Etsy Turns to Google Cloud to Improve Search, Boost Sales

Etsy, the online crafts marketplace, boasts more than 60 million unique items and is using Google’s machine learning technology to help boost sales. Because more than 80 percent of its search-based purchases come from the first page of results, it is crucial to provide relevant items on that page. With that in mind, Etsy started a move to Google Cloud in 2017, motivated by the platform’s artificial intelligence capabilities. About three-fourths done with the migration, it’s already seen $260 million in incremental gross sales.

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Spotify’s Soundtrap Aims to Simplify Podcast Editing for All

Spotify-owned music-editing software company Soundtrap is launching a new product this week designed to make podcast editing as easy as using Google Docs. Dubbed “Soundtrap for Storytellers,” the web-based production tool allows users to do everything in one place, including recording, editing and mastering audio. As just one example of how easy the product aims to make podcast editing, it will allow users to cut words out of automated transcripts of their recorded conversations and hear the changes reflected in the audio itself.

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Ticketmaster Combats Ticket Fraud With New SafeTix Tech

It’s common for ticket resellers to use screenshots and photocopies of real tickets to sell in bunches to unknowing ticket buyers. To combat this fraud, Ticketmaster will start using a new technology called SafeTix, which is tied to a ticket holder’s mobile device via an encrypted barcode that refreshes every few seconds. Additionally, SafeTix supports NFC technology that allows fans to enter venues using a “tap and go” experience, and users will soon be able to use SafeTix via Apple Wallet on their iPhones and Apple Watches.

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Microsoft, Sony Announce Partnership for Gaming Services

Facing new threats from video game rivals, Microsoft and Sony announced something that some might find surprising: they’re teaming up to work on cloud and game-streaming technologies together. Through the partnership, Sony will consider using Microsoft’s Azure cloud service for streaming its game content, acknowledging the need for a strong cloud solution for game makers. There’s also room within the agreement for a potential collaboration involving Microsoft’s artificial intelligence and Sony’s image sensor clips.
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Adobe Study: Most Companies Are Investing in Voice Tech

According to a study released by Adobe this week, nine out of 10 companies are currently investing in voice technologies, including things like voice-based commerce. Of the 401 companies surveyed, just over one-fifth have already released a voice app, while 44 percent plan to release one this year. A total of 88 percent are building apps for both Amazon and Google smart speakers and other voice-enabled devices, while only 39 percent are building for Apple’s iOS ecosystem; even fewer are building for Microsoft’s Cortana or Samsung’s Bixby.

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Amazon Fire TV Widens Its Lead at 34 Million Active Users

Back in January, Amazon announced that its Fire TV streaming platform had more than 30 million users. Today, Fire TV has grown to more than 34 million active users, according to an announcement made by Amazon this week during a panel titled ‘The Battle for Your Living Room: Sticks, Boxes, and Smart TV Platforms’ at The Pay TV Show in Denver. This indicates that Amazon’s lead over rival streaming platform Roku is widening. Roku grew to 29.1 million active users per its latest earnings report from this month.

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Spotify Testing New ‘Storyline’ Feature, Similar to ‘Stories’

Somewhat similar to its “Behind the Lyrics” feature, music streaming giant Spotify is now launching “Storyline,” a new feature meant to offer artists a platform to share insights, inspiration and more about their creative processes and the meanings of lyrics, songs and albums. The new feature is also similar to the “Stories” format that has been popularized by social apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and others, opening up a potential avenue for Spotify to create original content via a popular format.

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Amazon Will Pay Employees to Quit, Start New Companies

Competing for delivery drivers in what The Wall Street Journal calls the tightest U.S. labor market in 50 years, Amazon is willing to pay its current employees to quit their jobs to start local package-delivery businesses in order to help the e-commerce giant with its ambitious delivery goals. In an increasingly competitive market, Amazon is looking to move away from depending on the U.S. Postal Service and other companies to make deliveries happen. Instead, Amazon announced plans to invite entrepreneurs of its own making into the mix.

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Walmart Offers Next-Day Delivery to Compete with Amazon

This week, Walmart announced that it will start offering free, next-day delivery on select online orders over $35 without any added membership fee. This announcement comes after a similar one from rival retailer Amazon just last month. Amazon, the lucrative e-commerce giant, announced that it is investing $800 million in its warehouses and delivery infrastructure with the goal of cutting the speed of its Prime deliveries from two days to just one. For now, Walmart’s quicker deliveries will only be available in select markets.

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U.S. Blocks Chinese Telecom Bid for International Services

Citing law enforcement and national security risks, the Federal Communications Commissions unanimously denied an application by China Mobile USA (the U.S. arm of Chinese telecom giant, China Mobile Ltd.), which aimed to provide international calls and other services via American networks. This could be another in a series of signs of escalating tensions between China and the U.S. The crux of the FCC’s concern is that the company is owned by the Chinese government and would be therefore vulnerable to that influence.

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Google Announces Plans to Bring Electronic IDs to Android

On the final day of its annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View last week, Google announced plans to bring Electronic IDs like driver’s licenses and club memberships to Android, and that all new Android Q devices would be required to encrypt user data. These developments could move users one step closer to using digital wallets as valid identification for in-person transactions. As part of the announcement, Google indicated that it’s looking into adding Electronic ID support so developers can build mobile apps for secure ID use.

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Growing Number of U.S. Adults Now Playing Video Games

According to “2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry,” a new annual report from gaming industry trade group Entertainment Software Association, about 65 percent of adults now play video games in the United States. That adds up to more than 164 million people, and each year, the total grows. The report also indicates that three-fourths of U.S. adults have at least one gaming player at home, while 93 percent of those households own a smartphone on which half of them play video games.

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Microsoft Shares Vision For Present and Future Productivity

Microsoft recently invited journalists into its Envisioning Center for a peek into its vision of the future — in particular, its vision of the future of productivity. Inside the center, Microsoft houses some of its prototype work. Journalists witnessed teams working together on giant collaborative screens, meeting in rooms equipped with devices to automatically recognize participants, and doing work at touch-powered desks. The bulk of all provided demonstrations revolved around the use of touch, voice, and augmented reality. This marks a new way forward for Microsoft.

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Facebook’s Instagram Working on Effort to Step Up Security

Since 2016, Facebook has referred questionable posts to fact-checking teams at news organizations to determine if they contain misinformation. Now, Instagram (owned by Facebook), has started a similar policy, using image recognition to identify posts with possible misinformation. Those posts are then sent to Facebook’s fact-checkers for review and if determined problematic, they’re no longer recommended on the Explore tab or hashtag pages. While the posts are not removed and remain in users’ main feeds or Stories carousels, Instagram is introducing a new policy to remove accounts after repeated violations.

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Coalition Alleges Amazon Illegally Collects Children’s Data

A coalition of 19 consumer and privacy groups plans to file a complaint against Amazon alleging that the e-commerce company’s Echo Dot Kids Edition illegally collects voice recordings and other information from users under age 13, which is a violation of the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA. The Echo Dot Kids Edition is much like the Echo Dot smart speaker device, but targeted to kids using a design featuring bright colors. Via the device, kids can ask questions, play music, and more using voice commands.

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