Microsoft Introduces Teams Updates to Reduce User Fatigue

As COVID-19 keeps schools and businesses shut down, Microsoft has unveiled updates for its video communication platform Teams to help online meeting participants feel more connected. One such feature is Together Mode, which lets participants set the call to a shared background image so everyone feels a bit more like they’re sitting in the same room. The genesis of the feature came when Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson realized how fatiguing videoconferences could be, and contacted his friend, Microsoft Research scientist Jaron Lanier. Teams is also adding emoji, video filters, and integration of Tasks and Cortana. Continue reading Microsoft Introduces Teams Updates to Reduce User Fatigue

CES 2020: Location-Based AI is Enabling an Efficient Future

Location-based data is key to many of the efficiencies promised in smart, AI-enabled cities. HERE Technologies got its start in location data in 1985 when, as Navteq and later Nokia, its goal was to digitize mapping and pioneer in-car navigation. In 2015, HERE was sold to a consortium of German automakers and currently has nine direct and indirect shareholders. The company now creates 3D maps and other location-based solutions. During CES, HERE senior VP development & CTO Giovanni Lanfranchi described how the company ran a hackathon in Istanbul that challenged ordinary citizens to come up with new location-based solutions. Continue reading CES 2020: Location-Based AI is Enabling an Efficient Future

Monetizing Remixes Is Now Possible With the BlockTune App

BlockTune, a remix monetization app from Common Edits, was the big winner at Sunday’s Entertainment App Challenge held during the AT&T SHAPE conference at Warner Bros. Studios in Los Angeles. BlockTune has both a simple and an advanced UI for sampling music and creating remixes that can be shared with others. The key feature that won over both the judges and the audience is BlockTune’s ability to track the use of samples on a moment-by-moment basis and determine what portion of ad revenue should go to the source artists and the person who created the remix while the music is streaming. Continue reading Monetizing Remixes Is Now Possible With the BlockTune App

Microsoft Builds a Videogame Controller for Disabled Players

Microsoft is readying the debut of its Xbox Adaptive Controller for Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 computers, its first videogame controller for people with disabilities. The controller, slated to go on sale later this year, will cost $100, about $40 more than the standard version. Currently, disabled players often rely on more expensive, customized gear. According to AbleGamers, which advocates for accessibility in the videogame industry, more than 33 million people in North America with a disability play videogames. Continue reading Microsoft Builds a Videogame Controller for Disabled Players

Registration Deadline for USC Hackathon Extended to March 7

ETCentric subscribers and their friends are invited to participate in the Creating Reality Hackathon, being held March 12-15 on the USC campus. The organizers are seeking forward-thinking industry storytellers, game designers, coders, and other creative artists. The teams that produce the top AR and VR submissions will each be awarded $5,000. This event will also be an opportunity to get a hands-on preview of the HTC Vive Pro and Intel’s Vaunt AR glasses. If you wish to participate, please submit your request via this special link (the deadline has been extended to March 7). Visit the event website for more info. Continue reading Registration Deadline for USC Hackathon Extended to March 7

New Technology Is a Clear Focal Point of 2017 LA Auto Show

Cars are still the obvious centerpiece of the LA Auto Show (December 1-10), but, increasingly, the hackers are starting to outnumber the gearheads. At AutoMobility LA, a four-day preview event for industry insiders and press preceding the consumer-focused show, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence were talked about with the same frequency as horsepower and mpg. Show organizers stressed the importance of bringing together “the entire new mobility ecosystem” and showcased a number of startups with vehicle debuts mixed in. Additionally, the event featured the first ever hackathon at an auto show. Continue reading New Technology Is a Clear Focal Point of 2017 LA Auto Show

Vevo Brings New Live Talk Show Format to Social Platforms

Vevo is launching a live talk show format that streams across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vevo.com and Vevo’s mobile apps. Vevo Live includes artist interviews, a studio audience, and interaction with streaming viewers via text chat. The concept evolved from the Vevo Party app, developed during an internal company hackathon last year to enable users to chat while watching the same videos, and eventually became Watch Party. After initial success with its audience, and interest by artists who began hosting their own Watch Parties, the company created Vevo Live. Last week, a Fifth Harmony Vevo Live show attracted more than 3 million viewers across social platforms. Continue reading Vevo Brings New Live Talk Show Format to Social Platforms

Uber Adjusts its Employment Policies and Calls for New Apps

Uber Technologies is tweaking how it does business. In California, the ride-sharing company will no longer reject potential drivers due to a nonviolent or nonsexual offense, such as petty theft or check fraud. It will also tell those rejected why and describe steps they can take to reduce their felony conviction to a misdemeanor. Uber is also now promising drivers more money to work during heavy demand periods, and is inviting smartphone app developers to create customized “trip experiences” for riders. Continue reading Uber Adjusts its Employment Policies and Calls for New Apps

Nintendo, Facebook to Host a ‘Super Mario Maker’ Hackathon

Nintendo and Facebook are teaming up to host a hackathon at Facebook’s headquarters on July 28 and 29, centered around the upcoming “Super Mario Maker” game. The game allows players to build their own Mario courses, and Facebook employees will be creating their own levels for the game, with Nintendo as the judge. The winning creations will be released for download once the game launches in September. Nintendo hopes that allowing players to design their own games will appeal to a creative generation of young gamers. Continue reading Nintendo, Facebook to Host a ‘Super Mario Maker’ Hackathon

Facebook Acquires Fitness App, Could Develop Wearable Tech

Facebook recently purchased ProtoGeo Oy, the maker of a fitness-tracking smartphone app called Moves. The app, which already has been downloaded more than 4 four million times on iPhone and Android, uses data from the phone’s accelerometer to automatically record the user’s walking, cycling, and running activity, and displays statistics on distance and calories burned. The acquisition could be Facebook’s first step into eventually developing wearable smartwatches. Continue reading Facebook Acquires Fitness App, Could Develop Wearable Tech

Google’s Chromecast SDK Headed for International Markets

Google is planning to bring Chromecast to international markets and make casting available on multiple devices with thousands of apps. The popular device’s SDK, which is still being finalized, will be opened up to help make apps compatible with the $35 dongle, and Google is partnering with several companies to bring its functionality to a number of other devices. Hundreds of developers have already signed up to add Chromecast capabilities to their apps. Continue reading Google’s Chromecast SDK Headed for International Markets

Google Aims to Attract Programmers with Glass Developer Kit

Google unveiled its Glass Development Kit (GDK) earlier this week at a Glass hackathon in San Francisco, inviting developers to create third party apps for its wearable technology. The company is looking to lure programmers with parts of Glass that were previously unavailable. Developers can now build Glass apps that work offline, in real time, and use the hardware accelerometer and GPS. Until now, developers were only able to work with the Mirror API. Continue reading Google Aims to Attract Programmers with Glass Developer Kit

Facebook Unveils Shared Photo Albums, Ideal for Group Events

Facebook announced its new shared photo albums feature yesterday that allows as many as 50 “contributors” to upload 200 images each to the same album. That means the shared albums can be as large as 10,000 photos in total. Previously, users were only able to upload photos to albums they had created, while albums were limited to 1,000 images. The new feature may affect photo album apps such as Albumatic and Flock. It is also similar to Google+’s Party Mode, which lets users share photos and videos. Continue reading Facebook Unveils Shared Photo Albums, Ideal for Group Events

UTA Draws Developers for Third Annual Hollywood Hack Day

The third annual Hollywood Hack Day took place last weekend, bringing a hackathon — a timed collaborative event during which software developers create new apps or Web services — to Los Angeles. United Talent Agency hosted the event and provided increased bandwidth for the 135 developers and designers involved in the 2-day competition. Because the event was in LA, several teams chose to create apps about the art and business of entertainment. Continue reading UTA Draws Developers for Third Annual Hollywood Hack Day

Coders and Filmmakers Discuss Supercharging Web Video with Popcorn

  • Filmmakers and coders gathered in San Francisco for a recent “hackathon” to explore the future of Web video. Discussions focused on Popcorn.js — “Mozilla’s HTML5 media toolkit designed to amp up interactivity,” according to Wired.
  • Popcorn is a framework “that allows filmmakers to supplement their movies with news feeds, Twitter posts, informational windows or even other videos, which show up picture-in-picture style. For example, if a subject in a film mentions a place, a link can pop up within the video or alongside it, directing the viewer to a Google Map of the location.”
  • While initially hesitant that such enhancements would distract viewers from the movie experience, directors reportedly grew accepting of the concept of providing a more interactive experience.
  • “It’s easy to envision Popcorn helping filmmakers with their productions as well as creating communities for films after their release,” reports Wired. “At least one documentary project, ‘One Millionth Tower,’ has already made use of the tools, coupling Popcorn with 3D graphics generator WebGL to create a Web-ready documentary that shows what would happen if the residents of a Toronto highrise were allowed to participate in re-creating their home tower.”