Posts tagged wants

Oculus Rift Is Coming, And Facebook Wants It To Be Your New Reality

A wise man once said that reality is “simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” Oculus, the virtual reality harbinger now owned by Facebook, agrees. And it wants you to believe it too, so you can accept virtual reality as a new form of reality.

“VR is more than just another platform,” Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash said at the F8 conference Thursday. “In the long run it has the potential to create the whole range of human experience. Virtual reality done right truly is reality as far as the observer is concerned.”

Like the series of optical illusions Abrash showcased on stage, virtual reality works because of our brain’s stubborn quest to make sense of the world. Feed a slightly different image into each eye, and it will gladly decide you are seeing depth and motion. It will gladly process virtual images as real, giving you a sense of actual presence. 

It’s this model of the world, filtered through our brain’s limited sensors, that we experience as “real” and trust implicitly, Abrash said. It’s a model built by millions of years of human evolution that is based on assumptions that are almost always right. Virtual reality works because it feeds the brain enough matching information that the brain assumes what it is seeing is real. That’s presence.

Merging The Virtual Into Reality

Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash speaks at F8. The Crescent Bay prototype is shown on screen.

VR is only in the beginning stages. Abrash said over and over that it just just now reached that minimal level or presence. By adding haptics—physical feedback that corresponds to the virtual world—better screens and improved audio, virtual reality can become even more lifelike. The hardware itself will get smaller, lighter and more powerful.

Abrash also talked about bringing the real world into the virtual. For example, you should be able to look down and see your own body. If you want to reach out and grab your coffee, there’s a virtual representation you can pick up without taking off your mask. It sounded like a hybrid form of augmented reality, a different way of experiencing the real world.

Oculus didn’t make any announcements about the long-awaited release of Oculus Rift. Abrash did say it will be “shipping in quantity before long.” Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer showcased a video game and said, “You’re going to be able to do this this year in VR. You’re going to be doing it in something shipped by Oculus.”

Both Schroepfer and Abrash threw up images of Crescent Bay, the latest publicly-shown Oculus prototype. Schroepfer was quick to clarify on Twitter that he wasn’t talking about an actual Rift release, and never mentioned Gear VR, the mobile headset slated for a broad consumer availability later this year. 

In my reality, I’m going to go ahead and envision a 2015 Rift ship date. 

Photos by Owen Thomas for ReadWrite

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Facebook Messenger Wants To Claim E-Commerce … And Fist Bump GIFs

Facebook’s Messenger app has some big ambitions. It not only wants to give users new ways to communicate via goofy photos, GIFs, video and eventually virtual-reality recordings, it’s also making a big play for e-commerce.

No wonder Facebook now calls it the Messenger Platform, as it announced at its F8 Developer Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. Now we just have to see who will climb aboard.

Fist Bumps On Messenger

The changes Facebook is making to Messenger are simple in concept, and are aimed squarely at making the service a more fun place to communicate by opening the door to third-party apps of all kinds.

The new Messenger Platform will initially integrate photo and graphics apps like Giphy, FlipLip, Bitmoji and Jib Jab. While the current version of Messenger allows users to send text, video, stickers, location data, and to make voice calls, Messenger Platform will add access to any app that developers decide to bring to the party.

Sending dumb videos to your friends is easier than ever with app integration through Messenger Platform

David Marcus, Facebook’s VP of messaging, offered a demonstration of the new forms of creative communication. In response to a Jib Jab video sent by Zuckerberg, he accessed a list of compatible apps and decided to download Giphy. From there, he was whisked to the App Store, downloaded the app, and found the fist-bump GIF of his dreams. Another few taps later, he beamed the GIF to his boss.

While sending gifs via Messenger may not seem like a world shattering innovation, the easy-to-use app integration offers a lot of potential. As it stands, there are no shortage of ways for people to send files or ideas to each other. Facebook, however, would clearly like to establish Messenger as the go-to place for people to exchange important files, music, restaurant recommendations—you name it.

The big hurdle, of course, is for developers to come up with the ideas that will bring users to the party. And, of course, for users to accept the idea of funneling all their interactions through Facebook’s app.

That may be a hard sell for younger folks who have gravitated more to up-and-coming social apps like Snapchat.

These are Facebook’s Messenger Platform third-party app partners … so far

Messenger Means Business

Then there’s Messenger Business, which aims to streamline the way users shop online.

In his F8 demo, Marcus focused on the numerous emails you get whenever you sign up for store accounts, placed orders, track packages or deal with refunds. Messenger Business is designed to let users communicate with participating online retailers one-on-one, creating one thread with all the necessary information.

For example, if consumers buy products via a participating retailer, they’ll have the ability to open a thread in Messenger to stay up to date with their orders’ progress. The Messenger thread will allow for package tracking, providing feedback, and even reordering or returning items. Because Messenger Business is tied to a user’s Facebook account, there’s no need to log in or verify your identity.

Track a package you ordered via Messenger Business.

The key phrase there is “participating retailer.” Dealing with retailers by email works because email is universal and easy. Having to take the mental effort to figure out whether the shoe store you’re ordering from works with Messenger and then making sure you only manage your order through Messenger could be a lot to ask of users.

It’s also not clear how Facebook plans to combat compromised accounts. We’ve all seen posts on our friends’ feeds that say something along the lines of, “I’m stupid for leaving my Facebook account open on my friend’s computer.” As such, it isn’t hard to imagine the kinds of e-commerce shenanigans that can come up through similar carelessness.

Presumably, Facebook will have more details about e-commerce security as Messenger Platform and Messenger Business roll out within the next few weeks. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of ideas developers come up with now that they have a new sandbox to play in.

Images courtesy of Facebook

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Google Wants to Help Put Your Business on the Map, Literally by @mattsouthern

According to Google, businesses with complete online listings are twice as likely to be considered reputable by customers. Moreover, Consumers are 38 percent more likely to visit and 29 percent more likely to consider purchasing from businesses with complete listings. Unfortunately, not nearly enough business owners are taking advantage of this relatively easy boost in credibility. Only 37 percent of businesses have claimed a local business listing on a search engine. Google launched an initiative in 2011, called Get Your Business Online, to help businesses capitalize on these missed opportunities. That’s a lot of missed opportunities for small businesses. In […]

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Google’s VP of Display Advertising Wants a Single Standard for Viewability by @mattsouthern

What counts as an ad view? Is it when the ad is technically served, or when the ad is actually able to be seen by a human visitor? No one can definitively answer that question because there’s no standard in the display advertising industry for what counts as “viewability” — which is a problem Neal Mohan, Google’s VP of Display and Video Advertising Products, says needs to be fixed. According to the MRC standard definition of viewability, a ‘viewable ad’ is one that has been rendered on a screen for a person to view. This kind of viewability should be […]

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Who Wants To Send Their Friends Money Via Facebook Messenger?

Facebook announced a new feature Tuesday that allows friends to send money to one another through its Messenger app. But that comes at the risk of sharing even more details of your personal life with the social network.

The process is simple. Facebook added a money symbol ($) sign at the bottom of the screen, right above the keyboard. Tap the $ symbol and enter an amount. Then add your debit card, and hit send.

To accept money from a friend, you’ll open the conversation, add your debit card information, and off it goes. Facebook says the funds will be transferred “right away,” although it adds that your bank may not make the money available to you for one to three business days, “just as it does with other deposits.”

The service will be rolling out to U.S. users “over the coming months,” the company said.

Message Your Spending To Facebook

Facebook released Messenger in 2011 as a dedicated messaging app distinct from its primary social service. While it’s proven very popular—it usually tops the free-app listings in both Apple’s App Store and the Google Play store—Messenger also has a secret life as a data fiend that gathers information about how people use it, when they use it, where they use it, whether they spend more time in landscape or portrait mode, and much more

With all that in mind, using Messenger’s mobile payments might reasonably give you pause on data-privacy and security grounds. Facebook appears to store your debit-card information by default, although you can remove it in Messenger settings.

Facebook presumably also stores a record of your transactions, since it’s hard to imagine anyone getting comfortable with a service that wouldn’t let them review who they’ve sent money to and whether the recipient got it.

That’s another rich source of data Facebook would undoubtedly love to mine for further insights into your personal and business relationships. It’s also information hackers might find useful should they compromise your account.

I reached out to Facebook for some answers, and here’s what a spokeswoman told me about the security of that financial information:

We use an encryption between the consumer and Facebook at all times and encrypt all card information when it is stored. We value the trust consumers place in Facebook and take numerous precautions to prevent unauthorized access to the financial information saved on Facebook. This information is kept on secure servers with multiple layers of hardware and software protection.

Facebook hasn’t yet gotten back to me on the question of what transactions it stores and how it will make use of that information. I’ll update once it does. [Update: Facebook says you will be able to view your Messenger transaction records.]

Facebook isn’t the first social network to let users send money to one another. Last November, Snapchat unveiled its own service for money transfers called Snapcash. Asian companies such as the Chinese social network WeChat also offer similar transfers.

Lead photo by Keith Cooper

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Bitly Wants To Make Deep Linking Easy

Short links, deep links—Bitly now has them both.

The URL shortening service just launched a new business called Deep Links from Bitly that aims to make it much easier for users to jump directly into pages inside mobile apps. Deep links make those jumps possible by making links to the stuff inside mobile apps behave more like Web links.

Deep links are becoming increasingly important. As mobile apps become a larger part of our online browsing experience, links that redirect to the front page of an app instead of a specific internal page—say, that article you really wanted to read on Flipboard—are a huge frustration to users.

See also: Don’t Look Now, But Deep Linking Just Got Hot

While the problem is obvious to users, the solution isn’t always obvious to app makers. According to deep-linking technology startup URX, only 28% of top mobile apps support deep linking. What’s more, most services for implementing deep linking—including URX’s own—require developers to adopt a software developer kit (SDK) to incorporate the function into their app.

Bitly, by contrast, has no SDK for deep linking, and doesn’t plan to build one, either. Instead, Bitly believes marketers will be responsible for providing the best possible experience when it comes to deep linking.

“Other places already offer a developer-centric approach,” said Matt Thomson, chief product officer at Bitly. “We’re going for a less technical audience. We’re coming from the marketers’ perspective, to help publishers try deep linking. All they have to do is give us their link locations and we’ll do all the work.”

Deep Linking For Dummies

Even as they increasingly expect deep linking capabilities, most average users have probably never heard the phrase “deep linking.” They already have a word for it—linking. The fact that mobile links require additional functionality to work like the Web links users are already used to isn’t a user problem, it’s a developer one.

For this reason, Bitly’s goal is to simplify deep linking as much as possible. Instead of requiring the publisher to integrate a redirecting and device detection system, Bitly will do it for them.

“Bitly links already receive six billion clicks a month on mobile devices,” Thomson said. “We’re just making it so those links enable deep linking as well.”

Since Bitly is providing an additional service, that means customers will have to come up with additional money to take advantage of Deep Links from Bitly. Some higher paying customers will be grandfathered in, but for most it will serve as an add-on.

“I think everyone still has the problem of explaining what deep links are,” Thomson said. “A lot of companies don’t have a strategy yet. I think we could be major player in explaining the benefit of deep linking because we deal with marketers.”

Photo by Toni Lozano

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Seo Kang Jun wants a love line with ‘What’s With This Family’s Kim Hyun Joo … – allkpop

Seo Kang Jun wants a love line with 'What's With This Family's Kim Hyun Joo
Seo Kang Jun and Kim Hyun Joo reunited after the finale of their popular weekend drama, 'What's With This Family'! If you recall or haven't watched the drama for some reason (highly recommended, but spoiler alert), in a complicated twist of events, Seo …

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Cortana Reportedly Wants To Bust Out Of Windows Jail—But Then What?

Microsoft Cortana: heading to iOS and Android?

Microsoft’s Cortana app will make its way to iOS and Android devices in the near future, a new report from Reuters says, quoting “people familiar with the matter.” The rumor has in fact been doing the rounds for some time: Last November, Microsoft executive Julie Larson-Green hinted that such a move was on the cards in a briefing with reporters.

Getting the app on other devices is one thing; getting anyone to use it is quite another. Assuming Cortana jumps out of Windows, can it thrive elsewhere?

Digital Assistants Go To War

It’s the latest move in a fascinating battle between the digital assistant apps—Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and Google Now—that are becoming more and more integral to the mobile platforms they represent. (Indeed, stock Android 5.0 is little more than Google Now plus some extra wrapping.)

All these apps offer voice control, intelligent searches, and varying levels of personalization. Siri, which was wrapped into iOS in 2011, puts the emphasis on voice commands: Users can do anything from play all the rock songs on your iPhone to read out your most recent email. It can call up any information from a device or the Web quickly and easily.

Google Now isn’t so concerned with voice input (though it is available). Here the focus is on personalized cards of information that pop up at the right time and the right place, with no user interaction required. Sports scores, travel times, movie recommendations, and so on, all prompted by data mined from your history on Google’s various services.

Cortana, the most recent of these apps to launch, tries to combine the best of Siri and Google Now: advanced voice control and smart predictive responses all rolled up into one. Considering the low market share enjoyed by Windows Phone across the world, it may have little choice but to spread its wings.

Cortana’s Breakout

Google’s own digital assistant is Google Now.

Siri, Google Now and Cortana are busy vying for position. They’re all based on knowing as much about us as possible, and that means extending to as many devices as possible: Phones, tablets, laptops, browsers, consoles, smartwatches and the rest.

Siri, of course, is never going to make it to Android or Windows Phone; Apple apps run on Apple hardware and that’s that. But Microsoft may want to take some pointers from Google Now, which has made the jump over to iOS—it’s embedded in the Google app that offers Web search and various other features on Apple’s iDevices.

The iOS version of Google Now is fine for displaying cards, but it misses the deep hooks into the operating system that it enjoys on its home turf. It’s not one swipe away from the home screen, for instance, as it is on Android 5.0 Lollipop, and it can’t be called up with an “OK Google” unless the app is already running. It feels slightly watered-down, walled-in and read-only, and it’s likely that an iOS Cortana would experience the same fate.

Google Now can perform some tricks on iOS, though. It can monitor your location, display updates in the Notification Center, and tap into other Google services. Because so much of the data it mines lives on the Web—from Gmail to Google Calendar—it doesn’t necessarily need access to iOS or its native apps to function well.

That brings us back to Cortana. Over time, iOS has opened up a little, allowing third-party apps to run and refresh in the background, and have deeper access to the operating system (note the introduction of third-party keyboard support in iOS 8). Yet for Cortana to make headway, it’s going to need some top-notch Microsoft apps on iOS, and a strong cloud system behind that.

Android is an easier proposition, as it gives more control to any third-party apps who want to take it. You can completely replace the Google Now launcher with another skin, if you want to—Facebook Home is one high-profile app that does this, and that’s a path Cortana could theoretically go down. (Just look at the lock screen replacement Microsoft has already built for Android.)

The next phase

Siri’s voice control is an important facet of Apple CarPlay.

Right now, Microsoft has “nothing to share” about Cortana coming to iOS and Android, according to a spokesperson I contacted. But if Office for iOS and Android are anything to go by, it seems that Microsoft is going to follow Google’s lead (get your apps and services to as many people as possible) rather than Apple’s (let the people come to the apps instead).

Bear in mind that from this fall, millions of new Windows 10 PCs are going to come with Cortana installed, giving Microsoft millions of new opportunities to collect and display data. Google’s Chrome browser and Chrome OS offer rudimentary support for Google Now, which you can expect to see improve over time. Again, Google Now’s aim is to get everywhere, and Chrome is a vital cornerstone of that.

Siri feels like the odd one out here. Its focus has always been on easy, hands-free voice access to your data on mobile devices, rather than watching and predicting your every move, and it’s not yet on Mac OS X. If the patent applications are to be believed, it might not be long until that changes, but right now it seems Apple is happy to ease off on the spooky pre-emptive notifications and the privacy implications that go along with them.

When you weigh all of these factors up, it’s about services as well as platforms. Siri only knows who your brother is if there’s a matching entry in your Apple contacts; Google Now only knows about your next flight if there’s a confirmation in your Gmail; and Cortana only knows you need to be across town in an hour if you’ve marked it on your Outlook calendar.

If these digital assistants are going to be truly smart, then they need to know as much about their users as possible, and that goes beyond iOS and Android to the cross-platform services underpinning them—it’s an issue that extends across mobile, desktop, wearables, the smart home, the car dashboard and the Web.

In that light Cortana has no choice but to jump to as many devices as it can—ubiquity is key for an ambitious all-encompassing digital assistant. At that point, the only question is: Who do you want running your life for you?

Images via Microsoft, Google and Apple

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Apple Wants You To Help In The War On iOS Bugs

After last year’s incessantly buggy iOS releases, Apple appears ready to do anything to sniff out glitches before they hit users en masse—including letting them volunteer as guinea pigs to test pre-release iPhone software.

According to 9to5Mac, Apple will give users an early look at iOS 8.3 by releasing its very first public beta of the software in mid-March. That seems like a bit of a jump, since the current iOS release is version 8.1.3. Apparently Apple is sticking with its traditional test-and-release path for iOS 8.2, now in the hands of developers. The report also claims that Apple will follow up with a public beta release for iOS 9 in the summer.

See also: Apple: Sorry Our iOS 8 Update Borked Your iPhone; Here’s How To Fix It

Though the chronology may seem confusing, the overall move itself would make sense in several ways—namely, turning a previous P.R. nightmare into a win.

Spinning A Fail Into A Win

Last fall, iOS 8 brought a world of hurt to users. Various bugs bricked some phones and messed up photo syncing, messages and more on others. None of the problems really hurt iPhone sales, but the company could clearly do without more stumbles of that magnitude.

A public beta gives Apple a golden opportunity to find bugs while also giving fans an early peek at new features. The additional participants would also make for an extra large swath of beta-testers—all the better to really put the software through its paces and boost the odds of finding problems early. Essentially, Apple could give itself an exceptionally large mallet for its whack-a-mole game of bug squashing.

There would be, of course, one more obvious benefit for the company. With a public beta, Apple would have a built-in excuse, should a hail of glitches rain down devices: “Hey, it’s beta software! You knew that going in.”

The public betas will be a first for iOS, though Apple has gone this route before for Mac OS X. The company made beta versions of “Yosemite” (OS X 10.10) available ahead of its October 2014 final release, granting the first one million people who signed up access to the early software. (It’s on track to do the same with the upcoming OS X version 10.10.3.)

iOS eligibility may not be quite so wide open, according to the 9to5Mac story, which says the company will only accept 100,000 iOS testers to maintain an air of “exclusivity.”

Nicknamed “Stowe,” developer versions of iOS 8.1 went out earlier this month. It included some bug fixes and improvements, along with support for wireless CarPlay.

Lead image adapted from artwork courtesy of Library Of Congress

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Yahoo Wants To Syndicate Search To 600,000 Mobile Apps

Flurry gives Yahoo massive mobile reach and developer access.

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