Google, Ubisoft Partner on Open-Source Game Server Project

Multiplayer game servers are notoriously difficult to build and maintain, but as the popularity of multiplayer games increases, Google Cloud aims to tackle the issue with the advent of Agones (Greek for “contest” or “gathering”), its new open source project developed through a partnership with French gaming company Ubisoft. Dedicated servers are important for multiplayer games to reduce delays, stop cheating in its tracks, and provide a better overall experience for those connecting to play. Google is currently seeking more partners for Agones.

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Google Maps Helps Develop Real-World Gaming Experiences

Google is enabling game developers to create “Pokémon Go”-like experiences in which game elements are embedded into real-world maps using the new Google Maps API and the Unity game engine. Over 200 games are already in development. Next Games is developing a game based on the popular TV series “The Walking Dead,” and NBCUniversal and Ludia will release a “Jurassic World Alive” location-based game for mobile. Because Google Maps updates in real time, developers can create gaming experiences with a sharp eye on reality.

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Google to Ban Cryptocurrency and ICO Ads Beginning in June

Google announced its intention to ban advertisements related to risky financial products, including any that promote cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings (ICOs), beginning this June. This is part of an update to Google’s policy and seems to closely resemble a similar ban announced by Facebook in January. However, reports indicate that ad makers have found workarounds within Facebook (like typing “Bitc0in” with a zero instead of “Bitcoin”). Google plans to anticipate these sorts of workarounds in advance of the ban.

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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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FandangoNOW Is Latest to Join Movies Anywhere Ecosystem

Movies Anywhere announced that Fandango’s video-on-demand service, FandangoNOW, is the latest retailer to join the digital movie ecosystem. Movies Anywhere provides a central location for movies purchased or redeemed through Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Walmart’s Vudu and FandangoNOW. The service is jointly controlled by five major studios: Sony Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film, The Walt Disney Studios, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Continue reading FandangoNOW Is Latest to Join Movies Anywhere Ecosystem

Apple Plans to Purchase Digital Magazine Distributor Texture

Apple announced that it is acquiring Next Issue Media LLC and the company’s digital subscription service, Texture. For $10 per month, Texture provides subscribers with access to all or part of more than 200 magazines on Apple and Android devices. The deal will give the tech giant an additional business line that provides recurring revenue, similar to Apple Music. It could also help Apple’s relationship with publishers. Texture was originally created to give publishers more control over digital distribution, but was later rebranded as a service that offers curated articles based on subscribers’ interests. Continue reading Apple Plans to Purchase Digital Magazine Distributor Texture

Google Promotes AMP Technology as New Internet Standard

Google has started a project to convince the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the primary international standards organization for the web, to adopt technology that is the foundation of its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). With AMP, webpages enjoy almost immediate loading, distribution on multiple platforms and better visibility on Google and its many properties. Google created AMP to make web pages as fast as the kinds of “instant articles” found on Apple News and Facebook, where pages are pre-loaded in the app. With AMP, however, Google wants to apply those benefits to the entire web. Continue reading Google Promotes AMP Technology as New Internet Standard

Netflix Has No Plans to Offer Live TV Such as News or Sports

From Netflix’s 280,000-square foot studio in Hollywood, chief executive Reed Hastings revealed that the company has no plans to enter the live TV market in news or sports, as its rivals Hulu and Amazon Video have done. Instead, the company is investing $8 billion in original content this year, part of its larger strategy to fend off competition from these popular services and a growing list of emerging competitors. Hastings also explained that Netflix has no plans to introduce advertising. Continue reading Netflix Has No Plans to Offer Live TV Such as News or Sports

Nearly 20 Percent of Adults Have Access to a Smart Speaker

Nearly one in five U.S. adults — 47.3 million, or 20 percent of the country’s adult population — has access to a smart speaker, according to Voicebot.ai research. In this case, “access to a smart speaker” means having a smart speaker in the home, even if the adult is not the primary user. Unlike smartphones and other personal technologies, not every person in the home is likely to have one. Thus, it’s likely most apt to compare smart speakers to TVs, which took 13 years to reach the 50 million mark versus just two years for smart speakers.

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Amazon Envisions Alexa as a Universal Language Translator

You may soon be able to command “Alexa, Translate” and get sophisticated results. According to sources familiar with the matter, Amazon’s latest aim for Alexa, its popular voice-enabled assistant, is to become a real-time universal language translator. They say the tech giant is “seriously exploring” ways to make Alexa more useful cross-culturally. In order to do so, Amazon must significantly expand Alexa’s current ability to translate basic words and phrases in languages including Spanish, German, French and Italian.

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Google, Government Partner on AI to Analyze Drone Footage

Google and the Department of Defense are exploring the use of artificial intelligence to identify objects in drone footage. The tech giant has been working with the Pentagon’s Project Maven, an initiative focused on big data and machine learning. According to sources, when the pilot project became an object of discussion at Google, some employees were angry that the company was working with the military on surveillance tech for drone operations. Google’s Eric Schmidt admitted that the tech community is concerned that the military-industrial complex will use Google’s research to kill innocent people. Continue reading Google, Government Partner on AI to Analyze Drone Footage

Review Praises Camera Functionality of Samsung Galaxy S9+

With a few weeks to go until the release of Samsung’s latest high-end smartphone, the Galaxy S9+, its camera just earned the top spot on DxOMark (a site that tracks and rates camera sensors, lenses and smartphone cameras). The S9+ received a score of 99 — the highest for any handset to date — with a review indicating the camera has no “obvious weaknesses.” The score is one better than the Pixel 2’s camera and two better than the iPhone X camera. The biggest addition to the S9+ camera is a dual-aperture for low light shots and a zoom lens.

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Facebook, Google Improve Transparency After P&G Cuts Ads

Last year, Procter & Gamble cut its digital advertising by more than $200 million, after its call for transparency wasn’t satisfactorily answered. The company, whose brands include Crest, Pampers and Tide, believed that much of the spending on digital ads was not effective and that it could find more productive means of reaching consumers. The company cut $100 million in last year’s June quarter, for $100 million, with $100 million more from July through December, and included “several big digital players.” Continue reading Facebook, Google Improve Transparency After P&G Cuts Ads

Trump Administration, 35 States Oppose Online Tax Exemption

The Trump administration has joined numerous state officials entreating the Supreme Court to overrule a 1992 case that exempts online sellers from adding taxes to their prices. Arguments on the 1992 case, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, begin next month. South Dakota is leading the group asking the court to overrule the precedent-deciding case; it is joined by 35 states, the District of Columbia, organizations representing retailers, and, now, the Trump administration. Opposing are catalog mailers and online sellers. Continue reading Trump Administration, 35 States Oppose Online Tax Exemption

EU Hearing Explores Preserving Democracy in the Digital Age

The ETC’s Philip Lelyveld was one of five subject matter experts invited to speak before the European Union’s “Preserving Democracy in the Digital Age” hearing at the European Political Strategy Centre in Brussels on February 22, 2018. The EU is working to understand and deal with the problem of ‘fake news’ and Russian interference in democratic processes in Europe. This one-day event is part of an ongoing multi-organization effort within the EU. Lelyveld was invited to present a ‘Hollywood’ perspective. Continue reading EU Hearing Explores Preserving Democracy in the Digital Age

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