TIME Video Games

Twitch Takes a Step Toward Greater Broadcast Transparency

The popular player-driven video game streaming service says it'll take a proactive stance on increasing transparency for sponsored content.

Transparency is one of these noble words you hear a lot these days, but it’s rarely paired with practical definitions — and least of all with tangible action.

What does it mean to be transparent if you’re a company paying a celebrity to endorse your product? How do you divulge an ethically sufficient amount of information to stave off allegations of shilling?

Gaming channel Twitch is taking an interesting, proactive stance. The just-bought-by-Amazon company announced on its blog that it will immediately put into practice new policies designed to make clear what is or isn’t a sponsored broadcast.

“While we have always encouraged our broadcasters to acknowledge if they are playing games as part of a promotional campaign, we are now establishing a much more transparent approach to all paid programs on our platform and hope that it sets a precedent for the broader industry,” writes marketing VP Matthew DiPietro. “Simply put: We want complete transparency and unwavering authenticity with all content and promotions that have a sponsor relationship.”

What will “complete transparency” look like, specifically, on Twitch?

The company says “all copy and graphics” related to sponsored content will be identified clearly, including “sponsored” tags that’ll appear on streams and newsletters, letting viewers know that the content is sponsored by a brand. All Twitch front-page, social and email promotions will also be clearly identified, says DiPietro. Twitter dispatches, for instance, will include language like “brought to you by” or “^SP” to indicate a “sponsored tweet.”

Twitch

Furthermore, Twitch says it never has, and pledges that it never will, demand that “influencers”–the people paid by the brands to do whatever they do in the videos–express positive or negative sentiments.

Note that these are explicitly for “Twitch driven” campaigns. It’s not a service-wide mandate, in other words. In an update to the post, Twitch addresses sponsor relationships that occur outside the purview of Twitch’s campaigns, writing “we encourage all broadcasters to follow FTC guidelines.” The FTC guidelines are here, but they’re still only guidelines, not regulatory rules.

(In a response to a comment, a Twitch spokesperson says the company requires all broadcasters to follow the FTC’s Guidelines Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements, but that appears to conflict with the note at the blog’s top, which stipulates that Twitch only “encourages” this.)

Short of locking the whole outfit down, Twitch is probably hoping its “lead by example” approach will influence all of its broadcasters to be FTC guidelines-compliant. It’s an interesting experiment, and speaking from a viewer standpoint, essential. Now we wait, and watch, and see how well it works.

TIME Paycheck Friday

5 Unique Junk-Food Gadgets for Under $70

Come on, you're making some decent money now. Live a little! Consider blowing your paycheck on these worthy splurges.

Condiment Gun ($9.99)

condiment_gun
ThinkGeek

Take a moment right now to reexamine your life. Have you lived it to its fullest? Think long and hard about your past condiment dispersals. Have they all been from easy-open packets and plastic containers?

It’s time to live – LIVE! – thanks to this condiment gun. Load it up with your favorite fatty, sugary slatherables (there are two cartridges), pull the trigger and blast your way to satiety – no concealed-carry permit required.

[ThinkGeek]

Hand-Crank Flan Maker ($49)

flan-egg
Japan Trend Shop

For starters, I was not aware that flan was made simply by jumbling an egg around for a couple minutes, boiling it for 30 seconds and then dumping some caramel sauce on top of it. That seems way too easy, but what do I know? I can’t even make toast, which is supposed to be easy.

This adorable hand-crank apparatus promises “custard flan-style desert” by following the aforementioned steps, and as a bonus, offers this must-see video detailing the process. The somber scene of an egg jovially singing the flan-making song before watching one of his friends being spun to death should not be lost on anyone:

[Japan Trend Shop]

Indoor S’mores Maker ($69.95)

smores
Hammacher Schlemmer

Admit it: You bought this thing without even reading about it. What combination of words could I possibly cobble together with my extremely limited vocabulary in order to do this product justice? It’s an indoor S’mores maker.

Again, this is an indoors S’mores maker. It allows you to make S’mores inside.

Blizzard? No problem. Hurricane? Fine with me. Armageddon? Leave me alone, my chocolate has reached the perfect melting point. There’s even a circumferential tray that holds your marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. Come on, now.

[Hammacher Schlemmer]

Car Grill ($50)

car grill
12 Volts Plus

You’ve heard the sayings: Work smarter, not harder. Time is money. Madge, I soaked in it.

Maybe strike that last one, but the first two are relevant here. Won’t you just look like a genius using your morning commute to fry up some greasy, crackling pig meat on this 12-volt grill. Hey, throw a hash brown on there while you’re at it. Crack an egg or two.

No need to feel guilty, either. The sloped grill drains grease down into a bottom-mounted receptacle that definitely (probably, maybe, who knows) won’t cause any spillage when you sink your front tire into that pothole or bottom out while going over that speed bump.

[12 Volts Plus]

App-Connected Baking Kit ($69.99)

perfect bake
Perfect Bake

You’re not anal; you’re particular. If a recipe calls for a cup of flour, who are you to eyeball it? Quit playing God!

Thankfully, this app-connected baking kit ensures that everything gets measured out perfectly – right down to the ounce.

Put a bowl on the scale, connect the scale to your phone or tablet and pull up one of the hundreds of included recipes. The app will tell you which ingredients to add and will adjust the measurements on the fly if you overpour. Not that you would ever, ever, ever overpour. Can you imagine? What a nightmare! You’re not anal. You’re not anal.

[Brookstone]

Past Nonsense:

TIME How-To

Fixes for 5 Common Smartphone Photo Mistakes

Most of the time, today’s smartphones do a great job of capturing everyday moments in their default full automatic modes. However, there are times when adjusting your phone’s camera settings can make a huge difference. Check out these simple fixes to five of the most common photo mistakes and start taking better pictures.

1. Out of focus photos

face-detection-on-samsung-gs5-350px
Face detection option on the Galaxy S5 Samsung

When you don’t want the subject of your photo to be in the center of your image, your phone’s camera will often focus on the wrong spot. The fastest, easiest solution is to tap your subject on the screen to focus — an option that’s available on the iPhone and most Android phones. You can also press and hold on a spot to lock in focus and exposure and then move the phone to compose your shot. You can turn on face detection as well, and your phone will find and focus on the people in the scene.

2. Blurry fast-action/sports shots

When your subject is moving, like an athlete running down the field, movement can cause the image to blur. If you have an Android phone, like the HTC One M8 or the Samsung Galaxy S5, or Windows Phone, like the Nokia Lumia 1520, you can combat this by raising the ISO setting. With a higher ISO, the shutter speed can be faster, making it easier to freeze the action.

3. Dark faces in backlit and bright outdoor shots

In Auto mode, your camera tries to ensure that everything in your photo will be reasonably well lit. But when the person in the shot is back-lit or you’re shooting at a sunny beach or in a snowy setting, the background is much brighter than the people in your photo, so they can come out far too dark. For this problem, there are a few things you can do to make your photo turn out right.

Try setting your flash on so that it fires with each shot. In an outdoor scene, the flash can help light up faces even when the sun is shining. This is called a “fill flash.”

Another way to bring out details in all parts of a photo is to turn on HDR (high dynamic range). This mode takes overexposed and underexposed images and merges them together to bring out details in the light and dark areas of the photo. Most smartphones will have an HDR mode.

If neither of those options work, you can try manually adjusting the exposure to brighten or darken the overall photo. You’ll find this option on some smartphones, like the iPhone, HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Nokia Lumia 920, which let you manually adjust exposure.

4. Dark, grainy low light shots

Getting a good shot in low light usually requires lengthening the exposure, which leads to blurriness from you or your subject moving. Taking shots too quickly results in under-exposed images. There are a few things you can try, though.

Like with fast action shots, you can try bumping up the ISO setting, an option on some Android and Windows phones. The higher the ISO, the faster the camera sees the scene with the available light. So you can take photos faster, which reduces the blur caused by camera shake.

Low light is another shooting scenario where HDR mode can help. In this mode, the camera takes two or three shots at different exposures and merges them together to get detail in the brightest and darkest areas of the shot. Because the camera is taking a few shots, it’s important that nothing changes between each shot or the resulting image will be blurry. So reserve HDR mode for landscapes and group shots.

You’ll also want to turn on optical image stabilization, which is available on the iPhone 6 Plus and LG G3.

5. Cluttered backgrounds

When you’re focused on the subject of your photos, sometimes you don’t notice what’s going on in the background. Then, when you look at the actual picture, we see a ton of distracting detail that ruins the overall effect of the image.

A few smartphones let you blur the background or foreground of an image — or even select your focus after you’ve taken your shot.

Phones like the Nokia Lumia 1020 accomplish this manually by letting you select the aperture. Lower numbers equal a shallower depth of field – you can turn distracting backgrounds into fuzzy abstract patterns that make your subject in the foreground the focus of attention. The Lumia 920, 1020 and 1520 also have Nokia Refocus (see the demo below), which lets you refocus your shot after taking it, blurring the other areas of the photo.

The Google Camera app (preloaded on some phones), which runs on Android 4.4 KitKat phones, also lets you refocus your shot after you take it with a feature called Lens Blur, as does the Magic Focus feature on the LG G3. Samsung has a similar feature called “Selective Focus,” which lets you set what you want to be in focus and make the rest of your shot blurred before you take the shot.

This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.

More from Techlicious:

TIME Innovation

Google Reportedly Working on Giant TV Screens

Visitors stand in front of a screen showing the most popular Google searches in Germany at that moment in the company's offices on Aug. 21, 2014 in Berlin.
Visitors stand in front of a screen showing the most popular Google searches in Germany at that moment in the company's offices on Aug. 21, 2014 in Berlin. Adam Berry—Getty Images

The idea is to be able to seamlessly connect smaller screens

Google is developing technology to allow users to integrate multiple screens to create giant television-like screens of variable shapes and sizes, sources familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.

Former Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Mary Lou Jepsen is leading the project, which is being developed in secret and has not been disclosed to the public. Jepsen previously led the project to create a cheap laptop that could be distributed widely in the developing world, an effort that failed to meet the high hopes surrounding it.

The ability to combine small screens to create larger ones would disrupt a market where prices increase dramatically with size. A 32-inch screen can retail for less than $1,000. A 110-inch screen, the largest manufactured, requires a custom order and can reportedly cost more than $100,000.

[WSJ]

TIME Video Games

Good News: Pillars of Eternity Makers Just Delayed the Game

Obsidian

The crowdfunded roleplaying game that generated over $4 million gets a minor bump from late 2014 to early 2015.

Pillars of Eternity, one of the handful of crowdfunded games notable for blowing the ceiling off its asking price, has been delayed (briefly) until early next year. It was due at the end of this one, but apparently feedback from the beta test period prompted the studio to hold back a few more months.

“Since the very beginning of this project we promised our fans and ourselves that we would release this game only when we knew it would be absolutely ready for the best experience possible. We’re very close to that point, but not quite there yet,” wrote Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart on publisher Paradox Interactive’s forums. “The feedback we have received through our playtest process has been invaluable to us. We are coming into the home stretch but are pushing the release out just a bit to make sure we honor that promise we made originally.”

The game–a roleplaying adventure in the vein of Baldur’s Gate, targeting Linux, OS X and Windows PCs–was originally projected to arrive in spring 2014 (the Kickstarter page lists “April 2014″ for funder rewards), but was delayed last February to “winter 2014.” It’s starter budget was a million bucks, but Obsidian managed to quadruple that by the time the funding campaign wrapped in October 2012.

I usually feel a little relieved when I see a studio announce that some game’s been delayed. Not always. Sometimes you have debacles where a studio’s quietly dragging its feet, running out of money, still fumbling around with an inchoate project and dragging heels down spiraling tubes.

But when it comes to self-starter projects like this one (Obsidian didn’t sign on with Paradox to publish until March 2014), you want the studio’s full faith and credit behind whatever it winds up stamping “finished.” I couldn’t have been happier to see stuff like Dying Light, Batman: Arkham Knight and The Witcher 3 bumped to next year. Take your time, I want to tell every publisher and studio lead. These things are too important to screw up. We’ll wait.

TIME Companies

E.U. Antitrust Body OKs Facebook’s $19B WhatsApp Bid

Social Networks Facebook WhatsApp.
Marie Waldmann—Photothek/Getty Images

(BRUSSELS) — The European Union’s antitrust authority says it has approved Facebook’s proposed $19 billion takeover of the messaging service WhatsApp.

The 28-nation bloc’s executive Commission said Friday the deal may go ahead because consumers will continue to have a wide choice of alternative communication apps they could use. Facebook Inc. runs its own mobile messaging service with its Messenger app but the EU found the merged entity “would continue to face sufficient competition.”

EU antitrust chief Joaquin Almunia says “while Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are two of the most popular apps, most people use more than one communications app.”

The Commission says WhatsApp — launched in 2009 — has some 600 million users globally. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hopes it will reach 1 billion in a few years.

TIME Security

JPMorgan Says 76 Million Households Hit by Cyberbreach

Signage for JPMorgan Chase & Co. is displayed atop Chater House in the central business district of Hong Kong on Aug. 29, 2013.
Signage for JP Morgan Chase is displayed atop Chater House in the central business district of Hong Kong on Aug. 29, 2013 Bloomberg/Getty Images

A cyberbreach at the biggest U.S. bank also compromised data from 7 million small businesses

JPMorgan Chase revealed Thursday that a cybersecurity breach disclosed over a month ago affected 76 million households and 7 million small businesses.

The country’s largest bank by assets said in a regulatory filing that the cyberbreach exposed customer names, addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, but that there was no indication that data that could be used to break into customers’ finances had been accessed.

“There is no evidence that account information for such affected customers — account numbers, passwords, user IDs, dates of birth or Social Security numbers — was compromised during this attack,” JPMorgan Chase said.

JPMorgan also said that it has not seen any unusual customer fraud related to the data breach.

The breach at JPMorgan, which was first disclosed in late August, affects more individuals than both the Target attack last year and the recent Home Depot breach, in which data from 40 million and 56 million credit cards were compromised, respectively.

TIME Video Games

An Hour’s Worth of Bloodborne Gameplay That’s Kind of Amazing

An alpha tester just uploaded an hour's worth of high-definition video of grueling hack-and-slash Bloodborne gameplay.

I care too much about coming to From Software’s Bloodborne fresh to play it in alpha. Or beta. Or anything short of gold.

But if you want to watch some dude in a cape and tricorn run around clobbering things in the employ of a game engine that looks really, really slick, the series of just released Bloodborne alpha-play videos above–four in all–are a treat.

Yes, there’s a Bloodborne alpha. It’s transpiring as I type this, and no, you can’t play it, since the signing-up period’s past. But this is arguably better, since it’s not really spoiling anything. What makes a game a game is playing it, after all, and this is just peering over someone’s shoulder.

If you’ve played Demon’s Souls or Dark Souls or Dark Souls II but paid little attention to Bloodborne, you’ll notice the DNA in these videos immediately. The interfaces are all but identical, as is the ebb and flow of combat. Even the way enemies die feels the same, though the animations and detail level are an order of magnitude greater.

Check out that creepy obese monstrosity just after 15:20. Notice how eerily lifelike it is when it moves. The Souls games are notorious for being some of the most difficult in recent memory, but at this level of fidelity, Bloodborne‘s adding “downright terrifying” to the mix.

Each video runs about 15 minutes: The initial one is of this fellow playing as Bloodborne‘s “standard” class. That’s followed by a video playing as the Kirkhammer class (Dark Souls meets Thor), a third involves crows and a freaky mini-boss, and the fourth is a full-on boss battle (with the dreaded “cleric beast”) that’s rather impressive.

Bloodborne arrives for PlayStation 4 (it’s exclusive) on February 6 next year.

TIME iPhone 6

Check Out How Much Faster Wi-Fi on the iPhone 6 Is

The iPhone 6 is a speed demon compared to its predecessors

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are not only bigger than their predecessors—they’re faster, too. A Wi-Fi speed test by iClarified shows that the iPhone 6 Plus’s throughput speed is more than twice as fast as the old iPhone 5s.

The new iPhones boast a more advanced Wi-Fi standard called 802.11ac. On its website, Apple says the improved technology can provide for throughput speeds three times faster than older iPhones. However, users must have a router that supports 802.11ac to benefit from the speed boost.

TIME Video Games

PlayStation Plus Price Increase Isn’t in the Offing for North America

Sony's price for a 12-month U.S. PlayStation Plus subscription is currently $50 and looks to remain so for the near future, despite price hikes in other regions around the world.

Sony’s privileges and rewards PlayStation Plus online club for its PlayStation 3 and 4 game consoles won’t see a price hike in North America anytime soon, but its price tag is going up by a significant amount in other regions of the world.

“We slightly increased prices for PlayStation Plus in South Africa, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and India regions due to various market conditions,” said a Sony representative in an email to Joystiq. “Currently, price adjustments are not being planned for PS Plus in the SCEA [Sony Computer Entertainment America] region.”

South African news portal iAfrica wrote yesterday that South African PS Plus members would see a “rather large price increase,” citing emails from Sony that indicated the price of a three-month subscription would rise from R145 (about $13) to R219 (about $20), whereas a 12-month subscription would rise from R489 (about $44) to R749 (about $67). According to iAfrica, Sony calls the increase “slight,” says it was “due to various market conditions,” and gave less than 24 hours notice of the change.

In the U.S., a three-month PS Plus subscription currently runs $18, while a 12-month subscription runs $50. The subscription, which unlocks a variety of discounts and access to free games, is also necessary on PlayStation 4 to play online games, though online play remains free on the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita.

Price increases can feel a bit like tax hikes: nebulously justified and almost impossible to vett, since no one’s allowed behind the scenes or liable to get more than vagaries (like the one above) out of spokespersons. The best you can do is look at comparable services, say Microsoft’s Xbox Live, which started at $50 a year in the U.S. and rose slightly to $60 in November 2010.

But in South Africa, a 12-month Xbox Live subscription currently runs in the vicinity of R600, or about $54. So from that vantage, assuming South Africans are getting nothing new in the bargain and considering the prior prices, Sony’s new fees look as stiff as iAfrica says.

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