ESPN to Stream its Interactive ‘First Take’ on Facebook Watch

ESPN is introducing a participatory version of “First Take” exclusively for Facebook Watch. Dubbed “First Take: Your Take,” the show, which will feature TV talk hosts Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim, will focus on a weekly topic and let viewers interact by posting their own videos. Each week, producers will pick the best reactions and one video poster will be invited on the show for that week’s final episode to debate Kellerman or Smith. Smith notes the show is aimed to grow the audience. Continue reading ESPN to Stream its Interactive ‘First Take’ on Facebook Watch

Apple Includes New Business Chat Feature in Next iOS Update

Apple is preparing for a major iPhone operating system update, iOS 11.3, and it will include some important new features. Chief among those is Business Chat, which lets users communicate directly with businesses via the iMessage app. At launch, Business Chat will allow communications with a select group of companies including Wells Fargo, Lowe’s, Hilton and Discover. Also new with iOS 11.3 is version 1.5 of the company’s virtual reality developers’ kit ARKit, four Animoji, and new features that display battery health. Continue reading Apple Includes New Business Chat Feature in Next iOS Update

AT&T Chief Exec Calls for Creation of an Internet Bill of Rights

AT&T, one of the winners in the recent end of net neutrality rules, is clarifying its stance. In an open letter that was published nationwide, including in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, chief executive Randall Stephenson called on Congress to establish an Internet Bill of Rights that would apply to all Internet companies and guarantee “neutrality, transparency, openness, non-discrimination and privacy protection for all Internet users.” Continue reading AT&T Chief Exec Calls for Creation of an Internet Bill of Rights

VR Series ‘Spheres’ Sells for Seven Figures at Sundance Fest

At this year’s Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier, VR financing/distribution company CityLights purchased “Spheres: Songs of Spacetime,” a three-part virtual reality series that explores the depth of space. The exact purchase price was not revealed, but it is reportedly in the seven figures, and is being hailed as the first VR film to be acquired for such an amount. The series, presented by Oculus Studios and Protozoa Pictures, and directed by Eliza McNitt, is slated for release on the Oculus Rift sometime this year. Continue reading VR Series ‘Spheres’ Sells for Seven Figures at Sundance Fest

Snapchat Debuts Stories Shared via Web to Spur User Growth

Snap has just made a radical change to how users can share their stories, in a move to expand its reach. Now, even people who haven’t downloaded the app will be able to access content via a link. Anyone with an official account, like celebrities, will be able to share stories, hosting the content on Snapchat.com. People without official accounts who submit content publicly to a group video will also be able to share their content. With this change, videos on Snap will be seen by more people, which could increase downloads. Continue reading Snapchat Debuts Stories Shared via Web to Spur User Growth

YouTube Introduces Plan to Unify Artists’ Disparate Channels

YouTube debuted plans to streamline its service by consolidating artists’ channels. In doing so, it will combine separate channels for live albums, music videos, live performances, single songs and complete albums to a single site. Among YouTube’s many music partners, the new plan will especially impact Vevo channels where Official Artist Channels, marked with a musical note, will be the first thing a user sees in search. Channels can still be accessed with YouTube’s advanced channel filter in search. Continue reading YouTube Introduces Plan to Unify Artists’ Disparate Channels

Google Releases Details of Working AR Prototype on Chrome

Google has been working to integrate augmented reality into the mobile/desktop web via its Chrome browser. Google Daydream WebXR’s Reza Ali and Josh Carpenter, who work on user experience, now describe the results, which will enable users to create virtual 3D objects and place them into websites for viewing and download to the mobile platform to place them in real-world environments. Creative professionals will eventually be able to use the browser of any Android or iOS device to create and use AR experiences. Continue reading Google Releases Details of Working AR Prototype on Chrome

Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

After top Google and Facebook executives met with French president Emmanuel Macron, the tech companies vowed to invest artificial intelligence resources in that country’s capital. Google will create a Paris-based AI lab focused on research into automatic learning, language and computer vision. Facebook, which already has created an AI lab in Paris, plans to double its 50-person team there by 2022 and spend 10 million euros ($12.2 million). Both companies also pledge to train that country’s citizens on digital tools. Continue reading Facebook, Google Pledge to Expand AI Investments in France

Netflix Experiences Its Best Quarter for Signing Up New Subs

Q4 2017 marked Netflix’s biggest quarter to date; the video service signed 8.3 million new subscribers. That surpasses the 6.3 million new subscribers the company had predicted, and brings the company’s total number of global paid subscribers to 110.6 million. The news boosted Netflix shares 9 percent, and put its market capitalization above $100 billion. The growth also took place during a period in which Netflix has faced more competition, from a wide range of content distributors and producers. Continue reading Netflix Experiences Its Best Quarter for Signing Up New Subs

Overwatch League, ESL, Facebook Take eSports Mainstream

When the Overwatch League debuted its first season this month, eSports fans came in droves, bought lots of merchandise and otherwise behaved like those who attend professional football, basketball and baseball games. Numerous traditional sports team owners have already invested in eSports, so when the Overwatch League was being formed, many investors were eager to pay $20 million for a franchise. Even Facebook has joined in, saying it will be the exclusive destination for multiple leagues from eSports federation ESL. Continue reading Overwatch League, ESL, Facebook Take eSports Mainstream

Amazon Opens Its Mini-Mart Minus Cashiers to Seattle Public

After testing Amazon Go, the company’s mini-mart without cashiers in Seattle, the shop opened to the public on Monday. The market is in a 1,800-square foot building, with floor-to-ceiling offerings of prepared food, potato chips, drinks and other groceries. Customers gain admittance with a swipe of their Amazon Go smartphone apps, and Amazon technology keeps track of every item each customer picks up off or puts back on the shelf. The items are automatically added up in the customer’s online account. Continue reading Amazon Opens Its Mini-Mart Minus Cashiers to Seattle Public

Google Plans Undersea Cables to Ramp Up its Cloud Business

Google has revealed plans to build three underwater fiber-optic cables for ocean areas from the Pacific to the North Sea, in order to speed the transfer of data and catch up with Amazon and Microsoft. The new undersea cables are slated for completion by 2019 and will also allow Google to reroute data to servers around the globe to avoid an overloaded or failed region. Although the cables will cost a significant amount — “hundreds of millions of dollars” — Google believes the move is its only option to compete in cloud computing. Continue reading Google Plans Undersea Cables to Ramp Up its Cloud Business

Advertisers Strategize Response to Facebook’s Watch Platform

Facebook launched its Watch video platform in the U.S. this summer, to increase viewership of videos on its site, and as a destination for longer-form video that stands apart from Facebook’s News Feed. In the few months it’s been live, Facebook Watch already includes hundreds of shows, including content funded by Facebook such as reality series, docu-series, a dating show and live-streaming weekly Major League Baseball games and NCAA college basketball. Now, Morgan Stanley reports on just how well Watch is performing. Continue reading Advertisers Strategize Response to Facebook’s Watch Platform

Big Tech Firms Batten Down the Hatches for Midterm Elections

As the midterm elections approach, some tech companies are making changes to minimize harm and build credibility. Facebook plans to let users rank news sources they see as most trustworthy, as a means of prioritizing high-quality news. Twitter, which is still cleaning house from the presidential election, reports it has discovered 1,062 more accounts linked to an official Russian propaganda unit. Google and YouTube chief executives have promised to examine videos and other content more closely to ferret out misleading news. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Batten Down the Hatches for Midterm Elections

FCC: End of Net Neutrality Advances Broadband Deployment

The Federal Communications Commission, which had considered lowering the threshold for broadband announced that it has pulled back from that idea and will continue to define home broadband as speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps). The FCC also created a new standard of a 10Mbps connection for mobile broadband, and won’t define mobile Internet service as a replacement for home broadband, an idea it considered last year. The decisions are good news for those concerned about the digital divide. Continue reading FCC: End of Net Neutrality Advances Broadband Deployment

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