Technology

Today’s cache | Phone calls are making a come-back, TikTok pledges $375 million, and more

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File photo.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Today's cache is your daily download of the top 5 updates from the world of technology.

Gamers have a reason to cheer as Google Stadia is offering a two-month free trial starting Wednesday.

The post-COVID-19 world may adopt digital currencies faster as contact-less payments reduce the spread of viruses.

Some work-arounds to unlock your phone without Face ID while you wear a mask to keep the coronavirus at bay.

Short-video sharing app TikTok is pledging $375 million to support the fight against COVID-19.

And finally, phone calls are making a come-back.

Google Stadia is offering its pro version for free

Gamers have a reason to be happy. Google is offering Stadia Pro for free for two months starting Wednesday.

“Keeping social distance is vital, but staying home for long periods can be difficult and feel isolating,” Phil Harrison, Vice President and GM, Google Stadia said in a statement. Video games are a great way to connect with friends and family when stuck at home, he added. “So, we’re giving gamers in 14 countries free access to Stadia Pro for two months.”

The free trial will be rolled out in the next two days.

Those signing up will get immediate access to nine games, including GRID, Destiny 2: The Collection and Thumper.

Apart from the games that are part of the free trial, gamers can buy more from the store. The store-purchased games will remain with the user even after the subscription ends.

The platform has adjusted its bandwidth usage by changing its default resolution to 1080p from 4K. This will reduce the load on internet.

Stadia lets gamers play across screens. They can use a Stadia controller and Google Chromecast Ultra to play on televisions. Alternatively, users can play on their PCs and laptops using keyboard and mouse.

For paid Stadia Pro subscribers, the platform won’t charge them for the next two months.

After the trial period ends, Stadia Pro subscription can continue at $9.99/month.

To get started, go to Stadia.com to sign up. The app is available on both Play Store and App Store.

Digital currencies adoption to be faster post COVID-19

Paper currencies had already been losing their importance after plastic money (like credit and debit card) and digital payment technologies were being increasingly adopted by consumers globally.

If people gravitated to new payment technologies due to convenience earlier, the COVID-19 crisis is pushing them to deal in digital currencies to reduce risk of virus transmission.

“The recognition of the infection risk will likely accelerate the push towards digital payment systems across the world,” Deutsche Bank’s Macro Strategist Marion Laboure tweeted.

According to a report in Southern Medical Journal, cited in a TIME article, 94% of the dollar bills tested have pathogens on them. Viruses and bacteria live on the surface for about 48 hours, and can potentially carry a live flu virus for up to 17 days.

That’s why China disinfected its banknotes in February to stop the spread of coronavirus.

In a press conference on February 15, the Chinese central bank revealed that commercial banks have been ordered to take used bills out of circulation and disinfect them.

The COVID-19 pandemic is making central banks across the world adopt digital currencies as many governments view handling cash as a potential risk.

Face ID recognition issue due to masked face

Biometric and facial recognition technologies have made us look into our phones to unlock them. It was cool and easy.

Now, that’s becoming a challenge as many countries are asking their citizens to wear face masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The challenge is not just for iPhone users, but Samsung owners too.

The Face ID technology is meant to protect phone owners so that their mobiles can’t be accessed by anyone else.

The technology behind Face ID uses your eyes, nose and mouth features in combination to set up a lock. That means a face mask is going to cover two important features needed to unlock your phone.

To counter the challenge, some users have tried creating face masks that mimic their actual facial features, so their phones recognise them.

Others have tried to partially cover their face with a mask and create an alternative Face ID.

Both the ideas aren’t quite effective.

There are some simple workarounds. They won’t unlock your phone using your Face ID, but they will reduce the number of times you check

your phone and use alternative ways to unlock it. These have been summed up by Wall Street Journal.

Firstly, make a paper list of things. For example, if you plan to visit the local store to buy a list of things, write or type it down, and print it out. This way, you won’t have to take your phone out frequently to unlock.

Secondly, wear a gloves and switch to inputting your passcode, instead of using Face ID.

Thirdly, if you are using a smart watch that can be linked to your mobile, use it to check for any notifications.

TikTok pledges $375 million to fight COVID-19

Short-video sharing app TikTok on Thursday pledged $375 million to support efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We are committed to playing our part in that global outpouring of mutual support and giving,” Alex Zhu, President, TikTok said in a statement.

The ByteDance-owned social media platform will give $250 million to support frontline medical works, educators and local communities affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

It will further give $100 million in ad credits to help business rebuild during these tough times.

Another $25 million is earmarked for organisations that deliver crucial public health information.

To help nurture education on its platform, the company will be giving $50 million in grants to educators, professional experts and not-for-profit organisations to make useful content accessible in a distance learning format.

On April 1, TikTok donated Rs 100 crore-worth medical equipment to India.

The company gave 4,00,000 hazmat medical protective suits and masks.

Apart from these medical gears, the company has also donated two lakh masks to Delhi and Maharashtra governments.

“Looking ahead, TikTok will be actively seeking more ways to contribute, including identifying the most effective ways to allocate these remaining funds to support ongoing relief needs,” Zhu added.

Phone calls are making a come back

As more people are staying indoors to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, one old activity seems to be reviving, New York Times reported.

In the US, while major telecom players were preparing for a surge in internet usage, they didn’t anticipate a jump in voice calls.

For instance, Verizon handles its highest number of regular phone calls during Mother’s Day. It is one of the busiest call days for the operator.

But, the number of calls during this week has averaged 800 million, that’s double of the number of calls made during Mother’s Day.

Not just the number of calls, even the duration has seen an increase of 33% from an average day before the COVID-19 outbreak.

At AT&T, the number of mobile calls rose 35% post the coronavirus outbreak.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 2:03:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/todays-cache-phone-calls-are-making-a-come-back-tiktok-pledges-375-million-and-more/article31301140.ece

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