Spanish director wins fame … and $500,000 … in YouTube film festival

Spanish filmmaker David Victori has won the inaugural edition of YouTube’s Your Film Festival for his short movie “The Guilt.”



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Facebook Pages Manager – Facebook, Inc.

Facebook, Inc. - Facebook Pages Manager artwork

Facebook Pages Manager

Facebook, Inc.

Genre: Business

Release Date: May 21, 2012


Pages Manager helps admins connect with their audience and keep up with activity on multiple Pages, all in one place.

Features:

• Post new updates and photos and respond to comments as your Pages
• View and reply to private messages
• Get notifications about new activity on your Pages right away
• View your latest Pages Insights, including checkins

Just install Pages Manager and then log in using Facebook to quickly access and manage all of your Pages from whenever you are.

© © Facebook, Inc

Robbery Bob™ – Chillingo Ltd

Chillingo Ltd - Robbery Bob™ artwork

Robbery Bob™

Chillingo Ltd

Genre: Games

Release Date: May 3, 2012


✭✭✭✭✭ Robbery Bob is now FREE! ✭✭✭✭✭

✭✭✭✭✭ Featured as New and Noteworthy on the App Store ✭✭✭✭✭

See what the press are saying about Robbery Bob

"This game is genuinely a joy to play and an interesting take on the robbing genre." — App-Score

"Clever, fun, polished and an encouragingly different iOS gaming experience." — Arcadelife

"It's good for delivering some moments of legitimate fear of being caught, and the sneaking around feels authentic and tense." — Gamezebo

"Robbery Bob is a brilliant fusion of stealth and 2D excitement." — AppCroc

"If the Grand Theft Auto phenomenon has taught us anything, it's that we as a people love theft. Robbery Bob is just one of the many games that fill that demand." — Polygon

Introducing the Man of Steal…
Play as Bob, the hapless burglar intent on changing his ways. Unfortunately for Bob, however, he's going to be forced into a few final jobs before he's allowed out of the criminal life.

• SUPER SNEAKY
Sneak past security guards, residents and sleeping bulldogs as you recover the loot in each stage. Use your ninja-like skills to hide in some tight squeezes and avoid detection.

• THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Your sticky-fingered missions will take you through a local neighbourhood, Downtown, and even through some secret labs. Can you get a perfect on every one?

• LOOT YOUR HEART OUT
Bob is going to have to pinch everything from secret documents, to old pairs of clothes, to those always hard-to-find TV remotes!

• CRIME IS A FUNNY OLD GAME
Get engrossed in the comical storyline featuring hilarious animations, a fun script and a genuinely twisting narrative.

For more information or support, please visit www.chillingo.com

© © Level Eight

iBooth – App Street Software Private Limited

App Street Software Private Limited - iBooth artwork

iBooth

App Street Software Private Limited

Genre: Photo & Video

Release Date: April 18, 2011


Remember those days when you would pay a quarter, make the most ridiculous face in a photo booth and laugh about it for days afterwards? With iBooth, now you can – anytime, anywhere.

iBooth is not an ordinary photo booth app. With 36 dazzling real-time effects at your command, taking photos has never been so much fun! Get that killer expression with the timer mode and create priceless memories with photo strips using the burst mode.

If you change your mind later, you can easily switch between effects. iBooth also lets you seamlessly import photos from your library and apply & customize your favorite effects.

★ Be the candid cameraman!
Play pranks as the candid cameraman and bring laughter to any event or party. Brighten up your friends’ night out, your cousin’s wedding or your own birthday party. With iBooth, the possibilities are endless!

★ 36 customizable real-time effects
You name it… and we’ve got it! Toon, Oil paint, Old Photo, Analog, Sketch, Glamorize, Fish Eye, Kaleidoscope, Mirror, Twirl, Squeeze, Bulge, Wavy, Tunnel, Sepia, Grayscale, Negative, X-Ray, Heat and many more. Get your picture to look just the way you want it to… that too in real time!

★ Pick your fav
Flag your chosen effects as “Favorites” for a quick selection. Pick a photo, add your favorite effect and share it with your friends at lightening fast speed!

★ Get your pic “Just Right”
With iBooth, you are the director! Use completely customizable timer to capture the perfect pose. Preview and customize the effects to get the best composition. You can even click a picture and change its effect later at ease.

★ Tell your story
Use the “Strip” mode to create awesome photo strips. Capture different moods and weave your very own story.

★ Sacrifice nothing
Snap and save photos at maximum camera resolution (up to 3 MP). Enjoy every detail down to the last pixel. Upload straight to Facebook, Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, email or export to your photo library.

★ Nothing to learn!
Simple and intuitive user interface makes everything a breeze. Just in case if you feel lost, just drop us a one liner. With our dedicated support, you will never have to wait long for any solution. At iAppStreet, our passion is your satisfaction!

So what are you waiting for? Make every photo magical with iBooth today!

© © 2011 App Street Software Pvt. Ltd.

Getting Your Product Into the Habit Zone

zone

Editor’s Note: Nir Eyal is a Lecturer in Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the author of the forthcoming book “Hooked: How to Drive Engagement by Creating User Habits.” Nir blogs about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business at NirAndFar.com.

As the web becomes an increasingly crowded place, users are desperate for solutions to sort through the online clutter. The Internet has become a giant hairball of choice-inhibiting noise and the need to make sense of it all has never been more acute.

Just ask high-flying sites like Pinterest, Reddit, and Tumblr. These curated web portals connect millions of people to information they never knew they were looking for. Some have started monetizing this tremendous flow of traffic and though it’s too early to call winners and losers, their strategy of driving user engagement by creating daily habits is clear. These companies are following a plan implemented by web titans like Amazon and Google and are hoping to yield similar results.

Creating user habits leverages two critical factors that should be considered by every company attempting to build high-engagement products.

Action Without Cognition

Habits are one of the ways the brain learns complex behaviors. In order to allow us to focus our attention on obtaining new insights, neuroscientists believe habitual behaviors are moved to the basal ganglia, an area of the brain associated with actions requiring little or no cognition. Habits form when the brain takes a shortcut and stops actively deliberating about the decision being made.

The brain quickly learns to codify behaviors that provide a solution to whatever problem it encounters. For example, nail biting is a common behavior, which occurs with little or no thought, typically triggered by the unpleasant feeling of stress. The biter associates the satisfaction of nail chomping with the temporary relief it provides. As any habitual nail bitter knows, the conditioned response is extremely difficult to break.

Like nail biting, many of the decisions we make in our daily lives are made simply because that’s the way we’ve found satisfaction in the past. The brain automatically deduces that if the decision was a good one yesterday, then it’s a safe bet again today.

The Mind Monopoly

In a recent study at the University College London, researchers followed participants as they attempted to form a habit of flossing their teeth. As one of its findings, the study concluded that the more frequently the new behavior occurred, the stronger the habit. Like flossing, frequent engagement with a web site or app increases the likelihood of forming new habits.

Google search provides an example of a service built upon a frequent behavior creating users habits. If you’re skeptical that Google is habit-forming, just try using Bing. In a head-to-head comparison of the efficacy of an incognito search, the products are nearly identical. Even if the geniuses at Google have in fact perfected a faster algorithm, the time saved is imperceptible to everyone but robots and Mister Spock. Milliseconds matter, but they don’t hook users.

Instead, habits are what keep users loyal. If a user is familiar with the Google interface, switching to Bing requires cognitive effort. Though many aspects or Bing are identical to Google, even a slight change in pixel placement forces the would-be convert to learn something new. Adapting to the differences in the Bing interface is what actually slows the user down and makes Bing feel inferior.

Internet searches occur so frequently that Google is able to cement its tool as the one and only solution in the habitual users’ mind. Users no longer need to think about whether or not to use Google, they just do. Furthermore, whenever the company can identify the user, it improves search results based on past behaviors. The more the product is used, the better the algorithm gets and thus, the more it is used. The result is a virtuous cycle of habit-driven behavior resulting in total market domination.

Habits as Strategy

But sometimes a behavior does not occur as frequently as flossing or Googling, and yet becomes a habit. For an infrequent action to become a habit, the user must perceive a high degree of utility, either from gaining pleasure or avoiding pain.

Take Amazon as an example; the e-tailer has its sights set on becoming the world’s one-stop shop. Amazon is so confident in its ability to form user habits that it runs ads for directly competitive products on its site. Customers often see the item they are about to buy listed at a cheaper price and regularly click away to transact elsewhere. To some, this sounds like a formula for financial suicide. But to Amazon, it’s a shrewd business strategy.

Not only does Amazon make money from the ads it runs from competing businesses, but it also utilizes other people’s marketing dollars to form a habit in the shopper’s mind. Amazon seeks to become the solution to a frequently occurring pain point: the customer’s needs to find the item they’re looking for at the best possible price. By addressing the shopper’s price concerns, Amazon earns loyalty even if it doesn’t make the sale.

The tactic is backed by a 2003 study by Trifts and Hubl, which demonstrated that consumer’s preference for an online retailer increases when they are offered competitive price information. The technique has also been used by Progressive to drive over $15 billion of annual insurance sales, up from just $3.4 billion before the tactic was implemented.

By allowing users to comparison shop from within the site, Amazon provides tremendous perceived utility to its customers. Though shopping on Amazon may not occur as frequently as searching on Google, the company solidifies its place as the default solution to customers’ purchasing needs with each successful transaction.

In the Zone

Companies can begin to determine their product’s potential for forming a habitual behavior by plotting two factors: frequency (how often the behavior occurs) and perceived utility (how rewarding the behavior is in the eyes of the user). “The Habit Zone,” as I call it, is where an action occurs with enough frequency and perceived utility for it to become the default behavior.

Established companies like Google and Amazon, along with new entrants like Pinterest and Reddit, succeed by creating user habits. They help people find what they are looking for amid the ever-increasing online clutter. In return, users reward them with engagement and loyalty, turning to them as their go-to solutions in their respective categories. When a habit is formed, the script for what to do next is written, making the behavior more likely to occur in the future. These companies leverage habits to earn their places in users’ lives and minds.

Disclaimer: With each article I write on the topic of habit formation, I inevitably receive comments about the moral implications of this field. Please consider reading my previous article, “The Morality of Manipulation” on the topic.

Disclosure: The author owns shares of Amazon.com, Inc.

Thanks to Max Ogles and Jess Bachman for reading previous versions of this article.

Image credit: gustaffo89 and NirAndFar.com

– Follow Nir on Twitter @nireyal

Pandora For Ed Apps: eSpark Nabs $5.7M From 500 Startups, Others, Hires Facebook Mobile Vet As CTO

Screen shot 2012-08-31 at 11.14.28 PM

Chicago-based startup eSpark Learning, which founder and CEO David Vinca describes as “Pandora for education apps,” has secured $5.7 million in series A financing from MK Capital, Learn Capital, NewSchools Venture Fund and 500 Startups to help fuel national expansion. The new capital brings the startup’s total funding to just under $7 million.

In addition to its raise, eSpark is also announcing that it has hired 5-year Facebook veteran Luke Shepard as its new CTO. Shepard is best known for leading the mobile platform (or “platmobile”) team at Facebook and helping to build Facebook Connect as well as the OAuth 2.0 protocol.

The “edtech” space is heating up as entrepreneurs with experience building consumer products, games and mobile apps make the switch. The recent increase in both venture and public investment in education technology has begun to reflect this. As a result, Shepard had more options today than when he started working at Facebook. So, why eSpark?

Because it’s a harder problem, he says. Selling to K-8 schools isn’t as easy as it is to go for higher ed (less money allocated towards technology, tighter control of its integration, less risk-taking on the “CIO” level and parental involvement), but Shepard thinks there’s more of an opportunity to make a difference in primary grades at public schools.

Beyond that, Shepard has some pretty unique mobile experience having helped build Facebook’s mobile platform and having worked with developers on how to use and leverage the breadth of its platform for better distribution (like, say, social discovery), payments, etc. eSpark, too, is on a mission to build a mobile platform for education, giving apps (and their app developers) access to an otherwise hard-to-reach market in K-8 schools.

“For now, we work mostly with iPad apps because that’s where the best content is, but we also use web-based content, podcasts, basically whatever works best in the classroom,” Shepard said. And he wants to help the developers building the best educational content find wider distribution, just as his team did at Facebook.

But before going any further, what is it that eSpark actually does? Primary schools (and parents) are adopting iPads at a breakneck pace, but many struggle to find the best learning experiences from the some-100,000 educational apps and eBooks on the iOS platform. So, eSpark is working with more than 3,000 apps and learning experiences (i.e. eBooks, iOS apps, web apps usable on iOS, instructional videos and songs), curating those apps into custom learning profiles and playlists for students based on their individual needs.

In March, Apple CEO Tim Cook told shareholders that the company sold “more than two iPads for every Mac to K-12 customers in the U.S.” and the San Diego School District purchased 10,000 iPads in March, for example, with plans to buy more.

As a result, the number and quality of education apps on iOS is growing rapidly, the eSpark CEO says, so the startup is on a mission to evaluate all of them, having already evaluated “tens of thousands” of educational iOS apps.

Students login to eSpark through its iPad app, where they are given access to a custom playlist that the CEO says is developed through a combo of human curation and data science. The startup has a number of full-time teachers on staff, who Shepard says are involved in all product discussions and help lead the curation process. As students use their first set of curated apps, the startup measures how much students like the app (via thumbs up or down, a la Pandora) and how much they’re learning, tailoring new suggestions based on the results.

So far, Vinca tells us, student learning growth with eSpark is two to five times the typical learning pace, which it is tracking via third-party assessments like NWEA’s Map test. (Here you can see five case studies on eSpark’s impact on student achievement.)

The 500 Startups grad is currently in 70 schools in 12 states and has been acquiring new customers primarily through word of mouth, using existing partner schools to share stories with other local districts. Today, contracting usually happens with district or school leaders, who absorb the price of eSpark, which begins at $54 per student, per year.

eSpark plans to dedicate its new funding to beefing up its staff of teacher and expert curators (now at 12) as well as redesigning and enhancing its user interface.

It’s a tough for startups to target the K-8 space, but because it’s giving developers another way to access student usage and progress data and incorporate analysis of that data back into their apps to optimize the learning process. Building a mobile platform around the growing landscape of iOS apps is a smart play and as long as eSpark remains focused on using its ecosystem to increase student achievement (and fun), there’s no reason districts won’t continue to get on board.

More on eSpark Learning at home here.

Where Are The Killer Apps For Windows 8 Metro?

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Love it or hate it, but Windows 8 will soon arrive on computers around you. While virtually all of your old programs will likely run without a hitch in desktop mode, it’s the Windows 8 Metro interface (or whatever Microsoft now wants to call it), that brings the biggest changes to the OS for users and developers alike. What Microsoft really needs right now more than anything else, though, is applications that can showcase the power of the new Windows 8 user interface. The current crop of apps in the Windows Store is a hodgepodge of games, travel and productivity apps that, for the most part, look fine but aren’t very interesting (and that includes Microsoft’s own default apps for Windows 8 Metro). What’s still missing is a few killer apps for Windows 8 Metro that will get consumers interested in the platform.

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced the first 40 casual games that will find their way into the Windows Store before October 26. These include some of the most popular casual games around right now, including the Angry Birds franchise, Fruit Ninja and many other good games. It’s a bit worrisome, though, that 29 out of these 40 games come from Microsoft’s own Microsoft Studios game development unit. The company is still working to bring other developers on board, but for the time being, it doesn’t look as if there will be a lot of content available for Windows 8 that users aren’t already familiar with on other platforms.

Microsoft has worked hard to get developers on board with Windows 8 and now that they can even use JavaScript and HTML5 to write Metro apps, the number of developers who could write apps for Windows without facing a major learning curve is huge. Given the size of the Windows ecosystem, there is also massive revenue potential for developers who can score a hit in the Windows Store.

Still, most of the companies I talk to every week aren’t even thinking about Windows 8 yet (and very few are even thinking about Windows Phone at this time). I started asking developers about their plans for Windows 8 ever since Microsoft launched its first public “consumer preview” in February. While I’ve noticed a slight uptick in developers who tell me that they are keeping an eye on Windows 8 over the last month or so, very few have any concrete plans to do so and even fewer were actually working on Windows 8 apps already (the same, by the way, remains true for Windows Phone).

The Web As Killer App?

One Microsoft initiative that’s catching on, though, seems to be its push to bring more touch-enabled web apps to the Metro version of Internet Explorer. Just this week, Atari launched its Atari Arcade for the browser and just a few weeks ago, the popular news reading app Pulse also launched its first foray onto the web with the help from Redmond. Microsoft also partnered with TheFind in July to bring that company’s Glimpse Catalogs app to HTML5.

Maybe it’ll be these touch-focused web experiences that will showcase the power of Windows 8 and Metro before there are enough native apps out there to do the same. Microsoft is obviously interested in making money from the Windows Store, too, but it looks like the company still has some convincing to do before more developers will jump on that platform.

Maybe the real killer app for Windows 8 – and especially on the tablet – is Microsoft Office anyway, but that’s probably more of an argument for business users and most businesses and enterprises aren’t likely to switch to Windows 8 very soon. Right now, to get consumers interested, Microsoft needs more good and distinct apps in the Windows Store before Windows 8 launches. There is still time until October 26, of course, but the first crop of apps that is currently available is disappointing.

Anti-HIV drug simulation offers ‘realistic’ tool to predict drug resistance and viral mutation

Pooling data from thousands of tests of the antiviral activity of more than 20 commonly used anti-HIV drugs, AIDS experts at Johns Hopkins and Harvard universities have developed what they say is the first accurate computer simulation to explain drug effects. Already, the model clarifies how and why some treatment regimens fail in some patients who lack evidence of drug resistance. Researchers say their model is based on specific drugs, precise doses prescribed, and on "real-world variation" in how well patients follow prescribing instructions.

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