You probably wouldn t pay $3,500 for an augmented-reality headset that lets you play around with virtual objects in your living room. Your employer might, however, if it could help you do your job. That s what Microsoft is betting on as it begins shipping the latest version of its HoloLens headset on Thursday, eight months after the company unveiled the device. It makes sense: Microsoft still won t say how many people are using HoloLens, but they re mostly business customers. This is the case for other companies offering AR headsets, too, as the technology has only really appealed to consumers thus far in smartphone apps for things like gaming and trying on makeup. Greg Sullivan, director of Microsoft Mixed Reality, told CNN Business the most popular uses of the headset include remote assistance (such as helping a field worker install or repair equipment with help from a faraway expert), visualizing complicated 3-D environments (such as checking out how a life-size virtual model of a new HVAC system would fit into a real-world warehouse), and employee training. The HoloLens 2 is more comfortable and easier to use than the last version, which could make it more helpful for the tasks companies want to do with it. These changes, along with that $3,500 price tag, indicate that Microsoft is targeting the device to businesses. The initial version of HoloLens, unveiled in 2015, introduced many people to the idea of a device for seeing three-dimensional images that appear to be placed in the world around them, such as a virtual ball rolling around on a real table. The headset was first rolled out in 2016 for developers, then for enterprise users. But the device felt fairly clunky and experimental: It had a small field of view that could make it hard to see virtual objects in their entirety, thus breaking the illusion of melding the digital and the real, and required a finicky finger gesture to interact with virtual objects. HoloLens 2, meanwhile, seems more like Microsoft s first true stab at a commercial AR headset. It has a field of view that s more than double that of the initial HoloLens, which makes it possible to see virtual objects that are larger (or more of a virtual object when you re standing close to it). The display is higher-resolution, too, so objects look crisper. Microsoft also redesigned and simplified the ways users interact with virtual objects, making it more realistic as a work tool. I checked out these changes firsthand in October in a Microsoft office in San Francisco. The first thing I noticed was that the headset felt more comfortable and balanced on my head — a result of changes such as moving the batteries from the headset s arms to its rear. As someone who tends to get headaches after wearing AR or virtual-reality headsets for a while, this was a relief. The ways users interact with digital objects is also better and, at times, impressively futuristic. HoloLens 2 includes eye tracking that lets you do things like scroll down a virtual screen of text hovering in the air in front of you in a more natural, precise way than you could previously. And it has fully articulated hand tracking that keeps tabs on the positions of all your fingers, as well as new gestures like a virtual lasso that can shoot out of your palm to let you grab virtual items. During some demos, such as one in which I used a finger to paint in midair and used my hands to manipulate my art work, I found this means you don t need to be so precise about how you re pointing at and poking things, which may make it easier for someone using the headset for, say, manipulating or annotating 3-D models at work. "What we have wanted to evolve to is an interaction model that you don t have to be told how to do it," Sullivan told me. This is a far cry from the first version of HoloLens, which didn t track the wearer s eyes or fingers; it considered the position of their head to figure out where attention was focused, and required you to perform a precise index-finger gesture that Microsoft referred to as an "air tap" to select virtual objects — essentially, a mid-air mouse click. I thought the gesture didn t feel natural, and, while I can click a real computer mouse all day, doing so in the air was exhausting. I was also pleased to notice that virtual objects, such as a hummingbird that followed me as I walked around the room, were bright even as sunlight streamed through the office windows. Microsoft still has plenty of work ahead of it. While virtual images looked good and appeared stable even as I shook my head around during my demos, an even bigger field of view would make it a lot easier to envision large 3-D objects such as a car (and we know that auto makers are among HoloLens users). The headset is barely lighter than the previous version, weighing in at 1.2 pounds, which means you re not going to forget it s on your head. There s the price tag, too: While $3,500 is affordable for many companies, it will still keep this kind of tool out of the hands of many others who might otherwise want to try it.
Crude oil spills have re-emerged on the beaches of Ras Ghareb Corniche, which has been the site of petroleum pollution (from crude oil) in several areas. Oil spills covered the beach for up to a kilometer amid warnings of damage to the marine and beach environment and the spread of pollution to other areas. The Environmental Affairs Agency in Hurghada and the Ministry of Environment s task force in the Red Sea received a notification of the incident on Tuesday. A committee of environmental researchers from the Red Sea moved to the site of the pollution, obtained a sample of the spill, and sent it to the laboratories of the Environmental Affairs Agency in Suez to determine the source of the spill and take legal action amid calls from residents of the city of Ras Ghareb to find a way to stop the frequent oil pollution on the shores of the city. The General Petroleum Company (G.P.C.) has caused oil pollution in Ras Ghareb beach in six different incidents, damaging the marine environment and the beach. A technical committee was formed in each incident to determine the financial value of the damage and a financial compensation, and prosecutors launched investigations into the incidents and interrogated the company s officials.
Visitors to China can now access the country s massive cashless economy. Alibaba-affiliated Ant Financial launched a new international version of its mobile payments app Alipay on Tuesday, marking the first time tourists and business travelers can use mobile payments in mainland China. The service could remove one of the biggest headaches for visitors to China, where everyone from taxi drivers to luxury malls have come to rely on mobile payments. Alipay users can now download and buy prepaid cards within the app using international debit and credit cards. The prepaid cards expire after 90 days and any remaining money is automatically refunded. Alibaba (BABA) and Tencent (TCEHY) dominate cashless payments in China with their Alipay and WeChat Pay platforms. With more than a billion users, the digital payment systems have largely replaced plastic cards and cash at registers, changed how friends and families give gifts to one another and even changed how panhandlers ask for money. Even Apple (AAPL) accepts Alipay in its local stores in China, after its own payment system failed to gain traction. Mobile payments in China hit $42 trillion in 2018, up more than 28 times from five years ago, the People s Bank of China said in a report earlier this year. Ant Financial said Tuesday that the new international service will allow it to tap into the growing number of visitors to China. Nearly 31 million foreigners traveled to China in 2018 and they spent $73 billion while they were touring the country, according to government statistics. The number of visitors and how much they spent both rose by about 5% compared to a year earlier.
Following promises of more transparency, Facebook has a colorful logo that nods to how change is underway at the company and its subsidiaries. On Monday, the company announced a new logo for Facebook Inc. to distinguish the corporate parent from its apps, including its eponymous social media platform. The logo, which features the word Facebook (FB) in all capital letters in a new font, alternates between blue, green and hues of purple, red and orange -- all colors that represent its other brands. (Blue for Facebook, green for WhatsApp and purple, red and orange for Instagram.) The move highlights its effort to be more clear with consumers about the apps it owns. A recent survey by nonpartisan think tank Pew found that only 29% of Americans correctly answered that Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook. "People should know which companies make the products they use," Facebook said in a blog post Monday. The company plans to use the new logo on products and marketing materials in the weeks ahead. In June, the company started adding the words "from Facebook" across all its apps. Soon, that language will feature the new logo, too. Earlier this year, the company laid out plans to integrate its messaging platforms, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, and make privacy a bigger focus. This includes encrypting communications and making it possible for users to send messages to their contacts using any of its services and SMS. The move could effectively cement Facebook s dominance over the messaging market for years to come. The efforts come at a time when Facebook and other tech companies are facing heightened antitrust scrutiny. In October, the New York attorney general announced that 47 state attorneys general are now investigating Facebook for evidence of anticompetitive practices. All the states involved "are concerned that Facebook may have put consumer data at risk, reduced the quality of consumers choices, and increased the price of advertising."
Egypt is preparing to launch TIBA-1, its first satellite for communications purposes, set to provide communications services towards the government and commercial sectors. It will fully cover Egypt and some North African and Nile Basin countries. TIBA-1 is being manufactured by the consortium of French companies Thales Alenia Space and Airbus Defense & Space, who are of the largest international companies in the field. The satellite will be launched by Arianespace. It aims promotes development by providing telecommunications infrastructure and broadband Internet to remote and isolated areas, support development projects in these areas, as well as bridging the digital gap between urban and rural places. TIBA-1 also contributes to advancing the sectors of petroleum, energy, mineral resources, education, health and all other government sectors. It will support all state agencies in the fight against crime and terrorism, and contributes to providing broadband Internet services for government and commercial purposes. The new satellite will provide Internet and telecommunications services to some Nile Basin countries based on Egypt s efforts to cooperate with the African continent, especially in light of Egypt s presidency of the African Union in 2019 and its hosting of the African Space Agency. TIBA is the first of the “TIBA Sat” series, which Egypt plans to launch in the near future.
Sand on beach may look all the same, but it s not. Researchers have found that the material has a "sound," one that can be linked to its home. Find the source, and we can learn more about how it moves around the world. Say you re at the beach. Among the cacophony of sounds, like people enjoying the sun and the ocean, it turns out the sand is humming quietly in the background too. And the sound it makes reveals where it comes from. That s according to a recent study carried out by Saskia van Ruth and her team at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Van Ruth and her team used a process called Broad Acoustic Resonance Dissolution Spectroscopy analysis (BARDS). They put sand into an acidic solution to release calcium carbonates. The calcium carbonates released unique patterns of CO2 gas, which were the sound of the sand. Sparks of optimism Singing sand may not be ready to top the charts, but it sparks optimism in those working to bring attention to the environmental and ecological implications of sand extraction. If we can trace sand, we can have a clearer picture of how it moves around the world. As a society we are ravenous for the material, which is an indispensable ingredient in the recipe of twenty-first century life. It s in everything: the buildings we live in, the technology we use, the glass we buy, the roads we drive on. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) global consumption of sand is around 50 billion tons per year, an average of 18 kg per person per day. That figure is only set to rise as cities and towns expand to meet the demands of a growing population. Sampling sand Van Ruth s study took sand from nine locations across the Dutch coastline. Each sample had its own composition and morphology, which influenced its sound. The presence of biogenic materials, which come from living organisms, also played a role in the creation of the sand s personal melody. The researchers concluded that the proportion of seashells in particles was especially instrumental in constructing the tune of the Dutch shores. "I was surprised that the sound signatures changed so gradually and consistently," van Ruth told DW. "It was also interesting to see that beach nourishment seemed to only have a small impact on those gradual changes we were seeing, but I assume that was because sand was being pumped in from nearby." Beach nourishment, the practice of adding large quantities of sand onto a beach to combat erosion or change its width, is often the subject of debate. To the Netherlands, it s essential in the country s fight against the sea. To Andrew Cooper, a Professor of Coastal Studies at Ulster University in Northern Ireland, it s a practice that is contributing to the scarcity of sand around the European coast. "The amount of sand that we are using does not balance with the amount of sand being created either naturally or artificially," he told DW. "So much sand is being lost, and then more is pumped in from the sea to replace it. When we take sand from the sea bed, we re taking everything that lives in it. When it s then dumped on a beach, this makes the beach less natural." The business of sand Sand is synonymous with rest and relaxation, however the business around it is gritty, fast and booming. It s a $70-billion industry, rising up from river beds, sea beds and sand quarries. It s relatively unregulated and doesn t take center stage in the current climate change conversation. While Europe s sand often comes from the seas around the coast, other nations import it. Qatar is getting ready to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup and is urgently looking for partners to send sand to the desert. (Their own is too smooth to be used in construction.) The cities of the United Arab Emirates were built using rough imported sand from Australia. Singapore is another guzzler of the grain, so much so that in 2007, their neighbour Indonesia banned sand exports, citing environmental concerns; it was reported that 24 Indonesian sand islands disappeared due to erosion triggered by illegal sand extraction. Earlier this year Malaysia followed suit, striking another blow to Singapore s ambitions to grow to 766 square kilometers (nearly 300 square miles) by 2030. According to United Nations Comtrade data, Malaysia sent 59 million tons of sand to the city-nation in 2018. A mound of golden sand behind a barbed wire fence in Singapore (Reuters/E. Su) Singapore has stockpiled more sand since its neighbors banned exports Where there is big business, there is a big demand, a reality that has led to the emergence of "sand mafias." These groups take over private land or ignore environmental restrictions and drain resources to the point of collapse. The UN Environment Program says half the sand used for commercial purposes in Morocco comes from illegal sand extraction. In India, taking on these violent groups can put your life at risk: In March 2018, investigative journalist Sandeep Sharma was killed by a truck in the Bhind district in northern India after he published two reports which allegedly highlighted police involvement with sand gangs. Kenya, Cambodia, Mexico, China and Vietnam have also become prey to this thuggery. While sand smuggling can happen across international borders,Vince Beiser, the author of The World in a Grain, says "sand mafias" mostly prefer to work in-country, where transport costs are considerably lower. Environmental implications Sand and gravel are the most extracted materials in the world, a process that is one of the biggest contributors to climate change. Aurora Torres at the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research doesn t believe there is a global scarcity of sand as some would suggest, but rather that the concentration of sand extraction globally can have devastating consequences. "We need to have a better idea of how the supply chain works," she told DW. "Right now the information is dispersed, and there is no scientific consensus on the effect of sand extraction, environmentally and economically. It is a real crisis that is endangering the planet." Moving sand contributes to carbon emissions. Run-off from sand quarries can pollute local water supplies. Pulling sand from the sea bed can endanger the animals living in it. Over-extraction in rivers can cloud the water and suffocate the fish, kill the river flora or cause the banks to cave in. Simply put, pulling up the foundation of our planet can shake our world. Van Ruth s study is a key to opening a new dialogue about our relationship with sand. Being able to distinguish one grain from another could help us see our grainy world in a clearer light. "Sound spectroscopy is a tool in our toolbox when it comes to finding the origin of sand," van Ruth says. "It gives a broad picture. We could see the differences between the sand in the Netherlands, but how easy or how hard it is to distinguish sand all around the world, I don t know. That s the next step."
Greenpeace activists on Tuesday blocked the entrance to a refinery in southern France where oil giant Total uses controversial palm oil to produce biofuel. Environmentalists say palm oil drives deforestation, with vast areas of Southeast Asian rainforest having been logged or set ablaze in recent decades to make way for plantations. In additional to releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, this has threatened the habitat of orangutans and other endangered species. About 50 Greenpeace activists, wearing orange, arrived outside Total s biorefinery in La Mede near Marseille at around six am (0500GMT). They placed large two orange containers in front of the entrance and a protester chained themself to each container. The group said each container holds enough supplies for the activists to remain at the site for several days. Banners read “Deforestation made in France” and French President “Emmanuel Macron complicit”. “The refinery at La Mede is a center of deforestation imported into France, which imports 550,000 tonnes of palm oil per year, which corresponds to 64 percent of French consumption,” Clement Senechal of Greenpeace France told AFP. When launching the La Mede biorefinery earlier this year Total pledged it would process no more than 300,000 tonnes of palm oil per year — less than half of the total volume of raw materials needed and that would be certified as being sustainable according to EU standards. It said the certification ensured there had been no deforestation to produce the oil and would result in at least a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels. France s constitutional court earlier this month rejected a bid by Total to secure a tax break for using palm oil to create biofuel. French legislators in 2018 had excluded palm oil from biofuel inputs eligible for tax breaks.
As drought, flooding and fires lay claim to headlines and landscapes across the world, and as countries and cities grapple with the cost of it all, the highest price is already being paid — by those who are poor or marginalized. Such are the findings of a recent study by researchers Noah S. Diffenbaugh and Marshall Burke. It reveals that the economic gap between rich and poor countries would have been smaller without the climate crisis. "India s per capita GDP [gross domestic product] is approximately 30% lower than it would have been without warming," Noah Diffenbaugh, co-author of the study, told DW, adding that Brazil s per capita GDP has taken a 25% hit as a result of climate change. Eight of the ten countries most affected by extreme weather events — such as hurricanes and monsoon rains — between 1998 and 2017, were developing nations with low or lower-middle income, the Global Climate Risk Index of the NGO Germanwatch shows. "Regions like Southeast Asia are very vulnerable, not only because they are often hit, but because they lack resources to deal with the impact," David Eckstein, co-author of the Index, told DW. Although natural disasters are not new, climate change increases their frequency and intensity, making it harder for those affected to cope with the impacts. "Often, these countries are in the process of rebuilding when they re struck again by an event," Eckstein said. Oxfam International says the two cyclones that hit Mozambique in rapid succession earlier this year left 2.6 million people in need of food, shelter and clean water. Thousands have had to look for a new place to live. According to the Switzerland-basedInternal Displacement Monitoring Centre they were among seven million — out of a total 10.8 million people internally displaced between January and June this year — forced to leave their homes because of weather-related disasters and earthquakes. Poverty in unexpected places But even people who do not currently live in extreme poverty are at risk of becoming poor, Harjeet Singh, climate policy lead with the NGO ActionAid International, told DW. He recently visited the Sundarbans, where land has been swallowed by rising sea levels. "People there had resources, but their lives have been completely devastated by climate change impacts," he said. "They ve fallen into the poverty trap." An elderly woman washes her clothes in muddy waters Millions were affected by the cyclones that hit Mozambique in rapid succession earlier this year He witnessed a similar situation in Senegal s Saloum Delta, where sea level rise is making it hard for communities to farm or fish. That s how people "become ultra poor and migrate without any resources, and become unskilled labor in urban areas," he explained. Economic disparities due to climate change aren t unique to poorer countries. A 2017 study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Science, says higher temperatures in US states such as Arizona will lead to a more intense use of cooling systems, which in turn implies greater energy use and higher costs for consumers. Some northern states, however, could benefit through reduced heating use, among other factors. In Maine, for instance, the most northeasterly US state, the gross county product could increase by up to to 10%, while in Arizona it could fall by as much as 20%, the study shows. In the Spanish capital, Madrid, over 20% of households are at risk of energy poverty — the lack of capacity to keep homes warm in winter and cool in summer, a study requested by regional authorities shows. "People with fewer resources can t afford to pay for heating or air conditioning and often live in much older buildings without proper insulation," Cristina Linares, researcher at Spain s National School of Public Health, told DW. That makes extreme temperatures particularly threatening. Spanien - Eine schwere Dürre am Tejo (picture-alliance/ ZUMAPRESS/M. Reino) A helicopter flying over smoke-covered mountains Spain has been grappling with fires and droughts in recent years Women stand to be hard hit Research Linares is involved in suggests the risk to women-led households is between 35 and 120% higher than the area average. Elderly women living alone and single mothers are particularly vulnerable. The analysis attributes this to the fact that the highest average pension among women in Madrid is below the lowest average pension for men, and that in 50% of cases, the families of single mothers live below the poverty threshold. Women have previously been cited as more likely to be feel the impacts of climate change, and they frequently lack the resources to cope with them. "When harvests fail, struggling families are often forced to pull out their kids out of school and it s always the girls who get pull out first," Kiri Hanks, policy adviser with Oxfam International, told DW. Planning and more planning Attempts to close the inequality gap without proper planning could cause more harm than good. Providing everyone in Spain with heating and cooling systems, for example, would help people deal with extreme temperatures, but "that would exacerbate the problem at its source due to greater energy consumption," Linares said. Eckstein from Germanwatch says initiatives to help countries recover are important, "but what is also necessary is for these countries to prepare in advance." Bangladesh, he says, has improved its position in the Climate Risk Index because it deals with climate change impacts better than other countries. Among other measures, it has built seawalls to prevent flooding and introduced early warning systems to evacuate people on time. Social protection mechanisms to help people relocate and learn new skills also matter. "If relocation needs to happen, it has to happen in a much more planned manner," Singh said. But since the affected countries often lack the economic and technical capacity to go this far, international support plays a decisive role, he added. Singh agrees that preventive planning is the key to reducing the inequality gap intensified by climate change. "Current players are leading us to a 3 degrees [Celsius] warmer world," he said. "We really hope that we don t reach that point, but our planning has to be with that thinking."
SpaceX is on a mission to beam cheap, high-speed internet to consumers all over the globe. And this week the company revealed a few earthly locations that are already linked to the network, including CEO Elon Musk s house and the cockpits of a few Air Force jets. It s part of early testing for the 60 broadband-beaming satellites and two demo devices that SpaceX has already launched into orbit. Eventually, the company wants to operate thousands of satellites that will circle the planet at about 300 to 700 miles overhead. The project is called Starlink, and if it s successful it could forever alter the landscape of the telecom industry. It may also bring in tens of billions of dollars for SpaceX each year if Starlink can compete with existing internet providers and help bring more people online. About half of the world s population doesn t have access to the internet, studies show. A batch of 60 satellites launched atop one of SpaceX s Falcon 9 rockets in May, and the company has laid out plans to rapidly build up the constellation. SpaceX plans as many as 24 dedicated Starlink launches — each with about 60 satellites — next year. Public filings show SpaceX wants to launch service in the southern United States next year. In the meantime, the network is in testing mode. Musk posted on Twitter Tuesday that said he was "sending this tweet through space via Starlink satellite." Starlink is a multibillion-dollar bet for SpaceX. Companies have tried and failed to deliver space-based internet before, but a new crop of ventures including SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb are after it again. SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell told reporters at a space conference in Washington DC that Musk already installed a Starlink user terminal at his home to test out the service. She also revealed that the Air Force is also testing Starlink service on a C-12, an aircraft type used for passenger and cargo transport, and the military is working to add the service to other planes. So far, the service has been "one hundred times faster" than previous connections, Shotwell told reporters. Shotwell went over other details about Starlink in an interview this week with reporters. Her quotes have been edited for length and clarity. When s the next launch? The next launch that we have is a dedicated Starlink launch in mid-November, and those satellites will fly on a Falcon 9 booster that s been launched three times before. The 60 satellites that we already flew are capable of operations, but the next version will have upgraded technology. By late next year, we ll be flying satellite with lasers that allow them to talk to each other in space and share data, which ensures customers will never lose service. How will SpaceX compete with exiting internet providers in the US? Is anybody paying less than 80 bucks a month for crappy service? Nope. That s why we re gonna be successful. What will consumers need to connect to the Starlink network? Consumers, hopefully, are going to receive a box with a user terminal and a cord, and it ll sit either out of window on a roof or out on a kind of on a pole in your yard. We ve got a prototype, but we still have a lot of work to do. Hopefully we ll start to roll out service mid-next year. Will SpaceX work with an existing telecom company? In countries where we can, we are likely to go directly to consumers. We ll have the full team of salespeople and tech support. Though, the better engineering that we do on the user terminal, the less service people we will need. Is SpaceX concerned about getting permission to operate the service in other countries? Right now, we re focused on the United States and Canada. But there are a number of large organizations and governments that are quite interested in this capability. It s important for us to get the network up quickly. What could hold up the Starlink launches -— satellite or rocket production? I don t think satellite production is going to be the holdup. It probably will be manufacturing the second stages of the rockets, or the rocket s nose cone, or fairing, which protects the satellites during launch. We re working to reuse a fairing for the first time. And we d like to fly Starlink missions exclusively with resued fairings. Does SpaceX have an edge over Amazon and OneWeb? I think there s room for competition — perhaps one other space-based internet provider. The existing telecom operators are trying to improve as well, but it s hard for them to reach rural populations. Starlink by definition will cover all parts of the globe. Note: At an investing conference in New York on Friday, Shotwell added this about OneWeb: "Our competitors are largely these new entrants to the market. OneWeb? We are 17 times better per bit. If you re thinking about investing in OneWeb, I would recommend strongly against it" Will SpaceX survive if Starlink fails? We make money on Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft. Starlink is additive to our business.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is pushing ahead with global expansion plans after beating his deadline to start making cars in China. The company told investors Wednesday that Tesla s (TSLA) new Gigafactory in Shanghai started trial production "ahead of schedule" this month and is building "full vehicles, from body to paint to general assembly." And the company plans to announce the location of its next Gigafactory in Europe by the end of the year, Musk added. A couple of sprawling, international production plants will likely be critical to Tesla s future. Easier access to major global car markets — China is the world s largest — could give the company tens of millions of potential new customers. And success for Tesla in China and elsewhere could boost confidence that the company has the ability to hit delivery targets as it grows. The Shanghai factory is also notable for how quickly it came together. It was only 10 months ago that Tesla broke ground on the plant. And in a letter to shareholders, the company said the facility was about 65% cheaper to build than its Model 3 production plant in the United States. "We have also dramatically improved the pace of execution and capital efficiency of new production lines," the company said in its letter. Musk even implied that the Shanghai factory could become the new normal for Tesla. He called it the "template for future growth." Investors are encouraged by Tesla s progress. The stock is still down more than 23% this year, but solid earnings for the third quarter, including an unexpected profit, sent shares soaring 20% after hours on Wednesday. "I m very impressed," said Tu Le, founder of Beijing-based consulting firm Sino Auto Insights, of the Shanghai plant. "Living in China, nothing [usually] happens that fast." Tesla didn t get there without help. Le pointed out that the company has gotten significant support from the Chinese government in the last year. It was the first foreign automaker to be allowed to open a factory in the country without a Chinese partner, and it recently won a tax break for some of its cars. Workers on cranes installing a logo at the Tesla Gigafactory 3 earlier this month in Shanghai. If all goes according to plan, Musk says the Shanghai plant could enable Tesla to eventually triple its overall output. It s expected to produce the best-selling Model 3 along with the Model Y, a cheaper version of Tesla s Model X SUV that s on its way to market. Tesla has said the initial goal for the Shanghai factory is to make 250,000 cars a year before ramping up to 500,000 units. That s welcome news for a company entering the fourth quarter with an order backlog. "This is kind of working out well for Elon Musk s long-term strategy forward," Le said. "His goal for Tesla was to really alter the traditional automotive sector, right? And I think you have to be a volume seller in order to do that." While the company has built momentum in China, success may not come easy. China s car market has been in a slump, and that decline has been exacerbated this year by a slowing global economy. And while Tesla has strong international brand recognition, Le said, it faces fierce competition from local and international players. The company has in the past refused to advertize, spending the money instead on developing the product and letting the cars speak for themselves. That may have to change. "I think they re going to have start spending marketing dollars in China," Le said. He also warned that Tesla will also have to pull off a "flawless launch" of its Chinese-made vehicles as they roll off the production line in the next few months. Otherwise, the company risks losing trust with consumers. Put simply, the stakes are high. "China s just a huge market, versus the United States and [Europe], which are much smaller markets," Le said. "If he doesn t do well in China, then he doesn t hit his goals," Le said.
Subtle facial cues can indicate to medical patients whether their doctor believes in a treatment process, and influence how effective the treatment is, a new study shows. This is according to research carried out by Dartmouth College and published in the medical trade journal Nature Human Behaviour this week. While past research has demonstrated the effects of patient expectations on pain perception and healing, researchers wanted to see what effect the doctor s expectations have.
Allegations of misconduct at one of India s largest tech companies have sent its stock plunging. Infosys (INFY) shares dropped more than 16% in Mumbai on Tuesday after the company said it was investigating two whistleblower complaints detailing alleged unethical practices. A member of Infosys board received the complaints on September 30, chairman Nandan Nilekani said in a statement. The first complaint contains allegations of "disturbing unethical practices" while the second "largely deals with allegations relating to the CEO s international travel," he said. The company first disclosed the complaints on Monday. The company is also aware of a letter written to US authorities under a whistleblower protection program, which refers to emails and voice recordings supporting the allegations, Nilekani said. "Although we have not been provided any of the emails or voice recordings, we will ensure that the generalized allegations are investigated to the fullest extent," he added. The complaints accuse the company s CEO of under-reporting costs in order to inflate profits and hiding "critical information" from auditors and the board, according to multiple Indian newspapers, which said they had obtained copies of the alleged complaints. CNN Business has not seen or independently verified the complaints, and an Infosys spokesperson declined to comment on the allegations beyond Nilekani s statement. The CEO, Salil Parekh, and CFO, Nilanjan Roy, have both been recused from the matter, Nilekani said. The investigation will be conducted by Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas & Co., a prominent Indian law firm. "These complaints are being dealt with in an objective manner," Nilekani said. CNN Business has attempted to contact Parekh and Roy directly. The Infosys spokesperson said neither executive intended to comment at this time. Infosys, headquartered in Bangalore, is one of India s largest outsourcing companies. It reported revenue of $11.8 billion in the last fiscal year and has nearly 230,000 employees worldwide, including thousands in the United States. This is not the first time the company has been hit by controversy over its finances. Parekh s predecessor, Vishal Sikka, stepped down in 2017 after a public spat with some of its founders over executive pay and other issues.
With the US presidential election barely a year away, Facebook is still working to get its house in order. Facebook (FB) said Monday that it is taking new steps to clearly identify state-run media for users and to better protect the accounts of political candidates and officials as part of a broader effort to prevent its platform from being abused to interfere with the 2020 US elections. Starting next month, Facebook will label publications that are "wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government as state-controlled media," the company said in a blog post Monday. These Facebook pages will be held to "a higher standard of transparency because they combine the opinion-making influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state." Last year, YouTube added labels to videos that are posted by state-funded media outlets, linking to the broadcaster s Wikipedia page. But outlets like the BBC, a publicly funded broadcaster independent from the government, get a different label than an outlet like Russia Today. "We expect Facebook s efforts to label content in this manner to be about as apt as its blocking of RT s pages containing Borscht recipes last week," RT spokesperson Anna Belkina told CNN Business. "We will likely see the same labeling shenanigans as we did from Google, for whom some publicly funded outlets were more "state funded" than others, facts notwithstanding." Even as it takes steps to protect the next election, Facebook continues to grapple with bad actors from the last US presidential election. The company announced Monday that it removed 50 Instagram accounts and one Facebook account, some of which posed as locals from US swing states. Facebook says the accounts "showed some links" to the Internet Research Agency, a troll group with links to the Kremlin and a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller s Russia investigation. On a conference call with reporters Monday, Zuckerberg said the company s ability to proactively catch and disclose these coordinated networks of accounts shows that Facebook s defensive systems are working. He also stressed that Facebook now has more than 35,000 people working on safety and security efforts. The policy updates and account takedowns come as Facebook and Zuckerberg confront continued scrutiny from politicians on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail. Democratic presidential candidates including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden have leveled sharp criticisms against the company in recent days for its policy of exempting ads by politicians from third-party fact-checking. The criticism followed the company s decision to allow a video ad from President Donald Trump s reelection campaign that falsely accused Biden of corruption for his role in Ukraine policy during the Obama administration. When pressed about the policy again on the call, Zuckerberg stressed that other tech and media companies also ran the ad. "I know that Facebook has been at the center of a lot of these debates," he said. But, he added, it s "really not a policy area where we are an outlier." (Broadcast networks and stations are required by law to run the ad; CNN, which is not subject to the same laws and regulations because it is a cable network, has opted not to air it.) Zuckerberg once again framed his company s stance on political advertising -- and its decision not to do away with it on the platform entirely, despite its minimal contribution to Facebook s bottom line -- as a matter of giving people a "voice." "This isn t about money," he said. "Ads are an important way to get your message out and in front of people... Banning ads would favor incumbents and whoever the media would cover most." At another point on the call, however, Zuckerberg conceded that incumbents "can raise more money" than their challengers to pay for more ads on Facebook and other platforms. Zuckerberg is scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday in a hearing that is expected to focus on Facebook s plans for a digital currency. At least some of the scrutiny over Facebook s crypto plans could give the company even more power, at a time when its size and influence are already under investigation at the federal level. In the face of that scrutiny, Zuckerberg has engaged in what appears to be a public relations campaign to put himself out there more. He gave a speech at Georgetown University last week describing politicians calls to clamp down on tech companies as an effort to restrict the freedom of expression, followed by interviews with several major media outlets. "I get that a lot of people are angry at us," Zuckerberg said in an interview with NBC Nightly News Lester Holt that is set to air Monday night. "Part of growing up for me has just been realizing that it is more important to be understood than it is to be liked, and I believe it very strongly." It s unclear how much Monday s announcements, or Zuckerberg s PR campaign, will do to make politicians like Facebook again. Brian Fung, Hadas Gold and Donie O Sullivan contributed to this report
The messaging app Kik was on the verge of shutting down, but a holding company, MediaLab, bought it and will invest in its future, the company said. At its peak, Kik had hundreds of millions of registered users and the company earned a private market valuation of $1 billion, placing it in the elite ranks of tech unicorns. But in September, Kik Interactive announced it would shut down the messenger app after a fight with regulators. The company has been spared from closure by MediaLab, which also owns Whisper, another anonymous social media app on iOS and Android. "We believe that Kik s best days remain ahead of it," MediaLab wrote in a statement Friday on Kik s website. The company said that to cover the app s expenses, it s introducing ads. It also said it would develop the app to be faster, more reliable and remove bugs. The Kik Interactive team did not return a request for comment Saturday on whether it still plans to layoff its Kik staff. Kik Interactive said in September it plans to focus its remaining resources entirely on growing its cryptocurrency, Kin, the subject of a recent lawsuit filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC sued Kik in June for raising about $100 million in an ICO, or initial coin offering, without properly registering the offering. In a September blog post, Kik CEO and founder Ted Livingston said the legal battle with the SEC had been "a long and expensive process to drain our resources." Launched in 2010, Kik pulled in a wide swath of users with the promise of being able to chat anonymously. Users were not required to register with a phone number or other personal details. In 2015, the app received $50 million in funding from Chinese tech giant Tencent. It grew alongside other popular messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Line, but the anonymity feature became a double-edged sword. Headlines appeared on how child predators contacted minors through the app and the anonymity feature hurt law enforcement s ability to track criminals. As of 2016, Kik had 300 million registered users. It no longer breaks out its number of active users.
Universal has teamed up with tech giant Alibaba, a move that could be a big boost to the entertainment company s efforts to lure Chinese costumers to its upcoming Beijing theme park. The companies announced on Thursday that Universal Beijing will be tapping into Alibaba s (BABA) expansive suite of digital apps and services. Visitors to the Beijing theme park -- set to open in 2021 -- will be able to use Alipay s facial recognition technology to enter, pay for meals and merchandise, and rent lockers at the park. Alibaba-affiliated Alipay and WeChat Pay (owned by rival Tencent (TCEHY)) are China s two most popular mobile payment apps. Universal Beijing visitors will also be able to use Alibaba s food delivery platform, Koubei, to get food and drink recommendations and order meals at the park online to avoid waiting in line. People can also buy tickets to the theme park on Alibaba-owned online travel site Fliggy. The tie-up with Alibaba will make it "fun and easy" for customers to enjoy Universal Beijing and will "take the theme park experience to a new level," Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Universal s parent company Comcast (CCZ), said in a statement. It also gives Universal easy access to the more than 600 million monthly active users on Alibaba s various apps and online platforms. China s enthusiasm for big theme parks has been on a bit of a roller coaster ride in recent years. Disney (DIS) opened its $5.5 billion Shanghai resort in 2016 with much fanfare, including speeches from top Chinese officials. But the mega theme park has struggled with China s cost-conscious consumers, and there have reportedly been several complaints against its ticketing policy and food and beverage prices. During its second quarter earnings report in May, Disney said the Shanghai resort was suffering from "lower attendance" compared to the same period a year earlier. Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin wanted to crush Disney s business in China with his own theme parks. But Wang s firm Wanda gave up its controlling stake in the parks after the company came under pressure to rein in investments and capital outflows.
Bye bye to bunny hops: when US astronauts next touch down on the Moon, expect them to walk almost as they do on Earth, thanks to a new generation of spacesuits offering key advantages over those of the Apollo-era. Prototypes of the Orion Crew Survival Suit that will be worn on the journey and the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) for the lunar surface were unveiled at NASA s Washington headquarters Tuesday ahead of the agency s planned return to the Moon by 2024. Standing in front of a giant US flag, spacesuit engineer Kristine Davis wore a pressurized red, blue and white xEMU suit, showing off a vastly improved range of motion thanks to bearings systems on the waist, arms, and legs. They are also extendable and therefore one-size-fits-all, meaning there won t be a repeat of an embarrassing flub in March that caused the first all-female spacewalk to be aborted when a second medium-sized suit wasn t available. “If we remember the Apollo generation, we remember Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, they bunny hopped on the surface of the Moon,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told a hall filled with students and interns at the space agency. “Now we re going to be able to walk on the surface of the Moon, which is very different from the suits of the past.” Another key innovation is the xEMU s unlimited capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, a byproduct of respiration that is also poisonous in high quantities. It achieves this through a system that both absorbs and then removes the gas into the vacuum of space, unlike current systems that merely absorb it until its reaches a saturation point. The crew survival suit, meanwhile, is designed to provide full life support for up to six days a scenario that could be required, for example, if a meteorite punches a hole in the spacecraft s hull. Under the Artemis mission, NASA plans to land on the Moon s South Pole in order to exploit its water ice, discovered in 2009, both for life support purposes and to split into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket propellant. The agency views its return to the Moon as a proving ground for an onward mission to Mars in the 2030s.
Google has met few daring ideas it doesn t like. But three years ago, the idea of a self-driving bicycle was just too much. It mocked the concept of an autonomous bicycle in an April Fools Day video. Why would anyone need a bike that rode itself? Since then the electric bike and scooter-sharing craze has stormed into cities. Companies have burned through cash as fast as they ve raised it, largely due to the high costs needed to pay a staff to corral badly parked scooters and re-charge them. But now the joke might actually be on Google. Startups, investors and even companies as big as Uber (UBER) are exploring self-driving bikes and scooters as a way to lower operations costs and soothe strained relations with cities. Experts say autonomous scooters could one day independently move themselves to a better parking spot or a neighborhood where there s more demand. These unoccupied vehicles, increasingly known as "ghost scooters," might even drive themselves to pick up a rider, similar to an Uber or Lyft car. In some cases, humans in a teleoperations center would guide the scooters across streets and down sidewalks. "We re going to be laughing next year when there s going to be a lot more semi-autonomous scooters and bikes than Waymos on the roads," said Dmitry Shevelenko, co-founder of Tortoise, which builds autonomy into scooters. Tortoise is among the companies automating scooters. It is finalizing a deal with an Atlanta suburb to test its autonomous technology and has struck partnerships with several global scooter operators. The effort comes at a time when self-driving car and truck companies are delaying deployments as they work to prove their complex technology is safe. Scooters and bikes are lighter and slower than cars and trucks, making them simpler and cheaper to automate and operate remotely. Another company, called CtrlWorks, is already testing its own autonomous scooters. The Singapore-based business operates a small fleet in Malaysia. And Ninebot, one of the largest scooter manufacturers, unveiled an autonomous scooter earlier this year. "The holy grail is that I reserve a scooter, it comes to me and then I ride it to a bus station," Tony Ho, Ninebot vice president of global business development, told CNN Business, of the general value of autonomous scooters. It plans to start a pilot on college campuses later this year. Autonomous scooters and bikes are on Uber s watch list, too. The rideshare company has a small team looking at how cheap sensors and computers could solve bike and scooter challenges. It found through early experiments the added costs of automating a bike or scooter would likely pay off with operations savings, according to Alan Wells, who leads new mobility robotics. But not everyone s convinced, including Sanjay Dastoor, CEO of Skip Scooters, which operates shared scooters in San Francisco and Washington, DC. "If you want to build a very durable, long-lasting vehicle that doesn t waste a lot of spare parts, that can be in conflict with a vehicle that has a bunch of advanced sensors on it," Dastoor said. Scooter companies are relying on cameras, radar and ultrasonic sensors to safely guide their vehicles. Tortoise estimates the cost of automating a scooter at about $100 more in initial parts. No matter how the financial picture turns out, cultural challenges will continue to loom. Scooter riding on sidewalks is controversial due to safety issues. When Singapore-based CtrlWorks launched scooters in its hometown last year, concerned pedestrians thought the vehicles were runaway scooters and tried to stop them. In some cases, children hopped on the slowly moving scooters, according to CEO Sim Kai. CtrlWorks, which operates under the brand ScootBee, first had its scooters move at a brisk walk — 3.1 mph — but has since slowed them to below 2 mph now. "The last thing we want is to scare people," Kai said. Bolt, another scooter company, envisions autonomous scooters that deliver themselves to customers. It plans to limit its autonomous scooters to 1 mph during high-traffic times and 5 mph at night when sidewalks are largely vacant. Autonomous scooters are in their earliest days, but some people believe their growth is inevitable. Matt Brezina, a San Francisco angel investor who has funded scooter, bike and autonomous vehicle startups, expects autonomous bikes and scooters to be a normal part of urban life in 10 years. But in the short term, he anticipates a backlash, including vandalism and theft. "The next two years are going to be pretty rough. But it was not common 10 years ago to have a cell phone out at dinner and now everyone does," Brezina said of how things will change over time. Although scooter companies are racing to deploy scooters worldwide, the push for autonomy is a bit slower to help minimize the issues. Gradual rollouts will give people and governments more time to adjust and build a comfort level with the new technology. "If a bigger company inundated a city and changed their fleet overnight, it would probably do more harm than good," said Matt Turzo, chief operating officer of the European scooter operator Wind, which is working with Tortoise to test autonomy technology. The two largest US scooter companies, Lime and Bird, which are known for how fast they move, both declined to comment on if they re developing autonomous scooters. No matter who is making autonomous scooters or how quickly they arrive, unknown challenges will arise too. "When it comes to cutting edge technologies, we just don t know where the problems might lie," Ninebot s Ho said. "What if the scooter somehow wandered on its own and went rogue?"
Red Sea Reserve officials have intensified efforts to identify a diver from a diving center in the Red Sea for harassing a whale shark while recording a video, frightening the rare animal and causing it to flee. The officials warned against any practice that would harm the marine environment, and stressed no complacency in applying penalties on violators, which amounts to a three-month suspension on the boat used to commit the violation and a fine of LE50,000. Officials from the Rescue and Environmental Protection Society have appealed to authorities, launched awareness campaigns to protect the whale shark known locally as the “Bahloul” and maintain its presence in Hurghada waters, after receiving several reports that Egyptian and foreign divers have harassed the peaceful fish. The President of the Society, Hassan al-Tayyeb, recommended observing the whale shark from a safe distance and not to touch, chase or disturb it with the camera s flash. He also demanded applying the natural reserves law against violators, pointing out that the whale shark appearing in the Red Sea showcases the rich variety of the Red Sea s marine environment. Whale sharks have appeared several times in three different areas across the Red Sea, including Port Ghalleb, the al-Fanous area, and between the two islands of Giftun, Red Sea Reserves manager Ahmed Ghallab said in an earlier statement. It was last monitored in November 2018. Marine biologists consider the appearance of the animal a rare event, which demonstrates the success of protection efforts for the Red Sea s environment, along with Egypt s commitment to international agreements in this regard, leading to the settlement of the whale shark in the Red Sea. Whale sharks have no teeth, filtering in the water to feed. They owe its name to its gargantuan size, with the largest adults reaching up to 13 meters in length, making them among the largest species of fish. As they primarily feed on plankton, they pose no danger to humans. It weighs up to 21.5 tonnes and is the only type of Rhincodon genus belonging to the Rhincodontidae family (formerly called Rhinodontes before 1984). Whale sharks are found in tropical and warm oceans and live in the open seas. It can reach 70 years old and emerged about 60 million years ago. Hunting whale sharks is banned in Egypt as the species is endangered, and concentrated efforts have been made to preserve the Red Sea ecosystem, home to several other rare and endangered species.
Designers of machine translation tools still mostly rely on dictionaries to make a foreign language understandable. But now there is a new way: numbers. Facebook researchers say rendering words into figures and exploiting mathematical similarities between languages is a promising avenue — even if a universal communicator a la Star Trek remains a distant dream. Powerful automatic translation is a big priority for internet giants. Allowing as many people as possible worldwide to communicate is not just an altruistic goal, but also good business. Facebook, Google and Microsoft as well as Russia s Yandex, China s Baidu and others are constantly seeking to improve their translation tools. Facebook has artificial intelligence experts on the job at one of its research labs in Paris. Up to 200 languages are currently used on Facebook, said Antoine Bordes, European co-director of fundamental AI research for the social network. Automatic translation is currently based on having large databases of identical texts in both languages to work from. But for many language pairs there just aren t enough such parallel texts. That s why researchers have been looking for another method, like the system developed by Facebook which creates a mathematical representation for words. Each word becomes a “vector” in a space of several hundred dimensions. Words that have close associations in the spoken language also find themselves close to each other in this vector space. – From Basque to Amazonian? – “For example, if you take the words cat and dog , semantically, they are words that describe a similar thing, so they will be extremely close together physically” in the vector space, said Guillaume Lample, one of the system s designers. “If you take words like Madrid, London, Paris, which are European capital cities, it s the same idea.” These language maps can then be linked to one another using algorithms — at first roughly, but eventually becoming more refined, until entire phrases can be matched without too many errors. Lample said results are already promising. For the language pair of English-Romanian, Facebook s current machine translation system is “equal or maybe a bit worse” than the word vector system, said Lample. But for the rarer language pair of English-Urdu, where Facebook s traditional system doesn t have many bilingual texts to reference, the word vector system is already superior, he said. But could the method allow translation from, say, Basque into the language of an Amazonian tribe? In theory, yes, said Lample, but in practice a large body of written texts are needed to map the language, something lacking in Amazonian tribal languages. “If you have just tens of thousands of phrases, it won t work. You need several hundreds of thousands,” he said. – Holy Grail – Experts at France s CNRS national scientific centre said the approach Lample has taken for Facebook could produce useful results, even if it doesn t result in perfect translations. Thierry Poibeau of CNRS s Lattice laboratory, which also does research into machine translation, called the word vector approach “a conceptual revolution”. He said “translating without parallel data” — dictionaries or versions of the same documents in both languages — “is something of the Holy Grail” of machine translation. “But the question is what level of performance can be expected” from the word vector method, said Poibeau. The method “can give an idea of the original text” but the capability for a good translation every time remains unproven. Francois Yvon, a researcher at CNRS s Computer Science Laboratory for Mechanics and Engineering Sciences, said “the linking of languages is much more difficult” when they are far removed from one another. “The manner of denoting concepts in Chinese is completely different from French,” he added. However even imperfect translations can be useful, said Yvon, and could prove sufficient to track hate speech, a major priority for Facebook.
The trio of US-based John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham from Britain and Akira Yoshino of Japan were jointly awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their contribution "to the development of lithium-ion batteries," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm announced on Wednesday. Goran Hansson, secretary-general of the Academy, said the prize was about "a rechargeable world." "Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives and are used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles," the Academy wrote on Twitter.
Mondia, a leading private mobile technology company, announced the opening of their new tech hub in Cairo. The newly created facility will host the company s technical developers and designers, creating state of the art technologies, innovative products and solutions servicing various markets across Europe, Middle East and Africa. The modern first-of-its-kind facility in New Cairo will set a new standard in the software industry and will be home to more than one hundred technical team members. The office design will allow for a team to function in squads a proven working concept, aiding extensive collaboration and promoting communication which in turn drive innovation. The premises will include creative space such as a gamers cave , focus rooms, playful seating areas and a café type street kitchen.
The reactions to the family of Majdi McCain, who was killed by the police officer Karim Magdy because of torture inside the police department varied. Magdi s family had to change their testimony, and torturiang them is a kind of continuing injustice. They decided to be realistic knowing they are poor and weak. They are not trying to be ideal like those on Facebook and human rights activists. They lost a poor father