Consumers Are Using Phones to Control Smart Home Devices

Smartphones could be on their way toward becoming the new remote, as a recent GfK survey of 1,000 Internet users 18 and older found that 89 percent use their phones to control connected home products and services (an increase of 19 percent since 2015). The same respondents indicated that they are now using their phones more than other devices in the home: 83 percent use their smartphones at home, 75 percent use their laptops, 54 percent use PCs, and 34 percent use game consoles. The figures represent increases across all categories when compared to 2015. Continue reading Consumers Are Using Phones to Control Smart Home Devices

Southern California’s Silicon Beach Expanding into Playa Vista

The recently developed Playa Vista neighborhood on Los Angeles’ Westside near Marina del Rey is now home to numerous technology companies including Electronic Arts, Facebook, IMAX, Microsoft, Yahoo and YouTube. In fall 2018, Alphabet’s Google will move into a 319,000-square foot office space, adjacent to 12 acres of land the company bought in 2014. Playa Vista is also adjacent to the 600-acre Ballona Wetlands, home to hundreds of bird species, and against the Westchester Bluffs. Currently 5,000 to 6,000 people work there. Continue reading Southern California’s Silicon Beach Expanding into Playa Vista

JPEG Debuts Streaming Video Format for 5G, Wi-Fi Networks

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group), known for its photo standard, released a new video compression standard, JPEG XS, designed to work on next-gen 5G cellular or Wi-Fi networks. The new standard, says JPEG, will work on current computers via a software upgrade and is aimed at streaming lossless video, VR content and games over wireless networks, with lower latency and better energy efficiency. Devices smaller than computers, however, will require a hardware upgrade to support JPEG XS. Continue reading JPEG Debuts Streaming Video Format for 5G, Wi-Fi Networks

iPhone Users Spending More on Games, Streaming Services

Sensor Tower has found that iPhone users in the U.S. increased in-app purchase spending by 23 percent last year over 2016. Active users spent an average of $58 in 2017 using Apple’s in-app purchase or subscription options. The figures do not reflect e-commerce spending via sites like Amazon or payments for services such as Lyft or Uber. At roughly 62 percent of average spending, mobile gaming leads the charge in this sector. Subscription-based streaming services, and music, dating and lifestyle apps also contributed to the rise in spending. Continue reading iPhone Users Spending More on Games, Streaming Services

Magic Leap Ships AR Headsets to Developers With Constraints

Under mysterious circumstances, some Magic Leap augmented reality headsets have started showing up at software developers’ offices. The headset itself is even more mysterious, in that access to it requires a commitment from the user that they keep it in a locked safe. Apparently, the Florida-based startup is worried about the balance of testing the product while losing control of it out in the wild. Magic Leap, which has raised more than $2.3 billion, has promised to deliver more sets to more developers later this year.

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Startup Using AI to Help Create Effects for Movies, TV, Games

Palo Alto-based startup Arraiy is developing methods for automating part of the often-tedious process of producing visual effects for movies, TV shows and video games. “Filmmakers can do this stuff, but they have to do it by hand,” said CTO Gary Bradski, who has worked with tech companies such as Intel and Magic Leap. The Arraiy team, led by Bradski and CEO Ethan Rublee, “are building computer algorithms that can learn design tasks by analyzing years of work by movie effects houses,” reports The New York Times. “That includes systems that learn to ‘rotoscope’ raw camera footage, carefully separating people and objects from their backgrounds so that they can be dropped onto new backgrounds.” Continue reading Startup Using AI to Help Create Effects for Movies, TV, Games

CNET Review: Oculus Go, Facebook’s New $199 VR Headset

Facebook is getting ready to release Oculus Go, a new phone-free VR headset at a price point of $199. According to CNET, the standalone Oculus Go represents “entry-level accessibility” to virtual reality, an area of technology innovation they hope to see grow at a consumer level. While the games and apps available on Oculus Go seem similar to what’s already available via Samsung’s Gear VR, the design is “less clunky, and the integrated, cleaner, softer and smaller construction here is better,” writes CNET.

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Access Android Games Immediately With Google Play Instant

The age of instant gratification just got even more addictive thanks to Google’s new Google Play Instant, which comprises Android apps and games that do not need to be installed before people can try them out. The tech giant announced the upgrade at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Available games include Supercell’s “Clash Royale,” Zynga’s “Words with Friends 2,” King’s “Bubble Witch 3 Saga” and Hothead’s “Mighty Battles.” These and more are already available on over 1 billion Android devices.

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Facebook Plans to Be Next Home to Online Content Creators

Facebook wants to be the next home for online content creators, aiming to displace YouTube, Patreon and others with additions to its Creator app, which launched in November on iOS and will be available on Android soon. The social media giant is currently testing ways Creator users can make more money and connect with their fans. One such way would allow monthly subscribers to gain access to exclusive content from their favorite creators and allow them to earn fan badges similar to those used on Patreon.

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Amazon Debuts Cross-Platform Competitive Gaming Platform

Amazon has launched an AWS-powered competitive gaming platform called Amazon GameOn, which allows third-party developers to add eSports-like competitive elements such as tournaments and leaderboards to mobile, PC and console games. Gamers can also win Amazon prizes (perhaps an Echo Dot, for example) in real-time, which effectively adds another layer of competitive gaming between professional eSports players and amateur gamers. According to market research from Newzoo, eSports could grow into a $1.5 billion business by the year 2020.

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NBCUniversal, Intel, Microsoft, Unity Launch Gaming Contest

NBCUniversal is inviting developers to create games leveraging its popular television and film properties such as “Battlestar Galactica,” “Back to the Future” and “Jaws.” Through the Universal GameDev Challenge — co-sponsored by Universal, Unity Technologies, Intel, and Microsoft — Unity game engine developers can submit pitches to be selected to build out their full vision in PC game form. Winner and runner-up win a consulting contract with Universal, Microsoft and Unity, along with a combined $250,000.

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Google, Ubisoft Partner on Open-Source Game Server Project

Multiplayer game servers are notoriously difficult to build and maintain, but as the popularity of multiplayer games increases, Google Cloud aims to tackle the issue with the advent of Agones (Greek for “contest” or “gathering”), its new open source project developed through a partnership with French gaming company Ubisoft. Dedicated servers are important for multiplayer games to reduce delays, stop cheating in its tracks, and provide a better overall experience for those connecting to play. Google is currently seeking more partners for Agones.

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Google Maps Helps Develop Real-World Gaming Experiences

Google is enabling game developers to create “Pokémon Go”-like experiences in which game elements are embedded into real-world maps using the new Google Maps API and the Unity game engine. Over 200 games are already in development. Next Games is developing a game based on the popular TV series “The Walking Dead,” and NBCUniversal and Ludia will release a “Jurassic World Alive” location-based game for mobile. Because Google Maps updates in real time, developers can create gaming experiences with a sharp eye on reality.

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Mobile Gaming Tops PCs and Consoles to Take Market Lead

Prior to 2014, home game consoles and PCs ruled the gaming roost, but since then, mobile gaming has gained steady ground. New 2017 numbers indicate that mobile gaming’s market lead is widening, with users spending 2.3 times more on mobile than on PC and Mac games and spending 3.6 more than on home game consoles, according to an annual report released from App Annie and IDC. In total, mobile games generated $70 billion in 2017; Mac games generated $34 billion and game consoles generated $22 billion.

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Ubisoft’s New AI Assistant Helps Catch Bugs in Video Games

Another exciting AI development has arrived, and its aim is to keep pesky bugs out of video games. At the recent Ubisoft Developer Conference in Montreal, the gaming company unveiled Commit Assistant, its new AI assistant for game developers. The goal is to catch bugs before they’re coded, saving developers time, reducing in-game flaws, and cutting back on company costs. One of the most expensive and time-intensive aspects of game design is eliminating bugs, which can absorb significant manpower and as much as 70 percent of costs during development.

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