Twitter is making some updates to how users are being made aware of new direct messages. The company announced today that over the next few days it will start allowing users to receive desktop notifications for direct messages when they’re using Twitter.com.
“Notifications appear on the top right side of the screen, when a Direct Message is sent,” a Twitter spokeswoman told VentureBeat in an email. “Clicking the notification brings you into the modal where you read and reply to Direct Messages.”
How many will be affected by this change is unknown as Twitter hasn’t provided figures on the number of people specifically on Twitter.com. Eighty percent of Twitter’s 316 million monthly active users are accessing the service on mobile, however, there’s no indication about what percentage is exclusive to mobile.
Perhaps beneficial to those in places where smartphone adoption isn’t rampant, the addition of desktop notifications for messaging will be helpful.
Today’s feature release comes a couple of weeks after Twitter officially removed the 140-character limit on direct messages.
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(Reuters, Jonathan Stempel) — A U.S. appeals court said the Federal Trade Commission has authority to regulate corporate cybersecurity, and may pursue a lawsuit accusing hotel operator Wyndham Worldwide Corp of failing to properly safeguard consumers’ information.
Monday’s 3-0 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld an April 2014 ruling allowing the case to go forward, without ruling on the merits.
Noting the FTC’s broad authority under a 1914 law to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive trade practices, Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro said Wyndham failed to show that its alleged conduct “falls outside the plain meaning of ‘unfair.'”
Wyndham brands also include Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Ramada, Super 8 and Travelodge. A spokesman said the Parsippany, New Jersey-based company is reviewing the decision.
Congress has not adopted wide-ranging legislation governing data security, a growing concerns amid high-profile breaches such as at retailer Target Corp, the infidelity website AshleyMadison.com, and even U.S. government databases.
The Wyndham case is a test of FTC power to help fill this void and police how companies protect against data breaches.
It arose from three breaches in 2008 and 2009 in which hackers broke into Wyndham’s computer system.
These hackers stole credit card and other personal details from more than 619,000 consumers, leading to over $10.6 million in fraudulent charges.
The FTC sued Wyndham in June 2012, claiming that the company’s computer systems unreasonably and unnecessarily exposed consumer data to the risk of theft.
Wyndham accused the FTC of overreaching, but U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark, New Jersey refused to dismiss the case.
In upholding that ruling, Ambro rejected Wyndham’s argument that the company lacked “fair notice” that its practices fell short of what the FTC could require.
He also rejected what he called Wyndham’s “alarmist” argument that letting the FTC regulate its conduct could give the agency effective authority to regulate hotel room door locks, or sue supermarkets that fail to sweep up banana peels.
“It invites the tart retort that, were Wyndham a supermarket, leaving so many banana peels all over the place that 619,000 customers fall hardly suggests it should be immune from liability,” Ambro wrote.
The FTC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case is Federal Trade Commission v Wyndham Worldwide Corp et al, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-3514.
Apple investors are willing to overlook many things, but the health of the Chinese iPhone market isn’t one of them.
On news of a tanking Chinese stock market early today, Apple investors were running for the exits. Apple stock dove way below the $100 market for the first time this year — to $94.87.
Apple may be a little sensitive about China, too. Tim Cook this morning made a rare mid-quarter statement about the market in a note to CNBC markets expert Jim Cramer. It goes:
I can tell you that we have continued to experience strong growth for our business in China through July and August. Growth in iPhone activations has actually accelerated over the past few weeks, and we have had the best performance of the year for the App Store in China during the last 2 weeks.
Cook gave no actual numbers, but the little he did say was apparently enough. Apple stock has now bounced back to pre-crisis levels at around $107 at the time of this writing (1 p.m. EST Monday).
This isn’t the first time Cook has addressed fears about the Chinese market, and Apple’s dependence on hot iPhone sales there.
China’s stock market tanked back on July 6, too, remember, and sure enough Cook found himself reassuring investors after his company announced third quarter earnings July 21. Apple’s stock dropped 7 percent in after-hours trading that day, largely on worries over China.
Apple reported a decline in China iPhone sales of 21 percent from the previous quarter, but a 112 percent increase from the same quarter a year earlier.
During a conference call with analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook said Apple will continue to put the “pedal to the metal” in China, and that Apple might feel some bumps in the road but in the long term China will be a large and growing revenue source.
Cook has good reason for saying so. Apple’s large-screened phones sell best in markets where mobile bandwidth is plentiful, and the Chinese mobile carriers are just now building their LTE networks.
As of the end of 2014, the number of mobile Internet users in China reached 557 million (an increase of 56.72 million for the year), making it the largest smartphone market in the world, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.
This means there will be fierce competition among companies like Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others for share in the emerging market. And there may be enough addressable market there to buoy up Apple’s iPhone’s sales for the foreseeable future.
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The original Gears of War might be the most influential game of the last generation of consoles, second only perhaps to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Its behind-the-back perspective and cover-based combat have inspired countless knockoffs and inspired new directions for several other series.
But the degree to which Gears has acted as a base for other games only makes how well the original game, the Ultimate Edition of which hits stores tomorrow, holds up all the more impressive.
What You’ll Like
Gears’ gameplay is still as fresh as ever
By now, you’ve probably pressed a button to stick to cover, held the left trigger to peek over it, and the right trigger to shoot out of it thousands of times. But few of the games inspired by the original Gears of War utilize the formula as well as Epic did back in 2006. Gears of War highlights just how important feedback is in creating the sense of “feel” in games; the Lancer machine gun makes Locust bleed in exaggerated spurts, making it powerful; a point-blank Gnasher shotgun shell shatters enemies into spongy bits with the gross sound effects to match, making it clear how strong the weapon is up close.
Gears of War is almost ten years old, and its gun fights are still as good as many games out this year. These shootouts are still as tense and fun as ever (especially on higher difficulties), weapons like the Torque Bow and Hammer of Dawn as novel as they were on release. And with Gears of War 4 still a year and change away, giving the original game’s fine-tuned gunplay a chance to shine on new consoles is a great idea.
So is the multiplayer
I’ll have more to say on the state of the multiplayer after I get some quality time with it after release, but the press and media multiplayer sessions I played solidified a strong impression: multiplayer Gears’ mix of of twitch reflex and methodical sneaking can still eat your nights away. These maps flow from claustrophobic to expansive seamlessly, with choke points and ways to circumvent them aplenty.
And though the original Gears of War doesn’t have the array of weapons fans have gotten used to, it’s far from boring. You have your traditional weapon types like machine guns and sniper rifles. But even someone without good aim can hold their own, with weapons like the Gnasher, the Lancer’s chainsaw bayonet and sticky grenades allowing players to use good awareness and positioning to outsmart those with faster trigger fingers.
These original maps are also among the best in the series, and all the game types like Warzone (the survival, round-based game mode), Blitz (a faster version of king of the hill modes) and Team Deathmatch are some of the most classic multiplayer modes you can have, and it goes to show how timeless they can be when combined with some excellent funneling and intersecting hallways.
The new visuals are a noticeable upgrade
It might be a little strange to give a game that was touted as an HD showcase for the Xbox 360 a graphical facelift, but Gears of War needed it. Every level, both in single and multiplayer, looks like you remembered it, though going back and looking at comparison shots will show you just how much has changed. The single-player cutscenes changed the most, and you’ll notice it too — characters’ faces have been reanimated (Dom, the perennial co-op partner, has a very different facial structure) some are wearing different clothes, and several scenes have been re-shot.
There’s no changing back the original game’s graphics and that might upset some purists, but just about everything touched on visually has changed for the better. Multiplayer runs at a solid 60 frames per second, too, which is actually a little jarring at first as you hop between campaign (which still runs at an uneven 30) and multiplayer, but I eventually got used to it.
Ultimate Edition developer The Coalition knew just what to touch up and what to leave alone, and while it isn’t the impressive showcase for the Xbox hardware it used to be, the remake manages to look just as great as it did then, even if not everything’s in the right place.
Check out our Reviews Vault for past game reviews.
What you won’t like
The story is dumber in retrospect
Though the ducking, shooting, and reloading in the original Gears still feel great, the story, the background lore, the “destroyed beauty” theme the series trumpeted throughout its existence all feel wasted in a way, and it’s never more apparent than in the plot of the first game.
The first Gears of War is one of the most brazen examples of how the stories in games are often context for gameplay. Its story moves too fast, jumps from one locale to another in order to give you a new environment to shoot in, hints at too much and offers too little in order to truly captivate in any way. All of this was easily dismissable when the game first game out, but in the wake of the game’s sequels, which attempted to give the Cog/Locust conflict a little more gravity (with mixed results), it’s all the more reason to shake your head at some of the tropey, simplistic adventure game comedy-of-errors situations that force you to shoot more Locust. It’s not something you can easily touch up, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.
The AI is still messy
I’m not sure if this was always the case with the first game or if the remake introduced some of this, but playing through the game on normal difficulty (and then part of the game on hardcore), I noticed the AI is spotty in several areas; I’ve managed to flank groups of enemies and shoot them all before they even noticed me. In some sections, it takes far longer for Dom’s AI to find the spot he needs to be in order for me to proceed. It’s worse in co-op, as enemies don’t seem to know what to do when faced with two targets coming from multiple sides. It’s not a deal-breaker and it leads to some amusing moments, but I don’t remember this happening as much in the original, and it takes some of the tension of out gunfights.
No Horde mode
The lack of a Horde mode might be the only thing preventing this remake from being the default multiplayer option for people who’ve stuck with the series. It’s understandable that it wouldn’t be in (just every other facet of Gears multiplayer is intact), but that doesn’t make me miss it any less.
The original Gears of War holds up better than you might think for a game that inspired years of me-too shooters. It may not be worth $40 for everyone now, but if you haven’t touched the series before and want a good starting point before Gears of War 4 hits next year, this is the best place to start. If you’ve already played the game, you may already know whether you want to go back, but the Ultimate Edition does right by one of the defining games of the last generation.
Score: We are holding off on attaching a proper score to this review until the reviewer has had a chance to test out the game’s live servers. We’ll update this review shortly.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition is out tomorrow for Xbox One. Developer The Coalition provided GamesBeat with a free download code for this review.
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In May, Microsoft revealed that its digital assistant Cortana would be coming to Android and iOS. Last month, a beta build of Cortana for Android leaked, letting Android users give the assistant a try.
Cortana for Android is the companion to your Windows 10 PC. That means the app extends Cortana’s functionality across to your Android phone, so you can use the digital assistant on the go.
Cortana for Android lets you start and complete tasks across devices, set and get reminders, search the web on-the-go, and track important information such as flight details. Unlike the leaked build, the public beta includes the ability to set Cortana as the destination for the home button press.
That said, Cortana for Android cannot do everything the assistant can do on Windows 10 for PCs or on a Windows phone. For example, toggling settings, opening apps, or invoking Cortana hands-free by saying “Hey Cortana” are only available on Windows devices. Microsoft did, however, add that this is “for now” so the company is clearly still working to figure out how best to add these features to Cortana for Android as well.
More to follow
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Join us for this live webinar on Thursday, August 27 at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here for free.
Big data has sent marketers scurrying for quick answers to map the customer journey and serve up hyper-personalized experiences to prove their relevance to consumers. No question, data is arguably this decade’s most important gift to marketers.
In this webinar, VB analyst Andrew Jones will be revealing important findings from our latest report on Identity and Marketing including the many types of ID markers that can be collected, VB’s best bets for data collection and aggregation tools, and the best way to bring it all together.
However, not so fast on the identity charge, say some, including Zouhair Belkoura, who will be contributing a valuable perspective to our panel discussion. As CEO of KeepSafe, a service that lets you store all your important digital files securely (think of it as a fortress-like digital locker), Belkoura is very attuned to privacy and empowering individuals to be in control of what they share with whom.
“If you think of the industry as a whole, you’ll see that the requirements for anonymity and privacy are somewhat relaxed,” says Belkoura. “But at which point to you cross the line from trying to gather information that is useful to becoming creepy?”
For Belkoura, the creep-line is crossed when you decouple anonymity from a rich profile — and, in fact, he believes it’s outright dangerous. “I think the dilemma in creating these profiles is on two levels. First, when you don’t secure your data enough so that you may have breaches on your back end, that’s one of the biggest risks. The second is when you use the information in a way that exposes to the customer in a very apparent way that you’re violating a social norm — aka you become creepy.”
KeepSafe is very intent on personalizing their experience for users, but collects the absolute minimum about who the customer is, and instead, focuses on what the customer does.
Don’t miss out!
“We don’t actually know anything about you, so we’ve designed the product in such a way that if you haven’t discovered some of the very rich features in KeepSafe, you’ll learn about them,” says Belkoura. “If we realize after three months of using KeepSafe, that there are certain things that you’ve never actually touched, we may notify you in the user interface: ‘Hey, did you know there’s this, that, and the other thing that can enhance your experience?'”
On the other hand, Belkoura sees tremendous power in profiles and identity — when the consumer chooses to share that information. He distinguishes this from what he calls ‘behind-the-scenes profile generation,” when companies intent on hyper-targeting collect data and aggregate that information into an identity profile to tailor ads.
“The dangerous part is when you have this data craze and you collect all this information about the customer who never wanted to explicitly give it up,” asserts Belkoura. But he is quick to compare this to an instance like Instagram or Snapchat, where users will choose to follow certain accounts, including certain brands, and then the platform can show the user content that is more tailored to their interests, including ads that they’ll be more interested in.
“Personalization is fantastic if you get this information from the consumer voluntarily — but that’s very vey different from this behind the scenes profile generation.”
In fact, he sees the success of his company as a cautionary note to others. “From our perspective, it’s important for fellow startups and companies to know that consumers do really care about their privacy, so the most important thing is to respect that — and take the popularity of services like ours as a signal not to mess with it too much.”
Join us for what will undoubtedly be an illuminating discussion on what successful companies are doing around identity unification, the best tech platforms to do it, and the consumers need to their privacy isn’t be ignored.
In this webinar, you’ll learn:
- Why customer identity is more critical than ever
- The challenges of collecting and unifying customer data
- Key tools for capturing customer data
- Best options for enriching existing customer profiles
- Methods and technologies to unify customer data
Andrew Jones, Insight Analyst, VentureBeat
Shawn Burns, Senior Vice President, Web and Digital Marketing, Schneider Electric
Scott Kabat, CMO, Prezi
Zouhair Belkoura, CEO, KeepSafe
This webinar is sponsored by Janrain. All research presented was done in advance and entirely independent of any sponsor.
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Avid Life Media, the company behind Ashely Madison — an online service that helps married people have affairs — is to offer a CAD$500,000 ($380,000) reward for information that leads to the “identification, arrest and prosecution” of the people responsible for a data leak that revealed the identities of millions of users.
The reward comes as unconfirmed reports emerge that two former Ashley Madison clients have committed suicide in the wake of the massive data breach. The revelation was made at a police press conference in Toronto earlier today, where Avid Life Media is headquartered.
“As of this morning, we have two unconfirmed reports of suicides that are associated to the leaks of Ashley Madison’s customer profiles,” said acting staff superintendent Bryce Evans.
He also warned that many people seeking data from the Ashley Madison leak could be targeted by other cyber-criminals.
— Toronto Police (@TorontoPolice) August 24, 2015
Founded in 2001, Ashley Madison has built a big business off the back of its slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair,” amassing almost 40 million users along the way. However, in mid-July the site was seemingly compromised by a “group” that called itself “The Impact Team,” which claimed to have stolen the personal data of millions of users.
The group claimed it had stolen the information because of Ashley Madison’s policy of not deleting personal information after a user had paid for it to be done. Then on August 18, the hackers posted a large chunk of data online, which has since been made available to search by anyone.
There have been many high-profile data breaches of late, but the nature of the Ashley Madison leak is particularly notable. Not only is it one of the biggest hacks ever, affecting 33 million accounts, but the sensitive nature of the data means there is a gargantuan trove of information on people who may have cheated on their spouses / partners — it’s feared that it could lead to the destruction of families and careers.
While Toronto Police states that the suicide reports are still unconfirmed, it does give the biggest hint yet that the impact of the information leak could extend much further.
“The ripple effect of the Impact Team’s actions has — and will continue to have — a long-term social and economic impact, and they have already sparked spin-offs for crime, and further victimization,” added Evans.
Editors note: This review has some minor story spoilers.
The new PlayStation 4 exclusive psychological horror game Until Dawn may go down as one of the finest collaborations of Hollywood and gaming.
Such collaborations have been tried for decades with underwhelming results, and this title could have been just one more cheap game version of an easily forgotton Hollywood horror B-movie. But the collaborators at Supermassive Games and horror film writers and directors Larry Fessenden and Graham Reznick took their time to craft an ingenious and intricate story, and they made full use of the next-generation console’s ability to create realistic human characters that really look like people in a horror movie.
The result of the four-plus years of work is a riveting, scary game that gives you a chance to save the characters in the story from making all-too-familiar mistakes in horror movies. Because the story is interactive, the experience is much more immersive and emotional. You can get to know the characters and feel much closer to them as they evolve, unlike the stereotypical characters who fill the body count in typical slasher movies. In the story, eight young adult friends are trapped on a remote mountain getaway after they find that there’s a killer loose among them. Your job is to make snap life-or-death decisions and save as many of them as you can as dawn approaches.
On the scary meter, Until Dawn ranks pretty high, as the creators actually tested the game with playtesters who were hooked up to biometric monitors. If a scene didn’t scare people as much as it could have, the developers went back to the drawing board. I measured my own pulse myself during part of the game. After one “jump scare” scene, my pulse shot up from around 70 to 108 beats per minute. I had plenty of little heart attacks while I played the 10 episodes of the game — twice.
But the title isn’t just about scaring the crap out of you. It also makes you ponder the relationships between characters and why you try harder to save some characters than others. The choices are not always black and white. The writing is really good and contemporary, with plenty of lines that will crack you up, like when a character says “Unfollow” after facing a psycho.
It’s also a story with a lot of foreshadowing and multiple layers. There’s a meta layer in the story where an analyst starts questioning you, the player, about how you think the “game” is going. The conversations with the analyst are just one part where you realize that nothing is as it seems on the mountain. And as the characters and story change, you realize that Until Dawn isn’t as predictable as you thought.
A long development cycle
Supermassive Games and Sony have been working on the game for a long time, enlisting the seasoned horror filmmakers to concoct a story with a lot of branching storylines. Until Dawn was originally scheduled to be released on the PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move motion controls. But the game was redone for the PlayStation 4 and the Dual Shock 4 controller, which also has motion-sensing capabilities. The new game has episodes that are akin to TV show segments. Between the two different games that were created, there are 10,000 pages of dialogue. There were so many branching stories that each story becomes like a main story unto its own, said Graham Reznick, co-writer of the game, in an interview with GamesBeat.
“We decided to rewrite everything,” said Reznick, regarding the switch from the PS3 to the PS4. “The PS4 had more facial animation and that meant that the actors could be much more nuanced and tell the story through a more cinematic dialog language.”
The game mechanics are similar to Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, where you have to periodically make binary choices, like hiding or running, to save someone’s life. You also have to be able to press the PlayStation controller buttons quickly and accurately in fast-moving situations. If you miss enough times, you may be sending a character to his or her death.
But the interesting twist that Until Dawn brings to the plot is the theory of the “Butterfly Effect,” or the chaos theory idea that suggests a small change in a system’s initial conditions can result in huge variations in a later state. The name was coined by Edward Lorenz, and it comes from an example where the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can cause subtle changes that affect the path of a hurricane weeks later. In the game, your smallest and biggest decisions can affect the outcome of the evening and who will survive “Until Dawn.” Sometimes, seemingly trivial choices will mean the difference between survival and death.
What you’ll like
Ultrarealistic human face animations
Most game publishers advertise their games as “cinematic.” But this lives up to that claim. I’ve never been fooled by 3D graphics as much as I was in this game. The human faces look real. The movements of the characters still need work, as does the degree of interactivity. But when you’re staring at the face of one of these characters, it’s truly an amazing feat.
The title combines Hollywood actors with next-generation facial animation technology from Cubic Motion, the company whose animation tools also created the face capture of actors in games such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Ryse: Son of Rome.
As I noted in a preview, I saw from the outset that the characters are stunningly realistic, as if you’re looking at the real actors and actresses, rather than video game animations. Several times, my family members saw me playing the game and they asked, “Is that a movie or a game?” (It’s not a game I would willingly show one kids, though).
I caught a glimpse of the face of the cockiest male character, Michael (played by Brett Dalton), with a tear dripping from one of his eyes. It made me consider just for a moment that there was something deeper behind his always-macho facade. And for the most part, the close-up animations of each person made me feel sympathy for each character, rather than the usual sense of hate because they were about do something stupid that was going to get them killed. You form an emotional bond with the character and fear for his or her safety. And this only happens because of the quality of the motion capture and 3D animation.
It is as if the combination of Cubic Motion, 3Lateral technology, and the Killzone Engine in this title has almost gotten us across the “uncanny valley,” or the long-held idea that the more animators try to create realistic human faces, the more there’s something spooky about the image, and the more it eludes their grasp.
Interesting gameplay choices
Sometimes the best thing is staying still. The game uses a motion-sensing Dual Shock 4 controller. Early on, you learn that making no choice at all, such as letting a bird be, is the right move. Sometimes you have to hide. In that case, your job is to keep the controller as still as possible. If your hands are trembling, then you’ll lose for certain. You might as well put the controller on the ground.
In the very first scene, the group of friends plays a poor-taste prank on one of the girls, Hannah, luring her into one of the men’s rooms at 2 a.m. on the promise of secret tryst. But most of the friends are hiding in the room, ready to snap pictures of the unaware visitor. The victim runs off into the snow alone, followed by her twin sister, who wasn’t in on the prank.
Running off alone is, of course, a major no-no in a horror story, and it is one that you can’t do anything about. Your job is to do something that helps them avoid a horrible fate. The women started running off into the snow and quickly found there was something spooky out there besides growling beasts. One of them finds a totem that signifies “death,” and you know you’re about to decide something important. You have to choose whether they should run through shortcuts or stay on a path. Eventually, they wind up on a cliff, trapped by their pursuer, and you have to choose which one of the girls will survive.Continue Reading ...
Here's the myth: venture capital is the driver of innovation in the United States and is the financial engine disrupting industries and starting new ones. After years in the venture industry, I completely understand why the venture industry loves this myth.