TechSummit Rewind #025: June 6, 2015

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, a daily look at the top technology stories.

Skype for Web comes to US, UK

Skype for Web

Skype for Web is now available for all existing and new users in the US and UK.

Now, anyone going to Skype.com (or web.skype.com) in the aforementioned locales can sign in and connect to Skype for Web to get to their conversations without downloading the Skype app.

“Skype for Web is an important step for Skype as we move towards implementing the technology to make Real-Time Communications (RTC) on the web a reality. But just as importantly, we’re doing it because the hundreds of millions of people that visit Skype.com every month told us they want to call and IM when they visit our website.”

-Jonathan Watson, Skype senior product marketing manager

If you already use Skype, according to Skype, you’ll notice your contacts and conversations load in “just a few seconds.”

Instead of having two separate lists for contacts and recent conversations, according to the service, Skype for Web introduces a timeline view – a single, searchable list that “makes it easier to start new conversations and find existing ones.”

Video calls, instant messaging, and audio calling can be done from your browser (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox). However, you will need to install a browser plugin before making or receiving your first call.

Notifications are supported in Skype for Web (you will have to enable them when you sign-in), so you don’t miss incoming instant messages, audio or video calls, even if you’re not in Skype for Web.

Skype for Web will continue to roll out worldwide over the next few weeks.

Google will start reporting autonomous car accidents

Google self-driving carGoogle will start reporting incidents encountered in its autonomous car program on its own website, according to the company.

This represents a swift reversal of the stance taken by Google co-founder Sergey Brin during the company’s shareholders’ meeting Wednesday, where he defended their decision to not reveal accident details as protecting the humans responsible.

“[Though nothing] can be perfect, our goal is to beat human drivers.”

-Sergey Brin, Google co-founder

 

“Google is dribbling out bits [of] information in the hope to silence legitimate calls for full transparency. They are testing on public roads and the public has a right to know what happened when something goes wrong.”

-John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project director

In addition to detailing any accidents (with driver details redacted), the site will give examples of how the cars adapt to everyday traffic situations, and will provide a forum for community feedback.

Google is slated to begin testing its driverless cars on city streets this summer, while continuing to gather data through its fleet of modified Lexus SUVs. After nearly six years and 1.8 million miles of testing, the company’s fleet has been involved in 13 accidents, according to company reports to California’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

The first monthly report provided insights into the cars’ learning capabilities and detailed how they are able to detect and make adjustments for the behavior of emergency vehicles as well as take notes of cyclists merging into car lanes at night.

“A cyclist on the left had entered the left turn lane but veered back into our path to continue straight across the intersection. At the same time, the cyclist on the right entered the intersection, traveling against the flow of traffic. That cyclist then took a sudden left turn, coming directly at us in our lane.

“Our car was able to predict that cyclist’s path of travel, so we stopped and yielded. This happened at night, when it would have been very difficult for a human driver to see what was unfolding.”

– Google, in the monthly report

Apple Stores no longer sell iPhone with 2-year AT&T

iPhone_6_Svr_Family_Apps-PRINT

Apple has removed the option to purchase a new AT&T iPhone with a two-year contract on the company’s online store. Apple now sells AT&T iPhones exclusive through the carrier’s Next financing program, while Verizon and Sprint two-year contracts remain.

AT&T Next allows customers to purchase a new device for $0 down and make equal payments for 12, 18, or 24 months until its full price has been paid, when the device can be traded in for a new one. The full iPhone price breakdown for each model on AT&T Next, available through all of Apple’s retail channels, is below:

iPhone 6

  • 16GB: From $21.64/month
  • 64GB: From $24.97/month
  • 128GB: From $28.30/month

iPhone 6 Plus

  • 16GB: From $24.97/month
  • 64GB: From $28.30/month
  • 128GB: From $31.64/month

Xiaomi world’s second-largest seller of wearables in Q1 2015: IDC

xiaomi-mi-band-cropped1

Xiaomi has become the world’s second-largest wearables seller, according to an IDC report, when measured by shipments, behind only Fitbit. This is because of the $15 Mi Band fitness tracker.

The Mi Band launched last August in mainland China, and has since spread to India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan before making it to the US and Europe on Monday.

Xiaomi does not break out its revenue by product, but it brought in $12 billion in total revenues during 2014, mostly through gadget sales.

Apple expands same-day shipping options to online orders

Apple China Android

Apple has updated its online store with a same-day delivery option on select items ordered in certain zip codes. The new “courier delivery” option, which promises to deliver “on the same day, within four hours,” has been added today as an additional supported faster delivery method for items bought on the company’s online store. Previously, Apple only offered guaranteed shipping services with additional fees that promised next day shipping or next day shipping before noon.

While the company’s same-day shipping option is limited by item inventory and supported zip codes, the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Apple TV store pages now each mention the faster shipping option. Apple’s Shipping and Pickup documentation has also added the same-day delivery courier option today.

The company’s same-day delivery first became available through the Apple Store app for iOS on select items in certain markets. The four-hour delivery window carries a $19 fee, or $2 more than expedited next day delivery.

Postmates, a service which offers same-day delivery in metro areas around the United States, is at least one service provider supporting the efforts, but the option isn’t available in all of Postmates’ markets.

Tumblr debuts own GIF search engine

tumblryahoo

Tumblr is rolling out a new feature designed to take advantage of the extensive amount of GIS hosted on the search: a GIF search engine. The news follows Facebook’s decision to officially support the animated file format on users’ Timelines, announced last week. With Tumblr’s implementation, web users will now be able to more easily locate GIFs on the service as well as add them to their posts, while also crediting the GIF’s original creator, according to the company.

The search engine doesn’t rely on a third-party integration, but instead only includes GIFs that have been posted to the Tumblr platform.

The GIFs are indexed and cataloged using Tumblr’s search algorithms which rely on tags to properly identify the GIFs.

That means Tumblr users can surface GIFs using less common keywords than on other social services, including unique Tumblr buzzwords and terms. For example, an “aos” search should be able to pull up GIFs related to the TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while a search for “hp” could pull up GIFs related to Harry Potter, thanks to the way the engine has been designed. It also means users should be able to search Tumblr’s GIFs by phrases that were included in the post’s tags, like “I want to behave,” for X-Files GIFS, for example.

To determine which GIFs get better rankings in the search results, Tumblr weighs engagement – including likes and reblogs – is a strong factor.

Users who want to add a GIF to their post can now do so by clicking the “+” button in the service’s web interface, then clicking the “GIF” button and entering their search terms. After selecting the GIF, it’s added automatically to the post along with a creator credit immediately after the image with a link to the original post.

That person will be notified that their GIF was used and linked through notifications which are pushed out across all platforms, including web and mobile.

The GIFs are indexed from across all of Tumblr, whose site includes over 239 million blogs (including ours) with over 80 million new posts daily. Currently, there are over 112 billion posts on the service, with many of which toting GIFs.

At launch, Tumblr’s GIF Search is only available on the web, but attribution and notifications are on all platforms, including Android and iOS.

Genius rolls out API; Instapaper is debut partner

Genius, the online annotation platform that originally began as a way to mark rap lyrics up before expanding to support any webpage, is now making its service available to third-party developers for use in their own applications. Betaworks is the first partner to take advantage of this new API, which integrated Genius with Instapaper’s new Notes feature that launched yesterday.

In Instapaper, the Notes feature allows users to select a snippet of text from an online article and then make comments next to that text. By default, those annotations are private, but users can choose to share them through Twitter’s textshot feature, or through other applications like Facebook, Evernote, and Tumblr.

Genius’ API lets users post Instapaper Notes to Genius like they would on Facebook and Twitter.

The new API also allows users to vote on annotations and earn Genius IQ, reputation points for various activities.

Developers will be able to access the millions of crowdsourced annotations created on Genius.com, and will be able to search across Genius’ library of musical metadata, including artists, albums, and tracks.

Other API partners will be announced in the coming weeks.

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Author: Andrew Okwuosah

I am a technology junkie with a love of writing. Follow me everywhere at about.me/andrewokwuosah

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