A catchy name is everything in the mobile app world. After all, there were hundreds of photo filter apps like Instagram; they did the same thing but never caught on. As a result of its popularity, Instagram has seen parts of its name used in dozens of third-party applications that in some form or another tie into the Instagram Service, and this unauthorized use of its name has the Facebook-owned company in an uproar.
According to a report released today by TechCrunch, Instagram has began sending cease-and-desist emails to companies that feature the "Insta" or "gram" wording in their applications. The first to receive the hit is the app Luxogram, an application that allows you to use Instagram via a web browser. In an email sent to the Luxogram team, Instagram had the following to say:
We appreciate your interest in developing products that help people share with Instagram. While we encourage developers to build great apps with Instagram, we cannot allow other applications to look like they might be official Instagram applications or endorsed or sponsored by us.
Earlier today at the Gamescom event taking place in Germany, Microsoft announced that it will launch Project Spark in beta form for Windows 8 in October. For those of you who have never heard of Project Spark, it amounts to an inception-like video game development tool within a game that allows players to build custom worlds, developed characters, and render custom animations all from an Xbox One or Windows 8-based PC.
The development suite will let player-developers utilize a Kinect sensor to include voice and motion capture as well as allow players to capture facial animations and body motion to bring the characters they design to life. Users can also record their own face and superimpose it on an in-game character or record custom body motions, which they can then assign as a player's attack moves within a game.
Gamers also have the ability to fully customize the in-game world to build out that entire fantasy round they have always dreamed. The video above highlights some of the high level worlds and animations that are possible using Project Spark. Microsoft says that the closed beta will begin for Windows 8 devices in early October, and the Xbox One will receive Spark access sometime in January 2014.
Plants vs Zombies 2 released worldwide just five days ago and has already surpassed more than 16 million downloads, landing it at the top spot of EA's most successful mobile game launch in history. The sequel to the popular zombie killing game also found itself amongst some of the top grossing games on opening day the Apple App Store has ever seen.
"We are grateful and delighted with the incredible reception Plants vs. Zombies 2 has received from consumers around the globe," said Tony Leamer, Franchise Business Director for Plants vs. Zombies. "We certainly had high hopes for the game, but to see fans playing the game so quickly and in such huge numbers is truly amazing."
EA says that in the five days since launch, Plants vs Zombies 2 rocketed into the number one position in the App Store in over 137 countries worldwide on either the iPad or iPhone charts. It currently has an average rating of 4.5 to 5 stars throughout those countries and has received rave reviews from critics and consumers worldwide. For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it pits garden-variety plants against a horde of period correct zombies throughout different historical time periods. EA has released the game under its free-to-play model and we found it in the Apple App Store in seven different languages.
Today, HTC confirmed that the company will release an update that upgrades its flagship device, the HTC One, from Android 4.1 to Android 4.3 just as soon as the software has been certified. The company expects this to happen sometime in September with the update beginning to roll out later that month.
The confirmation comes via a leak, albeit barely legible, from the company's president, Jason Mackenzie, who said: "Lots of questions re 4.3 release for One. We r wrking hard (needs cert) to release 4.3 across all US, Canada skus by end Sept. DNA as well." I'm not joking, that really was his tweet, you can check it out for yourself at Source #2 below.
As an HTC One owner, this is some very exciting news. During my quest for a new smartphone, many tried to turn me away from the One as it ran Android 4.1 and everyone claimed it would be over a year before an update was available. I knew that HTC had to release an update soon to put it on par with the new Android 4.3 devices that will be arriving this fall. With the addition of Android 4.3, I officially think that the HTC One is the best smartphone ever made, and that nothing released or releasing soon by Apple or Samsung is able to compete.
In a little over two weeks from now, Samsung will unveil its Galaxy Gear smartwatch at its Unpacked event being held at the IFA 2013 conference in Berlin, Germany. Today, thanks to website GigaOm, we now have an idea of what hardware the Galaxy Gear will feature.
The report states that Samsung has managed to cram a 2.5-inch flexible OLED screen, a dual-core processor, and an unknown amount of RAM into the small wrist package. The report says that "decent" battery life can be expected from a lithium-based battery and that a camera alongside speakers will be embedded into the device's wrist strap. Other sensors rumored to be on board include an accelerometer, a gyroscope, Bluetooth 4.0, and some form of gesture support.
The report went on to say that Samsung will offer incentives to developers to offer apps for the smartwatch through its proprietary app store rather than posting them on Google Play. Over the last few weeks, I've done a lot of thinking about smart watches, and while I feel that there definitely cool, I honestly see them as a passing fad. By this time next year or the year after, I suspect we will look back and wonder why we all spent so much money on smart watches.
Today, EA and Maxis clued us in on the first details of what is expected to be one of the hottest games of 2014. The companies released the first gameplay trailer of the highly anticipated life simulator, The Sims 4. EA says that the game is built on an entirely new technological platform and that players will now be able to create and control an entirely new generation of Sims like never before.
This new technology allows game developers to build upon a foundation that allows the Sims to become more intelligent, emotionally rich, and relatable. Each of them evolves into something that is affected by the interactions and emotional states of other Sims. Now for the first time ever, each Sim is capable of having its own emotional state which is affected by the environment and other Sims around. As you saw in the video above, this makes for very dynamic gameplay. EA has officially opened pre-orders for The Sims 4 Digital Deluxe Edition on Origin, and you can grab your copy at Source #2 below.
"Over 10 years ago, we created a genre, now we're taking our most revolutionary step forward by focusing on the heart of the franchise, the Sims themselves," said Rachel Franklin, VP and Executive Producer for The Sims 4. "The magic of The Sims has always come from the combination of the player's creativity and the Sims' free will, and in The Sims 4 we're taking this further by unlocking more possibilities and deeper gameplay opportunities. The Sims 4 is the bold leap for the franchise where each Sim now has a rich emotional center that drives meaningful social interactions. Your ability to affect the mind, body and heart of these new Sims brings your stories to life in a way that is more personal than ever before."
All Twitter users are being advised today to log into their account and revoke access to all third-party applications after an Islamic hacker managed to pull the entire OAuth database for users of Twitter. Calling himself the Mauritania Attacker, the hacker from the West African country of Mauritania posted details from just over 15,000 Twitter users earlier today and claims to have millions more. It's not clear whether he attacked Twitter or a third-party site. The latter is much more likely. Twitter says they are looking into the situation.
Twitter says that the stolen files do not include passwords, but do contain all of the usernames as well as OAuth access keys used by third-party applications to manage your Twitter account on your behalf. Security expert Allen Woodward, of the University of Surrey in the UK, told website Gigaom that the easy way to protect your account is to log-in and delete all third-party access to the account. Then by simply reauthorizing those accounts, a new key will be generated and everything will be safe again.
"Personally, I do regular housekeeping where I go into the Apps settings of Twitter and delete the third party apps that have access. The reason is that at present Twitter OAuth tokens once issued do not expire. You have to manually revoke them," said Woodwars. "So, I think best thing one could [do] is to go in and revoke third party's apps rights and then just relogin when/if you want to reaccess Twitter via that app. This way a new token will be issued."
Electronic Arts and DICE announced today the long anticipated Battlefield 4 Premium pack. EA says that this new pack provides an exclusive membership for Battlefield fans and will provide access to all of the scheduled expansion packs to keep the battle raging all year long. This includes the China Rising, Second Assault, Naval Strike, Dragons Teeth, and Final Stand expansion packs.
"Fan reaction to Battlefield 3 Premium has been nothing short of amazing. We are humbled to see more than 4 million people join in," said Patrick Bach, Executive Producer, Battlefield 4. "With Battlefield 4 Premium we continue to roll out the red carpet, treating our fans like VIPs with a massive amount of new gameplay, exclusive new content and even more benefits at an incredible value."
Battlefield 4 Premium membership includes five digital expansion packs featuring new multiplayer maps and in-game content:
This morning, Microsoft officially released the list of games that will be available on launch day for the Xbox One. The list contains 23 titles of some of the biggest series that will debut this fall. The genres range from first-person shooters to RPGs and casual games such as Peggle 2 and Zoo Tycoon. I have listed out all of the "Day One" games below.
- Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag (Ubisoft, Ubisoft)
- Battlefield 4 (DICE, Electronic Arts)
- Call of Duty: Ghosts (Infinity Ward, Activision)
- Crimson Dragon (Grounding/Land Ho!, Microsoft Studios)
- Dead Rising 3 (Capcom Vancouver, Microsoft)
- FIFA 14 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
- Fighter Within (AMA Ltd., Ubisoft)
- Forza Motorsport 5 (Turn 10 Studios, Microsoft Studios)
- Just Dance 2014 (Ubisoft Paris, Ubisoft)
- Killer Instinct (Double Helix, Microsoft Studios)
- LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (TT Games, Warner Bros. Interactive)
- Lococycle (Twisted Pixel, Microsoft Studios)
- Madden NFL 25 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
- NBA 2K14 (Visual Concepts, 2K Sports)
- NBA LIVE 14 (EA Sports, Electronic Arts)
- Need for Speed: Rivals (Ghost Games, Electronic Arts)
- Peggle 2 (Popcap, Electronic Arts)
- Powerstar Golf (Zoe Mode, Microsoft Studios)
- Ryse: Son of Rome (Crytek, Microsoft Studios)
- Skylanders: Swap Force (Vicarious Visions, Activision)
- Watch Dogs (Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft)
- Zoo Tycoon (Frontier Developments Ltd., Microsoft Studios)
- Zumba Fitness: World Party (ZoÃ« Mode, Majesco)
Additionally, Microsoft announced that all pre-order versions of the Xbox One in Europe will come bundled with a free FIFA 14 download. I'm sure for some of our friends across the pond, that is incentive enough to preorder their copy of the next-gen console.
What a treat! I get to write two SpaceTT posts in one day! Stargazers across the northern hemisphere are witnessing a rare occurrence happening right before our eyes. A nova in the constellation Delphinus has brightened over the last couple of days to a magnitude 5.0 and has allowed naked eye viewing of the astronomical phenomenon.
In the upper left-hand corner of the image above, you can see Nova Del 2013 appearing as a large star shining brightly in a sea of fainter stars. What you are actually witnessing is a binary star system in which the larger star is having its hydrogen stripped off by the much smaller white dwarf star. As is fresh layer of hydrogen grows thicker and more dense, the lower layers erupt in a runaway hydrogen-fusion reaction. As the reaction takes place, the star grows much hotter and brightens in the night sky.
To get an idea of how large this explosion is, one can simply imagine what a hydrogen bomb the size of the Earth would look like. The nova was discovered on August 14 by astronomer Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan, around 2PM EDT. It was originally listed as a magnitude 17 in brightness, and has since grown 100,000 times in brightness. The event will most likely only last for a few more days, so if you have clear, dark skies, you might just be able to see it with your naked eye. Tossing in visual aid from binoculars or a telescope will greaten one's chance at observing the nova.