Ever since Google introduced its Gboard keyboard on iOS, there’s been one main question: when is it coming to Android? You can relax. The company has released Gboard for its own phone platform, replacing the previous (and relatively plain) Google Keyboard app. As with iOS, the interface revolves around a search feature that not only digs up common search results (including location and weather), but also emoji and those seemingly inescapable animated GIFs. Gboard will also autocorrect in any enabled language, so you don’t have to worry about making typos if you switch between languages on a frequent basis.
Gboard is available now, and works with over 100 languages. Don’t expect to drop GIFs into conversations regardless of the app, though. GIF sharing only works for Android users in Allo, Hangouts and Messenger right now, and sharing in other apps depends on developers integrating image keyboard support.
Source: Google Play, Google Blog
Twitter’s October announcement that it would be shutting down its popular Vine feature drew criticism from across the internet — and apparently that collective outrage worked. The company published a Medium post on Friday stating that while the Vine hosting service would still be going away, the ability to record and save six-second videos would not
— Vine (@vine) December 16, 2016
Beginning in January, users will be able to download Vine Camera — a pared down version of the previous app — for both iOS and Android. The new app will record six-second videos but, rather than post them on the Vine website, they’ll be saved to either the phone’s local storage or posted directly to Twitter. Vines that were posted to the Vine.co website before the October announcement will also be made available for download. What’s more, the company will also be making it easier for Vine creators to build their audience on Twitter (instead of, say, Giphy) through an upcoming “Follow on Twitter” notification.
Via: Vine (Twitter)
BlackBerry’s days of making its own smartphones are over, and that means it’s time to hand the responsibilities over to someone else. The Canadian company has reached a “long-term” deal with TCL (which repurposed Alcatel phones as the BlackBerry DTEK50 and DTEK60) that licenses both the BlackBerry name and software for future devices. TCL will design, build, sell and support the hardware — BlackBerry is just putting its security-oriented spins on the resulting handsets. You’ll learn more about the phones resulting from the deal in the “coming months.”
You could see this pact coming from a mile away: there were already expectations that BlackBerry phones would carry on, and TCL was already a close partner. Even so, it’s an important symbolic step. After years of trying and failing to turn its smartphone business around, BlackBerry is officially handing the baton to another company that has had a much better time in the modern phone market. You probably won’t see a full-on BlackBerry revival any time soon, but that’s not really the goal here. The TCL deal keeps the BlackBerry name in the public eye, and gives its remaining software business a better shot at success.
1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a powerful adventure game about a photojournalist, Reza, who gets tangled up in the movement to overthrow the Shah of Iran around 1979. And now, the complete game is on Android. 1979 Revolution hit Google Play today for Android devices, following its launch on PC, Mac and iOS earlier this year.
1979 Revolution is all about the decisions that players make during the revolution, and at times it feels more like a documentary than a game. It’s infused with true stories and real photos of the Iranian Revolution, as collected by creator and iNK Stories founder Navid Khonsari. Khonsari lived in Iran until he was 11, and his home videos and personal experiences are scattered throughout the game.
As a former Grand Theft Auto developer, Khonsari is well aware of the impact that video games can have on broader society, he told Engadget in October.
“I’m not saying games can provide world peace because there’s a lot of other parts that need to move, but they can actually start a conversation that goes beyond the single dimension of how countries, regions, people, politics and conflicts are being portrayed in single, five-minute news pieces that generalize an entire nation or group of people,” he said.
The United Nations agrees with Khonsari. The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization highlighted 1979 Revolution in a November paper about the ways video games can support peace education and conflict resolution.
“1979 Revolution: Black Friday is a distinctive example of how a digital game can explore the complex and ambiguous ethical dilemmas faced by individuals in a historically and culturally accurate zone of conflict,” the paper reads.
Iranian authorities banned the sale of 1979 Revolution in the country, claiming it is an “anti-Iranian” game. In response to the ban, iNK Stories translated the entire experience into Farsi. It’s now available in seven languages — English, Spanish, Russian, German, French, Turkish and Farsi — and all of these languages are accessible in the Android version.
Source: Google Play
I need a good replacement for @evernote. Preferably one that lets me import existing notes & works on desktop, iOS and Android. What is it?
— mat honan (@mat) December 14, 2016
According to the company’s policy update notice, “Only employees who are fulfilling one of the customer or business needs… will be able to access your data.” The number of employees that can access user data is strictly limited, all of whom undergo background checks.
If you don’t want to participate, you’re free to opt out of the machine learning service by unchecking the “Allow Evernote to use business data to improve my experience” on the admin console. That said, even if you opt out of the company reading your notes for this purpose, you can’t opt out of them reading your notes for any of a myriad of others — like if you give the company explicit consent, for data and credit card processing service providers contracted by Evernote, for government search warrants or if the company thinks you’ve violated its terms of service. If opting out isn’t enough, you can encrypt your notes (though, ugh, individually) to prevent anyone without the encryption key from viewing their contents.
Via: Evernote (policy update blog)
If you’re switching from iOS to Android, Google Drive might be able to help you out: its latest feature gives it the powers to back up your calendar events, contacts, photos and videos. It probably doesn’t sound that useful if you regularly use GCal for your schedule or Google Photos to store your images. But if you don’t, then Drive ensures you don’t have to manually transfer your data — all you have to do is start the backup process within the settings page.
Since the whole thing could take few a hours, and you’ll have to keep Drive active and on screen the whole time, Google advises you to plug your phone in and connect to WiFi. Now, you might not ever put this to use if you got a Pixel and the Quick Switch Adapter that comes with it, but it sure sounds useful for other Android devices. Just don’t forget to switch off iMessage before you leave.
Give the gift of @Android. Drive now makes transferring photos, videos, contacts & calendar events easier than ever. https://t.co/xZpaA3Zmgq pic.twitter.com/TRdH4AYEKd
— Google Drive (@googledrive) December 13, 2016
Via: The Verge
Google Drive was updated today to make it easier for users to transfer their content from iOS devices to Android devices, Google announced. The company also published a new web page on the Android website detailing how it works.
Once a user downloads Google Drive from the App Store, they can navigate toward the backup wizard by going to Menu > Settings > Backup in the app. From there, users can choose to sync select contacts, calendar events and photos or everything. Google recommends that users backup when their iPhone is connected to power and is on Wi-Fi, as backing up can take several hours. Additionally, the Google Drive app must stay open and the screen must stay on.
When users sign into their Google account on their new Android device their content will automatically sync.
Google has tried to make it easier for iPhone users to switch to Android in recent months, packing in a “Quick Switch Adapter” with the Pixel, which quickly transfers data directly from an iPhone to a Pixel phone. While the Quick Switch Adapter only works with the Pixel phone, the Google Drive method will also work with non-Pixel Android phones.
iPhone users who want to switch to Android must turn off iMessage before they officially switch devices.
Google Drive is available in the App Store for free. [Direct Link]
Tags: Android, Google Drive
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It’s taken a bit more than two months, but Facebook has finally brought its standalone Events app to Android. Having debuted in October this year, Events lets you stalk see happenings that your friends are interested in attending, as well as affairs hosted by Pages you like and updates from parties you’ve already RSVPed to. You can also look for recommendations of upcoming things to do based on time, location and your interests.
Like the iOS version, Events for Android also lets you add your phone’s calendar to see if you have any conflicts with what you’d like to attend. Unfortunately, Play Store reviews indicate that users aren’t very pleased with the app’s UI so far, saying it looks like a poor port from the version made for Apple devices. You might want to wait just a tad longer before relying on the new app to organize and suggest items for your calendar.
To be clear, you could already look up happenings from your browser or Facebook app, but this service makes it easier to find something to do that might be more relevant to your location or interests. The social network said Events already sees 450 million users worldwide, making it a very useful tool that harnesses its massive footprint to provide comprehensive listings. That utility and potentially vast audience could give Events a longer shelf life than Facebook’s other short-lived standalone offerings.
Source: Events from Facebook (Google Play Store)
It’s relatively easy to build your own Internet of Things hardware, but the software is another story. How do you connect it to cloud services, push updates or just write code? Google might help. It’s trotting out a developer preview of Android Things, a toolbox that theoretically makes connecting IoT devices as straightforward as writing an Android app. Think of it as a more mature, more accessible Project Brillo. You’re not only using ordinary Android developer tools (Android Studio and the official SDK), but tapping into Google Play Services and Google Cloud Platform. In theory, most of the heavy lifting is done for you — future versions in the months ahead will even grab regular updates (both from you and Google) and use Google’s ad hoc Weave networking.
This is ostensibly designed for companies building custom hardware, but you don’t need pro engineering skills to get started. Android Things already works with Intel’s Edison, Raspberry Pi 3 and NXP’s Pico, so you can whip up a Google-powered gadget with minimal effort.
Appropriately, Google is improving Weave itself. There’s a new device developer kit for certain kids of hardware (lights, switches and thermostats right now), and Weave devices can hook into services like Google Assistant. And it’s only going to get more ambitious: in addition to more device developer kit support, Google will both offer tools to help write mobile apps and merge its own take on Weave with Nest’s version. Between this and the Android Things release, it’s evident that Google doesn’t want to sit on the sidelines while Microsoft and others make their own IoT platforms. It wants Android at the heart of many of your connected devices, and that means removing as many hurdles as possible.
Source: Google Blog
There’s no such thing as an “overnight success.” Sure, some folks get lucky with a snappy catchphrase or a $30 Chewbacca mask and they experience a wave of sudden, unplanned popularity, but generally, people don’t achieve their dreams over the course of a single evening.
Rich Siegel is living proof of this myth. He’s an independent game developer who’s been quietly working on his dream title, EarthNight, for years. It’s a beautiful, hand-painted platformer about the dragon apocalypse. Players careen across the backs of massive, snake-like dragons as they soar high above the planet, all while an original chiptune soundtrack pounds away in the background.
EarthNight has received some scattered press, but it’s not a household name. When it finally lands on PlayStation 4 and PC, it will probably be a surprise to most people, another indie game in a sea of new releases.
However, there’s something special about EarthNight. It has all the trappings of a sleeper hit: It’s gorgeous, unique and whimsical, and it feels fresh even as it embodies the nostalgia of classic platformers. It has built-in Twitch streaming capabilities, it’s a blast to watch and it features permadeath, which means once players die, they have to start the entire game over. EarthNight inherently caters to competitive people and repeat plays. If any indie game is going to be an “overnight success” in 2017, this is it.
“I’m just a total unknown,” Siegel says. “In a lot of ways I feel like we’ve gotten a lot of press, and in a lot of ways I feel like we haven’t broken through. …I’m a guy who works out of his house making a video game. I’m not a big company.”
However, Siegel does have experience with fairly big companies. He’s 31 and for the past eight years, he owned his own business in Philadelphia, Main Line Delivery, which brought food from high-end restaurants straight to people’s doors. In 2014, when he was still in his 20s, Siegel employed about 90 people.
Four years ago, he started working on EarthNight in the evenings and on weekends. It became his passion. So, in December, he sold Main Line Delivery to Caviar.
“Now I’m going to be funded to finish EarthNight, and actually have the time to truly focus and finish it right,” he says.
This is important to Siegel — getting EarthNight right. It’s not only for himself and his own vision; Siegel is working with renowned chiptune musician Paul Weinstein, who goes by the moniker Chipocrite, and accomplished artist Paul Davey, otherwise known as Mattahan.
Siegel started following Davey on DeviantArt 15 years ago, when Davey was creating custom icon packs for PC and Mac, including the massively popular Buuf theme for iOS.
“I didn’t know at the time that he was 11 when I started following him,” Siegel recalls.
Over the years, Davey and Siegel teamed up on a few smaller projects, such as the BeardWars and PuppyWars apps. When Weinstein (the other, more musical Paul) and Siegel sat down four years ago to dream up their ideal game, they knew which artist they wanted to use.
“He was born with it,” Siegel says. “He grew up in Jamaica, in the middle of nowhere. I have a canvas painting in my house he did when he was 14 — it’s better than I’ll ever be able to do in my whole life, than any of us will be able to do in our whole lives.”
“The Only Providers” by Mattahan
Siegel is in awe of Davey’s art. He thinks Davey is a genius, and his work certainly speaks for itself: his portraits are infused with a glowing, soft light and fantastical settings. Giants, trolls, dragons and vicious bears surround images of women and families as they navigate cities, forests and the cosmos.
“The style of the game is just his art style,” he says. “It’s just how he paints.”
Siegel compares Davey to Johannes Vermeer, one of the greatest painters of the 1600s and the artist behind Girl with a Pearl Earring. Vermeer is known for the way he depicted light, though it’s recently been suggested that he used a camera obscura — a primitive kind of projection technique — to frame his paintings. Essentially, he traced projected images onto a canvas, according to a handful of academics and entrepreneurs.
Siegel argues that Davey captures light in a way that Vermeer only wished he could.
“Betta Listen” by Mattahan
“Obviously he’s worked at his skill,” he says. “He works real hard, he’s cultivated it. But he can do what the most famous artist in the world was trying to do.”
EarthNight takes full advantage of Davey’s talent: It’s a hand-painted game, meaning its creatures and settings are detailed and decadent. However, there’s a reason most games aren’t hand-painted — it takes an immense amount of work. There are two main characters in EarthNight and each one is about 350 frames alone, and then there are hordes of enemies, the dragons themselves and all of the backgrounds to configure.
The game itself uses a technique that Siegel calls “hand-designed procedural generation.” Every dragon (meaning, every level) has 125 ways of playing out. As Siegel explains it, the second dragon has 125^2 possible variations to pull from, and the third has 125^3 variations, and so on. The final game features 360 pieces that Siegel programmed himself, but they can be combined in about 18 quadrillion ways — all of them hand-painted.
“I’m really hoping that we can break through and he can really get the recognition that he deserves, because I have seen a lot of artists and I have never been so impressed,” he says.
Sydney and Stanley hang out in zero gravity. (Image credit: Mattahan)
Davey helped infuse the game with effortlessly unique art in a few ways. Not only is EarthNight hand-painted, but it stars two black characters, Sydney and Stanley. It’s still uncommon to find video games with a non-white, non-male protagonist, despite a few years of public discussion about the realities of industry diversity.
Davey is Jamaican, though he lives in Philadelphia now. Sydney, EarthNight’s young female character, is based on his little sister, and Stanley is a tweaked version of one of the BeardWars icons. Both protagonists are natural extensions of Davey’s own life and experiences.
When Siegel, Weinstein and Davey were building the game in obscurity, they didn’t give the character designs a second thought. But now that EarthNight has been featured at a few conventions and on the PlayStation Blog, Siegel says he’s had to think about issues of race and diversity in video games — and he’s happy with EarthNight’s place in the conversation.
“Especially where the country is right now, it’s like what can we do except express diversity in art? I think that’s important,” he says. “And, honestly, it wasn’t an intentional decision. It was just like, these are the characters. But now that it’s happening, I’m super proud to say, yes, our game stars a female black protagonist — and she’s the cooler one.”
Siegel hopes that as many people as possible play EarthNight once it comes out. Indeed,that’s one reason he’s building Twitch streaming into the PS4 version, and he plans to release it for PC, Mac, Vita, iOS and Android eventually. He wants people to play, watch and dissect EarthNight just like they do to any popular game. Spelunky, for example, became a massive hit (some might even be tempted to call it an overnight success) in 2012, and fans ended up combing through its code in order to uncover all of its hidden treasures. EarthNight, Siegel says, is similarly brimming with secrets.
Sydney takes on some adorable foes. (Image credit: Mattahan)
“There’s a lot that I’m never going to talk about,” he says. However, Siegel hopes that he’ll have a fanbase so dedicated that he won’t have to actively spoil anything: “Collectively, the world’s going to find everything. I just can’t wait for that.”
Siegel hasn’t locked down a release date for EarthNight, but without a company to run, he plans to have it on PlayStation 4 and Vita by late 2017, with PC and Mac versions soon after. That means he’s just one more year away from achieving his dream; it means he’ll be five years into the creation of his overnight success.
“If I could go back and tell my five-year-old self that I’m making a video game that’s going to be on a console, he wouldn’t believe me,” he says. “And there’s so much love that comes from people who play it. … That joy is certainly worth it. And that’s part of why I guess I’m not done yet. I’ve come so far. I feel like I’m on the verge of being able to create a timeless piece of art. My first thing that will outlive me and be here forever.”