Microsoft Launches Skype for Web, Amazon Echoes Audiobooks, & More… [Tech News Digest]
Skype for Web, Amazon books Audible, Popcorn Buzz calls groups, Tumblr GIF searches, Netflix expands into Europe, and dumb robots fall over like dumb dumb dummies.
Microsoft Opens Skype for Web
Microsoft has launched Skype for Web, with all new and existing users in the U.S. and UK now able to access the service. Skype for Web made its debut at the end of last year, but only selected users were invited to trial the service.
As its name suggests, Skype for Web brings Skype directly to browsers. This means anyone with a Skype ID who uses Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or Chrome on Windows can use Skype without the need to download the app. However, a plugin may be required.
Microsoft claims, “Skype for Web is an important step for Skype as we move towards implementing the technology to make Real-Time Communications (RTC) on the web a reality.” The company also claims this is in response to multiple requests from users who “want to call and IM when they visit our website.”
It’s important to note that Skype for Web is still currently in beta, so users who do try it out may encounter bugs. Especially as this is a Microsoft product. Microsoft is actively seeking feedback from users via the Skype Community boards.
Amazon Echo Reads Audible Books
Amazon Echo has learned a new skill: reading audiobooks . The monolithic personal assistant has been updated with a range of new abilities since it debuted in November 2014 , and the latest is the ability to read Audible eBooks aloud. Audible is owned by Amazon.
Once the update has been applied automatically, Echo owners can get the device to read an eBook using simple voice commands. You can even get Echo to start reading from the place you previously reached in a book using the Audible apps on Kindle or mobile.
Popcorn Buzz Enables Group Calling
Japanese messaging startup Line has launched Popcorn Buzz, a free group calling service that lets up to 200 people take part in a single conversation. Only registered users can start a call, but even non-users can join an existing call by clicking on a shared URL.
Line states, “Popcorn Buzz can be used to talk with friends and family, catch up with classmates, make plans with club members, and more. Popcorn Buzz accommodates both personal and business usage, all for free.” Businesses could also use Popcorn Buzz.
Popcorn Buzz is initially available on Android, with an iOS version due at a later date. The app supports an impressive number of languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Chinese.
Tumblr Gets Own GIF Search Engine
Tumblr has added a GIF search engine to its service. This allows Tumblr users to quickly and easily find the GIF they’re looking for, and then add it to a post. Tumblr currently contains over 112 billion posts, and GIFs are an extremely popular type of content .
Tumblr indexes GIFs using tags, which should mean searches for words and phrases used exclusively on Tumblr will deliver the right results. The GIF search engine is currently only available on the Web, but it should be added to Tumblr’s mobile apps sooner rather than later.
Netflix Expands Further Into Europe
Netflix has announced plans to launch in three new countries by the end of 2015. The streaming film and television service will debut in Italy, Spain, and Portugal in October. Pricing details haven’t yet been announced, but European neighbors such as Germany and France currently pay €7.99 a month ($8.88).
Most of the Netflix Originals which have driven the company’s growth of late will be available in the new territories. However, according to Variety, neither House of Cards or Orange Is the New Black will be available thanks to existing deals with television networks in those countries. Which is the downside of such a protracted roll-out.
Watch Dumb Robots Falling Over
And finally, while you should definitely watch this video, you should do your damnedest not to laugh while doing so. Why? Because it shows a succession of dumb robots falling over in all manner of comedic ways. And laughing at our future robot overlords could have serious repercussions.
All of these robots were taking part in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals over the weekend. It was eventually won by Team Kaist from South Korea, as their DRC-Hubo robot completed a series of tasks in the fastest time. However, seeing robots succeeding is scary, so it’s much more entertaining watching them fail.
Your Views on Today’s Tech News
Will you be testing Skype for Web? If you own an Amazon Echo, what do you use it for? Are you interested in group calling via Popcorn Buzz? Will you be searching for GIFs on Tumblr? If you’re in Italy, Spain, or Portugal, will you be subscribing to Netflix? Should we be laughing at our future robot overlords falling over?
Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.
Image Credits: Dan Zen via Flickr
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