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

Lytro Debuts First VR Film Shot with Immerge Camera System

Up until now, virtual reality content from The New York Times, the United Nations, Facebook, YouTube and others is actually more accurately described as 360-degree video. What that means is that, although it is immersive, the viewer can’t move inside the VR experience, limited to three “degrees of freedom” (3DOF). In computer-generated videogames, the player has six degrees of freedom (6DOF), and Lytro has advanced its plans to bring that to cinematic virtual reality with its light field camera system. Continue reading Lytro Debuts First VR Film Shot with Immerge Camera System

Latest Chips from Intel Designed for Playing 4K Video on PCs

Intel just debuted its seventh generation of PC chips, featuring a built-in ability to play and edit Ultra HD and 4K video. The chips reflect the fact that an increasing number of younger consumers use portable computers as their go-to device for viewing video content. Although Netflix, most notably among others, has created 4K video programs, consumers have been limited in their ability to see it in its native resolution. The new chips accommodate both HEVC and VP9 compression and support copyright protection software. Continue reading Latest Chips from Intel Designed for Playing 4K Video on PCs

Sonos-Amazon Partnership Highlights Need for Improved Mics

Since Amazon debuted Echo in 2014, digital tinkerers have been creating hacks to connect Amazon’s speakers to Sonos’ better speakers. Now, Sonos has introduced a system, developed with Amazon, to let users do just that. With a limited beta test version available this year, the system will be released widely in 2017. This partnership highlights a larger problem in audio technology: digital assistants from Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft are being held back by limitations in microphone technology. Continue reading Sonos-Amazon Partnership Highlights Need for Improved Mics

Appeals Court Sides with States vs. City Broadband Networks

In recent years, some cities have created broadband networks to provide Internet in communities — especially rural ones — where commercial services aren’t willing to set up shop. Those so-called “municipal broadband networks” just got slapped down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which upheld laws in North Carolina and Tennessee halting their growth. For now, the ruling only impacts networks in those two states, but other cities that have created municipal networks have taken note. Continue reading Appeals Court Sides with States vs. City Broadband Networks

Apple to Debut New iPhones, Apple Watch and iOS 10 Update

On September 7, Apple will unveil upgraded iPhones, an Apple Watch with GPS tracking and new health features, and, for iPhones and iPads, an iOS 10 software update. The company is developing new iPad features geared for professionals, including a software-upgrade with better OS support for the stylus. Also new are the latest versions of the iMac desktop, MacBook Air laptop, a thinner MacBook Pro and, in partnership with LG Electronics, a 5K standalone monitor. The only Mac to have been updated since last year is the 12-inch MacBook. Continue reading Apple to Debut New iPhones, Apple Watch and iOS 10 Update

Amazon, Pandora Ready Launch of Music Streaming Services

This year, for the first time, streaming music topped digital downloads as the largest source of music revenue in the U.S. The two biggest sources are Spotify and Apple Music, but SoundCloud, Deezer, Tidal and Google Play are also active. Now, both Amazon and Pandora are readying their entries into this crowded market. Both companies have almost locked-up licensing deals with the largest record labels. Amazon plans to launch its on-demand service as early as September, and Pandora will unveil its service later this year. Continue reading Amazon, Pandora Ready Launch of Music Streaming Services