The leaked Instagram long-form video hub has been confirmed to be launching soon as IGTV, which will be accessible from the Explore tab, and will allow users post longer-formed video of ten minute length and above.

Instagram has been wooing online content creators to the new platform to create videos that are at least 10-minute long, instead of the 1-minute maximum videos allowed currently on the app.

While the photo-cum-video sharing service has witnessed exponential growth in the past few years, it's still grappling with discovering the turnkey feature that will permanently sway users to its side against the fierce competition from Snapchat.

Albeit, the growth projection puts Instagram as adding 100 million users every four months, and with the recent announcement of 800 million in September 2017, Instagram may be hitting 1 billion monthly users this second quarter.

The IGTV videos will be similar to what's available in YouTube rather than a direct competion to the likes of Netflix, and will offer a link-out option for creators to drive traffic to their other web properties. It will be full-screen with a resolution of up to 4K, and users will be presented with a collection of recent videos, popular titles and the ability to continue watching clips from where they stopped.

Instagram may also be adding a direct monetization avenue for the creators, which perhaps will include revenue sharing, though no official confirmation about the possibility.

The overriding idea is to enable these creators express their style of content and also leverage their already sizeable audience on the platform, to expand the IGTV footprint on mobile platforms rather than the more regular publishers and TV studios.

Instagram's longer-form video service launching as IGTV, accessible from the Explore tab

Google has announced the rolling out of Messages for the Web, with features including GIF search and smart replies as part of an updated messaging experience for Android users.

While the company had earlier renamed its Messenger, Android Messages, which now serve as the default messaging app across all Android phones, with works in progress to bring Rich Communication Services (RCS) to Android Messages for better messaging experience.

Google had also moved the team behind its messaging App, Allo to work on Android Messages, with the aim to offer features such as receipts that show when a message has been read, stickers, maps and more.

The roll out of Messages for Web is part of an updated messaging experience for Android users in response to Apple's iMessage, with Android Messages now in a better position to compete with the web support.

As Apple's iMessage can be accessed on Mac using a dedicated app, Google aims to make Messages for web similar by offering the Web access to messages, allowing Android users to view and respond to conversations on desktop, even when not with their Android smartphone.

Google is also prepping additional features for Android Messages like previewing of web links in conversations; and the ability to copy one-time passwords with a tap or perhaps two taps – both the copy and the paste functions – is now a lot easier than before.

Albeit, Android users are required to download and install the latest version of the Messages app from Google Play to enjoy these new features.

Android Messages arrives to the Web, with GIF Search and Smart reply

The Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) has announced the successor to their popular image format with the same moniker, called JPEG XL, which aims to offer substantial improvement in compression efficiency than existing image formats.

JPEG XL will feature desirable web distribution capabilities and offer about 60% overall improvement compared to the legacy JPEG format, coupled with efficient compression of high-quality images.

And the announcement is coming on the heels of JPEG 25 years anniversary, a remarkable achievement indeed for the legacy image format, and to celebrate JPEG's birthday, the organization behind it deems it wise to draw up the future roadmap.

With billions of images captured, stored and shared on daily basis, increasingly applications, websites and UI experts are relying on those images to share experiences, stories, visual information and put up appealing designs.

Therefore, an efficient image compression format is highly invaluable, to this end, the JPEG Committee issued a Call for Proposals following its 79th meeting in April 2018, with the objective of seeking technologies that fulfill the objectives and scope of a Next Generation Image Coding.

The Working Group is hopeful to see JPEG XL as an important format for imaging products and services as its predecessor was; the popular legacy JPEG format which has been in service for a quarter of century now.

It has given an August 15, 2018 deadline for expression of interest, registration and submissions to the Call due September 1, 2018. To stay posted on the action plan for JPEG XL, you can follow up on the project website at

JPEG XL: the Next generation of the JPEG image coding format

Exemplar GAN (ExGAN) are a type of conditional GAN that utilize exemplar information to reproduce quality personalized in-paintings. While GAN is a class of artificial intelligence algorithms in unsupervised machine learning, implemented through a system neural networks contesting with each other in a zero-sum game framework.

Facebook research attempt to replace closed eyes with open ones in a remarkably convincing manner through In-Painting Eye with Exemplar Generative Adversarial Networks. This is an instance of intelligent “in-painting” when a machine fills in a space with what it thinks should be at the point.

ExGANs successfully produced photo-realistic personalized in-painting results that are both perceptually and semantically plausible by applying them to the task of closed-to-open eye in-painting in natural pictures.

Facebook researchers were able to include “exemplar” data showing the target person with their eyes open, from which the GAN learns not just what eyes should go on the person, but how the eyes of this particular person are colored, and the actual shape.

The test results were stunning, as most people mistook the fake eyes-opened photos for real, and unless they knew a photo was definitely tampered with, they probably couldn’t differentiate it in the Newsfeed.

Albeit, the capabilities still falls short in some instances, resulting some strange looking artifacts of a person’s eye if partially covered by a lock of hair, and sometimes giving a complete color mismatch.

However, their detailed nature make it particularly useful as the capacity to convincingly replace the eyes weren't available in other photo editing tools. Facebook has introduced the new benchmark dataset for the task of eye in-painting for future comparisons.

Facebook demos Exemplar GAN (Generative Adversarial Networks) In-Painting to produce personalized results

Apple's augmented reality toolkit, ARKit 2, already has a number of key upgrades that vastly improves how iOS handles augmented reality, which alongside iOS 12 the company believes the big deal is actually getting them on millions of devices.

The iPhone X's front-facing TrueDepth camera uses ARKit 2 to track eye movement, and Apple's other iPhones arriving later this year will also feature same AR capabilities, and most probably the next iPad Pro.

ARKit 2 is not just used to see objects, but also to pin information to them, such as purchase information, or player stats hovering over athletes at a future sporting events. Also, iOS 12 is able to handle in-browser AR experience, through a new common format developed with Pixar, called USDZ, that will ultimately help Apple to turn 3D files into AR-ready objects.

The USDZ format currently support only iOS devices, but it can potentially become a universal format that if incorporated into ARKit 2 can make the virtual experience better, for instance, using 3D AR creations to reflect real-life objects.

Another interesting area is the shared AR worlds, which is relatively a new stuff: Google demoed the first multiplayer AR apps at its developer conference, and Apple's multiplayer support in ARKit 2 will also be able to enact the same.

The shared worlds will open up collaborative projects that could enable people to visit and interact with each other. Just imagine possibilities like the next wave of holograms in classrooms, and experimental art projects, such as Google's group AR doodle app that's live already.

Albeit, there's still a pretty long way to go, and the future of augmented reality is very much in a state of flux.

How Apple intends to improve Augmented Reality (AR) Experience

Microsoft announced their leveraging of artificial intelligence (AI) at scale to greatly improve the quality and reliability of the Windows 10 April 2018 Update rollout, which as a first time marks the fastest transition from consumer-only to enterprise-ready edition of the software.

The update quality and reliability was as a result of the AI inputs, and Microsoft will expand the release to make the April 2018 Update (version 1803) available for all compatible devices running Windows 10 worldwide.

Microsoft's AI approach selects devices intelligently that its feedback data indicate would make a great update experience and offers the April 2018 Update to those devices first.

With the AI model, feedback and telemetry data, the company is able to quickly adjust and prevent devices that are not currently suitable from being offered the update until they've been sorted out. And if the issues are resolved, it then proceeds with the update, which allows for throttling the update rollout to customers without needing them to take any action.

The April 2018 Update, in fact is officially the fastest version of Windows 10 to reach 250 million devices, and reaching the mark in less than half the time it took the Fall Creators Update.

While the 45-day interval between the launch and the declaration was the shortest for Windows 10, with the pronouncement of corporate suitability breaking the previous record, set by the 1709 upgrade of 86 days after its October 2017 debut.

Microsoft is harping on the ability to safely rollout an updated version of Windows 10 at massive scale and velocity leveraging AI to ensure the broadest number of customer devices have the latest security, technology and features in the shortest period as well.

Microsoft breaks new record with AI-powered Windows 10 April Update rollout

App Maker, is an online tool for quick building and deployment of business apps on the web developed by Google. While the tool has been in beta for the past one year, the company has finally announced the general availability of the service to all developers who wish to give it a try.

The tool is to enable people in organization, especially those with little coding experience to build own business apps, and it comes with any G Suite Business and Enterprise subscription, which data is based on G Suite or Google’s Cloud SQL database or any other database that supports JDBC or that offers a REST API.

Albeit, it takes quite a bit of work to set up the database connectivity, but after that, the design aspect is actually pretty easy — and coupled with ready-made templates, which makes the final application building quicker, irrespective of platform.

App Maker affords the developers with a low-code application development environment which allows building of applications through an easy drag and drop system.

While developers can access Gmail, Google Calendar, Sheets and other data sources, the main applications will likely rely on a database. Another caveat is that it focuses only on Google’s own services, with little or no built-in support for third-party services, although Google has promised to bring more functionality to the service.

App Maker is now available and open to all G Suite Business and Enterprise customers, as well as G Suite for Education customers.

Finally, Google's App Maker is now available and open to all developers

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, has been notorious for its iPhone cracking stunts with tools believed to be supplied by third-party security services.

Apple with the upcoming version of iOS (iOS 12) will look to block the loophole that the law enforcement have leveraged to crack into locked iPhone with a feature known as USB Restricted Mode, that limits the number of access through the USB port.

While the FBI had relied on solutions from GrayShift and Cellebrite, particularly GrayShift’s GrayKey, which is capable of unlocking even newer iPhone models, through the use of the USB port to access the iPhone in order to crack its password.

The GrayKey is able to crack locked iPhone using more attempts than would normally be allowed, which process takes from two hours to more than 24 hours, depending on the strength of the password.

Now, Apple has confirmed the USB Restricted Mode security patch will make it into the final iOS release, to help customers defend against hackers, identity thieves and intrusions into their personal data.

Albeit, the company is not expressly trying to suppress law enforcement, rather it claims to have the greatest respect for the agencies, and don’t design its security improvements to frustrate their efforts to do their jobs.

The infamous federal order issued asking for Apple to help the FBI crack into an iPhone belonging to Syed Farook, one of the attackers in the shooting at San Bernardino, California is perhaps a pointer.

Apple, however, opposed the judge's order to assist the FBI break into the iPhone of Syed Farook, calling the directive "an overreach by the U.S. government."

Apple to thwart Law Enforcement's iPhone cracking with USB Restricted Mode

Microsoft earlier in the week released the beta version of the Mac edition of the Office application suite, Office 2019 for Mac, with new tools and functionality, like email delivery scheduling and Excel funnel charts.

While Office 2019 for Mac is the next perpetual update to Office on Mac and is set to ship alongside Office 2019 for Windows in the second half of 2018, and the beta is meant for volume license customers who intend to run the "perpetual" version of the suite, not the applications provided to Office 365 subscribers.

It offers new features to help end users create amazing content, such as the roaming pencil case and ribbon customizations across Office apps; with focus mode in Word; Morph transitions, in-click sequence, and 4k video export in PowerPoint; new charts and functions in Excel; and focused inbox in Outlook.

Albeit, these functionalities are already available in Office 365 ProPlus, as such Office 365 subscribers will have no reason to be tempted into beta testing Office 2019 on Mac, or any other version of the software.

With the new Office, Microsoft will be wooing those customers who are considering moving to the cloud, as Office 2019 for Mac will be a valuable upgrade to keep some or all of their apps on-premises.

Also, Office 2019 for Mac includes new features expressly for IT to help simplify deployment and management, with the Command-line tools allowing IT admins to centrally control how and when Office updates are applied to users' devices, and support for industry-standard MDM policies.

Additionally, it will give IT the power to enforce organization-wide security policies, including preferences for Visual Basic macros and app settings.

Microsoft, however hasn't fixed a date for the release of more broadly-distributed Office 2019 for Mac to the public. But you can join the Office 2019 for Mac preview, by signing up here.

Microsoft Office 2019 for Mac will give IT the power to enforce organization-wide security policies

The small software programs that enable customized browsing experience, Chrome Extensions, which hitherto can be installed from multi-vendor sources, will soon be restricted to the Chrome Web store.

While the software extensions offer such nifty capabilities like: ad blocking and better tabs management, in addition to Chrome browser's swift performance, with clean interface and easy synchronization with mobile devices, that has made the browser very popular.

Google will be removing the ability of "inline installation" that allow other sources to offer installation of extensions as a result of the growing malware concerns, so that users must have to resort to the Chrome Web Store for adding an extension to Chrome.

Albeit, the initial plan was that Chrome Extensions can be installed from any source, but Google cited the increasing malware issues for the reversal of its stance.

The Chrome Web Store been managed by Google itself, offers the necessary background checking to ensure available software are free of malicious codes, that can serve as a conduit for spyware that allow hackers to steal personal banking information from your computer.

Google in a bid to stem the tide, will be offering a three-phase plan to make the Chrome Web Store the only gateway for Chrome extensions.

The first phase, stated on June 12, all new extensions can't be installed inline any more. While the second phase, coming up on September 12, will have inline installation disabled for existing extensions. And all other sources that offer inline installations will redirect to the Chrome Web Store for installation.

Finally, developers will be required to update their websites with a December deadline to rid their codes of the inline installation.

Google to restrict Chrome Extensions installation to the Chrome Web Store