Hike Acquires Creo, a Bengaluru-Based Smartphone and Streaming Media Dongle Maker

Hike on Friday announced it had acquired Bengaluru-based technology startup firm Creo for an undisclosed sum.

Creo was founded in December 2013 by Sai Srinivas Kiran G and Shubham Malhotra. Both Srinivas and Malhotra were previously associated with Hike.

“The Creo team will begin work on a developer platform to enable third-party developers to build services on the Hike platform,” Hike said in a statement.

Previously, Creo has launched hardware products that include streaming media dongles and smartphones. The company is also the maker of media streaming device ‘Teewe’.

Hike introduced video calling for its users in October 2016. With this, users can see a live video preview of the caller before answering the call.

Hike Acquires Creo, a Bengaluru-Based Smartphone and Streaming Media Dongle MakerThe feature has been built for a reliable and high-quality video experience that works even under challenging network conditions, including good quality 2G.

The messaging application also lets users share Video Stories that lets them share videos of up to 20 seconds. These videos can be further made dramatic using Live Filters. Like the ‘Photo Stories’ feature, the Video Stories also disappear after 48 hours.

Hike was launched in December 2012 and claims to have a user base of over 100 million. In August 2016, Hike raised its fourth round of funding of $175 million led by Tencent and Foxconn at a valuation of $1.4 billion, making it the fastest company in India to attain a valuation of $1 billion. Today, Hike has over 300 employees spread across two offices in Delhi and Bengaluru.

Facebook Authorises Chinese Firm’s Launch of Moments-Like App: Report

Facebook, whose social media platform is blocked in China, authorised a local company to launch a photo-sharing application in the country in May, the New York Times reported, citing a person with knowledge of the company’s plans.

The app, called Colorful Balloons, is similar to Facebook’s Moments application in function and feel, but does not carry the Facebook name, the Times said on Friday.

The app was released in China by a company called Youge Internet Technology and without any hint that Facebook is affiliated with the company, the Times said, citing a post in Apple’s app store.

“We have long said that we are interested in China, and are spending time understanding and learning more about the country in different ways,” a Facebook spokesperson said by email.

Facebook Authorises Chinese Firm's Launch of Moments-Like App: Report“Our focus right now is on helping Chinese businesses and developers expand to new markets outside China by using our ad platform.”

It was unclear if China’s various Internet regulators were aware of the app’s existence, the Times said.

Western social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked by China’s censors, which has helped drive up the popularity of home-grown messaging app WeChat, owned by Tencent and micro-blogging service Weibo.

Zuckerberg in February all but ruled out an expansion in the world’s most populous country, saying there would be “no news at all in the near term.”

Sarahah App: What Is It, and Why Is Everyone Talking About This Anonymous Messaging App?

The Sarahah app has taken hold in the social media sphere over the past week, joining trends such as Prisma app that rose quickly in public consciousness. Whether it will remain a hit or fade away in a few weeks is anybody’s guess, but for now Sarahah app is something difficult to avoid seeing in your Facebook news feed. You would be surprised to learn that the Sarahah app is actually a few months old, and has already been a hit in regions such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according to a BBC report. The premise of the app is pretty simple – send messages to each other, anonymously. Here’s everything you need to know about the app.

Sarahah app – how it works

The idea is simple – you create a Sarahah profile, which anyone can visit. Even without logging in, people can visit your profile and leave messages, anonymously. If they have logged in, messages are still anonymous by default, but users can choose to tag their identity. On the receivers app, all the incoming messages show up in an inbox, and you can flag messages, delete them, reply, or favourite them to find them easily later.

But although the app has become very popular, it’s quite polarising. For instance, although it has (at the time of writing) 10,305 5-star reviews on Google Play, it’s also got 9,652 1-star reviews, showing a near 50-50 split in opinion. The creators described it by saying: Sarahah helps people self-develop by receiving constructive anonymous feedback.

That’s at least in part because of fact that anonymity enables people to act out and behave in hurtful ways without consideration for consequences. Even positive reviews on the App Store still warn that this app is not for the weak hearted. Another 5-star review mentions that people are getting a lot of hateful comments.

sarahah privacy settings sarahah

Now, to be fair, the developers are also looking at ways to improve the experience. Privacy features mean that you can remove your profile from search results, limiting your audience to people who you share your profile with, and you can also turn off access for unauthorised users – that is, only people who are logged in will be able to comment. You can also block senders, so even if you can’t see the name of the user, they won’t be able to send2 you a message again.

The rest of the Sarahah experience remains incredibly barebones though. It’s got one purpose in mind, and delivers a quick and ready experience on that front. It could look better, aesthetically speaking, but from a functional perspective its design easily serves its purpose.

This isn’t the first anonymous messaging app we’ve seen that blew up in popularity though. Yik Yak, Secret, and Whisper are some of the popular apps in recent times to try and fill this function.

For the most part, those apps have been more social, making the interactions more public. Sarahah’s focus is more on messaging and less on social media, and so visiting another users’ profile won’t show anything, unless they choose to make the posts public.

Ultimately though, allowing fully anonymous comments, and not allowing users to respond to messages means that it’s a possible avenue for bullying. It’s very trendy right now, but we’ve seen other secrecy based platforms buzz up and then fizzle out too. There are certain key differences to Sarahah, but it’s too soon to say whether it has what it takes to last longer than the others did.

Google Voice Search Adds Support for More Indian Languages

Manoj Kumar, a roadside tea-seller near Deshbandhu College in Kalkaji, recently purchased his first smartphone from a neighbourhood store. The entry-level phone, priced under Rs. 4,000, has a 4-inch display and runs Android, Google’s mobile operating system that powers more than 90 percent of all smartphones in the country.

Ever since the 33-year-old West Bengal-born Kumar bought his smartphone, he says he often streams cricket matches and movies on his phone. But when he wants to find some information on the Internet, he asks his customers for help.

The problem
Kumar is one of over 230 million people in the country who are not comfortable navigating their phones and swaths of services in English. He would much rather speak to the phone in his native Bengali dialect, he told Gadgets 360. Kumar’s situation represents both a major challenge and at the same time, an avenue for growth for Silicon Valley companies, which are increasingly trying to find their next hundred of millions of customers in India.

On Monday, Google said people will be able to use voice search in many more languages. The Android-maker is adding support for 30 new languages, eight of which are from India. The new Indian languages are Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Prior to the roll-out, which will reach most Android phones Monday, Google’s voice search only supported Hindi language in India. The company said it will roll out these features to its services on iOS in the coming weeks.

The move will enable millions of Indians to access Google’s Search — as well as Gboard app, which is also adding support for these languages today — more easily. There are more people in India (about 234 million as of late last year) who prefer using their native language online than those who can get by with English (about 175 million users), according to a study by KPMG.

As many as 60 percent of such users have cited limited availability of local language and content in that language as the barrier that is withholding them from making much use of these smartphones, the study had said.

Google Voice Search Adds Support for More Indian Languages“A lot of new people who are going to get onboard are going to increasingly bank on systems that they are more comfortable with,” a Google executive said, responding to a query by Gadgets 360. “Voice may be that dominant system versus typing. There is every chance that voice may play a bigger role in bringing those next groups of people online.”

Google said using voice medium to make searches also saves users much time. Voice search is three times faster than typing, the company said citing a study. Without disclosing any India-specific figures, Google said it already sees voice medium used for making 20 percent of all the searches on its search platform.

For several new users, speaking is often an easier way to navigate, a Google executive said. This is especially true in part because several of these people purchase entry-level smartphone with small screens. Typing can especially be a challenge on such phones, Daan van Esch, technical program manager at Google said in a press briefing.

As much of India’s population comes online for the first time in the coming years, the of Indian language Internet users is expected to skyrocket. KPMG expects more than 530 million Indian language speakers to be on the internet by 2021, while people preferring English will see only slight more penetration standing a little shy to 200 million.

You would want those new users to feel at home when using Internet or your services.

Google Camera App Modified to Bring Pixel’s HDR+ Feature to Select Compatible Phones

One of the major selling points of Google’s Pixel smartphone since launch has been its camera, which has managed to impress both users and critics alike. Interestingly, an app developer has now figured out a way to bring the same camera improvements (on the software side) that are carried out on by the Google camera app on Pixel smartphones to other Android smartphones that feature capable processors. Separately, Google has pushed out a new update to the Google Camera app (v4.4) that allows users to take selfies with flash.

Talking first about the workaround to get the Pixel-like image processing, specifically the HDR+ feature, an Ukranian developer who goes by the name B-S-G has shared a modified version of the search giant’s Google Camera app. This modified version of the app reportedly brings along the HDR+ image processing to any device that features either a Snapdragon 820, Snapdragon 821, or Snapdragon 835 SoC. The app, v4.4.012.156195200, was taken from the third Android O developer preview.

Google Camera App Modified to Bring Pixel's HDR+ Feature to Select Compatible PhonesXDA Developers’ writer Adam Conway says that he managed to test the modified version of the app on devices such as LG G6, OnePlus 5, OnePlus 3T, OnePlus 3, and Samsung Galaxy S8. Conway says that he can confirm that the app does work on these aforementioned handsets and works with Google’s HDR+ technology. He further adds that “there was a clear difference in the pictures after it was done processing.”

XDA Developers independently checked the app to see if it is safe to install (sideload link) and during the process discovered that the developer introduced referenced to “muskie” and “Google Pixel XL 2” in order to fool the app into thinking that it is being run on the new generation of Pixel smartphone. Notably, the Google Camera app works on a range of Android 7.1.1 Nougat smartphones, however, it only offers all its features to the latest Google Pixel and Nexus devices.

Coming to the latest update of the Google Camera app, the search giant has introduced the Selfie Flash feature with v4.4. It’s essentially an off-white hued screen flash for when using the front-facing camera. Essentially, with this feature turned on, the app turns the entire display into an off-white colour that provides a soft flash to improve pictures taken in low-light. All users need to do is turn on flash while in front camera mode. The update also brings along the ability to shut off shutter sound in certain regions.

Researchers Produce Renewable Fuel From Bio-Oil

In a first, researchers have produced renewable fuel from pyrolysis bio-oil, a synthetic fuel being considered a substitute for petroleum.

Pyrolysis bio-oil is produced by rapidly heating and then cooling the forest residues in an oxygen-free environment.

By co-gasification with black liquor, a renewable fuel was produced by researchers in Lulea University of Technology’s Green Fuels one of the world’s most advanced pilot plant for gasification of biomass to synthesis gas and green fuels, sciencedaily reported.

“We have made a breakthrough developing the new process and managed to get 1+1 to be equal to three,” said Erik Furusjo, project manager at LUT.

“Black liquor makes it possible to gasify pyrolysis oil at a lower temperature, which provides better yield than if the raw materials were gasified separately,” said Furusjo.

By converting forest residues into a liquid, called bio-oil or pyrolysis oil, energy density was increased and transportation facilitated.

The conversion of the pyrolysis oil to a renewable transportation fuel was made through a process called gasification.

It was performed in combination with black liquor that was a by-product from pulp and paper production.

The project, headed by Furusjo, called “Catalytic gasification” and was financed by the Swedish Energy Agency and an industry consortium.

If one truck load of pyrolysis oil is mixed with black liquor and converted into fuel, the total volume is sufficient to drive a car ten laps around the Earth.

Researchers Find Way to Build Electronic Circuits Inside Plants

Scientists in Sweden have developed an ‘electronic’ rose by implanting circuits inside the vascular system used to distribute water and nutrients in the plant.

Researchers at Linkoping University in Sweden created analog and digital electronics circuits inside living plants.

The group at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics (LOE), led by Professor Magnus Berggren used the vascular system of living roses to build key components of electronic circuits.

Researchers demonstrated wires, digital logic, and even displays elements – fabricated inside the plants – that could develop new applications for organic electronics and new tools in plant science.

Plants are complex organisms that rely on the transport of ionic signals and hormones to perform necessary functions. However, plants operate on a much slower time scale making interacting with and studying plants difficult.

Augmenting plants with electronic functionality would make it possible to combine electric signals with the plant’s own chemical processes.

Controlling and interfacing with chemical pathways in plants could pave the way to photosynthesis-based fuel cells, sensors and growth regulators, and devices that modulate the internal functions of plants, researchers said.

“Previously, we had no good tools for measuring the concentration of various molecules in living plants. Now we’ll be able to influence the concentration of the various substances in the plant that regulate growth and development,” said Ove Nilsson, professor of plant reproduction biology and director of the Umea Plant Science Centre.

The team tried many attempts of introducing conductive polymers through rose stems. Only one polymer, called PEDOT-S, synthesised by Dr Roger Gabrielsson, successfully assembled itself inside the xylem channels as conducting wires, while still allowing the transport of water and nutrients.

Dr Eleni Stavrinidou used the material to create long (10 cm) wires in the xylem channels of the rose. By combining the wires with the electrolyte that surrounds these channels she was able to create an electrochemical transistor, a transistor that converts ionic signals to electronic output.

Using the xylem transistors she also demonstrated digital logic gate function.

Dr Eliot Gomez used methods common in plant biology – vacuum infiltration – to infuse another PEDOT variant into the leaves.

The infused polymer formed “pixels” of electrochemical cells partitioned by the veins. Applied voltage caused the polymer to interact with the ions in the leaf, subsequently changing the colour of the PEDOT in a display-like device.

“As far as we know, there are no previously published research results regarding electronics produced in plants. No one’s done this before,” he said.

The research was published in the journal Science Advances.

Astronomers Measure ‘Heartbeats’ of Distant Stars

Offering a new way of determining a galaxy’s age, astronomers have detected thousands of stellar “pulses” – regular up and down changes in brightness – in a distant galaxy.

The team studied the elliptical galaxy M87, located 53 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

“We tend to think of galaxies as steady beacons in the sky, but they are actually ‘shimmering’ due to all the giant, pulsating stars in them,” said one of the researchers Pieter van Dokkum, professor and chair of the astronomy department at Yale University in New Haven, US.

Near the end of their lifetime stars begin to pulsate, increasing and decreasing their brightness by a large amount every few hundred days. In our own Milky Way galaxy, many stars are known to be in this stage of life.

It is the first time scientists have measured the effect that pulsating, older red stars have on the light of their surrounding galaxy. In distant galaxies the light of each pulsating star is mixed in with the light of many more stars that are not varying in brightness.

The team focused on the galaxy M87 and examined a unique series of images taken with the HubbleSpace Telescope over the course of three months in 2006.

Analysis of the Hubble data showed that the average pixel varies on a timescale of approximately 270 days.

The regular up and down changes in brightness are reminiscent of a heartbeat, the study said.

“It is as if we are taking the pulse of the galaxy,” lead researcher Charlie Conroy, assistant professor at Harvard University pointed out.

Their discovery offers a new way of measuring the age of a galaxy, because the strength and speed of a galaxy’s heartbeat varies depending on its age.

The team found that M87 is about 10 billion years old, a number that agrees with previous estimates using different techniques.

The discovery of stellar heartbeats should not be specific to M87 and every galaxy in the universe likely shows similar distinctive patterns, the researchers said.

The findings appeared in the journal Nature.

ISS Astronaut Scott Kelly Tweets Images of South India

US astronaut Scott Kelly has tweeted a stunning picture of South India at night from space.

Kelly, who is the longest resident on the International Space Station (ISS), on November 15 uploaded a picture of South India at night on micro-blogging site Twitter, The TeCake news website reported.

Kelly has also posted a series of pictures including images of Indian cities, the Ganges and stunning night time picture of India-Pakistan border captured, the report said.

The panoramic image was captured from the south-west direction and India’s southern coast is in the east direction in the image.

In the picture, the faded yellow colour is spread all over the image while the bright yellow spots denote cities.

The image has been retweeted 3,943 times while favourited by 7,225 people.

“Day 233. Once upon a #star over Southern India. #GoodNight from @space_station! #YearInSpace,”Kelly tweeted.

Kelly is longest living astronaut on the ISS and he would have spent 415 days in space by November 17.

On October 16, Kelly completed 383 days in space breaking the record of US astronaut Mike Fincke who had spent 382 cumulative days in space.

China Property Giant Eyes Robot Rescue From Rising Wage Bills

China Vanke, the biggest property developer by sales in the world’s most populous country, is recruiting robots to sweep floors and guard its properties to address a labour shortage and rising wage bills.

As Chinese developers struggle with lacklustre sales and tighter industry margins, China Vanke, like many, is looking to premium concierge services to attract customers, and it said robots would provide some of those services.

You can already buy a robot waiter for CNY 40,000 ($6,300 or roughly Rs. 4,17,000) on Alibaba Group’s Taobao, China’s leading online market place, but Vanke is developing its own, mostly for janitorial, security and transportation services, which are more labour-intensive than the core business of land acquisition, project planning and construction.

“We estimate that with today’s growth and the changes to China’s personnel structure, that at least 30 percent of our jobs will be replaced by robots,” China Vanke’s chairman Wang Shi recently told a university forum in Hong Kong.Vanke rolled out a driverless car and a patrol robot earlier this year, and plans to introduce a floor-sweeping robot at the end of this month.

Wang said in August that eight robot chefs already worked in the restaurants that serve its developments. He added that in 2017, it would open a robot-managed hotel in the southern city of Shenzhen.

Vanke expects its total employees to jump 25-fold to 1 million in a decade from the current 40,000, though the company hasn’t said if some of those will run on batteries.

China’s urbanisation push and ageing population has made especially younger workers much more footloose and less willing to work in smaller cities, resulting in a spike in wages across the country.

Foxconn, the trading name of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, which employs more than 1 million factory workers in China, is also stepping up the adaptation of robotics to ease a labour crunch. Its chairman Terry Gou once said the company aimed to build a million robots.

On a recent visit to Vanke’s research centre in the southern city of Dongguan, Reuters reporters saw a researcher working on a prototype driverless vehicle designed to shuttle up to 10 people across its sprawling residential estates.

“Nowadays some housing estates or commercial malls cover a large area and feature long paths,” said Zhang Jinming, a member of staff involved in the automation project. “Our driverless cars can solve the problem of transportation within roughly 1 km, and it won’t involve any labour cost.”

Vanke declined to give details on the cost or job savings, or the planned investment in robotics.