Facebook Rolls Out VR App, Vimeo Adds 360 Video Support

Facebook launched its first dedicated virtual reality app, Facebook 360, initially available only for the Samsung Gear VR mobile headset. The new app, for download via the Oculus Store, will serve as a central hub for the more than one million 360 videos and 25 million 360 photos already posted to the site. Meanwhile, Vimeo has joined competitors Facebook and YouTube in introducing support for 360-degree video content. The site now features a channel of curated 360 videos in addition to a series of tutorials designed to assist video creators with producing immersive content. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out VR App, Vimeo Adds 360 Video Support

Eyewear Makers Take Focused Approach with Smart Glasses

After Google Glass failed to gain traction, eyewear companies are designing a new generation of smart glasses. Unlike Google Glass, these new wearables are not designed to emulate the functionality of a smartphone. Instead, the new glasses are aimed at narrower audiences. Snap’s Spectacles let users record photos and videos. Oakley’s Radar Pace eyewear acts as a fitness tracker. Italian company Safilo makes glasses that track brain waves and helps users concentrate. The new approach may finally help smart eyewear find a mass market. Continue reading Eyewear Makers Take Focused Approach with Smart Glasses

Facebook Messenger Lets Users Post Snapchat-Like Stories

Messenger has joined Instagram and WhatsApp in emulating Snapchat’s popular Stories concept. Messenger Day is a new feature within the Facebook Messenger app that encourages users to share a daily photo story. Users can post photos and 15-second videos taken with the Messenger camera or images and GIFs saved on their smartphone. The Messenger Day story is visible to all Facebook friends, but it disappears after 24 hours. Facebook’s unique special filters for the images are designed to spark conversations and encourage meet-ups. Continue reading Facebook Messenger Lets Users Post Snapchat-Like Stories

Media Player Software Company Plex Debuts Online Service

Online service Plex Cloud, which has been in private beta since September, is now open to all paying Plex users. The new service “eliminates the need for an always-on PC or other network-attached piece of hardware in order to use the Plex media player software for watching your saved TV shows and movies, viewing photos or streaming from your music collection,” explains TechCrunch. Plex Cloud, which initially used Amazon Cloud Drive to host files, experienced a number of technical challenges that Plex says have been resolved. Plex supports Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox. Plex Cloud is now “an option for anyone who subscribes to Plex Pass, the company’s $5 per month, subscription-based service offering a variety of premium features.” Continue reading Media Player Software Company Plex Debuts Online Service

Facebook Introduces New Hardware for Use in Data Centers

Facebook unveiled new hardware for use in its data centers, designs for which will be made available to outside companies through its Open Compute Project. The announcements were made during this week’s OCP U.S. Summit in Santa Clara. One announcement centered on a new GPU server designed to better serve the company’s AI initiatives. Big Basin — successor to the company’s Big Sur high-performance compute platform — will help Facebook train machine learning models that are 30 percent larger than those running on current servers. Continue reading Facebook Introduces New Hardware for Use in Data Centers

Sony Smartphones Tout Premium Cameras and 4K Displays

Sony’s Xperia series smartphones — the flagship XZ Premium, the smaller XZ, and the large XA1 Ultra — now feature impressive imaging capabilities, including an option to shoot video at 960 frames per second to enhance the phones’ slow motion capture feature. The lens improvements adjust the lighting to better illuminate nighttime scenes and all images are displayed in ultra-high definition 4K. Beyond the camera, Sony struck a deal to stream Amazon content on Xperia phones without the need for clunky third-party apps. Continue reading Sony Smartphones Tout Premium Cameras and 4K Displays

Instagram Adds Photo Carousels to Encourage More Posting

Photo-sharing social media platform Instagram is trying to lower the standard for an Instagram-worthy picture by allowing users to post multiple photos at once. The new photo carousels allow users to share up to 10 photos and videos in a single post. Carousels look similar to single-photo posts in Instagram feeds, but users can swipe left and right to see the other pictures. The new feature could also benefit advertisers who want more space to share their products. Instagram has been trying to encourage more posting on their platform in the past year.  Continue reading Instagram Adds Photo Carousels to Encourage More Posting

Twitch Introduces its Twitter Competitor Designed for Gamers

Amazon’s game-themed streaming site Twitch is launching a Twitter competitor called Pulse — “a place where streamers can post and engage with all of their followers and the greater Twitch community right from the Twitch front page,” according to the platform’s blog. “It’s an always-on way to share clips, stream highlights, schedules, photos, and more so followers are more informed, engaged, and connected.” This will help broadcasters promote news streams and share content with those who missed earlier streams. “If Twitter were ever going to be disrupted,” writes Casey Newton for The Verge, “this is exactly what I’d imagine it would look like at the beginning.” Continue reading Twitch Introduces its Twitter Competitor Designed for Gamers

WhatsApp Introduces New Feature Emulating Snapchat Stories

Messaging app WhatsApp has launched a new image-based Status feature that allows users to post a disappearing Status update, which erases after 24 hours just like Snapchat Stories. Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, has a pattern of integrating Snapchat-like features into its apps, such as Instagram and Facebook Messenger. With the new Status feature, a major departure for the text-based application, WhatsApp hopes to capitalize on the success of the format that Snapchat originated, which emphasizes videos and ephemeral content. Continue reading WhatsApp Introduces New Feature Emulating Snapchat Stories

Expanded Pinterest Tagging Feature Enables In-App Shopping

Pinterest has introduced a new feature that makes it easier for users to buy items in the photos pinned on the social platform. “Shop the Look” lets Pinterest users click on items in the photos to buy them or, if the items aren’t for sale, see similar items that can be purchased through the network. Brands or Pinterest employees can tag the items in question. The company previously offered “buyable pins,” which allowed users to make purchases, but only on a single item per pin. With the new feature, a user can buy multiple products in the same pin. Continue reading Expanded Pinterest Tagging Feature Enables In-App Shopping

Snap to Spend $1B on Amazon Cloud Services Over 5 Years

Yesterday we reported that Venice-based Snap Inc. — owner of the Snapchat app — had signed a 5-year deal for Google Cloud services valued at $2 billion. A revised version of its S-1 IPO filing, made public this morning, indicates that Snap is also planning to spend up to $1 billion on cloud support from Amazon Web Services. The deal was originally signed in 2016 and amended this week. According to Snap, it provides “redundant infrastructure support of our business operations,” and may lead the company toward investing in its “own infrastructure to better serve our customers.” Continue reading Snap to Spend $1B on Amazon Cloud Services Over 5 Years

Snap Inc. Signs $2B Deal for Google Cloud Services Until 2022

Snap has inked a deal for Google Cloud services worth $400 million annually over the next five years, for a total of $2 billion. The deal is a continuation of a partnership that dates back to 2013. Analysts say the $400 million will give Google a “hefty annual bump.” Google doesn’t report numbers specific to its cloud business, but rolls it into all non-advertising revenue. In Q4 2016, Google’s non-advertising sector earned $3.4 billion in sales. The partnership could presage future alliances or mutually beneficial projects. Continue reading Snap Inc. Signs $2B Deal for Google Cloud Services Until 2022

Google, Facebook Take Steps to Combat Fake News in Europe

Google and Facebook are improving their efforts to put an end to fake news, especially in light of looming elections in Europe. First Draft News, which is financially supported by Google, has engaged Le Monde and Agence France-Presse, among 15 French news outlets in a new program, CrossCheck, to verify online content in the lead-up to France’s April presidential election. Google reports that a similar program is “under discussion” for Germany, which will hold federal parliamentary elections in September. Continue reading Google, Facebook Take Steps to Combat Fake News in Europe

Snap Inc. Files for IPO, Describes Itself as a Camera Company

In its IPO filing, Snap Inc. revealed that an average of 158 million people use the Snapchat app — sending more than 2.5 billion messages and images — every day. The company’s annual revenue grew from $58.7 million in 2015 to $404.5 million last year. Nearly all its revenue comes from advertising, especially on mobile. Expected to seek a market valuation of $20 billion, Snap may receive $4 billion, which, according to Standard & Poor’s Global Market Intelligence would make the company one of the biggest tech offerings ever in the U.S. Continue reading Snap Inc. Files for IPO, Describes Itself as a Camera Company

Artificial Intelligence Now Powers Photo Searches on Facebook

Facebook’s Lumos computer vision platform, which was originally created to help visually impaired members of the social network’s community, is now being used for a more sophisticated image search. It allows users to find images on Facebook via key words that describe content, rather than a search that is limited to tags and captions. “Facebook trained an ever-fashionable deep neural network on tens of millions of photos,” explains TechCrunch. “The model essentially matches search descriptors to features pulled from photos” and “ranks its output using information from both the images and the original search.” Facebook may apply the tech to videos in the future and potentially raise the bar on its targeted ad offerings. Continue reading Artificial Intelligence Now Powers Photo Searches on Facebook

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