Huawei Ascend P6 Unboxing and Hands-on

It’s time to get up close and personal with the Huawei Ascend P6 once again. This device was first introduced to the world in June of 2013 at an event in England, complete with a full-on test of its software. This device is Huawei’s answer to the 2013 wave of hero devices from Samsung with the Galaxy S 4 and HTC with the HTC One. Is the Huawei Ascend P6 up to the task of taking on the greatest in Android?

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This machine works with a 4.7-inch display with 720 x 1280 pixel resolution, running up to 312 PPI. This display works with IPS LCD technology and sits behind a pane of Corning Gorilla Glass for scratch resistance. Under the hood is Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with a unique Huawei-made UI called “Emotion UI 1.6″.

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Inside you’ve also got a quad-core Huawei K3V2 processor clocked at 1.5GHz, this alongside 2GB of RAM and internal storage of 8GB. Of that, only 4.7GB of storage is available to users, but there is also a microSD card slot for memory expansion by 32GB. This slot is alongside a microSIM card slot for carrier data.

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This device is exceedingly thin at just 6.2 mm (that’s 0.24 inches) with a height at 132.7 mm and a width of 65.5 mm. On the back of the Huawei Ascend P6 is an 8 megapixel camera with the ability to film 1080p video at 30fps, while up front you’re working with a 5 megapixel camera capable of 720p.

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This device features a rather distinct set of hardware bits – if you don’t count the similarities between this device’s aesthetics and those of the iPhone, of course. There’s a kick-out pin that exists in the loop at the top of the machine, this little pin set to push out each of this machine’s micro cards. Convenient on one hand, easy to lose on the other.

Stick around as we give this machine a full run-down review style sooner than later – until then, be sure to let us know what you’d like to know!

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Huawei Ascend P6 Unboxing and Hands-on is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 – 2013, SlashGear. All right reserved.

NSA director gives PRISM primer in tense Black Hat keynote

Only a handful of National Security Agency staff have the power to run checks on the US phone records list, NSA director Keith Alexander claimed today at the Black Hat keynote, facing an at-times vocal crowd at the annual security conference. Attempting to challenge widespread assumptions that the NSA has carte-blanche by the courts to monitor, phone-tap, and generally carry out intrusive surveillance against anybody they wish, General Alexander said he had first hand experience of how reluctant to grant approval the courts could actually be, describing the process as “wire brushings”.

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“I’ve heard the court is a rubber stamp” he said during his speech, Forbes reports. “I’m on the other end of that table, against that table of judges that don’t take any – I’m trying to think of a word here – from even a four-star general. They want to make sure what we’re doing comports with the constitution and the law … I can tell you from the wire brushings I’ve received, they are not a rubber stamp.”

Alexander’s argument also concerned exactly how many people have access to NSA records and logs, which he suggested was far fewer than many following the PRISM controversy might assume.

Of everyone at the NSA, only 22 can approve numbers on the US metadata/business records list, he claimed, TechCrunch reports. A total of 35 analysts are then authorized to actually run the queries.

In fact, Alexander told the audience, less than 300 numbers were approved for queries in 2012 overall. Of those, twelve resulted in reports to the FBI. The NSA obtains the date and time of the call and its duration, as well as the address called and called-from. The origin of the metadata record (including site and source) is also accessible, though not voice or text content, subscriber information (such as name or address), credit card numbers, or locational information.

Nonetheless, the NSA chief faced an at times contrary crowd, and was heckled at least once. “You lied to Congress” one audience member shouted during the general’s speech, “why would people believe you’re not lying to us right now?”

Alexander denied that, saying instead that “I haven’t lied to Congress” and that he believes “it’s important for us to have this discussion. Because in my opinion, what you believe is what’s written in the press without looking at the facts. This is the greatest technical center of gravity in the world. I ask that you all look at those facts.”

Told, at the end of his keynote, that he should “read the constitution” by another audience member, Alexander replied “I have. So should you.”

It’s not the first time the general has appeared in front of a security-minded crowd of this sort. Last year, in fact, Alexander gave the keynote speech at the DEF CON conference, though this year government security services were “uninvited” from the event as hackers mulled over the documents leaked, in part, by whistleblower Edward Snowden.


NSA director gives PRISM primer in tense Black Hat keynote is written by Chris Davies & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 – 2013, SlashGear. All right reserved.

Trakdot luggage tracker now shipping

Remember that luggage tracking device we did a hands-on with back at CES? Well, now you can finally get your own hands around it. Trakdot Luggage has just started shipping. The little box auto-transmits its location via quad-band GSM chip and triangulation, letting you know where your toiletries are at all times (except when you’re actually in the air, naturally). Trakdot will run you $50, a price that includes a luggage tag and batteries (which should give you around two weeks of use). You’ll also need to drop $9 for the activation and $13 for the annual service fee, if you want more than just a suitcase paperweight. And as for actually tracking the package, you’ll have to rely on your parcel carrier for that information.

Filed under: Misc, GPS

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Source: Trakdot

Stipple Partners With Getty Images For Smarter In-Image Advertising

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Stipple is announcing a partnership with Getty Images that integrates Stipple’s technology for in-image advertising with Getty’s library of photos.

Technically, there was nothing stopping someone who published Getty’s photos from including Stipple ads inside those photos. However, the new integration should make those campaigns more effective, particularly by tapping into the Getty metadata. Stipple co-founder and CEO Rey Flemings said that one of the things that has “hindered” the use of photos online is the fact that most publishing systems strip the relevant metadata from those images.

Thanks to the new partnership, Getty’s tags will be applied to its photos throughout the Stipple network, and those tags can then be used to place ads. For example, if a Hollywood studio wanted to advertise its new film, it could run a campaign across Stipple’s network that targeted all Getty photos that feature cast members from the film. The companies say this should improve the reach of brand campaigns and increase monetization for publishers.

You can view a sample image with Stipple links here.

Craig Peters, Getty’s senior vice president of business development, said the company is always looking to help its publishers monetize (after all, they’re probably going to be happier about paying for Getty’s content if they’re actually making money from those photos), and that Getty is working with Stipple specifically because the company “can basically align the interest of advertisers and publishers,” delivering ads that are effective and don’t annoy users because they’re actually relevant to the image.

“It really does unlock a lot of the value that sits in that visual asset online that has been under-monetized and under-appreciated up until this point,” Peters said.

In order to take advantage of the new integration, publishers have to be working with both companies, but that’s a group that includes People.com, Condé Nast, and Gannett.

Adobe Buys Satellite For Tag Management Technology, Makes Deeper Move Into Marketing And Ad Tech

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Following on from its $600 million purchase of marketing platform Neolane, which closed earlier this month, Adobe today made its fourth acquisition of 2013. To further strengthen its marketing and analytics business, Adobe has bought Satellite, a tag management technology that helps marketers with analytics and media tracking across web sites. Satellite is part of a larger interactive marketing agency called Search Discovery.

The news was passed along to us via an email from Atlanta-based Satellite, which it sent out to customers and partners. We’re trying to find out the financial terms of the deal and whether Search Discovery is spinning off just the Satellite business, or if the whole company is joining Adobe as well.

Satellite says in its customer letter that it will continue to operate a business-as-usual service “for the time being.”

It looks like the main significance of this for Adobe is two-fold. First, it is bringing one more piece of functionality to its Marketing Cloud. That portfolio already offers services such as Analytics, Target, Social, Experience Manager, Media Optimizer, as well as the new services from Neolane.

The main idea of tag managing services is to consolidate code for different analytics, marketing and advertising services, implemented by websites to monitor how their content is used. Each piece of analytics/marketing/ad code means speaking with different third-party services, and that can slow a site down. Satellite claims to speed up loading times for sites by consolidating that code and taking it out of the markup language behind the site. It’s aimed at both small and large enterprises, who can use the platform to handle multiple sites. (That could mean that Adobe may use it itself as an SME-targeted, cloud based offering.)

And this also points to the other important part of this acquisition: it appears to put Adobe closer into the domain of marketing services where Google also is playing. Google in October 2012 launched its own tag management service, appropriately called Tag Manager.

Like Satellite, Tag Manager attempts to take some of the pain out of managing all of the different bits of analytics and tracking code that comes across a web site to make it more usable by marketers.

Satellite today notes that the Adobe acquisition doesn’t mean that Satellite will become an exclusively Marketing Cloud-shop: “Adobe will allow the use of Satellite for the deployment of services within and outside the Adobe Marketing Cloud,” it notes. But it also notes that while Adobe will continue to support existing integration between Satellite and Google Analytics, it will “no longer provide professional services to implement Google Analytics.”

Satellite notes that there is some overlap already between what it offers and what Adobe already does, which should help Adobe drive more business to its platform.

“Both Adobe and Satellite have robust partner networks that help facilitate the delivery of our market-leading technology and services to marketers worldwide,” it notes. “Due to our common focus on providing the best solutions available to marketers, we expectedly share some of the same partners. The addition of Satellite to the Adobe Marketing Cloud will enable the combined partner network to deliver the world’s leading set of marketing solutions to an even broader base of customers.”

We’ll update this post as we learn more.

Socrative Gets $750K From True Ventures, NewSchools To Bring Realtime Student Response System To K-12 Education

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TechCrunch has learned today that Socrative, an intelligent student response system aimed for K-12 classrooms, has quietly raised $750K in seed financing from True Ventures, NewSchools Ventures and a handful of angel investors in Boston — where the startup is headquartered — including Jean Hammond and Eileen Rudden. According to our sources, the startup closed the majority of its round in April, but has added a few investors since then and has mostly remained mum in regard to its financing and investors.

The initial prototype for Socrative was developed in 2010 by Amit Maimon at MIT, who then brought on co-founders Benjamin Berte and Michael West after graduating. The co-founders bootstrapped for two years before joining Imagine K-12′s incubator and picking up a bit of seed funding as a result. The startup has grown steadily since. Berte tells us that, over the 2012-2013 school year, Socrative saw 116 million questions answered and 278K quizzes created and shared across 3.2 million individual teacher and student users. Towards the end of the school year, Berte says, the platform was adding new teachers at a rate of 1,000/day.

For those unfamiliar, Socrative is a free, cloud-based student response system, which is available via the Web or mobile apps for iOS and Android that allows teachers to create and distribute quizzes and conduct polls in class. Students can then respond via their laptops, tablets or smartphones, allowing teachers to get a more “realtime” understanding of student comprehension and to aggregate and store that data to track student learning curves.

The idea is to allow schools to upgrade their old hardware, or their “clickers” (and clicker systems) that one might use in a large introductory class, for example, replacing them with a more digital system. Socrative and its clicker platform 2.0 allow teachers to create and distribute a number of types of quizzes, including true/false, multiple choice, graded short answer or short response, whether they be teacher-paced or student-paced.

To put it simply, Socrative is doing for K-12 what Top Hat does for higher education. (It also follows Pearson’s acquisition of student response startup, Learning Catalytics, in April.) Like Top Hat, the system allows teachers to add gamification elements to quizzes so that students can compete against each other, view leaderboards, or display live results to get class discussions started. All in all, it’s a way to update the formal assessment standards that still exist at most schools today.

Going forward, Socrative plans to launch a design overhaul in early August, with multi-selection multiple choice questions, Common Core assessment tagging, back channel-style discussions and student quiz navigation being a few of the enhancements one can expect. Berte also tells us that Socrative is in the process of integrating with Google Apps for Education so users can access Socrative via Google Sign-on and export assessment reports and so on to Google Drive.

For more, find Socrative at home here.

Evernote Competitor Catch.com Shuts Down Its Note-Taking Apps, Company Heading In “Different Direction”

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Catch.com (formerly known as Snaptic) is shutting down its Evernote competitor, called Catch Notes, which allowed users to capture and save notes on iOS and Android, as well as on the web through browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and IE, and even via email.

The company announced the closure in a message posted to its website, and in an email sent to former Catch.com users yesterday (see below) which explains that the service is closing August 30th. Users have until then to export their data from Catch.com via this provided export tool. The tool produces either a CSV or ZIP archive of your data which can be imported into OneNote, Springpad or Simplenote, per Catch’s further instructions.

The startup, which had previously raised $9.3 million in seed and Series A funding led by Boston-based Excel Venture Management, hints in its announcement that the team is now taking the company in “a different direction,” following the Catch.com closure, but didn’t provide any other details about what their plans are at this time.

It’s unclear what will become of Catch’s other applications, like AK Notepad and Compass, following the news of the Catch shutdown, as the company has not yet responded to our requests for more information.

While it’s odd that no mention was made of those applications in the brief announcement, the timing of the news is odder still, given that only a month ago, the company announced the debut of a business-level collaboration service called Catch Team. Interestingly enough, that product’s homepage is still live today instead of redirecting to the notice about the Catch shutdown. That could indicate that this is indeed the new direction the company has chosen to pursue. Unlike the personal note-taking service, the Team product is focused more on project management and offers enterprise-level features.

The company’s consumer-facing mobile apps were fairly popular in months past – the Android application, for example, had reached somewhere between 5 million and 10 million installs, according to Google Play, where more limited competition had allowed the app’s solid design to stand out a bit more than on iOS. Users there are already lamenting the loss, begging Catch.com to reconsider, or release a paid version.

The iOS app was only moderately popular, having reached the top 100 in Productivity apps in 14 countries worldwide, and was ranked 198 in Productivity the U.S.

In past years, many news outlets and reviewers had listed Catch’s app as a “top” productivity tool for mobile. And, as a TechCrunch reader just pointed out, the app also benefitted from promotions in Apple’s own retail stores as well as being featured on the Apple.com homepage.

But Evernote has long since surpassed Catch as the preferred note-taking tool for PC, web and mobile, with native applications for desktop, phones and tablets, as well as a standalone web app. (Oh, and some $251M in outside funding, too.)

We’ve reached out to Catch.com to see if its founders can share any more details on how they came to this decision, or what the company’s future plans now involve. We’ve yet to hear back but will update with details following that conversation, if and when it occurs. In the meantime, Catch’s current users should proceed to grab their data from the service before it’s too late.

Below, the full announcement:

Catch has made the difficult decision to take the company in a different direction. As such, we will be terminating service next month. We value our users and have greatly enjoyed providing Catch to millions of people over the last several years, but it is time for us to move on.

Catch will no longer be available after 30 August 2013. Please follow these directions to download your data before this time.

We thank you for your support. If you have any questions or concerns, please email us at [email protected] We apologize if we are not able to respond to all emails.

- The Catch Team

Google Glass reaching out to film students in newest Creative Collective bid

It’s time for Google to expand their reach with Project Glass again, this time through their Glass Creative Collective program aimed at the more artistic citizens of planet Earth. Google’s reach includes the The American Film Institute, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, and University of Southern California.

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This is only the latest in a series of Glass initiatives that’ve appeared just this week. Glass appeared on several celebrities and creative heads including Jon Bon Jovi, Gary Shteyngart, and journalist Tim Pool. Meanwhile shareable invites have appeared in the inboxes of Google Glass owners – the expansion of Glass Explorer Program continues here.

It’s not been all good news for the wearable, on the other hand, as a UK “careless driving” ban has reportedly been seen in the works.

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Google continues to work on a “hyper-local” Google Now expansion that’ll be well suited for Glass.

“We’re really interested to find out how Glass will contribute to the craft of storytelling, specifically through film. So, we reached out to various film schools … They’ll start exploring how Glass can be used in production, documentary filmmaking, character development and things we haven’t yet considered. We’re eager to see what they come up with and we’ll be sure to share more with you once school is back in session.” – Google Creative Collective

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For these schools, the opportunities in filming from a first-person perspective have only just begun. Have a peek at our Project Glass tag portal as well as our Google Glass Fireside Chat Series from Google I/O 2013.


Google Glass reaching out to film students in newest Creative Collective bid is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 – 2013, SlashGear. All right reserved.

NSA director addresses Black Hat, says there have been “zero abuses” of data

NSA Director General Keith Alexander.

LAS VEGAS—At the Black Hat security conference today, National Security Agency (NSA) Director Keith Alexander defended the NSA’s data collection programs and described at a high level what data is collected and how it’s used.

His presentation covered two programs, both revealed by Edward Snowden: telephone metadata collection and a program of collecting from the computer industry data relating to foreign nationals, of which PRISM is a component. According to Alexander, the phone metadata collection, authorized under FISA section 215, was both limited and tightly controlled. The NSA collects only the time and date of a call, the phone numbers involved in a call, the duration of a call, and the service provider that captured the information. Notably, he said that names, address information, and location information were not captured. Nor was any conversation data collected, such as the contents of voice calls or text messages.

While this data was collected, Alexander said that access to the information was tightly restricted. Free-for-all queries weren’t permitted. Instead, numbers had to be individually approved by one of 22 people at the NSA, and only 35 analysts within the agency were authorized to run queries on those numbers. In 2012, he said that fewer than 300 numbers were added to the list.

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Google Testing Local News In Google Now, As Well As The Limits Of Feature Bloat On The Android Assistant

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Google is testing out local news cards for Google Now according to a new report from Quartz, which cites Google’s VP of Search and Assist as the source of the info. The local news card is in the experimental A/B testing phase, with the aim of gathering feedback from users about whether it should go live to the broad Android user base.

The news would tell you things like nearby crimes, as well as restaurant openings and more, but tailored to your specific interests and bound to geolocation coordinates. It’d be kind of like having your town’s daily newspaper delivered directly to your phone, but perhaps more hyperlocal and having that change depending on where you are at any given moment.

It sounds like a good idea, despite the general failure of local news initiatives like Patch, since it works by collecting news from other sources and is probably a better and more sustainable approach to digital local news than new reporting bodies. But in the larger picture of Now, it begins to beg the question of what Google wants its Android assistant to really be.

Google Now is a service that provides quick access to the information that’s most immediately pertinent to you at any given time. Right now that means popping up flight schedules, transit stops and travel ETAs to key locations like home and work, as well as weather and more. It’s the “more” that becomes potentially troubling; Now is currently pretty easy to pick up and understand, but Google has to think carefully about what new features it brings on, lest it become feature-burdened and unwieldy.

The good news is that Google is doing A/B testing with this and other new features it’s contemplating bringing to Google Now. And it’s also true that not all of the cards need to be activated, or turned on by default. But even just making them available risks overcomplicating the service and making it less intuitive and natural for users, which is a big part of its appeal. Also, local news, while a neat trick, doesn’t seem all that useful in an instantly digestible context like this one.

I have one request for Google around Now: keep it clean. There’s a lot the personal assistant ‘could’ do, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lot it should.

PSA: Windows Phones to lose Google Sync activation on August 1st

PSA Windows Phones without GDR2 lose sync for new Google accounts tomorrow

Windows Phone users who want to use Google Sync for contact and calendar integration had better act quickly: today is the last day that they can link their handsets to the service before Google pulls the plug. From August 1st onwards, Google Sync will only work on a given Windows Phone if it’s already configured. The GDR 2 upgrade keeps syncing alive through CalDAV and CardDAV support, although many users could go without that support for some time — to date, Americans can only see the OS refresh on the HTC 8XT, Lumia 520, Lumia 925 and Lumia 1020. If you’re not in that group and miss the Google Sync deadline, you’ll just have to sit tight while Microsoft finishes rolling out the GDR 2 update this summer.

Filed under: Cellphones, Internet, Mobile, Microsoft, Google

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Via: Neowin

Source: Google Apps

Omate TrueSmart smartwatch bringing dual-core Android with a camera

While the current pre-production iteration of the Omate TrueSmart smartwatch might not be the most flashy wearable to appear this year, the proposition made by the company for a full-powered Android smart device is certainly enticing. This device works with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and a dual-core processor as well as Bluetooth, meaning you’ll not only be able to connect to your smartphone (or Google Glass, why not), you’ll be able to run Android apps galore.

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This wearable Android device will be working with a 1.5-inch 240 x 240 pixel AMOLED Color display above its MediaTek MT6572 Cortex A7 1GHz dual-core processor and 512MB of RAM. This watch has 4GB of internal storage as well as a microSD card slot capable of carrying an up to 32GB card for memory expansion.

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TrueSmart works with A-GPS for navigation, Wi-fi connectivity along B/G/N, an accelerometer, magnetometer, and an FM Tuner for radio. There’s hardware vibration feedback, there’s an external speaker, and the whole thing is waterproof and dustproof with IP67 certification. The back panel also comes off to reveal a removable, replaceable battery.

That little lens on the side of the device is a 5 megapixel camera.

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The camera works with an AF lens and, though we’ll still have to test the unit to see how well it actually performs, it is – from what we can tell – the first camera to ever have appeared on an Android watch.

“The Omate TrueSmart is the world’s only smartwatch phone with a proper dual core processor to handle Android apps properly, incl. voice command, voice-to-text, voice navigation etc. Being a smartwatch-phone with 3G, Wifi and Bluetooth means you can pair with your smartphones or google glass, or work independently without your smartphone, eg. swimming, jogging, at the beach, clubbing etc.” – Omate

The Omate team makes a point to suggest the watch is rootable, too. Specifically with CWM (ClockWorkMod) recovery, even.

Those of you aiming for a true vanilla Android experience will want to aim for that root right away as this machine works with “Omate OS 1.0″, “based on Android 4.2″. There’s also some built-in “gesture controls” inside the custom OS that will, as the team says, “help developers enhance the apps experience on the wrist.”

“We’re also committed to supporting developers, and since it is running Android 4.2.2 (plus rootable), there’s little or no work in porting apps (simply work on some user experience changes).” – Omate

The Omate TrueSmart isn’t yet a final product – it’s not even up to a funding level yet, being part of a startup that’ll soon be moving to that phase of the project. What they do have, on the other hand, is what they call “full manufacturing capability”. They’ve made clear that they are “committed to delivering in October” of 2013 and that they’re working with “members in the team are industry experts with experience and expertise in producing commercial technology products (incl. smartphones).”

We’ll be watching this one closely – no pun intended.

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Omate TrueSmart smartwatch bringing dual-core Android with a camera is written by Chris Burns & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 – 2013, SlashGear. All right reserved.

Google taps film students with Glass Creative Collective

Google taps film students with Glass Creative Collective

Glass hasn’t exactly been revered for its brilliant image quality, but that’s not stopping Google from making a push among budding filmmakers. The Glass Creative Collective, a partnership with film and design schools, is intended to familiarize students at a handful of institutions with the video-capture wearable. Several colleges, including the Rhode Island School of Design, UCLA and the University of Southern California are onboard — students will reportedly begin exploring the device as a filmmaking tool beginning this fall. Glass could be a fit for documentary filmmaking, and for capturing point-of-view footage, of course, but performance limitations would likely prevent it from taking on a starring role in any production. We’re a bit skeptical that the Creative Collective will be a booming success, but Google’s promised to circle back with results once the program gets off the ground.

Filed under: Cameras, Displays, Wearables, Alt, Google

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Via: CNET

Source: Google Glass (Google+)

Zynga sues “Bang With Friends” for trademark infringement

Yes, like just about everything in this world: there’s an app for that—even gettin’ freaky.

Since the beginning of 2013, Facebook users have been able to use the “Bang With Friends” app to choose which one of their friends they’d like to do the horizontal tango with. But here’s the tricky part: the app won’t show the object of your affection that you’ve selected them until they select you back. (Sneaky!)

But there’s just one problem: Bang With Friends sounds a lot like another, more established online app: “Words with Friends,” or “Chess with Friends,” or a bunch of the other “…with Friends” apps made by Zynga. So it’s no surprise that the social gaming company has now filed a federal lawsuit against Bang With Friends, charging the younger upstart with trademark infringement, among other allegations.

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Hands-on with Microsoft’s Office Mobile for Android

Following up on its release of an Office app for Apple iOS devices, Microsoft has released Office Mobile for Android. As the name implies, it’s an app that gives Android phone users the ability to access and edit documents created in the Microsoft Office desktop suite.

But as with the iOS app, there are caveats. You have to be a subscriber. And it’s utterly worthless to tablet users. The Android app will not install on tablet form-factor devices, which is a strike against it compared to the iOS version. That at least runs in a very low-resolution mode on the iPad. However, the Android app does allow users to open Office-formatted documents from other apps, including DropBox, so you’re not entirely shoehorned into the Microsoft ecosystem for collaboration.

Users of Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium, Office 365 University, or an enterprise Office 365 account that includes licenses to the Office 2013 productivity suite can download the app for free from the Google Play store. Those without a subscription can buy one from within the app during initial startup. To see what fun may await you, we’ve got a look at some of the app’s features below.

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Google Now “hyper-local” cards in testing

Google is experimenting with a “hyper-local news card” for Google Now that flags up location-specific information, such as nearby store promotions, social activities, or breaking news. The new card, currently in internal testing as Google works on the overall “Explore” experience, was confirmed by VP of search and assist at the company, Johanna Wright. Speaking to Quartz, Wright described the new info pane as “very, very targeted to you and your interests.”

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“One thing we’re testing right now is a very local hyper-local news card … which is really useful—it teaches me things about my neighborhood” Wright explained. “For example, I found out Miss Mexico came to my son’s school, I saw that [the local] Chipotle was giving out burritos, and someone was stabbed in the park near my house.”

Google Now uses a combination of location, machine-learning, and algorithms to prompt the user with different “cards” on their Android or iOS device. These can be as basic as the weather forecast wherever they are, or reminders about upcoming calendar entries, through to more complex suggestions such as navigation directions to nearby points of interest, potential activities in the local area, and more.

The system can even use information from recent searches on the desktop – assuming the Chrome browser was used, and the user was logged into their Google account – to make suggestions. That can include the offer of navigation to places previously searched in Google Maps online, as well as more information on researched products.

The hyper-local news cards, however, would seemingly be a more pre-emptive approach to notifications, based not only previous web behaviors but on what Google Now thinks is relevant from location. Currently, Wright says, it’s an “experimental version” in testing, though may not end up showing up on users’ phones.

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However, it’s Google Glass, the company’s fledgling wearable project, where the local news card might make most sense. There, Google Now wouldn’t even need to pull their phone out in order to see topical cards; the update could simply be flashed up into their eye-line when relevant.

Google has gradually been moving Now to a more central position in its mobile portfolio, including spreading its card interface into other areas of products like Android and Chrome OS. As director of Android experience Matias Duarte told us back in February, one of Google’s concerns is in how targeted data can be better integrated with users’ lives, rather than trying to bulldoze into their attention.

“I think one of the challenges with technology is how we can use it to make our lives better, but actually to be present in the real world while we’re using it, not just sucked into the technology” Duarte explained.


Google Now “hyper-local” cards in testing is written by Chris Davies & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 – 2013, SlashGear. All right reserved.

Google reportedly testing 'hyper-local' news card for Now

Google reportedly testing local news card for Now

According to a report from Quartz, Google is preparing to launch an improved local news card in Now. The card would be an extension of its existing local news offerings, but would bring those stories directly to your handset based on your location. Quartz confirmed the card’s existence through Johanna Wright, the vice president of search and assist at Google. She described the card as be “hyper-local,” with granularity down to individual neighborhoods. According to Wright, the card is only being tested internally right now, and there’s no guarantee of when, or even if, Google will actually bring it to the public.

In many ways Now is meant to be a filter for the absurd amount of information constantly at your fingertips. It’s supposed to deliver only the information you need, when you need it. Problem is, Google still seems to be figuring out just what information you need at any given moment. Bus schedules, boarding passes, traffic reports, tourist attractions, calendar appointments, sports scores… the depth of data served up is growing more intimidating with every day. Now already delivers links to news stories that you’re following on your desktop. The logical next step (we suppose) is to serve up articles you didn’t know you were interested in, based on your location. We’ve reached out to Google for comment and confirmation, and we’ll update this story if we hear back.

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Source: Quartz

Enceladus’ icy jets pulse to the rhythm of its orbit

NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

NASA’s Cassini probe, which is orbiting Saturn, has provided some of the most beautiful imagery we’ve seen transmitted from beyond the confines of our terrestrial home. (And its images sometimes include our terrestrial home.) Sure, Saturn itself is great and all, but the gas giant’s rings and moons are simply fantastic. There’s Titan, with its thick, hazy atmosphere and methane cycle—complete with rivers, lakes, and precipitation. And then there’s Enceladus—the smooth, icy wonder that might harbor a liquid water ocean beneath its surface.

Enceladus is best known for the geysers near its south pole, which shoot water vapor and microscopic particles of water ice high above the surface. Some falls back to Enceladus and the rest escapes, forming one of Saturn’s rings. The geysers have attracted attention for good reason. Simple organic compounds like methane, propane, and formaldehyde have been detected in the plumes of water, as has ammonia. That gets people excited about what kind of chemistry could be going on beneath the surface—and whether it might even include biochemistry. And then there’s the most basic question: why is the interior of Enceladus so warm, anyway?

The prevailing explanation is that it’s caused by gravitational variations, which go about squeezing and stretching Enceladus. This is caused by its slightly elliptical orbit around Saturn—sometimes closer to the gas giant, sometimes farther. The shape changes happen pretty rapidly, as Enceladus completes a lap around Saturn in just under 33 hours.

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Canon's 1080p Legria mini camcorder makes it easy to film... yourself

Canon's 1080p Legria mini camcorder makes it easy to film yourself

Though we got tired of the word “selfie” in about 1/8000th of a second, it’s true that snapping yourself can be tricky, especially on video. Canon wants to aid and abet such vanity with the Legria mini, a 1080p camcorder with an ultra-wide angle lens, flipscreen and built-in stand. To make sure that we, er, you look as good as possible, Canon’s equipped it with a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, DIGIC DV 4 processor, 12.8-megapixel still shooter, stereo audio and 160 degree wide lens (170 degrees for stills). You’ll also get built-in WiFi, an iOS app, DLNA support, time-lapse, slow motion and mirror image recording and playback. There’s even a decidedly HTC Zoe-like feature which takes a four second video when you snap a photo, and assembles them together when you’re ready. All of that should help keep your Vine, Video on Instagram and other filmic pipelines full. Check the PR and video after the break for more.

Filed under: Cameras, Canon

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Grockit Sells Social Learning Platform To Kaplan, Goes All-In On Learnist, Its “Pinterest For Education”

grockit-logo

If you haven’t heard, some of the former giants of the education world haven’t been doing too well, particularly academic publishers, as evidenced by McGraw-Hill’s recent sale and Cengage’s filing for bankruptcy earlier this month. The bigs are faced with a slow death, or slow rehabilitation (with death still a possibility) by digitizing their content and services — and digitizing fast.

Kaplan is one of those familiar names, as the 70-year-old test prep company recently launched its own TechStars-bankrolled “EdTech” accelerator in NYC, while its venture capital arm moves to invest in more digital education startups, like Treehouse. Today, it’s taking another smart step toward a digital future by snapping up the test prep assets and social learning platform of veteran EdTech startup, Grockit, the San Francisco-based maker of social learning apps and technologies.

Why is this a smart mutual decision? Well, for starters, as Kaplan CEO Andy Rosen recently said: “Continuing to cultivate new innovations in education technology is critical to the future of the company and the industry at large.” Yup. For many of these old hands of education, developing digital tools internally will be equivalent to starting from scratch. There has been a new wave of education startups that are innovating and building mobile apps and software across the educational spectrum.

There’s a ton of early-stage capital moving into education, but not so much in the series A and B range. Education startups are starting to feel the crunch and will continue to for the foreseeable future, which presents a great opportunity for what corporate acquirers there are in the education space.

As a matter of fact, CB Insights laid this out for us in May, and as you can see, Kaplan ranked fourth on the list in the number of acquisitions it made over the last three years. With its acquisition of Grockit, the company is just one purchase behind Blackboard and Macmillan, and it really wouldn’t be surprising to see Kaplan continue playing the role of EdTech buyer. As long as it has the cash, there’s no reason not to continue.

It’s also a smart move, because Grockit went through a significant shift of focus over the last 18 months or so. The startup first came on the scene in 2006 as a video test prep course for standardized tests, before re-launching at TC50 in 2008 as a social learning service, combining game-ification with personalized, adaptive learning-based test prep programs. The idea was to become a more effective way for students to study for tests — either by themselves or in groups.

While Grockit has survived, it never quite exploded, and in May of last year, it launched Learnist, which was dubbed its “Pinterest for education.” The team had developed Learnist internally, sort of on a whim as an experiment to potentially use as a feature add-on within their existing solution. They launched it and it took off over the last six months, so eager to ride the wave, they shifted their focus completely to Learnist. Last December, the team raised $20 million from Discovery, Summit, Atlas, Benchmark and others and that cemented it.

While the raise was behind the Grockit name, really it was for the market opportunity the founders and investors saw in Learnist. As a result, no surprise, but we’ve heard from sources that, as a result of this shift, the founders have been looking for a buyer for Grockit since. With Kaplan having one of the most recognizable names in the test prep market, the deal makes a lot of makes sense. And, from what we’ve been hearing, although the two companies did not disclose the terms of the deal, it works out well for Kaplan, because it doesn’t exactly break the bank, while allowing it to acquire digital test prep solutions it can presumably put to use fairly quickly.

In terms of what exactly Kaplan did acquire, Grockit founder Farbood Nivi clarifies, telling us that “Kaplan acquired the Grockit name, the Grockit Test Prep business, and the Grockit technology and platform.” However, Kaplan is not hiring any of its employees, who are all staying on to help build the new platform, which has been spun out of Grockit as its own company under the Learnist name, he explains.

The funds from the round the company raised in December are staying with Learnist and everything remains largely unchanged in day-to-day operations, just as it’s been for the last year, Nivi added. As to the sale, “it will considerably increase our runway and give us options without dilution, so it’s huge for us.”

At the time of the acquisition, the founder says that “over a million people” were using Grockit and, collectively, people had spent “decades studying together” on the platform over its five-odd-year history.

“As we seek to better understand the role of social learning and gamification in test prep effectiveness, the acquisition of Grockit branded assets accelerates our own efforts,” Kaplan EVP Rochelle Rothstein said in the company’s statement today. “We’re looking forward to exploring platform synergies to improve our student experience.”

More on the announcement here and Learnist here.