Cineworld Temporarily Suspends Operation of Regal Cinemas

A day after the opening of James Bond film “No Time to Die” was pushed to April 2, 2021, Cineworld stated it was considering closing 536 Regal Cinema theaters across the United States and 127 Cineworld and Picturehouse Cinemas locations in the United Kingdom. Now, Cineworld has confirmed the temporary suspension of its U.S. and UK operations starting Thursday, October 8, blaming the lack of new films in the pipeline. Cineworld is the UK’s biggest cinema operator and the second largest chain in the U.S. The closure will impact about 45,000 employees. Continue reading Cineworld Temporarily Suspends Operation of Regal Cinemas

UK High Court Dismisses Appeal to Classify AI as an Inventor

Under the Patents Act, a UK court ruled that creator Stephen Thaler’s “Creativity Machine” called DABUS could not be an inventor. Thaler appealed, and the UK’s High Court dismissed it, saying an inventor must be a person and not a machine. Thaler, however, insists that DABUS is “fundamentally different from other AI systems,” noting that, via “simple learning rules” it combines “swarms of many artificial neural nets, each containing interrelated patterns spanning some conceptual space … with no predetermined objective.” Continue reading UK High Court Dismisses Appeal to Classify AI as an Inventor

Facebook Argues Breakup Would Be Costly, Weaken Security

Facebook’s lawyers, relying on research by the law firm Sidley Austin LLP, prepared a 14-page document that lays out its defenses against government threats to force a break from its messaging service WhatsApp and photo- and video-sharing platform Instagram. Congress and other federal antitrust regulators continue to investigate Facebook, as well as Google, Amazon and Apple, and the House Antitrust Subcommittee is expected to release its findings this month. Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014 were vetted by the Federal Trade Commission. Continue reading Facebook Argues Breakup Would Be Costly, Weaken Security

Watch-Party Startup Scener Gets $2.1 Million in New Funding

Two-year startup Scener, which has been offering co-viewing watch parties, just brought in $2.1 million in new funding. Its usage spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, even as Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and other services also debuted watch-together features. Scener, which unveiled with a web-browser overlay for Netflix, now supports 10 streaming platforms, including, in addition to Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Funimation, Vimeo, YouTube, Alamo On Demand and Disney’s Hotstar. Continue reading Watch-Party Startup Scener Gets $2.1 Million in New Funding

Google Will Pay News Publishers $1 Billion to License Stories

Google is debuting Google News Showcase and vowed to pay publishers $1+ billion over the next three years to license news content for the new product. Publishers will be able to select images and summaries for story panels, which are teasers for full articles. Clicking on a story panel will bring the user directly to the news publisher’s website to read the entire story. According to sources, Google is in talks with publishers in the U.S. and other countries and has already signed deals with almost 200 publications. Continue reading Google Will Pay News Publishers $1 Billion to License Stories

Facebook Detects Malware That Was Being Used for Ad Fraud

Facebook shut down malware out of China that stole user credentials to serve ads for diet pills, sexual health products and counterfeit goods including designer handbags, shoes and sunglasses. The hackers used the consumer’s associated payment method to purchase the ads, at the cost to victims of $4 million. The social media company first exposed these attacks in 2018 and traced them to ILikeAd Media International, filing a civil suit against the firm and the two Chinese nationals who allegedly developed the malware. Continue reading Facebook Detects Malware That Was Being Used for Ad Fraud

Big Tech Faces Scrutiny by Regulators in the U.S and Abroad

The House Antitrust Subcommittee is about to release a report of its 15-month investigation of Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook. The lawmakers gathered 1+ million documents from the companies in question and their rivals. The subcommittee, chaired by Congressman David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island), also met with the four companies’ chief executives. Meanwhile, the European Union plans to ban tech companies from “preferencing” their own services and apps, and China is planning its own antitrust investigation of Google. Continue reading Big Tech Faces Scrutiny by Regulators in the U.S and Abroad

Twitch Inks Live-Streaming Deal With Indie Music Companies

Amazon-owned Twitch, which now has 17.5 million average daily visitors, responded to the escalating problem of its users being hit with music copyright takedowns. Under pressure by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), Twitch debuted a beta version of Soundtrack by Twitch, an in-platform music streaming service featuring 1+ million copyright-cleared songs by independent artists that can be used legally and free of charge as background music. Continue reading Twitch Inks Live-Streaming Deal With Indie Music Companies

Facebook Makes New Natural Language Model Open Source

Facebook and AI startup Hugging Face open-sourced their new natural language processing model, Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG), which finds and interprets contextual information on the fly. RAG is now available as a component of the Hugging Face transformer library, integrated with the new Datasets library to offer the indexed knowledge source RAG relies on. According to Facebook, RAG can alter or add to its internal knowledge, letting researchers control the model without needing to retrain it. Continue reading Facebook Makes New Natural Language Model Open Source

Amazon Explore Platform Delivers Unique Virtual Experiences

Amazon debuted Explore, a platform for live classes, sightseeing tours, personal shoppers and other virtual experiences hosted by local experts. The video is one-way but the audio is two-way so the user can ask questions and make requests of the video’s host. Among the offerings are a $129 bagel cooking class and, for $70, a 45-minute virtual tour of a Lima, Peru mansion. At launch, Explore offers 86 experiences across 16 countries, but the platform has potential for significant growth. Other companies offering virtual experiences include Airbnb and fitness company ClassPass. Continue reading Amazon Explore Platform Delivers Unique Virtual Experiences

Federal Government Probes Foreign Investments in U.S. Tech

As part of ongoing security concerns focused on technology, the Trump administration is now re-examining investments in U.S. tech startups by Chinese and other foreign groups, even investments that are years old. Heading the investigation is the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) which, after gathering information, can decide whether to probe specific deals more deeply and even demand that the foreign investor divest. The probe is based on the government’s belief that the United States did not sufficiently scrutinize these investments from China and other countries. Continue reading Federal Government Probes Foreign Investments in U.S. Tech

SpaceX Deploys Starlink Satellites to Washington Burn Zones

SpaceX tested its Starlink satellite in Washington state for emergency responders, the first early use of the service revealed thus far. Initial reports indicate improved setup times and significant decreases in latency. In early August, Washington’s state military, which includes its emergency response division, began using Starlink to bring Internet service to areas destroyed by wildfires via seven Starlink user terminals. Meanwhile, the four-year-old startup Swarm Technologies has placed 21 of its tiny satellites into orbit, to deliver Internet access to all types of devices. Continue reading SpaceX Deploys Starlink Satellites to Washington Burn Zones

Roku Announces Its New Ultra With Support for Dolby Vision

Roku is debuting a new Ultra with, for the first time, Dolby Vision, which plays back HDR (high-dynamic range) content. This new $100 Ultra also features a speedier quad-core processor, more RAM and around 50 percent better Wi-Fi range, although the company has not released full specs on the device. The form factor is now somewhat rounder, to house its revamped wireless antennas, and still features an Ethernet port, an HDMI cable and earbuds. Also new, the Roku Channel is available as a standalone Android and iOS app. Continue reading Roku Announces Its New Ultra With Support for Dolby Vision

YouTube Users Turn to Established and Indie News Channels

In light of the fact that 26 percent of Americans say they get news on YouTube, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey in January of 12,638 U.S. adults who consumed news on YouTube, asking about their experiences. The Pew study analyzed the news channels consumers watched and the content of videos on these channels, relying on a subset of videos published in December 2019. The study found a news environment on YouTube in which established news organizations and indie news channels “thrive side by side.”

Continue reading YouTube Users Turn to Established and Indie News Channels

Smaller Rivals Lose Google Search Engine Auction in the EU

To comply with a 2018 EU antitrust decision, Google now provides Android OS users in Europe a “choice” screen that lists competing search engines to pick as the device’s default. The problem is that numerous smaller search engines that have popular followings in Europe didn’t win spots in large European countries in the latest auction and therefore don’t appear on that list of choices. DuckDuckGo, for example, a U.S.-based search engine that doesn’t collect personal data, only won the auction in four small European countries. Continue reading Smaller Rivals Lose Google Search Engine Auction in the EU