Sony Expands Scope of VR Innovation Program This Summer

The ETC@USC helped Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment establish their summer 2016 VR Innovation Program. Over the course of 10 weeks, 14 USC student associates pitched, rapid-prototyped, and delivered seven proof-of-concept projects of interest to Sony executives. The students worked under the supervision of Sony execs and two advisors from the USC faculty. Sony generously supplied a presentation deck describing the program’s goals and process for distribution by the ETC. Building on their positive experience, Sony is currently running a 2017 summer program with the scope expanded to include AR and live action narrative VR. Continue reading Sony Expands Scope of VR Innovation Program This Summer

Spotify Signs New Universal and Merlin Deals, Preps for IPO

Spotify will pay music labels more than $2 billion in minimum payments over the next two years. The company’s revenue has grown more than 50 percent, to $3.3 billion last year, so the big deals are a means to keep growing. Sources say the company has inked two deals recently, with Universal Music Group, the world’s biggest music label, accounting for one-third of the market, and Merlin, which represents a group of independent labels. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that Spotify plans to go public this year. Continue reading Spotify Signs New Universal and Merlin Deals, Preps for IPO

Katy Perry Is First to Achieve 100 Million Followers on Twitter

Singer Katy Perry, who joined Twitter in early 2009 and just released a new album called “Witness,” has become the first to achieve the 100 million follower milestone on the social platform. “The second most-followed Twitter account belongs to Justin Bieber, who currently has 96.7 million followers,” according to Variety. “Next in line are Barack Obama (90.8 million), Taylor Swift (85.1 million) and Rihanna (74.1 million).” While these figures do not specify the number of spam accounts or bots, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said bogus bots represent less than 5 percent of accounts. Perry also broke her own YouTube record last month when single “Bon Appetit” reached 16.8 million views in just 24 hours. Continue reading Katy Perry Is First to Achieve 100 Million Followers on Twitter

EPIX Streaming Content Coming to the New Honda Odyssey

MGM-owned pay TV network EPIX is revealing details of its video streaming app being integrated into the 2018 Honda Odyssey, that company’s upgraded fifth-generation minivan. The move is significant because, even as in-car entertainment has become increasingly sophisticated (with Spotify being integrated into many vehicles, for example, and Google developing a version of Android just for cars), mainstream visual entertainment services have not shown up in vehicles until now. Continue reading EPIX Streaming Content Coming to the New Honda Odyssey

Apple Launches Its First Original Series: ‘Planet of the Apps’

At WWDC 2017 this week, Apple debuted its first original series produced for distribution via Apple Music, aimed at its 27 million subscribers. The 10-episode “Planet of the Apps” features Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, musician will.i.am and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. Structured similarly to “The Voice” and “Top Chef,” the show’s judges counsel inventors as they develop apps focusing on shopping, exercise and other services. Apple already produced a spinoff of “Carpool Karaoke” (to launch August 8) and acquired rights to a documentary about music tycoon Clive Davis. Continue reading Apple Launches Its First Original Series: ‘Planet of the Apps’

WWDC: Apple Unveils Product Updates and New HomePod

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference kicked off yesterday in San Jose, California. During his keynote, CEO Tim Cook noted that 5,300 developers from 75 countries were attending this year’s conference. Among the more noteworthy announcements, Apple shared information regarding its High Sierra macOS update; iOS 11 with improved Siri (including language translation), iMessage features, and Core ML to make machine learning easier; a new 10.5-inch iPad Pro (starting at $649, available next week); a beefed-up iMac Pro; a completely redesigned App Store; and an Echo-like smart speaker called HomePod (shipping in December for $349). Continue reading WWDC: Apple Unveils Product Updates and New HomePod

China’s Tencent Invests in Feature Films, U.S. Tech Startups

Tencent, parent company of China’s biggest social network WeChat and, by revenue, the biggest global online game business, is also an entertainment titan, with China’s biggest online businesses in music, literature, comics and animation. Tencent Pictures, which invested in last weekend’s smash hit “Wonder Woman,” and “Kong: Skull Island,” is key to Tencent’s effort to become a global player in feature filmmaking. The company is also investing heavily in Silicon Valley projects so as not to miss out on the next big thing. Continue reading China’s Tencent Invests in Feature Films, U.S. Tech Startups

Mary Meeker Delivers Her Annual State of the Internet Report

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker delivered her annual Internet trends report at last week’s Code Conference in California. This year’s presentation featured 355 slides and a new section on healthcare. Among the key takeaways: global Internet users reached 3.4 billion in 2016 (46 percent of the world’s population, more than double the number from 2009); digital advertising jumped 22 percent to $73 billion; worldwide smartphone growth is slowing; China is the new leading market for interactive gaming; Apple, Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook are collectively worth $2.4 trillion, while seven of the next 16 top tech firms are Chinese companies such as Alibaba and Tencent. Continue reading Mary Meeker Delivers Her Annual State of the Internet Report

Apple Siri-Run Speaker to Rival Amazon Echo, Google Home

Apple has begun manufacturing of a Siri-controlled smart speaker, say sources, which could debut as early as its June developer conference. The same sources say the new device, which will ship later in the year, will offer virtual surround sound and integration with Apple’s other products, distinguishing it from Amazon, with its Echo, and Alphabet, with its Google Home. Such a device would not only help Apple compete with those rivals, but would create a hub to automate lights and appliances with Apple’s HomeKit. Continue reading Apple Siri-Run Speaker to Rival Amazon Echo, Google Home

Intel Plans to Live-Stream Free MLB Games in Virtual Reality

Under a three-year deal with Major League Baseball, Intel plans to live-stream one free out-of-market game each Tuesday in virtual reality. Starting next week, the games, on-demand replays and post-game highlights will be made available via the Intel True VR app on Samsung Gear VR headsets. The “Intel True VR Game of the Week” will provide baseball fans with the option of viewing a produced VR broadcast or selecting angles from up to four cameras. The experience will also feature exclusive commentary and live player and team stats. Continue reading Intel Plans to Live-Stream Free MLB Games in Virtual Reality

Samsung Schedules Live VR Broadcasts of Sports and Music

Samsung is looking to expand virtual reality applications beyond gaming to the world of broader entertainment and, hopefully, mainstream adoption. A few months after unveiling its updated Gear VR headset, the company announced plans for live VR broadcasts from UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), the X Games and Live Nation. Samsung will debut VR Live Pass by broadcasting the UFC Featherweight Championship bout between José Aldo and Max Holloway on June 3 from Rio de Janeiro. VR Live Pass will then offer the X Games from Minneapolis July 13–16 and a major concert performance from Live Nation in August. Continue reading Samsung Schedules Live VR Broadcasts of Sports and Music

Screening Room Files Eight Anti-Piracy Patent Applications

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been working on Screening Room, a controversial project that would bring Hollywood blockbusters into homes on the day of their release, for $50 per movie. J.J. Abrams, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are shareholders, but industry skeptics are worried that Screening Room will provide pirates with easy pickings. But now Parker’s Screening Room Media has submitted eight patent applications addressing piracy, including a so-called P2P polluter. Continue reading Screening Room Files Eight Anti-Piracy Patent Applications

Pluto TV Now Offers Free On-Demand Movies and TV Shows

In addition to its more than 100 TV-like linear channels, Pluto TV is now offering thousands of free movies and TV shows on demand via its streaming platform. Pluto TV is expanding its “ad-supported service with VOD as it positions itself as a kind of Spotify for premium video,” reports Variety. “It’s worth noting that Ken Parks, Pluto’s executive chairman, was Spotify’s first U.S. employee and led the music streamer’s negotiations with record labels.” The startup, which launched in 2014 and currently touts more than six million monthly viewers, may introduce a hybrid free/subscription model in the future. Continue reading Pluto TV Now Offers Free On-Demand Movies and TV Shows

Google Demos Android-Powered Vehicle Infotainment System

Google is demonstrating an Android-powered touchscreen car console and infotainment system, offering Google Maps and Spotify as well as controlling seat positioning and temperature. For the first time, Google Assistant is integrated in the system, allowing users to ask for directions and make phone calls. The Android operating system will be demonstrated running on the Audi Q8 and Volvo V90 SUVs at this week’s Google I/O developers conference. Earlier this year, Google showed the software on a Chrysler vehicle. Continue reading Google Demos Android-Powered Vehicle Infotainment System

Facebook’s Rocket Icon Revealed as News Feed Experiment

Facebook just disclosed the meaning of the rocket ship icon next to the News Feed tab. According to the company’s News Feed head Adam Mosseri, the rocket ship is an experiment that connects a small number of users with people and pages they do not like or follow. At Variety’s Entertainment and Technology Summit, Mosseri said that the point is to expose people to stories they are interested in from sources they are not following. Facebook curates the information based on an algorithm that figures out a user’s interests. Continue reading Facebook’s Rocket Icon Revealed as News Feed Experiment

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