ETC and Partners to Pilot Test Virtual Production Capabilities

The Entertainment Technology Center at USC has selected filmmakers Hannah Bang, Margo Sawaya and Sabina Vajrača to receive the 2020 Innovative Technology Award for their virtual production-based project, “The Ripple Effect.” The trio developed the futuristic live-action project with the aim of testing the limits of virtual production. “With Unreal Engine, we can minimize on set crew and provide better controls for talent and staff,” explained executive producer Erik Weaver. “We want to get people back to work while keeping cast and crews safe.” Continue reading ETC and Partners to Pilot Test Virtual Production Capabilities

Influencers Test Rival Apps Due to TikTok’s Uncertain Future

With Trump administration threats to ban Chinese app TikTok, that platform’s creators are worried about its future viability. Potential TikTok rivals such as Byte and Triller are wooing TikTok influencers (and other users), even offering cash to make the switch. Short-form video app Clash, for example, debuted its services months earlier than planned and Facebook’s Instagram is about to debut its TikTok-like service Reels. The rising tension between the countries also impacts U.S. app developers that aim to launch in China. Continue reading Influencers Test Rival Apps Due to TikTok’s Uncertain Future

Evaluating Possible Impact of Recent Ad Boycott on Facebook

It’s time to assess the impact of an advertiser boycott of Facebook, started on June 17 to protest that company’s handling of hate speech and misinformation. Following the urging of civil rights groups Color of Change, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, 1,000+ advertisers publicly joined in the boycott, dubbed #StopHateForProfit, which was intended to last for the month of July. Other advertisers pulled back on spending but did so less publicly. Facebook has 9+ million advertisers. Continue reading Evaluating Possible Impact of Recent Ad Boycott on Facebook

With Trump Approval, Microsoft to Acquire TikTok’s U.S. Unit

After weeks of negotiations and following a phone call between President Trump and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella, the company stated it will purchase TikTok’s U.S. operations. Microsoft will work to seal the deal — which will also include Canada, Australia and New Zealand — with ByteDance by September 15. Stating appreciation for Trump’s “personal involvement,” Microsoft added that U.S. users’ data would be transferred to and remain in the country. Trump earlier said he would ban TikTok from the U.S. Continue reading With Trump Approval, Microsoft to Acquire TikTok’s U.S. Unit

Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft — the five largest U.S. tech firms — are speeding up their acquisitions, even as they are under antitrust investigation by federal officials and state attorneys general. By the end of June, the companies had disclosed 27 deals, up 29 percent from the same period last year, when they announced 21 deals. The increase in purchases could be used as proof by regulators and economists that these companies are using their wealth to dominate competitors and increase their market share. Continue reading Big Tech Firms Step Up Acquisitions Despite Antitrust Probes

Microsoft Cloud Service Revenues Skyrocket Past $50 Billion

Microsoft reported that sales rose 13 percent to $38 billion in its fiscal Q4, for a net profit of $11.2 billion. Largely due to continued demand for its Azure cloud-computing services, both figures exceeded Wall Street expectations. Microsoft’s revenue from the commercial cloud division “surpassed $50 billion for the first time ever in the latest fiscal year.” The company is also the target of a complaint Slack filed with the European Commission, accusing it of using its market power to crush rivals. Continue reading Microsoft Cloud Service Revenues Skyrocket Past $50 Billion

Beta Testers Give Thumbs Up to New OpenAI Text Generator

OpenAI’s Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT), a general-purpose language algorithm for using machine learning to answer questions, translate text and predictively write it, is currently in its third version. GPT-3, first described in a research paper published in May, is now in a private beta with a select group of developers. The goal is to eventually launch it as a commercial cloud-based subscription service. Its predecessor, GPT-2, released last year, was able to create convincing text in several styles. Continue reading Beta Testers Give Thumbs Up to New OpenAI Text Generator

Google Developing New Cloud Services During the Pandemic

According to Google Cloud chief executive Thomas Kurian, the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the development of new cloud features. “Every week, there’s a new set of dimensions, and we have to adapt, keep people positive, and focus through it,” he said. A new security product that encrypts data while it’s being processed, for example, is aimed at luring businesses in highly regulated industries to adopt cloud services. Another cloud-computing product is Assured Workloads for Government, a new way to secure public sector deals. Continue reading Google Developing New Cloud Services During the Pandemic

Microsoft Introduces Teams Updates to Reduce User Fatigue

As COVID-19 keeps schools and businesses shut down, Microsoft has unveiled updates for its video communication platform Teams to help online meeting participants feel more connected. One such feature is Together Mode, which lets participants set the call to a shared background image so everyone feels a bit more like they’re sitting in the same room. The genesis of the feature came when Stanford University professor Jeremy Bailenson realized how fatiguing videoconferences could be, and contacted his friend, Microsoft Research scientist Jaron Lanier. Teams is also adding emoji, video filters, and integration of Tasks and Cortana. Continue reading Microsoft Introduces Teams Updates to Reduce User Fatigue

Google Shutters Initiative to Provide Cloud Services in China

Google ended its Isolated Region initiative to offer cloud services in China and other so-called sovereignty sensitive markets that strictly regulate companies whose services include collecting or processing personal data. Begun in 2018, the Isolated Region initiative would have complied with rules in China that require Western companies providing data or networking to form joint ventures with Chinese companies. The business would also be sequestered from Google’s existing cloud services including data centers. Continue reading Google Shutters Initiative to Provide Cloud Services in China

Microsoft Will Offer Free Digital Training for 25 Million People

To help fight the unemployment created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Microsoft and LinkedIn (which Microsoft acquired in 2016) plan to offer free online classes and job-hunting resources to 25 million people around the world by the end of 2020. The two companies have identified 10 booming occupations — including data analyst, digital marketer and help-desk technician — that require digital skills they aim to teach. These professionals also pay relatively well, even for those without a college degree. Continue reading Microsoft Will Offer Free Digital Training for 25 Million People

ACM Calls for Temporary Ban of Facial Recognition Systems

The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) U.S. Technology Policy Committee (USTPC) issued a statement on the use of facial recognition “as applied by government and the private sector,” concluding that, “when rigorously evaluated, the technology too often produces results demonstrating clear bias based on ethnic, racial, gender, and other human characteristics recognizable by computer systems.” ACM, which has 100,000 global members, urged legislators to suspend use of it by government and business entities. Continue reading ACM Calls for Temporary Ban of Facial Recognition Systems

Pricey Infrastructure Necessary for Success in Cloud Gaming

In the past two years, nearly every major gaming and technology company has debuted a cloud gaming service, from Microsoft’s xCloud and Sony’s PlayStation Now to Google’s Stadia, Nvidia’s GeForce Now and Tencent’s Start. Even Amazon and Facebook are reported to be considering launching cloud gaming units. Behind the scenes, many experts said that, as cloud gaming grows in popularity, the result could be a so-called infrastructure arms race. Worldwide, there are approximately 2 billion gamers. Continue reading Pricey Infrastructure Necessary for Success in Cloud Gaming

National Research Cloud Gains Big Tech, Legislator Support

The National Research Cloud, which has bipartisan support in Congress, gained approval of several universities, including Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Ohio State, and participation of Big Tech companies Amazon, Google and IBM. The project would give academics access to a tech companies’ cloud data centers and public data sets, encouraging growth in AI research. Although the Trump administration has cut funding to other kinds of research, it has proposed doubling its spending on AI by 2022. Continue reading National Research Cloud Gains Big Tech, Legislator Support

Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

After recent reports revealing government use of facial recognition that fails to correctly identify people of color at a much higher rate than white people, Democratic lawmakers have proposed the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act to ban government use of the technology. Amazon, IBM and Microsoft have already temporarily stopped selling their facial recognition software to law enforcement agencies, and the bicameral bill would make this state of affairs permanent. Continue reading Legislators Introduce Bill to Halt the Use of Facial Recognition

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