It’s been some time since we first looked at photo-sharing app Tadaa, which we noted at the time builds on Instagram’s template with more Twitter-like features for social photographers.
Instagram may have gone on to dominate the filter/sharing/social photo-app realm, and it even has that billion-dollar Facebook acquisition to boast, but with around 3 million downloads to date, Tadaa has also carved a sizable niche for itself in what has become a pretty saturated space, with arguably a more sophisticated offering than some of its peers.
Tadaa boldly claims this “patent-pending” edge detection feature to be a “world first” for such a mobile app, so we thought we’d take a look to see how good it really is.
Oh, and edge detection, incidentally, is the technical term for identifying specific points and objects in a digital image. In the case of Tadaa, it promises to separate the main subject (e.g. a person) from the background surroundings to create distinct effects and a sense of depth
You can take a snap on the spot, or reel in images from your camera roll. Click the little edge-detection button on the top left next to the crop icon, and you’re good to go.
You trace an area around the main ‘focus’ region, and Tadaa snaps around the edges of the area it thinks you want to focus on.
Next, you can adjust the background blur to make the foreground standout, while you can also change elements such as brightness, contrast and saturation, and other finishing touches to the background.
Then, you can save it to your camera roll or share it across the social sphere.
Certainly, the outcome is quite impressive and it does create a genuine depth of field similar to what you’d get with a DSLR. But is this actually all that revolutionary? Other apps profess to offer such features, including AfterFocus for iOS and Android, not to mention Big Lens (iOS only).
I thought I’d put Tadaa up against Big Lens to see what the actual difference was, and here’s the result with Tadaa on the left:
If truth be told, I didn’t think there was too much in it, both produced roughly the same output, though maybe someone with a better eye for this kind of thing would disagree.
At any rate, it’s a nice addition for Tadaa and one that will likely prove popular with its 3 million or so users. Plus, for the time-being, Tadaa remains totally free, though there is a suggestion it may eventually cost to use the edge detection feature.
“We can’t wait to see how our users react to this new feature,” says Nikolas Schoppmeier, Tadaa’s Co-Founder & CEO. “There is no other app out there with a feature as sophisticated as this so we’re very excited. This feature is just one more reason to leave your expensive SLR at home the next time you want to take great photos. We’re equipping our users with a set of tools that only professional photographers have access to and we’re striving to make them as accessible as possible.”
Tadaa version 4.7 is available to download now.
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Here is the original post: Instagram alternative Tadaa introduces edge detection to blur photo backgrounds
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In the interest of protecting children, a new iOS application called AppCertain has debuted a monitoring application aimed at parents. The app, whose goal is to alert parents about the nature of the applications their kids are downloading, involves the use of a “configuration profile” – special software Apple originally intended for enterprise use, not consumer-facing apps sold through its App Store marketplace.
But Apple reviewed the application – for longer than most, founder and CEO Spencer Whitman tells us – and subsequently approved it. For how long that will remain the case is, however, unknown.
“We think we are on a gray line with respect to Apple, but we don’t really know,” Whitman admits.
Configuration profiles, for those unfamiliar, were designed for the enterprise environment, allowing I.T. departments to manage the iPhones and iPads used by a company’s employees. They’re typically employed by Mobile Device Management solutions, for example, which use the software to configure, track and/or restrict a number of system-level settings like Wi-Fi, VPNs, app settings, permissions, and more.
But more recently, a handful of startups have started using these same profiles to work around Apple’s App Store’s restrictions in order to accomplish tasks which wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Apple is aware this is happening, and seems to be handling each app submission on a one-off basis for now.
We’ve seen mobile data compression utilities like Onavo and Snappli take advantage of the technology to intercept, re-route, and compress web data in order to save users’ bandwidth, for instance. Social search engine Wajam also uses a configuration profile to inject its own search results into Safari, though this is done outside of the Apple App Store.
Onavo is still live on the Apple App Store today, though Snappli has since disappeared. (We reached out to the company for details, but have yet to hear back. It’s possible that Apple simply didn’t care for the fact that Snappli had publicly shared data showing how iOS users were dumping the then newly-launched Apple Maps application.)
But frankly, it seems odd that Apple would knowingly ever let these types of applications into its consumer-facing app store in the first place, given the security risks they could pose. If used unscrupulously, a malicious configuration profile could remote control a user’s device, manipulate user activity, and hijack their sessions, or so explained security researchers at Skycure back in March.
AppCertain isn’t a malicious developer, though, and its intentions are not to control or restrict how an Apple device is used, which would then be stepping on top of Apple’s own, built-in Parental Control features. Instead, it only monitors app downloads and reports back to parents via email that an app was downloaded, explaining what the app does, as well as what sorts of permissions it requests, and more.
The idea is to alert parents about the apps their child uses, including whether or not they have educational value. It doesn’t prevent the child from actually downloading or installing apps.
Whitman explained at the time that the company wanted to help busy parents, who often have a hard time keeping up with what their children are installing and using. It’s not only a problem that affects tech novices, he had said. Even savvy parents often forget or get too busy to keep a close eye on their children’s devices. And these devices, little mini-computers that they are, are not without risks.
Parental Controls Outside Of Apple’s Control
While AppCertain is trying to go the official, Apple-approved route with its creation, another company, a small German app consultancy called Mocava, is not. Its new Parental Control application is an over-the-air install only, knowing that Apple would never approve it for App Store download.
Mocava owner Vinh Phuc Dinh says that he created the app to address a situation he found himself in all the time. “I have many nephews, and would pass on my device for them to play,” he tells us. “Unfortunately, there is no easy way to restrict access on the iPhone and save the desired preferences. So we built it ourselves.”
What he means is that though Apple offers parental control features, it’s not the right solution for those who only need controls on occasion. With his Parental Control App, you can quickly turn on restrictions without having to reconfigure them from scratch them each time you hand your phone or iPad to a child. Even if Apple’s restrictions are turned off, the tool will remember your settings.
You can restrict certain default apps from being accessed or certain content from being viewed. You can disable in-app purchases, or specify that an App Store password is always required, and more. To get started, you configure your settings on the web, then download the profile the company provides.
The mere fact that this app and AppCertain even exist speaks to one of the problems with Apple’s strict control over its OS. Unlike on Android where apps like KIDO’Z, Kytephone, Play Safe, Kid Mode and others allow parents more granular control and insight, Apple’s settings are cumbersome. If you turn on age restrictions, for example, the child can’t watch Netflix. You can disable the web browser, but not whitelist websites, and so on.
These devices are computers, and while parents may disagree on what level of involvement is necessary, it’s fair to say that as with “real” computers, children – especially young children – shouldn’t be given free rein with no parental oversight. Too many parents think of iPads as toys, blindly typing in passwords every time their kid begs for a new app. They perhaps put too much trust in Apple’s “family friendly” policies – just because apps are rated and ranked, pornography or gore-free, that doesn’t make everything appropriate for a every child.
It will be interesting to see how far Apple allows these companies to push into this new territory, before it decides to crack down or otherwise change its policies.
AppCertain is available for download here on iPhone and iPad.
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Cloud storage company Box has acquired HTML5 document embedding service and Y Combinator alum Crocodoc, both companies announced in a press briefing today. Financial terms of the deal, which was a cash and stock transaction, were not disclosed; however, Box CEO and co-founder Aaron Levie said that it was a successful exit for investors. Crocodoc has raised a little over $1 million in funding from Y Combinator, SV Angel, Paul Buchheit, Joshua Schachter, Dave McClure, Steve Chen and XG Ventures.
What Is Crocodoc?
Crocodoc was founded in 2007 by four MIT engineers, but eventually pivoted in 2010 to kill off Acrobat. The startup’s initial Flash-based technology allowed you to upload a PDF, and receive a version of the same document in your browser, which you could then share with coworkers and annotate with notes, highlighting, text, and a pen tool, with changes that show up to other users in real time. In 2011, Crocodoc launched this technology in HTML5 for mobile embedding.
More than 100 companies, including Dropbox, LinkedIn, Yammer, Facebook and SAP, license (and pay for) the startup’s document-embedding technology, and Levie says the company has been able to build a “strong business model.”
For example, Dropbox has used Crocodoc’s HTML5 document viewing solution to allow their users to view documents in their web browsers and mobile devices without having to download large files or use desktop software (you can see an example here). Via LinkedIn’s Recruiter product, Crocodoc enables recruiters to upload candidates’ resumes in Word and PDF formats without having to download files and open them using desktop software.
Customers can also customize the appearance and behavior of Crocodoc’s viewer and access built-in commenting, annotations, highlighting and drawing tools. Crocodoc, which now has seven employees, says that it has powered 189 million document previews and 14 million document annotations.
Also worth noting — earlier this year, Crocodoc launched a new version of its converter, which uses both HTML5 and scalable vector graphics (SVG). With the last version of the player, text was overlaid on top of the image using HTML web fonts. The newer version displays everything in the document as HTML5 and SVG, making for crisper lines and shapes in the converted documents. Documents also load significantly faster, as the browser won’t have to load a large image to display.
As Levie explained today, Box acquired Crocodoc because the company wants to reimagine what documents look like in the cloud. “We’re focused on building the simplest way to let businesses store and manage documents anywhere, and were looking for ways to change how users interact with content,” he says.
We’re told that Crocodoc will continue to be operated and licensed to existing and new users, but Box will integrate Crocodoc’s technology into its own cloud storage platform to allow customers to have a seamless use of the embedder and viewer. And there’s much more that Box and Crocodoc CEO Ryan Damico want to do with the product within the Box family. Damico, who will become Box’s director of platform, will be running content services for the company, and the entire Crocodoc team will be joining Box.
Next up for the product? Damico explains that more secure documents viewing, mobile collaboration, real-time presentation, form-filing and document authoring will all be added in the coming year. Levie says there will also be a new version launching later this year with new viewers like a flip-book-like technology, as well as a carousel experience for documents. There will also be new branding around the Box Platform, he added.
Sam Schillace, Box’s VP of engineering who was also one of the founders of Google Docs, explains that Crocodoc’s technology doesn’t look or feel like enterprise software. “It looks so beautiful and polished, and it is a standard all have to shoot for when viewing documents,” he says.
With 15 million users, and 150,000 businesses across retail, health care, financial services and more, Box is growing fast as it eyes a potential public offering in the next year. Part of growing further will be around adding compelling experiences to the user experience. Levie says that 2 billion content events happened in Q1 alone, so thinking about new ways to improve content experiences makes sense. And Crocodoc is an interesting move considering that its technology is used by one of Box’s main competitors, Dropbox.
It’s no secret that Dropbox has its own ambitions around content, as explained by AllThingsD earlier this year.
But Box believes that they, along with Crocodoc’s technology, can be the leader in improving every experience you have with documents on the Internet. Similar to the way that YouTube remade the online video experience and Facebook and Flickr reimagined the photo experience, Box wants to make embedding documents less clunky.
You can check out Crocodoc’s experience below: