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Posts Tagged ‘Beluga’

Captive Beluga Was Able To Mimic Speech

October 22nd, 2012 10:50 admin View Comments

Science

ananyo writes “‘Who told me to get out?’ asked a diver, surfacing from a tank in which a whale named NOC lived. The beluga’s caretakers had heard what sounded like garbled phrases emanating from the enclosure before, and it suddenly dawned on them that the whale might be imitating the voices of his human handlers. The outbursts began in 1984 and lasted for about four years, until NOC hit sexual maturity. NOC likely learned to imitate humans by listening to them speak underwater and on the surface. The whale’s human-like calls are several octaves lower than normal whale calls, a similar pitch to human speech. Researchers trained NOC to ‘speak’ on command, and determined that he makes the sounds by increasing the pressure of the air that courses through his naval cavities. They think that he then modified the sounds by manipulating the shape of his phonic lips, small vibrating structures that sit above each nasal cavity. A recording of NOC’s speech is embedded in the story. He sounds remarkably like a kazoo.”

Source: Captive Beluga Was Able To Mimic Speech

Facebook Tests Messenger for Windows Ticker and Chat Desktop Client

November 21st, 2011 11:45 admin View Comments

Facebook Logo_150x150.jpgHypothetical situation: You want to be on Facebook 24/7, but you don’t want to keep your browser open. Facebook sees your problem, and raises you a Windows 7 desktop client, which includes Chat, the News Ticker and notifications. Today, Facebook rolled out this new messenger to a limited number of users. This real-time messenger for Windows ticker plus chat desktop client is one way to focus solely on the messaging aspects of Facebook.

facebook-messenger-for-windows.png

The Windows Live Messenger desktop client, which includes both Facebook friends and friends from third-party IM services, is a top app on Facebook. It has 18.2 million daily active users, according to AppData.

This past August, Facebook launched Messenger, its dedicated messenger app for Android and iOS. This was yet another step in its messaging philosophy, which aims to encompass three main ideas: seamless messaging, conversation history and the “social inbox.” Facebook has taken similar steps toward a unified messaging platform with its acquisition of group messaging startup Beluga. By November, Beluga had been shut down, and the developers behind it were expanding Facebook Messenger.

What’s next for Facebook’s messaging platform? Tell us your predictions in the comments.

Source: Facebook Tests Messenger for Windows Ticker and Chat Desktop Client

Facebook Tests Messenger for Windows Ticker and Chat Desktop Client

November 21st, 2011 11:45 admin View Comments

Facebook Logo_150x150.jpgHypothetical situation: You want to be on Facebook 24/7, but you don’t want to keep your browser open. Facebook sees your problem, and raises you a Windows 7 desktop client, which includes Chat, the News Ticker and notifications. Today, Facebook rolled out this new messenger to a limited number of users. This real-time messenger for Windows ticker plus chat desktop client is one way to focus solely on the messaging aspects of Facebook.

facebook-messenger-for-windows.png

The Windows Live Messenger desktop client, which includes both Facebook friends and friends from third-party IM services, is a top app on Facebook. It has 18.2 million daily active users, according to AppData.

This past August, Facebook launched Messenger, its dedicated messenger app for Android and iOS. This was yet another step in its messaging philosophy, which aims to encompass three main ideas: seamless messaging, conversation history and the “social inbox.” Facebook has taken similar steps toward a unified messaging platform with its acquisition of group messaging startup Beluga. By November, Beluga had been shut down, and the developers behind it were expanding Facebook Messenger.

What’s next for Facebook’s messaging platform? Tell us your predictions in the comments.

Source: Facebook Tests Messenger for Windows Ticker and Chat Desktop Client

When Facebook Captured Beluga, They May Have Harpooned It In The Head

June 4th, 2011 06:50 admin View Comments

When Facebook acquired Beluga this past March, it was an interesting deal for them. Interesting, because they previously had only done deals for talent. But this deal, they told us, was for both talent and assets. In other words, they were also interested in the technology behind Beluga. More importantly, the plan was to keep Beluga running. And they have. Sort of.

Over the past several weeks, users of Beluga have probably noticed some major reliability issues. These range from the mobile apps missing messages because they’re unable to connect to the service, to the service’s website being totally down. Last night, Beluga was totally down for a few hours. There was no indication why it was down, even after it came back. This has been happening more frequently. Not good.

It’s hard not to be reminded of FriendFeed. That service, which Facebook bought in 2009, also reminded live post-acquisition. While that was a talent deal, the core FriendFeed team said they were committed to keeping it up indefinitely. The reality has been that while it’s still up, performance issues and lack of continued development have driven away many of the core users (though, odddly, usage started spiking in Turkey after the deal). It’s a ghost town now. A shell of what it used to be.

And Beluga appears to be headed in the same direction. When Facebook acquired it, we were just heading into a full-on group messaging app showdown. To me, Beluga was the most promising of the new players. It had all the essentials I wanted/needed to replace SMS on my phone. And it was fast — really fast. My social circle started getting really into using it all the time.

We barely use it anymore. Again, it’s just too unreliable now.

I’ve reached out to the Beluga team to see what the deal is. I have yet to hear back, and I may not because Facebook tends to rule with an iron fist about such matters. Officially, the team was assigned to the groups and messaging teams within Facebook. While the new Facebook Messages is finally rolling out to all users, there hasn’t been any major new developments there in months either. There’s certainly no stand-alone Facebook Messages app that some of us had been hoping for — even though Google has quietly been working on one.

At the time of the acquisition, both Facebook and Beluga said that they would be providing details about Beluga’s ultimate future “in the coming weeks”. By my count, it has now been about 13 weeks. It’s time to let us know if Beluga will live, be officially harpooned, or if it will be left to drift at sea like FriendFeed.

I don’t have a good feeling about that answer. Too bad.

Source: When Facebook Captured Beluga, They May Have Harpooned It In The Head

Post-Facebook Deal, Beluga Gets A Final SXSW Tune-Up

March 8th, 2011 03:03 admin View Comments

Immediately following their launch a few months ago, I noted that Beluga was my group messaging app of choice. I didn’t expect that to change leading up to SXSW — then Facebook stepped in and bought the service. When I first heard about it (when we broke the story), my heart sank a bit — another Facebook acquisition casualty, I thought. But Facebook immediately started saying that this deal was different, that Beluga would continue to be fully supported for the time being. And sure enough, today we get an update.

Specifically, the iPhone version of the app has gotten some final pre-SXSW polish today. It’s not a huge update, but it’s an important one. With the conference now just days away, competition in the group messaging space is really heating up. Both GroupMe and Fast Society have significantly overhauled their apps. Beluga needed to step up with some sort of update. And they have.

So what’s new in version 2.1? First of all, not surprisingly, Facebook Single Sign-On has been implemented. Secondly, there are now mute options to allow you to silence your pods for either 1 hour or until 8 AM in the morning. (And you can do this just for certain pods, or for all of them.) Third, the app now has a much better navigation system with the “Pods”, “People”, and “News” sections all broken up along the bottom of the app.

Hopefully we’ll keep seeing regular updates like this from the Beluga team into the future. But eventually, you have to believe that they’re going to have to get to work on their Facebook assignments (Groups and Messages). Let’s hope SXSW isn’t the last hurrah.

You can find Beluga in the App Store here.

Source: Post-Facebook Deal, Beluga Gets A Final SXSW Tune-Up

I’m Already Sick Of SXSW

March 7th, 2011 03:29 admin View Comments

I had a conversation today with a colleague to discuss our SXSW Interactive strategy. My coworker figured, rightfully, that SXSW would be a shitshow and that maybe we should use one of the much talked about group texting apps to stay in touch. I only “use” one group texting app, one that I covered for TechCrunch, and thus suggested GroupMe. My colleague said that he liked Beluga better and that we should use Beluga. And then he hesitated, “Hmm … Well maybe we shouldn’t use Beluga because what if Facebook ‘does something to them’ ?…”

!!! This is the hyper-techy microcosm that we live in, where you’re scared to use a budding app to communicate with co-workers during a conference lest a company sunset it. And what? You end up looking uncool?

While there’s no way I’m going to ever be the ideal use case for Group Texting ( … is the new “Location Based”), because it necessitates having more than one friend, I can’t really see the big problem it solves, or rather, I have no idea why there are tens of tens apps in in the space.

Also, I have no idea why a SXSW breakfast with Guy Kawasaki is presented as a prize, but the email promoting it has miraculously found its way to my inbox, along with a bunch of nonsense “VIP” events sponsored by non-tech companies and a ton of pitches from a bunch of startups that just confuse me by their reluctance to say what it is they actually do, lest someone out there clones their killer app before their plane hits Austin-Bergstrom.

A follow through on one of these pitches leads you down an inbox rabbit hole where seven emails later you figure out it’s a Group Texting app but the founders don’t want to reveal that just yet because they don’t want anyone to copy them.

“Then why pitch to the press so early?” “To build “buzz” before SXSW.” Geez. Geez.

While I wouldn’t miss it for the world (I’m moderating an incredibly worthy and industry relevant core conversation here), SXSW creeps me out, if simply because it makes otherwise sane people act so silly.

This SXSW 2011 Influencers Guide, a mashup of Plancast and some shady thing called Socmetrics is the epitome of why I’m already sick of SXSW four days before it’s even started. Mainly because it reminds me that we’re now viewing each other as “influencers” and have somehow stopped looking at each other like “people” — I didn’t study so hard to get out of high school just to be faced with a whole ‘nother high school as an adult.

And I just RSVP’d in a panic to some super duper VIP thing while writing this, so trust me, I understand the allure of hobnobbing with the tech snobs and am not immune. But at the drunken end of the SXSW day proceed with caution: You almost never want to be a part of the cool kids, because they’re not the ones actually getting anything done. I promise.

Video: Alex Blagg

Source: I’m Already Sick Of SXSW

Kik Jumps On the Bandwagon, Adds Group Messaging

March 7th, 2011 03:30 admin View Comments
kik-logo-150.JPG

Last fall, when Kik Messenger launched for iOS, Android and Blackberry, I quickly urged my friends to download the app and quit costing me an arm and a leg in SMS fees. The Kik honeymoon lasted but a short while, however. Soon enough, I was in love again, but this time it was all about spreading the love – Beluga had come along and shown me the ways of free, SMS-style messaging with groups of friends.

Today, Kik has come a-calling again, trying to woo lost lovers like myself with the feature we’ve all been talking about – group messaging.

According to the company’s blog post, Kik has added two new features that we’ve seen all over the mobile communications realm – picture sharing and group messaging. (Lest we forget, the company also announced $8 million in funding, but it’s more the group messaging aspect that we’re interested in here.) The company explains that it thinks that other group messaging apps haven’t gotten it quite right yet, however, “because they still have the same ‘talk to all’ mentality.”

I don’t know about you, but it’s not often I want to message all my college friends at once. Or all of my soccer friends at once. Or everyone from work at once. But these other apps force me to do just that. It turns what could be a dynamic conversation into a mobile message board: “Ted: soccer game at 8 guys.” “Mike: Ok.” “Joe: Cool.” And then silence.

With Kik, we wanted to create a product that allows you to have a real time conversation with one or more people. We wanted to allow conversations to expand and contract naturally, just like they do in real life. And we did just that. In Kik you don’t create a group, you just add someone to the conversation…instantaneously.

When I look at an app like GroupMe, which focuses entirely on group communication, I can see that the point is a valid one. Just to get started, I need to create a group and name it. With Beluga, it’s slightly different, as I start by adding the people I want to communicate with, whether one or many, and have the option to add a group picture, name and description afterward. I don’t need to think about the why or what, just the who. At any point, members may be removed or added from the conversation.

Kik’s group messaging feature allows for up to 10 people in a chat, boasting speed as one of its standout features. Competitors llike Beluga and GroupMe stand apart, however, by showing a map of all members of a conversation and including non-smartphone owners by using SMS.

The success or failure of apps like Kik come down to one big thing – do your friends use it? For me, the SMS inclusiveness of Beluga and GroupMe are a big factor. Both Beluga and GroupMe also make it simple to invite friends – just add their names and the app sends them an SMS. With Kik, on the other hand, the process is a bit more convoluted. Kik may make the group creation process quick and easy, but if I need to invite my friend and wait for them to download and install the app before communicating with them, I’m going to go with Beluga or GroupMe every time.

Source: Kik Jumps On the Bandwagon, Adds Group Messaging

TextPlus Plays A Different Card In Group Messaging SXSW Battle: Your Heart Strings

March 3rd, 2011 03:15 admin View Comments

We’re a week away from the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas and it’s becoming very clear what the big battleground will be this year: group messaging apps. Just like micro-messaging apps a few years ago, and location apps last year, a bunch of players are poised to battle for the conference crown. But the fight will be even crazier this year as apps from players big (Ask Around) and small (Ditto) will be in the mix. And one of the larger players is taking a unique approach to the war.

TextPlus honestly doesn’t need SXSW. With 7.7 million monthly active users, the very well-funded app by GOGII is already massive. For comparison’s sake, until their public launch today, Yobongo had 140 users. And the previous huge winner at SXSW, Foursquare, just hit 7 million users. TextPlus is going into this battle with quite a head start.

But they’re smart enough to know that no lead is safe. Rivals like GroupMe, FastSociety, and Beluga have gotten a lot of buzz and some traction recently. So much so that Facebook has already scooped up Beluga. But textPlus is going to use SXSW to build on their success by doing some good.

At the conference, the service is launching a new monthly campaigned called Groups4Good. The premise is simple: for every group created within textPlus, GOGII will donate $1 to charity. They’re capping this at 10,000 groups (meaning $1,000), but again, this will be a monthly thing.

Plainly: if you use textPlus to group message other people, GOGII will give $1,000 to charity each month.

For the SXSW initial campaign, three charities will get this money: EnoughIsEnough, A Good Idea, and LIVESTRONG. And they’re not restricting it to users in Austin for the conference, that’s just the kick-off point — anyone can create groups in the app to add to the cause.

And beyond this month, textPlus is going to open up the charity picking process to the users. Within the Groups4Good Communities Channel in the textPlus app, users will be able to vote on which charities should receive the money each month.

It’s a nice gesture, and a solid way for textPlus to leverage their huge userbase at SXSW in a slightly different way. Sometimes war can be used for good too.

Source: TextPlus Plays A Different Card In Group Messaging SXSW Battle: Your Heart Strings

Facebook Acquires Group Messaging Startup Beluga, Says App Will Continue “For Now”

March 1st, 2011 03:27 admin View Comments

One of my favorite group messaging apps, and my (former) vote for the app to take the cake this year at SXSW, announced this morning that it has been acquired by Facebook.

According to a Facebook spokesperson and the company’s announcement, the app Beluga “will continue to function as it does today.” That statement is made with a huge qualifier, however – “for now.”

Beluga launched less than six months ago, started by ex-Googlers Lucy Zhang, Ben Davenport and John Perlow. If you haven’t yet used Beluga, it’s a simple app for communicating with multiple people at once. You create a “pod” (Beluga’s name for a group) of people and each time one of you sends a message, everyone else gets it. It’s a bunch of custom-created group chat rooms. In these “pods”, you can not only share text but also pictures and locations. And not everyone even needs to have a smartphone, as the app accounts for your feature-phoned friends by sending them SMS instead of in-app content.

The app was entering an increasingly competitive space – group messaging – and running head to head with companies like GroupMe, Yobongo, Kik and others.

If you’re familiar with RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger, Beluga has been compared to that popular app, as well as to the longer-running if less refined but also very popular cross-platform app PingChat. There have been many apps aiming to be “the BlackBerry Messenger for cross-platform” but Beluga’s striking design, high-profile team of founders and well-timed launch helped give it an extra dose of visibility.

In one recent article by Om Malik, Beluga was cited as one possible way that Google could take on Facebook, but it looks like Facebook beat them to the punch in that battle. From their statement, Facebook sounds like it is excited about the acquisition as I was about the app itself:

We’re psyched to confirm that we’ve just acquired the talent and assets of Beluga, whose simple and elegant mobile apps blew us away as a solution to help groups of friends stay in touch on the move. We’re looking forward to welcoming co-founders Ben Davenport, Lucy Zhang and Jonathan Perlow, and we’re excited that the team will continue their vision for groups and mobile communication as part of Facebook.

Will Beluga continue to live on in it’s current incarnation? A Facebook spokesperson had this to say, closely echoing the announcement on Beluga’s website:

For now, Beluga will continue to function as it does today. Beluga accounts and data will not be lost. We’ll be providing more details on future plans for Beluga in the coming weeks.

We just recently got a chance to sit down with the Beluga team and discuss the company’s future. Of course, “Facebook acquisition” wasn’t one of the topics, but I was rather excited to see where the app was headed. Now, I guess I’ll have to be excited about what Facebook could do with this same technology.

Source: Facebook Acquires Group Messaging Startup Beluga, Says App Will Continue “For Now”

Facebook Acquires Group Messaging Service Beluga

March 1st, 2011 03:03 admin View Comments

Facebook has just acquired group messaging service Belgua, we’ve learned.

Here’s all we know for now, Facebook has acquired both the product and the team, and the plan is apparently to keep the service open for now. But this is Facebook, they have so far only acquired companies to get talent.

It was barely two months ago that we first wrote about Beluga — when I called it my “group messaging white whale“. Since then I’ve been a huge user of the service and figured it would be one of the stand-out stars at SXSW this year. Today changes things a bit, obviously.

Here’s Facebook’s statement:

We’re psyched to confirm that we’ve just acquired the talent and assets of Beluga, whose simple and elegant mobile apps blew us away as a solution to help groups of friends stay in touch on the move. We’re looking forward to welcoming co-founders Ben Davenport, Lucy Zhang and Jonathan Perlow, and we’re excited that the team will continue their vision for groups and mobile communication as part of Facebook.

On the topic of it shutting down, Facebook has this to say:

For now, Beluga will continue to function as it does today. Beluga accounts and data will not be lost. We’ll be providing more details on future plans for Beluga in the coming weeks.

Source: Facebook Acquires Group Messaging Service Beluga

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