Thursday, September 19, 2013

Amazon Adds iOS Support To GameCircle And Whispersync For Games For Cross-Platform Saves And Leaderboards

Amazon has announced an update for its GameCircle and Whispersync for Games services for mobile gaming apps today, which introduces iOS support. That means that Amazon’s GameCircle, which offers achievement tracking for mobile apps, and WhisperSync for Games, which makes it so that a mobile gamer’s progress goes with them as they move from device to device, will all now be able to work on both Android and iOS hardware, including the iPhone and iPad. This is actually a pretty big deal, since the new GameCircle version two service will now work across Kindle Fire, any other Android devices, iOS (and it works with, rather than conflicting with, Game Center integration) for all features, including brand new auto-conflict resolutions which means that even when data about progress comes in from multiple versions of the game out of order (due perhaps to connection delays and other problems), the Whispersync service makes sure that the gamer can pick up at the right place when they come back to play. Amazon’s update today makes it possible for devs to offer cloud-based experiences that aren’t locked in to a specific platform. Apple offer iCloud save syncing for iOS titles, but that functionality doesn’t extend to Android. A huge number of the top mobile games are now cross-platform, so it makes sense that Amazon would extend its platform’s capabilities, especially given that Google Play Game Services works for iOS, offering cloud-based game saves, achievements and multiplayer gaming. Game developers have more and more options, in other words, for making sure mobile users are well-served no matter where they choose to play. As mobile OS breakdown continues to diversity, that’s going to be a very important factor in helping players decide what to buy in terms of mobile apps.

Lionhead, A 3D Printer With Eight Extruders And Built-In Scanning System, Is Looking For $60K To Get Out Of Beta

As a fan of the noble Great Cat and 3D printing, I’m particularly interested in Lionhead, a $1,600 3D printer with built-in scanning facilities. The project, which just hit Kickstarter, is looking for $60,000 to start production of the device. The company behind the Lionhead Bunny, Radiant Li, first explored the possibility of an all-in-one printer back in 2011 and is now ready to start shipping beta units in October. The system uses the print bed to both hold printed objects and to rotate items to be scanned. A pair of LEDs and a laser scans physical objects into an editor and then you can modify and print them using up to eight colors thanks to a pair of four-extruder printheads. They are also selling a plain old Lionhead for $2,400. This model comes with a 100x200mm print bed vs. the Bunny’s 150x150mm bed.

GoDaddy Buys Afternic To Beef Up Its Domain Registry Marketplace

GoDaddy has made another acquisition, its fourth in 14 months: it has bought Afternic, a specialist in aftermarket domain sales — that is, reselling domain names that are already owned. Afternic was owned by NameMedia, and GoDaddy says it is also acquiring SmartName, a domain parking service, as well as NameFind, essentially a name generator, from the same group. For a company that has recently made moves to expand the kinds of services that it sells to site owners on its platform — exemplified by the acquisition of to help those owners create mobile internet sites; Locu to help them organize and distribute their business data to other sites/services; and Outright for bookkeeping — buying Afternic is a sign of how GoDaddy is not straying too far from its bread and butter business of domain registrations. GoDaddy adds that part of the reason for the acquisition is to help prepare for changes in the domain name market as new gTLDs get rolled out. Terms of the deal were not disclosed but GoDaddy notes that the company has turnovers of around $1 million per week in aftermarket domain sales. GoDaddy, which is based in Scottsdale, says it will keep Afernic operating in Boston, where it is based. NameMedia, after selling the three businesses to GoDaddy, will continue to operate its marketplace of proprietary domain names. GoDaddy notes that the acquisition will enable over 100 registrars (including 18 of the top-20) to offer aftermarket domain names directly to their customers. The addition of Afternic, indeed, consolidates the market for those who buy and sell domain names. “GoDaddy is working to bring the ‘domain aftermarket’ together with new registrations and make both super-simple to access,” noted GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving in a statement. “Our customers need an easy way to buy the name they want, regardless of whether it’s new or has been registered previously. This acquisition forms a registrar-led process that creates faster and more trusted transactions across the board.” This is also partly what appeared to drive the sale of Afternic to GoDaddy by NameMedia. “Afternic and GoDaddy share a vision for creating a unified domain aftermarket,” said Kelly Conlin, the Chairman and CEO of NameMedia, in a statement. “By operating Afternic with the interests of the registrars and their customers first and foremost, this transaction not only fulfills this vision, but reinforces that registrars are the very best place to find all available domain names.” Conlin will become a strategic advisor to the Afternic management team following the acquisition, while staying in his role as CEO and chairman of NameMedia.

Music Service TastemakerX Relaunches, Allowing Fans To Show Off Their Taste With Artist Collections

Music startup TastemakerX has been described as a stock market or fantasy sports league for bands, but today it’s launching version 2.0, which co-founder and CEO Marc Ruxin described as “a totally new direction.” The centerpiece of the new version appears to a feature called Collections, where users can highlight the artists that they’re most excited about. In a company blog post, TastemakerX described this as the virtual equivalent of all the physical ways music fans have used in the past to show off their taste — instead of posters and a carefully curated vinyl collection, Collections on TastemakerX include things like “Instagram photos, Songkick tour updates, YouTube videos, new track releases on SoundCloud, Tweets, news and reviews.” This, the company said, also serves as “a unification layer” for all the other music services out there. As you see from the examples above, is pulling content from a wide range of services. And by following the Collections of other users, TastemakerX users can make sure they don’t miss any important updates: Finding like-minded music fans is nearly impossible, and really what you need is the ability to be connected to the ones who are most likely to lead you to a lifetime of discovery and shared passion. Sure you could hope that your favorite social network happens to surface people who follow the same band or MP3 blog, but wouldn’t it be easier to merely search for a band, scan the Top Fans of that artist and then explore and follow their Collections? That’s how easy it will be. Even though this is a new app, and even though co-founder and CEO Marc Ruxin is pushing this as a new direction for the company, you can still see elements of its past. It launched a version of the Collections idea back in March — though again, Ruxin insisted the new Collections are “totally different”. And there’s still an aspect of the original pitch, namely rewarding users for finding and promoting hot bands first. Each artist will have Top Fans, who are assigned based on the engagement and influence that fan has around that artist, and also based on the date when the fan first added the artist. And each fan will have a Taste Score, which itself is based on Top Fan rankings, the aforementioned engagement and influence, and “the aggregate buzz-worthiness of their Collection.” I asked Ruxin via email about the app’s usage, and he said, “No traction thus far, because we launch tomorrow,” though he added that traction for the previous version was “decent”. (Given his emphasis on making this a fresh start, Ruxin is probably hoping for better this time around.) I also asked what he learned from the old version, and he replied: Keep it as simple as humanly possible. Focus on super clear and fun on boarding. Give people a compelling to come back unprompted. Make it irresistible for to people to share and get peers using the product. Music matters, so encourage people to transfer … that passion for music to the passion for sharing and connecting over music. You can try out the new TastemakerX via the company’s website. The company plans to relaunch the mobile app next week. TastemakerX’s investors include AOL Ventures (which, like TechCrunch, part of AOL).

Shadow Is An App In The Making That Wants To Build A Database Of The World's Dreams

I saw the creator of this Kickstarter project pitch his app idea at TechCrunch’s Berlin meet-up earlier this year. Hunter Lee Soik’s plan to build Shadow, an app for people to record their nightly dreams, sounded impressive at the time — especially his vision for ultimately being able to explore in real time what people in different regions of the world are dreaming about. Now the idea looks to be impressing Kickstarter’s crowdfunding community, with close to $20,000 raised out of a $50,000 goal in just a couple of days into a lengthy funding campaign. That’s even more impressive when you consider software isn’t always the easiest sell on crowdfunding platforms, especially compared to the lure of hardware gadgetry. The Shadow app will incorporate an escalating alarm clock designed to wake sleepers gradually, to improve the ability to recall their dreams. Once awake, it will then prompt them to record their dream story — either by typing it, speaking it (and having their words transcribed to text by the app so Shadow can identify keywords for its dream database), or if the user is still having trouble recalling what they dreamt about, by answering a series of questions to help jog their memory. As well as helping you recall and store your dream data, so you can browse back through it and compare your dream content to the dreams of other demographics and nationalities – the app will also let users keep track of how long they’ve been sleeping. And perhaps also help tie dream content to other types of quantified self activity — by, for instance, furnishing you with enough data to connect dream content to data from an activity or mood tracker to try to contextualise your subconscious. The ultimate big data vision for Shadow — assuming it can get its app to market and also build a large enough community of dream recorders — is to create a real-time database that it can use to interrogate our collective global subconscious: We want to build SHADOW to bridge the gap. What do we dream about during a thunderstorm? After an election? Before a disaster? Do celebrities really dream differently than the rest of us? We think these questions hold amazing truths about how interconnected we really are. And that’s why we’re asking for your help to build SHADOW. There are various pledge levels being offered on Shadow’s Kickstarter campaign, with different extras in addition to getting the app — including early app access (in December 2013) for backers who stump up the most cash. Backers are also being asked to choose which version they want: Android, iOS or Windows Phone. The mobile platform that gets the most backing will get the app first, but Shadow says it’s aiming to build for all three. iOS appears to be leading the pack so far, followed by Android — with Windows Phone languishing in a distance third place.

Whitetruffle Switches Business Models And Launches A Free Version Of Its Job Matching Tools

It sounds like tech recruiting startup Whitetruffle has already seen some early success — the company says that in its beta test, its network has already grown to more than 2,000 employers and 30,000 job candidates. But it’s hoping to get even bigger (especially on the employer side) with the launch of a free plan. Whitetruffle works as an matching service between job listings and candidates. Users can create anonymous profiles, then the company says it looks at more than 50 categories to identify likely candidates for a job. Companies get to see candidates’ qualifications, but their name and contact info is hidden until both sides agree to the match. (Once they do agree, Whitetruffle sends an introductory email.) Co-founder Alex Deve told me that this approach addresses the two big challenges in the job search — relevancy and intent. Candidate search services will indeed find highly relevant candidates, but most of them aren’t going to be that interested in the job a company is recruiting for, so there’s a low response rate. Posting on a job board, on the other hand, will lead to lots of applications, but only a few of them will be relevant. Whitetruffle can avoid these problems with its matching algorithm — the candidates only see jobs that they might actually be interested in, while companies only see candidates who might actually be suited for the job. The company says that during the beta (participants included Asana, Pebble, Eventbrite, LearnVest, and Dropcam), employers cut down on sourcing time by at least 30 to 40 percent, and that 50 percent of the hires were people who already had full-time jobs. Deve added that until now, the startup’s business model was similar to traditional recruiting — it collected a fee for each successful hire. Now, however, the company is switching to subscription plans. Companies can actually can post one job listing from a single account for free, and then pricing starts at $660 per month. The reason for the new approach? Customer feedback. According to Deve, a number of companies said, “We don’t like this idea of having a premium our success.” Initially, he expects Whitetruffle’s revenue to take a hit, but ultimately he’s hoping that this will expand both the kinds of companies who can afford to use the service and the types of jobs that they might list on the site. After all, he suggested that there are some jobs where it doesn’t make sense to pay a significant recruiting fee. “There’s a whole bunch of people out there, they don’t want to pay those big fees,” he said. “We’d like to have a product for them. We want a product where people can grow with us.” Whitetruffle says it has raised $1.2 million from Jerry Yang (through AME Cloud Ventures), Scott Banister, Morado Ventures, Kima Ventures, and various angel investors.

Google Wallet Comes To iOS After Dropping NFC Requirement On Android

Earlier this week, Google rolled out a new version of the Google Wallet app for Android, which dropped the requirement that phones had to feature NFC technology for in-store payments to run the app. Now that this requirement has been dropped and Wallet has a new focus on loyalty cards, coupons and offers, the company is also bringing it to iOS today. Apple has famously eschewed adding NFC support to its phones, so the old version of Google Wallet wouldn’t have made all that much sense on its devices because it was still mostly a payments tool. Now, however, Google positions it as a service to store your supermarket and airline loyalty cards and as an easier way to send money to friends through Gmail, a tool it introduced earlier this year. To add loyalty cards, all you have to do is scan the card. For now, the selection of supported cards is still somewhat limited, however, but when it launched the Android version, Google said it would add more programs from vendors like Avis Car Rental, Hard Rock International, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International and The Body Shop in the near future. The app also surfaces all of your Google Offers and lets you redeem them from inside the app, no matter whether you found them on Google Maps, Google+, Google Search or Google Offers itself. Google is also now working with a number of select couponing sites and merchants to let you save offers on their sites. Google says all Google Wallet transactions are monitored 24/7 for fraud (feel free to insert your favorite NSA joke here) and if you ever lose your phone, you can go to the service’s website and disable the app remotely. If you are in the U.S., you can download the app now. It’s not clear when Google plans to expand this program internationally.