YouTube Can Encourage You to Take a Break

YouTube Can Encourage You to Take a Break

Do you watch a lot of YouTube? If you have a lot of subscriptions or find yourself going down a rabbit hole on a regular basis, you may be spending more time on the service than you really should. YouTube will now make it possible for you to limit yourself and take breaks from streaming videos through their service.

YouTube is now introducing their feature that will encourage watchers to “take a break,” says Android Authority. The newly updated version of YouTube is adding settings that let users customize how long they watch. In the “General” section of the YouTube app’s settings, users who have updated the app will find an option called “Remind me to take a break.” Using this setting will prompt YouTube to send out reminders after a certain length of time. These reminders can be dismissed and won’t actually lock watchers out of the app. But they will let people get an idea of how long they’ve been watching and then choose to pause for a while.

With this setting, users can decide how long they can watch before being prompted to stop streaming. There are six options to choose from, including “Never” as the shortest time and “”Every 180 minutes” as the longer time. There are also more moderate options like “Every 60 minutes.” If you’re really wanting to cut back on your watching, you can even pick “Every 15 minutes,” though I don’t know many people who can really stop themselves after just 15 minutes.

There are plenty of really great videos and channels on YouTube, and of course it’s not necessary to stop watching altogether. But some people can find it hard to stop bingeing videos, which means it can be really helpful to get some reminders to stop wasting so much time. Since they’re just reminders and they don’t actually lock the app, the main concern is that YouTube binge watchers will simply get in the habit of dismissing the notification periodically. But there are other apps that can do this if necessary, and YouTube’s approach will be a much gentler one for those who just need a little bit of a push.

The update is being rolled out now, according to Android Authority. Look for this new feature in your app’s settings after you’ve updated.

Some Autoplay Videos Now Blocked in Chrome

Some Autoplay Videos Now Blocked in Chrome

Chrome has been making changes to how ads are displayed in the browser for some time now. In the most recent update of Google’s browser, some autoplay videos will now be blocked, while others will be allowed automatically.

In a blog post, Google outlines how the new autoplay video update works. Now Chrome will learn your preferences when it comes to videos that autoplay with sound. Using your browsing history, Chrome will start enabling or disabling autoplay videos with sound. If you typically choose to play videos on certain websites, Chrome will allow autoplay videos to run with sound. If you typically don’t watch the videos on a site, Chrome will start disabling their autoplay videos with sound.

Even if you don’t have a browsing history, the blog post says, certain sites will have their autoplay videos enabled or disabled as you start building your history. Whichever sites have the most people clicking to play videos with sound will automatically be enabled for you until the browser learns that you don’t want videos played on those sites.

This update comes after Google has already implemented many other ways to avoid certain ads and mute sites that autoplay ads with sound. In February, Chrome’s ad blocking system went live. Their ad blocking is meant to start automatically blocking certain ads that don’t meet their standards. And in January, Chrome introduced a way to permanently mute sites instead of just temporarily muting them while the tab was open.

All of these changes mean Chrome should soon become the browser to use if you specifically want to avoid annoying ads and autoplay videos (especially if you don’t want to deal with browser add-ons). In their blog post, Google notes that their new autoplay video blocking system will block “about half” of the autoplay videos that users want to avoid. Though not a full block of autoplay videos, it should cut down significantly on the annoyance of sound suddenly blasting from your device.

Mobile Previews Added to Netflix App

Mobile Previews Added to Netflix App

Netflix is now giving their app users a chance to preview shows before watching.

The Netflix app now has what they’re calling mobile previews, Fortune reports. These mobile previews will seem like a familiar feature if you use an app that has Stories (like Snapchat). The previews appear at the top of the app and can be clicked through one after another. You can even go straight to the content from a preview if you see something you like.

According to Fortune, most of the previews are around 30 seconds long. You also don’t have to turn your screen to watch them because they’re vertical videos instead of horizontal.

If you watch on your gaming console or laptop, you’ve likely already seen their auto-playing trailers. These trailers promote content, sometimes showing previews of shows you may not have seen, other times showing a preview of the content you currently have selected. They have also been quite an annoyance for many people. There have been consistent complaints about how the auto-playing videos can’t be disabled, meaning if you stay on one screen for too long while browsing for what to watch, you have to either click away, open content and pause it, mute your TV, or find some other creative way to stop the videos from playing.

Fortunately, the previews now added to the Netflix app are something quite different. They don’t auto-play, which is surely a relief to Netflix app users who don’t want to have previews blasting through their headphones as soon as the app opens. And they appear to be a genuinely useful way to find out about more content you might actually like, particularly since you can tap a preview that’s playing to skip it and move on to something more relevant.

Mobile previews are already available on iOS devices, says Fortune, and Android users can expect the feature to arrive “soon.”

Android Users Now Have Access to AR Stickers

Android Users Now Have Access to AR Stickers

Good news for Android users! Now Android devices have access to augmented reality stickers through the Motion Stills app.

For those who are not yet familiar with the feature, AR stickers are moving stickers that can be recorded and photographed in front of whatever your camera is pointing at, essentially inserting them into the scene. Depending on what device you have and what apps you use, you may have seen AR stickers before. Last year, Google Pixel and Pixel 2 owners had AR stickers rolled out to them for use in their phone’s camera. And the concept is similar to what you’ve probably already spotted if you use Snapchat regularly—Snap’s augmented reality Bitmoji stickers. These stickers in the Snapchat app let you insert your animated Bitmoji character into whatever scene your camera is capturing, taking photos and videos.

Now Google is giving more users the chance to use their AR stickers, instead of keeping them just for Pixel owners. However, the stickers available to everyone don’t work the same way they do on Pixel devices. The AR stickers for the Pixel use Google’s ARCore, their augmented reality tech. ARCore, according to Google, uses three main technologies for their AR: motion tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. This is, of course, just a basic view of ARCore—there’s a lot more that goes into its tech. But what’s most important to note is that the AR stickers on Pixel devices are perhaps higher tech and more realistically integrated than the AR stickers coming out for everyone.

The AR stickers in the Motion Stills app use some more old school tech—your phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer. You can set one of these stickers on a horizontal surface and then do things like take photos and videos, as well as make GIFs, then share them with your friends. Some of the stickers currently available to use include a dinosaur, alien, and robot. To check them out for yourself, download the Motion Stills app from the Play store!

Facebook Offers New ‘Watch Party’ Feature

Facebook Offers New ‘Watch Party’ Feature

Facebook is once again adding a new feature to improve the watching experience. Facebook’s new ‘Watch Party’ feature brings users a way to watch videos with other people.

As CNET reports, Facebook is testing a new feature that lets people come together to watch videos. The feature works with Live videos currently being broadcast, as well as videos that have already been posted. In its current state, it’s being tested by groups on Facebook. Groups are communities formed of people with a shared interest. Admins of the groups can choose a public video and let the group members watch it together while they comment and react to it.

Fidji Simo, the Video director for Facebook, wrote a post about the new feature being tested. In it, she notes that it’s being tested with a “handful of Groups.” This is just the beginning of the Watch Party feature. The test is small at the moment, but Simo mentions they “hope to expand Watch Party in the future.”

This emphasis on bringing groups closer together appears to be part of Facebook’s focus on “meaningful social interactions,” which Mark Zuckerberg wrote about in a recent post. Zuckerberg addressed concerns with Facebook updates that focused more on impersonal ads and branded content instead of content from friends. The post makes it clear that Facebook will now be making a point to make their platform feel more personal again.

Facebook has also been working hard to be at the top of the game when it comes to watching videos on their platform. Over the past months, they’ve added features that improve the video experience for creators and for viewers. In September, Facebook added their Facebook Watch section, which lets viewers keep up with channels and series. It also lets creators draw in more viewers. In October, the platform updated their Facebook Live feature to let users stream their screens. And in November, they released Facebook Creator, an app that helps video makers produce even better content.

Facebook’s Watch Party feature is just the newest in a long line of improvements to Facebook’s watching experience. It’s also a step towards a more personal experience on the social media platform. As it’s rolled out, hopefully users will have more opportunities to enjoy content together and feel more connected.

Getting Ready for the New Year

Getting Ready for the New Year

With 2017 wrapping up and 2018 quickly approaching, it might be difficult to keep up with everything. There are the holidays to get through, and with the new year, there might be some expectations or plans to keep up with. If you’re feeling a little unprepared for 2017 to come to a close, here are just some ways you can get ready, as well as some ideas for taking care of yourself!

Use an app for your resolution(s) or goals

Do you have a special New Year’s resolution? Many people come up with resolutions to better themselves or do something specific. Many people also forget about their resolutions not too far into 2018. The good news is, you can use the internet to focus on keeping your resolutions!

Even if you don’t have a resolution, you might have decided on some goals to meet over the course of the year. Here are some apps that can help!

Coach.me is an app that helps users form new habits. If you’ve set a goal to work on your diet, be more productive, or otherwise change your habits, Coach.me can help. It’s available for Android, iOS, and the web. You get access to “coaches” who help you stay on track and work to meet your goals.

GoalsOnTrack is software that helps you set and meet goals, change habits, and complete tasks. You can set goals with milestones and actual achievable end results, then follow your progress. Your habits can be linked to certain goals, as well. There’s even a vision board so you can practice visualization. This software works for Android, iOS, and the web.

irunurun is another goal-setting app that focuses on setting attainable goals and staying accountable for your progress. Your goals can be given a certain weight or value depending on how important it is. You can score points and look at your progress. You are also held accountable by being on a team—others can see your progress, which makes reaching your goals a little more competitive, as well. irunurun is available for iOS and the web.

Way of Life is a good option if you’re into visuals. You can set goals and work on your habits, then look at a visual representation of your progress. There are bar charts and pie charts, plus a scoreboard. There are also many other features that help you keep up with your goals and habits. Way of Life is available for Android and iOS.

Use websites or apps for your New Year’s Eve party

Planning a New Year’s Eve party? Don’t stress. There are quite a few ways you can use the internet to easily plan your party.

Use countdown videos

If you don’t like (or don’t have access) to the typical live countdown on New Year’s Eve, you have options online! YouTube has plenty of NYE countdowns available. For instance, you might like to simply play the London Fireworks published by BBC or the Sydney Fireworks from ABC TV. There are also countdown videos with interesting effects, like this countdown video by Mandy Mathy. You can almost certainly find one that suits your party’s style.

Use a Spotify playlist

Don’t worry about music for your party! Spotify users have already made playlists for New Year’s Eve. Searching through them, you can find one that you think your guests will like. There’s the “Ultimate Party Playlist” or the “2018 New Year’s Eve NYE Party Playlist.” Or you could get a playlist started and let your friends add to it as the party gets closer.

Make planning simpler

Check out my article called “Organize Your Upcoming Events Online” for ways you can use the internet while planning your NYE shindig!

Know your resources for stress and other concerns

Many people struggle with things like stress and depression around the New Year. The holidays can be a stressful time, and they can be difficult for some. The best thing you can do for yourself is see a health professional so you can talk through your concerns. However, in the meantime, here are some apps or websites you might check out for self-care during the New Year:

Facebook Watch Has Arrived

Facebook Watch Has Arrived

If you happened to be watching Facebook’s sidebar carefully, you might have noticed the new tab that just appeared. Facebook has now officially launched the Watch tab for Facebook users. Videos have become a huge part of Facebook, News Feeds becoming filled with viral videos, how-tos, trailers, and all kinds of video content. If a friend or page you follow posts a video, you can watch it, save it, share it, etc. Facebook Watch ups the social media site’s game by creating a hub specifically for discovering new video content and following up on your favorite content creators.

If you click on the Watch tab (near the top of Facebook’s left sidebar), you can find episodes from different series, individual video content from pages all across Facebook, and several different categories to flip through. You even have a watchlist that helps you stay up to date. You can find episodes from series like “Humans of New York: The Series” and “Hala Madrid.” You can scroll through content from popular pages like Rolling Stone, ATTN:, and The Dodo. And if you want to get some suggestions for what to watch, there are plenty of categories to choose from. For instance, the Popular Now category shows some of the videos other Facebook users are watching. The What Friends Are Watching category is a fun way to flip through some of the videos your friends and family recently enjoyed. With the 10 Minutes or More category, you can trade in the typical brief viral video for longer, more engrossing video content. And the Suggested For You category compiles a bunch of videos Facebook thinks you might like.

When you find something you like, you can save the video and even start following the series. After clicking on a video, look in the top right corner of the page. Clicking on the Follow button gives you the option to show new posts from the series at the top of your News Feed. If you click the menu next to the follow button—the three dots—you can save the video to watch later. What’s really nice is that accessing these videos later is easy! On the Facebook Watch page, you can click on the tabs called “Latest Episodes” and “Saved Episodes.” Underneath these tabs, there’s even a list of shows you’re Following. Clicking on one of these shows brings up the videos in the series.

While Facebook users will certainly still discover new videos by scrolling through their News Feeds, Facebook Watch brings a new dynamic to Facebook’s platform. With plenty of new content to check out, you’re certain to find a new series to follow, located right on your favorite social media site. To go straight to Facebook Watch, click here.

Face Filters Are Everywhere

Face Filters Are Everywhere

These days more and more platforms are giving its users fun effects for their photos. At this point, three particularly popular social media apps allow us to overlay our faces with silly filters, maybe letting us turn ourselves into cats or football players or doe-eyed woodland creatures. Snapchat is the obvious app of the three, but Instagram and Facebook are in the face filter arena, as well. Each app has its own special face filters, so let’s look at what these three apps have to offer.

Snapchat

Snapchat, the popular photo-based app, is likely the first app you think of when you see a picture of someone with dog ears or a brightly glowing flower crown. Snapchat centers on being able to send your pictures to your friends, add them to a group message, save them to your photo story, and more, all without any real permanence. Photos on Snapchat, unless you remember to save them to your private memories, only last for a brief amount of time before they are gone forever. Here’s what you need to know about their face filters:

  • Snapchat adds and removes face filters regularly
  • Filters are often chosen based on current events and seasons
  • Some face filters can be placed on multiple people within a photo
  • Some filters have sound or music
  • Filters often include full-body animations that place your face in the appropriate location, usually incorporating music
  • Snapchat filters can be recorded as video, and they often have voice changers attached
  • Like other photos you take on Snapchat, you can save them to your Memories and you device

Instagram

Instagram is best known for letting users apply toned and/or textured filters to photos that have already been captured. But earlier this year, Instagram added special features to its in-app camera, allowing us to take pics with silly or cute face filters. Here’s what you can expect from Instagram’ face filters:

  • Instagram adds new face filters often, though not as often as Snapchat
  • Many of Instagram’s face filters are styled like doodles
  • Some filters can be placed on multiple people within a photo
  • Instagram’s face filters can be used while also using their other features, like Boomerang (a looping video) and Rewind (a video played in reverse)
  • After adding a face filtered photo (or any other photo) to your story, you can add linkable hashtags on top

Facebook

Facebook joined in on the face filter fun, as well. After I found out Facebook added face filters, I realized Facebook might just take over my life, considering they seem to be integrating a little bit of everything into their app. Facebook’s in-app camera has several special features, but personally, I find their face filters to be the best reason to open their camera and snap a photo. Here’s what to look for when you’re checking out Facebook’s face filters:

  • Facebook already has a large number of face filters available
  • Many (though not all) of Facebook’s face filters are bulkier than Instagram or Snapchat filters, covering much of the face instead of adding small details
  • Facebook features several pop culture filters (like the current Game of Thrones and Justice League filters)
  • Some of Facebook’s face filters include sound
  • Some filters include a voice changer
  • Video can be recorded while using Facebook’s face filters

The Verdict

All three apps are pretty similar. They all allow video recording while using face filters, they all have quite a few face filter options, they all offer some sounds, and even some of their filters look alike. But each app has its own feel and special features. Snapchat offers new filters so regularly that it would be difficult to become bored with their offerings. Instagram has options like Boomerang available. And Facebook has cool branded filters (one of which can make you look like a white walker). Try them all out and see what you think—then you might decide which you like best, or you might do what I’ve done and just use all three.