Huawei Inks 40 Contracts to Build and Operate 5G Networks

Huawei Technologies has inked 40 commercial contracts for 5G technology, leading its Q1 revenue to leap 39 percent to 179.7 billion yuan ($26.8 billion). The Chinese company also stated that it has shipped about 70,000 5G base stations, making it a leading supplier of 5G gear. Huawei’s net-profit margin rose a bit to 8 percent. The company also introduced what it calls the world’s first 5G-communication hardware for the auto industry. Its MH5000 module is built on its newly launched Balong 5000 5G chip. Continue reading Huawei Inks 40 Contracts to Build and Operate 5G Networks

At $30 Million/Month, Apple Is Major User of Amazon Cloud

In January 2018, Apple earmarked $10 billion to build its own U.S.-based data centers in the next five years. In a December update, the company added that $4.5 billion of that would be spent in 2019. For now, however, Apple is on track to spend $30+ million per month on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The companies may be rivals, but Apple has come to depend on AWS as a way to deliver competitive online services. That’s become crucial, as sales of iPhones have slowed and the company has turned to online services to pick up the slack. Continue reading At $30 Million/Month, Apple Is Major User of Amazon Cloud

Google and Amazon Use AI to Improve Speech Recognition

Google’s artificial intelligence researchers made an unexpected discovery with its new SpecAugment data augmentation model for automatic speech recognition. Rather than augmenting input audio waveforms, SpecAugment applies augmentation directly to the audio spectrogram. Researchers discovered, to their surprise, that models trained with SpecAugment out-performed all other speech recognition methods, even without a language model. Amazon also revealed research on improving Alexa’s speech recognition by 15 percent. Continue reading Google and Amazon Use AI to Improve Speech Recognition

MoviePass Subs Down 90 Percent, Despite Unlimited Plan

Since MoviePass tweaked its formula, it has lost over 90 percent of its subscribers. Business Insider reported that, based on “internal data,” it found that the movie subscription company now has 225,000 subscribers. In June 2018, MoviePass stated it had signed up over three million subscribers for a plan that then cost $9.95 per month and allowed viewers to see one movie a day. The company pulled back on the plan in August that year, converting subscribers to a new plan permitting three movies per month. Continue reading MoviePass Subs Down 90 Percent, Despite Unlimited Plan

Cable Providers Update Boxes to Retain Fleeing Customers

With its Xfinity X1, Comcast has remade the traditional cable box, with a voice-enabled remote that allows search across live TV, on-demand and sources such as Netflix. It combines the multiple apps, passwords and monthly fees of streaming services into one place, with one bill. Perhaps we don’t need to get rid of cable, but rather to improve it. With the advent of ever-more choices from Apple, Amazon, Roku to Verizon and T-Mobile, the major cablecasters have the chance to bring their services into the modern TV age. Continue reading Cable Providers Update Boxes to Retain Fleeing Customers

FTC Examining Zuckerberg’s Personal Role in Data Lapses

According to sources, the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating Facebook for mishandling of personal data, is also taking a close look at co-founder/chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and deciding if and to what degree he should be held personally responsible. Should the FTC move in this direction, it would be a major new challenge for the Silicon Valley company and a personal censure of Zuckerberg. At the same time, Facebook just revealed it botched the safeguarding of millions of Instagram passwords. Continue reading FTC Examining Zuckerberg’s Personal Role in Data Lapses

Amazon and Google Offering Ad-Supported Music Services

Spotify has new competition. Amazon just introduced an ad-supported version of Amazon Music available in the U.S. via Alexa devices. To jumpstart the service, Amazon has reportedly offered to pay some record labels per stream for music licenses, separate from ad sales. The catalog is limited, but listeners can access some of Amazon Music’s “top playlists.” Google also announced that YouTube Music will be free on Google Home smart speakers and Google Assistant devices in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and parts of Europe. Continue reading Amazon and Google Offering Ad-Supported Music Services

Facebook Uses AI to Improve Games, Swap Singers’ Voices

Facebook is bringing back FMV (full motion video) games, which use pre-recorded video files to display action. With the work of Facebook AI Research scientists, the new FMV games are much improved, with a system that can extract controllable characters from real-world videos and then control their motion, thus generating new image sequences. Facebook AI Research scientists, in collaboration with Tel Aviv University, also unveiled a system that, unsupervised, converts audio of one singer to the voice of another. Continue reading Facebook Uses AI to Improve Games, Swap Singers’ Voices

Machine Learning Is Being Used to Upscale Classic Games

Gamers have discovered a way to use machine learning to improve the graphics of older games. Called “AI upscaling,” the technique uses an algorithm to take a low-resolution image and, based on training data, generates a version with more pixels. Although upping the resolution of images is not new, machine learning has improved both the speed and the quality of the end result. On the r/GameUpscale subreddit, which is moderated by Norwegian teacher and student Daniel Trolie, users share “tips and tricks” on the practice. Continue reading Machine Learning Is Being Used to Upscale Classic Games

EU Parliament Passes Laws That Impact Online Companies

The European Parliament voted to fine Internet platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter up to 4 percent of their annual global turnover if they do not remove extremist content within one hour of authorities’ request to do so. The vote was 308 to 204, with 70 abstentions. The European Parliament also approved a platform-to-business (P2B) law proposed by the European Commission in April 2018. The P2B law forces Amazon and Google to reveal how they rank products and Facebook and others to be more transparent. Continue reading EU Parliament Passes Laws That Impact Online Companies

Two Facebook Groups Are Developing New Voice Assistant

Social giant Facebook confirmed a report that it is working on developing its own voice assistant. Originally, two former Facebook employees described the plans to CNBC, which broke the news. The company has been developing its own voice assistant since early 2018 in its augmented reality/virtual reality group based in Redmond, Washington. Facebook Assistant and AR/VR director Ira Snyder leads a team that has been “contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain,” according to sources. Continue reading Two Facebook Groups Are Developing New Voice Assistant

Google, Anker Debut Device for In-Vehicle Google Assistant

Google debuted the results of a partnership with Anker, releasing the $50 Roav Bolt, that brings Google Assistant to automobiles. Previously, consumers who wanted Google Assistant in their cars could purchase a vehicle with Android Auto or install the Android Auto app on their phones. The device fits into a car’s 12-volt port (the cigarette lighter) and features USB ports on the side for charging a phone, with an AUX jack as well. The user activates the device by saying “Hey Google” or pressing a physical button. Continue reading Google, Anker Debut Device for In-Vehicle Google Assistant

Netflix Facing New Competition as Domestic Growth Slows

Subscription video service Netflix is still growing, but the new subscription numbers come largely from the international market. In the U.S., Netflix reported 1.7 million new subs in Q1 2019 out of a total of 9.6 million new customers. The streaming giant’s slowed domestic growth — including predictions for a slower Q2 globally — is likely due to increased competition as well as its recently raised subscription fees. Netflix investors are also concerned that the company cannot maintain what has thus far been rapid growth. Continue reading Netflix Facing New Competition as Domestic Growth Slows

Hulu Positioned to Become Most Serious Netflix Competitor

Amazon, Apple, AT&T and Disney aim to compete against Netflix, the current giant in streaming video. The one contender that rises above is Hulu, which has gone through several owners (Disney, 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Time Warner). AT&T sold Time Warner’s stake, and with the purchase of Fox, Disney is now Hulu’s majority owner. Hulu originally streamed shows from other networks, but its profile changed with “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which became the first “streaming-native” show to win an Emmy for best drama series. Continue reading Hulu Positioned to Become Most Serious Netflix Competitor

Sony, Microsoft Planning Advanced Digital Game Consoles

Sony’s next gaming console, dubbed the PlayStation 5, will not debut in 2019 — although Sony has stepped up deploying software development kits to video game creators. Still, it’s set to become the console that’s “more revolution than evolution,” featuring an eight-core CPU based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line’s new 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture. Sony’s PS5 will also be the first game console to offer ray tracing. Microsoft, meanwhile, will debut a console that completely eschews physical media. Continue reading Sony, Microsoft Planning Advanced Digital Game Consoles

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