Facebook is Shutting Down Its Failed TikTok-inspired Video App Lasso This Month

Social networking giant Facebook is killing its TikTok-inspired video app Lasso which was launched last year. Facebook has started sending notifications to users telling them that the app won’t be usable after July 10 and advising them to download any videos they want to keep, The Verge reported on Thursday.

Like TikTok, Lasso allowed users to shoot up to 15-second long videos and overlay popular songs. Lasso was available in Colombia, Mexico, the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Uruguay as of February.

Facebook is now planning to focus on Instagram’s Reels feature. Reels is a video-editing tool that lets users record and edit TikTok-style videos which they can then post to their Instagram Stories or send via DM.

Facebook-owned Instagram has expanded its new video-music remix feature Reels, which takes inspiration from the Chinese short video making app TikTok, to France and Germany. Instagram Reels was first launched in Brazil last year as a pilot.

Interestingly, Lasso added support for the Hindi language earlier this year, prompting speculation that Facebook may eventually bring the new app to India. Facebook has announced that it is also shutting down Hobbi, an app that allowed users to document their personal projects. Google-owned YouTube is also working on a TikTok rival called Shorts, to be introduced by the end of this year.


There's Now an AI-Powered App to Grade the Quality of Tuna Used in Sushi

File photo of 'Tuna Scope', an AI-based system that judges the quality of natural tuna using cross-sectional images of their tails. (Image Source: Reuters)

File photo of ‘Tuna Scope’, an AI-based system that judges the quality of natural tuna using cross-sectional images of their tails. (Image Source: Reuters)

Using a deep learning algorithm to crunch through grading data from merchants, Tuna Scope has now evolved into a smartphone app.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated: July 3, 2020, 5:19 PM IST

If you’ve ever bought supermarket sushi, you may know the taste trauma that hit

Kazuhiro Shimura

one night. But “disappointing” tuna sparked an idea: he’d develop an artificial intelligence (AI) system to make sure your sashimi is always delicious. Shimura, a director at advertising firm Dentsu Group’s Future Creative Center, came up with the concept for “Tuna Scope” AI as he chewed his raw dish while watching a television show on fish merchants who spend a decade mastering the skill of selecting high-quality tuna for sushi restaurants.

Using a deep learning algorithm to crunch through grading data from merchants, Tuna Scope has now evolved into a smartphone app. Clients can download and use it anywhere, creating “a unified grading standard” for an industry that relies on local know-how, said Shimura, who is working with Japanese trading company Sojitz Corp to promote his technology. “That means people can be sure they are getting delicious tuna,” Shimura told Reuters at fish merchant Misaki Megumi Suisan, which ships AI-certified tuna overseas.

The highest quality fish – which can each weigh around 300 kilogrammes – have sold for more than $3 million in past tuna auctions. According to the Organization for the Promotion of Responsible Tuna Fisheries, around 2 million tons of tuna is consumed around the world annually, of which Japan accounts for a quarter. Since the start of coronavirus pandemic fish merchants from the Maldives, Spain, the United States, Taiwan and elsewhere have contacted Shimura about Tuna Scope because travel curbs mean they can’t visit suppliers to check tuna quality, he said. At Misaki Megumi near Tokyo, one of the merchant’s buyers Shingo Ishii held a smartphone with Tuna Scope over a tray of tuna tail sections on a metal tray as other workers used industrial saws to cut up frozen tuna shipped from around the world. The AI delivered a result within a few seconds.

“I think this will become a common tool over the next 10 to 20 years,” said Ishii, holding the smartphone over one of the tail sections. Ishii admitted to mixed feelings about a technology that could make his job easier but threatened to make a skill passed down through generations obsolete. “To be frank, I think I can still beat the AI,” he said.

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Amazon Prime Video App for Windows 10 is Now Live and Available in India: All Details Here

Image for Representation.

Image for Representation.

This feature only works through the app on the Windows 10 operating system and includes desktop PCs, laptops, and tablets.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: July 3, 2020, 10:34 AM IST

Amazon has announced that its customers in India can now access Prime Video through a dedicated app available on the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 devices. Using the new Amazon Prime Video for Windows app, customers are now able to stream Prime Video content online or download Prime Video content for offline viewing on their device.

This feature only works through the app on the Windows 10 operating system and includes desktop PCs, laptops, and tablets. The online streaming experience will be the same as the current experience on the Prime Video website.

Customers can find the new Amazon Prime Video for PC app through the Microsoft Store on their Windows 10 device. Earlier, Amazon Prime Video introduced a Watch Party feature that allows its Prime members to view movies and TV shows together from different locations. With Watch Party, one can chat with up to 100 friends while they watch movies and TV shows online together.


TikTok CEO Says App Meets All Privacy, Security Laws in India, Offers Support to Creators

Image for representation (Reuters)

Image for representation (Reuters)

TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer has also stated that the company is extending ‘assurance’ to its 2,000-odd workforce in India, in light of the government’s ban of 59 Chinese apps.

  • Last Updated: July 1, 2020, 5:40 PM IST
  • Edited by: Shouvik Das

After being named in the list of 59 Chinese apps being banned in India, TikTok said yesterday that it will be hoping to resolve the issue, and will address any security and privacy concerns that officials of the Indian government would raise. Earlier today, Kevin Mayer, CEO of TikTok and COO of its parent group, ByteDance, has addressed the TikTok India ban and stated that the app remains compliant with “all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law”.

“We stay resolved and committed to our mission, and are working with stakeholders to address their concerns. TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and places the highest importance on user privacy and integrity,” Mayer added to his statement.

Mayer further raised an assurance to over 2,000 employees who work with TikTok in India, stating that the company will attempt to “restore the positive experiences and opportunities”, which he underlines as an integral part of TikTok.

The better part of Mayer’s note is addressed to TikTok’s original video creators, who seemingly hail from all corners of India. Many TikTok creators have spoken out on social media stating that the ban has hurt their creative freedom on a platform where they did not feel judged and scrutinised. Taking note of this, Mayer said, “These are unprecedented times but we remain committed to supporting the welfare of our TikTok creator community till this interim order is in effect. Our creator managers are actively engaging with our top creators to reassure them of our efforts and updates about path forward.”

Mayer’s note also observes how TikTok’s India community largely came from smaller cities, which led to a paradigm shift in digital influencer campaigns run by companies in India. “Today, it is a staple and reality for TikTok users even in remote cities, towns and villages across the country. Empowered individual creators have become the most sought-after for digital marketing campaigns. Small and medium enterprises and entrepreneurs have been able to realise their growth ambitions and dreams by reaching out to thousands of potential customers and consumers on a daily basis, through the platform,” added Mayer.

TikTok India is expected to meet with the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss their ban further. The app has been pulled off the Google Play Store and Apple’s iOS App Store in India, and users are being served a pop-up notice stating that the service is no longer operational in India. Going forward, it remains to be seen if TikTok’s India ban becomes permanent, and which platform do established TikTok creators shift to, in a bid to find similar audiences and user engagement.


CamScanner Banned: Indian App 'Kaagaz Scanner' Sees 1 Lakh Downloads in a Day

CamScanner, a highly popular app for scanning and storing documents, has been banned by the government of India as part of the 59 Chinese apps that were blacklisted for data and privacy concerns. Cashing in on this so-called “app vacuum” and riding on the prevalent anti-China sentiment, Indian startup Sorted AI has seemingly built a CamScanner alternative that aims to give users an ‘Indian’ app to scan their documents. Named ‘Kaagaz Scanner’, the app has claimed over 1 lakh downloads within one day of CamScanner being banned, and is presently seeing considerable interest on the Google Play Store.

What is Kaagaz Scanner?

As the name suggests, Kaagaz Scanner aims to do exactly what CamScanner used to, only in an Indian guise. CamScanner was blacklisted in light of its ties to China. Since it was largely used to scan personal identification documents, storing of such documents on the cloud server of an app hosted in China was deemed as a security violation. It is this that Sorted AI’s ‘Kaagaz Scanner’ aims to cash in on, and fill the space left open by marketing an ‘Indian alternative’.

Talking about the app via a LinkedIn post, Gaurav Shrishrimal, the founder of Sorted AI, the company behind Kaagaz Scanner, said, “We built Kaagaz Scanner as a side project after the call of our Prime Minister for ‘Vocal For Local’ and ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. As soon as we got the news of Chinese apps being banned, we started pushing the app in all of our WhatsApp groups and social media feeds. We were lucky to be picked by a few big influencers, which gave us the initial push. That, coupled with a simply, easy to use product, started increasing our install numbers.”

While this sounds like the perfect story of an Indian startup stepping up to innovate and fill up the gap from a better known Chinese app, it seems that Kaagaz Scanner still has some way to go.

Should I use it?

As goes the statutory privacy disclaimer, do not download and use an app until its privacy policy has been verified by independent parties and deemed adequate. While Kaagaz Scanner has been built by an Indian startup, its privacy policy must also include safeguards against any potential data breaches or other privacy mishaps.

Even beyond this, while most users have given Kaagaz Scanner a positive rating on the Google Play Store, reviews paint a different picture. Most recent reviews from yesterday appear to suggest that the app is full of bugs, and has an unintuitive user interface. It also appears to be slow at processing scans, which shows that the app has quite some way to go.

As a result, it is prudent to suggest that you should wait until Kaagaz Scanner’s makers, Sorted AI, manages to sort out their app issues. Until then, you can choose from a list of our trusted document scanning apps and services to use while the homegrown, made in India alternative fixes the bugs.


Facebook to Shut Down Its Pinterest-like Experimental App Hobbi From July 10

Image for Representation. (Reuters)

Image for Representation. (Reuters)

Facebook has said that its NPE Team keeps experimenting with apps and shut down those which do not get traction among the users.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: July 1, 2020, 10:28 AM IST

Facebook has reportedly decided to shut down its short-form content creation app Hobbi on July 10. Hobbi took cues from Pinterest and let users organise photos in a visual diary of sorts. The app first arrived on iOS in February from Facebook’s internal R&D group, the NPE Team. “Hobbi users have now been notified by way of push notification that the app is shutting down on July 10, 2020. The app allows users to export their data from its settings,” reports TechCrunch. Hobbi gained just 7,000 downloads on the US App Store, according to data from Sensor Tower.

Facebook has said that its NPE Team keeps experimenting with apps and shut down those which do not get traction among the users. Google has also joined the race to launch short-video making apps with unveiling Tangi which is focused on creativity and Do It Yourself (DIY) space. The app is a product from Google’s in-house incubator titled Area 120.

Unlike TikTok, Tangi wants people to learn new things. Dom Hofmann, the co-founder of the now-defunct six-second video platform Vine, has announced the release of its successor called Byte. Instagram has launched a new video-music remix feature called ‘Reels’ and YouTube is testing ‘Shorts’. In November last year, Facebook quietly released a stand-alone app called ‘Lasso’ to compete with TikTok.


59 Chinese Apps Banned: TikTok Users, Here's What Will Happen To Your App Now

The government of India has issued a ban on 59 Chinese apps including a host of popular ones, such as TikTok, UC Browser, CamScanner, Shareit, Helo and more. The ban will have caused a considerable ruffling of feathers for Chinese companies operating apps in India, and while we await word from the likes of TikTok and UC Browser on the ban that has been imposed now, one important factor to note is what would happen to the apps for all those users that have already installed them. To understand the sequence of actions for banned apps on Google Play Store and Apple’s iOS App Store, it is important to note that the key factor at play here is data.

Government sources with knowledge of the matter confirmed to News18 that officials are in the process of informing all Indian internet service providers (ISPs) and telecom service providers (TSPs) already, who would be blocking all data and internet traffic to and from these apps. Since most of them work online only (for example, TikTok is a social medium, UC Browser is a content and browsing app and Clash of Kings is an online game), this would imply that all of the apps that have been banned would by default become non-functional.

With TikTok, UC Browser, Shein, Shareit, WeChat and the likes being banned from Indian app stores, what this also means is that none of these apps would receive any developer support in India. As a result, users who have already downloaded these apps would not be able to access app downloads either. This is particularly risky today, since most cyber attacks target unpatched app versions. App updates nowadays carry critical security patches, without which it cannot be advised for anyone to retain these apps.

Previously, when an app would be banned from a region, it would still remain functional if it did not depend on data. While this would hold true for these apps too, since they would no longer be able to access data in the Indian networks, they would be as good as inoperable. However, if a user moves out of Indian network space to countries where these apps are still legally operational, they may be able to use these services once again.

The ban on the 59 Chinese apps comes in light of the Indo-China clash at the Galwan Valley border, amid rising concerns around the world about Chinese cyber espionage. The likes of Bytedance and Xiaomi, which have significant operations in India, will likely face considerable impact as a result of these bans, since their businesses in India run into millions of dollars. While Xiaomi has only had two of their stock apps being banned, it remains to be seen what effect does this have on the pre-bundled software that they provide with their smartphones.

Requests for company inputs to TikTok and UC Browser sent by News18 remained unanswered at the time of reporting.


TRAI Channel Selector App For Android & iPhone Helps You Save Money On Cable TV Bills: How to Use

Did you know, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has a new smartphone app that lets you select channels you want to see on your Cable TV or direct to home (DTH) connection and attempts to optimize the subscription costs for you. This way, you can save some money on your monthly TV subscription bills, and it guides you to the best possible ala-carte and channel bouquet options depending on the channels you have selected to watch. This app is meant to be a unifying experience that covers multiple MSO cable TV and DTH operators, including Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV, DishTV, D2h, Hathway Digital, Siti Networks, Asianet and InDigital. It is expected that more Cable TV operators will be added to this list, in the coming weeks and months. The TRAI Channel Selector app is now available on the Google Play Store for Android phones and the App Store for the Apple iPhone and is free to download.

You start by selecting your cable or DTH operator, and then validate your subscription by punching in the subscription ID and the registered mobile number. It has to be an active subscription else you’ll not be able to go to the next step. You get an OTP at this stage to verify that it is actually you who wants to modify your cable TV and DTH channel packs. You get a snapshot of the current subscription, the channels, the bouquets and the cost. You can add more channels as desired from the list of channels that your Cable TV or DTH operator offers at that time. At this point, if there are any optimizations that you can avail—such as perhaps going for a bouquet instead of ala-carte channels at the same or lower cost—are offered up here.

It was early last year that TRAI had implemented the new tariff order which dictated the pricing of channels and bouquets on cable TV and DTH services. The underlying theme since then has been that a lot of users have complained about their subscription costs going up. Incidentally, TRAI had a version of the channel selector running on the website since early last year. At this time, most DTH companies and cable TV service providers offer their own apps which allow similar functionality as well—selecting channels, adding or dropping channels and bouquets and optimizing subscription costs based on selected channels.

It was in August last year that TRAI asked all Distributed Platform Operators (DPOs) to share the APIs with them for this app. TRAI insists that users face difficulties when using the portals or apps of individual operators while managing their subscription.


Facebook Dark Mode for Mobile App Rolls Out to More Users

Facebook has started rolling out Dark Mode support on mobile users and the feature is currently live with some users globally. Facebook Dark Mode interface will not be completely black like on Instagram and Messenger but a grayscale design with white accents for logos and icons. The social network confirmed to Social MediaToday that Dark Mode for mobile is live for “a small percentage of users globally right now.”

Facebook has been slow to introduce support for Dark Mode to all of its apps. Some users posted screenshots of Facebook Dark Mode on Twitter, which appears as an option in the Facebook app settings. In May, Facebook rolled out the much-awaited Dark Mode on its revamped and immersive desktop app for all users. The Dark Mode helps users enjoy lower brightness, alongside contrast and vibrancy, thus minimising screen glare for use in low light.

Similar to mobile experience, the new desktop website is faster with new streamlined navigation, easy to find videos, games and Groups, while the home page and page transitions load faster. Reports first appeared in April that Facebook was in the process of developing and designing Dark Mode for its main platform on iOS and iPad.


Instagram Video Note Will Add Live Captions to All Chats on 'Threads' App

Instagram is working on a new feature called video note for its standalone messaging app Threads that helps users stay connected to close or smaller circle of friends. The new feature, reported by mobile developer and leaker Alessandro Paluzzi, will automatically turn audio in videos to live captions. “Instagram is working on a new feature for the Threads app: video note. This feature will turn the audio of the video into live captions that will be shown in time with the recording,” Paluzzi tweeted.

This feature is especially helpful for users with hearing disabilities. The video note feature would also help Threads users understand what their friends are actually meant to say, and respond clearly. Facebook in October last year launched the Snap-clone app for Instagram users. Threads lets you share photos, videos, messages, Stories and more with Instagram close friends list.

“You are in control of who can reach you on Threads, and you can customise the experience around the people who matter most,” said Robby Stein, Director of Product, Instagram. You can use Threads to message close friends on Instagram and you’ll have a dedicated inbox and notifications just for them. Threads app opens directly to the camera and allows you to add shortcuts, so you can share what you are doing in just two taps.