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CES 2022: Microsoft, Qualcomm Partner on Metaverse Chip for AR Glasses

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By Reuters | Updated: 5 January 2022

Qualcomm on Tuesday said it is working with Microsoft on custom chips that would control lightweight augmented reality glasses for use by both consumers and businesses for metaverse apps.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Qualcomm Chief Executive Cristiano Amon said during a press conference that the two companies will work together to mate the custom chips with the software that developers need to create virtual worlds in which people can work and play.

He said that future devices from the collaboration will work with a Microsoft software product called Mesh that allows users to beam a realistic likeness of themselves into the headset of another user so that it feels like the two people are in the same room.

The future hardware will also use software from Qualcomm called Snapdragon Spaces that helps perform basic augmented reality functions like mapping out physical spaces so that digital objects can be overlaid on them and hand-tracking so that users can manipulate those digital objects with hand gestures.

“We’ve been talking for years about the possibility of having wearable augmented reality devices that will gain scale,” Amon, one of the few major tech executives not to cancel his physical presence at the trade show, said from a live-streamed talk on stage in Las Vegas.

The two companies did not give details about when the chips and headsets would be available.

“Our goal is to inspire and empower others to collectively work to develop the metaverse future – a future that is grounded in trust and innovation,” Rubén Caballero, corporate vice president for mixed reality at Microsoft, said in a statement.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

Technology

5G Spectrum Bands in India Will Not Interfere With Aircraft Radar Altimeters: ITU-APT Foundation

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By Press Trust of India | Updated: 21 January 2022

Proposed 5G services rolled out in India will be in spectrum bands that will have sufficient safeguards and will not interfere with civil aircraft altimeters, ITU APT Foundation of India said on Thursday.
Several airlines have cancelled their flight to the US following 5G services roll-out in the country alleging that 5G signals could interfere with key safety equipment, altimeter, on which pilots rely for take off and altitude readings.

“In India, there is no risk from 5G services to aircraft and we are fully safeguarded as we are only allocating 3300-3670 MHz, which is more than 500 MHz below the altimeter spectrum. Thus the C band frequencies that are being auctioned for 5G in India are completely safe and there is no risk to the Civil Aviation Radar altimeters,” ITU-APT Foundation of India President Bharat Bhatia said in a statement.

ITU-APT Foundation of India is recognised by UN body International Telecommunications Union and it works on spectrum related issues.

The aircraft around the world use the frequency band 4200-4400 MHz for radio Altimeters and the 5G system being deployed in the US in frequency band of 3700-3,980 is close to this frequency band.

“In India, the government is not considering frequencies above 3.7 GHz for public 5G services at present, the frequency band in question in the USA where this potential interference has been observed,” Bhatia said.

At present, spectrum band allocation for 5G services is at a discussion stage. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has floated a consultation paper to take views of interested players for determining price and rules for spectrum allocation.

The spectrum will be allocated through auction after the government finalizes price post review of recommendation of TRAI.

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Science

US Researchers Test Pig-to-Human Transplant in Donated Body

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By Associated Press | Updated: 21 January 2022

Researchers on Thursday reported the latest in a surprising string of experiments in the quest to save human lives with organs from genetically modified pigs.

This time around, surgeons in Alabama transplanted a pig’s kidneys into a brain-dead man — a step-by-step rehearsal for an operation they hope to try in living patients possibly later this year.

“The organ shortage is in fact an unmitigated crisis and we’ve never had a real solution to it,” said Dr. Jayme Locke of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who led the newest study and aims to begin a clinical trial of pig kidney transplants.

Similar experiments have made headlines in recent months as research into animal-to-human transplants heats up.

Twice this fall, surgeons at New York University temporarily attached a pig’s kidney to blood vessels outside the body of a deceased recipient to watch them work. And earlier this month, surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center gave a dying man a heart from a gene-edited pig that so far is keeping him alive.

But scientists still needed to learn more about how to test such transplants without risking a patient’s life. With the help of a family who donated a loved one’s body for science, Locke mimicked the way human organ transplants are done — from removing the pig “donor” kidneys to sewing them inside the deceased man’s abdomen.

For a little over three days, until the man’s body was removed from life support, the pair of pig kidneys survived with no sign of immediate rejection, her team reported Thursday in the American Journal of Transplantation.

That was only one of several key findings. Locke said it wasn’t clear if delicate pig kidney blood vessels could withstand the pounding force of human blood pressure – but they did. One kidney was damaged during removal from the pig and didn’t work properly but the other rapidly started producing urine as a kidney should. No pig viruses were transmitted to the recipient, and no pig cells were found in his bloodstream.

But Locke said the kidney experiment could have more far-reaching impact – because it shows that a brain-dead body can be a much-needed human model to test potential new medical treatments.

The research was conducted in September after Jim Parsons, a 57-year-old Alabama man, was declared brain-dead from a dirt bike racing accident.

After hearing this kind of research “had the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives, we knew without a doubt that that was something that Jim would have definitely put his seal of approval on,” said Julie O’Hara, Parsons’ ex-wife.

The need for another source of organs is huge: While more than 41,000 transplants were performed in the US last year, a record, more than 100,000 people remain on the national waiting list. Thousands die every year before getting an organ and thousands more never even get added to the list, considered too much of a long shot.

Animal-to-human transplants, what’s called xenotransplantation, have been attempted without success for decades. People’s immune systems almost instantly attack the foreign tissue. But scientists now have new techniques to edit pig genes so their organs are more human-like — and some are anxious to try again.

The recent string of pig experiments “is a big step forward,” said Dr. David Kaczorowski of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Moving on to first-stage trials in potentially dozens of people is “becoming more and more feasible.”

A heart transplant surgeon, Kaczorowski has done experiments testing pig organs in non-human primates that helped pave the way but “there are only things we can learn by transplanting them into humans.”

Hurdles remain before formal testing in people begins, including deciding who would qualify to test a pig organ, said Karen Maschke, a research scholar at the Hastings Center who will help develop ethics and policy recommendations for the first clinical trials under a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Scientists also still have much to learn about how long pig organs survive and how best to genetically alter them, cautioned Dr. Robert Montgomery of NYU Langone Health, who led that centre’s kidney experiments in the fall.

“I think different organs will require different genetic modifications,” he said in an email.

For the newest kidney experiment, UAB teamed with Revivicor, the subsidiary of United Therapeutics that also provided organs for the recent heart transplant in Maryland and the kidney experiment in New York. Company scientists made 10 genetic changes to these pigs, knocking out some genes that trigger a human immune attack and make the animals’ organs grow too large — and adding some human genes so the organs look less foreign to people’s immune systems.

Then there are practical questions such as how to minimise time spent getting pig organs to their destination. UAB housed the altered pigs in a germ-free facility in Birmingham complete with an operating room-like space to remove the organs and ready them for transplant.

Revivicor chief scientific officer David Ayares said future plans include building more such facilities near transplant centres.

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GM to Deliver Electric SUV Cadillac Lyriq to Customers in ‘Few Months’

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By Reuters | Updated: 21 January 2022

General Motors’s pre-production version of electric SUV Cadillac Lyriq have been assembled and the final production version is expected to be delivered to customers in a few months, President Mark Reuss said in a LinkedIn post on Thursday.

Detroit-based GM, recently dethroned as the No.1 US automaker, is competing with century-old rival Ford Motor over which company will sell more electric vehicles by 2025.

“Our teams have worked tirelessly on the Lyriq, bringing the launch up nine months ahead of schedule,” Reuss said.

Lyriq, an all-electric mid-size SUV, was unveiled by GM in August 2020 in a move to transform its traditional combustion engine lineup to an electric one.

GM’s Cadillac will offer the Lyriq, Symboliq, Celestiq, Escalade EV as well as a compact SUV by 2025.

Separately, the automaker halted production of its EV model Chevrolet Bolt in August after a major battery recall and recently extended the halt to late February.

The company is considering investing more than $4 billion (roughly Rs. 29,805 crore) in two Michigan plants to boost its electric vehicle production capacity, according to sources and documents made public in December.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Facebook-Parent Meta Removes Iran-Based Fake Accounts Targeting Instagram Users in Scotland

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By Reuters | Updated: 21 January 2022

Facebook parent Meta Platforms removed a network of fake accounts that originated in Iran and targeted Instagram users in Scotland with content supporting Scottish independence, the company’s investigators said on Thursday.

The network used fake accounts to pose as locals in England and Scotland, posting photos and memes about current events and criticism of the United Kingdom’s government, Meta said.

The accounts organised their content around common hashtags promoting the cause, though they at times misspelled them, the company said. The accounts also posted about football and UK cities, likely to make the fictitious personas seem more authentic.

Some of the fake accounts used profile pictures likely created through AI techniques, while others used photos of media personalities and celebrities from the UK and Iraq as profile pictures, Meta said.

In a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, Scots voted 55 percent-45 percent to remain in the United Kingdom, but both Brexit and the British government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis have bolstered support for independence among Scots and demands for a second vote.

Meta said its investigation found links to individuals in Iran, including people with a background in teaching English as a foreign language.

It said the operation had some connections with a small Iran-based network it previously removed in December 2020, which mostly targeted Arabic, French, and English-speaking audiences using fake accounts, but did not provide further details on who might be behind the activity.

“We’ve seen a range of operations coming from Iran over the last few years,” said Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead for influence operations, in a press briefing. “It’s not a monolithic environment.”

The social media company said it had removed eight Facebook accounts and 126 Instagram accounts as part of this latest network in December for violating its rules against coordinated inauthentic behavior.

Meta also said in December it removed a network that originated primarily in Mexico and targeted audiences in countries including Honduras, Ecuador and El Salvador, and a network that originated in Turkey and targeted people in Libya.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Science

World’s First Space-Based Film Studio SEE to Launch by 2024, to Co-Produce Upcoming Tom Cruise Caper

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By ANI | Updated: 21 January 2022

Space Entertainment Enterprise (SEE) is planning to launch what it claims is the world’s first entertainment studio and multi-purpose arena in zero gravity. The company is co-producing Tom Cruise’s upcoming space movie.

SEE has unveiled plans to build a space station module that contains a sports and entertainment arena as well as a content studio by December 2024.

Named SEE-1, the module is intended to host films, television, music, and sports events as well as artists, producers and creatives who want to make content in the low orbit, micro-gravity environment. The facilities will enable the development, production, recording, broadcasting and livestreaming of content.

SEE intend to produce its own content and events in the module as well as make it available to third parties.

Axiom Space, who in January 2020 won NASA’s approval to build a commercial component of the International Space Station (ISS), will undertake the construction of SEE-1. The module will dock on Axiom’s commercial arm, named Axiom Station, which will also host other commercial ventures, including space tourism.

Axiom Station will then separate from the ISS in 2028.

SEE, which was co-founded in the UK by entrepreneurs and producers Elena and Dmitry Lesnevsky, is currently planning a fundraising round.

“SEE-1 is an incredible opportunity for humanity to move into a different realm and start an exciting new chapter in space,” said Dmitry and Elena Lesnevsky in a statement.

“It will provide a unique, and accessible home for boundless entertainment possibilities in a venue packed with innovative infrastructure which will unleash a new world of creativity. With worldwide leader Axiom Space building this cutting-edge, revolutionary facility, SEE-1 will provide not only the first but also the supreme quality space structure enabling the expansion of the two trillion-dollar global entertainment industry into low-Earth orbit,” the statement continued.

“Axiom Station, the world’s first commercial space station, is designed as the foundational infrastructure enabling a diverse economy in orbit,” said Michael Suffredini, president/CEO of Axiom Space.

“Adding a dedicated entertainment venue to Axiom Station’s commercial capabilities in the form of SEE-1 will expand the station’s utility as a platform for a global user base and highlight the range of opportunities the new space economy offers,” added Suffredini.

“SEE-1 will showcase and leverage the space environment in an unprecedented way,” Axiom chief engineer Dr Michael Baine said.

“The inflatable module design provides for around six metres diameter of unobstructed pressurized volume, which can be adapted to a range of activities – including an onboard state-of-the-art media production capability that will capture and convey the experience of weightlessness with breathtaking impact,” Dr Baine explained.

Richard Johnston, COO of SEE. added: “From Jules Verne to ‘Star Trek,’ science fiction entertainment has inspired millions of people around the world to dream about what the future might bring. Creating a next-generation entertainment venue in space inspire opens countless doors to create incredible new content and make these dreams a reality.”

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China Satellite in Close Encounter With Russian Anti-Satellite Missile Test Debris: State Media

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By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 21 January 2022

A Chinese satellite had a near collision with one of the many chunks of debris left by the fallout of a recent Russian anti-satellite missile test, state media reported.

Moscow blew up one of its old satellites in November in a missile test that sparked international anger because of the space debris it scattered around the Earth’s orbit.

US officials accused Moscow of carrying out a “dangerous and irresponsible” strike that had created a cloud of debris and forced the International Space Station’s crew to take evasive action.

Russia dismissed those concerns and denied that the space debris posed any danger but a new incident with a Chinese satellite suggests otherwise.

In the latest encounter, China’s Tsinghua Science Satellite came as close as 14.5 metres from a piece of debris, the state-run Global Times reported late Wednesday.

The “extremely dangerous” event happened on Tuesday, the report added, citing a social media post by Chinese space authorities that has since been removed.

Space debris expert Liu Jing told the Global Times that it was rare for debris and spacecraft to be just a dozen metres apart, adding that the probability of collision this time was “very high” and should theoretically have called for evasive action.

Anti-satellite weapons are high-tech missiles possessed by few nations, and the move reignited concerns about an escalating arms race in space – encompassing everything from laser weapons to satellites capable of shunting others out of orbit.

The test was the fourth ever to hit a spacecraft from the ground, and generated more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris.

Last year there were close encounters between the Chinese space station and satellites operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which led to Beijing accusing the US of irresponsible and unsafe conduct in space.

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