Facebook’s Messenger Platform Adds New Ways to Connect With Friends & Businesses

facebook f8One of the main announcements from Facebook’s F8 Conference yesterday was the launch of Facebook’s new Messenger Platform, which will open the Messenger SDK to third-party apps and services, as well as a new customer service initiative that allows customers connect with businesses directly over Facebook Messenger.

Users will be able to access third-party Messenger content apps via a button next to the options for adding photos or stickers. Using these apps, users can create custom GIFs, videos, and other personalized content and send their creations to friends and family through Messenger. The recipient will receive a link to download or open the third-party app to view and respond to the message with their own content. Facebook’s David Marcus emphasized that the content apps will not be included within Facebook Messenger, but will remain standalone apps that link to Messenger:

“If we added a 10th of the capabilities [directly to Messenger] that we’ve added with partners today, it would make it really slow… If you don’t want to use those things, you’re not forced to… because those experiences don’t live inside of Messenger. It’s not like the overall experience of the app is getting very bloated.”

The Messenger platform will launch with support for a wide range of popular apps, including ESPN, Bitmoji, JibJab, Legend, Ultratest, Ditty, Giphy, FlipLip, ClipDis, Memes, PicCollage, Kanvas, Action Mobile FX, Boostr, Camoji, Cleo Video Texting, Clips, Dubsmash, Effectify, EmotionAR, EMU, Fotor, Gif Keyboard, GifJam, Hook’d, Imgur, Imoji, Keek, Magisto, Meme Generator, Noah Camera, Pic Stitch, PingTank, Score on Friends, Selfied, Shout, StayFilm, Facebook Stickered, Strobe, Tackl, Talking Tom, Tempo, The Weather Channel, to.be Camera, and Wordeo. More apps will undoubtedly follow as developers have a chance to experiment with the SDK.

Facebook also hopes to improve interaction between customers and businesses by bringing the intuitive Messenger experience to the marketplace. Facebook has partnered with businesses like Zulily and Everlane to allow customers to cancel, modify, and track orders directly within Messenger. Integration with ZenDesk and other customer service platforms will let businesses to respond to customer inquiries through Messenger as well. In addition, businesses will be able to send push notifications to consumers’ devices, even if the business itself does not have its own app.

Although no monetization strategy has been announced for Messenger’s new business features, it’s likely that the information Facebook gleans from these customer-to-business interactions, such as where users shop and what products they buy, will allow for improved ad targeting, perhaps leading to more profits from Facebook’s ad platform down the line.

All in all, the improvements to Messenger seem to confirm that Facebook is continuing its efforts to differentiate from the competition and protect its substantial market share. The emphasis they’re placing on keeping third-party functionality separate from the core Messenger app also coincides with Facebook’s gradual transition from an all-in-one app to multiple apps for specific functionalities.

What do you think of Facebook’s F8 announcements? Which of Messenger’s new features are you excited to try out?

MacKeeper Provides Human Tech Support For Your Mac At CES

mackeeper logo

Even though Macs are well-known for their security, it’s still important to keep tabs on your Mac’s security. With excellent anti-virus protection and built-in tech support capabilities, MacKeeper is the perfect Mac security and support solution.

Jamie and Nick talked to Jeremiah Fowler from MacKeeper about his product. MacKeeper is an application with a wide range of features to protect and enhance your Mac. You can connect with a real technician to troubleshoot and solve computer issues, manage and protect your Mac’s data against viruses and security breaches, clean up your system, and much more.

MacKeeper’s support staff are certified IT professionals, so you can rest assured that you’ll get expert assistance every time. MacKeeper runs quietly in the background of your system, so you won’t experience annoying lags in speed or performance. And with pricing as low as $7 per month, you won’t have to break the bank to get user-friendly all-in-one tech support for your Mac.

For more information, visit MacKeeper’s website.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live.

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Glide Brings Streaming Video Chat to CES

Glide logoInstant messaging and similar chat-style applications have been around for decades. But these types of apps have their drawbacks. The biggest one being that they’re not truly “real time.” One side of a conversation could post a message that hangs in the air for minutes, if not hours or days before receiving a response. Glide is a new app that changes how instant message works by employing synchronous streaming video that plays in real time.

Jamie sat down with Ari from Glide. Ari gave an impressive demonstration of Glide, showing how the app can stream video between two devices with almost no latency. Glide has been engineered from the ground up to skip all of the hassles that a lot of IM-style video clients create. Users don’t have to record, encode, upload and send. Everything happens in the moment. Also, Glide videos are stored in the cloud, so on-device storage space isn’t affected. Glide is a free app and it’s currently available for both iOS and Android devices.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly for the TechPodcast Network.

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Jigsie Is A Fun New Social Network At CES

jigsie logo

Living abroad, I’m always on the lookout for innovative new ways to communicate with friends and family back home, beyond your ordinary old social networks. Lately I’ve been obsessed with Jigsie, a fun new social app with a twist.

Jamie and Nick spoke to Paolo Farrari, CEO of Bella Technologia, about the app. Jigsie is a social app that turns your photos into personalized digital jigsaw puzzles that you can send to your friends and family. With options to add info like location, calendar dates, and more to your “Jigs”, the possibilities are endless with Jigsie.

Jigsie is available for free now for iOS and Android.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Nick DiMeo of F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Fitnet Helps You Get In Shape At CES

Fitnet logo It can be hard to find the time to exercise, especially if there are other things you’d rather be doing. But exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Jamie spoke to Bob Summers of Fitnet about how his company is making getting in shape simple and fun.

Fitnet is an interactive, highly-personalized fitness tracker app that makes it easy to set fitness goals and create a custom weekly fitness plan to help you achieve them. With guidance and video tutorials from real-life fitness trainers, you’ll be getting in shape in no time. Easily squeeze workouts into your schedule whenever you have the time– you only need as little as 5 minutes! It’s perfect for parents, businesspeople, road-trippers, and anyone else with a busy lifestyle and a desire to get fit.

Fitnet is available for free now in the Google Play Store and iOS App Store.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly.

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On3 PowerCliq Smart Battery Case

PowerCliq LogoCombo battery cases for the Apple iPhone are commonplace from no-name clones to well-known manufacturers whose brand is almost synonymous with the product. On the other hand, combined case, battery and Bluetooth headset packs with smart battery management are really quite rare. In fact, On3‘s PowerCliq is the only one I know of, so watch Don get a hands-on demo from Brad Yasar of On3.

The PowerCliq is a 2700 mAh battery case for the iPhone which has two additional features. The first is a Bluetooth 4.0 headset that slides into the back of the case for both storage and charging. The second is that the charging features of the external battery can be controlled by app on the iPhone. When plugged in, most battery packs simply charge until the smartphone is fully charged and then keep it topped up; there are some schools of thought that suggest this can be detrimental to the long-term performance of the battery.

On the PowerCliq, the app can be used to set a minimum battery level such that the recharging doesn’t kick in until the iPhone’s battery falls to that level and once fully charged, turns off. This larger discharge / charge cycle is supposed to improve the life of the battery.

The PowerCliq is fundraising on Kickstarter with early birds getting in at $88.  Update: since CES, the Kickstarter campaign has been cancelled. There’s a note on Instagram saying that this is to allow for new developments and the campaign will restart soon.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

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Babolat Play Connected Racket Raises The Game

Babolat PlayBabolat‘s pedigree in tennis is hard to beat, going right the way back to the 19th Century, when the company helped create the first racket strings. Today, it’s pushing forwards into the 21st Century with a new connected racket based on their AeroPro Drive to help both tennis professionals and keen amateurs improve their game. Don chats with Jean-Marc Zimmermann, Babolat CIO.

The Babolat Play racket looks like an ordinary racket on the outside but with sensors integrated into the handle, players now have access to a wealth of information – power level, impact position on the racket head, type and number of strokes (forehand, backhand, serve, overhead smash), top spin or back spin, all provided through a smartphone app for both Apple and Android. Incredibly, there are no sensors outside of the handle, so the racket can be treated like any other racket when it comes to match preparation and re-stringing. The racket can be taken on court for six hours between charges, which is plenty for a couple of matches, and holds over 150 hours of performance information.

The Babolat Play racket will be on sale in mid-January for $349. Two further models will be on sale; one lighter for junior players ($299) and one with a larger head (if I understand correctly), also at $349.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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StickyPassword Password Manager at CES

StickyPasswordOne of the plagues of modern life is the need to remember umpteen passwords and it’s getting worse as hackers get more sophisticated and passwords need to get longer and more complex. The ex-AVG team at StickyPassword have put together a comprehensive cross-platform password management solution. Todd sits down with Thomas to learn more.

StickyPassword Premium is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Amazon devices, and can synchronise between multiple devices either via direct wifi or through the Amazon cloud. Security appears to covered with AES256 encryption and the data file is encrypted before transmission minimising the risk of interception during a sync. Where available, i.e. the iPhone, fingerprints can be used to secure the app and data: for everyone else it’s a single master password.

If you want to try it out, there’s a free version that has everything except the sync. For that it’s $19.99 a year.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Brinno Time-Lapse Cameras at CES

Brinno LogoAmongst other things, Brinno specialise in time-lapse cameras, recording life one frame at a time. Their products have proved very popular with the construction industry who often want to record the rise of a new building. The Gadget Professor, Don Blaine, chats with long time friend Chris Adams, Brinno President.

In a TPN world premiere, Brinno show off the TLC120, an update of the TLC200 Pro into a smaller package. The addition of wifi and a complementary app lets the user see what the camera sees on their smartphone. The TLC120 will go into a production in about a month.

To bring an extra dimension to time-lapse movies, Brinno are bringing out a rotating camera platform that can be controlled by wifi from an app too. The direction and rate of turn can be adjust by the owner and when combined with a relative rapid frame capture rate, creates great panoramic shots.

There are some cool time-lapse videos on Brinno’s site, from flowers blooming to an aircraft landing and moving a bridge, and there’s more on YouTube.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Smart Hearing Aids from Siemens at CES

Siemens Hearing Test IconAs people get older, one of the more common complaints is of hearing loss. Many of those getting older now have grown up with technology and expect more than brown lumps of plastic which simply won’t do in an Apple-designed world. Today’s hearing aids are small, discreet and smart. Todd hears about the latest products from Thomas Powers of Siemens Hearing Instruments.

Siemens’ latest assistive hearing device is the Binex, which uses signal processing to help people in traditionally difficult listening environments, especially those where there’s a high level of background noise, such as restaurants or trade shows. The aid intelligently reacts to the noise, filtering out the unwanted sound while keeping nearby voices clear.

Worn around the neck, the easyTek streams audio from a Bluetooth-connected device directly into the hearing aid so it’s great for listening to music from a smartphone or tablet. The easyTek can be controlled by the easyTek app for Android and iOS smartphones to discreetly adjust programmes and volume, listen at a preferred level without disturbing others or direct the microphone towards the next person at a restaurant.

Available now, the smart hearing aids cost around $1500-$2000 which includes assessment and fitting.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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