Saturday, 1 October 2016

Project ‘Titan’ – Inside Apple’s ambitious autonomous car project

Apple is reportedly rethinking plans to enter the self-driving car business, and in so doing has shut down portions of the widely rumored development project, laying off dozens of employees.
Citing sources familiar with the company’s plans, The New York Times reports Apple’s autonomous vehicle initiative, dubbed internally as Project Titan, is getting a “reboot” under new project lead Bob Mansfield. Instead of designing and producing a full-fledged self-driving car, the company has shifted focus to work on backbone autonomous vehicle technology, the report said.
The NYT claims Apple is already testing fully autonomous vehicles in closed facilities, suggesting the initiative is at least making progress. The evaluation site is unknown, though reports last year indicate Apple was looking into renting out time at GoMentum, a former naval base in California converted into a test track for autonomous vehicles.
Today’s development comes just over one month after reports claimed Mansfield assumed control of Project Titan following the departure of former project head Steve Zadesky. Mansfield announced intent to retire from Apple in 2012, but stayed on as SVP of Technologies until July 2013. After he left the executive team, Mansfield continued to work as a special advisor to CEO Tim Cook.
Apple’s decision to switch gears comes at the cost of employees. The Titan team was at one time said to number above 1,000, including workers pulled in from other departments and specialists poached from automotive industry heavyweights.
The company hired the founder and former CEO of QNX Dan Dodge a proclaimed software architect. QNX specializes in embedded operating systems for infotainment solutions. It was acquired by Blackberry in 2010.
As the competition heats up, the top execs of the company were unhappy with the slow progress. However, subsequent reports estimated a production Apple Car would not see release until 2021, as the team faced mounting unforeseen obstacles.
It seems, however, that Project Titan lacks that most basic of Apple qualities, as people working on the project said they are not sure what, exactly, would set Apple Car apart from similar vehicles currently in development by would-be competitors, the NYT report said.

Qualcomm VR820 – High-End, Cord-Free VR Headsets Are finally coming to Reality

For an instance “I was into it, sitting in the cockpit”, the F-16 fighter jet was shooting like a bullet with a speed of Mach 2 — but then the next moment i realized, a bulky black virtual-reality headset strapped onto my face. And it had a cable running down my back to connect it to a PC. Ah.. that sucks !
Mobile chip-maker, Qualcomm is coming up with limited demo VR820 design that anticipate the kind of device without cables which will make virtual reality much more widely used.
Samsung’s Gear VR or Google’s Cardboard gives a virtual reality experience without cables but are unable to track head position in space and limits the exploration capabilities. You can turn your head to look around, but your view doesn’t change if you stand up or lean forward.
High performance headsets like Facebook Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are able to track head position giving a more realistic experience but they require to be tethered to a powerful PC along with a position hardware.
Qualcomm’s design intends to eschew the cables seen in the leading virtual-reality devices in the the market today.It’s equipped with internal motion sensors and a camera to look out from device and tracking your head position. However a self contained device can’t match the power of a gaming PC, putting some complex graphics off limits. But it will be interesting to see how Qualcomm’s device comes to matching the accuracy of the position tracking of the Rift or Vive. Qualcomm says it can support rich 3-D games and experiences.
Qualcomm won’t sell headsets. It is offering its designs to hardware companies in the hope they will build their own versions, boosting chip sales.
Intel is also trying to race in VR space. It unvieled its all-inone headset design this summer with similar strategy, the device is till unavailable to public. All-in-one headsets of various kinds are already on the market in China.
Accordingly MIT Tech Review,
Hugo Swart, a senior director of product management at Qualcomm, says headsets built to his company’s plans should be similar in price to a high-end tablet. That would make them $500 or under, much less than the $1,400 or more for an Oculus Rift and compatible PC.

Forget China – Indian startups are the new favorite of Asian VCs

India is a special country, because of its diverse nature and isolated culture. These qualities combined with business acumen of young turks have got attention of VC from US and some from China like Alibaba and Didi Chuxing.
Well, this is not a coincidence – the increasing penetration of mobile users along with growing urbanization and tech savvy youth has led VCs to shift their priorities to Indian over China.
Speculations are that more investment is expected to flow into e-commerce despite of the lull in sales for market leaders like Flipkart and Snapdeal.
Tokyo based Cyber Agent has committed $500k to $1 million in pre-series A and series A in India.
India may the be the sequel of the startup story led by US and China till now. Tech innovations back India for further growth, despite only few startups becoming profitable so far. When China economy is slowing down and Indian GDP is growing like never before, it seems that India is going to be the next big love for Asian investors.

How mobiles are changing the way we consume information

Just in case you haven’t noticed, perhaps you’re checking your phone notifications a lot more than you did even a year or so ago.
Around 350million Indian citizens own a smartphone. That’s supposed to be a massive jump from 200million a year ago. Thanks to the changed reforms, speedy urbanization and 65% of tech savvy youth.
But one thing is noticeable; audience’s shift to high intent information consumption that has led to change in behavior. Users tend to spend more time on news that includes “hard” news and is gradually increasing.
While social media sites remain the main source of news, people follow their social media friends as a trusted news source more than mainstream media.
In this generation, news is about digging social feeds and eventually commenting, tweeting/sharing and co-creating content with news as the bubble burst. The highly personalized push notifications have created content more engaging than ever before.
Geolocation matters
Delivering information based location make news more relevant. Facebook dominance has helped in adoption of location based preferences to diverse nature of products based sites. Smart phones come with bundled dozens of smart sensors that create a massive amount of user generated content.
Adapting to the smaller screen involves changes in format, the ads need to fit well “in feed” or become interesting content so as to maintain a significant gap between time and ad spent, hence the emergence of native ads.
While mainstream media struggles to become more nimble, it seems – Advertisers are driving change in how information is created and curated. More mobile and more aligned with the tastes and appetite of the fast-growing mobile audience. The leading news/information providers are struggling to make their audiences palatable to the funders to find best value in their access to audiences.

Is DARPA Memex search engine Google killer ? – watch out

DARPA recently announced to open source Memex project – an online search tool intended to fight crime over “Dark Web” through artificial intelligence. Memex project is a domain focused search engine and is initially deployed to curb human trafficking, this would reveal the strategy and analysis.
The project is expected to be available to wider public audience so that they can leverage the leanings from large data-sets.
Christoper White team lead at Memex believes that the commercial search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are inapt to perform in depth searches as it conflicts their interests. In addition to it they index only a part of the internet which accounts to only 15% of the whole. Commercial search engines also comes with one size fits all interface which are inapt to perform when talks are about to do analysis, comparative content, relative content, connections across content.
As of now, there is lot of manual searching and querying which make commercial search engines ineffective at times. Memex wants to enable discovery of content which is relevant to the audience and the presentation of it for analysis. As the project wraps up in two years time the Memex would be released for download.
Accordingly Forbes, White added. “That’s our ambitious goal: to enable a new kind of search engine, a new way to access public web content.”