Google introduces Sodar, an AR tool to help you with social distancing

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It goes without saying that social distancing is a lifesaver for you and those around you as well. But it is not always easy to determine if you are within the 2-meter safety radius while out running an errand. In comes Sodar, an AR tool that will utilize your phone’s camera to clearly demarcate the safe radius for you.

Sodar uses the smartphone camera as a distance measuring tool and the screen as a viewfinder to show you a radius of 2-meter around you. Technically speaking, Google’s solution employs WebXR to visualize a circle in the same way you see AR objects around you with your phone, somewhat like Pokemon Go.

However, Sodar currently works only on Android devices with the Chrome browser installed on them. Just visit the Sodar.WithGoogle.com website on your phone, tap on the launch button, and you’re good to go. I tried it on my phone and it works really well without any lags or stutters. Here’s how it looks in action:

Source: ExperimentsWithGoogle

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YouTube’s new video chapters feature is now live, and it’s extremely helpful

Ever had to skim through a 2-hour lecture video looking for that specific 10-minute segment that was useful to you? I’ve been through the ordeal quite often, and so have a lot of other people. YouTube aims to end that hassle with its new Video Chapters feature, which as the name suggests, divides a video into different chapters for ease of navigation.

Thanks to video chapters, the seek bar will now be broken into multiple segments, with each one representing a specific chapter. Just hover the cursor (or use your finger on mobile) to see the name of the chapter until you find the one you’re looking for. Video Chapters is now live on both YouTube’s mobile app and desktop version.

However, it is up to the creator to divide their videos into chapters and accordingly label each one by timestamps. Also, a video must have at least three timestamps and each one must be over 10 seconds in length for chapters to appear. Here’s a video in which the chapters are clearly distinguishable on the seek bar:

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Google Maps introduces Plus Codes to make location sharing easier

According to Google, more than 2 billion people on the planet—about 25 percent of us or more —either don’t have an address or have an address that isn’t easy to locate. We take these strings of numbers and words for granted.

To tackle this, the company launched ‘Plus Codes’ in 2015. These are essentially digital addresses derived from latitude and longitude coordinates, which can be used to identify any location. It is now being integrated to Google Maps for Android. Plus Codes will come in handy when you don’t know the exact address (i.e. street name, lane, etc) or when your current location does not appear with a name on Google Maps.

You need to simply tap the blue dot on the map that represents your current location to create a Plus Code. It will bring you to a screen that shows the six-digit Plus Code along with some other useful info and options.. You can then copy the code and share it with others.

Source: Google

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Plex brings Watch Together, because watching a movie with friends is still fun

In times when going to a movie theater with friends is not an option, virtual watch parties have become a hot trend. If you like what Netflix Party has to offer, there is now something similar for Plex as well and it is called Watch Together. And the best part? Watch Together is absolutely free, at least for the time being.

Plex’s Watch Together feature, which is still in beta, works with locally stored media as well as its own catalog of free on-demand movies and TV shows. However, Plex notes that Watch Together might become a Plex Pass exclusive down the road, which means you’ll have to pay for it. While the feature itself is a welcome addition for Plex users, it is still a work under progress and lacks a few key features.

For example, there is no native chat feature, which means you’ll have to rely on a third-party solution like Zoom or good ol’ WhatsApp. Also, the ability to kick someone out of the virtual watch party or outright ban them is not available as of now. Plex says it will take feedback from users and will improve Watch Together with new features in the days to come.

Source: Plex

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Instagram will soon monetize IGTV videos for online video creators to earn money

Instagram has rolled out new tools to enable its creators earn money off the videos they post. It will not only introduce ads in its video product, IGTV, but will also let some of the creators sell “badges” to their fans while broadcasting live videos.

As for the IGTV ads, 55 percent of revenue will go to the creators of the videos against which those ads run. The video ads will be built for mobile and up to 15 seconds long. For the early run of the new feature, Instagram selected participants like Avani Gregg, Eitan Bernath, and Salice Rose, rising stars who built much of their followings on social video phenomenon TikTok.

Coming to the Badges, fans who purchase them will stand out in the comments and unlock additional features, including placement on a creator’s list of badge holders and access to a special heart. Badges will begin testing next month with a small group of creators and businesses. It will soon expand across the US, Brazil, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Spain, and Mexico.

Source: Instagram

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Google adds support for streaming at 1440p resolution on Stadia

Google has announced that Stadia players can now stream content at 1440p resolution – up from 1080p – provided they have the suitable hardware and internet connectivity at their disposal. You need to have a monitor with a screen resolution of 1440p or 4K, or a 4K TV with Chromecast Ultra plugged into it, in order to stream at such a high resolution.

Aside from having the right hardware, players must also have an active Stadia Pro subscription and must be hooked to a network with an average speed of 35Mbps or higher. But do keep in mind that cellular connectivity won’t cut it, and you’ll need a fairly stable Wi-Fi connection that can bear the cost of consuming an average 20GB of data per hour if you play games at 4K on Stadia.

You must also make sure that the Windows machine or Chromebook on which you are enjoying Stadia streaming at 1440p resolution should be capable of VP9 hardware decoding. Of course, with Stadia Pro, you also get perks such as 5.1 surround sound and High Dynamic Range (HDR) graphics.

Source: Stadia Community

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Twitter makes it easier to add image descriptions on mobile and desktop

Writing a description for an image is a no-brainer when you are limited by Twitter’s character count or if you simply want to explain the context, but adding it has been a bit tricky so far. That changes now, as Twitter now lets you directly add a text-based description when you select an image without going to the image edit settings.

Starting today, you’ll see an alt-text field on Twitter’s mobile app and desktop client that will let you quickly add an appropriate description for an image in your tweet. Twitter says this is an accessibility feature that will “enable folks who use screen readers to interpret images in Tweets.”

On mobile, a black text field below the image appears with the “Add description…” caption. You can tap on it and fill it with the description you have on your mind. As for the desktop client, you just add an image and tap on it to find the “ALT’ section at the top for adding the description. The change is live for regular tweets as well as direct messages you send to a friend or follower.

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Microsoft’s new app will let parents monitor their child’s Xbox gaming sessions

Microsoft has introduced a new app for parents to help them keep an eye on the Xbox gaming sessions of their children, allowing them to control screen time and who they can communicate with. Called Xbox Family Settings, the app is currently in a preview mode and is now available on Android and iOS.

Parents can create a family account and add members to it. But more importantly, they can set console screen time for the Xbox gaming session of their children, aside from blocking/ unblocking content based on their age. The app will also show daily and weekly activity reports as to how much time their children spend on an Xbox One series console.

There is also an option that will let parents decide if their children can communicate with other online players, while another one lets then accept or reject friend requests on their behalf. Content and screen time limits can be set for PC gaming too if the Microsoft account is linked to the same Xbox profile that is part of a family group.

App UI screenshot showing gaming activity report.
App UI screenshot showing allowed screen time settings.
App UI screenshot for managing online communication settings.

Source: Xbox

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Facebook’s new Collab app will let you watch and mutually create music videos

Ever come across a video of someone playing a great guitar tune and wondered if you could provide your vocals to create a peppy song? Well, Facebook has launched an app that will let you do just that, and it is called Collab. The app is created by Facebook’s NPE experimental app division, which also launched a group audio calling app called CatchUp earlier this week.

Talking about Collab, you can pick up videos posted on the app and add something from your own side (a sick beat, an electrifying guitar riff, or even whistle a tune) to create a mashup of sorts, something that resembles a new music video by amalgamating ideas of other users. Each collab consists of three videos, one of which HAS to be your own personal contribution.

Once you’re done with your collaborative musical masterpiece, you can publish it on the Collab feed with due credit given to the other two creators, and from there, it can be shared on other platforms such as Instagram and Facebook among others. As of now, Collab is only available on an invite-only basis on iOS, and you can join the waitlist here.

Source: NPE Facebook

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T-Mobile enables cross-carrier RCS messaging worldwide

RCS (Rich Communication Services) chat on Android phones is definitely a good feature to have, but the carrier and geographical limitations are keeping it from reaching its true potential. Doing its bit for the cause, T-Mobile has announced that it is enabling cross-carrier RCS messaging across the globe.

But there are few limitations here. It will come into action only if the person you are chatting with has an RCS-ready Android smartphone and is using the Google Messages app. Also, T-Mobile is the only major name that has enabled global cross-carrier RCS messaging, so this is move is cross-carrier only in the name, for the time being.

Thankfully, Google began rolling out RCS chat for all Android phones in the US running the Google Messages app back in November last year. As for the advantages, RCS brings typing indicators, read receipts, and message delivery notifications. Plus, Google is also preparing to add end-to-end encryption to RCS chat via the Google Messages app, so that’s a perk.

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Facebook’s new CatchUp app allows voice calls with up to eight people

Facebook’s experimental product division, NPE Team, has launched a new app called CatchUp that allows users to make one-on-one or group voice calls. The app does not require a Facebook account to work and pulls up contacts from the local directory on your phone. What’s unique about CatchUp is that it will let you know when a friend or family member is available for a voice call.

“We found that one of the main reasons people don’t call friends and family more frequently is that they don’t know when they are available to talk or are worried they may reach them at an inconvenient time. CatchUp addresses this problem, and even makes group calling as easy as one tap”, Nikki Shah, Product Lead at Facebook, mentioned in a blog post.

Aside from letting others know when you are available for a voice call, CatchUp also offers a one-tap interface to make one-on-one or group voice calls. Facebook is currently testing the new app in the US for a limited time on Android and iOS, but there is no word if, or when, it will be released widely.

Source: NPE

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OnePlus 8 series phones can now run Fortnite at a silky-smooth 90FPS frame rate

OnePlus has announced that it partnered with Epic Games to allow 90FPS gameplay for Fortnite on the OnePlus 8 and OnePlus 8 Pro. In doing so, the OnePlus 8 series phones have become the only two smartphones that can play the hit game at 90FPS, up from the 60FPS standard you’ll experience on other flagships out there.

The only other device to eclipse that figure is the iPad Pro, which can run Fortnite at 120FPS. In theory, playing Fortnite at 90FPS on the OnePlus 8 series phones will provide the smoothest experience you’ll get on any phone, and even consoles such as Xbox One X and the PlayStation 4, on which the game is locked at 60FPS.

But there is one trade-off. While playing Fortnite at 90FPS on the OnePlus 8 or its Pro sibling, the graphics are scaled down to ‘low’ settings, but the resolution remains the same at the native 2400×1080. However, if you don’t want to make the compromise, you can still choose to play the game at ‘Epic’ graphics settings, but at a still respectable 60FPS frame rate, notes GameSpot.

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YouTube app on Android tests showing Google Search results alongside relevant videos

Sometimes, watching a video on YouTube might not be enough to satiate your curiosity, which is why users like me often end up firing up the web browser to know more about a particular topic. Google apparently wants to remove the hassle of switching between apps and has started showing Google Search results alongside the relevant videos for your query in the YouTube app on Android.

First spotted by a user on Reddit, we tried to replicate the new feature and it worked. When you search a keyword in the YouTube app, a row titled “Result from the web” appears between the video recommendations. You can either click on the search result to directly open the webpage without exiting the YouTube app, or you can tap on the Search “(your search keywords)” on Google button below.

However, it appears that the test is being conducted among a limited number of users because the in-app Google Search results don’t show up for everyone. We also noticed that the Google Search result in the YouTube app mostly pops-up when you search for a how-to or tutorial video. Google is yet to officially detail its new feature, so we may have to wait a bit to know more about it.

Via: Reddit

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Amazon and B&H Memorial Day deals are available today

Today’s Memorial Day deals come from B&H and Amazon. We start with Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro that’s $200 off. This Late 2019 model comes in Space Gray, and it can be yours for $2,199. It comes with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB RAM and 512GB in storage.

Next up is the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, which also gets a $200 discount. You can get one for $999, and you get a 12.3-inch touch screen, an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, and 256GB in storage space.

Want to pay even less for a laptop? The Lenovo IdeaPad 5 is selling for $699 after a $200 discount. You get a 1GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB RAM and 512GB in storage.

Apple’s 10.5-inch iPad Air is getting a $50 discount. You can get one in Space Gray for just $579, and you get this version with 64GB in storage and Wi-Fi + cellular connectivity.

The Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR camera kit is available for $449 after a $100 discount. You get an 18-55mm and a 75-300mm lens, a 16GB Sandisk Extreme SD card, and PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate to edit your shots.

If you’re looking for a new smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy A51 is also on sale. This factory-locked device with 128GB storage can be yours for $293.55 after a $106 discount. The A50 is $50 off, leaving it at $300, and the A10e is $150 after a $30 discount.

The AirPods Pro are $19.05 off, but you can save an extra $1.96 at checkout. You can get one for $229.95 or less since you can also get a $10 discount when you pay with Amazon’s Store Card.

PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch is available with a wide variety of discounts. You can save up to $14, depending on the model you choose.

You can also check out the complete list of Best Buy Memorial Day deals here

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Zoom disables GIPHY integration in chat citing user privacy concerns

Just when the talks regarding Facebooks’s mega GIPHY acquisition and how it would provide the social media giant with an enormous amount of user data had started to wane, the GIF sharing platform is back in the news again. Popular video conferencing solution Zoom has disabled GIPHY integration in Zoom Chat without giving any specific reason behind the move.

The vague explanation given by Zoom only says it has disabled the feature to “ensure strong privacy protection for users.” The company adds that once additional technical and security measures are put into effect, GIPHY integration in chats will be enabled again.

The change was listed in a blog post that also mentioned a few other tweaks such as an audio chime to alert the host when someone enters or leaves the Waiting Room. Moreover, in case of meetings that require registration, the host will have the option to allow the participant to join the call from multiple devices or restrict him to a single device.

Source: Zoom

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