Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Microsoft 365 corporate vice president Jeff Teper wants Microsoft Teams — the company’s fastest growing business app — to overtake Windows, currently on 1+ billion active devices. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft Teams is experiencing significant growth, with 75 million daily active users as of April 29, a 70 percent leap in six weeks. In April, 200+ million participants used Teams in a single day. Meanwhile, Microsoft is still promoting Skype, which in March passed 40 million daily active users (up 70 percent from the previous year), but for a different customer base. Continue reading Microsoft Planning for Teams to Become Ubiquitous Platform

Instagram, Alibaba Lure Creators with Revenue Opportunities

To help creators make more money, Instagram debuted advertising on IGTV videos, digital badges that fans can buy via Instagram Live, and merchandise sales through Instagram Shopping. It also expanded its Brand Collabs Manager, which enables sponsored campaigns between companies and creators. Last week, Instagram expanded shopping features on Instagram Live as well. In China, meanwhile, e-commerce giant Alibaba Group plans to sign up 100,000+ creators this year to its AliExpress marketplace for shoppers outside of China. Continue reading Instagram, Alibaba Lure Creators with Revenue Opportunities

Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Niantic, the developer of “Pokémon Go,” raised $470 million to evolve the mobile game into a full-featured augmented reality platform. The company, valued at $4 billion, will rely on “Pokémon Go” players to build its 3D data collection by sharing videos of real-world PokéStop and Gym locations. By crowdsourcing such assets, Niantic plans to build 3D maps with “a better understanding of the depth and the complexities of the real world.” The 3D data collection will debut in June to “Pokémon Go” players ranked above Level 40. Continue reading Niantic to Build 3D World Map via Data Collected From Users

Tech Firms Consider Remote Work Options After Coronavirus

Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter were among the first U.S. companies to send their employees home as the coronavirus spread. Now, as they reopen their campuses, they are also allowing some of employees to continue to work from home. If that policy becomes widespread, it will be a major change from the college-like corporate campuses the companies built to encourage creativity and spontaneous interactions. Working from home will be its own perk and allow companies to broaden their search for workers. Continue reading Tech Firms Consider Remote Work Options After Coronavirus

Facebook Reveals New AI-Powered Text-to-Speech System

Facebook introduced an AI text-to-speech system (TTS) that produces a second of audio in 500 milliseconds. According to Facebook, the system, which is used with a new approach to data collection, powered the creation of a British accent-inflected voice in six months, versus over a year required for other voices. The TTS is now used for Facebook’s Portal smart display brand. The system can be hosted in real time via ordinary processors and is also available as a service for other apps, including Facebook’s VR. Continue reading Facebook Reveals New AI-Powered Text-to-Speech System

E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced updates to Shops, a new version of an existing Facebook feature that lets retailers upload product catalogs to their Facebook page or Instagram profile. Users can access Shops on the retailer’s page or, by clicking on an ad, will land on the retailer’s Facebook-located Shop. Zuckerberg stated that Shops will eventually be available on Messenger and WhatsApp as well. The company relies on several AI systems, including GrokNet, which can “segment, detect and classify images.” Continue reading E-Commerce: Facebook Reveals AI-Powered Shops Feature

EU Commissioner Holds Facebook Liable For Disinformation

European commissioner for internal market Thierry Breton advised Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg that, if he and his company do not redouble efforts to rid the platform of disinformation, they will be subject to tougher rules. “When you are the [chief executive], at the end of the day, you are the only one to be responsible, no one else,” said Breton at an online event organized by the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE).  The two had a face-to-face meeting two months ago in Brussels. Continue reading EU Commissioner Holds Facebook Liable For Disinformation

Companies Examine Feasibility of Working-from-Home Model

More people are working from home now and some of them may not return to offices once the coronavirus pandemic eases its grip. Twitter, for example, said most of its employees could work from home indefinitely. OpenText Corporation in Canada announced plans to close more than half of its 120 global offices, and New York media company Skift will vacate its Manhattan headquarters when its lease expires in June. Big Tech companies, however, have invested significantly in their spaces and their switch to remote working is uncertain. Continue reading Companies Examine Feasibility of Working-from-Home Model

Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Facebook has acquired the GIF platform Giphy for $400 million. Giphy’s 100+ million active daily users send over 1 billion GIFs a day. Facebook stated that Giphy’s content database will be integrated into its apps including Instagram, although it didn’t state a timeframe. Since every social app offers at least some GIF integration, including many that rely on a GIF keyboard and Giphy’s database, Facebook’s purchase is both a competitive edge and another way to harvest the kind of data that attracts advertisers. Continue reading Facebook’s Purchase of Giphy to Provide Valuable User Data

Apple Acquires Virtual Reality Live Streaming Service NextVR

Apple has purchased NextVR, a virtual reality video service that offered 360-degree access to live events, including sporting events from NBA, WWE and NHL. With a VR headset, users could enjoy the feeling of “presence” in NextVR’s panoramic stereoscopic 3D scenes. The company also offered 2D smartphone access and planned to support augmented reality devices. The service never became popular, however, and a failed 2019 funding round followed by the coronavirus-related cancellation of sporting events left it struggling to survive. Continue reading Apple Acquires Virtual Reality Live Streaming Service NextVR

French Law to Fine Social Media Platforms for Hate Speech

France’s National Assembly passed a law that will fine social media companies up to €1.25 million ($1.36 million) for failing to remove “manifestly illicit” hate-speech posts within 24 hours of notification. Companies can be fined up to 4 percent of their global annual revenue if the violations are “serious and repeated.” The law, which will take effect July 1, also gives France’s audiovisual regulator the right to audit these companies’ systems for removing content. Critics claim “pre-emptive censorship.” Continue reading French Law to Fine Social Media Platforms for Hate Speech

Facebook Leads Creation of Tech Industry Advocacy Group

Facebook is a founding member of American Edge, an emerging political advocacy group. Because it is registered as a non-profit, American Edge can raise money and publish ads without disclosing its donors. “We’re working with a diverse group of stakeholders to help build support for our industry, and while we’re leading an effort to start this coalition, it’s one of many we are contributing to and supporting,” said spokesperson Andy Stone. The group, however, has not yet officially launched. Continue reading Facebook Leads Creation of Tech Industry Advocacy Group

Huawei Phone Sales Slump Without Google Apps, Software

Banned from buying U.S. technology, Huawei Technologies is still struggling to replace Google apps, which it utilized for ten years. Although all demand for smartphones is down during the coronavirus pandemic, Huawei’s phones are seeing a 35 percent slowdown of shipments outside of China. According to Canalys, that’s more than double the drop faced by its rival Samsung Electronics and four times that of Apple. The slide threatens to topple Huawei from its No. 2 position in global cell phone brands. Continue reading Huawei Phone Sales Slump Without Google Apps, Software

Australia and France Seek Changes to Big Tech News Model

Last summer, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission put together a 623-page report that pointed to Facebook and Google as the reason for the precipitous decline in local news and public policy reporting. Commission chair Rod Sims, who wrote the report, stated that, “global tech companies are not beyond national laws, especially when there is so much at stake.” He and French regulator Isabelle de Silva are challenging those two tech behemoths for carrying news organizations’ content without paying them. Continue reading Australia and France Seek Changes to Big Tech News Model

Facebook Oversight Board Announces New Member Names

Facebook released the names of the members of its new Oversight Board, which has the power to overrule company chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. Law professor Kate Klonick dubs it a “historic moment,” and “the first time a private transnational company had voluntarily assigned a part of its policies to an external body like this.” Facebook’s four co-chairs spent much of 2020 choosing the other 16 members. They and Facebook will choose another 20, but from then on, the members will be selected without Facebook input. Continue reading Facebook Oversight Board Announces New Member Names

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