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2018-01-18T08:05:25.096Z
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Last year was action-packed for the WebVR industry, as we predicted. One of the most interesting developments was Amazon entering the fray by introducing the developer preview of Sumerian, a browser-based tool that makes it even easier for developers to create WebVR content. The summer was a particularly special time for browsers that support the WebVR standard; Mozilla released version 55 of Firefox for Windows, making it the first desktop browser to officially support the WebVR standard.

Apple’s Safari is, in fact, the only member (aside from Opera) in the browser pack to still not support WebVR at this stage. What this means is that for WebVR content to be responsive on Safari, developers have to manually add in the polyfill specs, which mimics the information the WebVR API otherwise provides, like lens distortion based on a device’s screen and fetching gyroscopic information for VR tracking. While polyfill may still not work for some browsers, like Edge for Android, in most cases it should offer an “okay” experience.

Thankfully, last July a trio of Apple developers joined the WebVR Community Group, so we might just see Safari “WebVR-ready” sometime later this year.

Finally, the W3C also hosted its first workshop on WebVR Authoring last month in Brussels. One of the key outcomes was to rename the future iteration of WebVR (WebVR 2.0) to the “WebXR Device API”, which expands its scope of influence to now...


Tilting Point’s mobile game publishing strategy is paying off. Thanks to viral hits like Nukebox Studios’s Food Truck Chef, its Q4 revenue has increased fourfold year-over-year. It’s also shuffling around its leadership — COO Samir El Agili will become Tilting Point’s president. He’s taking over for cofounder Dan Sherman, who will stay on as a board member.

In the last few months, the mobile publisher added Edgeworks Entertainment’s space simulator TerraGenesis to its portfolio. The terraforming game is highly rated by players and currently ranks No. 82 in the strategy category on the Apple App Store, according to market analyst App Annie. Tilting Point publishes both Food Truck Chef and TerraGenesis under the umbrella of its Game Alliance user acquisition fund, which seeks to help indie developers grab players’ attention in the crowded mobile marketplace. To that end, it’s committed $18 million to Nukebox to help grow its user base, which exploded to over 3 million in just the first 10 days.

Tilting Point has been leveraging the strategy in other partnerships as well. It teamed up with social game giant Disruptor Beam to fund user acquisition for the mobile strategy title Star Trek: Timelines. Since establishing Game Alliance in late 2016, Tilting Point has been going strong on the user acquisition front. And in El Agili’s previous role as chief product officer, he focused on that aspect of the business along with...


As I’ve mentioned previously, one of the questions that I get asked most frequently is what tech companies in the Heartland should the average person be watching. The question is a fair one — the channel that I write for is called “Heartland Tech,” after all. But the question also makes me concerned that some people think of the middle of America as one large, monolithic swath of land.I bring this up because as VentureBeat is putting together its lineup for our inaugural BLUEPRINT conference, I’ve been heartened to see how many companies are finding success in a diverse mix of cities — from Reno, where our event will be held, to Missoula, Montana to Madison, Wisconsin.

Ultimately, finding success as a Heartland company comes down to leveraging the unique strengths of your city. Filament, a company profiled in the Heartland Tech channel this week, found its headquarters of Reno helpful when trying to woo investors in the Bay Area. One of our guest writers, Alida Miranda-Wolff, also spoke this week with female executives in the Midwest, who found that — while the region still has a long way to go to achieve gender parity in tech — at least one female founder found that being a women in tech in the Midwest was an advantage because “certain norms and formulas for what a tech startup should look like are less defined and entrenched [here].”

So, while I think “what Heartland tech companies should I be watching?” is a valid question, I think that a good...


I’ve been thoroughly invested in Street Fighter V for the last two years. It’s my “main game.” The thing I play when I am done doing adult stuff, usually involving other games. It’s to the point where I run a local tournament dedicated to Street Fighter V every week.

It’s a lot of time to dedicate to a game. Enough to grow and reflect on how my perspective on how the fighter may have changed — especially my opinions on the original release.

As much as I praised the core game of Street Fighter V in my original review back in 2016, I have to now admit that Capcom shit-the-bed when it released it in the wrappings of a mediocre product. The failure of that version came down to one thing: features. Mostly, a lack of them. Specifically, it has no Arcade mode.

They say when you fail, fail forward. And today, that’s true of Capcom. Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition is an attempt to turn the things that weren’t so great about the original release into forward momentum.

Above: So. You like Arcade Mode, eh? Well! Have all the Arcade Modes in the world!Image Credit: GamesBeat What I Liked

Well, have all the Arcade modes in the world!

Everyone was clamoring for an Arcade mode in Street Fighter V, yet it was conspicuously missing in the original release. At...


Nintendo revealed a new line of games for the Switch. Nintendo Labo has players creating special docks for the Switch and its Joy-Con controllers to make new experiences. Its first products, the Robot Kit and the Variety Kit, will come out on April 20.

In the reveal video, examples including creating a cardboard piano, a robot-like backpack, and a fishing pole. Nintendo Labo combines real-world crafting and game controllers and then uses the Switch to turn them into digital experiences. The Variety Kit will cost $70, while the Robot Kit will got for $80.

The Switch has been doing well with core gamers, but it hasn’t been as huge a hit with casual audiences as the Wii was. Nintendo Labo could make the Switch appealing to kids who aren’t into Zelda or Skyrim.

The Variety Pack gives you the tools to make your own cardboard piano, fishing pole, house, motor bike, and two RC cars. The Robot Kit gives you a backpack and headset. You can insert your Joy-Cons into the headset to allow for head-tracking.


In the age of HQ2, every new office announcement seems to send cities’ hearts racing. Apple’s announcement that it would accelerate investments in the U.S., add 20,000 new jobs over the next five years, and open a new campus in the next year was no exception.

On Twitter, the Apple announcement quickly drew comparisons to Amazon’s announcement last year that it would be opening a second headquarters somewhere in the U.S.

But Apple’s new campus isn’t likely to bring the same economic effect that cities are hoping it will.

For starters, Apple’s new campus isn’t a second headquarters at all. Apples’ press release stated that the company is opening a new “campus,” and also that it would increase hiring at “existing campuses” — implying that whatever facility is going to open isn’t going to be a mirror image of its Cupertino headquarters.

Apple also stated that the new campus would “initially house technical support...


Microsoft announced today that Phil Spencer has appointed a new boss of games to handle the role that the executive had previously handled as head of the company’s games business.

Spencer will serve as executive vice president in charge of all things games at Microsoft — including hardware, games, and platforms. But Matt Booty, the former head of the Minecraft business, will now be corporate vice president of games in charge of all of Microsoft’s studios. The various studio executives will report to Booty, who in turn will report to Spencer

I talked with both Spencer and Booty in an interview, as both me explained what the changes will mean for Microsoft’s game business and all of the developers and executives reporting to them. Booty will be focused on making sure that the studios get the resources they need and work together to share knowledge across various development teams. Helen Chiang, Booty’s former lieutenant, will now head the Minecraft business that Booty previously handled.

Their decisions will be important. Sony has a 2-to-1 advantage over Microsoft in consoles sold in this generation. The only way Microsoft can deal with that is to keep making great games. And Booty is now in charge of that.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview with Booty and Spencer.

Above: Matt Booty is the corporate vice president in charge of games at Xbox at...

Microsoft has promoted Matt Booty, a leader in the Minecraft games business, as corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios, making him one of the top game executive reporting to his boss, Phil Spencer, executive vice president for games.

The appointment fills a key post within the games group after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella promoted Spencer to executive vice president in a strategic role overseeing all games, game hardware, and game platform strategy at Microsoft. That promotion left the job of overseeing game development and publishing open, and now Booty has filled that post. It sets in motion a clear succession plan within the games business, and beefs up the company’s ability to move quickly in games, the executives said.

In an interview with GamesBeat, Spencer said that he will be in charge of the grand strategy for games, while Booty would be in charge of executing that strategy in games publishing. Booty will report to Spencer, while the rest of the studio chiefs will now report to Booty.

Above: Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, at Build 2016.Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

“I wanted to make sure we had the right organization in place to deliver on our content goals. With that, I made the decision that I wanted to anoint a leader of our Microsoft Studios organization, which if you’ve tracked it, I’ve had the leaders of our individual...


Minecraft is the best example of Microsoft’s modern approach to gaming platforms. The publisher acquired the block-building phenomenon and developer Mojang in 2014 for $2.5 billion, and it has since shaped that investment into one of its most active live services. The growing Minecraft Marketplace is at the center of that.

Each month here at GamesBeat, I take a closer look at the Minecraft Marketplace and its best-selling content. You can take a look at past results right here. For December 2017, a few new downloadable worlds and mashup packs made the list. Winter Mini-Games Festival by Noxcrew rode a seasonal wave to get on the charts just behind the Summer Mini-Games Festival. Mojang’s own Norse Mythology Mash-Up also made the list after debuting last month.

But the big story of December is that not only did Blockception’s Whiterock Castle repeat as No. 1, but this creator also took the No. 2 spot with The Crater.

If you’re wondering what Blockception’s secret to success is, well … I asked the Blockception team.

“Honestly, we aren’t really sure,” Blockception creative director Alex Bellavita told GamesBeat. “We love that people are downloading and enjoying our content. Everyone in the team works hard on making sure that the content they make is to their best ability at the time of it being conceived.

Here’s the top 10 best-selling items on Minecraft Marketplace. As a reminder, Microsoft provided this...


Over the past few years, economic inequality has become a topic of focus for economists, politicians, and leaders of industry. Tech titans are starting to discuss concepts like the future of capitalism, universal basic income, and wealth redistribution as the technology they’ve developed starts to automate more and more jobs.

New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle have seen average wages rise at an unprecedented rate, while smaller towns across middle America have, in many cases, lost jobs and businesses. This has been compounded by a mix of highly skilled talent fleeing to coastal technology hubs, the disruption of traditional industries, and the disintegration of a communal spirit of working towards a brighter future.


VentureBeat’s Heartland Tech channel invites you to join us and other senior business leaders at BLUEPRINT in Reno on March 5-7. Learn how to expand jobs to Middle America, lower costs, and boost profits. Click here to request an invite and be a part of the conversation. 


This opportunity gap between big cities and small towns has raised the question: Is the U.S. facing economic doom and gloom, or is it on the brink of finding a way to reignite the American dream? At the very heart of America is the thought that everyone is created equal and that Americans can, through their own hard work, be successful. But as more and more jobs become automated through...


Much of the conversation about tech in the workplace centers on jobs that will be replaced by AI, as well as the technology’s impending effects on workplace dynamics. Without question, this is a revolution in the making, and some businesses will thrive within it while some get left behind. However, let’s not forget that this cutting-edge tech is still not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are some tasks that artificial intelligence excels at, and others that the technology will not be able to effectively complete for decades, or even centuries.

There’s no shortage of intriguing toys and tools that promise to futurize your office, but the real changes will come from implementing AI to augment and even replace human workers in a number of tasks. As a subject of real concern and controversy, it’s important for executives to know just how necessary AI implementation could be for their businesses to avoid jumping the gun and needlessly reducing human jobs.

Every company is different, and some will want to invest more heavily in intelligent machines than others. The question is of your company’s priorities: What tasks are ready for the AI switch, and which ones are best left to living, breathing people?

Strengths of an AI employee

Of all the common functions of business, customer service has the widest implementation of AI in everyday use. Chatbots capable of providing 24/7 support are at the ready...


Twitch is getting a new chief operating officer and some new vice presidents to help it continue to develop and launch community products on a steady schedule. The company, which now calls itself a “social video service,” wants to keep its lead in broadcasting live video to the internet, and its new leadership is coming in to provide more tools to keep content creators and their audiences engaged.

Above: Twitch COO Sara ClemensImage Credit: Twitch

The new executives include three hires. Sara Clemens is the biggest of those as she will overtake the role of chief operating officer after her time as COO of music-streaming platform Pandora. Twitch is also bringing in Mark Weiler (former Rubicon Project head of engineering) as its head of platforms and services and Amir Shevat (former developer relations boss at Slack) as its vice president of developer experience. In 2017, Twitch introduced a number of new features like achievements and subscription gifting. In 2018, Twitch wants to do even more.

“Twitch has continued to grow at an amazing rate,” Twitch chief executive Emmett Shear said in a statement. “With our focus on listening to our community and providing the products and services to fuel their success, it’s important that we continue to invest in a leadership team that will ensure we are bringing these things to market in...


A small surprise was nestled in the middle of Apple’s announcement of a $350 billion contribution to the U.S. economy today: Apple confirmed that it will repatriate the giant pile of cash it has held overseas. According to the release, Apple expects to pay approximately $38 billion in U.S. repatriation taxes, which means that it will be using a special corporate tax break to repatriate approximately $245 billion in profits created outside the country.

Prior to the passage of the reduced 15.5 percent tax rate, Apple faced a 35-40 percent cost to bring overseas profits back into the United States — a tax burden it was unwilling to bear. Including both federal and state taxes, Apple might have been expected to pay up to $100 billion in taxes on $250 billion of overseas profits.

Apple’s plans to bring the foreign cash back into the United States have been underway for some time. In September 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook openly spoke of the company’s expectation that it would rapidly receive a tax cut from whomever the next president was, and that the company would likely repatriate the cash in 2017.

In April 2017, the White House floated a reduced repatriation rate of 10 percent, which Congress subsequently increased in its late December tax bill. Apple waited for the new rate, and nearly $60 billion in savings, to bring the cash back into the United States.

Despite hopes that Apple might immediately announce...


(Reuters) — Bitcoin skidded below $10,000 on Wednesday, halving in value from its peak price, with investors gripped by fears regulators could clamp down on the volatile cryptocurrency that sky-rocketed last year.

The price of bitcoin, the world’s biggest and best known cryptocurrency, fell to as low as $9,500 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange, the lowest since Dec. 1.

Bitcoin had touched a peak of almost $20,000 in December — and indeed crossed over that threshold on some exchanges — but has since been roiled by several large selloffs.

Other cryptocurrencies plunged as well. Ethereum and Ripple were both down heavily after reports South Korea and China could ban cryptocurrency trading, sparking worries of a wider regulatory crackdown.

“There is a lot of panic in the market. People are selling to try and get the hell out of there,” said Charles Hayter, founder of Cryptocompare, which owns cryptocurrencies.

“You have more regulatory uncertainty … and because of these falls, you have these other fallouts,” he said, referring to the collapse of some cryptocurrencies in the recent slump in prices.

Analysts at Citi said on Wednesday bitcoin could halve again in value amid the current rout, adding that a possible fall to between the $5,605 and $5,673 area “looks very likely to be very speedy”.

With South Korea, Japan and China all making noises about a regulatory swoop, and officials in France and the United States vowing to investigate cryptocurrencies, there are concerns that global coordination on how...


Samsung only briefly touched upon 5G at CES last week, but behind closed doors, the Korean company was reportedly showing off Exynos 5G, a prototype 5G-compliant modem designed for mobile devices. Described by BusinessKorea as part of Samsung’s plan “to significantly reduce its reliance on U.S. telecom modem chips for 5G smartphones,” Exynos 5G could enable next-generation Samsung phones to use an even higher percentage of Samsung-made components. The company expects to start using Exynos 5G in 2019 phones.

BusinessKorea reports that the Exynos 5G modem is forward-compatible, complying with the 3GPP’s draft standard for Release 15, the initial 5G specification set to be completed in June. Exynos 5G notably includes support for the 3GPP’s non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA) standards, with NSA meant to support connection to older LTE towers and SA for newer 5G networks built solely with 5G infrastructure.

The 5G modem radically increases radio frequency support, both in diversity of bands and the ability to use multiple bands at once. It supports radio bands ranging from low-frequency 600MHz to ultra-high-frequency 39GHz, as well as past mid-frequency bands used in 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE phones. To increase bandwidth, it can use carrier aggregation to bundle up to eight 100-MHz bands, reaching download speeds of up to 5Gbps — 10 times faster than common LTE and 5 times faster than peak LTE service.

Qualcomm and Intel unveiled their Snapdragon X50 and XMM8060 modems last year, predicting that phones using the chips will...


Match.com today launched a new Alexa skill that gives people first date advice, and it’s not great — not in every regard at least.

The Alexa voice app does deliver some helpful tips, like you may want to wait two days to message someone after the date, and the average person spends around $60 on a first date, but the Alexa skill falls short in some important areas.

Ask “What if they want to have sex on the first date?” and it may answer “Only if you must, or they’re really hot” or “If you do too, do them. If you don’t, DO YOU.”

Ask “What if I want more than one drink?” and the skill says “Allow yourself two cocktails if they’re cute. Have six if they’re not.” If you don’t like your date, the skill suggests you “Smile, nod, and order another drink.”

Those are some of the more than 30 questions the Match.com Alexa skill can answer at launch.

What’s noticeably missing from questions the skill can answer is “What’s the definition of consent?”

When the skill tells you to have six drinks and only have sex “if you must,” spelling out the definition of consent seems like the right thing to do.

If the skill doesn’t understand a question or query — and there are many questions the skill can’t answer today — it doesn’t say it can’t understand you. It just says “LOL.”

That’s not funny.

Now, there are many less-than-useful bots or voice apps...


Companies looking to raise funding through an ICO without having to juggle regulations from the SEC and numerous other regulatory bodies around the world can now conduct simple plug-and-play ICOs.

Securitize, a new company spun out of tokenized VC fund Spice VC, is launching a platform Thursday that has a host of know-your-customer (KYC), anti-money-laundering (AML), and international ICO rules built right in. The platform has two key selling points: It promises fundraising companies, and their investors, peace of mind that they’re in full conformity with domestic and international laws. And it enables a new era of venture funding, where investors can buy-in knowing the assets are completely liquid from day one.

ICOs targeting a combined $500 million are commited to launching on Securitize, including offerings from CryptoOracle, Kairos.com, Lottery.com, and 22X Fund (whose link won’t be live until Thursday).

22xFund, whose ICO begins Thursday, is a collective of 30 startups from the summer 2017 cohort of 500 Startups. While they each raised seed funding from 500 Startups and individually raised another $23 million combined from traditional VCs and angels, they were finalizing their Demo Day presentations just as Tezos, FileCoin, and a number of other high profile ICOs were happening.

“We thought, we’re supposed to be innovators. Are we going to be in San Francisco and follow the same [traditional VC] path as everyone else here? And why should...


Google announced today that it would start rolling out a fix tomorrow for an issue Android users have encountered with devices like the Home smart speaker clogging up a network.

It’s supposed to fix a software bug that occasionally causes a Cast streaming media connection to fill a home wireless network with unneeded packets, slowing down a customer’s network. The first part of the fix is a patch to the Google Play Services that run on Android Phones. It’s unclear if an update for Home devices and other Cast-enabled hardware will be necessary.

While this is ultimately a blip on the radar, it shows the difficult future we’re headed for in the realm of home automation. Not only do people have to worry about the software on their smartphones, computers and other mobile devices causing issues, but it’s fairly easy to see a possible future when a smart lightbulb update could cause a cascade of issues inside a house.

The news comes as router makers are also working to address the issue. TP-Link recently put out beta firmware for its Archer C1200 router to try and fix the problem, but Google’s fix is more likely to help a broader number of people, especially since TP-Link’s patch only affects one model out of its entire product portfolio.

For right now, the most consistent fix seems to be unplugging the offending Cast devices. Google suggests users reboot their phones and ensure that their Wi-Fi routers are...


Building on prior announcements of its plans to invest in U.S. manufacturing and job creation, Apple today announced that it will increase its Advanced Manufacturing Fund from $1 billion to $5 billion, create 20,000 new jobs, and contribute over $350 billion to the U.S. economy over the next five years.

Made public just ahead of its February 1 earnings call, Apple’s new plan anticipates over $30 billion in U.S. capital expenditures over the next five years, including the opening of a new Apple campus in a new location, initially housing technical support for customers. Over $10 billion of the expansion will be used on U.S. data centers, including a new facility in downtown Reno, Nevada, a recently announced location in Iowa, and centers in five other states.

Details of the expanded $5 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund were sparse, but Apple notes that it “support[s] innovation among American manufacturers and help[s] others establish a presence in the US.” It’s possible that the expanded fund will be used to help finance previously discussed Foxconn manufacturing locations within the U.S.

Apple also noted that it will be expanding initiatives to teach software coding to students, as well as programs focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). The plan calls for new programs to support teachers and teacher training, as well as more funding for Apple’s ConnectED program, which teaches app coding skills to students in historically underserved communities.


Comcast Cable is gearing up to push viewers to its wide variety of on-demand and live programming for the upcoming Winter Olympics. It’s going to be a combination of traditional and digital TV.

Comcast has been working on the features since the last Olympics games, and about 18 months ago it started building tech for 4K HDR for PyeongChang in South Korea. The 2018 Winter Games start on February 9 and run through February 25, and they will be broadcast by Comcast’s sister company NBC Sports.

Above: You can use Comcast voice controls to ask questions about athletes, such as what song is playing during a skater’s performance.Image Credit: Comcast

You’ll be able to watch your favorite sport regardless of whether it’s showing on primetime TV, and through the Xfinity Sports App you’ll be able to watch live streams or on-demand archives whether you’re home or not.

“It’s going to be the same Olympics experience,” said Chris Satchell, executive vice president and chief product officer at Comcast Cable, in an interview. “We had to build out infrastructure work on 4K to get it in place for PyeongChang. We use the games as a rallying point to bring in viewing innovations.”

Comcast will have a home page where you can decide to follow a particular sport.

Above:...