Weekly Bytes | World’s largest space telescope in AR, WhatsApp’s disappearing messages update, and more

DEC 14, 2021

James Webb Space Telescope in AR

James Webb Space Telescope, the world’s biggest and most powerful space science telescope, will be launched on December 22. Before the launch, Google and NASA have collaborated to bring a 3D model of the telescope to Search. Users can project the 3D model in augmented reality (AR) with their phone to explore it up close. They can zoom in to see its primary mirror made of 18 separate segments that unfold and adjust to shape after launch. Users can also get up close to the innovative sunshield that keeps the telescope cool, and check out the newly developed instruments that make measurements using the infrared light collected by the telescope’s mirror, according to Google. “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,” NASA had said in a statement. This week, Google released its annual ‘Year in Search’ for 2021 report, which showed India’s love for cricket overshadowed all search results this year as well.

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WhatsApp’s disappearing messages update

WhatsApp’s disappearing messages feature, which was introduced last year, gets an update with new default setting and multiple duration options. Users will now have the option to turn on disappearing messages by default for all new one-on-one chats. When enabled, the chats will be set to disappear at the user’s chosen duration. There is also a new option when creating a group chat that lets users turn it on for groups they create. This new feature is optional and does not change or delete any existing chats. The Meta-owned messaging service also added two new durations for disappearing messages – 24 hours and 90 days, in addition to the existing option of seven days. “For people who choose to switch on default disappearing messages, we will display a message in your chats that tells people this is the default you’ve chosen,” WhatsApp noted. In another development, Meta’s cryptocurrency wallet, Novi, will allow users to send and receive money through WhatsApp.

Google, WHO collaborate to power digital health apps

Google has joined forces with WHO to build open-source software developer kit (SDK), which will help Android developers to create secure and interoperable digital health solutions for healthcare workers. The SDK lets Android apps work offline during patchy or no connectivity, by storing and processing data locally. And it syncs patient data with the server after resuming connectivity. The kit will help develop apps that will provide healthcare workers with access to decision support tools as well. The mobile solutions are built using the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, a global standard framework for healthcare data. “Interoperability not only opens up the ability for healthcare workers to more easily gather community health data, but also makes it possible to use high-quality data to understand health trends, better prioritise high-risk patients and deliver more patient-centred care to everyone,” Google said in a blog post. In another update, Google disrupted “key command and control infrastructure” of Glupteba, a botnet that compromised about one million Windows devices globally, and filed a lawsuit against its operators.

Meta’s new AI tech

Meta Platforms, formerly Facebook, has built and recently deployed Few-Shot Learner (FSL), an artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can adapt to take action on new or evolving types of harmful content faster, it said in a release. The new AI system uses a method called ‘few-shot learning’, in which models start with a general understanding of many different topics and then use much fewer, or sometimes zero, labelled examples to learn new tasks, the company added. FSL can be used in over 100 languages and learns from different kinds of data, such as images and text. “We believe that FSL can, over time, enhance the performance of all of our integrity AI systems by letting them leverage a single, shared knowledge base and backbone to deal with many different types of violations,” Meta noted. In another development, a study conducted by researchers has found that Facebook misidentifies thousands of political ads, a practice that could lead to manipulation of users on the platform.

Apple Wallet now supports hotel keys

The room key in Apple Wallet feature, which was announced at WWDC 2021, is now available at certain Hyatt Hotels in the U.S. Guests at those locations can now seamlessly and securely tap their iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock guestrooms and key card-protected common areas like gyms, pools, and elevators. The feature supports iPhone with iOS 15 and Apple Watch with watchOS 8. Room keys in Apple Wallet are stored on a guest’s device. Members can add their room key to Apple Wallet from the World of Hyatt app after completing a reservation. Once a room key is added to Apple Wallet on iPhone or Apple Watch, guests can hold their device near the door’s NFC-enabled lock to access key card-protected areas. With Express Mode, guests don’t even need to unlock their device to use their room key. This technology is expected to be rolled out across Hyatt’s global portfolio in the future, the hospitality company said. In another update, Apple is within striking distance of a $3 trillion market capitalisation, a milestone that would make it as big as the world’s fifth largest economy after Germany, just over a year after breaching the $2 trillion mark.

Telegram’s new features

Messaging app Telegram has introduced some new features in its latest monthly update, including protected content and delete by date. Group and channel owners can now restrict message forwarding from their chat, prevent screenshots and limit the ability to save media from posts, by using the ‘Restrict Saving Content’ option. The update also allows users to clear chat history from a specific day or date range in any one-on-one chat. In addition, the app’s ‘Devices’ menu has a new button that allows users to quickly link a desktop device, and a setting to automatically log out inactive devices after some time. The update has added an anonymous posting feature in public groups as well. Other enhancements include a new way to log in via call, eight new themes, redesigned info pages and text recognition on iOS devices. Earlier this year, Telegram enabled livestream recording in both audio and video formats.

Google Stadia comes to LG Smart TVs

Google’s cloud gaming service Stadia is now available on LG Smart TVs running webOS 5.0 and 6.0. It can be downloaded from the LG Content Store in all 22 countries where Stadia is currently available. Native support of Stadia gameplay on LG TVs will help deliver instant access to high-end games. The Stadia store features over 200 popular games such as Cyberpunk 2077, Resident Evil Village, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Hitman 3, Baldur’s Gate 3 as well as access to a list of free games, all playable with just a compatible controller, no downloading required. Stadia’s support for up to 4K HDR graphics and 60 FPS gameplay plus immersive 5.1 surround sound, can offer an advanced gaming experience on the big screens, without having to purchase a separate console or expensive gaming PC. Last week, we reviewed the latest edition in the racing Forza Horizon game series – ‘Forza Horizon 5’.