online streaming service
July 20, 2016

The Netflix effect: how Online Streaming Services are changing TV

Netflix, the popular online streaming service, announced that it added slightly less than 1.7 million new subscribers during the second quarter of 2016, despite a forecast of 2.5 million new users. The growth in last year’s same period was about 3.30 million. This slowdown is due in part to its recent price increase that caused a lot of subscribers to sign off. Netflix, which literally has changed the way we watch TV, is – in fact – facing growing competition on the SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) front from tech firms like Amazon (Prime Video) & YouTube (Red) and traditional TV networks such as Time Warner, HBO, CBS and NBC, which have added internet streaming services to their cable and broadcast offers.

Streaming video currently represents over 60% of all Internet (mobile and fixed) traffic and some analysts predict that it will grow to 85% before 2020. In the US, 70% of families watch TV shows and movies online, with 64% paying for the content. In a few years the way we watch “TV” has changed radically and it is interesting to note that the same video streaming universe is already heading for some changes of no small importance.

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Google Data Center
July 14, 2016

20 Beautiful Photos of Data Centers across the World

Every day hundreds of millions of people use social networks and messaging, mail & cloud services to send files, share links, photos and to store data. Social media and internet companies have to handle every second a huge amount of data to make webpages load faster, messages arrive instantly and make files available. Petabytes of data move across hundreds of thousands of servers gathered in different data centers in the world. Many server farms are built in cold regions where free cooling is available via access to naturally cold water and cold air. For example, Facebook has recently built a data center in Luleå, Sweden.

This gallery features stunning photos from data centers across the world. Enjoy! / continue reading

Pokemon GO Augmented Reality
July 13, 2016

A new beginning for Augmented Reality?

Four days after its debut on the market, Pokémon GO, the new video game for smartphone developed by Nintendo, has already surpassed the dating app Tinder in total number of downloads on Android devices in the US and is poised to pass the number of Twitter daily users. What is the reason for this incredible success? No doubt the fact that the game allows players to catch Pokémon exploring the real world, thanks to the so-called Augmented Reality, the mechanism by which fictional digital elements are added to the images of reality, displayed by the smartphone camera.

Basically, the app allows anyone to run into Pokémon specimens (among the most famous: Pikachu, Bulbasaur, Charmander etc) to try to capture them and earn points. The success of the app – which in just four days broke all records for download and use – is certainly due to the popularity and affection that Pokémon has achieved over the years (many of those who now play Pokémon GO are the same who watched them on TV as children) but mostly it is due to the idea of ​​intelligently leverage Augmented Reality to make it a mass market technology.

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emoticons emojis
July 8, 2016

Communication beyond emoticons: the power of Emojis

In a previous post we have shown that written communication has changed a lot over the last years thanks to the new technologies: when we write emails and chat we tend now to use a lot of punctuation to clarify the tone of the text and avoid misunderstandings. We also resort to emoticons and, for some time, also to emojis: the latter are ideograms and smileys used in Japanese electronic mobile messages since the late 1990s and recently adopted by Apple, Android and various social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. The word Emoji (絵文字) in japanese means “picture character”.

The great success of emojis is mainly due to three factors: they are more visually appealing than emoticons (which are composed of punctuation marks, numbers and letters), they are easier to insert into the text (they consist of a single character) and furthermore for some years they have been incorporated into Unicode, the international standard system for indexing characters and standardizing them across different electronic platforms. This means that the emojis that join Unicode standard can be used and displayed without problems on the major operating systems and instant messaging softwares that adhere to Unicode consortium.

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Tesla-autopilot-crash
July 6, 2016

Driver assistance systems & Self-driving cars: technical issues and ethical dilemmas

The car accident which  May 7 caused the death of ex Navy Seal Joshua Brown is the first incident in the world involving a Tesla Model S car with with the semi-automatic guidance system “Autopilot” activated. The NHTSA, the US authorities for road safety, has opened an investigation to verify the software functioning system, which did not “see” a truck that crossed the road and, consequently, didn’t activate the car’s brake. Despite the general bewilderment and some journalistic simplifications we should do some clarity by explaining the differences between driver assistance systems (such as the Tesla Autopilot) and real self-driving cars.

Tesla and the Autopilot

The driver assist systems are not automatic pilots: they are computer softwares that simply allow drivers to drive better and more safely. The NHTSA classifies them in five levels of complexity. Most of them merely recognize road markings and sudden obstacles. Other, through dedicated sensors and the control of accelerator, brakes and steering, are able to maintain or change the car lane autonomously, to make it brake, to make it vary the speed and to make it enter and exit from a parking lot (“summon”). The Tesla Autopilot system includes all these features and is ranked at level 2. In addition to Tesla currently only Mercedes-Benz offers advanced semi-autonomous driving systems.

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artificial intelligence R2d2
June 28, 2016

The era of Artificial Intelligence: Part 2 – Issues and Concerns

The evolution of the AI programs is reaching many fields: for example, to allow the AI to communicate in an ever more human way, Google’s DeepMind developers have started to make it read hundreds of romance novels to help it improve its dialectical skills and develop a minimum of personality. The choice fell on the romantic novels because they have very linear plots and simple narrative schemes but also they are very similar to each other, an element that AI can learn to manage and rework to interact with a human being. The next step is to draft long and elaborate sentences, or even writing entire novels. Not surprisingly, a recent book written by a computer has passed a literary prize screening. The Japanese literary prize Hoshi Shinichi is also open to works produced by artificial intelligences and the jury – without knowing its origin – admitted the book “The day a computer writes a novel”, written by the program of a professor of the Hakodate Future University.

All right, then? Not exactly. Not all AI are evolved and capable in the same way: recently an AI experiment on Twitter run by Microsoft went horribly wrong: Tay, a bot programmed to respond automatically to other users and learn from their sentences began writing racist things, insulting and denying the Holocaust. This because its internal mechanisms of imitation and emulation have not been able to correctly filter the information received. Apart from these drawbacks, the current debate on Artificial Intelligence focuses on a bigger and more important question: is there a danger that the AI will become capable of harm – deliberately or by emulation – the man?

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artificial intelligence
June 24, 2016

The era of Artificial Intelligence: Part 1 – Neural networks & Deep learning

Artificial Intelligence has been discussed for a long time and often inappropriately: some say that it represents a great opportunity, while others say it could be the biggest threat to humanity. But many do not even know what it is exactly. Perhaps because it is a discipline by poorly defined contours, debated among scientists and philosophers, which presents theoretical and practical aspects as well as ethical.

We can generally define the AI as a computer’s ability to perform typical functions and reasoning of the human mind: according to this definition it is clear that today we already are surrounded by examples of AI, for example Google. The search engine of Mountain View, in fact, no longer shows just lists of links, but also direct answers to various questions (try typing “obama birth date” or “David Beckham’s wife” and see the results). To do so, DeepMind, the AI division of Google, uses sophisticated algorithms that help to understand the context of the questions.

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net neutrality
June 17, 2016

US courts defend Net neutrality, but for how much longer?

Last week, the Washington court of Appeals intervened in defense of Net Neutrality ruling that broadband (the so-called “high speed Internet”) should be considered, to all intents and purposes, an utility, that is an essential public service, and not a luxury. The decision has assumed a great importance because it reiterated the view expressed in the past by scholars and politicians, that the Internet is an essential commodity, like electricity and telephone, and should be made available to all Americans.

The judgment came after a hearing on the Federal Communications Commission‘s rules about so called net neutrality: these regulations establish that Broadband service providers cannot block or deliberately slow speeds for some internet services or apps (for example video streaming), or create special “fast lanes” for some contents, or engage in other practices that could harm Internet openness. On one side, Internet providers complain about the excessive rigidity of these rules and argue that they would have the effect of harming their business and stop the development of new services, on the other side consumer groups, personalities like WWW creator Tim Berners-Lee and big tech firms (Facebook, Google etc.) are fighting for a long time so that citizens have full and equal access to online content.

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mobile digital divide
June 10, 2016

How Mobile helps to overcome the Digital Divide

In recent years, the spread of mobile communications has enabled more and more people to access Internet and more generally to communicate more effectively. For those who live in industrialized countries or in large cities, the lack of access to telecommunications is a difficult concept to imagine and understand, but there are vast areas, even in Western countries, where telephony and connectivity are poorly available and only the emergence of mobile has allowed the creation of a telecommunications network and the overcoming of the so-called digital divide.

Only in the United States, for example, 10% of residents, especially low-income individuals and people in rural areas, are not reached by fixed broadband – which is now considered to all intents and purposes an utility – and get online through their smartphones and the 4G network. In a country like USA the problem can be seen as probably intended to be solved in a few years, but in poor countries the issue shows us a different scenario.

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internet of things doodle
June 1, 2016

The world of the Internet of Things [Infographic]

The expression Internet of Things indicates a network of objects, each of them equipped with components and sensors, integrated and able to communicate with each other and from a centralized system. No matter how complex the structure might be; the intelligent communications of simple objects like a coffee machine or a wearable, as well as a complicated autonomous vehicle, are always based on three pillars: the objects, of course, the network and, often, the cloud, “home” of the informations that makes the connected objects so smart.

Since the world of the Internet of Things is still waiting to be fully understood, research companies Postscapes and Harbor Research have summarized the main objects, processes, applications and opportunities offered by the Internet of Things and have collected them in an interesting infographic. Enjoy!

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