Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Spatial lets its enterprise customers use VR or mixed reality headsets to meet in virtual spaces. The company now plans to launch support for desktop web browsers, Android and iOS — open to all and free. That support means virtual meetings can include participants who do not have a headset. According to Spatial co-founder and chief executive Anand Agarawala, “in light of COVID, we’ve actually had an intense amount of demand — about a 1,000 percent increase.” He added that, unlike Zoom, “something like VR gives you that level of presence and personification.” Continue reading Spatial VR/AR Meeting Platform Is Now Free and Open to All

Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

WarnerMedia’s HBO has partnered with Seattle-based Scener to allow HBO Now and HBO GO subscribers to create a private virtual theater, including video chat, for up to 20 people. Scener already allows co-viewing for Netflix accounts. This is HBO’s first significant partnership with an online co-viewing platform. Scener co-founder Joe Braidwood said the company saw a “crazy surge in demand” for the product with the COVID-19 pandemic. The partnership, which began in March, includes a new design for the site and update for Google Chrome browsers. Continue reading Scener Offers Virtual Theater and Video Chat for HBO, Netflix

Executive Spotlight: A Talk with Paramount’s Anthony Guarino

Welcome to the second week of ETC’s Executive Spotlight series, in which we interview execs from our member companies about how they are adapting business operations during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Today we have Anthony Guarino, EVP of Worldwide Technical Operations at Paramount Pictures, who explained that his studio had the necessary infrastructure and processes in place to smoothly transition their global archive, mastering and content distribution operations when social distancing went into effect. From the start of the safer-at-home orders, Paramount’s Tech Ops team has effectively worked from home since most of their operating processes utilize software systems that are web enabled. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: A Talk with Paramount’s Anthony Guarino

Cloud Services Experience Record Revenue, Slowing Growth

According to Canalys, by the end of Q1 2020, companies spent a record $31 billion on cloud infrastructure, 34.5 percent growth from $23.1 billion for Q1 2019. Despite increased spending, however, the growth trajectory is slowing: Q1 2019 showed a 39.3 percent year-on-year (YoY) increase and Q4 2019 a 37.2 percent year-on-year increase. Cloud spending therefore grew only 2.6 percent or $800 million quarter-on-quarter by end of March 2020. Canalys attributes growth to the shift to remote working during the pandemic. Continue reading Cloud Services Experience Record Revenue, Slowing Growth

Executive Spotlight: Interview with Vubiquity’s Darcy Antonellis

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to significant operational changes as businesses adjust to new, often experimental or untested processes. ETC has taken this unprecedented time to interview executives from our member companies who generously agreed to share their experiences, information and ideas about how they are adapting to the crisis. The following is the first in a limited series to be published Tuesdays and Thursdays over the coming weeks. We begin with a conversation with Darcy Antonellis, division president of Amdocs Media and CEO of Vubiquity, an Amdocs Company. Vubiquity delivers premium content to viewers on any screen, device or platform. Continue reading Executive Spotlight: Interview with Vubiquity’s Darcy Antonellis

Facebook Ad Sales Pick Up, Resulting in Strong Q1 Revenue

With the coronavirus pandemic, advertising plummeted on many online sites, including social media giant Facebook. The company’s chief financial officer David Wehner declared that factor “largely attributable” to the 16 percent decline in average price of ads purchased in March. But gaming and e-Commerce companies picked up the slack by spending more, taking advantage of less competition in the company’s ad auctions. As a result, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told analysts the company would “remain in growth mode.” Continue reading Facebook Ad Sales Pick Up, Resulting in Strong Q1 Revenue

Facebook, Google and Others Challenge Zoom’s Dominance

The group video chat app Zoom has been No. 1 in the Apple store for more than a month, growing 740 percent in the last month, according to App Annie. The company, valued at $47 billion, now boasts 300 million daily participants. Success spurs competition, and Zoom is now in the crosshairs of Big Tech and telecommunications companies. After Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg urged a focus on completing its video chat projects, the company launched Messenger Rooms for as many as 50 people. Continue reading Facebook, Google and Others Challenge Zoom’s Dominance

Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Zoom has gotten a lot of attention as the popular video chat platform that’s soared in usage since the COVID-19 shutdown. But Houseparty is another video chat platform with free mobile and desktop apps that’s gaining traction. Originally targeting teens, Houseparty offers features designed to encourage interaction, such as jumping into a conversation or playing trivia games remotely. In the last month, Houseparty has had 50 million signups, about 70 times its typical number in some markets, said cofounder and chief executive Sima Sistani. Continue reading Houseparty Chat Expands Beyond Teens to Wider Audience

Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

Facebook’s Instagram recently debuted Co-Watching, a feature that makes it possible for users to video chat while they browse the app. With Co-Watching, users can engage in direct-message video-chat conversations to look at saved, liked and suggested photos and videos together. Co-Watching is just one example of ways that Facebook and Instagram are shifting to accommodate users and communities during the coronavirus pandemic, when many are confined to home. Instagram first began testing Co-Watching a year ago. Continue reading Instagram Unveils Co-Watching Feature for Group Video Chat

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

Facebook Set to Launch Portal TV Streamer With Video Chat

For the holidays, Facebook plans to unveil a Portal TV streaming device that will feature a camera and far-field microphones and offer video chat with TV viewing and augmented reality. Rather than competing directly with Fire TV or Roku, the device focuses more on video chatting. It is also likely to run Android, as does most Facebook hardware including Oculus Go and Oculus Quest VR headsets. By being based on the Android operating system, the Portal device will synch seamlessly with Android-based TV apps. Continue reading Facebook Set to Launch Portal TV Streamer With Video Chat

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

Facebook Is Developing Multiplayer AR Games for Messenger

Facebook is moving into augmented reality multiplayer games on Messenger, and some journalists have had a chance to visit the company’s Real Time Communication team in Seattle and experience these unreleased AR games firsthand. Messenger already has 1.3 billion monthly active users, making it the second most used messaging service after WhatsApp, with 1.5 billion users. Facebook owns both apps. One AR game, to be released before year’s end, is “Kitten Craze,” which lets up to six Messenger players dodge flying felines. Continue reading Facebook Is Developing Multiplayer AR Games for Messenger

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