YouTube Signs Agreement With Universal, Sony Music Labels

After two years of negotiations, YouTube is finally inking a long-term pact with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, the top two music labels. The new agreement, say the labels, establishes royalty rates for rights holders of professional music videos and user-loaded clips, offers stronger policing of uploads of copyrighted songs, and gives artists more money and flexibility. The deal is also a precursor to YouTube launching a paid music service early in 2018. Continue reading YouTube Signs Agreement With Universal, Sony Music Labels

Amazon Lowers Echo Prices to Gain Foothold in Smart Home

It’s a great time to buy a smart speaker, due to Amazon lowering prices of its six Echo devices on Black Friday. Over the Thanksgiving Day weekend, the entry-level Dot — whose price plummeted from $50 to $30 — became the No. 1 seller on Amazon’s website. Amazon, Apple and Google share the same strategy for smart speakers and their virtual assistants: as an entry point to the connected home. But because home speakers’ functionality is limited, consumers don’t see them as necessary and aren’t willing to pay a high price. Continue reading Amazon Lowers Echo Prices to Gain Foothold in Smart Home

YouTube Readies Subscription-Based Music Streaming Service

According to sources, YouTube will debut a paid music service in March, marking the third attempt by parent company Alphabet to compete with Spotify and Apple. Warner Music Group has reportedly already signed on to the new effort and discussions are underway with the other two major record labels, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, as well as Merlin, an alliance of independent labels. Apple and Spotify’s paid streaming music services have helped the music business grow after two decades of decline. Continue reading YouTube Readies Subscription-Based Music Streaming Service

YouTube Ups its Social Profile with the Debut of Reels Feature

YouTube has debuted Reels, a video feature similar to Snapchat and Instagram Stories. Users will find Reels on a new tab in creators’ channels and will be able to adorn videos with filters, text and stickers. Unlike Snapchat and Instagram Stories, a single creator can make many Reels on different topics and the videos will not disappear after 24 hours. With Reels, Google hopes to make YouTube a more social environment and keep users glued to the platform. Google reportedly bid $30 billion to buy Snap last year. Continue reading YouTube Ups its Social Profile with the Debut of Reels Feature

Google Removes YouTube From Amazon Fire TV, Echo Show

Google is pulling YouTube from Amazon’s smart speaker Echo Show, saying it is doing so because Amazon won’t sell Google products including its Home speaker, Chromecast streaming device and some Alphabet Nest products. Google also states that Amazon won’t make its Prime Video shows available for Chromecast. The move escalates an ongoing battle between the two behemoths whose business interests now overlap. In addition to Echo Show, Google plans to block YouTube on Amazon Fire TV’s media streaming device beginning January 1. Continue reading Google Removes YouTube From Amazon Fire TV, Echo Show

Google Intends to Advance Machine Learning With its AutoML

In May, research project Google Brain debuted its AutoML artificial intelligence system that can generate its own AIs. Now, Google has unveiled an AutoML project to automate the design of machine learning models using so-called reinforcement learning. In this system, AutoML is a controller neural network that develops a “child” AI network for a specific task. The near-term goal is that AutoML would be able to create a child that outperforms human versions. Down the line, AutoML could improve vision for autonomous vehicles and AI robots. Continue reading Google Intends to Advance Machine Learning With its AutoML

GM Close to Commercial Version of Autonomous Chevy Bolt

GM is showing off its latest autonomous vehicles, battery-powered Chevrolet Bolts, to investment analysts in San Francisco. Up until now, the car manufacturer has been reluctant to subject the cars it’s developed through its Cruise Automation subsidiary to scrutiny, but now wants to signal that it’s getting closer to a real product. In fact, GM president Daniel Ammann revealed that the driverless cars will be ready for consumers in “quarters, not years.” GM also aims to launch a driverless taxi fleet by 2019. Continue reading GM Close to Commercial Version of Autonomous Chevy Bolt

Amazon Enters the Workplace with Bow of Alexa for Business

Amazon, which currently dominates the virtual assistant market with its Echo speaker, is now launching Alexa for Business. With Alexa for Business, offices could potentially use the voice-enabled assistant to take care of numerous tasks. It’s a leap of faith since it is still unproven how many businesses would want to install an Echo in every conference room, design relevant programs or even want their employees talking to devices. Companies might also have concerns about sensitive internal information being in the cloud. Continue reading Amazon Enters the Workplace with Bow of Alexa for Business

Google’s Update to AMP Format Intends to Curb Link Baiting

Starting in February 2018, Google will require AMP pages (Accelerated Mobile Pages) — which load faster with fewer ads and links — to contain nearly identical content to the website’s original page. The goal is to prevent website owners from publishing two versions of a webpage whereby the AMP page merely directs users to the original page, or what Google calls the canonical page. The original page loads more slowly than an AMP, contains more ads and might have a lower bounce rate (of users who only view one page). Continue reading Google’s Update to AMP Format Intends to Curb Link Baiting

YouTube Now Offers Concert Information, Ticketmaster Links

Google-owned YouTube has announced a new partnership with Ticketmaster that steers music fans to concert tickets and tour info via the YouTube video pages of musical acts. Upcoming North America tour dates and nearest shows for hundreds of artists are now available in the description section of the acts’ posted videos. By clicking on the related “tickets” button for a specific show, YouTube users will be directed to the Ticketmaster site for purchase options. The new feature is available on both web and mobile versions. YouTube is planning international expansion and additional artist-to-fan connections. Continue reading YouTube Now Offers Concert Information, Ticketmaster Links

Microsoft HoloLens Finds New Life for Corporate Applications

Microsoft hasn’t given up on HoloLens. The company believes it is more suited for corporate training than gaming, and now Japan Airlines is using it is a good example of that. Two years ago, the Japanese company sent pilot Takashi Wada to Microsoft headquarters to try out the HoloLens; now he teaches HoloLens-equipped trainees how to flip virtual switches in a cockpit, prior to using flight simulators. Microsoft isn’t alone in pursuing such applications, with Alphabet, Apple and Facebook following suit. Continue reading Microsoft HoloLens Finds New Life for Corporate Applications

Google’s Geoff Hinton Tests Capsule Networks as AI Solution

In 2012, University of Toronto professor Geoffrey Hinton and two grad students showed off artificial neural networks, a technology that empowered machines to understand images. Google hired Hinton and his grad students six months later; Hinton now splits his time between Google and the university. Although neural networks now underlie speech transcription and many other tasks, Hinton isn’t enthused over the technology he helped launch. Instead, he’s now bullish on an “old” idea that could help reshape artificial intelligence. Continue reading Google’s Geoff Hinton Tests Capsule Networks as AI Solution

Google Hopeful for Chinese Re-Entry With TensorFlow for AI

Google exited China in 2010, but is now making another pitch to re-enter by promoting its TensorFlow software for building artificial intelligence solutions. Sources say that parent company Alphabet has added staff to look for potential AI investments among Chinese companies. The online Chinese market is the biggest in the world, but Google faces challenges there, not just with homegrown rivals such as Baidu, but the fact that China’s firewall keeps domestic developers from accessing Google’s cloud computing services. Continue reading Google Hopeful for Chinese Re-Entry With TensorFlow for AI

Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft Dominate With Major Q3 Growth

Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft reported significant Q3 growth: Alphabet’s profits rose 33 percent, Amazon’s 34 percent, and Microsoft’s 12 percent. The higher earnings are a reflection of the dominance of a few big companies that continue to expand into new markets. For example, enjoying the fruits of its flourishing cloud computing sector, Alphabet posted a 40 percent increase in non-advertising revenue, to $3.41 billion. News that Amazon obtained licenses from several state pharmaceutical boards also rocked the market. Continue reading Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft Dominate With Major Q3 Growth

YouTube Viewing via Connected TVs Up 70 Percent This Year

During Google’s Q3 earnings call yesterday, CEO Sundar Pichai revealed that YouTube is experiencing more than 100 million hours of watch time via living room devices daily, which represents a 70 percent jump in the last year and about 10 percent of total YouTube watch time. Earlier this year, Google announced more than 1 billion hours of watch time for YouTube across all devices, but this is the first time that smart TVs and living room devices were specified. More than half of YouTube’s viewing now takes place on mobile devices. Alphabet and Google CFO Ruth Porat noted that YouTube has an impressive 90 percent ad viewability rate. Continue reading YouTube Viewing via Connected TVs Up 70 Percent This Year

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