AI Phones, PCs Edging Into Global Consumer Technology

Artificial intelligence-driven phones that turn photos into 3D images and PCs with interactive speakers will come a step closer to reality this week during Asia’s biggest consumer technology show.   Organizers of the Computex Taipei show with 1,685 exhibitors — including a who’s who of global high tech companies — call artificial intelligence one of their top 2019 themes.   Microchip developers Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm are expected to talk up their latest gear during the four-day show that opens Tuesday. Memory chip maker Micron Technology says it will exhibit a “broad portfolio of memory and storage” for artificial intelligence.   “My personal expectations toward AI this year are quite high,” said Helen Chiang, general manager of market research firm IDC in Taipei. “Whether from the perspective of the information systems or the technology, I’ve got some anticipation for these device-plus things.”   Artificial intelligence — AI for short — lets computers make human-like decisions based on data collected from hardware. Classic examples available to common users now include speech recognition, e-mail spam filters and personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa.   Apps, speakers and 3D images   Almost all the world’s chief hardware and software developers say they are researching what they else can do with AI. That push promises more functions that will be built into PC operating systems and mobile phone apps. Forrester Research, a leading industry advisory firm, predicts that artificial intelligence will reach a market value of $1.2 trillion per year by 2020 as investment triples from 2018.   Consumers should expect in the short term to find AI-assisted matchmaking apps, more chatbots used by financial services companies to talk with customers, and new tools for processing financial data, said Jamie Lin, founding partner of AppWorks Ventures, a startup accelerator in Taipei.   One app designer is working with a Taiwanese smartphone company on AI technology that would turn camera images into 3D scenes, Lin said.   “Pretty soon you’re going to see phone device ODMs (developers) coming to the market where phones that are able to capture 3D images are loaded with software …


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Facial Recognition Technology Raising Alarms Around the World

San Francisco, California recently became the first U.S. city to ban police and other city agencies from using facial recognition technology. The city is not alone. More people are growing wary of the powerful tech, at the same time that others are embracing it. Deana Mitchell reports. …


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New Tech Keeps Phone Lines Open During Disasters

When a natural disaster strikes, some of first pieces of infrastructure to go down are communication networks. And for first responders, that could lead to chaos and in some cases even lives lost. But a group of entrepreneurs, with some help from IBM, has created what they think is a solution to the problem. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports. …


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Virtual Reality Offers Glimpse of Rome’s Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus Experience, opened in Rome this week and offers visitors the chance to relive the ancient splendors of chariot racing in the Imperial period of Rome through augmented and virtual reality. The innovative project implements interactive display technologies never before used in such a large outdoor area. “Now you find yourself in front of the Arch of Titus, which was possibly built in the place of a more ancient arch and dedicated in the year 81 After Christ by the Roman Senate and people to Emperor Flavius”. This is just an example of what modern-day visitors will be listening to in their headsets, while at the same time through special visors see a virtual rendering of the majestic 20-meter Arch of Titus in Rome’s Circus Maximus. Thanks to a ground-breaking project using interactive display technology never before used in such an extended outdoor area, visitors are able to re-live the life in one of Rome’s undisputed landmarks. Visitors immerse themselves in history for with overlapping images from the past and those of the reality of today. They are able to visualize architectural and landscape reconstructions of what life was like during all of the historical stages of the Circus Maximus. They can see the ancient Murcia Valley enriched with buildings and walk around in the Circus among the shops of the time. They can visualize the Circus during Imperial times, the Middle Ages and in a more modern age. The full itinerary involves eight stops including: the valley and the origins of the Circus, the Circus from Julius Caesar to Trajan, the Circus during the Imperial age, the cavea or tiered seating arena, the Arch of Titus, the tabernae or shops, the Circus during the Middle Ages and modern age, and lastly “A Day at the Circus” for an experience of the exciting chariot race of the quadrigas with the screams of incitement of the public and the overturning of wagons. Visitors are able to enjoy similar experiences in Rome at the Baths of Caracalla, the Ara Pacis and the Domus Aurea. …


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Drones Monitor Whale Health In Australia

A water-proof drone is being used by Australian scientists to collect the highly-treasured nasal mucus of migrating whales. The snot is rich with fresh DNA, viruses and bacteria, and is collected by a drone that hovers over the blowholes of humpback whales as they embark on their epic annual journey along Australia’s east coast. Whales, like all mammals need air, and come to the surface to breathe through a blowhole. Vanessa Pirotta, a marine biologist at Macquarie University, says that nasal mucus indicates the health of the whale. “It is the juicy biological mixture that you see as a whale takes a breath as they surface from the water,” she said. “You often see that plume and it sounds like this like [sounds of sharp breaths] as a whale breathes because, after all, they are mammals like you and I and they have two nostrils, and it is the humpback whale that I am talking about. So as they take a breath it is a lot of lung bacteria coming out from their lungs, which we can collect to provide a snapshot of whale health.” Australian researchers have attached a petri dish that is used in scientific tests to a drone which flies through the whale’s nasal mist. “As a whale comes to take a breath — you can actually see it coming to the surface on really good weather days that is — the drone then lowers, the petri dish is then opened and the drone is flown through the densest part of the whale snot, collecting the sample in the petri dish. Now once this happens the lid is shut and the drone is flown back to the research vessel and we collect the sample to later process it in the laboratory,” said Pirotta. The research could help to solve one of the mysteries of another magnificent creature of the deep — the Southern right whale. Its numbers have recovered on Australia’s west coast since hunting was outlawed but its population on the eastern seaboard remains stubbornly low. In the past studies into whale health had to rely on examining whales …


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At Pentagon’s Silicon Valley Outpost, Urgency Amid Tensions With China

In a building a few miles from Google and Facebook’s plush campuses is the Pentagon’s sparse outpost in Silicon Valley. Here, military personnel and civilians look for commercial technology that can help the armed services solve problems they face in the field. That could be working with a local commercial rocket company to deploy satellites faster. Or finding an up-and-coming firm that has created a novel communication system that works in some of the harshest conditions. Defense Innovation Unit Founded four years ago, the Defense Innovation Unit has a sense of urgency now more than ever, says its director, Michael Brown, formerly chief executive of Symantec, the cyber security firm, and of Quantum, a computer storage firm. Because of the new so-called Tech Cold War, tensions are surging between the U.S. and China over emergent technologies, such as 5G mobile phone networks, artificial intelligence and autonomous driving. “The Defense Innovation Unit’s mission has never been more critical, given the tech race that we’re in with China, than it is today,” Brown said. Chinese investors and companies also are here, for many of the same reasons — to find the breakthroughs that will help their nascent and growing tech industry. But they’re presence is under increasing scrutiny, fueled by a concern that Chinese investors and companies are part of a system of transferring technology out of the U.S. and into the hands of an adversary, the Chinese government. Raising alarms Brown is the co-author of a report that shed light on the growing presence of Chinese firms and investors in Silicon Valley and raised alarms over whether the U.S. was in danger of losing key technology to the Chinese.  The U.S. government has expanded its restrictions on Chinese companies buying firms deemed to hold key technology. And Chinese investors are finding it harder to be part of funding rounds of U.S. startups. “Investors have become much more sensitive to the issue,” said Rebecca Fannin, author of “Tech Titans of China.” “They’re more cautious about investing.” ​Mixed reception Some in the tech industry are skeptical of working for either the Pentagon or …


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Silicon Valley Carefully Navigates US-China High Tech Cold War

Silicon Valley has long been a power center of American innovation. Now that high-tech is also becoming a focus of tensions between the U.S. and China, companies based here are trying to understand how they fit in. VOA’s Michelle Quinn speaks with the head of the U.S. Defense Department’s local outpost who sees the tech industry as key to U.S. national security. …


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UK, Japan Mobile Operators Suspend Huawei 5G Phone Launches

British and Japanese mobile phone companies said Wednesday they’re putting on hold plans to sell new devices from Huawei, in the latest fallout from U.S. tech restrictions aimed at the Chinese company. Britain’s EE and Vodafone and Japan’s KDDI and Y! Mobile said they are pausing the launch of Huawei smartphones, including some that can be used on next generation mobile networks, amid uncertainty about devices from the world’s No. 2 smartphone maker. The U.S. government last week restricted technology sales to Chinese telecom gear suppliers because of alleged security risks, though telecom carriers got a 90-day grace period to let them find other suppliers. The sales ban is part of a broader trade war between Washington and Beijing. British mobile chip designer Arm said separately it was complying with the U.S. rules, after the BBC reported it was suspending business with Huawei — a move that could hobble the Chinese tech company’s ability to produce chips for new devices. Vodafone said in a statement that it’s “pausing pre-orders” for the Mate 20X, Huawei’s first phone for 5G networks, as “a temporary measure while uncertainty exists regarding new Huawei 5G devices.” EE CEO Marc Allera said sales would not resume until it gets “the information and confidence and the long-term security” that customers will be supported over the device’s lifetime. The company was also set to sell the Mate 20X followed by Huawei’s Mate X folding handset. EE said it’s working with Huawei and Google, which makes the Android mobile operating systems to make sure it “can carry out the right level of testing and quality assurance.”   The Trump administration’s order last week cuts Huawei’s access to American chips and Google, which makes the Android operating system and services for its smartphones. Y! Mobile, owned by Japanese technology company Softbank, said sales of the Huawei P30 lite, set for May 24, have been delayed, and advance orders were canceled. SoftBank spokesman Hiroyuki Mizukami said the company wants its “customers to feel safe using our products.” KDDI also indefinitely delayed its sales, initially set for late May. It’s unclear when, …


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A New Robot Promises to Meet Your Internet Needs, Handsfree, at Home

A new personal home robot follows you around your home, navigating past obstacles, so you can multitask while staying connected. Deana Mitchell takes a tour. …


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Electronic Trade Helps Cameroonian Farmers

Information technologies are changing the lives of many Cameroonian farmers, who previously were dependent on brokers, who charged fees to serve as middlemen to purchasers. Now they can use the Internet to find customers more easily and increase their income. Moki Edwin Kindzeka narrates this report by Anne Mireille Nzouankeu from Douala in Cameroon. …


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Smart Technology Gives Old Infrastructure New Life

Extreme weather and rising sea levels are putting pressure on the natural world and on the infrastructure we have put in place to manage waste water. Rebuilding aging infrastructure is expensive so National Science Foundation research is teaching old infrastructure new tricks to handle new problems. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports. …


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Google to Restrict Huawei From Android Operating System

The giant U.S. internet search engine Google said Monday it is restricting China’s Huawei from access to its Android operating system in compliance with the Trump administration’s blacklisting of the world’s second biggest smartphone maker as a national security threat. Google said it is “reviewing the implications” of last week’s order requiring export licenses for technology sales to Huawei. The U.S. and Chinese companies said millions of Huawei phones already in use around the world would continue to have access to such popular Google services as Gmail, YouTube and maps. But last week’s U.S. order would curb the future transfer of hardware, software and services to Huawei, possibly limiting the Chinese company’s expansion globally and its efforts to overtake South Korea’s Samsung as the world’s biggest smart phone manufacturer. Google services were already banned in China, so analysts say the impact of the curb on technology sales could mostly affect Huawei’s international sales, making its phones less attractive to customers if they do not have Google features. Last year, Huawei sold nearly half of its production of 208 million smart phones overseas and the rest in China. “Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally,” a Huawei spokesman said. The Chinese firm is at the center of ongoing trade disputes between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. contends that Huawei’s technology could be used to spy on Americans, allegations Huawei has repeatedly denied. China and the U.S. are in the midst of months-long trade talks with the world’s two biggest economies engaging in tit-for-tat tariff increases on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of each other’s exports. …


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Boeing Admits Flaw in 737 MAX Simulator Software

Boeing acknowledged it had to correct flaws in its 737 MAX flight simulator software used to train pilots, after two deadly crashes involving the aircraft that killed 346 people. “Boeing has made corrections to the 737 MAX simulator software and has provided additional information to device operators to ensure that the simulator experience is representative across different flight conditions,” it said in a statement Saturday. The company did not indicate when it first became aware of the problem or whether it informed regulators. Its statement marked the first time Boeing acknowledged there was a design flaw in software linked to the 737 MAX, whose MCAS anti-stall software has been blamed in large part for the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy. According to Boeing, the flight simulator software was incapable of reproducing certain flight conditions similar to those at the time of the Ethiopian Airlines crash in March or the Lion Air crash in October. The company said the latest “changes will improve the simulation of force loads on the manual trim wheel,” a rarely used manual wheel to control the plane’s angle. “Boeing is working closely with the device manufacturers and regulators on these changes and improvements, and to ensure that customer training is not disrupted,” it added. Southwest Airlines, a major 737 MAX customer with 34 of the aircraft in its fleet, told AFP it expected to receive the first simulator “late this year.” The planes have been grounded around the world, awaiting approval from U.S. and international regulators before they can return to service. …


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Scientists Building Proteins See a World of Possibilities

The old saying goes “you can’t beat Mother Nature.” But in a lab at New York University, scientists are trying to duplicate one of her basic activities building proteins. Faith Lapidus reports. …


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Radio Telescope Explores Cosmic Mysteries

Every year astronomers are seeing farther and more clearly into the cosmos than ever before. One of the ways they are doing it is by linking telescopes together to make them more powerful. The Very Large Array in New Mexico supported by the National Science Foundation is one incredible example. VOA’s Kevin Enochs reports. …


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