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Google paid £4,000 to settle a discrimination case

LONDON (AFP): Google paid £4,000 (about $5,130) to settle a discrimination lawsuit that claims it did not do enough to protect a worker from being racially profiled while working on an undercover project for Google Maps in shopping malls, reports the Guardian.

Ahmed Rashid (not his real name), a UK citizen of Moroccan descent, had an offer of a new contract abruptly withdrawn after he complained to Google about being frequently harassed, including being asked if he was a terrorist, while gathering information about Wi-Fi signals inside stores, and the situation was exacerbated because he was instructed not to disclose that he was conducting research for Google in retail malls across the UK, he claimed.

The contractor came into a contract with Google last year to work on Expedite, a project meant to help with indoor mapping within shopping centres. Rashid told the Guardian he sued the company when an offer for a new contract was withdrawn after he complained about being harassed while carrying out his duties.

Google denied wrongdoing but agreed to pay Rashid £4,000 to settle the case this year. As part of the deal, Rashid agreed not to discuss the case but decided to speak out after seeing Google staff stage a global walkout to protest over various forms of discrimination and sexual discrimination at the company.

In a statement to the Guardian, the company said, “We often work with service providers to measure Wi-Fi signal strength, which helps us improve Google’s mapping products. All employees and contractors are provided with clear guidelines that outline the details of their project and role, and they’re instructed to be upfront about the fact that they’re working on behalf of Google.”



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Ford to launch huge robo-taxi service in 2021

Monitoring Desk

BERLIN: Ford will launch a robo-taxi service with thousands of self-driving cars in 2021. Ford’s driverless rides could be less than half the price of today’s ride-share journeys (UBER, Lyft). They want a large share of an estimated $330 billion autonomous vehicle business in 2026.

Waymo, the Google self-driving car division, has promised a commercial self-driving taxi service by the end of 2018. GM will launch commercial self-driving cars in 2019.

Ford is building fleet management software, dispatch, routing, and payment systems; a diverse group of delivery customers; and digital content and services for passengers.

Ford wants to get to tens of thousands of self-driving cars.


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Google Chrome to let you organize Tabs into Groups

Monitoring Desk

CALIFORNIA: If you are among people whose entire day involves sifting through a ton of tabs and often find Chrome tedious to use in your workflow, your suffering might soon come to an end. Google is working on a new feature that will make organizing tabs on Chrome browser much easier by allowing users to bundle multiple tabs in separate groups.

The upcoming feature, which is currently in the early stages of development, is called Tab Groups that will let users ‘visually organize tabs’. Mention of the Tab Groups feature was first spotted in a code change request on the Chromium Gerrit where its core objective was described as ‘users can organize tabs into visually distinct groups, e.g. to separate tabs associated with different tasks’.

An associated bug report shed some more light on the upcoming feature and read “Tab Groups – Organize tabs into visually distinct groups, e.g. to separate tabs associated with different tasks”. As mentioned earlier, the feature is still in the early stages of development so it will take at least a few months before it is released publicly via the stable channel.

If Google’s release cycle for new features is anything to go by, the Tab Groups feature is expected to first arrive on the Canary channel of Chrome’s Beta program and once the beta testing is over, it will see a wider rollout. The upcoming feature will prove to be highly productive, especially the premise of organizing tabs aimed at different tasks into dedicated groups that will pave the way for a clutter-free experience.






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YouTube is testing back-to-back Ads

Monitoring Desk

ISLAMABAD: There is a good news for you if you don’t like that the video you are watching on YouTube is interrupted by multiple ad breaks, now it is about to change. We know that these ads on YouTube are annoyingly interrupting you while you are viewing sessions on the app. Now YouTube has posted on its blog a change that it is making in the advertisements.

YouTube will introduce two skippable back-to-back ads prior to the start of a video. According to the YouTube that viewers who watch back-to-back ads before the content starts, will see 40% fewer ads during their video-viewing session.

This new experience will first be rolled out to the desktop, then to mobile and TV soon this year. The blog post also indicates that more people are glued to YouTube watching on TV screens, almost 180 million hours were spent every day on average.  The number of viewers watching YouTube on television is growing rapidly, faster than viewer growth on the desktop or via mobile devices.

Moreover, more YouTube viewers are searching content themselves from the YouTube homepage instead of discovering a video from an email.  From the last 3 years, users have increased the time session they have spent watching content found on the YouTube homepage.

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WhatsApp’s now allows video previews in push notifications

NEW YORK (AFP): Messenger app WhatsApp is introducing a new feature for its iOS beta users which allows video previews in push notifications.

The company is said to be completing work on an update which displays previews of videos when a contact sends you a clip, according to WABetaInfo. Currently, notifications only come up on the screen with the name of the person and a short preview of the top of their message.

“WhatsApp is rolling out the possibility to view videos directly in the push notification for any iOS beta user having the version installed! It will be available soon for App Store users,” WABetaInfo tweeted.

It will be available soon for App Store users.

The new feature allows users to get a preview of the videos sent to them by others in push notifications, meaning that it can be viewed even from the lock screens of smartphones.

Currently the feature is only available for those who have the beta version

Users wishing to avoid previews in their notifications bar will be able to customise their notification settings.


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Wind Mobility raises $22M for e-scooter rental service

BERLIN (Techcrunch): Wind Mobility, a Berlin-based mobility startup that offers “dockless” e-scooter (and electric bicycle) rentals, has raised $22 million in seed funding, throwing its hat into the ring as European competitor to Bird and Lime.

It follows recent raises by Sweden’s VOI ($50 million Series A led by Balderton) and Germany’s Tier (€25 million Series A led by Northzone). All three companies are attempting to be pan-European from the get-go.

In other words, you wait all year for the “Bird or Lime of Europe” to appear and three contenders get funded at once. And that’s before we mention Taxify’s entrance into e-scooter rentals or Delivery Hero and Team Europe founder Lukasz Gadowski’s reported plans to enter the space, having picked up backing from the mobility arm of Target global.

Meanwhile, despite being U.S. companies, Bird and Lime have received substantial investment from three of Europe’s top venture capital firms. Index and Accel have backed Bird, and Atomico has backed Lime.

But I digress…

Investing in Wind Mobility’s  rather large seed round is Chinese Source Code Capital, and Europe’s HV Holtzbrinck Ventures. The company says the investment will be used for global expansion and to further develop its e-scooter product. Wind currently operates its e-scooter rental service in various cities in Spain, France and the U.S., and its dockless bicycle rental service Byke in Germany.

Notably, Wind is currently developing its first proprietary model of electric scooters specifically designed for the sharing market, which co-founder and CEO Eric Wang tells me will become a significant differentiator going forward.

“Currently, almost all the scooters on the market are from Ninebot, which is designed for personal use rather than sharing,” he says. “Our own scooters are specifically designed for sharing: longer battery range, swappable battery, more capability to climb hills, sturdy and more fit for sharing. We can also tailor our scooters to the requirement of certain cities. This gives us an edge in continuing to adopt to customer needs and regulatory requirements.”

Alongside this, Wind Mobility has developed a proprietary “IoT technology and communication module” that it says gives it better location accuracy of its scooters. The system is also capable of delivering over-the-air updates to the Wind communication module to control certain functionality of its scooters remotely.

For example, it can tell a scooter light to flash via a tap on the Wind app so that users and operational personnel can spot the scooter more easily at night. “We can change the speed limit of the fleet in each city or certain scooters via our servers. We also limit the speed to zero via the communication module once a scooter is taken outside of the operating area,” adds Wang.

Like other European players in the space, Wind says it works in co-operation with local governments, with the goal of solving mobility problems and reducing congestion in urban areas.

“The scooter market in Europe is still relatively new,” says the Wind CEO. “The bigger competition is still to convert more users from using cars to using scooters along with public transportation. We are at the forefront of this transformation. We look forward to working with cities and authorities to serve this growing demand.”

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A dark matter hurricane is headed our way

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: As per a recent paper, the Earth is caught directly in the focus of a cosmic hurricane. A swarm of about 100 stars, joined by an even greater amount of dark matter, is pointed straightforwardly at our excellent neighborhood and there’s nothing we can do to stop it; truth be told, the vanguard is already upon us.

A team of researchers from Universidad de Zaragoza, King’s College London and the Institute of Astronomy in the U.K. has found that a “dark matter hurricane” passing through our solar system offers a better than usual chance of detecting axions.

In this new effort, the scientists have been contemplating the S1 stream—a gathering of stars moving in a way that proposes they were once part of a diminutive person universe that was devoured by the Milky Way. The S1 stream was found a year ago by a group examining information from the Gaia satellite.

Other such streams have been seen previously, however, this is the first to run into our own nearby planetary group. In this new exertion, the specialists have contemplated the conceivable effect of S1 as it went through our region since it offers a one of a kind chance to examine the dark matter.

As S1 traveled through our area, hypothesis recommends dark matter ought to have been moving alongside it. Computations by the group recommend it ought to move at around 500 km/s. They made a few models demonstrating the distribution of the dark matter and its density.

Doing as such enabled them to make forecasts of conceivable marks of the stream for analysts to search for. They propose this occasion gives those in the field searching for recognizable proof of dark matter a superior to ordinary opportunity to do as such.

They recommend that it isn’t likely that WIMP locators will discover anything strange. In any case, they further propose that the nearness of a dark matter tropical storm could build the odds of a location of an axionic dark matter because of conceivable knocks in the expansive range of axions. They note additionally that the current storm could offer information for use by future detection systems that are further developed than those being used today.

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UK Space Agency to provide funds for three new experiments

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: Science Minister, Sam Gyimah has announced that the UK Space Agency will fund three new experiments onboard the International Space Station

UK science will be launched into space to help improve our understanding of the ageing process and to develop new materials as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The minister unveiled close to £3 million of new funding for the experiments, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday 20 November.

The first two experiments due to launch in 2021, will look at age related muscle loss.

The third experiment will look at new techniques for the production of materials and alloys in space with properties that cannot be obtained on Earth.

Science Minister Sam Gyimah said:

“This research will help those with muscle conditions to live longer, healthier, happier lives, and is a great example of our modern Industrial Strategy in action – transforming life on earth through out-of-this-world research.”

Research has revealed that while in space, astronauts can lose up to 40% of their muscle after six months.

These changes are regarded as an excellent model for the ageing process in the body, and scientists can use this knowledge to better understand the ageing process of the human body.

Dr Graham Turnock, Chief Executive of the UK Space Agency, said:

“This new funding puts UK academics at the forefront of future pioneering scientific research, allowing us to gain knowledge that will improve life on Earth.”

The experiments

The University of Liverpool as well as the University of Nottingham, the University of Exeter and the University of Strathclyde are set to benefit from the experiments.

The University of Liverpool has been given £1.1 million to study age-related loss of muscle mass using cells grown in a laboratory.

The cells will be sent into space and will be examined for any changes once they return to earth.

The findings from this study will improve our understanding of the processes that underlie muscle loss in space and in elderly people on Earth and indicate potential therapies to prevent it.

Professor Malcolm Jackson, from the University of Liverpool, said:

“Ageing is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century and so the opportunity to use microgravity to help understand the mechanisms underlying age-related muscle loss is really exciting.”

Both the universities of Nottingham and Exeter will receive almost £450,000 to build on a study into spaceflight.

The experiment will see hundreds of microscopic worms flown to the ISS to examine how their muscles react to their new environment.

The microscopic worms, known as C. elegans, share many of the essential biological characteristics as humans and are affected by biological changes in space, including alterations to muscle and the ability to use energy.

Professor Nathaniel Szewczyk, from the University of Nottingham, said:

“We are excited to be able to carry on with testing causes of and treatments for muscle loss in space, research that may be applicable to muscle loss with disease and age on Earth.

“More importantly, this is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate, with Kayser Space, a fully UK based ability to fly space biology experiments. It will be extremely pleasing to have our international partners looking to the UK for its leadership on this project.”

The University of Strathclyde will receive almost £1.3 million to investigate how shaking a liquid in microgravity induces solid particles to accumulate and form highly ordered aggregates, instead of causing the floating particles to simply disperse.

This surprising phenomenon occurs only if the liquid is heated and shaken at the same time. These experiments will lead to advanced contactless manipulation strategies for the production of new materials and alloys.

Prof Marcello Lappa, University of Strathclyde, said: “These experiments, allowed by the microgravity conditions, the advanced facilities available on board the ISS and specific hardware manufactured in the UK, by QinetiQ, will lead to new advanced techniques and nanotechnologies for the production in space of materials with properties that cannot be obtained on Earth.”

The UK is able to support these experiments through the European Space Agency’s European Exploration Enveloped Programme, ensuring UK science benefits directly from human spaceflight.



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Russia successfully launches ‘Progress MS-10 cargo ship’

MOSCOW: Russia has successfully launched Progress MS-10 cargo ship toward the International Space Station (ISS), Russian state space corporation Roscosmos said on Friday.

The cargo ship was launched at 21:14 Moscow Time on Friday (1814 GMT) along with the Soyuz-FG space launch vehicle from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, according to a Roscosmos statement, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Progress MS-10 ship will deliver to the ISS about 2.5 tons of various cargoes, including fuel, air, water, scientific equipment, and life support means for the crew, the statement said.

The convergence of the Progress MS-10 with the ISS and the docking will be carried out automatically under the supervision of the mission control center and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopyev on the ISS, which will take place on November 18, it said.

This is the first launch of a spacecraft toward the ISS since the failure of the previous manned mission on October 11.

The capsule of the Soyuz MS-10 spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague on board made an emergency landing in Kazakhstan after the carrier rocket malfunctioned shortly after lift-off.

Russia then suspended manned space missions and is planning a new one for early December.

Prokopyev, US astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor and German astronaut Alexander Gerst, who are now working on the ISS, are expected to return to Earth around December 20.


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OPPO to launch A7 on November 22 in China

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING: OPPO A7 has been in the rumors since several weeks. The entire specs of the smartphone have surfaced through recent leaks, but OPPO is yet to confirm on its launch date. Fresh information suggests that the company may launch the smartphone on Nov. 22 in China.

The OPPO A7 is yet another mid-range phone from the Chinese manufacturer. The handset will be equipped with a 6.2-inch LCD screen that will feature a waterdrop notch. It is expected to carry support for HD+ resolution of 720 x 1520 pixels. The side bezels of the phone are thin, but its bottom bezel is a bit thick.

The low powered Snapdragon 450 will be at the helm of the device. The handset is expected to arrive in two models. The base model may feature 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage. The higher variant is expected to be packed with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of native storage. The smartphone will also feature a microSD card slot for more storage.

A 13-megapixel + 2-megapixel dual camera arranged in horizontal design is placed on the backside of the OPPO A7. A fingerprint scanner is placed on the back panel of the phone. For snapping selfies, the handset features a front-facing camera of 16-megapixel. The handset receives power from a 4,230mAh battery.

The OPPO A7 appears to be rebranded version of the Realme 2 that is available for buying exclusively through online channels. The A7 could be aimed towards offline markets. The only difference between the two handsets is that the Realme features an 8-megapixel selfie shooter. The OPPO A7 is expected to arrive in color choices such as Glaring Gold and Glaze Blue.

OPPO is yet to confirm on the Nov. 22 launch date of the smartphone. The handset is expected to be priced around 1,599 Yuan (~$230) in China. Some rumors have claimed that the handset will be coming to India too. However, the social media channels of OPPO India is yet to reveal any information on its arrival.