4.6 million Snapchat phone numbers and usernames leaked


This post is by Rich McCormick from The Verge - All Posts


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




The phone numbers and usernames of more than 4.6 million North American Snapchat users have been leaked online. SnapchatDB, an unofficial site run by an anonymous individual or group, allows open access to two files — one an SQL dump, one CSV text — that show details of the photo-sharing app’s users alongside their location.

The final two digits of phone numbers have been censored “to minimize spam and abuse,” but SnapchatDB says people should “feel free” to contact it for the uncensored database, as it may release it under certain circumstances. Usernames are presented unedited, and SnapchatDB notes that “people tend to use the same username around the web.” Those that download the information, it says, can try to “find phone…

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Google To Close Bump And Flock, Its Recently Acquired File Sharing Apps


This post is by Catherine Shu from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Bump Hands

Bump and Flock, the file sharing apps Google acquired last fall, will be shut down by the end of this month. Both apps will stop working and be removed from Google Play and the App Store on January 31, Bump confirmed on its blog today.

Google bought Bump Technologies, which make both apps, back in September, and Android Police reports that work on the app appeared to stop shortly after the acquisition.

Bump, which let users tap phones together to share contacts and other files, raised nearly $20 million and enjoyed high download rates, but failed to monetize successfully as other easy, mobile-friendly ways to share information were developed, most notably Apple’s AirDrop for iOS 7. Flock is a collaborative photo-sharing app Bump Technologies released in 2012.

As TechCrunch’s Josh Constine wrote in September, the sale wasn’t an acquihire, but Google might plan to turn Flock into part of Google+ in order to compete with Facebook’s photo sharing and Dropbox’s photo saving services, especially since Google+’s Party Mode, a photo sharing service based around events, failed to gain real traction. The acquisition of Bump Technologies also gave Google access to several mobile communication patents that could help it improve Android and create better alternatives to near-field communication (NFC).

When the startup announced its acquisition by Google, co-founder David Lieb said in a statement that “We strive to create experiences that feel like magic, enabled behind the scene with innovations in math, data processing, and algorithms. So we couldn’t be more thrilled to join Google.” The acquisition price was undisclosed but sources told TechCrunch it was around $35 million, a relatively low amount considering how much funding Bump had raised. Bump’s investors included Y Combinator, Sequoia Captial, Felicis Ventures, SV Angel, Andreessen Horowitz, and many angels.

Snapchat cracked: 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers apparently published


This post is by Dylan Tweney from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Snapchat cracked: 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers apparently published
Snapchat.db

Sample of the data offered by Snapchat.db (blurred out by the site’s authors).

Last week, on December 25, an Australian research firm published the details on a major security weakness in Snapchat.

Today, it appears someone has used that exploit to collect 4.6 million usernames, and their associated phone numbers, and publish them on a website.

Snapchat users can breathe easy — for a minute or two. For now, the phone numbers don’t include the last two digits. It’s also not clear how legitimate this data is, although The Next Web reports there is now a web-based Snapchat checker script that can check any username to see if it’s in the database.

Dazzlepod, a site that aims to help people find out if their account information has been compromised in various security leaks, also has published a searchable version of the Snapchat list, so you can look for your username.

The site, Snapchat.db, is pretty straightforward: You can download all 4.6 million records as a SQL dump or as a CSV text file. “For now, we have censored the last two digits of the phone numbers in order to minimize spam and abuse,” the site says. “Feel free to contact us to ask for the uncensored database. Under certain circumstances, we may agree to release it.”

Just below that is information that people can use to send Bitcoin donations or to send a private message to the site’s creators.

Snapchat.db appears to be made possible thanks to a massive Snapchat security hole that Gibson Research published on Christmas day, allowing hackers to use Snapchat’s API to match usernames with phone numbers, and to create bogus accounts en masse. The researchers told ZDNet at the time that hackers could use the exploit to “automatically build profiles about users, which could be sold for a lot of money.”

Gibson Research also noted that Snapchat had known about the vulnerability for four months and alleged that the company could have fixed it with “ten lines of code.”

Snapchat raised $50 million in a funding round led by Coatue Management earlier in December at a valuation rumored to be $2 billion. The company’s founders reportedly rejected a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook, a decision that may have had something to do with the founder’s family wealth.

Hat tip: The Next Web


    



Confirmed: Snapchat Hack Not A Hoax, 4.6M Usernames And Numbers Published


This post is by Catherine Shu from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Snapchat hack

A site called SnapchatDB.info has saved usernames and phone numbers for 4.6 million accounts and made the information available for download. In a statement to us, SnapchatDB says that it got the information through a recently identified and patched Snapchat exploit and that it is making the data available in an effort to convince the messaging app to beef up its security. We’ve also reached out to Snapchat.

SnapchatDB said:

Our motivation behind the release was to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed. It is understandable that tech startups have limited resources but security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does.

We used a modified version of gibsonsec’s exploit/method. Snapchat
could have easily avoided that disclosure by replying to Gibsonsec’s private communications, yet they didn’t. Even long after that disclosure, Snapchat was reluctant to taking the necessary steps to secure user data. Once we started scraping on a large scale, they decided to implement very minor obstacles, which were still far from enough. Even now the exploit persists. It is still possible to scrape this data on a large scale. Their latest changes are still not too hard to circumvent.

We wanted to minimize spam and abuse that may arise from this release. Our main goal is to raise public awareness on how reckless many internet companies are with user information. It is a secondary goal for them, and that should not be the case. You wouldn’t want to eat at a restaurant that spends millions on decoration, but barely anything on cleanliness.

Earlier we speculated that SnapchatDB might be a hoax meant to call attention to the app’s security issues but, as it turns out, it’s real–at least one member of our editorial team has been affected. A reader also told us he found his own number, that of several friends and Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel in the list. On Hacker News, several people have had trouble downloading the data files (I just got an error message for both of them, but that may be because of high traffic), but a Jailbreak subreddit user who saw the list said that only numbers in some parts of the U.S. have been published so far. If you have not been able to download the list, you can use this site created by developer Robbie Trencheny to see if your username was included.

SnapchatDB said it “censored the last two digits of the phone numbers” in order to “minimize spam and abuse,” but it might still release the unfiltered data, including millions of phone numbers.

The Next Web did a WHOIS lookup on SnapchatDB’s domain and found it was created just yesterday on December 31. The registrant’s name is protected, but its mailing address and contact number are both listed in Panama.

SnapchatDB screenshot 2The site appears to have been created in response to recently identified flaws in Snapchat’s security. Last week, ZDNet published an article on how white-hat Gibson Security researchers had tried to alert Snapchat to ways that hackers would connect usernames to phone numbers for user in stalking, but were ignored. Gibson Security then published the exploit publicly on Christmas Eve.

The firm said that hackers could use two exploits to gain access to users’ personal data, including their real names, usernames and phone numbers, through Snapchat’s Android and iOS API. Snapchat did offer a public statement, but as TechCrunch’s Josh Constine wrote, it wasn’t very satisfactory because it did not offer details on how its countermeasures would work, such as rate limiting, bad IP blocking, or automated systems that scan suspicious activity. Snapchat said:

“Theoretically, if someone were able to upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a database of the results and match usernames to phone numbers that way. Over the past year we’ve implemented various safeguards to make it more difficult to do.”

The Gibson Security report and SnapchatDB are both reminders that even in an ephemeral messaging service, it would be a mistake to be lulled into a sense of security about the information that you do have stored with the app. “People tend to use the same username around the web so you can use this information to find phone number information associated with Facebook and Twitter accounts, or simply to figure out the phone numbers of people you wish to get in touch with,” SnapchatDB stated on the site.

Google-acquired Bump shutting down this month


This post is by Josh Lowensohn from The Verge - All Posts


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Some three months after being acquired by Google, Bump — a company that makes data sharing tools — is calling it quits. In a blog post today Bump CEO and cofounder David Lieb said that Bump and Flock will be shut down on January 31, 2014 given that the team working on it are “now deeply focused on our new projects within Google.” After that date, the apps will be removed from Apple’s App Store, as well as Google Play, Lieb says, but not before users have 30 days to export their data.

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Snapchat hacked: 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers lifted


This post is by Lauren Hockenson from Gigaom


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Three days ago, ephemeral communication app Snapchat released a statement on its website responding to a group of security professionals at Gibson Security who posted what they claimed to be numerous exploits of the app’s API. The hot startup waved those claims away in the post:

Theoretically, if someone were able to upload a huge set of phone numbers, like every number in an area code, or every possible number in the U.S., they could create a database of the results and match usernames to phone numbers that way. Over the past year we’ve implemented various safeguards to make it more difficult to do.

But apparently those safeguards weren’t secure enough, as a team of hackers posted 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers of Snapchat users as a downloadable database just before midnight on Tuesday.

Right now, the database is censored, blurring the last two digits of each user’s phone number. But the hackers, who are currently anonymous, hinted that they might be willing to turn over the raw data to the right party.

“The company was too reluctant at patching the exploit until they knew it was too late and companies that we trust with our information should be more careful when dealing with it,” the website says.

That’s an inauspicious start to 2014 for one of 2013′s hottest apps.

Related research and analysis from Gigaom Research:
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Here’s the only list you need: All the tech, people, and products that mattered in 2013


This post is by J. O'Dell from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Here’s the only list you need: All the tech, people, and products that mattered in 2013
Michael O’Donnell/@Photo

We’re not quite ready to say goodbye to 2013, but the time has come anyhow.

Before it’s time for “Auld Lang Syne,” here’s a look back about the companies, products, people, and reporting we loved most in 2013.

Inspirations and aspirations

26 companies to watch in 2014: You might be forgiven for thinking 2013 was a year of redundant, me-too startups flailing around trying to come up with the best way to gamify wage slavery, deliver butt wipes to your door, or make a buck off the badly misnamed “sharing economy.”

But we’re not here to tell you about all that.

We’re here to tell you about the real innovation that’s been going on this year. In fact, a lot of startups — consumer, enterprise, hardware, and health-tech — got us non-ironically excited in 2013.

Our goals for 2014:

In 2014, we’ll be backing up everything, changing all our passwords, updating all our software, learning to code, and even running our own apps and building our own hardware.

That is, if we can stick to our resolutions.

Development and design

The best new typefaces of 2013: Once again, it’s time for our (and your) favorite end-of-year roundup: The typefaces!

And holy moly, what a whirl of typefaces this year has been. Thanks to the magic of CSS (specifically, @font-face kits and kit generators), there’s pretty much no such thing as a print-only font anymore, unless you’re talking about hot metal and heavy machinery.

This web-scale liberation has fueled an explosion of amazing typography (and some really, really bad uses of otherwise good typefaces) all around the Internet in its many forms. As the fonts rolled out month after month, we kept tabs on our favorites and how we liked to see designer use them.

The 10 best design trends of 2013: This year renewed our hope in the future of web and mobile design. A handful of services, apps, individuals, and trends showed us a more beautiful, elegant digital world than we’ve ever seen before, and we’re actually looking forward to highlighting them.

Last year was completely mixed, full of good (grid layouts), bad (cartoony mascots), and downright indefensible (unnecessary navigational bullcrap).

This year, while we’re totally barfing over a small group of standout horror shows, we’re largely impressed. Designers took the best of last year’s trends — full-bleed images, truly excellent typography, magazine-worthy interfaces — and extrapolated them to new heights.

Facebook’s best hacks: Facebook still loves its Hacker Way. In an engineering blog post today, the company showed off a few of the products it has built-in Hackathons this year. They might not be as huge as other features Facebookers have built during hacking events in previous years, but they’re still cool.

5 lessons we learned about data science in 2013: Most people know what marketing executives do every day. They try to catch people’s attention through email, ads, tweets, and press releases. As for data scientists, well, their work is not nearly as well understood.

That’s been slowly changing this year as companies slowly loosen up about letting their hard-won data scientists talk about their work.

This year, VentureBeat has learned a lot about these fawned-over specimens. But our knowledge isn’t always delivered at once. That’s why we’ve brought together some of the lessons we’ve picked up in 2013.

Hardware

3D printing: If 2012 was the year that 3D printing expanded and found its dark side, 2013 was the year that it found its sugar daddy.

Between big-bill acquisitions, surging stock prices, and major interest from investors, this was a year of financial success for the industry. Newbies entered the market, big companies got bigger, and some of the word’s biggest brands finally got interested.

So you might say this was a pretty successful year for 3D printing — not just as a technology but also as a bona fide, near-mainstream industry. Here are a few of the bigger financial highlights.

The best and worst of smartphones in 2013: When it comes to smartphones, 2013 was all about what comes next.

Just look at how long each of the major players have been on the market: Six years for Apple’s iPhone, five years for Android, and three years for Windows Phone. Smartphones are mainstream — gone is the luster of carrying a powerful computer in your pocket. It’s simply something most of us expect now in our everyday lives.

But now that both the tech world and consumers have finally gotten a handle on what smartphones are and how we live with them, all eyes are on the next major mobile innovation.

Games

The game of the year: The GamesBeat staff is full of masochists. For the second year in a row, we’ve chosen a video game that ripped our hearts out and stomped on it repeatedly until we were just hollow shells of our former selves.

So why did the PlayStation 3 exclusive horror-shooter The Last of Us win our staff-voted overall Game of the Year and not [insert favorite game here]? It has a lot to do with developer Naughty Dog’s masterful approach to storytelling. The studio did a complete 180 from its happy-go-lucky Uncharted series to create the depressing and morally ambiguous world of The Last of Us, where civilization falls prey to a highly contagious fungal infection that turns its victims into terrifying zombie-like creatures.

Gaming in 2013 by the numbers: No year-end retrospective would be complete without an article full of facts and figures about the video games and business of the past 12 months. It’s interesting to see which home consoles and games sold the most or the fastest or got the best reviews. But we won’t have those numbers until next month (it still is 2013, you know!), so here are some other (hopefully) interesting statistics from this year as it winds down.

Best games of the year, staff picks: The Last of Us. BioShock: Infinite. Tomb Raider. These are a handful of the best-reviewed and highest-rated video games of 2013. But you won’t find all of them — or just those — on this list.

Nope. We’re doing things a little differently here at GamesBeat. We’re running down the staff’s picks for our Games of the Year. That means anything’s fair game — even Aliens: Colonial Marines. (Spoiler: Nobody chose Aliens: Colonial Marines.)

You’ll see our individual selections for 2013′s Game of the Year below, but we had everyone write up different games, sometimes from their runners-up lists (honestly, this was mainly because you don’t need to read five different writers tell you how awesome The Last of Us is).

The business of tech

Enterprise superstars of 2013: This was the year that business software became “sexy.” It wasn’t just the sheer dollars that poured into the sector but also the people and ideas that transformed the way we do business.

Young and energetic chief executives, such as Box’s Aaron Levie and Dropbox’s Drew Houston made cloud storage seem accessible. Fast-growing startup RelateIQ got us thinking about what’s next for customer relationship management (CRM). And “big data” companies like Quid, Kaggle, and Metamarkets rose to prominence by forming online communities of data scientists.

It’s about time that enterprise startups got their share of attention — and not just consumer apps. So VentureBeat’s enterprise team interviewed our network and compiled a list of the vendors and visionaries that impressed us most this year.

The 5 most talked-about CEOs this year: CEOs are Silicon Valley’s version of celebrities. We watch their every move and soak up their every word, hoping for pearls of wisdom that will lead to glory and riches.

News aggregator News360 took a look at which of these illustrious personas attracted the most media coverage this year. The company analyzed more than 400,000 news sources between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, indexing stories where the CEO’s name made the headline.

Topping the list is Apple CEO Tim Cook, whose 3,555 headlines comprised nearly one-third of all the media attention devoted to the top five CEOs combined.

Facebook’s 2013 shows how it will take over the rest of the world in 2014: The writing is on the wall. If we take any time at all to observe the recent past for Facebook, we can easily see its near future.

And it’s rosy as all get-out, with a few important exceptions.

This year, Facebook committed to mobile technologies with a fervor unprecedented in the industry. For a network that existed before mobile apps were even a thing, it made a remarkable pivot into a mobile-best position.

In the shaky year following its IPO, it posted astounding revenue numbers quarter after quarter — again making its biggest slam dunks in mobile revenue. It proved an engineering-driven company can change the world. And it showed that the social web still has the power to delight us.

Tech IPOs of 2013: Last year, we estimated that 80 percent of the tech startups likely to go public in 2013 sold their software to businesses, not consumers.

Our prediction proved accurate, with enterprise companies dominating the markets this year. Business-to-business (B2B) companies don’t capture the same attention as their consumer counterparts, but investors perceive them as a safer bet.

Google in 2013: In one of the company’s fastest-paced years to date, Google churned products and moved with puma-like speed and agility to keep up with a legion of starving startups.

The 11 blockbuster funding rounds of 2013 These 11 tech companies have collectively raised $2.8 billion this year. That’s quite a number.

Five companies raised rounds of $200 million or more in 2013, as compared to the three last year, and six more made the $150 million club. Rounds of this magnitude generally go to companies that have already proved their idea and market, and now require mountains of money to scale the business, refine the business model, and fuel international growth.

Interestingly, the largest funding round of the year went to an under-the-radar networking solutions provider called Genband. Box, Fab, and Pinterest made this list two years in a row. About half of the biggest deals were for companies based outside of Silicon Valley. For one, this marked its first round of funding, and four raised not one, but two nine-figure rounds this year.

Sundries

5 memorable moments that shaped health-tech in 2013: It was a remarkable year for digital health.

Health technology was one of the hottest sectors in Silicon Valley in 2013, with investors pouring $1.5 billion into the space by the end of the third quarter. Entrepreneurs jumped into health care to take advantage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) and other health reforms. And in 2013, doctors proved far more willing than ever before to adopt digital technologies, partly thanks to federal cash incentives: Under the government’s “Meaningful Use” guidelines, doctors who shift from paper-based records to electronic health records are eligible to receive large checks in the mail.

Awful buzzwords that will rule in 2014: Every year, Silicon Valley creates new buzzwords to make its startup founders, corporate spokespeople, and “thought leaders” feel like they’re doing something important.

According to linguists, jargon proliferates in Silicon Valley’s tech scene faster than almost anywhere else.

15 thought-provoking VB guest posts you probably missed in 2013: With the year coming to a close, we wanted to pull out some of the awesome, thought-provoking guest posts written by investors, founders, and entrepreneurs for VentureBeat in 2013. Make sure you check these out before the year comes to a close.


    



Tech in China 2013: VCs are chasing online education, finance, and mobile


This post is by Tracey Xiang, TechNode from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




After social, e-commerce, group-buying, and the like, venture capitalists had new categories of tech startups to chase in China in 2013.

The new hot verticals are online education, online finance, travel, among others. Mobile, of course, counts. But the businesses on mobile that have been funded are pretty similar those proven ones on desktop; for instance, gaming, advertising, and solutions for developers or enterprises.

While big Chinese Internet companies poured a ton of money into acquisitions and investments, this year was more about complementing their core businesses or strategies. Chinese venture capitalists are on the lookout for new markets or games changers.

Education

There is a revolution in education underway in China — moving to private education and moving online. A wave of education startups raised fundings in the first half of 2013. Some of them, such as 51Talk raised big money in 2013. 51Talk’s take was a $12 million Series B round later in the year.

What’s perceived as good education in China, especially among Chinese young parents, is pretty much about good schools, from kindergarten to universities overseas. The business opportunities entrepreneurs see are in K-12 and preparing kids for studying abroad. Gong Haiyan, founder of dating site Jiayuan, decided to enter the education market starting with an online English-learning site but shifted to a K-12 e-learning platform.

Others that have been funded include education app developers and services with Western models in online education. As for  online teaching platform, it seems this trend will continue to flourish in 2014.

Finance

Big names like Sequoia China and IDG Capital Partners laid eyes on Internet-based finance early on. In 2013, VCs showed interest in personal finance apps (WacaiTongbanjie), credit card management apps (Kaniu51zhangdan), online financial product aggregation & search (Rong36091jinrong), and financial social media (Snowball Finance), among others.

One example is Bitcoin Trading Platform BTC China, which  raised $5 million  this past year.

Mobile

Developer-facing services pocketed a lot of funding in this year. That includes mobile data analysis (TalkingData raised a Series A round, while its direct competitor Umeng was acquired by Alibaba), mobile advertising (Youmi announced RMB100 million in new financing), mobile app security (Bangcle raised a Series B), SDK/API developers (social sharing SDK seveloper ShareSDK, voice recognition service YunzhishengFace recognition solution Face++, indoor map Palmap+), and mobile payment (Mobile game payment service Mo9).

As game developers found that it wasn’t so hard to make money from mobile games, it’s no wonder there were so many acquisitions and investments in this sector. Mobile game developer Chukong raised $50 million in a Series DGame publisher Yodo1 raised $11 million in a Series BHTML5 game developer UZwan received a Series AEjoy secured 100 million Yuan financing; and mobile social game developer Hortor Soft raised a Series A.

Crazy buys in both mobile gaming and web-based gaming include Zhongqingbao, which acquired stakes in two mobile game companies for 440 million Yuan.

Also, Alpha Animation acquired 51 Pocket and 5agame for 692 million Yuan;  Ourpalm acquired Playcrab and Shanggame for 2.55 billion yuan and web game developer Dovo.

Travel

It is believed that there’s still a big opportunity in travel markets in and outside China. Startups that have received funds in this year include B2B tourism service 8trip, outbound tourism service Shijiebang, social travel service Mafengwo, travel guide service Tuniu, and hotel app Economy Hotel Manager.

Online to offline lifestyle services

Funded startups in this category are working on housekeeping (Ayibang), online food ordering (EtaoshiEle.me), food delivery (Daojia), movie tickets and info (GewaraMtime), pet owners (Petta), weddings (591wed), and maternal needs (Spice Moms).

Yes, there are many investments in taxi apps and car rentals, thanks to Uber. Also Airbnb-style services are not dying in China but evolving with new fundings (MayiTujia).

What will be hot in 2014? Some venture capitalists see enterprise-facing services will be and have taken hold in China (enterprise social service Mingdaosoftware provider Facishare)

This story originally appeared on TechNode.


    



The Best iOS And Android Apps Of 2013


This post is by from TechCrunch


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




icons

Congratulations, Planet Earth! We made it another 365 days without crashing into the sun. Go team!

It’s the end of the year, and that means three things: booze, ridiculous sunglasses with numbers on them, and lists. Lots and lots of lists. You’ve seen our list of best/worst gadgets of the year. Up next? The Best Mobile Apps Of 2013.

Now, to be clear: there’s not a lot of science here. If we were going by the raw numbers, some Angry Birds spin-off would be the top app every year for the rest of eternity. Instead, these are the favorites picked by a bunch of geeks who write about this stuff all day, every day. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and the terrible — and after some heated debate, these apps emerged as the year’s champs.

We tried to stick with apps that launched in 2013, or, in some cases, the tail end of 2012. While many of the apps are cross-platform and we considered that a massively positive bulletpoint, we didn’t eliminate any of our top picks just because they were only on one platform or the other. Some are iOS only. Some are Android only. That’s just the way it goes.

Think we missed something? Got a favorite? Let us know down in the comments.

In no particular order:

coverCover (Android only):

Cover is the lockscreen we always wanted without even knowing it. It figures out what apps you use most and when, and automatically pushes shortcuts for those apps straight to your phone’s lockscreen at the right time. Use Gmail and LinkedIn a lot at work? It’ll catch on and have those apps at-the-ready as soon as you walk in the office. Driving? It’ll queue up Waze, or Pandora, or whatever it thinks you’ll need most.

seene
Seene (iOS only):

Poor Lytro! The oddly-shaped camera got its fair share of buzz when it launched back in 2011, with its special sensor that allowed for all sorts of neat tricks (like being able to “shift” the perspective of a photo a bit after you’ve already snapped it.)

Alas, like the landfill’s worth of standalone pocket cameras that fell before it, the Lytro’s functionality has largely been replicated by mobile apps. One of our favorite apps in that group is Seene. Seene lets you take super trippy “3D” photos with just your iPhone. It actually takes a bunch of photos as you move your phone around an object, then intelligently stitches them together using all sorts of computer vision voodoo.

newsblur
Newsblur (iOS, Android)

When Google Reader died on July 1st of 2013, a million hopeful replacements sprung up around its grave. While there’s no one-size-fits-all alternative, NewsBlur is a very, very solid option. It’s fast, cross-platform, and super pretty.

 

QuizUp (iOS only):
Quizup
Right around the middle of the year, Icelandic games studio Plain Vanilla shifted their focus from one-off, licensed quiz titles to an all-in-one quiz game with topics for everyone — and man, did it pay off. With an ever-growing library of 200,000+ questions, a super-clever multiplayer mode that makes games feel realtime when they’re not, and a gorgeous interface, QuizUp is one of the all-around best mobile games of the year.

Cycloramic (iOS only):

 

Sit your phone down. Push a button. A few seconds later, you’ve got a full 360° panoramic of the room.

How? Magic. And by magic, I mean an insanely clever hack that uses the iPhone 5S’ vibration motor to propel the phone around on a smooth surface. Does it work every time? Nope. But when it does, everyone’s head explodes.

BillGuard (iOS only for now, Android “coming soon”):

billguard
BillGuard’s CEO says they’re building “what Mint should have been“, and they’re already doing a damned good job of it (aided, of course, by Mint having gone pretty stale in the years since its 2009 Intuit acquisition). BillGuard tracks your spending, provides a beautiful analytics interface, and quickly highlights any charges that seem fraudulent or that might be hidden fees in disguise. Oh, and it learns where you shop most and automatically finds coupons for you to use next time you go.

Oyster (iOS only):
oyster
My New Years Resolution for 2014 is to remember what the hell my New Years Resolution for 2013 was. But if your resolution is to read more, Oyster is for you. Think Netflix, but for reading. $10 a month gets you all-you-can-read access to about 100,000 titles.

 

 

HeyDay (iOS only):
heyday
Everyone has that one thing that they’ve always wanted to build, only to find out that someone has already made it really, really well. HeyDay is that thing for me. HeyDay is what the company calls an “effortless journal”, automatically pulling your photos, videos, and GPS locations into individual, timestamped journal entries. At the end of the day, you just go back through and add little notes to fill in the gaps.

TimeHop (iOS only):
timehop
TimeHop scans your myriad social networking accounts to remind you of all the awesome things you were doing on this same day a year (or two) ago. It’s like a personal time capsule, or a “This Day In History” list for your life. Get ready to drown in endless waves of nostalgia.

 

 

Clumsy Ninja (iOS only):
clumsy
Clumsy Ninja is kind of like a Tamagotchi, if the Tamagotchi was a lil’ drunk dude in a ninja costume. You play games with your ninja to teach him new skills; where at first he can hardly walk without tripping over his own feet, you’ll quickly have him doing backflips and karate chopping dodgeballs out of the air. Sure, it’s a bit silly — and sure, it’s a classic time-killer/grinding game. But it’s also truly remarkable to see something like this running on a phone. The animation blending/ragdoll system alone is mindblowing.

Agent (Android only):
Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.47.10 PM
Agent is one of those Android apps that could pretty much never exist on iOS, unless Apple either makes some big ol’ policy changes or builds it themselves. Agent makes your smartphone smarter in lots of little ways. Battery dying? It’ll dim the screen and turn off Bluetooth. Sleeping? It’ll silence your phone, but offer up callers/texters a way to ring through in case of an emergency. Driving? It’ll reply to texts to let people know you can’t respond right now, AND remember where you parked.

Tinder (iOS, Android):
Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.42.32 PM

Tinder is dating boiled down to an almost absurd level of simplicity: a single swipe. Like someone? Swipe right. If they’re not quite for you? Swipe left. If they’ve seen your photo and liked what they saw enough to swipe you to the right, Tinder matches you up.

It ain’t my kind of thing (read: my girlfriend would punch me right in the schnoz), but the single folks at TC all swear by it.

Digg (iOS, Android):
Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.44.00 PM
Surprise! After a rebirth under a new owner in 2012, Digg actually started sending a decent amount of traffic around the web again in 2013. Bigger surprise: they built a mobile app and it’s actually pretty damned good. The editor-curated content provides a quick glance as to what’s popular on the Internet at any given time, while the built-in news reader is another super solid alternative to the late great Google Reader.

duolingo
Duolingo (iOS, Android):

You’d be hardpressed to find anyone saying anything bad about Duolingo – it’s this year’s Internet golden child, and rightly so. It’s one of the best tools I’ve ever seen for learning/brushing up on a language… and it’s completely free. As part of your training, you translate bits of real world text from sites like CNN and BuzzFeed (which is how Duolingo makes any money.)

Sunrise (iOS):
Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 5.43.46 PM
Hate what Apple did with the calendar in iOS 7? Me too! Fortunately, a couple of folks from Foursquare broke away to remind us that calendars can be pretty and easy to use. Looking for another calendar, but not feelin’ Sunrise? Honorable mentions to Fantastical (iOS), Tempo (iOS), and Any.do Cal (Android)

Vine (iOS, Android):
vine
Acquired months before it even launched, Vine is one of the stranger tales of 2013. Focused entirely around sharing 6 second looping video clips, many a pundit predicted Vine’s death upon the launch of Instagram Video — and yet, Vine continues to be where most of the Internet’s funniest short videos end up.

5 features desktop 3D printer companies should focus on in 2014


This post is by Signe Brewster from Gigaom


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




The year 2013 is over. Everyone has heard of a 3D printer, and maybe even seen one at a friend’s house or the mall. The next 365 days are a huge opportunity for 3D printer companies to capitalize on that newfound awareness and convince the average person it is a machine they want. Here’s what the companies gunning to put a printer in every home should focus on.

Simplicity

The best 3D printer is the least involved. The new wave of users doesn’t want to have to tweak temperature settings and babysit a printer through a print job. So far, MakerBot has done the most visible job of building a printer that works intuitively, but it still requires an intermediate knowledge of the technology. Its printers still break down more than the average appliance and require regular hardware maintenance.

Makerware 3D printing screenshot

MakerBot’s Makerware software

A wave of printers set to hit the market next year promise that you’ll just have to hit print and then leave the rest to the 3D printer. If that’s the case, perfect. If not, I won’t be surprised. Either way, we need a machine that has simple, easy software and handles the technical aspects of 3D printing automatically.

Faster printing

Beside their current complexity, the most annoying part of using a 3D printer is how long it takes to print anything. An object the size of an espresso cup can take 45 minutes. Printing larger objects takes hours. It’s a huge blow to the usefulness of a 3D printer, as it’s usually faster to run out to the store and buy something instead of printing it yourself.

There is some hope. Printers like the Robox and Lionhead Bunny represent a very cool trend: more print heads. When you have more print heads, you can extrude more material at once, speeding up the time it takes to print an object. The Robox comes with the bonus of a nozzle made to extrude larger amounts of material, while the second is reserved for finer details. Features like these will be big selling points.

Robox 3D printer

Alternatives to FDM

But why limit ourselves to printing in melted plastic? There are alternatives to fused deposition modeling, as it is called, that already offer faster methods to print. Stereolithography is already making its way into homes via printers like the Formlabs Form 1, which uses a laser to cure liquid resin layer-by-layer. The Pegasus Touch Laser is another, cheaper, option that just hit Kickstarter. Both are fast and capable of putting out high-quality prints that would be tough to build with an FDM machine.

Kickstarter

The Form 1 3D Printer. Photo courtesy of Formlabs.

I’m not sure selective laser sintering will ever be safe enough for the home, but the point is that there is more than one way to 3D print. We soon may find ourselves abandoning FDM in favor of faster, better technologies.

More materials

3D printing filament

Right now, ABS and PLA plastic dominate the available materials for 3D printers. That’s slowly changing as the materials science evolves and manufacturers catch on that people don’t only want to print in rigid plastic. On professional 3D printers, it’s possible right now to print in multiple materials, both rigid and soft, in a single print job. That makes it possible to print hinges and wearable items like shoes.

Hobbyists have long tinkered with materials like nylon and even liquid-like foods to see how far they can push their printers. I’ve witnessed the same experimentation going on in the offices of several 3D printer companies. MakerBot just released a flexible filament. It’s not crazy to ask that by the end of 2014 that ABS and PLA be just two options of many.

Lower cost

Finally, to totally dream, it would be great to see all of this happen for less than $1,000. There are plenty of sub-$1,000 printers out there already, but none have met all of these qualifications.

Here’s to another exciting year in the fast-changing world of 3D printing.

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VentureBeat’s 12 most popular stories from 2013


This post is by Dylan Tweney from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




VentureBeat’s 12 most popular stories from 2013
Irrational Games

As we wind down the last day of 2013, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the stories that have proved the most popular with our readers this year. It’s a surprisingly diverse mix: From superpopular video game franchises to really obscure indie games, from the ancient Apple vs. Android battle to brand-new programming languages, from kids acting awesome to grownups acting completely childish, this year had a little bit of everything.

Here are the 12 most popular stories on VentureBeat this year. Thanks for helping make this an awesome year. And stick around — we’ve got a lot more awesome in store for 2014.

Understanding BioShock Infinite’s ending

A lot of you really want to know what it all means, apparently. After first-person shooter BioShock Infinite came out early this year, this story rapidly rocketed to the top ranks. MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD, of course.

These are the 50 smartest colleges in the U.S. (and #1 will surprise you)

Forget the Ivy League and Stanford — the smartest college in America is not what you might think. If you’re using Lumosity’s brain-training-game as your measure of smartness, that is.

These are the 100 smartest cities in America (study)

Lumosity proved adept at trolling not just college students but urban residents of all descriptions with its ranking of the smartest cities. Our hat’s off to you, Lumosity. And thanks for all the pageviews.

This is Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch: A blocky health tracker with a camera

Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch, as seen in an early marketing video.

VentureBeat

First!

A scoop by VentureBeat reporter Christina Farr, this story gave readers an early look at Samsung’s smartwatch — days before it was unveiled to the public. Our story got picked up everywhere from Gizmodo to the Today show. Too bad the device itself didn’t get picked up by many customers.

Android up 13%, iOS down 7%, BlackBerry down 81% … and Windows Phone up a massive 52%

Steady but unspectacular growth for Android and gradual but not catastrophic drops for Apple were pretty much in line with expectations. But the BlackBerry and Windows Phone numbers were dramatic changes from the same quarter a year ago.

This 12-year-old kid learned to code on Codeacademy, built 5 apps, and is speaking at SXSW

ethan-duggan

Rick Duggan

Young coder and SXSW guru Ethan Duggan.

Ethan learned to code “in about two to three months” on Codecademy during summer vacation between fifth and sixth grade, getting schooled in HTML, CSS, Javascript, and more. He’s now planning to release Bargument, a cool app that will help you win any argument in a bar — even if you’re too young to get through the front door.

Grand Theft Auto Online: 26 tips and tricks for success

Being dropped in a hostile world is scary. And Grand Theft Auto Online – the recently-launched multiplayer part of open-world action game Grand Theft Auto V – can be very hostile at times. These 26 tips proved reassuring to a lot of you.

Sentient code: An inside look at Stephen Wolfram’s utterly new, insanely ambitious computational paradigm

In 2002, Stephen Wolfram released A New Kind of Science and immediately unleashed a firestorm of wonder, controversy, and criticism as the British-born scientist, programmer, and entrepreneur overturned conventional ideas on how to pursue knowledge. Then in November, he teased something with the capacity to create as much passion — and, likely, much more actual change — in the world of programming, computation, and applications. In this story, Wolfram gave VentureBeat reporter John Koetsier a glimpse under the hood. What he saw was amazing.

Breaking: Adria Richards fired by SendGrid for calling out developers on Twitter

One of the uglier episodes in tech started when a developer made some allegedly sexual jokes during a conference. SendGrid developer evangelist Adria Richards was sitting nearby and outed him via Twitter, posting his pictures and a few details about what he said. The developer in question was fired by his employer, PlayHaven — and then SendGrid fired Richards. VentureBeat’s John Koetsier broke both stories.

Why your 8 year old should be coding

Learn-to-code startups abound these days, but one in particular is focusing on the very young. The startup is Tynker; it makes a web-based learning platform and a visual programming language for teachers and kids in K-12 classrooms. In a discussion with its cofounder, we found out why teaching kids how to code is so important to him.

IBM reveals its top five innovation predictions for the next five years

The IBM “5 in 5″ is the eighth year in a row that IBM has made predictions about technology, and this year’s prognostications are sure to get people talking. From “the classroom will learn you” to “the city will help you live in it,” these predictions reflect IBM’s ambitions and its deep knowledge of technology. Plus, who doesn’t like hearing about the future?

If Steve Jobs applied for a job at Apple today, there’s no chance in hell he’d get hired

Not political. Collaborators. People who really don’t care who gets credit. Those are the type of people that Apple looks for in new employees, Apple CEO Tim Cook said recently. In other words, if Steve Jobs was applying for a job at Apple today, he’d probably get shown the door double-quick-time. Ashton Kutcher, on the other hand. …

Not the real Steve Jobs.

Not the real Steve Jobs.


    



Healthcare.gov enrollments surge following major repairs


This post is by Jacob Kastrenakes from The Verge - All Posts


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Though it began with a rocky start, healthcare signups through the United States’ new insurance marketplaces surged this month, bringing total enrollments to 2.1 million for the end of the year. Most notably, enrollment doubled through Healthcare.gov as the deadline for January coverage approached. Given Healthcare.gov’s often-inoperable state during the prior months, that statistic isn’t necessarily so impressive, but the government is encourage that enrollments will actually continue to grow from now through March, when the enrollment period ends.

Continue reading…

Renewable ‘pedal power’ to light Times Square ball tonight


This post is by John Voelcker, Green Car Reports from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Renewable ‘pedal power’ to light Times Square ball tonight
Jolie O’Dell/VentureBeat

Never let it be said that New York City doesn’t get everything it can out of its 50 million-plus tourist visitors each year.

In this case, it’s pedal-powered energy to offset the roughly 50 kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed by the famous lighted ball that drops to signal the New Year.

Times Square, site of the famous ball drop that ushers in the New Year, has now been outfitted with a rack of six stationary Citi Bikes that visitors (and residents) can pedal to charge batteries.

The bikes are propped up on dynamometers that can generate about 75 Watts per hour.

According to a member of the promotional team for the event, most people stay on the bikes for 2 to 5 minutes, generating 1 to 4 Watts apiece. One intrepid rider did stay on for an hour, hitting the 75-Watt mark.

The so-called Citi Bike Pedal Power Station, located on the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and West 42nd Street, includes a meter that shows much electricity has been generated through human effort thus far.

According to an article yesterday, Times Square visitors are on track to fully charge about 20 12-Volt car batteries, which can provide up to 10 kilowatts–almost the 15,000 Watts needed to power up the famous ball, which contains 32,000 LED bulbs.

See photos of pedaling tourists here.

This kind of “free” power is not only a good marketing scheme for Citi Bike, which by early November had been used more than 5 million times since its Memorial Day launch, but it also offers the possible of green electric power for other events.

One idea: Citi Bike spin classes to feed power into the city’s grid.

Another: A pedal-powered music festival in Union Square Park, little more than a mile southeast of Times Square. Actually, the first one happened more than two years ago.

But it’s going to be pretty chilly in NYC tonight, so if you–like 1 billion or so people around the world–are watching the ball drop in someplace much warmer, just appreciate the light from the ball … and know that some of it came from sweating tourists.

Best wishes to all our readers for a happy, healthy, safe, and rewarding New Year!

_______________________________________________

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This story originally appeared on Green Car Reports.


    



13 biggest moments in cleantech in 2013


This post is by from Gigaom


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




So we’re still sticking with the term “cleantech,” eh? Well, six years after launching the focus on this subject for Gigaom, I still don’t have a better description for the next-generation of energy technologies, which include both clean power, and energy efficiency, as well as the better management of resources like water and food. So, yep, again this year, we’re keeping it around, though I’m sure we can all agreed it’s flawed and now a dirty word for venture capitalists. Anyways, onward!

From the outside, 2013 looked like a horror show for cleantech, with high profile bankruptcies of solar and electric car startups, and a continued drop in venture capital funding. However, it actually turned out to be a pretty good year for cleantech outside of the Silicon Valley VC ecosystem. Solar panels turned out to be a rock star, internet companies like Google and Apple wholeheartedly embraced clean power, and large corporations started to invest more in resource innovation. Connected, smart technologies — from software, to sensors to robotics — also continued to have a major cleantech effect on industries like the power sector, agriculture, and transportation.

These are the 13 things that stood out in my mind from the year:

13). Agriculture became smarter, connected, and more robotic in 2013: Large companies and startups alike focused on selling connectivity products, sensors, software management systems, drones, and big data tools to farmers this year. Startups we kept an eye on included Harvest Automation, OnFarm, mOasis, Blue River, SoilIQ, Libelium, and OlaSmarts. GE’s Industrial Internet has products for agriculture, too. And who could forget one of the biggest acquisitions of the year, with Monsanto buying data company Climate Corp.

Farm with tractors

12). The under $10 LED bulb from Cree: In the spring of this year LED chip maker Cree launched a consumer LED bulb for under $10. This is one of the lowest priced LED bulbs out there and represents the future of what lighting companies could eventually deliver in bulk. For years many of these bulbs have been over $20, $30, and even $40 per bulb.

LEDs from Cree (not the ones being used by Xfinity Home)

LEDs from Cree (not the ones being used by Xfinity Home)

11). The big cleantech bankruptcies this year: While the second half of 2013 hit a more positive note, there were a decent amount of high profile bankruptcies from cleantech startups selling solar panels and electric cars this year. Companies that soured this year included electric car startup Fisker Automotive, thin film solar startup Nanosolar, solar giant Suntech Power, electric car charging startup Better Place, thin film solar company SoloPower, electric car startup Coda Automotive, and electric car charging company ECOtality. And that’s just to name a few. There were others who were sold off for basement prices to aggressive acquirers, and others that just quietly faded away.

There were so many failures in these two sectors because the electric car market has taken longer than many expected to mature, and silicon solar panels became super cheap over the past few years. Many of these startups were backed by venture capitalists, and the VCs stopped funding them after a certain point when they failed to get traction.

Fisker Karmas

Fisker Karmas

10). New power grid batteries are making progress: One area of innovation that is still being seen from startups is next-generation batteries made for the power grid. These batteries need to be cheap, and be able to provide different applications that utilities and power grid companies want. Some of the startups showing progress in 2013 included Eos Energy, Ambri, Solar Grid Storage, Stem, and Aquion Energy.

Energy storage in general got more attention this year, and according to researchers there are 420 energy storage projects installed globally. Energy storage includes batteries, but also tech like compressed air storage, pumped hydro storage and other more funky technologies like “gravel on ski lifts.” California also launched a revolutionary energy storage mandate, which calls for utilities to install a large amount of energy storage projects by 2020 to help the state meet its renewable energy goals (here’s why you should care about it).

power grid hurricane sandy

9). Facebook plans to power a data center entirely with wind: Facebook hit a milestone in 2013 with its declaration that it plans to build a data center in Iowa partly in order to take advantage of the powerful wind corridor there. When the data center is built it will be run entirely off wind turbines. Facebook is working with a local utility there and the move shows how Internet companies can negotiate with utilities to get the clean power they want.

windfarm1

8). Kleiner Perkins restructures away from cleantech: While Kleiner Perkins has been making this move for awhile, the firm’s leader John Doerr admitted that such an aggressive bet on cleantech wasn’t the best idea and has promised to do better. 2013 was also the year that Kleiner’s bet, beleaguered electric car startup Fisker Automotive, officially declared bankruptcy.

The firm is under going restructuring now and talks about investing in “sustainability.” It’s a big deal because Kleiner was the most high profile VC firm that made the most aggressive bet in Silicon Valley and it caused them a lot of trouble. That said, some of Kleiner’s cleantech investments were pretty good, including Nest, Opower (could go public soon), Clean Power Finance, and Silver Spring Networks (went public). Bloom Energy could turn out to do well in the long run.

Cleantech venture capital investments overall cratered in 2013 and in the third quarter of 2013 dropped down to pre-2006 levels. Some firms are still going strong though, with alternative strategies. The energy fund of private equity group Silver Lake managed to raise $650 million for later stage energy and resource management companies in 2013, and The Westly Group closed on a $160 million fund for cleantech this year.

money dollar bills benjamin franklin cash

7). Some huge next-gen clean power plants came online: Beyond the revolution happening with solar panels, other types of utility-scale clean power came online this year, too. The solar thermal plant Ivanpah delivered its first power to the grid, while the solar thermal plant Solana in Arizona was completed. Solar thermal farms use mirrors and lenses to turn heat from the sun into electricity (while solar panels convert the light directly into electricity).

In England, the massive offshore wind farm the London Array was finally finished this year. More controversially, startup Skyonic broke ground on one of the largest commercial carbon capture plants in the U.S., being built at a cement factory in San Antonio.

An aerial view of Ivanpah with towers 2 and 3 in the background

6). Sustainable food tech was hot in 2013: This year Silicon Valley embraced startups that are innovating around sustainable food tech. Startups we watched this year included Hampton Creek Foods, Unreal Candy, Nu-Tek Salt, Sand Hill Foods, Modern Meadow, Beyond Meat, Bright Farms, Zevia, and more.

Josh Tetrick, the CEO of Hampton Creek Foods

Josh Tetrick, the CEO of Hampton Creek Foods

5). Solar panels in the U.S. are breaking records: While the analysts are still tallying up numbers for the entire year, the third quarter of 2013 saw the largest number of American homes in history install solar panels on their rooftops. The solar panel industry was also back to growth this year. SunPower said recently it plans to build a new solar cell factory, which is a move that reverses the trend of solar manufacturers shuttering factories to deal with an over supply of solar equipment worldwide that began in 2011.

U.S. Army solar

4). Obama takes a stance on regulating carbon emissions: President Obama took one of the most aggressive stances to date in the U.S. on limiting carbon emissions from power plants this year. Obama proposed limits on green house gas emissions for new natural gas plants at 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt hour and new coal plants will have to hit 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide.

What can coal teach us about the cloud?

What can coal teach us about the cloud?

3). The sharing economy went mainstream in 2013: Sharing physical goods, like apartments and cars, officially went mainstream in 2013, with companies like Airbnb and Lyft breaking out. Airbnb hit the 10 million guest stays milestone this year, and Lyft reached the 1 million rides point this year. Most people wouldn’t call these companies cleantech, but the more efficient use of physical goods is good for the planet overall.

Airbnb neighborhoods San Francisco screenshot

2). Apple’s ground-breaking bet on solar: This year Apple finished building the largest privately-owned solar panel farms in the U.S. in North Carolina to power a large data center. The move was disruptive because Apple threw down the gauntlet in a state where the local utility, Duke Energy, was taking its sweet time offering some of the giant data center customers in the area access to clean power. Following Apple’s decision, this year Duke Energy launched a new program to sell clean power to customers that are willing to pay for it. Apple also hired former chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, to help the company grow its energy efficiency and clean power plans next year.

Apple's solar farm in North Carolina

Apple’s solar farm in North Carolina

1). Tesla officially disrupts the auto industry: While Tesla has been building its business for a decade, it took the company this year to show how it can make a small profit and use its popular electric car to compete with competitors in the auto biz. A post on this subject was the second most read story on Gigaom in 2013.

Tesla Model S

Happy New Year!

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Funding Daily: New Year’s Eve party edition


This post is by Dylan Tweney from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Funding Daily: New Year’s Eve party edition
People Pattern

Ken Cho, cofounder and chief executive of People Pattern. Cho opted to give the company’s head shots some life, to be different and humorous, he said.

Personality — that’s what we’ve got. And we’ve also got three of the last funding deals to be announced in 2013. Read on for a quick overview of who’s raising what and then head out for your New Year’s Eve festivities.

People Pattern raises $4.5M to help uncover the personality of your sales leads

People Pattern, a company that evaluates social media channels to deliver insight about sales leads and other potential revenue drivers, has closed a $4.5 million round of new funding. Mohr Davidow Ventures led the round, which contained contributions from private investors. The deal comes on top of a $250,000 round of seed funding earlier this year, People Pattern cofounder and chief executive Ken Cho — that’s him in the photo — told VentureBeat in an interview. Read more on VentureBeat.

Intelligent Portal Systems raises $4.3M, more on the way

Intelligent Portal Systems, a technology startup in San Jose so secretive that it doesn’t have a website, just raised $4.3 million, according to a filing the company made yesterday to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

And more funding could be on the way. Another SEC filing from the company this week shows the company plans an additional $450,000 round, but it has only raised $71,000 of that total so far. Read everything we know so far on VentureBeat.

LifeWave raises $618K for patches to shield your body from phone radiation

LifeWave makes a variety of patches for human bodies that ostensibly help with reducing pain, decreasing stress, and providing “vibrant health and vitality.” The company also makes patches for your phone: Its Matrix 2 radiation shields block cellphone radiation that would otherwise enter your head. Now, the dangers of cellphone radiation are debatable — but if you’re worried about the radiation, a shield like this might make sense. It might also hurt your phone’s reception, but that’s a choice you’ll have to make. LifeWave recently raised about $618,000, according to an SEC filing.


    



How Tech Is Driving The Business Of Instant Gratification


This post is by Selena Larson from ReadWrite


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post





ReadWritePredict is a look ahead at the technology trends and companies that will shape the coming year.

Instant gratification can’t come soon enough. In 2013, the runaway success of Uber, the service that lets you call a car by tapping your smartphone, has gotten consumers, retailers, and investors thinking about a world where just about any good or service is available on demand. Increasingly, in urban areas, that thought is becoming a reality.

This has been a long time coming. You could buy a pizza online in 1994—though you had to disconnect from the Internet so the local store could call you to confirm your order. No wonder people persisted in calling in orders. Now—if you’re in the right places—you can get anything delivered to their doorstep simply by using an app.

Of course, instant gratification goes far beyond food delivery. Driving, shopping, lodging—even dating—have been transformed by this one-tap convenience. No longer do we need to go to a bar to meet people. Nor do we need to set foot in a mall to enjoy a world of selection. Need a hotel room for New Year’s? Forget booking ahead, just grab a discounted room at the last minute.

In 2013, the glimmerings of this trend sparked consumers’ desires for on-demand services. And it’s likely we’ll see this increase in 2014.

You Can Always Get What You Want

Various services enable people to get virtually anything delivered at the drop of a hat.

Postmates, one of the most popular delivery startups in San Francisco, Manhattan, Seattle and Washington, D.C., promises to deliver anything you want in under an hour. A sandwich? Done. Flowers? Easy. Clothing? Sure, why not. 

Of course, new businesses like Postmates have to compete with the likes of eBay Now and Google Shopping Express, two corporate-backed services that deliver high-quality goods ranging from electronics to housewares to groceries. 

When there is an app for everything, we expect things to be as simple as pressing a button. Even personal relationships have suffered—or improved, depending on whom you ask—because of applications that deliver potential suitors straight to your mobile device. Apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Down provide real-time updates featuring single people around you based on your location or network of friends, and let you communicate with them directly in the app. When it’s this easy to find a date, who needs icebreakers?

The on-demand trend has found its way into publishing as well. MasterCard announced a partnership with Condé Nast in October that allows readers of digital magazines to purchase items directly from an advertisement or article. The partnership, dubbed ShopThis, debuted on the tablet November edition of Wired.

There’s a dark side to all this convenience: Researchers are suggesting that the ease of commerce on mobile devices and the abundance of choice may be spurring us to buy more.

Everything’s Coming Up Uber

2014 appears to be a defining year for the on-demand movement. 

Uber picked up $258 million in funding in 2013 to pop up in new cities; Homejoy, an on-demand cleaning service, pocketed $38 million; and Amazon Fresh finally made its way to San Francisco

But the question remains: are people willing to pay extra for convenience? It appears so, if only to a point.

Uber found itself in hot water recently when its surge pricing strategy forced many riders to fork over hundreds in a snowstorm. Uber’s CEO defended its pricing practices—significantly up-charging riders during high-demand times—but some customers were not appeased. 

So while users might not balk at putting up a few extra dollars for a black Town Car over a traditional cab, fares two times the normal limit—sometimes much higher—can incite outrage. Uber has said the alternative is not to have cars available—which is the fate of any consumer trying to order traditional car service over the phone on New Year’s Eve.

It’s not clear, though, if surge pricing will translate to other types of on-demand delivery. The biggest players seem to be playing it safe with pricing. Google Shopping Express is free for the first six months, while eBay charges $5 per order. Amazon is experimenting with delivery fees that range from free to $9.99, depending on the order size, as well as a membership service that charges $299 for unlimited deliveries. Unlike Uber, which at times copes with excessive demand, these players are trying to stoke more demand so they can build efficient delivery networks.

To become mainstream marketplaces, on-demand services will have to find the balance between pleasing customers and making money. Companies will continue to experiment in order to provide the perfect model. But with consumer habits shifting, 2014 may be the year they have to deliver.

Genetics prof: Why I won’t waste my money on a DNA test in 2014


This post is by Christina Farr from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Genetics prof: Why I won’t waste my money on a DNA test in 2014

When a reporter for the New York Times set out to test three genetic tests, she received extremely varied results.

The direct-to-consumer tests set back writer Kira Peikoff anywhere from $99 to $399. In two months, she received a full set of health results about her likelihood of contracting a variety of adult-onset conditions. But each of the providers she evaluated (23andMe, Genetic Testing Laboratories and Pathway Genomics) interpreting the results differently. In one instance, she was warned about an elevated risk for rheumatoid arthritis; in another, a provider deemed her risk to be minimal.

This isn’t the first time that journalists have evaluated these tests, and it won’t be the last. Academics like Stanford’s Hank Greely have devoted years of research to exploring the ethical and legal implications of the new biomedicine technologies, particularly those related to genetics.

Peikoff received the results just as one of the companies, 23andMe, received a stern warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over concerns about the clinical validity of its data. This set off a small firestorm in the process and prompted debate about the future of genetic testing.

How should we interpret damning reports like this? Should we avoid genetic testing altogether? This is still such a nascent sector, so is it better to wait until the technology evolves? I asked Greeley, a genetics professor and the director at the center for law and biosciences at Stanford University, to weigh in.

VentureBeat: Were you surprised that the New York Times writer received three different results?

Hank Greely: Not at all. The results were inconsistent, as the interpretations were all over the map. The analytic validity is strong, I believe. But each of these companies calls the various medical effects based on a different set of studies. What makes the results even more confusing is that the companies do not have the same baseline for what they consider “average.”

VentureBeat: If the results vary so much, do you think there’s much point in ordering a genetic test at all? 

Greely: With a few exceptions, the data derived from SNPs [pronounced snips] won’t show us anything particularly powerful or clear. You need full genome or whole exome sequencing [sequencing of the exome – the protein-encoding parts of all the genes – is beginning to dominate the headlines, thanks to its ability to diagnose diseases that were previously undiagnosable] rather than SNP chips, to get truly meaningful results. Exome and genome sequencing is not yet the norm. So for now, I think it’s better for people to save their money and not purchase any of these tests.

VentureBeat: 23andMe is now offering consumers their raw data. It’s not interpreting the results without FDA approval. Is it worthwhile to have access to that data?

Greely: Unless you are a world-class genetics researcher focused on correlations between SNPs and genetic disease, then no. You won’t be able to glean anything from the raw data. I would save my money and wait to sequence my full exome and genome and then pay for a full assessment with a clinical geneticist and genetic counselor.

VentureBeat: Do you predict that we’ll have able to cheaply sequence our exome, and potentially even genome, next year?

Greely: In 2014, it wouldn’t surprise me if you could get your whole exome sequenced for under $1,000. We just need one of these “next-generation sequencing technology” startups to work. I don’t have a strong sense yet of whether it will be a huge tradeoff between whole exome and whole genome. I might consider waiting a bit longer to get my whole gene sequenced for the same price.

VentureBeat: Any other predictions for 2014 for genetics?

Greely: It may be easier to match relatives in a database if the FBI moves ahead with its plan to increase the number of “CODIS markers.” You may soon definitively be matched in a DNA database to a sibling or cousin you never knew existed. We may see more criminal justice subpoenas or search warrants levied against SNP chip companies. A DNA sample could be matched to a crime scene.

We will also see fights in the courts about the language of genetic privacy laws and statutes. My strongest prediction is that genetics will get even more fascinating and unpredictable.

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Top 10 Gear Live Videos of 2013


This post is by Andru Edwards from Gear Live


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




2013 is set to come to a close in just a few hours, and we are just in time with our annual top 10 list of the most-watched Gear Live video episodes. Over the past year, as expected, there was a bunch of gear that made the list, while the Monster Tuxedo DNA headphones proved popular as well. Other products that made the list include Sonos Playbar, Microsoft's white Xbox One, and a few others.

Oh, and if you wanna be sure to get our new video episodes as they come out in 2013, be sure to subscribe to us on YouTube, in iTunes, or in your RSS reader!

Also, you can check out the top ten videos from 2012201120102009, 2008, and 2007 – and when you're done, be sure to check out the top 10 most popular Gear Live stories of 2013 as well!


Continue reading Top 10 Gear Live Videos of 2013

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Top 10 Gear Live Videos of 2013 originally appeared on Gear Live on Tue, December 31, 2013 – 3:14:50

3 online advertising trends to watch out for in 2014


This post is by Adam Berke, AdRoll from VentureBeat


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




3 online advertising trends to watch out for in 2014
iofoto / Shutterstock

Prepare to miss the cookie

Adam Berke is president and founding member of AdRoll.

End-of-year predictions are as much a holiday season staple as fruit cake and champagne. That said, champagne isn’t the only thing that’s been bubbly lately. Many of the building trends in digital advertising over the last few years have been crossing into the mainstream: real time bidding, social media as a must-have channel, online video, and of course mobile.

The widespread adoption of these advertising options has resulted in terrific growth in the ad tech sector and a new appreciation by the public markets of ad tech companies for the actual technology behind it.

So is this a bubble, or is this due to the fact that the advertising industry is fully transitioning from an analog discipline to a digital one where new leaders will emerge and a giant market will develop? I’d contend it’s more the latter — and that we’re only in the second inning of the evolution.

Here are a few predictions of how the digital advertising industry will continue to evolve in 2014.

1. We will all come to miss the cookie

The poor third-party cookie has gotten a bad rap over the past couple of years. It’s become the symbol of all that is wrong with Internet privacy: the “tracker” that mysterious companies “install” on unsuspecting web users’ computers. For a little text file that is entirely anonymous and can be easily cleared and controlled by the user, that hardly seems fair.

However, even if the Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Mayer, the Mozilla patch, and IE10 never existed (and you could debate that last one hasn’t … zing!), the ad tech community would have to move beyond the cookie to evolve in the multi-device, web vs. app, iOS vs. Android world.

What started as a debate about user control and data collection transparency has evolved into a battle between Internet titans about who will own cross-channel cookie replacements. Will it be the much-discussed Google AdID? Will it be Facebook, pushing native products oriented around the Facebook user ID?

Regardless of the outcome, it looks like corporate entities will fill the void of an ad targeting standard. It remains to be seen how much Google, Facebook, and others will make these IDs open and accessible; however, this move could have some benefits for both users and advertisers. Users could theoretically control privacy settings across the entire digital experience from one place. And advertisers could gain the ability to track a definitive user identity as they navigate across devices and from web to apps.

Is a corporate-controlled identifier in an oligopoly really what privacy advocates had in mind? Probably not. And in the end, we’ll all miss the good old days of the simple third-party cookie.

2. The mobile landscape will get a shake-up

There could be no more predictable prediction than calling 2014 “the year of mobile,” but there is one underappreciated trend. That is how much the roster of major players is set to change in the mobile ad ecosystem.

While mobile is among the fastest growing sectors of the digital ad market, it historically just hasn’t been that big. According to Emarketer, mobile ad spend was $1.6B in 2011, $4.4B in 2012, and is predicted to come to $9.6B in 2013 (compare that to an estimated desktop display spend of $33B in 2013). When you consider that Google and Facebook take about 50% of that, there just hasn’t been enough left to let independent players really thrive. Even the leaders in mobile ad tech are smaller than many realize.

Up to this point, the leading mobile ad players have been “mobile first” companies that focused on mobile and mobile alone. “Mobile first” is extolled in everything from publishing to retail, but there is a strong case to be made that companies that took this approach to building mobile ad platforms were premature. The model of the mobile ad ecosystem has followed the same evolution path as desktop (just 5–6 years later), changing from publisher (app), to ad network, to real-time exchanges. Some predicted this path and stayed ahead of it; others did not.

As overall spend in mobile gets to a place where it can sustain a thriving ecosystem, the big players from the desktop display world will start to move in. The leading companies in that space have had years to scale their teams, technology, and customer base — and in ad tech, scale matters. They have large, installed bases where layering on mobile will present greater value to the customer than focusing on mobile alone or trying to work backwards into the established world of desktop display.

It’s been said that mobile isn’t a channel unto itself — it’s a medium that cuts across all channels. Companies with robust platforms and teams for handling desktop display will be best suited to incorporate mobile and provide a holistic solutions for advertisers.

3. Competition will breed opportunity

If there’s one thing everyone in ad tech (well, maybe everyone except Google) should have been thankful for in 2013, it is that for the first time since their IPO, Google has a legitimate competitor: Facebook.

This change in fortune was brought about by Facebook making a concerted strategic shift from pushing advertisers to exclusively leverage the social graph and measure campaigns based on novel proprietary metrics (i.e., likes) and devoting themselves to becoming the best performance advertising platform based on traditional direct response metrics. This shift was evident in DR-oriented products like Facebook Exchange and in the fantastically successful mobile app download product. This change in focus to winning trust through response-oriented products changed Facebook’s reputation 180 degrees. In May of 2012, the story for Facebook was that it delivered poor performance, and large advertisers like GM were making very public statements that they were pulling their ad budgets from the platform. Contrast that with news from December 19, 2013, that Emarketer data reveals Facebook has become the number 2 largest ad seller behind Google, accounting for 7.4% of US digital ad spend. That’s still a far cry from Google’s 40.9% slice, but combine that with legitimate competition from dark horses like Twitter, Amazon, and Apple (if you can consider Amazon and Apple dark horses) as well as a thriving ecosystem of ad tech pure plays, and you have a situation where Google can no longer sit back and play the long game. At least not exclusively.

In addition to keeping Google honest, this increased competition is creating both challenges and opportunities for the ad tech ecosystem. While the Googles, Facebooks, Twitters, etc., of the world are competing with each other to create walled gardens around their proprietary data, advertisers are increasingly demanding unified experiences to see performance across platforms, adjust targeting, and shift budget fluidly. The end advertiser doesn’t care that Facebook is sparring with Google and Twitter is sparring with Facebook. They just want easy and effective ways to advertise across the various platforms.

This is obviously easier said than done, since there are many behind-the-scenes API connections and RTB integrations that, despite the dream of OpenRTB, remain non-standard and far from plug-and-play. But there is an incredible opportunity for inventory/channel-agnostic, advertising-focused technology solutions to integrate with the various mega companies and provide tools that are totally focused on advertiser results.

In a landscape of evolving technologies and shifting trends, one thing is clear: New opportunities are opening up everywhere you look. 2014 is going to be a year of growth and change in the digital advertising ecosystem.

Adam Berke is an online advertising industry expert with a true passion for performance display. He is a frequent speaker at SES, SMX, OMMA and SXSW, and a guest author for ClickZ, AdExchanger and MediaPost. With over 10 years of management experience, Adam has focused on scaling the company and expanding internationally as president of AdRoll. Prior to AdRoll, Adam helped launch the CPL network at Aptimus, a publicly-traded ad network acquired by the Apollo Group.


    



Be careful taking pain killers when you’ve been drinking.


This post is by Walter Glenn from Lifehacker


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Be careful taking pain killers when you've been drinking.

Great discussions are par for the course here on Lifehacker. Each day, we highlight a discussion that is particularly helpful or insightful, along with other great discussions and reader questions you may have missed. Check out these discussions and add your own thoughts to make them even more wonderful!

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