Facebook Unveils New Collection of Virtual Reality Advances

At Oculus Connect, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and AR/VR head Anthony Bosworth showed the next version of the Oculus Quest, which will offer hand-tracking without controllers or external sensors. Also unveiled is Horizon, a new form of social VR to rival VRChat and Rec Room; it will go into a closed beta in early 2020. Horizon provides tools for the user to build her own environments where people can congregate for multiplayer games. Other long-term plans include AR glasses, Live Maps and “shared spaces.” Continue reading Facebook Unveils New Collection of Virtual Reality Advances

Californians for Consumer Privacy Make Bid for Enforcement

Californians for Consumer Privacy, which led the push for the privacy law that passed in the state, has a new plan to establish a data protection agency to make sure the law is enforced. The goal is to amend the law via a ballot initiative; it will take the valid signatures of more than 620,000 registered voters to put it on the ballot. The California Consumer Privacy Act now gives consumers the right to see what personal data has been collected, to delete it and to prevent companies from selling it. Continue reading Californians for Consumer Privacy Make Bid for Enforcement

Google Offers Deepfakes for Researching Detection Methods

Google, in cooperation with its internal tech incubator Jigsaw, released a large number of deepfakes, which have been added to the FaceForensics benchmark run by the Technical University of Munich and the University of Naples Federico II. The deepfakes will be available for free to researchers developing detection techniques. Previously, Google released text-to-speech models as part of the AVspoof 2019 competition to develop systems to distinguish between real and computer-generated speech. Continue reading Google Offers Deepfakes for Researching Detection Methods

Google Tech Contractors Vote to Join Steelworkers’ Union

In Pittsburgh, a group of about 80 HCL Technologies contractors working at Google has voted to unionize with the United Steelworkers. Although the group represents only a small number of the many contractors employed by Google, it represents one of the first groups of tech workers to unionize in the U.S., according to United Steelworkers. At Google’s Bakery Square offices, contractors work side-by-side full-time Google employees but are paid less and receive fewer benefits, leading to the push to organize. Continue reading Google Tech Contractors Vote to Join Steelworkers’ Union

Facebook Unveils Three New Ad Units: Polls, Playable, AR

Facebook announced plans to release three new ad units under the banner Advertising You Can Play With: polls, playable ads (both in the mobile News Feed), and, last, AR ads that will debut in beta in the fall. Playable ads, first shown at the ChinaJoy gaming conference in August 2018, allow users to install and try apps before buying them. AR ads have been in a test phase, with select advertisers, since Facebook revealed them at its F8 developer conference in 2018. All three products emphasize interactivity. Continue reading Facebook Unveils Three New Ad Units: Polls, Playable, AR

Facebook Freezes 69,000 Apps for Collecting Personal Data

Last Friday, Facebook suspended 69,000 apps, stating that they had harvested users’ personal data. The investigation began in March 2018, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, leading to the suspensions of those apps, associated with 400 developers. The Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey investigated and found that 10,000 of the 69,000 apps were found to have “potentially misappropriated” personal data, often as a way to add new users. The Justice Department and the FBI are still investigating Cambridge Analytica. Continue reading Facebook Freezes 69,000 Apps for Collecting Personal Data

Facebook Announces Three New AI-Powered Portal Devices

Facebook is introducing three Portal models, starting at $129, a more competitive price than previous models. Two offer a smart display with screen, camera and microphone, and the third can turn a TV into a venue for video chat. The first Portal offered AI-enabled tracking that kept all the participants in the frame and could follow a single person. The AI has been upgraded to provide more accuracy. Although the company “paused” human review of audio, it will resume the practice for some Portal audio. Continue reading Facebook Announces Three New AI-Powered Portal Devices

Japan’s Virtual YouTube Celebrities Test the Waters in China

Japan’s most popular YouTube star is Kizuna AI, a virtual teenager with thigh-high socks and a pink hair ribbon, brought to life by an off-screen actress. Millions of fans follow Kizuna, the brainchild of Activ8, a Tokyo-based company. According to Activ8 founder Takeshi Osaka, what sets such so-called virtual YouTubers (or VTubers) apart is that “you can believe they actually exist.” To create Kizuna, Activ8 uses motion capture gear to create skits, music videos and game streams for its over four million subscribers. Continue reading Japan’s Virtual YouTube Celebrities Test the Waters in China

Google Updates Algorithm, Guidelines to Aid Original Stories

Publishers complain that their news scoops, when posted online, are quickly nabbed and recycled by other publications, leading to a loss in traffic. To stem the flow, Google made changes to its algorithm and its guidelines to favor original reporting. Google vice president of news Richard Gingras said that the company would make it easier for readers to “find the story that started it all.” He later added that the shift also benefited Google Search and Google News in its efforts to “retain the trust of [its] users.”

Continue reading Google Updates Algorithm, Guidelines to Aid Original Stories

Instagram Aims to Reduce Influencer Impact on Young Users

Facebook’s photo- and video-sharing app Instagram announced its plans to restrict certain content, including posts that promote cosmetic surgery procedures and weight-loss products, from users who are younger than 18 years of age. While some posts will be hidden from young users, other posts will be removed altogether from both Instagram and Facebook, including those from A-list celebrities such as the Kardashians. The move is part of an effort by the social networks to address growing concerns regarding the significant impact of influencer marketing on children. Continue reading Instagram Aims to Reduce Influencer Impact on Young Users

Facebook Set to Launch Portal TV Streamer With Video Chat

For the holidays, Facebook plans to unveil a Portal TV streaming device that will feature a camera and far-field microphones and offer video chat with TV viewing and augmented reality. Rather than competing directly with Fire TV or Roku, the device focuses more on video chatting. It is also likely to run Android, as does most Facebook hardware including Oculus Go and Oculus Quest VR headsets. By being based on the Android operating system, the Portal device will synch seamlessly with Android-based TV apps. Continue reading Facebook Set to Launch Portal TV Streamer With Video Chat

New NFL-Facebook Contract Will Run Through 2020 Season

The NFL and Facebook renewed their video deal through the 2020 season. In the original deal, inked in 2017, the NFL provided recaps from all 256 regular season games plus other content for Facebook Watch. The NFL will continue to supply the season recaps, along with original content, content related to the NFL’s 100th anniversary and material from the NFL Films archive featured on “NFL Throwback.” Facebook says that, in 2017 and 2018, over 22 million people watched at least a minute of an NFL recap. Continue reading New NFL-Facebook Contract Will Run Through 2020 Season

Streaming Options Impact Bandwidth Consumption Rankings

With the dramatic increase in the amount of video streaming from Internet-based apps, Netflix has ceded its position as the No. 1 consumer of bandwidth. That’s according to Sandvine’s 2019 Global Internet Phenomena Report, which added that HTTP media streaming accounted for 12.8 percent of downstream Internet traffic globally in the first six months of 2019, whereas Netflix accounted for 12.6 percent. In the Americas, Netflix’s downstream traffic in the same period dropped to 12.9 percent from last year’s 19.1 percent. Continue reading Streaming Options Impact Bandwidth Consumption Rankings

Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Congress just received an open letter on behalf of the Business Roundtable, an association comprised of the chief executives of the U.S.’s biggest companies. Signed by 51 tech company executives, the letter asks legislators to create a federal law on data privacy, thus avoiding the patchwork-quilt of state laws now being passed. Amazon, AT&T, Dell, IBM, Qualcomm, SAP, Salesforce, Visa, Mastercard, JPMorgan Chase, State Farm and Walmart are just some of the companies whose chief executives signed the letter. Continue reading Technology Chief Executives Lobby for Federal Privacy Law

Companies Prep for Brunt of California Consumer Privacy Act

Beginning January 2020, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will allow that state’s residents to find out exactly what personal data companies hold about them — and ask them to delete such information. Consumers will also have the option of opting out of allowing their personal information to be sold. The legislation — which was designed to make Amazon, Facebook, Google and others more transparent — will impact a wide range of companies, large and small, including airlines, banks, retailers and restaurants. Continue reading Companies Prep for Brunt of California Consumer Privacy Act

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