a new iOS 10 beta with 100 new emojis. Some notable changes were new female athletes, a gay pride flag, and the gun was redesigned as a cute squirt gun. See them for yourself. 

6. Major tech companies continued to report earnings. Highlights are as follows. Tesla missed on Q2 earnings, delivering 14,402 vehicles and reporting $1.56 billion in revenue. Etsy showed signs of life in its Q2 earnings report as merchant sales hit $669.7 million. LinkedIn posted a huge second quarter in its last earnings report ever.

7. Tech companies geared up for the Rio Olympics, including Facebook’s personalized Olympics section in the News Feed and DJI’s temporary restriction on its drones in Brazil. We took a look at the tech US Olympians are using to help them go for the gold.

8. We got a glimpse inside Tesla’s super secretive Gigafactory, the massive building where the company is building the huge amount of batteries it needs. It’s “a machine to build the machines,” as Elon Musk refers to it. The Gigafactory will cost about $5 billion and when completed, will be one of the biggest buildings on earth.

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9. Hot off the heels of its acquisition of Yahoo last week for $4.8 billion, Verizon announced another huge purchase: it’s buying Fleetmatics, a telematics company, for $2.4 billion in cash.

10. Say hello to the newest unicorn. Indonesia’s Go-Jek raised $550 million to battle Uber and Grab in Southeast Asia. The round values the motorbike taxi on-demand company at $1.2 billion post-money.

11. We got a look inside Facebook’s new “Area 404” mad science hardware lab. This is where Facebook will prototype its solar drones, Internet-beaming lasers, VR headsets, and next-gen servers. Take the visual tour here. 

12. Salesforce continued its buying spree as it purchased word processing app Quip for $750 million.

13. We got our hands on Samsung’s new Note 7. The 5.7-inch smartphone has a dual-edged curved display, bringing the virtually bezel-free curvature to the line for the first time.

Source: TechCrunch

Playbuzz launches an analytics product to help publishers create viral content

Playbuzz launches an analytics product to help publishers create viral content

Playbuzz has been offering publishers tools to create interactive/social media-friendly content like galleries, lists and polls. Now it’s giving them new ways to track the effectiveness of those tools.

The company is announcing the launch of its analytics product, Impact — which was previously in beta testing with select partners, but is now available to all Playbuzz partners.

Shachar Orren, Playbuzz’s vice president of content, told me that Impact can offer both a macro view (so publishers can see if one type of content is doing particularly well, or vice versa), while also going deep on each item. For example, if you published a quiz, you could see how many people got answered each quiz question correctly, and also where they dropped off. (Apparently, a really hard question can drive a lot of users away.)

“The life of our items don’t end when you publish it,” Orren said. “You publish it and then you can see how people are engaging … and make sure that you’re optimizing it to be the exact experience that you want it to be.”

More broadly, she said publishers are becoming “more and more data savvy,” and thinking about a broader set of measurements (not just pageviews).

Impact also includes weekly reports for each publisher on their overall performance, as well as the ability to browse a broader library of content that they can embed on their site. The product is launching with The Sun’s fantasy football (soccer) page as a partner.

Featured Image: Playbuzz
Source: TechCrunch

Nike and Zeiss created a $1,200 pair of sunglasses for Olympians

Nike and Zeiss created a ,200 pair of sunglasses for Olympians

I recently spent $175 on a pair of Warby Parker sunglasses. I’m not proud of that, but my eyesight sucks now because I’m old and it’s sunny because it’s the summer. Suffice it to say, I now wear them indoors and at night both to get the most out of my purchase and to pay homage to Canadian songster Corey Hart’s seminal 1984 hit.

Personally, I can’t fathom spending $1,200 for a pair of sunglasses that don’t turn me into the Terminator, but then, I’m fairly certainly I’m not the target demo for the Nike Wing. For one thing, I’m not an Olympian. Heck, I probably won’t be watching the Olympics at all this year – not intentionally, at least.

For the world class athletes among us, however, Nike teamed up with the optics experts at Zeiss to design a pair of worthy shades. You can watch a couple of moonshoty videos about what makes the sunglasses $1,200 worth of amazing, but the basic gist is a human anatomy-inspired unibody lens that wraps around its wearer’s face, while a silicone strap wraps it the rest of the way around the head.

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That has two key advantages. One is weight — a pair tips the scales at 26 grams. The other is a tight fit that eliminates pressures from the bridge of the nose and ears. It also helps cut down on wind drag, a key feature for people’s who primarily job in life is moving really, really fast.

via Wired

Source: TechCrunch