Weekly Bytes | Google’s flood forecasting system in India, Microsoft’s new education solutions, and more

Here’s our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.

Google’s flood forecasting system in India

Google’s flood forecasting system, which started in 2018 to help combat damage from floods each year, is now live in all of India and Bangladesh, the firm said in a blog post, adding that the systems were expanded to cover an area with over 360 million people in 2021. Google’s flood alerts display inundation maps, show the extent and depth of flooding on top of Google Maps, to help people visualise critical information more easily. The company also launched the Google Flood Hub, which it says provides the same depth and flood extent information in a more visual format that helps people to understand the current and forecasted flood situation in their area instantly. The Flood Hub will be its primary resource for local, visual forecast information going forward. It has partnered with organisations like the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Indian Red Cross Society to help get the alerts out to people without smartphones or internet access, Google said. This week, Google lost an appeal to a 2.42-billion-euro European antitrust decision, a major win for the bloc’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager in the first of three court rulings that will strengthen the EU’s push to regulate big tech.

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Microsoft’s Windows 11 SE, Surface Laptop SE

Microsoft has announced a new lighter version of its latest operating system, dubbed Windows 11 SE, along with an ecosystem of devices, including Surface Laptop SE, purpose-built to support students and educators. The software maker says the new OS was designed and built during the pandemic to address the most fundamental challenges that schools will face in the blended learning world. The OS has been optimised for Microsoft 365 apps, including Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneDrive, supporting both online and offline capabilities. Additionally, the most affordable Surface PC, priced at $249, comes with an 11.6-inch screen, front-facing 720p HD camera, stereo speakers, and up to 16 hours of battery life. More devices will be coming from brands like Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, and Lenovo. The majority of devices are expected to be available for ordering through education channels later this year and into 2022, Microsoft said. In another update, Microsoft plans to end support for its OneDrive desktop application on certain older versions of Windows starting early next year.

Twitter’s subscription service gets new features

Twitter Blue, the social media company’s subscription service, now offers more features with expanded availability in the U.S. and New Zealand. It was launched earlier this year with features like bookmark folders, reader mode, customisable app icons, colour themes, as well as the ability to undo a tweet within 30 seconds of posting. The service now provides its subscribers ad-free articles from different news sites, and access to view the most-shared articles in their network over the last 24 hours. Subscribers will also be able to customise the app’s navigation bar. Additionally, they will get early access to features that the micro-blogging platform is testing, such as the option to upload videos of up to 10-minutes using ‘longer video uploads’ and pin their favourite conversations to the top of their DM’s with ‘pinned conversations’, Twitter said in a blog post. Last month, Twitter opened its audio chatroom feature Spaces to all mobile users on its app.

Google app to find your pet’s art doubles

Google has introduced a new feature in its Arts & Culture app that can be used by people to find the art doubles of their pets. The new Pet Portraits feature uses machine learning to match a pet’s photo with several hundred thousand artworks to find the ones that look most similar, according to Google. People can use it to discover their dog, cat, fish, bird, reptile, horse, or rabbit’s look-alikes. Their animal companion could be matched with ancient Egyptian figurines, vibrant Mexican street art, serene Chinese watercolours, among others, the search giant noted. The app, available to both Android and iOS users, also provides the stories and artists behind each artwork. Pet owners can share their pawed, winged, or hooved friend’s ‘Pet Portraits’ as a single still image or select multiple images to animate together as a GIF slideshow. In another update, Google’s parent, Alphabet, has introduced a new company that will use Artificial Intelligence to accelerate drug discovery, and find cures for some of humanity’s most devastating diseases.

Qualcomm’s kit for creating AR experiences

Qualcomm has introduced a head-worn Augmented Reality (AR) developer kit to help create immersive experiences. Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform offers machine perception technology that is optimised for performance and low power for the next generation of AR glasses. The platform provides environmental and user understanding capabilities that give developers the tools to create head-mounted AR experiences that can sense and intelligently interact with the user and adapt to their physical indoor spaces. Using the platform, developers can build 3D applications for AR glasses from scratch or simply add head-worn AR features to existing Android smartphone applications. Snapdragon Spaces is in early access with select developers and is expected to be generally available in the first half of 2022. Earlier this year, Qualcomm had introduced aptX Lossless, a new feature of Snapdragon Sound Technology that is designed to offer lossless audio streaming for Bluetooth-enabled wireless earphones and headphones.

Samsung’s next-generation mobile memory

Samsung has developed its first 16-gigabit, Low Power Double Data Rate 5X (LPDDR5X) DRAM, designed to boost speed, capacity and power savings for future high-speed data service applications including 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and the metaverse. The next-generation mobile DRAM is said to offer data processing speeds of up to 8.5 gigabits per second, which are over 1.3 times faster than its LPDDR5 memory. Samsung also claims that the 14-nanometer based memory will use around 20% less power. In addition, the 16Gb LPDDR5X chip will enable up to 64 gigabytes per memory package, accommodating increasing demand for higher-capacity mobile DRAM. It will also help broaden the use of high-performance, low-power memory beyond smartphones and bring new capabilities to AI-based edge applications like servers and even automobiles, the tech giant said. In a separate development, Smartphone shipment in India is expected to see a decline in the December quarter due to supply challenges, resulting in annual shipments below 160 million in 2021.

You can read more at thehindu.com/technology

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