VR Exploding at Sundance Fest, to Reach $70B Value by 2020

At the Sundance Film Festival in January, the New Frontier program will host 30 virtual reality experiences, more than double the number from last year. Those 30 were chosen from a pool of 200 to 300 submissions. Most projects are artistic or experimental but two came out of Hollywood, highlighting continued interest there. Now, pointing to Facebook and Google’s big investments and recent VR experiments by the National Basketball Association and The New York Times, one market researcher projects virtual reality’s value at $70 billion by 2020. Continue reading VR Exploding at Sundance Fest, to Reach $70B Value by 2020

Apple’s Swift Now Open Source to Aid Enterprise Developers

Apple just made its programming language Swift open source, housing it on the new website swift.org to offer a range of tools to help developers turn raw code into applications. Apple designed Swift as an easier programming language for developing software for Apple devices, but the apps can now be formatted to run on other operating systems. The move is part of Apple’s strategy, in light of sagging consumer sales, to target enterprise users; among the companies now using Swift are IBM, Twitter, Yahoo and LinkedIn. Continue reading Apple’s Swift Now Open Source to Aid Enterprise Developers

Uber Approaches $62.5 Billion Valuation, Rivals Form Alliance

Uber Technologies, which increased its U.S. gross revenue about 200 percent this year, plans to raise as much as $2.1 billion in its latest financing round that would value the company at $62.5 billion. The funding would enable Uber to pursue its goals of branching into new services such as food and package delivery, explore new technology such as autonomous cars, and grow globally, particularly in China. Meanwhile, Lyft and other international Uber rivals have formed an alliance to inter-connect their services. Continue reading Uber Approaches $62.5 Billion Valuation, Rivals Form Alliance

YouTube Pursues TV/Movie Streaming Rights to Rival Netflix

YouTube, which recently launched YouTube Red, a $9.99/month subscription service, now aims to obtain streaming rights to TV series and movies. According to unnamed sources, YouTube executives are leveraging the relationships of parent company Alphabet’s Google Play to set up meetings with Hollywood studios and production companies. The company has already committed to creating original content, starring its own celebrities such as PewDiePie. By obtaining streaming rights, YouTube will turn up the heat on rivals Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Continue reading YouTube Pursues TV/Movie Streaming Rights to Rival Netflix

ILMxLAB Debuts ‘Star Wars’ VR Series Ahead of Film Premiere

If you can’t wait until December 18 to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” you’ve got a brand-new 360-degree immersive video series to enjoy. Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB studio, partnered with Google and Verizon, just created a virtual reality experience, “Jakku Spy,” which is available on the official “Star Wars” Android and iOS apps and viewed via Google Cardboard. The VR experience puts the user in the desert world of Jakku, as a Resistance secret agent. New “vignettes” will be available every few days until the film’s debut. Continue reading ILMxLAB Debuts ‘Star Wars’ VR Series Ahead of Film Premiere

Mobile-Only U.S. Homes Grow, Mobile Internet Leads Globally

Two recent reports document the trend of U.S. households to use only cell phones and, globally, for mobile networks to be the dominant means of accessing the Internet. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s report shows 47 percent of U.S. homes now only use mobile phones. The annual survey of the International Telecommunications Union reveals that there are 7.1 billion mobile subscriptions globally, and more than 95 percent of the earth’s inhabitants are within reach of a mobile network signal. Continue reading Mobile-Only U.S. Homes Grow, Mobile Internet Leads Globally

Streaming Music Services Thrive But Free On-Demand a Threat

Depending on where you live, the top music-streaming site might be Spotify, Pandora or even Saavn. A new music-focused report from App Annie crowns Spotify as “the world’s top streaming music service” in terms of active users, downloads and revenue. But, in the U.S., the No. 1 spot goes to Pandora Radio, a hit among active users on iPhone and Android. And in other markets, local providers are topping the charts, including Saavn and Gaana in India, Deezer in France and South Korea’s MelOn, among others. Continue reading Streaming Music Services Thrive But Free On-Demand a Threat

New Features, Deals Could Turn Things Around for Apple Pay

Apple Pay is experiencing a rocky road to adoption. On Black Friday, it was used for about half the number of purchases as last year. On the plus side, Apple has added to the list of vendors allowing consumers to use Apple Pay, but the company is also entering the world of friend-to-friend payments, which are expensive to operate and hard to monetize. What could tip the balance is the deal Apple inked with China UnionPay to be used at Chinese cash registers. But only time will tell. Continue reading New Features, Deals Could Turn Things Around for Apple Pay

Google Cultural Institute Debuts 360-Degree Videos of the Arts

The Google Cultural Institute, a free website that displays collections of more than 800 art museums and historical archives, just went online with a collection of new 360-degree videos exploring the performing arts, with partners that include the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Carnegie Hall, among others. The performing arts groups see it as a good way to introduce their offerings to a broader audience that might never think of actually visiting one of these venues for an event. Continue reading Google Cultural Institute Debuts 360-Degree Videos of the Arts

Prime Instant Video Heads to New Networks, JetBlue, Apple TV

Although Amazon won’t comment, those in the know say that the company will soon open up Prime Instant Video to other on-demand networks. With this move, Prime customers will be able to add other online subscriptions to their accounts, and Amazon will be able to aggregate its own network bundles. Amazon has also signed a deal with JetBlue to feature its streaming video and music services on the airline’s satellite Internet system, and Apple TV users will soon have access to a Prime Instant Video iOS app. Continue reading Prime Instant Video Heads to New Networks, JetBlue, Apple TV

LucidCam Developing $299 VR Camera, Partners with Sephora

LucidCam successfully raised $100,000 on Indiegogo from 264 backers, and now is well on its way to creating the camera that sounds too good to be true: a $299 device that’s small enough to fit in a pocket and yet can shoot immersive virtual reality content. The company, headed by chief executive Han Jin, says the LucidCam team is now busy creating partnerships with content creators and brands — its first is with make-up brand Sephora — and reveals that the company will release its first 360-degree 3D video in December. Continue reading LucidCam Developing $299 VR Camera, Partners with Sephora

Facebook’s Beta Shopping Feed Reveals Weakness, Potential

Since it debuted in October, Facebook’s Shopping feed has been in beta among a handful of U.S. users. So far, the new feature can help a user track down something found in his or her News Feed. Although there are few products and no reviews, the potential lies in Facebook’s key strength — its knowledge about its users. That would allow the company to curate more accurately than any other shopping service out there. A Facebook survey reports that 50 percent of its users come to the site looking for products. Continue reading Facebook’s Beta Shopping Feed Reveals Weakness, Potential

Nokia’s Revival with Alcatel-Lucent Takeover, OZO VR Camera

On November 30, Nokia introduced its OZO virtual reality camera in Los Angeles. The camera, aimed at professional content creators, features eight 2K-by-2K-resolution cameras, with lenses capable of a 195-degree field of view and spaced at the same distance as between human eyes, as well as eight microphones for 3D audio capture. Weighing 10 pounds and expected to cost $50,000, the OZO is capable of full 360-degree stereoscopic video in real time and its output is compatible with existing VR headsets

Continue reading Nokia’s Revival with Alcatel-Lucent Takeover, OZO VR Camera

Adele’s Latest Album Breaks Sales Records Without Streaming

With her latest album, “25,” Adele has erased any doubt about her preeminent position in the music world. The new album, which showcases her signature torch songs and ballads, had a record-breaking first week of sales — $3.38 million in the U.S. — despite the fact that Adele withholds her music from streaming sites and largely eschews a social media presence (although she did appear on “Saturday Night Live” and promotions for Target). Adele’s previous album, “21,” sold 30 million copies worldwide. Continue reading Adele’s Latest Album Breaks Sales Records Without Streaming

Walmart Reinvents Its Digital Operations to Overcome Amazon

Walmart Stores, with chief technology officer Jeremy King leading the charge, is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul of its digital operations. The goal is to create a digital presence as powerful as its brick-and-mortar one and, in the process, break Amazon’s record of successfully squelching most traditional retailers online. To do so, Walmart has invested serious resources into its effort: 15 acquisitions, 3,600 new hires and billions of dollars in the project code-named Pangaea, named after the pre-historic supercontinent. Continue reading Walmart Reinvents Its Digital Operations to Overcome Amazon

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