Roku’s smart soundbar enters a crowded audio field

Back in January 2018, Roku announced a grand vision for parlaying its streaming TV success into a broader home entertainment platform. The plan was to power not just smart TVs and streaming boxes, but speakers and soundbars with whole-home audio, all of which would be orchestrated by a voice assistant.

Little of that plan has come to fruition since. The company released a set of wireless TV speakers last fall, but they were only compatible with smart TVs running Roku’s operating system, limiting their appeal. Meanwhile, TCL abandoned plans for a Roku-powered soundbar last year, and Roku seems to have scaled back its voice control ambitions.

Now, Roku is taking a second shot at home audio with the Roku Smart Soundbar. Unlike a typical soundbar, this one also doubles as a Roku streaming video player, so you don’t have to use it with a Roku smart TV or even a separate streaming box. It’ll ship in mid-October for $180, and Roku will sell a subwoofer to pair with it for another $180. Unlike last year’s Roku wireless speakers, available only through Roku’s website, the soundbar will be on sale in Best Buy stores.

Source:  Fast Company

Google Is Fined $170 Million for Violating Children’s Privacy on YouTube

Google on Wednesday agreed to pay a record $170 million fine and to make changes to protect children’s privacy on YouTube, as regulators said the video site had knowingly and illegally harvested personal information from children and used it to profit by targeting them with ads. Critics denounced the agreement, dismissing the fine paltry and the required changes as inadequate for protecting children’s privacy.

Source:  The New York Times

New Australian video series made for mobile

Presented in a portrait ratio that takes up the entirety of the viewer’s smartphone, Content has been billed as “Australia’s first ever vertical video series”. It belongs to a small genre of narrative productions told entirely through screens, such as the feature film thrillers Searching and Unfriended, which unfold via laptop and smartphones.

Source:  The Guardian

Snap Deepens AR Push With Lens Studio Update, Including New Templates And Landmarkers

If there was any doubt before, Q3 2019 has made clear that Snap is betting heavily on Augmented Reality (AR). Earlier this month, Snap announced a $1B fundraise to invest in AR startups. A week later, the Snapchat parent company unveiled the third-generation of Spectacles, its AR sunglasses, which are now available for pre-order.  Snap is continuing its emphasis on the AR ecosystem in an announcement today: a major update to Lens Studio, the company’s desktop app for producing augmented reality “Lenses” on the Snapchat messaging platform.  The update includes 14 new Landmarker locations, six new templates, and an updated UX that highlights new offerings and provides step-by-step tutorialization for beginners.

Source: Forbes

The age of comfort TV: why people are secretly watching Friends and The Office on a loop

It seems that, in this time of unprecedented choice and quality, the so-called golden age of prestige television, most of us still want to watch half-hour shows about vaguely likable people in which everything turns out OK. Ideally from the 90s, but maybe the 00s. And preferably something that we have seen many, many times before. Welcome to the age of non-event TV.

Source: The Guardian

Snap’s redesigned Spectacles are here—and it doesn’t care if you buy them

Snap is thinking of the new Spectacles as a test run in the company’s push to bring augmented reality to the masses—a trajectory the company began with its popular face filters. By putting another camera on Spectacles 3, Snap opens up a new realm of AR effects that users can add to their videos and images. It’s not just phoenixes; users can also add colorful filters that morph throughout a video based on how far away objects are in the shot and animated hearts that float around a video but burst when they come into contact with a real-world object. Snap is also opening up the depth map’s features to content creators, enabling to make their own AR filters through its DIY filter maker, Lens Studio.

Source: Fast Company

Netflix’s The Great Hack Brings Our Data Nightmare to Life

As a primer on the scandal, which dominated headlines around the world for two years after the election of President Donald Trump, the film is both succinct and thorough. It begins as news is breaking that Cambridge Analytica unethically scraped data from millions of Facebook users and used it to target vulnerable and impressionable voters in an effort to elect Trump and pass the Brexit resolution. Then it tracks the fallout. The film is bookended by professor David Carroll’s quest to get his own data back from Cambridge Analytica—a story WIRED told in depth—but focuses mainly on former CA employee Brittany Kaiser and her abrupt and somewhat baffling decision to turn against her employer.

Source: Wired

The Great Race to Rule Streaming TV

All of our screens are now TVs, and there is more TV to watch on them than ever. More dramas, more comedies, more thrillers, more fantasy-adventure series, more dating shows, more game shows, more cooking shows, more travel shows, more talk shows, more raunchy comedies, more experimental comedies, more family comedies, more comedy specials, more children’s cartoons, more adult cartoons, more limited series, more documentary series, more prestige dramas, more young-adult dramas, more prestige young-adult dramas — more, more, more.

Source:  The New York Times

Face It — You Want To Be Seen

As Taina Bucher explores in her book, If… Then: Algorithmic Power and Politics, we are generally in the dark when it comes to explaining the specific mechanics of the algorithms at the heart of our favorite apps, but what we do regularly guess at is how to make them notice us. As Bucher discovered in conversation with social media users, people tweak the content of their posts on Facebook, or even the time of day they post, in an attempt to catch the algorithm’s eye and ride the wave of its amplification. This is familiar to anyone who’s used social media, and it’s why news organizations repost old content when a topic is trending on Twitter, or why you see a million hashtags at the end of Instagram posts. Everyone is just trying to get noticed.

Source: OneZero

The Paradox of the Incredible Shrinking Comic-Con Expansion

If you wanted a sneak peek of what the future of television looks like, you couldn’t ask for a better one than this year’s Comic-Con. WarnerMedia pulls Friends off Netflix to try to attract people to HBO Max, its forthcoming streaming service; NBCUniversal does the same with The Office. Meanwhile, with its purchase of Fox, Disney buys out Comcast and takes full control of Hulu, resulting in the company owning two streaming services outright (the other being Disney+)—each with its own legacy catalog, each with its own originals pipeline. Add in Apple, DC Universe, and whatever else, and you’ve got some hard decisions to make.

That changes the calculation of fandom considerably. Comic-Con, at its core, is still about personal investment in pop culture, and that investment happens at all levels. You’ve got people dedicated to a character, to a movie, to a game, to a narrative universe—and, increasingly, to the platforms that deliver those stories and universes. Don’t believe me? Read a psychographic profile of Generation Z; YouTube and Netflix far outrank Disney and Nintendo in perceived coolness. (I regret to inform you that this one, which Google commissioned in 2017, is called “It’s Lit.“) While that reputation is part predicated on the stuff that comes out of those pipes, the fact remains that the pipe itself has a role like never before. Just like Comic-Con, it’s all getting bigger—and it’s all getting so, so much smaller.

Source: Wired

At VidCon, Influencers, Fans, And Brands Seemed Ready To Leave YouTube Behind

“How dark do you want to get,” YouTuber Lindsay Ellis asked the moderator of one of the first panels at VidCon, the flashy, annual digital video conference in Anaheim, California. VidCon may have once been known as a breathless celebration of all things digital video and all the fame and money that comes with it for creators, but in 2019, it was kicking off with a discussion led by the executive director for Uplift, an organization that provides resources for YouTube creators dealing with sexual violence, about how online video communities have changed over the years. “It was fun,” said Ellis. “Now it’s like, OK, how do we protect ourselves from our audience?”

Source: BuzzFeed

What if Being a YouTube Celebrity Is Actually Backbreaking Work?

Emma Chamberlain dropped out of school and changed the world of online video. Chamberlain invented the way people talk on YouTube now, particularly the way they communicate authenticity. Her editing tricks and her mannerisms are ubiquitous. There is an entire subgenre of videos that mimic her style, and a host of YouTubers who talk, or edit, just like her. The Atlantic recently noted this and declared she is “the most important YouTuber” working today.

Chamberlain edits each video she makes for between 20 and 30 hours, often at stretches of 10 or 15 hours at a time. Her goal is to be funny, to keep people watching. It’s as if the comic value of each video is inversely proportional to how little humor she experiences while making it. During her marathon editing sessions, she said, she laughs for “maybe, maybe 10 seconds max.”

Source:  New York Times

Now Some Families Are Hiring Coaches to Help Them Raise Phone-Free Children


Parents around the country, alarmed by the steady patter of studies around screen time, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals. A new screen-free parenting coach economy has sprung up to serve the demand. Screen consultants come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Source:  New York Times

Netflix is adapting the video game ‘Cuphead’ into an animated show

One of the most unique-looking games in years, ” Cuphead,” is getting its own Netflix show. The game is a stunner, featuring artwork pulled straight out of a 1930s-era cartoon. That’s due to it being hand-drawn across several years by a small crew. The new show is also being hand-drawn, albeit not on paper, by Netflix’s animation team. “We are not going to be animating this [ourselves] because it would never be finished,” one of the game’s developers, Chad Moldenhauer, told IGN.

Source: Business Insider

Welcome to the K-12 Surveillance State

Arguably more troubling than the collection of student data is where that data is stored and who has access to it. As Education Week reported in May, Florida lawmakers are planning to introduce a statewide database “that would combine individuals’ educational, criminal-justice and social-service records with their social media data, then share it all with law enforcement.” Such a database is likely to reveal sensitive information like which students were bullied or harassed, because of a protected characteristic like their sexual orientation, according to Amelia Vance, who directs the Education Privacy Project. All this information, once compiled, could be exposed through data breaches , sent to child data brokers or misclassified, which could lead to outing students or wrongly identifying innocent students as threats.

Source:  The New York Times

Next Up on Your Twitch Stream: Chess? is courting a wider audience by turning chess into a poker-like spectator sport. In 2017, took over the United States Chess League, the only nationwide chess league in the country at the time. It was renamed the Professional Rapid Online Chess League (PRO Chess League) and started accepting teams and players representing cities from around the world. In its inaugural season, the league drew in 48 teams, each with 8–16 players. There were so many people ready to compete that the league had to be cut down to 32 teams the year after. As the league commissioner Greg Shahade put it, that many players was “a bit too large and chaotic.”

Source: OneZero

How Tech Redefined the Experience of Culture

Video games and social media require human users to enter into a procedural loop known as flow


While there are no universals in media culture today, there are many qualities worth exploring, because they are shared by many communities or because they are compelling remediations of the age of modernism. One of these is procedurality. Popular modernist writers today claim that this is the essence of the computer: its procedures (algorithms, programs) allow it to interact with other machines and human users in increasingly complex and creative ways. Video games and social media are procedural: they require human users to enter into a procedural loop that both constrains and empowers them. Procedurality is itself the latest version of mechanization, which has been a key condition of society and the economy since the Industrial Revolution. While modernism was vitally concerned with the cultural meaning of mechanical and power technologies in the 20th century, today’s media culture is exploring how far procedurality and simulation can penetrate into and redefine creative expression as well as our politics and everyday lives.

Source: Medium, OneZero

Facial Recognition Has a Blind Spot

According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world, facial recognition software may be prone to error. It’s specifically worse when identifying people of color, women, and younger groups. If the software reports a “false negative,” it will not be able to match a person’s face at all. A “false positive” may identify this person as someone else. And for law enforcement, this can pose quite a problem. Since 2013, San Diego police officers could stop to take photographs of a person of interest to run their face through Tactical Identification System (TACIDS). That photograph could then be analyzed against more than a million other booking shots.

Source: Zora on Medium

Must Hear TV? NBCUniversal uses “commercial innovations” to cut through the attention economy


At this year’s Cannes Lions, NBCUniversal presented its latest and updated offerings for brands to integrate with their global platforms, including Picture-in-Picture 2.0, connecting interactive or AR elements on one screen with a commercial on another screen; “Must Hear” TV, audio cues that play as a program fades to commercial and are meant to hold the viewer’s attention; AdSmart Context, an AI powered platform that combs through movies and TV shows to offer targeted ad options; and Shoppable TV, a feature that allows viewers to shop what they see on TV through a QR code on their mobile device.

Source: Fast Company

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