Waymo’s Autonomous Cars Drive With Humans in Backseat

Waymo began testing its first autonomous vehicles on public roads on October 19 in the Phoenix area. The Chrysler Pacifica minivans still had employees in the car, but in the backseat, where they could push a button to pull over the vehicle. Waymo, whose vision is to deploy its self-driving vehicles via a taxi service, plans to let passengers ride in the back, possibly without an employee, in the coming months. It began its work eight years ago, followed by similar efforts by General Motors, Ford Motor, Apple and Uber. Continue reading Waymo’s Autonomous Cars Drive With Humans in Backseat

Social VR Platforms Proliferate in the Next Digital Land Grab

The typical VR experience is solitary, but an increasing number of companies are exploring the possibility of virtual realty in the context of a social platform. That trend was made clear by Microsoft’s acquisition of AltspaceVR. High Fidelity is an environment that lets users create their own avatars and social worlds, with a marketplace where they can buy avatars and other 3D elements. And vTime, a stationary platform, lets four people at a time engage in fully rendered environments. Continue reading Social VR Platforms Proliferate in the Next Digital Land Grab

Google Debuts Spatial Audio SDK for Immersive Experiences

Google has launched Resonance Audio, a spatial audio software development kit based on technology from the company’s current VR Audio SDK. The latter was introduced with the Cardboard SDK in January 2016 and then integrated into the main Google VR SDK in May of the same year. The goal with Resonance Audio is to make it easier to develop for mobile and desktop platforms. The VR SDK audio engine already supports multiple platforms, but Google recognized that it could be “confusing and time-consuming” to work with various audio tools. Continue reading Google Debuts Spatial Audio SDK for Immersive Experiences

Microsoft Releases its Powerful Xbox One X Gaming Console

At the global debut of its Xbox One X, Microsoft described it as the world’s most powerful game console, with 4K resolution, high-dynamic range (HDR) games and 40 percent more performance than other consoles. The new console already has 50+ Xbox One X titles that have been remastered to 4K, a number that will jump to 70 by end of the first week. The company says 160 games are being readied for 4K HDR, among them “Forza Motorsport 7,” “Super Lucky’s Tale,” “Assassin’s Creed Origins,” “Middle-earth: Shadow of War” and “FIFA 18.” Continue reading Microsoft Releases its Powerful Xbox One X Gaming Console

Google Project Aims to Use AI to Develop More AI Algorithms

Google Senior Fellow Jeff Dean, who works on the Google Brain team, recently highlighted AutoML (for machine learning), a project aimed at using AI-empowered machines to build other AI machines, removing humans from the equation. The need for AI algorithms grows as its capabilities are becoming important to a wide range of industries. But only an estimated 10,000 people worldwide have the education, expertise and ability to construct those algorithms, and Facebook, Google and Microsoft pay millions of dollars for them. Continue reading Google Project Aims to Use AI to Develop More AI Algorithms

Disney, Lenovo Introduce AR Headset and ‘Star Wars’ Games

Disney, with Lenovo, just released a new augmented reality kit for “Star Wars: Jedi Challenges,” which retails for $200 and includes the Lenovo Mirage AR headset, AR-powered lightsaber controller and LED puck for motion tracking. The headset relies on a phone for graphics rendering and can work with the most recent Android and Apple iOS phones. The phone is placed above the user’s field of view, and the image then mirrored on a transparent plane, allowing her to see the environment combined with “Star Wars” games. Continue reading Disney, Lenovo Introduce AR Headset and ‘Star Wars’ Games

Signal’s Encryption Features Make It a Choice Messaging App

Messaging has become increasingly confusing, as users pick among Instagram, iMessage, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter and Google’s Hangouts and Allo — not to forget the basic but limited SMS. Notifications pile up and search becomes difficult if not impossible. According to Wired, all that confusion would disappear if users would simply pick a single app, Signal, which is free, has strong encryption and works on every mobile platform. Signal’s developers say they won’t add emojis, ads, stickers or web-tracking, to keep it simple to use and speedy. Continue reading Signal’s Encryption Features Make It a Choice Messaging App

Microsoft HoloLens Finds New Life for Corporate Applications

Microsoft hasn’t given up on HoloLens. The company believes it is more suited for corporate training than gaming, and now Japan Airlines is using it is a good example of that. Two years ago, the Japanese company sent pilot Takashi Wada to Microsoft headquarters to try out the HoloLens; now he teaches HoloLens-equipped trainees how to flip virtual switches in a cockpit, prior to using flight simulators. Microsoft isn’t alone in pursuing such applications, with Alphabet, Apple and Facebook following suit. Continue reading Microsoft HoloLens Finds New Life for Corporate Applications

Google’s Geoff Hinton Tests Capsule Networks as AI Solution

In 2012, University of Toronto professor Geoffrey Hinton and two grad students showed off artificial neural networks, a technology that empowered machines to understand images. Google hired Hinton and his grad students six months later; Hinton now splits his time between Google and the university. Although neural networks now underlie speech transcription and many other tasks, Hinton isn’t enthused over the technology he helped launch. Instead, he’s now bullish on an “old” idea that could help reshape artificial intelligence. Continue reading Google’s Geoff Hinton Tests Capsule Networks as AI Solution

Amazon, Facebook, SoftBank Ally for New Transpacific Cable

Amazon, Facebook, Japan’s SoftBank and other technology companies are partnering to build the Jupiter cable system, a new 8,700-mile (14,000 km) transpacific subsea cable that will connect North America with Asia. The Jupiter system will have so-called landing points in two locations in Japan (Maruyama in Chiba prefecture and Shima in Mie prefecture), Daet in the Philippines and another in Los Angeles. Other partners include NTT (SoftBank’s rival), Hong Kong’s PCCW Global, and the Philippines’ PLDT. Continue reading Amazon, Facebook, SoftBank Ally for New Transpacific Cable

Fog Computing Unifies Technologies for Smart Cars, Homes

Fog computing is the latest idea on how to get the most out of new technologies and provide solutions for smart cars, cities and homes. It relies on cloud computing infrastructure, but brings the actual processes closer to earth (hence, fog) by using hardware near the edge of the network. Fog computing brings together many cutting edge technologies including virtualization, blockchain, DevOps, 5G, TSN (time-sensitive networking), distributed computing and IT-OT (operations technology) collaboration. Continue reading Fog Computing Unifies Technologies for Smart Cars, Homes

New Meta Headset Offers Promising Tech for AR Developers

The Meta 2 AR headset, priced at $1,495, is still a developer kit, but even in this form, company employees and one lucky reporter are enthused about its chances to succeed at replacing the desktop monitor in the workplace. The Meta 2’s field of view is much larger than that of the HoloLens, and it sports two LCD panels that reflect off the inside of the visors, which results in sharp images and text at close range. The headset uses numerous outward-facing sensors and cameras to map the physical environment. Continue reading New Meta Headset Offers Promising Tech for AR Developers

Apple Looks to Other Chip Suppliers Amid Qualcomm Dispute

In the midst of its legal battle with Qualcomm, Apple is designing next year’s products with modem chips from Intel or MediaTek. According to sources, Apple has taken this step because San Diego-based Qualcomm has not supplied the software necessary to test its chips in the Silicon Valley company’s iPhone and iPad prototypes. However, Qualcomm argues this point and is now suing Apple for failing to abide by the terms of its software license. Apple filed a federal suit against Qualcomm in January, claiming it unfairly blocks rivals and charges excessively steep patent royalties. Continue reading Apple Looks to Other Chip Suppliers Amid Qualcomm Dispute

Facebook, Google and Twitter Execs Testify Before Congress

Facing the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Facebook, Google and Twitter executives responded to questions on why they didn’t recognize Russian-linked accounts earlier. In response, the rueful executives said their companies were working on ways to curb the activity of foreign governments, terrorists and criminals and prevent them from exploiting social media. On the other hand, however, those same Silicon Valley companies face a public that is far from united over whether they should curb free speech. Continue reading Facebook, Google and Twitter Execs Testify Before Congress

Viewer Engagement Increasing for Longer Facebook Videos

For years, Facebook counted any video auto-play that lasted three seconds or longer as a view, which resulted in many publishers producing very short clips. Last year, the social media platform tweaked its News Feed algorithm to favor longer videos, and, with the debut of mid-roll ads, publishers had incentive to post clips longer than 90 seconds. Social video publishing specialist Wochit has collected data from over 200 publishers, including CBS, NBC News and USA Today that proves Facebook’s strategy is working. Continue reading Viewer Engagement Increasing for Longer Facebook Videos

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