PTJ 159 News: Solid Opinions and Virtual Reality

It’s been a busy September already, but the Federal Communications Commission hasn’t  forgotten about the proposed merger of Charter Communications/Time Warner Cable/Bright House. The agency has put forth the request for public comments on the possible transaction, just as it did last year with the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger that later collapsed. You have until October 13th to comment and yes, you can file your comment online, as several people have already.

In other legal news, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco has ruled that copyright holders must pause to consider if use of their material qualifies as fair use before issuing a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It’s all in the case of Lenz vs. Universal, also commonly known as The Dancing Baby Lawsuit, and it started way back in 2007.

Although a triumphant Monday press release touting first-weekend sales did not arrive, Apple did release a statement announcing that global pre-orders for the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models were on track to beat last year’s 10 million first-weekend sales of the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6s Plus does seem to be sold out in numerous areas, but a manufacturing issue has been rumored in the shortage blame game. And if you’re thinking about buying one of the new iPhone models, The Washington Post has a guide to the various payment plans you can choose from now if you have to have the latest model.

cashtagThis week saw yet another Republican debate on television as next year’s Presidential campaign continues to grind on. In the spirit of things, Twitter announced that it was teaming up with Square to let people in the United States donate to the political candidate of their choice with a tweet.

Facebook bought the Oculus Rift virtual reality company last year and many wondered why, but The Wall Street Journal is reporting that The Social Network is developing a stand-alone video app that would support “spherical” or 360-degree clips. Facebook is not commenting on that topic  yet, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg did say this week that the company was developing a Dislike button for posts.

Flickr is also getting into virtual reality and did a little VR demo at a festival in Oregon last weekend. After putting on a the VR goggles, a user would be immersed in a 360-degree panoramic photo. Oh, and Sony announced its Project Morpheus product is now PlayStation VR.

fembotsAlso in the world of “virtual” but not “reality”. . .  Annalee Newitz over at the Gizmodo site continues her investigation into the Ashley Madison site and how the company alleged used female-identifying chatbots or “fembots” to lure unsuspecting male customers into paying for credits in order to keep interacting with what they thought were real women. Although they used more sophisticated language, the Ashley Madison fembots were not all that far removed from ELIZA and some of the early chatbots from the 1970s.

NASA is preparing to send Microsoft’s HoloLens hardware up to the astronauts in the International Space Station, with delivery scheduled for a cargo mission in early December. And for those with Ultra High Definition 4K TV sets and not much to watch on them, NASA just announced it’s partnering with Harmonic to create a new channel called NASA TV UHD. NASA says this will be the first ever non-commercial consumer ultra-high definition (UHD) channel in North America and said it plans to start broadcasting on it November 1st.

sleepyAnd finally, an Oculus Rift virtual-reality production has become the first show of its kind to win an Emmy Award. The production, called Sleepy Hollow: VR Experience and set in the town cemetery of the supernatural FOX TV show, won the 2015 Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media category for User Experience And Visual Design. Perhaps next year, NASA will start a non-commercial consumer UHD VR channel so we can really reach for the virtual stars…

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