Niantic acquires Seismic Games

Niantic — the company behind Pokémon GO — is back at it with another acquisition.

After acquiring Escher Reality back in February and Matrix Mill back in June, this morning the company announced it’s acquiring Seismic Games.

Seismic Games is probably best known for its work on Marvel: Strike Force, a mobile, turn-based RPG that has players build battle teams made up of all the big names from the Marvel comic universe.

Niantic’s two biggest games of the foreseeable future — Pokémon GO and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite — both rely heavily on licensed IP. So acquiring a team that already has a wealth of experience with licensed IP — specifically, a team that can walk that fine line of building enough new content to keep the players happy without doing something that sets off the IP owners — makes sense.

No terms of the deal were disclosed.

MGM sues Vegas shooting victims in push to avoid liability

MGM sues Vegas shooting victims in push to avoid liabilityMGM Resorts International has sued hundreds of victims of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history in a bid to avoid liability for the gunfire that rained down from its Mandalay Bay casino-resort in Las Vegas. The company argues in lawsuits filed Friday in Nevada and California that it has "no liability of any kind" to survivors or families of slain victims under a federal law enacted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The lawsuits target victims who have sued the company and voluntarily dismissed their claims or have threatened to sue after a gunman shattered the windows of his Mandalay Bay suite and fired on a crowd gathered below for a country music festival.


Self-driving car startup Zoox is raising $500 million at a $3.2 billion valuation

Zoox, a once-secretive self-driving car startup, is closing a $500 million at a $3.2 billion post-money valuation, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. Prior to the deal, Zoox was valued at $2.7 billion, Zoox confirmed to TechCrunch. The round, led by Mike Cannon-Brookes of Grok Ventures, brings its total amount of funding to $800 million.

Zoox’s plan, according to Bloomberg, is to publicly deploy autonomous vehicles by 2020 in the form of its own ride-hailing service. The cars themselves will be all-electric and fully autonomous. Meanwhile, ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft are also working on autonomous vehicles, as well as a number of other large players in the space.

Zoox, which turned four years old this month, is a 500-person company founded by Tim Kentley-Klay and Jesse Levinson. In the meantime, head over to Bloomberg for the full rundown.

Twitch streamers can now let viewers react with GIFs

Giphy is coming to Twitch . For the first time, Giphy is bringing its library of animated GIFs to the Amazon-owned game streaming service. The company today is launching a Giphy extension for Twitch streamers that will allow viewers to react in real-time using GIFs during a broadcast. The idea is that GIFs could make streams more engaging and entertaining, which would, in turn, attract retain viewers for longer periods of time.

Twitch extensions were first introduced last year, but only recently did Twitch add support for running multiple extensions at once. That could encourage more developers to try out the Giphy extension, without having to give up their other favorite overlays.

To use the new extension, the streamer will first configure which part of the screen area will be used to display the GIFs viewers post. Once the extension is activated, viewers will be able to access it during a broadcast via a Giphy icon and the search terms they enter into the message bar.

Twitch is not the first game streaming site to experiment with GIF reactions. The newer site Caffeine had this as a feature, too, but pulled it before launch because they found it could be used for harassment. Twitch and Giphy are hoping to not make the sane mistake by curating the catalog of GIFs that can be shared.

According to Twitch, Giphy’s content is moderated to remove those GIFs that are “overtly offense” to any race, gender, ethnicity or community. It’s also limiting GIFs to those with a PG rating and below, which will prohibit users from posting GIFs with violence, sexual references, and other lewd terms, it says.

“Extensions are a great framework designed to make channels on Twitch more interactive so creators can better engage and retain their fans,” said Amir Shevat, Twitch VP of Developer Experience, in a statement. “With Giphy tapping into their extensive library of animated GIFs for their new Extension, it adds a fun and compelling new element to the social video experience that is sure to resonate with the current meme generation.”

Extensions are one of Twitch’s differentiating features in the game streaming market. Thanks to Twitch’s scale, there are now thousands of these add-ons and overlays in development, and over 250 which have gone live since the feature’s launch. Dozens of these, including Giphy’s, also work alongside others, allowing streamers to better customize their broadcasts and channels.

The Google Assistant app will walk you through your day

Google’s Assistant app mostly functions as a surrogate for its line of connected Home devices. But what about all of that information it’s aggregating? The company will start putting that to use, providing a “visual snapshot” of the day to come.

The new feature, rolling out to the app on Android and iOS today, pulls in a bunch of relevant information from across Google services, including calendar, reminders, stocks, package deliveries, flights, restaurant/movie reservations and suggested Actions. It also provides travel times to and from appointments to offer up a better idea of when to leave.

More features will be rolling out soon, including notes from Google Keep,  Any.do, Bring and Todoist, along with parking reminders, nearby activities and recommendations for music and podcasts. In other words, the Google Assistant app is angling to become your one stop shop for — well, basically ever single thing you do in a given day.

While Amazon’s Alexa play has been centered around commerce, it’s pretty clear that Google’s in it for the same reason as always: information. Using a voice controlled smart speaker is yet another way to gather all of that data from a user, and now it’s being out to use in a single spot.

It’s an obvious play — and an important reminder of just how much information these companies have on us at a given time.