No Picture

Now at Google, Facebook’s former teen-in-residence launches new social game Emojishot

Facebook’s former teen-in-residence Michael Sayman, now at Google, is back today with the launch of a new game: Emojishot, an emoji-based guessing game for iOS, built over the past ten weeks within Google’s in-house incubator, Area 120.

The game, which is basically a version of charades using emoji characters, is notable because of its creator.

By age 17, Sayman had launched five apps and had become Facebook’s youngest-ever employee. Best known for his hit game 4 Snaps, the developer caught Mark Zuckerberg’s eye, earning him a demo spot on stage at Facebook’s F8 conference. While at Facebook, Sayman built Facebook’s teen app Lifestage — a Snapchat-like standalone project which allowed the company to explore new concepts around social networking aimed at a younger demographic.

Lifestage was shut down two years ago, and Sayman defected to Google shortly afterward. At Google, he was rumored to be heading up an internal social gaming effort called Arcade where gamers played using accounts tied to their phone numbers — not a social network account.

At the time, HQ Trivia was still a hot title, not a novelty from a struggling startup — and the new gaming effort looked liked Google’s response. However, …read more

Read More

No Picture

KaiOS raises $50M, hits 100M handsets powered by its feature phone OS

While Android and iOS have locked up the market for smartphone operating systems, a feature phone platform that has the distinction of being the world’s third biggest mobile OS is announcing a hefty round of funding to continue its expansion. KaiOS, which makes the OS that powers devices like Nokia’s feature phones and Jio’s devices out of India, has raised $50 million from Cathay Innovation (which led the round) and previous investors Google and TCL Holdings.

The funding takes the total raised by KaiOS — which has now shipped 100 million devices across 100 countries — to $72 million. It comes less than a year after Google invested $22 million in the the business — a strategic round that also marked KaiOS beginning the process of creating native integrations of different Google services like Maps and (more recently) Assistant into the platform.

KaiOS is not disclosing its valuation but Sebastien Codeville, its CEO, confirmed to be that it is “definitely up.” (Pitchbook put it at a very modest $43.75 million last year on the back of Google’s earlier round.)

We actually knew a little about this round back in February, at MWC in …read more

Tencent and Riot Games Are Reportedly Developing a Mobile Version of the Massively Popular ‘League of Legends’

Riot Games’ PC free to play MOBA League of Legends is one of the biggest games in the world right now. Whenever yearly statistics for PC game spending show up, League is usually at the top in all regards. While Eli has enjoyed it for a long time on PC, mobile gamers have been looking at something else to get their fix. Arena of Valor from Tencent is something we cover often. Check out our weekly feature on it here. Today, Reuters reports that Tencent and Riot Games are developing a mobile version of League of Legends.

At this point, it is more surprising that there wasn’t already a mobile version of League given the install base and player spending for free to play games on mobile but here we are. Three sources with knowledge about the matter told Reuters about the mobile version’s developments. Apparently Honuor of Kings (What ‘Arena of Valor’ is known as in China) created some tension with Riot Games when Tencent developed it. Reuters also says that the sources confirm that the mobile League of Legends is unlikely to launch this year.

<iframe width="560" height="315" …read more

No Picture

Zendesk acquires Smooch, doubles down on support via messaging apps like WhatsApp

One of the bigger developments in customer services has been the impact of social media — both as a place to vent frustration or praise (mostly frustration), and — especially over messaging apps — as a place for businesses to connect with their users.

Now, customer support specialist Zendesk has made an acquisition so that it can make a bigger move into how it works within social media platforms, and specifically messaging apps: it has acquired Smooch, a startup that describes itself as an “omnichannel messaging platform,” which companies’ customer care teams can use to interact with people over messaging platforms like WhatsApp, WeChat, Line and Messenger, as well as SMS and email.

Smooch was in fact one of the first partners for the WhatsApp Business API, alongside VoiceSage, Nexmo, Infobip, Twilio, MessageBird and others are already advertising their services in this area.

It had also been a longtime partner of Zendesk’s, powering the company’s own WhatsApp Business integration and other features. The two already have some customers in common, including Uber. Other Smooch customers include Four Seasons, SXSW, Betterment, Clarabridge, Harry’s, LVMH, Delivery Hero and BarkBox.

Terms of the deal are not …read more

Agtech startup Agrilyst is now Artemis, raises $8M Series A

Artemis, the ag-tech startup formerly known as Agrilyst, today announced that it has raised an $8 million Series A funding round. The round was co-led by Astanor Ventures and Talis Capital, with participation from iSelect Fund and New York State’s Empire State Development Fund. With this, the company, which won our 2015 Disrupt SF Battlefield competition, has now raised a total of $11.75 million.

When Agrilyst launched, the company mostly focused on helping indoor farmers and greenhouse operators manage their operations by gathering data about their crop yields and other metrics. Over the course of the last few years, that mission has expanded quite a bit, though, and today’s Artemis sees itself as an enterprise Cultivation Management Platform (CMP) that focuses on all aspects of indoor farming, including managing workers and ensuring compliance with food safety and local cannabis regulations, for example.

The expanded platform is meant to give these businesses a single view of all of their operations and integrates with existing systems that range from climate control to ERP tools and Point of Sale systems.

Compliance is a major part of the expanded platform. “When you look at enterprise operations, that risk is compounded …read more

‘ROM’ Manipulates Seasons With Strange Technology

A beautiful island sits abandoned in the ocean, strange machines jutting out from undergrowth. This is the setting for ROM, a wonderful, experimental experience.

Games are wonderful. Sometimes we find ourselves in worlds busy with words and stories, other times we find ourselves in experiences so action-packed that we can’t even stop to think. Then, there’s projects like Bincurl Games’ ROM. ROM has you explore the reaches of a small island experiment. Beacons litter the landscape and can be activated in various manners, with certain combinations resulting in a shift of season. It’s a beautiful game, too, with a lovely art-style and some really fantastic, atmospheric music.

I know that I normally grab and cover newer titles, scraping them off the top of the barrel before serving them up here. ROM has been around for a while now, however it has continually been served to me as a recommendation. It’s rare for a system like that to hit the nail so straight on the head, but it really did this time.

Even though it is only a short experience, ROM‘s world is an extraordinary one. The presence of old machines straddles the line between technology and magic, and the collision of …read more