All posts in “business”

YouTube to add Wikipedia background info on conspiracy videos

YouTube is taking action on the proliferation of conspiracy videos found on its platform: YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki told an SXSW panel Tuesday that the company would be introducing so-called “information cues” sourced from relevant Wikipedia articles on videos that talk about popular conspiracy theories.

These will appear as text boxes that can prevent alternative perspectives on subjects including chemtrails and the supposedly fake Moon landing, both of which were used as examples to show how this would work in practice during the panel. The info pop-up appears below the video but above the title and description, giving it a certain amount of prominence in the interface.

The YouTube CEO didn’t go into detail about how many conspiracy theories will be covered by the feature, but praised the format’s extensibility, suggesting that it could grow to expand as many as needed, and that it could also introduce alternate information sources in addition to Wikipedia.

Some critics are pointing out that this looks less like a solution to YouTube’s role perpetuating and legitimizing batshit crazy ideas, and more like a way for it to absolve itself of a responsibility of taking a more critical look at the problem. In fact, the examples YouTube itself provided on stage seem to back up this criticism, since the Moon landing video contained only a brief couple of sentences (one cut in half) visible on the video itself, the content of which doesn’t even necessarily counter the info shared by the conspiracist who posted the video.

The bottom line is that all social platforms relying on user-generated content will eventually become completely co-opted and unusable.

Bose is carving out $50 million for startups using its new audio-focused AR tech

The high-end audio technology company Bose is getting into the augmented reality game with a new product and a $50 million fund devoted to startups that will develop services for its new platform.

While most of the industry is focused on a visually augmented experience, Bose is most concerned with the intersection of sound and vision.

The Bose AR prototype, which was unveiled at South by Southwest in Austin this year, will use visual information captured by the glasses and add contextually relevant audio information to its wearer.

Bose’s AR kit is a “wafer-thin” acoustics package that the company hopes can be added to headphones, eyewear, helmets and other wearables to give a new spin on reality “augmentation.” The company said the new technology can be controlled with voice commands, head gestures and simple touch gestures.

The new product is a clever spin on augmented reality and a product that plays into Bose’s strength. “It places audio in your surroundings, not digital images, so you can focus on the amazing world around you — rather than a tiny display,” said John Gordon, vice president of the Consumer Electronics Division at Bose, in a statement. “It knows which way you’re facing, and can instantly connect that place and time with endless possibilities for travel, learning, music and more. And it can be added to products and apps we already use and love, removing some of the big obstacles that have kept AR on the sidelines.”

The first prototype glasses are Bluetooth compatible for calls or to integrate with Siri or Google Assistant. A new technology developed for the glasses ensures that the audio is audible only to the listener wearing the glasses, and the acoustic packages fit inside the arms of the glasses.

Sensors in the glasses track the orientation of a listener and integrate with an iOS or Android device to track location and motion, which is sent to the AR-enabled application in the wearables.

The company is already working with ASICS Studio, Strava, TripAdvisor, TuneIn and Yelp on collaborations that will provide content for the wearables, while MIT’s Media Lab and the NYU Future Reality Lab are also playing around with prototypes.

But Bose wants entrepreneurs and programmers to develop their own applications. They’ve created a $50 million fund to finance companies that would like to work with the new audio technology and is providing an SDK and updated glasses later this summer.

Bose has invested in a number of companies already — unrelated to its new augmented reality platform — that are all based on novel wearable technologies.

The platform includes investments like Embr Labs, a wearable for regulating body temperature; Qleek, a company that embeds augmented reality experiences onto custom designed wooden blocks; and Vesper, a MEMS-powered microphones.

Snap reportedly working on new Spectacles, including two-camera version

Snap, Inc. calls itself a “camera company” so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that it’s working on new versions of its Spectacles hardware (especially since we reported just that last June). But a new report from Cheddar has surprised some with news that Snap is working on a refresh of their hardware´set to launch later this year, as well as a two-camera version planned for 2019.

The camera-equipped Snapchat Spectacles sunglasses, originally released in 2016, were briefly a hot commodity thanks to limited, pop-up retail only availability, but ultimately didn’t impress with total hardware sales and generally lacklustre broader retail launch. At $130, they come in a variety of colors and house a single camera at the joint where the arm meets the front of the frames, which captures circular video for sharing clips on Snapchat.

While some are expressing mystification about why Snap would continue developing this product in light of that performance, I think it makes perfect sense that the Snapchat-maker would take another kick at the can. Spectacles did create a big moment for Snap, for instance, especially in the early days, and that’s the kind of brand advertising that you can’t even buy with a gigantic advertising budget.

Also, if Snap is serious about being a camera company, it won’t give up after one middling attempt. Its apparently planning to build slight improvements into the next new version, intended to ship this fall, per Cheddar, with new colors, water resistance, and performance improvements. But the big changes are being lined up for next year’s model, which could incorporate an aluminum frame design, and 3D-depth effects in videos capture using them thanks to a second camera. Plus, they might also build in GPS for geotagging and a leather case, with a cost increase to around $300 for the premium features.

Spectacles’ disappointing first outing resulted in some significant setbacks for its hardware division, per Cheddar, including layoffs and management turmoil, but now it’s hoping to move forward with its gadget plans and it even acquired a company called FiveLocal, per Cheddar, to help prototype camera tech for various different types of potential gadgets.

Cheddar also reports that Snap is considering partnering with Luxottica and Warby Parker on sales on building camera tech into their existing eyeglasses, though it seems like those discussions are still at an early stage.

As we reported previously, the new report says that Snap is also intending to incorporate augmented reality into future version of Spectacles, including potential Bitmoji AR features.

Social publisher LittleThings shuts down, citing Facebook algorithm changes

From humble beginnings as a blog for a pet food venture, in four years LittleThings accrued millions of followers and views on its social platforms through feel-good content.

But the publisher announced that it would be no more on Tuesday, putting the blame largely on Facebook’s algorithm changes in an email to all staff, published by Business Insider

Facebook’s “prioritisation of friends/family content over publishers was the last straw” for LittleThings, something which the social media platform implemented in early January.

The self-funded company has been seeking a buyer since late last year, but claimed these changes “spooked” potential buyers in its sale process. 

“Our organic traffic (the highest margin business), and influencer traffic were cut by over 75 percent. No previous algorithm update ever came close to this level of decimation. The position it put us in was beyond dire,” it reads. 

It’s hoped the LittleThings brand will be resurrected in another way in the near future.

On Wednesday morning, LittleThings’ live Facebook show, Refresh, broadcast for the last time. Hosts Cassie and Paul Morris were in tears, thanking viewers for their loyalty and told of their shock at the sudden closure.

Back in 2016, LittleThings chief executive Joe Spieser allayed concerns about being too reliant on Facebook’s algorithm. 

“I think we need each other. We need them for the traffic; they need us for the content,” he told the Wall Street Journal at the time. However, Facebook has recently become pretty brutal when it comes to publisher complaints. 

“If you are a publisher who feels like Facebook is not good for your business, you shouldn’t be on Facebook,” company executive Campbell Brown said in February during an onstage grilling at Recode’s Code Media conference.  

LittleThings is one of several social publishers that built its business on distributed content, scrapping the once-antiquated need for a website. That’s perhaps changing, with NowThis launching a website in January after ditching it in 2015.

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Huawei, Asus embrace the smartphone notch

The notch is here to stay. Two upcoming phones are reported to sport the awful, disgusting notch at the top of the screen. Huawei and Asus are following Apple and Essential down the notch hole.

Neither of these phones are confirmed or officially announced yet. Both the Huawei and Asus models appeared online ahead of their official unveiling. They sport, among with what I assume are top-tier specs, a screen that stretches from corner to corner minus sizable notches on top of the screen to house the cameras and earpiece.

It’s easy to see this trend hitting other gadgets. Laptop screens? Sure. Tablets? Yep. TVs? I hope not, but who knows anymore.

There’s another trend appearing, too: Pop-up cameras. By building the cameras into hidden doors and panels, makers are able to offer even smaller bezels and best of all, no notches. While only available on one production device and in one concept device, this trend could become an alternative to the notch.