India Opens its Massive Biometric Database to App Developers

Having created the world’s largest biometric-identity database, India is now opening it up for use by tech firms, healthcare providers and app developers. The country’s government had already culled fingerprints and eye scans, among other digital ID records, of nearly all its 1.2 billion citizens. Now, “India Stack,” a government-backed initiative, plans to standardize the digital exchange of that data. The result will make it easier for citizens to conduct financial transactions, get jobs and verify their identity. Continue reading India Opens its Massive Biometric Database to App Developers

Google Offers Up its Global Cloud-Based Database Technology

Google’s Spanner, developed a decade ago, created a way to store information across millions of machines in a multitude of data centers around the world. Despite its global reach, Spanner behaves as if it operates in a single location, meaning it can reliably replicate and change data without contradicting actions taken at a different location, and retrieve copies if one of the centers goes down. Since its creation, Spanner has become the foundation for 2,000 Google services including Gmail and AdWords. Now, Google plans to unveil Spanner to everyone as a cloud computing service. Continue reading Google Offers Up its Global Cloud-Based Database Technology

Microsoft Camera Rig Gives HoloLens Developers Video Hack

Microsoft has come up with a new camera rig that allows HoloLens mixed reality app makers to capture video from a HoloLens and make it easier to show a person interacting with that app, something Microsoft dubs “spectator view.” The details of the hardware-software combo were published as open source on the HoloLens’ GitHub page. The HoloLens headset is wireless, which lets the user move around the room freely, and is based on four cameras, lightly tinted lenses and a holographic processing unit. Continue reading Microsoft Camera Rig Gives HoloLens Developers Video Hack

Court Rules Microsoft Email Surveillance Lawsuit Can Proceed

In April, Microsoft sued the federal government for intercepting its customers’ emails and preventing Microsoft from alerting them. Now, U.S. District Judge James Robart has ruled that Microsoft made a viable argument, but rejects its contention that the government interception is an unlawful search and seizure of property. At the time, federal courts issued Microsoft about 2,600 so-called secrecy orders, and the tech company could not inform its customers, even when the search was over. Continue reading Court Rules Microsoft Email Surveillance Lawsuit Can Proceed

Microsoft Offers Lawsuit Protection for Azure Cloud Customers

Microsoft debuted Microsoft Azure IP Advantage, which provides payment for legal costs to customers using the open-source technology that is part of Azure services, including Hadoop data analysis. The rationale behind this new Advantage program is that, by offering Azure customers protection from intellectual property litigation, Microsoft removes an obstacle to the cloud computing service’s growth. This litigation protection service is already in place for Azure customers developing apps with Microsoft technology. Continue reading Microsoft Offers Lawsuit Protection for Azure Cloud Customers

HBO Now Service Has More Than 2 Million Subscribers in U.S.

During a conference call yesterday with analysts detailing HBO’s strong 2016 earnings, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes announced that the cable network’s standalone streaming service HBO Now, which launched in April 2015, has officially surpassed the 2 million domestic subscriber mark. “Wall Street has been keenly attuned to the pace of subscriber growth for HBO Now as a bellwether of how major media giants will evolve their businesses in the digital era,” reports Variety. The service is vital to Time Warner since “HBO is in the midst of carriage renewal deals with major MVPDs, including the two largest cable operators, Comcast and Charter Communications.” Time Warner is also looking to merge with AT&T, parent of DirecTV. Continue reading HBO Now Service Has More Than 2 Million Subscribers in U.S.

IBM’s Watson Joins with H&R Block for Better Tax Preparation

IBM struck a deal with H&R Block to utilize Watson to help the company’s 70,000 tax professionals at 10,000 branch offices file taxes for 11 million customers. The partnership, which was presented in a 60-second Super Bowl ad on Sunday, began last summer when H&R Block chief executive Bill Cobb contacted IBM. His goal was to aid the company’s professionals in increasing tax refunds and reducing tax liabilities for the company’s clients, and make the experience “engaging and interactive.” Continue reading IBM’s Watson Joins with H&R Block for Better Tax Preparation

Slack’s Workplace Messaging App Targets Large Companies

Slack Technologies, launched in 2014, just introduced a new version of its workplace-centric messaging app, with the goal of gaining large corporate contracts. The new Slack Enterprise Grid is built to handle the group messaging needs of very large companies, with thousands or more employees, and includes security tools and regulatory compliance required for such companies’ IT departments to sign off. The original group messaging app is already in play at a few big companies, including Electronic Arts and Samsung Electronics. Continue reading Slack’s Workplace Messaging App Targets Large Companies

SoundHound Raises $75M to Advance AI Speech Recognition

Twelve-year old audio recognition company SoundHound just raised $75 million to build its speech recognition AI-based platform, Houndify, betting that voice will become the dominant form of interaction with Internet-connected devices. Although large companies like Apple, Baidu and Microsoft dominate the space, SoundHound has built its own AI technology to identify audio. In contrast to these other companies, SoundHound also plans to offer its voice AI tools to other device manufacturers. Continue reading SoundHound Raises $75M to Advance AI Speech Recognition

With Gains in Cloud Computing, Microsoft Achieves No. 2 Spot

In fiscal Q2, Microsoft posted gains for its Intelligent Cloud segment, which includes Azure, showing an uptick of 8 percent — or 10 percent accounting for currency fluctuations — to $6.9 billion. Azure revenue has increased 93 percent, more than doubling from the same period a year ago. Microsoft is now firmly in second place, behind Amazon, in cloud computing. Microsoft also enjoyed a 5 percent increase in revenue from licensing Windows software to PC manufacturers and another 5 percent uptick from corporate agreements. Continue reading With Gains in Cloud Computing, Microsoft Achieves No. 2 Spot

Sundance Festival VR Offerings Include Sensory Experiences

At the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, the New Frontier exhibit features 20 VR experiences and 11 installations touting the latest in technology, with new VR headsets, haptic controllers and even vibrating suits. The Synesthesia Suit, with its 26 vibrating actuators, was created by a Japanese team and Tetsuya Mizuguchi, who, 15 years ago, created a “trance vibrator” accessory for his Sega Dreamcast game “Rez.” Now, in Enhance Games’ “Rez Infinite,” the Synesthesia Suit wearer “feels” the game, flying through cyberspace to a techno beat. Continue reading Sundance Festival VR Offerings Include Sensory Experiences

Google Competes with Customers for Prime Online Ad Space

Google is among the biggest buyers of its own ads and the Silicon Valley titan is increasingly pushing its own hardware products — from Nest smart-home thermostats to the new Pixel phones — on its own site. Now a recent study shows that Google gives its own ads and those of its affiliate companies the most prominent placement nearly all the time. Google isn’t the only company competing with its customers for online ad space; Facebook and Microsoft fall into that same category. The digital advertising industry is valued at $187 billion. Continue reading Google Competes with Customers for Prime Online Ad Space

IBM, Microsoft Execs Promote the Ethical Development of AI

Many in the artificial intelligence community have called for ethical guidelines for the burgeoning field, and IBM chief executive Ginni Rometty is the latest to add her voice, which she did at the World Economic Forum in Davos. MIT, Harvard and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman have established a $27 million fund to analyze the impact and implications of AI; the IEEE has proposed ethical guidelines; the Obama administration issued a report on AI’s impact on jobs; and Carnegie Mellon studies the future of AI. Continue reading IBM, Microsoft Execs Promote the Ethical Development of AI

Fox Plans to Live-Stream Super Bowl, Will Include Local Ads

On February 5, the Super Bowl will be available for free online as a live stream (with no need for pay-TV credentials) and will include dynamically-inserted local advertising based on the viewer’s location. More than 170 affiliates will team with Fox Sports to deliver the digital ads. “The national ads will be the same on both TV and online, and the live-stream will include the halftime show featuring Lady Gaga,” reports Variety. Coverage “will be available live on Fox Sports Go, the broadcaster’s streaming platform … on iOS, Android, Windows and Amazon tablets; and through connected devices including Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV and Microsoft Xbox One.” Continue reading Fox Plans to Live-Stream Super Bowl, Will Include Local Ads

Digital Assistants Grab Spotlight at CES, Alexa Leads the Pack

Virtual assistants that serve as a new voice-activated hub to the connected smart home and our ecosystem of personal electronics have grabbed the spotlight at this year’s CES. Aided by advances in artificial intelligence software that enable improved speech interaction with devices, tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others are battling for dominance in the digital assistant space. These companies are looking beyond smartphones and PCs toward a world in which voice-based systems become a standard feature in TVs, cable boxes, home appliances and connected vehicles. If the headlines are any indication, it seems that Amazon’s Alexa has taken an early lead in this race. Continue reading Digital Assistants Grab Spotlight at CES, Alexa Leads the Pack

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