Netflix Tests Instagram Stories-Like Feature in its Mobile App

Netflix is currently testing a new feature in its mobile app that helps users stay connected with shows via trailers, alerts, videos and photos. Those who are in the test group will see an “Extras” tab positioned between Search and Downloads at the bottom of the screen. Rather than the vertical scroll of the current Coming Soon section, users navigate through the Extras feed horizontally, similar to the Instagram Stories model. Videos will play automatically, but require pressing a button to activate sound. Netflix has confirmed testing the new feature, but not whether it will become a permanent addition. Continue reading Netflix Tests Instagram Stories-Like Feature in its Mobile App

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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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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WhatsApp Calls Used to Inject Spyware on Mobile Phones

Hackers have reportedly been injecting Israeli spyware onto smartphones via the popular Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp. The surveillance software, named Pegasus, was developed by Israeli firm NSO Group and can access an iPhone with a single missed voice call on WhatsApp. NSO claims that it carefully vets its customers; the company’s software is intended for government agencies to combat crime and terrorism. While it is currently unknown how many users may have been affected at this point (the problem was first discovered in early May), WhatsApp says it has created a patch to address the vulnerability. Continue reading WhatsApp Calls Used to Inject Spyware on Mobile Phones

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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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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Android Q Live Caption Feature Enables Real-Time Subtitles

During Google’s I/O 2019 developers conference this week, the company demonstrated an impressive new feature for mobile operating system Android Q. Called Live Caption, the feature enables real-time transcription for any video or audio that users play on their smartphones. No matter if they’re listening or watching via YouTube, Skype, Instagram, Pocket Casts, or other applications, Live Caption overlays the text on top of whatever is being used. Additionally, Live Caption will work on top of original video or audio recordings on users’ phones.

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Spotify Tests Voice-Enabled Ads on Mobile Devices in U.S.

If you — like millions of others — log into Spotify via a free mobile account (and if you’re in the U.S. and have enabled voice controls), you might start noticing something new: voice-enabled ads. As part of increased investment in voice technology, the streaming service started a test period of these new ads, which encourage listeners to say verbal commands to take action based on the ad’s content. For now, Spotify is focused on promoted in-app content like branded playlists and podcasts, instead of directing listeners outside the app.

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Netflix Rolls Out Audio Quality Upgrade For Its Programming

After noticing that the audio in episodes of the Netflix series “Stranger Things” wasn’t as crisp as it should be, the company’s internal sound technicians took steps to address the issue. For the past several months, they’ve been working to enhance the sound quality of all Netflix programming, original and licensed. This week and moving forward, subscribers will have access to what’s simply being called “high-quality audio.” The upgrade, which will not require Netflix users to change their Internet service speeds, is optimized for devices that support Dolby 5.1 and Dolby Atmos sound.

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Creative Commons Intros Search Engine With 300M Images

After more than two years of beta testing, the nonprofit organization Creative Commons publicly launched its search engine, which includes more than 300 million images indexed — a huge jump from the 9.5 million images that were available at beta launch. The engine aims to provide an easy way for users to search the organization’s archive of free content, available in the public domain to use under Creative Commons licenses. Since its beta, the engine has been updated with a redesign and faster, more relevant search functionality.

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New Reports Reveal Unsettling Facts About Voice Assistants

Microsoft reports that 41 percent of those using voice assistants are concerned about “trust, privacy and passive listening.” Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft, the major voice assistant providers, rely on humans to review collected voice data — although most people are unaware of this. Bloomberg also delved into Amazon’s Alexa team following a report that the company reviews audio clips from commands. Five employees familiar with the program revealed they can “in some cases easily find a customer’s home address.” Continue reading New Reports Reveal Unsettling Facts About Voice Assistants

Fraunhofer Compression Tech Used to Stream VR Over 5G

German research organization Fraunhofer, known for its extensive work in applied sciences, including its contributions to compression tech used for today’s MP3 audio and MP4 video, is now working on 5G virtual reality streaming software. Last year, Fraunhofer revealed its high-speed VR microdisplay hardware. It is now demonstrating new video compression software based on the MPEG-OMAF standard, which allows for streaming of 360-degree video over 5G networks. The goal is to minimize the problems related to resolution, compression artifacts and latency commonly experienced when streaming VR content over 4G and Wi-Fi networks. Continue reading Fraunhofer Compression Tech Used to Stream VR Over 5G

Facebook Uses AI to Improve Games, Swap Singers’ Voices

Facebook is bringing back FMV (full motion video) games, which use pre-recorded video files to display action. With the work of Facebook AI Research scientists, the new FMV games are much improved, with a system that can extract controllable characters from real-world videos and then control their motion, thus generating new image sequences. Facebook AI Research scientists, in collaboration with Tel Aviv University, also unveiled a system that, unsupervised, converts audio of one singer to the voice of another. Continue reading Facebook Uses AI to Improve Games, Swap Singers’ Voices

New Distribution, Preservation Standards for the Digital Age

A modern laptop contains 251 technical interoperability standards, said Erik Weaver, global director of M&E market development at Western Digital. He added that only 20 of them come from Microsoft. The proliferation of standards in a digital era — and the need for interoperability between them — was the topic of a NAB 2019 Birds of a Feather discussion including representatives from five different groups involved with creating and redefining relevant standards: ASC, ETC, MESA, MovieLabs and CineCert. Continue reading New Distribution, Preservation Standards for the Digital Age

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