All posts in “Apps”

This new animation technique might actually make selfies interesting

Let’s face it: Selfie filters have gotten boring. 

No one cares anymore that thanks to the miracle of modern technology you can vomit rainbows or stick a dog’s nose on your face. It’s just, well, played out.  Whether that’s in spite of or because of Facebook’s recent push into the filter game is anyone’s guess, but all the Zuckerberg money in the world can’t make something cool. 

But hey, all you filter lovers out there, there’s hope yet. Say hello to the definitely sexy sounding technique known as “example-based synthesis of stylized facial animations” that is to be presented at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference scheduled for later this summer in Los Angeles. 

And just what is that, you ask? 

“This new method allows video of a face to be stylized to match an example drawing, or painting, using non-parametric texture synthesis,” the SIGGRAPH promo video helpfully explains.

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Basically, the method takes a sample image — like a bronze statue — and maps that to your face while you talk. An example video, without sound, was released by researcher Professor Daniel Sýkora ahead of the presentation. 

It’s pretty cool.

For sure, Prisma already works on video, but that app has a fixed number of pre-programmed video styles. You can’t morph video of your face into the style of whatever random painting or sculpture suits you. 

Sýkora and his team, based out of the Czech Republic republic, have made this very thing possible.

Whenever the tech finally makes its way to phones, which you know it will, selfie filters are finally going to get interesting again. Until that time? Well, I guess we’re just stuck with bunny ears

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The League is bringing its exclusive dating app to 10 more cities this summer


The League, a a dating app that prides itself on selectiveness and requires members to be approved before joining, has traditionally taken expansion pretty slow. Originally launched in early 2015, the app is still only in 7 cities – New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C and London.

But the startup just announced they are about to embark on a summer tour, adding 10 cities before the end of August.

They are: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Denver, Seattle and Toronto.

These will roll out in batches, with the first three to launch being Philly, Atlanta and Miami in early June.

The startup will also be hosting a launch party in each city, which they explained is a good way to show its new members that The League is more than a random app on your phone – and actually has a human and community element behind it. This is especially important because a major component of The League’s monetization strategy is pairing you up with a real person (who they call a concierge) to help you perfect your dating profile, as well as advertising real-life events in your city.

A lot of data goes into deciding what cities The League expands to. Instead of rolling out nationally on day one like other dating apps have done, they have focused on slowly adding cities to make sure they are the right ones to support the app. For example, the startup looks at the amount of college educated singles in each city before launching, which they aptly translated into a list of the best cities for aspiring power-couples.

Of course since The League requires approval to join, the startup needs to make sure they have enough users in each city before they open the doors. That’s why each city has a waiting list that is already open today. Since The League typically likes to launch a city with 2,000 “founding members”, and their approval rate is between 20-30%, a city needs about 10,000 people on the waitlist before it makes sense for the app to launch there.

These 10 new cities will bring The League to 16 total cities by the end of the summer, putting them close to their new goal of 20 cities (with at least a few more being international) by the end of 2017.

Uber uses a dinosaur to show how you’d control a self-driving car with a smartphone

Why just hail a self-driving car with your smartphone when you can control one, too? 

That may soon be an option if Uber has its way. 

As detailed by a patent application published May 25, the company envisions a system that allows a rider to “instruct the autonomous vehicle to perform one or more non-driving operations” via a “mobile computing device.”

That’s right, only non-driving maneuvers are on the table here. So no, you won’t be able to steer the self-driving car with your smartphone. But why would you want to, anyway? If your goal was to drive a car, you wouldn’t be in an autonomous Uber. 

And besides, that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of stuff inside the ride to play around with. Think of it this way — with a partially custom-designed vehicle and no human driver at the wheel, who can you ask to dim the cabin lights? Turn on the seat heaters? Blast those sweet tunes?

Your smartphone, that’s who — further rendering the need for human interaction one step closer to obsolete. 

Yes, that's a dinosaur.

Yes, that’s a dinosaur.

Image: us patent and trademark office

Speaking of humans and obsolete, the patent application for some reason uses the graphic of a dinosaur to represent the rider and/or the car. Specifically, it looks like a raptor. 

Please excuse the digression, but a patent for a self-driving raptor would be way cooler — smartphone integration or no. 

But back to the patent. Allowing users to issue commands to self-driving vehicles via smartphones will one day be an essential part of the rider experience, and Uber clearly has figured that out. 

Unfortunately for its investors, the company is struggling to figure out the whole self-driving car thing. Uber is bogged down in a vicious court battle with rival Waymo, while at the same time its autonomous vehicles have trouble driving even a single mile without human intervention. 

But hey, riders may one day be able to control a vehicle’s air conditioning from the Uber app. So at least there’s that. 

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Tips for mastering Magikarp Jump, the next Pokémon masterpiece


Nearly two decades after the release of the original Pokémon Red and Blue in the U.S., the Pokémon company has come out with another true masterpiece.

It’s called Magikarp Jump, which came out for iOS and Android earlier today. It’s about training Magikarp, the most beloved Pokémon in the universe, to jump as hard as it can and squash the hopes and dreams of its opponents. But Magikarp Jump can be a complicated beast to master, so here are some tips to get started:

Choose your pole carefully and be patient when fishing

Waiting for the best Magikarp is the first step to becoming a true Magikarp master.

Name it something original

Your Magikarp will eventually have a mid-life existential crisis. Make sure to nurture its individuality if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Accept nuggets from strangers

Your Magikarp needs those nuggets and it can’t Tweet. Give your Magikarp the gift of nuggets if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Skip the commentary

Your Magikarp doesn’t want to listen to the same announcer over and over, it wants to be a winner. Take your Magikarp straight to the ring if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Demand a play review

There’s no harm in asking officials to review the jump. You’ll need to learn the best strategies as a coach if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Spend your coins on upgrades and stuff

You aren’t going to collect interest on those coins. You’ll need to invest in your Magikarp’s future if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Ignore the health risks of drinking soda

The internet wants to make you think that soda is bad. The truth is, your Magikarp loves soda, and you should feed it some if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Be sure to give your Magikarp lots of praise

It won’t always max out that jump counter, but if you want to be a Magikarp master you’ll have to treat it with respect.

Always accept your achievement rewards

You’ll want to rake in that sweet, sweet cash after all if you want to be a Magikarp master.

Be sure to have your phone out when updating your computer

This is a good opportunity to train your Magikarp if you hope to be a Magikarp master.

Always grab the thing

No one wants a quitter; Magikarp masters take risks. Throw caution to the wind if you hope to be a Magikarp master.

Teach your Magikarp to respect its elders

You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Magikarp you’ve raised over the years. You must ensure that knowledge is passed to future generations if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Buy lots of friends

Your Magikarp might get lonely. Buy it some friends with cash like any good coach will do if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Check in with other trainers

You’ll want to know how your Magikarp is stacking up against other Magikarps. Learn from your peers if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Let it do its thing

If your Magikarp wants some berries, let it have some berries. You need to trust its judgment if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Don’t have any regrets

Fish die all the time. You’ll have to be ready to move on if you want to be a true Magikarp master.

Good luck, trainer!

Instagram direct messages now support web links and different photo orientations


Instagram’s Direct feature just got more generally useful as a messaging option, with support added for external web links, and the ability to send photos and video in their original portrait or landscape aspect ratios without cropping. The first is really far more important than the second, mainly because it means users have less reason to go seeking other messaging options outside of Instagram.

The links feature also includes inline previews for websites you paste the URL for, and the new photo and video treatment is much more in keeping with how people actually capture and view media on mobile these days. The updates are rolling out now to iOS users, and will arrive on Android soon. Links are supported on both platforms as of version 10.22.

Instagram Direct is a popular feature among the social network’s user base – there are 375 million monthly active users on Direct alone as of last count, a fresh number shared publicly in April. It’s a far cry from Facebook Messenger’s 1.2 billion monthly actives, but that’s still one of the biggest messaging apps in the world, and a product worth iterating on in order to help it capture even more market share.