Virtual reality videos coming to YouTube

Google has unveiled its latest innovation in video-making. With its new technology ‘Jump,’ Google says shooting, publishing and watching virtual reality videos will be easy and accessible for all.

google jump

One of the hottest new items to come out of Google’s I/O developer conference is called “Jump”, and it’s making people both heave with excitement and with motion sickness nausea.

Google Jump is new technology that makes it easier than ever to create virtual reality videos.

The setup debuted at the conference was made up of a futuristic-looking camera wheel with 16 GoPro cameras shooting sharp, high-quality images in 360-degrees.

The long-term goal, though, is to make virtual reality accessible both to video-makers and video-watchers. To satisfy the first part, filmmakers—or anyone with an interest—will ultimately be able to use any standard, commercially-available cameras with the Jump gizmo to shoot in VR.

In addition to the cameras, there is special software to assemble and process footage, and a player. But the player too will move to the mainstream.

YouTube viewing options will include one for Jump. Said Clay Bavor, Google’s products VP as he demoed Jump at the conference, “If you want to experience VR video all you need is the YouTube app, your smartphone, and some cardboard.”

Making virtual reality accessible for average consumers is certainly necessary in order for it to really take off. With Jump, the foundation has been layer for VR to finally jump into the mainstream.


Sling TV hooks up with Android TV

Internet TV’s hottest name, Sling TV, has made a new conquest, Android TV. Sling channels will now play on all devices running the Android TV platform.


TV fans interested in cutting the cable cord and getting more options outside of traditional cable and satellite TV have scored a fresh victory. Sling TV will now play on all Android TV devices, making it the most flexible live standalone Internet TV service out there.

Sling TV, owned by DISH Network Corp., gives subscribers access to a suite of popular channels provided via the Internet, instead of by cables or satellite. The basic “Best of Live TV” package includes over 20 channels, among them AMC, TBS and ESPN, and costs $20/month.

Sling TV now plays on Roku, Roku TV, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Xbox One, Android and iOS devices, Macs and PCs, and Android TV.

“We’re committed to making Sling TV available on the most popular devices consumers use to stream live and on-demand entertainment,” said Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV.

The alternative TV service has been steadily expanding its offerings and availability since Sling TV’s launch in February. Just this month Sling TV expanded its content with two new “add-on” packages for Latino sports and entertainment.

Android TV, from Google, is also relatively new. Android TV  launched in its current form this Spring. (Prior iterations, under the name of Google TV, failed and were scrapped.)

Android TV isn’t a media streaming device or an Internet TV service. Rather, it’s software developed to make Smart TVs even smarter. It acts like a search engine, and ‘recommendation engine’, to make it faster and easier to find TV shows, movies, online videos and other content to watch.

Android TV runs on Nexus player devices and is also being built into new TV models from Sony, Sharp and TP Vision.

To sweeten the deal and attract new customers, Google is offering Nexus players at half-price when buyers sign up for Sling TV.

The Sling TV app for Android TV is available for free in the Google Play store.

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Now Android users can also over-share with live-streaming app Periscope

On the tail of rival live-streaming app Meerkat, Twitter’s Periscope is now also available on Android devices.


The top two apps that allow users to live stream video to fans and followers are now both available on Android and iOS devices. In short, over-sharing just reached a whole new level.

The live-streaming app Periscope, which is owned by Twitter, was the later to hit the scene. It has been chasing Meerkat ever since, including its launch on Google Play. Meerkat was available to Android users starting earlier this month.

Meerkat rose to fame on Twitter, achieving almost overnight popularity and becoming one of the most downloaded apps of all time.

However, Twitter had its own live-streaming service in the works, Periscope, and soon handicapped Meerkat on the social platform.

It’s been a ‘Kat’-fight ever since. Meerkat won the latest battle to be the first onto Android devices, but its glory lasted less than a month. Now the competitors are once again neck-and-neck.

Periscope did get some negative press a few weeks ago, after some used it to live-stream the Mayweather-Pacquiao mega-fight. HBO, Showtime and fight promotors claimed lost revenues due to people watching the fight illegally via live streaming on Periscope.

Periscope CEO, however, called the use of its app a victory—only to find himself in hot water for saying so. The exact number of people who got to watch Mayweather-Pacquiao free thanks to Periscope piracy is unknown.

The incident highlights the high potential for abuse and even illegal use of live-streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat. Questions abound as to whether it’s even possible to police for streaming of protected content or illicit images.

But that clearly hasn’t stopped apps from working to expand their audiences. Now, there’s just no telling what Periscope and Meerkat users will live stream next. That’s both the compelling and the alarming thing about these apps.


Live streaming on YouTube gets an upgrade

YouTube has made live streaming even faster to improve the gaming and live video experience.


Live streaming on YouTube just got supercharged. Only a few months after the video mecca unveiled 60fps video playback it has brought those same speeds to live streaming.

The company made the announcement in a blog post on the YouTube partners and creators blog. The new 60fps live streaming has launched as a preview on HTML5-compatible browsers.

In addition to the high speed, YouTube will also be facilitating live streaming in 720p60 and 1080p60 for even smoother playback and more enjoyable viewing.

The latest upgrade comes as a logical and needed step in YouTube’s plans to enter the live gaming space. The Google property announced several months ago that the YouTube Live section of the video platform will transition to feature gaming events. That includes live broadcasts of major gaming contests as well as letting users play against one another in real-time.

To support 60fps live streaming, YouTube worked with Elgato on a new version of Elgato Game Capture, and with XSplit on new versions of XSplit Broadcaster and XSplit Gamecaster so that both will work seamlessly with the higher frame rate.

To go with the speed boost, YouTube has also added an HTML5 playback feature for live streams. Now, users with supported browsers can watch live streams using an HTML5 player. The player supports variable speed playback, so it’s now possible to rewind a stream and watch at 1.5x or 2x to catch up to the live action.

The changes are needed improvements to YouTube live and necessary in order to make real inroads in the live gaming scene. More improvements will be needed, though, to make YouTube Live a place that has content users find compelling.


Spotify unveils new ad — er, video-streaming; annoys current users, confuses potential ones

The music company Spotify announced a complete remake of its services yesterday. The changes are meant to buoy Spotify. But they are more likely to alienate current and prospective users alike.


At a major event last night, Spotify unveiled the new plan for their music maven. The changes are far from just a platform redesign or a standard rebranding. Spotify has remade itself so drastically that it’s practically unrecognizable.

What started and rose to popularity as a music streaming service has now been reborn as a podcast- and video-streaming service, with maybe a bit of music on the side. That’s right—the videos on Spotify won’t even be music videos, since the rights to those are clenched in the fists of the record labels. Exactly what the nature of the videos will be remains to be seen. But in short, Spotify is looking to play alongside the likes of YouTube to capture more users—and most of all more money.

The reconstruction is understandable. Spotify’s relevance has been slipping, slowly but steadily, in recent years. When the company came on the scene, it was revolutionary and met a need that many music lovers had been waiting to see satisfied.

Strangely enough, even with over 15 million members, the company can’t make enough money. Advertising in the audio realm just isn’t proving profitable.

Advertising via video, on the other hand, is a current Internet gold mine. With consumers consuming more video than ever before, and the trend expected to continue to climb steeply, video ads are bringing in major money for media companies.

Not surprisingly, then, Spotify’s new video features will be part of its free service, readily available to all users. But do Spotify fans want to watch? And will the shift be more confusing than compelling to potential members?

There’s a good chance the move will serve to weaken the Spotify brand instead of strengthen it. Where it once stood for something clear—music—as a multimedia platform it may get lost amid the competition. And while music wasn’t getting it done in the profit department, the videos Spotify plays will have to be pretty special in order for the video ads not to alienate customers who might just want to listen to music.

As for driving new users to the platform, Spotify will face a steep road, likely peppered with its own advertising efforts, to convey just what its service is and why someone should check it out. Putting more effort into developing a more attractive premium—that is, paid—music service might have been the better way to go.

But video was clearly looking too much like a cash cow. And there’s no going back now.


Why Apple chose right in scrapping its TV set plans

Despite lots of rumors to the contrary, it’s now confirmed that Apple abandoned its plans to develop an HDTV set a year ago. That leaves the company free to focus its efforts to take over television in a way that actually makes sense. 

Apple TV Review

The Apple TV set will never be (or at least it won’t be here in any near future). In fact, The Wall Street Journal is reporting those plans went into the trash some time ago.

Ongoing predictions from the high-profile investor Carl Icahn that Apple would unleash an HDTV next year kept hopes afloat. But the bubble has at last been burst. Even Icahn has had to accept the death of the dream.

But is it really such a disappointment? Yes, Apple wants to infiltrate the TV market—and many consumers want them to as well. So some will see the loss of the HDTV set as a setback. In reality, though, it will likely end up furthering Apple’s mission of TV domination.

First, as became obvious to Apple executives, their HDTV wouldn’t have had enough novel features to get consumers to shell out for it. That alone is enough reason to kill the development plans.

Past that, though, is the fact that Apple can offer consumers much more as a media streaming device maker and an Internet TV provider.

The Apple TV set-top box remains extremely popular. Apple has been steadily adding content to Apple TV‘s lineup. The new Apple TV 2015 model is highly anticipated and will land in open arms when it comes out. It’s expected to be unveiled next month at the World Wide Developers Conference.

Fans are already excited about Apple TV 2015’s new features. One of the biggest changes is that the device will likely run Apple’s new Internet TV service.

A new TV streaming service from Apple is in the works. It will give viewers a fresh alternative to traditional cable and satellite subscriptions. The TV service will reportedly stream around 25 popular network and cable channels, including ESPN.

Internet TV services, like Sling TV, are gaining traction with customers who are increasingly fed up with expensive cable packages and looking for ways to cut the cable cord. Apple’s TV streaming service could be the best to come out yet. It will immediately attract those who already have the Apple TV device. From that foothold, it could have the potential to revolutionize the way consumers access TV.

Will Apple be the company to finally end cable’s tyranny? It very well could be.

Far more than developing a new HDTV, Apple’s media streamer and TV service will attract customers and propel the company forward in the fight for the living room. True, Roku TVs do exist. But Roku doesn’t make the set hardware. Rather, the maker of the Roku device line, featuring the Roku 3 and hopefully soon to be featuring the Roku 4, partners with manufacturers. The sets then come with the Roku platform fully integrated.

Android TV also works this way. The platform from Google comes included in a line of Smart TVs.

If Apple sticks to what they have the ability to do better than any other company they may well come to be as big of a player in the TV industry as in the phone and tablet spaces. And a lot of TV fans would be very pleased.

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Major media streaming devices add new channels in the fight for cord cutter customers

Chromecast and Roku media devices now give users even more access to popular channels and streaming content. 


Roku 3 and Chromecast users alike will find some new channels available on their respective media streaming devices. Both of the popular brands have expanded their selection recently.

Google’s Chromecast 2015 added Fox, CBS, FX and HGTV. The network and cable channels will nicely compliment Chromecast’s selection of hundreds of other channels and apps.

Roku device
Roku has made a big move in the gaming realm. The live-streaming video game platform, Twitch, will now play on Roku. The addition is sure to be a huge hit with gamers. Amazon’s Fire TV has held a top spot in offering gaming support on a media streaming device. Roku is likely hoping to close the gap. The timing, a few months before the expected Roku 4 release, is excellent.

Media streaming devices aim to one-up each other

In the battle of the media streamers, a device is only as good as the content it has to offer. Anyone who has, or who is interested in cutting the cable cord won’t want to sacrifice their favorite shows in the process.

The top devices, including Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick in addition to Chromecast and the Roku family, are continually working to bulk up their offerings.

Apple TV and Roku recently gave users more ways to stream live sports on their devices. They added the NBC Sports Live Extra app to their lineups—although it’s not exactly the sports-fan cord-cutters dream come true. A cable or satellite subscription is still required to watch.

In a separate but similar space, Sling TV has also recently bolstered its available channels. The Internet TV provider from DISH Network just started including Bloomberg News in its basic ‘Best of Live TV’ package.

Sling TV also added two new add-on packages for Spanish-speaking audiences. The Deportes Extra will broadcast fútbol matches and more, complete with Spanish commentary. The Novelas & Películas Extra will air popular daytime and primetime shows in Spanish.

The competition is great for customers and cord cutters. As more networks step outside the cable box, more will be forced to follow, or risk losing viewers.

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Favorite show canceled? Check these free TV streaming sites to find a new one

TV networks have been releasing their lists of canceled TV shows for 2015. If one of your favorites got the ax, pay your respects—and then get back on the horse. There are lots of great TV shows just waiting to be discovered, and many are available to stream for free.

Streaming TV

Networks big and small have handed pink slips to dozens of TV shows. From old favorites like ‘Glee,’ to babes in arms like ‘The Mindy Project,’ titles are getting the shaft.

But there’s good news for fans left devastated at seeing their favorites canned. This is the Golden Age of TV. There are tons of great shows out there—and free TV streaming sites to watch them on. That’s good news for anyone without cable, or looking to cut the cable cord.

Today’s Entertainment News:

The first place to go shop for a new show is Hulu. Hulu has a truly huge library of TV shows that are free to watch. Yes, the premium shows are only available with Hulu Plus for a monthly fee (about $8). But Hulu’s freebies still offer hours of great entertainment.

Crackle is another popular TV streaming site that has lots of free stuff to watch. One of Crackle’s biggest draws has been that fans can find all the old ‘Seinfeld’ seasons there. But Hulu has gotten ahold of those now. Nonetheless, there are some great classic comedies on Crackle, so it’s worth a look.

If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber, you have access to Amazon Instant Video at no additional cost. Popular TV show titles abound in Amazon’s library, including shows currently in production. So you can catch up on past seasons, and then stream the latest episodes as they come out.

Networks that offer free TV online

There are a number of cable networks that let fans stream full episodes of TV shows for free online. These include The Food Network, The History Channel, PBS and PBS Kids, Nick, A&E, Lifetime and the Smithsonian Channel. Comedy Central does some, but most of the good stuff is locked behind a pay wall.

Other free streaming sites

YouTube and Yahoo! Screen can also have full episodes of TV shows worth watching. It’s not always easy to find them, but YouTube’s new API is making it easier on the video monster. Also, anyone with Android TV will benefit from the extensive voice search/recommendation engine feature.

Low-cost TV streaming

If you can’t find anything good for free, TV streaming services are fairly low-cost, especially if you’re not already paying for a cable subscription. Netflix is the most popular streaming service and has thousands of titles, including many Netflix Originals. Netflix and Hulu Plus are pretty close in terms of selection and cost. Google Play, Vudu, and lots of channel Apps let users rent or buy episodes a-la-carte.

With so many options to stream TV, and so many awesome shows out there, it won’t be long before you can’t even remember that old favorite’s name.


Roku 4 release date draws nearer—but has the wait already made it out-of-date?

Roku’s next generation media streaming device, the Roku 4, is expected to come out sometime this summer or fall—though earlier predictions had slated it for a springtime launch. With the Roku 4 release date revised later, will its expected features still impress? Especially with the new Apple TV 2015 being released next month?

Roku 4

Roku 4 is hotly anticipated by TV fans everywhere. The Roku 3 set-top box has been among the most popular and highly reviewed streaming devices ever to hit the market. Roku 4 promises to be even better when it launches later this year.

At least, that’s when experts predict it will come out. There are a number of strong reasons to believe the Roku 4 release will happen by this fall at the latest.

Those reasons are detailed in depth here: Goodbye Roku 3, Hello Roku 4: Why the next model will hit shelves by this fall. Briefly: for one, it’s been a tech-time eternity since Roku 3 came on the scene—over two years. Roku users are undoubtedly clamoring for the next version. If the company doesn’t deliver, it could lose customers to Apple TV or another comparable media streaming device.

The building pressure from Apple TV is another factor pushing Roku 4’s release. The new Apple TV 2015 will make its debut next month at the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Roku won’t want to let one of its top competitors get their new model onto the market too much ahead of them. There are simply too many eager customers waiting in the wings ready to grab up the next device available.

Plus, the new Apple TV model for 2015 will include some compelling new features.  The expected integration of the device with Apple’s new Internet TV streaming service could make for an even stronger competitive cocktail. There are no hints Roku is planning its own Internet TV service (though it’s fun to imagine what that would be like—a true dream come true for anyone interested in cutting the cable cord). But simply releasing a cutting-edge new device would still give Apple TV a good run.

So, with all the factors pushing the Roku 4 launch, it’s much more likely than not we’ll see it in a few months. The question now is whether the wait has already made it out-of-date.

Roku 4’s expected features

New technology developed since Roku 3 was designed (in 2012 for its March 2013 launch) will be featured in the Roku 4.

A big advance is 4K resolution. Roku has already included support for 4K in some new Roku TV models.  Netflix and TCL are working with Roku to let viewers watch content in 4K. Roku 4 will therefore almost certainly be compatible with 4K television.

The only hitch is HDR—high dynamic range. HDR videos give the highest-quality picture viewers have ever seen. TV and movie images appear to be even more life-like, with brighter, bolder, more vibrant colors. HDR is a step up from 4K.

Amazon has already started streaming shows in HDR via Amazon Instant Video. Netflix will reportedly also start offering HDR streaming in the next few months. And Apple’s TV streaming service could also include HDR support.

That would leave Roku 4 in the dust before it even leaves the factory.

Roku 4 is also expected to beef up its speed and memory storage. Going up to 2GBs of memory would put it even with Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. But Amazon will probably increase the memory of its devices in the next versions, putting Roku behind the curve again. So hopefully Roku has anticipated this and Roku 4 will come with 3GBs or more, allowing it to snatch up the desirable “most powerful” ribbon.

Roku would really have to mess up their design for the Roku 4 to be a fail. The device will have eager customers—and happy customers—almost as a guarantee.

But there is a decent-sized window for the box to end up simply falling flat. If it arrives on shelves with features that have come to be standard, it will seem simply mediocre among the other media streaming devices. It will be average instead of exemplary. An epic disappointment.

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Sling TV improves basic package and adds Latino sports and entertainment channels

  • Sling TV added Bloomberg News to the basic subscription package
  • New add-on packages deliver Spanish-language sports and TV channels


Sling TV has been steadily adding to the content it offers subscribers. The Internet TV company, owned by DISH Network and launched in February, aims to offer TV fans a solid alternative to traditional cable and satellite TV.

The latest changes give basic subscribers access to a new channel, Bloomberg News. Bloomberg was previously only available as part of the World News add-on.

The standard ‘Best of Live TV’ package now includes 20 channels (21 if you count Adult Swim and Cartoon Network separately), plus access to Sling’s video-on-demand library. The cost will stay the same at $20/month. Sling TV added more movie channels recently in another extra package.

Today’s Top Entertainment News: 

Sling TV has also added new content for Spanish-speaking audiences. Deportes Extra, for an additional $5/month, will deliver fútbol matches and more, complete with Spanish commentary.

The new Novelas & Películas Extra, also $5/month, will allow subscribers to watch popular telenovelas and películas in Spanish.

The launch of new add-on packages makes Sling the first Internet TV provider to offer domestic and Latino programming in a single, flexible package. Sling TV said in a blog post that this is only the beginning of its roll-out of Spanish-language channels and content.

While Sling TV certainly won’t win over a large segment of the cable and satellite market, it is making strides. More and more consumers are looking for alternative TV options, and freedom from high-priced, inflexible cable and satellite packages.

By arriving on the scene fairly early, and with a solid lineup of popular channels—including AMC and ESPN— Sling TV scooped up customers who’d been waiting for Internet TV done right. Customers seem to be happy with the service, and critics give good reviews to Sling TV.

It will see some direct competition soon, though, and from a heavy-hitting tech company. Apple is planning to launch a new streaming service of its own. Apple’s Internet TV service is expected to debut in September with a similar price tag and lineup of channels. The new Apple TV 2015 model, due out in June, will also come ready to work with the streaming service.

That could give Sling some stiff competition. But for customers and anyone looking to cut the cable cord, competition is a good thing. A very good thing.