Snapchat Debuts 30 Original Shows but Metrics Still a Mystery

In the wake of Instagram copying one of its most popular features, Stories, Snapchat pivoted to original video content, believing it crucial to the company’s long-term success. To produce this content, Snapchat turned to numerous television networks, including A+E Networks, Discovery, ESPN, NBCUniversal and Turner (owner of CNN, TBS and TNT). NBCUniversal, which invested $500 million in Snap’s IPO, is particularly bullish on Snapchat Shows. But Snapchat doesn’t reveal metrics, raising questions about the success of Shows. Continue reading Snapchat Debuts 30 Original Shows but Metrics Still a Mystery

Smartwatches, Fitness Bands Still Dominate Wearables Sector

At last year’s CES, wearables were a viable category but had lost a bit of the luster of previous years, as consumers were deluged with competing fitness bands, smartwatches and even smart fabrics and jewelry. Although many of the entrants were intriguing, nothing popped out as revealing the path forward. CES 2018 promises to be similar, with some notable exceptions. Shipments in the wearables market are at an all-time high, but few manufacturers think wearables will have a significant impact on their bottom line in 2018. Continue reading Smartwatches, Fitness Bands Still Dominate Wearables Sector

YouTube Readies Subscription-Based Music Streaming Service

According to sources, YouTube will debut a paid music service in March, marking the third attempt by parent company Alphabet to compete with Spotify and Apple. Warner Music Group has reportedly already signed on to the new effort and discussions are underway with the other two major record labels, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, as well as Merlin, an alliance of independent labels. Apple and Spotify’s paid streaming music services have helped the music business grow after two decades of decline. Continue reading YouTube Readies Subscription-Based Music Streaming Service

Microsoft Is Developing Cost-Effective Security for IoT Devices

IoT security researchers at Microsoft Research are focused on the near future when microcontrollers, which are small, low-power computers on a single chip, gain connectivity. Microcontrollers are already installed in billions of gadgets, so their eventual connectivity will explode the number of Internet of Things devices, all of which will require greater security. Microsoft Research’s Project Sopris aims to provide cost-effective security for microcontrollers, which currently don’t have enough compute power to offer security. Continue reading Microsoft Is Developing Cost-Effective Security for IoT Devices

Facebook Adds Instant Games Titles, Multiplayer Video Chat

Since Facebook introduced Instant Games on its Messenger platform, its library has grown to 70 games, including “Tetris,” Blackstorm Labs’ “EverWing” and, now, Rovio Entertainment’s “Angry Birds.” Facebook is also now allowing users to live stream their sessions; when a user goes live in an Instant Game, it will stream to his Facebook page and stay posted when he goes offline. Facebook is also debuting an integrated video chat for multiplayer games, which will initially debut only with Zynga’s “Words With Friends.” Continue reading Facebook Adds Instant Games Titles, Multiplayer Video Chat

Despite Hacks, Cryptocurrency Mania Drives Up Bitcoin Value

NiceHash, a Slovenian-based marketplace for mining digital currencies, says its payment system has been hacked and the contents of its Bitcoin account stolen. According to its Facebook page, every week NiceHash paid out millions of dollars in Bitcoin weekly, meaning the loss could be significant, especially since Bitcoin has had a precipitous rise in value. Uncertain is whether NiceHash users’ accounts have also been hacked. In light of the unknowns, NiceHash has closed down operations for 24 hours. Meanwhile, Bitcoin enthusiasm continues to rise, as illustrated by a 40 percent jump in price yesterday. Continue reading Despite Hacks, Cryptocurrency Mania Drives Up Bitcoin Value

Facebook Lifts Ban on Pre-Roll Ads, in Beta Tests for Watch

Facebook has resisted the practice of pre-roll ads. Now, according to knowledgeable advertisers, in a major shift the company says it plans to test such ads for Watch shows. The ban on pre-roll ads came directly from chief executive Mark Zuckerberg who stressed that users came to the site to look at a feed, not watch one specific piece of content. This year, however, Facebook debuted Watch, where TV studios, publishers and celebrities can try to sell advertising against their shows, an ideal format for pre-roll ads. Continue reading Facebook Lifts Ban on Pre-Roll Ads, in Beta Tests for Watch

Overwatch League, NBA 2K League Establish eSports Profile

In November 2016, Blizzard announced it was creating the Overwatch League, the first-ever eSports venture to model itself after professional North American sports, with franchised teams in major cities, salaried athletes and live spectator events. This was in the early days of “Overwatch,” a first-person shooter, team-based game, which had already accrued die-hard fans when it was in beta. The game, an “optimistic” battle between heroes and AI robots, has become a huge hit, with more than 35 million players and more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Continue reading Overwatch League, NBA 2K League Establish eSports Profile

Qualcomm, Microsoft Debut Laptops Powered by Mobile Chips

Qualcomm just showcased Asustek Computer and HP laptops with mobile phone chips that allow their wireless connections to use battery power so sparingly that they can go for days between charges. That’s part of the chip titan’s strategy to break Intel’s dominance in the laptop market, where 90 percent ship with Intel chips. By using mobile chips, says Qualcomm, the company hopes to create a new kind of PC that represents a new category. Qualcomm aims to expand in this market through its purchase of NXP Semiconductors. Continue reading Qualcomm, Microsoft Debut Laptops Powered by Mobile Chips

YouTube Ups its Social Profile with the Debut of Reels Feature

YouTube has debuted Reels, a video feature similar to Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Users will find Reels on a new tab in creators’ channels and will be able to adorn videos with filters, text and stickers. Unlike Snapchat and Instagram Stories, a single creator can make many Reels on different topics and the videos will not disappear after 24 hours. With Reels, Google hopes to make YouTube a more social environment and keep users glued to the platform. Google reportedly bid $30 billion to buy Snap last year. Continue reading YouTube Ups its Social Profile with the Debut of Reels Feature

Google Removes YouTube From Amazon Fire TV, Echo Show

Google is pulling YouTube from Amazon’s smart speaker Echo Show, saying it is doing so because Amazon won’t sell Google products including its Home speaker, Chromecast streaming device and some Alphabet Nest products. Google also states that Amazon won’t make its Prime Video shows available for Chromecast. The move escalates an ongoing battle between the two behemoths whose business interests now overlap. In addition to Echo Show, Google plans to block YouTube on Amazon Fire TV’s media streaming device beginning January 1. Continue reading Google Removes YouTube From Amazon Fire TV, Echo Show

Google Intends to Advance Machine Learning With its AutoML

In May, research project Google Brain debuted its AutoML artificial intelligence system that can generate its own AIs. Now, Google has unveiled an AutoML project to automate the design of machine learning models using so-called reinforcement learning. In this system, AutoML is a controller neural network that develops a “child” AI network for a specific task. The near-term goal is that AutoML would be able to create a child that outperforms human versions. Down the line, AutoML could improve vision for autonomous vehicles and AI robots. Continue reading Google Intends to Advance Machine Learning With its AutoML

New SEC Cyber Unit Takes on Cryptocurrency and ICO Fraud

At the Securities and Exchange Commission, chairman Jay Clayton made it clear that there is “very little distinction” between Bitcoin and traditional stocks, suggesting that the SEC believes Bitcoin is subject to securities laws and is willing to act against alleged fraud in an ICO, or initial coin offering. In fact, the SEC new cyber unit did just that for the first time, charging Canada-based cryptocurrency company PlexCorps with violating security laws by selling up to $15 million in an ICO. Clayton said future suits are possible. Continue reading New SEC Cyber Unit Takes on Cryptocurrency and ICO Fraud

Experts Voice Concern About Facebook’s Social App for Kids

Facebook has introduced Messenger Kids, a new messaging app for children aged 6 to 12, in response to safety concerns from parents about Messenger. Some experts, however, are dubious that children that young should have any social media access at all. Messenger Kids is a standalone chat and messaging app that lets children send texts, messages and videos to contacts that have been approved by parents, who download the app on a child’s tablet or smartphone and control it from their own Facebook accounts. Continue reading Experts Voice Concern About Facebook’s Social App for Kids

Amazon Debuts Intel-Powered DeepLens Camera to Teach AI

On November 29 at the AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon Web Services introduced its AWS DeepLens, a video camera whose main purpose is to teach developers how to program AI functions. The camera comes loaded with different AI infrastructures and AWS infrastructure such as AWS Greengrass Core and a version of MXNet. Developers can also add their own frameworks like TensorFlow. The 4-megapixel camera can shoot 1080p HD video and offers a 2D microphone system for recording sound, in the form factor of an action camera on top of an external hard drive. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Intel-Powered DeepLens Camera to Teach AI

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