NBA and Microsoft Team on New DTC Mobile Streaming App

The NBA becomes the latest sports league to court digital viewers, launching an app for streaming, personalization and socializing. The app is free to download, and NBA League Pass will be integrated into the app, with promotional pricing of $14.99 per month ($99.99 per season) for a standard package and $19.99 per month ($129.99 per season) for a premium subscription. The NBA App is a product of NBA Digital, the league’s joint venture with Turner Sports, and was built in partnership with Microsoft, the NBA’s cloud and artificial intelligence partner. Continue reading NBA and Microsoft Team on New DTC Mobile Streaming App

LinkedIn Test Raises Ethics Questions Over Parsing Big Data

LinkedIn’s experiments on users have drawn scrutiny from a new study that says the platform may have crossed a line into “social engineering.” The tests, over five years from 2015 to 2019, involved changing the “People You May Know” algorithm to alternate between weak and strong contacts when recommending new connections. Affecting an estimated 20 million users, the test was designed to collect insight to improve the Microsoft-owned platform’s performance, but may have impacted people’s career opportunities. The study was co-authored by researchers at LinkedIn, Harvard Business School, MIT and Stanford and appeared this month in Science. Continue reading LinkedIn Test Raises Ethics Questions Over Parsing Big Data

Senate Group Wants CISA to Protect Open-Source Software

Senate Homeland Security Committee leaders Gary Peters (D-Michigan) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have introduced a bill requiring a risk framework for open-source code. The proposed legislation would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to develop the risk evaluation process for open-source software being used by federal agencies and critical infrastructure. The move follows the discovery in December of a vulnerability in the Apache Software Foundation’s popular Log4j Java logging utility. Peters said the Log4j incident presented a serious threat to banks, hospitals, and utility companies, among other national security operations. Continue reading Senate Group Wants CISA to Protect Open-Source Software

OpenAI Rolls Out Open-Source Speech Recognition System

OpenAI has released a new open source AI speech recognition model called Whisper that can recognize and translate audio at levels it says compare in accuracy and robustness to human abilities. Case uses include transcription of speeches, interviews, podcasts and conversations. “Moreover, it enables transcription in multiple languages, as well as translation from those languages into English,” says OpenAI, which is open-sourcing models and inference code on GitHub “to serve as a foundation for building useful applications and for further research on robust speech processing.” Continue reading OpenAI Rolls Out Open-Source Speech Recognition System

D-ID Creative Reality Studio Helps Users Make DIY AI Videos

Artificial intelligence company D-ID has launched a new presentation platform that can generate video from a single image and text. Creative Reality Studio offers from among 270 voices and 119 languages that users can pair with one of the company’s original avatar creations or an uploaded photo. The product is aimed at markets including education, the metaverse, advertising and sales. The company is offering a limited free 14-day trial, after which users would be required to switch to a $49 per month Pro subscription or higher-end Enterprise plan (pricing available on request). Continue reading D-ID Creative Reality Studio Helps Users Make DIY AI Videos

OpenAI Expands DALL-E 2 Functionality with Facial Uploads

OpenAI has begun allowing users of its DALL-E 2 image-generating system to work with facial image uploads. The program previously allowed only computer-generated faces in an effort to prevent deepfakes and misuse, but OpenAI says improvements to its safety system succeeded in “minimizing the potential of harm” from things like explicit, political or violent content. OpenAI will continue to prohibit use of unauthorized photos and will seek to protect right of publicity, though it remains to be seen how effective that will be. In the past, customers have complained the company was overzealous in its policing. Continue reading OpenAI Expands DALL-E 2 Functionality with Facial Uploads

Tencent Holdings Sinks $297M into Ubisoft Owner Guillemot

Tencent has invested $297 million in Guillemot Brothers Limited, the company that owns Ubisoft, maker of “Assassin’s Creed.” The Chinese game giant already had a 4.5 percent stake in Ubisoft that it can now increase to 9.99 percent. Tencent gains a 49.9 percent stake with 5 percent voting rights in the parent company. Shares of Ubisoft fell 17 percent last week when it became apparent there was no takeover in the offing. The deal is part of a strategy “to develop immersive game experiences, and to bring some of Ubisoft’s most well-known AAA franchises to mobile,” said Tencent president and CEO Martin Lau. Continue reading Tencent Holdings Sinks $297M into Ubisoft Owner Guillemot

Netflix Cutting Costs in Areas Such as Cloud, Staffing, Perks

Netflix, which said it lost almost one million subscribers in Q2, has been aggressively cutting costs, implementing a variety of measures that range from scaling back its real estate footprint to trimming cloud computing. While the streaming giant says the cuts have not significantly impacted content spending, it has laid off more than 400 employees in 2022 and has begun hiring more junior staff, according to reports. Macroeconomic trends have made belt-tightening common across the industry, but at Netflix it stands in stark contrast to years of explosive growth and free spending. Continue reading Netflix Cutting Costs in Areas Such as Cloud, Staffing, Perks

Apple Passkey Implementation Begins This Month via iOS 16

The world is preparing for a passwordless future, which Apple provides with the September 12 launch of iOS 16 and macOS Ventura next month. Known as passkeys, the password replacement will work across iPhones, iPads, and Macs, letting users log in to apps and websites and create new accounts without having to store a password. Made from a cryptographic key pair, the passkey is synced across iCloud’s Keychain. Google, Microsoft, Meta Platforms and Amazon are also in various stages of developing passkeys using standards created by the FIDO Alliance, which means they’ll all likely be interoperable. Continue reading Apple Passkey Implementation Begins This Month via iOS 16

Netflix Reportedly Bumping Up Ad-Tier Launch to November

Netflix has reportedly moved the timeline for launching its ad-supported subscription tier to November 1 in an effort to get to market before the December 8 debut of the Disney+ tier with advertising. Over the summer, Netflix told investors it planned to launch the lower-priced alternative tier “around the early part of 2023,” a strategy that appears to have shifted, with a Q4 rollout that is expected to include the U.S., Canada, Germany, France and the UK. The streamer is also said to be discussing a pricey $65 CPM rate per thousand impressions. Netflix characterized the conjecture as “speculation.” Continue reading Netflix Reportedly Bumping Up Ad-Tier Launch to November

Microsoft Rolls Out Ampere-Powered ARM-Based Azure VMs

Microsoft’s new Azure Virtual Machines, featuring Ampere Altra ARM–based processors, will be generally available on September 1, debuting in 10 Azure regions and multiple availability zones worldwide. Microsoft says the VMs can also be included in Kubernetes clusters managed using Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). Engineered to efficiently run scale-out, cloud-native workloads, Microsoft says that since the technology began previewing earlier this year hundreds of customers have tested the ARM-powered VMs “for web and application servers, open-source databases, microservices, Java and .NET applications, gaming, media servers and more.” Continue reading Microsoft Rolls Out Ampere-Powered ARM-Based Azure VMs

Inworld Raises $50M to Create AI-Powered Virtual Characters

Virtual character developer platform Inworld AI has raised $50 million in a Series A funding round led by Section 32 and Intel Capital. The Mountain View-based startup — one of six companies chosen to participate in the 2022 Disney Accelerator — will create virtual characters for games, the metaverse and other entertainment and marketing applications. Because it is focused on providing an interior life, or “mind,” Inworld AI is platform agnostic, with APIs that work across Unity, Unreal Engine, Omniverse and others. Another convenient feature: it lets developers build characters by describing them in natural language. Continue reading Inworld Raises $50M to Create AI-Powered Virtual Characters

Technology Firms Offer Users More Control Over Advertising

Tech companies are giving consumers more control over the type of advertising they see online, a feature that customers frequently request. Meta Platforms, Mozilla, Google and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) have been actively exploring ad-blocking options. Now ByteDance’s TikTok and others are joining in. While the increased control may make some consumers happy, the effect it will have on Big Tech’s already ailing ad sector is as yet undetermined. While the various techniques let consumers limit exposure to ads, proponents argue the ultimate effect will be positive, ensuring ads are served to an interested audience. Continue reading Technology Firms Offer Users More Control Over Advertising

Netflix Is ‘Shifting Gears, and Fast’ to Roll Out Its New Ad Tier

As Netflix pivots to add a lower-priced ad-supported tier, it is taking on its biggest challenge since shifting to streaming from its DVD-by-mail model, observers say, noting that the move to integrate advertising puts Netflix, once a disruptor, in the position of playing catch-up with rivals that have already adapted their business models to include less expensive, ad-supported options for consumers. Netflix hasn’t disclosed pricing for its ad-supported tier, but it will presumably be below the $9.99 fee for its least expensive ad-free tier. Reports are beginning to surface, however, as to ad rates, and they’re not cheap. Continue reading Netflix Is ‘Shifting Gears, and Fast’ to Roll Out Its New Ad Tier

Tech Firms Seek Energy Alternatives to Power Data Centers

Hotter temperatures are not only wreaking havoc on residential electric bills and power grids, but also on data centers, which are looking for reliable green backup power to prepare for “the new normal” and keep our planet’s collective knowledge accessible online through record heat. Cooling system failures resulting from the UK’s July heatwave resulted in Google Cloud’s London data centers going offline for a day, creating a ripple effect for customers as far off as the U.S. and in the Pacific region. Oracle’s London cloud-based data center was also impacted by what the company called “unseasonal temperatures.” Continue reading Tech Firms Seek Energy Alternatives to Power Data Centers