Amazon Enables Tailored Recommendations via AI Service

Amazon is launching a new service called Amazon Personalize in select regions of the U.S., Asia and Europe, with additional locations to be added. The service, first revealed at last year’s re:Invent conference, aims to personalize the customer experience by helping developers build apps, websites, email marketing and content management systems that provide product recommendations and personalized search results. “We are excited to share with AWS customers the expertise we’ve developed during two decades of using machine learning to deliver great experiences on Amazon.com,” said Swami Sivasubramanian, VP of machine learning. Continue reading Amazon Enables Tailored Recommendations via AI Service

Netflix Plans to Experiment With Lower Price in Asian Markets

Netflix revealed its plan to test a lower-priced tier of its subscription streaming service in certain areas as part of a strategy to boost sales, especially in emerging markets such as Asia. While the company has not committed to specific regions or a time frame, CEO Reed Hastings explained that Netflix is looking to experiment. The move would represent a shift for the company, which has consistently maintained or raised its prices while spending more on new content and local productions to attract new customers. Netflix is not expected to reduce the cost of its lowest tier, but rather introduce an alternate fourth tier with different features. Continue reading Netflix Plans to Experiment With Lower Price in Asian Markets

Japanese Startup Breaks News Stories With AI, Social Media

JX Press Corp., a news technology startup founded in 2008 by Katsuhiro Yoneshige, broke the news in Japan of Kim Jong-nam’s death. What’s remarkable is that the company doesn’t employ any journalists or have any international bureaus. Instead, it got the scoop — 30 minutes before big media outlets including TV stations — with a combination of artificial intelligence and social media. Yoneshige and his team used machine learning to build a tool that finds breaking news in social media posts and writes it up as news reports. Continue reading Japanese Startup Breaks News Stories With AI, Social Media

Xerox Sides With Investors, Cancels Planned Fujifilm Merger

Xerox is scrapping the proposed $6.1 billion takeover by Fujifilm Holdings Corp. in a settlement with activist investors Carl Icahn and Darwin Deason that also removes Xerox CEO Jeff Jacobson from his position, along with five company directors. According to Xerox, Icahn Enterprises chief Keith Cozza will become chairman, while John Visentin — a former senior exec at Hewlett-Packard and IBM — will take over as CEO. Fujifilm disputes Xerox’s right to terminate the planned merger. Continue reading Xerox Sides With Investors, Cancels Planned Fujifilm Merger

SoftBank Suspends Negotiations to Merge Sprint and T-Mobile

After nine months of merger talks, SoftBank has reportedly suspended its plans to combine Sprint with T-Mobile US. This marks the second time in three years that Sprint has backed out of negotiations. According to those familiar with the matter, directors of SoftBank Group Corp. (Sprint’s parent company) met in Tokyo and opted to suspend the merger plans. Insiders indicate that the news came as a surprise to T-Mobile officials. While discussions could be revisited in the future, the same insiders note that the two sides could not agree on the valuation of Sprint’s shares, and SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son had concerns about relinquishing too much control. Continue reading SoftBank Suspends Negotiations to Merge Sprint and T-Mobile

Robotics: SoftBank to Buy Boston Dynamics From Alphabet

To boost its efforts in robotics, SoftBank Group is purchasing U.S.-based Boston Dynamics from Alphabet and, as part of the deal, is also buying Schaft, a Japanese bipedal robotics company. Although terms of the deal were not revealed, SoftBank shares rose as much as 7.7 percent in Tokyo trading. According to sources, Google, which had acquired Boston Dynamics in late 2013, decided to sell it when it concluded that the company wouldn’t be likely to produce a shipping product in the next few years. Continue reading Robotics: SoftBank to Buy Boston Dynamics From Alphabet

NBC to Air – and Stream – 2018 Olympics Live Coast-to-Coast

Ratings for the Olympics, once a bulwark of mass audience viewing, have been slipping. Now, NBC has a plan to reverse the slump, by airing live coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea from coast-to-coast in the U.S. The move acknowledges that viewers have immediate access to information via online platforms. That’s responsible for at least some of the 18 percent dip in viewership from the 2012 Games in London to the Summer Games in Rio last summer, which averaged 25.4 million viewers over 17 nights. Continue reading NBC to Air – and Stream – 2018 Olympics Live Coast-to-Coast

Google Launches Jump Camera Rig and 3D Video Assembler

In fall 2014, Google began developing a project it just unveiled: the Jump 3D video capture and production platform for virtual reality. Just as the newly released Daydream View makes the VR headset affordable, with Jump, the company hopes to make VR production both less expensive and, with 3D, more immersive. Although 3D has lost popularity, its use for virtual reality creates more of a “you are there” experience by emulating the way human vision works. Most 360-degree videos are currently still shot in 2D. Continue reading Google Launches Jump Camera Rig and 3D Video Assembler

Japan Emerges as Hub for Virtual Reality Culture, Innovations

Japan is on track to become a virtual reality powerhouse, largely due to the imminent release of Sony PlayStation VR. Mixed-reality theme parks, VRcades, augmented reality, and VR retail applications are all gaining traction. Gumi, GREE and Colopl, which has made about 30 VR investments, are a few of the major domestic VR investors. One VR startup, FOVE, a pioneer in eye tracking, has already raised $11 million; its chief executive Yuka has been featured in Forbes and SoftBank’s Taizo Son, chairman/founder of mobile gaming company GungHo, is one of its investors.

Continue reading Japan Emerges as Hub for Virtual Reality Culture, Innovations

Equinix Offers AWS Direct Connect Cloud Service via LA Hub

With Amazon Web Services Direct Connect now available in Equinix’s Los Angeles data centers, the company has bumped up its number of metros offering the AWS cloud service to 12 (five of which are located in North America). Direct Connect enables companies to safely integrate their infrastructure with public cloud services to benefit performance, network consistency and overall costs. The Equinix LA campus features four IBX data centers connected via Metro Connect, providing a scalable and secure system for digital content and entertainment companies. Continue reading Equinix Offers AWS Direct Connect Cloud Service via LA Hub

Latest Cryptocurrency Cybertheft Could Shake Faith in Bitcoin

Hong Kong exchange Bitfinex was hacked and funds were stolen, marking a setback for digital currency Bitcoin. Bitfinex director of community and product development Zane Tackett posted on Reddit that 119,756 Bitcoins had been stolen. “Before the hacking was made public, that number of Bitcoins would have been worth about $72 million,” explains The New York Times. “Now that the currency has slumped, the figure is closer to $65 million.” During its investigation, Bitfinex has stopped all trading, deposits and withdrawals. The security breach is the latest in a series of events that could impact the viability of virtual currency. Continue reading Latest Cryptocurrency Cybertheft Could Shake Faith in Bitcoin

Google, Asian Telecoms Build High-Speed Trans-Pacific Cable

Faster, the 5,600-mile undersea fiber-optic cable that was funded by Google and Asian telecoms, and installed by NEC, is now online. The new cable runs from Oregon to two points in Japan. According to Wired, “It’s the fastest, highest capacity trans-Pacific undersea cable ever built. It can theoretically deliver as much as 60 terabits per second of bandwidth — more than half the total bandwidth available between the U.S West Coast and Asia at the end of 2015.” Google plans to speed communications between its own data centers and offer cloud services from Tokyo. Facebook and Microsoft recently announced plans to construct a 160 terabit trans-Atlantic undersea cable from Virginia to Spain. Continue reading Google, Asian Telecoms Build High-Speed Trans-Pacific Cable

YouTube Supports Live Streaming 360 Video and Spatial Audio

YouTube has begun supporting 360-degree live streaming video and spatial audio. Google has supported 360-degree video since last year and spatial audio in the Cardboard since January via the company’s VR platform. This announcement broadens that support to the main YouTube platform. For YouTube creators, all that’s required is a camera that captures 360 video. From the end-user perspective, there’s no extra technology or headsets required to watch 360-degree live streams. The videos will play on any device, including desktop, tablet, iOS and Android. Continue reading YouTube Supports Live Streaming 360 Video and Spatial Audio

SoftBank to Launch App Store for its Pepper Robots This Month

SoftBank’s Pepper humanoid robots are already interacting with customers at shops and banks in Japan. Later this month, the robots will be introduced to more advanced functions after SoftBank opens a planned app store offering software that will help track customer’s behavior and improve communication with customers. The Pepper robots, which are designed to feature human-like body language and work in retail, have reportedly been selling out regularly since last year’s launch. Continue reading SoftBank to Launch App Store for its Pepper Robots This Month

Panasonic Revives 8K Research, New Cameras Slated for 2018

Panasonic has renewed its efforts to develop 8K image sensors for video. The company had stopped R&D in this area in 2011, in response to financial considerations, but as its earnings increased, it revived its work in this sector, now pledging to invest $80.8 million (10 billion yen) into R&D. Production of the sensors is likely to be outsourced, and production models are expected on the market by 2018. The first targeted use for the 8K sensors will be consumer and broadcast cameras. Continue reading Panasonic Revives 8K Research, New Cameras Slated for 2018

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