All posts in “Apps”

Twitter will now preserve JPEG quality for photo uploads on the web

Twitter is changing the way it processes uploaded images, and the new way of doing things will be much-appreciated by any photographers sharing their work on the platform. Twitter engineer Nolan O’Brien shared that the platform will now preserve JPEG encoding when they’re uploaded via Twitter on the web, instead of transcoding them, which results in a degradation in quality that can be frustrating for photo pros and enthusiasts.

There are some limitations to keep in mind — Twitter will still be transcoding and compressing the thumbnails for the images, which is what you see in your Twitter feed. But once users click through, they will get the full, uncompressed (at least, not additionally compressed) image you originally uploaded, provided it’s a JPEG.

Twitter will also still be stripping EXIF data (data that provides more information about the picture, including when, how and, potentially, where it was taken or edited), which is readable by some applications. The platform has previously done this, and it’s good that it does, because while sometimes photographers like to peek at this info to check things like aperture or ISO setting on a photo they admire, or to transmit copyright info, it also can potentially be used by people with bad intentions to spy on things like location.

The example above posted by O’Brien is actually a really illustrative one when it comes to showing what kind of detail and quality can be preserved when Twitter doesn’t further compress or transcode your JPEG photos. This is a small, but great feature tweak for the platform, and hopefully it continues to make Twitter more photo-friendly in the future.

Snapchat Cameo edits your face into videos

Snapchat is preparing to launch a big new feature that uses your selfies to replace the faces of people in videos you can then share. It’s essentially a simplified way to Deepfake you into GIFs. Cameos are an alternative to Bitmoji for quickly conveying an emotion, reaction, or silly situation in Snapchat messages.

Some French users received a test version of the feature today, as spotted by Snap enthusiast @Mtatsis.

Snapchat Cameo makes you the star of videos

TechCrunch reached out to Snap, which confirmed Cameo’s existence, and that it’s currently testing in limited availability in some international markets. The company provided this statement: “Cameos aren’t ready to take the stage yet, but stay tuned for their global debut soon!”

With Cameo, you’ll take a selfie to teach Snapchat what you look like. Then you choose if you want a vaguely male or female body type (no purposefully androgenous option).

Cameo then lives inside the Bitmoji button in the Snapchat messaging keyboard. Snapchat has made a bunch of short looping video clips with sound that you can choose from. Snapchat will then stretch and move your selfie to create different facial reactions that Cameo can apply to actors’ heads in the videos. You just pick one of these videos that now star you and send it to the chat.

Cameo could help Snapchat keep messaging interesting, which is critical since that remains its most popular and differentiated feature. With Instagram and WhatsApp having copied its Stories to great success, it must stay ahead in chat. Though in this case, Snap could be accused of copying Chinese social app Zao which let users more realistically Deepfake their faces into videos. Then again, JibJab popularized this kind of effect many years ago to stick your face on dancing Christmas elves.

Snap is only starting to monetize the messaging wing of its app with ads inside social games. Snap might potentially sell sponsored, branded Cameo clips to advertisers similar to how the company offers sponsored augmented reality lenses.

Cameo could put a more fun spin on technology for grafting faces into videos. Deepfakes can be used as powerful weapons of misinformation or abuse. But by offering only innocuous clips rather than statements from politicians or pornography, Snapchat could turn the tech into a comedic medium.

[Image Credit: Jeff Higgins]

Daily Crunch: Uber reveals sexual assault numbers

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 9am Pacific, you can subscribe here.

1. Uber reveals thousands of sexual assault reports last year

Uber just released its first-ever safety report, stating that it received 2,936 reports pertaining to sexual assault in 2017, which went up to 3,045 in 2018 (these are U.S.-specific numbers). At the same time, Uber says there was a 16% decrease in the average incident rate.

While traditional taxis also have their safety risks, those numbers are still quite troubling. It’s worth noting, though, that the company has implemented some safety measures designed to help prevent sexual assault.

2. Niantic is working with Qualcomm on augmented reality glasses

To be clear, you’re not going to be booting up Pokémon GO on a pair of Qualcomm/Niantic AR glasses this Christmas. Moving forward, though, Niantic will be working with Qualcomm to flesh out the reference hardware for augmented reality glasses.

3. Netflix earmarks $420M to fight Disney in India

“This year and next year, we plan to spend about Rs 3,000 crores developing and licensing content and you will start to see a lot of stuff hit the screens,” said CEO Reed Hastings at a conference in New Delhi.

4. Airbnb officially bans all open-invite parties and events

The new policy seeks to prevent certain guests from hosting events not approved by hosts — such as a recent Halloween party hosted at a California Airbnb rental in which five people were killed.

5. Inside VSCO, a Gen Z-approved photo-sharing app, with CEO Joel Flory

Known to many only because of this year’s “VSCO girl” meme explosion, the company has long been coaxing the creative community to its freemium platform. Turns out, if you can provide the disillusioned teens of Gen Z respite from the horrors of social media — they’ll pay money for it.

6. This Lego Cybertruck is one even Elon can love

While Lego’s take on the Tesla Cybertruck design seemed to be purely for the LOLs, a remarkably faithful representation has been submitted to the official Lego Ideas crowdsourcing website.

7. Scammers peddling Islamophobic clickbait is business as usual at Facebook

A network of scammers used a ring of established right-wing Facebook pages to stoke Islamophobia and make a quick buck in the process, according to a new report from The Guardian. But Devin Coldewey argues that this is less a vast international conspiracy and simply more evidence that Facebook is unable to police its platform to prevent even the most elementary scams. (Extra Crunch membership required.)

Canva introduces video editing, has big plans for 2020

Canva, the design company with nearly $250 million in funding, has today announced a variety of new features, including a video editing tool.

The company has also announced Canva Apps, which allows developers and customers alike to build on top of Canva. Thus far, Dropbox, Google Drive, PhotoMosh and Instagram are already in the Canva Apps suite, with a total of 30 apps available at launch.

The video editing tool allows for easy editing with no previous experience required, and also offers video templates, access to a stock content library with videos, music, etc., and easy-to-use animation tools.

Meanwhile, Canva is taking the approach of winning customers when they’re young, with the launch of Canva for Education. It’s a totally free product that has launched in beta with Australian schools, integrating with GSuite and Google Classroom to allow students to build out projects, and teachers to mark them up and review them.

Canva has also announced the launch of Canva for Desktop.

As design becomes more important to the way every organization functions and operates, one of the only barriers to the growth of the category is the pace at which new designers can emerge and enter the workforce.

Canva has positioned itself as the non-designer’s design tool, making it easy to create something beautiful with little to no design experience. The launch of the video editing tool and Canva for Education strengthen that stance, not only creating more users for the platform itself but fostering an environment for the maturation of new designers to join the ecosystem as a whole.

Alongside the announcement, Canva CEO Melanie Perkins has announced that Canva will join the 1% pledge, dedicating 1 percent of equity, profit, time and resources to making the world a better place.

Here’s what she had to say about it, in a prepared statement:

Companies have a huge role to play in helping to shape the world we live in and we feel like the 1% Pledge is an incredible program which will help us to use our company’s time, resources, product and equity to do just that. We believe the old adage ‘do no evil’ is no longer enough today and hope to live up to our value to ‘Be a Force for Good’.

Interestingly, Canva’s position at the top of the design funnel hasn’t slowed growth. Indeed, Canva recently launched Canva for Enterprise to let all the folks in the organization outside of the design department step up to bat and create their own decks, presentations, materials, etc., all within the parameter’s of the design system and brand aesthetic.

A billion designs have been created on Canva in 2019, with 2 billion designs created since the launch of the platform.

Reelgood raises $6.75 million for its universal streaming guide

Streaming aggregator Reelgood capitalized on the overabundance of streaming services available today by offering consumers a universal dashboard where you can track what you’re watching and discover your next binge. It then translated the activity from its over 10 million users into data it licenses to major companies, including Roku, Microsoft, smart TV makers, NYPost, and even hedge funds. Now the company has closed on $6.75 million in Series A funding to continue to grow its data business.

The round was led by Runa Capital and includes participation from Reelgood’s seed round investor, August Capital. To date, Reelgood has raised $11 million.

The company’s app to some extent competes with those designed to help you keep track of the episodes you’ve watched across streaming services and TV, like TV Time, iTV, JustWatch, and others. But Reelgood’s service stands out for its breadth of catalog — it tracks both movies and TV across some 336 streaming services, the website says. This includes free services like Tubi, Crackle and those from TV networks, plus authenticated “TV Everywhere” services for pay-TV subscribers, and subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime, and others. It can also help you compare prices on rental options.

And its robust search and filtering features can help you find titles that are new, coming or leaving services, or by any other filter — like genre, year, Rotten Tomatoes rating, IMDB score and more. The more you use and personalize the service, the better its suggestions for what to watch next then become.

Once you find something to watch, you just press play to launch the streaming service’s app or website.

The work involved in making a simple concept — a universal dashboard for streaming — is fairly complex, Reelgood says.

“Putting together these streaming service libraries involves ingesting massive and unstructured amounts of data from hundreds of different sources for real-time matching and combination using machine learning and human curators,” noted Reelgood’s Head of Data, Pablo Lucio Paredes.

Reelgood also touts the quality of its data (averaging 98% across all 300+ services), which it then licenses to publishers, search engines, media players, TVs, voice assistants, and other smart devices. Currently, the company has around 50 business customers who pay either for the raw data, the insights or both.

Roku, for example, uses Reelgood’s data for its own universal search feature. NYPost displays streaming availability data on their articles via a widget. Hedge funds look at the data to better understand consumer behavior in streaming services and the movement of content between catalogs.

This year, Reelgood hired Nielsen’s former SVP of global measurement, Mark Green, to lead its B2B data licensing business, called Reelgood Insights.

“I sought out and joined Reelgood because they are poised to capture the billions in revenue spent on viewership data as viewing continues to shift towards OTT,” said Green.

The additional funding will be used to expand the number of platforms where Reelgood is offered, including on a range of smart TVs through partnerships. The company has signed five smart TV deals with major brands that will begin to roll out in 2020, but LG is the only name Reelgood can currently disclose.

Reelgood is headquartered in San Francisco. It has 18 employees, both local and remote, and is hiring across a number of roles.