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The ‘world’s smallest 4K camera’ has big ambitions

If your sole guidance on an industry was the share price of the market leader, then you’d definitely consider it a tough 12 months for action cameras. That said, newcomer So Special Labs isn’t put off. In fact, it thinks its Mokacam GoPro rival might just be the tonic the product category needs. The 4K action camera packs a dual punch of being small and reasonably priced. At $270, it’s more than $200 cheaper than GoPro’s flagship 4K camera, and it deliberately tries to improve on its rival pain points. With all of that going for it, is the diminutive Mokacam able to compete with the biggest name in this space?

Going by the marketing, you’d think the Mokacam’s key selling point was its size. On its hugely successful Indiegogo site, the company claims three separate times that the device is the “world’s smallest 4K camera,” and that’s before you even get to the details of the product. The main website also repeats this claim throughout and boasts, “The only risk you run is not being able to find it in your bag.” Spoiler: I can confirm that it’s quite easy to find in most bags, though it is indeed on the smaller side.

The problem with the size claim is that at 45mm x 45mm x 30mm, the device isn’t that much smaller than an unadorned GoPro Hero4 (41mm x 59mm x 30mm). And depending how you measure it (if you just measure the body and ignore the lens), my ruler suggests the Mokacam might not be smaller at all. The GoPro Hero4 Session is definitely more compact than the Mokacam, but then again, it doesn’t shoot in 4K. Last, once you add the waterproof case to the Mokacam (required if it’s going to get wet), it’s actually bigger than any housed GoPro Hero4 — so I’m not sure why the company placed so much emphasis on the footprint.

The size brag seems even less necessary once you look at the spec sheet. The Mokacam has a pretty robust feature set that includes a 16-megapixel sensor (the GoPro Hero4 Black has 12); 4K video shooting at 25fps; a decent Sony sensor; and hot-swappable, magnetic batteries, plus software stabilization and motion detection. Some of these features address major pain points found in all action cameras, but a few feel specifically targeted at GoPro (battery life and the lack of image stabilization come up again and again in GoPro forums).

Mokacam wouldn’t be the first action camera that relied on unique features to stand out. Garmin’s VIRB series trades on the company’s GPS heritage, and TomTom added auto-editing, while others bet on price. The Mokacam, for its part, tries to solve genuine problems rather than create gimmicks. I already mentioned the hot-swappable magnetic 1,100 mAh batteries, for instance.

This is a genius idea that theoretically lets you record forever (at least until your memory card fills up). The magnetic back also means you can mount the Mokacam on metal surfaces directly, no accessories needed. In a similarly practical vein, the attachable LCD screen has its own battery and thus doesn’t drain the one inside the camera.

It’s not just the hardware design that’s thoughtful. The software — on both the camera and the app — also has clever features. First up is software stabilization, which I found wasn’t as smooth as the OIS found in the iPhone 6s Plus. Still, it’s better than nothing. Then there’s the motion detection. With this, you could use the Mokacam as a security camera or capture wildlife shots. Other cameras have similar features, but their inclusion here shows Mokacam’s makers are eager to please at both the hardware and software level.

Smart hardware and clever code are only as good as their delivery, though, and this is where things go a little off track for the Mokacam. Those hot-swappable batteries? A great idea and fun to snap on, but they can be knocked off during an activity (unless you’re using the case, that is). And the LCD screen? It works well enough, but the menu system isn’t intuitive. Many key features, including motion detection, are hard to find. The menu screens on the LCD are generic and look like they’d be more at home on an off-brand MP3 player from 2009. Neither of these accessories works with the optional stabilizer accessory (itself a good product, and was used in the sample video in this article).

I’d like to say that the Mokacam was also designed for ease of use. It probably was, but the reality isn’t so straightforward. It’s nice that there’s an app and an LCD screen to control the camera, but there’s barely any feedback on the camera itself. One single, tiny LED on top of the camera tells you whether the device is on, recording or taking a picture — and it’s barely visible in the waterproof case. To switch between video and photo mode, you tap a button on the side; an equally small LED provides feedback here. It’s easy to press this button by accident without realizing it. It’s also the same button that you use to activate WiFi, with a long press. Doing so dims that top LED enough so that it looks like the camera is switched off (it isn’t).

By the way, you’ll want to enable WiFi so you can use the companion app. You might wish you hadn’t bothered, though, as the software needs work. On Android, I could barely get it to run at all. I successfully connected to my phone precisely one time. The iOS version works much better but still lacks many of the menu options the LCD display provides, and it’s pretty ugly too. Other oddities include the option for 20-megapixel mode, even though the camera’s sensor has 16 megapixels, and the 4K video mode isn’t accessible here either. So unless you have the LCD (which is technically $50 extra), you’ll have to wait until the app gets updated before you can use it. Thankfully, an update is indeed in the works, the company tells me.

This is a first-generation, crowdfunded product. So I’m willing to cut it some slack if the image quality is on point. The slider below contains two versions of the same shot, one from the GoPro Hero4 Black (right) and one from the Mokacam (left). The two had near-identical settings (mostly auto). You’ll see that the Mokacam’s higher resolution results in sharper detail on the trees and other busy objects. You’ll also notice that the color is much more vivid. This may initially make the image more pleasing to the eye, but the GoPro’s color reproduction is actually much more authentic. That is to say, the Mokacam is boosting the saturation on the camera.


As for video, the results are pleasing. The general image quality is good, and there’s no screen door effect either. Colors don’t seem as amped as they do in photo mode, but there might be other factors at play. Bright backgrounds can blow out the image a touch — the cheery blue Spanish sky in the sample below seemed to come out white — and at times there’s what appears to be lens distortion. There is an option to remove that on the camera, which is a real time saver, but it’s not always practical out in the field. Overall, though, the Mokacam is good enough that, combined with price, it makes a strong case to those not willing to spend more than $300 on a camera they may only use occasionally.

Ultimately, could the Mokacam be my go-to for outdoor activities? Not right now. I love the creative thinking behind the batteries, the self-powered LCD and the ability to mount it magnetically. The camera delivers decent photos and video too. The issue for me is the usability. Simplicity is good, but visual feedback and functionality are better. Still, at $270 for a fully loaded bundle (with extra battery, LCD, waterproof case, remote and carry pouch), you might consider a few lost or accidental videos worth it.

Source: Indiegogo


DJI and Hasselblad team up for a souped up photography drone

Back in 2015, DJI invested in a minority stake in the Swedish firm Hasselblad, which has resulted in the companies teaming up for a powerful new photography drone. The partnership has spawned the A5D-M600 bundle, featuring the best of what both companies have to offer.

The drone takes DJI’s M600 platform as a base and implements Hasselblad’s A5D aerial camera for an impressive device that can be used for some excellent imaging services. It comes packing an adapted 50mm f/3.5 lens preset at infinity focus that should make focusing while controlling the drone a breeze, making this type of drone a no-brainer for event coverage or whichever use you need it for when it comes to capturing footage from the sky.

The sensors, Hasselblad notes, are twice the size of those used in the best 35mm DSLR cameras on the market right now. If you’re looking for a collaboration of the best of both worlds, the A5D-M600 drone is probably going to be your best bet.

Via: TechRadar

Source: Hasselblad


Google defends its anti-piracy efforts

If you believe Trent Reznor and a good chunk of the music industry, Google (particularly YouTube) is a giant piracy machine — it’s allegedly doing little to block stolen content, and knowingly profits from it. Google isn’t having any of that talk, though. The search firm just published an updated report detailing its anti-piracy efforts, and it maintains that it’s doing a lot to fight bootleggers. It’s adamant that its Content ID system (which can automatically claim copyrighted material for licensing or takedowns) does wonders for the media business. The technology has paid over $2 billion to copyright owners since launch, and about 98 percent of copyright action uses it — just 2 percent comes down to formal copyright removal notices.

Google adds that its copyright notice system takes care of “millions” of web links every day (it downplays sites that get a large number of complaints), and that it has blacklisted over 91,000 pirate sites that used Google ads. The company also sees the very existence of its services as “legitimate alternatives” to piracy, much in the way that Spotify discourages pirates by letting you legally play millions of songs for free. YouTube has paid a total of over $3 billion to the music business, and notes that half of revenue comes from fan uploads. In other words, a lot of that cash might have been lost if viewers had simply turned to pirate sites instead.

It’s important to remember that this is Google’s take — it has a vested interest in portraying itself as tough on pirates and a boon to artists. In practice, it may be more complicated. While Google is catching a lot of pirate activity, how much of it is slipping between the cracks? Why only demote a site if there a lot of copyright complaints, rather than hide it completely? Also, there are concerns that YouTube doesn’t pay artists enough for free plays. Its Content ID licensing may beat making nothing from ripped tracks, but that doesn’t mean that the status quo makes artists happy. Although the media industry can be overly aggressive about cracking down on pirates (see: its frequent contempt for safe harbor protections), it’s not being completely irrational, either.

Source: Google Public Policy Blog, Google (PDF)


Twitch study shows how it helps boost game sales

Some people lose the desire to play the games they watch on Twitch. But according to research conducted by one of the company’s science team members, those who feel the opposite are plenty enough to boost sales and retention rates. The study, authored by Danny Hernandez, says Hearthstone’s success after it exploded on Twitch “raised the line of inquiry” he was only able to explore recently after getting the data he needed. Hernandez listed a few examples to illustrate his point, including Tom Clancy’s The Division. He believes the website was responsible for around 18 percent of its sales.

Hernandez determined that Steam-connected viewers are more likely to buy a game within 24 hours of watching a stream. In addition, the study found that current players of, say, games like DOTA are five percent more likely to show up in their second week of playing if they watched streams during their first week. “[M]oving retention even a single percent is crazy hard,” Hernandez wrote, so five percent is big news.

The paper lists a couple of advice for developers, as well. It says the best way to take advantage of Twitch is to build your community before launch and to think of novel ways to engage your audience. Indie sporting management sim Punch Club, for instance, garnered 1.2 million views from the developers’ pre-launch Let’s Play stream on the Twitch plays Punch Club channel. Its creators only released the game after the people in chat finished the whole thing. As a result, 2.8 percent of Steam-connected viewers snatched the title. The study also says that engaging mid-tier influencers — or those who average 33 to 3,333 viewers every broadcast — is the best way to reach buyers. They’re 13 times more effective than big streamers, and Hernandez credits them with 46 percent of Twitch-related sales.

We’re sure some of you would prefer reading a study by a non-biased, third party researcher instead, but this paper will still give you a glimpse of Twitch’s internal data. Read it here.

Source: Twitch


UK children’s charity says ‘Pokemon Go’ needs more safety features

Pokémon Go’s biggest strength is that it’s tied to the real world. Players are encouraged to explore their surroundings in order to capture new Pokémon and build out their Pokédex. But unlike the fantasy worlds of Kanto and Johto, planet Earth can be a dangerous place, especially for younger players. In the week since its launch, users have been encouraged to visit some inadvisable places, like a Hells Angels clubhouse. Crooks have also used the lure feature, which attracts Pokemon, to pull in players and rob them for real. They’re rare, but nevertheless alarming cases.

The NSPCC, a charity campaigning for child protection in the UK, has written to the app’s developer, Niantic, asking for a safety overhaul. Peter Wanless, chief executive for the NSPCC, says the app “appears susceptible to being hijacked by users who wish to harm other players.” He points to a number of high-profile news reports, including one that suggests Pokémon Go players have been led to a sex shop in Plymouth, England.

Technically, the app isn’t available in the UK, although countless players have side-stepped the problem by changing their app store location or downloading an Android APK. Before it officially crosses the pond, Wanless says Niantic should be looking at the game and changing how it plays.

“Given Pokémon’s already massive popularity with children, the NSPCC is concerned that basic safety standards appear to have been overlooked. I urge you to urgently reassess your app and its security and safety features. We all have a responsibility to ensure that children are protected and as creators of a game with substantive reach, you have a weighty responsibility to protect your young users.”

Specifically, the NSPCC wants “security and reporting functions” inside the app. It stops short of explaining just how these would operate — but it’s safe to assume that users, parents included, would be able to flag specific areas that they deem inappropriate. Niantic would then review them and, if it agreed with the report, delist the location or tag it as dangerous.

“All too often we see examples of companies simply not doing enough to protect children – their safety is an afterthought,” he presses. “This cannot go on – children live in a digital age, it is a standard feature of their lives. Therefore, their welfare must be a standard consideration when developing products that companies know children will use.”

The NSPCC says it would be happy to work with Niantic and The Pokémon Company before the app is released in the UK. We’ve asked both companies to comment on the letter and will publish their responses.


The Google Play Store family plan is reportedly ready to launch

Late last year, Google took its first step towards letting users share their purchased media with family members. The initial foray was a family plan for Google Play Music, which let multiple family members stream music for $14.99 a month. But now, it seems that Google is going to let users share movies, TV shows, book and apps as well. According to Gizmodo, Google’s family plan will let you share all media purchased from the Play Store with five other family members, though purchased music isn’t part of the deal. The family “manager” will be able to control what other members can access and what they won’t be able to see.

It’s worth noting that while Gizmodo says this feature is live today, we haven’t actually found it available on any of the Google accounts we’ve tried. Of course, the company often rolls out features slowly so we’ll have to see when the switch is flipped for everyone. But it’s not a big surprise that this feature is about to go live — it’s been rumored for several months now.

Regardless of exactly when it launches, this will put the Google Play Store more on par with Apple’s App Store, which introduced family sharing a few years ago. iOS users can currently share apps, movies, TV shows, books — and purchased music, the one big difference between Apple and Google’s implementation.

Source: Gizmodo


BitTorrent News starts broadcasting live on July 18th

Fresh off the launch of BitTorrent Now, the former peer-to-peer filesharing company is ready to go live with BitTorrent News, its own in-house live-streaming TV news network starting on July 18th. Armed with a couple of decorated journalists and an award-winning former CNN producer, the channel’s coverage will start with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

When BTN, as they’re calling it, goes live on the 18th, viewers will be able to tune in via the BitTorrent Live app available for Apple TV and macOS. (Other platforms are reportedly coming soon.) The new network expects to have about 10–12 hours of live coverage during the conventions, with commentary and additional on-the-ground reporting from that aforementioned news team. After the conventions, BTN will continue to cover the election and general news as well as some action and alternative sports segments highlighting progressive athletes that don’t get the mainstream spotlight.

“We are marrying the Internet’s principles of open access to information with society’s need for unfettered – and unfiltered – access to news,” BitTorrent co-CEO Jeremy Johnson said in a statement. “Not to be too grandiose, but I’m really excited about our News initiative. I think what we’re doing is important for the world.”


Pokemon Go’s mental health benefits are real

Dr. John Grohol is an expert in technology’s impact on human behavior and mental health, and for the past 20 years he’s studied how people operate online. He’s the founder of mental health network Psych Central, and he knows all about the latest tools aimed at helping people deal with anxiety, depression and a host of other issues.

And Dr. Grohol has never seen anything like Pokemon Go.

“In terms of the phenomena of people expressing the benefits of playing the game to their real-world mental health status, I think that’s very unique and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that,” he says.

#PokemonGO has honestly helped so much with my depression and anxiety I’m actually talking to people and being active I love this so much

— JENNY DEATH (@cybergoth1997) July 11, 2016

Srsly though, I haven’t felt this comfortable leaving the house in years. #PokemonGO is helping with my anxiety & depression & it’s amazing.

— Neil (d’class) Tyson (@TheBabyWitch) July 11, 2016

Twitter is flooded with stories about Pokemon Go’s impact on players’ anxiety and depression, with thousands of people lauding the game for getting them out of the house and making it easier to interact with friends and strangers alike. These simple acts are crucial milestones for anyone struggling with depression, Dr. Grohol says.

“The challenge has always been, if you’re depressed, your motivation level is nonexistent,” he explains. “So, you want to go out and get some fresh air, or even take a shower, and it can be a very difficult thing to even comprehend, much less do. I think the impact of something like this, this game, can really be beneficial.”

#PokemonGO has changed me so much for the better in only a week. Dealing with BPD, depression& anxiety it has helped me get out of the house

— Lara (@38Violetqueen) July 11, 2016

Real talk – as someone with anxiety/depression, the fact that I’ve spent most of this weekend outside with friends is unreal. #PokemonGo

— HiRez David (@uglycatlady) July 10, 2016

This isn’t hippie nonsense: Research demonstrating the positive effects of exercise on people’s moods goes back at least 20 years, Dr. Grohol says.

“The research is really, really clear on this, that the more you exercise, the more it would help decrease feelings of depression,” he says. “It actually works as an anti-depressant and it has a really, pretty strong effect. It’s probably one of the most beneficial things a person with depression can do, especially if they’re not accessing other types of treatments, such as psychotherapy or medication.”

Plus, walking around isn’t good only for mental issues — it can also help people lose weight, stay in shape and build overall healthier bodies. In this case, what’s good for the body is also good for the mind.

Yooo I lost 7 pounds playing #PokemonGO!!! Plus it’s helping me with my anxiety a little bit which is awesome af ☺️☺️☺️ #gottacatchemall

— ¯_(ツ)_/¯ (@Queen_Bologna) July 12, 2016

Roughly 43.8 million adults in the United States experience mental illness every year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. That’s one in five adults. The video game community is a magnet for people living with untreated anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses, says suicide prevention organization Take This. The industry itself is volatile, and it attracts particularly creative and highly educated people — factors that can contribute to a perfect storm of untreated mental illnesses.

Russ Pitts, co-founder of Take This, says that hundreds of clinicians and advisers have told him the same thing over the years: Generally, the more educated or technically sophisticated a person is, the less likely he or she is to seek help for mental issues.

“The sense is that because it’s a mental issue and they’re highly skilled in mental areas, they can think their way out of it,” Pitts says. “And a lot of people try that, and it doesn’t work.”

Here’s where Pokemon Go can help. It isn’t presented as a tool to help treat anxiety or depression; instead, it’s a game that happens to cultivate healthy behaviors.

Pokemon Go has got me up and moving and meeting new people.

Thank you, Nintendo/Niantic, for giving me a great anti-depression tool. ❤

— Josh the Seal (@ManectricMan) July 12, 2016

“It helps a person not even think of it as helping their mood because it’s not targeted toward their mood. It’s a game,” Dr. Grohol says. “Because of the way that they’ve created the gaming dynamics, they’ve actually created a very strong reinforcement for people to go out and become more active.”

But, for all of its achievements, Pokemon Go has limits. It may be a wonderful motivator for players to leave their houses, get some light exercise and meet new people, but it isn’t a substitute for professional treatment, Dr. Grohol says.

“I wouldn’t recommend people look at this sort of game or any video game as an opportunity to treat a serious mood disorder, such as chronic depression, solely with a video game,” he says. “I think it’s a great adjunct to other kinds of treatment, such as psychotherapy and medication, but it should not be the sole treatment that person is using to try and help their depressed mood.”

Whether/not #PokemonGO ends up being the cure 4everything from depression 2 obesity, fact remains it’s getting me out the house &off Twitter

— L.D. Lapinski (@ldlapinski) July 12, 2016

#PokemonGo has already been a better treatment for my depression than anything my doctor prescribed or therapist recommended

— Jesseanne Pope (@gleefullyhello) July 11, 2016

Pokemon Go can be an introduction to self-care, but it’s not a cure. It’s not even fool-proof as a video game — server outages have plagued Pokemon Go since its launch in early July, and the game doesn’t extend to some remote regions across the country. If someone is using Pokemon Go as a healthy-habit motivator and the game simply doesn’t load one day, that can be a crushing blow. Similarly, someone who already feels isolated won’t receive help from seeing their Pokemon trainer surrounded by miles of nothing, not even a stray Rattata.

just trying to play #PokemonGo but I live to far away from the road to find ANYTHING…
Depression hit hard tonight

— ramona flowers (@OJMPlemons) July 8, 2016

Pokemon Go is not a panacea for anxiety or depression in general, but for a lot of people it’s a stepping stone toward healthier habits and positive self-care. It isn’t perfect, but there’s no perfect solution for anxiety, depression or any other mental illness. Players who have benefited from playing Pokemon Go can use this opportunity to take their treatment to the next level, Dr. Grohol says.

“If this is what it takes to help you get a treatment or consider a treatment, by all means, this can be an excellent first step,” he says. “But it shouldn’t be a last step.”

I’ve made so many new friends with #PokemonGO, it’s helped my social anxiety, and I’m actually getting out. This is more than just a game.

— Brandon Evans (@Brandon21Evans) July 11, 2016


More Photos Show Off Alleged Lightning EarPods for iPhone 7 [Update: Fake]

A series of photos have been posted on Chinese microblogging service Weibo, and later shared by French website NWE, that provide a closer look at what appear to be Lightning-equipped EarPods. However, it cannot be fully distinguished if these are official Apple headphones or simply Chinese counterfeits.

Apple is expected to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone 7 series, and multiple rumors have suggested that Apple will release EarPods with a Lightning connector in turn. The headphones, beyond having no 3.5mm headphone jack, look nearly identical to current EarPods.

One discernible difference is the larger plastic housing around the Lightning connector compared to the 3.5mm headphone jack on current EarPods. However, the switch to Lightning likely means EarPods will be equipped with a DAC, or digital-to-audio converter, and it needs to be built in somewhere.

While these photos could easily be fake, the switch to Lightning-equipped EarPods makes sense given rumors about the headphone jack’s impending demise. Apple may also release a dongle for connecting wired headphones with standard 3.5mm jacks, while wireless Bluetooth headphones will continue to be supported.

Apple’s exact reasons behind its supposed plans to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack are unknown, but rumors suggest that iPhones could have wireless charging by 2017. The iPhone 7 is also expected to be up to 1mm thinner and have increased waterproofing compared to the iPhone 6s.

While the Lightning connector is expected to become an all-in-one port for audio output, charging, and accessories, only a handful of Lightning-equipped headphones are available today, including Philips’ Fidelio M2L and Fidelio NC1L models.

Last month, Apple supplier Cirrus Logic introduced a new MFi Headset Development Kit, a reference platform that is designed to help “Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod” accessory makers quickly develop Lightning-based headphones. The development kit is available through Apple’s MFi Program for registered licensees.

Those interested in learning more about Lightning-equipped headphones can watch our video: Lightning Headphones: Are They Better or Just an Inconvenience? We also shared a video showing what an aftermarket 3.5mm-to-Lightning adapter looks like as they began to reach the market in recent months.

Update: NWE editor Steve Hemmerstoffer has updated his article to confirm that these are not official EarPods.

Related Roundup: iPhone 7
Tags: Lightning, EarPods
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Facebook Messenger Adds Support for New Peek and Pop 3D Touch Gestures

Facebook Messenger today was updated to version 79.0, bringing with it the debut of new Peek and Pop gestures within the messaging client. On the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, users will now be able to try out the pressure sensitive abilities of 3D Touch to more easily navigate through the app.

Within each conversation thread, 3D Touch allows for quick previews of any links or contacts posted within a message.

The company also noted that throughout the app, Peek and Pop will be available to “preview contacts, conversations, photos, videos, stickers, links and locations.”

Facebook Messenger previously added 3D Touch support on its app icon with a few Quick Actions that present options to jump into recent chats, start a new message, or generate your personal messenger code to add a friend on the service.

Anyone who wants to check out the new 3D Touch features of Facebook Messenger can download the app for free from the App Store. [Direct Link]

Tags: Facebook, Facebook Messenger
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