In recent years, Google's speech recognition technology has improved 50% in accuracy, allowing it to make far more of its videos available to the deaf and hearing impaired. Currently, YouTube users watch more than 15 million videos with automated captions each day, and the captions service supports 10 languages, writes YouTube program manager Liat Kaver in a blog post.
YouTube says it has now added captions to over 1 billion videos
Now you can finance an HTC Vive VR system
High-end virtual reality systems like the Vive and Oculus Rift are expensive. The Vive costs $799 (not counting the cost of a gaming-quality PC), while the Rift runs $599 plus a gaming PC and $199 for Touch Controllers.
But HTC wants to upend this pricing structure, and today announced a financing program for the Vive. In North America, you can now get one at no interest for either $138 a month over six months, or $66.58 a month for a year. Alternatively, at 7.99% interest, you can pay $40.13 a month for two years. Whether that inspires more people to jump into high-end VR is unknown, since no one has tried this model before. DT
”Moonlight” wins Best Picture in one of the biggest screw-ups in Oscar history
Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi delivers powerful anti-Trump speech in absentia
Jeff Bezos at the Oscars is a small glimpse at the tech industry’s slow takeover of Hollywood
The Amazon chief found himself both the center of attention and the butt of jokes tonight at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony. As host Jimmy Kimmel pointed out, Amazon's Manchester by the Sea marks the first-ever Best Picture nomination for a streaming service. Kimmel joked about Bezos's presence at Hollywood's annual kudofest (it looked to me liked they gave him a seat toward the back), but given that Amazon Studios represents a tiny portion of the $403 billion Seattle e-commerce giant that is Amazon.com Inc., Bezos is likely to have the last laugh. And maybe Reed Hastings, too.
As expected, Samsung unveils new Gear VR with controller
Those required documents will get you every time. Last week, thanks to a filing with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, word got out that Samsung had developed a handheld wireless controller for its mobile Gear VR headset.
Yup. This morning, Samsung and Facebook-owned Oculus–which makes the software that powers the Gear VR–announced the controller (along with the latest iteration of the headset), along with 70 titles in the works that take advantage of it. Like the controller for Google's Daydream View virtual reality system, Samsung's will let users interact with VR applications, and incorporates a "touchpad…tuned to make it easy to navigate to your favorite videos and perform a number of actions within a game, while the trigger lets you select, grab, take aim, and fire." DT
DJI unveils first professional drone optimized for professional aerial inspections
The Chinese company is best known for its diverse line of consumer does—the Mavic Pro and the Phantom series—as well as prosumer devices like the Inspire. But, as the world's-largest manufacturer of drones, it also wants to serve as many different markets as possible, including enterprises, first responders, and other professionals.
That's why DJI today unveiled the Matrice 200 (M200) series, its first line of professional-quality drones aimed at enterprise-level buyers wanting to do just about any kind of aerial inspection. Built with a dual-battery structure that can keep it in the air for up to 35 minutes—and then allow a battery swap without having to redo any settings—the M200 series is the company's first to offer an upward-facing, as well as downward-facing, gimbal, meaning it's capable of capturing imagery of everything from rooftops to the underside of bridges. The series has three separate drones, each offering different features. They will be available in the second quarter, and DJI has yet to announce pricing. DT
Your new 5G phone might be ready a year early—in 2019
The next wireless technology standard has been a long time coming, but it could appear sooner than planned. Twenty-two companies collaborating on the super-fast cellular tech, called 5G, announced today that they can have it in phones and other devices by 2019 instead of 2020, as expected. The companies—including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Huawei, Intel, LG, NTT DOCOMO, Qualcomm Technologies, Sprint, and Vodafone—will formally vote next month to push up the schedule.
5G is a very big deal. The 4G LTE technology now in place is just starting to hit 1 gigabit-per-second speeds—by borrowing some technologies that will be part of 5G. The new standard will go above 10Gbps. 5G can also achieve virtually no delay, with a latency of just 5ms, when needed for things like communication between autonomous cars or streaming video games and VR.
As I reported a few months ago, 5G has to overcome some gnarly technical challenges, including expansion into a big chunk of unused wireless spectrum called millimeter wave. The short wavelengths don't travel far, so cells and devices like phones have to steer and bounce signals around obstacles. These and other technologies, collectively called New Radio, have come together faster than expected. Both Intel and Qualcomm, for instance, have already introduced New Radio chips. SC
SoFi banks $500 million in new funding
Social Finance, or SoFi, confirmed on Friday that it has raised $500 million in new funding. Silver Lake, a private equity firm, led the round, with participation from GPI Capital and SoftBank.
The new round boosts SoFi's valuation by roughly 15%, CEO Mike Cagney told Axios. The company last raised capital in September 2015 at a valuation of $3.5-$4 billion.
SoFi, which launched as a solution for refinancing student loans, has since added personal loans, mortgages, and investing to its portfolio of products. Cagney plans to take the company public, but has not yet disclosed a timeline for doing so. AOC
Now the White House is blocking some media outlets from press briefings
To say the writing is on the walls would be an understatement at this point: The White House just blocked a number of major news organizations—including CNN, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Daily News, and BuzzFeed—from attending an off-camera briefing. The Hill, which was also blocked, reports that conservative outlets like Breitbart News were allowed to enter, as were other mainstream outlets, including CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox. At least two outlets, Time magazine and AP, boycotted the briefing in a show of protest.CZ
Movies that star women are a better return on investment, says study
Big-budget, special effects-laden blockbusters tend to feature male leads, but that doesn't mean they make bigger profits. That's according to a new box-office analysis of more than 2,100 movies from the online investment company Wealthsimple. The Canadian startup found that movies featuring women in the starring role generated a 176% median return on investment, significantly higher than movies starring men, which saw a 127% median return on investment. The reason is not because male-driven blockbusters don't make money, but that they generally cost more to make—what with all those explosions and CGI monsters and all. Wealthsimple's study makes for an interesting pre-Oscar read. Check out the full report here.
[Image: Wealthsimple] CZ
The pot industry is not happy with Trump’s White House
After press secretary Sean Spicer indicated yesterday that the DOJ will ramp up enforcement of federal marijuana laws, pot industry reps lit up with ire. Per Bloomberg, here's a comment from Derek Peterson, CEO of Terra Tech Corp:
"Today's news coming out of the administration regarding the adult use of cannabis is, of course, disappointing. We have hoped and still hope that the federal government will respect states' rights in the same manner they have on several other issues."
Don’t disbelieve the hype: VR hardware sales expected to hit $3.6 billion this year
Virtual reality isn't yet fully mainstream, and during Facebook's recent fourth-quarter earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg urged investors to be patient with the technology's growth to profitability. But according to SuperData Research, it's certainly increased compared to last year.
In a report issued today, the research firm found that VR hardware sales will hit $3.6 billion in 2017, up 142% over 2016. In addition, virtual reality software and services sales will grow by nearly a billion dollars over last year. All told, the industry will move 21 million premium headsets. DT