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As a misanthrope living in a vibrant city, I’m never short of things to complain about. And in particular the problem of people crowding into my photos, whatever I happen to shoot, is a persistent one. That won’t be an issue any more with Bye Bye Camera, an app that simply removes any humans from photos you take. Finally!

It’s an art project, though a practical one (art can be practical!), by Do Something Good. The collective, in particular the artist damjanski, has worked on a variety of playful takes on the digital era, such as a CAPTCHA that excludes humans, and setting up a dialogue between two Google conversational agents.

The new app, damjanski told Artnome, is “an app for the post-human era… The app takes out the vanity of any selfie and also the person.” Fortunately, it leaves dogs intact.

Of course it’s all done in a self-conscious, arty way — are humans necessary? What defines one? What will the world be like without us? You can ponder those questions or not; fortunately, the app doesn’t require it of you.

Bye Bye Camera works using some of the AI tools that are already out there for the taking in the world of research. It uses YOLO (You Only Look Once), a very efficient object classifier that can quickly denote the outline of a person, and then a separate tool that performs what Adobe has called “context-aware fill.” Between the two of them a person is reliably — if a bit crudely — deleted from any picture you take and credibly filled in by background.

It’s a fun project (though the results are a mixed bag) and it speaks not only to the issues it supposedly raises about the nature of humanity, but also the accessibility of tools under the broad category of “AI” and what they can and should be used for.

You can download Bye Bye Camera for $3 on the iOS App Store.

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In March, Spotify filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission over the so-called “Apple tax” and claims of restrictive rules regarding the App Store. In the time since, Apple has responded with the launch of a website that takes aim at the anti-trust, anti-competitive claims against it, and most recently, a deep dive into how the process of app approvals work, by way of a CNBC profile. Now, Apple has responded to the EC complaint with its own filing which says Spotify is only paying this “Apple tax” on less than one percent of its paid subscribers.

This news was first reported by Music Business Worldwide (MBW) and German site Der Spiegel.

Specifically, Apple’s filing says that Spotify only pays a 15% “app tax” (revenue share) on just 0.5% of its 100 million premium subscribers, or around 680,000 customers. This revenue share only impacts those customers Spotify acquired during the 2014-2016 time frame who signed up for the subscription through an in-app purchase. Afterward, Spotify switched off the option to sign up in the app.

This is contrast to the claim made by Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on the company’s blog in March, where he wrote that “Apple requires that Spotify and other digital services pay a 30% tax on purchases made through Apple’s payment system.”

In addition, MBW reports, citing an unnamed source, that Spotify pays even less than the standard 15% for those customers who signed up through in-app purchase due to label discounts. The source told the outlet that Spotify just wants to “pay nothing.”

However, Spotify’s claim goes beyond the Apple tax.

It also said that Apple used its App Store power to penalize the competitor in other ways — like limiting Spotify’s ability to communicate with customers, or even send emails to its iOS users. Spotify said Apple also blocked its iOS upgrades — something it brought to light years ago. Apple, meanwhile, has always maintained it has treated Spotify like any other app developer.

Apple’s responses to these latter points were also sneaked into the recent CNBC piece where a “longtime Apple veteran” who was only identified as “Bill,” made certain to tell the news site that he had “called Spotify when an update was rejected” — e.g., because Spotify had been emailing customers and asking them to pay the music streamer directly, outside the App Store.

In addition to Spotify’s EU complaint, Apple is facing other attacks against its App Store in the U.S. courts.

The U.S. Supreme Court in May ruled against Apple to allow an App Store antitrust case to proceed.

And in June, two app developers proceeded to sue Apple over its App Store practices, making similar claims about Apple’s 30% commission on app sales and its requirement to price apps in tiers ending in 99 cents.

Apple had earlier responded to Spotify’s complaint in length on its own website. The company, in part, said that:

After using the App Store for years to dramatically grow their business, Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem — including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store’s customers — without making any contributions to that marketplace. At the same time, they distribute the music you love while making ever-smaller contributions to the artists, musicians and songwriters who create it — even going so far as to take these creators to court.

Apple’s approach has always been to grow the pie. By creating new marketplaces, we can create more opportunities not just for our business, but for artists, creators, entrepreneurs and every “crazy one” with a big idea. That’s in our DNA, it’s the right model to grow the next big app ideas and, ultimately, it’s better for customers.
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In developer lingo, quality-of-life updates are all about refining things that already work. Thanks to these incremental improvements, it should make the end user experience much more enjoyable. And with iOS 13, it feels like Apple’s main focus is on this concept.

Dark Mode is basically the only new flashy feature of iOS this year. But that’s not a bad thing. From my experience, all the tiny refinements across the board are really convincing. iOS 13 is a much more interesting release than iOS 12 for instance.

I’ve been playing with early beta versions of iOS 13, so here’s what you should be looking for.

Dark Mode is gorgeous

Dark Mode is here, and it looks great. It’s a system-wide trigger that completely transforms the look and feel of your iPhone — you have to play with it to really feel the difference. The easiest way to activate it is by opening the Control Center panel, long pressing on the brightness indicator and turning it on.

While you can trigger it manually, you can also select an automated mode in the settings. Right now, my phone becomes dark at night and lights up in the morning. iOS uses your current location to time the change with the sunset and sunrise.

Widgets, notifications and menus now use black or transparent black as much as possible. You can choose new Apple wallpapers that change when you turn on Dark Mode, or you can optionally dim your custom wallpapers at night.

Apple has updated all its apps to support Dark Mode, from Notes to Mail, Messages, Safari and more. And it works really well with those apps.

But the issue is that many third-party apps haven’t been updated for Dark Mode yet. So it’s a disappointing experience for now, but I’m sure many app developers will update their apps before the final release of iOS 13.

Many apps already support have a dark version that you can trigger in the app settings. But Apple really wants third-party developers to follow the system-wide option going forward. So those apps will have to be updated as well.

Low-level improvements

iOS still looks like iOS. But if you carefully pay attention to your first experience of iOS 13, you’ll notice two things. First, animations have been sped up — it feels like unlocking your phone, opening and closing an app or swiping on a notification are much faster. It’s hard to know if those actions have been optimized or if it’s just Apple hitting the fast-forward button.

Second, Face ID is better. It’s not a dramatic change, but your phone recognizes you a tiny bit faster than before. iPhone users will appreciate that they don’t have to buy a new phone for this free improvement.

The two other iOS 13 changes that you can experience in any app is that the keyboard now supports swipe-to-type and the share sheet has been updated. It is now separated in three areas: a top row with suggested contacts to send photos, links and more depending on your most important contacts.

Under that row of contacts, you get the usual row of app icons to open something in another app. If you scroll down, you access a long list of actions that vary from app to another.

Siri and the Shortcuts app have been improved and now work more closely together. In addition to a more natural Siri voice, Shortcuts is now installed by default with iOS, which is great news for automation and scripting on your phone.

And I was surprised to see all my voice-activated Siri Shortcuts in the Shortcuts widget. For instance, since iOS 12, I’ve been able to say “Hey Siri, I’m heading home with Citymapper” to launch Citymapper with directions to my home. There’s now a button in the Shortcuts app to trigger that Siri Shortcut.

More interestingly, you can now create automated triggers to launch a shortcut. For instance, you can create scenarios related to CarPlay, a location or even a cheap NFC tag. Here are some examples:

  • Launch a music playlist when I connect my phone to CarPlay or to my car using Bluetooth.
  • Dim my screen and turn on low power mode when I activate airplane mode.
  • Turn off my Philips Hue lights when I put my phone on an NFC sticker on my nightstand.

App improvements

All first-party apps have been improved in one way to another. Some changes are small, but a few apps have received a massive update.

Photos looks completely different with a new main tab. Instead of relatively boring looking grid of photos, you now get four sub-tabs that should help you navigate your photo library more efficiently.

‘Years’ lets you jump straight to a specific year. The ‘Months’ view is the most interesting one as iOS tries to sort your photos in smart albums based on dates and locations. When you open an event, you get the best photos of this event in the ‘Days’ tab. Some photos, such as duplicates are hidden by default.

And the last tab, ‘All Photos’ features the traditional never-ending grid of all your photos in your camera roll. Everything is still there. Live photos and videos now automatically play by default in some views. I’ve never been a fan of autoplaying videos but I guess that’s what people like.

The camera has been slightly improved, especially when it comes to Portrait mode with better segmentation of hair. And photo editing has been redesigned — it looks more like VSCO now.

Maps is getting a gradual update with better mapping data. But most people won’t see any change for a while. You can see real-time transit data, your flight status and share lists of places with friends though. It might not replace Citymapper, FlightLogger or Mapstr, but more contextual data is key when it comes to competing with Google Maps.

Talking about Google Maps, there’s a new Look Around feature that could have been called Apple Street View. I recommend trying the feature in San Francisco because it’s stunning. This isn’t just 360 photo shots — those are 3D representations of streets with foregrounds and backgrounds.

Messages is getting some much needed improvements. You can now choose a profile name and profile picture and share it with your contacts. I hate the default grey avatar, so it’s great to let people push a profile picture to other people.

If you have a Memoji-compatible device, you can now share Memoji stickers. If you’ve used Bitmoji in the past, this is Apple’s take on Bitmoji. And finally, search has been improved and is now actually useful. You can find an address or a specific message in no time.

Health has been redesigned but features more or less the same data. But it’s worth noting that Apple now lets you track, visualize and predict your menstrual cycle from the Health app.

Privacy

iOS 13 has a big emphasis on privacy as well thanks to a new signup option called “Sign In with Apple”. I couldn’t try it as I couldn’t see the option in any app. But Sarah Perez already wrote a great explainer on the topic.

In a few words, this button will let you create an account for a service without inputing an email address and password, and without connecting with your Google or Facebook account. Apple keeps as little data as possible — it’s all about creating a unique identifier and storing that in your iCloud keychain.

Apple is adding more ways to control your personal information. If an app needs your location for something, you can now grant access to your location just once. The app will have to ask for your permission the next time. Similarly, iOS 13 can tell you when an app has been tracking your location in the background with a map of those data points.

But I didn’t realize iOS 13 also blocks Bluetooth scanning by default in all apps. Many apps scan for nearby Bluetooth accessories and compare that with a database of Bluetooth devices around the world. In other words, it’s a way to get your location even if you’re not sharing your location with this app.

You now get a standard permission popup for apps that actually need to scan for Bluetooth devices — Mobike uses Bluetooth to unlock bikes or Eve uses Bluetooth to interact with connected objects for instance. But the vast majority of apps have no reason to scan for Bluetooth devices. You can decline Bluetooth permission and use Bluetooth headphones normally.

Random tidbits

Let’s go through some tiny little updates:

  • App updates are smaller because iOS doesn’t download everything from their servers — only files that are relevant to your current device.
  • Files works with Samba file servers, and you can zip/unzip files.
  • Safari features a new site settings popup to request the desktop site, disable a content blocker or enable reader view. This is much cleaner than before.
  • Notes has a new gallery view.
  • Mail lets you customize font style, size and color. You can also indent text, create bulleted lists, etc.
  • Find My iPhone and Find My Friends have been merged in a new Find My app. It also theoretically can help you find misplaced devices using other Apple devices from other people around your device — everything is supposed to be end-to-end encrypted.

Things I couldn’t try
  • CarPlay has been redesigned for the first time in years. But I don’t own a car.
  • You can store security camera footage in iCloud if your camera is HomeKit-compatible. But I don’t own a security camera.
  • ARKit has been improved and can detect people in the real world.
  • You can install custom fonts from the App Store and manage them from the settings. You can then use those fonts in any app.
  • Lyrics in the Music app now scroll just like in a karaoke. I haven’t tried that.
  • The Reminders app has been redesigned but I wasn’t using the app before. It feels like a full-fledged task manager now. Maybe I should use it.

Overall, iOS 13 feels like a breath of fresh air. Everything works slightly better than it used to. None of the changes are outrageous or particularly surprising. But they all contribute to making iOS a more enjoyable platform.

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This is your opportunity to get a glimpse of the future of iOS — and iPadOS. Apple just released the first public beta of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, the next major version of the operating systems for the iPhone and iPad. Unlike developer betas, everyone can download those betas without a $99 developer account. But don’t forget, it’s a beta.

The company still plans to release the final version of iOS and iPadOS 13.0 this fall (usually September). But Apple is going to release betas every few weeks over the summer. It’s a good way to fix as many bugs as possible and gather data from a large group of users.

As always, Apple’s public betas closely follow the release cycle of developer betas. And Apple released the second developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 13 just last week. So it sounds like the first public beta is more or less the same build as the second developer build.

But remember, you shouldn’t install an iOS beta on your primary iPhone or iPad. The issue is not just bugs — some apps and features won’t work at all. In some rare cases, beta software can also brick your device and make it unusable. Proceed with extreme caution.

I’ve been using the developer beta of iOS and it’s still quite buggy. Some websites don’t work, some apps are broken.

But if you have an iPad or iPhone you don’t need, here’s how to download it. Head over to Apple’s beta website and download the configuration profile. It’s a tiny file that tells your iPhone or iPad to update to public betas like it’s a normal software update.

You can either download the configuration profile from Safari on your iOS device directly, or transfer it to your device using AirDrop, for instance. Reboot your device, then head over to the Settings app. In September, your device should automatically update to the final version of iOS and iPadOS 13 and you’ll be able to delete the configuration profile.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in iOS 13. This year, in addition to dark mode, it feels like every single app has been improved with some quality-of-life updates. The Photos app features a brand new gallery view with autoplaying live photos and videos, smart curation and a more immersive design.

This version has a big emphasis on privacy as well thanks to a new signup option called “Sign in with Apple” and a bunch of privacy popups for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi consent, background location tracking. Apple Maps now features an impressive Google Street View-like feature called Look Around. It’s only available in a handful of cities, but I recommend… looking around as everything is in 3D.

Many apps have been updated, such as Reminders with a brand new version, Messages with the ability to set a profile picture shared with your contacts, Mail with better text formatting options, Health with menstrual cycle tracking, Files with desktop-like features, Safari with a new website settings menu, etc. Read more on iOS 13 in my separate preview.

On the iPad front, for the first time Apple is calling iOS for the iPad under a new name — iPadOS. Multitasking has been improved, the Apple Pencil should feel snappier, Safari is now as powerful as Safari on macOS and more.

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Trash is a new startup promising to make it easier for anyone to create well-edited videos.

Social video is an area that CEO Hannah Donovan knows well, having previously served as general manager at Vine (the video app that Twitter acquired and eventually shut down). She said that in user research, even though people had “really powerful cameras in their pockets,” when it came to editing their footage together, they’d always say, “Oh, I’m not technical enough, I’m not smart enough.”

Donovan, who also worked as head of creative at Last.fm, said she “got curious about whether we could use computer vision to analzye the video and synthesize it into a sequence.”

The result is the Trash app, which comes with a straightforward tag line: “You shoot, we edit.”

Donovan demonstrated the app for me last week, shooting a few brief clips around the TechCrunch New York office, which were then assembled into a video — not exactly an amazing video but much, much better than anything I could have done with the footage. We also got to tweak the video by adjusting the music, the speed or the “vibe,” then post it on Trash and other social networks.

Donovan founded the company with its Chief Scientist Genevieve Patterson, who has a Ph.D. from Brown and also did postdoctoral work with Microsoft Research.

Patterson told me that Trash’s technology covers two broad categories. First there’s analysis, where a neural network analyzes the footage to identify elements like people, faces, interesting actions and different types of shots. Then there’s synthesis, where “we try to figure out what are the most cool and interesting parts of the video, to create a mini-music video for you with a high diversity of content.”

The app should get smarter over time as it gets more training data to work with, Patterson added. For one thing, she noted that most of the initial training footage used “Hollywood-style cinematography,” but as Trash brings more users on-board, it can better adapt to the ways people shoot on their phone.

It’s starting that on-boarding process now with what Donovan calls a “creator beta,” where the team is looking for a variety of creators — particularly talented photographers who haven’t embraced video yet — to try things out. You can request an invite by downloading the iOS app. (Donovan said there are plans to build an Android version eventually.)

Trash has raised $2.5 million from sources as varied as the National Science Foundation, Japan’s Digital Garage and Dream Machine, the fund created by former TechCrunch Editor Alexia Bonatsos. Donovan said the startup isn’t focused on revenue yet — but eventually, it could make money through sponsorships, pro features and by allowing creators to sell their footage in the app.

And if you’re wondering where the name comes from, Donovan offered both a “snarky response” (“I don’t give a damn and I don’t take myself too seriously”) and a more serious one.

“We believe that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” she said. “With filmmaking, as you know, there’s a lot of things that get left on the cutting room floor. That’s one of the product concepts, in the longer term, that we want to explore.”

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Huawei may be on the ropes as it battles sanctions from the U.S. government, but fellow Chinese smartphone rival Xiaomi is in expansion mode with the launch of a new brand that’s aimed at winning friends (and sales) among the young and fashionable.

“Mi CC” is the newest brand from Xiaomi. Unveiled on Friday, the phone-maker said it stands for “camera+camera” in reference to its dual-camera feature, but that apparently also segues into “a variety of meanings including chic, cool, colorful and creative.”

The end goal of that marketing bumf is a target customer that Xiaomi describes as “the global young generation.”

Essentially, what Xiaomi is doing here is breaking out a dedicated set of phones for those who care more about aesthetics than performance. To date, the company has built its brand on developing phones that are as good — well, nearly as good — as top smartphone rivals but at a fraction of the cost. The result of that is that a lot of marketing focus is on the technical details, even though Xiaomi has been lauded for some attractive designs, and CC adjusts that balance to target a different kind of audience.

Since Xiaomi has a history of bringing innovation into affordable devices, CC is one to watch out for.

Xiaomi’s CC teaser image doesn’t give much away, apart from the logo

The new division is the result of Xiaomi’s acquisition of the smartphone business belonging to Meitu, a selfie app maker.

Xiaomi bought the business last November to go after new demographics and build on the work of Meitu, which had sold just over 3.5 million after getting into the smartphone business in 2013. Those numbers weren’t enough to justify the continuation of Meitu’s phone business but, evidently, Xiaomi saw promise in that segment. Meitu retains a similarly positive outlook on the fashionable audience and it has a lot to gain financially from the success of CC, too.

Terms of the acquisition deal mean that Meitu will take 10 percent of all profits, with a minimum guaranteed fee of $10 million per year. Big sales could be significant for Meitu, which reported revenue of $406 million in 2018. Notably, two-thirds of that income was from phone sales but Meitu’s smartphone revenue dropped by 51 percent year-on-year. Hence, Xiaomi has come to the rescue with its know-how.

There’s no word on exactly what Mi CC devices will look like or where they will be sold, but Xiaomi is already trumpeting its differentiation.

“Mi CC is created by one of the youngest product teams in Xiaomi, among which half are art majors and are dedicated to creating a trendy design for young consumers,” it wrote in an announcement.

Gavin Thomas plays with a Mi CC phone in a teaser that the brand posted to its Weibo account

The first look is a teaser that features Gavin Thomas — an eight-year-old who went viral in China for his ability to speak Mandarin — but the phone itself is kept hidden in the video thanks to well-placed stickers.

As you’d expect from Meitu, there’s a lot of emphasis on selfies, stickers and other graphics.

Xiaomi has had success with brands, some of which include Redmi — its big-selling budget division — Poco, its ‘performance’-focused division, its gaming brand Shark, which looks much like Razer’s phones.

Outside of mobile, the company develops and sells a range of smart home products, many of which are licensed from third-party partners.

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The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Google says it’s not making any more tablets

“For Google’s first-party hardware efforts, we’ll be focusing on Chrome OS laptops and will continue to support Pixel Slate,” the company said in statement.

Google SVP Rick Osterloh took to Twitter to emphasize that while Google’s hardware team will be “solely focused on building laptops moving forward,” the company will still be working with partners on Android and Chrome OS tablets.

2. Slack’s value rockets as stock closes up 48.5% in public debut

At the close of trading yesterday, Slack’s market cap sat well above $20 billion, or nearly 3 times its most recent private valuation of $7 billion.

3. One of NASA’s robotic astronaut helpers just flew on its own in space for the first time

The robot — called “Bumble” and one of a series of Astrobee robots that NASA developed to work along with astronauts on the ISS — is the first ever to fly on its own in space.

4. Samsung exec says the Galaxy Fold is ‘ready to hit the market’

Just last week, Huawei noted that it was holding off on its own Mate X release. But Samsung, at least, may finally be ready to unleash its foldable on the world, two months after the planned release.

5. Meet your new chief of staff: An AI chatbot

Mailbox’s founders are back with their second act: An AI-enabled assistant called Navigator meant to help teams work and communicate more efficiently.

6. Terry Gou resigns as Foxconn’s chairman to run for president of Taiwan

Gou, who founded Foxconn 45 years ago and is also its biggest shareholder, will remain on the company’s board.

7. A chat with Niantic CEO John Hanke on the launch of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite

Built in collaboration with WB Games, Wizards Unite is a reimagining of Pokémon GO’s real-world, location-based gaming concept through the lens of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter universe. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

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Security vulnerabilities in LTE can allow hackers to “easily” spoof presidential alerts sent to mobile phones in the event of a national emergency.

Using off-the-shelf equipment and open-source software, a working exploit made it possible to send a simulated alert to every phone in a 50,000-seat football stadium with little effort, with the potential of causing “cascades of panic,” said researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder in a paper out this week.

Their attack worked in nine out of ten tests, they said.

Last year the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent out the first “presidential alert” test using the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. It was part of an effort to test the new state-of-the-art system to allow any president to send out a message to the bulk of the U.S. population in the event of a disaster or civil emergency.

But the system — which also sends out weather warnings and AMBER alerts — isn’t perfect. Last year amid tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, an erroneous alert warned residents of Hawaii of an inbound ballistic missile threat. The message mistakenly said the alert was “not a drill.”

Although no system is completely secure, much of the issues over the years have been as a result of human error. But the researchers said the LTE network used to transmit the broadcast message is the biggest weak spot.

Because the system uses LTE to send the message and not a traditional text message, each cell tower blasts out an alert on a specific channel to all devices in range. A false alert can be sent to every device in range if that channel is identified.

Making matters worse, there’s no way for devices to verify the authenticity of received alerts.

The researchers said fixing the vulnerabilities would “require a large collaborative effort between carriers, government stakeholders, and cell phone manufacturers.” They added that adding digital signatures to each broadcast alert is not a “magic solution” but would make it far more difficult to send spoofed messages.

A similar vulnerability in LTE was discovered last year, allowing researchers to not only send emergency alerts but also eavesdrop on a victim’s text messages and track their location.

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YouTube’s comments section has a bad reputation. It’s even been called “the worst on the internet,” and a reflection of YouTube’s overall toxic culture, where creators are rewarded for outrageous behavior — whether that’s tormenting and exploiting their children, filming footage of a suicide victim, promoting dangerous “miracle cures” or sharing conspiracies, to name a few high-profile examples. Now, the company is considering a design change that hides the comments by default.

The website XDA Developers first spotted the test on Android devices in India.

Today, YouTube’s comments don’t have a prominent position on its mobile app. On both iOS and Android devices, the YouTube video itself appears at the top of the screen, followed by engagement buttons for sharing, liking, disliking, downloading and saving the video. Below that are recommendations from YouTube’s algorithm in a section titled “Up Next.” If you actually want to visit the comments, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.

In the test, the comments have been removed from this bottom section of the page entirely.

Instead, they’ve been relocated to a new section that users can only view after clicking a button.

The new Comments button is found between the Thumbs Down and Share buttons, right below the video.

It’s unclear if this change will reduce or increase user engagement with comments, or if engagement will remain flat — something that YouTube likely wants to find out, too.

On the one hand, comments are hidden unless the user manually taps on the button to reveal them — users won’t happen upon them by scrolling down. On the other hand, putting the comments button behind a click at the top of the page instead of forcing users to scroll could make them easier to access.

As XDA Developers reports, when you’ve loaded up this new Comments section, you can pull to refresh the page to see the newly added comments appear. To exit, you tap the “X” button at the top of the window to close the section.

While it reported the test was underway in Android devices in India, we’ve confirmed it’s also appearing on iOS and is not limited to a particular region. That means it’s something YouTube wants to test on a broader scale, rather than a feature it’s considering for a localized version of its app for Indian users.

The change comes at a time when YouTube’s comments section has been discovered to be more than just the home to bullying, abuse, arguments and other unhelpful content, but also a tool that was exploited by pedophiles. A ring of pedophiles had communicated through the comments to share videos and timestamps with one another.

YouTube reacted then by disabling comments on videos with kids. More recently, it’s been considering moving kids content to a separate app. (Unfortunately, it will never consider the appropriateness of having built a platform where young children can be put on public display for the whole world to see.)

A YouTube spokesperson confirmed the Comments test, in a statement, but downplayed its importance by referring to it as one of many small experiments the company is running.

“We’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch, share and interact with the videos that matter most to them,” the spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We are testing a few different options on how to display comments on the watch page. This is one of many small experiments we run all the time on YouTube, and we’ll consider rolling features out more broadly based on feedback on these experiments.”

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Just shy of three years ago, Pokémon GO took over the world. Players filled the sidewalks, and crowds of trainers flooded parks and landmarks. Anywhere you looked, people were throwing Pokéballs and chasing Snorlax.

As the game grew, so did the company behind it. Niantic had started its life as an experimental “lab” within Google — an effort on Google’s part to keep the team’s founder, John Hanke, from parting ways to start his own thing. In the months surrounding GO’s launch, Niantic’s team shrank dramatically, spun out of Google, and then rapidly expanded… all while trying to keep GO’s servers from buckling under demand and to keep this massive influx of players happy. Want to know more about the company’s story so far? Check out the Niantic EC-1 on ExtraCrunch here.

Now Niantic is back with its next title, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Built in collaboration with WB Games, it’s a reimagining of Pokémon GO’s real-world, location-based gaming concept through the lens of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter universe.

I got a chance to catch up with John Hanke for a few minutes earlier this week — just ahead of the game’s US/UK launch this morning. We talked about how they prepared for this game’s launch, how it’s built upon a platform they’ve been developing across their other titles for years, and how Niantic’s partnership with WB Games works creatively and financially.

Greg Kumparak: Can you tell me a bit about how all this came to be?

John Hanke: Yeah, you know.. we did Ingress first, and we were thinking about other projects we could build. Pokémon was one that came up early, so we jumped on that — but the other one that was always there from the beginning, of the projects we wanted to do, was Harry Potter. I mean, it’s universally beloved. My kids love the books and movies, so it’s something I always wanted to do.

Like Pokémon, it was an IP we felt was a great fit for [augmented reality]. That line between the “muggle” world and the “magic” world was paper thin in the fiction, so imagining breaking through that fourth wall and experiencing that magic through AR seemed like a great way to use the technology to fulfill an awesome fan fantasy.

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