Bots Take On Gamers to Help Advance Artificial Intelligence

At DeepMind, Alphabet’s AI labs, researchers built virtual video-game players that master the game by playing other bots. Most of the time, the bots played a capture-the-flag video game better than human game testers who are professional. DeepMind researcher Max Jaderberg said that the work, first described in the company blog last year, is moving towards “developing the fundamental algorithms” that could in the future lead to a “more human intelligence.” Not every lab, however, can afford the compute power required. Continue reading Bots Take On Gamers to Help Advance Artificial Intelligence

Researchers Advocate for Deeper Analysis of Online Habits

Determining the impact of screen time isn’t easy. It’s almost impossible to put together a “control group” of people living non-digital lives, and there are no baselines for such factors as “average daily Facebook usage.” Stanford University professor of communication Byron Reeves, in a paper in Human-Computer Interaction, suggested a new approach that eschews the term “screen time” as hopelessly ambiguous. Instead, he argued, scientists should analyze what people are watching — but this data doesn’t exist. Continue reading Researchers Advocate for Deeper Analysis of Online Habits

Amazon Launches Echo Show 5 and Alexa Privacy Features

Amazon unveiled Echo Show 5, the third generation of its Alexa-enabled Echo Show, which offers a 5.5-inch 960×480-pixel diagonal smart display and built-in far-field microphones. Although in numerous ways, the Echo Show 5 resembles past generations of the device, it differs in that it includes a mechanical slide that lets the user close the shutter on the device’s front-facing camera. To assuage consumers’ privacy concerns about Alexa, Amazon has also added the “Alexa Privacy Hub,” an online collection of privacy settings. Continue reading Amazon Launches Echo Show 5 and Alexa Privacy Features

Facebook Removes More Fake Accounts and Hate Speech

In Q1 2019, Facebook removed 2.2 billion fake accounts from its popular social platform. That compares to 583 million fake accounts the company deleted in Q1 2018; in Q4 that year, it removed “just more” than 1 billion. Facebook said that “the vast majority” is removed within minutes of being created, so they do not count in its monthly/daily active user metrics. In its biannual report, Facebook also said its automated detection software used to delete “illicit content” was improving, removing more than half of the targeted speech. Continue reading Facebook Removes More Fake Accounts and Hate Speech

IGTV Shifts Model From Exclusively Offering Vertical Video

Instagram launched IGTV last year with plans to exclusively offer long-form vertical videos for mobile devices. Landscape video uploads would not be included. However, enthusiasm on the part of video creators failed to gain traction, and now IGTV is changing its vertical video policy. As of last week, users can upload horizontal landscape videos that can easily be viewed full-screen by turning a mobile device on its side. “Ultimately, our vision is to make IGTV a destination for great content no matter how it’s shot so creators can express themselves how they want,” the company explained. Continue reading IGTV Shifts Model From Exclusively Offering Vertical Video

Snap Inc. Hoping to Expand Use of Music in Snapchat App

As Snap faces increased pressure from competitors such as Facebook’s Instagram and ByteDance’s TikTok, the company is reportedly talking with music labels for broader licensing agreements to allow increased use of music via the popular Snapchat app. According to people familiar with the matter, Snap is in discussions with Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. Snap is not looking to launch the next Spotify, but rather expand the way its users can integrate music into Snaps and social media applications. Continue reading Snap Inc. Hoping to Expand Use of Music in Snapchat App

Facebook Turns to Robots to Advance Artificial Intelligence

Humans learn from experience to not “do dumb things,” and Facebook chief AI scientist Yann LeCun is trying to create a version of that for robots, saying that systems that learn “models of the world” are our best shot at advancing artificial intelligence. Unlike a rewards/demerits-based reinforcement learning, Facebook’s tack is to instill curiosity, by giving the robot freedom to try new things. With New York University, Facebook also dramatically reduced the number of tries to teach a robotic arm to grasp an object. Continue reading Facebook Turns to Robots to Advance Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft Urges U.S. to Adopt Laws Similar to EU’s GDPR

Microsoft corporate vice president/deputy general counsel Julie Brill believes that the federal government is essential in guaranteeing “a strong right to privacy” in the United States. She noted that California and Illinois have enacted serious data protection laws, but that the U.S. needs federal regulation. She came to that conclusion after observing that the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted almost one year ago, has been “very effective” in transforming how companies manage personal data. Continue reading Microsoft Urges U.S. to Adopt Laws Similar to EU’s GDPR

Oculus Quest to Launch With YouTube VR’s Million Videos

When Facebook’s Oculus Quest debuts on May 21, Google’s YouTube VR and its more than one million public VR videos will be available as an app. The app — first launched in 2016 — is already released for Oculus Go, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View. YouTube VR will allow Quest headset wearers to search for videos via voice and find VR (and non-VR) YouTube content with a “VR-optimized interface.” The VR movie theater Bigscreen will also launch on Oculus Quest and the Rift S headsets. Continue reading Oculus Quest to Launch With YouTube VR’s Million Videos

Microsoft Debuts Project to Adopt Blockchain for Digital IDs

Last year, Microsoft described the idea of a “self-sovereign digital identity,” and has now introduced a project that would shift login credentials to blockchain. With this model, users — not Microsoft — would be responsible for their own digital identities and the portable credentials would, in principle, allow access to numerous applications. Advocates of blockchain champion the concept as more private, preventing anyone from following the user’s activity on the Internet and limiting the opportunity for hacks. Continue reading Microsoft Debuts Project to Adopt Blockchain for Digital IDs

Microsoft Warns Windows Bug May Be Abused by Hackers

Facebook, Intel and Microsoft announced bugs in their software this week. Facebook patched WhatsApp to prevent hackers from using it to install spyware on mobile phones. Intel described its efforts to fix a problem with its chipsets that allow attackers to access private data. Now Microsoft warned that it just patched a bug similar to the WannaCry ransomware crypto-worm that attacked computers around the globe in 2017. The company said that, to its knowledge, no one yet had exploited the Windows vulnerability. Continue reading Microsoft Warns Windows Bug May Be Abused by Hackers

Amazon, Google Overlap in E-Commerce, Digital Ads, More

Amazon and Google have become more competitive over the years, and at the latter’s annual Google Marketing Live conference this week, the company introduced new products to target online shoppers. At the same time, many shoppers now begin their search on Amazon, which has also been making inroads into Google’s traditional bailiwick of digital advertising. Marketing analytics firm Jumpstart reported that, in 2015, about 54 percent of product searches began on Google, and 46 percent on Amazon; those numbers flipped by 2018. Continue reading Amazon, Google Overlap in E-Commerce, Digital Ads, More

Spotify Testing New ‘Storyline’ Feature, Similar to ‘Stories’

Somewhat similar to its “Behind the Lyrics” feature, music streaming giant Spotify is now launching “Storyline,” a new feature meant to offer artists a platform to share insights, inspiration and more about their creative processes and the meanings of lyrics, songs and albums. The new feature is also similar to the “Stories” format that has been popularized by social apps like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and others, opening up a potential avenue for Spotify to create original content via a popular format.

Continue reading Spotify Testing New ‘Storyline’ Feature, Similar to ‘Stories’

Study: High-End VR Activity Increased Significantly in 2018

According to a new report from research firm IDC, consumer interest has waned recently for smartphone-dependent VR devices, while tethered and standalone models are growing more popular. IDC surveyed 1,643 VR users across France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States and learned that the number of “high-performance” VR headsets increased 60 percent from 2017 to 3.9 million devices in 2018. The study identified different categories of users, based on their amount of time spent with VR devices, including a “hardcore” group (12 percent) that spent 16 or more hours monthly with VR. Continue reading Study: High-End VR Activity Increased Significantly in 2018

WhatsApp Calls Used to Inject Spyware on Mobile Phones

Hackers have reportedly been injecting Israeli spyware onto smartphones via the popular Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp. The surveillance software, named Pegasus, was developed by Israeli firm NSO Group and can access an iPhone with a single missed voice call on WhatsApp. NSO claims that it carefully vets its customers; the company’s software is intended for government agencies to combat crime and terrorism. While it is currently unknown how many users may have been affected at this point (the problem was first discovered in early May), WhatsApp says it has created a patch to address the vulnerability. Continue reading WhatsApp Calls Used to Inject Spyware on Mobile Phones

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