Why Instagram rushed to adopt Apple’s 3D Touch technology


grid copyWith the introduction of Apple’s latest iPhone models, one of the most interesting features is its 3D Touch. This enables a so-called “Peek and Pop” feature that lets users press on the screen lightly to launch a quick pop-up window that offers a glimpse of the content.

Naturally, once it was revealed to the world, 3D Touch became of interest to developers. Instagram became one of the first to integrate it into its popular photo-sharing application. Today the team has shared some insights into how they used 3D Touch to enhance the user experience within the app.

Apple’s 3D Touch is a hardware feature currently exclusive to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. In order for applications to use it, developers have to access three API feeds, each of which powers different interactions. The first enables Quick Actions, which lets you select up to four context menu items from the app’s icon. The next gives you the Peek and Pop feature, while the last concerns the exact pressure (or force) needed to execute the whole process.

From VentureBeat
Got translation? You got problems. We’re here to help. Localization and translation tips from the best minds in marketing.

Because the whole purpose of Instagram is for people to enjoy looking at friends’ and total strangers’ creative photos, simply enabling 3D Touch wasn’t enough. It needed to be done carefully to make sure that users either had the same or an even better experience.

Within the home screen, users can force-press on the screen to pull up some commonly used actions: search, send a direct message, create a new post, and view activity. Instagram said adding these shortcuts to the home screen wasn’t difficult — it just required some extra lines of code within the application, and then some tweaking to account for whether a user is logged in or not.

So once a user has accessed Instagram, the next step was making the Peek and Pop option cool. The use case the company settled on was when you come across photos and videos and want to have more information without having to load the entire image.

Previously, when you’re browsing through your notifications and tap on someone’s username, the app takes you to a different page. Then you have to hit the back button to get back to the previous screen — it’s a very interruptive experience.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 11.35.31 PM

With Peek and Pop, when you force-press on a username in the News Feed, or on an image or video within the notification tab, Instagram will let you glimpse that profile or media without having to commit to navigating there.

Instagram said it deployed some code in its app that basically is conditioned to display a preview of something if a 3D Touch is registered. Usernames anywhere in the app and thumbnail images are the main options that will display a peek if force-pressed.

One issue Instagram came across was how to display a profile peek if not all the data is available. As it stands, the app only loads data that is currently needed and caches it for later reference to prevent wasting users’ bandwidth. To overcome this, Instagram tweaked its code to accommodate specific events that make calls to fetch network resources and update the latest photos or follower counts in the peek.

In the end, Instagram views 3D Touch as more than a fancy way to “right click” on a mobile device. In the company’s hands, the feature offers new depth and interaction that really give users a new perspective on how to view photos. With over 400 million monthly active users on the social network, quite a few photos and videos are being uploaded every day. The quicker and simpler it is to take action, the better the experience users will have.

For more information about Instagram’s use of 3D Touch, click here.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Facebook v. Google in digital video battle: YouTube is 11X bigger


Facebook’s fast-growing digital video push is still very much a minnow to Google’s whale, according to VB’s latest research report: FB v GOOG: Who’s really winning in digital video?

There’s been a lot said lately about Facebook, the social network’s quick growth in video, and four billion daily video views. Plus a lot said about how the social network counts video views — after just three seconds — and whether most of Facebook video is ripped off from its legitimate creators. The truth is that the world’s largest social network has most definitely seen impressive and ongoing growth in natively uploaded video.

But it’s still not anywhere close to YouTube.

From VentureBeat
Got translation? You got problems. We’re here to help. Localization and translation tips from the best minds in marketing.

In terms of viewing hours, both in-app and on the Web, YouTube is currently more than 11 times bigger than Facebook. Every single day, Americans spend an aggregate of 8,061 years on YouTube, compared to 713 years watching video on Facebook. That’s based on data captured by SimilarWeb, relying on a panel of over 100 million monitored devices.

Globally, YouTube’s number is even more staggering: Every day, the world spends almost 46,000 years glued to Google’s digital video platform.

YouTube vs Facebook: digital video

Above: YouTube vs Facebook: digital video

Image Credit: VB

While Facebook has grown significantly and sucks up well over 100,000 years of aggregated attention daily across the entire planet, only a small fraction of that is video. Globally, it’s about 5,625 years.

All of this data on actual time spent in both Facebook and Google’s mobile apps and their websites makes sense. When we asked 546 Americans, via Survata, which property they would pick if they could only watch digital videos in one place, they picked YouTube by a 5:1 ratio:

The desert island scenario

Above: The desert island scenario

Image Credit: VB

Interestingly, it’s not just all Americans. It’s also youth.

YouTube viewers are much more likely to watch for significant amounts of time on YouTube — 20, 40, even 60 minutes — and the younger they are, especially in the millennial group, the more markedly skewed their viewing habits are. Digital video viewers aged 13 to 17 are 18.5 times more likely to choose YouTube than Facebook. Older teens and younger 20-somethings are 16.5 times more in favor of YouTube than Facebook.

YouTube outperforms Facebook in digital video at all age levels

Above: YouTube outperforms Facebook in digital video at all age levels

Image Credit: VB

Older adults, however, age 55 to 64, are only 1.8 times on the YouTube side, while the ratio for senior citizens over the age of 65 is 1.4.

None of which, of course, discounts the fact that Facebook has made massive and significant moves in digital video. Going from almost nothing to four billion daily views in half a year is impressive, and the social network has the capability to make it even more, since naturally what people see in their Facebook streams is dependent on Facebook’s algorithms. But rumors of YouTube’s impending demise are most certainly premature. And the battle for the $600 billion global advertising spend — including TV’s $172.5 billion share — which is increasingly moving to digital, is currently still advantage Google.

Where the battle for digital video supremacy will really get interesting, according to the report, is when Samsung releases the impressive Gear VR early next year at a very consumer-friendly $99.

While right now most Facebook users aren’t viewing video for long stretches of time, that is likely to change in an immersive virtual world. It’s also likely that Facebook will release a video-focused app — following its successful splitting off of Messenger and its multi-app strategy that includes Instagram and WhatsApp — that will enable better video discovery.

At that point, Google is going to need something more than cardboard to compete.

The full report, FB v GOOG: Who’s really winning in digital video, is available now for $99, or free with your marketing technology subscription.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Facebook updates your mobile profiles with new layout and moving avatar

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.34.04 AM

Your Facebook profile is becoming the first place people come to find out information about you — they may not be looking for your website or on Twitter. As we’re now a mobile-first society, how your profile looks on the device is important. After all, first impressions and all that.

That’s why Facebook is unveiling new features for how profiles look on mobile devices, including motion-enabled avatars, a new layout, and improved controls.


Product managers Aigerim Shorman and Tony Hsieh wrote that on Facebook’s News Feed and profiles, the company has “seen people create and view more videos than ever before.” To address that, they’re testing out a new feature called profile videos. These are short, looping video clips that play when anyone visits your profile. They are up to 7 seconds of footage that you can take using your mobile device, which adds some flair so that your profile doesn’t look too static.

These short, looping video clips are reminiscent of Twitter’s Vine, and also bear some interesting similarities to Apple’s Live Photos (albeit not dealing with avatars). The point here is that companies seem to recognize that motion really helps things stand out more.


As some people don’t change their profile pictures often because they can’t remember when to update it (I’m guilty of that), Facebook is also getting set to roll out a fix for that. Building off of the Celebrate Pride filter, where more than 26 million people (out of the 1.49 billion monthly active users on the social network) changed their avatars, Facebook is rolling out a temporary version. Now you can commemorate a milestone or event and then not have to worry about it growing stale — it’ll change back to your previous avatar.

Facebook said it’ll be sprucing up the rest of the profile page as well, starting with a refreshed layout. The profile picture and video will now be front-and-center of your profile — no longer off to the left side of the screen — and enlarged. Many of these changes were spotted in July by some users. At the time, a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat that the redesign was to “improve the profile layout and better present information about a person.”

From VentureBeat
Got translation? You got problems. We’re here to help. Localization and translation tips from the best minds in marketing.

A customizable space has also been added to the top of the profile that lets users put whatever they want to help people know them better. Content that can be added include one-line bios and information about your education, work history, and so on. You can also showcase up to five Featured Photos to be displayed at the top of your profile.

Now here’s the catch: Only a small number of iPhone users in the U.K. and California will be seeing these updates right now, but Facebook said it’ll be rolling them out to more people soon.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Over 220K Facebook users donated $15M to support Nepal earthquake relief

The UK's International Search and Rescue in Chautara, Nepal following the April 2015 earthquake.

Nearly six months ago, a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. Since that time, people around the world have been making donations and providing assistance to help rebuild the country. As an international platform aimed at connecting people, Facebook participated in this effort. Today it’s touting its success, thanks to both its Donate and Safety Check feature.

Within two months following the earthquake, Facebook says more than 8.5 million people used its Safety Check tool to help notify friends and family that they were safe. The reach was pretty big too: over 150 million people worldwide received these notifications. Safety Check had only been available for a few months prior to this event aimed specifically at letting people know your status during a natural disaster, emerging after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

To rally support for relief efforts and give its 1.49 billion monthly active users an outlet to feel like they’re helping in some way, Facebook implemented its Donate button and that resulted in contributions from more than 770,000 people from more than 175 countries. The result was more than $15 million being raised to support the International Medical Corps, which helped 210,000 people in Nepal.

From VentureBeat
Got translation? You got problems. We’re here to help. Localization and translation tips from the best minds in marketing.

The Facebook donate button was launched in 2013 as a way to help nonprofits raise money. The social networking company doesn’t take any cut of the donation and it’s available to many charity organizations, including Oxfam America, Donors Choose, World Wildlife Fund, Malaria No More, Water.org, and the United Nations World Food Programme.

Facebook says that it has also provided a $2 million matching grant to fund local organizations in Nepal, thanks to its partnership with Give2Asia.

A company spokesperson said in an email that the outpouring of support towards Nepal has inspired Facebook to dedicate a team aimed at building more products around doing social good. So like the donate and Safety Check features, it’s likely that more charitable options will be coming soon.

Starting this week, the social networking company will be sending a thank you video to the more than 770,000 people that donated to provide them with an update, showing what their support has resulted in.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Now with 2.5M advertisers, Facebook targets TV budgets with new ad-buying offering

Mark Zuckerberg on stage at Facebook's F8 Developers Conference 2015

Facebook is gearing up to release four updates designed to give brands better tools and create what it hopes will be a great ad experience for viewers. Among these changes include mobile polling, supporting videos in the carousel format, adding a new way to optimize brand awareness, and making buying ads across Facebook and TV more efficient.

The company also revealed that it now had 2.5 million active advertisers on its platform, a 25 percent increase since February. And ahead of Advertising Week in New York City, Facebook wants to show these brands new ways to utilize its service because after all, these are the ones that have helped bring in $3.82 billion in revenue for the company in Q2 2015 — definitely not a small haul by any means.

Carrying TV over to Facebook

One of the new tools that Facebook will introduce is called TRP (Target Rating Points) Buying, which lets advertisers buy video ads on the social network based on using TRP as the metric. The company states that by complementing TV campaigns with Facebook video ads, it helps extend reach, efficiency, and effectiveness — in other words, more people see it, click to watch, and convert to actual sales.

It’s this thinking where TRP Buying is supposed to come in: Marketers will plan their entire commercial strategy with a total TRP target and will be able to buy a portion of that amount right from Facebook. Nielsen’s Digital Ad Ratings system will provide the third-party verification of delivery and also will measure that the total TRP was provided across Facebook and TV.

“The role of marketing fundamentally changes in the digital economy and the discipline of media is becoming more central to brand and business success,” says Nigel Morris, chief executive of Dentsu Aegis Network Americas and EMEA. “Mobile video is a key point of disruption and the way we are innovating with Facebook to test and launch TRP Buying in the market is key to being able to pivot at speed to match dramatically changing consumer behavior.”

What exactly are Target Rating Points? It’s the percentage of your target audience that will see your commercial or advertisement. And by syncing Facebook and TV campaigns together, TRP Buying could help advertisers maximize their spend and work so that the reach extends both from what’s in front of your TV screen to that which is on your laptop, tablet, and mobile device.

Optimizing brand awareness

Another tool Facebook is getting ready to roll out is aimed at increasing brand awareness — how many people remember that ad you produced. Starting in October (in limited release), advertisers will be able to tweak their campaign’s reach and attention in order to maximize exposure within their Facebook campaigns. A full roll-out of this capability is expected in “the coming months.”

Expansion of mobile polling


To help advertisers better measure their campaigns, Facebook is expanding its mobile polling thanks to its partnership with Millward Brown Digital. Originally launched earlier this year with Nielsen, mobile polling lets advertisers measure campaign effectiveness.

Video ads on the carousel

Lastly, Facebook is giving marketers a new video ad type. Rolling out this week in its Power Editor, videos will now be available in the carousel format. Facebook believes that by utilizing this format, marketers will be able to create compelling stories within a user’s News Feed.

Carousels first were introduced to Facebook last year and enabled advertisers to showcase multiple images and links all in one ad, saving them money from having to do extra creative work or another campaign. It was billed as being more effective too, driving 30 to 50 percent lower cost-per conversion and 20 to 30 percent lower cost-per-click than traditional ads.

Now it’s likely that you can include any combination of media in a carousel to help tell your story.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

India’s Modi tells Zuckerberg about the importance of women and social media in democracy


MENLO PARK — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Facebook today to chat about his country’s progress in becoming a more digital society, investing in the country, and women’s empowerment.

In a short Q&A town hall session, the leader of the world’s largest democracy spoke about how India was moving forward with using technology to be better connected with its citizens. All the questions from the audience were hand-picked prior to the event and none mentioned Internet.org.

After standard opening greetings by both Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and Modi, the first question related to how the prime minister viewed social media. Modi says that world leaders “wouldn’t gain from running away from social media” and they should embrace it. “You’ll have a good government if you have many channels,” he said.

From VentureBeat
Got translation? You got problems. We’re here to help. Localization and translation tips from the best minds in marketing.

We’re living in a new world of diplomacy. Modi says that citizens are more connected with one another and that he’s active in many places, including in China. He remarked that on Weibo, he recently wished the country’s premier a happy birthday and that message quickly went viral and was newsworthy. “No one thought this is what diplomacy would look like,” Modi confessed.

Social media is “the new face of diplomacy” and Modi aid that if the world is a big family, social media is playing a huge role in keeping it together.

There were three questions that Zuckerberg took from the audience at Facebook’s headquarters. The first one involved an entrepreneur that asked about the digital infrastructure and what Modi would do to make sure people would be connected (likely tackling the prime minister’s Digital India initiative). Modi remarked that it wasn’t about choosing between the physical and digital infrastructure. Instead it’s about working on these two simultaneously. India has 250 local governments and Modi’s hope is that over the next five years, these areas will be connected through the use of fiber-optic networks.

“Civilizations originally settled along rivers, but time has changed. Cities have shifted to highways, but soon they’ll be situated along fiber optic networks,” Modi believes. He revealed that he’s placed a priority on using technology to make governance easy and economical.

And how would women play a part in this new economy? Modi said that he strongly believes in the power of women in society saying that if India expects to meet its economic goals, it can’t imprison 50 percent of its population at home. It needs to be a 100 percent partnership between men and women.

He also remarked that he would be working to further help educate girls, citing his experience when he was the chief minister in the region.

Modi appeared to get emotional over the last question that Zuckerberg asked which involved talking about mothers. Both parents of Facebook’s CEO were in the audience and Modi paid tribute to them. It was when he was asked about his mother that Modi seemed to pause often, reflecting on the incredible sacrifices that she has made for him to rise from the owner of a tea shop in India to the leader of this populous nation.

Promoting Digital India

Modi has received quite a bit of attention about his visit to Silicon Valley, with perhaps a great deal extending to him being a technology aficionado. Since his election to office last year, he has sought to implement his “Digital India” initiative that leverages high-speed internet access to facilitate innovation in his country. Certainly this falls into line with not only Zuckerberg’s vision via Internet.org, but also Google’s.

Connecting with technology companies shouldn’t be that surprising as Modi wants to learn about how these services are helping to better connect the world. “Social media is reducing social barriers. It connects people on the strength of human values, not identities,” he said at an event on Saturday. “I see technology as a means to empower and as a tool that bridges the distance between hope and opportunity.”

India’s prime minister arrived in California on Saturday, making him the first Indian head of state to visit the area in 33 years. He has made it a point to meet with many of the industry’s leaders such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla head Elon Musk, and others. The purpose is to glean enough knowledge to help jumpstart innovation in his country.

Digital India is a government initiative aimed at ensuring that the public can have access to information without all the necessary paperwork — think Gov 2.0, which had previously been championed by Tim O’Reilly. It also seeks to expand access to high-speed internet networks throughout India, including in rural areas. Modi has set a goal for 2019 for all of this to be completed.

Modi has touted the success his government has made in the past year thanks to U.S. technology: it has tackled poverty by utilizing networking and mobile devices to help empower people resulting in 180 million new bank accounts created, insurance for the poor, and establishment of retirement pensions; he says that 170 applications have been identified to help India’s government function better; and more.

Committing to India

Today’s special Facebook town hall isn’t the only newsworthy event during Modi’s visit to the technology capital. At a private dinner on Saturday, executives from some of the biggest companies in the region announced support for the world’s third-largest economy (based on purchasing-power parity).

Among those that reportedly made announcements was Qualcomm’s executive chairman Paul Jacobs, who committed $150 million to startups in India and said the company would establish a design innovation lab there.

Satya Nadella was said to have also offered remarks, saying that Microsoft would begin offering cloud services from Indian servers.

Lastly, it’s been said that Google would be also making investments in India: it will provide Wi-Fi access in 500 rail stations and plans to have Android keyboards available in 10 Indian languages next month.

Not accepted by all

Modi’s arrival in Silicon Valley has been welcomed by many, but not all. Academics have penned a letter raising concerns about the visit, saying that they believe the Digital India initiative raises issues about safeguards about privacy of information. Namely, signatories of an open letter say it “seems to ignore key questions raised in India by critics concerned about the collection of personal information and the near certainty that such digital systems will be used to enhance surveillance and repress the constitutionally-protected rights of citizens.”

Others have raised issues around Facebook’s Internet.org initiative with concerns about it abiding by net neutrality’s principles.

In response, Facebook’s Vice President for Internet.org Chris Daniels told The Economic Times earlier this week: “The net neutrality debate in India and particularly the criticism around Internet.org was really a small group of connected individuals who were spreading fears about what the programme could do to the Internet.”

Others have protested Modi over his responsibility to stop the 2002 religious riots in the Indian state Gujarat when he was the chief minister of the state. In fact, as people drove up to Facebook’s headquarters, there were protestors lined up voicing their opinions.

Zuckerberg’s political connections

Of note, this is Zuckerberg’s latest meeting with a world leader, having spent time last week with China’s President Xi Jinping and addressed dignitaries at the United Nations on Saturday. The meeting with Modi also happens to be the second town hall event that Zuckerberg has had, with the first chatting with President Barack Obama in 2011.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Ahead of UN address, Mark Zuckerberg issues call for universal internet access

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg addresses developers at the company's F8 conference on March 25, 2015.

Mark Zuckerberg has issued a call to action that seeks to pressure world leaders to make universal internet access a priority. Facebook’s chief executive has signed on with the international campaign and advocacy organization, ONE campaign to help bring this cause to the forefront. He says that internet access is “essential for achieving humanity’s Global Goals.”

Called the ‘Connectivity Declaration’, Facebook is joined by numerous individuals and organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Richard Branson, Ericsson’s Hans Vestberg, Arianna Huffington, Jimmy Wales, TED founder Chris Anderson, actor George Takei, artist Shakira, UN Foundation’s Kathy Calvin, actor Charlize Theron for the Africa Outreach Project, and others.

This call to action seeks to highlight part of the United Nation’s Global Goals, which the world body adopted this week, namely the section that demands internet access for all in the least-developed countries of the world by 2020.

From VentureBeat
Got translation? You got problems. We’re here to help. Localization and translation tips from the best minds in marketing.

“Internet access is a catalyst for creating a world of greater freedom, fairness and dignity for all peoples, everywhere,” said ONE cofounder and global executive director Jamie Drummond in a statement. “Every country must now agree an urgent plan to implement the Global Goals, and mission-critical within those strategies is connectivity for all. The Pope and Malala have spoken eloquently about the one world and one family we’re all a part of, and the internet, at its best, facilitates that unity. But when three billion are left beyond the internet, they are left behind and left out of that family. That must change and fast.”

In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg wrote that by giving someone internet access, those without a voice will be able to speak out and it empowers those that once were powerless. “We also know that the internet is a vital enabler of jobs, growth and opportunity,” he writes. “And research tells us that for every 10 people connected to the internet, about 1 is lifted out of poverty.”

Naturally, one doesn’t have to look that far to see the importance of internet access — just see how it affected the Arab Spring, protests in China, and many other areas around the world.

Skeptics would think that while Zuckerberg may have altruistic goals, in providing universal internet access, he also clearly benefits as the newly-connected people from around the world will be signing up for Facebook accounts. And while his Internet.org program hopes to reach 100 countries within the next year, it’s not without criticism, especially from those that claim that it violates the principles of net neutrality and provides limited access to sites.

“Facebook has proven over and over again that its goal is to make our personal lives less private. With the recent expansion of the Internet.org platform, what has evolved is an increasingly misleading model. The company is asking Internet.org users to give up their privacy and freedom of choice. Facebook, by ensuring that it is a gatekeeper of content, is ensuring that the users of Internet.org are a second tier of Internet citizens,” said Rafael Laguna, chief executive of collaboration software provider Open-Xchange in an email to VentureBeat.

Zuckerberg continues to press his case and wants to have Internet.org continue to lead the way in expanding accessibility. He’s set to address the United Nations later today and will host a townhall Q&A session with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi tomorrow at Facebook’s headquarters. It’s possible that Zuckerberg will bring up this initiative to see if Modi would back it.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Bullet Train’s virtual reality made me feel like Neo from ‘The Matrix’

You can make time slow down in Bullet Train.

LOS ANGELES — Bullet Train is the closest we’ve ever come to stepping into Neo’s shoes.

The latest virtual reality demo from developer Epic Games captures the awesome slow-motion fight scenes from The Matrix in a way no other game has done before. At this week’s Oculus Connect 2 conference in Hollywood, Epic (known for action-packed blockbusters like Gears of War and Unreal Tournament) unveiled a first-person shooter where the player kills enemies using the wireless Oculus Touch motion controllers. These controllers simulate your hands and fingers in VR, allowing you to do things like pick up objects and throw them around.

Demos like Bullet Train help show what developers can achieve with the Oculus Rift VR headset (releasing in Q1 2016) and its specially designed controllers (coming out a few months after the Rift).

From VentureBeat
Gaming is in its golden age, and big and small players alike are maneuvering like kings and queens in A Game of Thrones. Register now for our GamesBeat 2015 event, Oct. 12-Oct.13, where we’ll explore strategies in the new world of gaming.

While nothing’s more common in games than shooting people with guns, the experience felt remarkably different with Bullet Train. Like in traditional shooters, you have to use the trigger buttons to fire your weapons. But the motion tracking in the Touch controllers offer a drastically different experience. You aim with your hands instead of with a mouse or analog stick — It’s so much faster to kill things that way.

Oculus Touch also provides a more tactile feel to the game because you actually have to pick up and hold onto the weapons before you can use them. This is what the middle trigger (where your middle finger rests) on the Touch controllers are for. With those held down, you use a separate trigger (resting underneath your index finger) to fire the guns.

Oculus Touch

Above: Oculus Touch shares some similarities with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers.

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

Moving around in Bullet Train doesn’t require as much thought as the weapons. It has a teleportation system that warps you to different parts of the train station by holding down one of the face buttons. Doing this also slows down time — the popular “bullet-time” effect from The Matrix — making it easier to retaliate or retreat to a safer spot.

It might sound complicated on paper, but it’s actually intuitive. Remembering to hold my weapons was the trickiest part (I accidentally dropped them a few times when I meant to shoot). After a few minutes, I was warping around the battlefield like a pro. With a shotgun in one hand and a pistol in the other, I was blasting bad guys left and right. When I ran out of bullets, I simply tossed the guns away (or threw them at my enemies) and teleported to a new place to find more.

If I wanted to feel even more like a badass, I’d just hit the slo-mo button and grab bullets from mid-air to throw them back at my enemies. I felt untouchable. In this world, I was Neo.

Everything was going well until my left-hand controller stopped working.

Bullet Train

Above: Dual-wielding guns have never felt this good.

Image Credit: Epic Games

With my in-game hand gone, I couldn’t multitask like before. When a giant octopus-like robot descended on the train station, I just had to rely on my right hand to capture its missiles and turn them around to hit the mechanical beast instead. It was a bit of a bummer, but not entirely unexpected — the Touch controllers I played with were prototypes, after all. I still had a good time. (Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey later explained to me that this was a known issue with a particular batch of controllers.)

The second time I played Bullet Train, however, was perfect. I discovered new things I hadn’t seen the first time around, like the way you can reload the pump-action shotgun by sliding the handgrip back with your other hand. The machine gun also had a similar two-hand reloading mechanism.

It’s those little details that made Bullet Train such a cool experience. Having virtual hands and fingers in an FPS makes such a huge difference. I can easily see Epic Games expanding the concepts from Bullet Train in a full-fledged game for the Oculus Rift one day.

And if it doesn’t, I hope other developers are paying attention. This is how shooters should feel in VR.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Facebook updates Notes with cover photos, captions, and text formatting


Facebook is beginning to roll out a design update for its Notes feature, that will let users add a cover photo, captions, and improved formatting. The intention appears to be aimed at encouraging people to compose more notes within the social network and potentially further facilitate a blogging platform that’s akin to Medium — basically Facebook wants to further its goal of being a place to voice your opinion.

Beyond the inclusion of a cover photo, which offers a bit more personalization for notes, Facebook lets you also resize inserted photos and include a caption. Lastly, text can be formatted into headers, quotes, or bullet format. The whole point is to give notes some flair and help them stand out.

This updated version of notes is viewable across both mobile and web, although composing is only available on the desktop.


In August, Facebook did a major overhaul of Notes, which aimed to give users another space in which to compose long-form thoughts instead of just simply posting it as a lengthy status update. Some have said that with bigger real-estate, a proper byline, and even a timestamp, Facebook Notes now have “a sense of permanence and importance.”

Today’s updates is just another way to appeal to its 1.49 billion monthly active users to share their thoughts on the social network. There’s quite a bit of potential for the use of Notes, especially as the content people put in there could potentially be used for advertising purposes (a guess), but if it’s used by businesses, the idea of giving them not only a quick and easy online presence, monetization platform, and now a useful blogging service is significant.

Naturally a look at the refreshed Notes is an obvious challenge to Medium and Tumblr and it’s interesting to see whether it will attract major adoption since Facebook has major network effect versus the others.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles

Facebook renames Internet.org to ‘Free Basics,’ opens up to more developers and web services


Facebook’s polarising and somewhat controversial billion-dollar free Internet project, Internet.org, is today seeing some pretty big changes.

The two-year-old project to bring Internet access to four billion people who currently don’t have it — especially in emerging markets across Asia — has taken flack for only allowing users access to Facebook services, and select local websites (i.e. jobs, health information, and sports).

Essentially the pushback has been around the question of net neutrality, and whether Facebook dictating what content is accessible through its free app and mobile website leaves it in a moral grey area.

From VentureBeat
Get faster turnaround on creative, more testing, smarter improvements and better results. Learn how to apply agile marketing at our roadshow in SF.

Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, even wrote an editorial in two Indian newspapers earlier this year following its February launch in the country in a bid to publicly defend the project (others have defended it, too). The idea of being unable to access Google was a common complaint from users.

But change is coming, according to a statement put out on Internet.org’s website, alongside separate comments a few hours later from Zuckerberg himself in a Facebook posting.


“Today we’re announcing significant improvements to Internet.org,” he wrote. “We’ve listened to feedback from the community and made three big changes. First, we’ve opened up the Internet.org platform. Starting today, any developer can include their services in Internet.org. This gives people the power to choose what apps they want to use.”

“Second, we’ve improved the security and privacy of Internet.org. We already encrypt information everywhere possible, and starting today Internet.org also supports secure HTTPS web services as well. Third, we’ve changed the name of the app providing these free basic services to ‘Free Basics,'” he added.

While Facebook already launched its Internet.org platform for developers back in May as a direct response to net neutrality criticism, it did so with strict guidelines in place. Today, those seem to be getting loosened.

That same month, Facebook announced that the project was now available to more than one billion people, and more recently in July we heard about its massive new drone that will beam Internet down to developing countries.

As of today, Free Basics offers more than 60 services across 19 countries, many of which are in Asia, Latin America. and Africa. It’s partnered with local carriers and tech giants including Samsung, Qualcomm, and Ericsson.

“Connectivity isn’t an end in itself. It’s what people do with it that matters — like raising a healthy family. We hope the improvements we’ve made today help even more people get connected — so that our whole global community can benefit together,” Zuckerberg concluded.

More information:

Powered by VBProfiles