You’re probably familiar with Taboola, at least in passing. It’s the source of many sponsored news sections on websites. Now, Taboola is looking to become part of your smartphone with its new “content discovery” platform. It looks a lot like the Google Feed, but it’s not. In fact, it could come off like one giant ad on your phone.
Taboola pitches its news feed as a way to get personalized news. Instead of searching for content, you just swipe over to the Taboola screen on your device and start browsing.
We were blown away earlier this month when Epic Games announced that Fortnite: Battle Royale would be coming soon to iOS. In case you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week and a half, Fortnite has been busy overtaking Minecraft and PUBG in popularity while breaking Twitch stream records. A few of us over at TouchArcade were in the first wave of invites went out earlier today to check out the iOS version. I’ve been playing Fortnite: Battle Royale for a few hours now and it simply blows my mind how well it works in the mobile arena.
I’ll save the long diatribe for how games like Battle Royale and PUBG operate, but to put it simply, you enter a game with 99 other people in a last man standing arena style combat. Along the way, you’ll find weapons and ammo to attack and defend yourself, and accumulate resources to build your way to hopeful victory. Fortnite has been steadily rising in popularity primarily due to how well Epic Games has improved on this formula.
What everyone wants to know at this point is how well Fortnite: Battle Royale plays on iOS. Well, at least on my iPhone X, I can safely say that I’m blown away with just how amazing it plays. Battle Royale’s colorful visuals are well represented in this mobile port and the game runs at a pretty smooth framerate with some occasional popup. The touchscreen controls do take some time to get used to, but the game’s strafe and aim assist do a decent job of compensating for the understandably lost of precision. The same goes for build mode, where the game’s intelligent placement system works well enough in letting me quickly build structures on the fly. Cool control options such as double tapping to lock in running and multiple fire options also do a great job of transitioning to touch screen controls. In fact, my biggest issue with the controls probably has to do with switching between weapons, as having to tap between each one on a small screen takes some practice to be precise.
So, Fortnite: Battle Royale easily passes the visual, framerate, and control tests in my book. But, most importantly, is it still as fun on mobile as it is on other platforms? I’d say the answer to that is a resounding yes. The general length of games are perfectly acceptable for holding a mobile device (although expect some heavy battery drain) and the game’s myriad of cosmetic unlocks combined with the gameplay itself lends the title to an insane amount of replayability.
I plan on continuing my adventures in Battle Royale indefinitely, but there are a few things to keep in mind. My awesome experience was on an iPhone X, so these impressions don’t cover other versions of iPhone or the iPad or controller experience (which I imagine would be quite a bit different from a control standpoint). Also, I haven’t had a chance to play a cross-platform game, which may change the general difficulty depending on your opponents. Even still, based on what I’ve seen and played so far, this is going to be the game to play for quite some time. If you’re interested in checking the game out ahead of its release, be sure to register for a chance to get an invite.
As many predicted, Apple yesterday posted record-breaking earnings for the recent holiday quarter. When the dust settled, Apple recorded $ 88.3 billion in revenue, nearly $ 4 billion more than the revenue it posted during the same quarter a year ago.
Revenue aside, iPhone sales for the quarter did check in below some analyst projections. Specifically, Apple sold 77.3 million iPhones during the last three months of 2017, representing a slight decrease from the 78.3 million units it sold during the holiday quarter last year.
While some were quick to pounce on a year-over-year decrease in iPhone sales as evidence that we’ve reached peak iPhone — a sentiment analysts have been hurling at Apple for quite a few years now — a closer look at the numbers reveals that the strength of Apple’s iPhone line remains incredibly healthy, if not under-appreciated.
For starters, it’s worth noting that Apple’s 2017 holiday quarter included 13 weeks while the 2016 holiday quarter encapsulated 14 weeks. So right off the bat, a year over year comparison doesn’t necessarily provide us with a level playing field.
Doing some simple math, Apple over the last quarter sold 5.94 million iPhones per week (77.3/13). In a hypothetical scenario where the recent quarter included 14 weeks — as it did last year — it’s fair to assume that Apple could have easily sold upwards of 83 million iPhones for the quarter gone by.
Beyond that, it’s worth noting that Apple’s brand new flagship — the iPhone X — did especially well since launching a few weeks back. During Apple’s earnings conference call yesterday, Tim Cook boasted that the iPhone X was the top-selling iPhone model every week since it first hit store shelves. Indeed, a look at the average selling price for the iPhone last quarter gives us a figure of $ 796, an impressive leap from the $ 695 figure Apple posted in the year-ago quarter. Consequently, iPhone revenue jumped 13% year-over-year even though unit sales dropped by 1%. In short, customers are clearly excited about the iPhone X, a fact which bodes well for Apple’s upcoming iPhone lineup which will reportedly feature three devices with edge-to-edge-displays.
On a related note, keep in mind that the iPhone X didn’t even launch until early November. In other words, the iPhone X was completely unavailable for 1/3 of the entire quarter yet still managed to have a strong impact on Apple’s bottom line. That said, it stands to reason that if the iPhone X was in plentiful supply in September — when Apple’s iPhone 8 models launched — Apple’s iPhone sales figures for the quarter would have been much higher.
All in all, Apple’s earnings report for the quarter gone by was remarkable on all fronts. iPhone sales remained incredibly strong even during a shortened quarter, and year-over-year revenue increased by double digits in every single one of the geographic regions Apple operates.
The companies’ comments came in response to another round of questions from Congress.
Google and Twitter told the U.S. Congress on Thursday that they did not spot any attempts by Russian agents to spread disinformation on their sites when voters headed to the polls in Virginia and New Jersey last year.
Facebook, on the other hand, sidestepped the matter entirely.
The admissions — published Thursday — came in response to another round of questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which grilled all three tech giants at a hearing last year to probe the extent to which Russian-aligned trolls sowed social and political unrest during the 2016 presidential race.
Specifically, Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris asked the companies if they had “seen any evidence of state-sponsored information operations associated with American elections in 2017, including the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey.”
In response, Twitter said it is “not aware of any specific state-sponsored attempts to interfere in any American elections in 2017, including the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections.”
Google, meanwhile, said similarly it had “not specifically detected any abuse of our platforms in connection with the 2017 state elections.”
Facebook, however, answered the question — without actually answering it.
“We have learned from the 2016 election cycle and from elections worldwide this last year,” the company began in its short reply. “We have incorporated that learning into our automated systems and human review and have greatly improved in preparation for the upcoming elections. We hope to continue learning and improving through increased industry cooperation and dialogue with law enforcement moving forward.”
A spokesman for Facebook did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.
The companies’ replies to Congress — dated earlier this month — may offer only limited consolation to lawmakers who are worried that the tech industry is unprepared for an even larger election in November 2018. That’s why lawmakers like Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, have sought to regulate the political ads that appear on major social media sites.
During the 2016 election, Facebook said that more than 126 million U.S. users had seen some form of Russian propaganda over the course of the 2016 election, including ads purchased by trolls tied to the Kremlin as well as organic posts, like photos and status updates, that appeared in their feeds. Similar content appeared on Instagram, affecting an additional 20 million U.S. users.
Google, meanwhile, previously informed Congress that it had discovered that Russian agents spent about $ 4,700 on ads and launched 18 channels on YouTube, posting more than 1,100 videos that had been viewed about 309,000 times.
And Twitter told lawmakers at first that it found 2,752 accounts tied to the Russia-aligned Internet Research Agency. Last week, however, the company updated that estimate, noting that Russian trolls had more than 3,000 accounts — while Russian-based bots talking about election-related issues numbered more than 50,000.
Facebook, Twitter and Google each has promised improvements in the wake of the 2016 president election. All three tech companies have committed to building new dashboards that will show information about who buys some campaign advertisements, for example. Facebook also pledged to hire 1,000 more content moderators to review ads.
Engel & Völkers North America, an international premium real estate company, is taking its commitment to staying on the forefront of technology one step further at its office in Sherman Oaks/Encino by offering agents and clients an exclusive experience using augmented reality.
To leverage the power of AR, Engel & Völkers Sherman Oaks/Encino turned to Los Angeles, California-based Augmently, Inc, The Augmented Realism Agency at the vanguard of augmented reality for marketing and branding for companies and clients across a broad range of industries.
Having conceptualized and created a new augmented reality lead generation tool for the real estate market, Augmently, Inc. was primed and well positioned to empower Engel & Völkers Sherman Oaks/Encino to quickly capitalize on this cutting edge AR solution to meet their forward thinking objectives.
The end result is the new Engel & Völkers Augmented Realty app for Android and iOS. The app showcases luxury real estate properties in a unique and effective way with AR-enabled real estate flyers that come to life through the use of Augmented Reality.
Anyone with the app can press the “Scan Your Flyer” button and wave their phone over an E&V AR-enabled flyer to experience all that the property has to offer through high-resolution video, pictures, messages, and streamline communication to agents representing the property.
“More often than not, when a prospective buyer leaves an open house, they also leave behind flyers or dump them in the trash without more than a single glance,” admits Augmently Inc. Founder and CEO Ziggy Kormandel. “We had this idea for a powerful lead generation tool that people will not only want to keep but also share because of how fundamentally unique and compelling it is.”
No stranger to harnessing the ubiquity of mobile devices, the team Augmently Inc. crafted a tool for real estate agents that turns the page on traditional flyers.
By using the in-app camera on the front page of the flyer, users will see the address of the property appear to be floating above the flyer, while a high-resolution video of the estate will play. When pointing the camera at the back page of the flyer, photos of the property expand to the full size of the paper, with an option to scroll through the properties various high-resolution pictures.
Additionally, a personal video about the real estate agent will enlarge from the bottom left-hand corner of the flyer to give you more information on E&V, the agent, and how to get in contact with them immediately through any and all available means.
“With so many disrupters in our industry, we’ve gone beyond the typical marketing tools that traditional brokerages offer their agents and customers which are antiquated by today’s standards,” says Ashish Trivedi, License Partner and President of Engel & Völkers Sherman Oaks. “Our clients expect the very best, and an upper echelon of service. In maintaining those expectations in our marketing and technology, we see augmented reality as the next platform and game changer for E&V Real Estate Advisors and their clients. Without a doubt, this will expand the reach beyond the conventional medians in finding the next prospective buyers and sellers.”
Apple this morning announced the expansion of its “Everyone Can Code” initiative to 70 educational institutions across Europe, and following the announcement, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke at Harlow College in Essex, one of the schools that will adopt the new curriculum.
The Guardian shared several of Cook’s comments, which covered overuse of technology and boundaries for children.
Cook said he believes there are concepts that can’t be taught using technology, and in many courses, technology shouldn’t dominate.
“I don’t believe in overuse [of technology]. I’m not a person that says we’ve achieved success if you’re using it all the time,” he said. “I don’t subscribe to that at all.”
“There are still concepts that you want to talk about and understand. In a course on literature, do I think you should use technology a lot? Probably not.”
According to Cook, Apple cares about children out of the classroom, a topic that’s notable as Apple investors recently urged Apple to do more to protect children from smartphone addiction.
Apple in early January said in a statement that it thinks deeply about how its products are used and the impact they have on people, including children. Apple takes its responsibility to protect children “very seriously,” and has promised more robust parental controls for iOS devices in the future.
Though he does not have children of his own, Cook says in his own personal life, he “put some boundaries” on his nephew. “There here are some things that I won’t allow; I don’t want them on a social network,” he said.
On the topic of learning to code, Cook spoke passionately, as he has done several times in the past. Learning to code, he says, is more important than learning a foreign language.
Cook said: “I think if you had to make a choice, it’s more important to learn coding than a foreign language. I know people who disagree with me on that. But coding is a global language; it’s the way you can converse with 7 billion people.”
Cook’s full commentary, which covers diversity, coding at an early age, and the importance of the press, can be read over at The Guardian.
In September, SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk spoke at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress about his updated plans for Mars. According to the revamped plan’s timetable, SpaceX will send at least two unmanned cargo flights to the Red Planet by 2022, with a manned mission following by 2024.
Earlier this December, Musk tweeted that the payload for SpaceX’s inaugural trip to Mars would be his own original Tesla Roadster. He hinted at his reasoning for choosing the Roadster in another tweet: “I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.” In another post, Musk even promised to show photos soon.
Though most originally assumed this was a joke, speculation grew when a photo posted in a SpaceX subreddit in the late hours of December 21. The photo appears to show a Tesla Roadster sitting on top of what looks like a SpaceX payload attachment.
The image made rounds in a NASA Spaceflight forum, where users tried to make sense of the plan by creating scaled images of the Roadster inside a SpaceX fairing.
Then, midday on December 22, Musk ramped things up another notch, posting seven photos to Instagram that appear to show the real deal. As promised, the photos show a cherry-red Tesla roadster ready to be encased within (we assume) a brand-new Falcon Heavy rocket.
While the payload might seem crazy, in typical Musk fashion, there is a reason behind it. As Musk explained in his Instagram post, test flights for new rockets usually contain concrete or steel blocks in order to simulate the mass they’ll carry during flight. In the case of the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural flight, Musk writes that this “seemed extremely boring.”
“Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel,” he writes. “The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion year elliptic Mars orbit.”
On December 16, the New York Times publishedtwo stories that read almost like science fiction. For at least five years, the Defense Department housed a $ 22-million, clandestine program to investigate UFOs. Military pilots had sent in reports of objects they observed that moved in unfamiliar ways; the mission of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, as it was called, was to investigate those claims to see if there was truly something otherworldly behind those sightings.
It’s unclear just how many reports pilots had filed to the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, but people who have come forward about the program have made it clear that there would have been a lot more reports filed if it hadn’t been for one thing: stigma. “The sightings were not often reported up the military’s chain of command, [former senator Harry Reid] said, because service members were afraid they would be laughed at or stigmatized,” one Times piece reads.
American culture is steeped in depictions of what would happen if sophisticated aliens visited Earth, from E.T. to Arrival to Independence Day. Some are more hackneyed than others; some are downright terrifying. But outside the clear genres of fiction, most conversations about UFOs happen online, and with varying degrees of vehemence.
Let’s face it — believing in the paranormal has become shorthand for crazy.
“60 years of folklorization and Hollywood production have, in the minds of the general public, definitely trivialized the subject. It has become a ‘standard’ consumer product,” Jean-Christophe Doré, the technical manager for UFO-SCIENCE, the French association that aims to scientifically evaluate aspects of UFO phenomena, tells Futurism.
But to some, that association might be changing. Luis Elizondo, the military official formerly in charge of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, told The New York Times’ Daily podcast:
I think we’re entering an era of actual evidence. We’ve reached a moment of critical mass of credible witnesses, and these are witnesses that are in charge of multi-million-dollar weapon platforms with, in some cases, the highest level of security clearances and in some cases they’re trained observers. When these individuals are trying to report something, ‘Hey I saw this when I was flying,’ that can be turned around and people say ‘hey look if you’re crazy, there goes your flight status.’ Or all of a sudden commander so-and-so in charge of this very elite fighter wing will no longer be taken seriously. In fact, people are going to start to judge whether or not maybe our friend here might not be a little crazy, or maybe some loose screws. That’s always a threat to these people’s career. And let’s face it, these people have to pay their taxes, they have to pay their mortgages, they have families, they’re putting their kids through school. And frankly, they’re just really good patriots and they want to do the right thing. And that stigma is pretty powerful. It stops a lot of people from reporting something maybe they would normally report.
Government officials are no longer hiding their belief that extraterrestrials might be out there. Could this be a turning point for once-fringe communities and open doors for those looking to bring scientific rigor to the quest to understand UFOs?
Most phenomena thought to be the doings of extraterrestrials are eventually explained. Take Project Blue Book, for example, the U.S. government’s program to investigate unidentified flying objects that ran from 1947 until 1969. Of the more than 12,000 reported sightings, investigators found out the real (not paranormal) story for all but 700 or so. That’s a pretty good percentage, says Joe Nickell, senior research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and paranormal investigator — about as much as you’d expect from any other scientific discipline. “A lot of these cases are never going to be solved because I don’t know what you think you saw 10 years ago. They’re not investigatable,” Nickell tells Futurism.
In other disciplines, a certain amount of uncertainty will mean that more studies are needed to definitely prove a link. But that’s not what happens with UFOs. “We spend all these years, virtually our entire lives (it’s what I’m doing with mine), and we’re solving most cases. We’re down to, say, 5 percent [that we can’t explain], and we’re arguing over the 5 percent,” Nickell says. You give someone a level-headed, thorough, earthly explanation for a particular report, and they’ll just respond, “But what about this other one?” This is, as Nickell points out, an argument from ignorance — in essence, X must be true because you can’t prove that X is false. “Why don’t we assume that, if we can explain 95 percent, that if we knew the answer, it would fall into the same category as the others?” Nickell says.
Belief in extraterrestrials is fueled by a lack of evidence, not its presence. For some people, that’s enough.
The Psychology Of Believers
More than half of Americans believe that aliens exist, according to a 2015 poll. Scientists have evaluated what distinguishes believers and non-believers and didn’t find much, the Conversation notes. But people that believe they had an abduction experience, perhaps a more extreme form of belief, are more likely to have fantasy-prone personalities, have experienced childhood trauma, or be prone to hypnosis that can make them suggestible to false memories, studies have shown. That doesn’t mean they’re lying about their experiences — they often genuinely believe they happened — but those experiences were often not quite what the individuals thought they were.
What distinguishes people who believe in Big Foot, for example, from those who believe in UFOs? It’s the suspicion of government involvement, Nickell says. More peoplebelieve in conspiracies than ever; if someone were looking to find a black-ops government program and a conspiracy to keep it secret, they’d find the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.
“I think, for most people who believe in these UFO claims, it’s tied up with conspiracy. If you want to believe that UFOs are visiting the planet, there kind of has to be a cover up,” Rob Brotherton, a psychology professor at Barnard College and the author of Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories, tells Futurism. And because they’re built on secrecy, it’s really hard to disprove a conspiracy theory, Brotherton points out.
Conspiracy theories about UFOs, in particular, are pretty widespread, and they have a psychological appeal that goes against the stereotype of weirdos wearing tinfoil hats. Conspiracy theories rely on the same pattern-recognition techniques we use in our daily lives, and in science as well. “Conspiracy theories make for great stories, they’re tantalizing, mysteries not yet fully solved. Your brain is like, ‘What’s up with that?’ it’s not satisfied until it knows if these things are related.”
Most of the time, people who believe in them are psychologically normal. But the belief that the government or aliens are specifically pursuing you as an individual — a me and not an us focus —might indicate a psychiatric disorder like schizophrenia, though that would be one of a number of symptoms.
“It’s not impossible [that extraterrestrials are visiting Earth],” Brotherton says. “Maybe they’re technologically advanced, maybe they are able to make it here. That’s not beyond the realms of possibility; it doesn’t defy the laws of physics necessarily. It’s worth keeping an eye out for this stuff.”
Worthy of Pursuit
Science hinges on discovery and the pursuit to understand the unknown. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, then, that some of these UFO reports are worthy of rigorous investigation. They could reveal something new about atmospheric phenomena, or physics, or, yes, possibly even extraterrestrials.
It’s not easy to separate the mysterious sightings, the ones that could yield something scientifically interesting, from the sightings that can quickly be resolved. “These are, almost by definition, unusual things to start with, something in the sky that we don’t know what it is. We don’t see them every night. So we have no idea [at the beginning of an investigation] if they’re going to be productive or not,” Nickell says.
Despite these difficulties, some investigators are already bringing the rigor of science to examine UFO reports. Some, like Nickell, are hunting down witnesses and testing theories; others, like Chase Kloetzke, the deputy director of investigations at MUFON, the world’s oldest and largest UFO investigation group, are retrieving physical evidence and testing alloys of unknown metals with cutting-edge microscopes and trained metallurgists. A number of organizations receive private funding, which sometimes means they have fewer resources than they would if they received governments grants. And the work is often thankless. “I’m trying, in the name of science, to do what most scientists don’t have time to do, what they consider frivolous nonsense,” Nickell says. “UFOs have been looked into now by the tens of thousands, even by official government studies. And what do we have to show? Not a lot. How many more will we have to look into? I would say we will never be done. I’m in it for the long haul.”
To do these sorts of investigations, it’s irrelevant whether or not they believe that extraterrestrials have really visited Earth. All people need is a rigorous scientific mind, perseverance to investigate doggedly, and a sensitive nose for falsehoods.
Now that information about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program has spilled out, it buoys those who hope that the government might have evidence that could more clearly indicate the presence of extraterrestrials, something that stands up to the rigor of scientific evaluation. “Do we have a smoking gun? We do, it’s just locked up,” Kloetzke, of MUFON, says referring to the “physical material [the government] has been holding and analyzing.” “We’re pushing down the doors. We’re trying to breach this information,” she says.
Still, opinions vary on how much evidence is enough to prove the existence of extraterrestrials. “I think most people are going to need a craft to land in Central Park [to believe UFOs are real],” Kloetzke says.
“There is absolutely no solid evidence that meets any standards of scientific ‘proof’ that UFOs exist. That’s why people can’t take it seriously,” Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at MIT who studies exoplanets and was quoted in the New York Times article, tells Futurism. To some, in the end, evidence doesn’t matter. “I am not a UFO supporter in any way. It’s just like why do people believe in God? There’s no way to scientifically prove the existence of any God or gods. People just want to believe.”
Threes! [$ 2.99] hit the App Store in early 2014 and was met with universal critical acclaim. (We loved it in our review.) About a month later, Ketchapp released 2048 [Free] and the rest is history. 2048 massively surged in popularity because it was way easier than Threes! and, well, it was free. The unbelievable success of 2048 caused two things to happen: Everyone and their third cousin twice removed released their own 2048 clone which then resulted in everyone who covers video games on any level setting up email filters to automatically delete any email with “2048” in it. Anyone who was a mobile gamer in 2014 undoubtedly remembers how bad it got. Everything was either Flappy or 2048, and most, if not all of these games were just objectively bad.
It’s important to give this history lesson to put into context what happened next. A friend whose opinion I respect on these sorts of things randomly hits me up out of the blue to say he’s obsessed with a game called Dead 2048 [Free]. I watch the three little dots typing indicator waiting for the punch line to what simply must be some kind of joke. Instead, an enthusiastic description followed. Puzzled, and fairly confident I was being trolled, I gave Dead 2048 a download and I honestly can’t believe what I found: A spin on 2048 that’s actually pretty interesting.
So in 2048, you slide tiles around to increment numbers to finally get to the highest tile in the game: 2048. In tower defense games you (obviously) continually upgrade towers and use those towers to kill creeps (or in this case, zombies). Dead 2048 does both at the same time. Zombies are dumped off at the top of the game board and go all the way around clockwise before taking a chunk off your health. While this is happening, you need to frantically be combining your various defenses. Instead of trying for a 2048 tile, you’re going for more and more powerful towers.
Positioning is also important, which adds another fascinating wrinkle to the whole thing. Even good towers have short ranges, so you need to manage your tower combines while making sure your strongest towers are on the outside of the board and slid against the edge so they can reach the zombies that are wandering by. Along the way you earn coins which are used to buy persistent upgrades for all your towers, and a objective system which slowly unlocks other wrinkles of complexity to the game.
Is Dead 2048 going to change your life? Probably not, but if like me you’ve been rolling your eyes at anything with “2048” in the title for the last couple years, it’s worth reconsidering on this one. It’s actually a really neat mashup, and the game is totally free with ads that can be removed via a $ 1.99 IAP. (There’s also cheater power-up style IAP you can buy, but being a single player puzzle game I’m not sure why you would.) What a weird world we live in where a 2048 game is actually interesting in 2017.