Facebook sees backlash after demoing VR shooter game at conservative event

Facebook is facing backlash for bringing a virtual reality shooting game to a rightwing conference where the National Rifle Association (NRA) has promoted gun rights in the wake of a Florida school shooting.

The social media company, which has since removed the demonstration game and expressed “regret”, was already facing scrutiny for attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a high-profile event that featured speeches attacking gun control advocates and a renewed call from Donald Trump to arm school teachers.

Hugo Barra, Facebook’s vice president of VR, said the company has a “standard set” of demos for events, including “action games” with “violence”.

“In light of the recent events in Florida and out of respect for the victims and their families, we have removed them from this demo. We regret that we failed to do so in the first place,” he said in a statement to the Guardian.

The conference in Maryland – which featured multiple NRA representatives and far-right French politician Marion Maréchal-Le Pen

FCC’s Final Rule on Net Neutrality Sparks Legal Challenges


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The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday officially published its Net neutrality rollback order in the Federal Register, triggering a flurry of legal actions and Capitol Hill scrambling to stop it before it takes hold.

The order, which goes into effect on April 23, reverses an Obama era rule requiring that broadband access be regarded as a utility. Without it, ISPs and other firms will be able to speed up or slow down Internet traffic.

It also will allow service provers to make adjustments in program access that could speed up technology innovation, the rollback’s supporters have contended.

The repeal was a major priority of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a commissioner who took the FCC’s helm after Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016 and proceeded to strip away numerous regulations put into place by Obama.

Legal Maneuvers

Following publication of the FCC’s Final Rule, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that a coalition of 23 state attorneys general had filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit seeking to block the illegal rollback of Net neutrality.

The FCC’s ruling was arbitrary and capricious, the AGs argued, and would open up consumers to throttling, blockage of certain content, and a the possibility that some consumers would be charged more than others for the same content.

Public Knowledge also filed a lawsuit in federal court to challenge the FCC’s order, arguing that Chairman Ajit Pai had broken with more than 20 years of FCC history as protector of the open Internet.

“The impact of this order is clear,” said John Bergmayer, senior council at Public Knowledge. “By eliminating its rules and oversight role, the FCC has given broadband providers the green light to press forward with anti-competitive and anti-consumer business models.”


U Mobile names new CIO and deputy CTO

Neil Tonkinson CIO

U Mobile has appointed Neil Tomkinson (pictured) as the new chief information officer (CIO), replacing Tan Chen Sen who took on the position for the past five years. Tomkinson will be reporting to Wong Heang Tuck, CEO, U Mobile.

Prior to U Mobile, Tomkinson was from MTN Next! based in South Africa. He was responsible for leading the development and implementation of MTN Group’s Global back office transformation strategy.

Mattel’s New CTO Wants All Kids to Be Inspired by Tech Toys

Mattel EVP and CTO

In addition to new toys, Mattel also brought its new CTO, Sven Gerjets, to Toy Fair 2018. The company has actually never had a CTO before; Gerjets thinks he may be the only one in the toy industry. He’s now dividing his time between transforming Mattel’s IT operation and developing a connected-toy strategy. At Toy Fair, he sat down with PCMag for a conversation about tech toy trends and how toys can inspire STEM interest in children. Here are some lightly edited highlights.

Carol Mangis: What’s your role, as you see it, at Mattel?
Sven Gerjets: I wear two hats, essentially. We’ve had CIOs in the past who have been focused solely on the business systems, and the connected space has been more within the brands and been done very brand-focused. So we’re trying to figure out, how do we wrap a strategy around that that really moves the needle for us?

Different brands have taken different approaches, and so on some level, we’re learning a lot about the toy space and connectivity…. I think part of it is figuring out, how do we digitally enhance play? I think a lot of companies out there are putting tech in toys for tech’s sake.

We’ve got this amazing core DNA of physical play. How do we enhance skills and develop children, and how do we keep that DNA, but enhance the digital? I think it’s a much more interesting and much more engaging and appealing space. So, we’re focusing on that, and also focusing on aspects of STEM, and how do we inspire kids towards STEM careers? And how does this become more inspirational for the broad group of children who use our products across these very diverse brands?

Every toy company seems to be saying, ‘We have toys that will inspire STEM skills or STEM interests!’ So how are you taking an approach to being conscious about that, instead of just saying, ‘There’s technology in the toy?’
One of the things that I’m finding is that there’s a lot of technology toys out there that say they inspire STEM, but my opinion… they’re focused on kids who already want to be engineers. When I was a child, I was a tinkerer. I had to be a mechanic or an engineer or something, because it was just how I was wired.

No pun intended.
Yeah, exactly. And I read your article, actually, on STEM toys. You know, when you go through that, there’s some really interesting things, but they’re kind of geared to that child who is going to be an engineer. You know they’re going to be an engineer. And, I think the problem with it is, those kids are often the ones that are tearing your TV apart, they’re going to Fry’s to get a board… They don’t need a toy to do that.

One of the things that we’re trying to pivot to is, how do we actually make STEM accessible and interesting and inspiring to broader kids? So it’s not, how do you create the tinker toys of an electronics lab, but how do you inspire kids that are broader? So we’re doing things with Tynker…a platform for teaching kids how to program. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but we’re using our brands to kind of inspire kids.

We’re doing a big launch with the Barbie character… to inspire kids to learn how to program. And I think that’s a great example of inspiration versus engineering toys. And that was a little bit of what I’ve learned coming in, too, because I love to play with the engineering toys, but I think STEM… is much more about inspiring kids that maybe aren’t wired that way.

They need those skills, too.
Did you guys look at the Kamigami, Jurassic [World] Kamigami? We launched a Kamigami bug last year, we’ve got the Jurassic, and then we have another one that we’re not talking about quite yet that’s coming out. Those products are great examples [where you] don’t have to be a roboticist to build it, but you get to build your own robot, you get to program it. It’s super accessible.

mattel jurassic world kamigami

So what’s motivating a kid to play with Kamigami if they’re not already oriented toward coding and engineering?
I think it’s super-compelling physical play, which is the DNA of the company. And I think that’s the difference. If you can make something super compelling for a child, in a play pattern that they recognize and know, and then enhance it in a way that’s inspiring to go: ‘What’s that next step? How do I take the next leap? This is really fun, I built my own robot, what’s next?’

I think it’s about making it much more accessible and much broader and appealing… Sometimes I find when I look at toys out there, when you’re trying to create a whole kind of new play pattern, it’s really geared towards kids or adults that like that play pattern… The Tynker project is about giving kids different aspects, like there’s a music aspect, there’s pet vet, there are these different skills. And so if somebody wants to be a veterinarian, they come in and they learn how to program. If somebody loves music, they come in and they use music to learn how to program. It’s much more open and accessible. It’s not like, let’s try to cram them into a box.

Now, does Mattel do any kind of research on its own in terms of discovering what kind of technology to integrate into toys to create that interest? Or are you looking to other research?
So we’re doing a little bit of both. But I think we start at what’s inspiring, and what kind of play is interesting. And from there, we figure out, how do we make the product accessible from the technology standpoint? Because honestly, in my mind, the…

Former Autodesk Director Wang Lifeng Joins 51HiTech As CTO

Wang Lifeng, a visual technology expert who previously worked as a director at Autodesk Software (China) Co., Ltd., and a researcher at Microsoft Corporation, has joined 51HiTech, a Beijing-based virtual reality and augmented reality start-up as chief technology officer, according to the firm’s announcement on its WeChat account.

He will head the firm’s five research centers in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Frankfurt and London. The company said he will focus on the launch of an artificial intelligence virtual data center and further develop the firm’s virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D products.

“The key competition among AI companies is data, since they all have similar computing power and algorithm. AI training requires a large amount of data, which is costly and hard to obtain in a short period of time,” said Wang. “But computer graphics technology can generate a large amount…

Broken Corporate Processes Degrade Customer Experience: Survey


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Broken corporate processes have been contributing to negative customer experiences, a recent survey suggests.

One thousand employees in United States companies with a workforce of 500 or more who work on a computer or mobile device for more than five hours a day responded to the online survey conducted by Nintex.

Overall, 54 percent observed broken administrative processes within their organization, and 39 percent saw broken document management or sales processes.

Top broken administrative processes:

  • Identifying and recommending problem fixes at the company level (37 percent);
  • Identifying and recommending problem fixes at the team level (34 percent); and
  • Submitting expenses (28 percent).

Top broken document management or sales processes:

  • Locating documents (49 percent);
  • Document sharing (43 percent);
  • Document approval requests (43 percent);
  • Pulling and finding data on sales (41 percent);
  • Completing and filing new client paperwork (34 percent);
  • Document versioning (33 percent);
  • Getting sales contracts signed, negotiated and approved (27 percent);
  • Communicating sales results to the company (23 percent);
  • Referring potential new business (19 percent); and
  • Recommending a new business line or product to the management team (15 percent).

The findings on document mismanagement “definitely revealed some of the biggest issues in today’s organizations,” said Nintex spokesperson Kristin Treat.

“If employees can’t simply access or share files, their leaders can’t expect them to complete projects in a timely manner,” she told CRM Buyer.

Difficulty pulling sales data signals another growing issue, Treat said. “As organizations become increasingly reliant on customer data to personalize the customer experience, companies will need to significantly improve their data management processes to keep tip with the competition…

BAFTA Bolsters VR Advisory Group with the Appointment of PlayFusion’s CEO and CTO, Mark Gerhard

PlayFusion's CEO and CTO, Mark Gerhard

CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom–(BUSINESS WIRE)–PlayFusion, an emerging leader in enhanced reality entertainment, today announced it has been selected by BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, to become an Official Partner of BAFTA. In addition to the partnership, PlayFusion CEO and CTO Mark Gerhard was elected to the BAFTA VR Advisory Group.

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“We’re honoured to partner with BAFTA, the hallmark for eminence within the creative industries,” said Mark Gerhard, CEO and CTO of PlayFusion. “BAFTA has always celebrated innovation and excellence within the entertainment universe and our union with BAFTA will help accelerate the awareness and adoption of new technologies and innovations available to consumers.”

As a member of the BAFTA VR Advisory Group, Mark Gerhard will collaborate closely with some of Britain’s top visionaries and thought leaders in the technology and games industries. As PlayFusion continues to push the limits of what its Enhanced Reality Engine™ will deliver for the future of entertainment, Mark will provide valuable insights and leadership to the Advisory Group, helping ensure shared knowledge opportunities for the association and UK’s emerging digital technology sector.

“Augmented and virtual reality content creators are playing a key role in the games and entertainment industries,” said Emma Baehr, Director of Awards & Membership, BAFTA. “At BAFTA we envision…

South32 appoints CTO

Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources 2017 Vanessa Torres accepting the award.

Torres will join South32 from BHP, where she was most recently vice president, operational infrastructure in the iron ore business.

Brazilian-born Torres has also held senior roles with Vale.

Torres was named as Outstanding Woman in Resources at the WA Women in Resources last March, and went on to be named Exceptional Woman in Australian Resources at the national awards in September.

She has also been recognised as one of…

RiskSense CTO Presents Best Practices Framework for Reducing Security Vulnerabilities in On-Demand Webinar


Sunnyvale/Albuquerque: RiskSense, Inc., threat and vulnerability management company, today announced it has released a free, on-demand educational webinar with Chief Technology Officer, Danny Quist, Ph.D. that explains how attackers are targeting high-value enterprise assets and provides the best practices framework enterprises can use to prevent security incidents.


Danny Quist, Ph.D. is Chief Technology Officer for RiskSense. Quist was most recently head of security operations and engineering for Bechtel Corporation, the United States’ largest construction and civil engineering company, where he managed the company’s global cybersecurity team. He has conducted malware reverse engineering and kernel…

Google Hires Former Samsung CTO to Lead Internet of Things Projects

Alphabet Inc’s Google this month hired Injong Rhee, who recently resigned as Samsung Electronics Co’s chief technology officer, to lead its Internet of Things business, he said in a LinkedIn post-Monday. Google spokeswoman Jane Hynes confirmed to Reuters Rhee’s hiring by Google’s cloud computing unit but declined to comment further.

Rhee said in his post that he will serve as entrepreneur-in-residence under Diane Greene, chief executive of the cloud computing group, which sells software and hardware to other businesses.

Rhee said he aims to harmonize Alphabet’s various projects related to the Internet of Things, or IoT, a term that encompasses any device that accesses data online. Self-driving cars, home appliances with virtual assistants and the…