Telecoms and Silicon Valley Engage at Mobile World Congress

European telecoms and Silicon Valley giants are jousting again, at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The major carriers, including Deutsche Telekom AG and Spain’s Telefónica SA are pushing for the European Union to either lift some of the regulations imposed on them or apply similar rules to Internet-based text and voice services, such as Facebook’s WhatsApp or Google Hangouts. At the same time, several telecoms have signed on to Facebook’s TIP project, an open source initiative to design cellular towers. Continue reading Telecoms and Silicon Valley Engage at Mobile World Congress

Facebook Opens Toy Box and Looks to Make VR More Social

Just before the Mobile World Congress opened in Barcelona, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced a new in-house team, led by designers Daniel James and Michael Booth, tasked with building “social apps” for the Oculus. The announcement comes weeks before the release of the long-awaited VR headset Oculus Rift, priced at $600 as a standalone headset and, paired with a PC, starting at $1,500. Facebook also launched a demo of “Toy Box,” with virtual shared games, all part of a move towards making VR more social. Continue reading Facebook Opens Toy Box and Looks to Make VR More Social

Facebook Launches Live Video, Starts to Develop VR Network

Facebook is turning on live streaming video broadcasting to what is potentially a nearly 1 billion-member base. With 934 million customers worldwide, Facebook will offer the live streaming capability first to iPhone users, with a global rollout over the next few weeks. The company has been testing this service with a handful of public figures for the last two months. At the same time, with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s strong belief in the future potential of VR, Facebook is making strides in developing a network for it. Continue reading Facebook Launches Live Video, Starts to Develop VR Network

Oculus Aims for High-End Virtual Reality with $600 Headset

Despite a sticker price of $599 for its new Rift VR headset, Oculus VR has already sold out its preorders, resulting in an extension of its shipping date. The headset, over $100 more expensive than originally predicted, also requires the processing power of a PC that costs in the vicinity of $1,000. Starting in February, Oculus will sell a bundled headset/PC for $1,499. The expense of the Rift is justified, say observers, since its quality needs to sell VR to a public that has, in the main, never experienced virtual reality. Continue reading Oculus Aims for High-End Virtual Reality with $600 Headset

YouTube Democratizes VR, Stays a Step Ahead of Competition

YouTube is introducing 360-degree VR videos as well as a virtual movie theater for all YouTube videos. Anyone with a Google Cardboard headset and the Android app can begin viewing the ten or so VR videos that YouTube produced; the iOS app is coming soon. YouTube’s VR features come just before The New York Times ships 1.3 million Google Cardboard sets and its own VR documentary, “The Displaced.” YouTube’s assertive move into VR is widely seen as a way to stay a step ahead of the competition, Facebook in particular. Continue reading YouTube Democratizes VR, Stays a Step Ahead of Competition

Facebook and Yahoo Attempt to Expand Search Capabilities

Facebook and Yahoo just made strategic deals with regard to search. Facebook, which unsuccessfully attempted search with its Graph Search feature in 2013, states it has now indexed more than two trillion posts, promoting it as a way to follow news discussions in real time. Yahoo just inked a non-exclusive deal with Google to provide search results and ads; antitrust regulators struck down a similar deal in 2008. Yahoo renegotiated an exclusive deal with Microsoft’s Bing to make this latest deal. Continue reading Facebook and Yahoo Attempt to Expand Search Capabilities

Facebook Betting On VR with New 360-Degree Video Feature

Facebook introduced a new 360-degree spherical video feature this week for the social platform’s newsfeed. At launch, users can roam an immersive trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” by dragging their mouse over the video in order to access different vantage points. Mobile users can change their angle within clips featuring NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and workouts by NBA star LeBron James by simply tilting their smartphone or swiping their finger across the screen. Continue reading Facebook Betting On VR with New 360-Degree Video Feature

Facebook to Track ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ Buttons for Ad Targeting

Next month, hitting the “Like” or “Share” button on Facebook will do more than signal approval. Facebook’s algorithms will begin to share data on peoples’ browsing history into its ad targeting systems, which means that, depending on what a user “Likes” or “Shares,” he or she can be served related ads on Facebook, photo-sharing service Instagram or any mobile app that uses Facebook’s ad network. Facebook’s “Like” button, which adds a bit of code to the page, was first offered to publishers in 2010. Continue reading Facebook to Track ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ Buttons for Ad Targeting

Facebook’s Standalone Video App to Support 360-Degree Video

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has called virtual reality the next computing platform after mobile devices. His company also shelled out $2 billion to acquire Oculus VR last year; the company will ship its Rift headset for consumers in early 2016. So it’s no surprise that the company is reportedly working on a standalone video app to support 360-degree video on multiple platforms, including Apple and Android devices. Zuckerberg has also stated that Facebook would support 360-degree video in its newsfeed. Continue reading Facebook’s Standalone Video App to Support 360-Degree Video

Tech Leaders Envision a Globally Connected Future with VR

Oculus chief executive Palmer Luckey and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg are “ground zero” for the 3D immersive technology, but the big-name fan base is growing, including SpaceX/Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and Facebook board member Mark Andreessen, who not long ago was skeptical about funding a virtual reality company. What they all believe is that VR will be a truly paradigm-shifting technology that will connect everyone in the world, for a growing range of activities from video games to business meetings. Continue reading Tech Leaders Envision a Globally Connected Future with VR

Facebook, Google Capture Major Share of Advertising Dollars

The bulk of advertisers’ dollars still end up on television, but digital advertising is playing catch-up. Most recently, Facebook revealed quarterly revenue numbers that jumped 39 percent, nearly three-fourths of which comes from advertising on mobile devices. Users are spending an increasing amount of time on Facebook and Facebook-owned properties such as Instagram and Messenger. That coincides with advertisers’ interest in digital advertising’s ability to more narrowly target specific demographics. Continue reading Facebook, Google Capture Major Share of Advertising Dollars

Facebook Continues its Push to Deliver Free Mobile Internet

Facebook plans to ramp up its efforts to provide free basic Internet on mobile devices, after successfully debuting the application through its Internet.org platform in 17 developing countries. The company will launch a dedicated portal for mobile operators to offer the service under Internet.org, which has brought nine million people online in the last year. Facebook hopes to bring an estimated 4.5 billion people online in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The platform offers free pared-down Web services and Facebook’s social network and messaging. Continue reading Facebook Continues its Push to Deliver Free Mobile Internet

FCC Commissioner Says the Internet is Not a Human Right

Speaking before the Internet Innovation Alliance about the appropriate role of regulators in a growing broadband economy, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly suggested that the Internet is not a necessity or human right, as many tech leaders have suggested. “It is important to note that Internet access is not a necessity in the day-to-day lives of Americans and doesn’t even come close to the threshold to be considered a basic human right,” he said. “I am not in any way trying to diminish the significance of the Internet in our daily lives.” Continue reading FCC Commissioner Says the Internet is Not a Human Right

Venture-Backed AltspaceVR Creates Virtual Reality Chat Room

AltspaceVR, a virtual reality communications platform backed by Google Ventures, enables multiple users from anywhere in the world to gather and share a virtual space. Unlike the text-based chat rooms of the 1990s, AltspaceVR uses computer cameras and Leap Motion trackers to translate users’ movements, mannerisms and gestures into the virtual world. It has been described as “Second Life for the first person.” AltspaceVR, now open to the public, was founded in 2013 and is led by Eric Romo, a former SpaceX propulsion lead analyst. Continue reading Venture-Backed AltspaceVR Creates Virtual Reality Chat Room

Oculus Story Studio Explores Ways to Make VR More Social

Oculus Story Studio, a lab program within Oculus VR dedicated to experimentation with the goal of helping virtual reality grow as a platform, is using “Lost Director’s Cut,” a new version of the studio’s short VR film as the basis for a new social experience that promises to change the paradigm of VR experiences from solitary to shared. The purpose of the new demonstration is to show filmmakers and other creatives how far they can push virtual reality beyond current single-person, isolated experiences. Continue reading Oculus Story Studio Explores Ways to Make VR More Social

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