Google Maps has announced a slew of new features coming soon, ranging from on-map weather updates to AR-powered indoor navigation. There’s a lot to cover, and the company says it is on track to deliver “over 100 AI-powered improvements to Google Maps” this year.
First, there’s a new UI for directions. Today, the direction UI uses tabs for each transportation type: one for driving, then mass transit, walking, ride shares, and biking. In this redesign, everything appears in a flat list, but now you can hit the “options” button and set preferred modes of transportation. You can prioritize routing options for driving, walking, trains, buses, motorcycles, bikes, ride shares, “bike and scooter shares,” and ferries. You can even pick multiple items, so all your top choices will be first in the list.
Some of the route options will have a little green leaf next to them, which is part of Google Maps’ new focus on promoting cleaner methods of transportation. For driving, Google Maps’ routing screen will soon take into account fuel efficiency, and you’ll start to see a green leaf next to the fuel-efficient routes, too. For many places, the shortest route is the most fuel-efficient, so not much will change. But Google Maps will calculate things like traffic, starts and stops, and road elevation (a major concern in Google’s backyard of California) to come up with a CO2 rating for each trip. If it finds a route that is more fuel-efficient but longer, it will tell you about it, and if both routes take the same amount of time, fuel efficiency will be used as the tiebreaker for the default route.
Google says both features will release sometime this year.
Google Maps takes on the weather
There are two new layers coming to Google Maps that put the service in a bit of competition with your favorite weather app: air quality and weather layers. Weather is almost always something you should look into before traveling, and soon you’ll be able to get that information right in Google Maps. For allergy sufferers or people in places where air quality is regularly an issue, seeing that info easily will be handy, too.
Google says, “Data from partners like The Weather Company, AirNow.gov and the Central Pollution Board power these layers that start rolling out on Android and iOS in the coming months. The weather layer will be available globally, and the air quality layer will launch in Australia, India, and the US, with more countries to come.”
For now, the presentation of this information is very limited. The most obvious way to display weather and air quality data is with an overlay showing the rain and air in a radar view, with varying colors denoting the intensity. Google Maps only displays this data as tiny, random dots on the map, similar to how points of interest are displayed. This makes it difficult to determine where rain starts and stops, how long it will hang around for, whether it will get better or worse in the next few hours, or how bad the weather will be while you’re driving there. Adding this information directly into Google Maps would probably cut a big chunk out of the weather app industry, since overlaid data on Google Maps is a core feature, but maybe Google is more receptive to a first-party weather solution now that Apple is investing in the area with its acquisition of Dark Sky.
Indoor AR navigation
Google Maps AR Navigation is moving indoors. The feature rolled out to iPhone and Android devices in select cities in 2019 and uses AR Core-based 3D sensing and Google’s trove of street-view imagery to determine your direction via the camera and what it is pointed at. Outdoors, the feature ended up being the world’s most complicated replacement for a compass, but compasses in phones (especially Android phones) just aren’t that accurate and are prone to interference, so getting the initial walking direction right using only a compass can be a challenge. AR Navigation, in addition to the cool 3D visuals overlaid on a camera, really is a big help.
It sounds like AR Navigation is going to really shine when it moves to indoor navigation. Google demoed the feature in an airport terminal, where it can do things like figure out your location (GPS doesn’t work indoors) and identify what floor you’re on. In the demo, it tells someone where the escalator is and to go down a level to reach their terminal. Google says it wants to roll this technology out to “airports, transit stations, and malls,” where it will be able to “help you find the nearest elevator and escalators, your gate, platform, baggage claim, check-in counters, ticket office, restrooms, ATMs and more.”
Indoor navigation has been something Google has continually tried to get businesses to adopt, pitching solutions like Wi-Fi RTT—Wi-Fi-based positioning—which was built into Android 9. I think the company has realized that any method that requires independent businesses to install and maintain some kind of technical infrastructure isn’t going to work. AR Navigation feels like a more scalable alternative because Google can do all the work itself. It’s powered by nothing but your camera and a bunch of pictures stored on Google Maps—Google calls this VPS, or Visual Positioning System—and it’s basically AI-powered landmark navigation.
VPS data is the same as Street View data, so it can scale the same way Street View scales, by sending out hordes of contractors around the world to photograph everything with special equipment. You could claim that photographing every major indoor public space is too much work, but Google has already proved it can do this with Street View. The company professionally manufactures its own Street View backpacks now, so sending a contractor on a quick march through your local airport, train station, or mall should be enough for VPS data. “Just go photograph the entire world” is entirely within Google’s capabilities.
Google calls the feature “Indoor Live View” and says it “is live now on Android and iOS in a number of malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San José, and Seattle. It starts rolling out in the coming months in select airports, malls, and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich, with more cities on the way.”
Now, if we could just get this in an AR-version of Google Glass, that would be great.
Canada’s Telesat takes on Musk and Bezos in space race to provide fast broadband
By Steve Scherer
OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Telesat is racing to launch a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to provide high-speed global broadband from space, pitting the satellite communications firm founded in 1969 against two trailblazing billionaires, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
Musk, the Tesla Inc CEO who was only a year old when Telesat launched its first satellite, is putting the so-called Starlink LEO into orbit with his company SpaceX, and Amazon.com Inc, which Bezos founded, is planning a LEO called Project Kuiper. Bezos also owns Blue Origin, which builds rockets.
Despite the competition, Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s chief executive officer, voices confidence when he calls Telesat’s LEO constellation “the Holy Grail” for his shareholders – “a sustainable competitive advantage in global broadband delivery.”
Telesat’s LEO has a much lighter price tag than SpaceX and Amazon’s, and the company has been in satellite services decades longer. In addition, instead of focusing on the consumer market like SpaceX and Amazon, Telesat seeks deep-pocketed business clients.
Goldberg said he was literally losing sleep six years ago when he realized the company’s business model was in peril as Netflix and video streaming took off and fiber optics guaranteed lightning-fast internet connectivity.
Telesat’s 15 geostationary (GEO) satellites provide services mainly to TV broadcasters, internet service providers and government networks, all of whom were growing increasingly worried about the latency, or time delay, of bouncing signals off orbiters more than 35,000 km (22,200 miles) above earth.
Then in 2015 on a flight home from a Paris industry conference where latency was a constant theme, Goldberg wrote down his initial ideas for a LEO constellation on an Air Canada napkin.
Those ideas eventually led to Telesat’s LEO constellation, dubbed Lightspeed, which will orbit about 35 times closer to earth than GEO satellites, and will provide internet connectivity at a speed akin to fiber optics.
Telesat’s first launch is planned in early 2023, while there are already some 1,200 of Musk’s Starlink satellites in orbit.
“Starlink is going to be in service much sooner … and that gives SpaceX the opportunity to win customers,” said Caleb Henry, a senior analyst at Quilty Analytics.
Starlink’s “first mover” advantage is at most 24 months and “no one’s going to lock this whole market up in that amount of time,” Goldberg said.
Telesat in 2019 signed a launch deal with Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin. Discussions are ongoing with three others, said David Wendling, Telesat’s chief technical officer.
They are Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Europe’s ArianeGroup , and Musk’s SpaceX, which launches the Starlink satellites. Wendling said a decision would be taken in a matter of months.
Telesat aims to launch its first batch of 298 satellites being built by Thales Alenia Space in early 2023, with partial service in higher latitudes later that same year, and full global service in 2024.
The Lightspeed constellation is estimated to cost half as much as the $10 billion SpaceX and Amazon projects.
“We think we’re in the sweet spot,” Goldberg said. “When we look at some of these other constellations, we don’t get it.”
Analyst Henry said Telesat’s focus on business clients is the right one.
“You have two heavyweight players, SpaceX and Amazon, that are already pledging to spend $10 billion on satellite constellations optimized for the consumer market,” he said. “If Telesat can spend half that amount creating a high-performance system for businesses, then yeah, they stand to be very competitive.”
Telesat’s industry experience may also provide an edge.
“We’ve worked with many of these customers for decades … That’s going to give us a real advantage,” Goldberg said.
Telesat “is a satellite operator, has been a satellite operator, and has both the advantage of expertise and experience in that business,” said Carissa Christensen, chief executive officer of the research firm BryceTech, adding, however, that she sees only two to three LEO constellations surviving.
Telesat is nailing down financing – one-third equity and two-thirds debt – and will become publicly traded on the Nasdaq sometime this summer, and it could also list on the Toronto exchange after that. Currently, Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Loral Space & Communications Inc are the company’s main shareholders.
France and Canada’s export credit agencies, BPI and EDC respectively, are expected to be the main lenders, Goldberg said. Quebec’s provincial government is lending C$400 million ($317 million), and Canada’s federal government has promised C$600 million to be a preferred customer. The company also posted C$246 million in net income in 2020.
Executing the LEO plan is what keeps Goldberg up at night now, he said.
“When we decided to go down this path, the two richest people in the universe weren’t focused on their own LEO constellations.”
($1 = 1.2622 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)
$600K donation to boost online mental health programming in Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia Health’s mental health and addictions program hopes to offer more online support to people across the province after receiving a significant donation this week.
The QEII Foundation announced that RBC is contributing $600,000 toward the province’s e-mental health programming.
“It’s particularly important for the current time under all the strains of COVID,” said Dr. Andrew Harris, a psychiatrist and the senior medical director for the program.
The plan for online programming has been in the works for years, he said, but the pandemic expedited the push. Last June, the department launched a number of applications that can be used to help those with anxiety, depression and addictions.
Since then, as many as 3,000 Nova Scotians have used the site to access mental health services.
“There’s a persistent difficulty in accessing services,” Harris said of traditional models in Nova Scotia. He said those who don’t need intensive therapy may find the support they need through the online programs.
He uses the example of someone who can’t take time off work to speak to a clinician.
“It’s better for them to be able to access a service after hours or on the weekend. So our e-mental health services are tailored a little bit to meet that need.”
Calls to crisis line increase
Harris said the province’s mental health crisis line continues to see a 30 per cent increase in calls for help, so he’s trying to raise awareness that services can be accessed immediately online.
“I think everyone is aware that for a lot of people it’s much easier to talk about a physical illness than a mental illness. So there’s an allowance there for privacy, for some anonymity but still making available things that can help the person who is struggling in the community.”
The online portal has a list of programs that people can use, covering things like reducing stress, solving problems and becoming mindful. It mirrors a site in Newfoundland and Labrador that Harris said is used to help people in remote areas.
Harris said the donation from RBC will be used to continue to evaluate more services, and pay for the licensing of the products that are mostly developed by other organizations.
He encourages anyone who is struggling to test out the site, and use it as an entry point into the mental health system.
“It’s important for people to acknowledge when they’re struggling. It happens to all of us through our lives in different times.”
Anyone in Nova Scotia looking to access the tools can visit: https://mha.nshealth.ca.
Samsung’s cheapest 5G Galaxy phones yet are launching this month
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- Samsung is launching five new phones in its Galaxy A series this month.
- Three of them will support 5G connectivity, and the most expensive phone is just $500.
- The cheapest phone of the five still has three cameras but lacks 5G and other features.
- See more buying advice on the Insider Reviews homepage.
Samsung may be best known for its high-end Galaxy S phones that rival the iPhone. But the tech giant is proving that it can appeal to cost-conscious customers with the launch of five new smartphones in the United States, the priciest of which only costs $500.
Samsung’s new lineup of budget phones, which debuted in other markets before coming to the US, are all launching this month. Some of them will be released as soon as this week, while the least expensive model will debut on April 29. The launch comes as competitors like Apple and Google have also been focusing on cheaper smartphones to boost sales.
Three of these new Samsung devices also support 5G, another sign that shoppers no longer have to pay a premium to get access to next-generation wireless networks. All five of the new phones also have the traditional headphone jack for wired listening and run on an octa-core processor.
Here’s a look at the new Samsung Galaxy A series phones that will be launching soon.
Samsung Galaxy A52 5G
- Release date: April 9
- Price: $499.99
The Galaxy A52 5G is the most expensive smartphone of the bunch. It comes with a 6.5-inch FHD+ screen and a quad-camera system that includes some of the same features as Samsung’s more expensive Galaxy S phones. These include Single Take, which creates several different photos or video clips with different effects with a single press of the shutter button.
Its screen can also boost its refresh rate up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling and performance, a feature that has become common on pricier flagship phones but is rare on cheaper models. It’s also the only phone in this A-series lineup to include Samsung’s notch-free screen design.
Samsung Galaxy A42 5G
- Release date: April 8
- Price: $399.99
The less expensive Galaxy A42 5G has a slightly larger screen than the A52 5G, but scales back on certain features when it comes to the camera and screen refresh rate.
Still, it has a triple-lens camera with high-resolution sensors, and like its pricier sibling it also supports Single Take.
Samsung Galaxy A32 5G
Release date: April 9
The Galaxy A32 5G is Samsung’s cheapest 5G smartphone to date. It has a large 6.5-inch screen, but it’s made from an LCD panel instead of Super AMOLED. That means it will likely lack some of the contrast and boldness of Samsung’s other devices. But Samsung hasn’t skimped on the camera considering this model has a quad-lens main camera, which is rare if not unheard of at that price.
Samsung Galaxy A12
Release date: April 9
Samsung’s Galaxy A12 doesn’t come with 5G support, but it still gives you a lot for the price. For less than $200, you’re getting a quad-lens camera and a large 6.5-inch LCD screen. But remember this phone only has 32GB of storage, so it’s best suited for those who don’t store a lot of photos and videos on their device.
Samsung Galaxy A02s
- Release date: April 29
- Price: $109.99
The Galaxy A02s is Samsung’s cheapest phone, offering a 6.5-inch LCD screen and three main cameras. It doesn’t have 5G support or as much computing power or camera prowess as Samsung’s other A-series phones, but that’s to be expected for a device at this price. This phone is truly for those who just need the basics and little else.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at email@example.com.
Source:- Business Insider
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