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Facebook Launches AI video-calling Device ‘Portal’

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  • Facebook Launches AI video-calling Device ‘Portal’

Facebook on Monday launched a range of AI-powered video-calling devices, a strategic revolution for the social network giant which is aiming for a slice of the smart speaker market that is currently dominated by Amazon and Google.

“It’s been a big shift for the company,” Facebook’s vice president of consumer hardware Andrew Bosworth told AFP before the launch of “Portal”.

“We’ve seen a rise of video calling, on both Messenger and WhatsApp — it has been a tremendous trend,” he said.

But the launch of a product putting a camera into people’s homes is likely to raise privacy issues for the social media giant, which has suffered several major data breaches this year involving tens of millions of user accounts.

The device, which will be available for pre-order in the United States from Monday, is designed to allow users to make video calls at home without having to stand immediately in front of the screen or hold a phone at arm’s length.

Although the social media giant acquired virtual reality headset manufacturer Oculus in 2014, this is the first time it has developed a consumer hardware product in-house.

“At some point, we realised that if we want to continue to advance our mission, the hardware we’re dealing with… is limiting, and so we find ourselves building our own hardware to try and accomplish that mission,” Bosworth said.

– ‘Hey Portal’ –

Offering hands-free voice control, Portal comes in two sizes, a 10-inch screen which retails at $199 (173 euros) and a 15-inch version will go for $349. And to start the call, all it takes is: “Hey Portal.”

During calls, it can also play music on Spotify or videos from Facebook Watch, as well as tell children stories via augmented effects app Story Time.

And it also comes bundled with Amazon’s voice interface “Alexa”, enabling users to shop or control household appliances.

During a conversation, the integrated camera can automatically zoom out to include a second person, or be instructed to follow a certain individual as they walk around, even picking out their voice over background noise.

But Facebook has moved to quickly allay security fears, saying that by keeping the processes on the actual device rather than in the cloud, the risk of hacking is lower than with a smartphone or computer.

Calls will be encrypted, and the AI technology runs locally on Portal, not on Facebook servers, with it only sending voice commands to the servers after hearing, “Hey Portal”.

The camera can be blocked by a cover and the device has a button for disabling both the lens and the microphone.

(AFP)

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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Union Bank Unveils Multi-Asset Trading Platform M36

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Union Bank Unveils Digital Investing Platform, M36

A new digital platform designed to deliver a wide range of investment products directly to individuals and other investors, M36, has launched in Nigeria.

Through an innovative, user-friendly app, M36 offers investment options not typically available on self-service digital platforms including foreign currency transactions, commercial papers, local and foreign-denominated bonds, treasury bills and other fixed-income products.

M36 also offers bespoke solutions for both new and experienced investors as well as a 24-hour lifestyle concierge service to meet the needs of discerning customers.

In a rapidly evolving environment with changing consumer behaviour fueled by technology and growing access to information, M36 is looking to expand opportunities for investors at all levels, while also simplifying the process of investing.

M36 was developed by Union Bank as part of its strategic focus on delivering superior customer solutions leveraging technology and innovation. The bank partnered with several asset management companies to deliver a broad range of investment products on the M36 platform.

Speaking about this, Mr. Chuka Emerole, Head, Treasury at Union Bank said, “M36 eliminates the traditional barriers to investing and offers investors direct access to financial instruments that would usually require the service of an investment or relationship manager.

“We’ve designed M36 to ensure simplicity in the onboarding and investing process while also empowering the customer to make sound investment choices based on their financial objectives.

“We worked with key partners to deliver both the experience and products on M36 and are confident that we have launched a superior product in today’s marketplace”.

With the 24-hour concierge service, M36 users can access round-the-clock support from investment advisors as they actively manage their portfolios.

The bank said the M36 was a timely financial product meant to keep abreast with the rapidly evolving environment and changing consumer behavior that is fueled by technology and growing access to information.

The M36 is also part of the UBN’s strategic focus on delivering superior customer solutions by leveraging technology and innovation. The bank partnered with several asset management companies to deliver a broad range of investment products on the M36 platform.

M36 also offers loans, personal travel allowance, will and trust services and many more essential products under its Life Essentials menu.

 

M36 is available for download on the App Store and the Google Play Store.

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Rimac Automobili Welcomes Further 70m EUR Investment From Porsche

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Porsche has further increased its investment into Rimac Automobili, expanding its stake in the business to 24% with an additional 70M EUR. Porsche bought a 10% stake of the business in 2018, before increasing it to 15.5% in 2019. The latest investment reinforces Rimac Automobili’s status as a leader in high-performance electrified vehicle technologies.

Since Porsche’s first investment in 2018, the team at Rimac Automobil has doubled to nearly 1,000 people, and the Croatian technology company has continued to produce some of the world’s most advanced electrified powertrains, batteries, infotainment and other components related to electrification. Rimac Automobili now works with many major car manufacturers, including Hyundai, Kia, Porsche, Aston Martin, Automobili Pininfarina, Koenigsegg and many more.

Mate Rimac, founder and CEO of Rimac Automobili, said: “Porsche has been a big supporter of our company since 2018, and it has always been a privilege to have one of the world’s most iconic sports car brands be a part of Rimac. We’re proud to work together on new exciting and electrified products and of the fact that Porsche’s trust in Rimac resulted in several rounds of investment, making Porsche an important shareholder of the company.

With many OEMs across the world being Rimac customers, it is important, both for Rimac and Porsche, that we remain an entirely independent business. Our projects and our shareholders are – and will always be – entirely separate, allowing us to maintain the information firewall that our partners rely on, and enabling us to continue working with many OEMs. The partnership with Porsche helps the company develop and grow which is beneficial for all of our customers.”

“Rimac is excellently positioned in prototype solutions and small series,” says Lutz Meschke, Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board and Member of the Executive Board for Finance and IT at Porsche AG. “Mate Rimac and his team are important partners, especially when it comes to supporting us in the development of components. Rimac is well on its way to becoming a Tier 1 supplier for Porsche and other manufacturers in the high-tech segment.

“Porsche has already placed its first orders with Rimac for the development of highly innovative series components,” says Meschke. “Both partners benefit from this closer collaboration,” Meschke emphasizes: “Mate Rimac inspires us with his innovative ideas. By the same token, he benefits from our know-how in production and methodological expertise in development. Our investment in the company has turned out to be absolutely right. Rimac’s value has increased many times over since our initial investment. In addition, the company has developed very well technologically. We are expanding our cooperation step by step and are also benefiting from Rimac’s strength in innovation.”

Mate Rimac first dreamed of creating his own electric supercar in 2009, working in his garage in Croatia. Just two years later Rimac Automobili revealed the world’s first electric supercar, the Concept_One. With limited resources, Mate and a small team developed many of the components for the car in-house, while also developing electrified vehicle technology for other brands. Porsche’s first investment came in June 2018, and Hyundai Motor Group invested in May 2019.

In just 10 years, Rimac Automobili went from garage to global and this year will release its second generation electric hypercar, codenamed C_Two. Every major component of the C_Two has been designed, engineered and produced by the in-house team at Rimac. Following a multi-year development process of virtual and real-world testing and homologation, the C_Two will be revealed to the world in just a few months. The C_Two, limited to just 150 units, is available in the world’s key markets via Rimac Automobili’s global network of dealer partners.

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Bolt Bags €20 Million From World Bank’s IFC to Expand Operations in Emerging Economies

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Bolt, the leading European mobility platform, announced new funding of €20 million received from World Bank’s IFC.

“We’re delighted to announce that we’ve received €20 million in funding from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group”, Bolt said.

The investment came less than three months after the Estonian company raised €150 million in a round led by D1 Capital Partners.

Through this investment, Bolt will continue to develop mobility solutions that create earning opportunities, stimulate entrepreneurship and improve access to transportation in emerging economies. One of the shared goals of Bolt and the IFC is to empower women and improve their access to mobility.

According to Stephanie von Friedeburg, IFC Senior Vice President of Operations,  “Technology can and should unlock new pathways for sustainable development and women’s empowerment.”

“Our investment in Bolt aims to help tap into technology to disrupt the transport sector in a way that is good for the environment, creates more flexible work opportunities for women, and provides safer and more affordable transportation access in emerging markets.”

Recently, Bolt introduced a women-only ride-type in South Africa for her customers to address safety needs, enable women passengers to connect with women drivers, improve women’s mobility and access to earning opportunities.

Markus Villig, CEO of Bolt, said the goal of the company and its partnership with IFC is to Provide strategic value to emerging economies

“We are looking forward to partnering with IFC to further support entrepreneurship, empower women and increase access to affordable mobility services in Africa and Eastern Europe.

“Together with the investment from the European Investment Bank last year, we are proud to have sizable and strategically important institutions backing us and recognising the strategic value Bolt is providing to emerging economies.”

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