Sunday, 23 October 2011

Mashable: Latest 5 News Updates - including “3 Neat iPhone Apps Designed to Entertain”

Mashable: Latest 5 News Updates - including “3 Neat iPhone Apps Designed to Entertain”

3 Neat iPhone Apps Designed to Entertain

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 01:57 PM PDT

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Each weekend, Mashable handpicks a few startups that we think are building interesting, unique or niche products.

Here we’ve selected three iPhone applications for your weekend enjoyment and entertainment.

Roamz is a location-based application that will guide you to nearby happening places and activities, based around your interests and the social media activities of your friends. Mynd, meanwhile, will be your personal entertainment curator and point you in the direction of the best gaming, reading and television apps based on your tastes. And DimSong will delight you with music that moves as you do.

Roamz: An iPhone Tour Guide

Quick Pitch: Roamz is a location-based app that helps you find out what is happening around you.

Genius Idea: Interest-based place and event recommendations surfaced via social media.

Mashable’s Take: What’s happening around you? It seems like a fairly simple enough question to answer, especially considering the bevy of location-based applications and services on the market. And yet, more often than not, the answer is harder to come by then it should be.

Enter Roamz, an iPhone application that culls information from your Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter accounts, and takes into account your expressed interests, to surface hot tips and pictures on nearby (or afar) local events and attractions you might like. Of course, you’re also encouraged to use the app to share local happenings — the startup calls these “Roamz moments” — with other users as you discover them.

Roamz, which launched earlier this week, is not the perfect anecdote for the what-to-do conundrum (yet), but it’s a step in the right direction.

Mynd: Your Personal Entertainment iPhone App Assistant

Quick Pitch: Mynd wants to be your personal entertainment curator.

Genius Idea: Find, rate and share the best entertainment apps on your iPhone.

Mashable’s Take: You’ve got more than 500,000 iOS applications to choose from on the App Store. Clearly, finding games, books, or television and movie apps best suited to your tastes can be a daunting, if not impossible, task. Mynd to the rescue.

Mynd, from Seattle-based mobile development studio Liquify Digital, is an iPhone application that curates and recommends games, books, music and film applications just for you. The app uses a combination of machine learning techniques to make its picks and gets more sophisticated every time you interact with it.

DimSong: Interact With Music

Quick Pitch: DimSong is a reactive and adaptive app that creates customized remixes of music based on your input, movement and surroundings.

Genius Idea: Music remixed by your movement.

Mashable’s Take: If you’ve ever wished for a dynamic music listening experience that matches your mood or tempo, consider taking DimSong for a musical spin on your iPhone.

The iPhone application, built by VenLabs, provides an always in-flux and funky listening experience that oscillates with movement, touch or light.

In shake mode, tracks automatically pick up intensity as you dance or flail about. Switch to light mode and your iPhone’s camera will adjust audio based on the amount of light in the room. Or go in to touch mode to manually mix music with the on-screen slider.

Right now, DimSong is limited in track selection, but the application will eventually work with songs from your favorite artists.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Kristopher Wilson

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

More About: bizspark, spark-of-genius, Startup Weekend Roundup

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Top 10 Tech This Week [PICS]

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 11:37 AM PDT

1. Xbox 720 in 2013?

Insiders are saying they're working on Microsoft's next-generation gaming console, and it's said to be called the Xbox 720, perhaps unveiling at E3 in 2013. Although the box's processors and graphics chips are allegedly well underway and in the hands of multiple developers, the outside of the Xbox 720 is not quite so well-defined. Take a look at this design concept of the industrial design of the box -- we're wondering if it wasn't left on our planet by visiting aliens.

Click here to view this gallery.

It was a busy week in the gadget world, and I’ve boiled it all down into the top 10 most unusual, groundbreaking, futuristic and just-plain-weird gadgets I could find for you, all wrapped up right here in a easily digested package. Pick your favorite, and let us know what you think in the comments.

More About: cameras, cars, smartphones, Top 10 Tech

Siri, Seriously: 10 Ways We’re Really Using Apple’s Voice Assistant [POLL]

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 09:31 AM PDT

By now it seems we’re all well aware of the many Easter eggs Apple has left for us in Siri, the intelligent assistant baked into the iPhone 4S. She has enough answers to silly questions to delight you for a weekend or more. Some sites are getting a lot of mileage out of finding each and every amusing answer Siri has up her sleeve.

But once the novelty has worn off, will you really use Siri in your everyday life — or will she fade into the background, an unwanted extra like Apple’s previous iPhone voice control feature? After using the 4S for more than a week, I think Siri will enter our lives in small but vital ways. Most of these are things you could do before, but that required too many cumbersome steps that Siri can easily overcome.

Here’s my shortlist of ways Siri really works for me. If you have an iPhone 4S already, how are you putting her to work? Take our poll and let us know in the comments.

SEE ALSO: Siri Is Impressive, But Still A Work In Progress

1. Siri, Wake Me Up. When you’re ready to crash, the last thing you want to do is fiddle with an alarm app. It’s much faster and more satisfying to hold down the home button and say “Wake me up at 7:15.” This also works well for power naps — “Wake me in 40 minutes.” — or the weekend, when you don’t have a specific appointment but don’t want to oversleep: “Wake me in eight hours.”

2. Siri, Find Coffee. Likewise, typing on a small screen is something you just don’t want to do when you’re caffeine-deprived, especially in a strange town. For more complex restaurant requests later in the day, you’ll probably want to go straight to the Yelp app — but if you just need a java jolt to get started, she can point you at the nearest coffee place. Chances are it’s a Starbucks.

3. Siri, Do You Know The Way To San Jose? Here’s another area where typing takes too damn long (and if you’re doing it on the road, where most of us need directions on the go, typing can kill.) Siri is an effective and reliable shortcut to Google Maps directions. She’d be a lot more effective if she offered to read the directions out ahead of each turn; that would give GPS device manufacturers like TomTom a run for their money. But Siri hasn’t steered me wrong on any city name I’ve tried yet. And yes, putting your question in the form of a song title works too.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 4S: Siri Politely Answers 10 Absurd Questions [PICS]

4. Siri, Play A Random Song. I’m pretty fastidious about organizing my tunes; setting up a new “most wanted” playlist every month is only the beginning of it. I thought nothing could ever stop me from scrolling through them to choose the playlist I wanted — but Siri did. What’s more, instructions that match my spur-of-the-moment musical tastes — like “Siri, play some Queen” — have come in very handy, especially on my morning run.

5. Siri, Send A Text. Here’s where Siri’s lift-to-talk feature comes in handy. No more texting and walking! Just turn the phone on, put it to your ear and say “Siri, text my wife and let her know I’m going to be late.” No muss, no fuss, and anyone walking past will simply think you’re talking to your personal assistant. Which, of course, you are.

6. Siri, Will It Rain Today? Apple made a big deal of Siri’s weather prediction capabilities, so it’s no surprise that she understands all manner of meteorological questions. But I never expected to be asking so many of them as I stand and stare at my closet, hat rack and umbrella stand.

SEE ALSO: Teach Siri How to Pronounce Your Name

7. Siri, Remind Me To Do This Every Day. Here’s another area where I had my system all thought out — a to-do app called Things combined with Google Calendar. Siri hasn’t replaced this system, but she has lessened my need to put stuff in it. Best of all, she can set repeating items with ease: try “Siri, remind me to brush my teeth at 10pm every night.” That may sound like micromanaging, by the way, but it’s the most effective way I’ve found to get me to wind down at a certain time.

8. Siri, Remind Me When I Come Back Here. Siri’s location-based reminders aren’t perfect — it’s hard to get her to understand location labels other than “home” or “work,” for one thing. But one location she definitely understands is “here” — your current GPS coordinates. This can be useful in all sorts of small ways. For example, the other night I walked past a beautiful house I really wanted to take a picture of during the day. A quick note to Siri, and she reminded me when I passed that way a few mornings later. Good Siri.

9. Siri, Settle Our Argument. No, Siri doesn’t know it all. But she is plugged into Wolfram Alpha, a two-year-old “computational knowledge engine” that can give you everything from the height of Mount Everest to the size of global GDP to quotes from Pulp Fiction — all in response to questions in natural language. She just might be able to give you the last word in that spirited discussion of yours faster than Google can. Besides, Google doesn’t give you the satisfaction of asking, holding the phone up, and smiling smugly.

SEE ALSO: A Duet With Siri [VIDEO]

10. Siri, Send a Tweet. Going to to post your update? Launching the Twitter mobile app? That’s so last month. Twitter and Siri were made for each other — you just have to do a bit of work to get them together. Follow our step-by-step instructions here.

More About: apple, iPhone 4S, siri

Google Mulls Buying Yahoo [REPORT]

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 09:05 AM PDT

Google is mulling purchasing Yahoo and has contacted at least two venture capital firms to help buy the company’s core business, according to a report.

Google and prospective partners have held discussions, but haven’t put forth a formal proposal to buy the search giant, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited “a person familiar with the matter.”

As the story notes, any such deal is likely to raise red flags among antitrust regulators. Google’s not the only one rumored to be interested in buying the troubled Yahoo. Microsoft, which has a 10-year search deal with Yahoo, is also said to be interested.

What do you think? Would this be good or bad for the Internet economy? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr, eirikref

More About: Google, microsoft, Yahoo

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What Google+ Brand Pages Could Look Like [PICS]

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 08:34 AM PDT

A few weeks ago, Mashable contacted some ad agencies and asked them to imagine how brand pages on could change in light of that platform’s planned redesign.

Just as Facebook was announcing its tweaks, though, Google was on track to add brand pages to Google Plus. Though it looks like that will happen any day now, the integration hasn’t been announced yet. Meanwhile, a handful of brands, including Ford, are already enjoying the possibilities.

There are several barriers to designing brand pages for Plus. For one thing, it’s hard to stand out the way Plus looks now. The somewhat rigid format has a leveling effect. But Colin Murphy, director of social for Skinny, one of the agencies that accepted our challenge, says there are potential advantages to Plus, too. "A primary gripe among Facebook and Twitter users is that brands bombard them with messages they don't want or care to see," said Murphy. "In its current form, Plus doesn't solve that problem, but Plus Brand Pages might, if they implement Public Circles."

Skinny outlined how this might work with a hypothetical example for Mini, the auto brand. In this case, a Mini Countryman fan could join the Countryman circle and see just Countryman updates in her feed. “This level of selectivity isn't possible on Facebook or even Twitter, unless of course you are a fan or follow the specific product you're interested in — but there's a major drawback to that method because the user has to seek out content streams,” Murphy says. “With Google+ it's all in one place, and the all the admin has to do is feed pertinent content to the appropriate circles.”

In addition to Skinny, Fantasy Interactive created some fictional Coca-Cola and Starbucks brand pages. Are these on the mark? We’ll know soon enough, but in the meantime, let us know what you think of these agencies’ vision of how Google+ can accommodate brands.

Mini, Part 1

Commentary from Skinny: "This is the brand page. Take notice of Public Circles on the left, the Locations and Translate buttons and the content. This is what a user who visits MINI's page for the first time will see. It contains content pertaining to each Public Circle (each MINI product, in this case), giving a first time visitor a taste of everything MINI is doing with Plus, and an idea of who has joined which circle."

Click here to view this gallery.

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Google Pays $100M for New California Office

Posted: 22 Oct 2011 07:35 AM PDT

The Googleplex is spreading with Google’s $100 million purchase of a 240,000 square-foot office center in Mountain View, Calif.

The acquisition, reported in the Mercury News and confirmed by Google, is Google’s largest property purchase in Silicon Valley this year. The property, called The Landmark at Shoreline, will house about 960 workers.

Google, which added 2,600 employees in its most-recent quarter, bringing its total workforce up to 30,000, has spent $225 million in 2011 alone buying 15 properties in Mountain View, according to the Mercury News. Last year, Google also bought a 2.9 million square-foot office building in New York City.

Image courtesy of Flickr, tshein

More About: Google, googleplex, Mountain View, Silicon Valley

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