Tuesday Tune-Up #453

Nick Carolan

Things become clearer for the future of TikTok 
President Trump has reportedly given his “blessing” to a deal between TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart, prompting a one-week delay from the Commerce Department on TikTok’s ban. The deal, which is yet to be finalised, would see Oracle become a ‘Trusted Tech Partner’, hosting all US user data, while both Oracle and Walmart would take part in a TikTok Global pre-IPO financing round – in which they can take up to a 20 per cent cumulative stake in the new company.

While the exact details of the deal are still unclear, all parties have said that the new company will be headquartered in the US and create around 25,000 jobs.

YouTube launches new video feature, YouTube Shorts
YouTube has beta launched a new feature in India called YouTube Shorts, which allows users to shoot and upload 15-second videos (sound familiar). YouTube says it is releasing the product early to allow its community of users, creators and artists to provide feedback and iterate the tool, with more creation tools and country launches planned “in the coming months.”

Facebook brings AR effects to Messenger and Portal 
Facebook is expanding the reach of its third-party creators to both Messenger and Portal, meaning that the AR effects they create through Spark AR, Facebook’s AR program, can also be used in the app and device as well. The news comes as Facebook announced that there are now more than 400,000 Spark AR creators from 190 countries, who have published more than a million AR effects on both Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook plans smart glasses launch for 2021
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that the company will launch “the next step on the road to augmented reality glasses” in 2021, in the form of a pair of smart glasses created in partnership with Ray-Ban. It’s not clear which features the device will have, but Facebook has confirmed that it will not be classified as an AR device.

Facebook grants gaming partners access to licensed music
Facebook Gaming Partners can now add music to their live streams, following a host of partnerships with labels and publishers including BMG, Kobalt Music Group, Merlin, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. In the announcement blog post, Facebook’s Global Director of Games Partnerships revealed that the platform is also working to extend it to Level Up creators.

Instagram adds captions to IGTV videos 
Instagram has started adding AI-powered automatic captions to videos on IGTV. The feature will start off with 16 languages worldwide and will automatically appear for people watching IGTV videos with the volume on zero. Instagram users can also go to their settings to control how and when they see the captions.

Twitter apologises for algorithm’s alleged racial, gender bias
Twitter users spent the weekend testing out Twitter’s image cropping algorithm for evidence of racial and gender bias using photos of politicians, cartoon characters and more, with the results indicating a serious bias in favour of white faces over POC almost every time. Twitter has apologised for this behaviour, claiming that they found no evidence of bias before rolling the feature out, however, they have conceded that further analysis is necessary while promising to make their work open source so others can review. 

Microsoft splashes out with $7.5 billion USD for ZeniMax Media
As the looming arrival of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X heats up the console wars once again, Microsoft has announced the purchase of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of legendary development studios Bethesda Softworks and id Software. This multi-billion dollar deal means Microsoft now has the rights to seminal franchises like Doom, The Elder Scrolls, Wolfenstein and Fallout, further bolstering their game streaming service Game Pass. Bethesda has announced that title exclusivity will be decided on a ‘game-by-game’ basis, potentially giving Xbox an edge with highly anticipated future titles.

Ones to watch
Facebook has shared early demos of ‘Infinite Office’, a new set of features that will bring solo productivity to the Oculus Quest and has also announced it’s adding a fitness tracker, Oculus Move, to the latest version of the Quest. Meanwhile, Twitch has started automatically running ads in the middle of streams for some viewers.

This edition of the Tuesday Tune-Up features reporting by Jonathon Valenzuela.