Expanding Internet Access May Be Key to Facebook’s Growth

In its attempts to triple the size of Facebook, now at 1.6 billion members, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has embraced technology based on open source (freely shared code) and is building wireless antennas. The goal is to make the Internet accessible and affordable to those who don’t yet have it, mainly rural and developing nations. In doing so, Facebook is treading into territory so far dominated by companies such as Cisco Systems and Ericsson, potentially impacting their bottom line. Continue reading Expanding Internet Access May Be Key to Facebook’s Growth

Teamsters Organize Uber Drivers Classified Indie Contractors

Riding-sharing app Uber has tussled with its drivers over how to define their status: independent contractors or full-time employees. Uber prefers to identify its drivers as independent contractors, which lets it off the hook for paying minimum wage, overtime and its share of Social Security. Recent settlements in class-action lawsuits in California and Massachusetts, which must be approved by a judge, allow Uber to continue this classification. The Teamsters union is busy organizing drivers who want representation. Continue reading Teamsters Organize Uber Drivers Classified Indie Contractors

NAB Panel Addresses Impact of VR on News, Documentaries

“Being There – Virtual Reality News and Documentaries” was the title of a panel on VR journalism at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. Panelists included senior journalists from Sky, RYOT, Condition One, and USA Today Network, as well as one of Google’s lead VR evangelists. Lessons learned include the importance of proximity (e.g. close-ups), making sure that everyone on the team has experience with the key steps in the workflow so they understand the process and can fill in for others, and the need to experiment and fail. The panelists hope that post-production tools improve soon so a greater portion of their time can be spent planning and shooting stories. Continue reading NAB Panel Addresses Impact of VR on News, Documentaries

Google’s Daniel Alegre on Perils and Promise of the New TV

At NAB 2016, Google president of global partnerships Daniel Alegre gave the closing keynote on how television is transforming. “If you search for the term ‘TV is dead’, you’ll find 338 million results,” said Alegre. The TV set and viewing of our childhood, he explained, is gone, as the TV evolves to incorporate a computer and the hours of video viewership continue to climb. “A newer better TV is rising from the ashes, better than ever,” said Alegre, who noted mobile video is predicted to be responsible for 80 percent of all Internet traffic by 2018. Continue reading Google’s Daniel Alegre on Perils and Promise of the New TV

Assimilate Introduces Client Approval Tool for VR Production

At NAB 2016, at the VR Pavilion in the North Hall, Assimilate introduced new tools for VR production, marking an ongoing maturation of the production workflow. The company’s big news was the introduction of user-friendly review and approval, which up until now has been a cumbersome and complex process. Also new from Assimilate for VR is real-time output to the Oculus Rift, support for mono and stereo footage, to output a secondary monitor in 360-degree mode, and some new VR grading tools. Continue reading Assimilate Introduces Client Approval Tool for VR Production

European Officials Accuse Google of Breaking Antitrust Rules

European officials have charged Google with violating competition rules by favoring Android over rival mobile software. Europe’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager accused the tech giant of unfairly promoting its own mobile search and Chrome browser with phone makers. “We believe that Google’s behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players,” said Vestager. From Brussels, the European Commission issued a release stating that Google has “abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.” Continue reading European Officials Accuse Google of Breaking Antitrust Rules

Autodesk and Google Cloud Platform Bring Maya to the Cloud

Autodesk and Google have partnered to offer Maya compute services on the Google Cloud Platform, which developed Google Cloud Platform ZYNC Render, an integrated cloud-based storage and rendering solution for the VFX industry. “We’ve been in discussions with Autodesk for quite some time,” said Google product manager Todd Prives. “It’s been a collaborative effort to bring Maya to Google.” With the ZYNC service for Autodesk Maya 2016 software, users will be able to render 3D scenes on the Google Cloud Platform. Continue reading Autodesk and Google Cloud Platform Bring Maya to the Cloud

YouTube Supports Live Streaming 360 Video and Spatial Audio

YouTube has begun supporting 360-degree live streaming video and spatial audio. Google has supported 360-degree video since last year and spatial audio in the Cardboard since January via the company’s VR platform. This announcement broadens that support to the main YouTube platform. For YouTube creators, all that’s required is a camera that captures 360 video. From the end-user perspective, there’s no extra technology or headsets required to watch 360-degree live streams. The videos will play on any device, including desktop, tablet, iOS and Android. Continue reading YouTube Supports Live Streaming 360 Video and Spatial Audio

Facebook Open-Sources 360-Degree Camera to Jumpstart VR

Facebook debuted the Facebook Surround 360 camera for 360-degree video and VR at its F8 conference this week. The company will also freely share its hardware schematics and complex stitching software via GitHub this summer. Others share Facebook’s vision of virtual reality, including Nokia, Jaunt and Google, all of which built their own 360-degree cameras. But Facebook, by open-sourcing its plans, says chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, furthers its central mission of connecting everyone in the world. Continue reading Facebook Open-Sources 360-Degree Camera to Jumpstart VR

Facebook Developing Chatbots for its Popular Messenger App

Facebook is working with more than 25 companies to help them use chatbots in Messenger to order goods and answer customer service questions, without human assistance. Among its new partners are Disney, eBay, JetBlue, and The Wall Street Journal, all of which are contributing to making the Messenger app a focal point for shopping, news and entertainment. Facebook owns two of the largest messaging apps, Messenger and WhatsApp; both are piloting programs to let businesses communicate with customers. Continue reading Facebook Developing Chatbots for its Popular Messenger App

Amazon’s Alexa Moves Artificial Intelligence Into Mainstream

Amazon spent years to bring Echo from an idea to an intelligent, voice-controlled product that could play music, order groceries and read the news out loud. Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos demanded perfection, bringing latency levels to below 1.5 seconds, and the result is that Echo and its virtual assistant Alexa are a hit. In less than two weeks, Echo hit a million pre-orders, which took the iPhone 70 days to achieve. Amazon is now letting third-party hardware manufacturers integrate Alexa into their products. Continue reading Amazon’s Alexa Moves Artificial Intelligence Into Mainstream

FCC Approves Broadband Subsidy Plan, Looks at Privacy Rules

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved a $9.25 per month subsidy that will bring broadband Internet to millions of low-income families. Three out of the FCC’s five commissioners voted for the subsidy plan, which is part of a reform of the Lifeline program and the latest FCC effort to treat broadband as a public utility. The subsidy for broadband comes at a time when high-speed Internet has become indispensible for school homework, finding and keeping employment and other essential tasks. Continue reading FCC Approves Broadband Subsidy Plan, Looks at Privacy Rules

FBI Tries to Unlock More iPhones, Debate Continues in Europe

Since the FBI broke the encryption of the iPhone 5C belonging to terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook, most likely with the help of the Israeli office of the Japanese mobile phone security firm Cellebrite Mobile Synchronization, it has been testing the method on other iPhone versions. It will not, however, disclose the phone’s flaw or the information found on Farook’s phone. European cases regarding locked phones are heating up, with France and England considering fines for companies that don’t help crack their phones’ encryption. Continue reading FBI Tries to Unlock More iPhones, Debate Continues in Europe

Intel Debuts Chips, Partnerships for Next-Gen Cloud Computing

Intel just introduced the Xeon E5-2600 v4 chip family, which includes up to 22 calculating engines on each chip (up from a maximum of 18) and has built-in features to encrypt data more quickly, thus potentially improving security of cloud computing. Dell, HP and Cisco Systems will use the chips to make new servers. Intel also revealed its collaboration with CoreOS and Mirantis whose technologies are aimed to make it easier for companies to move data between different cloud services or their own data centers and the cloud. Continue reading Intel Debuts Chips, Partnerships for Next-Gen Cloud Computing

Microsoft Pushes Windows 10, Promotes Bots to Replace Apps

Microsoft is on track to reach the goal it set when it first introduced Windows 10 last July: to reach one billion devices within two or three years. Less than a year later, Windows 10, the latest version of its operating system, is running on 270 million active devices, adopted faster than even Windows 7, its previous high point. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella is pinning future hopes on artificial intelligence and “bots” to create new ways to interact with computers, and replace apps as the dominant paradigm. Continue reading Microsoft Pushes Windows 10, Promotes Bots to Replace Apps

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