Instagram’s New Hyperlapse App Makes Mobile Timelapse And Steady Video Capture Easy

Instagram is building new apps that aim to do more with mobile photography, and today they’re launching Hyperlapse, which allows you to make timelapse videos using standard video captured with your smartphone camera on the fly. The Hyperlapse app launch closely follows the international launch of Bolt, Instagram’s Snapchat-style photo sharing app, but this one looks like it has more of the ingredients that made Snapchat such a success.

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The app, which is due to be released at 10 AM PT today, offers iPhone users a way to make professional-looking timelapses without expensive photography equipment like pro cameras, steady-mounts or tripods, and takes advantage of image stabilization tech that makes use of movement data gathered by gyroscopes to mimic the effect of ultra-expensive motion stabilization software used by film studios, but using a fraction of the processor power to get it done.

One impulse at Instagram was to build it into its existing app, but doing so would’ve hidden the functionality too much for those really eager to try it, and made it virtually invisible to the average user who might not realize they even want it, per Wired. To me, this sounds like Instagram learned a lesson from Instagram Video and Direct, and wanted to give this cool new tech the attention it deserved as its own app, where it stands a good chance of going viral rather than being adopted by just some of Instagram’s existing user community.

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Instagram’s Hyperlapse is, like its original product, focused on       simplicity – the only thing that you can change about your captures is the speed of playback. You use a slider to control how fast the video you eventually share will play at, from standard 1x speed (i.e. the normal speed at which it was recorded) to 12x.

Even at 1x, you get to take advantage of the advanced image stabilization techniques, but the same video is bound to produce an extremely different final effect depending on what playback speed you combine with the automatic stabilization effects.

This looks to be one of the coolest new mobile apps released in a while, particularly from the Facebook/Instagram crowd. The app is live now for iPhone owners (Android users will have to wait for a later version, unfortunately), and we’ll soon post our impressions regarding this new stabilization tech and its effectiveness.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Roomlia Takes On HotelTonight With Mobile Hotel Reservations App

Today Roomlia has launched into the App Store to provide the fastest hotel booking on mobile.

Started by two former Expedia employees, Michael Reichartz and Jim Ferguson, Roomlia offers discounted hotel rooms up to seven days in advance with only a few clicks to complete booking. Unlike Expedia and its counterparts, Roomlia links you directly with your chosen hotel the moment you book, as opposed to negotiating rates and payments through the hotel site and the hotel itself.

Roomlia links directly with hotels’ operations systems to make sure that the experience is super quick and painless. When you first log in, you’re given an extensive list of cities. You can choose one, or search for one that isn’t on the list, and you’re immediately shown a list of hotels with pictures, ratings, and average prices.

Certain hotel rooms have extra deep discounts, which is displayed with a red flag on the listing. These only last a limited time.

Users can put in their hotel dates on the bottom using a calendar or a slider to show the number of nights desired. Roomlia users have the opportunity to book a stay as long as five nights.

HotelTonight, on the other hand, only gets you discounts on the day of booking.

Once you choose a hotel, you can simply swipe to the left to book, sending you directly into contact with the hotel to complete booking. Everything is done in two taps.

On the hotel side, hotels will be able to handle their inventory and minimize vacancy with greater lead times than traditional last-minute services.

The hospitality industry is aflutter with new technology, with smaller players coming in to streamline back-end operations, and bigger guys launching interesting tech initiatives to keep competitive. For example, Starwood launched a robotic butler, while Hilton Hotels has a new app that allows you to choose your room and check out without speaking to another human.

Roomlia launches today on the App Store with access to over 250 hotels and growing.

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

Mozilla’s Firefox Marketplace will soon use crowd-curation for apps (exclusive)

Mozilla’s Firefox Marketplace will soon use crowd-curation for apps (exclusive)

But Mozilla has some of the same problems that other app stores do. They need a way to surface the really good apps, and push down the apps that are a little less inspired. DeVaney believes at least part of the answer lies in audience curation of apps.

“It would be giving people a playground, and letting them rate and review apps, letting people vote the best app reviews up to the top,” he told VentureBeat. “It’s creating a space that’s a little less polished than the homepage [of the app store].”I asked DeVaney what this method of app curation might look like to a user. He said it will be a separate space at the app store that has a slightly different look and feel than the home page of the Firefox Marketplace.

DeVaney knows something about curation. Before arriving at Mozilla, he managed a team at Apple charged with creating the promotional language around iTunes, App Store, and iBookstore content.

At the Firefox Marketplace, DeVaney says, there will be a central scroll that will display apps based on the geographic location of the user. The selection of these apps might be informed by what apps other people in the user’s area find useful.

You might also find curated lists of “best apps” by people who have a special interest in a certain class of apps, like productivity apps or games.

The thinking is that the best people to promote apps are not the people who make them, but rather the people who have used them. “We’re really trying to democratize app discovery,” DeVaney said at a retreat for app developers Friday.

Some app stores are looking at using algorithms and automation to identify good apps, and DeVaney says he’s interested in that approach — to a point. “Analysis only takes you so far in predicting the next hit,” he says.

“I could have a staff of 100, but I still wouldn’t know what people in a little village in Nairobi are going to want, or what the people in the village 100 miles away will want,” DeVaney said.

DeVaney said you’ll be seeing the new crowd curation features show up at Mozilla’s app store “very soon.”

-Courtesy: VentureBeat

Instagram adds tools for brands, starts to look like a real ad platform

Instagram adds tools for brands, starts to look like a real ad platform

Today is a bit like Christma-Hanu-Kwanz-ukkah for brands that use Instagram in their marketing efforts, as the photo-sharing network just announced three new tools for them.

The new tools, “account insights,” “ad insights,” and “ad staging,” are now available to all Instagram advertisers and are meant to give brands better control over their campaigns and results.

From Instagram’s blog post:

The new tools will help brands monitor their posts and campaigns by providing information on reach, impressions, and engagement. For example, an advertiser will now have access to a real-time campaign summary and data showing how their target audience is responding to each of their sponsored photos. Also, brand marketers will be able to better understand the best time of day to post a photo or video.

We’ve worked closely with several of our advertising partners to make sure these tools meet their needs. We’re now making them available to all Instagram advertisers, whose feedback will help us improve the product before releasing it to additional brands later this year.

Account insights shows brands how their Instagram account is doing, including impression, reach, engagement, and so on, and it appears to be for the brand’s photo activity, not paid campaigns. In fact, it looks a lot like the “Insights” page of a Facebook brand page, which is not surprising, given Facebook’s ownership of Instagram.

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Ad insights provide analytics for a brand’s paid campaigns, including impressions, reach, and frequency. The feature conveniently includes an “Export data” button to enable social media managers to easily use the data in their workflow.

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Ad staging is where social media managers can create, edit, preview, and even collaborate on paid ad campaigns on Instagram. It’s sort of the sandbox before the ads go live.

Instagram first introduced ads on its network back in November 2013 and has since signed deals with ad agencies (not coincidentally once it introduced videos) and opened up its ad program more widely to brands. Now, it’s adding real analytics and insights tools that are turning Instagram from a fun photo app the teens were using, into a real advertising platform.

Facebook, which acquired Instagram in April 2012, has been beefing up its mobile efforts, and reported a strong second quarter for 2014, largely thanks to its mobile business. Unfortunately, Facebook does not report separate figures for Instagram, so it’s impossible really know how much revenue Instagram’s ads have been generating so far.

Fellow visually-driven social network Pinterest has also been leveraging visual ads amongst its user-generated content in the form of promoted pins.

-Courtesy: VentureBeat

Dropbox unveils new tools for business customers

Dropbox unveils new tools for business customers

On the heels of an early-access program, Dropbox is publicly unveiling a number of new features for its Dropbox for Business customers.

Dropbox first announced the new capabilities, including view-only permissions for shared folders, passwords for shared links, and expirations for shared links, a few weeks ago. Demand for the additions was high enough that thousands of people joined the early-access program just to test-drive the new features. Thanks to that testing and the feedback Dropbox received, the features are now out for Dropbox for Business customers, according to a statement the company issued today

With more than 80,000 companies using Dropbox for Business, these new features should be a welcome addition to many companies’ workflow. The features could also help Dropbox stay top of mind for businesses that have plenty of other choices for file sharing, including Box, Egnyte, EMC’s Syncplicity, Huddle, and Microsoft.

The new features should aid in-house collaboration by allowing administrators to maintain better control over the files they share and help avoid the kind of costly mistakes that can happen when too many people have editing privileges. Likewise, the expiration option for shared links can be a useful way to make sure that multiple revisions of important files are not circulating within a team.

-Courtesy: Venturebeat.com

Noke is a Bluetooth padlock you unlock with your phone

Noke is a Bluetooth padlock you unlock with your phone
 

It’s also the inspiration behind the Noke by Fuz Designs, the latest runaway success project on Kickstarter.

Pronounced “No-key,” Fuz Designs (or “FŪZ” as it likes to spell itself) claims it is the “world’s first Bluetooth padlock.”

That tingled my Spidey-sense; I had the nagging feeling I’d heard about another Kickstarter Bluetooth lock project a little while back. Sure enough, there was. It was the Teo, a gadget conceived by Canadian-based Total North. It fell shy of its funding goal of $165,000 by just under $60k and it’s unknown how much longer it will take for it to get to market.

VentureBeat spoke to Fuz Designs’ cofounder, Cameron Gibbs, to find out more about the Noke and how it compares to the Teo.

First things first — about that “world’s first” label: “Well, it may very well end up being the world’s first commercially available one,” Gibbs points out. “When it comes down to it I think that’s all that really matters.”

He’s probably right. And yet the similarities between the two products are unmistakable.

On paper at least, they sound virtually identical:

  • Unlocked via Bluetooth LE from an authorized smartphone
  • Each lock can be given a unique name
  • Access to the lock can be granted from the owner to anyone else who has a smartphone via the free app (iOS/Android)
  • A replaceable, one-year battery
  • A way to open the lock in the event that the battery dies
  • A Kickstarter initial price point between $59 (Noke) and $79 (Teo)
  • A dashboard app that simplifies access management, including the ability to see a lock’s status i.e. Open or Locked.

But the two devices couldn’t be more different in the looks department.

Total North’s Teo has a decidedly unorthodox design, looking more like the unholy offspring of a door handle and a large Ikea hex key than a traditional padlock. Not ugly by anyone’s standards, just a little odd. Gibbs thought so too, saying, “Their design missed in a few areas. They show a clip in their video with it on a locker and it just doesn’t look quite right.” It’s obvious Gibbs feels this contributed to the Teo’s failure.

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Fuz Designs’ Noke on the other hand, is a kindred spirit to the Nest Thermostat in the sense that it distills the classic combination lock down to its simplest elements: A round body and u-shaped shackle that latches vertically and swivels side-to-side.

It’s also, in my opinion, beautiful.

The Noke, seen here with the optional bike mount and cable accessory.

Of course you can never underestimate the importance of price, especially in the crowdfunding world. This is an area in which Fuz Designs has plenty of experience. Its EverDock project did very well and not only exceeded its funding goal by 900 percent, it earned the company a loyal following.

“I think price point is huge difference. Ours is much more in the range that is acceptable for product like this. Also [the Teo] was based out of Canada so anyone in the U.S. who wanted one would have to pay the $15 in shipping,” Gibbs points out. No question about it — $59 with shipping included is easier to swallow than $79+ $15 for shipping. Unless you’re Canadian.

The Noke differs from the Teo from a functional perspective too. To unlock the Teo, you need to approach it with your Bluetooth enabled smartphone and trigger the lock by accessing the native app. The Noke simply requires that an authorized smartphone be within 10 feet of the lock and will release with a simple click-down movement on the shackle.

Gibbs is quick to point out that this can be easily customizable from within the Noke app. “Some people want more range, some people want less range. What we’ve planned on from the beginning is to make that all customizable,” says Gibbs.

Naturally, as with any product that carries personal info, but especially with a lock, the question of security has to be addressed. Given that the Noke uses Bluetooth, could hacking be a problem?

“Nothing is ever going to be 100 percent bullet-proof. We’re going to make it as secure as possible. But there are much easier ways to hack a lock,” Gibbs points out as we both start to list off the many low-tech methods for compromising a small padlock. Which is not to say that Fuz Designs has ignored the need for physical protection. Its Kickstarter page claims that the Noke “uses the latest in anti-shim technology so you need not worry about thieves trying to use a shim to open your lock.”

Interestingly, this is an area of the Teo’s design that Gibbs is critical of. “It’s pretty easy to pick. If you just took a screwdriver […] you could pull their shank out of their lock,” he claims.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two products is a very clever alternative method for unlocking the Noke should you be without your phone or your phone’s battery dies. A patent-pending Morse code series of long and short clicks, which Fuz calls “Quick Click”, can be assigned to your Noke, which you enter by simply pushing down on the shackle once for each click. Complete the sequence correctly and the external LED goes from red to green as the mechanism disengages.

The Noke project is only in its second day on Kickstarter and yet it has already surpassed its $100,000 goal.

“The lock was something that felt like it should already have existed, and it doesn’t,” says Gibbs. Clearly the crowdfunding community agrees.

He also sees the Noke as the start of a larger effort: “This is a product that is really more of a business than a single product. We can develop locks for other industries. Bigger locks, smaller locks, luggage locks etc.”

There are definitely grounds for his optimism.

MasterLock, the world’s largest maker of padlocks, sells 50 million of these things every year. Many are replacements for forgotten combinations (something that Noke clearly eliminates) but many aren’t.

When asked what the future held for Fuz Designs, Gibbs offered VentureBeat an exclusive peek at their next Kickstarter project: A case for the iPhone 6.

If that sounds obvious or boring or unimaginative for a company like Fuz, wait for the punchline: It plans on launching its case’s Kickstarter the day Apple announces the next iPhone — and will terminate it and start shipping the cases to backers on the same day the iPhone 6 hits retail. That’s a period of time Gibbs estimates to be a week and half.

This will make the Fuz Designs case — which will incorporate a felt material into its design — the very first one for the iPhone 6 in people’s hands, assuming that Apple doesn’t launch one of its own at the same time.

-Courtesy: Venturebeat

Which Apps Are Eating Your Battery? Normal Will Tell You.

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Somewhere, somehow, maybe less than a year after I got the latest version of my iPhone, its battery would mysteriously deplete in about half a day.

I wasn’t really sure why. But now I can find out.

There’s a new app called ‘Normal’ out from a pair of Stanford Ph.Ds in computer science named Adam Oliner and Jacob Leverich, who are turning some postdoctoral research into a company called Kuro Labs.

Their first project, Normal, is a battery diagnosis service that tracks and compares your app usage to other iOS device owners to see if there are any specific actions you can take to save battery life. The 99 cent app compares your phone’s battery usage over time with other people who have similar combinations of apps.

Hence, the name ‘Normal’ — is your phone’s battery life normal compared to other devices that are the exact same model?

“Battery is a pain point and there are not good solutions,” Oliner said. “The device doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. Why is it using so much energy? Is that normal or not? That’s what we’re trying to adjust.”

When you go inside Normal, you’ll see active apps, inactive battery hogs and other apps. For each app, there is a ring chart that will show you how much battery life you’ll save if you close a specific app.

normal-screenshotSo for instance, if I shut Facebook’s mobile app off, Normal estimates that I’ll save 26 minutes and 47 seconds of battery life. Or if I close inactive apps running in the background like Instagram, I’ll save an hour and seven minutes.

Certain apps can be re-configured to use up less battery. Oliner says Pinterest, for example, is not normally a battery hog but there are a few configurations that make it more energy intensive. There’s a screen inside the app that will tell you if a specific app is behaving normally compared to other identical apps on other smartphones.

The app is based on a project Oliner led at UC Berkeley that eventually became an app called Carat. The concept seems almost identical. That older app would quietly take measurements from your device, combine that data it with other people’s anonymized usage metrics, and then send back tips on whether to update your OS or kill or restart apps.

Now that Oliner is finished with postdoc work, he decided to start a new bootstrapped company with Leverich called Kuro Labs that may spin out more similar concepts. He hinted at looking at laptops or tablets.

“The closest analogous company is something like Bugsense, which diagnoses crashes,” he said. “But we’re doing energy instead.”

 

-Courtesy: Techcrunch

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