Facebook Developing Chatbots for its Popular Messenger App

Facebook is working with more than 25 companies to help them use chatbots in Messenger to order goods and answer customer service questions, without human assistance. Among its new partners are Disney, eBay, JetBlue, and The Wall Street Journal, all of which are contributing to making the Messenger app a focal point for shopping, news and entertainment. Facebook owns two of the largest messaging apps, Messenger and WhatsApp; both are piloting programs to let businesses communicate with customers. Continue reading Facebook Developing Chatbots for its Popular Messenger App

Technicolor, Vubiquity Partner on HDR Video Upscaling System

Technicolor and Vubiquity inked a deal to debut an HDR video delivery service to distributors later this year, enabling a large-scale rollout to consumers at a “premium rate.” Vubiquity provides the technology for video distribution to linear channels and on-demand streaming. Technicolor offers its HDR Intelligent Tone Management system, which “upscales” video mastered for existing standards into HDR video, and its HDR distribution technology that lets a single video signal work for HDR TVs and older models. Continue reading Technicolor, Vubiquity Partner on HDR Video Upscaling System

Music Labels Cry Foul at YouTube and DMCA’s ‘Safe Harbor’

An International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) report points out that 20 million Americans, and 20 percent of the world’s population, still pirate music. Now, the IFPI will soon join the record labels’ trade group the RIAA in complaining that YouTube doesn’t pay a fair price for the music it gives away for free. At the same time, Universal Music Group, Sony and Warner Music Group are about to renegotiate their contracts with YouTube, and they say the Digital Millennium Copyright Act hurts their bargaining power. Continue reading Music Labels Cry Foul at YouTube and DMCA’s ‘Safe Harbor’

What Began as April Fool’s Day Joke is Now $49 VR Headset

Google Cardboard is no longer the only inexpensive VR headset around. From Oakland, CA-based hardware collective Next Thing Co. comes Pockulus, a $49 portable game console that consists of a palm-sized computer and 3D-printed facemask. The tiny computer that runs Pockulus is CHIP, which was the company’s successful seller at $9 per unit. The idea to repurpose CHIP as a VR controller was an April Fool’s Day joke that is now a real product. It requires some DIY, mainly 3D printing the bezel that fits the display on the face. Continue reading What Began as April Fool’s Day Joke is Now $49 VR Headset

Layer3 Aims to Improve Cable Model, Leases its IP Network

Although cable companies lost more than a million subscribers last year and Internet viewing is booming, Layer3 chief executive Jeff Binder thinks the future isn’t about cutting the cord to cable, but making it better, with improved pictures, design and customer service. That, he hopes, will win over customers struggling to find content online and on cable. Layer3 will debut in Chicago and a few unnamed major cities on the East and West Coasts, at $80 to $150 a month, depending on the number of TVs in a home. Continue reading Layer3 Aims to Improve Cable Model, Leases its IP Network

Microsoft Demos Live 3D Holoportation System via HoloLens

Microsoft researchers from the U.K. created a holoportation system, which projects a live 3D hologram of a person into another room, anywhere in the world, where it can interact in real-time with whoever is present. The researchers, who focus on 3D sensors and machine learning, spent two-and-a-half years with the HoloLens team in Washington state to develop holoportation. The system requires a lot of horsepower and high-quality 3D capture cameras, as well as a HoloLens (or other VR/AR headset) on the receiving end. Continue reading Microsoft Demos Live 3D Holoportation System via HoloLens

Facebook’s New Policy Allows Branded Content, Not All Ads

Facebook has a new policy regarding so-called organic, or branded, content, now permitted to appear on Facebook Instant Articles, video and Facebook Live. Advertisers and Web publishers must display an icon to make it clear that the content — articles, videos and images — comes from an advertiser. Up until now, they have only been able to post content in ads. This is good news for BuzzFeed, Forbes and others that frequently supply sponsored content on Facebook, which also stands to reap rewards from the new policy. Continue reading Facebook’s New Policy Allows Branded Content, Not All Ads

Pre-Release Piracy Grows Across Facebook and Publications

Movie studios that use Facebook to promote upcoming films — such as “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which has 4.4 million likes on its Facebook movie page — have discovered a potent downside to the extra publicity. Pirates post links to copyright-infringing streams; spam includes chain letters, pornography, phishing, malware and hate speech. Illegal sites are harvesting personal data and running money scams and now targeting publications with embedded Facebook comments, including BuzzFeed, ESPN and Huffington Post. Continue reading Pre-Release Piracy Grows Across Facebook and Publications

Bots Could Replace Apps for Microsoft, Facebook and Others

Bots are text or language-based user interfaces to a service rather than ones that are graphical, and they’re getting a boost from several big technology companies, especially those that missed out on smartphones and their apps. Microsoft has described a vision of bots that can do everything from book a hotel room to order pizza, and has debuted tools to make it easier for a developer or small business owner to build one. Now, Facebook has plans to roll out a bot store that connects with its Messenger service. Continue reading Bots Could Replace Apps for Microsoft, Facebook and Others

Amazon Payments is Gaining Traction with Smaller Retailers

Since Amazon relaunched its online Payments business in 2013, more than 23 million customers have used their Amazon accounts to pay for purchases on other businesses’ websites. That’s a trade-off that Amazon is more than willing to make. Among those companies now accepting Amazon Payments are Southwest Airlines, Comcast’s GolfNow online tee-time booking site and online store Red Dress Boutique, which reports that within a week of adding Amazon Payments, 20 percent of its orders used it, surpassing PayPal. Continue reading Amazon Payments is Gaining Traction with Smaller Retailers

ILM and Disney Unveil Compelling VR Experiences for Movies

Industrial Light & Magic’s Experience Lab (ILMxLAB), the Lucasfilm R&D division that prototypes interactive, immersive cinema for VR, augmented reality and theme park attractions, debuted a VR experience of “Jurassic World” at Sundance. Now, it’s rolling out “Trials on Tatooine,” a VR demo using the same CG models created for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Lucasfilm’s parent company Disney also just released a new 360-degree video, “Cold Lairs,” to tease its upcoming “Jungle Book” remake. Continue reading ILM and Disney Unveil Compelling VR Experiences for Movies

Facebook Live Partners with Broadcast, Aims to Share Profits

Since Facebook rolled out Live to everyone in December, it’s quickly built momentum, distinguishing itself from YouTube and other video platforms, and building a massive audience. Although Facebook had to overcome a range of technical challenges to enable hundreds of thousands of phones to stream at the same time, it used its expertise and engineering capacity to do so. Now, Facebook is encouraging celebrities and broadcasters to create Live content, and is also working on a business model to share eventual revenues. Continue reading Facebook Live Partners with Broadcast, Aims to Share Profits

New eSports League to Provide Stake to Players and Teams

Esports Championship Series, a professional league just formed by Twitch and competitive-gaming platform startup FaceIt, is offering teams an ownership stake, the first such video-game league to do so, say its founders. “ECS – Counter-Strike,” offers a prize pool of $3.5 million for players competing in Valve’s “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” first-person shooter game. The new league enters a crowded field that currently includes Activision Blizzard’s Major League Gaming and Electronic Sports League (ESL). Continue reading New eSports League to Provide Stake to Players and Teams

Twitter, Yahoo Score Major Live Sports Deals with Ad Slots

Two digital platforms scored big live sports deals this week. Twitter beat out Verizon, Facebook and Amazon to win the rights to stream 10 of the National Football League’s Thursday night games. In exchange for $10 million for the global rights, Twitter will get 15 advertising slots to sell commercials for each game. Yahoo, which offered free Major League Baseball games last year, will stream 180 games this year for free online, one per day for the rest of the league’s season, except for local TV blackout restrictions. Continue reading Twitter, Yahoo Score Major Live Sports Deals with Ad Slots

Nvidia’s Tesla P100 Chip Enables Speedy Machine Learning

Nvidia has entered the field of artificial intelligence with the debut of its Tesla P100 chip, which contains 15 billion transistors — about twice as many as its previous high-end graphics processor and, says Nvidia chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang, the largest chip ever made. Nvidia is creating the DGX-1 computer with eight Tesla P100 chips and AI software; computers from third parties integrating the chip are expected to be on the market by next year. Huang hints its first use is likely to be for cloud computing services. Continue reading Nvidia’s Tesla P100 Chip Enables Speedy Machine Learning