Apple Readies Release of Apple TV+ and Arcade Services

Apple will launch its Apple TV Plus movie and TV subscription service by November, said sources, introducing a small number of shows and then increasing the catalog over time. Although not announced, sources said a free trial is likely to kick off the new service and build an audience while the company fills out its library. Apple TV Plus is part of the company’s goal to reach $50 billion in service sales by 2020. In doing so, it enters a highly competitive, crowded field. Meanwhile, more details have been released on the Apple Arcade gaming service. Continue reading Apple Readies Release of Apple TV+ and Arcade Services

State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

After several states began pursuing an antitrust probe of the big technology companies, sources reported that representatives of several state attorneys general met with top Justice Department officials to air their concerns about the lack of competition in the technology sector. Now, according to sources, a bipartisan group of states plans to initiate a joint antitrust investigation, to be launched as soon as next month. Sources say the investigation will focus on whether dominant platforms stifle competition. Continue reading State Attorneys General Team Up to Investigate Tech Firms

Google Open-Sources Real-Time Gesture Recognition Tech

Google relied on computer vision and machine learning to research a better way to perceive hand shapes and motions in real-time, for use in gesture control systems, sign language recognition and augmented reality. The result is the ability to infer up to 21 3D points of a hand (or hands) on a mobile phone from a single frame. Google, which demonstrated the technique at the 2019 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, also put the source code and a complete use case scenario on GitHub. Continue reading Google Open-Sources Real-Time Gesture Recognition Tech

Disney, Charter Ink Distribution Deal, Aim to Prevent Piracy

Disney and Charter Communications, which just inked a new distribution deal, also stated they have partnered to prevent the sharing of a single account among multiple people. The distribution deal, which involves Disney’s Hulu, ESPN Plus and the soon-to-debut Disney Plus, will let customers buy online services either through Disney or Charter’s Spectrum TV service. The deal will also allow Charter to carry Disney-owned TV channels, including ABC, FX, National Geographic and others, on its cable service. Continue reading Disney, Charter Ink Distribution Deal, Aim to Prevent Piracy

SoftBank to Lend Employees $20B to Invest in Vision Fund

SoftBank Group plans to lend up to $20 billion to its 400 employees to buy stakes in its second Vision Fund, following the first fund launched in 2017. That first $100 billion fund, which debuted in 2017, made big investments in Uber Technologies, WeWork, and Chinese ride-hailing company Didi Chuxing Technology, driving up their valuations. For the second Vision Fund, SoftBank chief executive Masayoshi Son may invest as much as $15 billion, and SoftBank could put in $38 billion, more than is typical for a fund sponsor. Continue reading SoftBank to Lend Employees $20B to Invest in Vision Fund

Toronto Has Become a Magnet For Major Tech Companies

Toronto has become an attractive locale for Silicon Valley companies to set up shop. Intel plans to build a graphics-chip design lab there, Uber Technologies will open an engineering hub, and Google’s parent, Alphabet, aims to build a new Toronto campus as part of its “smart city” on Lake Ontario. Microsoft also said it will increase its Canadian workforce by 20+ percent. All that activity has led Silicon Valley Bank, which funds startups and venture capital firms, to open an office in what is the largest Canadian city. Continue reading Toronto Has Become a Magnet For Major Tech Companies

Consumers Top Cable Data Limits by Streaming 4K Video

Some consumers who binge on Netflix shows and other streaming programs in Ultra HD are beginning to feel the financial pinch. The 4K content quickly eats up users’ data caps — and costs them extra money for more high-speed Internet access. The number of such “power users” has reportedly doubled in the past year, and shows no sign of decreasing as more companies are unveiling new streaming video services. Consumers who watch a lot of video content may have few options except to upgrade to an unlimited data plan. Continue reading Consumers Top Cable Data Limits by Streaming 4K Video

Advertisers Blacklist Hard News, Migrate to Lifestyle Pubs

To avoid having their ads appear next to offensive online material, companies now stipulate the type of web content — or even specific websites — they want to avoid. Blacklists have always existed but are getting longer and more specific for many advertisers. That’s a problem for numerous large and small news publishers, who find their outlets avoided by advertisers in favor of less controversial lifestyle publications. Colgate-Palmolive, Subway and McDonald’s are among many companies blocking digital ads in hard news. Continue reading Advertisers Blacklist Hard News, Migrate to Lifestyle Pubs

Google Assistant Wins Top Spot in Loup Ventures IQ Test

In Loup Ventures’ 2019 Digital Assistant IQ Test, comprised of 800 questions, Google Assistant came in first, understanding 100 percent of the questions and answering 92.9 percent of them accurately. Last year, Google Assistant, also top-ranked, answered 85.5 percent correctly. Apple’s Siri also improved, understanding 99.8 percent of the questions (versus 2018’s 99 percent) and correctly answering 83.1 percent of the time (versus 2018’s 78.5 percent). Amazon’s Alexa came in third. Continue reading Google Assistant Wins Top Spot in Loup Ventures IQ Test

Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

A bipartisan group of Congress members castigated Facebook for hiring contractors to transcribe audio clips and urged regulation to prevent it in the future. The transcriptions were made to help Facebook improve its artificial intelligence-enabled speech recognition, and are part of a move to improve the capabilities of voice assistants (Amazon, Apple and Google are among companies that have taken similar approaches). Last year, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) circulated a draft law that would impose steep fines and even prison for executives who failed to protect users’ personal data. Continue reading Congress Calls For End to Tech Firms’ Audio Transcriptions

Capital One Hacker Stole Data From More Than 30 Entities

Former Amazon employee Paige Thompson, charged with hacking Capital One Financial records, illegally accessed terabytes of data from 30+ other companies and institutions, according to authorities. Thompson, arrested July 29, was accused of stealing 106 million Capital One records, considered to be one of the largest thefts of cloud-based data. Court documents reveal that Thompson stole 140,000 Social Security numbers, 80,000 bank account numbers, millions of credit card applications and one million Canadian social insurance numbers. Continue reading Capital One Hacker Stole Data From More Than 30 Entities

Spotify Rolls Out Data Analytics Dashboard For Podcasters

In October, 100,000 podcasts signed up for the beta of Spotify for Podcasters, which provides data on listeners’ age, gender, location, music taste and how long they listened to an episode. When they sign up for an account, Spotify users provide basic demographic information. Now, Spotify is offering the data analytics tool to the 450,000+ shows accessible on its platform. Spotify for Podcasters, now available worldwide but currently only in English, offers much more detailed information than Apple’s podcast data. Continue reading Spotify Rolls Out Data Analytics Dashboard For Podcasters

FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Federal Trade Commission chair Joe Simons stated that, in the face of anti-competitive and antitrust behavior, he would be willing to break up the big tech companies, although, “it’s not ideal because it’s messy.” He’s head of a task force to examine these behemoths, including a close look at whether Facebook acquired startups, such as Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, to stifle competition. The FTC approved both purchases. The FTC is working in parallel with the Justice Department’s antitrust unit. Continue reading FTC Chair Open to Option of Breaking Up Major Tech Firms

Light Field Lab Details Future For Holographic Display Tech

Light Field Lab raised $28 million in funding to scale its holographic display technology from a prototype into a product. Its technology builds large holographic displays out of smaller building blocks, with the aim of creating holographic images that float in space and are able to be viewed without AR/VR goggles, potentially to be used for live events, holographic TVs and other applications. Chief executive Jon Karafin stated that his company’s goal is to bring holography up to “hundreds of gigapixels of resolution.” German firm Bosch is also developing glasses-free 3D auto displays. Continue reading Light Field Lab Details Future For Holographic Display Tech

Snap Inc. to Ship Third-Gen Spectacles as a Limited Edition

After unveiling its first-generation of brightly-colored Spectacles in 2016, followed by a more conservative second edition following two years of reengineering, Snap Inc. is about to debut Spectacles 3 — with hopes the eyewear will be more financially successful than the first version, which left the company with $40 million in unsold revenue. The second version offered better hardware, better design, as well as a high-end all-black version. Now, Spectacles 3, priced at $380 and marketed as a “limited edition launch,” will be offered with steel frames, classic details and two HD cameras for capturing footage with depth. Continue reading Snap Inc. to Ship Third-Gen Spectacles as a Limited Edition

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