Google lets Android developers build video recording and livestreaming into games

Streaming with YouTube Gaming.

Game developers on Android now have an easy way to turn their fans into livestreamers.

Google revealed today that it is opening up Android’s built-in gameplay recording to developers. Studios can enable players to start recording or broadcasting their gameplay with the touch of a button. This means Clash of Clans players, for instance, don’t need any extra hardware or software to begin making video content. They can then directly upload these clips to YouTube (or any other service). Google plans to launch this in the “coming months” as a way to give Android developers a way to reach YouTube’s massive audience that helps power the $34.8 billion mobile gaming industry.

Instantly start livestreaming games without needing to install anything extra.

Above: Instantly start livestreaming games without needing to install anything extra.

Image Credit: Google

Gaming is one of the biggest categories on YouTube. It is the reason why Google has pushed further into the game-video space, which SuperData Research estimates is worth $3.8 billion, with the YouTube Gaming app. So Google benefits on both ends if opening up video to more people increases content on YouTube while simultaneously acting as marketing for games on Android.

YouTube isn’t alone in gaming video. While it is the leader in video-on-demand, it is actually behind Twitch when it comes to live content. And both YouTube and Twitch are starting to face more competition when it comes to mobile with upstarts like Kamcord and Mobcrush pushing hard in that sector. But Google is using its reach with this latest move. In most cases, gamers will need extra software to start broadcasting to something like Kamcord or Twitch, but Google can see that developers build its option right into every game on Android. That could give YouTube the advantage here.

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Google beefs up ads, analytics, and updates for Android game developers

Google Play is bringing a ton of changes for game developers.

Game developers are about to get a handful of tools that should make their jobs easier.

Google announced a number of improvements to its suite of Google Play game services that should help developers make better apps and more money. These features include a way for studios to bypass the review process for updating their games and a new ad that acts an instant demo. Mobile gaming is a $34.8 billion industry, and Google wants a bigger share of that. The company is behind Apple when it comes to spending on mobile games in markets like the United States and Canada, but these tools could help close that gap.

During a presentation today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Google Play Games boss Morgan Dollar and product manager Ben Frenkel ran down the changes that developers can expect to see in the coming months.

Here are the major points:

  • Panda PopGame parameters management: This enables developers to instantly change certain things in their games without having to submit an official app update. If a ton of players are struggling with a certain enemy, the studio now has the option to tweak that with no hassle.
  • Predictive analytics: A new feature for Player Stats in Google Play services that shows the groups of players that are likely to spend money or leave an app.
  • Search trial run ads: Developers can now embed demonstrations of their games into ads inside of Google searches on Android.
  • Portrait video ads: The majority of people who play games and watch interstitial videos hold their phones vertically, and now Google is offering up an ad unit so that developers can reach those people without hitting them with an awkward-looking horizontal video.
  • Active user targeting for games: Developers will get the option to target ads directly at players who have spent more than 30 minutes playing games in the last 30 days.
  • Admob Mediation: Incentivized advertising built into Google Play.

One of the big things to notice about many of these features is that they are something we’ve already seen other companies doing, but now Google is building a toolkit that it gives to away to all of its developers for free. This reduces the barrier of entry for smaller studios, and it also reduces friction for a popular iOS developer trying to bring games to Android.

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After 0 successful submissions, Google doubles top reward for hacking a Chromebook to $100,000

An HP Chromebook.

Over the past six years, Google has paid security researchers over $6 million (over $2 million last year alone) since launching its bug bounty program in 2010. The company today expanded its Chrome Reward Program with two changes: increasing its top reward for Chromebooks and adding a new bounty.

Bug bounty programs are an excellent addition to existing internal security programs. They help motivate individuals and groups of hackers not only to find flaws, but to disclose them properly when they do, instead of using them maliciously or selling them to parties that will.

Last year, Google introduced a $50,000 reward for the persistent compromise of a Chromebook in guest mode. The company’s security team says it hasn’t received a single successful submission.

As such, Google has doubled the bounty, which was already the top Chrome reward, to $100,000. The company really wants someone to hack Chrome OS to pieces. “That said, great research deserves great awards, so we’re putting up a standing six-figure sum, available all year round with no quotas and no maximum reward pool,” Google declared.

Google has also added a Download Protection Bypass bounty. In short, the company is offering rewards for methods that bypass Chrome’s Safe Browsing download protection features. The qualifying reward rules are as follows:

  • Safe Browsing must be enabled on Chrome and have an up-to-date database (this may take up to a few hours after a new Chrome install).
  • Safe Browsing servers must be reachable on the network.
  • Binary must land in a location a user is likely to execute it (e.g. Downloads folder).
  • The user can’t be asked to change the file extension or recover it from the blocked download list.
  • Any gestures required must be likely and reasonable for most users. As a guide, execution with more than three reasonable user gestures (eg: click to download, open .zip, launch .exe) is unlikely to qualify, but it’ll be judged on a case-by-case basis. The user can’t be expected to bypass warnings.
  • The download should not send a Download Protection Ping back to Safe Browsing. Download Protection Pings can be measured by checking increments to counters at chrome://histograms/SBClientDownload.CheckDownloadStats. If a counter increments, a check was successfully sent (with exception to counter #7, which counts checks that were not sent).
  • The binary’s hosting domain and any signature cannot be on a whitelist. You can measure this by checking chrome://histograms/SBClientDownload.SignedOrWhitelistedDownload does not increment.

Safe Browsing provides lists of URLs that contain malware or phishing content to Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browsers, as well as to Internet service providers (ISPs). The service can also be accessed via the public API or directly by manually changing this URL to check whichever site you want.

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Google Play gets ‘Indie Corner’ to promote games from smaller studios

The Room is one of the more popular "indie" games on mobile.

SAN FRANCISCO — Remember when your teacher made you sit in the corner after you did something bad and you would spend all that time thinking up crazy ideas for video games? Well, Google is bringing that feature to its Android app market … sorta.

Indie Corner is a new feature in the Google Play store that promotes more games from smaller studios. The company announced this initiative during its event as part of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The idea behind indie corner is to bring more attention to games from independent studios by maintaining an ever-present vertical inside of Google Play that is always showing cool new games from those companies. To take part, developers need to submit their game to Google for review. This could help some smaller studios get a piece of the $34.8 billion mobile gaming market while also giving Android more cachet with a core gaming audience that sees iOS as a far superior platform thanks to its history of support from developers.

GamesBeat asked Google how it defines an “indie game,” and the company laid out some of the criteria it is using.

“It has to be a relatively small company,” Google Play spokesperson Joshua Cruz told GamesBeat. “We think 11 to 15 employees — something along those lines. And then it’s the type of game. Is trying to do something creative or different stylistically.”

The term “indie” has taken on a nebulous meaning over the last 10 years as it seems to have more to do with what the end product looks and plays like than whether or not the studio responsible for the game is actually independently owned. And, technically, Valve — owner and operator of Steam — is independent. But Google recognizes that the term is strange, which is why it hasn’t built an algorithm to figure out what to include in Indie Corner.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be assessed by humans,” said Cruz. “They’ll make the call.”

And while Google wants great games, it also made it clear that it doesn’t hurt if a potential Indie Corner game exemplifies all of the services available to Google Play developers.

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FinLeap’s solarisBank to offer Banking-as-a-Platform so startups can ride fintech gravy train

Banking-as-a-Platform This time the Berlin-based company builder (to use the preferred terminology) is investing and betting on the underlying regulatory and financial technology infrastructure — the picks ‘n’ shovels, if you will — in the form of solarisBank, a fully-licensed digital bank designed to power an array of fintech services. Read More

Kit CRM’s new API brings us one big step closer to AI ’employees’

kit-crm-api-ai-assistant

Go on. Take a moment for yourself. Why not sit on the beach, sip a piña colada, and just enjoy the view? That was, after all, the promise of running an ecommerce business — doing little to nothing while your website makes money for you in the background.

In reality, we don’t need a study, survey, or report to tell us that’s not how it works. Ecommerce, even for small businesses, is hard and time-consuming.

Fortunately, this is the 21st century, a time when artificially intelligent machines and apps are rising up to help us. Sure, they’ll eventually take over the world, and we humans will be used as nothing more than batteries, but let’s enjoy it while we can.

Kit CRM represents the new breed of artificially intelligent virtual assistant, and today the bot that runs your ecommerce business via SMS text messages is introducing an API that extends its reach beyond emailing customers, running Facebook ads, and managing Instagram-sponsored photos.

“The goal here is to create the ultimate employee that goes beyond marketing,” Michael Perry, CEO and founder of Kit CRM, told me. “And if our focus is on building that virtual person, we need others to help us add relevant skill sets.”

In fact, all joking aside, this is a significant step in the evolution of AI and its ability to help small businesses survive. Kit is, essentially, providing an expert in various fields of marketing and ecommerce management for the price of a daily coffee — an ‘assistant’ that you command from almost any mobile device.

But that’s just the beginning.


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Since Kit is now offering an API, future connected apps will be able to provide functionality beyond the core of Kit’s original, ecommerce-focused intention. And they can do that in an environment run via SMS, which opens up a large portion of the globe. Kit currently has SMS infrastructure in place in 20 countries and works in tandem with five commerce platforms.

The launch partners using Kit’s API are Bold, ShopPad, New Leaf Labs, Yotpo, and Shoe Lace, each of which adds additional functionality to Kit’s existing capabilities (a subject we’ve covered at length before). So how does it work in practice?

Let’s say Kit is monitoring your sales and inventory levels, and it notices that two of your lines aren’t selling. Because Kit shares data with Bold via the API, Bold can work out the discount levels and durations required to spark interest. Kit sends you a text message asking if you want to apply Bold’s discount plans. If you reply ‘Yes,’ the sale begins.

That’s when Kit takes over again. It will work out how to promote that sale and will, for example, offer you the chance to build an ad that pushes the suggested discount to Facebook. Another ‘Yes’ via SMS, and an advert, which Kit shows you as a preview, is up and running.

Three text messages from Kit and two short replies from the user are all it takes to orchestrate a two-week discount and run an advertisement to promote it.

“The Bold apps integration is on of my favorites,” Perry said. “This is an amazing example of Kit killing two birds with one stone.”

kit-crm-bold-apps-discount

In addition to Bold’s discount calculation app, Kit’s API now works with four other systems. Shoelace handles requests to retarget website visitors within social ads, ShopPad deals with abandoned carts via its new Kit Karts app, Yotpo integration offers a chance to leverage five-star reviews, and New Leaf Labs deals instantly with website errors, such as 404 pages.

Of course, there is one inherent problem with opening a solution like Kit up to a range of other systems. With every partner added, you add complexity and the possibility that the advice from one system unravels or contradicts the information from another.

“You’re right,” Perry said. “You just can’t have four loyalty apps that are competing for time and attention. Initially, there are going to be some baby steps, including only launching one partner for each major function at the moment. We’re traveling seas nobody has navigated yet, so we’ll have to build in some preference modifiers into the app ecosystem to ensure they aren’t stepping on each other.”

The other issue is maintaining ease of use. Kit’s primary selling point is that it helps you run your business via SMS and a few simple replies. If you now have to understand other apps, that could impact the solution’s low barrier to entry.

In reality, however, the way Kit integrates the partner apps’ data and findings means that it looks and feels the same as before. It is simply able to ask you more questions now. Of course, that won’t help you add the right apps to your Kit armory, so what does Kit have up its sleeve to assist with education, understanding, and knowledge of its wider ecosystem?

“At some point we’ll have some deep thinking technology that can give a gap analysis, and explain which apps are missing,” Perry said.

So Kit is expected to suggest the right apps based on your type of business and advise you which of those partner solutions would work best for you. Smart.

Kit’s new skills are available from today. All customers on the Pro plan, which starts at $25 per month, can augment Kit with each partner’s features and functions. Users will need to have accounts with each app they add, and some of those apps have separate charges or subscriptions.

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Skype for Web gets phone calls, YouTube embeds, guest accounts, and notifications

skype_logo

Skype today updated Skype for Web with a slew of new features. The service now lets you call mobile phones and landlines, watch YouTube videos, add non-Skype users, and get notifications.

Launched in June 2015, Skype for Web is the browser version of Skype — just fire up web.skype.com and sign in. You’ll be able to access your Skype contacts and conversations without having to download and install the app. Skype for Web supports Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

First up, you can now call mobile phones and landlines directly from Skype for Web. As with any Skype app, you’ll need Skype credit or a subscription to make an international call. To use the feature, click on the call phones tab, select your destination, dial the number, and hit the call button.

skype_for_web_calls

When you pasted a URL in Skype for Web, the service now includes an image from the webpage. For YouTube, you can now watch the video directly in Skype for Web. You even get all the same volume and full-screen controls you have in YouTube.

sfw-youtube-image

Skype for the desktop supports shareable links that let anyone join the conversation. Skype for Web now does, as well, so you can create a chat with anyone by pressing +New and then “Share conversation.” You’ll get a unique conversation URL — anyone that clicks it can join your chat, even if they’re not currently a Skype contact or don’t even have Skype.

Last, but not least, Skype for Web now has notifications. You’ll get a ping for instant messages and calls, as long as you’re signed into Skype for Web, even if you’re in another browser tab or app.

It took the Microsoft-owned company way too long to bring Skype to the Web. It’s great to see Skype investing in the app with major feature additions.

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Full Harvest wants to fix the big farm food waste problem at source

Odd strawberry Modern farming has a huge problem with food waste, stemming from the mismatch between specific food buyer requirements vs Mother Nature delivering an unsaleable overabundance and/or producing knobbly fruit and veg that gets devalued on aesthetic grounds. But what happens when you throw a bit of technology into the mix? Read More

Emergency Managers Look at Social Media to Share Information

Local emergency managers are practicing tweeting and updating their statuses to make sure they will be prepared to use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to share information in a disaster. Dubuque County Emergency Management Director Tom Berger tells the Dubuque Telegraph Herald he is looking at setting up social media pages for his agency to better reach younger residents.