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  • Facebook's Lifestage is a video-centric social app for teens

    by 
    Mariella Moon
    Mariella Moon
    08.20.2016

    Facebook isn't done launching products designed to capture the Snapchat generation. Its latest attempt after Instagram Stories and live filters? A new standalone, video-centric social app for high school students called Lifestage. To be able to complete your profile, you'd have to take videos and selfies of your likes, dislikes and facial expressions. It will ask you take videos of your BFFs, to bust out dances moves on cam, take photos of your desserts, so on and so forth. When we say that it's for high school students, we mean you won't even be able to see other people's profiles if you're older than 22. That's assuming you won't creepily pretend to be younger than you are.

  • Bigscreen's 'VR LAN party' comes to the Oculus Store

    by 
    Richard Lawler
    Richard Lawler
    08.19.2016

    Bigscreen's promise to bring the environment of a LAN party into virtual reality is becoming more credible, now that it's also available in the Oculus store. The free software has been "completely cross-platform" since launch, ready for sharing with friends using Oculus Rift and HTC Vive VR headsets, and now you can get it in a new place. As the name implies, it syncs a virtual space so people can show what's on their desktop to everyone else, even if they're not physically looking over your shoulder.

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    Facebook's point-based recruiting system isn't producing diversity

    by 
    David Lumb
    David Lumb
    08.18.2016

    Two years ago, Facebook proposed a system to make its workforce less universally white or Asian and male. The plan was to incentivize its in-house recruiters to hire diverse candidates, literally giving them more points for Hispanic, black and/or female candidates that would build a score directly applying to their performance reviews and bonuses. Unfortunately, the gains for more female employees are marginal and the racial makeup of the company hasn't changed, and the method can be deemed a failure.

  • Facebook is open-sourcing its AI bot-building research

    by 
    Cherlynn Low
    Cherlynn Low
    08.18.2016

    Say hello to smarter artificial intelligence. Soon, anyway. Facebook is opening up the secret sauce that powers its bots so the public can employ and study it. This is part of the Facebook AI Research (FAIR) lab's mission to help researchers and engineers by making its work available to all. Called fastText, the library of code is now available on Github for public use and scrutiny, and will require a compiler with "good C++11 support."

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    Facebook is launching its own PC gaming platform

    by 
    Timothy J. Seppala
    Timothy J. Seppala
    08.18.2016

    Facebook's gaming aspirations didn't stop with Farmville and its $2 billion Oculus VR acquisition. Nope, the social network is also launching a dedicated PC gaming platform today. Said platform will lean heavily on developers using the ubiquitous Unity game engine, according to a release from the company. The partnership's first project is admittedly developer-centric, but it has a direct impact on the folks playing games on Facebook. Zuckerberg and Co. describe it as a new export feature baked into Unity that allows a studio to publish directly to Facebook and the aforementioned Facebook PC gaming platform "with very little effort and few code changes."

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    New algorithm finds signs of depression in your Instagram feed

    by 
    Andrew Dalton
    Andrew Dalton
    08.17.2016

    While Instagram data can already be used to guess your age, a new research paper shows how it might also be used to check upon your mental health. Using a set of machine learning tools and several dozen users' Instagram feeds, a team of researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont have built a model that can accurately spot signs of clinical depression. By reviewing "color analysis, metadata components, and algorithmic face detection," in each user's feed, the model was able to correctly identify which Instagrammers showed symptoms of depression about 70 percent of the time, even before they had been clinically diagnosed.

  • Instagram adds event video channels to the 'Explore' feed

    by 
    Nicole Lee
    Nicole Lee
    08.17.2016

    Instagram wants you to know it's more than just photos; it's about videos too. That's why the app has been investing quite a bit in surfacing them more in its Explore tab. Earlier this year, it added a video channel for easier to find clips and further sorted them into 23 different categories, such as dogs, comedy and travel. Now Instagram has added yet another way to find interesting videos: through events.

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    FreedomPop offers unlimited WhatsApp chats in over 30 countries

    by 
    Jon Fingas
    Jon Fingas
    08.17.2016

    Don't want to pay a fortune for mobile service, but can't stand the thought of being unable to message your friends? FreedomPop thinks it can help. The sometimes-free carrier has launched an offer that gives you free, unlimited WhatsApp messaging in over 30 countries, including the US. And yes, that includes when you travel -- it should be that much easier to let the folks back home know how you're doing. In a chat with VentureBeat, the company says that there's "really no reason" you need to pay for voice or text in the modern era. This is just taking a logical step, he argues albeit an odd one when WhatsApp isn't nearly as popular in the US as it is elsewhere.

  • Facebook opens up Messenger to ad bots

    by 
    Steve Dent
    Steve Dent
    08.17.2016

    Right now, Facebook lets Messenger bots from brands like Expedia and HP help you make a purchase, but they can't try to sell you a new product. However, a policy change means those automated assistants will soon be able to send subscription messages, ads and promotions for services like makeup consultations. If you're worried about spam, Facebook emphasized that the user is in control. "All conversations between businesses and people must be initiated by the person receiving the messages, who can then mute or block the business at any time," wrote Product Manager Seth Rosenberg.

  • Amazon's pilot episodes are now free on YouTube and Facebook

    by 
    Alex Gilyadov
    Alex Gilyadov
    08.16.2016

    If you don't have a Prime subscription but want to check out some of Amazon's original series, you're in luck. The company has made ten pilot episodes from some of its best dramas, comedies, and kids' series free to watch on YouTube and Facebook for the first time ever. The lineup includes Amazon's most-streamed show, The Man in the High Castle, as well as Mozart in the Jungle and Transparent, both of which have won multiple Golden Globes.

  • Instagram Stories' camera controls catch up to Snapchat

    by 
    Jon Fingas
    Jon Fingas
    08.15.2016

    Instagram isn't shy about wanting to go toe-to-toe with Snapchat through Stories, and that now includes camera features, too. Updates for both the Android and iOS versions of Instagram let you swipe up and down to zoom while you're recording a video, much as you would in that other social app. The iOS version, at least, also lets you double-tap to switch cameras in mid-clip like its Snapchat counterpart. No, it's not exactly a subtle tweak -- but it makes sense if Instagram is going to poach Snapchatters that may take their camera controls for granted.

  • Instagram's new tools help you reach out to stores (updated)

    by 
    Jon Fingas
    Jon Fingas
    08.15.2016

    Plenty of businesses operate on Instagram, but wouldn't it be nice if you could reach out to them on Instagram beyond posting a comment and hoping they'll notice? You'll get to do that soon. Instagram has reportedly started rolling out promised business tools that will help you get in touch. Shops that set up a business profile will have a "contact" button that helps you call, email or text a business without having to find the details on the company's website (or hope that the company includes some in its bio). If you see a tantalizing dessert photo and want to know whether or not the restaurant's still open, it'll be trivially easy to get an answer.

  • Exploring the past, present and future of AI with Engadget

    by 
    Terrence O'Brien
    Terrence O'Brien
    08.15.2016

    Few things stir up as much excitement, fear and confusion as artificial intelligence. So we're dedicating this entire week to examining it from as many angles as possible. We'll look at how current nascent AIs reflect some of society's less admirable qualities, how it could be used to improve our criminal justice system and we'll even explore the meaning of the "I" in "AI" -- intelligence. Jess Conditt will challenge the notion that experts truly understand what it means to build an intelligent machine. And Nicole Lee will explore whether or not a minimum income is a viable solution to a workforce that demands less humans, and more computers and robots. At this point practically every major tech company is making sizable investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon are all betting big on its potential. Google has built a special processor just for powering AI software. IBM is trying to shoehorn Watson into every industry from retail to medicine -- it even had the damn thing write a cook book. Smaller players are looking for a foothold in the emerging market too, such as Fujitsu and startups like Viv.

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    London police to create a troll-hunting social media unit

    by 
    Matt Brian
    Matt Brian
    08.15.2016

    In a bid to tackle rising levels of abuse on social media, London's Metropolitan Police is to set up a five-person team of specialist officers tasked with targeting online trolls. Scotland Yard will spend £1.7 million on the unit, called the Online Hate Crime Hub, which will provide "targeted and effective services for victims", offer advanced intelligence on offenders and strengthen links between police, communities and social media companies like Facebook and Twitter.

  • Sky will stream tomorrow's Soccer Saturday on Facebook and YouTube

    by 
    Matt Brian
    Matt Brian
    08.12.2016

    When broadcasters put down billions of pounds to secure rights to the world's biggest sporting competitions, consumers who aren't able to afford or don't want pay-TV subscriptions often miss out. In the past, companies like Sky and BT have laid on a free day or weekend of access to show people what they're missing, but more recently, online video services have proved to be popular alternatives. With the Premier League season kicking off tomorrow, Sky has confirmed it will stream its Soccer Saturday show completely free of charge on Facebook and YouTube.

  • Adblock Plus bypasses Facebook's attempt to restrict ad blockers (update)

    by 
    Devindra Hardawar
    Devindra Hardawar
    08.11.2016

    The war between Facebook and ad blockers is heating up. Just two days after the social network announced plans to restrict software that removes its advertising, the popular utility Adblock Plus has already unveiled a workaround. All you need to do is update your Adblock Plus filters to banish those ads once again. Facebook previously said that it didn't pay to be whitelisted by any ad blocking company, instead it changed how its ads are recognized, and also gave users more control over what sorts of ads they see.

  • Facebook wants your News Feed to be more informative

    by 
    Nicole Lee
    Nicole Lee
    08.11.2016

    Facebook is on a constant quest to refine and tweak its News Feed algorithm so that you'll see stories that are relevant and of interest to you. Now it aims to improve it even further with a new "ranking signal" that's based on whether the piece of news is actually informative. From now on, stories that are more informative will float to the top, while the ones that are not so interesting will sink to the bottom.

  • You can now message President Obama on Facebook

    by 
    Andrew Dalton
    Andrew Dalton
    08.10.2016

    President Obama is no stranger to social media, and now the leader of the free world is making it even easier to reach him on the world's largest social network. In a Facebook post today, the White House announced you can now send them a note via Messenger, exactly as you might send a message to friend.

  • Facebook launches guided tours for 360-degree videos

    by 
    Mariella Moon
    Mariella Moon
    08.10.2016

    When you explore 360-degree videos on Facebook like you're supposed to, you could miss crucial moments happening outside your POV. The social network's new "Guide" tool for Pages, however, can make sure you see the best, funniest and most compelling parts. Now, when publishers upload a 360-degree video, they can enable the feature and highlight points of interest simply by pausing and clicking "+ Add Point." It will then be on by default, and the video will automatically swivel to show you those highlighted scenes. It's like having a tour guide pointing out the most interesting sights to see to a bunch of overwhelmed tourists.

  • REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

    Facebook finds a way around desktop ad blockers

    by 
    Nick Summers
    Nick Summers
    08.09.2016

    Facebook has decided to fight back against ad blocking. In a blog post today, the company recognised that a growing number of users have installed desktop ad blockers to avoid advertising they consider annoying or irrelevant. But soon, that won't be possible, as Facebook claims it'll "begin showing ads on Facebook desktop for people who currently use ad blocking software." How it's managed such a feat isn't clear. Facebook says it hasn't paid ad blocking companies to be whitelisted -- an approach taken by some of its rivals -- because it's "confusing to people" and reduces the funding available to journalists and other ad-centric businesses.