20 April, 2017

Google Earth just rolled out its biggest update yet - here's what's new

If you've ever wanted to go on a bar crawl through Europe to visit all of Ernest Hemingway's favorite haunts, Google Earth has you covered.
In a massive update , the virtual globe has introduced a feature called "Voyager." No longer will you be limited to only exploring places you've heard about, nor will you have to resort to randomly clicking on areas of the planet in hopes of finding a gem. Instead, "Voyager" presents you with dozens of curated journeys around the globe.
Each voyage is centered around a theme. " Museums Around the World " will take you to a Street View of 28 museums in every corner of the globe, ranging from the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. If natural formations are more your speed, " Earth View " will show you "the most striking and enigmatic landscapes available in Google Earth."
Each location in a voyage comes with a blurb explaining the landmark on your screen. Some also have  360° video content, while others have YouTube videos embedded - the " Beautiful Birds of Paradise " voyage employs clips from "Planet Earth" narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
If you're planning a trip, Google Earth has itineraries that will show you all the best spots to visit in cities like Tokyo, London, and Mexico City.
The update also introduces an "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature. When clicked, it will take you to a random location or landmark on the globe and give you a description from Wikipedia.
Also of note is that Google Earth is no longer a download-only program - it can now be accessed from any computer with Google Chrome installed, with support for the other big browsers coming soon.
Watch Google's visually stunning announcement video

19 April, 2017

Facebook's next big thing is augmented reality.

At the company's developer conference on Tuesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the wraps off his plans to "mix the physical and digital in whole new ways" using AR, the nascent technology being worked on by Apple, Microsoft, Snapchat Magic Leap, and more.
Starting Tuesday, Facebook will give developers the ability to build their own AR effects for the Facebook app's camera. The move is a direct attack on Snapchat, which pioneered AR camera effects but has yet to open its technology up to developers.
"Even if we were a little slow to add cameras to our apps, I'm confident that we're going to be the ones to push this augmented reality platform forward," said Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg said he eventually envisions glasses that display virtual objects in the real world, like the technology being worked on by Magic Leap and Apple.

09 April, 2017

SpaceX spent ‘less than half’ the cost of a new first stage on Falcon 9 relaunch

Just how much is SpaceX actually saving with its reused Falcon 9 rockets? You might expect it to not be much, given that the SES-10 launch is the first time they’ve reused a rocket thus far. But SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told the Space Symposium conference that the cost of refurbishing the Falcon 9 rocket that originally flew the CRS-8 Space Station resupply mission last year for SES-10 was “substantially less than half” what it would have cost to build a brand new one.

That’s despite doing a lot to bring the recovered rocket back to operational condition, Shotwell said, according to Space News. Which means cost savings should only go up, since SpaceX did “way more on this one than we’re doing on future ones” in terms of refurbishment activities, she told the annual space industry conference.
Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean drastically cheaper launches compared to what SpaceX charges now (around $62 million, according to the company’s published figures). Elon Musk has discussed previously how much money SpaceX has spent to date on developing its reusable rocket tests, costs which will have to be recouped even as the expense associated with individual launches goes down over time.
Shotwell also talks about how SpaceX will attempt to recover the payload fairing used on launches, too. This is the housing used to protect whatever the rocket is delivering to space (satellites, supplies, etc.) from forces during launch, including aerodynamic heating. SpaceX recovered one section of the two-piece fairing during the SES-10 launch, and found that it was actually in pretty good shape. Each fairing is a $6 million expense, so reuse of that component would help decrease launch costs further still.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said after the successful launch that the next goal for the company is to get its reuse window down to 24 hours for following one launch with another using the same rocket.

07 April, 2017

Twitter is getting rid of the egg avatar (because that will totally fix the abuse problem)

Everyone knows that Twitter has a harassment problem. And while the service has tried things like banning abusive users (both on a temporary and permanent basis) it hasn’t really fixed the problem.
Today, they’re announcing another sweeping change that fails to address the real problem: they’re cracking the egg.
In a long-winded post the service announced they are replacing the default egg with a unisex profile picture resembling a head and shoulders silhouette.
Beginning in 2010, all new accounts started with their default profile picture as an egg. Since then it has become an integral part of the Twitter brand. Everyone, even non-hardcore Twitter users, know the egg. Even CNN frequently features the egg when they show tweets from politicians and other celebrities.
Twitter gave a bunch of reasons for the switch. Some, like the fact that a more generic profile picture should encourage new users to actually upload a real profile picture of themselves, make sense.
But one reason for the switch was related to harassment.
Specifically, Twitter said that since abusive accounts often have the egg as a profile picture, there is now “an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behavior.”
Gee, ya think?
What Twitter isn’t understanding is that abusive tweets sent from an egg account will now just be abusive tweets sent from a silhouette account. Switching up the profile picture may be putting a band-aid on the problem, but it does nothing to fix harassment in the long run.
An abusive tweet is an abusive tweet, whether it’s next to an egg, a silhouette or a real person’s avatar.
Plus, as a byproduct, Twitter is killing off yet another part of Twitter’s unique internal language and identity — just like they did with @replies and favorites.

06 April, 2017

Twitter launches a ‘lite’ mobile web app that’s optimized for emerging markets

Twitter has taken the wraps off a new data-optimized version of its service that it hopes will be a hit among emerging.

It’s called Twitter Lite and, unlike similar ‘Lite’ apps from Facebook and others, it is browser-based — living at mobile.twitter.com. It is essentially a data-optimized version of the regular Twitter service that, the company said, loads fast and will work well on limited internet connections. It added that, already, “hundreds of millions” visit the mobile app each month but now it wants to expand that reach.

A web app isn’t as powerful as a native app, but Twitter said it had opted for this approach because it believes it can make its service accessible to new users. “It works on most smartphones and tablets without an App Store or Google Play account. You won’t need an email account or credit card either,” it said.
The app also comes in at less than 1MB — making it well-sized for cheaper handset that don’t have a lot of storage — while on Android phones it includes notifications and alerts, offline access and the potential for a home screen app.

Only 25% of Daily Internet Users in Rural India Are Women

The gender divide among internet users in rural India is quite stark. According to a March 2017 report from Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and Kantar IMRB, women made up just 25% of daily internet users in rural India in 2016.

Internet User Share in Urban vs. Rural India, by Gender, 2016 (% of total)

That gap was much less pronounced in urban areas, where women accounted for 40% of daily internet users. Women with jobs accounted for 7% of daily internet users in rural areas, compared with 8% in cities. Meanwhile, women without jobs made up 15% of daily internet users in cities, but that figure was just 10% in rural parts of the country.

The pattern of lower technology adoption rates by women in India can also be seen in other ways. In July 2016, GSMA reported that men were 25% more likely than women to own a SIM card, and 62% more likely to use the internet.

Overall, internet penetration rates in rural areas still trailed those in cities by a significant margin. IAMAI/Kantar IMRB reported that 59% of urban dwellers were internet users, compared with just 17% of those in rural environments.

It is estimated that there will be 429.2 million internet users in India this year, representing 33.5% of the population.

03 April, 2017

App Annie: Android to top iOS in app store revenue this year

Apple will lose its lead over Android in terms of revenue generated by mobile apps this year, according to a new report from App Annie, out today. However, the firm’s estimate is based on including third-party Android app stores in its forecast, not just Google Play. When the Apple App Store is pitted against Google Play alone, Apple is expected to maintain its lead through 2021, the report says.
App Annie is predicting worldwide mobile app downloads to surpass 352 billion in 2021, with gross consumer spend across all the app stores to surpass $139 billion.

The iOS App Store will account for a large chunk of that spend, as it’s expected to generate over $60 billion in 2021. Google Play will generate $42 billion, and third-party stores, $36 billion.
Those third-party stores – which include the Android app marketplaces offers by Tencent, Baidu, Xiaomi, Huawei, and others – accounted for $10 billion in revenue last year, and will grow to $20 billion in 2017, the report estimates.

The market for Android apps is growing thanks in large part to mobile adoption in China as well as other emerging markets, particularly Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia.
This will impact app downloads, too. Android downloads from both Google Play and elsewhere will at an annualized rate of 23 percent to 299.9 billion by 2012.
App downloads are more evenly distributed across countries around the world, but revenue is another matter, App Annie also found.
According to its data, the top five countries by downloads – China, India, U.S., Brazil, and Indonesia – accounted for 54 percent of the downloads last year, and this won’t change much through 2021.

However, the top countries by revenue – China, U.S., Japan, South Korea, and U.K. – accounted for 75 percent of app store revenue in 2016. This is expected to grow to 85 percent by 2021.
The firm chalked up this shift to increased spending on games and subscriptions from existing smartphone users in mature markets like the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, but especially the maturing market that is China.
China, because of its vast population and growing middle class, still plays a key role when it comes to app store revenues, but its market is maturing, the report notes. The majority of Chinese app users are expected to settle into patterns of habitual use by 2021, which will allow revenue growth to be sustained even though downloads may slow.

Downloads in China will grow at an annualized rate of 19 percent from 2016 to 2021, while consumer spend will grow 24 percent to $56.5 billion. In larger cities, much of the smartphone market in China is already saturated, meaning a lot of growth will come from other regions across the country.
India, on the other hand, is still in the early stages of the app market maturity cycle, and will see significant download and revenue growth through 2021. Downloads will grow 28 percent to nearly 23 billion by 2021, and app store spend will grow an annualized rate of 75 percent to $2.1 billion.
Despite India’s growth, consumer spend will be lower in the region because of a variety of factors, including more limited purchasing power and a culture that focuses more on saving versus spending on games and entertainment, App Annie says. It suggests that app developers targeting India consider other revenue models, like advertising.