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Snapchat Spectacles get a codename: Laguna

Snapchat Spectacles get a codename: Laguna
Snap Inc. Chief Strategy Officer Imran Khan speaks about Spectacles during an Advertising Week New York event in September. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York)

Snapchat maker Snap Inc. isn't sharing many details about Spectacles — the video camera-sunglasses expected to go on sale in the U.S. in the coming weeks.

But bits of information are leaking through its app as the Venice firm prepares for communicating with the gadget.

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Spectacles are codenamed Laguna in the app, according to Android developer Marcell Mészáros, who recently analyzed the source code of the entertainment service.

Users will pair their Spectacles sunglasses to their smartphone by staring at a personalized barcode on the app, what Snapchat refers to as a Snapcode.

Spectacles will shoot video clips of up to 10 seconds at a time. They don't have to be connected to a smartphone to film, but users will need to be near their phone to download the videos to the Snapchat app via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. From the app, the videos can be shared with friends.

A screenshot shows how Snapchat connects to Spectacles.
A screenshot shows how Snapchat connects to Spectacles. (Marcell MĂŠszĂĄros)

The app recognizes the color of the sunglasses, suggesting that the resulting videos may somehow highlight which model the user has, Mészáros said. Snap plans to release Spectacles in black, teal and coral.

Snap hasn't said how much Spectacles will cost or how they will be sold, other than that the roll-out will be limited.

Mészáros noted other features being tested within Snapchat are a new cybersecurity system, the ability to adjust the quality of videos, a low-power mode and general performance improvements from its new Seattle development team.

Snap also is experimenting with a feature among some users enabling them to shake their device when they encounter an error or issue, which brings up a tool for sending feedback to the company. Snap declined to comment.

Techstars launches broad start-up program in Los Angeles

Boulder, Colo. investment firm Techstars is opening a business incubator in Los Angeles aimed at tech start-ups early next year.

Techstars Los Angeles came about after the organization's executives noticed that almost all of its other programs in the U.S. had a Southern California company admitted this year. In Los Angeles, Techstars operates mentorship programs for health technology start-ups and soon will open one for music technology start-ups. But the new program has a broader mandate to support companies bringing new technological ideas to any industry.

"I am biased, but the speed which things are accelerating and the breadth of companies coming out L.A. has expanded dramatically," said Cody Simms, a Techstars' executive director based in Los Angeles.

Techstars has worked its global network of business incubators into something that has the chance to be massive. More than 900 companies have gone through one of its more than 20 programs, and 80% of those that still exist are collectively valued at about $6.5 billion, according to Techstars.

Start-ups that have gone through a Techstars class include connected toy maker Sphero, fitness class app ClassPass and Los Angeles real estate investment service RealtyMogul.com.

General Motors launches car-sharing in L.A.

The Maven logo on a General Motors car in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Maven logo on a General Motors car in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Maven, the Zipcar-competitor from General Motors Co., is now available in Los Angeles.

A recent search showed 12 cars available near downtown Los Angeles and USC. Users can rent them through an app starting at $8 an hour, with fuel, insurance and 180 miles of daily mileage covered. There's no membership fee for Maven for a limited time, and it's open to people older than 18. Reservations can last up to four days.

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In the handful of other cities where Maven has been running for months, users have logged more than 4,500 reservations, the company said. On average, they drive about 100 miles and keep the cars for more than 12 hours.

The Los Angeles fleet includes cars such as the Chevrolet Cruze, Malibu and Volt, the GMC Yukon and Cadillac Escalade. They come with several digital amenities, including SiriusXM Radio and easy connectivity to Android and Apple smartphones.

Zipcar, owned by rental giant Avis, offers a $70 annual membership and hourly rates starting at $10. Toyota is expected to begin testing a similar service in San Francisco next year.

Demand Media becomes Leaf Group

Struggling online publisher Demand Media announced it would change its name to Leaf Group Nov. 9 and switch its New York Stock Exchange symbol to LGFR from DMD.

The Santa Monica company once generated more than $100 million a quarter from online ads as visitors flocked to eHow.com, Livestrong.com and other properties. But visits plummeted when Google adjusted how it ranked search results, negatively affecting Demand pages. Sales have taken a hit, down to about $25 million a quarter. Profits have turned into losses, though the company does have money to invest after selling off some properties.

Demand declined to immediately comment on the reasoning behind the switch, which received approval from its board of directors, a group of seven men.

Demand has put its cash to work developing online shopping and video production arms. Among the newer ventures is Leaf, filled with how-to articles videos aimed at young women. Featured products are available for purchase on the website.

Elsewhere on the Web

Dating app company Snap Interactive sued Snapchat developer Snap Inc. for trademark infringement, according to Hollywood Reporter.

Former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley joined Snap's board of directors earlier this year, according to the Information.

Los Angeles augmented reality helmet maker Daqri is trying to raise as much as $200 million through private financing in hopes of bringing the gadgets into more industrial workplaces, according to Bloomberg.

High-speed transportation technology developer Hyperloop One plans to raise as much as $250 million in the coming months as it races toward a target of opening its first systems by the early 2020s, according to Forbes.

Super League Gaming, a Santa Monica company that holds video game tournaments inside theaters, received $5 million from investors, according to VentureBeat.

Gauzy, an Israeli start-up with offices in Los Angeles, has $7 million in new funding to put toward developing display technologies, according to Jewish Business News.

In case you missed it

L.A.'s latest $1-billion tech company has a female CEO. Meet Therese Tucker of BlackLine Inc., an accounting software maker that went public last week.

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Liquid meal maker Soylent stopped sales of its flagship powder, warning that a handful of customers reported stomach sickness after consuming it. Soylent had already halted shipments of its months-old nutrition bar because of customer complaints of diarrhea, vomiting and upset stomach.

As companies going public gain the edge in pricing discussions with initial investors, Snap could command a hefty valuation, as much as $40 billion.

Expansion plans for Google's high-speed Fiber Internet service in cities such as Los Angeles has been put on hold.

Coming up

The teleporting pilot character Tracer from Blizzard Entertainment's "Overwatch" video game.
The teleporting pilot character Tracer from Blizzard Entertainment's "Overwatch" video game. (Blizzard Entertainment Inc.)

Activision Blizzard Inc. plans to share more details about its e-sports tournament for the 6-month-old video game "Overwatch" on Friday, according to five people familiar with the matter.

The company is hoping to entice investors into backing professional teams for the game by awarding franchise rights, the people said, speaking privately ahead of the official briefing. A buy-in fee that could exceed $1 million would give purchasers one of a limited number of permanent spots in an "Overwatch" league.

The bet would be that the value of each slot increases over time, as fans buy tickets and merchandise and view ads during match broadcasts. The likelihood of the wager paying off is difficult to estimate without additional details. But some existing video-game team owners have expressed skepticism about the popularity of "Overwatch."

The shooting game pairs two teams of six virtual heroes, including a Russian bodybuilder, a teammate-healing young monk and a teleporting female pilot.

The e-sports announcement is expected to come as part of BlizzCon, the annual fan convention in Anaheim held by the Santa Monica company's Irvine-based Blizzard Entertainment division.

Twitter: @peard33

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