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Sundar Pichai Discusses Google Pixel's Future, COVID-19 Impact on Maps, Other Key Areas

Photo of Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

Photo of Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

In an interview with The Verge, Pichai candidly spoke about everything from the company’s future plans on pixel phones, hardware strategy to COVID-19 response.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 20, 2020, 3:29 PM IST

Google’s performance in the smartphone industry has been anything but stellar with its Pixel range failing to get the limelight, especially in terms of sales. However, despite the unsatisfying performance, Google is not ready to give up on it with CEO Sundar Pichai confirming that the company will continue to work on smartphone hardware. In a free-wheeling interview with The Verge, Pichai candidly spoke about everything from the company’s hardware strategy to the COVID-19 response.

“The last couple of years have been a major integration phase for us because we’ve combined our Google hardware efforts with Nest. We absorbed the mobile division of HTC. So it’s been a lot of stitching together. And we have a wide product portfolio, too. So it’s definitely been a building phase. We’re super committed to it for the long run,” Pichai said.

Pichai also revealed the fact that Google is facing problems with creating hardware and gave a synopsis on the company’s approach to hardware design. “Hardware is hard. And it definitely has components, which take real-time to get it right, thinking about underlying silicon or display or camera or any of those tacks. And so we are definitely investing in it, but that timeline. I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” Pichai said.

While Pichai appeared to sidestep The Verge’s question on the performance of the latest Pixel phones he did, however, mention that the smartphones have made a lot of progress since its inception. “Pixel 3A last year was one of our highest NPS-rated products ever, and definitely even benchmarked outside. So to me, it’s a clear indication we have made a lot of progress.”

Talking about how the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted Google Maps, Pichai didn’t divulge into any numbers but revealed there was a considerable drop-off, mainly because travel was restricted due to the COVID-19 lockdown all over the world. However, Pichai mentioned that things are slowly returning to normal as more users are using Google Maps for local information, services and other information.

Responding to a report that Google has cut back on diversity efforts in order to avoid conservative backlash, Pichai didn’t address the programs being cut but reiterated that diversity is a “foundational value” for Google. “Given the scale at which we build products and the fact we do it locally for our users, we are deeply committed to having that representation in our workforce. What we are doing in the company is constantly at our scale. We look at that first — see what works, what we can scale up better. All I can say is we probably have more resources invested in diversity now than at any point in our history as a company,” he said.

When asked about the company’s plans on both Google Meet and Google Chat, especially at a time when people need them more than ever, Pichai said that Google is scaling them up so that people at large can use them. “COVID has blurred the lines between consumer and enterprise, and people are using products in all kinds of contexts. And so definitely, we are using it as an opportunity to make Google Meet and Google Chat, scale it up and make it more available,” Pichai said.

Pichai also touched upon on Google’s efforts as the Coronavirus pandemic shows no signs of abating. Whether it’s helping people find crucial information, building an exposure-tracking system, or donating funds to curbing misinformation of the disease, Google has so far played an important role.

“It’s a big part. By now, we’ve committed over a billion dollars in various ways, be it grants to public health organizations, ad credits to small/medium businesses, and then working in each country through the official agencies’ direct loan programs to small/medium businesses as well. We have undertaken efforts on PPE. There’s the deep work we have done on ventilators out of Rick’s team. And obviously, our support for schools through products like Meet. We have provided Chromebooks. So it spans a wide variety of effort,” Pichai said.



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MIUI 12 Launch by Xiaomi at 5:30PM Today: Key Features and How to Watch Live

MIUI 12 Launch by Xiaomi at 5:30PM Today: Key Features and How to Watch Live

Xiaomi has already tested MIUI 12 among testers in India, and it remains to be seen if the custom Android interface features any India specific touches.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 19, 2020, 10:55 AM IST

Xiaomi MIUI 12 is set to be launched officially today, after making its first official appearance last month. Having been under pilot testing for some time, MIUI 12 is now ready for prime time action among the legions of Xiaomi users in India. The latest version of Xiaomi’s custom Android interface comes with a number of improvements, as well as new features to aid difficulties in usage. The live action from Xiaomi’s official unveiling of the global MIUI 12 ROM can be caught online later today, and here’s everything you need to know about it.

Live stream

The Xiaomi MIUI 12 global ROM launch will be held via an online live stream later today, at 8PM Beijing Time. Indian users can catch the launch live by accessing the YouTube live stream on Xiaomi’s official channel. In India, the live stream will begin at 5:30PM IST. The live stream of the MIUI 12 unveil will also take place on Xiaomi’s official social media handles, and interested parties can catch it live on the company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts as well.

Expected new features

Among the highlights of MIUI 12 are three main features — Dark Mode 2.0, AI calling and live transcript, and a security feature called ‘barbed wire’. With Dark Mode 2.0, Xiaomi is introducing an always-on display for its phones for possibly the first time, bringing it up to speed with various implementations of always-on displays by the likes of OnePlus, Samsung and others. It will be interesting to see how Xiaomi’s take on the always-on display differs from its competitors.

The second major new feature are enhanced privacy features, where reports suggest that Xiaomi is taking a randomised virtual ID approach towards installed apps. This will seemingly protect users from directly sharing their email addresses. Simultaneously, MIUI 12 will reportedly maintain logs of app data requests and data accesses on phones, in a bid to reinstate user faith in the company’s data privacy practices. This will be particularly important to observe, since Xiaomi has recently faced considerable backlash over roguish data collection practices through its browser apps.

The other security feature is called ‘barbed wire’, and is Xiaomi’s implementation of the limited app permission access feature on Android. This will allow users to let an app access a particular permission for only a limited period of time, therefore limiting which app can misuse user data.

Other features aboard MIUI 12 will include a new AI calling feature, which will live transcribe incoming calls and offer preset responses as answers. The feature may prove to be particularly important for users with hearing disabilities. The full list of features, including any India-specific new features (if any), will be revealed in a few hours. To view it live, tune in to the live stream above.




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UPDATE: Aarogya Setu App And E-Pass Could Become Key For Interstate Travel And Movement in India

Aarogya Setu App

Aarogya Setu App

Government sources tell News18 that for interstate travel and movement, the Aarogya Setu app could be used for self-certification, following which the e-pass will be confirmed.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 17, 2020, 9:11 PM IST

UPDATE: As per the recent directives given by the home ministry dated May 17 for Lockdown 4.0, the Aarogya Setu enables early identification of potential risk of infection, and thus acts as a shield for individuals and the community. To ensure safety in offices and work places, employers are advised to ensure that Aarogya Setu is installed by all employees having compatible mobile phones. District authorities have also been given permission to advise individuals to install the Aarogya Setu application on compatible mobile phones and regularly update their health status on the app.

The Aarogya Setu app could become the key facilitator for travel in India, as the Government of India is working on whether the app can be used to facilitate interstate travel. This comes just after the Indian Railways made it mandatory for all passengers on trains to have the government’s Aarogya Setu app installed on their phones. Government sources tell News18 that for interstate travel and movement, the Aarogya Setu app could be used for self-certification, following which the e-pass will be confirmed.

It is believed that once the lockdown is over in individual states, there may be a centralized e-pass which will be issued after self-validation using the Aarogya Setu app. However, it is not confirmed yet whether this will include all types of personal travel or will focus instead on modes of transport such as trains and interstate buses. It is also not confirmed yet how movement of commercial goods will be impacted by this.

Have you also read?

PM Modi Says Aarogya Setu Can Facilitate Travel: Future of The App Beyond Covid-19 Contact Tracing

Govt Mulling to Resume Domestic Flights by May 15, Only Healthy People Allowed

Government sources also say that strict legal provisions could also be in place, which would mean false or incorrect declarations on the Aarogya Setu app could land individuals in jail. It is believed that the Government will discuss the plans with all stakeholders soon.

Ahead of the special train services which started earlier this week, the Indian Railways made it mandatory for all passengers to have verified their declarations on the Aarogya Setu app before boarding. “Indian Railways is going to start few passenger train services. It is mandatory for passengers to download Aarogya Setu app in their mobile phones, before commencing their journey,” the Indian Railways had said in a tweet at the time. Tickets can only be booked via the IRCTC website. It is also mandatory to use the Aarogya Setu app if you live in or travel to the city of Noida, where being outdoors without the app installed on your phone, is a crime. It is expected that airlines will also make it mandatory for passengers to self-certify via the Aarogya Setu app before they board a flight.

Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given the first hints that the Aarogya Setu app could be used to facilitate travel within the country.




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Apple Suggests Key Covid-19 Protections for its Supply Chain Partners

Image for Representation
(Image: Reuters)

Image for Representation
(Image: Reuters)

Apple said it is working with its suppliers around the world on a range of protections suited to the circumstances in each country.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: May 16, 2020, 3:10 PM IST

Health screenings, limiting density, and ensuring strict adherence to social distancing are some of the measures that Apple said it has taken in its global supply chain to address COVID-19’s challenges and to ensure people are able to return to work safely. Apple said it is working with its suppliers around the world on a range of protections suited to the circumstances in each country.

These details were revealed in Apple’s annual “Supplier Responsibility Progress Report” released on Thursday which also included a letter from Sabih Khan, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Operations.

“We put people first in everything we do — and require everyone we work with to do the same — because we want to uphold the highest standards,” Khan said in the letter. “We’re requiring the use of personal protective equipment — both during work and in all common areas — and have worked together to implement enhanced deep cleaning protocols and deploy masks and sanitizers,” he added.

Apple said it has partnered with suppliers to redesign and reconfigure factory floorplans where needed and to implement flexible working hours — including staggered work shifts — to maximise interpersonal space. “We continue to work closely with leading medical and privacy experts to develop advanced health and safety protocols,” Khan said. The ‘Supplier Responsibility Progress Report’ which is a look back at the progress it made last year said that 19.4 million supplier employees were trained on workplace rights since 2008.

Apple said its health and wellness education training programme expanded to Vietnam, joining China and India. Over one million supplier employees have received training through the programme, it added. As part of its “Responsible Sourcing” programme, the “Salmon Gold” project developed new mining methods while achieving habitat restoration. Apple said it is pioneering the use of blockchain technology to trace Salmon Gold from the mine to its supply chain.




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Online Security Essentials: Key Steps for You to Work From Home






May 10, 2020 02:18 PM IST
iVideos iVideos

With work from home extending even further, we look at ways in which you can begin to improve your internet security at home. Without the layer of enterprise security, it is important for you to adopt basic cyber security hygiene, and it all begins with practices such as keeping your router regularly updated, minimising the amount of cookie tracking of your internet activity, and closely monitoring the background internet activity on your devices. Here are the key steps that you can take to ensure that your data is as secure as it can be.

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Sudhir Krishnaswamy: Key Things About the Only Indian on Facebook Oversight Board

Prof (Dr) Sudhir Krishnaswamy, the only Indian on Facebook's oversight committee, and the youngest ever vice-chancellor of the National Law School of India University. (Photo: Bar and Bench)

Prof (Dr) Sudhir Krishnaswamy, the only Indian on Facebook’s oversight committee, and the youngest ever vice-chancellor of the National Law School of India University. (Photo: Bar and Bench)

The youngest ever vice-chancellor of NLSIU was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and looks to establish a precedent-setting moderation model at Facebook.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: May 8, 2020, 1:20 PM IST

Earlier this week, Facebook finally announced the first 20 members of the company’s long awaited independent oversight board. The body, which was initially discussed in light of the myriad scandals regarding handling of data that Facebook faced, is expected to hold an independent and autonomous power to decide upon ethical content moderation, and in ways, may set new precedent for how responsibility of content is handled in intermediary social media bodies such as Facebook’s many platforms. Of the first 20 members in this board, is Sudhir Krishnaswamy, vice-chancellor of National Law School of India University in Bengaluru — and also, the only Indian to be on the board so far. With this distinction, here are the key highlights of Krishnaswamy’s professional career, of which the post on Facebook’s independent content oversight board is the latest addition.

Professional credentials

Krishnaswamy is a stalwart figure in independent legal practice in India. Alongside being the youngest-ever vice-chancellor of the NLSIU, he is also the co-founder and managing trustee of the Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR). The latter is a noted legal organisation that is a strong advocate for fundamental rights of marginalised communities, among other areas of activity and interest. CLPR has played a key role in advancing the fundamental rights of members of the LGBTQIA+ community in India.

According to the CLPR website biography, Krishnaswamy’s primary areas of interest are “constitutional law, legal education, legal theory, intellectual property law and administrative law”. Apart from playing these primary roles, Krishnaswamy is also a professor of law and politics at the Azim Premji University in Bengaluru. Until September 2019, he was also the founding partner of Ashira Law, a boutique law firm in Bengaluru. As visiting faculty, Krishnaswamy also holds the distinction of being the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar visiting professor of Indian Constitutional Law at Columbia Law School in New York City, USA.

In his previous capacities, Krishnaswamy was a part of the Prime Minister’s Committee on Infrastructure, and also the Kasturirangan Committee on the governance of Bangalore. He was also a teaching fellow in law at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, as well as a professor at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata. Krishnaswamy was the director of the Bengaluru-based School of Policy and Governance.

Birth and education

Krishnaswamy was born in 1975, in Bengaluru. Growing up, he graduated with a BA, LLB degree in law from the NLSIU, Bengaluru. Following this, he gained distinction as a Rhodes Scholar, and read as a Bachelor of Civil Law and Doctor of Philosophy in Law from the University of Oxford.

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Can Planets Die? Newly Discovered Giant Exoplanet Reveals Key Answers

Can planets die? Science fiction storylines have always told us about planets being destroyed, but if a planet (in real life) dies, what happens of it? It is this that a global group of scientists appear to have found in TOI-849b, a massive exoplanet situated nearly 730 light years away, of which only its internal core appears to remain today. The study, now published in Nature, is the first of its kind that may help us better understand supergiant gaseous planets such as our very own Jupiter and Saturn, and the forces that led to the formation of such planets. In extension, this may help us get answers to the formation of planets from the early years of the universe.

The study is led by David Armstrong, a research fellow working on exoplanet characterisation via NASA TESS data at the University of Warwick, England. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), a space telescope used by NASA and various researchers to detect and study exoplanets, was the first to spot and identify the TOI-849 solar system, supported by its G-type yellow dwarf star. In this system, scientists have now observed that the TOI-849b exoplanet is actually not the entire planet, but rather the what remains of it. In fact, it is just the remnant core of a gigantic planet that was once gaseous.

The reason why TOI-849b is a particularly curious case is because of its peculiar traits. The planet orbits its star in extremely close distance — 2.2 million kilometres. For reference, that’s 1/67th the distance between the Sun and Earth. Because of this, it only takes 18.4 hours to orbit its star. Due to the proximity, it has a mean temperature of 1,526°C. Interestingly, its density is nearly the same as that of our very own planet, but at the same time, its mass is close to 40 times that of Earth. Despite this, planet TOI-849b is smaller in radius than gaseous giant planet Neptune, which is larger in size but has a mass of 17 times that of Earth.

The scientists state the mass of the remnant core of the dead planet is an anomaly, and may explain multiple things. Gaseous giant planets, during formation, are believed to have picked up gaseous matter and debris into its own atmosphere by virtue of its gravitational power, which in turn has a mass threshold. TOI-849b is said to have a mass well beyond the known threshold, due to which, instead of being able to add to its mass, and due to reverse gravitational pull coupled with the massive amount of heat because of proximity with the star, the planet may have undergone extreme mass loss through self-disruption of the heat.

They also state that the loss of the gaseous atmosphere may have happened due to possible collisions with other giant gaseous planets. As a result of the gases having escaped, TOI-849b is only left with the core of the planet in its near-origin form, which gives our scientists the unique opportunity to study the internal core and anatomy of a gaseous giant exoplanet. This is a rare phenomenon, since difficulty in access makes studying giant gaseous planets difficult, even more so with a core that may have remained largely untouched in chemical constituency. In fact, it is not yet known if there exists any other exoplanet that may exhibit similar properties as TOI-849b.