Square Enix Looking to Publish Indian Games

Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix may be looking to re-enter the Indian market. Earlier, the company had an Indian office that was shut down merely a year after its inception. The news of the firm making a comeback was confirmed by multiple game developers who have been in talks with its representatives for a few months now.

“Yes, we’re in talks with Square Enix,” a studio head told Gadgets 360. “It’s not a secret since they were at a publisher meeting held at NGDC [Nasscom Game Developer’s Conference] last week, taking pitches from other [game] studios.”

The publisher meet at NGDC is an invite-only session where pre-selected local developers can showcase their upcoming games to publishers. Other attendees included Disney and Nazara.

Our sources also let on that the Japan-based company was looking to publish “midcore, AA games for mobile with an emphasis on story.” Midcore games usually sit between complex console and PC fare like Dota 2 and mobile games like Subway Surfer, such as Machine Zone’s Game of War: Fire Age.

“They’re not looking for anything basic. They want something a whole lot bigger in terms of game design and story than what most of us are up to. They definitely don’t want another Angry Birds or Candy Crush,” another developer told us. “Naturally they quizzed us on all possible metrics such as conversion rates and DAU [daily active users].”

Unlike the company’s presence at previous editions of NGDC, there was a single Japanese representative and his translator doing the rounds at the event rather than an entire entourage. While it’s great that Square Enix is reconsidering its interest in India, most developers are cautious.

“Considering what happened the last time around, we’re not really sure if they’re interested this time around or if this was just done to appease some higher up sitting in Japan,” another source said.

New Tracker to Monitor Health of Guide Dogs

Researchers have developed a device that allows people who are blind to monitor their guide dogs in order to keep tabs on the health and well being of their canine companions.

“Dogs primarily communicate through their movements and posture, which makes it difficult or impossible for people who are blind to fully understand their dogs’ needs on a moment-to-moment basis,” said study co-author David Roberts, assistant professor of computer science at North Carolina State University in the US.

“This challenge is particularly pronounced in guide dogs, who are bred and trained to be outwardly calm and avoid drawing attention to themselves in public,” Roberts noted.

To address this need, the researchers have developed a suite of technologies that monitor a dog’s breathing and heart rate and share the information with the dog’s handler.

The researchers developed a specialised handle that attaches to a guide dog’s harness. The handle is equipped with two vibrating motors.

One motor is embedded in the handle by the handler’s thumb, and vibrates – or beats – in time with the dog’s heart rate. When the dog’s heart rate increases, so does the rate at which the motor beats.

The second motor is embedded in the handle near the handler’s little finger, and vibrates in sync with the dog’s breathing. The vibration increases and decreases in intensity, to simulate the dog breathing in and out.

“We wanted to use electronic signals that intuitively make sense for the dog handlers,” Roberts said.

The prototype handle has been tested using simulated heart rate and respiratory data, and was found to be effective at accurately conveying information to users.

The study was presented at the Second International Congress on Animal Computer Interaction in Johor in Malaysia.

LG G3 Set to Receive Android 6.0 Marshmallow Next Month

The LG G3 appears set to receive its Android 6.0 Marshmallow update as soon as next month. The update is said to arrive between December 16 and December 18, starting with Poland.

A report from Poland states the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update for the LG G3 is in its final testing stages. The article was later updated to include a quote by an LG Poland executive named Jaroslaw Bukowski, who said it was in fact already ready. Also, the report adds the update would first be rolled out in Poland followed by other regions – a rollout pattern LG has followed with previous updates,including the Marshmallow update for its current flagship, the LG G4.

The LG G3 was launched with Android 4.4.2 KitKat out-of-the-box. It is worth noting that in June this year LG said the G3 would not be receiving Android 5.1 or 5.1.1 Lollipop version.

Skipping updates is nothing new for LG as the firm has previously too rolled out the Android 5.0 Lollipop update to its G3 directly from Android 4.4.2 KitKat, completely missing out on v4.4.3 and 4.4.4 KitKat. Notably, the LG G3 was tipped last month to be in line to receive an Android 6.0 Marshmallow update, after it was spotted along with the LG G4 in official support documents.

Until now, a number of tech firms have confirmed the rollout of Android 6.0 Marshmallow for its smartphones. Some of the companies that have detailed the Android 6.0 Marshmallow update roadmap include Asus, OnePlus, Lenovo, Honor, Sony and others. Nexus and Android One devices have already received the update, Moto X Play and Moto X Style have also started receiving the new OS version.

Some of the new features of Android 6.0 Marshmallow (previously just Android M) include revamped app permissions; Google Now on Tap feature; new Chrome feature that will change the Web experience for Android users; new ways to handle Web links; Android Pay mobile payment system is now official with Android M; new fingerprint APIs for developers to add into their apps, New Silent feature for sound and vibrate mode as well as a ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode to block all sounds or only alarms and notifications, and battery saver features called Doze that will make Android devices smart about managing power. Some of the other additions include new RAM manager, adoptable storage devices, new app drawer, auto backup and restore for apps, and support for USB Type-C ports.

Android Wear v1.4 App Reportedly Causing Issues; Users Lament Pulled Features

It appears the Android Wear v1.4 update for the companion app, which rolled out earlier this month, and packed in more features than anticipated, also has some bugs that you weren’t expecting. Several users are reporting issues on their Android Wear watches after installing the recent software update.

Many users have taken to Google Play to report issues the new update has caused on their timepiece. Some users note connectivity issues, while many are complaining about their device getting disconnected for no reason. Some users are unable to pair their devices, while some report terrible battery life, and stability quirks. There are few people who are seeing apps and watch faces disappear from their device, reports Android Police.

These issues aren’t the only things irking users, however. Some people are upset by the company’s decision to remove some handy features from Android Wear software. The company removed the battery statistics and disconnect toggle. Few users are requesting Google to bring these features back.

Google is yet to acknowledge the issue, and at this point, there is no clear time-frame as to when you can expect these bugs to be squashed. Some users are, however, reporting that resetting the watch, and uninstalling the Android Wear companion app, is fixing the bugs for them. You can also try your luck downgrading to the Android Wear v1.3 companion app. But perhaps it is in your best interest to wait for the company to roll out an update.

Google+ Revamped With Focus on Communities and Collections

US Internet colossus Alphabet on Tuesday revamped Google+ online social network focused on people’s interests, and tuned for smartphones or tablets.

“We’re starting to introduce a fully redesigned Google+ that puts Communities and Collections front and center,” director of streams Eddie Kessler said in a blog post.

“Now focused around interests, the new Google+ is much simpler.”

Google’s social network was rebuilt for fast, consistent performance whether accessed through computer web browsers or mobile devices powered by Apple or Android software, according to Kessler.

Google+ users interested in the new version will need to opt in at the social network.

Google’s social network launched Communities in late 2012 as venues to people to connect online based on things or ideas they are passionate about.

The option proved popular, and an average of 1.2 million people join Communities daily, Kessler said.

Google+ Collections launched in May of this year as a way to group posts by topics, and its use is growing fast, according to Google parent firm Alphabet.

“These are the places on Google+ where people around the world are spending their time discovering and sharing things they love,” Kessler said.

Google+ launched in mid-2011 in a challenge to Facebook, which continues to dominated the online social network world.

Ambitions for Google+ were scaled back earlier this year when the California-based Internet giant stepped back from using social network log-ins as credentials across a wide array of its offerings, including YouTube.

Anonymous Hackers Claim to Take Down 5,500 IS Accounts

The hacker group Anonymous claimed Tuesday to have taken out 5,500 Twitter accounts linked to the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks.

The loosely organized hacking collective made the claim in a tweet one day after launching #OpParis campaign, which stepped up an earlier effort to shut down social media accounts of the organization.

“We report that more than 5500 Twitter account of #ISIS are now #down! #OpParis #Anonymous #ExpectUs,” said a tweet posted on Tuesday which followed a video message posted Monday.

It was not immediately clear how the accounts would have been disabled. But the hacker group said it posted the accounts to an online forum labeling them as #daeshbags, a reference to Daesh, an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.

In an apparent riposte, a message posted via the messaging service Telegram calls on Islamic State affiliates to secure their Internet communications.

“The #Anonymous hackers threatened… that they will carry out a major hack operation on the Islamic state (idiots),” the message said.

Anonymous has waged a long-running campaign against the Islamic State group but stepped up the effort following the attacks last Friday in the French capital.

Microsoft Gets Serious About Security as Apple Eyes Enterprise Market

In the mid 2000s, Microsoft’s security reputation was so bad that Apple parodied it as part of its famous “Get a Mac” commercials.

“You okay?” a casually dressed Justin Long, representing a Mac, asked a sneezing, suited PC stand-in John Hodgman in one spot.

“No, I’m not okay. I have that virus that’s going around,” Hodgman responded. In another, Hodgman’s character hides inside a biohazard suit.

But in recent years, Microsoft has worked to clean up its act. And now it’s the latest big tech company to make security a part of its advertising pitch – just as Apple is eyeing the enterprise market.

Speaking at a Microsoft Government Forum in Washington on Tuesday, Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella called cyber-security one of the most “pressing issues of our time” and laid out a set of privacy and security commitments from the company.

“Trust is at the core” of Microsoft’s mission, he said: “When it comes to privacy, we will ensure your data is private and under your control. When it comes to compliance, we will manage your data in accordance with the law of the land. We will also be transparent about both the collection of data and usage of data. And, lastly, we will ensure that all of your data is secure.”

Experts generally say that Microsoft has taken security more seriously in recent years and is willing to partner with independent researchers who uncover flaws in their products. In fact, the company now runs one of the more sophisticated bug bounty programs in the industry, a system that pays rewards to third-party researchers who discover problems and work with the company to fix them.

“Fifteen years ago, friends were receiving cease and desist letters from Microsoft [trying to silence independent security research]. Now they’re giving out six-figure bounties for helping fix major security flaws,” said Josh Corman, the chief technology officer at software company Sonatype and one of the founders of I am the Cavalry, a group focused on improving the security of tech with physical safety risks.

Microsoft’s journey shows that companies can go from being highly combative with the larger security research community to highly collaborative, a shift that is good for both users and stockholders, Corman argued.

Waves of data breaches have shaken almost every sector of the economy in recent years, rattling consumers. And especially in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of the government’s digital surveillance capabilities, companies like Facebook and Google have touted upgrades to their security infrastructure.

Earlier this month, Nadella announced that the company would start using German data centers next year, allowing German customer data to stay inside the country and making it potentially harder for US intelligence agencies to access it due to strict German privacy laws.

But perhaps none have gone as far to assure users about their commitment to privacy and security as Apple. Last year, the company automatically rolled out strong forms of encryption that Apple itself is unable to unlock to iOS users – a feature that has put it at odds with some senior law enforcement and intelligence officials.

Earlier this year, Apple updated the privacy language on its Web site. The company made the case for the importance of encryption, the security tool that scrambles up data to protect it from prying eyes, and spelled out what the company does to protect users’ privacy and security.

As Apple has positioned itself as a privacy leader under chief executive Tim Cook, it has also set itself up to compete in the lucrative enterprise market – a space long dominated by Microsoft’s Windows ecosystem. Earlier this month, the company launched the iPad Pro, a supersized version of its tablet that is being explicitly marketed to professionals and businesses. And last year, the company announced a partnership with IBM to “transform enterprise mobility through a new class of business apps.”

Microsoft’s most recent enterprise products, like its Office Suite, rely heavily on a software model tied to cloud storage. But to compete in the increasingly crowded cloud computing market, the company will need customers to trust that it can fend off what Nadella called a “constant” barrage of cyberthreats.

Essentially, Microsoft’s plan is to use security as a marketing strategy. “It’s clear that you have to be seen as an honest broker to compete,” said Corman. “And talking about privacy and security is becoming a requirement for gaining public trust.”

Taxi Owners, Lenders Sue New York City Over Uber

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Taxi owners and lenders on Tuesday sued New York City and its Taxi and Limousine Commission, saying the proliferation of the popular ride-sharing business Uber was destroying their businesses and threatening their livelihoods.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court accused the defendants of violating yellow cab drivers’ exclusive right to pick up passengers on the street by letting Uber drivers who face fewer regulatory burdens pick up millions of passengers who use smartphones to hail rides.

According to the complaint, the number of Uber rides in the “core” of Manhattan increased by 3.82 million from April to June 2015 compared with a year earlier, while medallion cab pickups fell by 3.83 million.

They said this had driven down the value of medallions, which yellow cab drivers need to operate, by 40 percent from a peak exceeding $1 million (roughly Rs. 6 crores) and caused more defaults.

Uber’s rise also contributed to the July 22 bankruptcy of 22 companies run by taxi magnate Evgeny Freidman, and the state’s September 18 seizure of Montauk Credit Union, which specialized in medallion loans, the complaint said.

“Defendants’ deliberate evisceration of medallion taxicab hail exclusivity, and their ongoing arbitrary, disparate regulatory treatment of the medallion taxicab industry, has and continues to inflict catastrophic harm on this once iconic industry, and the tens of thousands of hardworking men and women that depend on it for their livelihood,” the complaint said.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission referred requests for comment to the city’s law department. Nick Paolucci, a spokesman there, said the city would review the complaint.

Plaintiffs include the Melrose, Progressive and Lomto Federal credit unions, which said they have made more than 4,600 medallion loans worth over $2.4 billion (roughly Rs. 15,867 crores).

Other plaintiffs include individual medallion owners, as well as the Taxi Medallion Owner Driver Association Inc and League of Mutual Taxi Owners Inc, which said that together they represent about 4,000 medallion owners.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, including for alleged violations of cab drivers’ property and equal protection rights under the US Constitution.

It also seeks to ease cab drivers’ regulatory burdens, including a requirement that half of their cabs be accessible to disabled people by 2020.

In September, a state judge in Queens County dismissed a lawsuit by the credit union seeking to stop the city from supporting Uber’s expansion.

The case is Melrose Credit Union et al v. City of New York et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-09042.

Google Searches Itself to Build More Productive Teams

Google coddles its employees with free food, massages and other lavish perks, yet some of its best engineers still grouse about their jobs and bosses as they struggle to get assignments done.

The Internet company tackled the puzzling problem with a study that concluded how teams work together is more important than who is on a team.

That’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s an example of how companies are spending more time trying to understand how to build the most productive and cohesive teams. It’s a high priority because the best products and ideas increasingly are springing from people working together.

“It’s becoming difficult to think of companies that aren’t depending on teams,” says Amy Randel, a professor of management at San Diego State University. “And usually nothing is more important than having a goal that inspires and organizes people’s efforts.”

Google’s study, based on data analysis, found that teams work best when their members feel like they can take risks, can count on each other, have clear goals and believe their work matters.

Some of those findings were reinforced by a recent study published in the Academy of Management Journal by Jasmine Hu, an assistant professor of management at Notre Dame University and Robert Liden, a management professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. That analysis of 67 different teams working at six different companies found employees excel when they feel their work will help the colleagues, customers and community.

“The social aspect of teams is very important because many times people are just not motivated to work for money alone,” Hu says. “They want to have the opportunity to achieve a positive impact on the lives of others.”

All of Google’s 60,000 employees work on at least one team, and some are on two or more.

Google itself was born from one of technology’s most famous partnerships between former Stanford University graduate students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They followed in the footsteps of other legendary duos such as Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen and Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Today, Google’s teams range in size from three to 70 people and are usually project oriented. For two years the company has studied more than 200 teams, identifying what motivates the most effective groups while looking for the ideal mix of traits and skills.

Although most industries are embracing teamwork, Silicon Valley is at the forefront of the trend. Technology firms are typically more collaborative, in part because people writing different parts of software code or building machines need to do one part of a larger project.

Google’s first workplace study, which it released in 2014, showed effective managers are good coaches who empower rather than micromanage. That research, called Project Oxygen, is now taught in MBA programs and has been adopted by companies hoping to emulate the innovative culture of Silicon Valley.

The research released Tuesday has already reshaped Google’s workforce through training, reviews and new standards.

The transformation is helping to enrich Google, already one of the world’s most profitable companies. The revenue produced by sales teams, who market advertising, apps and partnerships, varied by nearly 50 percent based on their own reported feelings of psychological safety, according to Abeer Dubey, a Google director.

“So is this a Google truth or a universal truth?” asked Dubey. “We personally feel this is fungible.”

In a region where innovation is driving a booming economy, retaining and motivating the workforce is critical to business, and because engineers almost always work in teams, understanding how to boost their performance is crucial.

“Team work matters, and if you want to have the best team of employees possible, you will manage them intelligently,” said Lindy Greer, who teaches at Stanford University’s business school. “If you just put people together they’re going to crash and burn unless they have conflict resolution training, a manager who can coordinate roles and opportunities to learn with one another.”

Ola Raises $500 Million From SoftBank, Didi Kuaidi, and Others

Taxi aggregator Ola has raised $500 million (roughly Rs. 3,299 crores) from Baillie Gifford, Tiger Global, SoftBank Group and others to fuel capacity building and drive new use cases as it up the ante to compete with rivals like US-based Uber and homegrown Meru.

Ola has closed the Series F funding, raising $500 million from Baillie Gifford, China’s Didi Kuaidi and existing investors, including Falcon Edge Capital, Tiger Global, SoftBank Group and DST Global.

“We will use these funds to further accelerate growth. We are excited about bringing onboard partners who can help us get there faster. We will continue to build for the local market through innovative solutions like Ola Share, Ola Prime and Ola Money, as we grow the mobile ecosystem in India,” Ola co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal told PTI.

He said the company has grown by over 30 times in the last one year with over one million booking requests a day. According to sources, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC also participated in the latest round of funding that values the company at about $5 billion (roughly Rs. 33,058 crores).

With the current round, Ola has closed over $1.3 billion (roughly Rs. 8,600 crores) of external funding, of which over $1.2 billion (roughly Rs. 7,936 crores) has been raised over the past year. In April, Ola had raised $400 million (roughly Rs. 2,645 crores) in funding, led by DST Global (in Series E) and prior to that, $210 million (roughly Rs. 1,388 crores) led by SoftBank Group (Series D in October 2014).

Ola counts SoftBank Group, Tiger Global, Matrix Partners, Steadview Capital, Sequoia India, Accel Partners US and Falcon Edge also among its existing investors. With over 3,50,000 vehicles registered on its platform, Ola offers services across 102 cities in India.

“The latest round of funding will be also be used for innovating mobility solutions for the local market. Ola will continue to focus on building and nurturing the ecosystem for its driver-entrepreneurs and to enable more drivers to grow as entrepreneurs themselves, in the time to come,” Aggarwal said.

The investment will also allow Ola to raise its presence in smaller cities, which often has limited transport options. Ola, run by ANI Technologies, has announced a series of investments towards building the entire ecosystem. Earlier this year, it introduced a cab leasing programme for drivers and said it will spend Rs. 5,000 crores through a subsidiary that will enable drivers to own the cars eventually.

It has also been steadily investing across various programmes to grow the driver partner ecosystem and has added services like shuttle and cab sharing, expanded its mobile wallet as a separate service, introduced cars with Wi-Fi and offers a cafe service on its app.

In March this year, Ola had acquired rival TaxiForSure in a cash and stock deal worth $200 million to strengthen its position in the taxi services market.