Categories
News

NASA sends Baby Yoda to space aboard SpaceX Dragon alongside astronauts

NASA added a surprise fifth passenger to the Crew-1 mission currently en route to the International Space Station – a plush The Child (aka Baby Yoda) from The Mandalorian. The doll is what’s known as the “zero-gravity indicator” – typically a soft, small object that is allowed to float free in the spacecraft cabin to provide a simple, but effective confirmation of when it passes into the phase of a spaceflight where Earth’s gravity no longer holds significant sway.

Crew-1’s other four passengers are all actual people – NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. They’re on their way to the ISS to staff it for the next half a year, on NASA’s first operational commercial crew mission, courtesy of partner SpaceX, which certified its Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft for human flight earlier this year.

SpaceX and NASA successfully launch four astronauts to space for first operational Dragon crew mission

Baby Yoda won hearts with its debut on Disney’s original streaming show The Mandalorian last year, and continues to woo audiences with this year’s second season. It earned its colloquial nickname because it’s a juvenile version of whatever the heck the original Yoda from the Star Wars saga is. In the new series, the youngster regularly earns reprimands from the series’ titular bounty hunter for messing around with his spacecraft controls.

The Child merch is already white hot, but zero-G indicators of past have also notably become hot ticket items following their trips to space. On SpaceX’s first human spaceflight mission, the Demo-2 test flight that took place earlier this year, a Ty Flippable dinosaur called ‘Tremor’ quickly flew off shelves following its own free-floating antics.


Read more: feedproxy.google.com

Categories
News

Unity’s IPO numbers look pretty … unreal?

Unity, the company founded in a Copenhagen apartment in 2004, is poised for an initial public offering with numbers that look pretty strong.

Even as its main competitor, Epic Games, is in the throes of a very public fight with Apple over the fees the computer giant charges developers who sell applications (including games) on its platform (which has seen Epic’s games get the boot from the App Store), Unity has plowed ahead, narrowing its losses and maintaining its hold on over half of the game development market.

For the first six months of 2020, the company lost $54.2 million on $351.3 million in revenue. The company narrowed its losses compared to 2019, when the company lost $163.2 million on $541.8 million in revenue, and 2018 when the company lost $131.6 million on $380.8 million in revenue. As of June 30, 2020 the company had total assets of $1.29 billion and $453.2 million in cash.

Increasing revenue and narrowing losses are things that investors like to see in companies that they’re potentially going to invest in, as they point to a path to profitability. Another sign of the company’s success is the number of customers that contribute more than $100,000 in annual revenue. In the first six month of the year, Unity had 716 such customers, pointing to the health of its platform.

The company will trade on the NYSE under the single-letter ticker “U”. The NYSE only has a few single letters left to offer, although Pandora gave up the letter P when it was bought by Liberty Media back in 2018.

How Unity built the world’s most popular game engine

Unlike Epic Games, Unity has long worked with the major platforms and gaming companies to get their engine in front of as many developers and gamers as possible. In fact, the company estimates that 53% of the top 1,000 mobile games on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store and over 50% of mobile, personal computer and console games were made with Unity.

Some of the top titles that the platform claims include Nintendo’s Mario Kart: Tour, Super Mario Run and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp; Niantic’s Pokémon GO and Activision’s recent Call of Duty: Mobile are also Unity games.

The knock against Unity is that it’s not as powerful as Epic’s Unreal rendering engine, but that hasn’t stopped the company from making forays into industries beyond gaming — something that it will need to continue doing if it’s to be successful.

Unity already has a toehold in Hollywood, where it was used to recreate the jungle environment used in Disney’s “Lion King” remake (meanwhile, much of “The Mandalorian” was created using Epic’s Unreal engine).

Of course, Unity’s numbers also reveal that the size of its business is currently a bit smaller than its biggest rival. In 2019, Epic said it had earnings of $730 million on revenue of $4.2 billion, according to VentureBeat . And the North Carolina-based game developer is now worth $17.3 billion.

Still, the games market is likely big enough for both companies to thrive. “Historically there has been substantial industry convergence in the games developer tools business, but over the past decade the number of developers has increased so much, I believe the market can support two major players,” Piers Harding-Rolls, games analyst at Ampere Analysis, told the Financial Times.

Venture investors in the Unity platform have waited a long time for this moment, and they’re certainly confident in the company’s prospects.

The last investment round valued the company at $6 billion, with the secondary sale of $525 million worth of the company’s shares.

Unity, now valued at $6B, raising up to $525M


Read more: feedproxy.google.com

Categories
News

Investors and startups are seeking ways to entertain and protect kids online

As streaming services like HBO Max, Netflix and Disney+ plus vie for subscription dollars and YouTube, Xumo, Kanopy, Tubi TV, Vudu and Pluto TV try to take more ad revenue from traditional television, entertainment for kids — and the tech tools that manage their screen time — are becoming more important.

On the streaming side, Netflix has been marshaling its resources for months, poaching talent like Chris Nee, creator of the “Doc Mcstuffins” Disney Channel series, Naketha Mattocks (“The Descendants”) and Kenny Ortega (“High School Musical”) — to join its stable of creative talent. HBO Max locked in several years of “Sesame Street” shows, which will be available when its service launches in May. Finally, there’s Disney+, which has racked up 28.6 million subscribers for its service as of February 3.

Disney+ already has 28.6M subscribers

Recognizing the threat, ad-supported platforms are coming up with their own responses. Some of these platforms also stream the same programs that are available on the subscription services, but as exclusivity becomes more important, audiences and entertainers can expect platforms like YouTube, Facebook and others to spend more heavily on original shows that attract younger audiences.

For instance, Facebook intends to spend $1.4 billion on programming for its Facebook Watch service, according to a report in The Information.

Read more: feedproxy.google.com

Categories
News

Nvidia’s new Shield TV wins the Android TV market with amazing 4K upscaling

Nvidia has a new family of Android TV-based streaming devices, as tipped early via a couple of leaks from online stores. The new Nvidia Shield TV ($149) and Shield TV Pro ($199) replace the existing Shield TV generation of hardware, which debuted in 2017. Both new Shields offer new Tegra X1+ processors, which outperform the predecessor chip by about 25 percent, and make possible one of this Shield’s new highlight features: AI-powered 3K up-conversion for HD content.

Both Shield TV and Shield TV Pro also support Dolby Vision HDR content, as well as Dolby Atmos surround sound. The differences between the two devices center mainly around physical design, with the Shield TV adopting a cylindrical tube design, and the Shield TV Pro looking more like its predecessor (basically a small set-top box form factor). The Shield TV Pro also gets more RAM (3GB vs. 2GB), more storage (16GB vs 8GB) the ability to transcode 1080p streams when acting as a Plex Media Server, support for the SmartThings Link to turn it into a SmartThings smart home hub and advanced Android gaming support, along with two USB 3.0 ports.

Shield TV Review

Nvidia Shield TV 4I’ve been using the Shield TV for around a week now, and this is definitely a worthwhile upgrade for anyone looking to get the best possible experience available in an Android TV home theater device. Nvidia has clearly done a lot to survey the market, look at everything that’s come out in the two years since it last updated this hardware, and delivery generational improvements that help it stand out from the crowd in meaningful ways.

Android TV now ships on a lot of smart TVs, and there have been many generations of Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices introduced since we last saw a new Shield from Nvidia – all of which adds up to needing to really do something special to ask for $149.99 from consumers to invest in a new dedicated streaming media box. Nvidia has always delivered a lot of value for the upfront cost of their streaming hardware, with consistent updates over the life of the devices that add plenty of new features and improvements. But this new hardware packs in some excellent features not possible with software alone, and that are also unique when you look across the options available in this category.

AI Upscaling

Chief among the additions Nvidia has made here is the AI upscaling made possible with the new Tegra X1+ chip. You might have heard of ‘upscaling’ before, and you might even think that your TV already handles that well. But what you probably don’t know is that often content from streaming media sources doesn’t actually get upscaled by your TV, which means if you have a 4K display but are often watching YouTube or other services with large quantities of non-4K content, you might not be getting the most out of your hardware.

Nvidia has addressed this with on-device 4K upscaling, which is powered by on-device machine intelligence that has been trained on a deep neural network to turn both 720p and 1080p signals into much sharper, 4K-equivalent images. Having used this on a variety of content, including media streamed from YouTube, non-4K Netflix content and stuff from Plex, I can attest to its ability to produce visibly sharper images that look great, especially on my LG C8-series OLED 4K TV.

The Shield TV’s tech is trained on popular movies and TV shows, and so does a remarkably good job of guessing what the 4K version of the HD image it’s looking at should properly look like. Considering that there’s a ton of content out there that hasn’t been made available in 4K, despite now a lot of TVs supporting that resolution, this is a big advantage for Nvidia, and again one that they uniquely offer among their peers.

Dolby Everything

These new Shields also support Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, across more services than anything else out there on the market right now. These HDR and surround sound modes really do offer the best audio-visual experience you can get, provided you have TVs and audio output equipment that supports them, but what you might not know is that even on other streaming hardware that technically support these standards, they might not be supported across all services.

Shield TV supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos across Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Vudu and Movies Anywhere, so you should be getting the most out of these technologies, too. I asked about the forthcoming Apple TV+ service, which is rolling out to Roku devices, for instance, but Nvidia didn’t have any news to share just yet – it does seem like it’s a good idea to stay tuned on that front, however.

Like AI Upscaling, Dolby support across everything might not seem like a big competitive advantage, but it’s absolutely a decision tipping factor for people who are looking for the best possible A/V experience in a home streaming device.

New and Improved Remote

Nvidia Shield TV 5Nvidia is shipping the new Shield TVs with a brand new redesigned remote in the box. There’s a dedicated ‘Netflix’ button, which is a nice touch, but the remote overall is just an improvement over both Shield remotes past, and other competing remotes, in every way. It’s powered by AAA batteries (included) and it has a new pyramid-shaped body design that makes it easier and more pleasant to hold.

There are also lots of new buttons! Yes, Nvidia actually put buttons on their remote control – what a novel concept! Whereas the remote from the last generation seemed to be adopting a lot of the questionable choices Apple has long been making on their remotes, this one feels like it’s made with humans in mind, with dedicated play/pause, back, forward, volume and other buttons. A wealth of buttons.

This remote also has automatic backlighting, which will serve you well when using it in a darkened room. Because of the bulkier body design, it also stands on its end, and there’s a lost remote finding function, too. Chalk up a win for human-centric design with this remote, it’s a joy to use.

Simple physical design

The design of the device is not flashy, but it is smart. There’s an Ethernet port, a power connector, an HDMI port and a micro SD card slot, dividing across both ends of the tube. This makes it perfect for placing behind a console or media bench, on the ground or next to your other power cables.

It still provides hardwired connectivity options in case you do things like in-home game streaming or GeForce NOW cloud gaming, and it offers expandable storage via the microSD slot.

Bottom Line

Nvidia’s new Shield is a great option for anyone looking for a versatile streaming device, with access to all of Google’s Play Store apps for Android TV, and support for the latest AV standards. It’s real bonus advantage is that AI upscaling, however, which is something that Nvidia is uniquely poised to do well, and which goes a long way in making that $149.99 price point seem like a tremendous value.

SHIELD TV Family


Read more: feedproxy.google.com

Categories
News

Alibaba pumps $100 million into Vmate to grow its video app in India

Chinese tech giant Alibaba is doubling down on India’s burgeoning video market, looking to fight back local rival ByteDance, Google, and Disney to gain its foothold in the nation. The company said today that it is pumping $100 million into Vmate, a three-year-old social video app owned by subsidiary UC Web.

Vmate was launched as a video streaming and short video sharing app in 2016. But in the years since, it has added features such as video downloads and 3-dimensional face emojis to expand its use cases. It has amassed 30 million users globally, and will use the capital to scale its business in India, the company told TechCrunch. Alibaba Group did not respond to TechCrunch’s questions about its ownership of the app.

The move comes as Alibaba revives its attempts to take on the growing social video apps market, something it has missed out completely in China. Vmate could potentially help it fill the gap in India. Many of the features Vmate offers are similar to those by ByteDance’s TikTok, which currently has more than 120 million active users in India. ByteDance, with valuation of about $75 billion, has grown its business without taking money from either Alibaba or Tencent, the latter of which has launched its own TikTok-like apps with limited success.

Alibaba remains one of the biggest global investors in India’s e-commerce and food-tech markets. It has heavily invested in Paytm, BigBasket, Zomato, and Snapdeal. It was also supposedly planning to launch a video streaming service in India last year — a rumor that was fueled after it acquired majority stake in TicketNew, a Chennai-based online ticketing service.

UC Web, a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, also counts India as one of its biggest markets. The browser maker has attempted to become a super app in India in recent years by including news and videos. In the last two years, it has been in talks with several bloggers and small publishers to host their articles directly on its platform, many people involved in the project told TechCrunch.

UC Web’s eponymous browser rose to stardom in the days of feature phones, but has since lost the lion’s share to Google Chrome as smartphones become more ubiquitous. Chrome ships as the default browser on most Android smartphones.

The major investment by Alibaba Group also serves as a testament to the growing popularity of video apps in India. Once cautious about each megabyte they spent on the internet, thrifty Indians have become heavy video consumers online as mobile data gets significantly cheaper in the country. Video apps are increasingly climbing up the charts on Google Play Store.

In an event for marketers late last year, YouTube said that India was the only nation where it had more unique users than its parent company Google. The video juggernaut had about 250 million active users in India at the end of 2017. The service, used by more than 2 billion users worldwide, has not revealed its India-specific user base since.

T Series, the largest record label in India, became the first YouTube channel this week to claim more than 100 million subscribers. What’s even more noteworthy is that T-Series took 10 years to get to its first 10 million subscribers. The rest 90 million subscribers signed up to its channel in the last two years. Also fighting for users’ attention is Hotstar, which is owned by Disney. Earlier this month, it set a new global record for most simultaneous views on a live streaming event.

Read more: techcrunch.com