HiDef and Unity Pursue Social Impact and Diversity in Games

Game studio HiDef has teamed up with San Francisco-based software developer Unity Technologies to work on a games-as-a-service project that focuses on games that “connect and entertain people through creative expression, competition, shared experiences, and cultural discovery.” The San Diego-based HiDef, founded by Anthony Castoro, Jace Hall, Rick Fox and David Washington in 2019, recently raised $9 million. HiDef said the first title is a metaverse mobile game using the Unity game engine, created in concert with Unity’s gaming services team. Continue reading HiDef and Unity Pursue Social Impact and Diversity in Games

Twitter Revisits E-Commerce with New Shop Module Feature

Twitter recently launched its Shop Module pilot, a new feature that will let businesses add a shopping section to their profiles. The feature, introduced initially in the U.S., allows a dozen retailers — including GameStop Corp. and Arden Cove — to market up to five products at the top of their Twitter profiles. Users can swipe between products and purchase them in an in-app browser without having to leave Twitter. With Shop Module, Twitter has revived its e-commerce activity after abandoning the “Buy Now” button debuted in 2015. Continue reading Twitter Revisits E-Commerce with New Shop Module Feature

Coinbase Becomes First Cryptocurrency Startup to Go Public

Startup Coinbase, a secure exchange platform that helps people purchase, sell and store cryptocurrencies, has become the first such startup to go public. Shares traded at $381 each, up 52 percent from a reference price of $250, and eventually closed at $328.28, for a company valuation of $85.7 billion, ten times higher than its last private valuation. The San Francisco-based company’s IPO is a landmark for long-time crypto advocates. In its wake, Bitcoin’s value soared to $64,829 and Ether traded at a record-high of $2,487 (which also followed news about upgrades to the Ethereum network). Continue reading Coinbase Becomes First Cryptocurrency Startup to Go Public

Massachusetts Finds Compromise in Use of Facial Recognition

Oakland, Portland, San Francisco and Minneapolis have banned police use of facial recognition, mainly due to its inherent racial bias. Massachusetts is now the first U.S. state to legislate its use. The law, which goes into effect in July, has found a middle ground, both allowing law enforcement to use the facial recognition technology to catch criminals and building in protections intended to prevent false arrests. With the new law, police must get a judge’s permission to run a facial recognition search. Continue reading Massachusetts Finds Compromise in Use of Facial Recognition

Cuomo Greenlights March 5 Opening for NYC Movie Theaters

New York governor Andrew Cuomo gave the okay for movie theaters to open beginning March 5 for a maximum of 50 people per screening, a capacity of 25 percent. This marks the first time that movie theaters there have opened in almost a year. Theaters must use advanced air filtration systems, while attendees are required to wear masks and sit in their assigned seats. State theaters outside New York City have reopened over the last few months based on lower COVID-19 infection numbers. In reaction to the news, AMC Entertainment stock rose 16 percent. Continue reading Cuomo Greenlights March 5 Opening for NYC Movie Theaters

Appeals Court Gives Lyft, Uber Greenlight to Operate for Now

Hours before Lyft and Uber planned to suspend their services to protest the ruling to reclassify their drivers as employees, an appeals court allowed them to continue operating during the appeals process. Uber spokesperson Matt Kallman noted that the company is glad “that access to these critical services won’t be cut off while we continue to advocate for drivers’ ability to work with the freedom they want.” The companies must still submit plans for hiring employees by early September, in case their appeal is denied. Continue reading Appeals Court Gives Lyft, Uber Greenlight to Operate for Now

California Judge Rules Uber and Lyft Are Violating State Law

In California, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman confirmed Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s decision that Lyft and Uber are violating California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5). Schulman paused the injunction for 10 days to allow those companies to appeal his decision. AB5 requires that the two ride-hailing companies reclassify their California drivers as employees, making them eligible for healthcare and overtime among other perks. Due to COVID-19, Uber suffered a 67 percent decline in the June quarter. Continue reading California Judge Rules Uber and Lyft Are Violating State Law

Appeals Court Agrees Internet Platforms Can Censor Content

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled unanimously that privately operated Internet platforms can censor content at will — a rebuke of the argument advanced in conservative circles that the platforms are bound by the First Amendment. The case in question was the YouTube channel of Prager University, a non-profit founded by radio host Dennis Prager. YouTube tagged dozens of PragerU’s videos as “inappropriate,” and stripped their advertising, which led the channel to file a lawsuit in 2017. Continue reading Appeals Court Agrees Internet Platforms Can Censor Content

Amazon and Facebook to Lease More Space in Manhattan

Less than a year after Amazon pulled out of a deal to build its second headquarters (HQ2) in Manhattan, it inked a lease for 335,000 square feet in the neighborhood to house more than 1,500 employees. Facebook is also reportedly in talks to lease 700,000 square feet in a nearby neighborhood. If that plan goes through, the social media platform, which has other real estate holdings in the city, would become one of its largest corporate tenants, which include JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. Continue reading Amazon and Facebook to Lease More Space in Manhattan

Audiotapes Reveal Zuckerberg’s Take on Big Tech Breakup

In March, Senator Elizabeth Warren debuted her plan to break up big tech companies, from Amazon to Facebook. Her campaign paid for a billboard in San Francisco with the message in capital letters. Now, almost seven months later, leaked audiotapes reveal what Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg thinks about her plans. In the tapes, Zuckerberg tells employees that, “if she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge.” Continue reading Audiotapes Reveal Zuckerberg’s Take on Big Tech Breakup

Pew Surveys Americans’ Trust in Use of Facial Recognition

Although numerous U.S. municipalities have decried facial recognition technologies as “coercive and oppressive,” 56 percent of ordinary U.S. citizens trust law enforcement to use the technologies responsibly. That’s one of the findings of the Pew Research Center, which also learned that 73 percent of those polled believe facial recognition can accurately identify people. The level of trust in law enforcement is surprising given recent incidents in which people have been incorrectly identified, even as terrorists. Continue reading Pew Surveys Americans’ Trust in Use of Facial Recognition

Toronto Has Become a Magnet For Major Tech Companies

Toronto has become an attractive locale for Silicon Valley companies to set up shop. Intel plans to build a graphics-chip design lab there, Uber Technologies will open an engineering hub, and Google’s parent, Alphabet, aims to build a new Toronto campus as part of its “smart city” on Lake Ontario. Microsoft also said it will increase its Canadian workforce by 20+ percent. All that activity has led Silicon Valley Bank, which funds startups and venture capital firms, to open an office in what is the largest Canadian city. Continue reading Toronto Has Become a Magnet For Major Tech Companies

Broadcasters File Federal Suit to Stop TV Streamer Locast

CBS, Disney’s ABC, Comcast’s NBCUniversal and Fox are suing non-profit streaming service Locast in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York. Locast, funded in part by AT&T, retransmits local television stations without permission, free to consumers. The Supreme Court shut down Aereo, which streamed content without permission in 2014. Locast says its status is legal under the Copyright Act of 1976, because, unlike Aereo, it is a non-profit operating “booster” and “translator stations” that strengthen a TV station’s signal. Continue reading Broadcasters File Federal Suit to Stop TV Streamer Locast

Fyusion Demos Photoreal 3D Imaging Tech at SIGGRAPH

Fyusion, a computer vision/machine learning company, is demonstrating a new 3D imaging technology this week at SIGGRAPH 2019. The technology, aimed at providing digital marketers with photoreal images of products and scenes, uses light field technology to attain greater realism. The company has raised $70 million, including $3 million from Japan’s Itochu trading company and a “strategic investment” from Cox Automotive. The software is already being used for commercial purposes in automotive, retail and fashion industries. Continue reading Fyusion Demos Photoreal 3D Imaging Tech at SIGGRAPH

Tech Firms and Investors Develop AI Ethics, Best Practices

A growing number of venture capital and technology executives are pushing for a code of ethics for artificial intelligence startups, as well as tools to make algorithms’ decision-making process more transparent and best practices that include open, consistent communication. At Google, chief decision scientist Cassie Kozyrkov believes humans can fix AI problems. But the technology is still under intense scrutiny from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city of San Francisco and the European Commission, among others. Continue reading Tech Firms and Investors Develop AI Ethics, Best Practices