Zoosk relaunches dating app Lively as a way to meet new people while playing trivia games

Hoping to capitalize on the popularity of trivia applications like HQ Trivia, dating app maker Zoosk has just released an experimental app that combines trivia with the potential for meeting someone new. The app is a relaunch and complete makeover of Zoosk’s Lively, which first debuted in July 2016 as a dating app that used video to tell stories, instead of static profile images.

The new version of Lively is nothing like its former namesake.

As Zoosk explains, the previous version of Lively’s group video chat app was fun, but people didn’t know how to connect and relate to one another using the video format. It felt awkward to start conversations, with no reason to be there besides wanting to date.

The company went back to the drawing board, so to speak, to think about what sort of experiences could bring people together. Trivia, naturally, came to mind.

Lively aims to reproduce the feeling that comes with competing at a bar trivia night. When you join, you’re placed in a group video chat team of two to four people. Together, the team works to answer a series of 12 questions while discussing the answers over video in real-time. When they finish the questions, they’ll be able to see how their scores compared with other teams.

The “dating” component to the app isn’t quite what you would expect. In fact, it’s less of a way to find a date for a night out, than it is to just make new friends. After the game wraps, you’ll have the option to continue chatting with the other players, if you choose. You can also add people as a friend, if you hit it off.

And when trivia isn’t in session – the games run twice daily at 3 PM and 7 PM PST – you can group video chat with others on Lively.

Because you’re not added to a team with nearby players, your ability to make friends who are also possible real-life dating prospects is decidedly limited. That’s something that Lively could change to support in time, if it’s able to grow its user base. But for now, it needs to match users with any live players in order to fill out its teams.

It’s understandable why it went this route, but it doesn’t lend itself well to meeting someone special – unless you’re open to meeting people anywhere (which some are), or are fine with just making new friends and seeing where that leads.

Unlike HQ Trivia, which features live streams with a host, Lively is just group video chat with a trivia component. That means it won’t be as challenging for Zoosk to operate, as it doesn’t have to worry with bandwidth issues and other costs of putting on a live game show. Also, because there are no prizes or payouts, you can join anytime during the 30-minute gaming session to be placed into a team and play along.

Lively is not the first app to support a group video chat interface where gameplay is an option. A number of video chat apps over the years have integrated games into their experience, including older apps like Tango or Google+ Hangouts, Line, and more recently, Facebook Messenger. But none have integrated games for the purpose of facilitating new relationships.

Zoosk today has 38 million members, but wanted to find a way to reach a younger demographic, which is why it originally launched Lively. The app was the first product to emerge from Zoosk’s in-house incubator, Zoosk Labs, where the company experiments with new ideas to expand its core business.

Whether or not Zoosk can turn trivia players into love connections remains to be seen, but it’s interesting how HQ Trivia’s success has led to this wider market full of knock-offs (e.g. Genius, Joyride, Cash Show, The Q, TopBuzz, Live Quiz, Live.me, Halftime Live!, Jam Music, etc.) and other tweaks that follow its idea of live trivia games.

Lively is available on iOS only for now.

Tokyoflash has created a radar watch that scans the skies (or your wrist)

Tokyoflashis one of my favorite watchmakers. Unabashedly analog, the watches pay homage giant robots and old tech, looking like a cross between something that you could find in the hatch in Lost and a Shinjuku fever dream.

Now the company has launched the Radar LED watch, a clever piece that shows the time with sweeping beams of light that flash across the watch face. The watch features a USB-rechargable movement and a mineral crystal with silk-screen cross hairs and markers. Behind the glass are a set of LEDs that either blink when you raise the watch to look at the time or tap a side button.

No step counters or notifications mar the stark simplicity of this strange watch. The time flashes up on the face and disappears just as quickly.

Like most Tokyoflash watches this thing is hard to read at first I suspect it becomes an acquired skill. While you won’t be able to scan for bogeys for real on this decidedly unsmart watch, it makes for an interesting – if bold – conversation starter. It’s shipping now for $189.

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Alexa’s new ‘Brief Mode’ replaces verbal confirmations with chimes

Alexa is rolling out an optional “Brief Mode” that lets users configure their Echo devices to use chimes and sounds for confirmations, instead of having Alexa respond with her voice. For example, if you ask Alexa to turn on your lights today, she will respond “okay” as she does so. But with Brief Mode enabled, Alexa will instead emit a small chime as she performs the task.

The mode would be beneficial to someone who appreciates being able to control their smart home via voice, but doesn’t necessarily need to have Alexa verbally confirming that she took action with each command. This is especially helpful for those who have voice-enabled a range of smart home accessories, and have gotten a little tired of hearing Alexa answer back.

The addition of Brief Mode comes at a time when voice assistants are finding their way into ever more smart home devices, beyond the doorbells, camera, lightbulbs, thermostats, and others we’ve grown used to. At CES 2018 this January, for example, Alexa was found in a number of new devices, like smart faucets, light switches, car dashboard cameras, projectors, and several more home appliances like dishwashers, washers, dryers, and fridges.

The launch of Brief Mode was first spotted by users on Reddit (via AFTVNews), with many saying they had received the option just a few days ago. Others in the thread noted they had it as well, but then it went away – something that seems to indicate a test on Amazon’s part, or perhaps bugs with a phased rollout. In some cases, users also noticed a new toggle switch in the Alexa app, which allows you to turn Brief Mode on or off.

The explanation provided here doesn’t seem like Brief Mode would be limited to smart home commands, but anytime when Alexa could play a sound instead of a verbal confirmation. It also seems like it may cut down on Alexa’s overall chattiness in other ways, though we haven’t yet noticed any changes on other fronts.

I received the option to enable Brief Mode yesterday. When giving Alexa a command to turn off the bedroom light, she responded by explaining what Brief Mode does and giving me the option to enable it. (I said yes.)

Now when Alexa is commanded to do things with smart home devices, she just chimes.

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We asked Amazon yesterday to confirm if Brief Mode is rolling out to all users, or if it’s still considered a limited test. We’ll update if the company chooses to respond.

Equity podcast: Theranos’s reckoning, BroadQualm’s stunning conclusion and Lyft’s platform ambitions

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week Katie Roof and I were joined by Mayfield Fund’s Navin Chaddha, an investor with early connections with Lyft to talk about, well, Lyft — as well as two bombshell news events in the form of an SEC fine for Theranos and Broadcom’s hostile takeover efforts for Qualcomm hitting the brakes. Alex Wilhelm was not present this week but will join us again soon (we assume he was tending to his Slayer shirt collection).

Starting off with Lyft, there was quite a bit of activity for Uber’s biggest competitor in North America. The ride-sharing startup (can we still call it a startup?) said it would be partnering with Magna to “co-develop” an autonomous driving system. Chaddha talks a bit about how Lyft’s ambitions aren’t to be a vertical business like Uber, but serve as a platform for anyone to plug into. We’ve definitely seen this play out before — just look at what happened with Apple (the closed platform) and Android (the open platform). We dive in to see if Lyft’s ambitions are actually going to pan out as planned. Also, it got $200 million out of the deal.

Next up is Theranos, where the SEC investigation finally came to a head with founder Elizabeth Holmes and former president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were formally charged by the SEC for fraud. The SEC says the two raised more than $700 million from investors through an “elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business, and financial performance.” You can find the full story by TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos here, and we got a chance to dig into the implications of what it might mean for how investors scope out potential founders going forward. (Hint: Chaddha says they need to be more careful.)

Finally, BroadQualm is over. After months of hand-wringing over whether or not Broadcom would buy — and then commit a hostile takeover — of the U.S. semiconductor giant, the Trump administration blocked the deal. A cascading series of events associated with the CFIUS, a government body, got it to the point where Broadcom’s aggressive dealmaker Hock Tan dropped plans to go after Qualcomm altogether. The largest deal of all time in tech will, indeed, not be happening (for now), and it has potentially pretty big implications for M&A going forward.

That’s all for this week, we’ll catch you guys next week. Happy March Madness, and may fortune favor* your brackets.

Equity drops every Friday at 6:00 am PT, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercast, Pocketcast, Downcast and all the casts.

assuming you have Duke losing before the elite 8.

Change up your style to match the season with these spring-friendly watch straps

Fossil Q Neely Hybrid review

Brenda Stolyar/Digital Trends

With the spring season approaching, it’s time to switch up your wardrobe — and that also includes your accessories. When it comes to smartwatches, you can easily transform the look by swapping out the interchangeable watch straps.

There are many watch band options to choose from, and we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite options to help jazz up your timepiece. Whether you’re going for bright and airy or more neutral, there’s a watch strap for every style.

Barton Watch Band White Canvas Watch Strap ($20)

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Made of canvas, the Barton Watch Band is a great, lighter option to swap out in favor of the heavier watch straps you’ve been wearing this winter. With 18mm and 20mm bands, the white canvas strap is made specifically for the Nokia Steel HR and has stainless steel quick release spring bars — making it easier to attach.

Buy now from:

Barton Watch Bands

Skagen Standard Silicone Watch Strap ($21)

Skagen Standard Silicone Watch Strap

If you’re feeling a pop of color is in order, this yellow silicone watch strap from Skagen will do the trick. It can fit any watch with a 20mm standard band, and includes a quick-release pin for easy attachment. It’s also moisture resistant, so you won’t have to worry about ruining it during those fun spring activities.

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Fossil Light Brown Leather Watch Strap ($30)

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For a more traditional option, you can go for Fossil’s light brown leather watch strap. It still livens up your smartwatch with a brighter look, but in a way that’s more casual. At 22mm, it’s specifically compatible with Fossil’s own Q Explorist smartwatch.

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NOMAD Sport Strap ($30)

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The NOMAD Sport Strap adds a touch of bright color on the inner lining of the watch strap. Made of vulcanized LSR silicone, it’s rugged enough to take outdoors but can blend in with casual outfits as well. At 42mm, it’s compatible with the Apple Watch — Series 1, 2, and 3.

Buy now from:


Fossil Mint Leather Strap ($35)

Fossil Mint Leather Strap
This 16mm mint-colored leather strap by Fossil will give your smartwatch the refreshing look it needs after such a long winter. The stainless steel buckle definitely makes the watch strap pop, but it won’t overpower your outfit or the watch itself.

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Sofie Leather Smartwatch Strap ($50)

Michael Kors Sofie Leather Watch Strap

For those who have the Michael Kors Sofie smartwatch, a white leather watch strap is perfect for a minimalist look. Regardless of the case you have, this strap will easily match up with any colors. It’s also subtle enough that you can easily pair it with any type of outfit, whether it’s dressy or casual.

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Michael Kors

b&nd by Hadley Roma Mode Silicone Watch Band ($50)

Hadley Roma Mode Silicone Watch Band
Spring is the perfect season to break out those bright colors, especially after a long winter of cool and dark tones. This silicone band by Hadley Roma is available in a number of bright colors such as red, yellow, and green. But if you want to stick to more muted shades, there’s also black and gray — along with a white one that match with everything.

Made of silicone material, the bands are also super easy to clean if you get them dirty during outdoor activities. They’re available in 16mm, 18mm, 20mm, and 22mm sizes for Android Wear smartwatches.

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Kate Spade Silicone Apple Watch Strap ($58)

Kate Spade Silicone Apple Watch Strap
If you’re looking for a watch strap that’s more subtle in color but not in style, plaid is always a safe bet. Kate Spade’s silicone watch strap in black and white adds that spring flair without being too bold. Coming in at 38mm, it’s compatible with the Series 1, Series 2, and Series 3 Apple Watch.

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Kate Spade

Misfit Smartwatch Assorted Straps Pack ($60)

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Choosing just one watch strap for spring can be tough, but with the Misfit assorted 20mm straps pack, you can have three instead. Its “Seaside” pack includes a wide range of colors including turquoise, dark blue, and a cream-colored option. The straps also vary in material — you’ll be able to switch back and forth between braided nylon, silicone, and leather.

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Coach Apple Watch Strap With Tea Rose0 ($175)

Coach Apple Watch Strap With Tea Rose

Florals? For spring? We know, it’s not groundbreaking but this 38mm Apple Watch watch strap takes blooms to another level. Made of glove-tanned leather, each flower is debossed, printed, and placed by hand. It also comes in a variety of color ways ranging from white to a light pink and darker shades such as brown, gray, and red.

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Editors’ Recommendations

Twitter test makes news the first thing users see in the timeline


Twitter users could soon see the biggest news events first when opening the timeline — the social media platform recently confirmed a test of a news highlight reel at the top of user feeds. The tested feature would push news as platforms like Facebook put a smaller priority on news items in an ongoing fight against fake news.

According to BuzzFeed, the staff at Twitter select news items to appear in boxes at the top of the timeline. Tapping on those news items will take users to a list of related tweets, also human curated. The test was first spotted on Wednesday, March 14 with a news spot featuring Stephen Hawking’s death along with other news items, including an election in Pennsylvania.

Twitter says the test is designed to highlight the platform’s bent towards current happenings while making news easier to find. The news highlight test is an expansion of the Happening Now option that already exists inside the Twitterverse. The tool is currently focused on sports-related tweets, but the test appears to be an example of Twitter making good on its promises, since the network said at the October launch of the feature that the tool would eventually expand to news and entertainment.

For now, the feature is only in testing, allowing only some iOS and Android users to spot the news highlights. Twitter said that, if the feature is successful, the feature may be run by algorithms, rather than human oversight, in the future. Another potential outcome of a successful test could organize the related tweets into multiple categories for users to navigate, including an option for chronological order.

The test comes one month after Twitter began featuring breaking news video in the sidebar of the Twitter feed. That feature is designed to highlight news that’s breaking and comes from trusted local news outlets. The feature first began rolling out with coverage from a Miami newsgroup in the aftermath of the Florida high school shooting last month.

Twitter’s instant microblogging nature is known for creating discussion around current events and news items. As Twitter overhauls the reviews against abuse and works to boot bots off the platform, the test could help highlight one of the platform’s strengths.

The move is part of an ongoing discussion on the impact of fake news — Facebook recently announced that news posts would show up around 20 percent less in users timelines as the company cleans up the feed to make scrolling through it “time well spent.”

Editors’ Recommendations

Apple highlights existing parental control features on new Families page

apple creates families page highlighting existing parental control features people 2564425 1920

Just months after a group of shareholders sent a letter to Apple requesting the company address the  “growing public health crisis” of childhood cell phone addiction, the tech giant is taking action. On Thursday, March 15, Apple announced a new Families page on its website, showcasing its existing parental controls in iOS and Mac OS.

While the Families page does not provide any new features, it allows parents to quickly identify and access current features that may fall under the radar. The site also provides tutorials on how to set up the features available to caregivers.

The site categorizes features by different use scenarios. For example, there is a section that highlights all of the different features to ensure your child is downloading and viewing appropriate content. It includes features like Apple’s Ask to Buy option that allows guardians the choice of approving each app purchase individual versus setting up certain static parameters where children can automatically download apps. You can also learn about in-app purchase controls that can cause unexpected charges to appear on your credit card.

In addition to providing information on lots of app-based controls, the Families page also provides guidance on how to use built-in features in iOS to restrict inappropriate content as well. Guided tutorials are provided to show parents how to restrict inappropriate media downloads through iTunes. There is also a tutorial that shows caregivers how to use built-in web filters to restrict inappropriate content on the web.

Although parental controls play a key role on the Families page, Apple is also highlighting the health features available on its products. These range from basic fitness-tracking features on the Apple Watch, to the Medical ID page on the iPhone that provides urgent health and contact information in the event of an emergency.

To be clear, the Families page does not present any new features, it provides information on all the features that are currently available. While the page makes it easier to identify and set up solutions best for your family, it’s has yet to provide any of the new features Apple promised to address cellphone misuse and addiction in children. We anticipate some of these new features will be announced later in 2018 at the World Wide Developers Conference where the company is expected to announce iOS 12 and other annual software updates.

Editors’ Recommendations

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 gets Disney AR Emojis at launch

I wasn’t alone in suggesting that Samsung’s Animoji competitors were, well, creepy. AR Emojis sit firmly in the uncanny valley between face scans and cartoon characters — generally lacking the adorableness of Apple’s offering. They have, however, had one saving grace: Disney, the entertainment company that essentially owns all of your best childhood memories. 

Samsung teased the partnership this month at Mobile World Congress, during the big Galaxy S9 launch, but didn’t offer much in the way of specifics. There is, however, some good news on the front. Disney’s AR Emojis will be available at launch for the S9 and S9+ — which, as it so happens, is today.

Right now, only Mickey and Minnie are available, accessible to phone buyers as a free download.  More character offerings from such blockbuster films as The Incredibles, Zootopia and Frozen will be made available before the end of the year.

The decision to go with Samsung is no doubt a sore spot for Apple, which has had a tight partnership with Disney for decades, including numerous product crossovers and shared board members. But the entertainment giant is no doubt looking to spread the love. The company also recently licensed Star Wars characters for some very Porg-y Pixel 2 AR stickers.

“By extending our characters and stories to new digital platforms,” Disney VP John Love said in a release tied to the announcement, “we are creating daily Disney experiences everywhere our audience goes, and we are able to draw in new generations of fans.”

The S9 hits the market today, priced starting at $720.

Apple patent aims to use haptic feedback to make notifications distinguishable

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Another week, a few more Apple patents. A number of patents have been published from Apple, showcasing a few things that the company has been working on since last week. In particular, the patents relate to future iPhone housings, as well as improved notifications for devices like the Apple Watch.

Here’s a quick rundown of Apple’s new patents.

Haptic notifications

apple patents titanium haptic feedback

Apple may be looking to improve how haptic notifications are handled on devices like, for example, the Apple Watch. The patent, which is a continuation of a patent the company filed in 2015, describes the use of haptic feedback to distinguish what notification is incoming. In other words, you may get a long buzz for an email, versus a series of shorter buzzes for phone calls — allowing you to know what the notification is without looking at your watch or phone.

“Most electronic devices use the same haptic alert to notify users about multiple items of interests,” says the patent. “As a result, it may be difficult to immediately distinguish between a telephone call, a text message, or other such notification.”

We’ll have to wait and see how this shows up, but in particular we think it could be useful on the Apple Watch.

Coloring titanium for device housings

Apple may be looking into using a new material for upcoming devices — titanium. According to a fresh patent, Apple could look to using an oxide coating to color titanium, and that coloring method could be used on devices like the iPhone, Apple Watch, and even the MacBook series of computers.

The reason to use titanium, according to the patent, is that it’s pretty strong and resistant to corrosion, plus it’s pretty lightweight — making it perfect for consumer electronic devices. Only issue? It’s hard to color it with a consistent coating that’s also resistant to abrasion. Apple appears to solve that in the latest patent, with the use of different alloys — like an aluminum alloy over the titanium.

Using enzymes to make a phone more waterproof

apple patents titanium haptic waterproofing

It looks like Apple also wants to make its devices a little more watch-resistant. How? By using enzymes. According to another new patent, the company wants to use enzymes to keep polymer structures that make devices waterproof from degrading, thanks to exposure to things like fatty acids. Those fatty acids are really just a fact of life — they exist in human sweat and skin oils, and can degrade the gaskets and structures that keep a device like the iPhone protected against water.

Of course, as is always the case, there’s no guarantee that Apple will end up using any of these patents — but the fact remains that the company clearly is looking into ways to make its devices even better than they already are.

Editors’ Recommendations

Using broken glass, this camera can capture any wavelength, from visible to IR

ntu lensless camera broken glass nrbanner

Nanyang Technological University

The camera inside your smartphone uses a lens and a red-green-blue filter to capture color images, but researchers have just developed a tiny camera that doesn’t have a lens or a colored filter, yet can take not only colored images, but infrared and ultraviolet images too. A group from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University recently announced the development of a lensless camera capable of recording visible, infrared and ultraviolet light all inside one camera.

The typical camera uses a colored filter and a lens — and switching over to another wavelength requires an entirely different camera (or an infrared filter that requires extreme long exposures). That’s not the case with NTU’s new development. The camera’s trifecta of unique capabilities comes from a design that replaces a lens with ground glass.

The crushed glass inside the mini-camera will scatter each wavelength of light differently. Using algorithms programmed for each type of light, the researchers were then able to reconstruct the image. Because the different wavelengths each have its own unique scatter pattern, the researchers were able to apply one algorithm to get the traditional visible light image, but another to get an infrared image and still more to capture ultraviolet.

The design also allows the camera to use a monochrome sensor and still take colored images. A traditional camera sensor uses a random pattern of red, green, and blue filters in order to capture color, called a Bayer array. The ground glass essentially serves the same purpose as the colored filter, only requires the library of data on how each wavelength is scattered to reassemble the image.

Along with essentially creating a visible, infrared and ultraviolet camera in one, the camera is also compact. The lens-free design means eliminating the bulkiest part of the camera. The research isn’t the first lensless camera — including research from MIT and Caltech — but the NTU camera offers the unique ability to capture any wavelength.

Lensless cameras like the one developed by NTU could help create smaller cameras, such as making slimmer smartphones, for example. Steve Cuong Dang, the assistant professor leading the research group, says the camera’s design could also be used in medical and scientific applications, among others. Infrared and ultraviolet photography is used for medicine, surveillance and astrophysics, he said. The different wavelengths could potentially also be used to detect bacteria on food or even in criminal forensics.

Lensless camera research has been ongoing for years without yet seeing a consumer product, but the ground-glass design adds another layer in the ongoing research to create smaller cameras by ditching the traditional lens.

Editors’ Recommendations