ETC and Partners to Pilot Test Virtual Production Capabilities

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC has selected filmmakers Hannah Bang, Margo Sawaya and Sabina Vajrača to receive the 2020 Innovative Technology Award for their virtual production-based project, “The Ripple Effect.” The trio developed the futuristic live-action project with the aim of testing the limits of virtual production. “With Unreal Engine, we can minimize on set crew and provide better controls for talent and staff,” explained executive producer Erik Weaver. “We want to get people back to work while keeping cast and crews safe.” Continue reading ETC and Partners to Pilot Test Virtual Production Capabilities

Google Developing New Cloud Services During the Pandemic

According to Google Cloud chief executive Thomas Kurian, the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the development of new cloud features. “Every week, there’s a new set of dimensions, and we have to adapt, keep people positive, and focus through it,” he said. A new security product that encrypts data while it’s being processed, for example, is aimed at luring businesses in highly regulated industries to adopt cloud services. Another cloud-computing product is Assured Workloads for Government, a new way to secure public sector deals. Continue reading Google Developing New Cloud Services During the Pandemic

Big Tech Companies Pull Back on Facial Recognition Products

After years of dissent from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Fight for the Future and groups of academics, Big Tech companies are finally taking another look at their facial recognition products. Microsoft president Brad Smith stated his company won’t sell facial recognition to the police until federal regulation is instituted. Amazon placed a one-year moratorium on police use of its Rekognition software, and IBM backed away entirely from facial recognition products, citing the potential for abuse. Yesterday we reported that Congress introduced a police reform bill that includes limits on the use of facial recognition software. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Pull Back on Facial Recognition Products

Pinterest Adds Today Tab for Topics, Shop Tab for Products

Pinterest, the website and mobile app that describes itself as a “visual discovery engine,” showcased “Today,” a tab on the user’s Pinterest home page that features topics and ideas curated by Pinterest staff and trending pins selected by algorithms. “Today” is a response to changing customer behavior during the coronavirus pandemic. The platform’s global monthly active users reached 367+ million, up from about 300 million last September. During the last few months, searches and boards have both leapt up 60 percent compared to last year. Continue reading Pinterest Adds Today Tab for Topics, Shop Tab for Products

Executive Spotlight: A Talk with Lance Podell of Iron Mountain Entertainment Services

For the latest installment in ETC’s Executive Spotlight series, we had a fascinating conversation with Lance Podell, senior vice president and general manager of Iron Mountain Entertainment Services (IMES), a leader in media archiving for the entertainment industry. IMES steers its film, music, broadcast and sports clients in media preservation, restoration and distribution. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Podell’s group has focused on safety and remote productivity while developing innovative methods for protecting assets and serving as an extension of its clients’ businesses. Iron Mountain has also created a “digital studio in a box” so that projects can stay on track during this challenging time. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: A Talk with Lance Podell of Iron Mountain Entertainment Services

AWS Intros AI Tool to Add Human Reviewers to ML Workflow

Amazon Web Services unveiled Amazon Augmented Artificial Intelligence (A2I), a fully managed service that makes it easy for developers to build workflows that use human reviewers to validate machine learning predictions. Human reviewers can be added via Mechanical Turk, third-party vendors or the developer’s own employees. The developer can also use Amazon A2I to structure the review process and manage the human reviewers. Users do not need to commit to use Amazon A2I, but instead pay only for each review needed. Continue reading AWS Intros AI Tool to Add Human Reviewers to ML Workflow

Cloud Services Experience Record Revenue, Slowing Growth

According to Canalys, by the end of Q1 2020, companies spent a record $31 billion on cloud infrastructure, 34.5 percent growth from $23.1 billion for Q1 2019. Despite increased spending, however, the growth trajectory is slowing: Q1 2019 showed a 39.3 percent year-on-year (YoY) increase and Q4 2019 a 37.2 percent year-on-year increase. Cloud spending therefore grew only 2.6 percent or $800 million quarter-on-quarter by end of March 2020. Canalys attributes growth to the shift to remote working during the pandemic. Continue reading Cloud Services Experience Record Revenue, Slowing Growth

Chip Sales Surge as Screen Time Increases During Pandemic

As a result of the global shutdown, personal and business Internet usage is way up. SimilarWeb reported that users spent an additional 5 billion hours of screen time in March — a 13 percent leap over February — on the 100 most popular sites, including Facebook and Google. Likewise, Amazon, Netflix and YouTube are thriving. That’s led to a surge in demand for chipsets. Micron Technology chief executive Sanjay Mehrotra said his company is shifting production of its chips away from smartphones and towards data-center products. Continue reading Chip Sales Surge as Screen Time Increases During Pandemic

Teradici Enables Remote Studio Workforce for VFX, Broadcast

Presenting as part of yesterday’s Equinix/ETC&USC live webinar, Teradici chief executive David Smith noted that his company has 14 years of experience in creating remote workflows. “These technologies are who we are and what we do,” he said. “We are passionate about visualization workflows and graphic-intensive workflows that involve our GPU partners like AMD, Nvidia and others.” Such remote workflows, he said, “add tremendous value,” especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which has heightened the need for them. Continue reading Teradici Enables Remote Studio Workforce for VFX, Broadcast

Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

This week, big tech companies such as IBM and Intel will report quarterly earnings, followed by Apple, Facebook, Alphabet, Amazon and Microsoft next week. Some companies — such as Amazon, Intel, Micron Technology and Microsoft — are doing well, even growing, whereas Facebook and Alphabet deal with a dramatic plunge in advertising. Even Apple issued a “rare profit warning.” The pandemic is hitting startups particularly hard, as venture capital money dries up and they are forced to lay off staff. Continue reading Pandemic Tests Big Tech Firms, Slows VC Money for Startups

Microsoft and NBA Sign Multiyear Deal for AI, Cloud Services

Microsoft and the National Basketball Association have inked a multiyear deal to build a consumer-facing digital platform to debut with the 2020-2021 season. The NBA will utilize the tech company’s Azure cloud computing and artificial intelligence capabilities to customize games and experiences. The deal’s terms were not revealed, but it covers all NBA properties including the Women’s National Basketball Association and USA Basketball. To win the deal, Microsoft bested cloud competitors Amazon and Google. Continue reading Microsoft and NBA Sign Multiyear Deal for AI, Cloud Services

Tech Leaders Focus on ‘Low Code’ and ‘No Code’ Software

Amazon, Google and Microsoft are targeting “low code” and “no code” software to enable business people to develop their own apps. Microsoft’s Power platform, which offers this capability, is the company’s fastest-growing business app ever. The company predicted that 500 million such apps will be built in the next five years, more than the total built in the last 40 years. Google Cloud just purchased Seattle-based AppSheet, a big player in this software market and rumor has it that Amazon Web Services will soon debut a similar product. Continue reading Tech Leaders Focus on ‘Low Code’ and ‘No Code’ Software

Amazon Takes Steps to Become the Next Major Game Player

Amazon is readying the launch of Relentless Studios, the company’s video-gaming division. In May, it will introduce its first original game “Crucible,” a big-budget sci-fi shooter. It is also in development on its new cloud gaming platform, code-named Project Tempo and developing more casual games for its Twitch streaming service. With these new efforts, Amazon is competing on another front with Google and Microsoft, which have increased their gaming offerings. Video-gaming has skyrocketed during the coronavirus pandemic. Continue reading Amazon Takes Steps to Become the Next Major Game Player

Amazon Struggles to Adapt to Many Challenges of Pandemic

During the coronavirus pandemic, Amazon and its chief executive Jeff Bezos are weathering volatile times. Amazon is suffering shortages of goods, delays in shipping, an employee sick-out at Whole Foods Markets, and a walkout at a fulfillment center, which led to the firing of the strike leader. Amazon’s removal of counterfeit/price gouging products also means a shortage in face masks and sanitizers. At the same time, Amazon’s cloud-services company Amazon Web Services is booming, as home-bound customers stream content on Amazon Prime. Continue reading Amazon Struggles to Adapt to Many Challenges of Pandemic

Federal Government Considers Plans For Broadband Access

Although millions of Americans are at home, the Senate did not include money for broadband infrastructure in the $3 trillion stimulus package under consideration. However, the current bill does include some funding to deploy mobile hot spots around the country. Proponents of accessible broadband will try to add that to any upcoming stimulus package. Meanwhile, the U.S. government, along with several Big Tech companies, is providing global access to 16 supercomputers to help researchers discover vaccines to combat the coronavirus. Continue reading Federal Government Considers Plans For Broadband Access

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