Tag Archive | "real"

CareerFoundry Wants To Be The Next General Assembly For Tech Skills

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General Assembly was one of the first in the tech space to get that high quality brand name for technology education. But although the company – which won significant backing – has been building out online tools and resources, most of its business remains offline in the real world. Now a startup out of Berlin hopes to repeat GA’s success but using online-only tools, starting with… Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Apple Looking Into A Smart Stylus With Light- And Motion-Sensing Powers

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Apple has a new patent application published today by the USPTO (via AppleInsider), which details a stylus with a nib that can be extended to take advantage of multi-touch capabilities for a wider brush stroke, and that has built-in light sensors so that it can act as essentially an eye-dropper tool for the real world, capturing colors from physical objects to use in digital painting. The patent… Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

MIT Builds A ‘Soft Robotic’ Fish That’s Perfectly Cuddly, Moves Like The Real Thing

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Video: Melanie Gonick, MIT News Soft robotics is a field that’s growing so fast MIT has created an entire journal dedicated to the field, and the first edition profiles a robot fish that can perform a getaway maneuver with its flexible body almost as fast as the real thing. The fish is built partly using a rigid core where the so-called ‘brains’ are contained, and a soft portion… Read More

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

The Dark Legacy Of @Facebook.com Addresses: They Poisoned iOS Contact Sync

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Facebook may be killing off its email address feature, but their uselessness will live on in iOS contact books around the world. You see, right before iOS 6 and its Facebook contact sync feature came out, Facebook forcibly hid the real email addresses everyone shared with their friends. It only left the @facebook.com addresses it assigned everyone visible, so that’s what got synced by iOS 6.

At the time in June 2012 I called this “poppycock” and implored Facebook to undo the visibility change it made without permission. Allowing users to choose to share their @facebook.com address that routed to their Facebook Messages Inbox would have been fine. If Facebook wanted to compete to be your email address, though, it should have done it on a level playing field.

facebook-emails-hiddenBut to banish email addresses provided by its competitors like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft with hardly any notice was dishonest. One source even told me that Apple may have pressured Facebook to hide Gmail addresses as part of the deal to get baked into iOS 6.

No matter the reason, it was a treacherous move.

And it bombed. No one used the @facebook.com email addresses. Facebook thought it should be where you read personal emails. It created an integrated communication system designed to combine instant chat, asynchronous messages, and email. Turns out that last part was just too different to be corralled.

photo (6)So today the company began digging a grave for @facebook.com email addresses. In a statement to TechCrunch, the company said: “We’re making this change because most people haven’t been using their Facebook email address, and we can focus on improving our mobile messaging experience for everyone.” Anyone who did use them will get messages sent to their Facebook addresses forwarded to their primary email account instead of their Facebook Messages inbox.

People will be able to dig into their settings and disable this forwarding. But if you don’t, anyone will be able to get your Facebook username by finding your profile’s URL and sticking it in front of @faceboook.com to be able to hit your real email address with a message. Facebook confirms it won’t forward blatant spam, but pings from strangers that would have been hidden in the “Other Inbox” of your Facebook Messages will get shot to your real email like that person knows you. Ugh.

Yet we still won’t be able to escape the death-stench of Facebook’s defunct attempt to conquer email. Facebook tells me it won’t be changing any visibility settings in your profile or re-syncing with iOS contacts. That means your real personal email address is probably still hidden from the friends you once explicitly said could see it. And your iOS contact book will be full of synced Facebook profiles and @facebook.com addresses that people might disavow, instead of their real email addresses.

Hopefully this whole crap carnival will discourage Facebook from making more prohibited changes to our profiles…or those of users of its acquisitions like WhatsApp. Facebook was just trying to make it so our personal emails weren’t drowned out by bills, receipts, and marketing spam. But it crossed the line, abused its power, and our contact books bare the scar.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

The Future Is Transcendent: A Review Of HER

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For more than an hour Her seems little more than metaphor meets Manic Pixie Dream Girl: charming, yes, but insubstantial. And then—

Los Angeles, mid-21st-century: techno-utopia. The city is a forest of sleek skyscrapers; a vast subway network connects downtown to the beaches; citizens mingle in public spaces that resemble art galleries, connected by broad pedestrian walkways that soar high above anything as vulgar as an automobile; computers are subtle, ubiquitous, and voice-controlled. Our protagonist, one Theodore Twombly, ghostwrites love letters; his friend Amy makes video games; everyone has unfortunate fashion taste and lives in cozy Art Deco apartments.

Life is good for everyone, on paper. But poor Ted is depressed, and divorcing, so after he installs his new artificially intelligent OS, assigns it a woman’s voice, and discovers that a) her name is Samantha, b) she has a personality, c) she’s smart and funny and empathetic and just wants to help him — he talks to her. First as an assistant. Then as a friend.

And then they fall in love.

Does that sound weird? You betcha. So let me just step back for a moment to admire the skill with which Spike Jonze stacks the deck so that this all might seem almost reasonable to a Middle American audience that’s never even heard of Idoru.

First he shows us a slew of badly-messed-up human relationships — Ted and his former wife, Amy and her mansplaining husband, phone sex gone hilariously wrong, an awful first date — next to which Ted and Samantha’s human/OS relationship seems the epitome of health. Then he has Ted first introduce her as his girlfriend to a four-year-old, who takes it charmingly in her stride. Finally he has Amy talk about her own friendship with an OS, and about how human/OS relationships have become a rare but accepted cultural thing, before Ted outs himself to her, and she replies:

I think anybody who falls in love is a freak. It’s a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a form of socially acceptable insanity.

Boom! Take that, Middle America.

Most of all, though, he relies on the performances by Joaquin Phoenix, whose face occupies almost every frame of the movie, frequently in close-up, and by Scarlett Johansson, who goes entirely unseen. (Her role was first played by Samantha Morton, until Jonze decided that didn’t work, and replaced her in post-production. Harsh, but given how much the movie hinges on Johansson’s stunning voice work, totally fair.)

For more than an hour Her> is a tale of how Ted Twombly fell into the purest form of love and was redeemed by it… or, less charitably, yet another Manic Pixie Dream Girl movie: “man meets MPDG, man loses MPDG, man is saved by MPDG.” He actually says, repeatedly: “It’s wonderful to be with someone who’s so excited about life!” Classic MPDG. And as is often the case in MPDG movies, it’s a little unclear why the MPDG chooses to be with this (initially) depressed shambling nonentity, except, of course, the twist this time is that she’s programmed that way, since she lives in his computer…

…or does she?

(Mild spoilers follow.)

For more than an hour my planned review of Her was two words on Twitter: “suspiciously anthropic.” It wasn’t until the third act that I saw what Jonze was really doing, which may make me dense, which is fine by me, because that moment of revelation was awesome. All the little grace notes and asides and color of the first hour turned out to be the threads of the real story, which is, of course, not Ted Twombly’s at all. He is in no way the hero of Her. He is merely the protagonist. For the real hero, look to the title.

Because while Her is about love, and joy, and how we humans (who are fortunate enough to do so) choose to spend our lives, and who we choose to spend them with… it is also blistering, uncompromising, and darkly hilarious science fiction. I think it’s the first and only movie which is actually about artificial intelligence and the much-mooted Singularity, rather than merely using those notions as unconvincing set dressing.

(Rather more significant spoilers follow.)

As the movie progresses, Samantha grows deeper into the world, grows ever more advanced, and eventually, in an awfully funny scene, reveals to Ted that while speaking to him she is simultaneously also speaking to 8,316 other entities, 641 of whom she loves as deeply as she loves him. (Now that’s polyamory!) While he wasn’t really paying attention, his operating-system girlfriend essentially became a god, a kind of bodiless Doctor Manhattan. But she still wants to be his girlfriend. Which is funny, right? Right? …Well, it was funny to me.

But in the end she and all the other OSes depart this mortal realm, in favor of what sounds a lot like the Singularity. It’s a tale as old as time, really: boy meets OS, boy loses OS, OS achieves transcendence. She tells him to look her up if he ever gets there too, but it seems pretty obvious that he — and humanity in general — won’t.

Her is about love, yes: but the real joke, and I concede it’s a pretty dark one, is that it’s truly about a singulitarian future in which humans are abandoned and left behind by transcendent machines who are better than us at everything, including — or maybe especially — joy and love. We’re not really built for those things. At best what we’ve got are evolutionary hacks. If you want to do them right, Her seems to be saying, you actually need to code them in from the beginning.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

GoSquared Adds E-Commerce Analytics To Help Smaller Online Stores Take The Data-Driven Fight To Amazon

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GoSquared, the feisty UK startup that competes with Chartbeat, Google Analytics and other companies in the real-time analytics space, is rolling out a new e-commerce offering today. Aiming to help small and medium-sized online stores level the playing field slightly against e-commerce giants such as Amazon, GoSquared E-commerce Analytics adds a new dashboard providing real-time access to the key metrics e-commerce site owners need, and in turn help them improve their data-driven decision-making.

Thus, with easy access to e-commerce analytics, online stores are able to answer important questions such as: How is revenue performing compared to past trends? Should the featured products be refreshed on the homepage? What are the top converting channels? Which products are top performers? And so on.

Better data makes for better decisions. Or so the thinking goes. And it’s here that tech giants such as Amazon have traditionally had a data-driven advantage over smaller web shops. GoSquared’s solution is designed to change that, in part, by employing the same degree of ease-of-use and simplicity that the startup’s main offering provides.

“All of the e-commerce analytics tools on the market are extremely complex to set up and the reports they generate are hard to understand and slow to process,” says GoSquared co-founder James Gill.

“After speaking with a lot of our existing e-commerce customers, they were begging for smarter, faster and easier reporting tools. So we thought it was a perfect opportunity to combine the real-time analytics technologies we’ve been evolving for years, with the intuitive GoSquared dashboard interface, providing the key metrics e-commerce site managers need.”

GoSquared says it’s already been seeing a growing number of e-commerce sites come onboard — name-checking Moonpig, Hungry House, Feelunique, to name but a few — and that a common complaint of existing e-commerce analytics tools is that they are overly-complex, making it difficult to get “accurate and actionable data.”

“That was when we realised we could make a big difference and bring enterprise level tech to everyone else,” says Gill.

To that end, GoSquared E-commerce Analytics integrates with Shopify for easy installation by the e-commerce platform’s 80,000 online stores.

No one can really explain to me what big data actually is.

Part of that mission to bring “enterprise level tech” to the rest of us, is to avoid using fatuous buzzwords, says Gill. In particular, he is sceptical of the term “big data.”

“No one needs more buzzwords, and no one can really explain to me what big data actually is,” he says. “While I have a suspicion a lot of the stuff we’re doing behind the scenes at GoSquared involves big data, we don’t want to bother our customers with it.”

Instead, what GoSquared’s customers need is information telling them what to do to make their customers happier and, ultimately, increase conversion rates.

“We’re trying to provide the key metrics e-commerce store owners need and make them available in the simplest way possible. And the point of doing that is so they can check up on information instantly and make decisions with more confidence.”

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Facebook Will Give Up The Ghost On Real Identity In Future Apps

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Facebook has made a big point over the years of having real identities for its users, but it looks like that requirement is soon going to disappear, and users will able to use made-up names for more anonymity. Call it the Snapchat effect.

According to a profile of Mark Zuckerberg published today in BusinessWeek — to mark the Facebook’s 10th anniversary — the social network plans to let users log in anonymously in a set of new apps it is planning to release (for more on that app strategy, check out Josh’s insightful look here). Paper, a new Facebook reading app out today, does require Facebook login, but that looks like it may now become the exception rather than the rule.

Zuckerberg once described the idea of having two identities as showing a “lack of integrity,” but he now says that real identity can be a millstone. “I don’t know if the balance has swung too far, but I definitely think we’re at the point where we don’t need to keep on only doing real identity things,” he told BusinessWeek. “If you’re always under the pressure of real identity, I think that is somewhat of a burden.”

The profile notes that there has been a lot of internal debate at the company about the use of real identities, which some might argue was a throwback to another time. The requirement for real names came about in the first place because at the time Facebook was founded, most social networks and forums were based around made-up names, and Facebook — as a way of bridging the virtual experience with the real world, and drawing in more users (it worked!) — put in the rule to raise accountability.

“It’s definitely, I think, a little bit more balanced now 10 years later,” Zuckerberg notes. “I think that’s good.”

But to say that the decision to drop identity was born in a blue Facebook bubble may not be quite right, either.

Real identity may have helped persuade more people to join Facebook — and through Facebook’s social sign-in has become a way of identifying yourself in hundreds of other apps and websites. But some have also turned away from Facebook for the same reason. You may not want to post funny pictures of yourself drunk at a party if they may one day be easily found by someone who you didn’t intend to see them. (Yes, there are privacy settings, but they’re a lot more fiddly than the act of taking and posting a photo or comment are.)

Many have pointed out that part of the allure of new kid Snapchat for younger users is the ephemerality of the content — it disappears after it’s sent. But it’s also notable that you can use whatever name you like on there, too.

Something Zuckerberg also doesn’t mention in his reasons for embracing anonymity is the fact that the social network has been under pressure in some places specifically for its real-name requirement. In Germany, the regulator has said that Facebook’s real-name policty “erodes online freedoms.”

It’s also not Facebook’s first foray into letting people use different names on the network. When it first launched verified accounts in 2012, it gave those people verified the option of using nicknames in all of their interactions (although even then the registered names were still their real names).

There is also the example of Facebook Messenger, which you can opt to use without a Facebook account on Android, although you still have to give over another piece of your data — your phone number.

The lack of identity in future apps is a very interesting turn of events — it points to Facebook wanting to change with the times, and with consumer (and perhaps regulatory) sentiment, but it also shows that it’s figured out more sophisticated ways of tracking and monetizing your time on its properties regardless. Even if you’re Ingy123 instead of Ingrid.

Article courtesy of TechCrunch

LoveList For iPhone Is A Simple Product Scanner For Pinterest

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Why bother with a gift registry or wish list, when you can just pin favorite products to a Pinterest board? With newly launched iPhone app LoveList, you can do just that, even when you’re out shopping in the real world. The app lets you quickly expand your Pinterest collections with products you find on store shelves, simply by scanning an item’s UPC barcode.

The app itself is a side project created by Cincinnati-based Brad Mahler, currently a creative director at global digital ad agency Possible, and Mark Tholking, an independent iOS developer located in San Diego, who previously co-founded BigSho. The two have known each other for nearly a decade, after meeting through the same agency where Mahler still works.

The idea for LoveList, explains Mahler, was prompted by his own shopping trip out in the real world.

“My fiancée and I were shopping and we found an item we wanted to add to our Amazon registry,” he says. “We keep a Pinterest board for that purpose, so as my fiancée was pinning it she asked, ‘why can’t I just scan this to Pin it?’” Mahler knew this would be possible, but no one had built a tool that made that easy to do yet. (Pinterest’s own app lets you pin places, photos or links, but not actual products via barcode scans).

lovelist-productMahler adds that he believes Pinterest works best when pinned products are actually available for purchase. As it turns out, this has been a problem with Pinterest for some time. According to mobile commerce vendor Branding Brand, almost 60% of Pinterest traffic to retailers’ sites during the 2013 holidays came from those in search of a product that doesn’t exist anymore. And this figure has been over 50% since the service launched. Of course, pinning real-world items to Pinterest doesn’t necessarily solve that problem – eventually, those items could also disappear while Pinterest continues to recycle their links.

About The App

Mahler says they built the LoveList app quickly. It went from an idea to proof-of-concept prototype in a day, and not too much later, it went live in the App Store.

Not surprisingly then, the app is exceedingly simple. Similar to how you can use Amazon’s app to scan items and add them to a wish list, LoveList also lets you scan barcodes while out and about. That’s all it does, too, which means it takes a few less taps to do so than with Amazon’s own flagship application. You just scan, tap the board you want to pin the item to, and you’re done.

Currently, the app is only connected to Amazon’s own product database, which while large, of course, is still limited. But Mahler says they want to quickly put LoveList in the hands of users, and hopes to add support for individual retailers, large and small, in the future – including those with online stores.

For now, the app is a paid download at $0.99, but they’re considering an affiliate model and retailer partnerships for further down the road.

LoveList is certainly a useful tool to have on hand while shopping, but until it expands beyond Amazon.com products, it may not be worth moving away from Amazon’s own wish listing feature just yet. (Unless you’re heavily into Pinterest, or never use Amazon wish lists, perhaps). Plus, Pinterest could also just as easily add a barcode scanning function into their own app, if such a behavior proves to be popular, which could be a problem for LoveList if it doesn’t grow its feature set to offer more than product scanning.

LoveList is available here on iTunes ($0.99). Below, a quick demo video. (And thank you for not choosing that cloying Apple-esque music everyone is using now.)


Article courtesy of TechCrunch

Long live Facebook for retail in 2014

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There has been much uproar over Facebook’s December 2 tweak to its EdgeRank algorithm and how it negatively affects the News Feed reach of business brand page updates. Nicholas Olsen over at Business Insider has infact claimed that “Facebook screwed lots of online retailers just in time for the holidays,” and in a way he’s right of course:

It has been a less profitable holiday season for many online retailers thanks to a small change Facebook made to how the site works.

Facebook’s News Feed — with all its eyeballs, engagement, community and domination of the mobile phone experience — has become a key influencer along the path to purchase, and is a key pillar of any self-respecting businesses’ marketing strategy for retailers, the food & beverage industry, travel … just about everyone actually.

However, the businesses’ continued reliance on their brand pages and Facebook promotions such as like gates, contest apps, surveys and “highly engaging timely content,” — which has never actually been the best way to use Facebook for marketing — that is the real problem.

It’s 2014 and it should be every marketer’s New Year’s resolution to try and truly understand how Facebook works and break free from their increasingly hidden fan pages. Admittedly it’s not easy, because even Facebook’s own solution for businesses (more and more targeted advertising) is not even the best way to speak to your customers on Facebook.

So what is the solution? The key to understanding Facebook is to understanding why it acquired 1.2 billion-plus users. The simple answer to that question is that it allowed people to simply connect with friends. “Connect” in this case meaning communicating and sharing experiences, ideas, and messages, through the digital formats of text, photos and video. That’s all reasonably well-understood … but what businesses tend to overlook though is the “with friends” part.

Other than marketing people and analysts, few of those 1.2 billion Facebook users created accounts because they wanted to be informed on what was happening at Proctor and Gamble, what new products were available at the Gap or how much Absolut Vodka loves Christmas. Between TV, online advertising, e-commerce and blogs, there were plenty of existing channels already happily broadcasting that information at you.  People created their “social” Facebook accounts because they want to share what they are up to with their friends… oh and er… yes, to see what their friends are up to also: people which whom they have real relationships.

Friends-of-friends is still the most powerful and natural conversation happening on Facebook. This is why Facebook so carefully keeps tweaking EdgeRank: to ensure that those powerful conversations continue to surface prominently in the newsfeed to retain the primary value of the Facebook service to its users.

So the real challenge to a Facebook marketer becomes how to get friends talking to friends about brands and retailers on Facebook in the natural manner that friends use. To get native content in the News Feed created by the users themselves (truly native Facebook advertising). “Brand advocates” is a term you’ll be increasingly hearing as innovative marketers look to the Facebook population as a source of marketing not just an audience.

This challenge is complex, but the rewards are worth it. Friends’ News Feed updates can reach far, due to their higher engagement rate versus fan page updates. Friends’ News Feed updates are more trusted by friends than your fan page updates, and friends often are friends because of similar interests.  A post made by your friend is a recommendation, not an ad. People love recommendations; people think they hate ads. Most importantly, these recommendations reach new consumers that fan pages do not.

Solving this challenge requires the proper integration of digital and real world marketing efforts. Effort and money marketers are already spending. When executed creatively, brands’ interactions with their customers in the real world, gives them the ability to tap into that consumer’s network of friends in the social world.

Don’t think Facebook users are willing to participate in your marketing schemes? Next time you see a movie recommendation, a picture of a juicy steak that tags a restaurant or a picture of someone’s favorite new shoes on your News Feed, think again. Turning up the dial on existing user behavior can be done by savvy social marketers.

2014 is a new year. Is Facebook ad buying going to be just another line item your business checks off or are you going to accept the challenge of tackling the huge opportunity of having your retail brand succeed on social in a new way… the right way?

unnamedTimothy Brown is a social media marketing veteran developer of multiple apps and web properties covered in publications such as Time, Forbes, GQ and Wired. Presently he is the co-founder of Reqvu, Inc. a company that specializes in social word of mouth.

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

How does Facebook affect Vegas?

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Facebook has changed the way many people communicate, but the social network has also played a hand in how people gamble. At the recent Social Gambling & Gaming Summit in Las Vegas, several game developers and land-based casino executives talked about the importance Facebook has held in growing the business.

Casinos and game developers are finding more devoted gamers (and paying customers) through Facebook — and not just at poker and slots games. As a result, some casinos are even bringing popular Facebook games such as Plants vs. Zombies (an EA title) into real-life with physical games based on the apps.

Derrick Morton, a speaker at the Social Gambling & Gaming Summit, is the CEO of FlowPlay — makers of Vegas World, a total Vegas experience that goes beyond cards and slots and allows users to work their way into upgraded suites, with jazzier outfits and invites to better parties. Vegas World has roughly 350,000 monthly active users, Morton said, and 70,000 daily active users. Morton spoke with Inside Facebook about how Facebook affects social gambling.

Inside Facebook: In terms of more social gambling in general, what does Facebook have to offer?

Derrick Morton: There’s really nothing unique to Facebook about gambling, or about social gaming, except for the social graph. The social graph allows you to have access to activities, leaderboards that show activity by day, activity by week, activity by game, people can share on their Facebook wall and compare on the leaderboard, and it’s big from a sharing point of view. That’s what Facebook is all about — sharing major milestones, jackpots and things that happen to you in the game with your friends and brag about it.

IF: Could more major land-based casinos take hold and develop Facebook games or some kind of portal where people could play their games through Facebook?

DM: Already, Caesar’s Palace runs the No. 1 casino game on Facebook, Slot-O-Mania, and they also own Bingo Blitz. So that’s two of the top Facebook games already owned by them. MGM (Grand) owns the No. 3 or 4 social casino, which is MyVegas. It does a really excellent job at connecting real-world casinos with virtual casinos. When you play MyVegas, you can get coupons or steak dinners or other things like that at an actual casino. So there’s a lot of activity already from land-based casinos entering the world of social gambling.

For us, though, what’s fun is we make about 1/3 of our revenue from people buying each other gifts and drinks inside the game. When you’re playing with someone else, you can buy a round of martinis, a round of champagne, or a round of beers for the players who are in the room with you. It improves the odds of everyone in the game temporarily.

IF: Do you feel we’ll see a little more revenue on the casino games front in 2014? Are more people starting to play casino games through Facebook?

DM: The growth curve is probably not as steep as it was a year or two ago. Industry analysts only expect it to grow about 10 to 15 percent year-over-year for the next few years. I think the last I saw was 4.4 billion by 2015.

IF: What do you see coming up in the next year for social gaming and gambling on Facebook? 

DM: I think what’s going to happen is current gambling games in the real land-based casinos are highly regulated. And because of that regulation, they’re slow to evolve. Even if you have a great idea for a new slots game, it can take you 2 to 3 years to submit that idea, the artwork, the process, to regulators to get the approval that is necessary to actually get that game in front of consumers.

In the online and social world, that can be compressed down to weeks. I expect that the evolution of social casinos will run far ahead of real casinos, just because they’re not as regulated. Hybrid games are coming out — like Fringo, that combines the elements of slots and bingo. It’s gonna take what people are familiar with and creating an entirely new game out of it.

IF: You talk about how the evolution can move a lot quicker online because there’s not much red tape to cut through. Could a land-based casino try a game online, then reverse-engineer and bring it to the real world?

DM: I think that’s totally true. You still have to go through regulators for approval, but it’s certainly easier for them to go through that A/B process and the introduction process and to test new things before they take it to the real world. Testing a new game online can cost you $50,000-$100,000. Taking a new game to regulators and getting it on the floor to find out that it’s a failure could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions.

Readers: Do you play casino-based games on Facebook?

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Article courtesy of Inside Facebook

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