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12
Oct

Spotify gives artists real-time stats in a separate iOS app


Today, Spotify launched another app called Spotify for Artists, one that is exclusively aimed at content creators and their teams. It’s currently available on iOS only, but the music streaming service promises that an Android version is coming soon. Note that you have to be verified as an artist with Spotify to use the app, but you can do that on its website.

Using Spotify for Artists, creators can manage their profile and update their bio, artist’s pick and playlists from anywhere. You can also access real-time stats for the first week after you release a new single, EP or full-length album. The app also allows you to learn more about your listeners. It provides generalized, aggregated information about the people listening to your music — age, gender breakdowns, where they’re located and other artists they listen to.

Spotify has been huge for new artist discovery. It makes sense that they’d want to cater to this group of people and provide them with an easy way to manage their accounts and check in on stats.

Source: Spotify

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12
Oct

Samsung’s Gear Sport smartwatch hits stores this month for $300


Samsung’s latest wearables, the Gear Sport smartwatch and IconX 2018 earbuds, are hitting stores in the US on October 27th. The company announced that pre-orders for both products will begin tomorrow, with pricing set at $300 for the Gear Sport and $200 for the refined IconX. If you recall, Samsung introduced these at IFA 2017 in Berlin at the end of August, but we didn’t know specific pricing or availability details until now.

Featuring a 1.2-inch Super AMOLED round display, the Gear Sport promises to be a strong rival for Fitbit’s Ionic watch — thanks to a solid lineup of supported fitness apps. Meanwhile, the 2018 edition of the IconX earbuds are lighter and more comfortable than the previous model, and there’s a longer battery life to boot.

Those of you who are into the thought of wearing a Gear Sport or IconX can head to Samsung’s site to get one (or both).

12
Oct

Win a trip to LA and two tickets to the Engadget Experience!


Next month Engadget is trying something a little different: We’re hosting a series of futuristic art installations and panels, bringing together the brightest minds in art and technology. To make The Engadget Experience happen, we gave out the largest prizes ever in the field of immersive tech — $100,000 apiece to five visionaries making art out of VR, artificial intelligence and even search results. We are so excited to showcase our winners next month, when the event opens at LA’s Ace Hotel on November 14th.

Tickets are on sale now at a temporarily reduced price, but one lucky reader can win two free tickets — plus a boatload of other stuff. We’re also throwing in a two-night stay at the Ace Hotel, a $1,000 airfare stipend and a collection of gadgets that includes the Amazon Echo, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Gear VR and a Smarthome automation bundle. Enter here to win — we hope to see you there!

Source: Alternate Realities Getaway to LA Giveaway

12
Oct

Universal debuts a vinyl buying service based on SMS recommendations


It isn’t hard to find vinyl subscription services these days. All it takes is a scroll through your Facebook News Feed and you’re bound to stumble across at least a few. While outfits like Turntable Lab and Vinyl Me, Please offer exclusive reissues (like Gorillaz’s Demon Days), there’s a lot of chaff in the mix as well. That’s something Universal Music Group’s new service The Sound of Vinyl might address.

There will be some 20,000 records on offer, drawing from the label’s vast archives. You sign up for the service, and Billboard says after answering a few questions about your tastes, it will send you daily text messages to gauge your music interests. Respond with “Yes” to buy a record and it’ll show up five to seven business days later. Other commands include “Like,” “Dislike” or “Own.” If you’re so inclined, you can even search Sound of Vinyl’s catalog via text message.

There aren’t any obligations, subscription fees or purchase requirements either, which gives Sound of Vinyl a leg up over other services. Shipping runs, on average $3 per record, but that can go up if you’re buying a deluxe box set — a product Sound of Vinyl is banking on pretty heavily. Specifically, stuff like remasters from Abbey Road studios.

In addition to the SMS music recommendations, there’s a website where you can browse the catalog, and a blog with entriss from curators including former Black Flag frontman Henry Rollins. There’s also a pretty solid selection of records that’ve been temporarily discounted, some by 50 percent or more.

Kool Keith and Dan the Automator’s project Dr. Octagonecologyst is currently $19 versus its normal $35.98, for example. Amazon sells the album for $26.43. Slayer’s thrash-metal magnum opus Reign in Blood will set you back $25 versus Amazon’s $22.99, so you’ll still want to shop around. What’s nice is that you aren’t bound by a subscription, so it’s not like you have to buy from Sound of Vinyl just to fulfill membership requirements.

If you don’t have a good record store in your area, and don’t like the idea of automatically getting (and paying for) records you might not like, Sound of Vinyl could help you fill a few milk crates. Considering the help vinyl sales are giving the music industry, maybe don’t be too surprised if other labels follow suit. Here’s to hoping the industry follows this model, versus, say Columbia House’s from the days of yore.

Via: Billboard

Source: The Sound of Vinyl

12
Oct

Order from Target nationwide by chatting with Google Assistant


For the past few years, Target has been testing the Google Express service in California and New York City. Now, the service is expanding nationwide. Starting today, you can now use Google’s same-day home delivery service at Targets all across the continental US (but not Alaska or Hawaii). You can also use Google Assistant to shop with your voice; it’s coming soon to eligible Android and iPhone devices and available now on Google Home devices and Android TV.

Google Express is a delivery service that is somewhat of a competitor to Amazon Prime. You can shop from local stores and pay a per-order delivery fee, rather than Amazon’s flat yearly fee. It also promises same-day delivery, rather than a two-day wait.

Google Express’s partnership with Target, which follows their team-up with Walmart, doesn’t stop with this nationwide expansion. Target has already announced that, starting next year, REDcard members will receive 5 percent off their orders along with free shipping when they use Google Express. You will also be able to pick up your Google Express order from a Target store, if you prefer. It’s just another way for brick-and-mortar stores to complete with Amazon.

Source: Target, Google

12
Oct

Square Enix’s Project Hikari makes a good case for VR comics


Comics are big business in Japan, but here in the West, Japanese and American titles alike tend to get overshadowed by movies, television and video games. In fact, many of those programs might even be adaptations of popular comic titles. For its first big VR project, Square Enix’s Advanced Technology Division is putting the spotlight back on manga. But it isn’t just about taking these stories and pasting them into a headset. Due for release in 2018 on all major VR platforms, Project Hikari aims to capture the look and feel of reading a manga while taking advantage of the immersive nature of VR to let the viewer delve deeper into these worlds.

Square Enix is best known for console role-playing games like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. But it has also been a manga publisher for several decades now, putting out popular titles like Soul Eater, Black Butler and Fullmetal Alchemist. When the team first encountered the Oculus dev kit back in 2013, project lead Kaei Sou says they were inspired to do something more story-focused than the usual VR fare, as well as something unique to Square Enix. The company’s large back catalog of manga gave them that opportunity.

For Project Hikari’s first outing, the team chose Tales of Wedding Rings, a lesser-known title from the company’s oeuvre. The idea was that working on something more high profile like Fullmetal Alchemist would draw criticism from fans if they didn’t like how it looked or if something was left out. But while the creator of Tales of Wedding Rings has been giving the Advanced Technology Division some feedback and art assistance as it develops the project, he’s been mostly hands off, though apparently pleased with the results.

Instead of a fully interactive experience where you wander around a virtual space and click on things that interest you, Project Hikari is focused on feeding you the story. That means there are stretches where you’re looking at panels floating in front of you, dialogue and all. It’s similar to other attempts to translate comics into VR, with images floating in a simulated space. But the Square Enix team has also added spoken dialogue, sound effects and music.

Square Enix is hardly the first to try to meld comics with other media. Marvel has been experimenting with concepts like motion comics and adaptive audio for decades. And then there’s popular webcomic Homestuck, which incorporated various multimedia and interactive elements over its thousands of pages of story.

Where Project Hikari differs is how it incorporates animation. For companies like Marvel, calling something a motion comic was a way to cover up the fact that it was essentially a cheap cartoon, with limited motion and reused backgrounds akin to an old Hanna Barbera show. But Project Hikari aims for realistic 3D animation, something that looks smooth and natural from every angle.

One of the team’s biggest challenges has been taking 2D drawings and reconceptualizing them for the virtual space. Artists may need to take a lot of shortcuts or distort their character designs in order to get them to look the right way on the page. It doesn’t matter if something isn’t anatomically accurate, as long as it looks fine in the finished drawing. But when transferred into a 3D space, the flaws in the images become obvious, with things like overly long limbs and crooked facial features seeming downright horrific.

So the character designers have had to rework the character models, making sure protagonists Satou and Hime look well-proportioned and detailed while still maintaining the distinct look of manga. It’s not unlike how the Disney short Paperman is computer animated but still carries many visual markers of hand-drawn animation. The artists on Project Hikari pay a lot of attention to line thickness and shading, aiming for the natural, somewhat imperfect look of ink on paper. But they still need to give it some 3D shadowing to give the characters weight in the eyes of the viewers who will end up standing next to them.

The animation right now is done through motion capture. That means although it looks fluid and natural, it’s impractical in the long run. The eventual goal, which the company will work toward with later chapters, is to fully animate the story from scratch on a computer.

The characters aren’t the only thing the team has had to build out though. Even if Project Hikari heavily leans on its floating-comic-panel structure, it still takes advantage of the immersiveness of VR by dropping you into fully rendered environments from time to time. For example, during my demo at this past weekend’s New York Comic Con I saw the inside of Satou’s apartment first as a comic panel, but then it slowly opened up to surround me so that it felt like I was standing inside the room. I could look out the window at the town and forest beyond, even though the original comic panel only faced the door.

One of the challenges Square Enix’s environment artists face in recreating the world is figuring out what lies beyond the comic panels. They can glean clues from the manga’s content. For example, in a later scene from the same chapter Satou does look out that window, so they can extrapolate what it would have looked like in the earlier part of the story. But other places, like the alley behind Satou and Hime’s apartment complex, don’t get as much panel time, forcing the artists to come up with their own designs.

But with all this work into creating a full 3D world, how is this adaptation of Tales of Wedding Rings still a manga? It goes a lot further than Marvel’s experiments with sound and motion, and at times it very much falls into the “walking simulator” genre of video games, where you poke around an unfamiliar environment to uncover bits of story.

But one thing about Project Hikari is that it’s more strictly regimented. The New York Comic Con demo had all interactivity removed in the name of expediency, keeping it as short as possible to ensure that more attendees could try it. But the interactive elements planned are more about making it a better reading experience: The team wants to add the ability to skip to or rewind parts of the story and to slow down or pause the action so players can look around more. The most gamelike addition will be interactive objects that can be clicked on to reveal more about the story, though these additional bits of the experience won’t be required for finishing each chapter.

The other thing that makes it more mangalike is how the story transitions between sections. Individual scenes are often separated by panels, with the viewer’s focus shifting from one to the next and something even sliding or stepping through them to reveal the next scene. This keeps the comic book feel to it but also has a huge side benefit: It’s really good at reducing VR sickness. That disconnect you often get between what your eyes are seeing and your lack of movement doesn’t happen in Project Hikari because your viewpoint isn’t being dragged around from place to place. I’m prone to motion sickness, and I’m happy to report I didn’t feel ill once during the 11-minute demo.

Manga is supposed to be relaxing, so making the viewer as comfortable as possible is key to Project Hikari. In fact, the Advanced Technology Division might have succeeded already, as several people who tried it asked if they could lie down during the demo, since that’s how they usually read manga at home. But still, one of the things many people enjoy about reading manga is the portability of it, and that’s sort of lost when transferred to VR. You not only lose the ability to curl up on your bed but also can’t throw it in your bag and read it on the subway. But Square Enix isn’t looking to replace manga any more than an anime replaces the work it’s based on. Project Hikari is just another way to experience it.

12
Oct

LinkedIn would like to add autoplay ads to your professional network


LinkedIn is synonymous with email spam for many users, and their latest announcement isn’t going to help their reputation. According to Recode, the company (which is now owned by Microsoft) is going to start selling autoplay video ads that users will see in their feeds. The good news here is that the videos will play without sound.

The company was late to the video party, debuting “Influencer” videos just last year, but it seems to have doubled down on the strategy since then. Since then, they’ve also added a video creation tool that allows users to record and post clips to their feed. Video posts are shared more frequently than other types of posts on LinkedIn — up to 20 times more often, according to Recode. It makes sense that they’d want to make some revenue off of them.

Sudeep Cherian, LinkedIn’s head of product marketing for ads, says that video advertising is a “must-have” for the professional networking service. They’re currently testing the product with a small group of marketers, but will expand the option to anyone who purchases advertising on the platform eventually.

Source: Recode

12
Oct

Here’s How Much the Inside of an iPhone Has Changed in Ten Years


Bloomberg has partnered with iFixit to provide a high-resolution look at how the inside of the iPhone has changed since first launching a decade ago.

The original iPhone on left vs. brand new iPhone 8 via Bloomberg
The original iPhone, above left, is equipped with a bulky, yellow lithium-ion battery rated for 1,400 mAh. Apple said that was good enough for up to eight hours of talk time, six hours of web browsing, seven hours of video playback, or 24 hours of audio playback, but real-world results certainly varied.

In the top-left corner sits a 2-megapixel rear camera that lacks an LED flash and shoots photos that are unequivocally blurry by today’s standards.

While shielding covers many of the other components, the original iPhone is equipped with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB of storage, a single-core ARM11 processor downclocked to 412 MHz, just 128MB of RAM, and a PowerVR MBX Lite graphics processor. It also has Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi chips.

The original iPhone supports EDGE cellular networks, often referred to as 2G. The technology is so outdated that AT&T, which was the exclusive carrier of the device in the United States, doesn’t even operate a compatible network anymore.

Other hardware in the original iPhone includes a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 320×480 pixels, a mechanical Home button, and a deeply recessed 3.5mm headphone jack that was hard to use. The device’s iPod-like 30-pin dock connector was succeeded by the Lightning connector in 2012.

By comparison, the iPhone 8 has a tall, slim battery rated for 1,812 mAh, a 12-megapixel rear camera, up to 256GB of storage, 2GB of RAM, a six-core A11 Fusion chip, Bluetooth 5.0, 802.11a/c Wi-Fi, and LTE Advanced. It has a Lightning connector, a capacitive Home button, and no headphone jack.

The inside of an iPhone has looked similar since the iPhone 4, while the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS below look noticeably different.

iPhone 3G on left vs. iPhone 3GS on right via Bloomberg
While we’ve already seen the inside of every iPhone model thanks to iFixit’s teardowns over the years, Bloomberg’s full feature article provides high-resolution photos and is worth a look for iPhone aficionados.
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12
Oct

Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre Break Ground on Their New USC Academy Opening in 2019


Apple employees Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre this week broke ground on The Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, a new academy named after the two men opening at the University of Southern California in 2019 (via USC News). The academy will focus on four areas of study: art and design; engineering and computer science; business and venture management; and communication.

The origins of the academy date back to 2013, when Iovine and Dr. Dre donated $70 million to help create the 10,000 square foot academy. Although the first building won’t open for another two years — called the “Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Hall” — some of the academy’s programs and classes are being run within other USC buildings. In total, 114 students are already taking part in Iovine’s and Dr. Dre’s new program, and are set to graduate next May.

Image via Gus Ruela/USC Photo

“It will stoke the fire of students’ imaginations, and it will propel the next generations of inventions and products that will transform our lives,” USC President C. L. Max Nikias said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I hope at this school we can help our students to dream big, execute and build the courage to stay in the saddle,” Iovine said Wednesday.

One of the academy’s programs includes an annual pitch competition where students have the opportunity to win $10,000 to help grow an original idea, and a few enrolled in its programs have recently received internships at Facebook, Hulu, Sony, and Oculus. To get into the academy, students described “the most intense application process,” where they first submit a portfolio and video of their own idea or business proposal, and then sit down for an interview with a panel of 10 people.

In a profile by The Wall Street Journal in 2014, Iovine explained that the academy was built to prepare students to “speak both languages” of technology and liberal arts. The Apple Music executive also said that one of the goals of backing the academy is to “find kids who can work at Beats or at Apple.”

Tags: Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre
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12
Oct

Apple Donating $1 Million to Fire Relief Efforts in Northern California


Apple has pledged to donate $1 million to fire relief efforts in Northern California, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

In addition to donating $1 million, Apple will also match employee donations two-for-one.

Image via the SF Chronicle
Tim Cook on Tuesday said Apple would donate to relief efforts, but at the time, he did not specify a dollar amount.

Our thoughts are with our Bay Area friends & neighbors affected by wildfires. Please stay safe! Apple is donating to aid relief efforts.

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) October 10, 2017

There are several fires raging in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Rosa, California, a popular area known as “wine country.” Fires in Southern and Northern California are common in October, a dry month often impacted by dry, high-speed Santa Ana winds, which makes for deadly fire conditions.

The fires in Northern California are the worst that have been seen in recent years, and the deadliest in terms of structures destroyed and people killed. 23 people have died and hundreds are marked as missing.

Fires first started on late Sunday night and have raged on since then. Even today, Thursday, the fires remain almost entirely uncontained and thousands of people are still evacuating from their homes.

Other tech companies have also pledged donations. Facebook will also donate $1 million, while Google will donate $500,000.
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