Posts Tagged ‘FACEBOOK’

Oculus VR, ZeniMax dispute heads to court ahead of Facebook acquisition

May 22nd, 2014

The dispute between Oculus VR, a wearable virtual reality technology company that Facebook is acquiring, and ZeniMax Media reached court Wednesday.

ZeniMax is suing Oculus for exploiting commercially intellectual property the games publisher allegedly shared under a non-disclosure agreement with Oculus, which enabled it to improve on its “crude prototype” of a virtual reality headset.

Facebook said in March it had reached a deal to buy the developer of the Oculus Rift headset for about US$2 billion.

The non-disclosure agreement expressly provides that ZeniMax’s intellectual property cannot be disclosed to or used by any third parties without its prior written approval, according to the complaint.

“Defendants now stand to realize billions of dollars in value from ZeniMax’s intellectual property,” ZeniMax said in its complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas division on Wednesday.

Oculus never obtained a license for the use of ZeniMax’s property, which included copyrighted computer code, trade secret information, and technical know-how, nor any right to sell or transfer it to third parties, the complaint said.

The dispute between the two companies hinges around alleged collaboration from April 2012 between Oculus founder Palmer Luckey, then a video game enthusiast working on a headset, and John Carmack who was technical director for ZeniMax’s Texas-based subsidiary, id Software, until he joined Oculus in August 2013.

Carmack, a well-regarded games programmer, had agreed on joining ZeniMax that it would be the author and owner of any copyrightable works that he prepared within the scope of his employment, the complaint said.

The Rift headset was at that time a crude prototype that lacked a head mount, virtual reality-specific software, integrated motion sensors, and other critical features and capabilities needed to create a viable product, according to the complaint.

Carmack and others at ZeniMax worked with Oculus to transform the Rift by adding physical hardware components and developing specialized software for its operation and modified it to run with id Software’s computer game “DOOM 3: BFG Edition” which enabled demonstrations of ZeniMax’s virtual reality technology, the filing said.

“Without it, there would not have been a viable Rift product,” according to the complaint.

After what ZeniMax describes as a successful demonstration and “positive press” of its virtual reality technology at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (“E3”) industry convention in Los Angeles in June 2012, Luckey realized the opportunity presented by virtual reality technology and formed Oculus to commercialize the Rift a few days later.

“Oculus used ZeniMax’s hardware and software technology to create a software development kit (SDK) for the Rift and to develop, modify, and tune the Rift hardware,” according to the complaint.

Up to 2013 the companies negotiated the terms of the compensation for the technology and assistance but no resolution was reached and ZeniMax claims Oculus never provided it with any compensation whatsoever. In September 2012, Oculus proposed giving ZeniMax a stake of 2 percent for its contributions and selling it an additional stake of 3 percent for $1.2 million, but ZeniMax asked for more.

The lawsuit which accuses Oculus and Luckey of misappropriation of trade secrets, copyright infringement, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, among other counts, seeks damages and other relief at time of trial by jury.

ZeniMax through counsel had earlier written to Carmack and Oculus to assert its intellectual property rights. The letter to Carmack was written before Facebook announced its proposed acquisition of Oculus, according to the complaint.

“The lawsuit filed by ZeniMax has no merit whatsoever. As we have previously said, ZeniMax did not contribute to any Oculus technology. Oculus will defend these claims vigorously,” Oculus said in an emailed statement.


A Facebook Alum Builds an Intelligent Sales Platform

August 20th, 2013

Most people start their professional lives working fast-food jobs or retail gigs, but Darian Shirazi isn’t most people. At age 15 he began purchasing computer components in bulk from Asia and marketing them on eBay, generating such impressive sales that the online auction giant soon offered him an engineering internship. After two summers at eBay, Shirazi began exploring other opportunities, and in 2005 he became the first-ever intern hired at Facebook, then a fledgling startup whose dozen staffers worked close to Shirazi’s family home in Palo Alto, Calif.

“They were guys not that much older than me, working on something I thought was cool,” Shirazi recalls, admitting, “It wasn’t clear to me if it would become anything big or not.”

Shirazi exited Facebook after two years–his parents insisted he leave to attend college–but by that time it was clear big things were in store not only for the social network but for him, too. He dropped out of the University of California, Berkeley, within a year, and after traveling the globe returned to Silicon Valley in 2008 to launch San Francisco-based Fwix, a hyperlocal news aggregator that trawled the web to curate a range of business data encompassing everything from license registrations and Yelp reviews to Facebook likes, Twitter posts and Foursquare check-ins.

Fwix built its business by licensing information to media publishers and software developers, but Google had bigger things in mind. “Google wanted to prioritize our local business data for lead generation,” says Shirazi, now 26. “I thought, That sounds like a great idea. Why don’t we build our own business?” So he turned down Google’s $35 million acquisition offer and in spring 2012 rebranded Fwix as Radius Intelligence, leveraging his massive local database to provide real-time information optimized for sales teams targeting the U.S. small-business market.

“It was easy to walk away from [the Google offer]. I got lucky on Facebook, and it helps when you’ve had a win and don’t have to worry about money,” Shirazi says. “A lot of people haven’t been lucky enough to be part of something like Facebook. But I also believe that if you’re in a position to build something big, you have to make that happen.”

Shirazi is definitely thinking big with Radius, stating that he aims to build a sales intelligence platform for the SMB segment on par with Dun & Bradstreet’s information services for the enterprise market. Radius offers sales teams insight into more than 26 million small businesses in the U.S., compiling data from disparate web sources to identify opportunities across new and established companies, as well as delivering advanced lead-generation tools as stand-alone SaaS offerings or integrated with services.

Radius clients can assemble lead lists based on filters that include location, vertical, web activity, consumer reviews and ratings, ad spending, revenue and company size. They can also access up-to-date business information like phone numbers, e-mail addresses, owner names, employee head count and revenue. Pricing starts at $99 per month.

“What we’re offering is a huge opportunity for marketing and selling organizations to become more efficient by letting them target businesses that need their products and services,” says Shirazi, who serves as Radius’ CEO. “We’re also helping improve relationships with existing customers and reduce call spam. To me, we’re building a business, but we’re also doing a lot of good.”

Earlier this year Radius wrapped a $12.4 million funding round led by American Express. Shirazi, who would not disclose revenue, plans to triple the firm’s sales force by the end of 2013, concurrently exploring new and more effective methods for crunching data and developing, filtering and categorizing leads.

“I love building companies, and I love building ideas,” Shirazi says. “It’s what I want to continue doing for the rest of my life.”


Facebook Acquires Mobile Technologies’ Speech Recognition Software

August 14th, 2013

In what appears to be a move to make the network more accessible, Facebook announced its acquisition of Mobile Technologies, a company that specializes in speech recognition software.

A More Connected Facebook
Social networking is all about being able to reach people you might not normally connect with, but this isn’t always easy. With its purchase of Mobile Technologies, Facebook will be able to give people a different way to use the network that doesn’t involve typing on a keyboard or using a sub-par language translator.

Voice technology has become an increasingly important way for people to navigate mobile devices and the web and this technology will help us evolve our products to match that evolution,” wrote Tom Stocky, the network’s director of product management.

Stocky also mentioned that Facebook doesn’t yet have any official developments or projects for this software, but encourages members to give suggestions and provide feedback if they have an idea.

It could make it easier for users of different languages to read each other’s posts, or to chat,” wrote Josh Wolford. “As of now, Facebook’s translation is powered by Bing, but this makes it seem like Facebook is at least considering bringing translation services under its own umbrella.”

Translation Tools from Mobile Technologies

Founded in 2001, Mobile Technologies is a translation tools developer with its flagship product being Jibbigo, a speech-to-speech phone translator that can work in both an offline and online mode. According to a statement on the company’s website, Jibbigo is used by anyone who is in a foreign country from the everyday traveller to humanitarians. Languages that Jibbigo supports include Arabic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Thai and Traditional Chinese.

The Jibbigo app

The company also created an “interpretation service” for lectures, so that schools and other education centers could use it in classroom settings and make sure that all those in attendance can understand what is being said.

In becoming part of the Facebook community Mobile Technologies says it will work with the social network to improve its technology as part of Facebook’s “long-term road map.”

Members of the Mobile Technologies team will also join Facebook in California, but other terms of the deal, such as the purchase price and if the Jibbigo app will continue to be updated haven’t been released.


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