elproducto #16 👉 a weekly round-up of Tech and Product goodness for humans
SNES mini, Facebook’s AR & VR, Google Earth updated, The problem with Personas, Uber for business, Volkswagen charging network, Musk’s MVPs & more
Welcome to a new week full of fresh ideas and innovation at elproducto.
📰 Seen on the news
- Google redesigns Google Earth for Chrome and Android; adds 3D maps, knowledge cards and interactive guided tours for certain locations; set to launch on iOS and other browsers soon.
- Google makes its Cloud Speech API available to all Google Cloud customers; previously available in a limited beta, the full version includes support for 80 languages, letting developers add transcription and voice commands to their apps.
- Android Pay adds support for PayPal, letting users pay for goods directly from their account; works with store payments and app purchases; rolling out over the coming weeks.
- Apple is set to add multi-user accounts and picture-in-picture mode to tvOS; users will be able to check apps or play games while watching a video, but only one video will be viewable at a time.
- Snap launches New World Lenses for Snapchat; filters apply to video from the rear-facing camera; provide animated, fixed-position AR elements that remain in place regardless of changes in camera position.
- Nintendo discontinues the NES Classic in Europe and Japan; previously announced there will be no more shipments for North America; the company is no longer manufacturing the console for any market, but they are likely to launch a SNES mini this year.
- YouTube makes mobile live streaming available to more users; previously required 10k subscribers, now requires 1k.
- Optimizely acquires software testing service Experiment Engine; the firm provides tools that integrate with Optimizely, e.g. reporting on experimentation at a broader perspective or tools to record and prioritise ideas.
- GitHub launches a free revamped Developer Program with additional tools; previously limited to paid subscribers; new membership tiers give entry-level developers free access to basic features.
- Tumblr launches Cabana: a standalone app that enables friends to watch videos together and video chat; users can create a public or private room and add friends via username or phone contact; all users can add new YouTube videos for synced playback.
- Instagram announces offline mode for Android; lets users view preloaded feeds, with the ability to add likes and comments that update once a connection is reestablished.
- Uber launches Uber Central: a tool for businesses and institutions ordering multiple rides on behalf of customers, patients, etc; Uber says some businesses had been using multiple phones as workaround for scheduling overlapping rides; new tool charges all rides to an Uber for Business account; passengers need no app or phone; provides reporting.
- UberEats is set to launch in India this quarter; the firm has hired city-level GMs, and is currently onboarding partner restaurants; the service will launch in six cities, including Hyderabad and Mumbai.
- The UK government forms a task force to tackle the use of drones to smuggle contraband into prisons; comprised of police, prison officers and other agencies, the team will seek to determine the sources of recovered UAVs.
- Volkswagen to build a US Electric Vehicle fast-charging network via subsidiary Electrify America; VW agreed to invest $2B in US EV infrastructure; first chargers going live in Q2 2018.
- Baidu announces Project Apollo, a self-driving open platform that comprises both hardware and software; initially intended for testing within restricted environments, it will be made available to third-party carmakers in July.
- The Internet Archive launches 40-plus emulations of early Mac software; all run in browser; torrent-downloadable versions also available; Software Library: Macintosh offers gaming and productivity titles including Frogger, Dark Castle and MacPaint; full OS emulation.
- University of Nottingham researchers find machine-learning algorithms outperform doctors in predicting heart attacks; they fed AI systems roughly 300k medical records for self-training, then tested prediction accuracy on 80k records.
- E-commerce firm Lazada partners with Netflix and Uber to launch an Amazon Prime-style service in Singapore; the $20-a-year LiveUp service offers free delivery, six months of Netflix, discounts on Uber rides, and more.
- Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other members of the Coalition for Better Ads are developing a strategy to block intrusive ads; solution will target auto-play videos with audio, flashing graphics, etc; slated for rollout by year’s end.
- Shopify unveils a Bluetooth-connected credit/debit card reader; this is the company’s first internally-designed hardware product; free to merchants who don’t already have a Shopify POS (3rd party) product; $29 otherwise; supports swipe and chip.
- Apple’s looking at the sky. Apple has hired former Google satellite executives and held talks with Boeing about being an investor and partner in Boeing’s broadband satellite business; John Fenwick previously led Google’s spacecraft operations; Michael Trela was head of Google satellite engineering; sources say both are now reporting to Dropcam co-founder Greg Duffy as part of a new hardware team.
🚀 Facebook special
This week Facebook announced a bunch of new features and projects during their F8 developer conference:
- Launched Social VR platform Spaces in beta for Rift; up to four friends can join a virtual space to watch videos, draw, chat, make video calls, more; can auto-generate an avatar based on tagged Facebook photos; plans to roll out to other VR platforms.
- Camera Effects Platform; enables developers to create frame overlays and AR filters for Facebook’s camera on smartphones; Frame Studio is now available; developers can apply to participate in a closed beta for AR Studio.
- Announced Giphy Live: allows live stream viewers to vote on new topics with hashtags; popular topics scroll in a ticker at the top of the screen.
- Announced a free version of its Slack competitor, Workplace; will not include administrative tools, custom API integrations, single sign-on and some other features found in the Premium version, which will be free until Sept 30; Premium will always be free for nonprofits and educational institutions.
- Apple Music and Spotify integration with Messenger, via Chat Extensions; Spotify is available now; Apple Music is coming soon; enables users to search for tracks and share them in a conversation without leaving the Messenger app.
- Updated its Graph API with Places Graph; provides free access to 140M places; endpoints for Place Information, Current Place and Search; is integrated with the Facebook SDK; has also updated Webhooks, the Video API, the Marketing API & more.
- Unveiled new Surround 360 VR cameras; the company released the initial open-source, 17-camera reference design last year; the new models feature 24- and 6-camera arrays; designs will not be publicly released; Facebook is working with hardware partners to make products available for purchase later this year.
- Announced the 360 Capture SDK for any app or film that uses a game engine; rather than stitching together segments of a 360-degree scene, Facebook’s tech employs cube mapping, which captures the entire 360-degree output of a gaming engine; enables 4K, 360-video with high enough performance settings to provide a smooth VR experience.
- Reportedly building an unmanned helicopter designed to provide internet access during crises; currently in early testing; can remain airborne for days; the company ultimately hopes the small car-sized aircraft will be able to stay up for weeks or months at a time
- Facebook has 60 engineers working toward a brain-computer interface; aims to enable people to type through internal speaking; plans to use non-invasive optical imaging to scan the brain 100 times per second; ultimate goal is 100 words per minute; the company is also working on tech to enable deaf people to hear via the transmission of frequencies through the skin
- Facebook owns four of the top five apps in terms of global downloads for Q1; WhatsApp is first, followed by Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Snapchat; the rankings include non-game apps across both iOS and Android.
📚 Good reads
- Meet the Zuck. BuzzFeed profiles the ways in which Mark Zuckerberg has improved his public persona; highlights the increased use of Facebook public posts.
- 3 ways to improve your visual design skills. Jules Cheung shares some relevant design fundamentals around layout and composition. No matter your role, it’s always good to be aware of these powerful principles.
- Why comparisons between Facebook and Snapchat are wrong. Starting with the fundamental that each platform aims to answer different user needs, Taylor Lorenz explains why comparisons between the two companies are often wrong. Despite Facebook mass-copy of Snapchat’s features, Taylor emphasizes that Snap is far from dead.
- Elon Musk’s MVPs. Ravi Vadrevu writes on what actually Minimum Viable Product means and proposes a simple process taking Elon’s projects as an example.
- Lessons from designing an AR App for NASA. NASA + AR + UX, what’s not to love about this article! Olivia Cabello writes her experience cooperating with NASA on a HoloLens App.
- Challenges of using Personas. Chris Thelwell explains why relying too much on personas can be negative for your products.
- How Apps like Calm are getting newbies meditating everyday. The guys behind Amplitude look at the principles used by popular meditation App Calm to engage even with users new to meditation.
🎯 Quote of the week
“The greatest scientific discovery was the discovery of ignorance. Once humans realised how little they knew about the world, they suddenly had a very good reason to seek new knowledge, which opened up the scientific road to progress.”
― Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow