Category Archives: Technology

J.J. Abrams & ‘Infinity Blade’ developer collaborate on new video game ‘SPYJINX’

Play video games? Dig the curious mind of director/producer J.J. Abrams? Well, here’s an excitingly fresh piece of news for you. Abrams (LOSTStar Wars)–who previously struck a deal with Valve–is teaming up with Infinity Blade developer ChAIR to produce a game called SPYJINX. Here’s what we know so far:

Powered by Unreal Engine 4, SPYJINX is a unique mix of action strategy gameplay, dynamic world building and RPG character development – all set in a thrilling, treacherous world of espionage.

As is tradition in the world of Bad Robot, juicy details surrounding the upcoming title are being closely guarded for now. SPYJINX is expected to roll out on PCs and mobile devices during its 2016 launch, and the plan is for the game to hit consoles sometime thereafter. Gamers are invited to sign up for the beta now to help the developers shape the game and work out the kinks.

Watch Abrams and ChAIR founder and creative director Donald Mustard discuss their new collaborative effort in the video hanging here. As more information spills around SPYJINX, you’ll know where to find it.

YouTube Red brings ad-free streaming experience to the masses

Can you remember back to the days when YouTube wasn’t muddled with pre-roll advertisements? Yeah, I know, it’s straining. Well, Google is looking to finally alleviate the pain that comes packaged with having to sit through tediously boring commercials. The new initiative is called YouTube Red, and yes, like all magic it comes with a price. For $9.99/month you can stream YouTube videos completely ad-free. Oh, and thankfully there’s more to it. With a YouTube Red membership, you can also save videos for offline playback and background playback is enabled (the latter meaning playback continues even if you’re bouncing around other apps or if you’re mobile device falls asleep). Another perk? A Google Play Music subscription is part of it, too. Of course, Red benefits do not apply to those YouTube videos that require you to pay to view such as film rentals and the like. The rest, praise be, indeed go ad-free.

In time, YouTube Red will also offer exclusive content such as YouTube Music (a new way to curate and listen to music coming next year) and YouTube Red Original Series produced by some of the sites biggest stars like PewDiePie and Joey Graceffa. Preview ten of the new series coming in 2016 over here.

As of October 28, YouTube Red has gone live and you can live the ad-free experience by signing up today. YouTube’s offering a free one-month trial for you to find out if the $10 barrier to entry is worth it to you. If you happen to be a proud owner of a YouTube channel, do note that if you are ever looking to support your videos with ads, you will be forced to pay up for a Red membership. With that slightly sour but understandable point out of the way, go give YouTube Red a test drive and see if the reality lives up to the hype of living in an ad-free YouTube world.

[Via YouTube 1, 2]

Snapchat upgrades video capabilities and Twitter invites users to poll, like & heart

Snapchat’s selfie Lenses and Twitter’s Moments were just the beginning of new updates sprinkled on the popular social networks. Let’s discuss the new features and changes making their way to your mobile devices, in brief.

The app that does away with your fleeting snaps has added additional functionality to shooting its equally fading video recordings. After shooting a video, swipe through the handy filters and you’ll notice three new ones. Instead of switching up the physical appearance of the videos, they actually play around with speed. A filter marked with a snail aptly slows down your recording. Another marked by a rabbit speeds it up, and a third one plays your clip in reverse. Snapchat calls these fun new filters Speed Modifiers, and they are baked into the app’s latest update. Also included in the refreshed app is 3D Touch support; so, if you own an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, you can now force touch the app to pull up quick action shortcuts to chat with friends and add some more.

Twitter, on the other hand, has pushed polls out to everyone. Now you can create your very own poll to receive near-instant feedback from your followers about a topic you’e concerned about. Creating and tweeting out a poll is simple as pie. Update the app and when you go to compose a tweet, you’ll notice a new pie chart icon next to the location and camera icons. Click it to compose a poll, and you’ll have 166 characters to ask a question and 20 characters each for two choices your followers can choose from when responding to the poll.

Elsewhere, and most recently, Twitter is switching up its vernacular when it comes to Favorites. To the point, Favorites are now Likes, and the symbol has been changed from a star to a heart. Many users are confused about the sudden, erm, change of heart, and in a blog post the company does its best to support the facelift:

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

Love it or hate it, Likes and hearts are the new Favorites and stars and you better get used to it as they’re rolling out Twitter’s mobile apps and desktop web portal today.

[Via TechCrunch; Twitter 1, 2]

Apple reports 2015 Q4 results: $51.5 billion revenue & $11.1 billion net profit

On October 27, Apple reported its 2015 fourth quarter financial results. Apple posted a quarterly revenue of $51.5 billion and net profit of $11.1 billion. Compare this to one year ago, that’s up from revenue of $42.1 billion and net profit of $8.5 billion. Says CEO Tim Cook in a press release: “Fiscal 2015 was Apple’s most successful year ever, with revenue growing 28% to nearly $234 billion. This continued success is the result of our commitment to making the best, most innovative products on earth, and it’s a testament to the tremendous execution by our teams. We are heading into the holidays with our strongest product lineup yet, including iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, Apple Watch with an expanded lineup of cases and bands, the new iPad Pro and the all-new Apple TV which begins shipping this week.”

Now let’s break it down by product category. Apple sold 48 million iPhones in the quarter (compared to 39.2 million in the year-ago quarter); 9.8 million iPads (compared to 12.3 million); and 5.7 million Macs (compared to 5.5 million). As for iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch, the company stuffs these products into a single category called Other Products and unfortunately does not disclose how many units of each were sold. However, what we do know is that this division accounted for $3 billion of Apple’s revenue this quarter (compared to 1.9 million in the year-ago quarter).

Looking ahead to the first fiscal quarter of 2016, Apple CFO Luca Maestri expects revenue between $75.5 billion and $77.5 billion.

[Via Apple]

Twitter’s Moments grants you access to fleeting trending topics in a new & interactive way

Twitter’s added a new section to its mobile and desktop portals called Moments. This particular social network works best when its users spread breaking news in an instant across the world. Twitter’s latest hub, Moments, provides a streamlined way to access such breaking news, whether or not you follow the accounts commenting on world affairs. For example, let’s say it’s awards season and the Oscars are airing live and you’re interested in knowing the night’s winners and the big, ahem, moments from the show. You’re away from a TV and the majority of your friends and other accounts you follows typically don’t post entertainment-related tweets. Moments relives you of this quagmire; simply click the new tab to view an interactive and visually appealing hub home to trending moments happening right now. If the Oscars are on, you’ll see related tweets, GIFs, Vines, and more, regardless of who you follow on the regular. You can even opt to follow a Moment–related tweets from relevant accounts will show up on your timeline. When the Moment ends (when related tweets start to die down), Twitter will automatically unfollow the Moments and you’re timeline will return back to normal.

Visually speaking, Moments is essentially an interactive version of the Trending Topics list that’s hidden inside Search on mobile. In the new hub you can quickly glance at topics people are raving and/or ranting about, with images and video to help contextualize it all. In addition to following Moments, you can also favorite and retweet sub-tweets inside Moments. Categories include Today, News, Sports, Entertainment, and Fun.

Moments are curated by Twitter as well as content partners including Bleacher Report, Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, Fox News, Getty Images, Mashable, MLB, NASA, New York Times, Vogue, and the Washington Post. Even more partners are promised in the future.

iPhone and Android users can explore Moments on their mobile devices today, and desktop users in the US also have access to it as well. If you’re outside the US, the Moments hub is still out of reach (for now), but you can still access them whenever you see a Moment shared in your timeline.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like to follow celebrities or sports figures but still enjoys being “in the know” across interests like entertainment and sports, Moments is the destination to get your fix, right now.

[Via Twitter]

PS4’s latest update is massive, with improved social capabilities all around

Sony’s PlayStation 4 is receiving its most significant system software update since launch and version 3.00 packs quite the punch. The ability to share gameplay with a wider audience is included thanks to expanded support for YouTube and Twitter. Joining Twitch and Ustream on the Broadcast Gameplay screen is YouTube; click the Share button on your DualShock 4 controller to access this screen and stream gameplay from PS4 directly to YouTube. Over on the Upload Video Clip screen, Twitter is now an option alongside Facebook, YouTube, and Daily Motion. Double tap the Share button to start recording your gameplay, and once it’s captured you can send up to 10 seconds of it to the Twittersphere. Live broadcast streams, video clips, and screenshots can be shared and viewed in the improved Live from PlayStation app; here you can browse popular trending content in real time.

You’ll surely notice two new icons featured on the PS4’s home screen. A new hub called Events provides an overview of activities taking place in the games you play most, as well as official broadcasts. Additionally, a dedicated section for PlayStation Plus gives you quick access to membership management, lists of the monthly free games to download, PS Plus deals, and a catalog of games you’ve redeemed through the subscription service on PS4. Oh, and here’s a biggie: online storage capacity has increased from 1GB to 10GB for all PS Plus members.

Sony is taking Party Chat to the next level with Communities. The former feature remains, but the latter one helps gamers foster groups based around shared interests, like games, genres, etc. When a Community is created, members can take advantage of a general discussion message board; text-based conversations and shared screenshots are supported here. Looking to jump into a friend’s game session? Hit him up on the Community board, or better yet, send him a “Request to Watch” notification–that’s new, too.

The Messages and Friends apps has been updated as well. You can now mark PSN friends as favorites, making it easier to group together and later find the people you chat and play games with the most. Stickers are supported in Messages; the first batch include ones themed around Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Knack, LittleBigPlanet 3, and Resogun.

Free system software update 3.00 hits PS4 on Wednesday, Sept. 30. Jump after the break to watch a brief glimpse of what’s in store, and click here to view more screenshots of the enhanced UI.

[Via PS Blog 1, 2] READ MORE PS4’s latest update is massive, with improved social capabilities all around

Latest Snapchat update adds selfie Lenses, Trophy achievements & more replays

Today, Snapchat released a new version of its incredibly popular image and video-based social app and it comes with a slew of fun new features.

First up there’s Lenses. Previously, when users went to capture a selfie in Snapchat, they’d have the option to swipe through a bunch of different aesthetic and location-based Filters. Those remain, and being thrown into the mix now is Lenses, which are basically animated filters that make your selfies a bit more…exciting. Some of them are cute and endearing, such as the heart eyes (raise your eyebrows to make pink hearts pop from your eyes) and heart avalanche (open your mouth a pile of pink, purple, and white hearts fall on you). Others, meanwhile, are straight up bizarre; there’s one that paints your cheeks pink, super-sizes your eyes, and makes you puke a rainbow, and another transforms you into a scary demon. To activate Lenses, simply press and hold anywhere on your face before taking a Snap when you’re in selfie mode; a carousel of Lenses will appear along the bottom of the screen for you to scrub through. After your face gets scanned, on-screen instructions will tell you how to make the animations come to life (either by lifting your eyebrows are opening your mouth). You can snap a picture or hold down to record video, same as always. There are a total of seven Lenses to choose from, and Snapchat says it’ll rotate one out each day and replace it with a new one to keep things fresh.

Next there’s Trophy Case. It’s hidden inside the app’s main menu; in the snap screen, tap Snapchat’s ghost logo (located at the top-middle of the screen) and when the menu drops down you’ll notice a new trophy icon up top. Tap that to access your Trophy Case. It’s here where you’ll find unlockable achievements. The more you use Snapchat, the more achievements you’ll unlock. Achievements are presented as emojis. The one’s I have so far: “Your Snapchat score hit 1,000!” and “Sent a video Snap.” The company is not disclosing how to unlock them all, so you’ll have to send more Snaps to discover what’s hiding behind the unmarked locks. It’ll admit, it’s a smart way to keep users stuck inside the app!

And last, there’s a significant update to Snapchat’s Replay feature in this update. The app’s very first in-app purchase is the ability to purchase additional Replays. “We’ve provided one Replay per Snapchatter per day, sometimes frustrating the millions of Snapchatters who receive many daily Snaps deserving of a Replay. But then we realized — a Replay is like a compliment! So why stop at just one?” says Snapchat in a blog post. Starting today, users can purchase extra Replays for those moments when one a day simply isn’t enough. Pricing starts at 99 cents for 3 Replays. The company admits that’s pricey, “but time is money,” it exclaims. On the one hand, this optional purchase dilutes the magic of Snapchat and its image-focused self-destructive nature. Still, good on them for keeping the single (free) Replay around for users who want to use the feature but don’t want to pay up.

Now start freaking out your friends with those new Lenses by downloading the update today in the App Store.

[Via Snapchat]

Jam-packed Apple event introduces iPad Pro, iPhone 6s & all-new Apple TV (and so much more)

Today is a HUGE day for Apple. The tech company managed to pack in so many updates across its ever-expanding product lineup. The Apple Watch, the iPad and iPhone families, and even the Apple TV all received notable boosts in functionality. There’s so much to discuss, so without further ado, let’s dive right into it. Jump after the fold for a comprehensive breakdown of the day’s events. READ MORE Jam-packed Apple event introduces iPad Pro, iPhone 6s & all-new Apple TV (and so much more)

Hulu lets you ditch ads for $11.99/month

And just like that, Hulu’s jumping on the ad-free bandwagon. To compete with the ad-free competition (namely Netflix and Amazon), Hulu is now offering a No Commercials plan at $11.99/month. That’s four dollars more than the Limited Commercials plan (formally known as Hulu Plus) that has been around for awhile now. Nearly all of Hulu’s library of TV shows and movies will steam without ads; there are only a handful of series that will roll ads before and after (but not during) a viewing session and they are: Grey’s Anatomy, Once Upon A Time, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Scandal, Grimm, New Girl, and How To Get Away With Murder. The reason? It’s simply a matter of licensing deals. Other than that, you can say goodbye to commercials on Hulu as long as you sign up for or upgrade to the new plan.

“At Hulu, we pride ourselves on listening to our customers and giving them the best possible experience,” said Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins in a blog post. “Many of our customers have asked us for a commercial free option, and so today we are excited to introduce just that. Providing more choice for consumers is fundamental to the Hulu experience, in addition to an array of choices in content and devices, our customers can now choose to watch with or without commercials.”

The ad-free plan comes at a time when Hulu really has to start showing its muscle if it wants to continue to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon. Both of those streaming services have consumers flocking to their content libraries thanks to high quality original productions (see: House of CardsTransparent, etc.) and exclusive partnerships with major film houses. In addition to introducing this new plan, Hulu is doing its part by churning out original content (The Mindy Project is coming soon, as is an anticipated new series from J.J. Abrams and Stephen King, 11/22/63) and making deals with companies like EPIX. In fact, Hulu recently snagged EPIX away from Netflix, and this will result in an influx of hit films from Lionsgate, MGM and Paramount. Game on.

[Via Hulu 1, 2]

Nintendo brings the New 3DS to US gamers, ‘Animal Crossing’ bundle in tow

That took awhile. Nintendo has finally decided to bring the New Nintendo 3DS stateside. In October 2014, the Mario makers introduced the New Nintendo 3DS XL in its home country of Japan (there they call it the 3DS LL). Three months later, it came to the U.S. with all its input enhancements including the C-stick nub and the ZL and ZR triggers, as well as NFC inside and improved facial tracking technology. However, if you’ve been in the U.S. market holding out for an updated version of the regular-sized 3DS, you’ve been SOL, until now, that is.

On Monday, Nintendo announced that the New 3DS is coming to the States on September 25. There’s a slight catch, however. Instead of coming in the standard red and black paint jobs, the New 3DS is bundled with Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, and the hardware itself is plastered with an Animal Crossing cover plate (see above). Of course, there’s no telling if/when Ninty will release a standard version of the New 3DS to consumers, so for now you’ll have to live with this (the interior of the hardware, mind you, is white). The bundle comes with two themed cover plates, the game, an amiibo card, and a 4GB memory card. The MSRP is $219.99; bookmark it to preorder soon.

On the subject of 3DS, also outed is a Legend of Zelda themed 3DS XL Hyrule Edition, priced at $199.99. The gold-colored, Hylian Crest emblazoned handheld releases October 23; Gamestop’s got it up on its site.

Elsewhere, Nintendo has entered into a partnership with Amazon allowing the online retailer to sell digital downloads of Wii U, Wii, and 3DS titles. Simply purchase a game, redeem a code, and the game will automatically download onto your console of choice. Browse the storefront here.

[Via BusinessWire; Engadget]

Apple rebrands its London-based music festival, announces headliners including Pharrell & Disclosure [Update: More performers added]

Since 2007, the iTunes Music Festival has attracted many talented and hugely popular musicians to its London venue including Adele, Beck, Coldplay, Elton John, Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake, Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Maroon 5, Muse, and Paul McCartney. For its ninth outing, Apple is rebranding it to give more exposure to its recently launched streaming music service. In September, the newly christened Apple Music Festival will headline 10 artists; so far, Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Florence + The Machine, and Disclosure are confirmed to perform live.

“We wanted to do something really special for music fans this year,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services in a press release. “The Apple Music Festival is a greatest hits set of ten unbelievable nights featuring some of the best performers on the planet appearing live and interacting directly with their fans on Connect and Beats 1.”

The festival will take place over ten nights from September 19-28 at London’s Roundhouse venue; each night is dedicated to a headliner and a special opening guest. As of today, only One Direction have selected its opening act–English girl group Little Mix. Tickets will be offered for free exclusively to London residents. If you’re Stateside or anywhere else around the world for that matter, you can still watch the concerts live via Apple Music (on an iOS device), iTunes (on PC and Mac) and Apple TV. In addition, Zane Lowe and his team of DJs on Beats 1 will air coverage from the festival, and participating performers will be posting backstage content on their Apple Music Connect pages.

Apple claims that iTunes Music Festival musicians have played in front of more than half a million fans and tens of millions more online and on-demand. With the proliferation of Apple Music subscribers (who’ll continue to use the streaming service for free until Sept. 30), I’ll bet that those numbers increase exponentially this fall when the Apple Music Festival jams out across iPhones, iPads, iPods, computers, and Apple TV.

Update (9/2): Apple’s announced more headliners and openers for this month’s Apple Music Festival. English pop group Take That, “I Can’t Feel My Face” singer The Weeknd, and British electronic dance music band The Chemical Brothers are the latest headliners to join the lineup. As far as new openers are concerned, Pharrell has picked Leon Bridges to warm up his crowd, and Florence + The Machine will introduce James Bay before taking over the stage. Will update this post as more performers are added.