News roundup - Google opens Early Access beta testing to more developers

Welcome to DeveloperEconomics’ weekly news roundup. In this edition, Google cancels its modular smartphone project, Apple plans to delete abandoned apps from the App Store and Epic releases a new version of Unreal Engine 4. Read on for the full news rundown.

Google opens Early Access beta testing to more developers

Google has expanded its Early Access beta testing, allowing any developer apply for the program. Previously, Early Access was only available to 29 hand-picked developers, who got to test out their apps with early-adopters (although other devs were given different testing options). Google says the Early Access program generated over 1 million beta installs since launching in May and “demand is only growing.”

Google Search can now look-up content within apps

Google has introduced a new search mode in its Google app that lets users perform in-app searches The “In App” feature currently only works with Gmail, Spotify and YouTube, but will soon feature in-app searching on Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Evernote, Gilde, Todoist and more. Because the search function involves the OS itself, In Apps currently only works on Android.

Apple removing outdated apps from App Store

Apple will begin removing apps from the App Store if they no longer work, are outdated or “don’t follow current guidelines.” The company will also prevent devs from using overly long app names to game app searches, limiting app names to 50 characters or less. Apple will start reviewing apps on September 7 and will remove the ones that crash on launch immediately.

Amazon rumoured to announce Echo UK launch on September 14

Amazon has sent out press invites to what’s rumoured to be the UK launch of its voice-controlled Echo device, which features the Alexa voice assistant. The event is scheduled to take place on September 14 in London, although it doesn’t mention the Echo. According to Engadget, if you ask Alexa what she has planned for the 14th, she replies “a visit to London.”

Google cancels modular Project Ara smartphone

Google has pulled the plug on Project Ara, its modular smartphone concept. Project Ara was designed to let users upgrade and customise their device with camera, speakers, microphones and other modules. According to Reuters, Google may consider licensing Ara to its hardware partners, enabling some of its features to appear on devices in the future.

Google to reveal Daydream VR and Pixel devices on October 4

Google will reportedly reveal its in-house design for a Daydream VR viewer device at an event on October 4. According to Android Police, the company will also show-off two Pixel-branded smartphones (which replace the Nexus brand) and a 4K Chromecast. The event will also provide more details on Google’s Amazon Echo-rival Google Home.

Qualcomm unveils VR all-in-one headset

Qualcomm has unveiled a new reference platform for standalone virtual reality headsets, which it’s calling the Snapdragon VR820. It’s built upon the Snapdragon VR SDK and is designed to help developers create the hardware, software and content needed to create VR experiences. It’s anticipated that it wil be available in Q4 2016.

Baidu launches open source machine learning project

Chinese search engine Baidu has released PaddlePaddle, an open source software platform for the deep learning community. According to Baidu, the platform provides an intuitive interface for data handling and specifying model structure. PaddlePaddle was originally developed for internal use on Baidu’s deep learning apps.

HP announces machine-learning tool for drag and drop app development

HP has announced Haven OnDemand Combinations, a new tool that combines machine learning APIs and a drag and drop interface for mixing and matching them. The tool is built upon HP’s Haven OnDemand could platform, which has 70 AI APIs and more than 180,000 users. HP says the new tool is the quickest way to add intelligence to apps.

Unreal Engine 4.13 released

Epic has released the latest version of Unreal Engine, bringing over 145 improvements to the game development platform. Major new features include shadow map caching for movable lights, a new live recording feature, Voronoi noise for material creation, new mesh decals and new VR features such as project templates and support for mesh and foliage painting with VR controllers.

Google releases pure JavaScript Closure Compiler

Google’s Closure Compiler is now available in pure JavaScript. Closure Compiler is a JavaScript optimizer, transpiler and type checker. This new version isn’t a rewrite in JavaScript, says Google, but rather compiles the Java source to JS to run under Node.

Bloomberg releases BuckleScript optimising compiler

Bloomberg’s tech arm has announced BuckleScript, a new optimising compiler strongly inspired” by TypeScript. According to Bloomberg, BuckleScript offers an “industrial strength” type system and provides strong type inference, to generate more efficient code. Bloomberg adds that the compiler is at least 10x faster than TypeScript.

HTC invests $5 million in VR start-up Steel Wool

VR gaming start-up Steel Wool Studios has closed a $5 million round of funding, coming entirely from HTC. Steel Wool was one of the early developers for HTC and Valve’s Vive headset, creating the action strategy title Quar: Battle for Gate 18. Steel Wool said the funding does not mean their games will be exclusive to the Vive.

Intel acquiring drone start-up Movidius

Intel is buying Movidius, a start-up that makes computer vision processors used in drones and VR devices. Intel says it wants to combine Movidius’ technology with its RealSense depth-sensing camera tech, covering markets such as VR, AR, drones and digital security cameras. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.


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Chris Reynolds

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