NAB 2018: IBM Watson on Refining AI for Closed Captioning

Closed captioning isn’t just for the hard-of-hearing anymore. According to Digiday, 85 percent of Facebook video is viewed without sound. That signals a trend of viewers who prefer to watch closed captioning, putting the heat on solutions providers to come up with compliant systems that are also accurate and speedy. With artificial intelligence, says IBM Watson Media senior offering manager David Kulczar, closed captioning can be enhanced to go beyond transcription, and automatically identify background audio descriptions. Continue reading NAB 2018: IBM Watson on Refining AI for Closed Captioning

Snapchat Releasing New Tools: Group Video Chats, Mentions

Snapchat is making moves to become more conversational, more “sticky,” and to keep users engaged for longer periods of time, according to Variety. The social sharing company announced a new chat feature that allows up to 16 users to video chat through its app, and added mentions to its Snapchat Stories, allowing users to easily tag others (much like they would via Twitter). The chat feature will roll out across the globe this week and will come with filters and the ability to join by audio only as desired. Users can also reply via text messages.

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ESPN Sets April 12 as Launch Date for New Streaming Service

ESPN+ is slated to launch on April 12th. ESPN’s new streaming service will cost $4.99 per month and will include “streaming access to live sports, original content, and on-demand programming delivered [via] a redesigned and personalized ESPN app, as well as ESPN.com,” reports TechCrunch. In August of last year, Disney made key announcements regarding plans for streaming video services: a Disney-branded platform slated for 2019, an ESPN-branded service for early 2018, and a majority stake in streaming tech company BAMTech, founded by MLB Advanced Media.

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Apple Submits VR Patents for Next-Gen Autonomous Vehicles

According to Patently Apple, “There have been a series of very smart and very cool patent applications surfacing of late covering a future mixed reality headset that could one day be a part of a virtual desktop system designed to edit 3D documents” and a “detailed invention covering an advanced gesturing control system for a heads-up-display system of an autonomous vehicle.” For the latter, the official patent application by Apple reads that the invention could lead to “safe, smaller, and less expensive autonomous vehicles.”

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Radio Company iHeartMedia Files for Bankruptcy Protection

The largest owner of radio stations in the U.S., iHeartMedia Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week to address $20 billion in debt. “The company said the agreement it ‍reached with holders of more than $10 billion of its outstanding debt would restructure its balance sheet by transferring 94 percent of the stock in the reorganized company to its lenders,” reports Reuters. The company has struggled with significant debt since its $17.9 billion leveraged buyout of Clear Channel Communications in 2008. Radio company Cumulus Media filed for Chapter 11 less than four months ago. Continue reading Radio Company iHeartMedia Files for Bankruptcy Protection

Streaming Helps Indie Record Labels Rock Overseas Markets

Thanks to streaming services like Spotify, which works with more than 20,000 independent labels in 53 countries, independent record labels are experiencing an international revenue surge that would have been unimaginable years ago. Whereas foreign music markets used to be assessable only via local companies or major labels with global marketing capacities and strategies, worldwide digital streaming services have changed the music business landscape in a short period of time, changing the way independent labels make money.

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Audible and Amazon Continue to Dominate Audiobook Market

Audiobook sellers like Amazon-owned Audible are competing for the ears, not eyes, of book lovers. And they’re showing promise. In 2016, audiobook sales climbed to $2.1 billion, representing an 18 percent jump from the previous year (the format experienced a 26.2 percent sales increase during the first three quarters of 2017). Audible represents about 41 percent of all audiobook sales, and when paired with Amazon, which sells audiobooks directly through its website, the two make up more than half of the market. Audible’s library includes 400,000 titles and its annual subscriber growth is in the double digits.

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Today’s Podcasts Are Finally Proving They Can Turn a Profit

Podcasts have the potential to be intimate, captivating and entertaining. The recent podcasting boom began in 2014 with “Serial,” a true crime drama that changed perceptions of how big podcasting could be. But it wasn’t profitable right away and took millions of downloads over time to get there. The question became: could podcasts similar to “Serial” be replicated on a commercial basis? It seems that they now have the potential. For example, news sources such as The New York Times and Vox are proving that there can be big money in daily news podcasting.

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Blackmagic Design Debuts Ultra HD URSA Broadcast Camera

Blackmagic Design has introduced the Blackmagic URSA Broadcast camera, aimed at studio programming and live production. The new camera shoots HD and Ultra HD resolution, sports an interchangeable lens mount and is priced at just under $3,500. The URSA Broadcast, available for sale now, has a B4 lens mount that works with existing HD broadcast lenses, which can be switched to allow PL, F or EF lenses. Footage can be recorded with SD or CFast media, both relatively inexpensive, with two slots for each format. Continue reading Blackmagic Design Debuts Ultra HD URSA Broadcast Camera

Reviews: Apple HomePod Offers Great Sound But Not Smarts

Apple’s HomePod smart speaker has debuted to mixed reviews. HomePod can stream music directly from Apple Music but no other popular music streaming service such as Spotify or Pandora. It’s equally partisan in that, despite its Bluetooth, users must use Apple’s own AirPlay to stream the music, and Android phones aren’t able to pair with it. The Home app lets users set up and control a variety of HomeKit-compatible smart home devices. The system currently lacks the ability to link HomePods together for a multi-room setup. Continue reading Reviews: Apple HomePod Offers Great Sound But Not Smarts

Apple Announces Launch Date of Delayed HomePod Speaker

Apple’s wireless smart speaker HomePod will hit shelves February 9, with pre-orders starting this Friday in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. The device was delayed from its intended December launch, costing Apple sales during the recent holiday shopping season. The voice-activated speaker will compete with market leaders Amazon Echo and Google Home devices. At $349, the HomePod is priced more than $200 higher than the current market leaders, but on par with the $400 Google Home Max. Apple is emphasizing the device’s “stunning sound quality” for playing music. Continue reading Apple Announces Launch Date of Delayed HomePod Speaker

ThirdEye Debuts Smart Glasses With Hot-Swappable Batteries

At CES 2018, ThirdEye Gen Inc. introduced its X1 Smart Glasses, which are slated for shipment in Q1 2018 and notable for their long-lasting batteries. Two hot-swappable batteries, with a combined charge of 2,400Ah, let the user pop batteries in and out for a full 24 hours. The glasses can also project an HD augmented reality display equivalent to a 90-inch screen that is 10 feet in front of the viewer. ThirdEye’s App Store also lets developers submit free or paid AR/MR apps, receiving a percentage of every download of the latter. Continue reading ThirdEye Debuts Smart Glasses With Hot-Swappable Batteries

CES 2018: Roku Debuts Licensing Program with OEM Partners

Roku debuted its Roku Whole Home Entertainment Licensing Program, which will partner with original equipment manufacturing (OEM) partners to integrate voice search and other entertainment-related features into smart soundbars and speakers. The options for the new licensing program includes Roku Connect, a free program for its OEM partners that will enable them to build high-end wireless speakers that both connect to the Roku ecosystem and synchronize multi-rooms. A logo will identify the speakers as part of the program. Continue reading CES 2018: Roku Debuts Licensing Program with OEM Partners

Huawei VR2 Headset Lauded for Comfort, Res, Sound Quality

At CES 2018, Huawei made the U.S. debut of its Huawei VR2 headset, which had been announced in October in China. The standalone unit resembles the Oculus or Vive rather than the Gear VR; the user attaches a phone, tablet or PC via USB-C and then enjoys the VR experience at a resolution of 1,600 x 1,440 per eye. The unit also features a 90Hz refresh rate, which reduces eyestrain and motion sickness. The controller, made of the same bright white polymer as the headset, offers a clickable touchpad. Continue reading Huawei VR2 Headset Lauded for Comfort, Res, Sound Quality

Sony Products Focus on Artist Intent and Customer Experience

Sony Corporation president and CEO Kaz Hirai began his solo CES media briefing with the Alpha 9, a mirrorless and completely silent camera ideally suited to shoot at the top of a golf swing or on a quiet soundstage, and continued to celebrate accomplishments across every division, including Sony Pictures, Sony Music, and PlayStation. “If you see the name Sony on any product, content, or service, it symbolizes our promise to move you emotionally,” he said. “Our products are designed to have a personal and individualized place in all of your lives.” Continue reading Sony Products Focus on Artist Intent and Customer Experience

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