Starbucks Unveils ‘Upstanders’ Original Video, Podcast Series

Starbucks launched “Upstanders,” an original multi-platform 10-episode series that tells “stories of compassion, citizenship and civility” through video, podcasts, and text. The content will be distributed in the company’s in-store digital network, online and via its mobile app. Starbucks chairman/chief executive Howard Schultz wrote and produced the series with Starbucks executive producer Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who left his post as senior editor at The Washington Post to establish the production company in Seattle. Continue reading Starbucks Unveils ‘Upstanders’ Original Video, Podcast Series

Sony to Unveil Two PlayStation 4s: 4K Pro and Smaller Version

Sony plans to debut a high-end console, PlayStation 4 Pro (formerly “Neo”). Set to ship November 10 for $399, PlayStation 4 Pro will boast a faster processor, more storage, and 4K graphics. Sony will also release a more energy-efficient, 30 percent smaller PlayStation 4, to go on sale September 15 for $299. This console replaces the original PlayStation 4, which debuted November 2013 at $399. All PlayStation 4 consoles will be able to play back high dynamic range images, including, via a software update, older PlayStations. Continue reading Sony to Unveil Two PlayStation 4s: 4K Pro and Smaller Version

Nintendo Bringing its Popular Games to Apple Mobile Devices

At the Apple iPhone 7 launch, Niantic Labs chief executive John Hanke announced that “Pokémon Go” — which has been downloaded 500 million times worldwide — is coming to the Apple Watch. Following the announcement Nintendo shares skyrocketed 20 percent; since that and the debut of “Super Mario Run” (coming to iOS this year), the company’s shares have risen more than 65 percent in the past few months. With the new Pokémon app, the company has improved its safety: players can simply walk without having to constantly look for what Pokémon are nearby. Continue reading Nintendo Bringing its Popular Games to Apple Mobile Devices

FCC Chair Pushes Compromise Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler hasn’t given up on his goal to open up the TV set-top box market, thus breaking the cable industry’s dominance in this arena. Sources say he is preparing a “compromise version” of his proposal by which cable companies would be required to make their feeds available, via apps, to competitive device manufacturers. In today’s market, the set-top box, which once simply translated cable signals for TV sets, can now be used to offer access to cable TV and video-streaming services such as Hulu or Netflix. Continue reading FCC Chair Pushes Compromise Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

Washington Post Turns to Google Tech for Faster Mobile Site

The Washington Post is unrolling a new “lightning-fast” mobile website based on Google’s Progressive Web Apps that loads pages in under one second; the current mobile site loads pages in about three seconds. The goal is to create the fastest mobile news site possible, says chief technology officer Shailesh Prakash, who notes that 70 percent of the newspaper’s digital traffic is from mobile devices. The Post plans to direct 10 percent of traffic to the new site now, segueing to a complete switch by the end of the year. Continue reading Washington Post Turns to Google Tech for Faster Mobile Site

Drivetribe: Fox Invests in Digital Platform for Auto Enthusiasts

21st Century Fox just invested $6.5 million in the London-based Drivetribe, a new digital media platform for car fans. This comes two weeks after early Facebook investor Jim Breyer and venture capital fund Atomico, led by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom, invested $5.5 million. Entrepreneur Ernesto Schmitt, former “Top Gear” hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, and the show’s former executive producer Andy Wilman are the creators behind Drivetribe, which launches in November. Continue reading Drivetribe: Fox Invests in Digital Platform for Auto Enthusiasts

Tech, Media Firms Join Microsoft’s Suit Against Secrecy Laws

On Friday, Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department, saying that part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 is unconstitutional. The provision in question prevents Microsoft from letting customers know when their communications have been turned over to law enforcement, which Microsoft says violates the First and Fourth Amendments. Approximately 80 different companies — including Amazon, Google, Snapchat, and Salesforce — have signed briefs in support of Microsoft. Continue reading Tech, Media Firms Join Microsoft’s Suit Against Secrecy Laws

Amazon Debuts Pilots on Twitch, Remaking It as Test Platform

Amazon, which paid $1 billion for Twitch Interactive two years ago, has identified an interesting way to use the platform beyond gaming. The company streamed two original TV pilots on Twitch, which ordinarily hosts game competitions to 10 million daily users. With that user base, Twitch is now an ideal venue for Amazon to test new original shows before committing to a full season. Audiences voted on one of the two comedy pilots: comic book superhero spoof “The Tick” or “Jean-Claude Van Johnson,” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Pilots on Twitch, Remaking It as Test Platform

Amazon and Lenovo Discuss the Integration of Alexa into PCs

Lenovo, the world’s biggest PC manufacturer, is in discussions with Amazon about integrating Alexa into its computers and other devices. Also recently, LG decided to integrate Alexa support into its SmartThinQ Hub. These moves underscore Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos’ goal to incorporate Alexa into a wide range of electronics, to spread the company’s influence to more consumers. Other tech companies attempting to do the same are Microsoft with Cortana, Apple with Siri and Google with Assistant. Continue reading Amazon and Lenovo Discuss the Integration of Alexa into PCs

IBM Uses AI to Create Trailer for 20th Century Fox’s ‘Morgan’

“Morgan,” a horror film released by 20th Century Fox, has the distinction of being the first movie whose trailer was created with artificial intelligence. The studio partnered with IBM Research to develop what they’re calling a “cognitive movie trailer” largely created by AI. The IBM team faced several challenges, not the least of which is that the nature of horror is subjective. The team had to teach the system to be able to identify scary moments, and then make a trailer that audiences would find compelling. Continue reading IBM Uses AI to Create Trailer for 20th Century Fox’s ‘Morgan’

Plex Media Player System Adds DVR Feature for Broadcast TV

Client-server media player system Plex has debuted beta DVR functionality, enabling users to record broadcast TV programs and stream them to other devices. Recorded content can be watched on TV/mobile devices with Plex apps for Apple TV, Android, iOS, Roku, Chromecast, game consoles and many smart TVs. For now, scheduling shows is only available via Plex’s Web interface. The DVR feature also requires the use of a networked TV tuner to access broadcast TV signals; Plex has partnered first with tuner maker SiliconDust. Continue reading Plex Media Player System Adds DVR Feature for Broadcast TV

Qualcomm and Goertek Develop High-Resolution VR Headset

Qualcomm has unveiled the Snapdragon VR820, a reference platform for a standalone virtual reality headset, developed with Chinese electronics company Goertek and built on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 mobile processor and SDK. VR820, expected to be available by the end of 2016, offers higher resolution than the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, although a lower refresh rate. The Snapdragon 820 was also used for the Pico Neo, a $500 Android-based VR device with handheld controller co-developed by the same two companies. Continue reading Qualcomm and Goertek Develop High-Resolution VR Headset

GoPro Doubles Down on Entertainment with 32 New Programs

GoPro has been in the content business for some time, making money with branded video (including partnerships with Ford and Wimbledon), a content licensing portal (especially action-sports clips shot with GoPro), and a YouTube channel with more than 4 million subscribers and 1.25 billion video views. Now, GoPro is committing to entertainment in a new way: launching 32 short-form shows through the end of 2016 and into early 2017. The company is differentiating itself from rivals by offering video editing tools in the cloud. Continue reading GoPro Doubles Down on Entertainment with 32 New Programs

Facebook Algorithm Ends VR Nausea for User-Shot 360 Video

After buying Oculus in 2014, Facebook furthered its ambitions in virtual reality last fall by creating a computational photography team made up of former Microsoft experts. They were tasked with creating photo and video features that bring virtual reality to the greater public. One of the first projects was to enable 360-degree photos on Facebook. Now, Facebook is offering automated video stabilization for 360-degree videos shot by consumer-level cameras, a big step in avoiding the nausea that VR can induce in some people. Continue reading Facebook Algorithm Ends VR Nausea for User-Shot 360 Video

WhatsApp Updates Privacy Policy, Shares Data with Facebook

When Facebook bought the popular free messaging service WhatsApp, it promised it wouldn’t change the privacy policies. Now the company has done just that, and organizations including the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy are not happy. Facebook has stated it will now connect users’ phone numbers with Facebook’s systems, offering “better friend suggestions” and more relevant ads. The new approach will help Facebook finally monetize WhatsApp. Continue reading WhatsApp Updates Privacy Policy, Shares Data with Facebook