Amazon On Track to Be a Bigger Player in Online Advertising

Amazon is poised to be an advertising behemoth, even as it dominates in online retail, handling almost half of all online sales in the U.S. The company currently holds the No. 3 spot in online advertising, behind Google and Facebook, with a mere 4 percent of the market. But Amazon is on a hiring binge for its advertising division, and, according to eMarketer, is on track to double its ad revenue this year to $5.83 billion. One source of tension is the fact that Amazon’s own products compete with retailers on its site. Continue reading Amazon On Track to Be a Bigger Player in Online Advertising

Microsoft Chatbot Xiaoice Excels at AI-to-Human Engagement

Unlike Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft’s own Cortana, the latter’s social chatbot Xiaoice (pronounced “Shao-ice”) isn’t constructed simply to answer questions or resolve problems but can also tell jokes, write poetry, and exhibit “empathic computing” abilities. In China, Xiaoice resided on Huawei smartphones and was a weather reader on Dragon TV, a Shanghai TV station. Debuted in China in May 2014, Xiaoice has had more than 30 billion mainly text conversations with 660 million people around the world. Continue reading Microsoft Chatbot Xiaoice Excels at AI-to-Human Engagement

MPAA Proposes Updates to Intellectual Property Enforcement

In the process of updating the Joint Strategic Plan for Intellectual Property Enforcement to help combat online piracy, the government’s IP czar Vishal Amin has sent out a call for input. The Motion Picture Association of America has suggestions, chief among them that Internet service providers be forced to take more responsibility for referral traffic from piracy sites. Currently, under the law, ISPs are regarded as neutral networks, but the MPAA wants them to play a role in filtering copyright-infringing content. Continue reading MPAA Proposes Updates to Intellectual Property Enforcement

Sports Streamer DAZN to Introduce Less Annoying Ad Model

DAZN, thus far an ad-free sports-streaming service, plans to introduce advertising, but in a format that will prevent the annoyance of frequently repeating ads. This format — called “ad frequency” — can replay the same ad six times within a three-hour game, said DAZN Group executive chairman John Skipper, a former ESPN president. His new model, which will debut in the next six to eight months, will focus on sponsored content and product placement. DAZN targets sports deals to be the “exclusive over-the-top provider.” Continue reading Sports Streamer DAZN to Introduce Less Annoying Ad Model

New Alexa Speaking Style Created by Neural Text-to-Speech

Amazon is training Alexa to speak like a newscaster, a feature that will roll out in a few weeks. The new speaking style is based on Amazon’s neural text-to-speech (NTTS) developments. The new voice style doesn’t sound human, but does stress words as a TV or radio announcer would. Before creating this voice, Amazon did a survey that showed that users prefer this newscaster style when listening to articles. The new voice is also an example of “the next generation of speech synthesis,” based on machine learning. Continue reading New Alexa Speaking Style Created by Neural Text-to-Speech

YouTube Doubles Down Against Article 13, Industry Responds

YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen recently published an op-ed in the U.K.’s Music Business Worldwide redoubling YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki’s impassioned blog posts against the EU Copyright Directive’s Article 13. He insisted that, under Article 13, “artists, labels and the entire music industry … will make less money from YouTube, not more” and that “emerging artists will find it harder to be discovered and heard on the global stage.” The music industry has rebutted his arguments. Continue reading YouTube Doubles Down Against Article 13, Industry Responds

Apple Cuts iPhone Orders, Impacting Suppliers and Workers

Due to iPhone sales that have been slower than expected, Apple has cut production orders for the three models it debuted in September, frustrating suppliers and the workers who assemble the phones. Of particular note is its lower-priced model, iPhone XR, which saw its 70 million planned production units plummet by up to one-third. Bedeviled by competition from China and an overall lagging smartphone market, last week Apple again cut its production numbers for the iPhone XR. Apple’s shares fell 4 percent to $185.86. Continue reading Apple Cuts iPhone Orders, Impacting Suppliers and Workers

Snap Plans to Debut Next-Gen Spectacles With Two Cameras

By the end of 2018, Snap plans to introduce its next version Spectacles glasses with two cameras, codenamed Newport and priced at $350. According to sources, Newport will feature an “all new design” with “premium” aluminum-based frame and cameras that can overlay AR lenses over video. The latter feature is part of company founder Evan Spiegel’s vision of everyday AR glasses. Newport’s price is more than double the cost of the first Snap Spectacles, which debuted in 2016. Snap plans to make about 24,000 pairs. Continue reading Snap Plans to Debut Next-Gen Spectacles With Two Cameras

Samsung Readies Onyx Cinema LED Motion Picture Screens

Last year, Samsung debuted a cinema LED screen, Onyx Cinema LED, to be offered in three sizes to accommodate different movie theaters. The 19-foot model will run at DCI 2K (2048 x 1080), and the 34-foot and 50-foot versions will run at DCI 4K (4096 x 2160). The 2K version has a peak brightness of 300 nits, and the other two support 500 nits, enabling 3D projection. The screens will support other resolutions with letterboxing as well as wide or flat DCI and several versions of HDR, including Samsung’s HDR10+. Continue reading Samsung Readies Onyx Cinema LED Motion Picture Screens

Apple Finds Success With a New Focus on Enterprise Market

Over the last five years, Apple has successfully turned its attention to the enterprise market. According to Apple vice president of product marketing for markets, apps and services Susan Prescott, Apple now has “hundreds of large deployments of Mac and iPad products at businesses, with the number of products at businesses sometimes running in the hundreds of thousands.” This summer, the company also debuted Apple Business Manager, targeting IT administrators. Prescott said 40,000 businesses are now using the platform. Continue reading Apple Finds Success With a New Focus on Enterprise Market

Pandora and Spotify Bring Streaming Experience to Podcasts

Podcasting is growing popular among a younger demographic, and now Pandora and Spotify are leveraging their music streaming experience in an effort to engage those listeners. The main challenge with podcasting is discoverability. Pandora Media chief executive Roger Lynch characterizes podcast discovery as “the Stone Age” compared to music discovery. He believes that the company can bring people in to listen to a podcast and keep them on the platform with music. Neither company revealed details of its podcast businesses. Continue reading Pandora and Spotify Bring Streaming Experience to Podcasts

With Free Hollywood Films, YouTube Evolves into TV Network

Last month, YouTube began showing free, ad-supported Hollywood movies including “The Terminator” and “Legally Blonde,” an offering it began to promote in the site’s movie section. Although users have been able to purchase prime-time TV shows and feature films there, this is the first time YouTube has offered a free, ad-supported option. YouTube director of product management Rohit Dhawan would not disclose the terms of the agreement with studios, but noted the movies represent an opportunity for users and advertisers. Continue reading With Free Hollywood Films, YouTube Evolves into TV Network

Sports Leagues Pioneer Virtual Reality-Powered Innovations

In February, Verizon hosted a virtual reality Super Bowl LII experience over a 5G network at a virtual luxury suite at Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium. That NFL/Oculus Rift collaboration put viewers on the field in the midst of 3D holographic models, and is only one of numerous examples of the marriage of professional sports and virtual reality. The BBC app, for example, offered a virtual reality World Cup experience, and NBC let viewers pick their camera angles and access data for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Continue reading Sports Leagues Pioneer Virtual Reality-Powered Innovations

Hive Builds Tailored AI Models via 700,000-Person Workforce

Hive, a startup founded by Kevin Guo and Dmitriy Karpman, trains domain-specific artificial intelligence models via its 100 employees and 700,000 workers who classify images and transcribe audio. The company uses the Hive Work smartphone app and website to recruit the people who label the data, and recently introduced three products: Hive Data, Hive Predict, and Hive Enterprise. Shortly after the product launch, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and other venture capital firms invested $30 million in the startup. Continue reading Hive Builds Tailored AI Models via 700,000-Person Workforce

Apple Signs a Deal With A24 to Produce Indie Feature Films

Apple inked a multi-year partnership with studio A24 to make independent features, the first time that it expanded its ambitions to make content beyond TV programming. Last year, Apple announced it had committed $1 billion to create scripted shows, moving into a field dominated by Amazon and Netflix. Prior to the deal, Apple had only signed deals for two films, the documentary “The Elephant Queen” and family-friendly animated film “Wolfwalkers.” A24 is known for its Oscar-winning feature “Moonlight.” Continue reading Apple Signs a Deal With A24 to Produce Indie Feature Films

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