Friday, January 29, 2016

Passwords May Soon Be Passé

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The early January theft of more than 320,000 user emails and passwords from cable giant Time Warner gave validation to the argument that simple password authentication is becoming less and less reliable.
But the Time Warner Cable hack is far from being the worst case of identity theft.
In fact, it’s quite insignificant compared to some of the more severe cases we’ve seen in the past year, including the five million user records stolen from toy manufacturer VTech, the 21 million federal employee records stolenfrom the Office of Personnel Management and the 80 million customer records stolen from healthcare service provider Anthem.
When it comes to stealing identities, hackers seem to have an unlimited stash of weapons, including brute-force attacks, dictionary attacks, phishing, social engineering, man-in-the-middle, key-loggers, password resets from recovery emails and wholesale theft of passwords from databases.
And when hackers gain access to our credentials, they can virtually ruin our entire lives by stealing our information or money, or by defaming us through doxing our secrets or posting profanity and obscenities in our names.
On the other hand, when it comes to protecting passwords, there seems to be no end to the pitfalls that one has to avoid, including weak passwords, shared passwords, unchanged passwords, default passwords… And even if you stay true to all the security best practices, some things remain out of your control, including how committed your provider is to encrypt and protect your credentials on its server.
The password dilemma isn’t new, and has been raised on numerous occasions inprevious years. However, the solutions offered have often proven to be frustratingly complex and expensive, or flawed in their own way.
Whatever’s destined to substitute passwords will have to be simple, robust, affordable and flexible.
For the most part, we prefer to continue relying on plain passwords for our online accounts. In light of the continuing rise of data-breaches and identity fraud cases, tech firms are addressing this issue in earnest, and are focusing on ways to strengthen and facilitate the password paradigm, or to have it replaced altogether. Here are some of the newer trends that might change our authentication habits in the near future.

PIN and software token

While classic two-factor authentication methods have proven to be fraught with frustrating user experience or hardware complexities, the PIN and software token combines the simplicity of password entry with the added security of two-factor authentication.
This is the method adopted by British tech firm MIRACL through its new technology, the M-Pin crypto application, a two-factor authentication protocol that involves a user-selected four-n length PIN and a related software token to create a unique key that runs a zero-knowledge proof authentication protocol against its server.
The token is stored on the user’s browser or mobile device, and the PIN is only known to the user. The fact that M-Pin stores no passwords on the server “will make password smash n’ grab attacks a thing of the past,” says Brian Spector, the company’s CEO.
The technology adds further safeguards by distributing its master keys between two D-TAs (Distributed Trust Authorities), one being the customer server, where the server application resides, and the other being the central MIRACL D-TA. This further complicates identity theft by requiring attackers to breach four different sources for each account they wish to hack.
MIRACL offers M-Pin in two flavors, a JavaScript code snippet and library embedded within websites, or a mobile version that allows users to control browser access to their accounts through a mobile app.
M-Pin will get its shot at delivering on its promise of improving both simplicity and security, as it was recently selected by certified identity assurance provider Experian to provide highly secure authentication to millions of U.K. citizens in a government-led project aimed at providing in a safe, secure and straightforward manner services such as driving license renewal and tax-form filing.

NFC two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication through physical USB keys has been around for a while on desktop computers, but mobile devices have been slow to catch up. That has changed, as tech company Yubico launched a physical device that allows you to log in to your online accounts through Near Field Communication (NFC) technology.
Dubbed YubiKey NEO, the device is meant to be held against the back of an NFC-enabled phone and tapped to confirm user authenticity during login. The key generates a login code specific to the user and service at hand each time it’s pressed. After account access has been confirmed through YubiKey, that account can remain authenticated for a period of time (depending on the service), unless the service provider detects unusual activity, in which case the user will be prompted for YubiKey authentication again.
YubiKey NEO also offers the same multiple protocol support (OTP, U2F, PIV, OpenPGP) as the YubiKey 4, which means the device can be plugged into desktop computer USB ports to be used as a normal physical USB key during logins. YubiKey has been well received by some of the leading names in the tech industry, including Google, Dropbox and GitHub.
The YubiKey stores no personal details and is linked to an account, meaning that anyone with your credentials will also need the key to log in to your account. The only catch is that you’ll have one more device that you have to avoid losing.

Fingerprint authentication as a service

With more mobile devices sporting fingerprint scanners and cloud computing becoming cheaper, Qondado, a Puerto Rican tech startup, is trying to ease the way for developers to integrate biometric authentication into their web applications through a flagship platform it calls KodeKey.
The system, which is composed of a mobile app and a web service, ties users to their phone numbers via biometrics and allows clients to use that number and a PIN for authentication. The authentication platform can be integrated into any client site via an API or plug-ins (there’s currently a WordPress plug-in available).
When it comes to stealing identities, hackers seem to have an unlimited stash of weapons.
Registered users enter their phone number plus the associated PIN in the log-in page; they subsequently receive a notification on the KeyKode app which prompts them to scan their fingerprint. The web service will only allow access to the account if the mobile’s fingerprint scanner authenticates the user. The app is available on both Android and iOS, but will only function on newer handsets that have fingerprint scanners.
The company hopes to provide enterprise-level security for banks, credit card companies, cable providers, wireless providers and cloud services, and plans to develop plug-ins for a wide range of platforms in the future.

Mobile authentication

As the use of mobile devices is becoming increasingly widespread, users have an ever-present and personal tool to store and present their digital identity. This is becoming especially more feasible as newer mobile operating systems are offering trusted execution environments and hardware-secure elements to store sensitive data, such as cryptographic credentials.
This is a trend being embraced by two

NASA Rover Designed To Last 90 Days Celebrates 12 Year Anniversary

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This week NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover celebrated its 12 year anniversary on the red planet. What’s truly remarkable about this is the fact that the rover was only designed to operate for about 90 days.
Due to helpful unforeseen surface conditions and few creative software changes, NASA has been able to keep Opportunity alive and operational to this day.
After a six-and-a-half month journey from Earth, Opportunity entered the Martian atmosphere and used a parachute, retrorockets, and a cocoon of airbags to land safely on the surface back in January of 2004.

One of the reasons NASA believed the rover would only function properly for 90 Martian days was because of the extreme level of dust on Mars. This dust was predicted to build up on Opportunity’s solar panels and eventually, the rover would be unable to receive power.
Receiving solar power on Mars, which is 50 percent farther away from the Sun than Earth, was a known challenge even without the dust. NASA designed Opportunity’s solar panels to be as wide as possible in order to collect as much sunlight as it could. Even so, the lifetime of Opportunity was measured in days, perhaps months, but certainly not years.
Opportunity’s solar panels covered in Martian dust / Image courtesy of NASA
Luckily, a surprising thing happened: every once in a while, whirling columns of air, or “dust devils,” swept over the rover and cleaned off the coating of dust from the solar panels.
opportunity rover without dust
Opportunity rover after a dust devil cleaning / Image courtesy of NASA
This was a godsend to Opportunity and the NASA team who operated it. Dust build up would continue to be a challenge, but Martian dust devils have helped keep the rover’s lights on.
Collecting sufficient solar power wasn’t the only problem Mars threw NASA’s way. In its first year, Opportunity found itself slightly buried in a sand dune. Engineers and scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory recreated the scenario with an Opportunity mock-up and identified a sequence of wheel rotations that would ultimately set the rover free.
In addition to hardware issues, Opportunity’s software has required a few upgrades over the years. NASA had to perform remote software updates to improve the rover’s visual detection, photography, and hazard detection capabilities.
Sending a rover all the way to Mars is expensive. It’s a fraction of the price of sending a human there, but it still cost NASA $400 million to build Opportunity and get it on the surface. Squeezing more science out of that expensive rover helps enable NASA to justify the time and money it took to get it there.
The fact that NASA has kept the rover operational for 12 years is a feat of engineering and ingenuity, but not everyone agrees that NASA should keep it running. It costs about $14 million per year to operate Opportunity and it’s just not as capable as it once was.
Two of Opportunity’s scientific instruments no longer work, its joints occasionally lock up, and it experiences periods of amnesia due to problems with its flash memory.
Even so, the rover continues to accomplish useful scientific work. In recent years, researchers used Opportunity to examine a series of large craters in order to get a look at older layers of Mars’ history.
The rover has also been one of the keys to understanding the role of liquid water in the planet’s past, which will help scientists learn if life ever existed there. Impressively, Opportunity has achieved the record of traveling the longest distance on another planet and continues to send back never before seen images of Mars.
While it may be a fixer-upper after spending over a decade in harsh Martian conditions, it remains a crucial asset to NASA as well as our understanding of Mars. After 12 years, Opportunity pushes onward.

The App Ecosystem’s New Status Quo

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Americans spent more time using smartphone and tablet applications in 2014 than they did mobile and desktop web combined. With nearly four billion smartphones projected to be in use by 2020, the platform shift to mobile is well underway.
The smartphone supply chain has already become a central and unifying aspect of the tech industry. For the first time, there exists a ubiquitous technology that connects us all to a central ecosystem, and apps form a huge part of this. The bar is constantly rising for mobile, and if we accept the “mobilization” of the future as a given, then what we are seeing is only just the very beginning. 

Paradigm shift in payment models

Many people still view apps as unsophisticated software with simple, one-dimensional functionality. This perception, however, is going to change. With the widespread adoption of mobile devices and the continued improvement of the hardware layer, alongside the creation of a robust app economy, it has become possible for us to access incredibly powerful software quite literally from the palms of our hands.
As the app ecosystem continues to evolve, and developers continue to push the boundaries of technology available to consumers, expectations of highly advanced app functionality will rise in kind. This demand will ensure that apps be built exclusively on a core of premium software.
Consumers have long been agreeable to paying for high-quality desktop software, and as the mobile app ecosystem continues to evolve, paying for quality software on mobile will become the norm. As mobile apps become more sophisticated in power and UX, and increasingly relied upon in everyday life, there will be a paradigm shift in payment models. As an economic model, the market domination of free apps is not sustainable — especially in fields that require substantial R&D, which is costly.
If the system is to evolve and apps are to become more relevant to day-to-day life, they must be capitalized in accordance with their real-life value. Prices will rise and payment models like freemium, single payment and subscription models will become more widely utilized for new apps entering the market, as opposed to relying so heavily on in-app advertising.
The creation of app stores solved a major distribution problem for software developers. App stores dramatically lowered the barriers of entry, creating the potential for software distribution at a scale and speed that was never before possible — allowing new companies to rise quickly out of obscurity and become significant players. This, in turn, led to the market infusion of more diverse designs and more innovative software, and enabled smaller, less-funded players to enter the market with a greater effect.
In the software world, big-name and financially backed companies traditionally had a huge advantage in their existing distribution channels, making it much easier for them to dominate the desktop market. If Adobe wanted to roll out a new product, they had the means of large-scale dissemination — much more easily, certainly, than for new players in the field. For young upstarts, coming up with the resources necessary to challenge Adobe on desktop is a difficult task.
However, rising to dominance on mobile is something we know very well to be possible for a company that hasn’t even raised one dollar of capital. The new market structure has changed the rules, allowing for a fairer system based on meritocracy that was not necessarily possible in the desktop era.
Thus, app stores essentially allow for new players to more effectively compete. In the near future, we can expect to see far more new and innovative players stepping in and becoming serious contenders in the form of mobile-first technologies from a wealth of hungry new companies. Distinguished old players are going to fall by the wayside if they fail to take hold on mobile.
Lowering the barriers of entry created the proper environment for competition and an explosion of innovation. As a result, app quality is going to skyrocket. The idea that apps are simple programs with limited functionality is an idea that is going to dissipate into a past reality within the coming years, as the technical quality of future releases creates rapid advances, thanks to the ecosystem the app stores have created.
As the union of technical prowess, product dissemination and app relevance unfolds, the status quo of how we relate to mobile apps will fall away, and a new set of standards will take their place.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

StatMuse Picks Up $10M For Its AI-Based, Graphic Search Engine For Sports Statistics

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The business of sport revolves around stats — from those who use them to improve performance, through to those who look at them for fun, or for more financial ends. Now a startup that helps make it easier for regular people to dig into and visualise sports stats has picked up some funding to grow. StatMuse, a startup out of San Francisco that currently lets you search for basketball facts and statistics through ordinary “natural” language requests, has picked up a $10 million round of funding.
The Series A comes from the Walt Disney Company and TechStars (StatMuse was in a 2015 cohort in the Disney/TechStars Accelerator), along with Allen & Company, Greycroft Partners, Promus Ventures, Haas Portman, Deep Fork Capital, and Bee Partners. The round also included some notable names from the sports world: former NBA commissioner David Stern and United Talent Agency also chipped in.
The Disney involvement is strategic: after launching its public beta in the autumn of 2015, StatMuse signed a content deal with Disney-owned ESPN to provide statistical content during the 2015-16 NBA season.
StatMuse — which continues to be in beta — says it will use the funding to extend its search engine into other sports beyond basketball.
The idea behind StatMuse is not an uncommon one: there are very powerful search algorithms in the market today, but many of the most advanced to call up statistics and other analytics have been created in language more suited for data scientists, making them inaccessible to regular Joes.
At the same time, there have been a number of innovations around big data, machine learning and natural language processing that are giving more analytics power to non-technical users, be they marketers or others in the business who could benefit from directly making their own analytical queries.
StatMuse’s founders Eli Dawson (CEO) and Adam Elmore (CTO) — childhood friends who co-captained their high school basketball team — saw that there was an opportunity to apply that principle to the world of sports statistics to tap into the general appetite not only to look up facts, but to view them in a graphic, engaging way.
“We built a product for fellow sports fans interested in statistics and visual media. StatMuse is our vision for a highly engaging media platform that fuels sports discussion anywhere in the world,” Dawson said in a statement.
Today you can go on to StatMuse’s site to look up all kinds of basketball stats, where the range of queries is very open-ended. I looked up “players named Larry,” who I could then order by their various other stats like points scored or minutes played.
You can then share the information to Facebook or Twitter, or to a StatMuse-only social network: you can also follow and be followed by people on the site itself, laying the groundwork for a potential community of other sports nerds using whatever other features StatMuse launches next.
The service reminds me a bit of others like Graphiq, which also lets you look up trends and information and then visualise it. But while Graphiq today seems mainly interested in a B2B play, courting publishers as users (disclaimer: TC/AOL are among them), StatMuse is potentially developing both the B2B (per its deal with Disney/ESPN) and and consumer angle, focusing specifically on the opportunity to provide better stats for sports.
Today, there isn’t really much of a narrative to be gleaned from the stats apart from what you see when your search results have been returned to you, but the longer term idea seems to develop products that will give those stats even more context — or at least work with partners, like ESPN, that will provide that context alongside the bare numbers.
“Sports is, by itself, the international language, but StatMuse has taken a giant leap forward, transforming sports statistics into meaningful, storytelling prose,” said David Stern in a statement.
As a pure content play, it’s unsurprising to see Disney taking an interest in the startup.
Disney is an old media company built around TV and movies, but it is fully 

16 Raspberry Pi Zero Cluster On Single Board

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A Japanese startup company called Idein is developing a Raspberry Pi module called Actbulb for applications using computational sensing and data analysis.
  • Also Read: How to Build a Cheap Super Computer
16 Raspberry Pi Zero boards can be plugged in this board. And 32 micro USB ports for power and data, two for each Raspberry Pi Zero board.
  • 16 USB type A ports
  • 16 Ethernet interfaces.
According to CEO & founder of Idein, Koichi Nakamura, said that,”We are making a sensing device that uses Raspberry Pi compute module. So we need many Pi’s for the development and tests. Since we will use Pi’s GPU for image processing, deep learning, etc.”
“We need real Pis but not just Linux machines. Another reason. It can be used for flashing eMMCs of our devices via USB ports when we have to do that by ourselves.”
  • Also Read: Things You Can Do With Raspberry Pi
At present the boards are not available for sale. The company is making more, but they will only sell one per customer for now due to high demand on these boards.

Oculus “Quill” Turns VR Painting Into Performance Art

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Art doesn’t have to be an end product. Thanks to Oculus’ new internal creation tool, Quill, illustrators can draw in virtual reality and let audiences see their creations come to life stroke by stroke around them.
Quill works much like Tilt Brush, the VR painting app Google acquired. Using Oculus’ Touch controllers and motion cameras, Quill users can select different brushes and colors, swing their hands through the air, and each flourish appears instantly within the 3D canvas. Oculus has no plans to make Quill available to the public like Tilt Brush or its own sculpting tool Medium, at least not yet, and is reserving it for its own illustrators.
Dear AngelicaOculus Story Studio built Quill to make its new VR short film Dear Angelica, where hazy watercolor drawings let a daughter explore the fantastical memories of her movie star mother. Oculus announced the film’s production at Sundance 2015 and it will be released later this year, but it’s now showing off a few scenes. Dear Angelica lets you watch flying fish, dragons, and a child’s bedroom be birthed into being one line at a time, reacting to where you look.
Even if Oculus doesn’t publicly release Quill, it could inspire a whole new medium of VR performance art by showing how to add dimensions of time and 3D space to live illustration. The order and cadence of Quill brushstrokes could let artists infuse suspense, humor, or crescendo into the journey of creation.
I sat down with the Oculus Story Studio team, including Wesley Allsbrook, the illustrator for Dear Angelica. She told me why Quill is such a leap forward for VR, and even gave me a crash course so I could paint a derpy little shark onto her 3D masterpiece.

Drawing Through Space And Time

“He made this tool for me to paint in space and time — something I’ve dreamt about all of my life” Allsbrook tells me. She’s referring to Inigo Quilez, a VFX supervisor for Oculus.
Allsbrook was tasked with drawing up the memories explored in Dear Angelica, but was frustrated trying to translate her 2D illustrations into VR. Over barbecue chicken wings one night, Quilez decided to build what Allsbrook needed as a hackathon project, and she named the tool after him. Here’s a video of her using it:

Oculus Story Studio’s technical founder Maxwell Planck explains Quill could assist with storyboarding, concepts, production design, and more. “Coming from computer animation at Pixar, we’d use a lot of illustrations to inform what we’d eventually build in 3D, but there were as a lot lost in translation.” He hints that after illustration, Oculus is trying to figure out the best way to handle cinematography elements like lighting and camera angles in VR. It might end up building an in-VR editing tool like Visionary VR.

Unfolding Around You

The experience of watching the Dear Angelica teaser and then drawing with Quill is overwhelming. The moment I stepped out of it, this was the stream of consciousness I typed out.
On Dear Angelica:
The genesis of image. Taking a journey to the output rather than simply arriving there. It feels participatory, responding to fill your gaze with motion. You choose whether to marvel at what’s already appeared or follow the brush strokes. You become spaceless and bodiless, as images spawn underneath and looking up at you while simultaneously inhabiting the more common planes. 
On Quill:
Creation becomes performance. It’s VR watercolor. There’s suddenly a relevance to what order I draw. jokes and feelings can emerge from the order, and you can build suspense through quickening the pace of visualization.
They’re both jaw-dropping. Imagine the infinite white construct of The Matrix. But in Dear Angelica, rather than filling with racks of guns, dainty streaks of color materialize around you. You can walk around and through the art as it emerges. If you want to inspect the tiny riders upon the dreamy dragon, you simply lean in close. Otherwise, you can spin in circles to see the latest brushstrokes emerge. While not overtly interactive like a video game, Dear Angelica adapts to your field of vision, dynamically moving the brushstroke action in front of you.
Director Saschka Unseld says Quill “makes sense with Dear Angelica on a story level because the main character is recalling memories. When I remember things, it usually starts with small, fuzzy details and then it grows.” That’s exactly how a few wisps of color evolve into drawings like this:
Dear Angelica
A drawing within Dear Angelica
In the second scene, the strokes start slow, filling in the desk and dresser around the bedroom, creating suspense. But as the music builds to a glorious crescendo, the strokes appear faster. The whole rooms springs to life as the bed and the main character Jessica are drawn into being in the center.
This is how Quill enables performance art. The artist’s choices of what to draw first impact the emotion that’s conveyed. Quill could produce humor by showing one figure character’s reaction to something you don’t see yet, then slowly drawing it in as a punchline. Or an artist could create tension or release by speeding up or slowing down the pace of their strokes.
Quill relies on Oculus’ Touch controllers

Creating In VR For VR

When it’s my turn to paint, I quickly discover the pallete, a cube that spawns from your left hand. Turning your wrist reveals the different sides, that include a color selector, brush sizes, opacity controls and more. It’s simple to select them with your right hand on the fly as you draw, giving a distinct feeling of dexterity. You can also grab whole portions of your drawing to re-angle or move them.
Dear Angelica illustrator Wesley Allsbrook
I draw the gray outline of my shark with a ribbon-esque brush with little depth. Then I switch to a sphere and enlarge it to fill in between the lines like a kid in a VR coloring book. Holding the cursor on any color on the canvas lets me instantly sample it. Drawing an exterior on the 3D figure is a bit tricky, as it’s easy to press too far and end up painting on the inside rather than the outside. It takes a few tries to get sharky’s toothy grin right.
I’m no artist, yet Quill was instantly intuitive. Making something worthy of a VR film will take skill and practice, but blunt sketches were easy just minutes after strapping in.
That’s why I see the rapid-prototyping potential of Quill as even more important that Dear Angelica. VR producers are constantly plagued with trying to develop scenes, characters, or action in 2D and then port them into 3D where everything works different. But with Quill, they could simply draw rough concepts of what they want, when and where. Finally, artists will be able to create in VR for VR.
Allsbrook has certainly become attached to the idea. She says she’s already asked Inigo, “If they fire me, do you think that I could have a build?”

SoftBank Plans To Open A Store Staffed (Almost) Entirely By Pepper, Its Humanoid Robot

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SoftBank announced today that it will launch an app store to create a software ecosystem for Pepper, its humanoid robot. Perhaps more intriguingly, the company, one of Japan’s largest telecom and Internet firms, also revealed plans for a phone store staffed mainly by Peppers.
The Japan Times reports that the store will be open from March 28 to April 3 in Tokyo and be run by five to six Peppers. The robot fleet will greet shoppers, demonstrate cellphones, and help them make purchases. Unfortunately for people who want to enjoy the novelty of completely robotic staff, human staffers will also be present in order to check customers’ IDs before they sign a phone contract.
The enterprise version of Pepper launched last fall and is currently used by 500 companies in Japan, including Nestle and Mizuho Bank.
About 200 firms will develop software for the company’s “RobotApp Market for Biz,” which is set to launch on Feb. 22 to let clients download apps directly to their Peppers. Four retail locations, called “Pepper for Biz Atelier” will also open next week in Tokyo, Osaka, Aichi, and Fukuoka to let business customers meet the robot.
Created by Paris-based Aldebaran Robotics, which SoftBank acquired in 2012, Pepper is designed to recognize emotions in human voices and body movements and respond accordingly. Enterprise clients sign a three-year contract and pay 55,000 yen (about $465) to rent each unit.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Workato Chat Bot Brings Enterprise Workflow Into Slack

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As we head into 2016, enterprise chat applications like Slack are suddenly a hot commodity, and if you’re inside chat a good portion of the day the argument goes, you should be able to access other work without leaving the chat client. This is exactly what Workato’s newly announced chat bot, Workbot, is designed to do.
Chat bots are small programs that integrate with a chat platform and provide some advanced type of functionality in a fairly easy fashion. The new Workbot-chat bot enables users to access and control over 100 enterprise applications such as a Salesforce CRM record, Quickbooks accounting information or Zendesk customer service interactions directly inside of Slack.
One of the primary issues with early Enterprise 2.0 tools was that they were just another application busy employees needed to pay attention to. The idea here is to give users customer information directly in the context of the discussion they may be having with a fellow employee in an integrated fashion (or to simply get the information from the bot without prompting).
“One of the things we saw in early collaboration tools like Yammer or Salesforce Chatter was that after initial hype that we have a new tool and we don’t have to do email, people eventually got resentful that these tools became one more feed you needed to pay attention to and take care of,” Anshu Sharma, venture partner at Storm Ventures, one of Workato’s investor’s explained.
The idea behind Workato’s Workbot is to let employees interact directly with enterprise applications that matter to them inside the chat client — and bring a level of automation to that. It’s worth noting that it requires a certain language to get that information (much like you have to ask the Amazon Echo a question just the right way), but it’s also possible to create connections to enterprise apps with simple aliases like ‘customer info’ to reduce the amount of typing.
Workato inside Slack.
Workbot inside Slack. Screenshot courtesy of Workato.

The tool has three main tasks. First of all, it can provide users with a full view of the customer inside of Slack, pulling the information from various customer information sources, but it’s not just a pure integration tool. It also provides a level of intelligence to the data by filtering more important information such as ticket priority, customer location or past due invoices. Finally, customers can define triggers so that if a certain threshold is met such as x number of outstanding support tickets, the customer service manager would get a message from Workbot inside of Slack automatically.
Workato is a company concentrating on simplifying enterprise integration. Instead of using expensive or complex enterprise workflow or integration tools, Workato’s goal has been to simplify the process so that non-technical end users could create integrations on their own, putting together “recipes” that created workflows, like IFFT has done on the consumer level.
This isn’t the first time companies have tried to integrate enterprise applications inside a messaging tool. We have seen it extensively in email  with many companies trying to integrate inside of Microsoft Outlook.
What’s more, in the early part of this century there was a short-lived attempt to make enterprise instant messaging clients  the center of our work lives, a vision that didn’t quite come to fruition.
It’s also worth noting that Facebook is trying something similar for consumers inside Messenger.
Workato also announced a private beta of Workbot for HipChat.

New 3D Touch To The Timeline – Facebook

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With the Facebook’s iOS app users will soon be able to press on links, profiles and more, in order to preview content without having to navigate away from their current spot using their 3D Touch feature, which is available in the latest Apple devices. The places where this can be used as follows : web links, profiles, Facebook Pages, Facebook Groups, Facebook Events, photos, profile pictures, and cover photos.
According to a Facebook spoke person said that, “We are excited to start rolling out support for 3D Touch in our iOS app so people can quickly and easily peek into a preview of anything they are interested in on Facebook, and pop into that content to see more,”
This new 3D Touch takes advantage of the new hardware’s pressure-sensitive screen to allow users to hard-press on items to preview content and then optionally act on it. For instance, a slight press on messages in the new iPhones ‘pops’ up a preview of the message without the user having to open the message. Facebook is currently testing the feature with a small group of users but it could take months before everyone gets the update.

Google Working On Its Own Consumer VR Hardware, Latest Job Postings Suggest

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Google appears to be doubling down on virtual reality as they look to begin building “multiple” consumer hardware devices, according to new VR job postings on their site.
Google’s current consumer VR offerings are confined to its Google Cardboard program, which allows consumers to experience rudimentary virtual reality with a simple system involving cheap headsets attached to smartphones. Now it appears that Google is working on hardware devices that do more than just act as bare-bones viewers for smartphones.
Google’s VR ambitions were just in the news last week when Clay Bavor, its VP for Produt Management, left his work on other Google products to exclusively focus on managing the company’s VR offerings.
The new job postings,first discovered by RoadtoVR, give a variety of hints suggesting Google’s future VR plans. This posting (for a Hardware Engineering Technical Lead Manager, VR) points to the employee leading a team in building “multiple” consumer electronic devices while directing “system integration of high-performance, battery powered, highly constrained consumer electronics products.”
As the Hardware Engineering Technical Lead Manager for the consumer hardware products, you will drive the design and execution of our ever increasing product portfolio. You will be responsible for the building multiple CE devices and will put together the right team that will scale with our product offering.
A posting for a PCB Layout Engineer for VR details the “development and sustaining of actual products,” while also discussing the hardware team’s overall mission in regards to the devices.
Google custom-designs hardware for consumer electronics applications. The Hardware Engineering team ensures that this cutting-edge devices are reliable and robust. As a CAD/PCB Layout Engineer on the hardware team, you will be working on fast-paced boards for consumer devices.
The company currently has over a dozen hardware and software-focused positions centered on the company’s virtual reality efforts.
Essential to note is how all of this falls when considering Google’s massive Magic Leap investment. The augmented reality wearable company has not given the public a look at what it’s been working on (other than the very interesting/mysterious YouTube video below) but Google has shown a major interest in its technologies; Google led the company’s massive $542 million Series B in October 2014.

While Magic Leap’s AR tech seems to be more of the Hololens variety, it seems interesting that the company is simultaneously investing such major resources in that company, especially as Magic Leap is reportedly raising an even larger $827 million funding round.
The production of dedicated VR consumer devices would be huge as Google has mainly focused on ventures seeking to promote VR content production from others, like its Jump VR platform. It’s unclear whether all of this points to a Samsung Gear VR-style device that is compatible with a greater slew of Android devices, a dedicated HMD or a device that isn’t even a headset.
The tidbit about the devices possibly being battery-powered certainly seems interesting, and appears to limit suggestion that Google might be building a dedicated HMD offering similar experience to those from Oculus, Sony and HTC.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Glu Mobile To Invest Up To $7.5 Million In QuizUp, With Option To Acquire

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QuizUp, the Icelandic company that put trivia in an app, has announced that it is receiving up to $7.5 million in funding from Glu Mobile, with an option to call to acquire.
This comes in the wake of a partnership forged between NBC and QuizUp, announced in October, with the network looking to turn QuizUp content into a proper TV show played both in studio and at home through the app.
The extra work calls for some extra cash, and Glu Mobile’s CEO and Chairman Niccolo de Masi explained that the option to acquire makes sense given QuizUp’s current monetization strategy.
“Glu is looking to consolidate once our partnership proves out the monetization capability of the QuizUp audience and app,” said de Masi. “At the moment the company has yet to begin monetizing significantly and as such would not be accretive to acquire outright.”
Though QuizUp has more than 31 million registered users, who have played more than 5 billion games on the platform, the company has yet to take off on the revenue front. Currently, QuizUp makes money through branded partnerships with movies, books, and TV shows.
For example, QuizUp’s big break came in the form of a deal with the Twilight film saga to develop trivia content around the movie series.
Glu and QuizUp will be working on the NBC programming together, with the hope that it will significantly increase QuizUp app downloads, according to the release.
In May of last year, QuizUp changed its platform significantly from being a true game to more of a social network, complete with people search, user profiles, threaded comments, forums, and it’s own private chat system. Of course, the QuizUp trivia game was laid over the social network as a way for people to make new friends, connect with current friends, etc.
Though the valuation of QuizUp is still unknown, the company has received a total of $27 million, excluding this new round from Glu. The previous round closed in December of 2013.