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YouTube Gaming Officially Launches

YouTube Gaming, the company's dedicated platform for all things videogames, has officially launched today. From the YouTube blog:

YouTube Gaming is your go-to destination for anything and everything gaming because it automatically pulls in all gaming-related videos and live streams from YouTube.

Viewers get personalized gaming recommendations based on the games and channels they collect. With over 25,000 game pages and even more gaming channels, it’s never been easier to connect with your gaming community.

We’ve also made it easier to create a live stream — check out the beta version of our new way to go live at youtube.com/stream today.

I took the app for a spin this evening on my iPad, and it's well done. There's a lot going on in the front page – live streams, reviews, channels, game pages, but the YouTube team has done a good job at figuring out ways to automatically categorize content. When watching a game review, for instance, a link to that game's page is available in the video description; tap it, and on the game page you can find more videos of different types such as Let's Plays, reviews, popular videos, past live streams, and more. It's a busy interface, but there's also a lot to watch and go through.

YouTube Gaming is going to be compared to Twitch a lot, and for good reason. The big advantage of YouTube Gaming is its direct integration with a vast archive of YouTube videos and video creators that produce new content just for YouTube every day (this includes trailers, reviews, how-tos, and lots more non-live stream content). The decision to create game pages with automatic categorization of videos seems like a smart one to me, and the entire app feels lively and fun (try to search for games, for example).

I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes effectively the default way of finding gaming content on YouTube in the future, with the main YouTube app as a fallback for everything else. You can download the iOS app (US and UK only for now) here.

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Adobe’s Project Rigel

Stephen Shankland, writing for CNET on Adobe's plans for Project Rigel, a new photo editing app for iOS:

Photoshop is so well known that the product name is synonymous with photo editing. But the software itself is a success only on personal computers, not smartphones or tablets.

Photoshop's maker, Adobe Systems, hopes that will change in October at its Max conference for developers and creative professionals when it introduces a new Photoshop app for editing photos on Apple's iPhones and iPads. The free software, called only Project Rigel for now, is designed to bring a more accessible interface to what can be a dauntingly complex program on PCs.

Probably a smarter move than the old Photoshop Touch app to focus on photo editing for iPhone and iPad with advanced tools. The app will be free and act as a “bait” for the subscription-based desktop Photoshop. It'll be interesting to compare this to existing apps such as Pixelmator and Snapseed.

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Facebook Starts Testing New ‘M’ Personal Assistant in Messenger

Facebook has begun testing M, a new personal assistant built into the Messenger app that can look up information and perform actions on the user's behalf. Wired writes:

It won’t take long for Messenger’s users to realize M can accomplish much more than your standard digital helper, suspects David Marcus, vice president of messaging products at Facebook. “It can perform tasks that none of the others can,” Marcus says. That’s because, in addition to using artificial intelligence to complete its tasks, M is powered by actual people.

The people supervising M in the initial rollout are called 'M trainers' inside Facebook, and the company is hoping to expand the team to thousands of people eventually.

Here's Facebook's David Marcus on what M is:

Today we're beginning to test a new service called M. M is a personal digital assistant inside of Messenger that completes tasks and finds information on your behalf. It's powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people.

Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf. It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more.

This is early in the journey to build M into an at-scale service. But it's an exciting step towards enabling people on Messenger to get things done across a variety of things, so they can get more time to focus on what's important in their lives.

As Wired notes, M won't use data gathered from Facebook accounts, at least not initially:

For now, M doesn’t pull from the social data Facebook collects to complete tasks. So, if you request a gift for your spouse, the service will make suggestions based only on your answers to questions it asks you and previous conversations you and M have had. Marcus says that may change “at some point, with proper user consent.” The service is free, and will be available to all Facebook Messenger users eventually.

Interesting that Facebook is using a conversational UI for an assistant baked into its popular Messenger app. I'll be curious to see how it scales.

See also: this idea by Matt Galligan from earlier this year.

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NewsBlur Adds RSS Feeds for Folders

Speaking of useful web services and Slack, here's something I'm now using to make my own news-gathering filters available to others via Slack. NewsBlur, my RSS service of choice (I'll write about it eventually, I promise), has launched support for RSS feeds of entire folders:

These folders keep track of sites you add and remove from them. They also allow you to filter out stories you don’t want to read or even choose to only show the stories you have in focus.

All of your feed subscriptions in the folder, including subfolders, are merged into a single river of news in RSS format. Technically we use Atom 1.0 format for NewsBlur’s many RSS feeds, but I’m not choosing a side here.

This wouldn't normally be exciting for most RSS people like me, except that NewsBlur lets you train the service to promote stories you like and hide others you don't want to see, and now you can output a stream of important stories-only via RSS.

For us, this means that the filters I've been building for news I care about can be useful to others so that a) they don't have to subscribe to dozens of blogs themselves and cull their headlines over time and b) they can receive highlights with rich previews in a Slack channel. Great implementation by NewsBlur, and a perfect fit for how we're using Slack.

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iMore’s Apple Music Guide

The iMore team has been doing a fantastic job at covering Apple Music and how the service works on various platforms and devices. Last week, they released an eBook version that collects of all their articles in one handy guide, expertly put together by Serenity Caldwell, Rene Ritchie, and the rest of the team.

I was on vacation when the iBooks version came out, but I still downloaded it and read it on my iPhone to see if there was anything I had missed in Apple Music and Beats 1. I discovered a lot of details I hadn't paid attention to before, and I like how screenshots throughout the book always have informative callouts and descriptions. Fantastic resource (150+ pages) for anyone interested in or trying Apple Music, and just $4.99 on the iBooks Store. Recommended.

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Apple’s App Search API Validation Tool

I haven't seen this linked before – and I certainly didn't see it when I first wrote about iOS 9 search – but Apple has a new validation tool to test websites for App Search, coming with iOS 9 in Spotlight.

Apple writes:

Test your webpage for iOS 9 Search APIs. Enter a URL and Applebot will crawl your webpage and show how you can optimize for best results.

As I wrote, iOS 9 won't be limited to searching for local app content:

To enhance web crawling with structured data and, again, give developers control of indexed content, Apple has announced support for various types of web markup. Developers who own websites with content related to an app will be able to use Smart App Banners to describe deep links to an app (more on this in a bit) as well as open standards such as schema.org and Open Graph.

Apple calls these “rich results”: by reading metadata based on existing standards, Apple's web crawler can have a better understanding of key information called out on a webpage and do more than simply parsing a title and a link. With support for schema.org, for instance, Applebot will be able to recognize tagged prices, ratings, and currencies for individual listings on Airbnb, while the Open Graph image tag could be used as the image thumbnail in iOS search results. An app like Songkick could implement structured data to tag concert dates and prices in their related website, and popular concerts could show up for users with rich descriptions in the iOS 9 search page.

The validation tool does indeed analyze information that will be used to power iOS 9 search results – such as thumbnails, descriptions, and deep links to apps. You can try it out here.

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Google Photos Will Now Show You Photos and Videos From the Past

Sean O'Kane at The Verge:

The Google Photos app will now serve up cards in the “assistant view” that urge you to “rediscover this day,” and they can include photos, photo collages, or videos. The cards will tell you where you were and who you were with on that day, and the app also sticks a little graphic over everything that tells you which year it was from — another little bit that is extremely similar to Timehop.

The first rule of modern photo management services is that, sooner or later, they're going to bring back a feature from Everpix. I used to love this in the defunct service; it makes sense for the Assistant view of Google Photos. It's surprising to me that Apple still hasn't added something like this to Photos (you can search for “one year ago”, but it's not as precise or visible).

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Recovering Deleted Files and Data from iCloud

Dan Moren, writing for Six Colors on Apple's new iCloud feature to restore deleted files and data:

A few weeks back, I noted that recovering lost files from iCloud required a trip to the web interface. At the time, the only data available for recovery were files stored in iCloud, but in the intervening weeks, Apple’s added new capabilities and reorganized the layout in the process.

Rather than Apple squirreling away data recovery options under “Advanced > Data & Security”, you now scroll down to an Advanced section, which contains direct links to file recovery and adds the option to restore both contacts and calendar/reminder data. Clicking any of those links will open the restore data dialog box with the correct tab pre-selected.

On both MacStories and Connected, I've often noted how the lack of visible file versions and ability to restore deleted files has pushed me away from iCloud to embrace the safety of Dropbox. I'm still going to need Dropbox for the foreseeable future (and there's still no comparison with what iCloud is offering when it comes to recovering deleted files and viewing versions), but this is a start by Apple and I like how it applies to iCloud data as well – not just files. More of this, please.

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The Colors Of An App Icon

Stuart Hall from AppBot has previously written articles about common trends amongst popular apps when it comes to app names, descriptions, screenshots and countries, and he is back today with one about the colors of app icons.

Hall was able to extract the dominant colors from app icons and then plot them on a color wheel. The article features several different 'color wheels' showing the top 200 free iOS apps, paid iOS apps, iOS social apps, iOS games and free Mac apps.

You really need to view the article for yourself, but I have embedded one color wheel below. Hall shared a draft of the article with me and I suggested he generate one more color wheel which plotted the app icons based on their major color and sized to reflect their position on the charts (#1 is largest). Hall kindly obliged and you can see the chart below, representing the top 100 free iOS apps.

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