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MICROSOFT WINS US$480MIL ARMY BATTLEFIELD CONTRACT

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Microsoft Corp has won a US$480mil (RM2.01bil) contract to supply prototypes for augmented reality systems to the Army for use on combat missions and in training, the Army said.

The contract, which could eventually lead to the military purchasing over 100,000 headsets, is intended to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy”, according to a government description of the programme.

“Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions. This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defence to this new area,” a Microsoft spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The US Army and the Israeli military have already used Microsoft’s HoloLens devices in training, but plans for live combat would be a significant step forward.

HoloLens is one of the leading consumer-grade headsets, but a large consumer market doesn’t yet exist; a video made for the European Patent Office this spring said it had sold about 50,000 devices. That’s about half the number the Army expects to buy through its augmented reality programme, which is called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.

With the contract, the Army immediately becomes one of Microsoft’s most important HoloLens consumers. It expects devices to vary from their consumer-grade counterparts in a handful of key respects. In a document shared with companies bidding on the contract, the Army said it wanted to incorporate night vision and thermal sensing, measure vital signs like breathing and “readiness”, monitor for concussions and offer hearing protection. It said the winning bidder would be expected to deliver 2,500 headsets within two years, and exhibit the capacity for full-scale production.

The contract went though a bidding process designed to encourage the Army to do business with companies who aren’t traditional defence contractors. Magic Leap, which makes the main competitor to HoloLens for the consumer market, also pursued the contract. In early August, the Army held meetings with 25 companies interested in participating in some way, including Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp, and Raytheon Co. The technology industry’s cooperation with the US military and law enforcement has become increasingly tense over the last year, with employees at companies like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc pushing back against government contracts.

Earlier this year, hundreds of Microsoft workers signed a petition criticising a contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement that Microsoft had originally said included some of its AI software. In October, a blog post purportedly written by Microsoft employees urged the company not to bid on a multi-billion dollar US military cloud contract.

“Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war,” they wrote.

Later that month, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, said the company would continue to sell software to the US military. Smith wrote that employees with ethical qualms with projects would be allowed to move to other work within the company.

“Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other technologies are raising new and profoundly important issues, including the ability of weapons to act autonomously. As we have discussed these issues with governments, we’ve appreciated that no military in the world wants to wake up to discover that machines have started a war,” he wrote.

But we can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation.” – Bloomberg

 

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Samsung to invest $115 billion in its foundry business by 2030

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Samsung is earmarking $9.5 billion a year for Samsung LSI and Samsung Foundry.

Samsung Electronics is one of the largest semiconductor players around, and the manufacturer is investing $115 billion (133 trillion won) over the next 12 years to take on Qualcomm and Intel. Samsung says its goal is to become the world leader in semiconductors and logic chips, and the company will invest $9.5 billion a year from now through 2030.

Samsung will invest $63.4 billion (73 trillion won) toward domestic R&D — where it is looking to add 15,000 jobs to “bolster its technological prowess” — and spend $52 billion (60 trillion won) toward production facilities that will make the logic chips. Samsung has long been the dominant player in the memory business, but with that market shrinking the South Korean manufacturer will be looking to diversify.

While the $115 billion seems like a staggering amount at first, it’s in line with what Samsung has been spending in recent years. Just last year alone Samsung invested over $15 billion in R&D, and Intel also spent over $10 billion toward developing new products.

Source: https://www.androidcentral.com/samsung-investing-115-billion-take-qualcomm-and-intel

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Apple will start selling AirPods 3 by the end of 2019

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Apple is expected to start selling third-generation AirPods by the end of 2019. One big difference is that the new wireless headphones will have a noise canceling feature. At the level of the companies that will be involved in this project, we have Inventec, from Taiwan, that will be responsible for the production of the AirPods 3, while Luxshare Precision, also from China, will also receive part of the orders.

AirPods 3 arrive until the end of 2019 with new functionalities

Apple has dominated the wireless headphone market and will continue to do so. Statistics show that this company sold 35 million AirPods in 2018, which translates into a 75% global market share. As we said, the AirPod sales boom is expected to continue, with annual shipments for distribution rising to 50 million devices by 2019.

Of course, when a market becomes profitable, competition arises. Inspired by rising sales of AirPods, many brands like Huawei, Xiaomi and even companies like Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are betting on wireless headphones to meet strong demand.

To meet the challenges of rivals, Apple and its partners want to raise the bar.

That said they will add new features to AirPods 3, including the noise canceling function. However, do not think this is an easy task.

Noise canceling technology consumes a significant amount of battery. Since AirPods are not the king in this field, the runtime may be even more affected.

It is not known now what Apple could do and if it is even going to consider a change in design. Because considering the integration of new features, it may be necessary to increase the size of the battery. This requires more space. However, the solution may also involve shrinking the other components to accommodate the larger battery.

However, in addition to the design change, Apple may also be considering adding new colors to AirPods 3.

Source: https://techlector.com/apple-will-start-selling-airpods-3-by-the-end-of-2019/

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Verizon’s new activation fees cost more in-store, less in-app

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It’s adding an extra $10 on top of in-person and over-the-phone upgrades and activations.

Verizon has simultaneously slashed and increased its activation and upgrade fees, depending on how you process the transaction. According to CNET and reports posted online, you now only have to pay $20 if you upgrade your device or activate a line on the carrier’s website or the My Verizon app. That’s down $10 from the previous $30 fee for either service. However, if you walk into a store or call the company’s phone line for upgrade or activation, you’ll now have to pay $40 instead.

A Verizon spokesperson described personal and over-the-phone transactions to CNET as a “full-service experience,” perhaps suggesting that those channels deserve the extra $10. The company is probably hoping to discourage people who can do things on their own from engaging customer service and sales reps, though what the fee adjustments mean for employees remains to be seen. The Redditor who posted the news on the website claimed to work for an indirect store and said employees aren’t getting a pay upgrade despite the higher fees. We’ve reached out to Verizon for confirmation and will update when we hear back.

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