It sure doesn’t seem like many people have bought Lytro’s crazy light-field camera (the one that lets you focus your photos after you take them) — but if you’re one of those who did: go plug that thing in. Lytro has just released a firmware update that enables the camera’s dormant Wi-Fi chip, along with an iOS app that lets you wirelessly access and share your photos.
Oh, and it makes super trippy animated GIFs!
Check out the demo we shot with Lytro’s Director Of Photography, Eric Cheng:
(I’ll go ahead and forgive Eric for pronouncing “GIF” with a hard G there at the end. We all know it’s pronounced like “jiff,” despite what Alexia might say.)
Even if you own a Lytro, there’s a pretty good chance you didn’t know there was a Wi-Fi chip inside. Surprise! The company hadn’t really mentioned it much until now, as it previously served no purpose. When the FCC’s teardown of the Lytro revealed the chip shortly before the device’s release a year-and-a-half ago, the company responded to inquiries about it with “Connectivity is important to us, and we’re working on it.”
The Lytro Mobile app’s main purpose is to serve as an on-the-go interface for uploading, tweaking, and sharing photos from a Lytro camera without having to hook it up to a computer. All of your photos are pulled into the application over the air, where they can be geotagged, refocused and perspective-shifted on a screen that’s a good bit more finger-friendly than the relatively tiny one found on the Lytro itself. New photos will show up in the app as you shoot them, with a transfer time of around 5 or 6 seconds. You can also peruse photos shared among the Lytro community.
The company also confirmed to us that an Android app is on the way, though they declined to pin down a date for it. A Wi-Fi-enabled syncing app for the Mac or PC, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to be on their roadmap.
Plus, as mentioned, you can make totally crazy looking GIFs. Check out these total dreamboat (*cough*) examples of my big dumb head recording the above video. On the left is the parallax shifting effect; on the right is the foreground/background refocusing effect (And in the center of each is my busted-ass iPhone cable):
Once you’re on the new firmware, connecting your Lytro to your iPhone is pretty dang simple: you swipe up on the Lytro’s screen to bring up the taskbar, and hit the little Wi-Fi icon to turn your Lytro into a hotspot. You connect your iPhone to the Lytro’s Wi-Fi signal, launch the app, and you’re set.
You can find the free Lytro Mobile app for iOS here.
It’s a given that startup life will often involve putting out fires, but as a founder you least expect one to be started in the board room. That appears to be what’s happened in the case of mobile commerce startup MobiCart. In a tweet earlier today the UK-based company’s founder Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine announced his resignation as CEO and with it his seat on the board.
When contacted for comment, however, Baranoff-Rossine wouldn’t be drawn on the reasons why, except to issue the following statement:
It is with deep regret that I must announce my resignation from MobiCart. It’s been an incredible journey but one I feel I can no longer be part of.
I wanted to personally thank all my customers, partners, suppliers and friends for all your support over the years. It means everything to me and I couldn’t have done this without you.
As for me, I’ll be taking a well overdue holiday before looking at starting my next venture.
However, TechCrunch understands that Baranoff-Rossine’s resignation was the result of an intense and long running board-level dispute over company strategy and the day-to-day operations of MobiCart — a dispute that has finally taken its toll on the company’s founder.
That would also explain the rather odd timing. On the outside at least, and until Baranoff-Rossine’s resignation, MobiCart was doing reasonably well, despite a bump in the road when its original CTO left last year. It claims 14,000 users of its mobile store-front builder for iOS, Android and HTML5, although a much smaller pool of these are paying users.
In addition to providing the storefront builder tools, free or charged as a monthly subscription depending on needs (e.g. number of items in the store), MobiCart has an additional revenue stream by offering to handle the relevant app store submission process, borrowing from the open source playbook.
(Update: New paying customers are complaining that their store-fronts haven’t been activated but they have been charged, and are having their support requests unanswered. Something is clearly up.)
Despite raising almost $1 million from Northstar Ventures-managed Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund, and the Yorkshire Association of Business Angels, under Baranoff-Rossine’s stewardship, the startup was being run fairly lean, relying on two full-time staff and a pool of contract developers for its apps.
I also understand that Baranoff-Rossine, who remains a minority shareholder, invested quite a lot of his own money into MobiCart to found the company in 2010, money that he made from selling his previous web design business. So, again, the decision to walk away — if voluntarily — can’t have been an easy one.
Startup life really takes no prisoners, even if that’s a part of the story that isn’t always so readily told.
Travel portal TripAdvisor continues to push ahead with its mobile and social acquisitions: today the company announced that it has acquired GateGuru, a mobile app that provides real-time information on airports, weather, and flights. Much of that is picked up from crowdsourcing, not unlike Waze — acquired by Google last week — does with road travel. Terms of the deal between GateGuru and TripAdvisor have not been disclosed but we are trying to find out.
This is not an acqui-hire but a direct expansion of TripAdvisor’s services to its users. As more people take to mobile and social networks, the company is looking to extend what it already offers online — a huge database of user-generated content giving reviews of destinations, hotels and other things travel-related, which currently brings in some 200 million monthly active users. In the case of TripAdvisor, it’s almost certainly easier to acquire and tap into services that have already been built rather than create them from scratch themselves.
?”Flying is often an essential part of a trip and we have continually developed our suite of flights products, from the pricing and availability search on TripAdvisor, to our award-winning SeatGuru.com, with seat maps and more” said Steve Kaufer, co-founder and CEO TripAdvisor, Inc., in a statement. ”GateGuru nicely complements our existing flights products and we look forward to working with the GateGuru team as they continue to manage the GateGuru app and add great functionality to the TripAdvisor mobile experience.” It helps, too, that GateGuru is positioned to be in a good place for ubiquity, with apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone in place already.
On one hand, this is a sign of the times about what is big with users in the market today. Travel and mobile naturally go hand-in-hand, as does real-time information once a user is actually on the move. The sorts of data that get fed into GateGuru include weather forecasts, security wait times and real-time flight status information. But, as you can see from the screen shots below, you can also use the app to compare prices on car rentals and then subsequently rent a vehicle through the app. You can see how kind of one-stop app portal could be expanded to include many other functions.
On the other, this is also a sign of some ongoing consolidation in the travel start-up sector: with many services built for scale on thin margins on sales or large ad buys, if you’re a big property you will be looking to get bigger; and if you’re a smaller player you will struggle. (This could have been some of the problem, for example, behind a recent round of layoffs at travel site Ostrovok in Russia.)
It helps, too, that TripAdvisor in December got a big injection of cash from Liberty Media, which took a $300 million stake in the company; it could be some of that fuelling this series of acquisitions.
The news today follows TripAdvisor buying another mobile/social startup, TinyPost, in March of this year, followed swiftly by JetSetter from Gilt weeks later, and then CruiseWise in May. Other socially-focused acquisitions have included Wanderfly in October 2012. Like JetSetter, GateGuru is based out of New York, where it will remain. The team behind the app, the company says, will report to Bryan Saltzburg, GM of New Initiatives and leader of the TripAdvisor Flights product and its SeatGuru brand.
GateGuru, founded in 2011, had raised at least $800,000 with backing from a pretty illustrious set of investors. They include Chamath Palihapitiya, the former Facebook exec who is now running the Social + Capital Partnership VC fund; Allen Morgan, the former MD of the Mayfield Fund; and Tom Glocer, the former CEO of Thomson Reuters, among several others.
GateGuru has even deeper links to the investment world: its founder and head, Dan Gellert, used to be a VC himself, working for Time Warner Investments and JP Morgan.
[updating this post as we get more information]
It happened to me. Yes, I once uploaded a pic of my friend to Facebook from my phone, forgot to change the setting from “Public” to “Friends” and had the friend get told that day by a random person: “Hey I just saw a picture of you on Alexia from TechCrunch’s wall!” So now I’m circumspect.
Apparently this social media disaster was happening to more people, because Facebook just fixed it — at least on iOS. Android has apparently had the new feature for over a week.
Now iPhone users too are able to easily edit Facebook’s photo privacy settings — by selecting the drop-down arrow on the status update and selecting “Edit Privacy.” Though you still can’t edit the update text or any comments themselves from your iPhone, this is pretty useful. The last time I messed up on a photo privacy setting, I had to access Facebook’s Mobile Web page on a foreign connection to fix it. Not pretty.
In addition to this nod to paranoid people, Facebook iOS Version 6.2 allows users to post the emotion and action updates they’ve come to know and love on the web, including Happy, Sad, Wonderful and, my favorite, Loved.
You can also now start a new conversation with a photo sent to you in messages in Version 6.2, though I don’t think this feature will be remembered enough to see that much traction, unless teenagers are exhibiting some novel group photosharing behaviors on Facebook Message that I don’t know about.
And speaking of Facebook Message, let me take this post about an app update to let you know that a standalone Messenger for iPad is likely not happening, though a trial app was in the works when we reported on it. Basically Messenger was not seeing the growth Facebook hoped for (turns out people don’t want a messenger app PLUS a Facebook app) after Facebook’s primary app became less buggy and slow. So, nixed.
PSA: Update your apps periodically, people.
Rounds, the video chat app and Israeli startup backed by $5.5 million in funding from Verizon Investments, Rhodium and DFJ’s Tim Draper among others, has been slowly expanding across platforms. Originally built as a Facebook-centric experience, Rounds expanded to the desktop last summer, launched Mac and Windows apps to allow its users to send and receive video calls without using their browser or signing into Facebook. A few months later, Rounds went mobile, officially debuting its first native apps for iOS and Android.
For those unfamiliar, the app essentially gives users the ability to not only participate in realtime video chat with their friends — from any media — but do so while watching YouTube videos together or simultaneously play interactive games, doodle on whiteboards, browse the Web together or send virtual gifts to each other and more.
However, up until now, most of those features have existed solely for Rounds users on Facebook, desktop and the Web, but an update to its iOS and Android apps today now allows friends to surf the Web together during live video calls. Rounds claims it’s the first hangout network to enable mobile co-browsing during video conversation.
A product of a partnership with Dutch startup Channel.me, the startup’s new co-browsing functionality synchronizes your mobile device’s touch screen with that of your video chat partner, allowing both parties to surf the web and navigate the same webpage at the same time.
Both users can click on links and type in new URLs, the company says, while each person sees the other’s live video stream in thumbnail form. This allows them to see each other’s reactions FaceTime-style, while giving you illusion that you’re actually there, together, and not staying at a Motel 8 on a business trip.
While users aren’t subject to any limitations when they co-browse during live video calls, and users can type in any URL, it would be impossible for Rounds to beta test every site on the Web. Instead, at launch, the startup is offering a handful of sites that it “stands behind technically” and fully support its synchronized experience, including Google, Wikipedia, Preen.Me, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Amazon, eBay, ESPN, The Huffington Post, wanelo, Imgur and TheFancy. Going forward, Rounds will continue to add support for the most-requested sites, based on user feedback.
The company also tells us that, in terms of security, the co-browsing experience displays usernames and email addresses but not passwords, and users must share a pre-existing Facebook friendship before they can participate in video chats together. Once they do, they can chat, browse, play games and watch videos together and add filters and doodles on top of their videos.
While some of these features may sounds particularly appealing to older readers, since the beginning, Rounds’ target audience has primarily been teens, who eat these kind of features up. As mobile devices proliferate, retailers and eCommerce players have been looking for more ways to capitalize on the fact that our mobile devices are always with us. Not only that, but considering the offline shopping experience is inherently social, they want to emulate that social experience on the Web and on mobile.
Rounds’co-browsing and synchronized navigation inherently offer a more social experience when visiting sites like eBay or Amazon, allowing young users to video chat while surfing, browsing for new clothes, gadgets or products — or even while doing their homework. Don’t be surprised if Rounds’ new functionality catches the attention of the big retail players or if social platforms like G+ (and Hangouts) expand to include more of these co-browsing and synchronous user experiences.
Today, Rounds has over eight million registered users, 500K of which are on mobile, with a fairly even breakdown between male and female users (52 percent female, 48 percent male) and teens representing the largest demographic. The company also says that 43 percent of its video calls are “meaningful,” meaning that they’re longer than the industry standard, and, on mobile, users are currently making 13-minute calls on average, for example.
Since its inception, Rounds has seen over 100 million hangout sessions across its networks, which include its destination site, (formerly) Wave, Chrome, Facebook and now mobile).
For more, find Rounds at home here.