Apple Makes Major Play in Augmented Reality, First for iPhone

Apple chief executive Tim Cook is bullish on augmented reality, believing that the nascent sector can be as game changing as smartphones were ten years ago. Sources say that Apple is following through by building a team of hardware and software experts, with the idea of dominating augmented reality as it comes to the fore. The same sources report that Apple’s AR team, run by former Dolby Laboratories executive Mike Rockwell, includes engineers that worked on Oculus and HoloLens headsets as well as top Hollywood VFX experts. Continue reading Apple Makes Major Play in Augmented Reality, First for iPhone

Samsung’s Digital Assistant Bixby to Roll Out With Galaxy S8

Samsung has become the latest tech giant to unveil a digital assistant, introducing Bixby, which will first appear with the upcoming Galaxy S8 smartphone. Unlike Siri and Cortana, Bixby is not a database capable of answering questions, but rather is intended to help users accomplish tasks. The Galaxy S8 will feature a dedicated button to launch Bixby, which will initially offer a few preinstalled apps in English and Korean only. Chinese and Spanish versions will unveil shortly after the phone’s debut. Continue reading Samsung’s Digital Assistant Bixby to Roll Out With Galaxy S8

Netflix Continues Push to Become the First Global TV Network

Journalists were recently invited to the Silicon Valley offices of Netflix for a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s distribution efforts for its latest Marvel series, “Iron Fist.” Through a series of talks that emphasized how the streaming service is essentially becoming a global Internet-based television network for more than 93 million subscribers, the “Netflix Lab Days” event addressed the tech and business considerations involved with programming for an international audience, creating “taste communities” for recommendations and personalization, initiating deals with TV operators and ISPs around the world, language translations for original content, and translating the Netflix apps and catalog into multiple languages. Continue reading Netflix Continues Push to Become the First Global TV Network

NBA Embraces Virtual Reality, Drones and New Technologies

The NBA used last month’s All-Star game in New Orleans to showcase technology initiatives designed to create new fan experiences. Orlando Magic player Aaron Gordon, the NBA Slam Dunk Contest defending champion, received a pass from an Intel-powered drone to set up his tech-assisted dunk. NextVR, the company with exclusive VR live-streaming rights for NBA games, experimented with new camera angles. The NBA also hosted its 18th annual Technology Summit before All-Star Weekend, which included companies such as Instagram, Snap, Twitter and YouTube. Continue reading NBA Embraces Virtual Reality, Drones and New Technologies

PlayStation Now Service to Support Streaming of PS4 Games

Sony’s cloud-based PlayStation Now service currently offers subscribers access to 483 PS3 titles for streaming via PS4 consoles and Windows PCs. The service is about to expand its offerings with support for a new platform. In the next few weeks, the company will launch a private test of PlayStation 4 games on PS Now (select subscribers will receive emailed invitations). This means that gamers will no longer need a PlayStation 4 to experience the platform’s games. According to Sony, additional details will be shared “as we get closer to launch.” Continue reading PlayStation Now Service to Support Streaming of PS4 Games

Pandora Premium Looks to Take On Spotify and Apple Music

Fifteen months after Pandora acquired Rdio’s key assets, the company is launching its anticipated $10-a-month on-demand music service. Pandora Premium, which begins rolling out in the U.S. today, offers access to tens of millions of songs and the ability to save tracks offline. While it still touts the playlisting engine powered by data and people that made its curation approach famous, the service is aiming to distinguish itself from other offerings such as Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud by focusing on personalization features, a new design and ease-of-use. Continue reading Pandora Premium Looks to Take On Spotify and Apple Music

Facebook Rolls Out VR App, Vimeo Adds 360 Video Support

Facebook launched its first dedicated virtual reality app, Facebook 360, initially available only for the Samsung Gear VR mobile headset. The new app, for download via the Oculus Store, will serve as a central hub for the more than one million 360 videos and 25 million 360 photos already posted to the site. Meanwhile, Vimeo has joined competitors Facebook and YouTube in introducing support for 360-degree video content. The site now features a channel of curated 360 videos in addition to a series of tutorials designed to assist video creators with producing immersive content. Continue reading Facebook Rolls Out VR App, Vimeo Adds 360 Video Support

Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Facebook announced the beta release of a new voice search feature for the company’s Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR. “This feature lets you perform voice searches from Oculus Home to intuitively navigate games, apps, and experiences,” explains the Oculus team, noting future plans to “add even more functionality like seeing if a friend is online or contextual commands to invite people to a play a game with you.” While VentureBeat points out the feature “won’t let you look at your friends, your notifications, your profile, your avatar, app updates that you haven’t installed, or individual settings,” the review is largely positive and envisions future applications: “The speech technology might well end up becoming a part of Facebook’s more popular services, like WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and even good old Facebook itself.” Continue reading Facebook Introduces Voice Recognition Tech to VR Headsets

Facebook Messenger Lets Users Post Snapchat-Like Stories

Messenger has joined Instagram and WhatsApp in emulating Snapchat’s popular Stories concept. Messenger Day is a new feature within the Facebook Messenger app that encourages users to share a daily photo story. Users can post photos and 15-second videos taken with the Messenger camera or images and GIFs saved on their smartphone. The Messenger Day story is visible to all Facebook friends, but it disappears after 24 hours. Facebook’s unique special filters for the images are designed to spark conversations and encourage meet-ups. Continue reading Facebook Messenger Lets Users Post Snapchat-Like Stories

Google App Engine Supports More Programming Languages

At Google Cloud Next in San Francisco, Google announced its overhauled version of App Engine, the company’s platform-as-a-service for building application backends. “The big news is that App Engine now supports any programming language,” reports TechCrunch, “so a developer can create the app in whatever language they are comfortable using. Google sees this as a game changer, making the platform more open, which is a big theme with the company as it transitions to try and lure enterprise customers.” App Engine was originally a closed environment, but the new version is open and initially supports seven languages (Java 8, Ruby, Go, Python 2/3, C#, PHP 5/7 and Node.js). Continue reading Google App Engine Supports More Programming Languages

Sony Smartphones Tout Premium Cameras and 4K Displays

Sony’s Xperia series smartphones — the flagship XZ Premium, the smaller XZ, and the large XA1 Ultra — now feature impressive imaging capabilities, including an option to shoot video at 960 frames per second to enhance the phones’ slow motion capture feature. The lens improvements adjust the lighting to better illuminate nighttime scenes and all images are displayed in ultra-high definition 4K. Beyond the camera, Sony struck a deal to stream Amazon content on Xperia phones without the need for clunky third-party apps. Continue reading Sony Smartphones Tout Premium Cameras and 4K Displays

WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

WikiLeaks released thousands of documents yesterday that it claims detail methods used by the CIA “to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions,” reports The New York Times. According to WikiLeaks, the CIA and allied intelligence services bypassed encryption on messaging services including Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp. WikiLeaks also suggests that agencies can collect audio and messaging data from Android phones “before encryption is applied.” The Wall Street Journal notes that such activities, if actually taking place with consumer electronics, could fuel tensions between intelligence agencies and the tech industry, which has been concerned about customer privacy. Mobile devices are a major concern; NYT published an article detailing potential smartphone vulnerabilities. Continue reading WikiLeaks Claims of CIA Hacking Could Impact Tech Industry

Record-Breaking Launch Weekend for New Nintendo Console

The new Nintendo Switch hybrid video game console had the highest first weekend sales in the U.S. of any system in Nintendo’s history, beating a record previously held by the Nintendo Wii. “Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” the first major title for Switch, is also the best-selling launch title in the first two days of sales. The initial numbers are promising for Nintendo, but the challenge is to keep the momentum to reach its goal of selling more than 100 million Switch consoles. That kind of success hasn’t been seen since Nintendo’s Wii console, but so far, the Switch is off to a solid start. Continue reading Record-Breaking Launch Weekend for New Nintendo Console

More Teens Are Hanging Out Virtually with Group Video Chats

Teenagers of Generation Z who are spending less time hanging out with their friends in physical environments are going virtual, increasingly turning to group video chats as a substitute. Apps such as Houseparty, Fam, Tribe, Airtime and ooVoo, as well as more traditional messaging apps with a video chat feature like Facebook Messenger and Kik, are making “virtual chilling” possible as busier schedules and helicopter parenting interfere with more traditional forms of socializing. Continue reading More Teens Are Hanging Out Virtually with Group Video Chats

FCC: Pai Halts Privacy Rules, Foreshadowing Broader Repeal

After a 2-to-1 vote, the FCC put a halt to a portion of the privacy rules passed in October. New FCC chair Ajit Pai said those rules required high-speed Internet providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, to secure their customers’ data against hacking and other unauthorized uses. This stay of new government rules may be a foreshadowing of a broader repeal of privacy protections, believe some experts. In line with that, Pai also stated that the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, should “oversee broadband and Internet industries.” Continue reading FCC: Pai Halts Privacy Rules, Foreshadowing Broader Repeal

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