Microsoft Reportedly Plans to Invest Significant Sum in Uber

Unnamed sources report that Microsoft has agreed to invest in Uber. Although details are not yet public, the company is expected to invest a significant portion of the upcoming $1 billion funding round that values Uber at around $51 billion. That new funding round — and the valuation — makes Uber one of the most highly valued private companies ever, along with startups such as Xiaomi, a Chinese electronics company valued at around $45 billion and Airbnb, valued at more than $24 billion. Continue reading Microsoft Reportedly Plans to Invest Significant Sum in Uber

MPAA’s MovieTube Suit Tries New Legal Tack to Block Pirates

Members of the Motion Picture Association of America have filed a lawsuit against MovieTube — “the search engine for free movies” — and third parties to force the disabling of sites providing access to pirated films including, recently, Disney’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which is still in movie theaters. MPAA attorneys are trying another legal maneuver to hold third party ISPs responsible. This comes three years after the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was not passed by lawmakers, dealing Hollywood studios a blow in their efforts to thwart content thieves. Continue reading MPAA’s MovieTube Suit Tries New Legal Tack to Block Pirates

MPEG LA Calls for Patents to Organize Joint DASH License

MPEG LA announced a call for patents for MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP), to the dismay of many industry watchers. When MPEG-DASH first debuted in 2011, the issue of royalties wasn’t raised and DASH was quickly and widely deployed, in everything from browsers to smart TVs. The problem is that DASH is an integral part of HTML5, which is beginning to displace Flash. With the specter of patents looming, some software vendors could find royalties to be an obstacle to staying in business. Continue reading MPEG LA Calls for Patents to Organize Joint DASH License

GAO Report Looks at Privacy Concerns of Facial Recognition

U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) highlighted the findings of a just-released GAO (Government Accountability Office) report focusing on the privacy implications of facial recognition technology. The report details concerns about the practices of companies that collect, use and store massive amounts of personal information. Franken, chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy Technology and the Law, pointed to the report’s findings as more proof that federal standards are needed. Continue reading GAO Report Looks at Privacy Concerns of Facial Recognition

New Intel, Micron Chips Said to Offer Big Performance Gains

Intel and Micron Technology announced that they have developed a new memory chip technology that will increase performance up to 1,000 times faster than today’s technology. If proven true, the new chip technology, named 3D XPoint, could offer tremendous new capabilities for computers, smartphones and other electronics. 3D XPoint is not as fast as DRAM (dynamic random access memory), but stores 10 times more data and also, similar to current NAND flash memory, retains data even after devices are powered off. Continue reading New Intel, Micron Chips Said to Offer Big Performance Gains

Microsoft Details How to Shoot for its HoloLens AR Headset

Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset allows video — which can be streamed over the Internet — to be viewed from any angle, combining the real world with computer-generated imagery. Whereas a digital object can be rendered in 3D and easily shown from any angle, live action isn’t so accommodating. To that end, the Silicon Valley company just came out with a document giving specific directions on how to capture and handle live action footage for use with its AR headset.

Continue reading Microsoft Details How to Shoot for its HoloLens AR Headset

With New Funding, AltspaceVR Plans More Virtual Gatherings

AltspaceVR, a virtual reality chat room and communication platform, just raised $10.3 million, which it will use to work towards a business plan that could include paid virtual gatherings with celebrities. Founded in 2013, Altspace launched its VR chat room in June. Its global user base spends time on the site chatting, browsing, playing games or watching videos; the software runs on Oculus, Mac and PC desktops and 3D TVs. Users can add a Leap Motion or Kinect motion sensor to add gestures to their robot avatars. Continue reading With New Funding, AltspaceVR Plans More Virtual Gatherings

CBS to Live-Stream Super Bowl Ads, Link Online/TV Ratings

In a first, CBS will live-stream all the Super Bowl ads for its February 7, 2016 broadcast of Super Bowl 50. Super Bowl sponsors will also see online hits and TV ratings coupled, which, up until now, have been separated between Nielsen ratings for TV and other means for online. CBS is also seeking a hike in the cost of placing an ad in the Super Bowl, from at least $4.5 million to $4.7 million for a 30-second spot. This represents another record price since last year when NBC asked between $4.4 million and $4.5 million. Continue reading CBS to Live-Stream Super Bowl Ads, Link Online/TV Ratings

Nokia Introduces 360-Degree VR Camera for Pro Filmmakers

Nokia Technologies launched a 360-degree 3D VR camera targeted at professional content creators, and, in the process, rebranded itself. The company sold its mobile phone business to Microsoft in 2013. The new VR camera, dubbed OZO, which was unveiled in Hollywood and is slated for a Fall 2015 release, features eight lenses, each of which captures 2Kx2K resolution, and eight microphones to capture and create spatial audio. Nokia also plans to enable live broadcasting to VR headsets. Continue reading Nokia Introduces 360-Degree VR Camera for Pro Filmmakers

Amazon Proposes Zones for Drones, Ensuring Safe Air Travel

At a conference hosted by NASA, Amazon described a plan that would split U.S. airspace into specific heights for various types of unmanned aerial vehicles. A high-speed transit zone, from 200 to 400 feet above the ground, would be reserved for the kind of delivery drones being developed by Amazon and others. Consumer and industrial drones would be restricted to below 200 feet, and aircraft would fly above 500 feet, with a 100-foot no-fly zone. All drones would be banned from in and around airports. Continue reading Amazon Proposes Zones for Drones, Ensuring Safe Air Travel

VR Storytelling: Oculus Story Studio Debuts Animated Short

Oculus Story Studio premiered “Henry,” its second virtual reality movie, at an event in Beverly Hills yesterday. The San Francisco-based company is attempting to define the parameters of VR content by making short movies. The studio’s first movie, “Lost,” which was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, focused on immersing the viewer in an environment. “Henry,” however, focuses on creating a character — a hedgehog with a problem — and figuring out how to use that character’s presence in virtual reality. Continue reading VR Storytelling: Oculus Story Studio Debuts Animated Short

Report Estimates 43 Million VR/AR Devices to Ship by 2020

ABI Research projects that 43 million virtual reality devices will ship by 2020. Compare that to the 1.5 million Google Cardboards expected to ship by the end of 2015. That virtual reality and augmented reality is growing is no surprise, given the involvement of major industry players including Google, Samsung, Microsoft and Facebook. But perhaps nothing paints a better picture of VR’s growing clout than a look at the number of devices predicted to ship, from Oculus Rift’s head-mounted display to Google Cardboard’s inexpensive glasses. Continue reading Report Estimates 43 Million VR/AR Devices to Ship by 2020

Verizon to Launch its Mobile Video Service by End of Summer

New details about Verizon’s mobile video service were revealed after the company accidentally turned on a pre-launch staging website — briefly, but long enough for details to be revealed. Named Go90, the mobile service will offer select live music, exclusive events and sports as well as some full TV episodes, music videos and other short-form content. The landing page revealed new content partners and reaffirmed that, at least initially, the service will be delivered free of charge. The landing page has since been taken down. Continue reading Verizon to Launch its Mobile Video Service by End of Summer

New Patent Group Wants Royalties for 4K HEVC Video Codec

HEVC Advance, a new patent group, has warned that it will demand royalties for the HEVC video codec that allows 4K streaming within the same bandwidth now used for 1080p streaming. HEVC, which also can provide 1080p streaming in half the bandwidth, has been seen as the best solution for cost-effective 4K, and the current threat could torpedo its adoption. Currently, HEVC-supported smart TVs have enabled Netflix’s 4K services on those receivers; some smartphones also use HEVC. Continue reading New Patent Group Wants Royalties for 4K HEVC Video Codec

YouTube Offers Incentives to Compete for Top Video Creators

At VidCon, YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki reached out to the video creator community with an array of enticements. That’s because, although YouTube may be the biggest player in user-generated content — including the properties that reach stratospheric views — the Google-owned company now has plenty of competition. Facebook, Periscope and Vine are just some of the platforms wooing video creators who have created successful properties, and YouTube unveiled efforts to keep these creators on its site. Continue reading YouTube Offers Incentives to Compete for Top Video Creators