Technology Now
The business and culture of our digital lives
Ex-NFL star Warren Sapp joins fantasy sports start-up Rivalry Games

Football Hall of Famer and NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp has invested in and accepted a position at a fantasy sports start-up located in Santa Monica.

A friend of a friend introduced the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle to Rivalry Games, said Justin Bauer, the chief executive of the start-up.

Sapp has promoted or offered social-media advice to other tech companies, including video app Viddy, image-sharing app Momentage and education nonprofit Code.org. But the role of co-founder and vice president of business development at Rivalry will be his deepest involvement yet. His stake in the company is similar to that of co-founders Bauer and Nathan Leland.

“I knew the moment I met Justin that together we could bring Rivalry Games to the next level by developing cutting-edge fantasy sports products that make every game better,” Sapp said in a statement announcing his role Wednesday.

Rivalry’s app is aimed at fantasy sports players who care more for the thrill...

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Google buys Zync, a cloud-based visual effects rendering firm

Google beefed up its cloud-computing platform Tuesday by acquiring Zync Inc., a Boston-based firm that specializes in visual effects rendering through the Internet.

In the visual effects industry, rendering is the process of taking computer generated 3-D models and turning them into the realistic 2-D visuals that we see in movies. But rendering requires a lot of computing power, and as a result most visual effects companies build out entire "render farms" to create their scenes. 

Zync's technology, called Zync Render, enables companies to render visuals through the cloud, letting artists create imagery without having to own and maintain a render farm. Since Zync formed nearly five years ago, its technology has been used for numerous movies, including "Star Trek Into Darkness" and "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

Google did not disclose a purchase price but said Zync would be integrated into the Google Cloud Platform, which is used by companies to host their work on Google's servers...

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Honest Co. hauls in $70 million from investors as it eyes IPO

As the Jessica Alba-founded start-up Honest Co. eyes a listing on the stock market, it's picking up an additional $70 million in funding.

The investment values the company in the high hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a source not authorized to publicly speak about the transaction.

Honest Co. generates most of its revenue from shipping bundles of eco-friendly, toxic-free diapers, bath products and cleaning goods to hundreds of thousands of subscribers. It also sells its more than 85 products online and at retailers such as Target, Costco and Whole Foods. Sales have been growing, but the latest round of funding should help the company more quickly develop new products.

Anything that touches or rests near the skin is of interest, said Sean Kane, the company's president and co-founder. But on the immediate radar are items such as baby formula and cosmetics.

He called the new funds "further validation that customers are paying more attention to what they put in and around their...

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Snapchat funding rumors return. Could its valuation hit $10 billion?

Snapchat's millions of users and the intriguing possibilities that the mobile messaging app offers advertisers have made the Los Angeles start-up an object of desire among investors.

The latest rumors of who's courting Snapchat emerged Tuesday with reports saying that Kleiner Perkins Caufield

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Apple to release 12.9-inch iPad in 2015, report says

Looking to spark iPad sales, Apple is developing a 12.9-inch model that will go into production early next year, a report Tuesday by Bloomberg said

Apple remains the leader in the tablet market, but it has seen year-to-year iPad sales decline the last two quarters. Earlier this year, the Cupertino, Calif., giant said it would target the enterprise market to boost iPad sales, and in July it announced a partnership with IBM to develop business-centric apps for its devices.

With an iPad larger than any before it -- Apple currently sells 9.7- and 7.9-inch models -- Apple appears to be eyeing the enterprise market, said Jefferson Wang, a senior partner at IBB Consulting

“The under-10-inch tablets are great for consuming content in your lap, but when you’re actually trying to do work on it, you would need a bigger screen to see schematics, to input data or to manipulate spreadsheets," Wang told The Times. "A business-ready tablet, if you will, at a price point lower than a thousand dollars...

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Instagram releases Hyperlapse, a video-recording time-lapse iPhone app

Instagram threw a bone to creative types on Tuesday by releasing Hyperlapse, a new app for the iPhone that makes it easy to record time-lapse videos.

The new app records video at a lower frame-rate than normal then plays it back much faster. "Thus motion that takes a long time, like a flower blooming, appears to happen in real-time," Instagram said in an email to The Times.

Hyperlapse also comes equipped with stabilization software, making videos recorded while moving or without a smartphone stand appear less shaky. Hyperlapse videos are saved into the iPhone camera roll and can be uploaded to Instagram and other apps.  

The app is available now in the Apple App Store. There are no plans to bring Hyperlapse to Android due to technical limitations with Google's mobile operating system. 

Follow me on Twitter for more mobile app news: @sal19

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Tablet video game revenue to top $13 billion by 2019, report predicts

The growth in sales of computer tablets is slowing down, but tablet video game revenue is exploding.

Worldwide revenue for tablet video games could reach $13.3 billion in 2019, according to a Juniper Research report -- more than three times the $3.6 billion expected this year.

Improvements in storage capacity and better graphical capabilities will lure more gamers to tablets, according to the report, released Tuesday. Other reasons include the portability of tablets and the vast number of people who play video games. According to the Entertainment Software Assn., 59% of Americans are players.

"Technology is going to advance to where tablet games are going to rival those of video game consoles," said Patrick Scott Patterson, a video game industry expert.

Patterson said tech titans like Google, Apple and Amazon, which this week paid $970 million to acquire video game streaming website Twitch, consider video games as important as other forms of entertainment.

"Video games are peers of the...

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USC, UCLA, Caltech get joint grant to fuel tech start-ups in L.A.

With funding from the National Science Foundation, three of the top universities in Southern California are teaming up to supply instruction, events and research aimed at helping technology start-ups flourish in the region.

Though investments and successes have been growing in the Los Angeles technology community, the trio of USC, UCLA and Caltech see a chance to accelerate and better advertise what’s happening around them.

The three-year, $3.5-million grant announced Tuesday comes from the independent federal agency's Innovation Corps, or I-Corps, initiative. Five I-Corps “nodes” have already been established since 2011, in the San Francisco Bay Area; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Georgia; and Michigan. USC and the University of Texas in Austin are anchoring the newest nodes.

The program’s goal is to get investors and business leaders communicating with university researchers and students. Often the latter group comes up with great technology, but can’t quite figure out how...

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Job listing service ZipRecruiter raises $63 million

ZipRecruiter, a Santa Monica start-up that tries to simplify tasks for recruiters, has raised $63 million in initial venture capital funding as the 4-year-old service races to keep up with growing demand.

The investment announced Tuesday, which includes money from a new Los Angeles venture capital fund, will help the 140-person company add a second office off the 3rd Street Promenade later this year, pursue acquisitions and increase computing infrastructure.

“We’re going after a market that has been priced out of or haven’t had the time to learn higher-end recruitment tools,” said Ian Siegel, chief executive and co-founder of ZipRecruiter. “We’ve been doing tens of thousands of small and medium business customers, but we’re going to need something more to handle hundreds of thousands of customers.”

Companies that subscribe to ZipRecruiter can simultaneously post job listings to 50 different websites, including Monster, Indeed and Craigslist. An employer can pay for a “traffic boost” to...

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TiVo goes after cord cutters with new $49.99 device

Catering to cord cutters, TiVo on Monday announced a new $49.99 device with a $14.99 monthly subscription that works with an HD antenna but not paid TV services.

With a tongue twister of a name, the TiVo Roamio OTA DVR records programming from over-the-air TV channels from broadcast networks like NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. It cannot hook up to cable or satellite TV boxes as other TiVo devices can. Those boxes, which start at $199.99, can record content from cable channels.

Over the past year, the San Jose company has gained more than 1.1 million subscribers, mostly through cable and satellite partners that offer TiVo to their customers. On its own, TiVo has struggled to attract customers, losing 50,000 subscribers in the past year. The company is hoping cord cutters will buy its $49.99 box and reverse the recent losses.

The new device can record up to four shows at the same time, store 75 hours of HD video, play content from online services like Netflix and YouTube, and stream live and...

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Amazon confirms it will buy Twitch for $970 million

Sorry, YouTube. Amazon.com is the winning bidder for Twitch, the hugely popular online platform for video gamers.

The Seattle e-commerce giant said Monday afternoon that it had agreed to pay $970 million in cash to acquire Twitch, a San Francisco start-up.

Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos said the company wanted to help Twitch "move even faster" to build new services for the gaming community.

“Broadcasting and watching game play is a global phenomenon and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month," Bezos said in a statement. "And, amazingly, Twitch is only three years old.”

Under the terms of the agreement, which has been approved by Twitch’s shareholders, Amazon will acquire all of the outstanding shares. The acquisition is expected to close in the second half of 2014.

The news is a turnabout from earlier reports that pegged YouTube as the all-but-certain buyer for Twitch.

The YouTube deal -- then...

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Sony executive's flight cut short by Twitter threat; network attacked

There was no rest for Sony Sunday as the Japanese company dealt with a bomb threat on a flight carrying one of its top executives and with a cyber attack that knocked its PlayStation Network offline for several hours.

Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley was aboard an American Airlines flight from Dallas to San Diego when a threatening tweet was posted by an account called Lizard Squad that claimed explosives had been planted on the plane.

".@AmericanAir We have been receiving reports that @j_smedley's plane #362 from DFW to SAN has explosives on-board, please look into this," the tweet said.

The plane was diverted to Phoenix. The FBI investigated but found no explosives. The flight proceeded to its final destination with Smedley tweeting "All is well" and later, "Yes. My plane was diverted. Not going to discuss more than that. Justice will find these guys."

Before Smedley's flight, the executive had been tweeting about a distributed denial of service attack -- where...

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