Facebook Tests Web-Based Audio Q&A Application ‘Hotline’

Facebook’s R&D group NPE Team (New Product Experimentation) debuted the public beta of Hotline, a web-based application that allows creators to speak to an audience that can pose questions via text or audio. The first to try out Hotline was real estate investor Nick Huber who, via a livestream, talked about investing in industrial real estate as a secondary income. NPE Team identified Huber as an ideal Hotline user who would use it to expand professional skills or finances. Hotline is led by Facebook product developer Erik Hazzard. Continue reading Facebook Tests Web-Based Audio Q&A Application ‘Hotline’

YouTube Debuts Would-Be TikTok Rival ‘Shorts’ in U.S. Beta

YouTube Shorts, intended to rival video-sharing social media platform TikTok, rolled out in beta to a small group of U.S. users, after debuting first in India last fall. Shorts project lead Todd Sherman said the company plans to experiment with advertising and monetization features for creators “later this year.” In beta, Shorts offers the ability to add text to points in the video and sample audio from other Shorts. Similar to TikTok, YouTube Shorts is focused on music. Shorts, however, integrates with the larger YouTube platform. Continue reading YouTube Debuts Would-Be TikTok Rival ‘Shorts’ in U.S. Beta

HPA Tech Retreat: ETC’s ‘Ripple Effect’ Beta-Tests Safetyvis

When COVID-19 hit, Hollywood (and other filmmaking venues) came to a near standstill, with movie theaters closed and productions halted. As DigitalFilm Tree chief executive Ramy Katrib noted, the M&E business is “uniquely unsuited to social distancing.” But Katrib decided to leverage Cinecode, the tools his company built for virtual production, to see if he couldn’t come up with a way to “visualize” safety on the set. At the Entertainment Technology Center@USC, senior consultant Erik Weaver worked with Katrib and beta-tested the result on the live-action short “Ripple Effect.” Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: ETC’s ‘Ripple Effect’ Beta-Tests Safetyvis

Twitter to Launch Chat Alternative to Clubhouse Next Month

Twitter will debut Spaces, a rival to audio-chat app Clubhouse, in April according to a tweet in a public Twitter Space audio room by host Alex (@akkhosh). Twitter will also soon allow anyone to host a Twitter Spaces room. Twitter Spaces was released in beta on the Android platform late in 2020. The product will roll out for Android and iOS; Twitter is also considering support for using music and allowing tweeting in Spaces. In addition, Twitter is working on a Spaces “Tip Jar” to let users donate to content creators with donations. Continue reading Twitter to Launch Chat Alternative to Clubhouse Next Month

Spotify to Introduce Hi-Fi Option, Paid Podcast Subscriptions

Spotify will debut a Hi-Fi option later this year, the company announced during its recent “Stream On” presentation. Chief executive and co-founder Daniel Ek also revealed that the company paid $5 billion in royalties during 2020, and chief content officer Dawn Ostroff added that, over the last four years, 800+ recording artists have made more than $1 million a year in recording and publishing, up over 82 percent. About 7,500 artists made more than $100,000 a year, up 79 percent. Spotify also announced that it will launch paid podcast subscriptions. Continue reading Spotify to Introduce Hi-Fi Option, Paid Podcast Subscriptions

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

Facebook Developing a Product to Rival Chat App Clubhouse

According to sources, Facebook is developing an audio chat product to compete with Clubhouse, a social networking app that has gained popularity with young people who gather and chat about various topics. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, reportedly interested in audio products, has appeared on Clubhouse to chat about augmented reality and virtual reality. Facebook is also known for cloning popular products. Facebook’s audio product is, added the sources, in an early stage of development. Continue reading Facebook Developing a Product to Rival Chat App Clubhouse

Facebook Parries Apple’s Privacy Policy with Its Own Prompt

In response to Apple’s changes that require users’ consent to track their behavior, Facebook — which claims the privacy change will make targeted advertising too difficult — has responded with its own solution. The social media company plans to introduce an in-app prompt that asks users to give permission to use data collected from apps and third-party websites and provides information on how the data is used for personalized ads. That screen will appear with the Apple prompt detailing its new privacy policy. Continue reading Facebook Parries Apple’s Privacy Policy with Its Own Prompt

Spotify Tests Service That Helps Artists Promote Their Music

Spotify is testing a new service that gives artists more power over how their music is discovered on its platform. First, it will allow artists and labels to identify the music that matters most to them, and Spotify will add a “signal” to help the music be found by its personalization algorithms. Spotify has created a model in which artists, labels and rights holders will be paid a “promotional recording royalty rate” for streams that it provides, although the service does not require an upfront budget for artists and labels. Continue reading Spotify Tests Service That Helps Artists Promote Their Music

Amazon Fresh Stores Aim to Reinvent Shopping Experiences

Amazon Fresh Stores have a very different look from Whole Foods, which the e-commerce giant purchased in 2017. The Fresh Store, which just opened its second outpost last week in Irvine, California, looks like a small warehouse, with Dash Carts offering integrated touchscreens and cameras. The Fresh Store is designed to be as easy as possible to retrofit in an existing retailer space and the look is spartan and appears to be optimized for robots. Prepared foods are available but there’s no place to sit and eat them. Continue reading Amazon Fresh Stores Aim to Reinvent Shopping Experiences

Facebook Streams Free-to-Play Games via Its Cloud Service

After beta-testing with 200,000 users, Facebook debuted a cloud gaming service for Android and the web, providing smaller free-to-play games such as “Asphalt 9: Legends,” “PGA TOUR Golf Shootout,” “Solitaire: Arthur’s Tale” and “Mobile Legends: Adventure.” Over time, the social media giant plans to add more games, which can be found in its Gaming section. In conjunction and to remind people about the new games, Facebook is also introducing “cloud playable ads,” derived from games’ native code. Continue reading Facebook Streams Free-to-Play Games via Its Cloud Service

Adobe Beta-Testing New Tool to Detect Manipulated Images

Adobe released a beta version of a Photoshop tool that will make it easier to determine if an image is real or has been manipulated. The so-called attribution tool, which will first be tested with a select group of people, enables photo editors to attach more detailed, secure metadata to images. In addition to including who created the image, the metadata will provide information on how it was altered and if AI tools were used to do so. Adobe said it will also be clear if the metadata has been tampered with. This could be a step toward combatting deepfakes. Continue reading Adobe Beta-Testing New Tool to Detect Manipulated Images

Amazon Explore Platform Delivers Unique Virtual Experiences

Amazon debuted Explore, a platform for live classes, sightseeing tours, personal shoppers and other virtual experiences hosted by local experts. The video is one-way but the audio is two-way so the user can ask questions and make requests of the video’s host. Among the offerings are a $129 bagel cooking class and, for $70, a 45-minute virtual tour of a Lima, Peru mansion. At launch, Explore offers 86 experiences across 16 countries, but the platform has potential for significant growth. Other companies offering virtual experiences include Airbnb and fitness company ClassPass. Continue reading Amazon Explore Platform Delivers Unique Virtual Experiences

SpaceX Deploys Starlink Satellites to Washington Burn Zones

SpaceX tested its Starlink satellite in Washington state for emergency responders, the first early use of the service revealed thus far. Initial reports indicate improved setup times and significant decreases in latency. In early August, Washington’s state military, which includes its emergency response division, began using Starlink to bring Internet service to areas destroyed by wildfires via seven Starlink user terminals. Meanwhile, the four-year-old startup Swarm Technologies has placed 21 of its tiny satellites into orbit, to deliver Internet access to all types of devices. Continue reading SpaceX Deploys Starlink Satellites to Washington Burn Zones

Free Video-Sharing App Byte Aims to Compete with TikTok

Byte, a video-sharing app created by Dom Hofmann, debuted Friday and hit No. 1 for free iOS apps in Apple’s U.S. App Store. Byte, which targets rival ByteDance’s TikTok, is a reboot of the former Vine video-sharing service Hofmann co-founded in 2012 and sold to Twitter that year. Twitter couldn’t find a way to make Vine profitable and shuttered it in 2016. In its short life, Vine became a “cultural touchpoint” as users took on the creative challenge of the six-second format. Byte is also the top free iOS app in Canada. Continue reading Free Video-Sharing App Byte Aims to Compete with TikTok