Here’s our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.
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Zoom’s Immersive View feature
Zoom’s new Immersive View feature will take on Microsoft Teams’ Together Mode, allowing meeting hosts to place (manually or automatically) video participants and webinar panellists into a single virtual background. Immersive View’s present scenes can have up to 25 participants, while additional participants will be displayed in a thumbnail strip on the top of the scene, Zoom noted in a blog post. Hosts can also move participants around a scene, resize a participant’s image, and change the scene or revert to Speaker or Gallery View at any time, it added. Hosts can select an available scene, upload their own, and even use their own video as a scene. Recording of Immersive View is not yet supported, Zoom noted. In another development, Google is adding new features to Meet including a refreshed look on the web and a few other features powered by artificial intelligence.
Self-driving vehicles on UK roads
The UK government said on Wednesday that self-driving vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology could be used on British roads for the first time later this year. “Designed for use on a motorway in slow traffic, ALKS enables a vehicle to drive itself in a single lane, while maintaining the ability to easily and safely return control to the driver when required,” the government explained in a release. The technology could improve road safety by reducing human error, which contributes to over 85% of accidents, it further added. “This is a major step for the safe use of self-driving vehicles in the UK, making future journeys greener, easier and more reliable while also helping the nation to build back better,” Rachel Maclean, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said in a release. In another update, Lyft Inc will sell its self-driving technology unit to Toyota Motor Corp in a $550 million deal, the companies said on Monday.
SpaceX crosses 1500 Starlink satellites launch mark
SpaceX on Wednesday launched another batch of 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. With this launch, followed by the deployment of the satellites, the aerospace firm has now placed 1,505 Starlink satellites at 550km above the Earth’s surface in low Earth orbit. This was SpaceX’s first Starlink launch after the Federal Communications Commission approved a modification of its license for its satellite constellation. The aerospace company can now operate 2,814 additional satellites at 540-570 km range instead of 1,100-1,300 km range. SpaceX also honoured Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, who died on Wednesday of cancer at the age of 90. “Godspeed Apollo 11’s Michael Collins,” the SpaceX launch director said as the Falcon 9 rocket lifted off. “May the pursuit of exploration live on.” In another development, Blue Origin, the space rocket company backed by billionaire Jeff Bezos, is formally challenging the $2.9 billion moon lander contract awarded by NASA to rival Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Microsoft Office, OneNote on Amazon Fire tablets
Microsoft Office and OneNote are now available for Amazon Fire tablets. The Office app combines Word, Excel, and PowerPoint into a single app, obviating the need to download or switch between individual apps. Fire tablet users can use the app to create and edit, sign documents, and take notes. Additionally, they can scan, convert, and edit to a PDF or take a photo and extract text into a document or table. OneNote can be used to capture ideas, organise and share thoughts, and sync notes across multiple devices. Both Office and OneNote apps can be downloaded from the Amazon Appstore in all countries where Amazon Fire tablets are sold by Amazon, Microsoft noted in a blog post. Microsoft Outlook and OneDrive apps are already available for Amazon Fire tablets. In another update, Microsoft said on Thursday it will reduce commission for PC games on Microsoft Store to 12% from 30% starting August 1.
Among Us is coming to PlayStation this year
Among Us, the popular social deduction game is coming to PlayStation 4 and 5 later this year. The game will support crossplay and online multiplayer on the consoles and the gamers will have access to exclusive Ratchet & Clank content. Among Us was the most downloaded mobile game globally in 2020, beating popular mobile games such as PUBG mobile, Roblox and Call of Duty. Last December, Microsoft had announced the availability of the game on Xbox Game Pass for PC, and had said it will be coming to Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox Game Pass for Console in 2021. We are “excited to say it’ll be coming to PlayStation! Wahhh?!” Victoria Tran, Community Director at Innersloth said in a blog post. “We can’t wait for even more people to join our space crew… and potentially eject some of them.” In another development, Fortnite’s unavailability on Xbox Cloud Gaming service is a ‘deliberate decision’ made by Epic Games.
Amazon’s next-gen Fire HD 10 tablets
Amazon has announced the next generation of Fire HD 10 tablets along with refreshed versions for kids. Fire HD 10 features a powerful octa-core processor, now with 50% more RAM, a brighter Full HD display, an updated design, 12 hours of battery life, and up to 64GB of internal storage expandable to 1TB via a microSD card, priced at $199.99 (about ₹14,800). The company also introduced Fire Kids Pro tablets for kids ages 6 to 12 and the next-generation Fire HD 10 Kids tablet for kids ages 3 to 7. Fire Kids Pro comes bundled with a full-featured Fire tablet, and one year of Amazon Kids+. Next-generation Fire HD 10 Kids offers a 10.1” HD display and fast performance, plus one year of Amazon Kids+, a kid-proof case, and parental controls. The Fire kids tablets start at $99.99 (about ₹7,400). Last week, Amazon had launched Fire TV device that offers hands-free Alexa voice control in India.
You can read more at thehindu.com/technology