Snap, the Snapchat parent, has had a very difficult ride in the stock market since debuting in March. After pricing its IPO at $17 and then reaching highs of $27, the company has fallen to less than half that. After losing 14 percent of its value in a single day’s trading, Snap closed Friday at $11.83.
The growing social media company revealed on Thursday that it has 173 million daily active users, up more than 20 percent since last year. But that wasn’t enough to impress Wall Street, which was expecting more than 175 million users.
Analyst expectations are always built into the stock price and missing them will cause shares to plummet. And Snap not only missed on user growth, but revenue and losses, as well.
The company brought in $181.7 million in revenue, a 153 percent increase from last year, but investors were expecting more than $186 million. But losses also increased substantially, $115.9 million for last year’s quarter versus $443.1 million for this year.
The success of Instagram Stories is one of the main reasons that investors are skeptical of Snap. Instagram copied its short-form video feature last year and has seen tremendous success. The Stories feature already has 250 million daily users, over 75 million more than Snap.
Snap also recently found out that it won’t be in the S&P 500, which is a significant blow because a lot of investors buy that index. And it looks like the company’s Spectacle glasses aren’t selling well.
The bull case for Snap is that the team has been innovative. The company popularized disappearing messages and came up with the stories idea. Snap also has been clever with its use of AI-enhanced face filters. But in order to survive as a public company, the team will have to come up with something that can’t be so easily replicated.
TechCrunch’s Josh Constine has a few ideas.
IBM’s Watson Beat: who owns music made by a machine?
We’ve seen IBM’s Watson politely annihilate humans in Jeopardy, make a movie trailer for Morgan, create never-before-eaten recipes and even understand nuance and tone… to say the least. Now it’s moving on to music.
Watson Beat is IBM’s music arm of Watson; an AI-driven music composing app that’s sparked some debate about music copyright.
“Essentially you take monophonic melody input and pick a genre and Watson Beat will generate composition after composition after composition until it’s a non-deterministic model – so everything is always unique.”
This is made possible by the ‘cognitive technology’ developed by IBM researchers, Janani Mukandan and Richard Daskas. By teaching Watson Beat the nuances and characteristics of music keys and music theory, the AI technology creates completely original songs with varying moods or styles.
Developers foresee the technology being used to inspire musicians out of ‘writer’s block’, eliminate genre biases or simply to create music that’s never been heard before.
However, when it comes to who owns the music created by a machine, no one seems to have a solid answer.
“I have some pretty strong opinions about copyright, but, I’m not a lawyer,” explained Transier. “I actually don’t think a machine can own a copyright. I think it’s the person who sees that spark and takes it and creates something with it. I think that’s the owner. But that’s not an IBM statement,” she added.
Entertainment Lawyer, Bjorn Schipper, who was also on yesterday’s panel, explained that copyright for AI-composed music is an extremely new area so it’s hard to give a definitive answer.
“In the past, you could always direct [a creation] to a human being. In the future, there’s no human spark anymore – maybe the spark is being made by a machine. So then, from a legal perspective, if it’s not traceable to anything, what do you do with it?”
Schipper went on to explain the issue of music copyright from current legal standards. “According to European copyright law, [a creation] must be the own intellectual creation of ‘the author’ and in the law it says [the author] must be a human being these days,” Schipper continued. “So without human intervention, it’s hard to say if there will be copyright protection.”
Also part of yesterday’s panel was Meindert Kennis, the Lead Digital Strategist and CMO of Spinnin’ Records. Kennis gave some important takeaway advice for artists to potentially avoid the likely copyright concerns of the future.
“A lot of artists create music and come to us and say “Here’s my new track,” but, if they start to use more AI instruments, it might be wise to record the actual recording of the music and the creative process more to show that it’s actually them.”
Schipper agreed and went on to say, “I always advise creative clients, the key is design history, where you can prove, if necessary, inside or outside the courtroom, that on a certain date you created this kind of work.”
As Watson Beat is still in its early stages, it’s hard to say exactly how this AI-driven music composing technology will effect copyright legislation. However, as disruption is inevitable, it might be wise for AI-using musicians to take the advice from the experts and begin recording their entire creative process. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you must use Prisma-style art filters on your photos, try Portra
Prisma took the world by storm when it launched last year with its AI-powered art filters for your photos. It was a neat trick that eventually expanded to video and selfie stickers, and even prompted Facebook to copy it. But I’ve hardly ever found the results appealing.
If you’re still keen on art filters, though, Portra is worth a try on Android and iOS. The company hasn’t explained how its app works or whether it uses AI, but it sure is good at applying a range of fine art effects to your pictures. Interestingly, I enjoy these a lot more than the ones available in Prisma.
It’s easy as pie to use Portra: just snap a picture or import one from your gallery, choose from 19 filters, and that’s it. You can adjust how strong an effect you want, and how much of the frame you’d like to retain – moving the slider causes the edges of your picture to fade and let a canvas show behind it. Oh, and you can also tap the edge of the editing area to see your creation mounted in a frame.
When you’re happy with the results, you can save the image to your phone or share it directly to social networks. Annoyingly, Portra adds a wordmark at the bottom of the image, which you might want to crop out. That aside, it’s a nice tool for giving your pictures a whole new look; I like using it on photos of city scenes, landscapes and my dog.
While the OG Prisma offers a larger range of filters and even more features, like applying the art style to only the foreground or the background, the results seem artificial in comparison to what Portra manages. For reference, here are the same three images from the header of this article, processed in both Portra (left) and Prisma (right):
Sadly, Portra doesn’t generate high-resolution images that you can print; the output looks fine on small screens, but aren’t enough to print even on A5-size paper. That’s a feature I’d happily pay for.
Google Play will now let you try select Android apps before installing them
Google announced a bunch of updates big and small to its Play store today, but the most exciting of them all is the arrival of Instant Apps, which you can stream to your device and try out without having to install them first.
We first heard about Instant Apps at Google’s IO developer event back in May 2016; the company began rolling out support for these programs this January, but few such apps have been spotted in the wild.
Now, Google says you’ll be able to trial supported apps from the Play store by tapping the Try it Now button beneath their listings. There are a bunch of them on this page, but the option wasn’t available to me on multiple devices in India – so it’s likely that Instant Apps aren’t yet supported everywhere and on all eligible devices just yet.
This feature should make it easier to decide if you want to buy a game or a premium app before ponying up for it. There’s already a refund system that lets you get your money back if you return the app within two hours of your purchase, but this might help even more. If you’re interested in making your app streamable, you can follow Google’s lead on this page.
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