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Apple previews upgrades coming to iOS, iPadOS, macOS and more

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Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) has rolled around again, which means it’s time for Apple to preview some of the changes coming to its software platforms later this year: iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and more.

As usual, Apple executives had a host of improvements and upgrades to talk about at today’s grand WWDC 2021 opening, many of which apply across numerous devices and OSes: the Notes app, for example, is getting support for custom tags and user mentions.

Some of the major changes in the pipeline include updates for FaceTime. The video calling app will soon offer a better audio experience, plus a grid view that mimics just about every group video calling app out there – a nod to how important the technology has become to our lives over the last year.

Significantly, FaceTime is coming to Windows and Android as well, sort of: through specific Facebook links, users on non-Apple hardware will be able to join in video calls in a web browser, with the same end-to-end encryption technology available.

iOS, together with iPadOS and macOS, is getting improved notification management
iOS, together with iPadOS and macOS, is getting improved notification management

Apple

Another upcoming feature designed to keep us connected while we’re apart is what Apple calls SharePlay: it allows several people to watch a movie or television show together on multiple Apple devices in multiple locations. Apple TV+ is of course supported, as are several other services including Hulu, Disney+ and Twitch.

Apple Maps is getting some substantial upgrades, with new 3D models and details, a revamped night mode, additional road details (including elevated highways that look elevated), and better augmented reality guidance while you’re out walking. Apple Wallet, meanwhile, is going to soon be able to carry around a digital copy of your driving license in US states that support it.

Some of the iOS 15 updates include better notification management and a new Focus mode that lets you set certain notification rules and home screen layouts for different scenarios – at home, at work, at the gym, or whatever you like. Less important notifications can be summarized for you to catch up with later, while the design of these alerts is getting a more modern look as well.

Those changes will be coming to iPadOS 15 too, and Apple tablets also get the support for home screen widgets and the App Library that we first saw in iOS 14 last year. iPad users can look forward to slicker, easier multitasking controls too, with new options for putting apps side by side or on top of each other, and a better way of managing multiple windows from one particular app.

On the computing side, we now know that the next desktop software update will be called macOS Monterey. The same FaceTime, Apple Maps and other relevant upgrades are going to be included, and macOS is also gaining the Shortcuts automation app already available on iPhones and iPads.

iPadOS will soon offer full home screen widget and App Library support
iPadOS will soon offer full home screen widget and App Library support

Apple

The Apple Watch wasn’t left out, and watchOS 8 is going to bring with it a new and improved watch face based on a photo of your choice, a new Mindfulness app for looking after your mental wellbeing, support for tracking your Tai Chi and Pilates workouts, and respiratory tracking during sleep.

On the iCloud side, paying users will get access to some new features under the iCloud+ name. These features include a basic VPN that Apple is calling Private Relay, and the ability to create disposable email addresses for those times when you don’t want to reveal your real one (something similar already exists for Sign in with Apple).

There was plenty more too: the ability to have your notifications read out through your AirPods, improved visuals inside the default Weather app, support for live conversations in the Translate app, a feature that will flag up any increased risk of falling, a Live Text scanning feature that looks a lot like Google Lens, better sharing options in the Messages app, and so on and so on.

In fact there’s so much that’s new that it’s all rather overwhelming, but that’s WWDC and Apple’s annual release cycle for you – expect to hear more details about these features over the coming months. Developer access to the updates is available now, with public betas due in July and full releases later in the year – usually in September or October, based on past history.

Sources: iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, watchOS 8

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Source: https://newatlas.com/mobile-technology/apple-wwdc-2021-ios-ipados-macos-watchos/

NEWATLAS

Samsung’s first 6G prototype demo taps into terahertz frequencies

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It may feel like 5G networks are only just finding their feet and becoming mainstream, but the march of technology rarely rests. The next iteration, 6G, is already in the works, and Samsung has now demonstrated its first 6G prototype 6G system in an over-the-air test, using terahertz (THz) frequencies.

As you’d expect, the main advantage of 6G is faster data rates and lower latencies. The peak data rate is expected to eventually be up to 50 times faster than 5G, pushing it into the range of terabits per second. Latency, meanwhile, is expected to drop to just one-tenth that of 5G, and together these advances should help the tech transmit much more data-intensive content, such as 8K resolution, VR and holographic video.

Currently, 5G communications operate at frequencies up to about 40 GHz, but 6G would push that beyond 100 GHz, tapping into the as-yet-unutilized THz spectrum. The new tech would also give a boost to bandwidth too, which for 5G tops out at around 400 MHz.

For the new test, researchers at Samsung and the University of California, Santa Barbara demonstrated a system with 140 GHz frequency and a bandwidth of 2 GHz. In doing so, they managed to transmit data at 6.2 Gbps over a distance of 15 m (49 ft).

That’s a decent step up from 5G’s speed record of 5.23 Gbps, and even that was with the help of some 4G frequencies in a mostly experimental setup. But still, it’s far short of what 6G could eventually be capable of – data transfer rates of up to 1 Tbps, which is 1,000 Gbps.

The different components of Samsung's new 6G prototype: radio frequency circuits (left), the phased-array module (center), and the antenna array (right)
The different components of Samsung’s new 6G prototype: radio frequency circuits (left), the phased-array module (center), and the antenna array (right)

Samsung

The system consists of a phased array transmitter with 16 channels, receiver modules, and a baseband unit that processes signals and helps direct the beam towards the receiver.

The new test may sound exciting, but don’t throw away your fancy new 5G phone just yet – 6G isn’t expected to be commercially available until about 2030.

The team demonstrated the new 6G device at the IEEE International Conference on Communications 2021.

Source: Samsung

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Source: https://newatlas.com/telecommunications/samsung-6g-prototype-terahertz/

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FedEx eyes a future of automated delivery through partnership with Nuro

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Over the past few years, Nuro has been taking some important steps toward a future of autonomous delivery through partnerships with some big names, and it’s just landed what might be its biggest fish yet. The startup has entered an agreement with logistics giant FedEx, which has committed to using the startup’s autonomous delivery vehicles in the long-term and at a “large scale.”

Since starting grocery delivery trials in Arizona with supermarket retailer Kroger back in 2018, Nuro has gone on to conduct similar trials with Domino’s, Walmart and CVS. In a significant milestone for the industry, it also recently earned the first ever autonomous vehicle exemption from the US Department of Transport for its R2 pod, which it began testing on the streets of Houston last year.

FedEx, too, has dipped its toes in the autonomous delivery pond. In 2019 it unveiled what it called the SameDay Bot, a prototype battery-electric delivery pod that rolls down sidewalks and roadsides to complete same-day, last-mile deliveries.

Nuro's autonomous R2 pod
Nuro’s autonomous R2 pod

Nuro

FedEx will task Nuro’s vehicles with a similar responsibility, adding them to its existing fleet of 200,000 vehicles and using them to carry out last-mile deliveries. The pair have already begun testing in Houston, and will soon begin to incorporate Nuro’s delivery bots in those tests and scale up from there, targeting specific use cases and markets.

Beyond that, the details are rather scarce around what vehicles will be used, and when FedEx customers might expect a Nuro pod to drop a package at the door. Nuro does expect its technology to make FedEx’s operations more efficient, however, increasing its capacity and opening up new methods of delivery.

Source: Nuro

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Source: https://newatlas.com/automotive/fedex-automated-delivery-partnership-nuro/

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Trifan 600 long-range, high-speed hybrid VTOL promises takeoff in 2024

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XTI Aircraft is moving toward production of the “fastest and longest-range VTOL in the world,” with certification and the start of full-scale production expected by the end of 2024. The Trifan 600 will fly up to eight passengers helipad to helipad at ranges up to 750 miles (1,200 km) and impressive speeds up to 345 mph (555 km/h).

These dream figures would indeed dominate the electric VTOL space; the range alone is seven times higher than what most urban eVTOLs promise – but then XTI isn’t a pure eVTOL. Instead of a simple battery-electric powertrain, it will run a hybrid system, using high-powered batteries to manage takeoff and landing, but running a GE catalyst turboprop engine as a range-extending generator to deliver its enormous range figure.

So it might be the fastest and longest-range VTOL running on all-electric propulsion, but if we open the field up to include fossil fuels, well, the Soviets had VTOL “Yak” fighters operating 50 years ago flying longer ranges at transonic speeds.

Either way, XTI has just entered a joint venture with new aerospace holding and operating company Xeriant, with a view to getting this thing certified and into production and service.

XTI expects to have the Trifan 600 fully certified and in production by 2024
XTI expects to have the Trifan 600 fully certified and in production by 2024

XTI Aircraft

“We feel like the initiation of this relationship puts us on the road to certification,” said XTI Aircraft CEO Bob LaBelle at a launch event at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver, Colorado. “We’re very confident we’ll be the first commercial long-range, fixed-wing vertical takeoff and landing plane. The market has been waiting for this for a long time.”

The Trifan 600 looks very much like a traditional fixed-wing design, but it’s capable of vertical takeoff thanks to a pair of huge, tilting ducted fans on the leading edges of its wings, and a third ducted fan in the body of the aircraft behind the cabin, which is covered over during horizontal flight to reduce drag. It’ll be reasonably simple to fly, running on an electronically controlled fly-by-wire system that’ll manage the electric motors, thrust vectoring and control surfaces in response to pilot commands.

Should a runway be available, it’ll make sense to use it; you can nearly double your range to 1,380 miles (2,200 km) if you take off and land conventionally. But even without runways, this could be a killer machine in the business jet market, flying rooftop to rooftop from LA to San Francisco, or London to Berlin without breaking a sweat.

A very comfy cabin in standard trim
A very comfy cabin in standard trim

XTI Aircraft

Starting at US$6.5 million a unit (which would seat one pilot and five passengers), it’s priced super-competitively for a business market in which the Gulfstream G500 series is currently the biggest seller at US$44 million a pop. And while yes, the G500 goes much faster and further, it can’t hold a candle to the inter-city convenience the Trifan will deliver.

XTI can claim US$1.3 billion in sales and a backlog of 202 aircraft to build at this point, with 40 of these being non-refundable purchase orders, 122 being refundable deposits and 40 being purchase options.

But of course before it can start delivering them, it needs to get this thing certified. “One of the big things I’d like to emphasize,” said LaBelle, “is that we don’t need a whole new set of regulations to fly this. We’re gonna certify under currently-available FAA regulations. And we also don’t need charging infrastructure, or new runways, we can operate perfectly within the current national airspace system of this country or any other country.”

A handsome and high-tech looking VTOL business aircraft offering extended range and high speed compared to eVTOLs
A handsome and high-tech looking VTOL business aircraft offering extended range and high speed compared to eVTOLs

XTI Aircraft

We’re not sure how exactly XTI can certify the Trifan under existing regulations, but the current plan is to get a full-scale test aircraft built and flying in 2022, with FAA type certification slated for 2024 and production to begin once that’s squared away. The XTI team boasts a number of highly experienced aviation industry executives, LaBelle being the former Chairman and CEO of AgustaWestland America, and COO Charlie Johnson being the former President and Chief Operating Officer of Cessna, to name two. Between them and other members of the team, they’ve overseen some 35 type certifications, so while this aircraft will definitely be a huge challenge, they know a thing or two about the process.

“The TriFan 600 will transform the light commercial aircraft market, providing eco-friendly, on-demand air travel without compromising safety and performance,” stated Keith Duffy, CEO of Xeriant. “In my view, no other VTOL aircraft comes close. It is an honor to be associated with XTI’s world-class management team which has developed and certified over 30 new aircraft over their careers.”

The Xeriant/XTI joint venture will be called Eco-Aero, alluding to a future in which the Trifan will shift from hybrid propulsion to full battery power or hydrogen fuel-cell use. Ownership will be split 50/50 between the two companies, and Xeriant will invest some US$10 million over the next year to accelerate development.

Check out a short video below.

XTI and Xeriant – Advancing Aerospace Innovation

Source: Xeriant and XTI Aircraft

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Source: https://newatlas.com/aircraft/xti-xerient-merger-trifan-vtol/

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CDC and NIH studies find COVID-19 was present in US by December 2019

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New studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have concluded SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19, was likely circulating around the United States for several weeks prior to the first officially reported case in late January 2020.

The current timeline for the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic goes back to Wuhan, China, in late 2019. On the eve of 2020 the World Health Organization was notified by China of an ongoing and unexplained viral pneumonia outbreak. The exact nature of those early cases is still unclear, but it is generally believed the first infections of this novel coronavirus occurred in, or around, Wuhan across late November and early December in 2019.

The first officially reported case in the US was on January 19th in a traveler recently returned from China. However, a pair of new studies looking for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in blood samples gathered as early as December 2019 are suggesting the virus may have been circulating the country for weeks, if not months, prior to that first official case.

The first study, led by the National Institutes of Health, looked at blood samples taken as part of an ongoing long-term observational study called All of Us. Researchers tested samples gathered from 24,000 subjects between January and March in 2020 spanning all 50 states.

Two different serology platforms were used to test the blood samples for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, and the samples needed positive results from both platforms to be considered a confirmed COVID-19 case. Nine positive cases were ultimately detected in the study – coming from Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The two earliest cases detected in the study were from specimens collected in Illinois on January 7th and Massachusetts on January 8th. As positive antibodies usually develop at least two weeks after initial infection the researchers hypothesize this means both cases were infected no later than Christmas Eve in 2019.

The second study, this time led by researchers from the CDC, used a similar methodology to analyze more than 7,000 samples of blood from routine Red Cross donations taken between the 13th of December 2019 and the 17th of January 2020. In total, 106 samples tested positive to SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, with the earliest detections concentrated in California, Oregon, and Washington around the 13th of December.

While there has been debate over the past year concerning how accurate these serology antibody tests are, the technology has certainly improved over time and researchers are confident they now have excellent sensitivity and specificity. Both new studies also performed additional, more specific, testing on the positive samples to confidently conclude their overall findings as robust, even in the instance of some false positives.

“Antibody testing of blood samples helps us better understand the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. in the early days of the U.S. epidemic, when testing was restricted and public health officials could not see that the virus had already spread outside of recognized initial points of entry,” explains Keri Althoff, lead author on the NIH study. “This study also demonstrates the importance of using multiple serology platforms, as recommended by the CDC.”

Exactly how long SARS-CoV-2 could have been circulating globally before it was officially detected is a question hotly debated amongst scientists. A thorough modeling study published a couple of months ago argued it was certainly possible the novel coronavirus was circulating in China for several weeks before its official detection. Joel Wertheim, senior author on that modeling study, said in March he finds it hard to believe the virus was widely dispersed outside of China before December 2019.

“… it’s hard to reconcile these low levels of virus in China with claims of infections in Europe and the US at the same time,” said Wertheim. “I am quite skeptical of claims of COVID-19 outside China at that time.”

Wertheim’s computer modeling found in more than 70 percent of epidemic simulations the virus infected very few people before dying out. He demonstrated in a majority of scenarios SARS-CoV-2 infection would not lead to the kind of widespread pandemic that we ultimately experienced. This means it is possible several chains of transmission appeared in the United States earlier than January 2020, but they all quickly fizzed out.

Natalie Thornburg, principle investigator on the new CDC study agrees that although her team’s research did point to cases occurring earlier than previously assumed, the spread of the novel coronavirus didn’t really take off until February 2020.

“There was probably very rare and sporadic cases here earlier than we were aware of,” says Thornburg. “But it was not widespread and didn’t become widespread until late February.”

The NIH and CDC studies were published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Source: NIH

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Source: https://newatlas.com/health-wellbeing/cdc-nih-coronavirus-spread-us-december-2019/

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