Nvidia and Stanford Co-Develop World’s Thinnest VR Headset

In the run-up to SIGGRAPH 2022, August 8-11 at the Vancouver Convention Center, Nvidia is unveiling some splashy designs, including what is described as the world’s thinnest VR glasses (just 2.5mm). Developed in conjunction with Stanford University, the team says the new VR headset can easily be modified to achieve a 120-degree diagonal field-of-view (though the initial prototypes are much narrower in scope). The lightweight glasses provide a true holographic display but can also display flat images. Most current VR headsets achieve depth by converging flat images for a stereoscopic view. Continue reading Nvidia and Stanford Co-Develop World’s Thinnest VR Headset

Obama Takes Up Mantle of Social Media Regulatory Oversight

Former President Barack Obama sounded a warning against unregulated Big Tech in a speech last week at Stanford University near Palo Alto, California. Cautioning that the power of social media giants to curate information has “turbocharged” political polarization, Obama said the imbalance of power threatened the very pillars of global democracy itself. “Tech companies need to be more transparent about how they operate,” Obama said. “So much of the conversation around disinformation is focused on what people post. The bigger issue is what content these platforms promote.”  Continue reading Obama Takes Up Mantle of Social Media Regulatory Oversight

Espresso Raises $32M in Its Bid to Advance Blockchain Tech

Cryptography experts from Stanford University are brewing up Espresso, a new Layer-1 system that aims to crack the so-called ‘blockchain trilemma’ of balancing decentralization, security and scalability. Described as a privacy-focused blockchain geared to those who find the public-facing aspect of most platforms unsuitable for their sensitive data, Espresso Systems is building “solutions that will unlock new possibilities for Web3 applications and usher in the next generation of users.” The company stepped out of the lab this week to introduce itself with $32 million in funding, led by Electric Capital and Greylock Partners. Continue reading Espresso Raises $32M in Its Bid to Advance Blockchain Tech

Big Tech in Spotlight as Russia Censors News of Ukraine War

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has focused attention on its attempts to censor Big Tech, but the nation’s most onerous recent move to control speech came last July, when President Vladimir Putin signed a law requiring foreign tech companies with more than 500,000 monthly visitors from within the Russian Federation to establish a physical presence within the country that would be held responsible for violations of local law. Russian authorities have warned companies including Meta, Apple, Google, TikTok and Twitter that they had until the end of February to comply with what has become known as “the landing law.” Continue reading Big Tech in Spotlight as Russia Censors News of Ukraine War

Microsoft Closing LinkedIn in China, Retooling for Jobs-Only

LinkedIn will shut down its platform in China by the end of the year, the result of “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements.” The Microsoft-owned company says it plans to offer a new app for China that focuses exclusively on job postings. Gone will be the social networking features that helped make LinkedIn a success in the U.S. and elsewhere. China’s Internet is monitored by a system of censorship filters called “the Great Firewall,” making it difficult for free expression platforms to do business there. Continue reading Microsoft Closing LinkedIn in China, Retooling for Jobs-Only

Pandemic Fosters Wider Adoption of QR Codes and Tracking

During the COVID-19 pandemic, QR codes that allow customers to order and pay for food and drinks caught on in restaurants and appear to be here for good. Retail chains including CVS and Foot Locker have also added them as have marketers. Because QR codes can store digital information and open an app or website that tracks peoples’ personal information, they’re ideal for vendors looking to create their own customer databases. Consumers will soon be served customized offers marketed within QR code payment systems. Continue reading Pandemic Fosters Wider Adoption of QR Codes and Tracking

Big Tech Attempts to Balance Worker Needs Moving Forward

Alphabet conducted internal research that found Google software engineers felt as productive working from home as before the pandemic, although 75 percent of employees said they wanted more “collaboration and social connections” at work. Human resources vice president Brian Welle reported that “most staff also specifically craved physical proximity when working on new projects.” As a result, Alphabet still plans to bring employees back to the office this fall, although some will be able to work full-time from home. Continue reading Big Tech Attempts to Balance Worker Needs Moving Forward

Government Establishes Task Force to Promote AI Innovation

The Biden administration has formed the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force with plans to “develop a roadmap to democratize access to research tools that will promote AI innovation and fuel economic prosperity.” The task force, composed of 12 academic, government and industrial members led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), will establish the National AI Research Resource (NAIRR). The task force is charged with drafting a strategy to create an AI research system about Americans and finding enough computing power to analyze the data.  Continue reading Government Establishes Task Force to Promote AI Innovation

China Is First Country to Debut a National Digital Currency

China has begun issuing a digital currency from by its central bank, a move that will give that country’s government new ways to monitor its economy and people. The digital yuan will be aimed at international uses and not linked to the global financial system. At the People’s Bank of China, director of the Digital Currency Research Institute Mu Changchun noted that, “in order to protect our currency sovereignty and legal currency status, we have to plan ahead.” China is the first to issue a national digital currency. Continue reading China Is First Country to Debut a National Digital Currency

States Lead the Way in Proposing Laws to Regulate Big Tech

Arizona, Maryland and Virginia are just three states pushing legislation to limit Big Tech companies such as Google and Apple on issues including digital advertisements, app-store fees and online privacy. Their actions appear to highlight a growing trend: that state capitals are emerging at the forefront of potentially regulating Silicon Valley behemoths. While the federal government is holding hearings and suing some Big Tech companies, states may beat them to passing laws that will become de facto national standards. Continue reading States Lead the Way in Proposing Laws to Regulate Big Tech

Game Platform Roblox Goes Public, Now Valued at $45 Billion

Gaming platform Roblox went public on Wednesday and saw its shares rise from a reference price of $45 to $69.50, valuing the company at $45 billion. A year ago, the company was valued at $4 billion. The NPD Group reported that a record-breaking $56.9 billion was spent on gaming in the U.S. in 2020, up 27 percent from 2019. Sony enjoyed a 62 percent rise in profit, and Microsoft recorded a first-ever $5 billion in quarterly gaming revenue. In a hot gaming market, Roblox delayed its listing to more accurately price its shares. Continue reading Game Platform Roblox Goes Public, Now Valued at $45 Billion

Court Decision Allows California to Enforce Net Neutrality Law

In 2018, former California governor Jerry Brown signed a bill making the state the first to enact a net neutrality law. The Trump administration sued to block it, and the Biden administration dropped that suit, but the telecom industry had filed a separate suit. Now, U.S. District Court judge John A. Mendez denied the telecom suit, allowing the state to enforce the 2018 law. State senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) called the decision “a huge victory for open access to the Internet, our democracy and our economy,” while some industry groups suggest federal legislation would be a preferred approach to a state-by-state model. Continue reading Court Decision Allows California to Enforce Net Neutrality Law

Vocal Facebook Critics Form Their Own Rival Oversight Board

About 25 experts in various fields formed the Real Facebook Oversight Board, an alternative to the one Facebook has promised to launch soon. Hosted by Recode founder and The New York Times contributing opinion writer Kara Swisher, the Real Facebook Oversight Board will hold its first meeting — via Facebook Live — on October 1, to analyze the social media platform’s content moderation, policies and other issues as the 2020 presidential election looms. Meanwhile, Facebook’s board is expected to begin reviewing cases in October. Continue reading Vocal Facebook Critics Form Their Own Rival Oversight Board

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

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