Microsoft Announces Azure-Hosted OpenAI Supercomputer

At Microsoft’s Build 2020 developer conference, the company debuted a supercomputer built in collaboration with, and exclusively for, OpenAI on Azure. It’s the result of an agreement whereby Microsoft would invest $1 billion in OpenAI to develop new technologies for Microsoft Azure and extend AI capabilities. OpenAI agreed to license some of its IP to Microsoft, which would then sell to partners as well as train and run AI models on Azure. Microsoft stated that the supercomputer is the fifth most powerful in the world. Continue reading Microsoft Announces Azure-Hosted OpenAI Supercomputer

Clubhouse Becoming Elite Silicon Valley Virtual Meeting App

Marc Andreessen and other Silicon Valley venture capitalists are behind Clubhouse, an audio-based social media app that allows them to meet virtually. Still in beta, the invite-only app counts celebrity MC Hammer and activist DeRay Mckesson among its first members. According to sources, Andreessen Horowitz also beat out other venture firms to invest in Clubhouse, agreeing to infuse $10 million and pay $2 million to buy shares from the app’s existing shareholders. With the financing, Clubhouse is now valued at almost $100 million. Continue reading Clubhouse Becoming Elite Silicon Valley Virtual Meeting App

E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced updates to Shops, a new version of an existing Facebook feature that lets retailers upload product catalogs to their Facebook page or Instagram profile. Users can access Shops on the retailer’s page or, by clicking on an ad, will land on the retailer’s Facebook-located Shop. Zuckerberg stated that Shops will eventually be available on Messenger and WhatsApp as well. The company relies on several AI systems, including GrokNet, which can “segment, detect and classify images.” Continue reading E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

Filmmakers Return to Production During COVID-19 Pandemic

After months of shutdown, film and television production is reviving in two countries that have successfully flattened the curve. Producer Lucas Foster isolated his cast and crew in a small Australia town to shoot Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn.” Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur used color-coded armbands to shoot Netflix sci-fi series “Katla” in Reykjavik. Going back to production in the time of coronavirus isn’t easy, and requires security guards to monitor social distancing, medical staff and other strict protocols. Continue reading Filmmakers Return to Production During COVID-19 Pandemic

EU Commissioner Holds Facebook Liable For Disinformation

European commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton advised Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg that, if he and his company do not redouble efforts to rid the platform of disinformation, they will be subject to tougher rules. “When you are the [chief executive], at the end of the day, you are the only one to be responsible, no one else,” said Breton at an online event organized by the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE).  The two had a face-to-face meeting two months ago in Brussels. Continue reading EU Commissioner Holds Facebook Liable For Disinformation

Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Spatial lets its enterprise customers use VR or mixed reality headsets to meet in virtual spaces. The company now plans to launch support for desktop web browsers, Android and iOS — open to all and free. That support means virtual meetings can include participants who do not have a headset. According to Spatial co-founder and chief executive Anand Agarawala, “in light of COVID, we’ve actually had an intense amount of demand — about a 1,000 percent increase.” He added that, unlike Zoom, “something like VR gives you that level of presence and personification.” Continue reading Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Companies Examine Feasibility of Working-from-Home Model

More people are working from home now and some of them may not return to offices once the coronavirus pandemic eases its grip. Twitter, for example, said most of its employees could work from home indefinitely. OpenText Corporation in Canada announced plans to close more than half of its 120 global offices, and New York media company Skift will vacate its Manhattan headquarters when its lease expires in June. Big Tech companies, however, have invested significantly in their spaces and their switch to remote working is uncertain. Continue reading Companies Examine Feasibility of Working-from-Home Model

New Trade Rule Further Restricts Huawei Access to U.S. Tech

The Trump administration intensified its battle with Huawei Technologies by issuing a new rule that bans Huawei and its global suppliers from using U.S.-made machinery and software to design or produce chips. Companies can apply for an exception to the measure, but the Trump administration stated these requests will likely be denied. Semiconductor Industry Association president and CEO John Neuffer said his group is worried that the rules would “create uncertainty and disruption for the global semiconductor supply chain.” Continue reading New Trade Rule Further Restricts Huawei Access to U.S. Tech

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Nvidia A100: Powerful New Chipset Created for Advancing AI

Nvidia unveiled its A100 artificial intelligence chip, which houses 54 billion transistors and can execute 5 petaflops of performance, about 20 times more than the company’s previous Volta chip. Chief executive Jensen Huang, who revealed it during his Nvidia GTC keynote address, dubbed it “the ultimate instrument for advancing AI.” The original March 24 introduction was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nvidia also unveiled the DGX A100 system, the third generation of Nvidia’s AI DGX platform, which uses the new chips. The DGX A100 is now shipping. Continue reading Nvidia A100: Powerful New Chipset Created for Advancing AI

Apple Acquires Virtual Reality Live Streaming Service NextVR

Apple has purchased NextVR, a virtual reality video service that offered 360-degree access to live events, including sporting events from NBA, WWE and NHL. With a VR headset, users could enjoy the feeling of “presence” in NextVR’s panoramic stereoscopic 3D scenes. The company also offered 2D smartphone access and planned to support augmented reality devices. The service never became popular, however, and a failed 2019 funding round followed by the coronavirus-related cancellation of sporting events left it struggling to survive. Continue reading Apple Acquires Virtual Reality Live Streaming Service NextVR

Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

WarnerMedia’s HBO has partnered with Seattle-based Scener to allow HBO Now and HBO GO subscribers to create a private virtual theater, including video chat, for up to 20 people. Scener already allows co-viewing for Netflix accounts. This is HBO’s first significant partnership with an online co-viewing platform. Scener co-founder Joe Braidwood said the company saw a “crazy surge in demand” for the product with the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership, which began in March, includes a new design for the site and update for Google Chrome browsers. Continue reading Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

Epic Games Intros Unreal Engine 5 With Dynamic Rendering

Epic Games showcased Unreal Engine 5, with its heightened ability to generate realistic graphics in real time on next-generation game platforms from PlayStation 5 to smartphones. Epic Games chief executive Tim Sweeney stated that Unreal Engine 5, which will roll out in 2021, will offer “a real generational leap in new features … [and] will be a straightforward upgrade for anyone working with Unreal Engine 4.” Epic Games also worked closely with Sony so its games can “take full advantage” of the new engine. Continue reading Epic Games Intros Unreal Engine 5 With Dynamic Rendering

French Law to Fine Social Media Platforms for Hate Speech

France’s National Assembly passed a law that will fine social media companies up to €1.25 million ($1.36 million) for failing to remove “manifestly illicit” hate-speech posts within 24 hours of notification. Companies can be fined up to 4 percent of their global annual revenue if the violations are “serious and repeated.” The law, which will take effect July 1, also gives France’s audiovisual regulator the right to audit these companies’ systems for removing content. Critics claim “pre-emptive censorship.” Continue reading French Law to Fine Social Media Platforms for Hate Speech

Pandemic Shutdown Leading to Major Shifts in E-Commerce

When the U.S. shut down in March, people went online to shop. Adobe’s Digital Economy Index reported that U.S. e-commerce skyrocketed 49 percent in April, compared to the baseline period in early March. Some e-commerce companies have become stronger during the shutdown. But buying patterns have been volatile, with the latest uptick sparked by government stimulus checks that were sent out April 11. Many experts believe that consumer habits are changing in ways that will continue beyond the threat of the coronavirus. Continue reading Pandemic Shutdown Leading to Major Shifts in E-Commerce

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