The Week in Mobile: March 5 – 11, 2017


Google Brings Image Recognition to Video, The Battery may be Getting an Upgrade, Facebook’s VR App, and More

Each week we round up the top news stories, think pieces and other content that centers on the fast-paced, quickly changing world of mobile technology. We tell you which companies are employing clever mobile strategies, illuminate new ways of thinking about mobile and offer a peek at meaningful trends in the industry. This content is designed to inspire you and your company to take advantage of the many benefits mobile can offer.

Connecting Users to the Art World

Billed as the “Shazam for art,” a soon-to-be-released app called Smartify is making museums and galleries a lot more accessible. Reminiscent of the song-identifying service, Smartify lets users scan a piece of art to pull up background information on the piece. If they like what they see (and read), users can save the image to access later. The incentive for galleries and museums? Making their artwork available on Smartify lets them tap into user data like demographics and favorite artwork — information that could help draw in more crowds. The app, which is set to launch in May, will initially only work with artwork at specific museums in Paris, London, Amsterdam and New York. Smartify will also work with copies of the artwork.

Speaking of Shazam, the magical music recognition app recently introduced “Shazam Codes” as part of an expanded revenue strategy. Using augmented reality and their phone’s camera, users can scan images similar to QR codes to access exclusive offers and experiences. First up is a partnership with Jim Beam’s parent company, Beam Suntory.

Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor Introduces New, Longer-Charging Battery

At 94 years old, John Goodenough might’ve changed the battery game — again. Working alongside Maria Helena Braga, a senior research fellow at the Cockrell School of Engineering, Goodenough created a battery that weighs the same as a lithium-ion battery, but has triple the energy density. Their creation could have many uses, from allowing a single smartphone charge to last a full week to making electric cars more commonplace.

Facebook Introduces Its First VR App

The social network just made a big move for video content. Owners of the Samsung Gear VR can now download Facebook 360 from their Oculus app to interact with 360 degree videos and photos. The app lets users explore and react to photos and videos across Facebook — not just from their existing Facebook friends. Facebook 360 also lets users save their favorite content and upload their own photos and videos, which will appear on a timeline. Facebook has been making several big moves towards video recently, including launching video apps for Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and Amazon Fire TV.

Snap Stock Volatility

Since the company’s IPO on March 2, Snap has seen some significant dips in its first full week as a public company. Last Monday, the price dropped 12 percent, and on Tuesday, it dropped another 10 percent, which has been attributed to a “sell” rating from several analysts and a lack of confidence in Snap’s growth potential. But there’s still some level of stability at play: many of the early buyers are obligated to hold their stock for a full year. For employees, that holding time is 150 days. Continued growth of Snap’s user base is likely the biggest factor in how things will shake out.

Google Takes Image Recognition to Video

Last week, Google announced its Video Intelligence API, which uses machine learning to not only pinpoint specific objects within videos, but also allow users to search for specific objects in those videos. Now, developers can use Google’s new API to build apps that can find specific video content and also tag when a video scene changes. The catch? All videos need to live on Google’s cloud. To start experimenting with the API, developers can register for private beta.

Pinterest Ups Its Image-Searching Game

In its latest image-recognition move, Pinterest is going beyond its own platform to make its services more widely available. Its new feature is an update of a Chrome extension called “Pinterest Save Button,” which previously let users save images to their boards no matter where they lived online. Now, the extension takes things one step further, allowing users to click on a photo (on a retailer’s website, for example) and access all similar items that exist on Pinterest. Users can then choose whether to click on one of those similar images and be redirected to Pinterest, or to stay on the retailer’s website.

Last week Pinterest also acquired Jelly, a search engine created by Pinterest investor and co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone. Jelly, which attempted to one-up Google with answers to the most specific of search questions, was largely regarded as a flop. However, signs point to Pinterest being more interested in Jelly’s talent than its technology.