Airbnb Debuts Tours and Activities in Turn Towards Services

Hoping to leverage the traveler’s yen for experiences that make her feel more connected to the places she visits, Airbnb is now offering local tours, activities from surfing lessons to pub crawls, and its travel services in major cities worldwide. Airbnb, valued at $30 billion, is currently one of the world’s fastest growing privately held companies, although it hasn’t been welcomed in all cities. Bringing in local hosts as guides, the tours have been tested by Airbnb in a few cities, soon expanding to 12 and, by 2017, 50. Continue reading Airbnb Debuts Tours and Activities in Turn Towards Services

Google Expands into Retail in Canada with Shops in Best Buy

After introducing its Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, Chromecast Ultra and Daydream View VR headset, Google launched retail venues, with a pop-up Experience Store in New York City and stores within select Best Buy locations in Canada. At the Canadian stores, Google will showcase hardware, offer public activities and create a sense of community, similar to Apple stores. In charge is director of retail marketing Janell Fischer, who worked in Apple’s retail division before joining Google three years ago. Continue reading Google Expands into Retail in Canada with Shops in Best Buy

Microsoft Imagines a Practical Future for Quantum Computers

Microsoft is going full bore into quantum computing, moving from pure research into efforts to build a prototype of what has been primarily an experimental field. If and when they come to fruition, quantum computers could have an impact on drug design, artificial intelligence and even our understanding of physics. For that reason, IBM and Google are also investing in quantum computing, although Microsoft has taken a singular approach, based on so-called braiding particles (also known as anyons). Continue reading Microsoft Imagines a Practical Future for Quantum Computers

Facebook’s Zuckerberg Lists Options for Managing Fake News

After weeks of accusation that fake news on Facebook, much of it favorable to Donald Trump, impacted the election, Facebook chairman/chief executive Mark Zuckerberg published a post describing ways the social media company might handle the issue. Among the potential steps are third-party verifications, improved automated detection tools and simpler ways for an ordinary user to flag suspicious content. Zuckerberg originally stated that the idea Facebook influenced the election was “a pretty crazy idea.” Continue reading Facebook’s Zuckerberg Lists Options for Managing Fake News

Google DeepMind Speeds AI Learning with Computer Dreams

Google’s DeepMind division has improved the speed and performance of its machine learning system with technology whose attributes are similar to how animals are thought to dream. Dubbed “Unreal” (Unsupervised Reinforcement and Auxiliary Learning), the system learned to complete Labyrinth, a 3D maze, ten times faster than the best existing artificial intelligence software and can now play up to 87 percent of expert human players’ performance. DeepMind researchers will now be able to try out new ideas much more quickly. Continue reading Google DeepMind Speeds AI Learning with Computer Dreams

Sony Pictures, Nokia Partner to Create, Distribute VR Content

Sony Pictures and Nokia have partnered to produce and distribute VR content. In addition to using Nokia’s OZO VR camera to produce videos, Sony will use the OZO’s Live VR broadcast feature to live stream 360-degree video of Sony Pictures events for fans. Sony will also add Nokia’s SDK to its Privilege Plus app, which is only available on Sony mobile phones. Nokia debuted the OZO a little over a year ago for about $60,000; the cost goes up with additional gear required to produce VR films. Continue reading Sony Pictures, Nokia Partner to Create, Distribute VR Content

Google, Facebook Ban Fake News From Earning Ad Revenue

During the U.S. presidential election, the preponderance of fake news on various social media sites got a lot of attention. Now, Google says it is updating its policies to ban fake-news websites from using AdSense, its ad-selling software. The company defined fake news as “pages that misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the [website’s] primary purpose.” Following in Google’s footsteps, Facebook similarly banned fake news sites from using its advertising network. Continue reading Google, Facebook Ban Fake News From Earning Ad Revenue

Google Releases Daydream View Headset to Positive Reviews

Google’s first VR headset, the $79 Daydream View, started shipping, the first step in the company’s goal to make Android the dominant VR operating system. Daydream faces some stiff competition, however, including Facebook’s Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR for PC and mobile devices, and Microsoft’s holographic version of Windows. So far, reviewers are giving Daydream a thumbs-up, as simple to use, inexpensive and light, and one reviewer calls the content on YouTube VR the new headset’s “killer app.” Continue reading Google Releases Daydream View Headset to Positive Reviews

Facebook Messenger to Launch New Instant Games Platform

Facebook is again advancing into gaming. The company not only introduced Facebook Gameroom, its desktop PC gaming platform but now is preparing to launch Instant Games, a platform on Messenger for lightweight HTML5 games. King, of “Candy Crush” fame, is already testing an Instant Game, “Shuffle Cats Mini,” in New Zealand, and game studio Big Viking is also planning on debuting titles for the upcoming Instant Games launch. Facebook added chess, basketball and soccer mini-games to Messenger earlier in the year. Continue reading Facebook Messenger to Launch New Instant Games Platform

Facebook Takes on Snapchat with New Flash Messaging App

Facebook launched a picture and messaging application that’s nearly identical to Snapchat, something it has already attempted to do twice. Both previous attempts — Poke and then Slingshot — failed. But this new app, Flash, which is about one-third a big as Snapchat’s Android app for Google’s new Pixel phone, is aimed specifically at emerging markets where Wi-Fi and connectivity are both scarce commodities. This move makes it clear that Facebook hopes to dominate in a market that Snapchat has not yet taken over. Continue reading Facebook Takes on Snapchat with New Flash Messaging App

Attention Brands: Internet Users Prefer Mobile to Desktop PCs

In a new first, Internet monitoring firm StatCounter reports that more consumers are accessing the Internet from their mobile and tablet devices (51.2 percent) than from their desktop PCs (48.7 percent). According to TechCrunch, “this means going forward, companies that haven’t yet decided to focus on a mobile-first approach to their Internet services and Web properties really should, as the trend line is unlikely to reverse.” Mobile platforms are by far the method of choice for accessing the Internet in emerging markets such as India, while the gap is narrower in more mature markets like the U.S. and U.K. As of May, Google noted that more searches conducted through its engine originated from mobile platforms than desktop. Continue reading Attention Brands: Internet Users Prefer Mobile to Desktop PCs

Chrome Tightens Up Security Warnings for Unencrypted Sites

In January, Chrome will begin placing a “not secure” warning on the left of its address bar for websites that do not use strong HTTPS-connected encryption, which accounts for nearly half of the world’s existing sites. Up until then, Chrome has only posted warnings on HTTPS sites with faulty encryption. Later in 2017, Chrome plans to expand the categories of sites for which it will issue warnings, including any unencrypted pages visited via Chrome’s Incognito and any HTTP site offering downloads. Continue reading Chrome Tightens Up Security Warnings for Unencrypted Sites

YouTube Introduces High Dynamic Range Support for Videos

YouTube is rolling out HDR support for videos that offer improved picture quality, higher contrast and more vibrant colors. The launch is limited, since HDR is still entering the mainstream, but the video-sharing site is preparing for its future. TechCrunch reports, “if you happen to own an HDR-enabled TV today, you can view HDR content on select YouTube channels going live with the enhanced content, like MysteryGuitarMan, Jacob + Katie Schwarz, and Abandon Visuals.” HDR videos can also be streamed “through Google’s newer Chromecast Ultra device, which debuted earlier this fall with 4K and HDR support.” Continue reading YouTube Introduces High Dynamic Range Support for Videos

Google Offers Formal Response to Two EU Antitrust Charges

Google formally rebutted two antitrust charges made by the European Commission (the European Union’s executive body). The Commission claims that Google has used its search engine to boost Google Shopping, its price comparison service, and AdSense, its ad placement service. A third European Union antitrust suit claims that Google’s mobile OS is a ‘Trojan horse’ to promote its own products and services, injuring potential rivals. The EU says it “cannot at this stage prejudge the final outcome of the investigation.” Continue reading Google Offers Formal Response to Two EU Antitrust Charges

Microsoft Releases its Server Design Early to Jumpstart Cloud

Microsoft is submitting designs for its new server, Project Olympus, to the open source Open Compute Project eight months before it will be completed, in an effort to influence the data center market. By offering open source designs, the company pressures hardware manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard to lower pricing of its own cloud infrastructure products. Among the new server’s key strengths are that it can use different international power standards without a need to tweak the hardware and can run a variety of applications. Continue reading Microsoft Releases its Server Design Early to Jumpstart Cloud

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