Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reverse-engineering the universal translator

Cinema critics keep raving about Arrival, a sci-fi drama by Denis Villeneuve focusing on one linguist’s attempts to decipher an alien language. Star Trek recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. As a language geek and a sci-fi fan, I felt it only logical to look into the feasibility of the universal translator, the device used by the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

No, this is not yet another post about machine translation. This technology is already a reality with a variety of approaches and new promising developments. While not yet at the level of a human translation expert, machine translation is already usable in multiple scenarios. (Translation of known languages is, of course, also a part of the Star Trek universal translator, and on some occasions Star Trek linguists have to tweak the linguistic internals manually.)

This article will focus on the device’s decoding module for unknown languages, or decipherment.

Decipherment in real life

No matter how elaborate, all decipherment techniques have the same core: pairing an unknown language with known bits of knowledge. The classic Rosetta Stone story is the most famous example: A tablet with inscriptions of Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Ancient Greek and another Egyptian script (Demotic) was used as a starting point to understand a long-dead language.

Today, statistical machine translation engines are generated in a similar fashion, using parallel texts as “virtual Rosetta Stones.” If, however, a parallel text is not available, the decipherment relies on closely related languages or whatever cues can be applied.

Perhaps the most dramatic story of decipherment is that of the Maya script, which involved two opposing points of view amplified by Cold War tensions. More recently, Regina Barzilay from MIT decoded a long-dead language using machine learning assuming similarity with a known language.

But what happens when there is no Rosetta Stone or similar language? In face-to-face interaction, like the scenario depicted in Arrival, gestures, physical objects and facial expressions are used to build the vocabulary. These methods were used by the seafarers exploring the New World and are occasionally employed today by anthropologists and linguists, like Daniel Everett who spent decades working with the Pirahã people in the Amazon.

Life imitates fiction: lingua universalis

But what if the face-to-face interaction is not possible?

For decades, SETI researchers have been scanning the skies for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Some of them specifically focus on the questions, “what happens if we do get a signal?” and “how do we know if this is a signal and not just noise?”

The two most notable SETI people working on these issues are Laurance Doyle and John Elliott. Doyle’s work focuses on the application of Claude Shannon’s information theory to determine whether a communication system is similar to human communication in its complexity. Doyle, together with the famous animal behavior and communication researcher Brenda McCowan, analyzed various animal communication data, comparing its information theory characteristics to those of human languages.

No matter how elaborate, all decipherment techniques have the same core: pairing an unknown language with known bits of knowledge.

John Elliott’s work specifically focuses on unknown communication systems; the publication topics range from detecting whether the transmission is linguistic to assessing the structure of the language, and, lastly, on building what he calls a “post-detection decipherment matrix.” In Elliott’s own words, this matrix would use a “corpus that represents the entire ‘Human Chorus’ ” applying unsupervised learning tools, and, in his later works, include other communication systems (e.g. animal communication). Elliott’s hypothetical system relies on an ontology of concepts with a “universal semantic metalanguage.” (Just like Swadesh lists compile a set of shared basic concepts.)

Interestingly, there are certain similarities between the fictional universal translator and the ways real-life scientists attack the problem. According to Captain Kirk’s explanation, “certain universal ideas and concepts” were “common to all intelligent life,” and the translator compares the frequencies of “brainwave patterns,” selects those ideas it recognized and provides the necessary grammar.

Assuming that a variety of hypothetical neural centers may produce recognizable activity patterns (brainwaves or not), and that communication produces a stimulus that activates specific areas in the neural center, the approach may have merit — provided the hardware sensitive enough to detect these fluctuations will be available. The frequency analysis is also in line with Zipf’s law, which is mentioned throughout the work of Elliott and Doyle.

Other Star Trek series keep mentioning a vaguely described translation matrix, which is used to facilitate translation. Artistic license and techno-babble aside, the word “matrix” and the sheer number of translation pair combinations correspond to a real-world interlingua model, which employs an abstract, language-independent representation of knowledge.

There are a couple of occasions in Star Trek where a certain linguacode, used as a last-resort tool when the universal translator doesn’t work, is mentioned. The linguacode may also have a real-world equivalent called lincos. Lincos, together with its derivatives, is a constructed language designed to communicate with other species using universal mathematical concepts.

View from the engine room

As someone who spent more than a decade working on a language-neutral semantic engine, I got very excited when I realized that the system and the ontology described by Elliott as a prerequisite to the semantic analysis is very close to what I constructed. Bundling all of the languages into a “human chorus” may steer the system toward a “one-size-fits-all” result, which is too far from the target communication system.

It doesn’t have to be this way; with a system capable of mapping both syntactic structures and semantics (not just a limited set of entities), it is possible to build a “corpus of scenarios” that will allow for building more accurate ordered statistical models relying on the universality of interaction scenarios.

For example:

  • Most messages meant to be a part of a dialogue, in most languages, start with a greeting.

  • Most technical documents contain numbers.

  • All demands contain a request, and, often, a threat.

  • News accounts refer to an event.

  • Most long documents are divided into chapters and so have either numbers or chapter names between the chapters.

  • Reference articles describe an entity.

The reasons for that have nothing to do with a structure of a particular language, and generally stem from the venerable principle of least effort or necessities for efficient communication in groups.

Using a system that runs on semantics will allow building a corpus without the dependency on surface representation and instead records word senses, and creates a purely semantic and a truly universal corpus. Having syntactic structures semantically grouped opens up even more possibilities.

Instead of a Rosetta Stone, this system could serve as a high-tech “Rosetta Rubik’s Cube,” with an immense number of combinations being run until the best matching combination is found.

Beyond words

Is it possible to test the hypothetical “universal translator” software on something more accessible than a hypothetical communication from extraterrestrial intelligence? Many researchers believe so. While it has not been proven that cetacean communication has all the characteristics of human language, there is evidence that strongly suggests it could.

Dolphins, for example, use so-called individual signature whistles, which appear to be equivalent to human names. Among other things, the signature whistles are used to locate individuals, and therefore, meet one of the requirements for a communication system to be considered a language: displacement. In the course of Louis Herman’s experiments, dolphins managed to learn an adapted version of American Sign Language to understand abstract concepts like “right” or “left. Lastly, the complex social life of dolphins requires coordination of activities that can be only achieved by efficient and equally complex communication.

In addition to the often-cited cetaceans, there is evidence of other species having complex communication systems. A series of experiments has shown that ant communication may be infinitely productive (that is, have infinite amount of combinations like human language does) and that it may efficiently “compress” content (e.g. instead of saying “turn left, left, left, left” say “turn left four times”).

Both Doyle and Elliott studied cetacean communication with various tools provided by information theory. Elliott calculated entropy for human language, bird song, dolphin communication and non-linguistic sources like white noise or music.

Communication systems share a “symmetric A-like amplitude” shape: more symmetric for humans and dolphins, less symmetric for birds. Doyle conducted similar measurements with humpback whale vocalizations and arrived at similar conclusions.

This is why several animal communication initiatives are coordinated with the SETI initiatives. A truly universal decipherment framework would be incomplete without the ability to ingest and learn a complex animal communication system.

Featured Image: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

The best of Engadget 2016: Editors' picks

Terrence O’Brien

That Dragon, Cancer and shooting the “enemy”

The Engadget team has published a lot of great work this year. I’ve had the pleasure of editing everything from ambitious 4,000 word features, to clever 500 word editorials, but only one story has ever actually brought tears to my eyes. So, for that Aaron, thank you (I think). I’ll never forget how hard it is to edit 10 point font on a laptop while crying.

Movies and TV have a long history of painting Muslims (and in particular Arab Muslims) with a broad, unflattering brush. Not surprisingly, video games have fallen into the same sad routine. But games might prove even more problematic, since it asks people to become active participants, rather than just observers. As developer Rami Ismail pointed out to Nicole Lee, “That’s Call of Duty, over and over. Shoot all the Arabs… Muslim blood is the cheapest in the world.”

James Trew

The “Uber for blowjobs”

When we think about how technology impacts our lives, it’s easy to focus on the convenience it brings. In 2016, we can order room service with a voice command, or frolic on the beach (or is it run for our lives?) while a drone takes our holiday snaps. It’s certainly an amazing time to be alive. The real impact of technology, for me, though, is when it shines a light on the darker corners of the human condition.

Earlier this year, I met and interviewed Pia Poppenreiter, who raised eyebrows with her (definitely not prostitution) “paid dating” service. Poppenreiter’s “Ohlala” commoditized the most basic emotional need — companionship. Unsurprisingly this “dating on demand” business model elicited mixed feelings, raising questions of morality, desire and maybe the true cost of convenience.

How we trained AI to be sexist

Kerry Davis

AI is genderless, until it isn’t

This year, as part of our AI Week, we dug into why so many of our gadgets’ “personalities” skew female, and how that could harm society; something that ended up being very eye-opening. From Cortana developers to proud feminists who abhor calling AI “she,” we learned a lot about gender, and its representation in technology.

I personally was also touched by the “Superhumans” video series showing the people who suffered debilitating injuries and are fighting to get fuller lives back with exoskeleton suits and the like. Engadget’s series following some of them at the first International Cyborg competition is a shining example of what can be achieved when technology is used to meaningfully improve people’s lives.

Dan Cooper

The future is sexy

Back in 2015, I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to try out Kiiroo’s teledildonic sex kit that enables you to have sex across the internet. I found it quite underwhelming when I tried to make an electronic bedroom dance with my wife. I was delighted — and a little gobsmacked — to read my boss follow in my footsteps, albeit with a slight twist.

Rather than attempting to make love to someone else, he decided to place himself at the heart of a robotic threesome. Not only was it brave, it also served as a little protest at the heteronormativity of so many pieces of sex tech.

Jessica Conditt

Even when artificial, intelligence is complicated

I’ve been thinking about the complex relationship between the mind and technology since I was a senior in high school. That’s when I wrote the prologue of my first novel, a near-future science-fiction story about the world’s first brain-transplant patient.

Neuropsychology is fascinating to me — it was my major for a hot minute in college — but even though I’d researched its components for years, I’d never shared my thoughts about the technological singularity as a journalist. I felt vulnerable writing this editorial for AI Week, which is why I’m so glad I did it.

Nick Summers

Shooters with scientific sound design

While I love video game music, I rarely think about sound design. The atmosphere created when hailstones rattle against the roof of a dilapidated factory. The tension you feel when a tree branch snaps in a seemingly empty forest. Back in October, Tim dived into Gears of War 4 and the sounds that were achieved with a Microsoft technology called Triton.

It’s a fascinating read, explaining a technical part of video game development in a way that anyone can understand. I’m not a huge fan of the roadie-run franchise, but this piece made me want to check out The Coalition’s handiwork.

Billy Steele

Shooters with scientific sound design

What’s the level below casual gamer? Whatever you call that, it’s what I am. I’m interested, but it’s not something I spend a lot of time doing. However, I do have a soft spot for Gears of War as it was one of the few games besides Call of Duty, NCAA Football and a few others that really kept my attention.

As more of an audio/music nerd, Tim’s feature on how Microsoft made the sound in the latest Gears so good is a deep dive into a crucial part of every game. In this case, the effort put in to make sure hallways don’t sound like bathrooms makes all the difference.

Superhumans: inside the world's first cyborg games

Aaron Souppouris

Superhumans and fighting depression

I loved watching Superhumans, our video series about the world’s first cyborg games. But it’s one of Mona Lalwani’s accompanying essays that stayed with me longest. In it, she looked into the lives of two competitors, both left paralyzed by accidents, that were competing in a cycling event thanks to tech.

Another important story came from Jessica Conditt, who reported on a nonprofit organization working to support those in the gaming industry that are living with depression. It’s an undercovered, highly stigmatized topic, and Jess’ article offers a beacon of hope for those that struggle with mental health issues.

Devindra Hardawar

Foreseeing cyberwarfare

You can trace a direct line from Stuxnet — the brainchild of the US and Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear program — to Russia’s hacking of this year’s presidential election. Stuxnet was the first major cyberattack from a nation state, and it led to subsequent attacks from Iran, North Korea and others.

In his most recent documentary, Zero Days, Alex Gibney breaks down the inside story of Stuxnet and why it’s necessary for countries to discuss cyberwarfare. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my chat with Gibney and Symantec researchers Eric Chien and Liam O’Murchu ended up being my most prescient interview this year.

Mat Smith

The world’s crappiest robot

My favorite report was on Hebocon, a competition to find the world’s crappiest robot. Held in London, most of the robots were low-tech and poorly-made. One was literally a sex toy on wheels. I laughed, I cried, I took as many photos and gifs as I could.

You should definitely watch our video series on the Cybathlon. Mona and our video team covered the world’s fist cyber games in Switzerland, where augmented athletes competed using exoskeletons, arm prosthetics, brain-computer interfaces and more. The competition’s purpose was to push the field of bionic-assistive technology to do more for the people who need it — to drag it forward. I can’t wait to see what happens next year, or even five years from now.

Cherlynn Low

Games can make you feel uncomfortable

I joined Engadget in June this year, so really this pick is my favorite from the past six months. In my time here, I’ve loved every single piece I’ve written equally — they’re all my children — so I decided to avoid showing bias by picking someone else’s.

I really enjoyed Jess Conditt’s amazing piece on What Remains of Edith Finch that drew me in with a compelling headline but that managed to avoid being sensational in its handling of a sensitive topic. I’m a casual gamer and a huge fan of the horror genre, and Jess’ story made me really want to check out the game to see if it’s as calmly macabre as she describes.

Tim Seppala

Home town props and post-election fallout

My favorite piece to write this year was one where I was able to combine a love of my home state (and Detroit) into a story that touched on the broader implications of an android-filled future (no not Google’s Android). Also, it was a nice chance to break away from typical E3 preview coverage, and dig into something a little deeper.

As for the work of my colleagues, Aaron knocked this story about the follow-up to Resogun out of the park. Not just in terms of writing, but also reporting and layout. Not much else needs to be said. Likewise Jess did a great job covering the fascinating connection between earthquake science and predicting elections, and of course, our coverage on the fake news debacle that followed.

Nathan Ingraham

Underground hip-hop and the end of the universe

Jess’s feature on the collision of hip-hop and nerd culture is exactly the kind of story I love seeing on Engadget. It’s not about gadgets and on its face it isn’t a story that screams “technology,” but it’s a profile of a movement that wouldn’t exist without the geek culture that sprung up around technology. I had never heard about or thought about this sort of music before, and any story that opens my eyes a little to something I didn’t know about before in such an entertaining way is worth a read.

Nicole Lee

Pink or Bluetooth?

Everything needs to have an app, right? Well, not to me. Back in January at CES, I learned about a Bluetooth-enabled pregnancy test and, well, got a little upset that something so inexorably personal was now part of the “Internet of Things” movement. I thought it was opportunistic and completely unnecessary (even if it does work on smartphones and tablets!). Almost a year later, and I still feel the same way.

Robbie Baldwin

Everything is hacked

The United States is currently up in arms over the possibility that Russia hacked our democratic process. “How could such a thing happen?” I’ve heard people utter a version of this again and again. The reality is that this is nothing new (just look at the US involvement in Latin America in the 1980s).

During Def Con this year security researcher Chris Rock laid out just how simple it is to undermine the political status quo; regime change no longer requires guns and military. A few well placed articles, some hacked email and/or bank accounts and you’re on your way to a bold and frightening new world. AKA 2017.

Christopher Trout

Screw everything

Our editors and producers did some truly thought-provoking work this year. There was Jess Conditt’s exploration of AI’s limits, Mona Lalwani’s in-depth look at the world’s first cyborg olympics, Aaron Souppouris’ very personal essay about “That Dragon, Cancer,” Cherlynn Lowe’s first-person exploration of Donald Trump’s potential effect on immigration and Daniel Cooper’s heartfelt shift to daddy blogging. But I’m shallow and I love to see things fall apart. So 2016 was basically my year.

Our social media expert Nicole Lee took Snapchat to task for its racist filters, Edgar Alvarez called out the Kardashians for pimping products on Instagram, Andrew Tarantola attended a pathetic Pokemon crawl and our managing editor, Dana Wollman, braved the world of smart tampons. All this is to say, please keep fucking up because we do great work when you do.

Oh, and how could I forget the dick bidet. Say it with me: D I C K B I D E T! Happy New Year!

Goodbye 2016! | Podcast 094

We made it! 2016 wraps up for the podcast with this one last episode with Joshua Vergara, Joe Hindy, Jonathan Feist and David Imel. Loosely talking about the latest in Android news, the team discuss their Christmas celebrations, socks, dive into Pho and so much more. We had tons of fun answering your questions from Twitter and Instagram before reminiscing our highlights from the year in the AA Podcast.

Happy New Year!

The Android Authority Podcast – discussing topics in Android every week.

Rough Timecodes:
6:45 – Did you see Joe topless?

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Recorded on December 29th, 2016 – Hosted and produced by Joshua Vergara.

“Isn’t Litmas an actual word?”

Consider ethics when designing new technologies

In the weeks since the U.S. presidential election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been firefighting. Not literally, but figuratively. Widespread accusations assert that his social media company contributed to the election’s unexpected outcome by propagating fake news and “filter bubbles.” Zuckerberg has harshly refuted these allegations, but the case poses a thorny question: How do we ensure that technology works for society?

A Fourth Industrial Revolution is arising that will pose tough ethical questions with few simple, black-and-white answers. Smaller, more powerful and cheaper sensors; cognitive computing advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, predictive analytics and machine learning; nano, neuro and biotechnology; the Internet of Things; 3D printing; and much more, are already demanding real answers really fast. And this will only get harder and more complex when we embed these new technologies into our bodies and brains to enhance our physical and cognitive functioning.

Take the choice society will soon have to make about autonomous cars as an example. If a crash cannot be avoided, should a car be programmed to minimize bystander casualties even if it harms the car’s occupants, or should the car protect its occupants under any circumstances?

Research demonstrates the public is conflicted. Consumers would prefer to minimize the number of overall casualties in a car accident, yet are unwilling to purchase a self-driving car if it is not self-protective. Of course, the ideal option is for companies to develop algorithms that bypass this possibility entirely, but this may not always be an option. What is clear, however, is that such ethical quandaries must be reconciled before any consumer hands over their keys to dark-holed algorithms.

The widespread adoption of new technologies is unlikely to prevail if consumers are not certain about their underlying ethics. The challenge is that identifying realistic solutions requires the input and expertise of a whole variety of stakeholders with differing interests: leaders of technology companies who are trying to innovate while turning a profit; regulators in varying jurisdictions who must form policies to protect the public; ethicists who theorize with evaluations of the unintended risks and benefits; public health researchers who are looking out for the public’s health; and many others.

With so many different stakeholders involved, how do we ensure a governance model that will make technology work for society?

What is needed is strong, anticipatory guidance by those who intersect the technology, health and ethics worlds to determine how we develop and deploy technologies that deliver the greatest societal benefits. It requires an approach not built on doing it alone at the country-level (as espoused by President-elect Donald Trump), but an inter-sectoral and inter-governmental approach. The World Economic Forum’s recently announced Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution may be one venue to start these conversations.

Ultimately, evaluation of the net effect of new technologies on individuals and society is needed to identify appropriate rules and boundaries. Mark Zuckerberg might consider a public discussion and debate among leaders from different sectors and nations to establish Facebook’s real role in delivering information. No matter how we view artificial intelligence technologies, we know they carry certain consequences — some good, some bad.. but none neutral.

Featured Image: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images/Getty Images

Trading card maker Topps hit by security breach in 2016

Topps, the iconic maker of Star Wars, Frozen and various sports-related trading cards, has just notified its customers of security breaches that happened earlier this year. In it, the company has admitted that one or more intruders infiltrated its system and “may have gained access to [customers’] names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, debit or credit card numbers, card expiration days and card verification numbers.” Topps said it didn’t find out about the intruders until October 12th, but anyone who bought items through its website from June 30th to that date could be affected. Upon discovering the breaches, it worked with a security firm to fix the vulnerability the hackers exploited and to fortify its system.

10 best new Android games of December 2016!

Android gaming is getting bigger and better every month it seems and there is always a slew of new titles coming to Google Play. Whether you’re a casual gamer or you want something with a beat more meat on its bones, there’s usually a game coming out to suit everyone’s taste. Let’s take a look at the best new Android games from the last month! You can watch the videos on YouTube from passed months by clicking here!

apollo justice ace attorney best new android gamesApollo Justice Ace Attorney

[Price: $15.99]
Capcom released their first port of the popular Ace Attorney game. Apollo Justice Ace Attorney is the fourth game in the series for those who want to know. This is a hidden-object strategy game where you play an attorney. Your job is to win your various court cases. You’ll also get performance options for 30FPS and 60FPS, controls optimized for a touch screen, and more. It’s a tad pricey at $15.99, but it is a full port of the game and there are no in-app purchases. It’s a great title overall.

Download now on Google Play!

bully best new android gamesBully

[Price: $6.99]
Bully is a title by Rockstar Games. It’s a port of the PlayStation 2 version from 2006. In this game, you’re tasked with controlling a kid as you explore an open world, go to classes, complete missions, play mini-games, and more. It’s also the anniversary edition which means you’ll have additional content to play through. You’ll also be able to challenge your friends in an online mini-game which isn’t typical for a Rockstar title. There are also no in-app purchases, which is nice.

Download now on Google Play!

distraint best new android gamesDistraint

[Price: Free / $1.49]
Distraint was originally a PC game from 2015. This is a horror-puzzle game that features a dark story line of a guy trying to get a deal with a company. It’s a fairly simple game with 2D graphics along with simple controls. You’ll also be solving puzzles as you progress. A lot of the features revolve around the minimal controls and atmospheric music that help deliver a pretty decent horror experience. It’s a free download so you can try it out. You can also buy the full version for $1.49

Download now on Google Play!

hill climb racing 2 Android Apps WeeklyHill Climb Racing 2

[Price: Free with in-app purchases]
Hill Climb Racing 2 is the sequel to one of the most popular freemium games ever. It follows the same basic premise as its predecessor. You’ll be racing through various levels to earn points and victories. There is also a decent number of character and vehicle customizations that you can choose from. That includes vehicle customizations that change how the vehicle acts and drives. It’s a freemium game which means it has the usual pitfalls. However, it’s really not that bad.

Download now on Google Play!

kathy rain best new android gamesKathy Rain

[Price: $4.99]
Kathy Rain is a hidden object game with a pretty decent story. You’ll play as a journalist named Kathy who is hot on the trail of her grandfather’s murderer. The game has mixture of modern and retro. On the one hand, the graphics are retro, but the game also features voice acting along with an original score. It also boasts 40,000 lines of dialogue and more than 40 hand-drawn environments. It’s $4.99 if you want to give it a try. There are no in-app purchases.

Download now on Google Play!

10+ best free Android games with no in app purchases

September 4, 2016

retro city rampage best new android gamesRetro City Rampage DX

[Price: $4.99]
Retro City Rampage DX is an open-world adventure game. It also takes a lot of its design cues from early Grand Theft Auto titles. You’ll play as a reprobate as you explore the city, complete missions, and wreak all kinds of havoc. There are also arcade challenges if you only want to play for a few minutes at a time and mini-games that you can play. There is quite a bit to do in this game. It’ll run you $4.99 with no in-app purchases.

Download now on Google Play!

retro winter sports best new android gamesRetro Winter Sports 1986

[Price: $1.99]
Retro Winter Sports 1986 is a sports game that focuses on the Winter Olympics. It has six winter sporting events that you can play through, including Ski Jump, Biathlon, Bobsled, Speed Skating, Curling, and Slalom. You can also choose between 12 nations to represent. On top of that, the game includes achievements and leaderboards through Google Play Games. It’s relatively inexpensive at $1.99 and there are no in-app purchases.

Download now on Google Play!

samorost 3 best new android gamesSamorost 3

[Price: $4.99]
Samorost 3 is an adventure puzzle game from the developers of Machinarium. That means you can expect the same kind of unique, beautifully done graphics and puzzles as that game. In Samorost 3, you play as a curious gnome who has a flute that can help you travel across space. You’ll visit several alien worlds, solve a bunch of puzzles, and overcome various challenges. It’s a fun little game, especially if you’ve played the first two installments of the series.

Download now on Google Play!

shadow bug rush best new android gamesShadow Bug Run

[Price: Free with in-app purchases]
Shadow Bug Rush is a fun little platformer that is reminiscent of Badland. As the title implies, you’ll play through this game as a shadow bug. You’ll also be hack-and-slashing bad guys, avoiding traps, overcoming obstacles, and a lot more. There are also leaderboards, loot, and power ups to help round out the game play. It’s a freemium game with the usual freemium game problems. However, it’s not a half bad time waster if you’re looking for one.

Download now on Google Play!

twilight struggle best new android gamesTwilight Struggle

[Price: $4.99 / $3.99]
Twilight Struggle is a board game that has been ported to mobile. It takes place during the Cold War and you’ll play as either the United States or the USSR. Your job is to play through the 40 year war to see how it turns out, but if you trigger nuclear war, it’s game over. You can play alone against AI opponents or with friends online if you want to. There is also additional DLC that you can purchase for $3.99. It’s pretty good if you’re into board games.

Download now on Google Play!

Related best app lists:

If we missed any great new Android games, tell us about them in the comments! To see our complete list of best app lists, click here.

10 best new Android apps of December 2016!

App developers are pushing the envelope on a daily basis trying to improve and enhance our smartphone and tablet experiences. In fact, so many Android apps come out every day that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. It’s difficult to usurp the best of the best but if you’re getting bored with what you’ve got and want to try something new, check out the best new Android apps from the last month! You can watch the videos from passed months by clicking here!

clip layer best new android appsClip Layer

[Price: Free]
Clip Layer is a Microsoft app from early December. It’s a simple screen shot tool that can be launched pretty  much whenever you want. You go into your settings, make it your default assistant, and then you’ll be able to long press the home button to initiate the app. You can then tweak which parts of the screen you want to capture. The only downside is that you’ll lose access to personal assistant apps like Google Now if you use them. It’s a free app if you want to try it out.

Download now on Google Play!

clip layer best new android apps

gboard best new android appsGboard

[Price: Free]
Google went ahead and updated their Google Keyboard to simply Gboard. At its core, it functions almost exactly as Google Keyboard always has. The difference is a nifty little Google Search button that’s on the action bar. You can use this to look up everything from directions to GIFs without having to stop whatever you’re doing. The new features are a little buggy, but we expect Google to fix that over time. It’s still a top three keyboard for those who are interested.

Download now on Google Play!

gfycat loops best new android appsGfycat Loops

[Price: Free]
Gfycat Loops is a new GIF camera. With it, you can record video from your device’s camera and you can also record your device’s screen to make your own GIFs. Along with that, you can use links from sites like YouTube to import stuff to turn into GIFs as well. You’ll be able to create captions and personalize with emoji to make everything just right. There is also a share feature as you’d expect. It’s a totally free app if you want to check it out.

Download now on Google Play!

gfycat loops best new android apps

NBA InPlay best new android appsNBA InPlay

[Price: Free]
NBA InPlay is a fun little app that you use while you watch NBA games. The central premise is that you select players that you think will do well. You’ll then compete against your friends or players from everywhere to see who guessed the best. It syncs using the audio from the basketball game on your TV so you can hop in quickly. It’s a good companion app for basketball fans and you can even win prizes if you do well enough. It’s a free download with no in-app purchases.

Download now on Google Play!

NBA InPlay best new android apps

netflix vr best new android appsNetflix VR

[Price: Free (subscription required)]
Netflix VR is the official VR app from Netflix. It’s the Netflix app you’ll be using if you want to watch on Google Daydream. That means not everyone can use this one. You log into your account just like you would on the regular Netflix app. The interface is a simply living room set up where you watch TV. The TV is where Netflix content plays. The controls are a little weird and the app is buggy, but we’re sure Netflix will clean that up eventually. It’s a free download if that helps.

Download now on Google Play!

netflix vr best new android apps

Best Android phones!

December 1, 2016

paypal business best new android appsPayPal Business

[Price: Free]
PayPal Business is an app for business owners. It provides most of the standard features of PayPal. However, the difference is that it allows to do things like send invoices, manage sales, view account activity, transfer money, and access customer info much easier than the standard app. The interface is clean and takes most of its design cues from the official app. It has a few bugs here and there but otherwise it seems to work well. It’s also a free download.

Download now on Google Play!

paypal business best new android apps

Pyrope Browser best new android appsPyrope Browser

[Price: Free]
Pyrope Browser is a lightweight browser based on Chromium. It’s a rather simple experience overall and works about as you’d expect. Its claim to fame is the ability to browse in full screen mode and its built-in ad-block capabilities. Both of these features can be turned on or off at your discretion. The ad-block can be turned on or off on a per-site basis based on your needs. It’s a free download, but do beware of those early release bugs.

Download now on Google Play!

Pyrope Browser best new android apps

Quartz best new android appsQuartz

[Price: Free]
Quartz is a news app that operates like a texting app. When you open the app, it’ll “send you a text” about some news. You can then choose to learn more or to pass on that news and wait for something else. You can have the app send you notifications based on your preferences as well. The quick nature of the app and the information provided make it a good way to keep up when doing something like waiting in line at the grocery store. You can also tap on any message to go to the website source and read more there. It’s actually not bad for a free app.

Download now on Google Play!

Quartz best new android apps

trusted contacts best new android appsTrusted Contacts

[Price: Free]
Trusted Contacts is a new Google app that shares your location. You’ll open up the application and then assign some trusted contacts. You can then broadcast your location to them so that they know where you are and that you’re safe. They can also request your location if they’re worried about you. The app will only send your location if you don’t respond after a set period of time. It’s great for things like when kids go out trick or treating or during field trips. It’s also completely free.

Download now on Google Play!

trusted contacts best new android apps

twrp best new android appsOfficial TWRP App

[Price: Free]
After years of being the aftermarket recovery of choice, TWRP released their official app. It’s actually an extremely simple app to use. You open it, find your device, choose the version of the recovery that you want, and then the app will download it. Those who have root access can also have the recovery flashed right there in the app. This is quickly becoming one of those apps that virtually all root users should at least check out. Do note, that your phone will need to be able to flash a custom recovery in order for the flash to actually work.

Download now on Google Play!

twrp best new android apps

Related best app lists:

If we missed any great new Android apps, tell us about them in the comments! To see our complete list of best app lists, click here.


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