Weekly Bytes | NASA to launch most powerful space telescope, IBM Watson gets new AI capabilities, and more

James Webb Space Telescope mirror seen in full bloom. Once launched into space, the Webb telescope’s 18-segmented gold mirror is specially designed to capture infrared light from the first galaxies that formed in the early universe.   | Photo Credit: NASA

NASA to launch James Webb Space Telescope in December

NASA on Wednesday said it plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) into orbit on December 18, 2021, to serve as the premier deep space observatory for the next decade. “The Webb telescope’s revolutionary technology will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe, and everything in between,” the space agency said in a statement. Several innovative technologies have been developed for the most powerful space telescope, including a primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch. According to NASA, Webb’s biggest feature is a tennis court-sized five-layer sunshield that attenuates heat from the Sun more than a million times. The telescope’s four instruments - cameras and spectrometers - have detectors that can record extremely faint signals. The JWST is an international programme led by NASA with its partners European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. In a separate development, the construction of the world’s largest radio telescope started in July, combining 197 dishes in South Africa and 1,31,072 antennas in Western Australia.

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IBM Watson Assistant’s new AI, automation features

IBM has launched new artificial intelligence (AI) and automation capabilities in its Watson Assistant, designed to make it easier for businesses to create enhanced customer service experiences. The new enhancements in the company’s intelligent virtual agent can help businesses leverage AI and natural language processing (NLP) to address customer issues on first contact and more quickly provide them with relevant answers over the phone, SMS, web, or any messaging platform. IBM also collaborated with IntelePeer to set up and test a voice agent, and a new agent app designed to help customer service agents pick up with a customer right where the virtual agent left off while maintaining the conversation’s context. According to IBM’s 2021 Global AI Adoption Index, 52% of global IT professionals surveyed report that their company is using or considering NLP solutions to improve customer experiences. In another update, IBM has launched its new Power E1080 server that is designed to offer a secure, frictionless, and scalable hybrid cloud experience.

Mercedes concept car with brain-computer interface

German luxury automotive firm Mercedes-Benz is integrating brain-computer interface (BCI) technology into its VISION AVTR concept vehicle. The automaker presented how BCI technology works and, for the first time, gave a preview of mind control as a new dimension of human interaction with the vehicle at the IAA MOBILITY 2021. After a short calibration process, a BCI device attached to a user’s head analyses the measured brain waves and triggers a defined function, the company explained. “They will experience how quickly their own brain connects with the vehicle – similar to the neuronal connection between the Na’vi and the nature in the visionary Hollywood blockbuster ‘Avatar’.” BCI could enable a new form of machine control that allows users to select the navigation destination by thought control, switch the ambient light in the interior or change the radio station. “The biometric connection enables a completely new interaction between man, machine and nature in the autonomous-driving concept vehicle,” the carmaker said. In another development, Mercedes has revealed the AMG EQS 53 4Matic+, an all-electric series production model, that features a twin-motor set-up offering up to 751hp.

Twitter starts testing labels for bot accounts

Twitter has started testing a labelling feature that allows automated accounts (or bot accounts) to identify themselves so users can have a better experience on the platform. “What’s a bot and what’s not? We’re making it easier to identify #GoodBots and their automated Tweets with new labels,” the tech firm said in a tweet. The micro-blogging platform has started testing the feature with a limited number of people, which allows them to identify their automated accounts with this label, it noted in a FAQ. The accounts in Twitter’s test group will have an “automated” label on their account profile under their profile name and handle. “Examples of automated accounts you might see on Twitter include bots that help you find vaccine appointments and disaster early warning systems,” the company said. This week, Twitter also started testing Communities, a feature similar to Facebook Groups, that lets users tweet directly to a group rather than all the followers.

Amazon introduces Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Amazon on Thursday introduced Fire TV Stick 4K Max, an Ultra HD streaming media player. It features a quad-core 1.8GHz processer, 2GB of RAM, brings Wi-Fi 6 support with the latest MediaTek MT7921LS chipset, and is said to be 40% more powerful than Fire TV Stick 4K. The device supports 4K UHD, HDR, and HDR10+ streaming as well as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for a theatre-like experience. It comes with the latest Alexa Voice Remote that can also be used to control compatible TV and soundbar. The device gives access to several apps, Alexa skills, and channels, as well as movies and shows across apps such as Prime Video, Netflix, and Hotstar. Users can also listen to songs, playlists through services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Spotify. Fire TV Stick 4K Max is available for pre-order for ₹6499 on and Amazon kiosks in select malls and will begin shipping to customers from October 7, 2021, the company said. In a separate development, the Supreme Court on Thursday stayed proceedings in the dispute between Future Group and Amazon over a nearly ₹25,000-crore merger deal with Reliance Retail.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 2:24:01 AM |

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