YouTube to Sell Vevo Music Video Clips Direct to Advertisers

Google’s YouTube will now sell Vevo’s music video clips directly to advertisers, as part of a deal struck late last year but just made public. Up until now, Vevo had the first pass at selling its own videos, leaving automated, remnant ad sales to Google. At YouTube’s “Brandcast” pitch event to advertisers, the company did not so much announce the terms of the deal, but let it slip that it was selling Vevo clips in its “Google Preferred” tier, which is a collection of its most valuable and most “brand-safe” content. Continue reading YouTube to Sell Vevo Music Video Clips Direct to Advertisers

Google Assistant Is Connected to 5,000 Smart Home Devices

Google revealed that its AI-powered Google Assistant is now connected to more than 5,000 smart devices in the home, up from 1,500 such devices in January. Among the devices now controlled by Google Assistant are air conditioners, cameras, security systems, thermostats, vacuum cleaners and washing machines. Google faces stiff competition in the smart home arena, most notably from Amazon Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit and Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Samsung’s SmartThings and Bixby. Now the rivals must convince consumers to buy the devices. Continue reading Google Assistant Is Connected to 5,000 Smart Home Devices

Facebook May Lead AR Race, Some Already Have Concerns

With augmented reality in its News Feed, Instagram and Messenger, Facebook is well positioned to dominate with the biggest AR platform, based on the Camera Effects Platform debuted at F8 2017. Selfie filters are one of the more popular Facebook applications, and Facebook is now rolling out very different filters for its Instagram platform, which has a bigger focus on brands and personalities. Engineering director in charge of Facebook’s AR project Ficus Kirkpatrick said the company wants “to increase the diversity of AR.” Continue reading Facebook May Lead AR Race, Some Already Have Concerns

Facebook and RED Partner to Build High-End 8K VR Camera

At Facebook’s F8 developer conference, the company and RED Digital Cinema announced they are teaming up to build a professional VR camera. No further details on price, release date or technical specs were made available. Previously, Facebook demonstrated its depth reconstruction, which enhances 3D imagery, and its prototype Surround 360 cameras. Facebook director of engineering Brian Cabral described RED as an “ideal partner” because the company’s high-dynamic range cameras work well with its depth reconstruction technology. Continue reading Facebook and RED Partner to Build High-End 8K VR Camera

Google Honors Georges Méliès Today with its First VR Doodle

If you visit the Google search page today, you’ll see what Google is describing as its first VR Doodle. Clicking it takes you to a YouTube player for a 360-degree animated short called “Back to the Moon” that celebrates French filmmaker, illusionist, and sci-fi pioneer Georges Méliès. The YouTube version is a teaser for the mobile VR experience, which is available for Cardboard and Daydream headsets via the Spotlight Stories app. While other Spotlight Stories such as “Pearl” and “Buggy Night” have been featured on YouTube in the past, the Google homepage promotion is a first. Continue reading Google Honors Georges Méliès Today with its First VR Doodle

NBCUniversal, Google Ink Deal to Produce Multi-Episode VR

NBCUniversal and Google have teamed up to create and distribute 10+ multi-episode original 360-degree video and VR180 video productions, for “Saturday Night Live,” Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules” and SYFY Wire among others. The two companies began their collaboration in January, producing a few 360-degree videos for “Saturday Night Live,” and, on Monday, they released two new videos related to “Vanderpump Rules,” which were produced with Google’s 360-degree video capture/production platform Jump. Continue reading NBCUniversal, Google Ink Deal to Produce Multi-Episode VR

YouTube Creates New Ad Category to Reach Light TV Viewers

YouTube is luring advertisers away from TV, stating that connected TVs are the fastest growing category, with an audience of cord cutters and so-called light TV viewers. Its own YouTube TV, launched last year as a skinny bundle paid TV service, is now being viewed not just on mobile screens but on TV screens. In fact although half of all YouTube videos are watched on mobile devices, 150 million hours daily are watched on TVs, a 50 percent jump in the last six months. YouTube TV now reaches 85 percent of U.S. TV households. Continue reading YouTube Creates New Ad Category to Reach Light TV Viewers

Autodesk, Amazon Tweak Digital Assistants to Be More Natural

Autodesk is rolling out a new version of its Autodesk Virtual Agent (AVA) to replace its text-only chatbot in mid-May. AVA features an animated face and a New Zealand accent, with emotional responses that the company hopes will help customers engage. For example, if a customer says he’s having trouble, AVA will frown, say she’s sorry and ask how she can help, explains Autodesk manager of digital support channels Rachael Rekart. In doing so, Autodesk is following a trend of companies installing virtual assistants that are more helpful and personable. Amazon, for example, is updating Alexa to be smarter and more conversational. Continue reading Autodesk, Amazon Tweak Digital Assistants to Be More Natural

Google Upgrades Gmail With New Look and Security Features

Google just introduced upgrades to its Gmail service, which includes a new look to the web app and a variety of new features. G Suite, its business-centric paid productivity service that includes Gmail, is the main focus of the upgrades, but many features will also be included in the free Gmail service. Gmail product manager Jacob Bank said the overhaul is intended to make “Gmail the most secure, the smartest, and the easiest to use email client” with “a ground-up rewrite” of the flagship Gmail product. Continue reading Google Upgrades Gmail With New Look and Security Features

Amazon Will Raise the Price of Prime Membership Next Month

Amazon announced that it plans to raise the price of its annual Prime membership from $99 to $119 in the U.S. The move marks the first increase since 2014 when the shipping and entertainment membership program cost $79 per year. New subscribers will pay $119 a year starting May 11, while the new fee will apply to current members beginning with renewals on June 16. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently revealed that Prime has more than 100 million global members. The company surprised investors this week with news that it had more than doubled its quarterly profits to $1.6 billion. Continue reading Amazon Will Raise the Price of Prime Membership Next Month

YouTube Launches Parental Control Features for Kids Service

Since YouTube debuted YouTube Kids three years ago, parents have complained about their ability to control the content. Now, the company is adding three features to respond to those concerns. A white-list feature parents requested allows them to handpick the content for their children. The company also introduced pre-screened content with partners, including, initially, Sesame Workshop and PBS Kids. Third is an option to set search settings to only permit channels “verified by the YouTube Kids team.” Continue reading YouTube Launches Parental Control Features for Kids Service

Supreme Court Ruling Confirms Internal U.S. Patent Reviews

In a 7-2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that an inter partes review (IPR) at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not violate a defendant’s constitutional right to have a case determined by a federal court and jury. Congress created the process in 2011 to handle the large number of flimsy patent applications. The Houston-based Oil States International brought the case; pharmaceutical companies also called the IPR process “a threat to innovation.” Justices John Roberts and Neil Gorsuch were the dissenting votes. Continue reading Supreme Court Ruling Confirms Internal U.S. Patent Reviews

YouTube, Facebook Use AI Tools to Curb Unwanted Content

Google reports that AI-powered machines, not humans, detected about 80 percent of the 8.28 million videos taken off of YouTube in Q4 2017. This revelation underscores the importance of AI-enabled computers in removing unwanted content — and just how aggressively YouTube is pursuing their removal. At Stanford University’s Global Digital Policy Incubator, executive director Eileen Donahoe noted that balancing free speech with the removal of undesirable videos will be YouTube’s major challenge going forward. Continue reading YouTube, Facebook Use AI Tools to Curb Unwanted Content

Spotify Expands Free Offerings, Looks to Extend Market Lead

Spotify is offering more free music in an effort to ultimately increase its number of paid subscribers. The popular streaming service has introduced an updated version of its free mobile app that offers non-paying users more on-demand tracks from 15 pre-populated playlists. Some of the playlists — such as “Discover Weekly” — are personalized for individual users. Spotify, already the world’s largest paid music service (and now a public company), is expanding its freemium model with the goal of one day reaching billions of users, while maintaining its lead over #2 subscription service Apple Music and other competitors. Continue reading Spotify Expands Free Offerings, Looks to Extend Market Lead

SmugMug Acquires Photo Service Flickr From Verizon’s Oath

Pioneering online photo-sharing community Flickr, created in 2004 and sold to Yahoo in 2005, has now been sold again. As first reported by USA Today, Verizon’s Oath, Flickr’s owner since 2017, just sold the company to SmugMug, a Silicon Valley photo-sharing and image-hosting service. Chief executive Don MacAskill, who founded the company with Chris MacAskill in 2002, has vowed to “move heaven and earth to thrill … photographers everywhere.” Flickr reportedly has more than 100 million unique users. Continue reading SmugMug Acquires Photo Service Flickr From Verizon’s Oath

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