Uber CEO Considers Investor Concerns and Resigns Position

Travis Kalanick stepped down from his chief exec position of ride-hailing service Uber yesterday. Kalanick helped found the company in 2009, but months of scrutiny regarding charges of harassment and discrimination, followed by a recent shareholder revolt resulted in his departure. “Five of Uber’s major investors demanded that [he] resign immediately,” according to The New York Times. “The investors included one of Uber’s biggest shareholders, the venture capital firm Benchmark, which has one of its partners, Bill Gurley, on Uber’s board.” The company will seek new leadership, although Kalanick will remain on Uber’s board of directors. Continue reading Uber CEO Considers Investor Concerns and Resigns Position

Ransomware: Hackers Extort $1 Million From One Company

In the largest ransomware payout to date, South Korean web provider Nayana has agreed to pay $1 million to hackers who originally demanded 550 Bitcoins, about $1.62 million. Following negotiations, Nayana has agreed to pay $1 million in three installments. The ransomware, identified as Erebus by cybersecurity firm Trend Micro, impacted 153 Linux servers and more than 3,400 websites hosted by Nayana. “This is the single largest-known payout for a ransomware attack, and it was an attack on one company,” reports CNET. “For comparison, the WannaCry ransomware attacked 200,000 computers across 150 countries, and has only pooled $127,142 in Bitcoins since it surfaced.” Continue reading Ransomware: Hackers Extort $1 Million From One Company

Sony Expands Scope of VR Innovation Program This Summer

The ETC@USC helped Sony Pictures Entertainment and Sony Music Entertainment establish their summer 2016 VR Innovation Program. Over the course of 10 weeks, 14 USC student associates pitched, rapid-prototyped, and delivered seven proof-of-concept projects of interest to Sony executives. The students worked under the supervision of Sony execs and two advisors from the USC faculty. Sony generously supplied a presentation deck describing the program’s goals and process for distribution by the ETC. Building on their positive experience, Sony is currently running a 2017 summer program with the scope expanded to include AR and live action narrative VR. Continue reading Sony Expands Scope of VR Innovation Program This Summer

Hanson Robotics Is Seeking Experienced Product Managers

Hanson Robotics — which develops robot products and artificial intelligence technology to serve consumer, medical and entertainment markets — is currently looking to fill two positions: robotics product manager and software product manager. The company is seeking a robotics product manager to lead product development and manage hardware, arts and software teams. The company’s software product manager will lead software development in collaboration with the hardware, arts and executive teams. Details and contact information for each position are available on ETCentric. Continue reading Hanson Robotics Is Seeking Experienced Product Managers

Google May Be Facing a Record Fine by the European Union

Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s commissioner for competition, is reportedly close to ruling on an antitrust case regarding Google’s search services that is likely to result in a record fine, according to insiders. The penalty is expected to exceed the $1.4 billion antitrust fine that Intel paid in Europe in 2009. “Officials could also force Google to alter how it operates in the region, and potentially elsewhere, to give rivals a greater ability to compete,” reports The New York Times. The case “claims that Google diverted traffic from competitors’ services to favor its own comparison shopping site.” The European Commission is also investigating two other cases that involve Android and Google’s advertising products. “Google has denied any wrongdoing,” notes NYT. Continue reading Google May Be Facing a Record Fine by the European Union

Katy Perry Is First to Achieve 100 Million Followers on Twitter

Singer Katy Perry, who joined Twitter in early 2009 and just released a new album called “Witness,” has become the first to achieve the 100 million follower milestone on the social platform. “The second most-followed Twitter account belongs to Justin Bieber, who currently has 96.7 million followers,” according to Variety. “Next in line are Barack Obama (90.8 million), Taylor Swift (85.1 million) and Rihanna (74.1 million).” While these figures do not specify the number of spam accounts or bots, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said bogus bots represent less than 5 percent of accounts. Perry also broke her own YouTube record last month when single “Bon Appetit” reached 16.8 million views in just 24 hours. Continue reading Katy Perry Is First to Achieve 100 Million Followers on Twitter

Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods Market in $13.7 Billion Deal

Online retail giant Amazon.com announced it plans to acquire Whole Foods Market in a deal valued at $13.7 billion. Organic grocer Whole Foods, founded in 1978, has more than 460 locations, but has been facing increased competition from large chains such as Walmart that have introduced more natural and organic products. The Austin, Texas-based company built its brand on premium service and generally higher prices. This approach may mark a change for Amazon, which has built much of its business on lower prices. Whole Foods will continue operating under its existing brand and CEO John Mackey will remain in his position. Continue reading Amazon to Acquire Whole Foods Market in $13.7 Billion Deal

Netflix Doubles Subscription Base in 5 Years, Surpasses Cable

According to Leichtman Research, Netflix has surpassed cable TV in number of total subscribers. Netflix recently reached 50.85 million subscribers, whereas U.S. cable companies presently have 48.61 million. “The numbers don’t count minor cable networks, which could in themselves amount to 5 percent of total cable customers,” explains Forbes. While Netflix has added 27 million subs in the last five years, cable subs are only down by 4 million, “not a massive drop off. It’s also worth bearing in mind that cable TV makes up only 50 percent of total TV viewership in pay TV.” Satellite TV presently has around 38 million subscribers. “In total there are 93,319,187 subscribers to cable, satellite and Internet streaming services in the U.S. Continue reading Netflix Doubles Subscription Base in 5 Years, Surpasses Cable

Snap May Include AR Tech With Next-Generation Spectacles

While Snap extends availability of its $130 Spectacles into Europe, the company is reportedly developing a second generation of the photo- and video-recording glasses. The “project is closely guarded inside the company,” reports TechCrunch. Based on a recent patent application, “it seems increasingly likely that Spectacles II will ship with augmented reality features built in … Snap’s app is already primed to support such a move. It recently rolled out an augmented reality feature — called World Lenses — in April which allows users to place digital objects around them.” Snap has also been looking into other hardware possibilities, including drones and a 360-degree camera.

Continue reading Snap May Include AR Tech With Next-Generation Spectacles

Entertainment Companies Join Forces to Battle Online Piracy

A group of media and entertainment companies — including Amazon, AMC Networks, CBS, Disney, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, MGM, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros. — has formed a new coalition, the Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE), to combat online piracy. “ACE will draw on the anti-piracy resources of the MPAA,” reports Variety. “The group plans to conduct research, work with law enforcement to curtail illegal pirate enterprises and ‘pursue voluntary agreements with responsible parties across the Internet ecosystem.’” The coalition also plans “to file civil litigation in their fight against copyright infringement.” Continue reading Entertainment Companies Join Forces to Battle Online Piracy

Uber CEO Steps Away as Company Initiates Major Changes

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick announced his plans to take a leave of absence as chief exec while the company works to salvage its brand and launches a reorganization that includes closer supervision by its board of directors. “At a packed meeting with employees on Tuesday morning,” reports The New York Times, “Uber released 13 pages of recommendations compiled as part of an investigation into sexual harassment and other wrongdoing conducted by the former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. and his law firm, Covington & Burlington.” Continue reading Uber CEO Steps Away as Company Initiates Major Changes

Technology May Lead to Change for Theatrical Film Releases

MoffettNathanson analyst Robert Fishman suggests that the film industry is on the verge of change, “in part because the movie studios want and need it to change,” notes Recode, “and in part because Netflix is going to push the industry forward whether it likes it or not.” Studios are looking to make movies available in the home without waiting for the traditional 90-day theatrical window, while Netflix is ramping up its original programming and straight-to-streaming library. According to Fishman, such change could cost theater owners up to 20 percent of their profits. While Hollywood was not successful with earlier attempts to shorten the release window, Fishman believes this year could be different, since Internet technologies continue to impact the home video business. Continue reading Technology May Lead to Change for Theatrical Film Releases

Video Will Comprise 82 Percent of All Internet Traffic by 2021

Cisco predicts that online video will be responsible for 82 percent of all consumer IP traffic in 2021, with live video expected to see the fastest rate of growth over the next four years. By comparison, video accounted for 73 percent of Internet traffic last year. Demand is coming from a range of video, including on-demand content from services such as Netflix, webcam viewing and IP VOD. Not surprisingly, Cisco forecasts the amount of bandwidth will grow as more online video is consumed and an increasing number of higher-quality videos are watched. Continue reading Video Will Comprise 82 Percent of All Internet Traffic by 2021

Facebook Offers Tips for Effective Video Ads in a Mobile Era

In a blog post this week, Facebook VP of core ads Mark Rabkin discusses “Video Advertising in the Mobile Age” and includes some interesting trends in television and social media consumption. While TV remains a powerful medium, people commonly turn to mobile feeds, apps, websites and texting when television no longer holds their attention. Facebook conducted a small study of TV viewers who watched the season premiere of a popular show last fall and found, not surprisingly, that use of Facebook increased during commercial breaks. The post shares tips for creating more effective ads for this audience. Continue reading Facebook Offers Tips for Effective Video Ads in a Mobile Era

PwC Forecast Points to Growth in Gaming, VR and eSports

Consulting firm PwC predicts a 6.3 percent compound annual growth rate for console video games over the next five years in the U.S., with revenue increasing from $21 billion in 2016 to $28.5 billion in 2021. “That doesn’t include PC games microtransaction revenue, which is expected to grow from $3 billion in 2016 to $4.2 billion in 2021,” reports VentureBeat. PwC also predicts social and casual games will surpass console games this year. Meanwhile, the PwC forecast points to significantly faster growth rates for virtual reality and eSports in the U.S. Continue reading PwC Forecast Points to Growth in Gaming, VR and eSports

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