Via TechCrunch: Microsoft calls for establishment of a digital Geneva Convention

As the public grows more concerned with state-sponsored hacking, Microsoft is calling on tech companies to form a so-called “Digital Geneva Convention” by promising to protect users from nation-state attacks and vowing to never mount offensive cyber attacks. Microsoft is also pushing governments around the world to establish norms for engagement in digital warfare.

Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith announced the initiative today at the RSA Conference. “We suddenly find ourselves living in a world where nothing seems off limits to nation-state attacks,” Smith wrote in a blog post accompanying the announcement. “Conflicts between nations are no longer confined to the ground, sea and air, as cyberspace has become a potential new and global battleground.”

Smith pointed to the 2014 Sony hack, attributed to North Korea, and the 2016 election hacks, attributed to Russia, as examples of attacks that occurred without any meaningful international norms. He nodded to the 2015 agreement between the United States and China that banned the cyber-theft of corporate intellectual property, but said that international governments need to do more to establish rules of engagement online.

Smith said the U.S.-China agreement should serve as a model for the U.S. as it responds to Russian hacking, calling it an opportunity for President Trump to “sit across the table” from Russian President Vladimir Putin and address the hacks.

“Just as the United States and China overcame mutual challenges and made important progress in 2015 to ban intellectual property cyber-theft, the United States and Russia can hammer out a future agreement to ban the nation-state hacking of all the civilian aspects of our economic and political infrastructures,” Smith said.

Smith said the technology industry needs a treaty similar to the Geneva Convention to protect civilians from harm as governments begin to fight their wars online. This process has been underway in the United Nations and the U.S. government, but it’s unclear how U.S. efforts will progress under the new presidential administration.

If government’s don’t take action, Smith said, companies need to make sure they are protecting users. Although he framed the rise of nation state attacks as an opportunity for a U.S. president to create norms, Smith didn’t mention Trump by name and condemned the kind of nationalism that was a driving force during his campaign.

“In age of nationalism, we need to be a trusted and neutral digital Switzerland,” Smith told the RSA audience. “We need to make clear that there are certain principles for which we stand. We will assist and protect customers everywhere — that is what we do. We will not aid in attacking customers anywhere, regardless of what government asks us to do so.”

Smith said the industry has the opportunity to come together and push for digital attack norms, as the industry united in support of Apple during its encryption case and and in support of immigration under Trump’s recent executive order. Smith said the stories of immigrant founders and employees in Silicon Valley should serve as inspiration for designing rules for digital engagement. “As we think about addressing nation state attacks, that is a powerful force that should inspire us and upon which we can build,” Smith said of immigration.

“The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet’s first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place,” Smith wrote. “Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies.”

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FEATURED IMAGE: JASON REDMOND/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Original link: https://techcrunch.com/2017/02/14/microsoft-calls-for-establishment-of-a-digital-geneva-convention/?ncid=rss

Via TechCrunch: How VR could have you walking in circles in future without knowing it

 

VR’s promise of boundless virtual worlds to explore is, in practice, rather more tethered to reality, given physical limits on play spaces meaning you can only walk so far in the corresponding virtual world before you’re out of sensor range and/or about to bump into a (real) wall. So how to square the circle of infinite virtual worlds vs finite play space?

One technique involves the player reorienting their visual perception by turning on the spot and stopping after a few turns facing in a new direction, allowing them to carry on walking straight again. However spinning around can make people dizzy so isn’t exactly an ideal solution given VR’s extant nausea problem. This method also inevitably breaks up play.

A team of Japanese researchers reckon they have come up with a better idea — which they’ve named Unlimited Corridor. The technique uses visual and haptic feedback to trick gamers into perceiving they are walking in a straight line, when in fact they are walking in circles. Which in turn allows for VR game worlds to appear to have infinitely long passageways. The gamer merely has to tap their way along one side of a (real) wall in the play space, an action which naturally orientates their walk alongside it, to perceive they are walking straight within the game. But in fact the wall is a circle. The team’s test world was developed on the Unity platform.

The project, which has been led by Dr Takuji Narumi of the University of Tokyo along with Unity Researcher Yohei Yanase, does still require a rather large real-world installation (of said circular wall unit) in the VR play space — and works best with mobile or portable VR (they used a high performance gaming laptop in a backpack on their testers) — so it’s not without its own real-world limits. But the team say they’ve now managed to shrink the wall to a radius of 2.5m, and reckon they could squeeze it further by increasing the strength of the visuo-haptic interaction — the other key component of the technique.

So what exactly is visuo-haptic interaction? Narumi describes it as “a kind of illusory effect in our brain” — which allows for a particular perception/sensation to be generated by combining sensory inputs in different ways.

“It alters our proprioceptive sensations corresponding to visual sensations by the combination of visual and haptic stimuli,” he tells TechCrunch. “It has long been thought that different sensory modalities operate independently of each other. However, recent behavioral and brain imaging studies are changing this view, now suggesting that cross-modal interactions have an important role in our perception. In cross-modal effects, the perception of a sensation through one sense is changed by other stimuli that are simultaneously received through other senses.”

The team has also developed what Narumi describes as a “flavor display”, also using cross-modal interaction, that alters the perceived taste of food — allowing for people in VR to virtually select a choice of cookie flavoring and taste that when they eat the real world (plain) cookie in their hand. (Although ‘augmented gustation‘, as they dub this, also requires the VR player to have an olfactory cap on their head which puffs flavored air into their nostrils at the moment of mastication, corresponding with their taste choice, in order for them to experience the sensation of a eating a chocolate cookie, for example. So it’s getting pretty out there, even by VR standards…)

“In case of ‘Unlimited Corridor’, we can reduce the required space for forever walking with a cross-modal (visual and haptic) VR. Therefore we believe the utilization of cross-modal effects becomes a key technology for next generation of VR,” adds Narumi, who has also conducted research into the perceived metamorphosis of shape, again using cross-modal interactions.

The team used a split circle design for their Unlimited Corridor wall which allows the player to make turns within a game, and also enables the installation to accommodate multiple players at a time without them bumping into each other. (Watching that part of the video it’s almost impossible not to be reminded of Pacman ghost-avoidance tactics.)

The core tech on the visuo-haptic side is a method for simultaneously matching the visual and haptic stimuli being presented to the player. The timing between visual and haptic presentation has to be within 200ms, according to Narumi, who notes the team investigated the acceptable gap between the visual and haptic curvatures via “various experiments”.

While the researchers assert the illusion of their Unlimited Corridor is “very strong”, they concede a few people will still sense the wall is round based on touch. So the technique won’t work for everybody. There’s also no absolute guarantee against warding off VR sickness, although the team claims this occurred “much less often” with their system than with normal VR or redirected walking (RDW), i.e. turning around on the spot, experiences.

While Unlimited Corridor is primarily a research project to explore how the boundary between reality and the brain’s perception of it can be manipulated, the team envisage their technique having potential outside the lab, for entertainment, education and simulation use-cases — noting that entertainment companies have expressed interest, including one that has started experimenting.

Via 9t05 Mac: Disney launches child-focused messaging app w. built-in games & safety features

disney

Just when you think there can’t possibly be room for yet another messaging app, along comes Disney with what looks like a decent attempt to prove us wrong. Disney Mix is a new messaging app designed for use by kids as young as four, using the tagline ‘chat, share, play.’

The free app offers stickers from just about every Disney movie you could name, customized cartoon avatars, built-in games and safety features designed to keep things family-friendly …

 

Disney Mix is a social messaging app where friends can chat, share, and play in a whole new way! Get creative and express yourself using some favorite Disney and Pixar characters like Flash from Zootopia, Hank from Finding Dory, Jenny from Adventures in Babysitting, Danny from Future-Worm!, and more! Add Disney Channel, Disney😄, and Disney Movies to your Friends List and receive the latest videos and photos directly from them. Personalize an avatar, chat with friends, play games, make memes, and send funny stickers and sounds… do it all in one place with Disney Mix.

On the safety side, Engadget notes that chat threads have a whistle icon at the top that kids can press if anything concerns them. An adult moderator will then step in to check things out. Disney has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and harassment, and users are reminded to be respectful and keep it clean.

Disney Mix is a free download on the App Store, with an Android version available too.

Elon Musk says we’re probably living in a computer simulation – here’s the science via TechXplore

elonmusksays

In a recent interview at the Code Conference in California, technology entrepreneur Elon Musk suggested we are living inside a computer simulation. On first hearing, this claim seems far-fetched. But could there be some substance to Musk’s thinking?

As founder of a number of high-profile companies, such as Tesla and Space X, Musk’s business interests lie firmly in leading technologies.

Key to his claim is that computer games have evolved rapidly over the past 40 years to the point that, inside the next few years, they will be fully immersive, with a computer-generated and controlled world seamlessly merged with the physical world. In other words, we are on the verge of experiencing augmented reality (AR) combined with artificial intelligence. The end result is that what is real and what is simulated could become indistinguishable from one another. In his own words:

If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality, even if that rate of advancement drops by a thousand from what it is now. Then you just say, okay, let’s imagine it’s 10,000 years in the future, which is nothing on the evolutionary scale.

So given that we’re clearly on a trajectory to have games that are indistinguishable from reality, and those games could be played on any set-top box or on a PC or whatever, and there would probably be billions of such computers or set-top boxes, it would seem to follow that the odds that we’re in base reality is one in billions.

The idea that humans live in a reality controlled by external bodies, whether computers or otherwise, has been around for a while. This has been a question explored by philosophers and even physicists over the centuries. The philosopher Nick Bostrom drew the same conclusion in 2003.

The similarities between the arguments put forward by Musk and Bostrom go further than proposing we are part of a larger computer simulation, though. Both consider the development of artificial intelligence (AI) to be a dangerous field of technology. According to Musk, the result of progress in AI research and development will be the end of civilisation. Bostrom takes a similar standpoint should appropriate risk assessment not be carried out on development projects.

Fact or fiction?

But is this just paranoia? The claims carry more than a passing resemblance to science fiction movies, such as The Matrix and 2001:A Space Odyssey, but are Musk and Bostrom voicing valid causes for concern?

The case that we are not living in a simulation is strongly supported by resource arguments. Consider the sheer computing power needed to run such a simulation. A simulation system would need to manage all the entities in the world and all their interactions. This would require a vast amount of processing. Further support can be found in arguments relating to quantum mechanics – to run a truly lifelike simulation of a city, with all its trillions of interactions, would require a city-sized computer. This makes the case for our existence in a simulation very unlikely.

Even if a machine existed that could simulate our existence then there would be a high probability that we would experience so-called “realism imperfections”. These bugs in the simulation would be seen or heard due to glitches in the model. For example, stars may or may not exist when viewed through telescopes of varying magnification. Such errors would be inevitable in a simulation of this scale, but they have never been observed by humans.

Machines that use self-learning, super intelligent software are still very distant from the current state of the art, and systems that do make use of AI operate in very tightly defined fields. Current systems learn to optimise their performance within specific domains of work – not to take over the world.

For example, neural networks, which are sometimes referred to as electronic models of the brain, are used to predict changes in stock markets. These systems can be trained using existing data from stock trading to learn and identify patterns in live data streams that may indicate that something will happen. The result of this is that traders can take action to mitigate any negative outcomes.

Equally, there are systems that are developed using AI techniques to alleviate workloads by applying programmed rules and facts. These are known as knowledge-based systems. While the human users of these systems may not realise that they are interacting with a machine – such as Jill the online tutor of AI, which answers questions and provides feedback to students on an AI course – they are also developed to work on or within well-defined problems or domains.

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Taking the restrictive fields in which AI-type systems are developed, the danger of civilization coming to an end because of the creation of AI would seem to be very small. Indeed, AI is used largely to support human decision-making and action rather than to replace it.

Alternative Reality

There are elements of Musk’s thinking, however, that seem considerably more likely to happen in the near future.

One of these is the development of technology to aid human-machine interfaces. As everyday life becomes increasingly reliant on connected devices, the way in which we use them is constantly changing. Our desire to access data and communicate has driven the evolution of wearable technology.

Musk claims that we will become pets to AI should we not develop effective brain-computer interfaces. However, the father of wearable technology and AR, Steve Mann, promotes combining both technologies to benefit society. This carries more substance as much work in the area is focused on assistive medical systems. For example, one area of research looks at the creation of brain implants to harness electrical signals in the brain and stimulate movement in paralysed limbs.

Rest assured, however, that we are probably not living in a computer simulation and that the claims made by Musk are outlandish. There are, however, some elements of his thinking that do hint at technology developments in the future.

Future developments in AR and related technology will move us towards a world that is more connected. In these augmented realities we will have seamless access to data and digital representations projected into the physical world. AI techniques will help us understand the data; making decisions that are informed by computers. But while augmented, these realities will still be built on and in the real world.

Via Tech Crunch: Indonesia will be Asia’s next biggest e-commerce market

Indonesia, Jakarta, View of city during sunset

 

Indonesia presents much opportunity for e-commerce among other emerging Asian economies, with current projections putting this archipelago nation’s e-market at $130 billion by 2020 (coming third behind China and India). With an estimated annual growth rate of 50 percent and strong mobile-first initiatives, retailers have a unique opportunity in Indonesia to focus on developing truly mobile platforms to help facilitate e-market growth, particularly in the consumer packaged goods (CPGs) sector (Thanks to a strong local industrial base, local made goods will outpace imported goods in both production and sales).

Indonesia’s current e-commerce market is similar to China’s online marketplace beginnings, with a large pool of entrepreneurial sellers providing goods purchased based largely on social media recommendations. Similarly, e-commerce in Indonesia also mimics the early U.S. e-market, which was flooded with customers wary to trust online payments and retailers. Indonesia is truly unique in that it has the potential to create a hybrid of the widest opportunities from America and China’s e-commerce economies, propelling the Indonesian online marketplace onto the global stage.

Mobile-first Indonesia

Indonesia has established itself as one of Asia’s foremost mobile-first nations, with a StatCounter report estimating that in 2015, more than 70 percent of Indonesia’s internet traffic originated from mobile devices.

Further evidence that Indonesians have embraced mobile-first initiatives comes from social media, with Indonesians having the highest mobile Facebook usage rate worldwide, with 63 million users in 2015. Further projections put Indonesians’ future Facebook access via mobile being almost 99 percent by 2018, showing a true dominance over desktop platforms. The mobile-first path that Indonesia has taken also allows retailers to focus on creating truly mobile functionality, presenting unique opportunities to dominate in the retail space.

Indonesian e-commerce startups and funding

E-commerce startups founded in Indonesia or targeting it as an untapped market are growing exponentially, something reflected in increased interest in startup fundraising within the archipelago nation.

aCommerce, an end-to-end e-commerce service provider, closed a Series A venture capital round of $10.7 million, while raising another $10 million in funding ahead of a planned Series B raise later in 2016; this action is being led by MDI Ventures, a VC-initiative launched by Indonesian telecom giant Telkom Indonesia.

Indonesia’s e-commerce market is on track to be one of the largest in Asia.

Jakarta-based grocery delivery app HappyFresh raised an impressive $12 million Series A round in 2015, with investors led by Vertex Ventures and Sinar Mas Digital Ventures. HijUp, another Indonesian e-commerce startup, closed a second seven-figure seed funding round from investors, including Fenox Venture Capital and 500 Startups.

However, the behemoth of all Indonesian deals so far comes in the form of Tokopedia, an online marketplace that raised an impressive $100 million round led by Softbank and Sequioa Capital. Mid- and later-stage investors should definitely keep an eye on Indonesian startups, which are clearly having very little trouble finding early-stage interest and investment.

Why specifically Indonesia?

Prospering with multiple entrants

Indonesia’s retail market currently consists of CPGs being sold in retail spaces known as “fragmented trade,” which is primarily made up of independent small business owners. E-commerce is currently growing at a rate twice as fast as fragmented trade, forcing many of these independents to turn to the e-commerce model. This in turn creates a sea of individual sellers eager to satisfy e-consumer demand, alongside mass retailers targeting this same demographic.

Unlike other Asian nations, Indonesians currently do not solely rely on mass retailers to guide their purchasing decisions, allowing for these individual sellers to maintain market share. This in turn allows the e-market segment to be open to any competitor determined enough to form a market impact, something uncommon in other mobile-first nations.

Procuring specialized goods to rural areas

Many Indonesian cities are currently woefully underdeveloped, because of a lack of strong government and infrastructure to support retail construction. However, e-commerce’s rise in popularity exploits this challenge by allowing consumers to purchase CPGs previously unavailable in their specific locales.

With lots of potential growth in rural and semi-rural areas, e-commerce specifically allows Indonesian consumers to source hard-to-find goods, as opposed to other nations, where rural areas would not have as high use of internet-capable mobile devices. In fact, popular Indonesian online site BliBli has more than one-third of its 2.5 million customers living in rural areas, providing goods ordered almost exclusively off mobile platforms to a population whose sole form of internet access comes via smartphone. This procurement of specialized CPGs to rural areas makes Indonesia a uniquely perfect place for online marketplace growth.

Providing truly mobile-first platforms

Indonesia’s e-market also allows for retailers and participants in the fragmented trade space to focus on developing truly mobile-first platforms. This specifically targets the mobile user as the captured demographic, instead of simply re-tooling a desktop platform to a mobile one.

This truly mobile-first scenario also allows sellers to use smartphones to their advantage, gathering hyper-personalized data to target individual Indonesian consumers as opposed to just specific demographics or groups among Indonesia’s more than 250 million population.

Mobile-first also allows for the easier entry of participants into the Indonesian e-commerce scene, with startups having the flexibility to choose what CPGs they sell, and even who they want as a consumer, through market penetration via mobile apps.

Profitability through social media

With other mobile-first nations being split between different social media sites (China:Weibo/QZone/Tencent QQ; India: Facebook/Google+/Twitter; Philippines: Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook), Indonesia is unique because of its widespread use of a singular social media platform: Facebook (with more than 92 percent of Indonesians having a Facebook account).

Indonesian consumers are very wary of online payments, much like Americans were in the early online marketplace days.

With so much of Indonesians’ current purchasing power being shaped through social media recommendations, focusing on developing integration with Facebook’s platforms offers companies a unique space to potentially profit through direct CPG sales, advertising or even partnerships. Tying Facebook into popular sites such as online forums like Kaskus and Tokobagus, or even online stores like Sukamart, could lead to the inclusion of high-quality videos, product comparisons and optimized images, alongside other mobile-first features, to encourage e-market growth.

Potential with online payments

Indonesian consumers are very wary of online payments, much like Americans were in the U.S.’ early online marketplace days, particularly when compared to other mobile-first populations. Many e-commerce transactions are currently paid through either direct bank transfer or bayar di tampat (cash-on-delivery), which is greatly limiting e-commerce growth through lost transactions.

With Indonesian spend growing nearly 10 percent annually, bayar di tampat will soon be unsustainable. Creating a trusted solution to utilize online payments could lead to huge growth, with retailers both large and small being able to streamline their business flows for optimum efficiency.

Procuring a modernized logistics/delivery platform

Indonesia currently also presents a unique opportunity for e-commerce growth because of the country’s weak infrastructure and poor logistics system. This provides a huge growth area for the e-market, with sellers able to vertically integrate their delivery systems with their ordering ones.

In the age of companies developing in-house solutions instead of relying on outsourcing, the untapped logistics market also gives rise to the growth in Indonesian e-commerce. Companies have the ability to develop proprietary, or even simply more efficient, delivery systems as another form of competition in the online marketplace, with supply strength being a key component in e-commerce.

Conclusion

Often underestimated as a driving economic force among its more well-known Asian brethren, Indonesia presents a variety of unique opportunities in becoming one of the largest e-commerce spaces.

With so many mobile internet users, combined with weak internal infrastructure, companies and individual sellers alike have the potential to grow the e-commerce market to heights unseen. Additionally, a growing middle class with disposable income will only help spread e-commerce growth, alongside a rising influx of both individual sellers and corporations vying to compete in the e-market.

Indonesia’s e-commerce market is on track to be one of the largest in Asia, utilizing mobile-first platforms to provide all Indonesians with convenient access to consumer packaged goods.

250px-jakarta_pictures-4

Infiniti QX80 Limited Review – via Mind over Motor

I believe the term is “Land Yacht.” A massive, expensive way of getting from place to place for people who like to take up their slightly-more-than-fair share of space in the world. It also works great if you have a large family, although, most forms of birth control are a lot cheaper than this $90,000 behemoth.

Infiniti QX80 Limited Review 1

Either way, if this is the way you want to get around in the world, then the Infiniti QX80 Limited will do a lot to float your boat. Maybe a Cadillac Escalade is too “Tony Soprano” for you. Maybe you’d like a Mercedes GLS, but, unfortunately, your local dealer just sold their last one to another real estate agent who’s drowning themselves in payments trying to “project an image of success” to their clients. Have no fear, the QX80 is here to save the day, and you just might be glad you didn’t get the others.

Infiniti QX80 Limited Review 3

Why do I say this? Because the QX80 Limited does a lot of things right. Sure, it looks like a fancy whale on the outside, and that may take some getting used to, but it’s also REALLY nice. The interior on the Limited model is absolutely breathtaking, with its brown quilted leather and fine wood appointments. It’s very comfortable to be in, and there’s a lot of room to stretch out (one of the perks of being a land yacht).

On the road the QX80 drives like a smooth truck. It’s definitely massive, but it actually handles pretty tight for its size. It’s 5.6L V8 has some nice punch too, with 400hp on tap. It should have no trouble getting up to speed on the highway, or bulldozing Priuses out of the left lane.

The QX80, like all of these land barge SUVs, is meant to be an immaculate cruiser for you and a few friends. If you can stomach the fuel costs (which will be hefty), this mighty Infiniti is great for long trips.

Infiniti QX80 Limited Review 5

Dollars and Sense

This Infiniti QX80 Limited is the top-of-the-line model, and as I said earlier, runs about $90,000. The good news is it already has every feature that’s an option on lower QX80 models, so you don’t get nickel and dimed further. Just on principle, I have to respect Infiniti for that.

For me, the closest competitor for the QX80 Limited has to be the Lexus LX570, which is the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser in a fine suit. Infiniti definitely has a better reputation for reliability than Cadillac or Mercedes, but Lexus, they’re the last word in long term quality for the entire industry. That said, the Lexus does climb in price toward the $100,000 mark, but that’s still near-as-makes-no-difference for buyers in this range.

I guess it comes down to how you’ll be using your plush utility vehicle. The Lexus is an insanely competent luxury off-roader, capable of taming the Moab without asking you to break a sweat. The Infiniti, on the other hand, is based on a pickup truck chassis, and may be a better daily cruiser for those staying on tarmac.

Infiniti QX80 Limited Review 7

Verdict

I think the Infiniti QX80 Limited is a solid way to spend your money if you dream about a massive luxo-barge in your life. I can’t say it’s the absolute best option, but it’s certainly a good value, all things considered. The QX80 is a sumptuously plush vehicle that ticks all the boxes, and I’d totally understand why anyone would choose it.

To be honest, Infiniti has made one of the best cars this world has to offer. Modern, digital, plush, smooth, strong and savvy. I mean sure some would stick with a land cruiser but believe me I’d go with the Infiniti QX80 Limited.

Infiniti QX80 Limited Review 6

Verizon Q2 misses on declining sales of $30.5B, beats with EPS of $0.94 — via TechCrunch

Verizon just released its second quarter earnings report, with revenues of $30.5 billion and earnings per share of 94 cents. That’s a miss on revenue, but a slight win on earnings/profitability.

Verizon yesterday announced a landmark deal to purchase Yahoo’s core business for 4.83 Bullion Dollars, but judging from its just-released second quarter earnings report, the telecom giant continues to feel the pressure of declines in its legacy business.

The Q2 report shows total operating revenue of $30.5 billion and earnings per share of 94 cents. That’s a miss on revenue, but a slight win on earnings/profitability — Wall Street analysts had predicted that the company (which owns TechCrunch) would report revenue of $30.9 billion and EPS of 92 cents.

Revenue is down 5.3 percent from the same period last year, although the decline is only 3.5 percent if you exclude divested landline businesses and AOL (which was not part of Verizon a year ago).

The company says a seven-week work stoppage (namely, a strike) negatively impacted earnings by seven cents per share.

On the wireless side, Verizon says it saw 615,000 net additions, bringing the total number of connections to 113.2 million — up 3.3 percent year-over-year. Total revenue for the wireless business was $21.7 billion, a 4 percent decline.

The report also points to new businesses that are growing, such as Internet of Things revenue of $205 million — only a tiny fraction of the company’s total revenue, but up 25 percent increase from a year ago.

“Verizon’s second quarter shows that the company continues to deliver strong results while evolving operations and advancing a strategy to sustain network leadership, build new ecosystems and deliver the promise of the digital world to customers,” said Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam in the earnings release.

McAdam also commented on the Yahoo acquisition, which suggests that Verizon is doubling down on the digital media business, but isn’t expected to close until the first quarter of 2017.

“By acquiring Yahoo, we are scaling up to be a major competitor in mobile media,” he said. “Yahoo is a complementary business to AOL, giving us market-leading content brands and a valuable portfolio of online properties and mobile applications that attract over 1 billion monthly active consumer views.

 

via Verizon Q2 misses on declining sales of $30.5B, beats with EPS of $0.94 — TechCrunch

Google Maps continues attempt to tempt back iOS users with cleaner UI, highlighted ‘areas of interest’ [Video] — via 9to5Mac

New user-interface seen on the left

While Apple Maps got off to a rocky start, with many of us opting to use Google Maps instead, it did manage to gradually win back our confidence – with three times as many users as its Google rival by the end of last year. But Google is working hard to tempt back iOS users with an improved user-interface and a new way to highlight where the action is when visiting a new city.

The most visible difference is that many road outlines have been replaced with solid color. This small change makes a surprisingly big difference to the clarity of the maps, as seen above. But it’s the new ‘areas of interest’ feature that may provide the greatest temptation to switch apps …

 

As you explore the new map, you’ll notice areas shaded in orange representing “areas of interest”—places where there’s a lot of activities and things to do. To find an “area of interest” just open Google Maps and look around you. When you’ve found an orange-shaded area, zoom in to see more details about each venue and tap one for more info. Whether you’re looking for a hotel in a hot spot or just trying to determine which way to go after exiting the subway in a new place, “areas of interest” will help you find what you’re looking for with just a couple swipes and a zoom.

Google’s blog explains that it uses an algorithm to identify the highest concentration of restaurants, bars and shops in most areas, but supplements this with ‘a human touch’ in high-density areas like NY.

A new color scheme also aims to make it easier to differentiate built-up areas from rural ones.

Check out the brief video below for a (silent) demo of the ‘areas of interest’ feature. Previous improvements to the app include giving ride rates and pickup times for six different car services, pit stops and fuel prices with business hours. Apple Maps, in contrast, has been majoring on bringing 3D Flyover and traffic data to more locations.

via Google Maps continues attempt to tempt back iOS users with cleaner UI, highlighted ‘areas of interest’ [Video] — 9to5Mac

Patent to allow Apple Pencil to work with a Mac trackpad now granted — via 9to5Mac

A patent application geared to allowing the Apple Pencil to work with Mac trackpads has today been granted.

 

Although the patent was originally filed back in 2014, it was only published in May of this year. As we mentioned then, the version of the Apple Pencil described in the patent is significantly more sophisticated than the current model, having the additional ability to work as both an air mouse and joystick.

Our usual patent disclaimer of course applies, so there’s no guarantee that it will ever be released, but this one would seem more likely than most.

Via Patently Apple

 

Mobile gaming company Scopely raises $55M — via TechCrunch

Scopely has announced that it raised $55 million Series B round of funding.

The Los Angeles-based company has built tools for promoting and monetizing mobile games — some of those games are developed in-house, others are created by outside studios.

“The vision is creating the most premium experiences on people’s phone across a network of developers,” co-founder and CEO Walter Driver said. “Each [developer] has a deep focus and passion and is using the Scopely platform and brand to scale those audiences and those businesses.”

The company released two hit games last year — The Walking Dead: Road to Survival and Yahtzee with buddies, which were both ranked among the top grossing games on the Apple App Store and Google Play. Scopely says Road to Survival has been installed by more than 20 million players.

Driver added that the game’s revenues have grown “every month since launch” — something that should reassure investors worried that gaming remains a hits-driven business.

“‘Hits-driven business’ implies a certain unpredictability, a sort of black magic,” Driver said. “What we’ve proven is that certainly, you need to deliver product that consumers love, and in any consumer business that requires a lot of iteration. But having those products, we can sustainably grow them over time.”

Which means that in addition to launching new games, Scopely will continue to invest in its existing hits.

It’s also worth noting that both of those two games were based on existing intellectual property, in partnership with Hasbro (for Yahtzee) and Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman (for Road to Survival). Driver said Scopely will pursue similar partnerships in the future, as “major brand and IP holders” become increasingly aware that “smartphones are the biggest media platform in the history of the world.”

“One of the things Scopely does really well is be able to sit down with those IP and brand holders and talk about what that experience should be to bring it to life, to evolve it to touch largest amount of fans with the deepest experience,” he said.

Scopely has now raised a total of $98.5 million in funding. The Series B was led by Greycroft Growth Fund (Greycroft also invested in the company’s seed and Series A rounds), with participation from Elephant Partners (the new fund from former Highland Capital partners Jeremiah Daly and Andy Hunt), Evolution Media Capital (the joint venture between the Creative Artists Agency and TPG Growth), Highland Capital, Sands Capital Ventures and Take-Two Interactive.

Greycroft’s Mark Terbeek and Scopely President and COO Javier Ferreira are joining the company’s board of directors.