Posts Tagged ‘product news’

Vivoom Shoots Mobile Video With Movie and TV-Like Effects

December 26, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

So you think you haven’t seen enough social video apps for your iPhone or iPad? Well then, today is your lucky day. There’s a new app out today called Vivoom. While you can think of it as similar in concept to other apps like Instagram video and Twitter’s Vine, this one is a little different in that it gives you access to visual effects that have been used on lots of movies and TV shows over the last 15 years or so. The company behind it is GenArts, a big supplier of visual effects software to TV and motion picture studios, including Disney, HBO and ESPN. Shoot your video, and then you can add visual effects that you’ve seen in use on big and small screen. All the rendering is done in the cloud. New effects are being added all the time without any need to download an update to the app. Today for example, a new one called “Beauty” makes it easy to remove blemishes and wrinkles from your subject’s skin. Another called “Skinny” helps them appear a little thinner. The “Sketch” and “Zap” effects are shown in the picture above. The app, available for iOS devices, was created with help from KerrisMedia, the app development and marketing firm created by Richard Kerris, a former CTO at Lucasfilm and the longtime head of developer relations at Nokia and Palm before that . The firm’s first client was the Rolling Stones. While the effects are a nice touch, to say that Vivoom is entering a crowded field is putting it charitably.

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Oculus VR CEO Brendan Iribe on Raising $75 Million, the "Oh My God" Demo and Working With Valve

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Last night, news leaked out that Oculus VR had raised $75 million from Andreessen Horowitz to help it release its first product, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. In an interview with AllThingsD , CEO Brendan Iribe said the company first talked with Andreessen Horowitz shortly before it closed a $16 million Series A with other investors in June. The two teams hit it off, but what sealed the deal was a demo meeting in November. That month, the Oculus founders and CTO John Carmack demoed the latest internal prototype of the Rift, which Iribe describes as a significant leap ahead of what the company has publicly shown off so far. “You feel like you’re looking through the lenses to a different world,” Iribe said, summarizing the reactions of the demo recipients as “Oh my God, this is it.” Iribe said Marc Andreessen had expressed enthusiasm earlier in the year, but needed to be convinced that a consumer version was feasible. The November demo — in which Andreessen was one of the people to try the headset — was evidently good enough, as the room then hashed out a $75 million investment intended to cover inventory, marketing and sales for the version-one Rift. However, launching any new hardware is tricky without stuff to use it for, and Iribe said Oculus VR is also using the new funds to invest in content. The goal is to ensure that the Rift will not only have games at launch, but also a calendar of games to expect post-launch, so that consumers will know what’s coming. So, what has changed that suddenly makes an expected 2014 consumer release a possibility? Iribe repeatedly praised Valve’s R&D head Michael Abrash

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MindMeld Assistant App Listens Along to Conversations to Help in Real Time

December 12, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

MindMeld , which is one of the more ambitious application ideas out there and has been promised for more than a year , launches to the public tonight. Well, the U.S. English-speaking public with second-generation and older iPads, that is. The app is a personal assistant that actively listens to voice calls and tries to provide useful relevant information — for instance Web sites and pictures — in real time. Afterwards, it summarizes key concepts. Up to eight people can participate in a call at a time. In a post-Snowden era, live conversation analysis is the kind of stuff that larger, scarier companies like Google might have a lot of trouble doing without causing mass hysteria, but perhaps a startup will be able to give it a good shot. San Francisco-based MindMeld maker Expect Labs has funding from Liberty Global, IDG Ventures, Google Ventures, Intel Capital, Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, Telefonica Digital and others.

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Calling Overseas on Wi-Fi

December 4, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Q: If I bought the Republic Wireless phone you reviewed last week, would I be able to make calls overseas without paying the usual exorbitant roaming fees the big carriers charge, as long as I was in Wi-Fi range? A: Yes indeed, according to the company. The Motorola Moto X sold by Republic is a modified version that defaults to making calls and sending texts via Wi-Fi and only relies on cellular networks in the U.S. when Wi-Fi is too weak or unavailable. So, the company says Wi-Fi calls to and from the U.S. from anywhere in the world are covered in each of its four calling plans, without the need for a special Internet-calling app. However, if you aren’t in Wi-Fi range, you’re out of luck: Republic says it doesn’t offer international cellular service. Email Walt at mossberg@wsj.com .

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Indie Platformer Badland Finally Comes to Android, but With a New Business Model

November 29, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Badland, a much-honored platformer game developed by Finnish indie studio Frogmind, is now on Android . But wait, what’s this? It’s free. The addicting and arty game launched on iOS in March for $4, and last month came to BlackBerry World at the same price. But, after talking with other mobile developers, Frogmind decided to go free-to-play for the game’s Android release, adding 15-second interstitial ads and two in-app purchases: One just removes the ads, while the other removes the ads and unlocks the second half of the game, for a total of 80 levels. In an interview earlier this month, Frogmind COO Teemu Maki-Patola said selling Badland for $4 has worked on the App Store, but that premium downloads don’t work on Google Play. The developers Frogmind consulted while preparing for the release had changed their Android titles from paid to free downloads, and in some cases saw as much as a 100x increase in downloads. (Of course, if money is the issue, free also works “better” on iOS. Only one game in the App Store’s Top 25, Minecraft Pocket Edition, is a paid download.) Also influencing the paid-to-free experiment, according to Maki-Patola: The anniversary promotion for the App Store earlier this year, during which Apple gave away five popular paid games, Badland among them, for free. In the game’s first four months, it tallied 280,000 paid downloads, but when it temporarily turned free, it added 7.12 million more in a week.

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Tablet Buyer’s Wi-Fi Goof

November 27, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Q: I think we may have goofed. We bought a tablet that claims to be “Wi-Fi only.” Can it be activated to handle 4G cellular data? A: It’s highly unlikely. To use cellular data, a tablet needs extra chips, antennas, and other hardware and software, similar to what a smartphone includes. If it says “Wi-Fi only,” that very likely means it lacks this hardware. In fact, if you compare the specs on, say, an iPad, or a Google Nexus 7 tablet, you’ll see that, not only are the prices higher for the 4G cellular versions, but they weigh slightly more, to accommodate the cellular gear. A: I am trying to monitor my teenagers’ iPhones. I bought an app called PhoneSheriff based upon good reviews. However when I went to install it, it says to ensure the targeted iPhone is “Jailbroken.” I believe this will void the Apple warranties. Is there anything I can do to monitor my teenagers’ iPhones without jailbreaking? A: There’s an app called TeenSafe that claims to be the only monitoring system for iPhones that doesn’t require that the target phone be jailbroken, which essentially means hacking the phone to accept apps that Apple hasn’t approved. It apparently works via the Web and relies on your knowing your children’s Apple IDs and passwords (presumably, even if they change). I haven’t tested or reviewed the app, so I can’t recommend it. Email Walt at mossberg@wsj.com .

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Google Continues to Fill Out iOS App Catalog With Music App

November 15, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

“A couple weeks from now we will launch Google Play Music All Access for iOS,” said Google Apps head Sundar Pichai at our D11 conference in May. A couple weeks … five months … what’s the difference? The app actually launched today . “It just took us a little longer than we thought to bring it up to the level of polish,” product manager Brandon Bilinski told the Verge . The app has many of the features of its Android equivalent, but lacks a crucial one: The ability to buy songs. But that’s normal these days — the Kindle app for iOS doesn’t let users buy books, either. Neither Amazon nor Google wants to pay Apple the 30 percent commission it commands on in-app purchases.

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Verizon Stocks Up on TV Everywhere Tech By Buying upLynk

November 14, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Verizon has been talking to Intel about buying the chipmaker’s Web TV business . But in the meantime it is buying other digital TV tech: The telco says  it has purchased   upLynk , a startup that makes it easier to stream video on the Web. The purchase is worth noting because for the past year or so, upLynk has been describing itself as a software company that can help programmers and pay TV providers with their “TV Everywhere” strategy, which is supposed to let people watch any show they want, on any device — as long as they are pay TV subscribers. upLynk’s biggest claims to fame so far are the projects it has been doing with Disney. Its encoding software helps power the programmer’s Watch Disney and ABC Player apps, as well as the Watch ABC app that lets pay TV subs watch live streaming TV on their iPads. Verizon didn’t disclose a purchase price for the Los Angeles-based company, but a person familiar with the transaction puts the purchase price at more than $75 million. When upLynk introduced itself to the press at the beginning of the year, it described itself as self-funded.

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Netflix Gives Most, but Not All, of Its TV Viewers a New Look

November 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Netflix is giving itself a makeover. The video service has overhauled the presentation most subscribers see when they watch Netflix on TV, using devices like Roku boxes, Sony’s PlayStation consoles, smart TVs and Blu-ray players. The new look is supposed to debut today, but you can get a sense of what it looks like by checking out the screenshot above, or the embedded video at the bottom of the post. Or you can trust my description: Netflix is adding more images, and information, to its screens. It’s all designed to make you more likely to click on a video and watch it. The goal, of course, is to get you to watch more Netflix, so you’ll be more likely to keep paying $8 a month for the service. Netflix executives are proud of the facelift, which they described as the “biggest change to the Netflix experience in our history.” What’s at least as interesting to an outsider, though, are the reasons you won’t see the new look on all the devices that connect Netflix to TVs. In some cases, there’s a technical limitation, though the Netflix folks said they’ve worked hard to design software that’s lightweight enough to work on relatively primitive devices. But the reason Netflix can’t overhaul its look for other devices — like Apple’s Apple TVs, and Microsoft’s new Xbox One — is because the device manufacturers have specific rules about the way app developers can present their stuff on their devices.

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Two Next-Level Wearables That Aren’t for Everyone

November 2, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Many people are waiting for expected upcoming smartwatches from Apple and Google to take the wearable category to the next level. Or at least as much of a next-level as you can expect from a first-generation product. “It seems as though the whole product category has moved on to Activity Tracking 1.1, but hasn’t quite graduated to Wearables 2.0,” AllThingsD ’s Lauren Goode astutely observed . Until that next level arrives, today’s wearable gadgets offer limited activity-tracking accuracy and somewhat forced integration with phones. Trying out the notifier watch Pebble or the often-buggy Jawbone Up can feel like beta-testing prerelease prototype products. At best, the products provide the user with a little push to be more active . In an attempt to compete with what’s available today, and to carve out space before the biggies hit the market, a couple of new bands are currently raising money via crowdfunding by trying to be excellent by being more specific. The Memi is kind of like the Pebble watch, but specifically for women. It’s based around notifications, not fitness

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