Kickstarter has been around long enough that the Kickstarter double-dip is now a well-established thing – basically it’s the practice of a company returning to the crowdfunding well to secure the resources for a new product launch. The original Vaavud was a wind meter that required no power and plugged into your smartphone’s 3.5mm stereo input jack, but that actually… Read More
Apple has updated iTunes U with a bunch of new features, cranking the version number up to 2 and introducing improved discussion features and the ability to create and update courses directly from the iPad app, which previously has been mostly a user-facing client for consuming content.
The update, live now in the App Store, gives the universal app new powers for students, letting them ask… Read More
Smartwatch maker Pebble aims to be a lot of things to a lot of people, and today it’s deepening its appeal thanks to a new partnership. The hardware startup is teaming with another young gadget company: Misfit, maker of the smart activity and sleep tracking wristband Shine. Misfit has created a Pebble app for the smartwatch that can track a user’s activity – independent of… Read More
Google introduced Helpouts last year to HELP PEOPLE OUT (yeah that’s where they got the name). The system works through Hangouts, letting people connect with experts for paid or free video chats that are about solving a specific problem, rather than just shooting the breeze with pals as we all do on Hangouts all the time. Now Helpouts is available on iOS thanks to a new app. Helpouts for… Read More
Smartphone manufacturers are increasingly focusing on health and fitness as part of their platform offerings, but HTC didn’t build its own homegrown health tracking solution with the new HTC One (M8). Instead, it partnered with category leader and successful startup Fitbit, the SF-based company that builds wearable trackers like the Fitbit Force and Flex, preloading their software on all new… Read More
Yesterday, a new faceless “watch” called Durr that simply vibrates every five minutes got a big feature over at Verge. It’s an interesting concept, and in his article Aaron Souppouris compared the experience to that of wearing a Pebble. That inspired a Pebble developer to try to accomplish the same thing, albeit without the need for a brand new device, and the result is Purr, an app for the upcoming Pebble OS 2.0. The Purr app mimics the Durr’s functionality exactly, vibrating the Pebble on your wrist every five minutes, and presenting nothing on the display at all. It simply deactivates the Pebble’s screen, rather than presenting any kind of watch face or any other information. The idea behind both the Purr app and the Durr watch are the same: To remind you every few minutes that time is passing, and possibly to inspire you to enjoy time more by noting that fact. There are some key differences between both approaches, however: The Durr lacks any screen whatsoever, meaning you won’t be tempted to check your other apps or watchfaces. Plus, notifications from your phone still make it through when you’re using Purr on the Pebble, which is either an advantage or a downside depending on how committed you are to the philosophy behind the design of the Durr. Also, as Purr is in beta and running on pre-release Pebble OS 2.0 software, it currently exhibits some odd behavior; specifically, vibrations repeat a number when each five-minute period is up, and the pattern or sequence doesn’t seem to follow any rhyme or reason. These are issues that Purr developer James Brooks says he’s working on resolving, however. A watch that’s literally constantly reminding you of time slipping through your grip, and by extension your own mortality, is a little bit of an outlier need from a gadget. But it’s a perfect early example of how Pebble’s new SDK 2.0 can unlock a lot of potential for developers. We’ve only just begun to see the value of a smartwatch as a platform, but the overall flexibility is beginning to show.
Social discovery app Banjo has evolved into something quite different from where it started, and that’s a very good thing. The mobile app used to essentially just surface relevant social connections and activities nearby, but it has since harnessed all the data it was gathering to become an event and breaking news detection engine so powerful that many new organizations now use it. It’s putting a little of that magic back into the consumer app today with version 4.0. Banjo powers a surprising amount of live social content seen on major television networks like NBC, FOX and the BBC, and founder and CEO Damien Patton explained to me in an interview that it can actually predict events and breaking news before they hit Google or anywhere else – public social signals collected in real-time through Twitter and other networks start to ramp up quickly whenever anything important goes down, and Banjo’s tech is excellent at spotting and surfacing that stuff early. “We look at all these social signals in real time, so what we’ve built is the largest collection of social signals in the world,” he said. “It’s organized by three things: Time, location and context. So now we’re able to curate and index (and that’s the important thing, indexing) breaking news and events faster than anyone else.” The release of Banjo 4.0 today reimagines the consumer-facing version of the company’s product with that in mind. Patton says this release focuses on “The Live Internet,” and redesigns the interface to help make it easier for users to search for events by keyword and find both live events, as well as archived ones, which can then be viewed as if they’re unfolding right now. Patton says this is the best way for customers to recapture and relive important past experiences they shared with the rest of the world, in addition to being a great tool that journalists and other organizations can use to curate and distribute real-time information about a big story. Others like Toronto’s ScribbleMedia are doing a similar sort of thing with curated content pages with dynamically updated content, but Banjo’s focus is geared more towards televised and traditional news media organizations. The consumer app launching today doesn’t expose the full power of Banjo’s event identification and discovery engine, as Patton says that kind of firehose would be unnecessarily overwhelming for the average user. But eventually, the aim is
Waterloo-based startup Dandy wants to be a place where app creators can come together to ship software, without having to start their own company. At CES this year, the startup brought its first marquee title – Picture This, an app with photo challenges conceived by student and Dandy community member Niger Little-Poole. Little-Poole won a contest and sparked a whirlwind of development, according to Dandy CEO Matt Scobel. “He submitted as just a couple paragraphs of explanation, and we didn’t actually pick the idea until November 21,” Scobel explained in an interview. “We actually had to submit to Apple December 21st because of the shut down. So less than 30 days on iOS from concept to app, and the rest of the platforms around 45 days basically.” Nor did Dandy take the easy way out and use something like PhoneGap to get its software on different devices. “We did native across platforms, so we had an iOS developer, Blackberry, Android and even Google Glass,” Scobel said. “For this one we did a combination of up-front payment and revenue share because the timeline was so tight. In the future, we want to do more revenue share, much like quirky.” Eventually, the vision is for Dandy to be a tool for others to use, rather than what it is now, which is essentially a development studio that contracts out coding work. The company is investing early because it needs to build a following, which it then believes will naturally take over much of the heavy-lifting around organizing and spearheading development efforts. “We want this to eventually be an open platform where developers can come in and contribute and have a chance to see their apps get made, and handle all the marketing,” Scobel explained. “We’ll be more of a facilitator and less of a driver. we’ve looked at crowdsourcing platforms before, and many have failed because no one was there to take the bull by the horns and drive efforts, but the more facilitation we can do and the less actual development, the better this has a chance of making it.” Quirky pays out an 8 percent ownership stake to the original creator of an app idea, should it get made into a shipping app. That’s without putting in any additional work: contributing to the project means that creators can increase their stake. Thirty percent of any project is available to the