Pebble launches Dictation API to boost apps with voice recognition

A Pebble smartwatch is listening.

Smartwatch maker Pebble today announced a new Dictation API (application programming interface) that will give voice recognition capabilities to third-party apps for Pebble watches connected to iOS or Android devices.

Rather than develop its own voice recognition technology like Google and Apple, which have their own smartwatches, Pebble has packaged up technology from Nuance Communications.

“From keeping in touch hands-free to controlling smart homes and connected cars, the possibilities are endless. We’re excited to see what developers build with this sweet new tool,” Pebble community manager Joseph Kristoffer wrote in a blog post on the news.

If you own a smartwatch or even if you’ve tried one on, you know that speech is a useful interface for a device with such a small screen. So it’s quite reasonable for Pebble to introduce this API, even if the company didn’t go so far as to make it a first-party feature of Pebble watches.

Documentation for the new API is here.

IBM’s Josh Rochlin on how marketers must pay attention to the Internet of Things…now

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.32.11 PM

This sponsored post is produced in association with IBM Silverpop.

The ways consumers use mobile devices in their daily lives today compared to just a couple of years ago has changed dramatically. It’s no longer about sending a simple text message to your friend. It’s about keeping up with Instagram, streaming music from Spotify, and asking Siri what’s the best road to take you home. And with technology advancements improving mobile usability by the second comes a new mindset on how to approach the product.

“We used to have something in our homes called the TV. Now it’s that screen,” Josh Rochlin, Global Business Leader, Mobile Engagement at IBM Commerce, said in his interview with VentureBeat. “And we used to talk about doing things on our mobile app and we used to think that meant it’s while we were out and about. Well, today it could be the mobile device in your home. How does the marketer face the challenge of a newly empowered consumer?”

According to Forbes, mobile engagement providers will be a $32.4 billion market in the year 2018. So, it’s essential for marketers to crack the code and deliver exceptional services to the user.

“We’ve gotten to the point where the marketer’s role is very difficult,” Rochlin explains. “What do I do to juggle all of these pieces of data on the one hand, content on the other hand, and customer reactions on the other hand?”

“What we’ve done is allow the marketer to address their consumer through all those channels,” continues Rochlin, “while collecting all of the data and analytics that is available to the modern market…by exposing all of these different touchpoints to the marketer. So that somebody in content production can be speaking with someone in inventory, can be speaking with somebody else who’s in an outbound email content production. All of that has to be collaborative and we have to be able to deal with that in real time.”

Certainly, the daily glut of available data on its own is meaningless, says Rochlin. “If what we’re doing is simply collecting data and haven’t in place the tools to make meaning of that data — and then be able to react to it — well we might as well go home.” Instead, he emphasizes the need to set certain triggers in place: “So that I know that when I see a certain number of customers coming after a certain product — if I hear a certain amount of chatter about my product on Twitter, if I see a certain number of likes of Facebook — that creates a trigger that my marketing department can react to.”

But as important as making actionable sense of all this data, Rochlin warns marketers how critical it is to be looking at the Internet of Things very seriously and how it will impact them. “You will have a car that will be aware of how many gallons of gas it has in its tank that speaks to the gas station that’s four miles away and six miles away. Those staions will be bidding for you to come into their stations.”

For more with Rochline about what marketers need to be aware about with mobile engagement, watch the full interview conducted by VentureBeat.

exclamation-001Also…check out VB’s free on-demand webinar on the Five fundamentals of killer mobile engagement featuring Josh Rochlne as well as VB’s VP of Research John Koetsier. 

Sponsored posts are content that has been produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. The content of news stories produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact [email protected].

Magic Leap’s Graeme Devine on how to design for mixed reality and the impossible

Graeme Devine, the chief creative officer at Magic Leap, at GamesBeat 2015 with Dean Takahashi.

Graeme Devine has had a storied career in games, working on projects such as The 7th Guest at Trilobyte, Age of Empires 3 at Microsoft, and cool game technology Apple. He is now the chief creative officer at Magic Leap, which is creating “mixed reality” glasses that overlay animations onto the real world.

Magic Leap, which raised more than $542 million from investors led by Google, hasn’t fully described how it will create “cinematic reality” and other experiences with its glasses or when it will ship them. But it is one of the startups that has ignited a lot of interest from gamers and game developers about the frontiers of gaming. Magic Leap’s goal is to create animations that are indistinguishable from real life and to insert game characters and gameplay into our everyday lives.

Devine didn’t think the tech was possible. But when he saw a demo of it in Florida at Magic Leap’s headquarters, he was hooked. Other leading thinkers like sci-fi novelist Neal Stephenson have also joined the company.

I sat down with him at GamesBeat 2015 for a fireside chat. Here’s an edited transcript of our talk.

Graeme Devine of Magic Leap prefers the term "mixed reality" instead of "augmented reality."

Above: Graeme Devine of Magic Leap prefers the term “mixed reality” instead of “augmented reality.”

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

GamesBeat: For people who may not know, tell us a bit about your career in games.

Graeme Devine: Oh, golly. You all know me, right? I’ve been making games since the 1970s. My first game was on the TRS-80. If you remember the resolution of the TRS-80, you remember it was black and white and didn’t have a lot of pixels.

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I very quickly moved on to work at Atari for a little while. Worked for Lucasfilm in the ‘80s. I moved to the states and started a company called . Made a game called The 7th Guest, 11th Hour. Helped kickstart the whole CD-ROM industry. You can debate whether it’s Myst or 7th Guest that was the best. It’s obvious, but I’m just saying. Moved on to id Software as the lead designer on Quake III, which kicked off internet gameplay a little bit. Did well there. Went from there on to Microsoft, where I was the lead designer and lead writer on Halo Wars, the best of the Halo series. I’m gonna get killed for that.

From there I moved on to Apple and helped games at Apple. I was the guy that was like, “If you’re putting a virtual D-pad in your game, you’re saying your game is better on the Nintendo DS. Do you want to say your game’s better on a Nintendo DS?” Encouraging people to use this marvelous touch device that had this incredible touch screen and make games for that. Helped launch the iPad with some very cool games and get people to think about touch as an interface.

After that I kind of retired, walking my dogs on the beach in the morning, having my own little company, doing the occasional talk and so forth. Then along came Magic Leap.

GamesBeat: You seem to like to be on the cutting edge. What was attractive about Magic Leap?

Devine: The fact that I thought it was impossible. Rony Abovitz, the CEO, called up and said, “I think I need a games guy.” “Okay? Where are you?” “Florida!” “Not interested.” Then he calls up again and has me sign the NDA. He sends me a video of the technology. I said, “That is impossible! You can’t do that! You can’t insert characters into environments with occlusion and things. I’ll come to Florida.”

A tiny, photorealistic elephant dances in someone's hands on the Magic Leap website.

Above: A tiny, photorealistic elephant dances in someone’s hands on the Magic Leap website.

Image Credit: Magic Leap

GamesBeat: Can you describe this a bit for our audience? You aren’t using the term “augmented reality”?

Devine: Mixed reality. We think of mixed reality as the placement of objects in the real world as you interact with objects in the real world. We think of augmented reality as things that are just on top of the world. There was this mixed reality demo of robots actually running around the whole scene.

I went down to Florida and took a look. I stuck my head into this machine that was about the size of a refrigerator. Right away I’m thinking of that movie Brainstorm. Once I joined I had to buy everyone in the company that blu-ray, because apparently nobody’d seen it. There was a monster running around the desk in front of me. It was this blue monster, and I could control it with an Xbox controller. It was looking just like it was real, on the desk. I’m thinking, “That is weird!”

Then, in the back of the room, a much larger monster stood up and waved at me. I hadn’t realized it was there to begin with. I didn’t notice that monster. It was so naturally fit into the environment. When I went and focused on it, the monster on the table changed and went fuzzy. “Golly.” Well, I thought more than “Golly.” Mostly “Golly.” But this was insane. I’d never seen anything like it. I went from not moving to Florida to being in Florida and learning about making content for this, what it meant to make content in mixed reality.

GamesBeat: Magic Leap went on to raise more than half a billion dollars from Google and others. It seems like that completely changed the level of attention on you.

Devine: It’s still a startup. When I look at my window, the window in my office, I see rocket scientists. There’s the guy who wrote the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book. There’s optical people doing all of our optics. There’s Neal Stephenson. He’s hanging out. He’s a futurist. He’s talking to the optical people who do plasma weapons at something or other. I think, “I’m just a guy making games for this!” These people are buzzing. There is a visible buzz coming off of them. I just want to bask in that. That startup still exists. That’s the exciting thing about Magic Leap. It’s still that startup.

GamesBeat: You were in a similar situation at Apple, where everyone wanted to know about what you were doing. You had to be fairly secretive. What’s it been like to have to communicate out of that bubble?

Devine: At first it’s very hard to communicate out of that bubble. But at Apple, you learn how to work around it. And at Magic Leap, I can’t understand a lot of it, so I can’t tell you about it. But I can tell you about what it’s like to make games in which reality—I can tell you about the language we use. I can tell you about what it is to make something exist in the world. I can tell you about the innovation that our thinking’s had because, golly, two years ago we thought it was the bee’s knees putting something on a table. And then two years later, “Oh, that’s easy. Let me tell you about the evolution now.” That’s been interesting.

Magic Leap

Above: Magic Leap

Image Credit: Magic Leap

GamesBeat: What are some pros and cons of mixed reality when it comes to games?

Devine: Mixed reality and game design is really hard. One of the biggest challenges is making a mixed reality game design, because you can’t just be a better console game. You can’t just be a virtual reality game.

A true mixed reality game is something that takes the reality in front of you, takes this water bottle. It adds virtual content to it so the water bottle is involved in the game and there are characters doing something to that, so the tools can interact with each other. Or it can be playing cards or wooden blocks. It could be objects around your house. Then we can have something interesting that can’t exist anywhere else. You can’t have that game in VR. You can’t have that game on console. Only in mixed reality can that game exist. Then you’re on to something interesting.

GamesBeat: Does the technology have to be seamlessly perfect for this to work for the consumer?

Devine: The experience, for me, when I put it on, is so incredible. My memory is still, “Oh my God, this monster’s in the room with me.” And yet you know in your head that there’s no such thing as monsters. It is very compelling. It seems as if it is real.

GamesBeat: We have a war going on outside of Magic Leap now. Nintendo showed this video of Pokémon out in the real world, sitting on top of Google’s Ingress location-based gaming platform. It seemed very inspirational, to be able to join with a bunch of other people hunting down Pokémon in real places.

Devine: If anyone can get me on the beta for that, I’d love to. That seems to be what everyone wants and expects, right? I want to see X-Wing fighters and Marvel superheroes and Superman and have them interact with the world around me. I think that demonstrated very well the fantastic dream of mixed reality.

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Twitter Unveils New Reports For Businesses To Track Whether Their Ads Worked

twitter nyse Twitter is giving advertisers a new way to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns. The company is making this data available through what it’s calling conversion lift reports. Those reports are supposed to measure whether Twitter ads actually lead to an improvement in whatever business metric you’re focused on, whether it’s website clicks/signups, mobile app installs… Read More

Epic’s graphics guru Tim Sweeney on AR/VR, game engine wars, and simulating humans

Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, on stage at GamesBeat 2015 with Dean Takahashi.

Tim Sweeney, the chief executive of Epic Games, has seen computers become 100,000 times faster during the 25 years he has been making games. And he’s one of the few people in the world who knows what to do with all of that computing power and can predict where we’re heading.

His company of game designers has created titles such as Unreal Tournament and Gears of War, and it’s working on the upcoming Fortnite title. Epic also creates the Unreal Engine 4, a tool that makes it easier for other developers to create beautiful games with amazing worlds and realistic human characters. Epic’s Unreal is the engine of the game industry, and Sweeney is the one of the brains that makes it happen.

Yet Sweeney is concerned that all of the indie game developers that the Unreal Engine is enabling could face hard times if the industry doesn’t change. Getting games discovered when there are a million competitors is a huge problem, particularly as gamer attention is focused on just the top hit titles. Sweeney has given thought to this potential “indiepocalypse” and how to make life easier for developers in the game engine wars.

I caught up with him at our GamesBeat 2015 event, where we also talked about augmented reality, virtual reality, and the potential to create believable simulated humans. Here’s an edited transcript of our talk.

Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games, believes that perfect augmented reality will make screens obsolete.

Above: Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, believes that perfect augmented reality will make screens obsolete.

Image Credit: Michael O'Donnell/VentureBeat

GamesBeat: You mentioned in one of your talks that computers have become 100,000 times more powerful over the time you’ve been making games.

Tim Sweeney: That’s right. It’s an amazing transition, to go from an Apple II as my first computer to what we have now. In my pocket here I have a device that’s 100,000 times faster than my first PC. But we’re still largely on the same paradigm as we were 25 years ago. We still have a screen. It’s gotten smaller. We still have a keyboard. It’s gotten crappier. We’re still in this old-fashioned computing paradigm.

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Over the next decade I can see more progress in the human use of computers than we’ve seen so far in my lifetime prior.

GamesBeat: It would be interesting to see the console gamemakers continue to drive down on realism, making existing console games much more realistic — human faces and such. But you’ve also been very excited about VR and AR. It seems like a divergence from the world you’ve been driving. Why are you so excited?

Sweeney: Unlike previous advances, where Moore’s Law has driven incremental improvements, we’re seeing a complete revolution in the human-computer interface. To go from an experience where you’re look at a little monitor to one where you’re completely immersed in a realistic experience that combines objects in the real world and synthesized images—It’s going to enable entirely new kinds of applications.

It’s not just a revolution for gaming, but for all forms of human-computer interaction. Architects, industrial designers, social network users, we’re all going to be immersed in this in our daily lives in the future.

Fable Legends is being built in Unreal Engine 4

Above: Fable Legends is being built in Unreal Engine 4

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: In Shanghai, you said that about 10 years from now, perfect AR lenses are going to replace tablets, televisions, screens of all kinds. Do you really believe that?

Sweeney: It can be hard to extrapolate through that sort of technological change. This is not Moore’s Law. This is not incremental improvement. Let’s imagine an 8K display. They’re being manufactured now in small quantities. Imagine an 8K display per eye that follows your motion as you look around. Imagine a 120-degree field of view, filling your entire field of view, and imagine this miniaturized to the form factor of sunglasses.

We’re not talking about a big helmet that fits over your head. We’re talking about a device that could easily reach a billion consumers, or five billion, over the course of the next decade. That’s going to be a freeing experience. It has applications for all forms of software. Any sort of 2D desktop application you’re using now will be reinvented around the capabilities of AR.

Games are the easy problem right now, because we already know how we’re going to take a 3D game and translate it into AR. All the other aspects of it, though—Imagine social networks and chat, talking person to person over large distances when it looks like you’re really there. It’s going to change the world in many different ways.

GamesBeat: What about traditional game development? You brought up your own feelings about the potential for the “indiepocalypse.” Others have written about this, saying there are too many indie game developers out there. We have a few million of them. Are those folks going to be able to thrive in this world that’s coming?

Sweeney: We’ve gone through several revolutions in the game industry. The most recent has been the indie revolution, where it’s become possible for a couple of people in a couple of months to create a stand-alone game. With the move to VR and AR, it’s going to be a much harder environment. Everyone’s going to need tools to be able to build photorealistic experiences, to scale them up to the interactions you’ll expect in a physically realistic simulation. It’s going to be a competitive market. It’s going to lead to very high-quality game experiences surfacing.

This doesn’t necessarily mean huge experiences. We have this bullet train demo that we showed at Oculus Connect. With 12 developers working for 10 weeks, we made an awesome small experience. The initial VR market, since there are only going to be a few million units in the market by the end of 2016, will have mostly small experiences. But they’ll be awesome. We’ll see a move away from the simple 2D games that have dominated mobile development for a long time, toward very rich experiences with fairly stringent technological requirements.

Samsung Gear VR

Above: Samsung Gear VR

GamesBeat: The app stores, over the last few years, have been dominated by just a few games. That doesn’t bode well for all those indies out there. What would you like to see this market evolve into?

Sweeney: The market needs more structure. It’s insane that there are more than a quarter million games being released in the app stores every year. They’re each bought by two or three people. The average project is very small and has essentially a one percent chance of providing a living wage to its developers. That’s an unfortunate situation.

What we need is a much more stratified ecosystem. We need more large teams producing large, high quality experiences, and we need indie developers to be able to build on top of that. Ark: Survival Evolved, a recent Unreal Engine 4 game that was released, sold more than two million copies on Steam in the first few months. It has a thriving mod community around it with mod developers building things on top of that.

The advantage in that is that you’re building on the shoulders of giants. Instead of 250,000 games competing for top-level visibility, you have a genre of games with a leading game in it and a mod ecosystem around it. It’s a lot more opportunity for developers to be bigger fish in a smaller pond.

GamesBeat: Maybe 100 thriving sub-markets, then.

Sweeney: It’s the only plausible way that a million developers can earn a living in the game industry. There’s a path to that, but there’s not a path to 250,000 games all somehow being recognized by users.

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Microsoft offers up to $200 for your PC or $300 for your Mac when you buy a new Windows 10 computer


Microsoft wants to buy your old computer. The company has launched a new promotion called Easy Trade Up, where you essentially get money for your old PC or Mac when you buy a new Windows 10 computer.

The trade-in deal is available in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Taiwan, the U.K., and the U.S. The exact amount of money you receive depends on your device and country. In the U.S., Microsoft is offering up to $200 for old PCs and up to $300 for old Macs. Yes, even Microsoft is willing to pay more for those pricey Apple computers as they a higher resale value.


This is a four-step deal:

  1. Purchase product(s): Purchase a qualifying product(s). Click here to view the qualifying models
  2. Claim online: Submit your online trade-in claim on this website within 14 days of the date of your new qualifying purchase(s)
  3. <liSend us your old Laptop(s) or Macbook(s): Upon approval of your claim, package up your old qualifying Laptop(s) or Macbook(s) and send it back to us

  4. Receive your reward: Receive your payment within 28 days of validation of your claim

We counted 53 specific PC models from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, MSI, Razer, Samsung, Toshiba, and Sony’s Vaio on the U.S. list of qualified products. The other limitation is that your new PC must be purchased from a Microsoft Store between October 14 October 20, and have a minimum purchase price of $599.

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This isn’t the first time Microsoft has run a buyback program. In September 2013 for example, the company offered up to $350 for Apple, Android, and BlackBerry devices.

Microsoft is currently focusing on Windows 10 PCs, since that operating system launched on July 29. That said, the first Windows 10 phones arrive in November and Windows 10 Mobile will roll out to existing Windows Phone users in December, so we wouldn’t be surprised if the company ended up offering a similar deal for Apple, Android, and BlackBerry phones again later this year or sometime in 2016.

Microsoft never shares the outcomes of these offers, but if the company is still doing them, it must be seeing some sort of positive results.

More information:

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Raising $2.56B In IPO, First Data Opens Only 2.4% Up At $16.39, Now Trading Below IPO Price

CRXQ-G3UAAAGZKt After payments processor First Data priced its initial public offering at $16 per share last night, below the expected range of $18-$20, all eyes were on the company to see how the year’s biggest IPO — raising $2.56 billion — would perform in its debut. Ultimately, there were no fireworks. Trading under the FDC ticker on the New York Stock Exchange, First Data’s… Read More

Venture capital investments in India hit record high this year – research

Oct 15 Venture capital investments in India have hit a record high of $1.44 billion so far this year, surpassing the $1.17 billion for the whole of 2014, driven by a surge in early stage funding, research firm Venture Intelligence said on Thursday. Among the big deals last quarter was a $20 million investment in mobile-based news provider News in Shorts from hedge fund Tiger Global, according to the research firm.