El Salvador First Country to Make Bitcoin a National Currency

Amidst political turmoil and economic struggle, El Salvador has announced it is adopting Bitcoin as its national currency, becoming the first country in the world to do so. But things got off to a rough start this week as the Bitcoin e-wallet went offline for several hours as consumer download demand overwhelmed government servers. El Salvador President Nayib Bukele said the country will spend more than $225 million to launch Bitcoin. Global Bitcoin enthusiasts supported the initiative by buying $30 of Bitcoin, but that didn’t prevent the currency from declining 9.9 percent Tuesday evening. Continue reading El Salvador First Country to Make Bitcoin a National Currency

Andreessen Horowitz Debuts $2.2 Billion Cryptocurrency Fund

Andreessen Horowitz launched a $2.2 billion cryptocurrency fund focused on blockchain and digital asset startups. The venture capital firm’s first crypto-focused fund was introduced three years ago, during the last bear market dubbed “crypto winter,” when cryptocurrency’s value plummeted 80 percent from a 2017 high. Andreessen Horowitz partners Katie Haun and Chris Dixon, who run the company’s cryptocurrency group, stated that they “believe that the next wave of computing innovation will be driven by crypto.” Continue reading Andreessen Horowitz Debuts $2.2 Billion Cryptocurrency Fund

Bitcoin Ransom Recovery May Impact Cryptocurrency Status

Bitcoin is touted as a secure, decentralized and anonymous way to conduct financial transactions, one reason why cybercriminals use it or some other cryptocurrency when conducting illegal business, whether it’s drug trafficking or ransomware. But this week the Justice Department revealed that it traced and recovered 63.7 of the 75 Bitcoins ($2.3 million of the total $4.3 million) that Colonial Pipeline paid in ransom to release its computer systems. The feds declined to detail how they recouped the Bitcoin. Meanwhile, El Salvador has become the first nation to formally adopt Bitcoin as legal tender. Continue reading Bitcoin Ransom Recovery May Impact Cryptocurrency Status

Coinbase Becomes First Cryptocurrency Startup to Go Public

Startup Coinbase, a secure exchange platform that helps people purchase, sell and store cryptocurrencies, has become the first such startup to go public. Shares traded at $381 each, up 52 percent from a reference price of $250, and eventually closed at $328.28, for a company valuation of $85.7 billion, ten times higher than its last private valuation. The San Francisco-based company’s IPO is a landmark for long-time crypto advocates. In its wake, Bitcoin’s value soared to $64,829 and Ether traded at a record-high of $2,487 (which also followed news about upgrades to the Ethereum network). Continue reading Coinbase Becomes First Cryptocurrency Startup to Go Public

PayPal, Visa Enable Streamlined Cryptocurrency Transactions

PayPal announced the launch of Checkout with Crypto, which allows customers to purchase certain items online via cryptocurrencies. The new feature is part of the company’s new unit focused on blockchain and crypto/digital currencies and adds to its current capability for customers to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrency. Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash are the cryptocurrencies accepted, which are processed with clear conversion rates and no additional fees but only one type of cryptocurrency is accepted for each purchase. Continue reading PayPal, Visa Enable Streamlined Cryptocurrency Transactions

Digital Collage Sells for a Record $69.3 Million at NFT Auction

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have been generating headlines, most recently when graphic designer and self-taught artist Mike Winkelmann (also known as Beeple) sold a digital image online at Christie’s auction house for $69.3 million. It was also the most expensive digital asset to ever sell with a “digital certificate of authenticity,” otherwise known as an NFT. The blockchain-based assets differ from cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin in that each NFT is a “singularly unique marker for the digital asset it tags.” Hence the uproar in the art world over Beeple’s record-breaking sale. Continue reading Digital Collage Sells for a Record $69.3 Million at NFT Auction

Square Acquires Majority Stake in Jay-Z’s Tidal Music Service

Digital payment firm Square is spending $297 million in cash and stock for a majority share of the subscription-based Tidal streaming music service. Tidal owner Jay-Z, born Shawn Carter, will join Square’s board. Now, musicians on Tidal will be able to use Square’s Cash App payment service to digitally store and transfer money. Square hardware lead Jesse Dorogusker, who will temporarily lead Tidal, said, “we’re interested in a 360-degree view of artists as small-business owners,” noting live performances, merchandise and collaborations. Continue reading Square Acquires Majority Stake in Jay-Z’s Tidal Music Service

CES: Industry Experts Discuss the Cryptocurrency Landscape

Cryptocurrency entrepreneurs convened in early December to record The Cryptocurrency Landscape session that CES 2021 released today. Panelists discussed how Wyoming has established legal and regulatory protocols for Bitcoin to make cryptocurrency activities compatible with existing banking regulations. They also discussed how institutions and businesses are getting more comfortable with cryptocurrency investments, how online payment services such as PayPal and Venmo have added Bitcoin to their transaction options, and how cryptocurrency’s provable scarcity makes it more attractive to investors and the general public as countries issue more currency to prop up their economies during the COVID shutdown. Continue reading CES: Industry Experts Discuss the Cryptocurrency Landscape

App Annie Reports Growth in Mobile Game and App Spending

App Annie predicted that mobile game and app spending will have grown 25 percent to $112 billion in 2020. Director of market insights Amir Ghodrati added that the company will likely revise these numbers upwards at the end of December. Both iOS and Android showed record-breaking growth, with 65 percent of spending going to the former and almost 30 percent to the latter. Apple iOS and Google mobile app and game downloads are expected to reach 130 billion in 2020, up 10 percent from 2019. Continue reading App Annie Reports Growth in Mobile Game and App Spending

HPA Tech Retreat: ETC Outlines Adaptive Production Projects

ETC’s director of adaptive production Seth Levenson described the USC think tank’s array of projects under this umbrella, which include archiving, blockchain, and visual effects standards. The working group on archiving, co-chaired by Paramount Pictures senior vice president asset management Andrea Kalas, is developing best practices for cloud preservation. Levenson pointed to the white paper on “Guidelines for Digital Audio-Visual Assets in the Cloud,” which in part focused on fixity, or getting out the same assets that were uploaded. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: ETC Outlines Adaptive Production Projects

CES 2020: Location-Based AI is Enabling an Efficient Future

Location-based data is key to many of the efficiencies promised in smart, AI-enabled cities. HERE Technologies got its start in location data in 1985 when, as Navteq and later Nokia, its goal was to digitize mapping and pioneer in-car navigation. In 2015, HERE was sold to a consortium of German automakers and currently has nine direct and indirect shareholders. The company now creates 3D maps and other location-based solutions. During CES, HERE senior VP development & CTO Giovanni Lanfranchi described how the company ran a hackathon in Istanbul that challenged ordinary citizens to come up with new location-based solutions. Continue reading CES 2020: Location-Based AI is Enabling an Efficient Future

CES 2020: Conference Sessions Cover Big Ideas and Details

More than 300 conference sessions and 1,100 speakers across 22 different tracks offer first-person insight into the universe of topics to be featured at CES 2020 this week in Las Vegas. As the world’s largest showcase of tech innovation, CES gathers leaders and experts to share the latest developments in products and policies. This year’s lineup of SuperSessions captures the zeitgeist of the market as it advances from an imagined future to real issues, opportunities and challenges. ETC will report on many of the sessions most relevant to media and entertainment. Continue reading CES 2020: Conference Sessions Cover Big Ideas and Details

CES: Expectations for the Immersive Experience Landscape

When CES 2020 opens on January 7th in Las Vegas, I expect experiences — of which ‘entertainment’ is one option — will be center stage. We will be watching for repositioning of products and services as experiences, as well as for new ideas for experiences themselves. To state the obvious, for mixed reality and immersive experiences to work well, the user experience (UX) should be intuitive and match user expectations. Companies are working to achieve this by dealing in their own individual ways with the convergence of multisensory, multiplatform, immersive media technology and language (VR, AR, MR, XR); AI; 5G; IoT; robotics and autonomous things; and blockchain. Gartner describes this as a shift from technology-literate people to people-literate technology. Continue reading CES: Expectations for the Immersive Experience Landscape

ETC’s Latest Quarterly Newsletter Is Now Available Online

The Entertainment Technology Center’s newsletter covering new and ongoing projects over the course of the past fall quarter is now online. Among the key announcements: finalists are revealed for ETC’s Fall Immersive Media Challenge; coverage of ETC’s video series from its 5th annual virtual conference, vETC; an update on the Adaptive Production project, whose Archiving and Blockchain subcommittees published white papers on fixity and Consortium Shared Identity, respectively; highlights of ETCentric journalist Debra Kaufman’s reception of an ICG award; director of immersive media Phil Lelyveld’s interview at the Canadian Film Centre; a feature of new member company RWS Moravia; following up with a USC and ETC alumnus, Universal Pictures’ Lindsey Townley; and the announcement of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts course, “Hacking for Hollywood,” involving ETC CEO Ken Williams. Continue reading ETC’s Latest Quarterly Newsletter Is Now Available Online

Mythical Games Blockchain Strategy Gets $19 Million Boost

Los Angeles-based Mythical Games raised $19 million to pursue its mission of creating games with blockchain and allowing players to benefit via ownership. The company, which has dubbed this strategy “player-owned economies,” is at work on its first game. Javelin Venture Partners was the lead investor, joined by new investors Avon Ventures, Alumni Ventures and Hashed. Galaxy Digital, via its Digital EOS VC Fund and Struck Capital, are other current investors. Mythical Games raised $16 million last year in two rounds. Continue reading Mythical Games Blockchain Strategy Gets $19 Million Boost

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