Sony Slated to Release Xperia Ear Wearable Digital Assistant

On December 13, Sony plans to release the Xperia Ear on Amazon in time for holiday gift shopping. Priced at $200, the device, which will also be available eventually at Fry’s Electronics, Abt and B&H, will compete with Amazon Echo and Google Home — but in a form factor that resembles a Bluetooth earpiece. Sony had originally said it would release Xperia Ear in the summer, but then pushed the release date. The earpiece, available in black, is a companion to Xperia smartphones. Continue reading Sony Slated to Release Xperia Ear Wearable Digital Assistant

Instagram Mimics Snapchat and Periscope with New Features

Facebook’s Instagram just debuted two new features for live streaming video and ephemeral messaging, both of which reflect the popularity of such features in Snap’s Snapchat and Twitter’s live-streaming Periscope. By doing so, Instagram has heated up its competition with Snapchat and now competes more directly with Periscope. Instagram, which will roll out the new video features to a small group before a wider launch, also recently introduced Instagram Stories, which apes Snapchat Stories.  Continue reading Instagram Mimics Snapchat and Periscope with New Features

Mavic Pro Review: DJI’s New Drone Is Compact and Capable

DJI’s Mavic Pro drone is now being reviewed and sold to consumers, and it’s coming up roses. Already sold out or back-ordered in many places, the drone features numerous advanced features in a highly portable package, with a range of 4 miles and a top speed of 40 mph. The Mavic Pro has taken a page from the technology book of the larger Phantom 4, using an array of cameras to see obstacles in 3D and make quick decisions to avoid them. The small controller can hook onto a smartphone, which becomes its main screen. Continue reading Mavic Pro Review: DJI’s New Drone Is Compact and Capable

Sony Pictures, Nokia Partner to Create, Distribute VR Content

Sony Pictures and Nokia have partnered to produce and distribute VR content. In addition to using Nokia’s OZO VR camera to produce videos, Sony will use the OZO’s Live VR broadcast feature to live stream 360-degree video of Sony Pictures events for fans. Sony will also add Nokia’s SDK to its Privilege Plus app, which is only available on Sony mobile phones. Nokia debuted the OZO a little over a year ago for about $60,000; the cost goes up with additional gear required to produce VR films. Continue reading Sony Pictures, Nokia Partner to Create, Distribute VR Content

AOL Layoffs Reflect New Emphasis on Mobile, Video and Data

AOL is planning to release 5 percent of its staff today, affecting about 500 employees. “CEO Tim Armstrong said that most of the cuts will come in its corporate units, while resources will be shifted more at mobile, video and data offerings going forward,” reports Recode. AOL, which was purchased last year by Verizon, recently added 1,500 employees from its ad deal with Microsoft and acquisition of Millennial Media. AOL’s current structure features its media unit (with properties such as Huffington Post and TechCrunch) and its platforms groups, which includes its advertising tech. “Armstrong said the layoffs are not related to current discussions AOL execs are having with Yahoo counterparts about integration between the two companies,” notes Recode. Continue reading AOL Layoffs Reflect New Emphasis on Mobile, Video and Data

High Profile Snap IPO Could Push Other Startups to Go Public

Snapchat parent company Snap Inc. has confidentially filed for its IPO, according to sources familiar with the matter. The four-year old messaging app could go public as early as March 2017, in what is expected to be one of the highest-profile stock debuts in years, and one that could potentially convince other tech startups to test public markets. The Venice, California-based company is looking to raise as much as $4 billion, with a valuation in the $25 billion range, which could make it the largest U.S.-listed tech offering since Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba went public in 2014. Continue reading High Profile Snap IPO Could Push Other Startups to Go Public

Apple Considers AR Tech for Wireless Digital Glasses Project

Insiders report that Apple is working on a pair of wireless digital glasses that would connect to iPhones and possibly use augmented reality. “While still in an exploration phase,” reports Bloomberg, “Apple has talked about its glasses project with potential suppliers” and “the company has ordered small quantities of near-eye displays from one supplier for testing.” According to those familiar with the concept, Apple isn’t ready for mass production and, if it moves forward with the eyewear, we shouldn’t expect to see a product until 2018. Chief exec Tim Cook, under pressure to make up for waning iPhone sales, has expressed interest in AR following the success of “Pokémon Go.” Continue reading Apple Considers AR Tech for Wireless Digital Glasses Project

Google Releases Daydream View Headset to Positive Reviews

Google’s first VR headset, the $79 Daydream View, started shipping, the first step in the company’s goal to make Android the dominant VR operating system. Daydream faces some stiff competition, however, including Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR for PC and mobile devices, and Microsoft’s holographic version of Windows. So far, reviewers are giving Daydream a thumbs-up, as simple to use, inexpensive and light, and one reviewer calls the content on YouTube VR the new headset’s “killer app.” Continue reading Google Releases Daydream View Headset to Positive Reviews

Samsung Bets on Automotive with $8 Billion Harman Purchase

As Apple reportedly scales back its automotive plans, South Korean smartphone competitor Samsung is pushing into the emerging market with its $8 billion acquisition of luxury audio and connected car leader Harman. Auto connectivity has been a “strategic priority” for Samsung, and the transaction will provide the company with infotainment, telematics, security and safety solutions by Harman that are currently found in 30 million vehicles. Samsung also recently expressed interest in paying more than $3 billion for Fiat Chrysler’s Magneti Marelli autoparts business. Continue reading Samsung Bets on Automotive with $8 Billion Harman Purchase

Media Companies Leverage Data-Driven AI to Evolve, Prosper

The media industry’s interest in artificial intelligence goes much deeper than simply portraying its implications in movies such as “Her” or “Ex Machina.” Recommendations and push notifications are just two examples of how media uses AI. YouTube has evolved its use of machine learning algorithms to improve its content recommendations. In the early days, the site used “collaborative filtering” to feed videos to viewers. Now the company uses much more complex models based on deep learning powered by neural networks. Continue reading Media Companies Leverage Data-Driven AI to Evolve, Prosper

Facebook’s Instagram Plans to Integrate Live Video Streaming

According to Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, the Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing site plans to add live video streaming. Systrom believes live video could help strengthen user relationships; however, he did not specify how or when Instragram would introduce the feature. “Reports indicate that Instagram has already been testing live video streaming with some of its users, displaying live streams from contacts similar to the way it currently surfaces the recently-launched Instagram Stories feature,” explains Variety. Introduced in August, Instagram Stories is similar to Snapchat in that its images and videos disappear after 24 hours. Continue reading Facebook’s Instagram Plans to Integrate Live Video Streaming

Attention Brands: Internet Users Prefer Mobile to Desktop PCs

In a new first, Internet monitoring firm StatCounter reports that more consumers are accessing the Internet from their mobile and tablet devices (51.2 percent) than from their desktop PCs (48.7 percent). According to TechCrunch, “this means going forward, companies that haven’t yet decided to focus on a mobile-first approach to their Internet services and Web properties really should, as the trend line is unlikely to reverse.” Mobile platforms are by far the method of choice for accessing the Internet in emerging markets such as India, while the gap is narrower in more mature markets like the U.S. and U.K. As of May, Google noted that more searches conducted through its engine originated from mobile platforms than desktop. Continue reading Attention Brands: Internet Users Prefer Mobile to Desktop PCs

Facebook Borrows From Snapchat, Periscope Adds AR Masks

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery it’s said, and that’s what’s going on among social media platforms. Facebook’s WhatsApp is experimenting with a Status feature that is basically a photocopy of Snapchat Stories, sharing photos, videos and emoji. Elsewhere, Periscope is copying both Facebook and Snapchat, by offering its own animated augmented reality selfie masks. The first ones offered, which allow the user to look like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, have been available throughout the duration of the election. Continue reading Facebook Borrows From Snapchat, Periscope Adds AR Masks

Intel Eyes Future Beyond PC Chips, Buys VR Company Voke

Intel is acquiring Santa Clara-based Voke, a small company that develops virtual reality tech. While most VR “software is based on animated scenes,” notes The Wall Street Journal, “Voke developed a system called TrueVR that uses sets of paired cameras and software that help capture live images and simulate the sensation of three-dimensional space for viewers with computer displays or virtual-reality headsets.” Voke helps broadcasters capture and stream live events such as sports and fashion shows to provide users with multiple angles. Earlier this year, Intel announced plans to purchase Replay Technologies and its 3D video tech used for sports broadcasting. Continue reading Intel Eyes Future Beyond PC Chips, Buys VR Company Voke

Warner Bros. and Google Team Up for Unique Film Promotion

Google and Warner Bros. Pictures have partnered to promote “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” the prequel to the “Harry Potter” franchise, via integrations with Daydream View VR, Google Allo, YouTube and more. Among the features are a series of spells that users can cast by speaking to Google’s voice assistant: “Lumos” will turn on the phone’s flashlight and “Nox” will turn it off; “Silencio” will disable the ringer and notifications. Another feature of the partnership is integrating real-life locations in Google Street View and letting fans visit 1926 New York City. Continue reading Warner Bros. and Google Team Up for Unique Film Promotion

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