Google’s Ad Sales Shatter Records as Brands Shift to Digital

The pandemic-driven stay-at-home year supercharged Alphabet’s digital ad sales in Q1 to $55.31 billion, 34 percent up from a year earlier. Advertising sales via signature products such as Search, Google Maps and Gmail rose 30 percent to $31.88 billion as brands transitioned ad spending from print, TV and in-store promotions to Google services. Profit also more than doubled and per-share earnings were higher than expected. YouTube earned $6 billion, a 49 percent increase from last year, and total profit soared 162 percent from the previous year to almost $18 billion. Continue reading Google’s Ad Sales Shatter Records as Brands Shift to Digital

Microsoft’s Q3 Sales Jump, Driving Near $2 Trillion Valuation

Microsoft quarterly numbers exceeded analysts’ expectations and drove stock up 50 percent, bringing the company close to a $2 trillion valuation, second only to Apple’s. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to remote working and remote learning drove strong uptake of the company’s cloud computing services and video game units. Although chip shortages are slowing down hardware sales, chief executive Satya Nadella reported that digital adoption curves “aren’t slowing down … they’re accelerating.” Continue reading Microsoft’s Q3 Sales Jump, Driving Near $2 Trillion Valuation

Univision Selects Google for Bundled Cloud Computing Deal

Google has inked an eight-year deal with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications that could exceed $1 billion. Univision chief executive Wade Davis said Google’s offer of benefits on its YouTube video platform and advertising and search services helped close the deal. Microsoft and Amazon have also bundled products in cloud computing deals and lawmakers have expressed concern over the tactic. Google currently faces antitrust suits filed by the Justice Department and several states. Continue reading Univision Selects Google for Bundled Cloud Computing Deal

SMPTE: ETC Producing Team Will Discuss Virtual Production

SMPTE Hollywood will offer a glimpse into moviemaking in a post-COVID world this evening when it hosts the producing team behind the live-action, sci-fi short “Ripple Effect.” The virtual meeting is scheduled for April 22nd at 6:00 PM PDT on Zoom. Producers Erik Weaver, Greg Ciaccio and Kathryn Brillhart will discuss virtual production, remote workflow and on-set safety for post-COVID production. “Ripple Effect” is ETC@USC’s latest R&D short film; its goal was to test virtual and remote production techniques and tools in this era of social distancing. Registration for tonight’s event is available online. SMPTE Hollywood meetings are free and open to all, even non-members. Continue reading SMPTE: ETC Producing Team Will Discuss Virtual Production

Amazon: Jeff Bezos Touts New Vision for Employee Success

In the wake of Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama voting against unionization, company founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos stated that, “it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success.” Seventy percent of workers at the Alabama warehouse voted against the union. Bezos, who will step down as chief executive — but remain as chair — in Q3 this year, touted the fact that Amazon helped 200+ million Amazon Prime members save $630 each during the year. Continue reading Amazon: Jeff Bezos Touts New Vision for Employee Success

C-Suite Trends: Spending on Defensive AI, IT to Rise in 2021

MIT Technology Review Insights and cybersecurity firm Darktrace published a survey of 300+ worldwide C-level executives, directors and managers that reveals 96 percent are adopting “defensive AI” against AI-driven attacks. Of this cohort, 55 percent said traditional security solutions aren’t able to anticipate such AI-driven attacks. Defensive AI is comprised of self-learning algorithms that recognize normal user, device and system patterns and can spot anomalies. Gartner reported that global spending on IT will reach $4.1 trillion this year. Continue reading C-Suite Trends: Spending on Defensive AI, IT to Rise in 2021

University of Chicago Debuts First U.S. Quantum Accelerator

The University of Chicago and partners launched the first U.S. program to support quantum-tech startups. University of Chicago physicist and molecular engineer professor David Awschalom, who helped create the Duality accelerator, said, “we are at the birth of a new field of technology … at the point where the transistor is being invented.” Chicago is home to three of the eight federally funded quantum research centers founded in 2020. The University of Toronto has also unveiled a program to support quantum-tech startups. Continue reading University of Chicago Debuts First U.S. Quantum Accelerator

Spotify Intros Its Own Voice Assistant for Popular Music App

Audio streaming service Spotify unveiled a voice assistant with the wake phrase “Hey Spotify” on Android and iOS. Unlike other voice assistants, the app must be open to work; it will play a song, pull up a playlist and tune into a radio station as well as skip and pause. App researcher Jane Manchun Wong reported that the mobile version of the feature has been in the works for at least a year. It is enabled via the “settings” button in the Spotify app where the user turns on “voice interactions.” Spotify is now facing privacy questions. Continue reading Spotify Intros Its Own Voice Assistant for Popular Music App

Nasdaq, Intel Team on Homomorphic Encryption in the Cloud

Nasdaq and Intel have partnered to advance homomorphic encryption (HE), which allows AI and machine learning computations on data without having to decrypt it. Nasdaq will adopt HE to be used with Intel’s latest processors. Intel is also exploring the encryption technology with the Defense Department’s DARPA. Nasdaq’s exploration of HE in a business setting is aimed to lead to tools that can focus on preventing fraud and money laundering. Healthcare is another field that is expected to benefit from HE. Continue reading Nasdaq, Intel Team on Homomorphic Encryption in the Cloud

IBM Debuts Advanced Encryption Service After Years of R&D

As data moves to the cloud, security has become increasingly important. Fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) has been developed in labs and is nearly ready to emerge to enable artificial intelligence and machine learning use cases for that data. Microsoft and Intel have been proponents of homomorphic encryption, which follows the data across systems. In December, IBM released its first FHE services, which include educational materials, prototyping environments for companies that want to experiment and support. Continue reading IBM Debuts Advanced Encryption Service After Years of R&D

Arm Unveils Armv9, New Design Aimed to Enable AI, IoT, 5G

Prominent semiconductor designer Arm, which licenses its designs to others, debuted Armv9 architecture, which features its first major architectural advance in a decade and includes a 30 percent improvement in speed. Arm chief executive Simon Segars revealed that Armv9 will be “the base for the next 300 billion Arm-based chips.” Its customers have already shipped 180+ billion chips that impact 70+ percent of the global population. Nvidia is in the process of acquiring Arm, which is based in the United Kingdom, for $40 billion. Continue reading Arm Unveils Armv9, New Design Aimed to Enable AI, IoT, 5G

OpenAI and EleutherAI Foster Open-Source Text Generators

OpenAI’s GPT-3, the much-noted AI text generator, is now being used in 300+ apps by “tens of thousands” of developers and generating 4.5 billion words per day. Meanwhile, a collective of researchers, EleutherAI is building transformer-based language models with plans to offer an open source, GPT-3-sized model to the public for free. The non-profit OpenAI has an exclusivity deal with Microsoft that gives the tech giant unique access to GPT-3’s underlying code. But OpenAI has made access to its general API available to all comers, who then build services on top of it. Continue reading OpenAI and EleutherAI Foster Open-Source Text Generators

ETC White Paper Details Best Practices for Virtual Production

The Entertainment Technology Center@USC produced a live-action short, “Ripple Effect” to test new technologies and workflows, including the cloud, virtual production, and remote editing and visual effects. The project also introduced and evaluated a variety of tools and procedures that meet or exceed industry standards for a safe set during the COVID-19 pandemic. Executive producer Erik Weaver, the team at ETC, and tech partners have published a white paper that outlines recommendations for virtual production and critical lessons learned during the making of “Ripple Effect.” Continue reading ETC White Paper Details Best Practices for Virtual Production

HPA Tech Retreat: ETC, SMPTE Collaborate on AI Standards

Yves Bergquist, director of ETC@USC’s AI & Neuroscience in Media Project, described how ETC’s task force is working in concert with SMPTE to develop standards for AI and machine learning (ML) in the media and entertainment industry. During the HPA Tech Retreat, Bergquist noted how the two organizations successfully collaborated to develop standards in digital cinema, interoperable media, and cloud production. “We thought it was an opportunity to step up and help the media community better understand the scope of the AI technology,” he said. Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: ETC, SMPTE Collaborate on AI Standards

HPA Tech Retreat: Cloud-Enabled Virtual Production – Part 2

In a conversation on cloud-enabled virtual production during the HPA Tech Retreat, Jack Wenzinger of Amazon Web Services’ Global M&E Partners vertical asked how those interested in virtual production can retool existing skills. ETC@USC senior consultant Erik Weaver stated that participating in Epic Games’ Unreal Fellowship program was “an eye-opening experience.” “Understanding what a blueprint is and how to put things in a timeline gave me a fundamental understanding,” he said. “I highly recommend watching all the videos you can on Unreal and start walking through the tutorials.” Continue reading HPA Tech Retreat: Cloud-Enabled Virtual Production – Part 2

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