Author: Lucas Matney

Hours before launch, EA strips micro-transactions from ‘Star Wars: Battlefront II’

TECHCRUNCH Just hours before the full launch of Battlefront II, Electronic Arts has announced that they’re removing in-game micro-transactions entirely from the title for the time being as they look to rethink their pricing strategy. What drove EA to take micro-transactions out of one of the company’s biggest releases this year? A backlash that was rippling through the online gaming community on gaming platforms, social media and forums. Oskar Gabrielson from EA game developer DICE noted the drastic shift in strategy in a blog post published this evening, announcing the move: Our goal has always been to create the best possible game for all of you – devoted Star Wars fans and game players alike. We’ve also had an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows. You’ve seen this with both the major adjustments, and polish, we have made over the past several weeks. But as we approach the worldwide launch, it’s clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry we didn’t get this right. We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means...

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Williams-Sonoma, Inc. acquires AR 3D imaging startup Outward for $112M

TECHCRUNCH Furniture and kitchenware giant Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (WSI) is acquiring augmented reality startup Outward in an all-cash deal for $112 million. The furniture mega-brand parent company which operates stores including Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, West Elm and others will be using the startup’s 3D imaging tech to “enhance and extend its high-touch customer service platform, and to develop technologies with Outward that further transform the shopping experience for home furnishings,” the company says. Outward, founded in 2012, works similarly to many other furniture visualization startups, capturing 3D information about partner products then allowing consumers the ability to see exactly what...

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HTC’s VR object tracker is launching in December for $99.99

TECHCRUNCH HTC’s Vive Tracker allows objects to be tracked in VR. It utilizes the same weirdly shaped configuration at the top of the HTC Vive controller, tosses a battery into it and a tripod mount and for $99.99 allows you to bring objects into virtual reality with you. It’s been open to developers for a few months but now the device and some associated bundles are going up for pre-order today, shipping in mid-December. The intent is for developers to ship experiences with their own objects and mounts that are pre-rendered in-game so that everything is reliably tracked and...

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Facebook kills App Invites, the native app Like button and other dev features

TECHCRUNCH It’s been a while since my Facebook notifications feed was filled to the brim with invites to play FarmVille, but I’ve been reminded every so often at how awful those times were. It seems that tool for growing an app’s audience is not long for this world as Facebook has announced that App Invites, alongside a bunch of other developer integrations will be sunsetting over the next few months. These features, which also include the Native Like Button, App Links Host, Comment Mirroring, Send Button, Sharing Insights and Follow Button products, are going to be shut down February...

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Google announces AMP update that will discourage ‘teaser pages’

TECHCRUNCH Publishers have a lot of mixed feeling about AMP (accelerated mobile pages), but it’s pretty safe to say that consumers enjoy web pages that load faster and are less cluttered. What’s less safe to say is that the experience on AMP-optimized pages is always better content-wise. One of the thing AMP sucks at is grabbing readers and letting them explore the site further after reading an article and this has been really frustrating to a lot of sites. Some publications have tried to get around this by publishing two versions of web pages and linking them together with some...

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Google shares developer preview of TensorFlow Lite

TECHCRUNCH Developers were pretty psyched by the announcement at Google I/O back in May that a new version of TensorFlow was being built from the ground up for mobile devices. Today, Google has released a developer preview of TensorFlow Lite. The software library is aimed at creating a more lightweight machine learning solution for smartphone and embedded devices. The company is calling it an evolution of TensorFlow for mobile and it’s available now for both Android and iOS app developers. The focus here won’t be on training models but rather on bringing low-latency inference from machine learning models to less robust devices....

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GoPro Fusion 360 camera now shipping, some software features not launching until ‘early 2018’

TECHCRUNCH After officially announcing the device at and event in late September, GoPro is now shipping its 360-degree Fusion camera to the U.S. and Europe. The company’s first shot at spherical photography features a 5.2K camera that shoots video at 30 frames (also 3K at 60 frames) and retails for a quite hefty $699 (€749.99 in Europe). In terms of stills, Fusion will be able to capture 18MP photos. Other features include voice control, optical image stabilization and being waterproof at up to 16 feet. GoPro is looking to grab the attention of people looking to capture footage at more traditional aspect ratios as well with this camera. The feature “Overcapture” allows users to easily grab a window of the 360-degree video that showcases a unique perspective. Unfortunately early buyers are going to have to wait until “early 2018” to get their hands on the mobile Overcapture capabilities which which allows people to use a phone’s gyroscope to find the frame they wanted by physically moving the phone around. Users will be able to make these edits on desktop in the mean time in Fusion Studios and Adobe Premiere. Visualization presets like “Tiny Planet” and “PanoFlow” also won’t be available at...

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HTC cancels plans to release wireless VR headset with Google in the U.S.

TECHCRUNCH One of the only questions I’ve asked HTC VR execs consistently over the past three months is whether the Daydream version of its upcoming standalone headset would ship on time in late 2017, they have consistently said it will, though now it seems as though the entire project has been cancelled. HTC and Google both confirmed to TechCrunch that a Daydream-branded HTC standalone headset will no longer be coming to the U.S. market. Google initially announced the partnership back in May for a standalone headset from HTC based on its new WorldSense tracking technology. “We still have a...

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