Welcome to “The Week in Tech,” where we recap some of the most interesting technology and mobile stories from the past week.
This week we chat about the launch of YouTube gaming, Facebook’s virtual messenger, and the upcoming announcement of new Apple products.
YouTube Gaming launches
A few years ago, if someone told you that watching streaming video of people playing video games would be big business, you’d likely laugh at that person.
If that someone also said that Google would be scrambling to play catch up in this industry, you might say that person was downright insane.
Well, that time has come. Google just launched YouTube Gaming, a site that lets viewers watch live streams of people playing video games. It’s a direct competitor to market leader Twitch, which Amazon bought for nearly a billion dollars.
While Twitch has been synonymous with streaming video games, YouTube Gaming certainly has a few advantages.
First, the site is built on HTML5, instead of Twitch’s bandwidth-chugging Adobe Flash backend, so performance is smoother.
Next, you can pause and time-shift a live stream, which you can’t do on Twitch.
Most importantly, YouTube already has highly-trafficked gaming channels like Machinima, which have been integrated into the new gaming site. This allows already-popular gamers on YouTube to instantly take advantage of their existing audience to become popular live streamers.
The race for the video game live streaming crown now has two horses.
Facebook launches virtual assistant named “M”
Facebook has revealed its new virtual assistant, simply dubbed “M”, to compete with the likes of Google Now, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana. M will allow Facebook Messenger users to buy gifts, make restaurant reservations, book travel, and more with a simple message.
While Google Now, Siri, and Cortana are exclusively technology platforms, M will leverage Facebook employees, called M trainers, to complete users’ more complicated requests. This significantly broadens the range of tasks that can be executed, giving Facebook an immediate leg up on its competition.
One of the most popular requests is for M to call cable companies so users can avoid long wait times and unhelpful customer service reps. When you put it that way, this sounds pretty awesome already, right?
Facebook hopes to make money from M by partnering with businesses who receive frequent requests through the service. Sticking to the cable company example, someone like Comcast might see that many of its customers are interacting with them through M, and may want a direct presence within Messenger.
The service is being tested with a few hundred users in the Bay Area.
Apple to launch new iPhone on September 9
The Apple hype machine has started up again, as the company sent out invitations to a event on September 9 where the new iPhone will be launched.
This is one year after the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple’s best-selling devices ever, were revealed. This launch will feature the 6S and 6S Plus, which means the hardware should stay the same but there may be upgrades to the software’s capabilities.
One of the expected features for the new phones includes Force Touch, which will allow the phones to recognize the difference between a hard and soft tap and act accordingly. Other upgrades could include a faster processor and improved camera.
Another big rumor is the announcement of a new Apple TV box with Siri-powered voice control. There hasn’t been an upgrade to Apple TV for a few years now, and that service has lagged while competition from Roku and Amazon has forged ahead.
What do you think of these stories? Have you read other interesting mobile and technology stories this week that are worth mentioning? Feel free to add your thoughts to the comments.