Centre launches ₹10,000-cr fund to boost electronics manufacturing

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

In a bid to kickstart manufacturing in the electronics sector, the Centre on Monday launched a ₹10,000-crore development fund specifically targeted at the semiconductor industry.

Called Electronic Development Fund (EDF), it will provide risk capital to companies developing new technologies in electronics, nano-electronics and information technology.

The Centre will contribute ₹2,200 crore, while the balance will be brought in by private entities.

Canbank Venture Capital Fund, a subsidiary of state-run lender Canara Bank, has been appointed the implementation agency for EDF.

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology will be the anchor investor.

To start with, the Centre announced the allotment of funds to four VC firms — Karnataka Semiconductor Venture Capital Fund, Exfinity Technology Fund, Forum Synergies EDF Digital India Fund, and Endiya Seed Capital Corporation Fund.

The Centre has provided ₹169 crore to the four companies, while the VC firms are investing close to ₹1,000 crore.

“At any given time, the government will not invest more than 20-25 per cent in the funds, allowing the funds to be managed independently by the fund managers who have expertise in identifying and managing start-up investments,” said Ravi Bansal, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Communications and IT.

IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said this was one of his dream projects and the government will do everything to protect the intellectual property of the start-ups that use this fund.

“We would encourage investments in two key areas — cyber security, where I think India can become a hub for innovation, and chip design, where I see a huge scope for designing semiconductor chips in India,” Prasad said.

The fund will also be used to acquire foreign companies and technologies that are required for building hi-tech capabilities within India, he added.

The fund has a commitment period till March 31, 2017, but according to Bansal, it is unlikely that the entire ₹10,000 crore will be invested by then.

[“source-Thehindubusinessline”]

MWC 2016: Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5, and Other Things You Can Expect

MWC 2016: Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5, and Other Things You Can ExpectThe annual Mobile World Congress exhibition in Barcelona is both a launch pad and a proving ground for tech companies, many of which will launch their most important products of the year within hours of each other and compete for the world’s attention.

Over the course of the week, we’ll see a slew of smartphones, wearables, tablets, appliances, accessories, apps, and other announcements from companies both big and small. Some secrets have spilled, and some have been given away to build hype. Here’s a quick look at what we know, what we’re guessing, and what we’re hoping to see at MWC 2016.

Samsung
It’s all but officially confirmed that Samsung will be releasing its next flagship Galaxy S model right on schedule, and it now looks like there will definitely be a Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, but not a Galaxy S7 Edge+ just yet. The phones will be made of metal just like their predecessors, but will apparently make up for past compromises by supporting microSD cards and being resistant to water and dust. Battery capacity has apparently received a healthy bump.

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According to leaks, the phones will be sold with Qualcomm’s new flagship Snapdragon 820 SoC in some regions, and with Samsung’s own Exynos 8890 in others. We expect 4GB of RAM and at least 32GB of storage. There are even reports of a free VR headset being offered with each unit. Apart from those phones, the company is expected to use its launch event to show off new smartwatches, tablets, andperhaps some new VR products for 2016. Samsung’s big launch event is scheduled for Sunday and we will be there to give you live coverage.

LG
LG has kept its flagship phones out of the MWC spotlight, but is now shaking up its usual mid-year refresh schedule. The LG G5 has been confirmed for an early debut, and one of the features the company has confirmed so far is an always-on display that will show notifications without taking too much of a toll on battery life. There might also be a G5 Lite, if the latest rumours prove to be true.

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It looks like we’ll see the launch of a mid-range phone called K8, which will join the K7 and K10 which were launched at CES. We can also expect to see the newly announced X series, which looks like it will include multiple models, each with one of the flagship G-series’ features. The LG X Cam will feature twin cameras, while the X Screen will have a low-power secondary display for notifications.

We also hope to see new watches, given last year’s emphasis on the Watch Urbane series. Maybe LG will keep experimenting with new platforms and designs – its competitors have certainly done so over the past year. LG kicks of MWC-related launches with its event on Monday.

Sony
Sony could keep up its six-monthly refresh schedule with a fresh Xperia Z lineup, but if so, the company is doing a good job at keeping them under wraps. It’s more likely that we’ll see new mid-range phones and wearables, replacing older models and fleshing out Sony’s product lines.

Huawei
Huawei was one of the few companies to do anything around flagship smartphones at CES, so it isn’t entirely sure what it will pull out of its hat now. Following the Mate 8, we might see the debut of the more mainstream Huawei P9 and a few mass-market models including ones under its Honor label.

Xiaomi
Xiaomi has confirmed that it will preview the Mi 5, but launch details aren’t certain. It looks like Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 will power Xiaomi’s latest high-end push, so it will be interesting to see what price point the Chinese behemoth will hit, and when it will launch the Mi 5 in India. We wouldn’t mind refreshes to the rest of the lineup as well. While the official Mi 5 launch event is in China, a media preview is scheduled in Barcelona on February 24, so be sure we will share everything we find out.

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Microsoft
With the Lumia 650 launched just this week, Microsoft might not have any new phones to show off. That said, there’s still bound to be a lot of curiosity around the Lumia 650 and its siblings, the Lumia 550, Lumia 950, and Lumia 950XL. Microsoft should also be showing off its nifty Continuum feature, and its ever-growing portfolio of apps for Android and iOS. Hopefully, there will be third-party Windows Phone devices. Beyond phones, the Surface 4 Pro and Surface Book will most likely make an appearance, plus of course a slew of Windows 10 devices in all shapes and sizes from partner companies.

Nokia
The former tech superpower managed to steal quite a bit of attention last year with its gorgeous N1 tablet, but we haven’t heard anything further post-show, and the launch we were hoping for never happened. There’s a little part of us that is really hoping Nokia will be even bolder and disclose plans to enter the Android market in a serious way.

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Lenovo
Lenovo might try to establish the positioning of the Moto lineup relative to its own Vibe and other models, but we only have indications of one major new launch, which is promised to be a ‘gorgeous’ new phone with stereo speakers. Stay tuned for more teasers as the launch date draws nearer.

Beyond the hype
Of course one of the best parts about an industry trade show is discovering new companies and being surprised by the unexpected. We can look forward to loads of startups in the IoT and wearables spaces. Health and fitness will be a huge deal, as will automotive entertainment and safety. Companies that have not typically dabbled in tech will show up in droves, touting tie-ups or experiments of their own. On the infrastructure side, buzz around 5G and new Wi-Fi and LTE standards will certainly be strong. Mobile payments might not be relevant to India right now, but several players will be pushing for their standards to become dominant.

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Noteworthy absences
HTC has launched new flagships at the past few MWCs, but there hasn’t been much noise from the company of late. It isn’t certain whether we’ll see an HTC One M10, but mid-range phones should be on display. The company is more likely to emphasise its second-generation Vive VR headset, and might dip its toes into the wearables and IoT markets. Asus was expected to have its next generation ready as well, but it looks as though the company will be keeping things low-key.

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Apple never participates at industry trade shows, but it seems very likely that it will host its own event in March to launch a new 4-inch iPhone, iPad Air, and updated Apple Watch. BlackBerry has confirmed that it will be skipping the show as well, so we won’t have any insight into its roadmap beyond the Privjust yet. Last year’s star Jolla, which launched its tablet last year, is unlikely to have anything to show off given its recent troubles.

What are you looking forward to the most from MWC 2016? Let us know in the comments below.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Behind the Scenes of Face Swap Live, the ‘Creepy’ App That Launched a Thousand Memes

Behind the Scenes of Face Swap Live, the 'Creepy' App That Launched a Thousand Memes

When I smile, Hilary Clinton smiles back. When I raise an eyebrow, hers lifts in unison, like a bizarre game of Simon Says. When I grimace, the wrinkles on her forehead deepen, her lips crinkling and pursing to one side.

Thanks to the wonders of computer vision and a goofy new app called Face Swap Live, I am controlling Hilary’s face – with nothing more than the expression on mine.

If you haven’t yet experienced the viral, nightmarish joys of Face Swap Live, it’s well worth the 99 cents it’s currently selling for. Download the app and point your phone’s camera at a friend, and it will convincingly map their face, in real time, onto someone else’s: yours, a baby’s, Beyonce’s, Richard Nixon’s.

Since appearing in the app store about a month ago, the app hasn’t strayed far outside of Apple’s most-downloaded offerings, peaking in the United States. at No. 14. And while the technology isn’t perfect – the app’s first truly ubiquitous meme was a disastrous face-swap between a dad and his baby – the results are lifelike enough, enough of the time, that the “Today” show dubbed it “Kafkaesque” and the Daily Dot called it “creepy.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Jason Laan, one of the app’s two creators. “But behind the fun, there’s some really amazing, hardcore technology.”

Laan, a chemical engineer by training, has a long history of turning serious tech to more frivolous purposes: In the eight years since he founded his app development firm, Laan Labs, he estimates that they’ve launched around 50 products, from Tap DJ (“mix and add FX to your iPod music!”) to Dog Vision HD (“see the world how your dog sees it!”).

But for Laan, computer vision – the science of training computers to extract and understand information from pictures, the same way humans do – has always possessed a special intrigue. Researchers at places like Google and IBM, with their extraordinary 3-D cameras and lightning-fast processing speeds, had enabled computers to catalog objects, recognize faces and even interpret feelings. Laan and his partner, Will Perkins, began wondering if the iPhone’s improving camera and processing capabilities would allow them to try out similar projects, albeit less seriously.

So late last winter, Face Swap Live was conceived. The app that has since launched a thousand YouTube videos, Imgur posts and nightmare memes.

Face-swapping makes a pretty ideal consumer application for the new computer vision tools, incidentally. While the technology is novel, the art form is not: Know Your Meme traces the first instances back to the early aughts, when the visages of an eccentric Vietnamese singer and and a 16-year-old Chinese kid began showing up on other bodies and in other places.

In 2004, the Something Awful forums fatefully began switching the faces of babies and their grandparents. It was an onerous Photoshop process, a labor of lolz, if you will: isolating the faces manually; copying, moving and rotating them; blending and feathering the mismatched edges until the heads and bodies fit. Even all that work made for some pretty unholy collages: The babies’ heads pixelated, over-large; the grandparents’ shrunken and neckless.

“Wasn’t that (expletive) creepy?” exclaimed an SA writer in 2004. “Now I have to go to bed … Oh, the dreams I’m going to have.”

But the appeal of the face-swap has always been its weirdness – the degree to which it inverts and diverges from reality. The best face-swaps are also the most surreal: Tom Cruise as Jack Nicholson, Barack Obama as George Bush, Nicholas Cage as literally everybody.

“There’s something about absurdity that gives Internet memes a lot of traction,” said Britney Summit-Gil, a doctoral student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who studies Reddit culture. “Absurdity has a long, storied history of entertaining humans.” And it’s not so different from awe, she says – one of our more viral emotions.

Oddly enough, however, we’re moving closer to a world where face swaps are both less “awesome,” in the sense of inspiring wonder, and less obviously absurd. Thanks to innovations like the ones that spurred Face Swap Live, face-swapping no longer requires any time at all, to say nothing of expensive editing software and human effort.

Just look at how fast Face Swap Live is, an accomplishment Laan and Perkins credit to a basket of cutting-edge algorithms. When they look at your face, they simply look for reference points – the corners of your eyes where the color changes, the curve of your chin – and then line them up with those points on another face, auto-smoothing and blending them in.

With better cameras, Laan and Perkins say (3D cameras, particularly, like the ones Intel just unveiled atCES), our smartphones could do far more than copy-paste a face. Already, Disney is working on a technology that can map your face down to its individual wrinkles. At Stanford University and Germany’s Max Planck Institute, researchers have developed a technique that photorealistically transfers one person’s facial expressions to another – not face-swapping, in the traditional sense, but face-hijacking via algorithm.

These researchers believe we’re moving closer to a world where remote workers can Skype into meetings half-clothed, their faces mapped onto a body in a business suit. They suspect we’ll be able to tweak actors’ bad takes and zap unsuspecting bystanders from live TV news.

Far outside the realm of face-swapping, real-time computer vision – particularly of human bodies and faces – will enable a million other technologies: self-driving cars, diagnostic computers, robots that understand emotions and react accordingly. We won’t even delve into the more dystopian applications, like live video-manipulation or mass surveillance.

I ask Perkins and Laan about that, because it’s seems odd: a silly app that advances a promising, and ominous, technology. Do they contemplate the juxtaposition at all, I wonder?

“We just want to have fun,” Laan says. Then they both laugh nervously.

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Uber Launches ‘Trip Experiences’ API on Its Developer Platform

Uber Launches 'Trip Experiences' API on Its Developer PlatformAt Uber’s first ever Asian hackathon held in Bengaluru on Tuesday, taxi aggregator Uber announced the launch of its Global API called Trip Experiences. Launched on developers.uber.com, it lets startups leverage Uber’s API to provide an enhanced and gamified travel experience during the free time that Uber riders have during their trips.

Saad Ahmed, Business Development Lead, Uber India said that it was also the first time that a global API launch was done from Bengaluru, where the company would be setting up an engineering team.

Dmitry Shevelenko, Head of Business, Uber Developer Platform said that the company’s focus on its API platform, launched in March 2015, had been on helping riders make a booking without having to re-enter the address on the Uber app. A focus on intent to ride has been good for the company, he said, citing Microsoft’s integration of the API into Cortana, which was done from the Hyderabad office.

“The API has been helping folks up to point A. Using our API, someone could rebuild our Uber for Android app. What we’re announcing today is a shift from utility, to opening up the platform for true creativity,” Shevelenko said, adding that the Trip Experiences API opens up opportunities that happen on the trip itself. He calculated that Uber riders had generated 20 billion units of free time on over one billion cumulative Uber trips.

The Trip Experiences API will leave users in control, the company said, adding that only apps specifically given permission will be able to connect to Uber and access their trip details. Users can also turn off the feature on an app by app basis, the company said. The company showcased use cases for apps centred around entertainment, news, dating, gamification, local guides, and IoT-based home automation.

The API can tell developers when the rider has free time, how much free time they have, where they’re coming from, and where they’re going, the company said.

Zomato, Zo Rooms, Housing.com, and Satyam Cinemas were some Internet companies who had integrated Uber’s API into their apps, the company said.

In a recently mailed fact sheet, the company said that it had over 250,000 driver partners on its platform active in India, with a presence in 26 Indian cities.

[“Source-Gadgets”]