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China Sends Last BeiDou Satellite into Space to Complete GPS-like Navigation System

A Long March-3B carrier rocket carrying the Beidou-3 satellite, the last satellite of China's Beidou Navigation Satellite System, takes off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, China. (Reuters)

A Long March-3B carrier rocket carrying the Beidou-3 satellite, the last satellite of China’s Beidou Navigation Satellite System, takes off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, China. (Reuters)

China began building the Beidou 20 years ago, with the aim of being self-sufficient in navigation technology and having an alternative system to GPS.

  • IANS
  • Last Updated: June 23, 2020, 12:28 PM IST

China on Tuesday launched the latest satellite of its Beidou geo-location system (BDS), its alternative to the American GPS. The launch, from the base of Xichang in Sichuan province, took place at 9.43 a.m., on the “Long March 3B” transport rocket, Efe news reported.

The satellite, which successfully entered orbit 25 minutes later, will complete the network of 35 third-generation devices (BDS-3) of the Beidou system (Big Dipper in Chinese), which the Asian country launched in 2015 to be able to offer coverage global positioning. The launch of the last satellite was scheduled for June 16, but was suspended for “technical reasons”.

China began building the Beidou 20 years ago, with the aim of being self-sufficient in navigation technology and having an alternative system to GPS. It is made up of two separate satellite constellations. The Beidou-1 consists of three satellites that since 2000 have offered limited coverage and navigation and positioning services for China and some neighbouring countries.

The Beidou-2 began operating in December 2011 with ten satellites in orbit and has offered navigation and positioning services to the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. With the Beidou-3, the system would reach global coverage this year and would be ready to provide an alternative to the other three currently in existence: the American GPS, the European Galileo and the Russian GLONASS. With 35 satellites, Beidou would have more than 31 in the US system and also more than the European and Russian systems. Nearly 200 countries have already applied to China for BDS technologies, which it currently exports to more than 120 nations.


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Tech

Amitabh Bachchan Could Soon Give You Voice Navigation on Google Maps

Amitabh Bachchan

Amitabh Bachchan

While Google has already approached Bachchan to be India’s voice for Google Maps, no contract has been signed yet, per the report.

  • News18.com
  • Last Updated: June 10, 2020, 5:35 PM IST

Amitabh Bachchan needs to special introduction as he has been one of the biggest and most popular Bollywood actors in India. Renowned for his majestic baritone voice, Bachchan has played the role of a narrator in many films, including the Oscar-winning documentary ‘March of the Penguins’ way back in 2005. Now, if a report from Mid-Day is to be believed, then the 77-year-old veteran star has been approached by Google as its choice for giving voice directions in Google Maps. However, no official contract has been signed, per the report.

According to the report, Google has offered Bachchan an exorbitant amount for the following task and if the actor decides to accept it, he will have to record his voice from home, to maintain social distancing norms pertaining to the Covid-19 crisis. Google Maps currently features New York-based entertainer Karen Jacobsen’s voice in the Google Maps. Interestingly, Jacobsen is also the voice of Apple’s Siri voice assistant. Therefore, it remains to be seen, if Bachchan lends his instantly-recognisable voice only for the Hindi voice of the application and in English as well.

However, this is not the first time Google has joined hands with a Bollywood celebrity to be the voice navigator on Google Maps. In 2018, Yash Raj Films and Google joined hands to use Aamir Khan’s character, Firangi from ‘Thugs of Hindostan’ for the Google Maps app.

Recently, Google announced a new feature on Maps that notifies users about Covid-19 travel restrictions so they plan their trips in a better way by following the social distancing norms. Users will also be alerted about places that are crowded which include public transports, medical checkpoints and other important places.




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Tech

Google Reacts to 99 Phones 'Maps Hack': Such Creative Uses Help Us Improve Services

Whether via car or cart or camel, we love seeing creative uses of Google Maps as it helps us make maps work better over time

Google Reacts to 99 Phones 'Maps Hack': Such Creative Uses Help Us Improve Services
Image: 9to5 Google

We recently reported about a Berlin-based artist who duped Google Maps by dragging 99 second-hand phones on a cart through various streets and roads. While he didn’t actually create any traffic, but the result was that Google Maps’ servers interpreted this as traffic congestion thereby showing the same to people using the service. The ‘fake’ traffic made drivers avoid those roads and streets, which were actually empty.

Now, Google has given a response regarding the ‘experiment’ and agreed that a large number of devices running Maps in a single place, is proof of a traffic jam. However, Google went on to say that this experiment was something that was rare and a very specific case that took advantage of this scenario.

Here’s the complete statement a Google spokesperson gave to 9to5Google:

“Whether via car or cart or camel, we love seeing creative uses of Google Maps as it helps us make maps work better over time.

Traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously thanks to information from a variety of sources, including aggregated anonymized data from people who have location services turned on and contributions from the Google Maps community. We’ve launched the ability to distinguish between cars and motorcycles in several countries including India, Indonesia and Egypt, though we haven’t quite cracked traveling by wagon. We appreciate seeing creative uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better over time.”

The statement basically hints that the company does use a case like this to improve traffic data on Google Maps. The search giant also said that it continuously refreshes its systems by referring a variety of sources to provide the most “comprehensive and accurate maps possible.”

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Apple Has Started Rolling-Out Redesigned Maps App in the US

The revamped Apple Maps has some features similar to those in Google Maps, such as local street pictures, AI to sync flight status and reservations to the calendar.

Apple Has Started Rolling-Out Redesigned Maps App in the US
Apple on Thursday said it has finished rolling out an overhauled map app in the US in another attempt to challenge Google’s popular smartphone navigation software.

(Image: Apple Maps Logo/ Wikimedia.org)

Apple said it has finished rolling out an overhauled map app in the US in another attempt to challenge Google’s popular smartphone navigation software. Apple spent years rebuilding the application, its cars travelling millions of miles to map roads after a version launched in 2012 was so problematic it prompted a rare public apology from chief executive Tim Cook. Mapping programs on mobile devices is seen as a way to stay in tune with smartphone lifestyles and pursue opportunities to make money connecting people with nearby offerings such as restaurants, theatres, clothing shops and other businesses.

Apple said the redesigned “Maps” program is fast, accurate, and comprehensive, even weaving in transit options in some locations. Maps will begin rolling out in Europe in the coming months. “We set out to create the best and most private maps app on the planet that is reflective of how people explore the world today,” Apple senior vice president of internet software and services Eddy Cue said in a release.

“It is an effort we are deeply invested in and required that we rebuild the map from the ground up to reimagine how Maps enhances people’s lives, from navigating to work or school or planning an important vacation, all with privacy at its core”. Apple Maps had some features similar to those in Google Maps, such as pictures of locations taken at street level and artificial intelligence to check the status of flight reservations noted in email boxes or on calendars.

As with other products, Apple stressed work done to protect user privacy, such as obscuring search terms, routing, and other data, according to the company.

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Tech

Google Assistant on The Pixel 4 to Support Three-Button Navigation

Google is planning to bring back support for three-button navigation for the Assistant.

Google Assistant on The Pixel 4 to Support Three-Button Navigation
Image for Representation

Google Pixel 4 was announced with an all-new version of the Google Assistant which came with a variety of new features, including transcribing your voice into text. It also forced Pixel 4 users to use gesture navigation, which might not be the ideal case for certain users. To deal with the issue, Google is now working towards fixing these limitations by bringing support for 3-button navigation.

The new feature was first spotted on a Reddit thread, with the link ‘Next-gen assistant now works with 3 button navigation on the Pixel 4’. The Reddit user also mentioned that the phone is on the January security patch and using Google app version 10.93.8.29.

The Pixel 4 was launched last year in October with the latest Android 10 update. Notably, it did not come with three-button navigation at the time. While the feature has not been rolled out globally, one can use the feature by installing version 10.92.10.29 of the Google app, preferably in the beta mode. Once the latest version is installed, you can set up the 3-button navigation feature by clicking Settings > System > Gestures > System navigation > 3-button navigation. Users can then trigger Assistant by using the hotword (Ok Google) or hold their finger on the home button.

You can download the beta version 10.92.10.29 of the Google app by signing up for it as a tester, using this link. Meanwhile, there are more next-generation Google Assistant features that the tech giant needs to address, including support for additional languages for G-Suite users.

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Huawei Will Get TomTom Navigation Since The U.S. Would Not Let Them Use Google Maps

The deal with TomTom gives Huawei access to navigation apps and services for its own smartphone operating system.

Huawei Will Get TomTom Navigation Since The U.S. Would Not Let Them Use Google Maps
The deal with TomTom gives Huawei access to navigation apps and services for its own smartphone operating system.

Dutch navigation and digital mapping company TomTom said it has closed a deal with China’s Huawei Technologies for the use of its maps and services in smartphone apps. Huawei was forced to develop its own operating system for smartphones, after it was effectively blacklisted by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration last year out of concerns over national security. This banned Huawei from using Google’s official Android operating system, along with widely used apps such as Google Maps, in new phones. The deal with TomTom means Huawei can now use the Dutch company’s maps, traffic information and navigation software to develop apps for its smartphones.

TomTom spokesman Remco Meerstra said the deal had been closed some time ago but had not been made public by the company. Meerstra declined to provide further details of the agreement. TomTom, which is moving away from selling devices to offering software services, sold its telematics division to Japan’s Bridgestone last year to focus on its digital map-linked businesses.