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The Motivator

TikTok is quietly snapping up creatives from YouTube and Instagram for a full Africa roll-out

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Early this year, the short video app TikTok joined Nairobi Garage, a leading coworking space in Nairobi’s Kilimani district.

The Chinese company behind the world’s fastest-growing social media app had already been holding “creator sessions” and meetups around the city in 2019, urging creative young Kenyans to learn about the benefits of joining the “fun, cool short video platform”. Last October it partnered with Chinese phone maker Transsion’s Infinix brand in Kenya with a hashtag campaign called #WeAreHot to boost a new phone model but also raise awareness of the app.

TikTok has been investing quietly, but significantly, to usher in a new age of influencers in Africa. It’s part of a concerted strategy for the youth-friendly app to get a major foothold in the world’s youngest continent and home to some of the leading global pop culture movers across music and film especially with the recent rise of Afrobeats and Nollywood.

TikTok South Africa

In Nigeria, TikTok  has been signing up comedians, dancers and singers from Instagram and YouTube with promises of higher visibility and more followers. By October, the company owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, hired a local “talent acquisition manager” tasked with “talent management, co-branding campaigns, and creative hashtags,” according to a LinkedIn post.

TikTok’s investment in local offices and hires has come with major gains. It is currently the third-ranked social media application among Nigerian users and the sixth-ranked social media app among Kenyans in the Google Play Store.

For South Africa, TikTok has a dedicated account @tiktok.southafrica with much of the usual youthful fare of the latest dance steps and quirky clips. In January, in a sure sign of the growing importance of TikTok to driving usage, phone company MTN inked a deal to create customized MTN TikTok internet data bundles. It was a similar strategy that saw WhatsApp usage rocket in South Africa.

Understanding Africa 

When TikTok first looked at the African market in 2018, it had barely been searched by Africans on Google trends.  Today, hits for TikTok top searches for terms like “influencer” in the apps three key markets: Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Facebook has worked tirelessly for the hearts and minds of African users going so far as to offer free data usage for its networks of apps in almost half of the countries in Africa. Over time WhatsApp has become the most popular platform across Africa.

But TikTok is taking a different approach by focusing on understanding the African market and encouraging users to express themselves in the way that they know best. It has been hiring local staff and developing creators in its three key markets (Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa) since 2018, giving the app a competitive advantage in targeting popular creators and gaining a feel for the type of content its users like to see.

“Instead of serving up videos from only the popular, big-name users on the platform, the individualized feed highlights video content based on the types of videos users like,” TikTok says in a statement to Quartz Africa.

#Africancheck on TikTok has 3.8 million views. Using this hashtag with video footage, overlaid by ambient beats, young Africans create videos showing off exactly what they feel it means to be African.“Lots of spices’ flash over TikTok Kenyan creator Polly Wachirah’s screen as she pans over her cupboard.  “Kitengi” Tanzanian and Ugandan user quinlytfah0 shows off the classic East African fabric. The same hashtag on Instagram, has fewer than 100 posts a number of which are reposts from the TikTok app.

“If you want to think of Africa from a community  standpoint, it’s a very tight knit, very highly networked, therefore if people are able to see their friends, people they know, celebrities they know, [and] what they are doing, it becomes very powerful as a feature,” says Mike Otieno, co-founder of Wowzi Technologies, an influencer marketing platform in Nairobi, localized content is an important feature for African users.Quartz Daily Brief

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TikTok’s ability to pull off hyper-localized hashtags that capture the spirit of African creators is largely due in part to  the app’s powerful algorithm that utilizes location data and user tastes to recommend content under a tab aptly named “for you”. For example, when a TikTok user in Kenya logs into the app, they are fed an array of videos from a mix of Kenyan creators and popular TikTok creators from around the world. This enables up and coming creators on the continent increased visibility and more followers.

Popular Nigerian TikTok creator @mcshemcomedian posted his first TikTok video in May 2019. He currently has 2.4 million followers on his TikTok account alone, more than his following on his Youtube and Instagram accounts combined.

Community Support

Creating a video on TikTok involves three key steps: making a video, adding creative filters and editing tools, and using the right hashtag. Users post variations of the same video under the same hashtag challenge and the results vary dramatically.

Community support has  been crucial to getting African creators to transfer their skills and expertise to the app. Though says it does not pay creators, it does provide creators with “community management teams”, “offline support”, “creative filters” and “editing tools”.

For many young Africans these resources have been a major draw. On Instagram and Facebook, creators can be limited in the content they produce without third party tools that take up storage space and data on cell phones.

Though Africans are now using more smartphones because of affordable phone makers like Huawei and Tecno, video and photo quality still varies significantly from expensive premium phone brands. TikTok levels the playing field for all users regardless of the phone being used. As long as a TikTok creator has the app, they can use the full range of features offered, that are periodically updated without adding third party apps.

African Influencers

TikTok’s most popular creators in the US have been able to parlay their following on the app to full fledged careers.  TikTok’s most followed creator Lorengray has skyrocketed from TikTok star to actress and music artist. The potential for African users to do the same on the platform is not quite there yet, but there’s plenty of promise as there are fewer legacy barriers unlike Hollywood.

The app has become a major platform for brands looking to  monetize user attention, especially that of Gen Z audiences. Big brands like the NBA, Chipotle and the Washington post have taken to TikTok with creative ideas for brand exposure.

TikTok’s largest user base in Africa is Gen Z and millennials, according to TikTok representatives. With a youth population that is expected to double by 2055 TikTok may become the core marketing tool for brands in Africa as it has in China and the United States.

Source: https://qz.com/africa/1815825/tiktok-is-winning-young-african-stars-from-youtube-instagram/

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The Motivator

Iron Man VR is a tinfoil version of a truly great Iron Man game

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“I am not Iron Man,” I mutter to myself after crashing into a wall for the umpteenth time while waving my arms around. But it’s not for a lack of effort.

Iron Man VR is a game with a simple premise: putting players inside the famous metal suit of Marvel’s Armored Avenger, letting you fly around and battle supervillains with laser blasts and gadgets galore. It’s also the first real console title from Camouflaj, which had previously developed the high-profile mobile game, Républiqueback in 2013 (which has since been ported to PC, Xbox One, PlayStation, and a variety of VR platforms).“I AM NOT IRON MAN.”

It’s the sort of idea that’s uniquely suited to virtual reality. What better way to capture a hero who’s most famous for their helmet and wrist-mounted weaponry than the headset and motion controllers of VR?

Unfortunately, while Iron Man VR has moments where it really captures what it might be like to suit up as Iron Man himself, it’s held back by finicky controls, repetitive levels, and gameplay that just isn’t that much fun to play for very long.

While early trailers might give the impression that Iron Man VR is a gussied-up on-rails shooter, the reality is that Camouflaj has given players nearly complete freedom to soar through the skies as Iron Man. Using a pair of PlayStation Move controllers, you use the two triggers to control your repulsors in a unique style of VR flight. Angle them with your palms facing behind you, and you’ll fly forward; shove forward, and you’ll stop then fly backward. Steering is done through a combination of angling your thrusters and by aiming with your head. Since players are standing vertically the whole time, it’s still not quite analogous to the soaring Iron Man flight in the films or comics, but it’s as close as you can probably get with a VR setup.PLAYERS HAVE NEAR-COMPLETE FREEDOM TO SOAR THROUGH THE SKIES

It also runs into a few limitations due to the nature of VR. The first is that the PS VR is a tethered headset, so players can only do limited turns. More drastic maneuvering has to be done with button presses that jump the camera either 45 or 180 degrees so they don’t yank the cables out. It’s also just plain difficult, at least at the start. While Camouflaj liberally peppers the game with speed gauntlets to help players adjust in the early levels, there’s a steep learning curve. (Some of the developer times in those flight challenges seem frankly impossible to me to beat, although I have no doubt players will.)

It also requires that players basically remain standing the entire time they play. While Camouflaj does note that the game can be played seated, the fact that you’re pointing your hands behind you a lot of the time means that it’s nearly impossible to play on a couch. I had more success moving to a folding chair in the middle of my living room that I could reach behind, but the game still struggled to track my hands as well.

I didn’t suffer from any motion sickness while playing, but I tend to personally handle VR movement well. If you’re new to the genre or have a particular sensitivity to nausea, the quick turning movement might not be to your liking.

Flying is only part of the equation, though. The other half is combat, which requires players to balance how they play since Iron Man uses the same repulsors to fly as he does to shoot blasters. It’s a constant juggling act: do you hover in place, making yourself a bigger target to unleash more firepower? Or boost away with both thrusters?

Iron Man actually has two main weapon types: quick-firing repulsors and secondary weapons, both bound to the same button. Hold up your hands palm out, and you’ll use repulsor blasts; tilt your palm down, and your wrist-mounted secondary weapon will pop up. It’s one of Iron Man VR’s best touches, and it did the best job at capturing the character. Lastly, players can also throw rocket-powered punches by holding down a controller button to smash nearby enemies.

There’s a customization system, too, where players can unlock “research points” to add new gear to their armor or swap out their weapons. But all of those options are unlocked from the start. Once I had a good setup going, the game doesn’t give much of a reason to unlock the rest. (Amusingly, there’s also a variety of different color schemes for the suits, but given that you almost never see the armor from a third-person perspective, it’s a bit of a useless feature.)

But while the pieces are all good, the issues with Iron Man VR arrive when they come together in the game, which just isn’t deep enough to support a full-blown title.

In practice, Iron Man VR is very repetitive. There’s only a handful of enemy types, whose tactics never really change. One drone will batter players with laser blasts, another will attempt to ram you, while a third has to be dodged before its shield is down. Each enemy is effectively designed to be countered by a specific weapon in your arsenal (you shoot the shooting drone, you punch the ramming drone, you ground-pound the tank), and the only variety really comes in how many the game throws at you at once.

The result is that each of the 12 levels (which are broken up into 15- to 30-minute chunks, well-suited for VR) more or less breaks down in a cycle of “defeat these identical waves of enemies using identical weapons in identical locations” until the next expository speech happens.‘IRON MAN VR’ IS VERY REPETITIVE

The game also breaks up the Iron Man action with plenty of time spent jumping around Tony’s mansion or Nick Fury’s helicarrier doing the gimmicky sorts of VR tasks that the genre had outgrown years ago. Teleporting around an open space to press a button to answer a speakerphone or put away a box of mementos just feels like padding. Those sorts of VR-y tasks make their way into the regular gameplay, too, punctuating the waves of drone fights by having players “pull” a door open, “grab” some wires, or “punch” an energy core.

Iron Man VR does try to mix things up with different locations, varying from the Shanghai skyline to a helicarrier soaring in the sky to an abandoned weapon facility. But levels repeat frequently, too; the first time spent soaring through the cliffs by Tony’s Malibu mansion is great, but by the third time the game brings it out, it starts to drag.

Some of those levels also just look bad. Part of that is due to the PlayStation VR’s lower resolution and horsepower. Some levels are better than others, but it can be rough to look at. In particular, the Shanghai level — all blocky, featureless buildings and empty pixelated roads — feels like something out of a PlayStation 2 game.

The experience is held together by an original Iron Man story, which should sound very familiar if you’ve watched an Iron Man movie (or read a comic book) in the past few years. Tony Stark has retired from making weapons, but a villain from his past — in this case, the hacker villain Ghost — wants to hold him accountable for the destruction his former misdeeds caused.

Various classic Iron Man characters show up, including Tony himself, Pepper Potts, Tony’s AI Friday, Nick Fury (all looking like off-brand versions of their big-screen counterparts), along with a new character, a holographic copy of Tony named Gunsmith that helps players design upgrades and serves as a “devil” on Tony’s shoulder to the more positive Friday during missions. (Gunsmith also solves the VR problem of never getting to see Tony’s face during gameplay by giving players a second “Tony Stark” to interact with.)

The biggest problems with Iron Man VR, however, are the truly terrible load times — at least on the standard PS4 that I was playing on. I routinely spent 10–20 seconds staring at a pitch-black screen just to load the loading screen, which can take up to another full minute to load into the actual level. That waiting is made even worse by the fact that you’re stuck wearing a VR headset and standing in your living room the entire time.

There are a lot of good ideas in Iron Man VR. But between the rough controls, repetitive gameplay, and lackluster graphics, it’s the sort of thing that feels like it would have been better suited to a shorter, more polished experience. It can make you feel like Iron Man at times — but that’s not enough to carry a full-length game.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/21311143/iron-man-vr-review-tony-stark-virtual-reality-playstation-marvel-flight-psvr

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The Motivator

iOS 14 has a new home screen with widgets, a redesigned Siri, and more

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Apple has announced iOS 14 onstage at WWDC 2020, giving the first (official) look at the latest version of its software for the iPhone, and it’s bringing the biggest change to the iOS home screen in years: widgets.

Widgets come in a variety of sizes and can still be viewed in the Today view, but in iOS 14, Apple allows widgets to be added to the main Home screen to live right alongside your apps. To add them, there’s a new “widget gallery” where users can easily add and customize widgets. There’s also a new “Smart Stack” widget that automatically shows relevant apps based on the time of day.

Apple also announced a new “App Library” view that automatically organizes apps into groups and lists. Thanks to that new App Library view, Apple allows users to now hide apps on their “main” home screen. It looks pretty similar to Android’s app drawer, but with some additional smart grouping features — like automatically pulling out all your Apple Arcade games into one batch.PICTURE-IN-PICTURE VIDEO IS COMING TO IOS

In another new feature, Apple is adding system-wide picture-in-picture to iOS videos. Much like on macOS, videos will hover over apps and can be adjusted in size or collapsed into the side of the display to continue playing in the background. It’ll also work with FaceTime calls, too.

Apple is also launching a new “App Clip” feature, which are speedy, card-based snippets of apps that let you access small parts of apps when you need them without requiring users to install a full app. Examples given included accessing a parking app through an NFC tag, or a coffee store’s reward program. App Clips support Sign In With Apple to avoid having to make new accounts, can be accessed again through the new App Library, and work with Apple Pay. To go with App Clips, Apple is launching a new QR-code format that uses both visual codes and NFC to access App Clips quickly.

Also coming in iOS 14: the long-requested option to users to set their own default email and browsers, although Apple hasn’t provided too many details on how that works just yet.

Siri also has a new view: instead of taking over your whole screen when you activate the digital assistant, there’s just a small overlay at the bottom of the display of the animated Siri icon. There are also new features: Siri can now send audio messages in addition to just dictated messages.

Similar, incoming phone calls and FaceTime calls will also appear with a less obtrusive new pop-up, instead of taking over the entire screen.

Apple also announced a new Translate app that will be built into iOS, which — much like Google Translate — will allow users to easily translate between languages. Users will be able to enter text in or dictate messages and have them translated into 11 languages. English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese,Korean, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian will all be supported at launch.

Messages is also getting new features: in iOS 14, you’ll be able to pin important contacts and conversations to the top of the Messages app to easily talk to your favorite friends or group chats. There are also new Memoji accessories — including an apt face mask option. Apple is also adding new threaded conversations in group chats and mention notifications to ping specific people in the chat.

Apple Maps is getting new, curated guides from companies like Zagat or AllTrails to give better recommendations for new places. Maps is also getting support for cycling, with dedicated directions for bike-riding that takes into account elevation, bike paths, stairs, and roads. Cycling will launch in NYC, LA, San Fransisco’s Bay Area, Shanghai, and Beijing. There’s also a new EV Routing feature, which will track the current charge of your car, factor in elevation and weather, and route you to compatible stations. Apple’s working with BMW and Ford, although no specific cars were announced.UNLOCK YOUR CAR WITH YOUR IPHONE

CarPlay is getting support for custom wallpapers and new app categories: parking apps, EV chargers, and fast food takeout apps. Apple is also adding support for NFC car keys with iOS 14, with the 2021 BMW 5 Series set to be the first to support the feature. NFC passes are stored in Apple’s Secure Enclave for security and can be shared to other iOS users, giving them temporary access to your vehicle. The new car key feature will also be coming to iOS 13, and to make sure you won’t get locked out of your car, it’ll use a special power reserve feature to allow access up to five hours after your phone has died.

The Home app is also getting new features, including support for “Adaptive Lighting,” which allows for compatible smart lights to adjust color temperature over the course of the day, and facial recognition for HomeKit security cameras.

There’s also a host of smaller features, too. Safari on iOS 14 will now inform you if one of your passwords has been leaked in a data breach, similar to Chrome. Developers now have an option to share subscriptions through Family Sharing. Game Center is getting a new design. And there’s a new “Sleep mode” that turns on do-not-disturb, dims your phone’s screen, and shows your upcoming alarm for morning.

The last few iOS updates have been very hit-or-miss, with last year’s notoriously problematic iOS 13 following the incredible solid (from a performance standpoint) iOS 12, which in turn brought much-needed stability to the buggy iOS 11.

iOS 14 will be out this fall, but a developer preview will be available to Apple Developer Program members starting today, with plans for a public beta for all iOS users in July. iOS 14 will work on the iPhone 6S and up — the same devices that supported iOS 13.

Source: https://www.theverge.com/2020/6/22/21291695/apple-ios-14-updates-home-screen-redesign-features-release-date-wwdc-2020

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The Motivator

These are the 15 biggest games coming to the PlayStation 5, from a new ‘Spider-Man’ game to ‘NBA 2K21’ (SNE)

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The PlayStation 5 is coming this holiday season, according to Sony, and a ton of new games for the new console were just revealed.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • From a new “Spider-Man” game to this year’s “NBA 2K” entry, the PlayStation 5 is getting a ton of new games.
  • Whether you’re looking for huge new sequels, like “Horizon Forbidden West,” major new entries in long-established franchises, like “Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart,” or this year’s “NBA 2K” game, the PlayStation 5 has something for you.
  • These are the biggest games that were revealed during Sony’s big event last week!

The PlayStation 5 is just months away, and this past week we got our first real look at games running on Sony’s next-generation game console.

Great news: Not only do those games look stunning, but Sony revealed a plethora of unknown titles and hotly anticipated sequels during its big PS5 reveal event.

From the new “Spider-Man” game to this year’s “NBA 2K” entry, these are the 15 most exciting new PS5 games we saw this week:

1. “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales”

2. “Project Athia”

3. “NBA 2K21”

4. “Sackboy: A Big Adventure”

5. “Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart”

6. “Stray”

7. “Ghostwire: Tokyo”

8. “Resident Evil 8/Resident Evil Village”

9. “Demon’s Souls” (Remake)

10. “Horizon Forbidden West”

11. “Bugsnax”

12. “Deathloop”

13. “Gran Turismo 7”

14. “Hitman 3”

15. “Little Devil Inside”

BONUS: Here’s the debut trailer for the PlayStation 5 console itself, which was also unveiled this past week!

Source: https://www.pulse.ng/bi/tech/these-are-the-15-biggest-games-coming-to-the-playstation-5-from-a-new-spider-man-game/h8delhp

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