This Week in Web: Sept 21-27, 2015
Here’s what is new in web news this week: You will soon be able to make virtual sculptures out of invisible clay with Oculus Rift. You can pay an ad-blocker to block ads, while companies pay the same ad-blocker not to block ads. Counteract the constant distractions that technology brings to your daily life by using an app to meditate your way to inner peace. Also, iOS users can now Keep as organized as Android users. Indian railway stations may soon be filled with people who are not in a hurry to catch a train. And Twitter’s experiment did not include polling us on whether we want Twitter polls (Your options are limited to ‘I don’t know’ and ‘Maybe.’). Last, did you know that Apple is not slicing?
This is amazing, science fiction becomes reality kind of stuff. Oculus previewed the features and apps for the Oculus Rift, as they prepare to take virtual reality mainstream in early 2016. Rift will be about more than gaming and 3D videos, it will also feature creativity tools. They presented Medium, their 3D virtual sculpting app, as their version of a “paint app.” If so, the tech world has moved a million miles from the old MS Paint. Excited first-time users at the Oculus Connect 2 conference remarked on how intuitive and easy Medium is to learn. Using the Touch motion controllers in each hand, you can play with digital clay, stretching, shaping, twisting, cutting, and spray painting it to create a virtual object. The left hand primarily controls the palette and tool options, while the right hand “draws.” Check it out in action.
The ad-blocker that does not block ads
Did you pay for an iOS 9 ad-blocker app? Is that app also being paid by big advertisers to not block the ads that you paid them to block? Apple’s inclusion of content blocking features in iOS 9 is proving to be sticky business. When the leading ad-blocker, Peace, voluntarily left the market because the creator decided it was unfair to disrupt revenue to independent publishers, Crystal ad-blocker moved into the lead as the most downloaded paid mobile app. Now, the owner of Crystal has entered an agreement with Adblock Pro, which allows advertisers to pay for their content to pass through Crystal’s filters. So far over 700 companies, including Google and Microsoft, have met the company’s “acceptable ads” criteria of not being overly intrusive or annoying. Crystal says that allowing ads from the “whitelist” is optional for users who wish to support publishers; however, it will be the default setting. Did you pay for an ad-blocker app because you want to support publishers by involuntarily receiving their ads? Didn’t think so.
Ohm with your phone
Want to find inner peace? There is an app for that, and it secured $34 million in investment funding this week. Investors in Headspace include Hollywood celebs Jessica Alba, Jared Leto, Ryan Seacrest, and several investment firms. The co-founder, who also leads the guided meditation sessions, previously spent ten years living as a Tibetan monk. Headspace offers ten different 10-minute guided meditations for free, which you can listen to as many times as you wish. If you need more earbud zen, subscriptions ($12.95/monthly or $7.99/month yearly) provide more in-depth and varied guided practices. Headspace also offers push notifications that remind you to practice mindfulness throughout the day. About 3 million users have downloaded Headspace to date, and they hope to attract many more as they expand their offerings to users and businesses, and increase community features with this round of funding. Can the same device that flashes and beeps and distracts you with notifications of everything all day long also help you achieve a more peaceful, mindful, and mentally healthy state?
Keep on keeping on, Apple
Google is finally sharing the popular note-keeping app, Google Keep, with iOS users. It debuted on Android over two years ago, and is also available via browser. The iPad and iPhone versions appear the same as Android in function and layout. Keep lets you quickly create colorful sticky-note-like memos, such as grocery lists, to-do lists, plans in progress, deep thoughts, and anything you need help remembering. The notes can be color-coded, labeled, and searched by color or content. Keep is cloud-connected, so can be synced across devices and shared with other users. You no longer have to text the entire grocery list to your spouse when they stop on their way home, and you can add more items as they are shopping (which could become an amusing game). Keep will also let you set location and time-based reminders, so you will not forget to stop for stamps as you cruise near the post office.
The web gains millions
In the past year, 100 million Indians used the internet for the first time, but there are still a billion who do not have connectivity. While millions have smartphones with data capabilities, the bandwidths available are often too slow to support sufficient data transfer. Thanks to an initiative by Google, 10 million rail riders in India will get access to high-speed Wi-Fi. By the end of 2016, Google has committed to installing Wi-Fi hot spots with enough speed to stream HD video in 100 of India’s busiest railway stations. Connecting will initially be free to users, and they will later charge enough to make the system self-supporting. Google hopes to quickly expand the initiative to 400 stations. Google has also lead efforts to improve accessibility to regions with limited bandwidth through features that make YouTube and soon Maps available offline, and have added Hindi keyboard and Hindi voice search, as well as support for seven different Indian languages. This sounds like an exciting step toward connecting the “next billion” Internet users.
Are Twitter polls awesome? Check Yes or No
Twitter says that they are “experimenting with a new way to poll users on Twitter,” and have released a native polling feature to staff and some verified accounts. Those who can post polls have a button with a pie chart in the lower right corner below where they enter a tweet. A poll consists of a question and only two answer options, and remains open for responses for 24 hours. Polls offer an easy means of brand engagement and quick, structured data collection. The Oakland Raiders, for example, have already put the feature to good use, polling followers on which player they wanted to see in a behind-the-scenes feature. Critics have argued that polls will stifle self-expression, thoughtful responses, and meaningful conversation. Also, because they are native to Twitter, they are not accessible through third-part apps like Hootsuite or TweetDeck yet. Twitter has not revealed if or when the polling feature will be more widely available.
Apple is not slicing apps
One of the memory-saving features expected with iOS 9 was app slicing, where only the parts of an app that are necessary for your specific device are downloaded. By omitting the files that are required for an app to run on other Apple devices, considerable storage space could be preserved. Apple announced this week that there is a bug in the iCloud that causes apps backed up in iOS 9 to restore only to their original downloaded version. So, when you upgrade to a new Apple device, your app saved on the iCloud may not be compatible with your new gadget. App slicing has therefore been disabled, and is expected to be re-enabled in a future iOS update.
Anything we missed this week on the web? What did you find interesting? Let us know in our comments below!