Xiaomi appoints Manu Kumar Jain as the new Global Vice President of the company

Few weeks earlier, the whole tech industry was talking about former Xiaomi CEO Hugo Barra stepping down from his position. The exit of Hugo Barra made it to headlines and the discussions over the same lasted for weeks. Xiaomi has announced the appointment of India head Manu Kumar Jain as the new Vice President of the company. Manu Kumar Jain will be taking Hugo Barra’s position by the end of February.

Announcing the new appointment, Xiaomi stated on its Facebook page, “Under Manu’s leadership our operations in India expanded from just a small team, into India’s second largest smartphone vendor in the country with 10.7 percent market share, and the number one selling smartphone brand online with 29.3 percent market share in Q4CY16, as per IDC!

Manu, congratulations from the entire Xiaomi family on your promotion to Vice President of Xiaomi!”
In reply to Xiaomi’s post, Manu Kumar Jain said on his Facebook page, “Thank You my phenomenal Xiaomi family! I am so glad I got the opportunity to work with the best team on the planet. This further solidifies our plans to work harder to make our Mi Fans happy.
Truly honoured and humbled!”

Earlier, it was said that Barra will be leaving Xiaomi and he will be replaced by Xiaomi’s current Senior Vice President for strategic cooperation, Xiang Wang, who also heads the Supply chain and Intellectual Property teams at the company.

As most of us know, Facebook Inc has hired Hugo Barra , the most prominent global executive at Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Inc, to lead its virtual reality business including the Oculus unit. Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Executive of Facebook announced the news on Facebook.

With the announcement of this appointment, a lot of Xiaomi fans in India will feel delighted. We can expect the new Xiaomi VP to bring some good news for Indian fans in future.

Samsung chief Lee arrested as South Korean corruption probe deepens

Samsung Group chief Jay Y. Lee was arrested on Friday over his alleged role in a corruption scandal rocking the highest levels of power in South Korea, dealing a fresh blow to the technology giant and standard-bearer for Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The special prosecutor’s office accuses Lee of bribing a close friend of President Park Geun-hye to gain government favours related to leadership succession at the conglomerate. It said on Friday it will indict him on charges including bribery, embezzlement, hiding assets overseas and perjury.

The 48-year-old Lee, scion of the country’s richest family, was taken into custody at the Seoul Detention Centre early on Friday after waiting there overnight for the decision. He was being held in a single cell with a TV and desk, a jail official said.

Lee is a suspect in an influence-peddling scandal that led parliament to impeach Park in December, a decision that if upheld by the Constitutional Court would make her the country’s first democratically elected leader forced from office.

Samsung and Lee have denied wrongdoing in the case.

Prosecutors have up to 10 days to indict Lee, Samsung’s third-generation leader, although they can seek an extension. After indictment, a court would be required to make its first ruling within three months.

Prosecutors plan to question Lee again on Saturday.

No decision had been made on whether Lee’s arrest would be contested or whether bail would be sought, a spokeswoman for Samsung Group said.

“We will do our best to ensure that the truth is revealed in future court proceedings,” the Samsung Group said in a brief statement after Lee’s arrest.

The same court had rejected a request last month to arrest Lee, but prosecutors this week brought additional accusations against him.

“We acknowledge the cause and necessity of the arrest,” a judge said in his ruling.

The judge rejected the prosecution’s request to also arrest Samsung Electronics president Park Sang-jin.

Shares in Samsung Electronics ended Friday down 0.42 percent in a flat wider market.

Ratings agencies did not expect any impact on the flagship firm’s credit ratings, and said Lee’s arrest would accelerate improvements in management transparency and corporate governance.

SENSITIVE TIME

While Lee’s detention is not expected to hamper day-to-day operations at Samsung firms, which are run by professional managers, experts said it could hinder strategic decision-making at South Korea’s biggest conglomerate, or chaebol.

Samsung is going through a restructuring to clear a succession path for Lee to assume control after his father was incapacitated by a heart attack in 2014.

Decisions that could be complicated by Lee’s arrest include deliberations over whether to reorganize the group under a holding company structure, as well as its plan to abandon its future strategy office, a central decision-making body that came in for criticism during the scandal.

Staff moves have also been in limbo. Samsung, which employs around half a million people, has yet to announce annual personnel promotions and changes, which it typically does in December.

One employee at Samsung Electronics’ chip division said colleagues were unsettled that prosecutors had singled out Samsung. “The mood is that people are worried,” the person said.

However, another Samsung Electronics employee described the situation as business as usual. “It wouldn’t make sense for a company of that size to not function properly just because the owner is away.”

Both employees declined to be identified, given the sensitivity of the matter.

Lee’s incarceration comes as Samsung Electronics tries to get past last year’s disastrous roll-out of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, which were prone to fires. It is under pressure for the upcoming launch of its next flagship phone, the Galaxy S8, to be a success.

WIDER IMPACT

Major business groups criticised the decision, worried about the impact on Samsung and the country.

“A management vacuum at Samsung, a global company representing the Republic of Korea, will increase uncertainty and undermine global confidence, posing a big burden on the already struggling economy,” the Korea Employers Federation said.

Lee’s arrest gives a boost to prosecutors who have zeroed in on Samsung to build their case against President Park and her close friend Choi Soon-sil, who is in detention and faces charges of abuse of power and attempted fraud.

Both Park and Choi have denied wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have focused on Samsung’s relationship with Park, 65, accusing the group of paying bribes totaling 43 billion won ($37.74 million) to organizations linked to Choi to secure government backing for the controversial 2015 merger of two Samsung units, a deal that was seen as key to smoothing Lee’s succession.

The prosecution office on Friday accused Lee of bribery not only in seeking to smooth the merger but in the broader process of his succession. A prosecution spokesman did not elaborate.

If parliament’s impeachment of Park is upheld, an election would be held in two months. In the meantime, she remains in office but stripped of her powers.

Her would-be successors praised the decision to arrest Lee.

“We hope it marks a beginning to end our society’s evil practice of cozy ties between government and corporations and move towards a fair country,” said Kim Kyoung-soo, a spokesman for Moon Jae-in, a member of the liberal opposition Democratic Party who is leading opinion polls in the presidential race.

Nexus Devices Will Not Receive Night Light and Fingerprint Sensor Gesture

Android 7.1 Nougat's Night Light, Fingerprint Sensor Gestures Not Coming to Nexus Devices

The first Android 7.1 Nougat Developer Preview has begun rolling out, which means Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and Pixel C owners can get a taste of what the latest version of Android will look like on non-Pixel smartphones. The developer preview brings certain improvements like support for Daydream View VR headset and image keyboard. However, while Google had indicated the Android 7.1 Nougat would bring the Night Light and fingerprint sensor gestures features seen on the new Pixel smartphones to non-Pixel, it seems that the two features will not be coming to the Nexus phones.

Ian Blake, a Google team member, confirmed in a Google+ post that the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P will not get the Night Light and fingerprint sensor gestures from the Pixel phones. The omission is strange, considering that Google had clearly mentioned on day 1 that Android 7.1 Nougat will bring these features to non-Pixel smartphones, and were not part of the Pixel-exclusive features.

 

The company had further delineated the difference between the Pixel-exclusive and non-exclusive features of Android 7.1 Nougat in a complete changelog.

Just to refresh, the Night Light feature reduces the blue light on the display, making it easier on the users’ eyes. The fingerprint sensor gestures lets you swipe down on the fingerprint sensor which will pull down the notification shade. Both the features were introduced for the Pixel and Pixel XL phones, but were not exclusive to the Pixel devices and were expected to arrive for the Nexus smartphones as well.

 

The new Android 7.1 developer preview does list the gestures options in the Nexus’ settings menu, but the Nexus devices do not have the required hardware to allow for fingerprint swipe. Similarly, Night Light also requires a specific hardware to perform colour transforms on the display hardware, which the Nexus devices lack.

The Android 7.1 Nougat update is said to come with some Pixel exclusive and non-exclusive features. The Pixel exclusive features include the Pixel Launcher, Google Assistant, Smart Storage, unlimited original quality photo and video backup to Google Photos, to name a few.

Non-exclusive features include Night Light, support for fingerprint gestures and other performance improvements.

Nexus owners might be a disappointed that they won’t be getting the full list of new features with the Android 7.1. Currently, only the Google-made Pixel and Pixel XL devices come with all the newest features. The smartphones were unveiled on October 4 and are currently up for pre-orders in India on Flipkart.

 

New Biocompatible Optical Fibres Will Help Detect Diseases

New Biocompatible Optical Fibres Will Light Up at the First Sign of Disease

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard Medical School have developed a biocompatible and highly stretchable optical fibre which can be implanted in the body to deliver therapeutic pulses of light or light up at the first sign of disease.

According to the study, the researchers suggested that such stretchable, strain-sensing optical fibres could be implanted or fitted along the length of a patient’s arm or leg to monitor for signs of improving mobility.

The study also suggested that the fibres may also serve as sensors, lighting up in response to signs of disease.

“We may be able to use optical fibres for long-term diagnostics, to optically monitor tumors or inflammation. The applications can be impactful,” said Xuanhe Zhao, Associate Professor, MIT in thestudy published in the journal Advanced Materials.

The fibre, made from hydrogel is as bendable and is an elastic, rubbery material composed mostly of water and may serve as a long-lasting implant that would bend and twist with the body without breaking down.

Using light to activate neurons in the brain, which is a highly active field known as optogenetics, in which researchers delivered short pulses of light to targeted tissues using needle-like fibres, through which they shine light from an LED source.

“But the brain is like a bowl of Jell-O, whereas these fibres are like glass – very rigid, which can possibly damage brain tissues. If these fibres could match the flexibility and softness of the brain, they could provide long-term more effective stimulation and therapy,” Zhao added.

For the study, the researchers began to play with the fibre’s optical properties, to see if they could design a fibre that could sense when and where it was being stretched.

Then they shone a laser light through the fibre and stretched and measured the spectrum of light.

By measuring the amount of light at the far end of the fibre, the researchers could quantitatively determine where and by how much a fibre was stretched.

 

SpaceX Rocket Explodes on Launchpad With Facebook’s Internet Satellite on Board

SpaceX Rocket Explodes on Launchpad With Facebook's Internet Satellite on BoardThe explosion destroyed the Israeli communications satellite
Mark Zuckerberg disapointed over SpaceX’s launch failure
The accident is the second of its kind since SpaceX was founded in 2002
An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad during a test in Florida on Thursday, destroying a satellite that Facebook planned to use to beam high-speed internet to Africa.

The blast at Cape Canaveral – though it caused no injuries – marks a setback for the California-based private space firm and its founder, internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, who wants to revolutionize the launch industry by making rocket components reusable.

“Loss of Falcon vehicle today during propellant fill operation,” Musk tweeted. “Originated around upper stage oxygen tank. Cause still unknown. More soon.”

Dramatic footage broadcast by ABC News showed the rocket burst into a roaring ball of flame amid what appeared to be a succession of blasts – sending its payload tumbling to the ground as a dense plume of black smoke filled the air.

“At approximately 9:07am ET (13:07 GMT), during a standard pre-launch static fire test for the Amos-6 mission, there was an anomaly at SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex 40 resulting in loss of the vehicle,” the firm said.

“Per standard operating procedure, the pad was clear and there were no injuries.”
But the explosion destroyed the Israeli communications satellite that the Falcon 9 was due to deliver into orbit on Saturday — drawing a dismayed reaction from Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg.

“As I’m here in Africa, I’m deeply disappointed to hear that SpaceX’s launch failure destroyed our satellite that would have provided connectivity to so many entrepreneurs and everyone else across the continent,” Zuckerberg said on his Facebook page.

Facebook was contracted to use the Amos-6 to provide broadband internet coverage for large parts of sub-Saharan Africa and other remote parts of the world as part of the social media giant’s Internet.org initiative.

“Fortunately, we have developed other technologies like Aquila that will connect people as well,” Zuckerberg said, referring to the solar-powered plane being developed by Facebook to make the internet available in remote areas.

“We will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided.”

European satellite operator Eutelsat – Facebook’s partner in the project – said in a statement it was committed to expanding broadband access in Africa despite the loss of the Amos-6.

Heaviest payload
A Nasa spokeswoman told AFP that emergency services at the nearby Kennedy Space Center were monitoring the situation and conducting air quality tests to ensure there is no threat to the health of staff.

Officials at the center advised workers to remain inside until further notice, but Brevard County Emergency Management said there was no threat to the public from the incident.

The Amos-6 was the heaviest payload to date for a SpaceX rocket, with an estimated value of between $200-300 million (roughly Rs. 1,337 crores to Rs. 2,004 crores), according to John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

The accident – the second of its kind since SpaceX was founded in 2002 – comes just over a year after a Falcon 9 rocket failed after liftoff on June 28 2015, destroying a Dragon cargo capsule bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Before that, SpaceX had logged 18 successful launches of the Falcon 9 – including six of 12 planned supply missions to the ISS carried out as part of a $1.6 billion (roughly Rs. 10,696 crores) contract with Nasa.

It had carried out another eight successful launches since June 2015, including last month when a Falcon 9 successfully placed a Japanese communications satellite in orbit, and then landed intact on a floating drone ship.

Before then the firm lost several rockets as it attempted to land them upright on an ocean platform at the end of a flight — a crucial part of its strategy for reusable spacecraft.

‘Valuable experience’
While the blast is likely to disrupt SpaceX plans for six more launches between now and January 2017, experts made clear that such incidents are a normal part of the space learning curve.

“It’s clearly a setback, but how great the setback is and how long the delay, it’s impossible to know until there is more information available,” said Logsdon.

He noted that the launch pad damaged on Thursday was distinct from the one that will serve to launch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, intended to ferry astronauts to the ISS starting in late 2017.

Nasa said in a tweet that Thursday’s SpaceX explosion “reminds us that spaceflight is challenging. Our partners learn from each success & setback.”

Loizos Heracleous, a professor of strategy at Warwick Business School, said such setbacks were par for the course – and would not affect SpaceX’s stated long-term goals of slashing the cost of space flight through the use of reusable rockets, and eventually colonizing Mars.

“SpaceX is gathering valuable experience, and each accident brings lessons on how to enhance the integrity of the craft for future missions,” he said.

“Given that SpaceX is working to provide Nasa with a way to transport not just cargo, but also astronauts to the International Space Station, it is especially crucial that such learning takes place before that happens.”

Upgrade your ride with the Xplova X5 cycling computer

The Xplova X5 might have the quirkiest new product name I’ve seen this year. But, it doesn’t help explain what this product is. Owned by PC giant Acer, Xplova is a company that makes GPS-enabled devices for cyclists, and like Garmin and a few other bike-tech leaders, it calls them “cycling computers.”

First seen at Acer’s New York press preview on April 21, the new Xplova X5 combines a GPS unit, a heart rate tracker and a video camera, and the company says this is the first time a product like this has included video recording capabilities.

The boxy device clips onto your bike’s handlebars, giving you a view of the IPX7 water-resistant touchscreen GPS display, which can capture location and performance data. GPS data can also be synced and saved to the Xplova website, and data from friends can be shared to either keep track of their location, or to challenge each other for best times or most difficult ride.

But it’s the built-in video camera that makes the X5 stand out. Rather than trying to hit a record button while you’re riding, the unit can be set to automatically record short highlight clips based on user-defined triggers.

Those triggers can include heart rate — so a video recording starts when you hit a peak heart rate — or via GPS, when you pass by a notable landmark or a specific set of coordinates. The short 3-second clips can be compiled into a single video, ready for social media sharing.

There’s no price or availability details on the Xplova X5 yet, but Acer says it should be for sale in the third quarter of 2016.

China takes mobile payments to a whole new level

China may not have the best Internet access in the world, but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s on top for mobile payments.

My friends Amy Deng and Eric Liu moved from San Francisco to Shanghai about a year ago. When I asked them over lunch in Shanghai about some of their favorite tech in China so far, they didn’t hesitate:Alipay.

This is the mobile payment arm of Alibaba, China’s mega-Amazon-style online retailer for just about anything. Alipay is incredibly easy to use and everyone does it, Liu said.

“It’s like the Costco of payments.”

(It’s true, I saw Alipay signs everywhere.)

What became clear as the two pointed out its features is that Alipay isn’t important just because it’s about mobile payments. It’s an important way to pay for goods and services, period. There’s no special emphasis on the electronic, phone-centric nature of transaction. Instead, it’s an automatic, accepted part of the way things are done here.

After our lunch bill arrived, the server handed Lui a slip of paper with a QR code printed on it. He opened the scanner in his Alipay app, positioned the phone to read it, and in about a second, lunch was settled.

This QR code method is only one of the many ways that locals pay for goods and services. Liu, the CEO of VR and simulation engine Unigine and Deng, a former deputy district attorney-turned-fashion designer, also showed me how Alipay can be used to transfer money. It can pay for utilities, and air and rail tickets; foot the bill for parents; summon China’s version of an Uber (called Didi); and secure immediate refunds from items you return. There’s smart security in place and local businesses often give you discounts if you use it.

“It’s what Apple Pay wants to be,” Liu said.

Contests and more

Popular as Alipay is, it isn’t the only game in town. WeChat, a dominant social messaging app that I used in China, too, has a few innovations of its own.

There are “red envelopes” that let you share money with others, and a gambling feature with a 10,000 yuan limit (the currency is also known as RMB) — that coverts to about $1,545, £1,075 or AU$1,990. Large tech companies will often send randomized or gamified bonuses to employees, Liu said. For example, one person might get 5 yuan, but one might get 5,000. The sum drops instantly into your WeChat wallet.

Mobile payments also go hand in hand with mobile food delivery, which, from my point of view, puts Amazon’s same-day delivery and others to shame.

“Holy s***, you can get anything delivered same day,” Deng said. “If it’s a juice, it costs 30 yuan (about $4) and someone comes to my door and they hand it to me…and you don’t pay for delivery or tips.” (The juice itself costs 15 or 20 yuan, but some services have a 30 yuan minimum, Deng added.)

Still, quick delivery like this is commonplace. Other services likeSherpa’s (popular among expats, they say), Are You Hungry Yet? and Baidu (which is like Google) all offer speedy food delivery linked to instant, cashless and cardless payments. As a bonus, you can track moped-mounted delivery drivers to calculate when exactly they’ll arrive.

“If it’s electronics [that] I order before 11 a.m., I get it same-day,” Liu said. “I’ve actually had something delivered in 8 minutes…We delivered, like, 200 chicken McNuggets for work,” he added. “We had a contest.”

With Alipay and WeChat wallet paving the way in China, it’s only a matter of time before other global players vie for a similar cut of the action — in China, and also worldwide.

Garmin’s latest fitness tracker is designed for active golfers

garmin-products-10.jpg

Garmin on Friday announced a new fitness tracker for golfers that are interested in a device that can be worn both on and off the course. The $249 (around AU$320, £175) Approach X40 is a slim and lightweight band with GPS built in for calculating distances from the green and hazards like sand bunkers and ponds on over 40,000 golf courses worldwide.

It also doubles as an all-day fitness tracker for measuring things like steps, distance, calories burned, sleep and heart rate, which is measured through an optical sensor on the back and doesn’t require a separate chest strap. The band can even display notifications from your iPhone or Android device.

garmin-products-15.jpg

The X40 is noticeably smaller than other golf watches, such as the TomTom Golfer and Garmin’s ownApproach S20. Even with its small size, Garmin was able to include quite a few features.

If you’re playing on one of the golf courses in the extensive database, the band will measure distances to the front, middle and back of the green, and can be used as a digital scorecard to track individual stats like fairways hit, greens in regulation and putts per round.

There’s even an AutoShot feature that Garmin claims will automatically measure the distance and location of each shot. Data is then automatically uploaded to the Garmin Connect app for post-round analysis. The band can also be paired with Garmin’s TruSwing sensor, a device that is mounted directly on the club and used to measure various swing metrics, and will display the data captured by the sensor directly on the band.

I had some time to check out the X40 in our New York office last week, although I didn’t take it out to the course. The band is quite similar to Garmin’s Vivosmart HR tracker that I reviewed last December. It’s a tad bulky compared to a normal fitness tracker (like a Fitbit Alta or Jawbone Up2), but remarkably slim compared to other devices with GPS.

As with all of Garmin’s products, you won’t have to remove the band before you shower or go for a swim. It’s waterproof up to 50 meters. As for battery life, you can expect to get up to 10 hours with an active GPS signal and up to five days of use as an activity tracker.

The Approach X40 will begin shipping by the end of June and will be available in black, white and frost blue.

The media has no idea what kind of deal VW will announce Thursday

VW1

Earlier this afternoon we ran a story on Volkswagen’s ongoing diesel woes and its imminent (April 21) deadline for reaching an agreement with the EPA. In that story, we noted that early rumors pointed to a $5,000 cash offer for VW owners, a payout that would total some $2.5 billion dollars provided the company covered all of the half-million vehicles currently on the road.

That rumor came to us courtesy of Reuters, who has also just reported that Volkswagen will actually offer to buy back nearly 500,000 US cars. It’s not clear that the two reports are actually in conflict, because the details of both have been extremely vague. Volkswagen will reportedly offer some kind of user compensation fund, might cover future repairs for free if the EPA actually approves any of its proposed fixes, and will reportedly offer an additional cash value over and above the estimated price of the car. Vehicle prices will be calculated at their estimated value prior to the September 2015 announcement that wiped billions off VW’s stock valuation and sent resale value plunging.

Artist's depiction

The one thing I’d take away from these separate announcements is that the plan is likely complex, multifaceted, and tailored to apply to specific vehicles and scenarios. It won’t be surprising if the company has reached different solutions for different groups of customers, particularly those that have different engine types.

As of this writing, nobody knows for certain what’s going on, and trying to keep abreast of the rumors could give you whiplash.

Game developer releases real-time simulation of Titanic’s final hours