subscribe: Posts | Comments

With iOS 8, Siri Might Be Able To Name That Tune Shazam-style


Quick! That catchy new track is playing over the gym’s loudspeaker, and you’ve been meaning to figure out its name for days.

Grab an Android phone. Say, “Okay, Google — What song is this?”

Within a few seconds, it’ll spit out an answer. (plus a link to buy the song, if you’re so inclined.)

But what if you grab an iPhone, instead? You bring up Siri, and say “Siri, what song is this?”

Maybe she’ll just sit there. Maybe she’ll crack a witty one-liner. Either way, she won’t have any idea what song is playing.

According to the latest iOS 8 rumors, Apple wants to fix that.

Citing the ever-insightful “people with knowledge”, Bloomberg reports that Apple is working with Shazam on a music fingerprinting/identification feature that’ll be tied into Siri right alongside your appointment reminders and sport score updates.

So what’s in it for Shazam? Amongst other things , this presents an opportunity for Shazam to build a semi-permanent revenue stream right into iOS. If Shazam can convince Apple to cough up a few cents every time a user clicks the “buy track” button after Siri IDs a track, that’s easy money.

We’re just about two months away from Apple’s annual WWDC conference, where the company traditionally debuts the latest major release of iOS. You know what the means? It’s iOS rumor season. Except lots, and looots of iOS rumors over the next few weeks – partly because more people are being clued into what Apple has been working on, and partly because others get the itch to make stuff up when they know an announcement is looming.

While there’s no shortage of song identification apps on the App Store, iOS is the only operating system amongst the top 3 (the others being Android and Windows Phone) to not have it built right in. Android offers it up right on the homescreen through the aforementioned voice-search widget, while Windows Phone tucks it right behind the device’s ever present search button.

Article source:

Created For Imogen Heap, Mi.Mu Turns Hand Gestures Into Music


First made for British singer-songwriter Imogen Heap, the Mi.Mu glove turns the arms and hands of performers into musical instruments. Currently on Kickstarter, the project has raised about £67,000 (about $112,800) so far and has 16 days to reach its £200,000 ($336,620) goal.

Eventually, Heap and Mi.Mu’s developers hope the glove and its software, which will be made open source, will reach a wide range of users.

“Different musicians have different wishes in terms of connecting with the audience. For Imogen, her music that she creates in studio is very rich and layered and full of interesting sounds that she spent hours meticulously crafting and sampling,” says Kelly Snook, an engineer and musician on Mi.Mu’s eight-person development team.

“She found that it didn’t translate well in a performance, when she had to turn a knob or a fader or push a button. Her motivation was partly to get away from all the buttons and just gesturally do something in an intuitive way.”

Mi.Mu works by capturing movement and hand gestures with analog bend sensors. That information is then sent wirelessly via the x-OSC [a wireless input-output board] board on its wrists to a computer.

Software developed for Mi.Mu enables performers to map that data to musical control signals and combine different gestures and movements to make more complex controls. The gloves can also be programmed to control third-party music production and editing software.

Other people who have shown interest in Mi.Mu include an acrobatic DJ and an ice dancer.

“A lot of people are interested in the boundary between music and dance being blurred even further. A dancer becomes a musician, a musician becomes a dancer, that possibility is really interesting to some people,” says Snook.

Other use cases for Mi.Mu include potentially allowing virtual reality hardware makers to insert realistic hand movements into environments. It can also be used to recognize sign language. An early backer recently used the glove to trigger the Village People song “YMCA” with American Sign Language.

The first pair of Mi.Mu gloves were custom-made for Heap. Fingertips were left off so she could play the piano and program the gloves while wearing them. The palms are also open because Heap frequently claps her hands while looping.

Mi.Mu had to be wireless so she cold move around freely during shows and fit into Heap’s performance aesthetic. While working to bring the Mi.Mu glove toward production, its development team also had to figure out how to fit all of its components into a glove that could stretch enough to fit several hand sizes.

“There is a big constraint when you are producing a piece of tech, to be not obtrusive and attractive. [Heap] likes the techie look, which is fortunate because it’s hard to remove it completely,” says Snook. ” She wanted a little bit of the tech element, but also an elegance you don’t see in a lot of game controllers or bulky things.”

Before Mi.Mu’s Kickstarter campaign launched, the gloves had been funded and used primarily by Heap, but she “wanted this to be a universally accessible experience for people,” says Snook.

At £750 ($1,260) for a kit with the components to make a full glove, Mi.Mu is still fairly expensive, but development team hopes that anyone interested (including hacker groups and educational organizations) will get in touch with them through the Kickstarter page to find out ways to afford Mi.Mu or how they can contribute to its development.

Less pricey perks include a download or autographed CD copy of the first track written and performed by Imogen Heap with Mi.Mu. Supporters can also pledge 150 pounds for a glove without the electronic components or 200 pounds to attend a three-day workshop and learn how to make it.

“We are very, very interested in engaging the maker community. I think that there is a barrier because of the high cost for a lot of people and so we could like to encourage people to get in touch with us even if they aren’t able to pledge the levels,” says Adrian Lausch, a member of Mi.Mu’s team. “We want to reduce the barriers to getting involved.”

Right now the glove is about a “90% finished product” and is entering its final stage of development, says Lausch. As Mi.Mu moves toward completion, the team will work closely with collaborators who have pledged to receive a prototype of the gloves.

They will receive their pair by August and help the team finalize the design by the end of this year. Then the team hopes to send out all other glove pledges before Christmas.

People who pledge to receive a glove will get access to its software code before it is made open source in mid to late 2015.

“They will really influence what the final product looks like, but on the other hand, it will not look vastly different from what you see on the campaign. It will still have bend sensors, x-OSC, and LED lights. On the surface, the software will not change all that much but under the hood it will be much more advanced than at the moment,” says Lausch.

“Our Kickstarter campaign is to get to the point where we can manufacture at volume and at a much lower cost because that is our ultimate goal.”

To learn more about Mi.Mu, visit The Gloves Project or its Kickstarter page.

Article source:

Financial Management App Developer Qapital Launching To Challenge


Qapital, a new financial management app developer based in Europe, is preparing to launch in the U.S. and Sweden as it looks to challenge‘s dominance in personal financial management, TechCrunch has learned.

The Stockholm-based company aims to help consumers “live large” by “saving small.”

Backed by a few angel investors, the company’s app differs from most account management software in its ability to actually save money.

Users can set goals to save against — like money for a vacation, or a new car or television, or a limited edition replica of the “one ring.” As they hit their savings or spending targets, money is transferred from their bank accounts into a savings account managed by Qapital’s banking partner.

That’s right, Qapital is an actionable savings app. The money that folks save, or designate for saving, is transferred from an existing bank account into what the company calls a Qapital Savings Account, held by the company’s FDIC-ensured banking partner.

“We’re going after the 20% or 30% of your income that’s spent on crap,” founder and CEO George Friedman tells me. “It’s that huge chunk of your money that you don’t remember spending or don’t care about at the end of the month.”

Qapital has its roots in one of Sweden’s largest brokerage banks, Avansa, which is where Friedman worked before launching the startup.

Friedman had previously held banking jobs in New York at Nomura Securities and counts one of his former executives as a mentor and investor. In all, some 15 angel investors have put money into Qapital, which will begin seeking a $5 million Series A round following its launch in the U.S. and Sweden.

“We’re demoing with full features in a few weeks,” Friedman says. “We’ve been doing account aggregation and save-to-spend. The savings piece, and moving money into our partnering banks, will launch after the summer.”

Article source:

Line Starts Letting Users Make And Sell Their Own Stickers On Its Messaging Platform


Mobile messaging platform Line, which is gunning for a billion registered users by 2015 and is also reportedly considering an IPO later this year, has added a new feature aimed at boosting engagement on its platform. The feature could also result in it pulling in more revenue via its secondary money-maker, sticker sales.

The new feature, called Line Creators Market, lets Line users make and sell their own sticker sets via the messaging platform. Sets of stickers are comprised of a total of 42 images which sticker creators upload via the new tool. Image submissions will be reviewed by Line, and those that pass muster can then be sold by their maker on Line’s Web Store. Each sticker set will be priced at JPY 100 (about $1). Line said it intends to take 50% of the proceeds from any sales, sending the other 50% to the creator’s bank account (minus any local tax requirements).

Line introduced its main stickers feature to the messaging app in October 2011, allowing users to augment their text messages with visual emoticons and cartoon characters doing funny things. Paid stickers have since become a substantial revenue stream for Line, although far smaller than Line’s main one: games. Last November Line reported that 20% of its Q3 revenue came from stickers vs 60% from games.

It said today that the new crowdsourced sticker creation feature will help it localize content on its platform faster, to further grease the wheels of global expansion as it seeks to rapidly scale its user-base. As of the start of this month Line was reporting 400 million registered users so it needs to more than double that in the coming year+ to hit its own target. And sticker creators are of course required to have — or register for — a Line account in order to start making and selling stickers on its platform.

“Line will further be able to answer the needs of users through the sale of stickers made by creators worldwide, and hopes to further speed up its global expansion by offering even more localized stickers,” it noted in a press release.

Line does work to localize its sticker content for different markets and even different communities within markets — but what better way to speed up that work than co-opting local people into the effort, and giving them a further incentive to spread the app to their friends.

Although Line users can start creating stickers from today, sales for any sets that pass their review won’t start til May. They will initially be available to users in Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and Thailand — where Line’s Web Store has so far been rolled out. The company will presumably be looking to quickly expand the reach of the store into more global markets so that the new Creators Market feature can underpin its wider user-base expansion efforts.

Line said it plans to expand its Web Store into more countries and regions — but did not put any timeframe on such expansion. The store launched last September, starting in Japan.

Article source:

Weibo’s IPO May Underwhelm, But Don’t Discount Other Chinese Tech Stocks


Weibo, the influential microblogging service owned by Sina, has reportedly raised just $285.6 million in its initial public offering, according to Bloomberg.

Weibo, which has about 143.8 million monthly active users and is known for its impact on public discourse in China, sold 16.8 million American Depositary Shares (ADS) for $17 each. Those figures mean it underperformed Sina’s own expectations, which were to sell 20 million ADSs at between $17 and $19 per share.

The service’s underwhelming IPO, however, should not be taken as a harbinger of doom for other Chinese tech companies that plan to list soon on U.S. stock exchanges.

Though Weibo’s user base is still growing steadily, it now has to compete with a host of messaging apps. Chief among those WeChat, which was created by Tencent, one of China’s biggest Internet companies and a major Sina competitor.

Messaging apps like WeChat have successfully made revenue through games and the sale of stickers. Weibo’s road to monetization, however, has been less clear. Its U.S. counterpart Twitter has gradually figured out a strategy to make money, but Weibo has said it faces additional challenges like censorship by the Chinese government.

In its IPO filing, Weibo stated:

“Although our active user base has increased over the past several years, regulation and censorship of information disseminated over the Internet in China may adversely affect our user experience and reduce users’ engagement and activities on our platform as well as adversely affect our ability to attract new users to our platform. Any and all of these adverse impacts may ultimately materially and adversely affect our business and result of operations.”

Other tech firms seem better poised to benefit from the resurgence of interest in Chinese IPOs since 2012, when share prices fell after several firms pulled out of the U.S. stock market in response to accusations of improper accounting by regulators.

China’s largest e-commerce company, Alibaba Group, will reportedly file for its share sale next week. The valuation of its IPO may be even more than Facebook, which raised $16 billion. One of Alibaba’s main rivals,, also filed for a U.S. listing worth $1.5 billion in January.

Though the rapid expansion of China’s e-commerce market is expected to begin slowing down this year, it still enjoys much faster growth than other countries like the U.S.

Chinese consumers spent RMB 1.3 trillion (about $209 billion) in 2012 and are expected to spend RMB 3.5 trillion ($563 billion) by 2015, according to Bain, especially as third-party payments and online payments gain traction.

Article source:

Samsung And Amazon Team Up For Custom Galaxy Kindle E-Book App


So much for trashing the Kindle. Today Samsung is announcing a new app, Kindle for Samsung, created in partnership with Amazon, that will let Galaxy device users using Android 4.0 and up, starting with the Galaxy S5, to buy and read content from Amazon’s catalog of magazines, newspapers and books. The app will going live across 90 countries this month.

Amazon and Samsung are also launching a free book service, Samsung Book Deals, for users of the app. This is a referral program, where those who get recommended the service, and then use it, get up to 12 free books each year from a selection provided by Amazon.

The move is interesting for a few reasons. The first is that it’s a sign of how, although Samsung is quite happy to throw shade on Amazon from the point of view of hardware competition, at the end of the day it continues to look for interesting content that will keep people coming back to its own platform. And if that means partnering with a rival that has become synonymous with e-reading, so be it.

Second, considering that tablets tend to be the device of choice for reading (for those who don’t use e-readers, that is), this is also an important competitive move for Samsung to have a key e-book feature on its tablet devices.

Samsung in 2013 accounted for about 19% of all tablet sales, according to Gartner. That still some way behind Apple and the iPad (which took 36% of all sales) but Samsung is gaining ground fast, picking up several percentage points while Apple lost nearly 20. Android is now the world’s biggest tablet platform finally overtaking iOS.

Third, judging by Samsung’s bigger plans with Tizen smartphones, it’s clear that the company continues to look for a way of carving out a position for itself to further differentiate among the sea of Android players and the huge field of OEMs in general. A custom-built Kindle app provides some degree of that on the app front.

For Amazon, the deal is a no-brainer: the company’s whole business model is predicated on scale, so of course adding in another potential swathe of consumers, on the world’s currently most popular smartphone brand, is a clear path to driving more overall adoption within the Amazon ecosystem.

What’s not clear is what the business relationship will be between Amazon and Samsung. Traditionally, Amazon would “own” their Kindle customers, but the use of the word “partnership” in the company’s joing press release makes me think that there will be more sharing (of revenues? customer data?) than that between other developers and OEMs.

As with other Kindle apps, Kindle for Samsung will feature Whispersync for synchronizing where you are reading across all your devices; “Time to Read” for estimating reading times; and cloud-based backups of your library.

“We’re delighted to be able to deepen our long-standing relationship with Amazon and offer Kindle for Samsung as the perfect app for reading on a smart device. With this service we demonstrate our commitment to creating and broadening key content partnerships that deliver rich and personalised experiences for our customers,” said Lee Epting, VP, Samsung’s Media Solution Center Europe, in a statement.

“We’re thrilled that Samsung has chosen Kindle as their eBook provider,” said Jorrit Van der Meulen, Vice President, EU Kindle, in a statement. “With Kindle for Samsung, people around the world will have instant access to the best digital bookstore and reading experience, including more than half a million titles that are only available from the Kindle Store, and innovative features like Whispersync, Time to Read and much more.”

Article source:

« Previous Entries