U.S. Joins Global Partnership on AI to Check China’s Power

The United States became the last of the Group of Seven countries to sign on to the G7 AI Pact, an initiative focused on responsible development of artificial intelligence. The Global Partnership on AI will, after study, create recommendations on AI technologies that “respect privacy and civil liberties.” At a G7 meeting of science and technology ministers, U.S. chief technology officer Michael Kratsios and President Trump’s science adviser Kelvin Droegemeier will describe the U.S.’s involvement in the program. Continue reading U.S. Joins Global Partnership on AI to Check China’s Power

Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jeff Teper wants Microsoft Teams — the company’s fastest growing business app — to overtake Windows, currently on 1+ billion active devices. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams is experiencing significant growth, with 75 million daily active users as of April 29, a 70 percent leap in six weeks. In April, 200+ million participants used Teams in a single day. Meanwhile, Microsoft is still promoting Skype, which in March passed 40 million daily active users (up 70 percent from the previous year), but for a different customer base. Continue reading Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Instagram, Alibaba Lure Creators with Revenue Opportunities

To help creators make more money, Instagram debuted advertising on IGTV videos, digital badges that fans can buy via Instagram Live, and merchandise sales through Instagram Shopping. It also expanded its Brand Collabs Manager, which enables sponsored campaigns between companies and creators. Last week, Instagram expanded shopping features on Instagram Live as well. In China, meanwhile, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group plans to sign up 100,000+ creators this year to its AliExpress marketplace for shoppers outside of China. Continue reading Instagram, Alibaba Lure Creators with Revenue Opportunities

Streamer HBO Max Offers Wide Range of Movies, TV Shows

AT&T launched HBO Max this week, with a plan to spend $4.5+ billion on the streaming platform over the next few years. AT&T, which hopes to sign up 50 million HBO Max subscribers by 2025, bought Time Warner for $85.4 billion in 2018 with the idea of creating a significant streaming platform. HBO Max, which costs $15 per month, offers 10,000 hours of programming, including HBO series “Game of Thrones” and “Succession” as well as Warner Bros. hit TV shows such as “Friends” and “The Big Bang Theory.” Continue reading Streamer HBO Max Offers Wide Range of Movies, TV Shows

Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

The House of Representatives, after closed-door negotiations, came to an agreement to bring an amendment to vote that would protect Americans from FBI and CIA surveillance of their web browsing history without a warrant. The amendment, introduced by Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), would be a “significant reform to Section 215 [of the USA Patriot Act] that protects Americans’ civil liberties,” said Lofgren. However, after full details of the proposal were released, debate over who would specifically be protected led to the amendment’s downfall. Continue reading Government Surveillance Bill Is Sidelined by Privacy Question

Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Niantic, the developer of “Pokémon Go,” raised $470 million to evolve the mobile game into a full-featured augmented reality platform. The company, valued at $4 billion, will rely on “Pokémon Go” players to build its 3D data collection by sharing videos of real-world PokéStop and Gym locations. By crowdsourcing such assets, Niantic plans to build 3D maps with “a better understanding of the depth and the complexities of the real world.” The 3D data collection will debut in June to “Pokémon Go” players ranked above Level 40. Continue reading Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Creative Artists Agency Signs Its First Virtual Influencer Client

Creative Artists Agency (CAA) signed Miquela, a 19-year old Brazilian-American model, pop singer and social influencer. Unlike CAA’s other clients, however, Miquela is a virtual character, created by California-based tech startup Brud in 2016. She first appeared on Instagram where, as “Lil Miquela” she garnered 2.2 million followers. She also has almost 550,000 TikTok followers. CAA plans to work with Miquela on “TV, film, and brand strategy and commercial endorsements, raising the prospect of a movie or show featuring the character.” Continue reading Creative Artists Agency Signs Its First Virtual Influencer Client

Amazon Takes Aim at Market Share Ceded Due to COVID-19

As online shopping skyrocketed during the COVID-19 shutdown, Amazon was overwhelmed with orders and its rivals saw an opportunity to grab market share. In the last quarter, Target’s online sales increased 141 percent, Etsy’s went up nearly 80 percent and Walmart’s rose 74 percent. Amazon, however, is regaining its footing by removing limitations of the products in its warehouses, offering promotions and, again, shipping more products in one-to-two days. It also plans to increase its Prime Air fleet to about 200 planes. Continue reading Amazon Takes Aim at Market Share Ceded Due to COVID-19

Drones Take on Essential Roles During Coronavirus Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, drones have been put to good use. In Florida, for example, UPS Flight Forward is delivering medicine from a CVS pharmacy to a nearby retirement community. As former roboticist Daniel Wilson, author of “Robopocalypse” put it, “the machines we’re used to fearing are uniquely well suited to swoop in and save the day.” Although drones have successfully shed some of their dystopian image, privacy advocates and others are still wary of their use by police for broad surveillance. Continue reading Drones Take on Essential Roles During Coronavirus Pandemic

Tech Firms Consider Remote Work Options After Coronavirus

Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter were among the first U.S. companies to send their employees home as the coronavirus spread. Now, as they reopen their campuses, they are also allowing some of employees to continue to work from home. If that policy becomes widespread, it will be a major change from the college-like corporate campuses the companies built to encourage creativity and spontaneous interactions. Working from home will be its own perk and allow companies to broaden their search for workers. Continue reading Tech Firms Consider Remote Work Options After Coronavirus

Study Reveals Growing COVID-19 Anxiety Over Public Spaces

People have been locked down due to the coronavirus for two months, but a mid-May survey from Performance Research, in partnership with Full Circle Research Co., revealed that many are still anxious about health and safety in larger public spaces. In fact, the survey indicates that, despite a strong desire to gather with others and resume normal activities, the level of anxiety for many has been building since an earlier survey taken in March. Such a trend could impact movie theaters, theme parks, sports venues, concert halls, stage performances and more.

Continue reading Study Reveals Growing COVID-19 Anxiety Over Public Spaces

Shopify Debuts Product Updates Including Balance Debit Card

At Shopify Reunite, the Canadian company’s first virtual event, the direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform released numerous updates. Among them are Shopify Balance, a business account and debit card; a Local Delivery app; and Shop Pay Installments, a buy-now-pay later option. The company’s AI-powered fulfillment network is also now welcoming merchant applications. Shopify canceled what would have been its fifth annual partner and developer conference, Shopify Unite, due to the coronavirus. Continue reading Shopify Debuts Product Updates Including Balance Debit Card

China to Invest $1.4 Trillion in Domestic Technology by 2025

To gain global leadership, Chinese president Xi Jinping plans to invest $1.4 trillion dollars by 2025 in key technology areas, including 5G wireless networks, cameras and sensors, and AI for autonomous vehicles, automated factories and mass surveillance among other sectors. Chinese companies such as Alibaba, Huawei Technologies and SenseTime Group will likely benefit, as China reduces its reliance on U.S. companies. The Trump administration is leveraging its relationship with Taiwan as one way to fight back. Continue reading China to Invest $1.4 Trillion in Domestic Technology by 2025

Apple and Google Offer Contact Tracing Tech to Developers

Apple and Google unveiled jointly developed contact tracing technology to help the government track the spread of COVID-19. The app notifies a user if she has been exposed to someone who tested positive for the coronavirus. The technology’s protocol relies on the phone’s Bluetooth signal to identify those who have been near an infected person. So far, North Dakota, Alabama and South Carolina in the U.S. and 22 countries have asked for and received access to the technology. The app was previously released in beta. Continue reading Apple and Google Offer Contact Tracing Tech to Developers

Facebook Reveals New AI-Powered Text-to-Speech System

Facebook introduced an AI text-to-speech system (TTS) that produces a second of audio in 500 milliseconds. According to Facebook, the system, which is used with a new approach to data collection, powered the creation of a British accent-inflected voice in six months, versus over a year required for other voices. The TTS is now used for Facebook’s Portal smart display brand. The system can be hosted in real time via ordinary processors and is also available as a service for other apps, including Facebook’s VR. Continue reading Facebook Reveals New AI-Powered Text-to-Speech System

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