Nextbit Robin Cloud-Based Smartphone India Launch Set for April-End

Nextbit Robin Cloud-Based Smartphone India Launch Set for April-End

Nextbit last year started shipping its cloud-based Robin smartphone, with an option to ship to India, and now the company will finally be launching the handset in the country by the end of this month. The US-based company however has not yet mentioned the exact launch date for the smartphone in India.

The Nextbit Robin was launched in the US last year starting from $399 (roughly Rs. 26,000), and would currently cost you another $70 (roughly Rs. 4,600) to get it shipped to India.

Nextbit, a startup that boasts of veterans from Apple, Google, and HTC on its team, has given the Robin top-of-the-line hardware specifications, and addresses the limited storage issue in smartphones with a cloud-based storage solution. It automatically backs up photos and other data that you haven’t used recently to the cloud to free up space on your device.

Also see: Life on the Cloud? I’m Staying Offline Where I Can

The Nexbit Robin comes with a 5.2-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display which is embedded in a funky plastic body. It is powered by Qualcomm’s hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor coupled with 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of inbuilt storage that can’t be expanded using a microSD card. The device also comes with a fingerprint sensor.

Other features of the Nextbit Robin include a 13-megapixel rear camera, a 5-megapixel front-facing camera, a 2680mAh battery, and a USB Type-C charging port. The single-SIM capable device supports LTE, 3G, Wi-Fi and other connectivity options. On the software side, the device will ship with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The company noted that the Robin is completely carrier unlocked. The bootloader of the device is unlocked too, which essentially means that one could flash their own favoured custom Android ROMs on the handset. The handset comes in two colour variants: Mint and Midnight.


Hawking, Milner, and Zuckerberg Invest in Interstellar Spaceships

Hawking, Milner, and Zuckerberg Invest in Interstellar Spaceships

World-renowned British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking on Tuesday teamed up with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in a $100 million (roughly Rs. 663 crores) effort to make tiny spaceships capable of interstellar space travel.

Hawking and Milner made the joint announcement at a press conference held at One World Observatory in New York City on Tuesday, Xinhua reported.

The project, dubbed “Breakthrough Starshot,” is a research and engineering programme that aims to build laser beam propelled “nanocrafts” that can travel at 20 percent of lightspeed – more than 1,000 times faster than current fastest spacecraft.

According to Milner, once the “nanocrafts” are built, they could reach Alpha Centauri, a star 4.37 light-years away, approximately 20 years in a fly-by mission.

Alpha Centauri is one of the closest star systems to the solar system and the current fastest spacecraft would have to spend 30,000 years to get there.

The “nanocrafts” are gram-scale robotic spacecrafts consisting of two main parts: a computer CPU sized “StarChip” and a “Lightsail” made with metamaterials no more than a few hundred atoms thick.

Although weighing just a few grams, the “StarChip” is a fully functional space probe, which carries various equipment including cameras, navigation and communication.

“The ‘StarChip’ can be mass-produced at the cost of an iPhone,” Milner said.

The “nanocrafts” can then be propelled into space by a powerful laser beam, which according to Avi Loeb, a theoretical physicist and panellist at the news conference, will carry a power of 100 gigawatt.

“This is the power needed to lift off a space shuttle,” Loeb said.

Milner and the scientists believe that with the rising power and falling costs of lasers, the entire process is practical within a couple of years.

“Fifteen years ago, it would not have made sense to make this investment. Now we have looked at the numbers, and it does,” Milner said.

The project was part of the Breakthrough Initiatives first launched in July 2015 by Hawking and Milner, including a series of research plans to scan the 100 galaxies closest to the Milky Way in search for aliens. “Starshot” is its newest endeavour.

Hawking believes that human’s innate sense to transcend limits is the driving force behind the project. “Gravity pins us to the ground, but I just flew to America.”

While one cannot hear the joking tone through Hawking’s voice synthesizer, his humour had been easily received.

What the scientists are looking for is not just reaching Alpha Centauri, but what can be learned during the efforts.

“A lot of science will be learned by the process of going through this, making this happen,” said panelist Mae Jemison, a former Nasa astronaut.

“There is big task ahead, there’s a big leap in getting something of a micro size to go at some percentage of the speed of light. That will have all kinds of reverberations.”

Tuesday also marked the 55th anniversary of the first human space flight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

“Today we commit to this next great leap into the cosmos because we are human and our nature is to fly,” Hawking said.


Here Is What Siri Thinks of Game of Thrones

Here Is What Siri Thinks of Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is around the corner – 11 days for season six premiere in the US and 13 here in India – and it seems the developers at Apple have a lot of free time on their hands.

Note: Mini spoilers below.

Siri, the digital voice assistant included with all iOS devices, has been programmed with a bunch of responses to different questions surrounding the show, Westeros, and its always-on-the-verge-of-death inhabitants.

If you ask Siri “Do you watch Game of Thrones?” expect to hear one of the following:

  • “Yes. I’d ask Jon Snow for some hints, but he knows nothing.”
  • “Who me? Siri, First of the Name, Siri Siliconborn of House Apple, Ruler of the Alarms and the Reminders, Guardian of the Calendar Appointments, Keeper of the Ontologies, Flipper of Coins. Yes, I am watching.”


If you say “Winter is coming” or “Is winter coming?” Siri’s responses aren’t so great:

  • “Does a Lannister always pay his debts?”
  • “I can’t get the weather for Westeros right now, but I can get the weather in West Hollywood.”


The first doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and the second would be much better if it paid any attention to my geolocation.

And Siri obviously has a few quips ready for the question on everyone’s lips: “Is Jon Snow dead?”

  • “Well, you know what they say to Death… Not today! But why would tomorrow be any better? Anyway, I’m not exactly sure.”
  • “‘Dead is dead’. Or is it ‘What’s dead may never die’? No, wait, ‘Death is so terribly final’? I give up.”
  • “I don’t know. I just hope someone is setting up doggie daycare for Ghost.”


Also, once in a while, Siri will just resort to the quintessential “Hodor” response, a favourite among men both living and dead.


Facebook Unveils Surround 360, an Open Source 360-Degree 3D Video Camera

Facebook Unveils Surround 360, an Open Source 360-Degree 3D Video Camera

Taking video recording to the next level, social media giant Facebook unveiled its own 360-degree stereoscopic 3D video camera at the two-day F8 developer conference underway at Fort Mason in San Francisco, California.

The company calls this new device the Facebook Surround 360, and this summer, it will give away for free both the camera’s hardware designs and the complex software that weaves the camera’s myriad images into one complete three-dimensional landscape.

Built for $30,000 (roughly Rs. 20 lakhs), this black circular camera has a disk-shaped spaceship-like design that has 17 evenly spaced lenses.

The camera records images from all 17 of those lenses and produces a 360-degree spherical video for viewing virtual reality headsets like the Samsung Gear (stereoscopic 3D) and on ordinary smartphones, tablets, and PCs (monoscopic).


Similar types of videos are already popping up in News Feeds on the Facebook social network.

You can think of these videos as a bridge to the kind of full-fledged virtual reality Facebook plans on offering through the Oculus Rift, the VR headset it released late last month.

Facebook said that although the Oculus is primarily a way of playing games, but soon the headset will foster a new breed of communication and entertainment atop its social network.


Uber Reveals US Law Enforcement Data Queries

Uber Reveals US Law Enforcement Data Queries

Uber said Tuesday it received more than 400 requests from US law enforcement agencies in the second half of 2015, and gave authorities some information in the vast majority of cases.

The global ridesharing giant released the figures in its first “transparency report” following a trend from technology companies related to disclosure of customer data.

“Uber receives law enforcement requests for information related to criminal investigations, and may provide information about specific trips, riders or drivers in response,” the company said in a statement with the report.

“Our dedicated team of experts, who are trained to manage these requests, ensures that any disclosure of information is consistent with our internal policies and applicable law. For example, we may require a subpoena, court order or search warrant before providing different types of information.”

The report, which covered only the United States, said Uber received 408 rider account requests related to 205 drivers.

Uber said it provided at least some data requested in 84.8 percent of those cases – “full” compliance in about a third of the cases and partial compliance in about half.

The vast majority of requests, 368, came from state authorities and 47 from federal officials.

The report also said Uber received 33 requests from regulatory agencies, providing data in less than half of those instances. It also received 34 requests from airport regulatory agencies.

US technology firms such as Google, Facebook and Apple have begun releasing periodic transparency reports as part of an effort to show how customer data is protected in the wake of revelations of government surveillance.

San Francisco-based Uber, which allows individuals to offer rides via a smartphone application, has expanded to hundreds of cities worldwide and more than 60 countries, drawing protests from the taxi industry and regulators.

The company has become one of the biggest venture-backed startups, with a valuation of more than $50 billion (roughly Rs. 3,31,965 crores) based on private investment disclosed to date, with some reports saying the valuation is over $60 billion (roughly Rs. 3,98,329 crores).


Uber Starts Motorbike Taxi Service in Indonesian Capital

Uber Starts Motorbike Taxi Service in Indonesian Capital

Ride-hailing app Uber on Wednesday launched a motorbike taxi service in the Indonesian capital where Southeast Asian rivals Go-Jek and Grab are already battling for dominance.

Jakarta is one of the world’s most congested cities and motorbike taxis ordered from a smartphone app have exploded in popularity in the past 18 months as a way to beat the traffic.

Uber said that its “UberMotor” service would provide cheap and reliable transportation for hundreds of thousands of people.

The company used a local social media and YouTube star Arief Muhammad to launch its service, saying he was the first person in Jakarta to use an Uber motorcycle taxi.

Both Go-Jek, which is an Indonesian startup, and Grab, which operates in several Southeast Asian countries, claim to be the biggest provider of motorbike taxi rides in Indonesia.

The popularity of motorbikes and regular taxis ordered from a smartphone has provoked a backlash in the taxi industry.

Thousands of taxi drivers caused traffic chaos in Jakarta last month in a violent protest against what they believe is unfair competition.

Drivers say the apps, which are using funding from venture capitalists to offer heavily discounted fares, have severely reduced their income. The app companies say the transport industry should adapt to new technology.

The Indonesian government is drawing up new regulations to govern transport apps but has so far resisted calls to ban Uber and similar services.

Officials estimate Jakarta’s traffic jams cause economic losses of about $3 billion (roughly Rs. 19,908 crores) a year.


Facebook to Let Users Buy Tickets Directly

Facebook to Let Users Buy Tickets Directly

Facebook users will soon be able to buy tickets directly as the social networking giant expands further into e-commerce, company officials said Tuesday.

Facebook will in the coming weeks connect to ticketing leaders Ticketmaster and Eventbrite, which will offer an option to buy tickets for selected US events listed on the networking site.

Eventbrite said it would provide a QR code a two-dimensional barcode that would be integrated within the Facebook mobile app, letting buyers enter events without the hassle of going to other sites, let alone printing tickets.

“We are committed to innovation that helps organizers sell more tickets. Enabling a seamless purchase experience for consumers in places like Facebook where they are spending significant time is an important step in this mission,” Laurent Sellier, Eventbrite’s vice president of product, said in a statement.

Further details of the plan were expected to be unveiled at this week’s annual conference of Facebook’s developers in San Francisco.

With more than one billion users every day, Facebook last year posted record profits even though the company was initially cautious in its forays into e-commerce.

Facebook has recently stepped up sales opportunities and on Tuesday announced that it was buildingartificial intelligence powered “bots” through which businesses can have lifelike exchanges with customers over Messenger.

Facebook has emerged as a major medium for artists to promote their work and their shows, but users have customarily been obliged to head to other sites to buy tickets.


Facebook Brings ‘Chatbots’ to Messenger

Facebook Brings 'Chatbots' to Messenger

Facebook on Tuesday extended its reach beyond online socializing by building artificial intelligencepowered “bots” into its Messenger application to allow businesses to have software engage in lifelike text exchanges.

The move announced at the leading online social network’s annual developers conference in San Francisco came as the number of monthly users of Messenger topped 900 million and the Silicon Valley company works to stay in tune with mobile Internet lifestyles.

“We think you should be able to text message a business like you would a friend, and get a quick response,” Facebook co-founder and chief Mark Zuckerberg said as he announced that developers can build bots that could even be better than real people at natural language text conversations.

Bots are software infused with the ability to “learn” from conversations, getting better at figuring out what people are telling them and how best to respond.

The bots could help Facebook over time monetize its messaging applications and get a start on what some see as a new way of interacting with the digital world, potentially shortcutting mobile applications and sidestepping search.

(Also see:  Facebook Bots Are a Tough Sell After Microsoft Tay’s Racist Tirade)

“Our goal with artificial intelligence is to build systems that are better than people at perception seeing, hearing, language and so on,” Zuckerberg said while laying out a long-term vision for Facebook.

A look at the number and types of services that titans such as Facebook, Google and Apple have rolled out in the last couple of years, it appears the companies are “trying to dominate the customers’ mobile moments,” Forrester analyst Julie Ask told AFP.

Getting smarter
Artificial intelligence is already used in Messenger to recognize faces in pictures, suggesting recipients for messages and for filtering out spam texts.

“Soon, we are going to be able to do even more,” Zuckerberg said.

He promised a future in which Facebook AI would be able to understand what is in pictures, video or news articles and use insights to recommend content members of the social network might like.

Bot-building capabilities will be in a test mode with Facebook approving creations before they are released, according to vice president of messaging products David Marcus.

Some of the latest tools include one for the creation of “high-end, self-learning bots,” along with ways for them to be brought to people’s attention at Messenger, Marcus said.

“If you want to build more complex bots, you can now use our bot engine,” Marcus told a packed audience of developers.

“You feed it samples of conversation, and it’s better over time. You can build your bot today.”

The list of partners launching Messenger bots included Business Insider, which said it will use the technology to deliver news stories to people in real-time.

“We are excited about this new offering because we know that messaging apps are exploding in popularity,” Business Insider said in a story at its website announcing the move.

Cloud computing star Salesforce planned to use the platform to help businesses have “deeper, more personalized and one-to-one customer journeys within the chat experience,” said Salesforce president and chief product officer Alex Dayon.

Bridges, not walls
Zuckerberg laid out a future for Facebook that, aside from Messenger, included ramping up live video streaming and diving into virtual reality.

“We think we are at the edge of the golden age of video,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook opened its Live platform to allow developers to stream video content from their applications to audiences at the social network.

Zuckerberg demonstrated with a drone that flew over those seated, streaming live video to Facebook while he spoke.

Messenger and Live will be built out further in coming years, along with virtual reality technology atFacebook-owned Oculus, according to Zuckerberg.

When his daughter takes her first steps, Zuckerberg said he planned to record it in 360-degree video so family and friends can experience it in virtual reality as if they were there for the moment.

At one point, Zuckerberg’s comments took on a political tone, with the Facebook chief maintaining that the mission to connect the world is more important than ever given rhetoric about building walls and fearing those who are different.

“If the world starts to turn inward, then our community will have to work even harder to bring people together,” Zuckerberg said.

“Instead of building walls, we can build bridges,” he added, in an apparent reference to the fiery rhetoric of Donald Trump.


Dark Souls III Collector’s Edition Revealed for India, Exclusive to Games The Shop?

Dark Souls III Collector's Edition Revealed for India, Exclusive to Games The Shop?

Dark Souls 3’s Collector’s Edition will be made available in India albeit at an unknown time and price. And it appears to be exclusive to Games The Shop – a specialist chain of game stores run by Dark Souls 3 distributor E-Xpress Interactive. At this point in time, there’s no listing of it on other retailers like Amazon or Flipkart.

The first mention of this was via a Facebook post of an E-Xpress employee. Hours later, Games The Shop’s Facebook page was updated to reflect the same. Nonetheless, there’s no price point or mention of when you could actually purchase it. Instead you’ll have to email Games The Shop’s help desk to figure out. Safe to say it would be available in limited numbers.

(Also see:No One Knows Dark Souls III’s Release Date in India)

It’s all rather cryptic unlike other Collector’s Edition games that have made it into India such as Fallout 4or Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Previously you could expect an announcement of availability a month prior to release as well as a price. Right now, on the game’s release day, you can’t even buy the standard edition of the game officially, forget about a special edition variant of it. So much so that no one has any idea when exactly it would be available here. If we had to speculate, it would be priced similarly to other limited edition games, which would put it in striking distance of its current US price of $220 (around Rs. 14,600) give or take a few thousand to provision for customs, weight, and shipping.

If you do end up bothering with the Dark Souls 3 Collector’s Edition you get the following along with the game:

  • Collector’s Box
  • Metal case
  • Red Knight Figurine
  • A4 hardcover art book
  • Sound track
  • Cloth map
  • 3 iron on patches

You’d think that with a flurry of positive reviews that Dark Souls 3 would make it to India on time. But this is not the case. In the past this has happened with other games from publisher Bandai Namco such as Project Cars. Then again, with India not being a market with a huge demand for RPGs, you can’t exactly blame the Japanese company’s hesitation. This last minute announcement appears to be indicative of this.


Could a New Xbox One Be Announced at E3 2016?

Could a New Xbox One Be Announced at E3 2016?me conferences. According to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filings made by Microsoft, and unearthed by users of popular gaming forum NeoGAF, the Redmond-based company is testing a new wireless chip for the Xbox One for FCC approval.

“[I]f we check the Exhibits for those two models we can see that model 1683 includes a document named “User Manual 1525″ which is not yet available and thus under NDA but the name gives away that this is basically a new Xbox One which will use the safety information manual from the OG Xbox One,” posted NeoGAF user ekim. It was noted that FCC filings show two consoles tested using the same WiFi chip where one is referencing the manual of the Xbox One and the other does not.

One of them alludes to a possible E3 reveal as the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for the filing expires on June 25. The other could possibly be a totally different console altogether from Microsoft.

“Model 1682 has the same wireless chip tested but the NDA expires late in July 29 and has it’s own host manual linked but not the 1525 reference. Also there are quite some more Exhibits available here which makes me think this is the rumoured Xbox Next or whatever it is called.”

With Xbox head Phil Spencer speaking out against an incremental console update like Sony’s PS4K, it is more likely that these filings could relate to a slimmer version of the Xbox rather than a brand new console, possibly one without a disc drive. In addition to this, AMD – which supplies internals to Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony has stated new consoles from Sony and Nintendo are expected. It failed to mention Microsoft, making a smaller form factor variant of the existing console all the more likely.