Niantic and Punchdrunk Partner to Develop New AR Projects

Punchdrunk, the British theater company that produced “Sleep No More,” and Niantic, developer of popular mobile games “Pokémon Go” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” are teaming up to collaborate on several projects. In “Sleep No More” — an immersive but not interactive show — audience members walked through rooms at their own pace, with actors performing hour-long loops. Punchdrunk already produced a virtual reality project for Samsung Gear VR and a mobile game with Silverpoint. The two companies haven’t released details on their first project. Continue reading Niantic and Punchdrunk Partner to Develop New AR Projects

Microsoft Will Offer Free Digital Training for 25 Million People

To help fight the unemployment created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft and LinkedIn (which Microsoft acquired in 2016) plan to offer free online classes and job-hunting resources to 25 million people around the world by the end of 2020. The two companies have identified 10 booming occupations — including data analyst, digital marketer and help-desk technician — that require digital skills they aim to teach. These professionals also pay relatively well, even for those without a college degree. Continue reading Microsoft Will Offer Free Digital Training for 25 Million People

China Trades With U.S. Ally Japan as 5G War Gathers Speed

The U.S. banned use of Huawei Technologies’ 5G gear to slow down China’s dominance in the arena, and yesterday the FCC designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats. Meanwhile, U.S. ally Japan is trying to avoid conflict with both countries, while purchasing 500,000+ Huawei 5G base stations at a cost of $150 billion to install throughout the country by the end of 2020. Japanese companies such as Murata Manufacturing also purvey 5G components to global tech companies, including those in China. Murata Manufacturing chair Tsuneo Murata noted that 5G is “a very promising market for our parts.” Continue reading China Trades With U.S. Ally Japan as 5G War Gathers Speed

Video Game Platforms Turn Into Venues for Concerts, Movies

During the COVID-19 pandemic, video game platforms have transformed into virtual entertainment sites. Online game platform Roblox recently hosted a benefit concert featuring Lady Gaga and Paul McCartney, and online game “Fortnite” ran a trailer for director Christopher Nolan’s upcoming feature “Tenet” and Quibi video clips. It also added a socializing space, launching it with a party at which EDM stars deadmau5, Steve Aoki and Dillon Francis performed. Most recently, also on “Fortnite,” DJ Diplo debuted his latest album in a live performance. Continue reading Video Game Platforms Turn Into Venues for Concerts, Movies

Deloitte Study Warns Growth in Streaming Subs May Not Last

Per the 14th annual edition of Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends study, the average U.S. consumer now pays for four streaming-video services, up from three before the COVID-19 pandemic. Deloitte warns that, once lockdown restrictions are lifted, consumers may cut back on their streaming again. Pre-COVID, 73 percent subscribed to at least one paid streaming service, a number that has risen to about 80 percent. Deloitte compared the findings of a December 2019-January 2020 survey with a second one conducted in May 2020. Continue reading Deloitte Study Warns Growth in Streaming Subs May Not Last

ARM-Based Japanese Supercomputer Now No. 1 on Top500

While the United States and China compete to create the world’s most powerful computers, a Japanese supercomputer, dubbed Fugaku, took first place in Top500’s speed ranking. At the Kobe-based RIKEN Center for Computational Science, Fugaku achieved 2.8 times more calculations per second than the previous speediest system, IBM’s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Fugaku, which pushed another IBM computer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California to third place, is based on ARM chip technology. Continue reading ARM-Based Japanese Supercomputer Now No. 1 on Top500

YouTube Unveils ‘Shop Now’ and ‘Video Action Campaigns’

YouTube has debuted ads that allow marketers to create a ‘Shop Now’ section below their ads so that users can browse and purchase products, listed with prices. Advertisers can put these interactive ads in areas that get high traffic, such as home pages. YouTube director of product management Nicky Rettke reported that, “70 percent of people say they bought a brand as a result of seeing it on our platform.” YouTube tested the Shop Now format with clothing brand Aerie, which saw a 25 percent higher return on its ad spend. Continue reading YouTube Unveils ‘Shop Now’ and ‘Video Action Campaigns’

Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 Will Enable Mid-Tier 5G Phones

Qualcomm unveiled its next step towards widespread availability of 5G-enabled smartphones. The Snapdragon 690 is a more economical mobile platform with 5G connectivity, and support for cameras with up to 192-megapixel photos and 30-frame-per-second 4K HDR videos, the latter two based on AI chip enhancements for high bitrates. Snapdragon 690 incorporates the X51 modem, which offers global 5G band and global multi-SIM support, although it’s only capable of connecting to sub-6GHz 5G networks, excluding millimeter wave. Continue reading Qualcomm Snapdragon 690 Will Enable Mid-Tier 5G Phones

Online Bookshop Intends to Support Local, Indie Bookstores

In January, small press publisher Andy Hunter started an independent online book platform as an alternative to Amazon. His idea was that even if he captured a tiny fraction of Amazon’s sales, he could be successful. In fact, he told prospective investors that he could reach $30 million in annual sales in a mere two years, a figure that seemed fanciful at the time. But when COVID-19 struck, hundreds of other bookstore owners joined his site, and Bookshop is on track to reap over $40 million in sales this year. Continue reading Online Bookshop Intends to Support Local, Indie Bookstores

Niantic Creates Virtual Format for Two-Day Pokémon GO Fest

Rather than bringing people together in a park, Niantic‘s Pokémon GO Fest 2020 will enable gamers from around the world to join virtually from July 25 to July 26. Niantic chief executive John Hanke referenced COVID-19 when he explained his company wants to support players during the lockdown. “We want to bring the fun, and we want to make a safe adventure for people, as we have in the past year after year,” he said. He added that Niantic supports Black Lives Matter and wants to be a force for good for users and their communities. Continue reading Niantic Creates Virtual Format for Two-Day Pokémon GO Fest

Use of Messaging App Signal Skyrockets During Civil Unrest

In May, according to App Annie, the encrypted messaging app Signal was downloaded one million times worldwide, a result of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the more recent protests over George Floyd’s death and police brutality. Sensor Tower reports that Signal currently has 32.4 million installs. Privacy advocates have always been attracted to Signal’s ability to limit the information it can give to authorities. Signal’s end-to-end encryption is considered more secure than what is offered by Facebook’s WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage. Continue reading Use of Messaging App Signal Skyrockets During Civil Unrest

Snap Expands AR Toolset, Announces Deals for New Content

Snap inked multi-year deals for custom short-form content with Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. It released plans for original content including unscripted series, docuseries, and scripted dramas and comedies. In partnership with The Washington Post, Bloomberg and ESPN, Snap will produce “Happening Now,” a breaking news feature. It also revealed that 170+ million people use its augmented-reality tools daily, moving the technology into the mainstream. Continue reading Snap Expands AR Toolset, Announces Deals for New Content

TikTok Becomes a Revenue Giant as App Spawns Subgenres

According to reports, young people are now equally splitting their time between popular video-sharing platforms YouTube and TikTok. Since starting to watch TikTok, consumers ages 4-15 have increased their social app use by 100 percent in 2019 and 200 percent this year. Parent company ByteDance is making so much money on TikTok’s advertising and in-app purchases that it may be valued between $150 billion and $180 billion in an IPO. ByteDance just hired former Disney exec Kevin Mayer as TikTok’s new CEO, giving the company an American face. Continue reading TikTok Becomes a Revenue Giant as App Spawns Subgenres

Disney Reveals Dates for Reopening California, Florida Parks

In California, pending state and local government approvals, the Downtown Disney District will reopen on July 9, with Disneyland and Disney California Adventure following on July 17. Its Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Paradise Pier Hotel plan to reopen on July 23. In Florida, Walt Disney World got the green light for a July 11 reopening. Disney reaps one-third of its revenue from its parks and resorts. The company’s Shanghai theme park, which was the first to close, reopened last month. Universal Orlando reopened June 11, but the company hasn’t set a date to reopen Universal Studios Hollywood. Continue reading Disney Reveals Dates for Reopening California, Florida Parks

AMC Prepares to Open Most of its Theaters Worldwide by July

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest movie-theater chain, particularly hard. After registering a $2.2 billion net loss for Q1, it made “virtually no revenue” in the first two weeks of the quarter ending March 30. Now, AMC chief executive Adam Aron says he hopes to get AMC Theatres in the U.S. and U.K. open in July, although he did not specify a date. AMC has 1,000 theaters with 11,000 screens in several countries. In California, 51 counties have been approved to reopen movie theaters as soon as June 12. Continue reading AMC Prepares to Open Most of its Theaters Worldwide by July

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