Google Pixel 2 XL now available in India


New Delhi:{agency} Google made its flagship smartphone “Pixel 2 XL” available in India on Wednesday in two variants — 64GB model for Rs 73,000 and 128GB variant for Rs 82,000. The devices will be available in two colours (Just Black, Black and White) online on Flipkart, Reliance Digital and retail stores across the country, the company said in a statement.

Running Android Oreo, Pixel 2 XL comes with full screen, 6-inch QHD+ 18:9 display with 3D Corning Gorilla Glass 5, 4GB RAM and houses Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core processor. The device has 12MP rear camera, 8MP front camera and a 3,520mAh battery.

The rear shooter has been upgraded with a brighter f/1.8 aperture and optical stabilisation (OIS), as well as electronic stabilisation, resulting in detailed images with crisp colour reproduction and accurate tones. The phone uses an aluminium unibody with a hybrid coating, and is IP67 water and dust resistant.
Apart from unlocking the device in a snap, the fingerprint sensor on Pixel 2 XL can also be used to access the notification panel with a swipe down. Pixel 2 XL also includes Google Lens that uses machine learning (ML) capabilities to recognise places, objects and streets, etc, from the clicked images to give more information about them.

Pixel 2 XL comes with Google Assistant that, in the coming weeks, will also be able to help with your daily routines.




Will robots take your job? Well, that depends. . .


At the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) conference, one topic that caught the imagination of almost everyone was “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics” (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/archive/artificial-intelligence-and robotics/?utm_ content= buffer55b47utm_medium=social &utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer).

More oil over the fire was poured by Jack Ma of Alibaba who said that even CEOs could be replaced by robots (https://twitter.com/wef/status/920572853401083905?s=08). Ma believes that companies must be prepared for decades of pain to come to terms with the advance of robots. This sentiment was reinforced by the president of the World Bank (https://www.weforum. org/ agenda/2017/10/the-world-bank-chief-think-robots-have-put-us-on-a-dangerous-path) who believes that robots have put the entire world on a dangerous path.

So are all jobs at risk?  Not really.  But the factors impacting jobs will be many (see chart).  Countries will have to navigate carefully, to find ways to ensure that job formation efforts do not flag. They will have to ensure that the adverse impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics are minimised as far as is possible – at least for the short term.  In the long term, it will depend on how fast robots adapt to the new demands of the market, and how rapidly humans come up with newer ideas than robots can.

An endearing thought is that Germany – which has many more industrial robots than even the US – has not faced job losses (https://www.weforum.org/ agenda/2017/10/germany-has-way-more-industrial-robots-than-the-us-but-they-haven-t-caused-job-losses). By 2014, there were 7.6 robots per thousand German workers, compared to 1.6 in the US. Germany has managed to stay ahead of the curve.

It has come up with more innovations and concepts than can be mastered by robots overnight. So who are the gainers and losers in the advance of AI? According to PWC, the biggest beneficiary will be China see chart, sourced from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/10/AI-transforming-work-relevant) , which wants to retain its position as the world’s biggest exporter of almost everything. China could see almost 26% of its GDP coming from AI and robotics. This would be closely followed by the US (14.5%).

Of course, this would assume that global business would be dependent on mass production.  But that might not be the case. Consider how Germany has almost 6.6% of its GDP coming through exports.  Compare this with 3.5% for China. Germany’s exports come from micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs).

These companies offer the world products that do not have a market for large numbers, but are extremely sophisticated – even customized — and are demanded by countries in small numbers.  That is clearly the strategy India too may want to adopt.  In the coming decade, India may have to work on several policy initiatives.  One of them will be to realise that it will not be able to stave off automation (even in jobs for drivers) for too long. It will therefore have to focus on new job opportunities.  It will have to plan on disruptions that make older models of growth impossible to protect or promote. The need for good school education will therefore be crucial.

One way in which India can create huge numbers of jobs – both directly and indirectly – is by adopting a new model for distributed solar and methane clusters (http://www.asiaconverge.com/2017/10/solar-power-couldtrigger-employment-generation/). By creating a middle layer to install, maintain and regulate decentralised power generation and gas supplies, India could achieve two objectives.  It could create around 83 million jobs directly and indirectly — enough for at least 6-7 years (assuming a minimum demand for 12 million jobs each year).  It could also see a reduction in imports, which then could be used to promote skills development and school education.  Small numbers will matter.

It may be worth recalling that one reason why Indian fabrics got exported in very large numbers was because it could offer countless designs in small runs.  That gave customers greater variety, more exclusivity, and at reasonable prices.

China hasn’t been able to dent this market as yet.

Therefore, the focus will have to be on reinvigorating a shattered and pulverised school education. It means revamping India’s skill development, which remains in a time warp in most places. If India can do all this, it can withstand the onslaught of AI and the robots. If it cannot, expect a lot of pain to follow.




Google launches Pixel 2 smartphones, new devices


San Francisco, Betting big on the best combination of artificial intelligence (AI), software and hardware, Google on Wednesday launched Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, smaller smart speaker “Home Mini”, a larger version called “Home Max”, high-performance convertible Chromebook called PixelBook and “Google Clips” action camera.

The devices are available for pre-order in the US, Britain, Germany and in India, among other countries. Pixel 2 starts at $649 and Pixel 2 XL is available for $849. Pixel 2 comes with a 5-inch and larger Pixel 2 XL with a 6-inch Full-HD OLED displays with Portrait Modes on both rear and selfie cameras.

Marked 98 on DXOmark ratings, the rear camera comes with OIS and EIS technology to remove jerks and shaky footage. The camera can also click “Live Photos” by recording up to three seconds of footage. It also has AR Stickers and Pixel users would get free unlimited storage on Google Cloud in the original quality. The devices have IP67 water and dust resistance.


Both phones might come with “squeeze” interaction, USB-C charger and stereo speakers. The company claims it has the fastest fingerprint scanner in a smartphone. The devices come with stereo earphones called “Pixel Buds” for $159 available in November.

Google Home Mini is priced at $49 in the US, Britain, France and Australia, among others and users can now pre-order them. Taking potshots at Apple iPhone, Google said that Home can search your Android device and ring it even if it is on silent mode. “For iPhone users, we’ll just give them a call,” the company said.

Reimagining the sound, it also launched Google Home Max, with 2-inch tweeters and 4.5-inch woofers for amazing audio with SmartSound powered by Google Assistant that automatically tunes sound. It supports Chromecast, aux and Bluetooth 5.0. It is available in December for $399.

The PixelBook is 10mm thin and weighs a kilo and has 12.3-inch Quad HD LCD display, 512GB SSD, 16GB RAM and i5 and i7 processors. The device has multiple layers of security, automatic updates and it is the first laptop with Assistant built-in. With USB-C charger, 15 minutes charge gives two hours of backup. It connects automatically to Pixel phones in absence of wi-fi.

The Pixelbook Pen, priced at $99 can help users get information of whatever they have on the screen. Just circle it to get info from it. Write and draw with Pixelbook Pen that has 10ms of latency and 2,000+ levels of pressure sensitivity. Available in three configurations, Pixelbook is priced at $999 and people can pre-order them now.

Google also launched an action cam called Google Clips. All the devices launched on Wednesday deliver an Internet of Things (IoT) experience.




No, MP3 is not dead


MP3 is only set free.

MP3, the much popular audio format famous for its small size, has now got its licensing program terminated.

The Fraunhofer Institute, the developer of the format, recently said it had ended the "licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software" as of April 23, 2017. The company stated: "Although there are more efficient audio codecs with advanced features available today, mp3 is still very popular amongst consumers. However, most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC family or in the future MPEG-H. Those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to mp3."

What is MP3?

MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 audio layer 3, ubiquitously known as mp3, is essentially compressed music files that allowed the audio file to be as little as 1/10th of its original size. The development of mp3 started in the late 1980s at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS. Compared to its WAV counterpart, the mp3 format occupied less space owing to its small size and was hence used extensively for sharing and streaming.

Sound engineers use high-resolution audio in formats like AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, and DSD. But consumer electronics largely use mp3 to take advantage of a large scale user-base.

What does the end of licensing mean for you?

You can still use mp3 files if you want to. Many music streaming sites and services still use mp3 formats, according to Fraunhofer. "If you ever ripped an mp3 from a CD, or bought from an online store, then the company involved paid a licensing fee to Fraunhofer/Technicolor. Now, the company won't have to do this anymore, but your mp3s will still continue to work as they always did," says cnet.com.

The popularity of the mp3 rose in the early 1990s, as people who wanted to listen to songs in their PCs had limited storage space. MP3 stepped in, and for most people, the songs sounded just fine. In the later years, it gained popularity due to underground song networks that were pirating copyrighted content. The advent of WINAMP software too, boosted the audio format’s image, before it became a standard in many mobile phones and compact discs.

However, audiophiles preferred pure music over compressed ones, dissing mp3 for cutting down sounds that are thought to be beyond the audio reception ability of most people.

According to macobserver.com, "MP3 isn’t dead, all your songs will still play, and you can keep buying MP3 tracks from music services. Fraunhofer's announcement means that, as of April there isn’t anything to license because there aren’t any current patents covering MP3. Without those patents there isn’t any value in licensing, and that’s what this comes down to: The Fraunhofer Institute can’t make money off licensing MP3 patents."




Xiaomi’s big screen Mi Max 2 set to launch on May 25, confirms company


Xiaomi’s Mi Max 2 will launch on May 25 in Beijing, China, according to posters shared by the company on Weibo, which highlight the new phone’s upcoming release. Earlier reports had claimed the Mi Max 2 would be unveiled along with the Mi 6, but that didn’t happen.

Then some reports had claimed a release date of May 23, but it looks like the company’s new posters are pegging May 25 as the final date.

Xiaomi’s Weibo page has links to a poster highlighting the Mi Max 2 will be launching on May 25. The poster says the phone will be launched at 2 PM in Beijing at a press conference and will be attended by CEO Lei Jun. Chinese girl band SNH48 will also be at the launch, if you go by the poster.

Interestingly the poster is not the top post on Xiaomi’s Weibo page, and you’ll have to scroll down a bit to find this. Now we’ve seen quite a few incorrect leaks take place around the Xiaomi Mi Max 2, so let’s hope this poster date turns out to be true.

In terms of specifications, Xiaomi Mi Max 2 will continue to feature the massive 6.4-inch full HD resolution display we saw on the earlier phone. Leaked specifications on GeekBench had indicated Snapdragon 626 processor coupled with 4GB RAM and a massive 5000 mAh battery.

Another variant of Max 2 featuring a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 chipset and 6GB RAM might launch as well. Xiaomi Mi Max 2 could come with a 12MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera.

In India, the Mi Max was launched at a starting price of Rs 14,999, and there was a Mi Max Prime version as well that cost more. We’ll have to wait and see if Mi Max 2 actually makes it to the Indian market.

Xiaomi has confirmed that it will launch more Mi branded smartphones in India, but the device name, model remains unknown.




BT Ireland ready to bid for €500m State rural broadband project


New York: Technology enthusiasts in India  will have to wait longer to get their hands on the Apple Watch as the country does not feature in the nine countries chosen by the iconic brand to unveil its much-awaited smart watch. However, the US-based firm will make the Apple Watch available from April 10 for preview in its home ground as well as China, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the UK. The smartwatch will be up for purchase from April 24.

The Cupertino-headquartered firm took the covers off its Apple Watch at an event in San Francisco yesterday, along with two other key announcements – a revamped MacBook range and a health-centred initiative ‘ResearchKit’. According to analysts, the Apple Watch may cost well over Rs 30,000 for the base model. They are of the view that the watch is expected to hit market in July this year. However, a section of the market feels that considering the growing importance of India, the watch could see its India debut even in June.




Millions of young stars in nearby galaxy found


Washington : An international team of astronomers has discovered over a million young stars that are forming in a hot, dusty cloud of molecular gases in a tiny galaxy near our own Milky Way.

The star cluster is buried within a supernebula in a dwarf galaxy known as NGC 5253, in the constellation Centaurus.

The cluster has one billion times the luminosity of our sun, but is invisible in ordinary light, hidden by its own hot gases.

"We are stardust, and this cluster is a factory of stars and soot," said Jean Turner, a professor of physics and astronomy in the University of California - Los Angeles and lead author of the paper that was published in the journal Nature.

The amount of dust surrounding the stars is approximately 15,000 times the mass of our sun in elements such as carbon and oxygen.

The cluster is remarkably young, which about 3 million years old.

It is likely to live for more than a billion years.

The Milky Way is still forming new stars, but not in nearly such large numbers, Turner noted.

Some astronomers had believed that such giant star clusters could form only in the early universe.

The cluster contains more than 7,000 massive "O" stars -- the most luminous of all known stars, each a million times brighter than our sun.

NGC 5253 has approximately nine times as much dark matter as visible matter - a much higher rate than the inner parts of the Milky Way.

--IANS




Apple's iOS 9 vs iOS 8: Ten new features


At the Worldwide Developers Conference last night, Apple announced a slew of features that will be coming to iPhones and iPads later this year.

Curious about what new features you will get to see on your coveted Apple gadget, as well as the availability dates? Worry not. Check out our round-up of the best iOS 9 features you can look forward to on your iPhones and iPads.

One of the major overhauls in iOS 9 can be found with Siri. The digital voice assistant has received a colourful facelift, but it's what's going on behind the scenes that is more interesting.

The new interface displays content in a better way, and Siri can now understand a wider range of requests on top of what was on offer in iOS 8. We were shown a number of examples during the keynote, including "show me my photos from Utah last August", "remind me to grab my coffee off the roof when I get in my car" and "play the top songs from 1982" via Apple Music.

Siri has been, until now, a reactive service, but that's changed in iOS 9. It's now Apple's answer to Google Now, with context sensitive information based on time, date and location. It can, for example, intelligently recognize when you get to the gym and plug in your headphones you'll want your workout mix, and display it on your lock screen.


Battery performance

In iOS 8, there is no clear battery saving mode. You're left to your own devices to turn off data, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc to try and conserve power.

That changes in iOS 9 with the introduction of a "low power mode," which Apple claims will provide you with three additional hours of typical usage.

iOS 9 apparently improves general performance too, with Apple saying it gives you an extra one hour of full usage over devices running iOS 8.

Multitasking on iPads

There are a few iPad-only new features incorporated into iOS 9. First up is the QuickType Keyboard, which adds handy copy, cut, paste tools to the suggestion bar, along with access to the camera, attachments and formatting.

Use two fingers on the keyboard and it becomes a track pad, allowing you to easily select the text you want -- something which is a little tricky in iOS 8.

There's also 'Slide Over', 'Split View' and 'Picture in Picture', which provide a range of multi-tasking options. The first two see two apps share the screen, the former just for a brief moment while the latter sees tho apps sit side by side permanently.

If you're familiar with Samsung's top end smartphones you'll recognize picture-in-picture, which allows you to pop out a video into a floating window.




Apple brings gender equality in iOS 10 emoji pack


New York: Technology giant Apple on Tuesday launched a new iOS emoji pack that show women playing more sports and performing jobs that, prior to the launch, were male-oriented.

The icons will be available on devices running the new iOS 10, the company announced in a statement.

“This exciting update brings more gender options to existing characters, including new female athletes and professionals, adds beautiful redesigns of popular emoji, a new rainbow flag and more family options,” Apple said.

According to The Verge, the new set of emoji, which includes more than 100 variations when you take skin colour options into account, also includes a water gun icon in place of the old revolver, a rainbow flag and two different gender options depicting single-parent families.

Apple has also introduced two male options for previously female-only emoji, including a haircut and scalp massage emoji.

“Apple is working closely with the Unicode Consortium to ensure that popular emoji characters reflect the diversity of people everywhere,” the company added.

In June, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled iOS 10 for iPhones and iPads on the opening day of the annual Worldwide Developers` Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. He also announced to move its digital assistant Siri to Mac and opening it to third-party developers.

Cook showcased iOS 10 featuring huge updates like stickers and full-screen effects to Apple Messages that delivers more expressive and animated ways to connect with friends and family.

“Messages is the most frequently used iOS app and with iOS 10, it will become more expressive. Automatic suggestions will make it easy to replace words with emoji,” Apple had said.

The company rolled out beta versions for developers and public beta versions for non-developers will follow in July.

IANS




New technology to boost hybrid car efficiency by over 30 percent


Los angeles: Inspired by natural phenomena such as insect swarming and bird flocking, scientists have developed a new technology that will improve the efficiency of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) by more than 30 percent.

PHEVs, which combine a gas or diesel engine with an electric motor and a large rechargeable battery, offer advantages over conventional hybrids because they can be charged using mains electricity, which reduces their need for fuel, said researchers at the University of California, Riverside in the US.

However, the race to improve the efficiency of current PHEVs is limited by shortfalls in their energy management systems (EMS), which control the power split between engine and battery when they switch from all-electric mode to hybrid mode.

While not all plug-in hybrids work the same way, most models start in all-electric mode, running on electricity until their battery packs are depleted, then switch to hybrid mode.

Known as binary mode control, this EMS strategy is easy to apply, but is not the most efficient way to combine the two power sources.

In lab tests, blended discharge strategies, in which power from the battery is used throughout the trip, have proven more efficient at minimising fuel consumption and emissions.

However, their development is complex and until now they have required an unrealistic amount of information up front.

“In reality, drivers may switch routes, traffic can be unpredictable, and road conditions may change, meaning that the EMS must source that information in real-time,” said Xuewei Qi, a postdoctoral researcher at UCR’s Centre for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT).

The highly efficient EMS developed and simulated by Qi and his team combines vehicle connectivity information, such as cellular networks and crowd-sourcing platforms, and evolutionary algorithms – a mathematical way to describe natural phenomena such as evolution, insect swarming, and bird flocking.

“By mathematically modelling the energy saving processes that occur in nature, scientists have created algorithms that can be used to solve optimisation problems in engineering,” Qi said.

“We combined this approach with connected vehicle technology to achieve energy savings of more than 30 percent.

We achieved this by considering the charging opportunities during the trip – something that is not possible with existing EMS,” said Qi.

Together with the application of evolutionary algorithms, vehicles will not only learn and optimise their own energy efficiency but will also share their knowledge with other vehicles in the same traffic network through connected vehicle technology.

“Even more importantly, the PHEV energy management system will no longer be a static device – it will actively evolve and improve for its entire life cycle. Our goal is to revolutionise the PHEV EMS to achieve even greater fuel savings and emission reductions,” Qi said.

The research was published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems.
PTI




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