While competitors are busy cloning Snapchat in an attempt to replicate its success, Evan Spiegel and co. have continued to forge their own path. The company is already experimenting with new features in an attempt to generate revenue, but it’s also apparently talking to some big hitters to ensure it can keep growing until those profits come. According to Bloomberg, Snapchat is currently in talks over a new round of funding with investors, which include Yahoo-backed Alibaba, that if confirmed could value the company at an incredible $10 billion. It’s a significant figure, not only because it puts it on par with both Dropbox and Airbnb, but it’s around three times the amount Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is rumored to have offered to acquire the company last year. Not bad for a service that’s known mostly for evaporating text and photo messages. Snapchat is understandably keeping quiet about its latest round of talks, and the figures could well change before its latest round of funding closes. Regardless of what happens, it appears Snapchat’s decision to hold out and grow the service was the right one.
Mark Zuckerberg’s experiment in social network retail has finally come to an end: on August 12th, Facebook Gifts will close forever. The company’s gift feature grew from its acquisition of the social gifting app Karma, selling teddy bears, socks and chocolates drop shipped directly to your Facebook friends. Eventually Facebook discovered that gift cards took the lion’s share of sales and discontinued physical gifts altogether. Now the company says it’s refocusing its resources on programs that help businesses increase sales through Facebook, rather than selling product themselves. So, in short, the “Buy” button is here to stay, but you’ll have to enable your friends’ Starbucks habit elsewhere.
We knew Instagram’s effort to nab a bit of Snapchat’s thunder was imminent thanks to leaked promo banners, and now, the app has officially arrived… for some. Bolt, the filter-driven photo app’s own ephemeral messenger has hit iTunes and Google Play for folks in Singapore, South Africa and New Zealand. The software’s claim to fame is speed: instead of having to fiddle through a series of options, tapping a contact’s picture both captures and sends a photo — no further swiping required (tap and hold records video). So long as they’re in your favorites list, of course. There’s also an undo feature that allows you to retrieve a message in the first few seconds by shaking your phone. While Bolt doesn’t require a Facebook or Instagram account, you will have to sign up with your phone number for sorting through your contacts. For now though, most of us have to find solace in just reading about it, since a select few locales are privy to the initial rollout. Instagram’s word on that particular strategy is situated after the break.
“Bolt is the fastest way to share an image or a video — just one tap to capture and send. We decided to start small with Bolt, in just a handful of countries, to make sure we can scale while maintaining a great experience. We expect to roll it out more widely soon.“
While Facebook might not be your favorite social media platform out there, it is quite large and still used by millions. A new round of changes are headed to Android and iOS in the next week in regards to the app and what you will be able to do. As it sits right now you can chat will the messenger directly in the Facebook app. However, Facebook also has a Facebook Messenger app that is a dedicated standalone messaging client that is used specifically for chitter chatter. It seemed silly at the time to have the same access in both apps. Apparently there is a migration underway that will disable the chat function from the main social network app and require you to use the Facebook Messenger app to continue your conversations.
“In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people who if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app. As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences. Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people.”
I can already hear the wheels turning and the hater comments coming. While I may not be a personal fan of Facebook, this change is something we have seen coming for a while now. G+ operates in the same fashion if you stop to think about it. We have G+ for the social network side of things and Hangouts for our conversations and chats. On the Google front though, it has always been that way, where as Facebook has not.
The change was forced in Europe back in April and Facebook says it saw “positive results” in terms of engagement. If you do a fair amount of chatting through Facebook you may as well grab the free Facebook Messenger app today and start getting used to it now before the service is completely disabled in the Facebook app.
The post Facebook Messenger app soon required to keep chatting appeared first on AndroidSPIN.
If you use Facebook app for chating purposes via Facebook, you’re out of luck. Facebook is going to force you to install Facebook Messenger in order to do that rather soon, in the next few days actually. So, here’s the gist. Facebook didn’t make an official statement, they sent it directly to TechCrunch: In the… Read more »
The post Facebook will force you to use the Messenger app if you want to chat appeared first on AndroidGuys.
It’s been coming coming, but Facebook told TechCrunch today that the time is just about here — starting “over the next few days” everyone will need Messenger to chat directly with their Facebook friends on mobile devices (iOS, Android and Windows Phone). Some users in Europe have seen the change for several months, but Facebook claims their positive response has led to the change rolling out worldwide. Of course, not everyone is going to be happy about downloading a second app to do what one was already capable of — just ask Foursquare users about Swarm. Facebook says the change will let it focus its development efforts better on the two apps separately, and “avoid confusion” by users, who send about 12 billion messages a day on the platform. So, are you already in love with Chat Heads and ready to make the swap full-time, or — assuming you still use Facebook — is this the final straw in sending you elsewhere for your communication needs?
In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app. As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences. Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people.
But the concept is more than a low-tech solution to mobile VR. It’s emblematic of Google’s approach to virtual reality: use the phone that’s already in your pocket. Samsung’s taking the same approach later this year with Gear VR, only it’s also partnering with Oculus VR on the software side.
This stands in stark contrast to the PC-dependent, ultra-high-res experience Oculus VR and Facebook are aiming to achieve. The Oculus Rift headset both literally and figuratively kickstarted the re-birth of virtual reality in modern technology. It remains the peak of technological achievement in virtual reality. And now, the medium is splintering into two distinct futures: one of entertainment, the other of immersion.
That word — “presence” — is at the heart of virtual reality. Game industry veteran Michael Abrash — formerly of Valve, where he worked on research and development; currently of Oculus VR, where he serves as “Chief Scientist” — described this ideal for VR during a talk in January 2014:
“It’s the sense of being someplace else while in virtual reality; many people feel as if they’ve been teleported. Presence is an incredibly powerful sensation, and it’s unique to VR; there’s no way to create it in any other medium.”
The medium’s history is littered with failed attempts, even from gaming’s biggest players (Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, anyone?).
Indeed, that’s the “magic” of virtual reality: being whisked away, instantly, to another world. You’re not looking at another world on a screen — you’re there. At least, that’s when VR works. The medium’s history is littered with failed attempts, even from gaming’s biggest players (Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, anyone?). But with Oculus Rift, even the first demos shown on a duct-taped, slapdash prototype were incredibly impressive. It just worked, even if it was clearly rough around the edges. And even with those early demos, a PC was required to power them. The same can be said for Sony’s Project Morpheus, powered by a $400 game console.
One early demo, dubbed “Tuscany” for its visual nods to the Italian region, wasn’t much to look at. The art was low-resolution; the in-world lighting was barely there; the level of detail in general was pretty low. But even with bare bones demos like Tuscany, the world was believable because the demo’s framerate was high enough and the headset was capable of refreshing video fast enough for it to seem real. Those demos seem rough now by contrast, but they’re still far ahead of what we’ve seen running on VR headsets powered by mobile phone processors.
MOBILE VR AS IT STANDS TODAY
We’ve heard very positive things from folks who’ve tried Samsung’s VR headset. The so-called “Gear VR” is still a development kit, and it’s powered by a Galaxy S4; we’re told that the consumer version will use a newer phone (maybe the Note 4?) with more horsepower. Though our sources only experienced a few demos, they repeatedly described them as “impressive,” specifically with the caveat “for a phone.”
Samsung still hasn’t officially acknowledged that its VR headset exists (that’s a real render of it above). Gear VR is said to be be unveiled in Germany at IFA, just a few weeks from now.
Google’s Cardboard has received similarly positive, though guarded, responses. TechCrunch‘s Greg Kumparak wrote back in June, “It’s actually kind of freaking wonderful. Is it an Oculus Rift killer? Hah – of course not. It’s made of cardboard. But it’s still awesome.” As he demonstrated in a video (above), a handful of apps — including major known quantities like YouTube and Google Earth — can be used in Cardboard right now, employing phones that already exist (there’s a Nexus 5 in the demonstration).
It’s certainly a different take. Rather than aim to provide “presence,” Google’s approach to VR seeks to provide an alternate viewing experience for existing content. YouTube, for instance, is simply an interactive VR app for viewing non-VR content. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily — it could act as an intro to VR for the mass market — but it’s not the same as providing “presence.”
Another VR device powered by mobile tech, GameFace Labs’ “GameFace” prototype, further highlights this difference. The same Tuscany demo running on the GameFace headset, scaled down for a mobile processor, provided a markedly different experience than what we’ve tried on the Oculus Rift. Are you still “in” Tuscany? Sure! But it looks an awful lot like Virtual Tuscany, rather than “Oh man, I’m in Tuscany!”
Though GameFace is impressive, the second Oculus Rift dev kit is an order of magnitude more adept. Beyond a much higher resolution screen, the second Rift dev kit comes with an additional camera for depth-tracking (just to barely scratch the surface of technical differences). That’s not meant as a slight at GFL, but to highlight how different these two approaches are to virtual reality. Simply put, they’re intended to deliver different experiences.
WHERE CASUAL AND BLEEDING EDGE VR DIVERGE
Unlike film or video games, where technical prowess can be trumped by other factors, major VR leaders argue that it’s a worthless medium without “presence.” To create presence, Oculus VR founder and Rift creator Palmer Luckey says that the tech has to be of a certain quality — specs that exceed the most advanced smartphones. Even the Rift’s second dev kit, which is far more technologically capable than the competition, is far from what he thinks is required for “good consumer virtual reality.” That means super high-res screens, high refresh rates (“90 Hz or higher”), and fast processors (read: actual computers, with dedicated graphics processing) to make all that happen. Luckey’s told me in interview after interview that standalone, untethered VR is the future of the medium (see above). But 10 years from now “future,” not 2014.
Google argues that the best time to get VR going — regardless of technological capability — is right now.
“We could theoretically plunk down a Titan in there. There’s nothing stopping us. But people will say, ‘This is hot! It only lasts for five minutes!’,” NVIDIA product manager Mithun Chandrasekhar told us in a recent interview. We asked about the limitations around mobile VR, and he joked that NVIDIA could — theoretically — put an expensive, high-powered GPU in a VR headset.
Of course, it’d be incredibly hot, heavy, and would require immense battery power.
Even if NVIDIA could shrink the GPU down in size and weight, power issues would overcome horsepower limitations. Battery technology simply isn’t keeping up with processor technology. “Battery is probably the biggest limitation,” Chandrasekhar said.
Google argues that the best time to get VR going — regardless of technological capability — is right now. “We want everyone to experience virtual reality in a simple, fun, and inexpensive way. That’s the goal of the Cardboard project,” the Cardboard website reads. Beyond expanding the reach of virtual reality, Google specifically calls out developers that it hopes will, “build the next generation of immersive digital experiences.” Silly as it might look, Google Cardboard and other mobile VR solutions look to offer a foundational experience for both the development community — you know, the folks who make this stuff really amazing — and for mainstream, non-technophiles.
TWO PATHS, ONE RESULT
Chances are, you don’t have a 4K screen on your smartphone. You might soon, but you probably don’t just yet. When you do — when we all do — the concept of mobile VR will seem a bit less gimmicky and a bit more like a real product. When processors are more capable, when batteries last longer, and the line between PC and mobile phone blurs just a bit more, mobile VR won’t feel like such a foundational step on the way to the promise of “presence.”
For now, mobile VR can serve as a taste of the medium. An amuse-bouche to the medium. A gateway drug to the presence you’ll find on devices like the Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus. And that’s not a bad thing! Before long, devices like Rift and Morpheus will be rudimentary, their abilities easily accomplished on mobile, and the two virtual reality paths will (at least in part) rejoin.
Whether the goal is growing the medium, getting to market early, providing “presence,” or something else entirely, the result is the same: we all get to play with a bunch of rad VR headsets. Oh, and hopefully witness the birth of a major new medium. No big.
[Image credit: Valve (Steam Dev Days 2014 slide), SamMobile (Gear VR)]
Snapchat’s meteoric rise made one thing abundantly clear — the market would soon be flooded with copy cats. The next major player to try and drink Snapchat’s milkshake might be Instagram. A banner introducing Bolt, a service for “one tap photo messaging,” appeared at the top of the company’s mobile app last night. The announcement was quickly pulled, but not before several people grabbed screenshots and started passing them around on Twitter. Unfortunately there’s not much more detail to share at the moment, but the move will definitely raise a few eyebrows. For one, it would seem like a trivial feature to simply integrate into the existing Instagram app. Secondly, with Facebook’s Slingshot already offering ephemeral photo and video messages, Bolt seems like a duplication of efforts. Of course, there’s always the chance that Bolt will offer some truly unique twist on the format and shove pretenders to the media messaging crown aside.
Via: The Verge
Source: @yo_areli (Twitter)
We were expecting to see the new iteration of the Oculus Rift arrive on developer’s doorsteps earlier this month, but unfortunately it hit a couple of delays. Road to VR points out a Reddit thread where pre-orderers confirmed their credit cards have been charged ahead of shipping. Community manager cyberreality confirmed in the thread that it’s happening, and the “DK2″ hardware we (and Mark Zuckerberg) were so impressed by is ready to roll. The initial production run is only supposed to cover some 10,000 of the 45,000 units ordered, so for some your wait is just beginning (until next month). In the meantime, you can check out our hands-on video of the latest and greatest in virtual reality after the break (or the new X-Men related Comic-Con demo) — hopefully Sony’s Project Morpheus team responds to this as quickly as they did on Blu-ray 3D.
Via: Road to VR
Facebook Home, the lock-screen replacement that changed any Android handset into a “Facebook phone,” wasn’t as popular as CEO Mark Zuckerberg had hoped. Fortunately, however, its other mobile efforts have proved tremendously successful. Continuing on their success in the mobile space, the social networking giant’s second quarterly results reported around 1.07 billion active mobile users a month as of June 30th, which is an increase of 31 percent compared to last year and a slight climb over last quarter. What’s particularly notable is that of the $2.68 billion the company made from advertising this quarter (it made a tidy sum of $2.91 billion overall), 62 percent of it came from mobile ads. That’s definitely higher than the 41 percent it made from mobile ads this time last year, and is on trend with what we saw earlier this April.
And don’t expect the advertising push to slow down either. In the earnings call, COO Sheryl Sandberg mentioned that video ads, which Facebook has just started rolling out, have been doing quite well. Indeed, the company is looking to leverage its recent acquisition of LiveRail to further those video ad efforts on Facebook and elsewhere. The recent launch of Facebook’s Audience Network, which will allow developers to make money using Facebook’s mobile network, will also likely contribute to the company’s revenue coffers in the coming months. In regards to the recent implementation of the “Buy” button on a few ads, Sandberg says that is still in its early days and that it simply streamlines the process of buying — none of that sales money actually goes to Facebook itself.
As for other apps like Messenger, Instagram and even Whatsapp, the firm is still focused on building them up before thinking revenue. However, Zuckerberg did allude that Messenger in particular could have “some overlap” with payments over time, and might provide some clues as to why it hired David Marcus from Paypal to head up its messaging efforts. Still, that’s probably a long ways off, and says the current status of Messenger is where Facebook itself was back in 2006 — there’s still a lot of growth potential there. Creative Labs apps like Paper and Slingshot were not mentioned in the call, but we’re assuming they’re part of the company’s long-term plans as well.
Finally, Zuckerberg did have something to say about the Oculus acquisition that closed just a few days ago. “This hits on a different part of our strategy,” he says, pointing out that it’ll likely take years before the deal turns a profit. “I always say some of the stuff we talk about is further out than you think, and this stuff is even further out than that.”