Amazon Debuts Program for Users to Vote on New Products

Amazon is launching Build It, a new Kickstarter-like program that will allow consumers to vote on potential new Amazon products. The program is intended to gauge customer interest in new products. Those that get enough support within 30 days will be built and interested customers will only be charged if the product actually ships. Among the current Build It concepts are a “smart cuckoo clock” with Alexa, a smart scale that provides nutritional information on food that’s being weighed and a thermal sticky note printer. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Program for Users to Vote on New Products

YouTube to Offer a 4K Option and Shorts That Mimic TikTok

YouTube in unveiling a suite of new features, including the launch of its YouTube Shorts, which will enable users to create short-form vertical videos similar to those featured on video-sharing platform TikTok. The company will also introduce an option for its pay-TV service YouTube TV that will enable subscribers to watch in 4K, stream programs to an unlimited number of devices and download content for offline viewing. YouTube also plans to expand its new e-commerce feature so viewers can buy products from creators’ channels. Continue reading YouTube to Offer a 4K Option and Shorts That Mimic TikTok

Section 230 Faces Bipartisan Scrutiny and Potential Updates

At the very end of his presidency, Donald Trump tried to strike down Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which essentially provides online platforms with immunity from liability based on third-party content. He failed, but Congress has received 20 proposals to update or change the section. On February 5, three Democratic senators introduced a bill to make social media firms accountable for enabling cyberstalking, harassment and discrimination. More recently, Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) plan to reintroduce the PACT Act, a proposal to jumpstart change. Continue reading Section 230 Faces Bipartisan Scrutiny and Potential Updates

Bitcoin Tops $51,000 in Value as Major Firms Support Crypto

Bitcoin’s price surged above $50,000 for the first time yesterday as companies including Tesla, Mastercard, PayPal and BNY Mellon showed support for the cryptocurrency. Tesla bought $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin and plans to accept it as payment for its cars, while Mastercard added that it too would accept Bitcoin as payment for “some of its products.” Coin Metrics reported that Bitcoin broke the $50,000 metric by rising 3 percent on Tuesday to $50,487, and hitting a fresh record high of $51,715 earlier today. Meanwhile, SEC commissioner Hester Peirce has called for crypto regulation. Continue reading Bitcoin Tops $51,000 in Value as Major Firms Support Crypto

Biden Administration to Review Semiconductor Supply Chain

President Joe Biden is expected to sign an executive order for a 100-day review by the National Economic Council and National Security Council on the manufacturing and packaging of semiconductor chips, with a focus on supply chain blockages that have created shortages. The government review will also examine supply chain issues for other critical goods including minerals, medical supplies and high-capacity batteries. Later this year, supply chain assessments for other critical products will be conducted. Continue reading Biden Administration to Review Semiconductor Supply Chain

Shopify Shop Pay to Roll Out on Instagram, Facebook Shops

Social commerce platform Shopify is coming to Instagram and Facebook Shops, enabling users to complete purchases via Shop Pay, which has 60 million global users. Shop Pay stores credit card and shipping information to speed online checkout, Until now, it has only been available on Shopify clients’ e-commerce stores. Shop Pay also lets users track packages or pay in installments. Facebook currently also offers PayPal, which has 377 million active accounts, including 16 million added in the most recent quarter. Continue reading Shopify Shop Pay to Roll Out on Instagram, Facebook Shops

Top EU Privacy Regulator Calls for Total Ban on Targeted Ads

The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) Wojciech Wiewiórowski, the European Union’s top privacy regulator, called for a complete ban on targeted advertising. That’s a harsher recommendation than that of the European Commission, which simply suggested increased transparency on political ads and limits to micro-targeting and psychological profiling. Wiewiorówski’s proposal was in response to a request for EU lawmaker consultation on the Commission’s Digital Services Act (DSA) introduced in December. Continue reading Top EU Privacy Regulator Calls for Total Ban on Targeted Ads

Linux Foundation to Host Open-Source Magma Project for 5G

In 2019, Facebook developed open-source network software Magma to help in the speedy, efficient buildout of mobile networks. Now Magma is poised to bring together the software and hardware sides of 5G. Magma provides a software-centric distributed mobile packet core and tools for automating network management that integrates with the existing back end of a mobile network. Importantly, it also meshes with new 5G networks as well as existing LTE networks, which makes it easier to enhance and build mobile networks at scale. The Linux Foundation will now work with groups to host the next stage of Magma’s evolution using a vendor-neutral governance framework. Continue reading Linux Foundation to Host Open-Source Magma Project for 5G

New Meta-Optic Lens Tech Enters Commercial Development

Massachusetts-based startup Metalenz, just out of stealth mode, is readying the debut of an entirely new lens system for smartphones. Its single flat lens system, based on optical metasurfaces, reportedly produces an image of the same or better quality as traditional lenses, while enabling brighter photos by collecting more light, and offering new forms of sensing. The company just announced a $10 million investment that will enable it to scale production and speed up development of miniature optics and a new lens system targeting smartphones, consumer electronics and applications in the automotive and healthcare industries. Continue reading New Meta-Optic Lens Tech Enters Commercial Development

Microsoft Introduces Its Viva Suite of Remote Working Tools

Microsoft debuted Viva, a package of tools to enable better employee management including a range of human resources-related software for payroll, tracking employee performance and resources for staff on benefits, career development and other life and work aspects. Chief executive Satya Nadella called the toolset “essential,” adding that “the very best tools and systems” for remote working are crucial in difficult times. During the coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft has seen an earnings boom in cloud-computing, laptops and video games.

Continue reading Microsoft Introduces Its Viva Suite of Remote Working Tools

Spotify Reports Q4 Subscriber Growth, Focuses on Podcasts

Spotify Technology SA posted unexpectedly strong subscription growth during Q4 2020, to 345 million monthly active users, up 27 percent from a year earlier. Paid subscriptions grew 24 percent above the same period last year to 155 million. But average revenue per subscriber fell 8 percent to €4.26 ($5.13) due to discounted plans and lower rates in India and Russia. The company’s 2021 outlook takes into account that such growth could diminish in 2021. Shares of the company fell 9 percent to $315. Continue reading Spotify Reports Q4 Subscriber Growth, Focuses on Podcasts

Amazon Plans for HQ2 Include Helix Tower, Outdoors Theme

Amazon has unveiled plans for its HQ2 complex to be located in northern Virginia and accommodate about 13,000 employees with “room for more.” The “centerpiece” is the Helix, a 350-foot tower featuring two spiraling walkways with native plants and trees that twist to the building’s highest point. The development, which highlights an “outdoors theme,” also includes three 22-story office buildings, smaller retail buildings in a woodsy setting, an outdoor amphitheater, a dog run and parking for about 950 bicycles. Continue reading Amazon Plans for HQ2 Include Helix Tower, Outdoors Theme

Pandemic Is Accelerating the Adoption of Augmented Reality

The COVID-19 pandemic is driving increased demand for augmented reality at some companies, including Mercedes-Benz and L’Oréal (whose brands include Lancôme, Kiehl’s and Maybelline New York), in the last year. L’Oréal chief digital officer Lubomira Rochet stated that, “we saw the appetite, it grew and it’s our responsibility now to continue to innovate.” That company has debuted a number of AR projects for employees and customers in the last few months. One uses ModiFace AR to connect consumers with beauty advisers. Continue reading Pandemic Is Accelerating the Adoption of Augmented Reality

Zuckerberg Anticipates Broader Competition with Rival Apple

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has identified Apple as one of the company’s biggest rivals, even as it posted record-breaking revenue and profit in Q4. The two companies have clashed over data collection, app-store fees and, most recently, Apple’s plan to enable users to opt-out of data collection by third-party apps. That disadvantages Facebook, which has become an online advertising giant. Zuckerberg noted that Apple’s move will interfere with Facebook’s ability to target ads to its 1.85 billion daily users. Continue reading Zuckerberg Anticipates Broader Competition with Rival Apple

CES: TV Technologies Takes Center Stage at Annual Confab

The demand for upgraded televisions and streaming content has increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic. Nielsen reports that streaming services currently account for a quarter of all TV viewing in North America and, according to CES producer the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), consumers upgrading their TVs led to a shipment record for 2020, a trend expected to continue this year. In addition, an Ampere study indicates that the average U.S. household subscribes to four streaming services. CES 2021 showcased a compelling array of TVs and related tech, including 8K, QNED, MicroLED, MiniLED, NanoCell TVs, ATSC 3.0 (NextGen TV), Filmmaker Mode, transparent displays, enhanced game support and more. Continue reading CES: TV Technologies Takes Center Stage at Annual Confab