April 6, 2018

Weekly Wins: The State of Spotify

WRITTEN BY: Ivana Atlija

Welcome to The Weekly Wins; Pound & Grain’s guide to what’s going on in the world of digital. If you’re new around here, here’s how we do things. 1. It’s Friday! Grab a drink. 2. Kick back and get comfy. 3. Enjoy some digital goodies below. 4. Share them with your friends! 5. Grab another drink.

Spotify went public this week, Snapchat offers new video chatting features for groups of friends, smarty-pants MIT grads created a device that can read your mind, there’s a new haptic jacket that lets you feel in VR, and Facebook may finally give us an “unsend” button. Let’s go!

1. The State of Spotify

A few weeks ago, we talked about how digital downloads now make less money than CDs and vinyl. Overall, the music industry has seen the best growth in approximately 20 years, and these changes are mainly due to the popularity of streaming services such as Spotify, shifting how we listen to, and pay for, our music.

Spotify is simultaneously changing and growing the music business, but what about its own business? Spotify officially went public this week, being valued at $26.5 billion. That all sounds great, but due to Spotify’s unique business model, it’s still operating at a loss. As the biggest streaming music service in the world, Spotify has 71 million paying members, but music licensing comes at a high price, taking up over 70 cents of every dollar of sales. So, what’s next for Spotify?

According to Russ Crupnick, Music Watch’s analyst and managing partner, the future of Spotify may be similar to Amazon. Cupnick shared with CNET, “We thought of Amazon as being a bookstore, and look what happened. Spotify could be the same thing.” Podcasts, concerts, live events, audio books, video and more are all potential opportunities for Spotify to grow its profitability. Guess it’s just a matter of time.

A blessing or a curse?

2. Video Chat Chaos

Most of us would agree that multi person conference/video calls suck and should be avoided at all costs. There’s people talking over others, inconsistent volume levels, poor, pixelated video, and people inevitably dropping off. But for others, a big video chat that lets everyone look like animals and vomit rainbows is a dream come true.

Snapchat has introduced a new feature that allows groups of up to 16 people to video chat together. Got more than 16 friends who all need to talk at the same time? You can now have a 32-person group voice call, too. How fun.

Melding human and machine

3. Meet Your Alter Ego

Alright, stop what you’re doing and watch this video. Did you watch? If so, HOW do they do it? If not, let me tell you about the new headset from the nerds at MIT that can read your mind.

Say goodbye to voice assistants and hello to… mind assistants? A team at MIT has been working on a non-verbal device called AlterEgo that reads neuromuscular signals through built-in electrodes. That’s smart talk for “reading words in your head.” They’re calling it an IA device – an intelligence-augmentation device – that “melds human and machine… and feels like an internal extension of our own cognition.”

That’s not all. The team also built AlterEgo with bone conduction for audio playback, making it an entirely silent system to anyone who’s not the wearer. Welcome to the future.

Getting touchy with VR

4. Feel The World Around You

The VR social platform High Fedelity has teamed up with the sensory experience developers NeoSensory to create a haptic jacket – or “virtual skin” – that looks like it’s straight out of Ready Player One.

It’s called the Exoskin and it uses 32 sensory motors to simulates the sensation of touch while in VR, allowing users to feel like they’re physically interacting with others and the environment around them. David Eagleman, NeoSensory’s co-founder, said “When we feel the touch of another person, or the wall we’re running into, or raindrops hitting us, the realism of VR becomes even more compelling.”

5. Unsend! Unsend! Unsend!

We’ve all sent messages we immediately regret. Perhaps you not-so-passive aggressively texted your messy roommate, or accidently sent a message to the person you were gossiping about (yikes). Thanks to some more sketchy activity by Facebook, the next time you send a risky message in the heat of the moment, you may soon have the option to “unsend” it.

Earlier this week, Facebook reportedly went into users’ inboxes and removed messages sent by Mark Zuckerberg and other executives, something that nobody else has the ability to do. Many people viewed this as a privacy concern and a breach of trust, so in the name of damage control, Facebook stated they won’t be unsending any more messages, and that they have plans to make an “unsend” feature available to all users this year. I’ll believe it when I see it, but wouldn’t that be nice?