Amazon Cash for Those Without Credit Cards, Bank Accounts

To succeed in countries where large percentages of the population do not have bank accounts, Amazon is launching Amazon Cash, a new service that allows users to add cash to their Amazon accounts without incurring fees. Otherwise, to make cash purchases, such customers would have to buy an Amazon Gift Card or purchase a prepaid card. To access Amazon Cash between $15 and $500, the user requests a barcode, accessed through Amazon’s website mobile app or via text message, which is presented to a participating retailer. Continue reading Amazon Cash for Those Without Credit Cards, Bank Accounts

HTC Rolls Out Advertising Service for Viveport VR Developers

HTC is launching an advertising service for VR developers for use on the Viveport platform. The VR Ad Service allows developers to place video ads, banner ads, 360-degree video and cinema-scale ads into their VR experiences, integrating them as in-app scenarios or into pre-loads or post-experience slots. Another possibility would be to place ads onto 3D models in the VR experience, such as on a character’s T-shirt. End users may chafe at ads, but they may fund VR experiences that might otherwise never be made. Continue reading HTC Rolls Out Advertising Service for Viveport VR Developers

Spotify Inks a New Licensing Deal with Universal Music Group

Spotify and Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest record company, finally inked a global, multiyear licensing deal after two years of intermittent negotiations. With this deal in place, Spotify now has a better chance of convincing Sony and Warner to follow suit, and UMG, whose artists include Drake, U2, The Weeknd and Lady Gaga, has more flexibility on how it streams its music. Spotify’s contracts with UMG, Sony and Warner had expired long ago. Spotify, valued at $8 billion, now also has a clearer path to going public. Continue reading Spotify Inks a New Licensing Deal with Universal Music Group

Researcher Predicts AR, VR Will Soon Manage Supply Chains

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher Dr. Matthias Winkenbach has a good idea of how virtual reality could completely change how corporations solve supply chain problems. He believes that in at least three-to-five years away, supply chain managers will rely on augmented and virtual reality to make better decisions more quickly, with the ability to see holograms with visible data via an AR or VR headset. Managers can immerse themselves in remote environments without traveling to physical locations. Continue reading Researcher Predicts AR, VR Will Soon Manage Supply Chains

Escape Rooms Feed Appetite for More Immersive Experiences

Millennials are paying as much as $50 per hour to be locked in a room that they can only exit by cooperatively solving puzzles. This kind of immersive entertainment has similarities with games, live theater and virtual reality experiences, and is becoming increasingly popular. Among the most notable examples is Sleep No More, a UK immersive theatrical experience that has been a huge hit since it opened in 2011. Director and live experience entrepreneur Michael Counts is making the most of the trend. Continue reading Escape Rooms Feed Appetite for More Immersive Experiences

Verizon to Integrate AOL, Yahoo Into New Unit Dubbed Oath

AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong tweeted that Verizon is combining AOL and Yahoo into a new unit called Oath. Sources say that Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer will not be part of the new company, which will be helmed by Armstrong. Given Yahoo’s hacking disasters and slumping business, Mayer’s departure was anticipated, but it is not clear whether she’ll receive her full payout, reportedly worth tens of millions. Sources also say Armstrong is now choosing which top Yahoo executives to retain. Continue reading Verizon to Integrate AOL, Yahoo Into New Unit Dubbed Oath

HTC Unveils Subscription Service for Vive VR Headset Users

Taiwanese phone manufacturer HTC has rolled out its anticipated monthly subscription service for virtual reality content, including video games and short interactive films. For a $7 per month fee, users can download up to five VR titles a month from the online Viveport store. HTC is positioning the new service as a way for customers to try out an app before they decide to purchase it. The service is only available to owners of the HTC Vive VR headset. Among the titles initially available are “Everest VR” and “Mars Odyssey.” Continue reading HTC Unveils Subscription Service for Vive VR Headset Users

Apple to Design its Own GPUs and Leave Long-Time Supplier

After sourcing its GPUs from Imagination Technologies for years, Apple has decided to design its own GPU technology. With half of its revenue from Apple, Imagination Technologies stock has tanked as a result. GPUs, graphics processing units, are the workhorses for just about everything that Apple wants its smartphones and other devices to do, including machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality, Siri and high resolution gaming. The GPU gets its power from its ability to multitask, processing in parallel. Continue reading Apple to Design its Own GPUs and Leave Long-Time Supplier

Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Respond to Backlash on Privacy

Since Congress overturned the Internet privacy rules preventing Internet service providers from sharing or selling customers’ Web browsing history, ISPs have been under attack. Now, Comcast, AT&T and Verizon have published blog posts to reassure their customers. Comcast said it does not sell its broadband customers’ Web browsing histories and has no plans to do so in the future. Verizon made a similar claim, and AT&T’s tack is to tell customers that the nixed privacy laws wouldn’t have really protected them. Continue reading Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Respond to Backlash on Privacy

Twitch Will Live-Stream Amazon Pilots, Original Documentary

Amazon-owned Twitch is diversifying from its usual fare of videogame broadcasts. Starting April 5, the company will live-stream three Amazon pilots. Sci-fi drama “Oasis,” and half-hour comedies “The Legend of Master Legend” and “Budding Prospects” will stream in back-to-back two-hour blocks over a 24-hour period at Twitch’s programmatic TV content site. Following this, Twitch Studios will premiere its first original documentary, the 22-minute “Ironsights,” about a female Twitch streamer who plays “Big Buck HD.” Continue reading Twitch Will Live-Stream Amazon Pilots, Original Documentary

Snapchat Introduces Search Tool Based on Machine Learning

In a few cities last week, Snapchat introduced a new search tool that relies on machine learning to collect text and visual metadata, enabling users to find content, even from users they do not follow. Previously, users only saw Stories from others they followed or that Snapchat served up. This is Snap Inc.’s first major change to its Snapchat software since the company went public in early March; in January, Snap added a search function allowing users to search for friends and publisher content. Continue reading Snapchat Introduces Search Tool Based on Machine Learning

Discovery’s Snapchat, Amazon Channels to Extend Franchises

As the annual upfront ad sales season begins, Discovery Communications has made it clear it plans on a path to growth through international expansion and digital content for Snapchat and similar platforms. The company recently inked a deal to develop shows for Snapchat’s Discover platform and will also add a Snapchat channel to its sport network Eurosport. It plans Winter Olympics content for the latter outlet. Discovery also is starting a wedding-oriented Amazon channel that takes off from the “Say Yes” franchise. Continue reading Discovery’s Snapchat, Amazon Channels to Extend Franchises

Startup Lightform Readies Release of Inexpensive AR Scanner

Augmented reality startup Lightform has come out of the stealth mode it’s been in for three years, announcing a $2.6 million funding round from former Oculus head scientist Steven LaValle, Lux Capital, Seven Seas and NSF. What Lightform has been working on is a device that can scan the environment and create a high-resolution mesh, which it then combines with very precisely targeted digital projections of light. That makes it capable of creating augmented reality in any environment, without the need for a headset. Continue reading Startup Lightform Readies Release of Inexpensive AR Scanner

Amazon and Walmart’s Race to the Bottom Rattles Suppliers

Walmart just told its suppliers that it wants to have the lowest prices on 80 percent of its sales. That means that suppliers will have to cut their prices by at least 15 percent — in some cases, losing money on the deal. For those who comply, Walmart will offer better distribution and other kinds of help. Those who don’t will see Walmart limit distribution of their products. Walmart regularly tells suppliers to lower prices, but this time is different: the company is in an all-out price war with Amazon. Continue reading Amazon and Walmart’s Race to the Bottom Rattles Suppliers

Intel Introduces Virtual Reality to March Madness with TrueVR

March Madness is now a virtual reality event, thanks to Intel’s TrueVR platform. Moving the games to VR has been a major effort for the company, which has been live-streaming the NCAA Basketball tournament that way since the start of the Sweet 16 round and was just named the official VR provider of college sports for NCAA, Turner Sports and CBS Sports. For the Final Four, Intel will place seven VR rigs, each of which is outfitted with 12 cameras, in the stadium, enabling it to broadcast a spherical view of the action. Continue reading Intel Introduces Virtual Reality to March Madness with TrueVR

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