Microsoft Opens The Garage, Unveils Wild Ideas of Employees

Microsoft recently launched a new section on its website to provide the public with access to various projects in development. Microsoft Garage started in 2009 within the Office Labs group as a place for employees to work on innovative new ideas. Until last week, The Garage was largely an internal effort that supported side projects, hackathons and science fairs. The Garage is now offering public access to 16 free consumer-facing apps across Android, Android Wear, iOS, Windows Phone and Xbox One. Continue reading Microsoft Opens The Garage, Unveils Wild Ideas of Employees

Free ‘League of Legends’ Game May Make $1 Billion This Year

The world championship for the biggest e-sport in the world, “League of Legends,” starts in South Korea this weekend. About 40,000 fans are expected to fill the stadium to watch the tournament live while at least another 30 million will watch the games online. Riot Games runs the League of Legends World Championship along with the online broadcasting, and by producing a premium sporting experience for players, Riot Games may make upwards of $1 billion in 2014. Continue reading Free ‘League of Legends’ Game May Make $1 Billion This Year

Micro-Content: Cartoon Network Unveils Mobile App for Kids

Turner’s Cartoon Network launched an app last week that features 10- to 15-second clips of the cable channel’s animated shows. “Cartoon Network Anything” is targeting boys 6- to 11-years old, many of whom are shifting towards mobile media consumption. Cartoon Network designed the app to drive young viewers back to the TV with promotions for on-air properties in between the 15-second clips, games, polls, quizzes, trivia, and puzzles. The free app is available for iOS and Android. Continue reading Micro-Content: Cartoon Network Unveils Mobile App for Kids

Skillz Has Plans to Expand Play-for-Cash into Mobile Gaming

San Francisco-based startup Skillz has raised $6 million in equity funding and venture debt to bring cash stakes to mobile games. With this type of functionality, players usually put in an ante of 60 cents with the hopes of winning a $1 prize. Skillz currently shells out $10,000 per day in cash rewards across 175 games running on its platform. The game developers are also making more revenue with cash tournaments than they are through traditional advertising. Continue reading Skillz Has Plans to Expand Play-for-Cash into Mobile Gaming

Amazon Draws Distinction Between its Tablets and E-Readers

Amazon recently announced the expansion of its tablet line and e-reader offerings. As part of an effort to strengthen ties between its tablets and other new hardware, Amazon has dropped the name “Kindle” from its tablets. Formerly called Kindle Fire tablets, the simply named Fire HD and Fire HDX will be more closely aligned with the company’s Fire TV and Fire Phone. The rebranding highlights the distinction Amazon hopes to make between the Kindle e-readers and more advanced Fire tablets. Continue reading Amazon Draws Distinction Between its Tablets and E-Readers

Speech Recognition Tech: Kids Speak with Animated Characters

Pixar vets Oren Jacob and Martin Reddy launched San Francisco-based ToyTalk, a startup that develops mobile games that enable children to have extended conversations with animated characters. The concept was inspired by a Skype call when Jacob’s then 7-year-old daughter asked if she could speak with one of her dolls. While kids can hear characters speak through movies, games and toys, Jacob began thinking about how to help children better engage with the characters. Continue reading Speech Recognition Tech: Kids Speak with Animated Characters

Oculus Debuts Crescent Bay VR Prototype at LA Conference

Oculus unveiled its latest VR headset, currently named “Crescent Bay,” at a Hollywood event over the weekend. Some 800 developers attended Oculus Connect, the company’s first conference, to check out the new device. While not yet commercially available, the prototype promises a more comfortable, natural experience. Crescent Bay features 360-degree motion tracking, integrated headphones and improved ergonomics. It is not the consumer version, but is “sprinting toward” it, explained chief exec Brendan Iribe. Continue reading Oculus Debuts Crescent Bay VR Prototype at LA Conference

Yelp and TinyCo Face Fines After Violating Children’s Privacy

The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that game maker TinyCo agreed to pay $300,000 to settle charges that it violated children’s privacy rules by improperly collecting information. The company was accused of violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In a separate case, Yelp agreed to pay a $450,000 penalty for doing the same through its consumer review app. Both companies were charged with collecting personal info from children under 13 without parental consent. Continue reading Yelp and TinyCo Face Fines After Violating Children’s Privacy

Will Accessories and Apps Make Smartwatches Indispensable?

Some analysts are suggesting that we avoid underestimating smartwatches, which could eventually become indispensable as a wide array of useful apps come to market. Major players such as Samsung, Google and Apple will release wearables that can be used for health and fitness tracking, interacting with our phones and vehicles, and much more. The platform is expected to usher in a new frontier of accessories and apps, and the ability to develop them in a more sophisticated manner. Continue reading Will Accessories and Apps Make Smartwatches Indispensable?

Make Purchases from Your Twitter Feed with New Buy Button

Twitter has announced its trial run of a “Buy” button on tweets, which enables users to make purchases directly from their Twitter feeds. So far, Twitter has announced that it will test this new feature with a variety of retailers, nonprofits, and musicians, but movie purchases may not be far behind. Fandango, for example, has already launched a “Twitter Card” feature, which redirects users to the Fandango site so they can buy movie tickets. The “Buy” button is currently being tested by a select number of Twitter users. Continue reading Make Purchases from Your Twitter Feed with New Buy Button

Nintendo Upgrades New 3DS for Hardcore Game Experiences

Nintendo has announced the New Nintendo 3DS, with upgrades including better graphics and faster Internet speeds. The new device, which will make its debut October 11 in Japan, features a second analog joystick, two added shoulder buttons, more battery life and Micro SD card support. Everything about the design, particularly the addition of buttons, signals a shift in Nintendo’s focus to hardcore gamers. The New Nintendo 3DS will come in two models priced at about $160 to $180. Continue reading Nintendo Upgrades New 3DS for Hardcore Game Experiences

New First: Majority of Digital Media Accessed on Mobile Apps

According to a new study by comScore, U.S. consumers are now spending 52 percent of their time with digital media via mobile apps. Marking a significant shift, we are now spending more time on mobile apps than we are on desktop PCs and mobile Web surfing. The report indicates that mobile usage as a whole now accounts for 60 percent of our time with digital media, while desktop-based consumption accounts for 40 percent. Additionally, one-third of U.S. users download at least one app per month. Continue reading New First: Majority of Digital Media Accessed on Mobile Apps

Facebook Hires WaveGroup Sound as In-House Design Team

Facebook has hired the team behind WaveGroup Sound, a California-based company that specializes in audio production for games. The company has produced tracks for “Guitar Hero,” “Rock Band” and “Dance Dance Revolution,” and has also produced sound for a variety of startups, hardware devices and mobile apps. The WaveGroup team will serve as the full-time in-house sound design team for Facebook. The group is expected to focus on sound for Facebook’s external apps. Continue reading Facebook Hires WaveGroup Sound as In-House Design Team

SIGGRAPH 2014: Panel Discusses VR Content, Tech Hurdles

During a Sunday session at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference, panelists discussed virtual reality, its technical hurdles, and the need for compelling content. Palmer Luckey, co-founder of Oculus VR, described the adoption of augmented and virtual reality as inevitable, but suggested we’re not quite there yet. While innovation will likely be led by hardware from multiple manufacturers, he also believes that content and software will drive the industry in the long term. Continue reading SIGGRAPH 2014: Panel Discusses VR Content, Tech Hurdles

Amazon 3D Printing Store Offers iPhone Cases, Bobble Heads

Amazon launched its 3D Printing Store yesterday, which allows users to customize pre-made designs and order 3D printed products. Printing labs such as 3DLT, Mixee and Sculpteo have partnered with Amazon to include their popular designs. Amazon’s store presently features more than 200 designs for games, home decor, jewelry, tech accessories, toys and more that can be altered by color, size and thickness. Users can also add text, their name and other small touches. Continue reading Amazon 3D Printing Store Offers iPhone Cases, Bobble Heads