Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — What makes an app great? Something that makes our lives easier or allows us to stay connected in innovative new ways.

The year 2014 was a great year for apps. Here are a few that stood out from the pack:

Hyperlapse

Instagram’s spin-off app allows users to take amazing time-lapse videos that look worthy of being on the big screen. What would have required expensive equipment can now be achieved with an app.

Swarm

Splitting the atom paid off for Foursquare, which spun off its social component into a separate app called Swarm, which allows users to share their location with friends and make plans.

Foursquare was transformed into a turbocharged app for discovering and exploring new places, whether by name, location, a friend’s recommendation or a user’s tastes.

Microsoft Goes Mobile

Productivity got even easier in 2014 when Microsoft released its suite of Office apps for free to users on iOS and Android, making it easier to create and edit documents and presentations while on the go.

Facebook Groups

It’s been a year full of spin-off apps for Facebook, but Groups is the one that stood out above the rest.

Groups is designed to be a complementary experience for the most frequent users of the service and people who want another avenue for engagement.

In a matter of just a few taps, users can create new groups, post to existing ones and discover new communities to join.

“The Tinder of”

Forget a match made in heaven. How about a match made with a mutual right swipe?

Following on the success of Tinder, swipe right/left apps are having quite a year. Among them are Strut, which is like Tinder for shopping, and Jobr, which matches job seekers and recruiters.

Google Inbox

Goodbye, clutter!

“Inbox,” a super-powered app for Gmail users that provides organization and context to existing emails, began rolling out in October on an invitation-only basis.

Inbox is so smart that it will even add real-time information from the Internet to your emails, such as letting you know if your flight is delayed.

Dumb Ways to Die 2

What started in 2012 public service announcement for Metro Trains in Melbourne, Australia, has turned into two wickedly successful games.

A follow-up to last year’s “Dumb Ways to Die” game was released this year — and users can’t get enough of the simple and addictive game that effortlessly fills the void left by Flappy Bird.

RIP Flappy Bird

Let’s take a moment of silence for “Flappy Bird.”

The enormously addictive game that has been downloaded millions of times was pulled from app stores in February after creator Dong Nguyen said the game’s stunning success had upended his “simple” life.

Nguyen returned in August with a follow-up, Swing Copters, that left many gamers still missing their Flappy Bird fix.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Leave it to medical researchers to find something about mistletoe that has nothing to do with kissing. The traditional plant that people hang in their homes at Christmastime may one day keep your liver healthy.

In a report published on the website Science Daily, researchers say a compound produced by a particular variety of the plant — Korean mistletoe -– may help fight obesity-related liver disease in mice.

That particular mistletoe contains a number of biologically active compounds, including steroids, flavonoids and viscothionin.

When the researchers treated obese mice with viscothionin, their body and liver weights dropped.

The researchers say more work is needed, but viscothionin may one day be useful in fighting fatty liver disease, which is linked to obesity and can progress to liver failure in some cases.

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“Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” – Fox(NEW YORK) — The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opened on Wednesday, earning an estimated $24.5 million in its first day of release, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

A few more new films join The Hobbit in theaters this weekend. Here’s a closer look:

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb — Ben Stiller’s security guard character, Larry Daley, and his historical pals head to London for more museum adventures in the third film in the series. The late Robin Williams reprises his role of Teddy Roosevelt. Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Ricky Gervais, Rebel Wilson and Ben Kingsley also star. Rated PG.

Annie – Young Beasts of the Southern Wild star Quvenzhané Wallis plays the titular character in the reboot of the famous musical. Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale also star in the film, which was co-produced by Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith, plus Jay Z. Rated PG.

And expanding to wide release:

Wild — Reese Witherspoon earned a Golden Globe nomination for her performance as an emotionally-confused woman who takes a solo hike of more than a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. The film is based on the book by Cheryl Strayed. Rated R.

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KNS/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been invited to Moscow, the Kremlin confirmed to Russian media.

Kim has been invited to attend the Victory Day celebration in Red Square in May, which next year will honor the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany, TASS reported.

If he accepts, it would be Kim’s first trip abroad since taking power after his father’s death in 2011. North Korea recently declared the end to a three-year mourning period for former leader Kim Jong Il’s death.

The invitation comes as Russia and North Korea have strengthened ties over the past year, and as Russia’s relationships with the United States and Europe have become strained.

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KNS/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been invited to Moscow, the Kremlin confirmed to Russian media.

Kim has been invited to attend the Victory Day celebration in Red Square in May, which next year will honor the 70th anniversary of the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany, TASS reported.

If he accepts, it would be Kim’s first trip abroad since taking power after his father’s death in 2011. North Korea recently declared the end to a three-year mourning period for former leader Kim Jong Il’s death.

The invitation comes as Russia and North Korea have strengthened ties over the past year, and as Russia’s relationships with the United States and Europe have become strained.

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Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images(RALEIGH, N.C.) — Winnipeg Jets acquired defenseman Jay Harrison from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a sixth round pick in the 2015 draft — which originally belonged to Ottawa.

The 32-year-old Harrison helps fill a void after the Jets placed defenseman Jacob Trouba on injured reserve.

Harrison was originally selected with the 87th overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by Toronto. He’s played nine NHL seasons — three with Toronto and six with Carolina. During that time, Harrison’s scored 21 goals and dished out 49 assists in 337 regular season games.

Winnipeg (16-10-6, 38 pts) will host Boston (16-13-3, 35 pts) on Friday night.

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Global_Pics/iStock/Thinkstock(CAIRNS, Australia) — Police are investigating after eight children were found dead in a home in Manoora, Australia, Friday morning.

Police were called to the home at about 11:20 a.m. local time after receiving reports of a woman with serious injuries. When they arrived at the scene, they found the children, ages 18 months to 15 years old, dead. The woman, believed to be in her 30s, was treated for her injuries and was assisting police in their investigation.

According to BBC News, police did not say whether they had made any arrests in the case.

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QUIQUE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In a blog post on Thursday, ride-sharing company Uber announced that it would implement new policies in an attempt to increase safety.

In the post, titled “Our Commitment to Safety,” Uber says it will implement technology in ways that will “ensure the safety of riders and drivers.” The company mentions plants to research and develop “biometrics and voice verification” to enhance driver screening. They also hope to give riders the ability to communicate both with Uber and with their loved ones in the case of an emergency.

Uber also says it will explore new methods of screening drivers, including the use of scientific analysis and technology. Similar methods, the company says, are being undertaken in India, where earlier this month a woman was allegedly raped by an Uber driver.

Tim Collins, a former executive at Amazon, will join the company to lead their Global Support department, the company announced. The goal of that department will be to continue to evolve customer service and build Safety Incident Response teams around the world.

Finally, the company “will be working with partners that have deep expertise in issues like women’s safety, conflict resolution, and road safety” and incorporate their recommendations into the Uber plan.

In addition to the India case, in November a New York woman claimed she was harassed by a driver for canceling a ride.

Uber also faces a lawsuit filed by prosecutors in San Francisco and Los Angeles alleging the company is breaking rules and made false and misleading statements about background checks conducted on drivers.

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QUIQUE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In a blog post on Thursday, ride-sharing company Uber announced that it would implement new policies in an attempt to increase safety.

In the post, titled “Our Commitment to Safety,” Uber says it will implement technology in ways that will “ensure the safety of riders and drivers.” The company mentions plants to research and develop “biometrics and voice verification” to enhance driver screening. They also hope to give riders the ability to communicate both with Uber and with their loved ones in the case of an emergency.

Uber also says it will explore new methods of screening drivers, including the use of scientific analysis and technology. Similar methods, the company says, are being undertaken in India, where earlier this month a woman was allegedly raped by an Uber driver.

Tim Collins, a former executive at Amazon, will join the company to lead their Global Support department, the company announced. The goal of that department will be to continue to evolve customer service and build Safety Incident Response teams around the world.

Finally, the company “will be working with partners that have deep expertise in issues like women’s safety, conflict resolution, and road safety” and incorporate their recommendations into the Uber plan.

In addition to the India case, in November a New York woman claimed she was harassed by a driver for canceling a ride.

Uber also faces a lawsuit filed by prosecutors in San Francisco and Los Angeles alleging the company is breaking rules and made false and misleading statements about background checks conducted on drivers.

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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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QUIQUE GARCIA/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In a blog post on Thursday, ride-sharing company Uber announced that it would implement new policies in an attempt to increase safety.

In the post, titled “Our Commitment to Safety,” Uber says it will implement technology in ways that will “ensure the safety of riders and drivers.” The company mentions plants to research and develop “biometrics and voice verification” to enhance driver screening. They also hope to give riders the ability to communicate both with Uber and with their loved ones in the case of an emergency.

Uber also says it will explore new methods of screening drivers, including the use of scientific analysis and technology. Similar methods, the company says, are being undertaken in India, where earlier this month a woman was allegedly raped by an Uber driver.

Tim Collins, a former executive at Amazon, will join the company to lead their Global Support department, the company announced. The goal of that department will be to continue to evolve customer service and build Safety Incident Response teams around the world.

Finally, the company “will be working with partners that have deep expertise in issues like women’s safety, conflict resolution, and road safety” and incorporate their recommendations into the Uber plan.

In addition to the India case, in November a New York woman claimed she was harassed by a driver for canceling a ride.

Uber also faces a lawsuit filed by prosecutors in San Francisco and Los Angeles alleging the company is breaking rules and made false and misleading statements about background checks conducted on drivers.

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Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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