Slack Faces Off Against Bigger Competitors, Tweaks Software

Slack came to life three years ago, out of a failed video game, and, as messaging software, combines rich data on how people use a product with information on how people feel about using it. When it debuted in 2014, word of mouth catapulted Slack to a value of $4 billion. Now, the private company has attracted competition from Microsoft, which last fall unveiled Teams, free to 85 million users of Office 365, and Facebook with its free collaboration tool Workplace. A smaller company, Atlassian, has also had success. Continue reading Slack Faces Off Against Bigger Competitors, Tweaks Software

Amazon’s New ‘Breakaway’ Integrates Twitch and AWS Cloud

Amazon Game Studios recently unveiled its first big-budget video game, the multiplayer online battle game “Breakaway,” described as street basketball played in a mythological world where athletes are armed. With the game, Amazon integrates live streaming app Twitch, which it bought for nearly $1 billion, and also incorporates Lumberyard, its cross-platform, 3D game engine. Lumberyard, free to game developers, connects to its Amazon Web Services cloud storage. The game is available for free, indefinitely, as Amazon works out the bugs. Continue reading Amazon’s New ‘Breakaway’ Integrates Twitch and AWS Cloud

Twitter in Talks with NBA, MLS and Turner for Live Streaming

With the goal of being a player in live-streaming sports, Twitter is now in conversations with the NBA, Major League Soccer and cable network Turner, say sources. The company already has the rights to stream some of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games in the fall. And although Twitter couldn’t stream live Wimbledon matches (ESPN holds those rights), it has streamed pre- and post-game material as well as live interviews and analysis. New deals could resemble either of these arrangements. Continue reading Twitter in Talks with NBA, MLS and Turner for Live Streaming

The VOID Debuts its First Mixed Reality Attraction in New York

The VOID has opened its “Ghostbusters”-themed experience inside Madame Tussauds wax museum in Times Square. “For $50, visitors can strap on a VR headset and a backpack computer fashioned into a ‘Ghostbusters’ proton pack, pick up a matching gun-shaped plastic prop, and act out a cinematic fantasy in real life,” explains The Verge, which describes “Ghostbusters: Dimension” as “stunningly intricate.” The experience utilizes tracking markers to create full-body avatars of guests and haptic feedback to add unique physical sensations. As Road to VR notes, its success “has something to do with its ‘4D’ components (e.g., the Slimer-cued mist, mock-rickety platforms, the vibrating vest)” and “the user engagement prompted by walking around in and interfacing with a semi-real virtual space.” Continue reading The VOID Debuts its First Mixed Reality Attraction in New York

Microsoft Developing a Classroom Edition of ‘Minecraft’ Game

The building-block game “Minecraft” may make its way into classrooms next fall. Microsoft is planning to launch a classroom version of the game, which will allow teachers to create custom challenges and track students’ progress on their building projects. This new version of “Minecraft” would be based on “MinecraftEdu,” a spinoff of the original game that was sold to Microsoft last year. Microsoft plans to charge $5 per student annually for the classroom version of the game. Continue reading Microsoft Developing a Classroom Edition of ‘Minecraft’ Game

‘The Martian VR Experience’: Cinema, Video Game or Both?

At CES 2016, attendees could be astronaut Mark Watney in “The Martian VR Experience,” accomplishing many of the tasks he did in the movie. Using the Oculus Rift headset and Oculus Touch handheld controllers, the “VR Experience,” executive produced by the film’s director Ridley Scott and “Experience” director Robert Stromberg, is fully interactive and makes use of the Rift’s positional tracking system. 20th Century Fox, Fox Innovation Lab, RSA Films and The VR Company collaborated on the project. Continue reading ‘The Martian VR Experience’: Cinema, Video Game or Both?

U.K. Plans to Ban Advanced Encryption to Combat Terrorists

In response to Edward Snowden’s revelations of government surveillance of ordinary citizens, many Internet and social media companies responded by creating encryption so advanced that even they couldn’t read users’ communications. Now, many critics say, terrorists and other criminals are using those same platforms because their messages will be safely encrypted from prying eyes of intelligence and government authorities. Among the strongest critic is the U.K. government, which is proposing that such encryption be illegal. Continue reading U.K. Plans to Ban Advanced Encryption to Combat Terrorists

Flare MeTV: Cox to Roll Out New Streaming Content Service

In an attempt to attract and maintain the youth demographic, Cox Communications plans to debut Flare MeTV, featuring a variety of streaming offerings, by the end of 2015. Similar to Comcast’s “Watchable,” which debuted in September, and Verizon’s go90, Flare MeTV will aggregate online video content and may in the future carry some licensed traditional TV content. Flare MeTV will be introduced as free without ads, but may eventually become ad-supported or subscription-based. The app will initially only be available on the iPad.   Continue reading Flare MeTV: Cox to Roll Out New Streaming Content Service

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

Microsoft: Mixed Reality is Future of Immersive Entertainment

Microsoft used its E3 media event last week in Los Angeles to present its vision of the future of immersive entertainment with a “mixed reality” demonstration of the popular video game “Minecraft” seen through its HoloLens headset. The demonstration at the Shrine Auditorium exhibition hall lasted only a few minutes but its impact continues to resonate. Although Microsoft has provided few detailed plans, its early demos and comments made at E3 and other conferences suggest a future that is something more than a virtual or augmented reality. Continue reading Microsoft: Mixed Reality is Future of Immersive Entertainment

Super Bowl XLIX Tops Broadcast TV and Social Media Records

Early numbers indicate that last night’s Super Bowl broadcast was a big win for NBC. According to NBC Sports, the New England Patriots’ 28-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks delivered a 49.7 overnight rating, which marks the highest in Super Bowl history. NBC says the total number of viewers will be announced later today, and could prove to be a new TV record. Twitter announced the evening marked the most-tweeted in Super Bowl history, with more than 28.4 million tweets referencing the game, Katy Perry’s halftime show and the commercials. Continue reading Super Bowl XLIX Tops Broadcast TV and Social Media Records

Study Shows Media Violence Not Linked to Societal Violence

A study recently published in the Journal of Communication found that no significant association exists between media violence consumption and societal violence. Researcher Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University conducted two studies, one which compared movie violence and homicide, and the second which focused on video game violence and youth violence rates. The findings point to an increase in media violence, but not a correlating increase in real-life violence. Continue reading Study Shows Media Violence Not Linked to Societal Violence

Instagram Launches Carefully Curated Autoplay Video Ads

Facebook’s Instagram introduced autoplay video ads into its users’ feeds last week. Activision, Banana Republic, the CW, Disney and Lancome are the initial advertisers to strike a deal with Instagram for the 15-second spots. The company reviewed all of the video ads before the launch to ensure that they fit with Instagram’s overall vibe and contain fresh content. Other social network competitors, like Tumblr and Snapchat, have also recently added autoplay video ads. Continue reading Instagram Launches Carefully Curated Autoplay Video Ads

Advertisers Still Favor Televised Sports Over Online Gaming

Video game-centric website Twitch, recently acquired by Amazon for close to $1 billion, now has a global audience of 60 million users. The audience is passionate, consuming 16 billion minutes of video per month. The site seems to be an ideal way for advertisers to reach the young male demographic, between ages 18 and 30. However, televised sports content remains a viable method for reaching this audience, and advertisers have not yet shifted in preference from TV to online gaming. Continue reading Advertisers Still Favor Televised Sports Over Online Gaming

Failed Video Game Underlines the Perils of Using Kickstarter

Neal Stephenson announced that “Clang,” his sword-fighting video game project launched via Kickstarter, is dead in the water. In 2012, the author of sci-fi classics Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon raised $526,000 on Kickstarter. Stephenson originally set out to create a game that was more engaging than existing sword-fighting games, but ultimately realized that while innovative, the end result was not fun to play. The game and some pledge rewards were not delivered, which frustrated some backers. Continue reading Failed Video Game Underlines the Perils of Using Kickstarter

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