Weekly Bytes | NASA’s water-hunting Moon rover, Internet Explorer to retire after 25 years, and more

Illustration of NASA's Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover on the surface of the Moon.   | Photo Credit: NASA Ames/Daniel Rutter

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NASA’s water-hunting Moon rover

NASA on Friday shared details about its first mobile robot that will be sent to the Moon in late 2023 in search of ice and other resources on and below the lunar surface. Data from the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, would help NASA map resources at the lunar South Pole that could one day be harvested for long-term human exploration at the Moon, the space agency noted. VIPER will explore the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon. These areas have not seen sunlight in billions of years and are some of the coldest spots in the solar system. It will carry four instruments, and use a specialised set of wheels and suspension system to cover a variety of inclines and soil types on the lunar surface. NASA’s investment in the mid-size rover for mission development costs and operations is $433.5 million, according to the space agency. “When astronauts return to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972, they will follow in VIPER’s wheel prints and land at the lunar South Pole,” it said. In another space update, China landed a spacecraft on Mars carrying its first Mars rover in a big boost to its space ambitions.

Microsoft to retire Internet Explorer in June 2022

Microsoft will retire the consumer version of the Internet Explorer (IE) browser on June 15, 2022, after more than 25 years. The announcement does not affect in-market Windows 10 LTSC or Server IE 11 desktop applications, as well as the MSHTML engine, it noted in a blog post. Microsoft recommends IE users to migrate to its Chromium-based Edge browser, which supports both legacy and modern websites. With the Internet Explorer mode in Edge, users can get built-in legacy browser support for websites and applications that still require IE browser. “We found that enterprises have 1,678 legacy apps on average,” the software firm noted, and added that IE mode support will be available at least through 2029. Microsoft Edge’s features list has grown since its launch with a focus on bringing privacy and convenience enhancements for the users, in addition to other productivity and shopping features. Recently, Microsoft also introduced Kids Mode in Edge. This week, Microsoft launched the personal version of its popular communication platform, Teams, allowing people to make video calls, chat, and share files with their friends and family.

Ford unveils all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck

Ford on Wednesday unveiled its all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck that will be available to customers next year. F-Series, which is said to be America’s best-selling truck for 44 years, will take on Tesla’s Cybertruck. The vehicle delivers a targeted 563 horsepower and 775 lb.-ft. of torque. F-150 Lightning offers an EPA-estimated range of 300 miles (about 483 km) with an extended-range battery, and supports a maximum 2,000-pound (about 907 kg) payload and up to 10,000-pound (about 4535 kg) towing capacity. F-150 Lightning has enough energy to power an entire home and a 400L lockable frunk with power and charging capabilities to spare. Ford will deploy standard over-the-air software updates to improve the technology experience, as well as add new features and fix issues. Available in specific models, SYNC 4A, a modern interface supported by a 15.5-inch touch screen is designed to adapt to driver behaviour. It employs natural voice control and cloud-connected navigation. In another EV update, battery-powered electric vehicles sales jumped in the first quarter of 2021, dominated by Chinese automakers.

Amazon invests in electric aircraft firm

BETA Technologies, an Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft maker, closed a $368 million funding round that included investment from Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund. These funds will support continued development of an integrated system for Electric Vertical Aviation, which will reshape how people and cargo move while reducing the environmental impact of aviation. At the core of this system is ALIA, BETA's electric vertical aircraft, which can carry 1,500 pounds of cargo or up to six people with “zero operational emissions.” This is part of The Climate Pledge that Amazon co-founded in 2019 with a commitment to be net-zero carbon across its operations by 2040. The Climate Pledge Fund is a $2 billion investment programme with previous investments in EV maker Rivian, ZeroAvia, CarbonCure Technologies, Pachama, Redwood Materials, Turntide Technologies, and Infinium. In a separate development, Wisk Aero, a flying taxi startup, asked a California court to stop the alleged use of its trade secrets by rival Archer Aviation.

Google to test Chrome feature for RSS feeds

Google on Wednesday said it will be testing a ‘Follow’ feature in its Chrome browser that is designed to help people get the latest content from sites they follow. “Our vision is to help people build a direct connection with their favourite publishers and creators on the web,” it noted in a blog post. The Chrome feature is built on the open RSS web standard and will be available to some Android users in the US on Chrome Canary, over the next few weeks, according to the search giant. Google had its own web feed reader – Google Reader, until it was discontinued in 2013 because of declined usage. The California-based firm said it wants people to follow their favourite websites, just “by tapping a Follow button in Chrome.” Users can see updates from those sites in a new Following section on the New Tab page. Google will also provide more guidance to web publishers as it learns and evaluates whether this feature will graduate from an experiment to a broader rollout in Chrome, it noted. This week, at Google I/O 2021 the search giant also unveiled a beta version of Android 12 with more privacy-enhanced features and a design makeover.

Tinder’s AI-powered ‘Are You Sure?’ feature

Online dating application, Tinder, has introduced a new artificial intelligence (AI)-powered feature dubbed Are You Sure? (AYS?) to reduce harassment in the app. The feature uses AI to detect harmful language and proactively intervenes to warn the sender their message may be offensive, asking them to pause before hitting send, the dating app noted in a statement, adding “The AI was built based on what members have reported in the past, and it will continue to evolve and improve over time.” According to Tinder, AYS? has reduced inappropriate language in messages sent by over 10% in early testing. The dating app also offers other harm reduction tools, like ‘Does This Bother You?’, which provides proactive support to members when harmful language is detected in a message they received. Tinder was the top-ranking app in India and the U.S., having the highest annual overall consumer spend among non-gaming apps in 2020. In another AI-related development, Twitter has ditched its image-cropping AI after finding racial and gender bias.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 5:29:37 AM |

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