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Mycons makes it easy to create and buy custom icons for your iOS homescreen

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A new app called Mycons, launched today, is tapping into the iOS 14 homescreen customization trend by making it easier for anyone, including non-designers, to quickly create their own custom icons, as well as shop premade icon-and-wallpaper packs from designers.

With the release of iOS 14 in mid-September, millions of users began to take advantage of new functionality like iOS widgets to customize their iPhone homescreens. As a part of this trend, users also rediscovered how to use Apple’s Shortcuts app to create custom icons for their favorite apps in order to match their new homescreen aesthetic.

As a result, homescreen customization apps shot to the top of the App Store in the days and weeks following the iOS 14 launch.

The trend doesn’t seem to be a flash-in-the-pan, either. Today, top custom widget provider Widgetsmith continues to rank at No. 8 on the App Store’s (non-game) top free apps chart, as of the time of writing.

But while most of the new customization apps focus on creating your own iOS 14 widgets, those that help users design their own icon sets are more difficult to find. Some existing apps have retooled to address user demand for icons, like Launcher, while others have debuted paid icon marketplaces, like Brass.

Mycons, meanwhile, offers both an icon customization toolset and the option purchase premade icon packs.

Image Credits: Mycons, via the App Store

If you want to build your own icons, you can use the “Icon Studio” section in Mycons to get started. Some introductory functionality is offered for free, and a one-time upgrade of $9.99 unlocks the full functionality.

“I wanted to release the app with a handful of basic design features available for free, so users can get a feel for how things work and still be able to make their homescreens look beautiful, without coughing up their hard earned cash,” explains Mycons developer Daniel McCarthy.

Image Credits: Mycons app

Once the Icon Studio’s full customization capabilities are unlocked, you’ll find them to be fairly extensive.

You can pick solids, gradients or even a photo as your icon background, or opt to use a premium background you’ve purchased.

And if you’re setting your own color as the background, Mycons lets you choose between using a color grid, color spectrum, adjusting sliders or entering a specific Hex Color number to get exactly the right shade.

The app also includes a searchable database with thousands of symbols and logos to choose from — including symbols for your most-used apps as well as harder-to-find generic symbols, like the RSS symbol, for instance. For some of the more popular apps — like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Snapchat, for example — you’ll even find a few different options to choose from.

You can then choose to place the symbol in the center, the top or bottom left, or the top or bottom right. You can also adjust the symbol’s color, size and transparency.

Image Credits: Mycons app

Mycons makes it easy to create a whole set of custom icons at once, too.

After you design your icon template style, you can toggle an option, “Enable Batch Export,” to select multiple symbols then apply the same background to all. You then tap the “Export” button to send all the icons to your Camera Roll at once.

If you’re not up for building your own icons, Mycons also offers packs you can buy.

In a separate tab from the Icon Studio, Mycons lets you shop icon packs from designers via one-time in-app purchases. These range in price from $7.99 to $9.99 and include a set of backgrounds (wallpapers) to match the custom icons. In some cases, these are available in multiple colors and styles, too.

Once purchased, you can use the style with your own custom icon designs. That’s an advantage over buying an icon pack off Etsy, for instance, where you only get a set number of icons — but no tools to build your own to match, in the case you’re missing a few.

At launch, the designs offered come from just three creators, Mycons developer Daniel McCarthy, artist Alanna Ranellone, and painter and photographer Jenna McCarthy.

Image Credits: Mycons

Now that the app is live, Mycons is opening up to other designers who can apply to join the marketplace through a link in the Settings tab of the app.

Not all designs will be accepted, however, McCarthy says. Instead, the marketplace will be curated to ensure all the designs are unique and high-quality.

McCarthy, who previously worked as designer himself, says he plans to offer Mycons’ designer partners how they want to be paid: either as contract work at a competitive market rate or as a percentage of sales.

A performance bonus will also be offered in the case that an icon pack becomes a hit, but the designer had opted for the contract rate option.

“I always try to do what’s fair and right,” McCarthy explains. “If a design partner opts for contract work and their designs end up being wildly successful, I’m not going to let them get screwed,” he says.

Designers will also be credited in the app and allowed to link out to their own websites or social media accounts, if they choose. In this way, their Mycons marketplace listing could serve as lead gen for their own design business.

Mycons is a free download with in-app purchases on the App Store.

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Adobe’s new AI experiment syncs your dance moves perfectly to the beat

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TikTok has made on-beat dances and movements mainstream. But what if you went offbeat or the video you recorded had some lag to your perfect dance moves. Adobe can fix that for you.

The company showed off an AI-powered experiment at its Adobe Max conference that syncs your off-beat movement to the beat of the music. Researchers used computer vision to follow the body movement of the person in the video. As shown below, the algorithm also analyzes dance moves through popping orange circles to determine the time of movements.

[Read: How Photoshop’s new Neural Filters harness AI to generate new pixels]

The researchers also mark beats of the music track with orange lines and plot them against the orange dots to determine if dance moves are in sync with the music.

[embedded content]

Adobe uses this analysis to match beats of the song with corresponding movements to make a perfectly synced video. The company said that the algorithm can take random videos of people dancing and sync them with a track, making it look like they’re dancing to the same song.

While this is just an experiment, it could be handy for creators to video editors. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see such functionality making it to TikTok or Instagram Reels in a few years.

Published October 22, 2020 — 07:04 UTC

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Health insurance startup Alan lets you chat with a doctor

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French startup Alan is building health insurance products. And 100,000 people are now covered through Alan . I caught up with the company’s co-founder and CEO Jean-Charles Samuelian-Werve so that he could give us an update on the product.

Alan has obtained its own health insurance license and is a proper insurance company. It doesn’t partner with existing insurance companies. The company primarily sells its insurance product to other companies.

In France, employees are covered by both the national health care system and private insurance companies. So Alan convinces other companies to use its product for all employees.

Over the years, Alan has diversified its offering with high-end coverage, partnerships with CNP Assurances, Livi and Petit Bambou, a focus on new verticals, such as companies in the hospitality industry or retired individuals.

“We’ve kept shipping, and I even think that our pace has increased. We’ve released some exciting stuff in recent months, for our members, for companies and for us internally,” Samuelian-Werve told me.

The biggest change isn’t visible to the end user. The company has built a service that lets them generate a new insurance package on demand. It uses historical data to figure out pricing on the fly. And it opens up some market opportunities as big companies want a custom insurance product depending on their needs.

The biggest Alan customer is a company with 1,000 to 1,500 employees. But the startup is currently selling its product to bigger companies. The idea is that companies above 100 employees can get a custom insurance package.

For the customer, pricing remains transparent as Alan shows you how much it costs to cover your medical needs depending on what you’re asking for. Alan adds a membership fee on top of that to access the platform and related services.

Alan is also introducing a new messaging feature. You can start a text discussion with a doctor whenever you have a question about your health — it’s included in your insurance package. Alan doesn’t want to replace your general practitioner. But having a doctor that you can text is always helpful when you’re not sure what to do next.

On the other side of the screen, there are actual doctors answering your questions. “We’ve hired a full-time doctor and we’re working with a bit under 10 doctors on a part-time basis,” Samuelian-Werve told me.

Alan’s app has been redesigned with a bigger emphasis on your health instead of your insurance. The company shows you all your interactions with health professionals. You can add documents and notes to consolidate information in the same place.

It sounds a bit like France’s DMP, which acts as a personal repository for all your health-related documents. And Alan doesn’t want to replace the public initiative. The startup would like to take advantage of the service to upload and download data at some point down the road.

If you give your consent, Alan can also proactively nudge you about your health. For instance, given your child’s age, Alan can notify you when they’re supposed to get vaccinated. Or if you haven’t been to the dentist in a year, Alan can tell you that it’s time to get a routine checkup.

Finally, the company has improved efficiency when it comes to reimbursements. “74% of reimbursements are issued within an hour. And we’re using instant transfers to send money to your bank account,” Samuelian-Werve told me.

As you can see, Alan is releasing incremental updates. They slowly add up and change the product. In the coming years, the company plans to offer its product in multiple European countries.

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Acapela, from the founder of Dubsmash, hopes ‘asynchronous meetings’ can end Zoom fatigue

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Acapela, a new startup co-founded by Dubsmash founder Roland Grenke, is breaking cover today in a bid to re-imagine online meetings for remote teams.

Hoping to put an end to video meeting fatigue, the product is described as an “asynchronous meeting platform,” which Grenke and Acapela’s other co-founder, ex-Googler Heiki Riesenkampf (who has a deep learning computer science background), believe could be the key to unlock better and more efficient collaboration. In some ways the product can be thought of as the antithesis to Zoom and Slack’s real-time and attention-hogging downsides.

To launch, the Berlin-based and “remote friendly” company has raised €2.5 million in funding. The round is led by Visionaries Club with participation from various angel investors, including Christian Reber (founder of Pitch and Wunderlist) and Taavet Hinrikus (founder of TransferWise). I also understand Entrepreneur First is a backer and has assigned EF venture partner Benedict Evans to work on the problem. If you’ve seen the ex-Andreessen Horowitz analyst writing about a post-Zoom world lately, now you know why.

Specifically, Acapela says it will use the injection of cash to expand the core team, focusing on product, design and engineering as it continues to build out its offering.

“Our mission is to make remote teams work together more effectively by having fewer but better meetings,” Grenke tells me. “With Acapela, we aim to define a new category of team collaboration that provides more structure and personality than written messages (Slack or email) and more flexibility than video conferencing (Zoom or Google Meet)”.

Grenke believes some form of asynchronous meetings is the answer, where participants don’t have to interact in real-time but the meeting still has an agenda, goals, a deadline and — if successfully run — actionable outcomes.

“Instead of sitting through hours of video calls on a daily basis, users can connect their calendars and select meetings they would like to discuss asynchronously,” he says. “So, as an alternative to everyone being in the same call at the same time, team members contribute to conversations more flexibly over time. Like communication apps in the consumer space, Acapela allows rich media formats to be used to express your opinion with voice or video messages while integrating deeply with existing productivity tools (like GSuite, Atlassian, Asana, Trello, Notion, etc.)”.

In addition, Acapela will utilise what Grenke says is the latest machine learning techniques to help automate repetitive meeting tasks as well as to summarise the contents of a meeting and any decisions taken. If made to work, that in itself could be significant.

“Initially, we are targeting high-growth tech companies which have a high willingness to try out new tools while having an increasing need for better processes as their teams grow,” adds the Acapela founder. “In addition to that, they tend to have a technical global workforce across multiple time zones which makes synchronous communication much more costly. In the long run we see a great potential tapping into the space of SMEs and larger enterprises, since COVID has been a significant driver of the decentralization of work also in the more traditional industrial sectors. Those companies make up more than 90% of our European market and many of them have not switched to new communication tools yet”.

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