Weekly Web Wrap-Up: July 11, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

Rise of the (Helpful) Machines

This week in robot news we bring you helper-bots!  Check out all the new ways robots and AI helped out this week.  They’re brewing your beer, delivering your takeout, diagnosing eye disease, and helping you out with parking tickets.  If that wasn’t enough, they’re interested in your emotional needs, too.  We’ve come a long way from the helper-bots of yesteryear.

BIO-DOME: The Amazon Experience

Amazon’s new HQ in downtown Seattle is part office space part conservation project.  While chief executive Jeff Bezos is famously adverse to the perks offered by other tech companies, he responded in style to research finding a key thing missing from typical work environments is a link to the natural world.  The company is building three 100-foot tall spheres to be filled with more than 300 endangered plants where employees can take a breath of fresh air.  The spheres, designed by architecture firm NBBJ, are already an architectural focal point in the city—Bud and Doyle not included.  Although the spheres are set to be completed until 2018, tours are already open to the public.

Spotlight on Nintendo: Go! Pokemon Go!

Nintendo is having its moment in the mobile-game-market sun.  Stock prices surged 36 percent after the Wednesday launch of Pokemon Go.  The mobile game quickly jumped to the number one spot in Apple’s iOS store, with $1.6M in daily revenue.   Rumors are that Trainers might even get real Pokeball controllers to use in the game. Nintendo has partnered with Tokyo-based gaming developer DeNa to develop its mobile games.  Fans are still waiting on the fabled Super Mario Bros. mobile game, but Nintendo’s next two games set to hit smartphones this fall.  For now, Pokemon Go is catching us all—often in unexpected ways.

You Oughta Be Encrypted

Facebook is rolling out a beta version of a new feature it calls “Secret Conversations.”  Facebook will use the Open Whisper Systems protocol, which is already used in WhatsApp, Allo, and Signal’s standalone app to offer end-to-end encrypted messages.  Facebook’s approach will have some key differences, such as the opt-in requisite and a single-device implementation.

Immune System Boost for War on Cyberattacks

Darktrace, a cybersecurity firm based in Cambridge and San Francisco, has raised $65 million in Series C funding, now valuing the company at more than $400 million.  Darktrace operates from the assumption that all major company networks are likely already compromised or are wide open to compromise.  Its hardware appliance—the Enterprise Immune System—doesn’t rely on stopping cyberthreats by building bigger and better “walls.”  Darktrace claims to mimic the human immune system by accepting malicious attacks will get through and stopping harm via touted machine-learning techniques.

Begin at the Beginning, Go on until You Reboot, and then… (Silicon Valley – Season 3 Finale)

Summarizing the week Jared writes, “Lewis Carroll famously said, ‘Begin at the beginning, go on to the end, and then stop.’ But that is hard advice to follow when one’s head is spinning…”  It would have been just as apt if Jared had added that “here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”  Because, at the end of Season 3 Pied Piper is in pretty much the same place as at the end of Season 2, and about to begin at the beginning all over again.  (But at least it’s a promising place to start!)

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Weekly Web Wrap-Up: July 1, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

Green Light for Driverless Car Testing in California

Faraday Future (FF) has gained approval to test self-driving cars in California—even though it doesn’t actually have a car yet.  Faraday Future unveiled its concept car, FFZero1, during CES 2016.  FF joins a growing club of automakers and startups currently approved to test self-driving cars in California, including, Google, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, Tesla, Bosch, and Zoox.

Freaking Out About AI?  Tech Divided Over the Hypothetical AI-pocalypse

Blade Runner, Skynet, Ex Machina, the Geth—AI dystopias are firmly entrenched in pop culture.  But AI doomsday scenarios equally inflame the passions (or imaginations) of scientists and tech luminaries.  Google has developed a covert AI ethics board and a “safety interrupt” for its DeepMind.  Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk have been vocal about the dangers of full AI—drawing the ire, and Annual Luddite Award, of US think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).  Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, takes a more optimistic view in his recent op-ed, which reminds us all that robots don’t kill people, sentient supercomputers do.  Lookin’ at you Legion.

In Google’s Connectivity We Trust

Google Fiber, the high-speed internet service owned by Alphabet, has struck a deal to acquire Webpass in a bid to bolster its U.S. expansion and compete with broadband incumbents.  Since Webpass owns its own infrastructure, it doesn’t have to rely on phone and cable companies.  But the Webpass approach differs from Google’s Fiber’s usual model; WIRED breaks down the tech.

Is Hilary Tech’s Candidate of Choice?

The presidential candidate is racking up endorsements from tech executives and other major players in the industry.  The list of endorsements includes leaders at Facebook, Netflix, Airbnb, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google.

A Prime Directive for Star Trek FanFic Creators

Amidst an ongoing copyright-infringement case between CBS, Paramount, and the crowdfunded fan film “Star Trek: Axanar,” CBS and Paramount published guidelines for future productions, which all burgeoning creators should read before endeavoring to boldly go to the fantastically strange world of Star Trek fanfic.  Trek yourself before you wreck yourself, friends.

‘Clash of Clans’ Game Firm Acquired for Billions

Chinese Internet Firm Tencent Holdings is set to acquire Finland’s Supercell, the maker of the hit game “Clash of Clans,” for $8.6 billion.  Tencent already holds a majority stake in Los Angeles-based Riot Games, which produces League of Legends.  With Supercell on board, Tencent is set to grab 13% of the nearly $100 billion global game market.  The deal, which is expected to close in the third quarter, is subject to regulatory approvals in the U.S., Europe and South Korea.

Pied Piper Is Like Empty Tables, and Empty Chairs (Silicon Valley – Episode 27)

“Not much to report this week, dear readers! Everything is perfectly fine.”  Or so says Jared.  But as Gilfoyle is quick to point out, “That’s a lie.”  The problem is that even though the Pied Piper product has incredible buzz, and celebrates half a million downloads, regular people can’t stand using it once they have it.  Pied Piper has a scant 19,000 daily active users, and the product is being savaged in focus groups.  Richard pours his efforts, and almost all of Pied Piper’s remaining funding, into trying to educate the public about what Pied Piper is and how to use it.  But all his efforts yield only one convert, Bernice… and “Pipey,” a horrifying animated flute that pops up to give tips on using the product.  In other words, Pied Piper is “fine” in the same way someone who lost their job and their dog in the same day is “fine”—they’re wretched and nearly broke.  In desperation, Jared goes rogue and secretly starts buying daily users from a “click farm” in Bangladesh.

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Weekly Web Wrap-Up: June 22, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

Bethesda E3 2016

The annual gaming extravaganza— which boasted over 2,000 products, 130 announcements and 50,000 attendees—has come to an end.  Here’s a breakdown of some of the biggest moments and surprises from E3, and a two-minute preview of some of the hottest new games.

The Rolls-Royce of Tomorrow

Technophiles and gearheads, eat your heart out.  The newly announced, fully autonomous Rolls comes with some incredible technology, including personal assistant Eleanor, autonomous driving, and more.

WWDC 2016

With no new products on the horizon, you might think Apple’s annual developers’ conference underwhelmed.  But Apple rolled out some major announcements that, among other things, taught us some important things about Apple, the community, and how consumers will eventually use their Apple devices.

Improving Public Transit One 3D-Printed Autonomous Bus at a Time

Meet Olli: Local Motors has unveiled its crowd-sourced, partially-recyclable, autonomous electric shuttle vehicle in D.C. this summer.  Olli utilizes IBM’s Watson cognitive learning software to take input from any language, translate it, take users to their destinations, and even learn user’s habits.

Hearing Things: MIT’s AI Learns and Reproduces Sound Effects

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has created a machine-learning system capable of matching sound effects to video clips.  The computer-vision algorithm “watches” videos of various objects being whacked by drumsticks—tracking the object’s physical appearance, the drumstick’s movement, and the resulting sounds to learn connections between physical objects and the sounds they make when struck.  What does this mean for the future?  Beyond generating fun sound effects, the technology could help robots identify an object’s materials and physical properties by analyzing the sounds it makes.

45 Million Potentially Impacted by VerticalScope Hack

Time to change that password again.  Joining 2016’s long line of data breaches, the latest mega hack is a breach of VerticalScope, which is responsible for more than 1,000 popular websites and forums.  The data taken apparently includes email addresses, encrypted passwords, usernames, and IP addresses.  The danger in such a data breach lies in consumer password reuse across platforms and websites.

…And The Unicorn You Rode In On (Silicon Valley – Episode 26)

Alas, poor Erlich!  We knew him; ‘a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne us on his back a thousand times; and now,’ as Jared poetically recounts, “Erlich’s Bachmanity boondoggle has led to his being unceremoniously bucked off the Pied Piper unicorn, [lock-] stock-and-Board-seat-wise.”  Unfortunately, Erlich’s lavish over-spending of Bachmanity’s capital, combined with his personal liability for Bachmanity’s debts, have brought Erlich to the brink of bankruptcy.  He’s so desperate for funding he’s willing to sell his Pied Piper shares to dig himself out of his hole.  But yet again, the “onerous terms” that Richard accepted when he took Russ Hanneman’s investment rear their ugly head.  Previously these terms enabled Raviga to take control of Pied Piper’s board and fire Richard.  Now Laurie uses the terms to block Erlich from selling half his shares to Russ for $5 million, and forces Erlich to sell all his shares to Raviga Capital for the exact amount of Erlich’s debts ($713,000).  This leaves Erlich with nothing except extreme public ridicule.

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Happy Times, High Crimes and Misdemeanors (Silicon Valley – Episode 25)

In this week’s episode of Silicon Valley, Richard enjoyed an unprecedented run of success, culminating with the official launch of Pied Piper’s platform.  Richard has suffered so many setbacks, it’s little wonder he is initially reluctant to launch even a beta version—certain that the platform is buggy and will only subject Pied Piper to further mortal embarrassment.  But the team convinces him to try a very limited, private beta, and the embarrassment never comes.  Everyone loves it, from the beginning to the shockingly happy ending… everyone, except Monica.  (But that doesn’t matter because her dissatisfaction just convinces us that we aren’t dreaming.)  The team even manages to foil Gavin Belson’s attempt to steal the beta, turning the tables on him and leaving him screaming to “cut the power to building” in order to shut down the team’s zip bomb.

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Weekly Web Wrap-Up: June 10, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

Facebook and Activision Level Up Gaming Partnership

Live streaming is big business these days.  In a follow up to last month’s announcement that Activision’s e-sports platform MLG.tv would begin broadcasting live competitive gaming tournaments directly on Facebook, the titans announced a further collaboration that will allow players to live stream gaming experiences using Facebook Live.  Blizzard will integrate a Facebook Login into its games and Blizzard will introduce a “Go Live” button to let players stream in-game content directly to their Facebook profile.  The new features are expected to arrive by next month.

BBC Pioneers Exploration of VR’s Broadcasting Applications

When it comes to the practical applications of VR there is no rulebook . . .  yet.  The integration of every new technology begins a quest to find out what works and what doesn’t, which features are mere gimmicks and which have a profitable future.  BBC’s R&D department is in the dark with the rest of the industry.  But with public funding comes the freedom to experiment with the challenges VR brings.  Here are some its experiments—from 360 news videos compatible with HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets to interactive experiences that would be at home in the science museum.  Say hello to the future of broadcasting.

Daily Fantasy Sports: Coming Soon to a Nevada Casino Near You?

The Gaming Control Board voted unanimously this week to recommend to the U.S. Gaming Commission the licensing of Las Vegas race and sports-book pioneer Vic Salerno and his company, US Fantasy, for an off-track, pari-mutuel sports system operator’s license.  If Salerno wins final approval from the Gaming Commission, he would be the first to offer betting on fantasy sports contests through Nevada casinos.

E-Sports Bandwagon Keeps Rolling

Italy’s largest gaming company SNAI has partnered with Betradar to offer the first regulated     e-Sports betting option to Italian customers.  Italian regulators Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) have committed to the philosophy that the best way of channeling customers away from black-market gambling is to offer the products they want.  The ADM has created numerous safeguards to ensure the system’s integrity—from fraud detection to censorship of graphic violence.

SPACES and Songcheng to Bring VR and MxR to Popular Theme Parks

Los Angeles-based SPACES, a developer of virtual reality content announced a $30M joint venture with Chinese theme park operator Songcheng Performance Development Co. Ltd. to bring virtual and mixed reality to Songcheng’s theme parks and stage shows.

Bachmanity – From Sizzle to Fizzle and Maybe Bachruptcy (Silicon Valley – Episode 24)

At its heart, Episode 24 was about relationships – from the wayward dating lives of Richard and Dinesh to Big Head and Ehrlich’s marriage of “Bachmanity,” the Pied Piper entourage found themselves faced with the messy unraveling of unsuccessful relationships.  To recap some of those relationships, Richard loses a girlfriend over his obsession with code formatting, Dinesh sabotages his chances of dating a coworker by improving the video streaming and revealing “Pakistani Denzel” to be more of a “Dogface,” and Bachmanity faces the cold consequences of profligate and unnecessary spending and lack of accounting oversight.  Perhaps Jared’s “spreading his plumage” to display his dating prowess was the only silver lining.  Even though this episode left us feeling like the Pied Piper guys need the advice of a “Love MD” more than that of a J.D., some of their problems may still be solvable with a better understanding of the law.

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Weekly Web Wrap-Up: June 3, 2016

Welcome to Sheppard Mullin’s Weekly Web Wrap-Up, a quick list of the past week’s top news in the social media, gaming, and virtual goods and currencies industries curated by Social Media & Games Team.  Here are some of the stories that we’ve been reading:

A startup that lets you anonymously review your boss and job just raised $40 million

This latest round of funding takes the total raised by the California-based startup Glassdoor to over $200 million.  Glassdoor is fundamentally changing the way job seekers search for jobs and companies recruit talent.

AMC is experimenting with Facebook Live

The TV network streamed the pilot episode of its new series “Preacher,” based on the graphic novel of the same name, this week

Computex 2016: Here’s What You Need to Know

The convention was not just laptops, tablets and smartphones this year.  This year’s VR-focused show included HTC’s Vive demos; MSI’s Backpack PC; AMD’s announcement of its $199 Radeon RX480’s graphics card to lower the entry barrier for VR; and even Microsoft is opening up its Windows Holographic platform to embrace the virtual world.

Illinois Daily Fantasy Sports Betting Bill On Hold

Legislation to regulate daily fantasy sports betting in Illinois was shelved Sunday after the proposal became mired in vote-buying allegations.