Watch the video above or read the transcript below for a rundown of the best apps available for staying in touch with friends and family during the coronavirus pandemic, according to Postable’s Danny Burke.
As you are no doubt well aware, we are living through a time of social distancing and isolation. We are staying home. We are avoiding physical contact with family and friends. We are lonely.
But, good news here folks — you can still socialize!!!! — you just have to do it at a distance. That’s where apps come in to help us keep connected to our loved ones. Sure, WhatsApp and Messenger usually do the job for this — but extraordinary times call for extraordinary apps, and here are four of the best … and they’re all free! I tried out some of these myself to stay in touch with my sisters who are in the U.K.
You may have already heard of this one. It’s become the app to have while in isolation. Houseparty lets you video chat with up to 8 people and is incredibly simple to jump into. The main menu is a default display of your front-facing camera. Swipe up to see your friends list and if you don’t have any, you can add them by name, through contacts, Facebook or just send them the link. If you just want to video a call a friend — that’s fine — but you’re missing out on the fun. Tapping the dice icon will bring up the game options which, although few, are a welcome touch! Tapping the plus button in the top right allows you to add friends and in the bottom left you’ll see a lock symbol to make your room private which stops unwanted people wandering into your fun.
I love this one. Marco Polo lets you talk to your friends through video chat — but it’s not live. Their push-to-talk feature creates a sort of digital walkie talkie where you leave someone a video, or ‘Polo’, and they watch it whenever they get the chance. This app is for people who want to see their loved ones’ faces, they want to hear what they’re up to, but they might not have the time to sit there and video chat. Even if you’re social distancing right now — you may still be working or studying and might not have the time to talk to people for prolonged periods of time — no matter how much you miss them. Isolation doesn’t mean you’re not keeping busy and if that’s the case — Marco Polo is the perfect app to get.
When the theatres are closed, and people can’t come to you for movie night, send the movie night out to everyone. Netflix Party is a chrome extension that allows you to watch movies in real time with your friends. After installing it through the Chrome Web Store, start watching a movie or show like normal. Then click on the small ‘NP’. You’ll see a URL to share with whoever you want to join. When they click the link, all they have to do is hit the NP icon to join the party — there’s even a chatbox to talk while the movie is playing and you don’t have to hear them!
Next up, we have Bunch. What’s better than video chatting with friends and family? Seeing their faces while you beat them at a game. Bunch is a great little party app that aims to create a ‘frictionless experience’ between playing games and seeing someone face to face on your phone by allowing you to do both at the same time. It’s been called ‘the Discord of mobile games’ — which is high praise as Discord is the most popular chat program for desktop gaming. If you’re not a gamer, though — don’t be put off — most of the games are simple and easy to jump into. Trivia, drawing and charades give you a more casual experience but there’s plenty of more challenging games and established titles such as Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft which are supported as well!
Zoom is the go to app for video conference calling for many businesses both big and small and it works great for families and friends also. Think like the mafia: your family can act like a business.
JusTalk is great for large video calls as it can support up to FIFTY people at once for free while other apps may charge you to do those kinds of numbers!
Glide is a fantastic app that lets you create your own apps from spreadsheets while video chatting so this is great if you want to do something productive with friends or families.
QuizUp is, no surprise, an app that lets you do quizzes. It’s been at the top of the genre for many years now by offering fun quizzes to do with your friends and family across a sea of different topics.
For many people, these apps can never replace being with a friend or family member — but they can help. If you’re watching this, you’ve probably got a phone and if you’re social distancing, you’ve probably got some time on your hands — so there’s no excuse not to check one of these out! Especially if this goes on for a while.
Postable is Postmedia’s first and only YouTube exclusive publication. Produced by and for young Canadians, Postable shares stories that touch on social or cultural topics that affect Canadian Millennials and Gen Z. Postable is funded by YouTube’s funding Initiative program. The channel has been live since July, where a video is published every week. Click here to watch more, or subscribe.
Animal Crossing removed from Chinese stores after Hong Kong protests: report – Polygon
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been pushed inside, like many of us around the world, as the coronavirus pandemic disrupts everyday life. School, work, and other events have been moved online — including protests. Activists are using Nintendo’s new, idyllic life simulator Animal Crossing: New Horizons to support Hong Kong protesters’ five demands.
But on Friday morning, the game had disappeared from major Chinese online retailers Taobao and Pinduoduo, reports Reuters. Nintendo began selling the Switch in China in December 2019, but has not released New Horizons there; interested parties must purchase foreign versions of the game to play it. Only three games are officially available for the Switch in China: New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Super Mario Odyssey.
It’s not immediately clear that New Horizons has been pulled because of the protests in-game, but the game’s removal comes after increased news coverage of the actions, popularized by Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong. Reuters also reported there’s no indication whether the game was pulled as the result of “a directive from China’s content regulator or a voluntary act by politically sensitive e-commerce platforms.”
Industry analyst Daniel Ahmad wrote on Twitter Friday that despite not being officially available there, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is “extremely popular in China.” Players were able to purchase it from online retailers, small game shops that have imported it, and by changing the Nintendo eShop location.
The most popular video game under #COVID “Animal Crossing” developed by @Nintendo appears to be removed from sales in #China – probably due to its nearly unlimited freedom for players to create their virtual lives. It can’t be searched on Chinese e-commerce platforms anymore. pic.twitter.com/jY6dYn04Yn
— Phoebe Kong 江穎怡 (@phoebe_kongwy) April 10, 2020
Demonstrations inside Animal Crossing: New Horizons include a creative use of Nintendo’s customization options. Of course, players are donning medical and gas masks — symbols of the protest — and wearing all black. But others have created signage and artwork sharing the message “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now.” Others are using the game’s nets to bop Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who is widely unpopular within the pro-democracy movement.
Wong tweeted Friday that gamers in China are blaming him for New Horizons’ disappearance. Polygon has reached out to Wong for comment.
Protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing since the summer of 2019. Hongkongers are fighting for “universal suffrage” and an investigation into the Hong Kong police force, according to Vox. Last year, Hong Kong-based Hearthstone pro Ng “blitzchung” Wai Chung used a postgame interview to express support for the movement, and was subsequently suspended and fined for the action. (Blizzard later reduced the punishment.) Angry with Blizzard, supporters began boycotting the company’s products and using Chinese Overwatch hero Mei as a symbol of the resistance. Demonstrators also appeared outside of BlizzCon 2019 to protest the suspension.
Similarly, a Taiwanese horror game, Devotion, was removed from Steam last year after players found a meme mocking Chinese president Xi Jinping in-game. The game has not returned to the platform, and it is currently playable only via bootlegged copies or at the Harvard-Yenching Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Apple and Google partner on COVID-19 contact tracing technology – Apple Newsroom
Across the world, governments and health authorities are working together to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, to protect people and get society back up and running. Software developers are contributing by crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.
First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.
Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.
All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.
Amid in-game Hong Kong protests, Chinese retailers drop Animal Crossing sales – Ars Technica
Chinese online retailers are cracking down on third-party sales of imported copies of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The move comes as the game has become a popular virtual spot for anti-government protests amid coronavirus-induced lockdowns.
Reuters reports that popular gray market Chinese e-commerce sites Pinduoduo and Taobao have taken down all listings for Animal Crossing as of this morning. Chinese tech site Pingwest reports that the two retailers sent messages to their resellers late Thursday notifying them of the ban. The Chinese government hasn’t issued a statement regarding the game, though a directive from government officials seems the most likely reason for the sudden move.
A licensed Chinese version of the Switch launched late last year through local partner Tencent after the lifting of an outright game console ban in 2015. That version of the system can currently play three Mario-themed games officially licensed for the Chinese market, as well as imported international Switch cartridges, but it can’t access the system’s online features.
But many Chinese gamers have taken to importing fully featured international versions of the system through online resellers. Import prices for those consoles, and for accessories like Ring Fit Adventure, have skyrocketed on Chinese retail sites in recent weeks, mirroring supply shortages in other markets.
As industry analyst Daniel Ahmad notes on Twitter, sites like Taobao have officially banned third-party sales of imported video games since 2017. But that ban is usually lightly enforced and only becomes operative if, as Ahmad puts it, “the game has content or user-generated content that is deemed to be too offensive or violent” or “the game has become very popular and caught the attention of regulators.”
No censorship on this island
Both of those issues seem to apply to Animal Crossing. In recent weeks, the game has become a popular virtual location for pro-democracy protesters who have seen coronavirus restrictions limit their ability to host crowded street protests. Offline players can create elaborate signs, clothing, and other imagery that can, and is, easily shared on social media, as you can see in the above gallery. Online players, meanwhile, can invite other users to their islands to take part in virtual protest actions in miniature.
“Animal Crossing is a place without political censorship, so it is a good place to continue our fight,” pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong told Wired UK earlier this week. “Even lawmakers in Hong Kong are playing this game,” he added.
While these online retail restrictions seem to be stricter than normally applied for the Chinese market, they fall well short of a full-fledged ban of the game. Imported systems can still download the title from Nintendo’s eShop by easily setting up an international account, and some brick-and-mortar retailers may also sell the imported cartridge. Some online resellers also seem to be avoiding the restrictions with listings that don’t mention the game by name in order to arrange a sale through private messaging.
China has not yet taken the more extreme step of blocking direct access to Nintendo’s online servers from the country. That would block downloads of Animal Crossing and other Switch games as well as online play for imported systems, though players could potentially get around that with a VPN. Such a major move could anger Chinese Switch gamers whose imports have been treated mostly with benign neglect thus far. It also could anger Nintendo and imperil the company’s lucrative arrangement with Tencent, which is sharing in millions of official console sales in the country.
China’s Ministry of Culture has long put forward restrictions on games that pose a “serious threat to the moral standards of society,” as it put things when banning Mafia-related games in 2009. More recently, pandemic-simulation game Plague Inc. was removed from the Chinese iOS App Store because it “includes content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.”
Listing image by Joshua Wong
Oil Prices Crash Towards $20 Despite Historic Cuts – OilPrice.com
The Racial Politics of 'Return' – The Nation
Animal Crossing removed from Chinese stores after Hong Kong protests: report – Polygon
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Popular Richmond BBQ spot speaks out about coronavirus rumours after man collapses outside restaurant – Vancouver Is Awesome
Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reports January housing sales up 42.4 percent
- Media20 hours ago
French ruling against Google on paying media for content prompts call for Canada to follow suit – TheChronicleHerald.ca
- Media10 hours ago
French ruling against Google on paying media for content prompts call for Canada to follow suit – The Telegram
- Science20 hours ago
Massive, deep-sea ‘entity’ leaves ocean scientists ‘blown away’ – Global News
- Economy16 hours ago
Quebec preparing plan to reopen economy, as infection rate stabilizes – The Globe and Mail
- Media17 hours ago
COVID-19: Bell Media cuts hours of some staff, including at TSN 1040 – The Province
- Media12 hours ago
French ruling against Google on paying media for content prompts call for Canada to follow suit – Financial Post
- Sports22 hours ago
NBA's HORSE Challenge Airing Sunday, April 12th, Finals On April 16th – RealGM.com
- Tech21 hours ago
Final Fantasy 7 Remake Has Long Physical Install Time On Disc – GameSpot