Facial Recognition Paused While Congress Considers Reform

In the wake of protests over police brutality, senators Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kamala Harris (D-California) and representatives Karen Bass (D-California) and Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) introduced a police reform bill in the House of Representatives that includes limits on the use of facial recognition software. But not everyone is pleased. ACLU senior legislative counsel Neema Guliani, for example, pointed to the fact that facial recognition algorithms are typically not as accurate on darker skin shades. Continue reading Facial Recognition Paused While Congress Considers Reform

Chinese Cities Invest in National Campaign for Advanced Tech

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will invest at least $1.4 trillion in the next five years in advanced technologies; more than a dozen Chinese municipalities this year pledged 6.61 trillion yuan ($935 billion) to achieve this goal, for projects on artificial intelligence, data centers and mobile communications. The country’s BeiDou navigation network will be complete this month when the final satellite goes into orbit. Premier Li Keqiang said the campaign is the Communist Party’s top priority. Continue reading Chinese Cities Invest in National Campaign for Advanced Tech

Use of Messaging App Signal Skyrockets During Civil Unrest

In May, according to App Annie, the encrypted messaging app Signal was downloaded one million times worldwide, a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent protests over George Floyd’s death and police brutality. Sensor Tower reports that Signal currently has 32.4 million installs. Privacy advocates have always been attracted to Signal’s ability to limit the information it can give to authorities. Signal’s end-to-end encryption is considered more secure than what is offered by Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage. Continue reading Use of Messaging App Signal Skyrockets During Civil Unrest

OpenAI Tests Commercial Version of Its AI Language System

Artificial intelligence research institute OpenAI, after collecting trillions of words, debuted its first commercial product, the API. Its goal is to create the “most flexible general-purpose AI language system” in existence. Currently, the API’s skills include translating between languages, writing news stories, and answering everyday questions. The API is engaged in limited testing and, said chief executive Sam Altman, will be released broadly for use in a range of tasks, such as customer support, education and games. Continue reading OpenAI Tests Commercial Version of Its AI Language System

Snap Expands AR Toolset, Announces Deals for New Content

Snap inked multi-year deals for custom short-form content with Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. It released plans for original content including unscripted series, docuseries, and scripted dramas and comedies. In partnership with The Washington Post, Bloomberg and ESPN, Snap will produce “Happening Now,” a breaking news feature. It also revealed that 170+ million people use its augmented-reality tools daily, moving the technology into the mainstream. Continue reading Snap Expands AR Toolset, Announces Deals for New Content

Sony Reveals Details on PlayStation 5 Consoles, New Games

Sony debuted two versions of its PlayStation 5 game console as well as new games, in advance of the holiday season. The PS5 Digital Edition, the second version, omits the Blu-ray Disc drive, and its download-only feature could eventually impact Amazon, GameStop, Walmart and other retailers. The Digital Edition also sports a sleeker design and, potentially, a lower price. New games include the latest “Spider-Man” and “Gran Turismo” titles and an enhanced version of Take-Two Interactive Software’s “Grand Theft Auto V.” Continue reading Sony Reveals Details on PlayStation 5 Consoles, New Games

Facing Increased Scrutiny, Big Tech Seeks Political Support

While federal regulators are scrutinizing Amazon, Facebook and Google, the Big Tech companies are fighting to protect themselves by helping to fund a wide range of political groups that act as allies. One such group is the Connected Commerce Council (3C), a Washington-based nonprofit that describes itself as an advocate of small businesses — but also counts Amazon, Facebook and Google as “partners.” Meanwhile, the European Commission is reportedly going to levy formal antitrust charges against Amazon in the next two weeks. Continue reading Facing Increased Scrutiny, Big Tech Seeks Political Support

TikTok Becomes a Revenue Giant as App Spawns Subgenres

According to reports, young people are now equally splitting their time between popular video-sharing platforms YouTube and TikTok. Since starting to watch TikTok, consumers ages 4-15 have increased their social app use by 100 percent in 2019 and 200 percent this year. Parent company ByteDance is making so much money on TikTok’s advertising and in-app purchases that it may be valued between $150 billion and $180 billion in an IPO. ByteDance just hired former Disney exec Kevin Mayer as TikTok’s new CEO, giving the company an American face. Continue reading TikTok Becomes a Revenue Giant as App Spawns Subgenres

Disney Reveals Dates for Reopening California, Florida Parks

In California, pending state and local government approvals, the Downtown Disney District will reopen on July 9, with Disneyland and Disney California Adventure following on July 17. Its Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Paradise Pier Hotel plan to reopen on July 23. In Florida, Walt Disney World got the green light for a July 11 reopening. Disney reaps one-third of its revenue from its parks and resorts. The company’s Shanghai theme park, which was the first to close, reopened last month. Universal Orlando reopened June 11, but the company hasn’t set a date to reopen Universal Studios Hollywood. Continue reading Disney Reveals Dates for Reopening California, Florida Parks

AMC Prepares to Open Most of its Theaters Worldwide by July

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest movie-theater chain, particularly hard. After registering a $2.2 billion net loss for Q1, it made “virtually no revenue” in the first two weeks of the quarter ending March 30. Now, AMC chief executive Adam Aron says he hopes to get AMC Theatres in the U.S. and U.K. open in July, although he did not specify a date. AMC has 1,000 theaters with 11,000 screens in several countries. In California, 51 counties have been approved to reopen movie theaters as soon as June 12. Continue reading AMC Prepares to Open Most of its Theaters Worldwide by July

Apple Plans to Unveil Its New Chips at Developer Conference

As early as June 22, at its annual developer conference WWDC, Apple may reveal its plan to replace Intel chipsets with its own internally developed ones, code-named Kalamata. Sources indicate that announcing Kalamata this time of year will give third-party developers time to shift gears before the new Macs debut in 2021. Apple’s new chips will be based on the same technology as those in iPhones and iPads, although Macs will continue to run the macOS operating system rather than iOS software of the mobile devices. Continue reading Apple Plans to Unveil Its New Chips at Developer Conference

Amazon Saves Premium Search Results for Its Own Products

According to a review by ProPublica, tech giant Amazon has begun to reserve the best placement in search results for its own products. Brands have been able to bid on search terms in order to gain visible listings at the top of the Amazon product search results. They can still bid on such placements, which also earns them a “sponsored” tag. But ProPublica and consultants found that, during the coronavirus pandemic, the company made the top left position on the first page unavailable to anything other than its own private-label products. Continue reading Amazon Saves Premium Search Results for Its Own Products

Huawei Holds the Most 5G Patents, But Still Needs U.S. Tech

In May, the U.S. Commerce Department banned the sale of any semiconductors made with U.S. software to China’s 5G behemoth Huawei Technologies. Now, that company’s stockpile of chips essential to its telecom business is dwindling, likely to run out by early 2021. According to sources, Huawei executives have yet to come up with a solution and, without one, the U.S. move is on track to disrupt China’s $500 billion 5G rollout. In the long-run, it could also sideline that country’s goal of dominating 5G globally

Continue reading Huawei Holds the Most 5G Patents, But Still Needs U.S. Tech

Anthill’s Whatifi Offers Interactive Storytelling via Mobile App

Anthill’s latest version of interactive storytelling app Whatifi is now available in the Apple App Store. Founded by Jaanus Juss and Hardi Meybaum, who have been exploring interactive storytelling in their native Estonia via live theater, the startup enables users to “choose their own adventure” in two stories: “As Dead as it Gets” and “Anatomy of a Decision.” The first is a “drunken night with a few bros” that turns into a supernatural fantasy. A character on the verge of death, the viewer must follow the advice of ghosts to return to the land of the living. Whatifi is now based out of Los Angeles and Estonia. Continue reading Anthill’s Whatifi Offers Interactive Storytelling via Mobile App

Twitter Is Developing a New, Transparent Verification System

Tech blogger and app researcher Jane Manchun Wong discovered that Twitter is developing a new verification service. The original 2016 service placed a blue-and-white checkmark next to a verified personal account, brand or company. The service was halted in 2017 after it verified an account of Jason Kessler, an organizer of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. According to Twitter co-founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey, the company planned to expand the service in 2018 but didn’t have the bandwidth to do so. Continue reading Twitter Is Developing a New, Transparent Verification System

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