How Facebook’s new 3D photos work

In May, Facebook teased a new feature called 3D photos, and it’s just what it sounds like. However, beyond a short video and the name, little was said about it. But the company’s computational photography team has just published the research behind how the feature works and, having tried it myself, I can attest that the results are really quite compelling. In case you missed the teaser, 3D photos will live in your news feed just like any other photos, except when you scroll by them, touch or click them, or tilt your phone, they respond as if the photo is actually a window into a tiny diorama, with corresponding changes in perspective. It will work for both ordinary pictures of people and dogs, but also landscapes and panoramas. It sounds a little hokey, and I’m about as skeptical as they come, but the effect won me over quite
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Instagram plans to launch Snapchat Discover-style video hub

Instagram is preparing to unveil a home for longer-form video — a YouTube competitor and its take on Snapchat Discover. According to multiple sources, Instagram will offer a dedicated space featuring scripted shows, music videos and more in vertically oriented, full-screen, high-def 4K resolution. Instagram has been meeting with popular social media stars and content publishers to find out how their video channels elsewhere would work within its app. It’s also lining up launch partners for an announcement of the long-form video effort tentatively scheduled for June 20th. The public shouldn’t expect Netflix Originals or HBO-level quality. This is not “InstaGame of Thrones.”  Instead, the feature is more focused on the kind of videos you see from YouTube creators. These often range from five to 15 minutes in length, shot with nice cameras and lighting but not some massive Hollywood movie production crew. Average users will be able to
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Facebook is funding news programs from CNN, Fox News, Univision and others

Facebook has unveiled its initial lineup of news programming that will be airing in a dedicated section of Watch, the original video content initiative that the social network launched last year. While these shows are being produced by outside media organizations, it’s actually Facebook that’s funding them. In a blog post, Head of News Partnerships Campbell Brown described this as an extension of the company’s announcement in January that it would prioritize meaningful social interaction over publisher content. While that decision took a toll on digital publishers, Brown echoes CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rationale for the move, saying that while there will be less news in users’ feeds, what remains should be “trustworthy, informative, and local.” Here’s how Brown describes the news initiative:
This first lineup of funded shows includes news publishers from broadcast to digital native, national and local. The shows will be hosted by award-winning
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The Uberization of telcos

For the past decade, telecommunications companies around the globe have been grappling with falling average revenues per user equaling stagnant growth rates.

While particularly mobile operators have enabled increasing prosperity in third-world countries, new ways of working and fueled entirely new markets, much of the wealth created has landed on the books of companies that we look upon with increasing discomfort: Google, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent and others. And as if this was not enough, the very ingredient — ubiquitous connectivity — that has served as lubricant for the disruption of entire industries is now on the verge of being disrupted itself.

While many expect finance or healthcare to be next on the list of global serial disruptors, and technologies like wearables, blockchain and AI are cited to be the nails in the coffins of these industries, small players have cooked up the ingredients that could well marginalize today’s prevailing telco

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Advocacy groups knock ‘unjust’ copyright-extending CLASSICS Act

Copyright is a mess, but more of a mess in some ways than others, and one of the biggest messes right now is licensing music for digital broadcast. The Music Modernization Act aims to smooth over some of the biggest bumps, but a companion piece has aroused the ire of a collection of internet advocacy groups, who have voiced their concerns via a letter penned by copyright scholar Lawrence Lessig. The CLASSICS Act is the one in question, though no one is disputing the cleverness of its acronym: it stands for Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society. And indeed the goal of the act is to harmonize copyright for musical works created before 1972, a sort of turning point after which copyright law changed considerably. The issue at hand, although due to the complexity of copyright any summary will necessarily be somewhat inadequate, is
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Apple TV gets Dolby Atmos and streamlined sign-ons for channels and services

Apple TV, still definitely not a hobby, has some new features being added as it grows. Tim Cook mentioned there are 50 percent more users now than there were last year, and no doubt they’ll be happy with the addition of Dolby Atmos audio and some nice sign-on streamlining. Apple TV is now the only streaming player to be both Dolby Atmos and Vision certified. Assuming you’ve got a 4K HDR-capable TV, it could be nice to have, as iTunes boasts the biggest selection of content for those — but because hardly anyone does, it’s more of an aspirational feature at present. There are more than 100 video channels now after the addition of several live news and sports ones. In France, Apple TV will be the exclusive provider of Canal+, and in Switzerland, Apple has partnered with Salt for a similar exclusive. And Charter Spectrum will also be coming
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Music startup Roli adds Sony as investor, eyes up expanded range of hardware and software

When people think of music startups in the tech world, the focus is often on streaming, or figuring out how to better track and monetise those streams, or perhaps hardware to make those streams sound better.  But today comes news of funding for a startup that is tackling a different kind of challenge: tapping innovations from the tech world to develop new instruments and ways of creating music. Roli, a London-based startup that develops new styles of keyboards to compose and play music that subsequently can be consumed and engaged with using smartphones and other devices, has announced new strategic investment from the Sony Innovation Fund, the VC arm of the Japanese consumer electronics and entertainment giant. The plan is to use the funds to expand its range of connected instruments — or, as the tech world might call it, hardware — as well as to develop
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‘Arrested Development’ struggles to shake off recent controversies

Netflix’s revival of Arrested Development may have had a mixed reception from critics and fans, but the dysfunctional Bluth family isn’t done yet. Five years after the premiere of the much-anticipated fourth season, Arrested Development is back for season five — or rather, the first eight episodes of the season, with more to follow later this year. On the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, we’re joined by TechCrunch’s Lucas Matney to discuss our thoughts on the show. For many fans, this new season may feel like a return to form. Not everything works — there’s still some awkward editing and greenscreen — but it’s back to the format of the show’s classic episodes, with lots more delightful bickering between characters like Michael (Jason Bateman), George Michael (Michael Cera), Gob (Will Arnett), Maeby (Alia Shawkat) and Lucille (Jessica Walter). Unfortunately, it’s tough to talk about the show’s quality
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Hulu re-org see departures of Content Chief Joel Stillerman, top SVP’s

On the heels of Hulu’s news of its growing live TV business, which has now reached 800,000 subscribers, the streaming service today announced a major re-organization of it business focused on four strategic priorities, effective immediately. These include “the subscriber journey, technology & products, content and advertising,” says Hulu. The changes see three major execs departing: Chief Content Officer Joel Stillerman, Senior Vice President of Partnerships & Distribution Tim Connolly and SVP Experience, Ben Smith. In addition, Hulu has hired two new executives to help it with its goals: CTO Dan Phillips, previously of TiVo, and Jaya Kolhatkar of Walmart Labs, who will claim the newly-created Chief Data Officer role. Phillips had previously led TiVo’s engineering, product and professional services workforce of more than 1,000 members, and helped TiVo shift its business from being known only as a DVR maker, to a cloud services provider as well. He also previously
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‘Upgrade’ director Leigh Wannell talks low-budget worldbuilding

Upgrade tells the story of a Grey Trace, a man in the near future who’s left quadriplegic after a car accident and mugging. Following an interlude that sees Grey struggling with his new disability, an experimental computer chip called Stem is placed in his spinal cord, which it doesn’t just allow him control of his limbs again — it turns him into something close to a superhero, ready to track down the men who paralyzed him and murdered his wife. The film, which comes out today in the United States, may sound like a straightforward revenge plot, but it was written and directed by Leigh Wannell, who’s best known for writing Saw and Insidious. (More recently, he made his directorial debut with Insidious 3.) He explained that he wasn’t interested in turning this into a superhero movie. Instead, he wanted to tell the “Taxi Driver version” of this story.
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Facebook kills its ‘Trending’ section

Facebook really doesn’t want to be a media company. The social network announced this morning it’s removing its often controversial “Trending” section from its site next week, in order to make way for “future news experiences,” it says. These experiences include things like a dedicated section for news videos on its video hub Facebook Watch, a breaking news label publishers can use on their posts, and a dedicated section called “Today In” which connects people to news and information from local publishers in their city along with updates from local officials and organizations. Over 80 news publishers are currently testing the “breaking news” label, which allows them to opt to flag their Instant Articles, mobile and web links, and Facebook Live video as breaking news, the company tells us. Facebook says that the early results from this testing have led to a 4 percent lift in click-through rates, a
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Predicting the Future of Media and Entertainment

View a high resolution version of this graphic
Visualizing the Future of Media and Entertainment

Visualizing the Future of Media and Entertainment

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here. Over your lifetime, the consumption of media and entertainment has already changed drastically. For Boomers and Gen Xers, the shift has been earth-shattering. Both generations will remember a time before mainstream computing when TV was dominated by the Big Three TV networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS), and newspapers and magazines were the main way to stay in touch with what was happening. Even millennials have seen fundamental shifts in consumption of media. After all, they experienced the rise of social media, online news, streaming, and digital video firsthand. Many of them will remember their college getting access to Facebook for the first time, the death of Napster, and the funny sounds their 28.8k modem made as it struggled to successfully download a single
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Philo’s low-cost TV service expands its lineup with Cheddar, Tastemade, and PeopleTV

Following the new trend among streaming TV services to combine digital-first channels with traditional TV content, Philo today announced it’s expanding its live TV service with the addition of Cheddar Big News, People TV, and Tastemade. The Tastemade channel goes live today, with the other two shortly after. Philo is a relative newcomer to the streaming TV market, having launched its service in November following its early endeavors as an on-campus TV provider. Its $16-per-month option is designed for cord cutters who care more about entertainment than they do sports. By ditching sports programming, Philo undercut its competitors to become one of the cheapest ways to watch traditional cable TV channels, like A&E, AMC, BBC America, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Investigation Discovery (ID), Lifetime, MTV, TLC, Travel Channel, VH1, Viceland and others. It also later added an expansion pack for $4 more per month that adds nine
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Scout.fm turns podcasts into personalized talk radio

Scout.fm wants to change the way people listen to podcasts. Instead of scouring through the over 500,000 available shows available in your current podcast app, this startup’s new curated podcast service will just ask you a few questions to find out what you like, then create a podcast station customized to you. The experience is primarily designed for use on smart speakers, like Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo devices, but is also available as iOS and Android applications. The company was founded just over a year ago by Cara Meverden (CEO), previously of Google, Twitter, Indiegogo, and Medium; along with Saul Carlin (President and COO), previously Head of Publisher Development at Medium, and before that, Politico; and Daniel McCartney, (CTO) previously an engineer at GrubHub, Klout and Medium. At Medium, Meverden explains, they saw an explosion of people creating great written content; but now those publishers had begun to create great
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Is Apple ready to take on Netflix?

This super creepy Tom Waits number pops into my head every time I read about another Apple content acquisition. For a billion-dollar project from one of the world’s biggest companies, the company’s upcoming streaming service is shaping up to be a strange collection of original content. 

Of course, I’m not really sure what I expected after Apple unleashed Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps on the world. Neither were the kind of thing that imbues you with confidence in a company’s programming choices.

I wrote a review of sorts of the former here, but was willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt that it just wasn’t for me, like cilantro, cats or late-era Radiohead. But clearly I wasn’t alone on this one. And Planet of the Apps — the less said about that one the better, probably. Neither particularly jibe with Eddy Cue’s whole,

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Apple is making a series about Emily Dickinson

Apple announced today that it’s placed a straight-to-series order for Dickinson, a show that will star Hailee Steinfeld as poet Emily Dickinson. Steinfeld is an actress and singer who was Oscar-nominated for her performance in True Grit and more recently performed in Pitch Perfect 2 and 3. Dickinson, meanwhile, is generally considered one of the great American poets, but given her reputation as an eccentric recluse, her life doesn’t seem to be the stuff of great drama (a recent biopic was called A Quiet Passion). It sounds like this won’t be a standard biography, however — Dickinson is being billed as a coming-of-age story with a modern sensibility and tone. The series will be written and executive produced by Alena Smith, who previously wrote for The Affair and The Newsroom. And it will be directed and executive produced by David Gordon Green, best known for directing comedies like Pineapple Express
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MoviePass parent company to acquire Emmett Furla Oasis and launch new film division

Oh, MoviePass, what are you doing now? Buying up a movie production company, apparently. MoviePass’s parent company and majority shareholder, Helios and Matheson Analytics, today announced its plans to acquire the entire film library and current production slate of Emmett Furla Oasis Films (EFO Films) in order to create MoviePass Films LLC. Helios will own 51 percent of the new company, while EFO Films will own 49 percent. EFO Films’ library includes titles like Lone Survivor, Broken City, Rambo, The Amityville Horror, Escape Plan, The Frozen Ground, and has upcoming titles that include 2Guns, Escape Plan 2, Escape Plan 3; and a movie based on the video game Asteroids by Atari, among others. Variety was first to report the news, in an interview with Helios and Matheson CEO Ted Farnsworth; MoviePass has also put out a press release. The acquisition is part of MoviePass’ larger plan to not only push moviegoers
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Plex adds support for podcasts, debuts personalized mobile apps

At CES in January, TechCrunch broke the news that media software maker Plex was planning to expand its service with the addition of new media content, starting with podcasts. Today, it’s making good on that promise by launching support for podcasts into beta, along with a whole new look and more customization options for its Plex mobile apps. While Plex got its start as a software application for organizing people’s home media collections, it’s been expanding over the past couple of years to add new features in support of cord cutters who want to watch TV via their antenna, and record those shows. It also acquired the streaming news startup Watchup in order to add a dedicated news hub within its app. Earlier this year, the company spoke of its ambitions to continue adding more types of content to its media center software, including audio and video podcasts, followed by digital,
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Snap CEO Evan Spiegel says letter about ‘toxic’ culture was a wake-up call

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel spoke a bit about some of the cultural issues at the company, going public and competition with Facebook at Recode’s annual Code Conference this evening in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Earlier today, Cheddar reported how a former Snap engineer criticized the company for a “toxic” and “sexist” culture that is not welcoming to women and people of color. In an email former Snap engineer Shannon Lubetich wrote in November, she described how Snap is not adequately promoting diversity at the company. “The letter was a really good wake-up call for us,” Spiegel said. Spiegel described how, in light of the letter, Snap hired external consultants to help the company figure out areas in which to improve. Snap also ran a company-wide survey and changed its promotion structure, Spiegel said. He later added that he’s “proud” of the progress Snap has made over the last few months.
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