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Spotify is now a public company

It’s been a long road for Spotify in terms of going public, but now that day is here. The company is now public; it took the unusual step of pursuing a direct listing, rather than the more traditional IPO. Shares were set at a price of $132 by the New York Stock Exchange late Monday, according to Reuters. That gives Spotify a value of over $23 billion.

As of the time of this writing, Spotify still has not had its first trade (which may be a record; it’s now taken longer to start trading than Alibaba). The NYSE did warn traders that it could take longer than usual for that first trade to occur because of the direct listing. The Wall Street Journal reports the anticipated range of Spotify’s first trade has been creeping up all morning; it’s now at $167 to $170. That signals there’s a lot of interest in Spotify’s shares. It will be interesting to see what happens when the company finally has its first trades.

The flux in share price is due to the fact that Spotify is pursuing a less traditional direct listing instead of an IPO. This allows the share price to be set by supply and demand, rather than underwriters. Last year, the company hoped for a total valuation of $10 billion. It looks like the streaming service is going to get a whole lot more than that, judging by the interest in shares.

Update: Shares of Spotify were open for trading at 12:45 PM ET. The starting price was $165.90, and 5.6 million shares were traded initially.

Source: Reuters


Square Enix pledges to fix the PC version of ‘Chrono Trigger’

Square Enix is going to make it right for Chrono Trigger fans. In late February, the publisher dropped the classic JRPG onto Steam, but it was the oft-derided mobile port from six years ago — not the original SNES game from 1995. To right that wrong, Square Enix will patch the game with an option to switch between the current visuals and “the original graphical style” of the game.

There will be “a number” of updates beyond this, with the graphics-and-UI-related one dropping between now and the middle of April. Previously, modders took matters into their own hands and addressed the gaffe. What the other patches will entail is anyone’s guess.

Via: Polygon

Source: Steam


Mightier is helping calm kids down through mobile games

Learning how to regulate your emotions is a fundamental skill, but it can be tough for kids, especially those with challenging behaviors, oppositional disorder, ADHD and autism. Mightier, by Neuromotion Labs, is a gaming platform that teaches kids a valuable set of emotion management skills using just a phone, an app and a heart rate monitor.

“This really started for me about ten years ago at Boston Children’s Hospital and really trying to understand how we can improve emotional regulation skills in kids,” said Mightier co-founder Jason Kahn. “If things don’t go your way, how are you going to take on that challenge? Do you have both the neural circuitry and the skills to be able to gracefully get through a challenge, or are you going to find yourself really triggering that fight-or-flight reflex?”

Mightier works like this: kids strap on a wrist-based heart rate monitor that’s paired to an iPhone, then choose something to play. The titles are actual App Store games whose developers have allowed Mightier access to their game code. “We work with a number of indie developers you’ve probably heard of,” said co-founder Trevor Stricker. “One of our most popular games on the platform is Hundreds by Finji, which is Adam and Bekah Saltsman. We’ve also worked with Race the Sun by Aaron San Filippo at Flippfly.”

Other games on the Mightier platform include Runaway Toad, where you play a toad that doesn’t want to be kissed by a princess, and Unpossible, an endless runner with a gravity-defying 3D track. As kids play each game, things get more difficult, which helps the child’s heart rate to go up. That might mean visual distractors that appear onscreen, more enemies or an increase in speed to make the game more difficult. The Mightier platform manages the difficulty changes based on the feedback from the heart rate monitor.

The child’s heart rate is displayed on the phone so they can see it. Once it reaches the “red zone,” the game pauses and plays a little animation to model a deep-breathing, calming exercise. The kids can watch their heart rates fall as they calm themselves down, which lets them experience that in their own bodies, rather than just watching someone else model the behavior.

“We have clinical research that shows that this intentionally calming yourself down in the moment is extremely effective in exercising your parasympathetic nervous system and strengthening your emotional regulation,” said Stricker. Kahn and his team conducted two studies: one with 10 kids in an inpatient setting and one with 20 children as outpatients. The researchers found that 45 minutes a week of playing Mightier reduced outbursts by 62 percent, decreased oppositional behaviors by 40 percent and lowered parent stress by 19 percent.

The tools educators currently use to teach emotion management are pretty poor, said Kahn. “I think about it like riding a bike almost,” he said. “The tools we have for teaching [emotional regulation] right now look a lot like taking a kid to an office, putting a bike in the middle, throwing a manual at them and hoping they learn how to ride a bike.”

Instead, he said, Mightier works more like the way we really teach kids to ride a bicycle. “You put them on the bike and you watch them practice and practice and practice, and they build the skill. And it’s okay that they wobble around, and that’s fine,” said Kahn.

According to Kahn, one parent told the Mightier team that her son started asking to use the system on his own within weeks of being introduced to it. When he started feeling angry or frustrated, he’d ask for the game and play for a bit. Then he’d be able to work things out more calmly. Soon after that, he began just closing his eyes and doing some deep breathing on his own, and he was finally able to regroup, take a break or ask for help without an outburst.

The team worked with kids in Montreal who had problems with classroom outbursts, which is disruptive both to their own learning and that of the kids around them. The students in Montreal were leaving class an average of six times a week, but after using Mightier, the same students were having to leave an average of only twice a week.

“As a society, we throw so many strategies at these kids, and they all know them,” said Kahn. “You can’t find a kid who doesn’t know about deep breathing, or [something] similar. They know them, but they don’t know what to do with these skills.”

The co-founder added: “Now tell them, ‘Look. You can put this all together. You can do it. You’re the one who’s in control of your own emotions.’ To watch kids build it and figure it out, and finally have things snap into place, is really exciting.”


Xiaomi’s take on a voice assistant is built for China

Chinese phone makers are in a tough spot if they want to use voice assistants. Google is largely a no-show in the country, Siri is limited to Apple devices and services like Alexa or Cortana don’t have nearly as much influence as they do elsewhere. Xiaomi has a straightforward solution to that problem: create its own AI companion. The company has posted a video showing off Xiao Ai, an assistant designed with China in mind. The functionality is familiar: you can play music, check the weather, control smart home devices and translate foreign languages. The difference is the Chinese focus, with deep hooks into WeChat and Xiaomi devices like its robot vacuum.

Xiao Ai will come included with the Mi Mix 2S, but it’s available for other Xiaomi handsets in China through updates to MIUI. Don’t expect it to reach other countries, however. Apart from its Chinese focus, Xiaomi users in other countries can simply turn to Google Assistant. This is more about filling a gap in Xiaomi’s home country than an attempt to dominate the AI space.

If anything, Xiaomi is in a race to compete against its fellow Chinese brands. Bloomberg sources recently reported that Huawei is developing its own voice assistant for China, and there’s a real chance that Huawei’s lead in the country could give it an edge. Xiaomi’s launch could give it a head start that mutes Huawei’s advantage or lures sales away from smartphone fans who aren’t willing to wait.

Via: Android Authority, The Verge

Source: Xiaomi (YouTube)


Intel’s New Core i9 and Coffee Lake Chips Pave Way for Quad-Core 13″ MacBook Pro, Mac Mini Refresh, and More

Intel today introduced a range of new eighth-generation Core processors [PDF] appropriate for future MacBook Pro, Mac mini, and iMac models.

The most notable new chip is the first-ever Core i9 processor for notebooks. With six cores and 12 threads, Intel says the Core i9 is the highest-performance notebook processor it has ever designed. The H-series processor has a 2.9GHz base clock speed with a Turbo Boost frequency of up to 4.8GHz.

Given the Core i9 is a 45W chip, it is appropriate for the high-end 15-inch MacBook Pro and could be included in a refreshed version of the notebook as early as this year. Apple last updated the MacBook Pro lineup with Kaby Lake processors at WWDC in June 2017, so a Core i9 model could debut at WWDC 2018.

Of note, while the Core i9 processor allows for systems with up to 32GB of RAM, this is unlikely to apply to the next MacBook Pro, since low-power DDR4 RAM is still not supported. Back in 2016, Apple’s marketing chief Phil Schiller said 32GB of standard DDR4 RAM would compromise battery life.

The eighth-generation Core processor family also includes new quad-core Core i5 and Core i7 processors with base clock speeds between 2.3GHz and 2.7GHz and integrated Iris Plus graphics. These 28W chips, part of the U-series, are suitable for future 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini models.

Intel says the new Core i9, i7, and i5 processors for notebooks are based on its Coffee Lake platform and leverage its 14nm++ manufacturing process, enabling the chips to deliver up to 41 percent more frames per second in gameplay or edit 4K video up to 59 percent faster than the previous generation with the same discrete graphics, based on its internal benchmark testing.

As with Intel’s Kaby Lake Refresh processors introduced last August, these new Coffee Lake chips pave the way for a quad-core 13-inch MacBook Pro should Apple choose to release one. The current lineup is limited to dual-core models.

Intel also expanded its lineup of eighth-generation Core processors for desktops today after an initial rollout last October. Two chips suitable for future 4K and 5K standard iMac models include six-core Core i5-8600 and Core i5-8500 chips with base clock speeds of 3.1GHz and 3.0GHz respectively.

The desktop lineup also includes six lower-power 35W chips with four or six cores and base clock speeds between 2.1GHz and 3.2GHz. While the current Mac mini lineup uses 28W chips, previous generations have used up to 45W chips, so the 35W processors could be suitable for future Mac mini models.

All in all, Intel has potentially laid the groundwork for a high-performance, top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pro, quad-core 13-inch MacBook Pro models, a long-overdue Mac mini refresh, and updated iMacs as early as this year.

Looking further ahead, Bloomberg News on Monday reported that Apple plans to design and use its own processors for Macs starting as early as 2020. Intel shares saw their biggest price drop in two years following the report.

Related Roundups: iMac, Mac mini, MacBook ProTags: Intel, Coffee LakeBuyer’s Guide: iMac (Caution), Mac Mini (Don’t Buy), MacBook Pro (Don’t Buy)
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Apple Music for Android Gains Revamped Music Videos Section From iOS and macOS Apps

Apple this week updated its Apple Music Android app with the revamped music videos section that launched on iOS and macOS devices late last week.

Announced earlier in 2018, Apple Music’s new music videos section provides access to a wider variety of both classic and brand-new videos, exclusive videos from artists like Kylie Minogue, and full video playlists that let subscribers stream music videos back-to-back without ads. Similar to the non-video section, there are curated playlists for topics like The Beats 1 Video List and Today’s Video Hits, but users can also create their own custom playlists of music videos.

WHAT’S NEW: Apple Music now includes a new music video experience. Find what’s new and popular in Music Videos within Browse, and play videos back-to-back with exclusive music video playlists.

The new Android update comes about a month after the last one, which also focused on music videos. Instead of major changes, the March version update introduced the ability for users to watch music videos in fullscreen or inside Now Playing, so that the music continued playing while browsing other parts of the app. About a year ago, Apple introduced major design changes to the Android app that more closely resembled the look of the Music app on iOS devices.

Apple Music for Android can be downloaded from the Google Play store for free.

Tags: Android, Apple Music
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Adobe Announces Updates for Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, and Character Animator

Ahead of the 2018 NAB media trade show, which starts on April 7, Adobe today announced its traditional spring update with new updates for several Creative Cloud apps, including Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, and Character Animator.

Adobe’s aim in 2018 is to introduce new tools and improvements to allow its customers to streamline their workflows to save time.

“The demands and pace of video content creation are reaching levels we’ve never seen before. The time pressure on video professionals means the need for powerful and efficient creative tools has never been greater,” said Steven Warner, vice president of digital video and audio at Adobe. “Adobe video apps like Premiere Pro and After Effects give them that power which, combined
with the services available in Creative Cloud, provide broadcasters, media companies, filmmakers and YouTubers a complete ecosystem to bring their stories to screen faster than ever.”

In Premiere Pro CC, Adobe’s video editing software for professionals, Adobe has introduced a Color Match feature, powered by its artificial intelligence engine Adobe Sensei. Color Match is able to take the color and light values from a reference image and then apply them as editable color adjustments to the current shot, all while intelligently adjusting for skin tones.

With Color Match, it takes just a few clicks and adjustments to match the colors of various video clips. For broadcast-quality content, the Video Limiter ensures color grading meets broadcast standards.

In the Essential Graphics panel, there are new tools for animating text and graphics, along with Auto Ducking improvements that are part of the Essential Sound panel and new options for tracking time codes with a Time Code panel.

There are new integrations between Premiere Pro and Audition, with Adobe introducing the ability to open Premiere Pro projects in Audition to select specific sequences you want to work on. A new Track panel has been added to allow users to better manage their projects, and Clip Spotting updates video previews in Audition in real-time.

Adobe After Effects CC, designed for motion graphics, offers a Master Properties option for seeding individual values to all versions of a composition, plus there’s a new Advanced Puppet Engine for smoother, more realistic object movement. Adobe’s data-driven animation tools have also been improved with support for spreadsheet files like .CSV and .TSV.

Adobe Immersive Environment, which now includes support for the Windows Mixed Reality Platform, is available in After Effects CC, allowing users to preview VR content with a new immersive workflow.

Character Animator has gained improvements that make it faster to create new characters than ever before with a new option to drag layers from the Puppet panel into the Triggers panel to refine existing behaviors or create new ones.

All of Adobe’s Creative Cloud updates will be available starting today, with additional information on what’s new available on Adobe’s site. Adobe’s Creative Cloud plans, which cover the complete range of Adobe CC software, start at $49.99 per month.

Tag: Adobe
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The Weeknd’s New Single Streamed Nearly Twice as Many Times on Apple Music Than Spotify

The Weeknd’s new single “Call Out My Name” was streamed 6 million times in its first 24 hours of release on Apple Music last Friday, March 30. As a comparison, Apple Music’s streams of the song nearly doubled Spotify’s 3.5 million streams in the same 24-hour period.

As reported by The Verge today, Apple Music’s numbers on the new song are impressive given the context of Spotify’s advertising push for The Weeknd’s new album “My Dear Melancholy.” On Friday, Spotify debuted two exclusive videos from the album, one of which was for “Call Out My Name.” The Weeknd also tagged Spotify in multiple Instagram posts focusing on the new videos after the album dropped.

Still, Apple Music beat out Spotify for the single’s streams on Friday, and in total Apple’s service managed over 26 million streams for the full My Dear Melancholy album.

Apple Music has seemingly cracked the streaming formula when it comes to hip-hop and R&B, despite a sizable disadvantage in users compared to Spotify. While Apple Music isn’t the dominant service when it comes to subscribers, it’s quickly becoming the leader when it comes to engagement — at least when it comes to the world’s biggest genre — and that can’t be overlooked.

In March 2017, Drake’s “More Life” album streamed 29 million more times on Apple Music than on Spotify in its first 24 hours of launch. Later in the fall, Post Malone dropped his single “Rockstar” and quickly broke Apple Music records with over 25 million streams in one week, grabbing 56 percent of the first week streams of the song in the United States.

At the time, Apple Music head of artist curation Carl Chery said that the company repeatedly wins the streaming game on songs like “Rockstar” because it’s “ahead of the curve on them.”

“A lot of times on those records where we outperform is because we’re ahead of the curve on them, Chery says.” Chery told me he heard “Rockstar” before it was released and knew immediately that it would be a hit, allowing Apple to move fast and add it to the relevant playlists in the first week. “And to a point, Apple Music becomes the destination where people want to hear that particular record,” Chery said.

In terms of paying subscribers, Apple Music had 38 million worldwide as of March 2018, and Spotify had 71 million as of February 2018. Spotify also has a free, ad-supported tier, giving it over 159 million listeners overall around the world.

The latest addition to Apple Music launched last week in the form of an overhauled music videos section, where subscribers can stream continuous video playlists, watch exclusive videos, and browse a deep back catalog of video content.

Tags: Spotify, Apple Music, The Weeknd
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Apple Releases First Beta of iOS 11.4 for Public Beta Testers

Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming iOS 11.4 update to its public beta testing group, one day after seeding the beta to developers and a little under a week after releasing iOS 11.3, the last major update to the iOS 11 operating system.

Beta testers who are members of Apple’s beta testing program will receive the iOS 11.3 beta update over-the-air after installing the proper certificate on an iOS device.

Those who want to join the beta testing program can sign up on Apple’s beta testing website, which gives users access to iOS, macOS, and tvOS betas. iOS betas are not always stable and should not be installed on a primary device.

iOS 11.4 is going to look a lot like iOS 11.3 because several features that were removed from iOS 11.3 ahead of its release have been re-introduced in iOS 11.4.

The update includes support for AirPlay 2 features, allowing you to play the same song on multiple devices and adding the Apple TV to the Home app, plus it offers Messages on iCloud.

Messages on iCloud was present throughout the iOS 11.3 beta testing period, but it did not make it into release. The feature is designed to let you store your iMessages in iCloud, syncing them across devices and saving valuable storage space.

Stereo sound in HomePod is also an available feature, but it is not functional at this time as Apple has not provided the 11.4 HomePod software to developers or public beta testers.

Related Roundup: iOS 11
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Apple Seeds First Public Beta of tvOS 11.4 for Public Beta Testers

Apple today seeded the first beta of an upcoming tvOS 11.4 update to its public beta testing group, one day after providing the beta to developers and a little under a week after releasing tvOS 11.3, a minor update that introduced a few smaller features.

The tvOS 11.4 public beta can be obtained by going to the Settings app on the Apple TV and navigating to the Software Updates section under “System.” “Get Public Beta Updates” will need to be toggled on, and once it is, the Apple TV will download the beta software.

tvOS 11.4 and iOS 11.4 reintroduce AirPlay 2 features that were included in early iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 betas but were pulled from the update ahead of its release.

AirPlay 2 is designed to let you play the same audio content on multiple devices throughout your home, full a whole-home audio experience. AirPlay 2 works with the Apple TV, the HomePod, and it will work with future speakers that implement AirPlay 2 support.

Following the installation of iOS 11.4 and tvOS 11.4, the Apple TV will once again be listed in the Home app, as it was when AirPlay 2 features were available in iOS and tvOS 11.3 betas.

No other major feature changes were discovered in the tvOS 11.4 beta that was provided to developers.

Related Roundup: Apple TVBuyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Neutral)
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