Facebook has started rolling out yet another messaging service: Facebook Messenger Rooms. The premise of Messenger Rooms is simple: Many of us are under stay-at-home orders so meetings, be it work or social, need to go virtual. Most people jumped onto platforms like Zoom, so Facebook wants a piece of this pie which is why Messenger Rooms is all about group video calls. One of Room’s major advantages is that it’s readily available to Facebook’s massive userbase, but Facebook is also looking to draw in users by integrating the app into its other services like WhatsApp.
WhatsApp has already received enhanced video calling capabilities due to COVID-19 lockdowns forcing people into their homes. A recent update allows you to start a group call with up to 8 people simultaneously. If you want to talk to more people than that, then soon WhatsApp will push you to use Messenger Rooms. You can chat with up to 50 people in Messenger Rooms, which is a much higher limit than WhatsApp’s group voice and video calls.
If you’re one of the people who has received the new feature, then a new “Create Room” shortcut will appear in several parts of the UI such as the calls panel as well as inside chats themselves, prompting people to create a Room to chat. Rooms aren’t fully integrated into WhatsApp, though. Creating a Room will prompt users to access the feature inside the Messenger app.
Image credits: WABetaInfo
Interestingly, this is the first time a Facebook or Messenger feature is actually tied into WhatsApp, which might hint at more integrations coming soon. Facebook actually wants the messaging infrastructures behind WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram to be unified, but that plan is still a long way off.
The ability to create a Room in Messenger is not yet available for everyone on WhatsApp. WABetaInfo notes that the feature is only available for some users in certain countries (like the United States), but you may have luck installing version 2.20.163 beta of the app.
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Google looking to provide support services for satellite internet providers: job listing – 9to5Google
Within Alphabet, there are currently three products that directly provide internet service to end-users: Google Fi, Google Fiber, and Loon. According to a new job posting, Google looks to be getting into the business of supporting satellite internet providers.
A Google Careers listing today reveals a “Partner Manager” role to “help launch a global satellite-based broadband service.” The emphasis is on “help,” with the next line noting how “you will support satellite broadband service providers, productize the solution and make it available to other satellite broadband ISPs.”
As a Partner Manager, you will help launch a global satellite based broadband service. You will support satellite broadband service providers, productize the solution and make it available to other satellite broadband ISPs. You’ll manage partners on a day to day basis to make sure that we meet their growth plans in existing markets. You’ll manage the pod and service delivery timeline, work with Google and cross functional teams to handle and process monthly/quarterly PO and Invoices, and ensure continued availability of transit in the existing and new markets.
From this description, Google does not appear to be launching its own satellites, but rather helping an existing partner establish their network. It’s unclear who that partner is, but Google will use what it learns to offer similar services to other companies.
A “Responsibilities” section later on provides more details:
- Negotiate any deal with a 3rd party vendor to support product and partner development.
- Build a pipeline and start engaging with other satellite broadband service providers to explore expanding product offering to other players.
The satellite internet access space is currently dominated by Starlink from SpaceX, which launched 60 satellites yesterday. The goal is to have internet delivered from space rather than through wires in the ground. Coincidentally, Google in 2015 led a $1 billion investment round into the Elon Musk company.
It’s unclear what Google’s service would look like, but Alphabet’s Loon division provides a possible clue. Known for balloons that provide internet service following disasters, the company last year announced that it was adapting its routing technology for low Earth orbit satellites with Telesat. The system helps ensure a connection between the many moving parts of such a network.
That said, this role is based within Google and located in Mountain View. There are no other satellite job listings at the company, and we’ve reached out to Google for more details.
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Three finalists chosen in Canadian Electric vehicle design competition – MobileSyrup
The Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (AMPA) in Canada has decided on three finalist designs for its zero-emissions vehicle competition.
The designs come from teams at the Wilson School of Design in B.C, Humber College in Toronto and Carleton University in Ottawa, according to a report from Automotive News Canada.
The AMPA launched this competition in January as a way to showcase how Canadian automotive manufacturing talent could build an electric vehicle from start to finish in Canada. The car is a concept that aims to showcase the power of the Canadian automotive sector and will be named Project Arrow. While a bit of a long shot, I reached out to the AMPA to find out if the name has anything to do with the cancelled Avro Arrow Canadian fighter plane project from the late 50s.
The three finalists have been chosen out of a pool of nine applicants by a panel of Canadian judges who have worked, or are working, in the Canadian automotive space. You can find out more about the judges on the AMPA’s blog.
The designs are as follows:
The Sea to Sky Electric’s E-Nova
Submitted by Marie-Peir Alary and Bailey van Rikxooort from the Wilson School of Design in Richmond, British Columbia, this design appears to be more in the shape of a large SUV with giant wheels and wide windshield, based on the drawing in the report. The name and its offroad looks lead me to believe it’s named after the popular Sea to Sky hiking trails in B.C.
From Stephen Byowy, a Humber College student in Toronto. This design seems to be the most practical in terms of it looking like a modern-day SUV.
Sent in by Kaj Hallgrimsson, Jun0Won Kim, Mina Morcos and Matthew Schultz from Carleton University in Ottawa, this drawing seems to be the most unique, with all the seats facing the center so people can face each other while the car presumably drives itself.
The second phase of the competition is ‘Engineering Specifications’ and its set to conclude in the Fall. There isn’t much on what teams will need to do, but they are tasked with creating supplier RFP report to request any odd or custom parts they might need for their vehicles.
Then in 2021, we’re expected to see a virtual unveiling of the cars and finally, in 2022, the concept car will release and people will be able to tour it.
Image credit: Automotive News Canada
Rumor: Alleged 2021 5.5-inch iPhone prototype shows notchless screen and USB-C port – 9to5Mac
A new mock-up of the 5.5-inch 2021 iPhone has been shared by Macotakara today that suggests a notchless screen and USB-C instead of a Lightning port (or nor port at all) could be in the works. The prototype also shows what could be a different camera setup compared to what we’re expecting on the iPhone 12 later this year.
At the end of last year, we learned that Ming-Chi Kuo expects the highest-end 2021 iPhone to be a fully wireless device, ditching the Lightning port and also skipping the USB-C port. However, today’s alleged 5.5-inch 2021 iPhone prototype shared by Macotakara suggests that the entry-level model could make the switch to USB-C along with a notchless screen.
This 2021 iPhone mock-up was made based on data from Alibaba, so it’s worth taking this rumor with grain of salt.
A 5.5-inch 2021 iPhone likely means it would be the entry model based on what we’re expecting for the 2020 iPhone lineup, with the more affordable iPhone 12 models coming in 5.4- and 6.1-inch sizes and the iPhone 12 Pro landing with 6.1- and 6.7-inch displays. Macotakara does mention that this is just one prototype that Apple is considering so naturally, there’s no guarantee this design and features will make it to market.
Macotakara says the case dimensions of this prototype are the same as the 5.4-inch 2020 iPhone but with a slightly larger screen at 5.5-inches. However, one interesting part of this prototype would be the entry-level 2021 iPhone gaining what could be a 3 or 4 camera setup. One major way Apple has differentiated its iPhone lineup is with camera hardware and features, like the 11 Pro having an additional lens over the iPhone 11.
Apple has been working toward a making iPhone with a “single slab of glass” design for many years. The iPhone X display design is still seen today in the iPhone 11 lineup (expected in the iPhone 12 series too) so removing the notch totally that houses the Face ID components and TrueDepth camera would be a big step forward in the screen to body ratio and Apple evolving the iPhone display’s design.
The iPhone 12 lineup may feature slightly smaller notches but if this prototype does turn out to ring true, the entire 2021 iPhone lineup would likely go notchless if the 5.5-inch entry-level model did.
The Macotakara video below suggests that Apple could launch its first under-screen front-facing camera with the 2021 iPhone lineup to make this potential notchless design happen.
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