Tech Firms Consider Remote Work Options After Coronavirus

Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter were among the first U.S. companies to send their employees home as the coronavirus spread. Now, as they reopen their campuses, they are also allowing some of employees to continue to work from home. If that policy becomes widespread, it will be a major change from the college-like corporate campuses the companies built to encourage creativity and spontaneous interactions. Working from home will be its own perk and allow companies to broaden their search for workers. Continue reading Tech Firms Consider Remote Work Options After Coronavirus

Facebook Announces Three New AI-Powered Portal Devices

Facebook is introducing three Portal models, starting at $129, a more competitive price than previous models. Two offer a smart display with screen, camera and microphone, and the third can turn a TV into a venue for video chat. The first Portal offered AI-enabled tracking that kept all the participants in the frame and could follow a single person. The AI has been upgraded to provide more accuracy. Although the company “paused” human review of audio, it will resume the practice for some Portal audio. Continue reading Facebook Announces Three New AI-Powered Portal Devices

Some Execs Oppose Rebranding of Popular Facebook Apps

Facebook is adding its name to Instagram and WhatsApp as part of a decision to unify its apps by branding them with the parent company’s name. The Facebook moniker will be visible on marketing and within the apps. Some Facebook employees purportedly oppose the move. The rebranding will bring the two popular apps in line with the naming conventions of Oculus, Portal and Workplace. The move to rebrand the two apps was first discovered in March, but at the time Facebook said it was just “testing the change” on a handful of users. Continue reading Some Execs Oppose Rebranding of Popular Facebook Apps

Facebook Turns to Robots to Advance Artificial Intelligence

Humans learn from experience to not “do dumb things,” and Facebook chief AI scientist Yann LeCun is trying to create a version of that for robots, saying that systems that learn “models of the world” are our best shot at advancing artificial intelligence. Unlike a rewards/demerits-based reinforcement learning, Facebook’s tack is to instill curiosity, by giving the robot freedom to try new things. With New York University, Facebook also dramatically reduced the number of tries to teach a robotic arm to grasp an object. Continue reading Facebook Turns to Robots to Advance Artificial Intelligence

Facebook Pushes Core Principles at Developer Conference

With an emphasis on privacy, Facebook made a series of compelling announcements at its annual F8 developer conference this week. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg detailed six core principles that will be embedded across the company’s services: private interactions, improved data encryption, interoperability, general safety, reducing permanence and secure data storage. The principles arrive following a difficult period for the social giant, as it continues to face criticism regarding privacy-related scandals while contending with increased scrutiny from global regulators. Continue reading Facebook Pushes Core Principles at Developer Conference

Two Facebook Groups Are Developing New Voice Assistant

Social giant Facebook confirmed a report that it is working on developing its own voice assistant. Originally, two former Facebook employees described the plans to CNBC, which broke the news. The company has been developing its own voice assistant since early 2018 in its augmented reality/virtual reality group based in Redmond, Washington. Facebook Assistant and AR/VR director Ira Snyder leads a team that has been “contacting vendors in the smart speaker supply chain,” according to sources. Continue reading Two Facebook Groups Are Developing New Voice Assistant

Facebook Reportedly Building a TV Cam for Streaming Video

Just last week, Facebook announced its two new Portal video chat devices featuring 12-megapixel cameras with HD video and AI-powered software. New information suggests that the social giant is also readying a camera-equipped device codenamed “Ripley,” designed to work with your TV for video calling in addition to entertainment services including Facebook Watch. According to an insider with direct knowledge of the project, Ripley — which will use the same core tech as Portal — is likely to be announced by the spring of 2019. Continue reading Facebook Reportedly Building a TV Cam for Streaming Video

Facebook Unveils Video-Calling Devices Portal, Portal Plus

Facebook debuted Portal and Portal Plus, two video-calling devices, which sport a 12-megapixel camera with HD video and AI-empowered software — all in the service of video chatting. The AI is used to allow the camera to follow users. Portal and Portal Plus also include Amazon Alexa to play music or check the weather. Portal, with a 10-inch screen, is priced at $199, and Portal Plus, with a 15-inch screen that can be rotated, goes for $349. The devices will debut during the holiday season on a standalone website. Continue reading Facebook Unveils Video-Calling Devices Portal, Portal Plus

J.J. Abrams Teams With Tencent to Form Bad Robot Games

Director J.J. Abrams, who most recently helmed “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” plans to add video games to the portfolio of his production company Bad Robot. Formed in partnership with Chinese company Tencent Holdings, and a minority stake from investor Warner Bros. Interactive, Bad Robot Games will be headed by Dave Baronoff and Tim Keenan. Baronoff worked on the Bad Robot game adaptation of “Cloverfield” and Keenan, who will serve as creative director, is the creator of “Duskers” and “A Virus Named Tom.” Continue reading J.J. Abrams Teams With Tencent to Form Bad Robot Games

Facebook to Enter the Smart Speaker Market With Two Devices

By no later than July 2018, Facebook plans to introduce two smart speakers with 15-inch touchscreens. Code-named Aloha and Fiona, the two smart speakers, say sources, are aimed to let family and friends stay in touch with video chat and other social features. With the launch, Facebook joins Amazon, Alibaba, Apple, Google and Microsoft, all of which have debuted smart speakers into the global marketplace. According to Canalys, smart speaker sales are on track to double to over 50 million units in 2018. Continue reading Facebook to Enter the Smart Speaker Market With Two Devices

Slack Strives to Be Artificial Intelligence-Powered Office Portal

Slack has plans to evolve its workplace app to become the center of the office’s digital environment, connecting a wide variety of third-party business apps, with the ultimate goal of becoming the artificial intelligence-powered portal to the entire workplace. Head of search, learning and intelligence Noah Weiss described those plans for Slack, currently used by three million people every day in the work environment, and added that the company is also evolving its voice capabilities to become more sophisticated. Continue reading Slack Strives to Be Artificial Intelligence-Powered Office Portal

In Strategy Reversal, Yahoo Shutters its Online Video Portal

Yahoo has shut down Yahoo Screen, the company’s four-year-old video portal that had been a major component of chief exec Marissa Mayer’s turnaround strategy. Yahoo took a $42 million write-off on original video content in October, and while Yahoo Screen had yet to compete with video giant YouTube, comScore notes that the portal had about 15 million U.S. visitors in November. The portal had provided easy access to Yahoo’s video content — from digital magazines, concerts and football games to licensed reruns of “Saturday Night Live” and original series such as “Community.” Continue reading In Strategy Reversal, Yahoo Shutters its Online Video Portal

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

Snapchat Discover Aims to Become Internet Portal for Mobile

Mobile messaging service Snapchat unveiled Snapchat Discover yesterday, a new portal feature that includes articles, music and other media content from 11 new partners such as CNN, Comedy Central, Cosmopolitan, ESPN, National Geographic, Vice and Warner Music. Full-screen video ads from leading brands will run with the content; a portion of the ad revenue will be shared with publishers. In contrast to the user-shared media currently prevalent on Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat will reportedly maintain tighter control over its content. Continue reading Snapchat Discover Aims to Become Internet Portal for Mobile

Deal Now Complete: Amazon Acquires Twitch for $970 Million

According to a new SEC filing, Amazon’s buyout of online video game streaming company Twitch is now complete. The acquisition, worth $970 million and first revealed in late August, marks Amazon’s largest and most expensive deal to date. This follows earlier reports that suggested a similar deal was in the works with Google subsidiary YouTube. Twitch touts more than 55 million active monthly users, and is currently the largest live-streaming website in the U.S. by a significant margin. Continue reading Deal Now Complete: Amazon Acquires Twitch for $970 Million

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