The seedy underbelly of online reviews — especially companies paying for higher reviews — is a source of frequent speculation but rarely comes into the public eye. But according to the New York Times, New York regulators are cracking down on 19 businesses, forcing them to pay a total of $350,000 in fines for “astro-turfing” their pages with fake reviews. The year-long investigation uncovered a paid-for user review market and some good old fashioned bribery — a sign that some companies will go underground to boost their online ratings.
For the last few months, Instapaper creator Marco Arment has laid low. After selling his smash iOS app Instapaper to Betaworks in April and tablet publication The Magazine to the rest of its staff in May, Arment has remained secretive about his next big project. He gave a glimpse of his hard work yesterday at Portland’s XOXO festival, where Engadget reports that he revealed his latest app, Overcast. Aimed squarely at Apple’s current podcasting tech, Overcast is halfway completed and could be out sometime later this year.
Sony and Valve have each addressed the fates of their very buzzy consoles with teasing statements that indicate big things for U.S. gamers. Read more »
Five hours, three subway rides, and two Apple stores later, I am without my gold iPhone 5s. But I believe Apple has failed as much as I did. Read more »
Art is a funny thing — a uniquely human construct that relies an a careful and nuanced grasp of aesthetics. Robots haven’t always been known for their ability to make art, but many new machines are landing in the news for their skills according to TechDirt. One program, e-David, learns how to create forgeries of well-known works by an algorithm. Animal spotlighted another bot, BNJMN, that can actually create original artwork all by itself, thanks to a cleverly programed Arduino UNO. Can robots make art? Well, if elephants can, then I say yes.
Gaming companies are really getting into the cloud, but execution of privacy, security and ownership will be important to its success. Read more »
It’s safe to say that Mario, the indefatigable plumber who is gaming’s most recognizable character, would not exist without Hiroshi Yamauchi. The former company president, who died of pneumonia at 85, inherited Nintendo from his grandfather and spearheaded the company’s bold move into electronic gaming. He led the Japanese gaming giant for 53 years before stepping down in 2002, making him one of the richest men in Japan. But Yamauchi’s legacy goes beyond money, as his impact on commercial gaming has been undeniable — and seen best in Mario’s 30-year success.
Facebook is working with other designers to break the monolithic server mold and design new open source hardware. Read more »
Ouya has doubled-back on its Free the Games Fund, now changing the rules and disqualifying former winners. Read more »
The cloud is more than just a company buzzword — deciding when and how to implement it is a difficult task for many organizations. Read more »
European cellular provider Vodafone may be secretly launching a smartphone, but an unsubtle report from the FCC has outed the company’s designs. Engadget spotted the U.S. regulatory body’s approval documents, which gave the green light to a “Vodafone Smart 4G” and posted all related documents today. The design appears to be a Yulong Coolpad 8860U, rebranded for its European debut, and is likely to pop up as a low-cost handset in the UK, where Vodafone has its current Smart brand.
HP has lagged behind in its reputation for providing cloud services, but the company is turning that around by going open source. Read more »
Microsoft’s SDK update for the Kinect offers a lot of new features, including more accurate 3D scanning Read more »
At LinuxCon, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell teased that the company’s long-awaited hardware endeavor, the Steam Box, could be revealed as early as next week. Will we finally see one in action? Read more »
Tomorrow, iOS 7 will finally hit the streets for everyone — except those with an older, incompatible device. But a user on Reddit spotted a handy new feature: some older models will have the opportunity to download the “last compatible version” of an iOS app. It’s not perfect, as some commenters have noted that the feature works spottily for phones running iOS 3.1 (sorry, original iPhone), but it does mean that customers that don’t or can’t upgrade to iOS 7 won’t get left in the dust without any app options.
VoIP and conference communications company Fuzebox has announced a $26 million Series B funding round, and a new executive team from Yammer to lead the company to a freemium model. Read more »
In theory, Ouya’s Free the Games Fund sounds like a great idea. But in practice it hasn’t gone very well, and that threatens the credibility of the console itself. Read more »
While we have come a long way toward make automated translation easier, faster and more reliable, a world of seamless and immediate translation is still out of our grasp. Der Spiegel spoke with the German computer scientist chasing Google’s translation dreams, Franz Josef Och, about the challenges of translating between Google’s 71 supported languages. Surprisingly, a lot of it has to do with probability: Algorithms translate a phrase by computing the possible translations, then narrowing it down based on how a native speaker would order the words.
Streaming music company Rdio has reached a deal with Cumulus media to finally support a freemium model. Read more »
Google has joined forces with Raspberry Pi to create an open-source educational programming platform, Coder. Read more »
After admitting that handling the “funding” part of crowdfunding has been a challenge, PayPal has officially promised better support with new policies in the coming months. Engadget spotted the company’s blog post, which slipped out inconspicuously on Wednesday and details PayPal’s difficulty with funding groups in a timely manner while remaining compliant with the government. It’s unclear what new policies or processes will be in place, but it’s likely a welcome relief for entrepreneurs and artists who have seen their newfound funds frozen after campaigns have completed.
Calendars 5, launching today, is an iOS 7-inspired premium planner and tasks app from productivity company Readdle. Read more »
Gigabyte’s update to its miniature Brix line has a lot of power, thanks to updated Intel technology. Read more »
Today, Vodafone Germany released a press statement confirming that the company’s servers had been hacked, compromising 2 million mobile customers. The attack, which Vodafone claims was only possible by a hacker with ”insider knowledge,” exposed names, addresses, bank account details and other pieces of personal information — but not phone or credit card numbers. The company, which is the second-largest mobile provider in Germany, is currently working with authorities, but has yet to make an arrest.
Steam announced “Family Sharing,” which allows users to lend their games to trusted friends via the cloud. Read more »
Six months after Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy stepped down, the music streaming company finally has successor: executive and VC Brian McAndrews. The company’s new leader was an entrepreneur and served time as an SVP at Microsoft before becoming an investing partner at Madrona and a board member of the New York Times Co. McAndrews will lead Pandora as it continues to stew in a music royalties battle — the company was singled out in an open letter by Pink Floyd and most recently skirmishing over a radio station in South Dakota.
A Harvard professor’s campaign would allow his pilot class of MOOC students to conduct their very own neuroscience experiments. Read more »
A federal judge responsible for overseeing the the NSA‘s spying practices slammed the agency for “repeatedly submitting inaccurate descriptions” and ignoring minimization procedures to keep private domestic data away from investigations. The harsh words, as reported by the New York Times, come from a 2009 court decision that is among thousands of pages of documents released by intelligence officials in response to legal pressure from the ACLU and the EFF. The judge’s decision addressed the NSA’s retention of call log data which it used to screen against incoming calls.
Apple’s big games push on the iPhone 5s has some smart logic to it: The stars are aligning for the phone to become the next big gaming device. Read more »
With its PlayStation Vita TV, Sony might have solved the puzzle for making a must-have budget console. Now, when will it come to the States? Read more »
Swype co-founder Randy Marsden is testing a better typing experience again, this time for the tablet. Read more »
It’s big week for messaging app Path, which has announced some new features and a big foreign partnership to boot. Read more »
It seems that demand for smartphones has risen considerably, as IDC reports today that the worldwide mobile phone market is expected to grow 7.3 percent year over year in 2013 — a big jump from last year’s stagnant report. Overall, vendors are expected to distribute 1.8 billion smartphones this year. IDC attributes the jump in demand to a variety of factors, particularly big device subsidies mobile from carriers and a growing depth of lower-priced smartphones.
After months of silence, Microsoft finally unveils the date for its latest console, the Xbox One. Read more »
Less than a year after launching Mega, the file-storage successor to the raided MegaUpload, embattled internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has stepped down to work on other projects. Specifically, he will continue to fight against extradition to the United States, where he is expected to stand trial for many crimes. In addition, Dotcom is creating a music product, formerly known as Megabox, and forming an internet-focused political party in New Zealand, where he currently resides. Despite relinquishing his position, Dotcom will likely remain the face — and opinionated voice — of Mega.
Apple seems to be getting serious about China, throwing the country its very own standalone iPhone event. Read more »
Researchers have hacked a Kinect to help users finally make eye-contact during video calls. Read more »
Nostalgic games score another win on Kickstarter, as the creator of Mega Man raises major funds for a game that’s just like Mega Man. Read more »
Fast Co Design has released the first in a six-part history of Apple’s design team, centered on Senior Vice President of Design and company icon Jony Ive. Comprised of stories from dozens of former Apple employees, the history puts personal spins on the development of some of the most design-forward Cupertino company products — most notably, the early iMac. It’s a much more human view of the company and of Ive, who is well on his way to becoming an enigma not unlike his late boss, Steve Jobs.