All posts in “Software”

Digital ethicist James Williams talks about the rise of bad social media


James Williams is a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute. He studies the ethics of attention and persuasion in technology design and spoke with us about the rise of attention-grabbing advertising and media and how we can fight back against the onslaught.

I talked to him just before Thanksgiving for this enlightening episode of Technotopia.

Before fighting against bad advertising Williams worked at Google on “advertising products and tools.” His work now is aimed at reversing exactly what he built and he wants to use the tools he made to help fix advertising.

Technotopia is a podcast by John Biggs about a better future. You can subscribe in Stitcher, RSS, or iTunes and listen the MP3 here.

New Destiny 2 Alexa skills let you ask Ghost to do stuff in-game


Destiny 2 fans will know that you get your own virtual assistant of source in the game world – Ghost, who sort of floats around and guides you. The new Alexa skill for Destiny 2 allows you to ask Ghost to do a number of things for you, including provide guidance about your in-game mission, calling backup, equipping different armour and weapon sets and providing lore and fictional world background info.

This is clearly an example of ‘brands being brands’ ™ and teaming up to make each other look cool, but the integration is actually pretty neat, especially because it works with a physical, Wi-Fi connected Ghost speaker accessory that Bungie and Activision also revealed. The speaker doesn’t have Alexa on board directly, but can pair with Alexa devices and provides an even more realistic simulation of actually speaking to the in-game companion character.

Alexa-based voice commands for calling up info and doing things like equipment and inventory management without having to open sub-menus and dig through complex visual interfaces in games actually sounds like a super cool feature that could be applicable to a range of different titles and genres beyond Destiny 2.

The Alexa skill for Destiny 2 requires on the game, and an Alexa device like an Echo to work. But if you want to grab the Ghost speaker, it’s an $89.99 pre-order with a ship date of December 19, 2017.

I already use Alexa to control my home theater, fans, my lights, my thermostat and a lot more, so why not also use it to up my gaming skills? Here’s hoping this turns into a trend.

Instagram now allows optional photo and video message replays


Instagram has tweaked a couple of its direct messaging features to make them a bit more flexible and interactive. You can now automatically capture and remix photos sent to you in replies back to friends, and allow photo and video replays to be replayed more than once.

The remix feature lets you capture the original photo message and incorporate it into your reply, complete with the option to “remix” it with added stickers, text and doodles. You can also resize the image and incorporate it into your own visual response – meaning if you’re truly dedicated you could create a never-ending chain of remixed responses that drives you totally insane from its incomprehensible unknowability.

The other big change, and possibly one that’s more impactful IMO, is that Instagram now lets you choose to allow replays on photo messages sent to friends, instead of having them expire permanently once viewed. That’s a super cool feature, and a great option to have.

The single view expiry was a bit of a holdover from similar features Instagram was emulating from Snapchat, but I think the option to replay is much more at home on the photo sharing social network. You still have the option to fade away after a one-time view, too, so people can be as ephemeral, or as semi-permanent as they want to be.

iOS jailbreak repositories close as user interest wanes


A few years ago jailbreaking your iPhone was all the rage. The cat-and-mouse game of hackers versus Apple was great fun and some of the open source products available to jailbreakers – namely the Cydia alternative app store – added amazing features and customizability to the iPhone. Some devs even launched only on jailbroken phones, thumbing their noses at Apple’s walled garden.

Now, however, the jailbreak community is shriveling up and blowing away. Now two major repositories have closed, leaving very little for the active jailbreaker to install and run.

First ModMyi has closed, announcing that it didn’t make economic sense to maintain the repository:

After ModMy, Mobile Nations (ModMy’s parent company) and SaurikIT finished our discussions, there was a clear but sad result to the issue of Cydia and repositories. ModMyi was not plausible to keep going as server costs were insane and the money the repository generated was way below the required amount to keep the repository, not with an economic gain, but to even keep it non-profit.

Second, MaCiti closed last week, the result of a “death spiral” in jailbreak popularity.

The lates iOS version has not been jailbroken and, given the insecurities of running a jailbroken phone including unwanted terminal access into the phone itself, it’s not likely many will adopt it. Even the most popular service, JailBreakMe is sitting idle. That said, true fanatics aren’t giving up.

“With all the talking going around about ‘jailbreaking being dead’ or how it’s dying, I’m here to reassure everyone that this subreddit’s discord is still active every day,” wrote Aaronp613 on Reddit. “I know times have been a bit tough for everyone, but that just means we need to focus on what we have at the moment.”

Pokémon Go creator raises $200 million ahead of Harry Potter game launch


Pokémon Go creator Niantic has raised a new $200 million in funding, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Series B raise was led by Spark Capital, and includes participation from Founders Fund, Meritech, Javelin Venture Capital, You & Mr. Jones and NetEase, Inc. Spark partner Megan Quinn is also joining Niantic’s board as part of the new financing deal.

Niantic is known for its augmented reality games, which began with the multiplayer sci-fi spy game Ingress, created during the company’s time as an internal startup founded within Google. In 2015, Niantic spun out as its own entity, and it launched Pokémon Go in July, 2016. The Pokémon AR game managed to attract massive interest at launch, resulting in huge real-world gatherings of players thanks to its mechanic of incentivizing players to move around in the real world to achieve in-game success.

In its Series A round, Niantic raised $30 million in funding from an investor group including Alsop Loui Partners, Google, Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, Cyan and Scott Banister and others. Earlier this year, Niantic announced its first acquisition, of mobile social network developer Evertoon, and it also recently made official its intent to build a mobile AR game based on Harry Potter.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is due out sometime next year, and will be developed in partnership with Warner Bros. Interactive.