10 Dec 2019

TechBits, Dec 10, 2019

1. Intel hails new cryogenic control chip as a milestone toward ‘quantum practicality’

  • While Alphabet Inc.’s researchers were working on achieving quantum supremacy, the staff at an Intel Corp. lab in Ronler Acres, Oregon, have spent the past five years pursuing a different, no less important goal: “quantum practicality.”
  • Intel today revealed the fruit of the Ronler Acres lab’s efforts: a cryogenic system-on-chip for controlling quantum computers. The processor is named Horse Ridge, after a popular mountain biking trail in Oregon known for its chilly temperatures, and was developed through a collaboration between Intel and two Dutch research institutions.

2. Microsoft announces Azure Blockchain Tokens and enterprise data management

  • Microsoft’s distributed ledger blockchain services built on its Azure cloud offering are getting some new features, the software giant announced Friday, with the unveiling of Azure Blockchain Tokens preview, an enterprise-scale blockchain data manager and a development kit for Ethereum.
  • The company’s Azure-based blockchain-as-a-service offering, Azure Blockchain Service, launched in 2015 and since then has consistently expanded in features. The most recent addition is a preview of a simple mechanism that allows customers to tokenize physical or digital assets.
  • In Microsoft’s view, this new feature will accelerate the adoption of blockchain technology by businesses through simplifying the creation and management of regulatory compliant tokens that are built on industry standards. To facilitate that, the Azure Blockchain Tokens preview provides pre-built templates for common scenarios and plans to support a gallery #of templates created by partners in the future.

3. Microsoft wants everyone to follow its lead with its new Mobile Design

NearlyNearly a decade ago, Microsoft launched its Windows Phone platform with the promise that its software would free users from their phones. The first big ad campaign showed people engrossed in their devices at clubs, restrooms, and even on a roller coaster, while frustrated bystanders asked, over and over: “Really?”

Windows Phone would answer those frustrations, said Microsoft. It was “designed to get you in and out, and back to life” with the help of the company’s striking tile-based Metro user interface. Microsoft envisioned a world in which apps would talk to each other seamlessly and content flowed freely. Despite some great design principles, Windows Phone didn’t work out, but Microsoft never gave up on the idea of improving mobile productivity.

Today, Microsoft is reviving some of these ambitions by bringing what it calls its Fluent Design system to its mobile Office apps, a simplified set of principles designed, just like Windows Phone, to speed things up on the go. It’s even letting third-party app developers embrace these design elements with toolkits to prettify their own apps. This will have the benefit of making Microsoft’s mobile apps feel more consistent, but the end goal is the same as Windows Phone was: to get users in and out of their apps quicker and back to life again.

4. Google shows off stunning new AR features coming to the web and mobile apps soon

  • Google has been quietly working to improve its augmented reality platform, ARCore, since its official launch early last year. Now, the company says it’s ready to unveil some of the next-generation upgrades to depth detection and physics it’s achieved, which promise to make AR experiences seem much more realistic in the future.
  • The upgrades, part of ARCore’s all-new Depth API, will soon allow developers to perform what’s known as occlusion, which is when an artificial object can be blocked from view by other real-world objects in a scene. Place a virtual cat in your living room, for instance, and you can see it disappear from view when you angle your camera in a way that places a bed or table or some other object in between.
  • The result is a more believable scene, because the depth detection going on under the hood means your smartphone better understands every object in a scene and how far apart each object is from one another. Google says it’s able to do this through optimizing existing software, so you won’t need a phone with a specific sensor or type of processor. It’s also all happening on the device itself, and not relying on any help from the cloud. So long as you have a phone that supports ARCore, which is pretty much every new Android phone released in the last few years, you’ll be able to access these new features.

5. This App Uses Blockchain Technology To Help Victims Report Sexual Assault In India

  • According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2015-16, 99.1% of sexual violence cases go unreported and only a minuscule portion of such cases are actually reported to the police. And it can take years before a survivor opens up about their sexual assault. There’s a myriad of reasons why sexual assault victims choose not to come forward about the trauma including guilt, embarrassment, fear of being judged and mistaken, family/friends reactions, victim-shaming, internal psychological barriers, and other external social factors.
  • To that end, an India-based, independent journalist, Noopur Tiwari, has launched a new app, named Smashboard that’s aimed at addressing these challenges with the help of technology. Smashboard makes use of Ethereum Blockchain that helps privatize and encrypt users’ messaging to make a safe online space for sexual assault victims with the help of pseudo-anonymity, reports Quartz India.

6. WhatsApp Update: ‘Call Waiting Feature’ Finally Available For Android Users

  • You know those times when you’re on a WhatsApp call with someone and it’s only after you’re done with the call that you realize someone else tried calling you too. Well, that’s changed now with the new WhatsApp update that brings a new call-waiting function for voice calls for Android users. WhatsApp had released the feature for iOS users last month. The feature is available for version 2.19.352 of the stable Android app along with for version 2.19.357 and version 2.19.358 of WhatsApp beta, reports Gadget 360.
  • Earlier when the users would receive a second call on WhatsApp, it would automatically be rejected with a message saying, “Person is on another call”. This is no longer the case as WhatsApp users will now get a drop-down menu where users would get to choose between the ongoing call, rejecting an incoming call, or selecting the incoming call.
  • The new UI includes a green ‘End & Accept button’ to accept the second incoming call and a ‘decline’ button to reject the call. However, keep in mind that you can’t keep a call on hold or merge the two calls together, you can only either accept the new call or reject it.

7. Near Space, Labs provides unmatched high-resolution imaging using stratospheric satellites

  • Imaging is one of the key markets in the emerging space tech industry, and for good reason — there’s a proven and robust demand for imaging and Earth observation data among government, private and other clients. Orbital satellites satisfy some of this demand, and companies like Planet have grown sizeable businesses on building satellites that can provide this kind of data more affordably. But startup Near Space Labs is taking a different approach that provides imaging better suited to certain types of industries and uses.
  • “We decided to start a company and approach this from a totally new angle, and utilize this gap in aerospace, which is the stratosphere — twice higher than where airliners fly,” said Near Space Labs CEO Rema Matevosyan in an interview. “So from that vantage point, we have a very nice view of a very large area, we still can be very high resolution like an airplane or a drone would be, and we can also be very frequent: Currently, we have a daily cadence of imagery, which is unprecedented in this industry at the resolutions that we provide.”

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