Washington Inks Facial Recognition Law Backed by Microsoft

In Washington state, governor Jay Inslee just signed a law regulating facial recognition backed by Microsoft that could potentially be a model for other U.S. states. The law allows government agencies to use facial recognition but restricts it from using it for broad surveillance or tracking innocent people. It is more permissive than at least seven U.S. cities that have blocked government use of facial recognition technology due to fears of privacy violations and bias but stricter than states without such laws. Continue reading Washington Inks Facial Recognition Law Backed by Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils New 365 Personal/Family Plans This Month

Microsoft rolled out its new Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscriptions, to be available April 21. The plans, which will replace and enhance current Office 365 plans, are priced at $6.99 per month for Personal (one person) plans and $9.99 per month for Family (up to six people) plans. Both of the new plans include Office and access to a Microsoft Family Safety app and new features in Microsoft Teams for consumers, both of which will debut later this year. Other new features will continue to be unveiled over time. Continue reading Microsoft Unveils New 365 Personal/Family Plans This Month

Coronavirus Disruption Leads to Jump in Cloud Services Use

Amid the disruption of the coronavirus, cloud-computing services have become crucial in keeping people online and connected. Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others also provide the foundational technology for e-commerce, workplace collaboration tools like Slack Technologies, streaming video services such as Netflix and streaming game services. In fact, cloud services are pushed to their limits in some areas. In Australia, Microsoft advised some customers that Azure cloud is running out of capacity in some regions. Continue reading Coronavirus Disruption Leads to Jump in Cloud Services Use

Big Tech Responds to Coronavirus, Improving Its Public Image

With the advent of the coronavirus, companies such as Facebook, Twitter and Google quickly responded, featuring links to “high-quality information” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). Big Tech has now donated thousands of N95 masks to healthcare providers and continues to highlight accurate news. Facebook committed $100 million in small business grants and Amazon put out the call for 100,000 new employees. Overall, Big Tech isn’t just doing good but doing well, with business holding steady. Continue reading Big Tech Responds to Coronavirus, Improving Its Public Image

YouTube Streams Globally in Standard Definition for a Month

Due to increased Internet traffic during the coronavirus, YouTube will reduce the quality of its streaming videos to standard definition for a month. Viewers will, however, be able to choose to watch in high definition. In instituting lower resolution, the Google-owned company is extending the policy enacted in Europe, where regulators asked all streaming companies — including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video — to do so. Sony, Microsoft and others are also working to minimize the impact of game downloads on bandwidth. Continue reading YouTube Streams Globally in Standard Definition for a Month

Apple App Store Rules Ban Cloud-Based Streaming Services

Apple has always had strict limits on apps that users can access on its devices. For gaming, that means its 1+ billion iPhone/iPad users have one option: Arcade, the subscription service Apple unveiled in September. The App Store guidelines also ban streaming from the cloud, which limits Arcade’s capabilities. Still, software developers need to be on Apple’s iOS if they want to reach a maximum number of users. According to Sensor Tower, the iOS App Store was responsible for 65 percent of all global app spending last year. Continue reading Apple App Store Rules Ban Cloud-Based Streaming Services

Federal Government Considers Plans For Broadband Access

Although millions of Americans are at home, the Senate did not include money for broadband infrastructure in the $3 trillion stimulus package under consideration. However, the current bill does include some funding to deploy mobile hot spots around the country. Proponents of accessible broadband will try to add that to any upcoming stimulus package. Meanwhile, the U.S. government, along with several Big Tech companies, is providing global access to 16 supercomputers to help researchers discover vaccines to combat the coronavirus. Continue reading Federal Government Considers Plans For Broadband Access

Google Unveils Details on Google Play, Stadia, Google Cloud

After the cancellation of the Game Developers Conference, Google went online to release information about its cloud infrastructure, Google Play and Stadia cloud gaming services. Stadia head of product John Justice reported that Google Ads campaigns have thus far resulted in 27 billion game installs, that mobile gaming is “on track” to reach $100 billion in 2021, and that Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and North Africa will drive mobile game growth going forward. There are 2 billion daily active users on Android. Continue reading Google Unveils Details on Google Play, Stadia, Google Cloud

Microsoft Reveals DirectX 12 Ultimate For Game Developers

Microsoft is debuting DirectX 12 Ultimate, giving developers access to the hardware features on the Xbox Series X and PC. As its next-gen DirectX gaming APIs for Xbox and Windows, DirectX 12 Ultimate enables several methods for improving performance and visuals and brings together Microsoft’s latest development and hardware features while retaining backward compatibility with older consoles and GPUs. Among the improvements are new capabilities for ray tracing, variable rate shading and sampler feedback. Continue reading Microsoft Reveals DirectX 12 Ultimate For Game Developers

Sony Reveals More Specifications on Upcoming PlayStation 5

Sony previously stated that the upcoming PlayStation 5 will support 8K resolution gaming and features a custom AMD Ryzen chip and ray tracing. Now, lead systems architect Mark Cerny shared more details about the PS5’s solid-state drive, 3D audio capabilities and backward compatibility. The PS5 processor will support 3D audio and requires no external hardware. PS5 also offers an environmentally friendly feature by allowing players to “suspend gameplay with much lower power consumption than PS4.” Continue reading Sony Reveals More Specifications on Upcoming PlayStation 5

Big Tech Companies Acquire Significant Number of AI Startups

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the purchase of hundreds of small startups made by Big Tech companies Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft to determine if they have become too powerful. In 2019, a record-breaking 231 artificial intelligence startups were snapped up, which in many cases ended public availability of their products. According to CB Insights, that number compares to 42 AI startups acquired in 2014. Apple has been the No. 1 buyer of these startups since 2010. Continue reading Big Tech Companies Acquire Significant Number of AI Startups

Online Shopping Spikes, Amazon Hires 100,000 New Workers

As the coronavirus fuels a rise in online sales, Amazon plans to hire 100,000 more workers and raise pay for all employees in the U.S. and Canada by $2 an hour. The company’s starting wage is currently $15 per hour in its U.S. fulfillment centers. In the U.K., wages will rise £2 ($2.45) per hour and approximately €2 ($2.24) an hour in many European Union countries. At end of 2019, Amazon employed almost 800,000 full-time and part-time workers. Other companies are also seeing increased online sales as a result of COVID-19. Continue reading Online Shopping Spikes, Amazon Hires 100,000 New Workers

Work-at-Home Software on the Rise Amid COVID-19 Concerns

As more companies ask employees to work from home due to the global spread of the coronavirus, Google, Microsoft and Zoom have responded by providing their workplace software for free. Microsoft’s Teams saw a 500 percent increase in meetings, calls and conference usage in China since the end of January, and demand is rising in the U.S. as work-from-home policies are instituted. Many Microsoft employees have been instructed to work from home and, last week, their Teams chat volume rose 50 percent, with video/audio meetings up 37 percent from a week earlier. Continue reading Work-at-Home Software on the Rise Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Magic Leap Is Considering a Sale, Stakeholder or Partnership

Magic Leap is exploring the possibility of a sale, according to sources. The Florida-based startup raised $2.6 billion to create augmented reality products, and now has hired an adviser to consider “strategic options” for moving forward. In addition to the potential of a sale, Magic Leap could sell a stake in the company or form a strategic partnership. The company is valued at $6 billion to $8 billion. Among the company’s largest investors are Alphabet’s Google and China’s Alibaba Group Holding. Continue reading Magic Leap Is Considering a Sale, Stakeholder or Partnership

Microsoft Research Leads Team to Author AI Ethics Checklist

Microsoft Research, with almost 50 engineers from a dozen technology companies, created a checklist for AI ethics intended to spur conversation on the topic and raise some “good tension” within organizations. To that end, the list, rather than asking “yes” or “no” questions, instead suggests that teams “define fairness criteria.” Participants were not identified by name, but many are in AI-related fields like computer vision, natural language processing and predictive analytics. The group hopes to inspire future efforts. Continue reading Microsoft Research Leads Team to Author AI Ethics Checklist

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