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Apple unveils two new MacBooks, AirPods and a $5 music streaming service

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2021)

Apple on Monday launched two new MacBook Pro models powered by new in-house Apple Silicon chips as well as a new generation of its AirPods wireless earbuds and a $5-per-month music subscription service.

The new MacBook Pro laptops with 14-inch and 16-inch displays are powered by the new chips. The models eliminated the “Touch Bar” that Apple’s fans had groused about and restored several connectors – including the company’s “MagSafe” power connector – that had disappeared in recent years, angering some of the company’s users, Reuters reported.

Apple said the 14-inch model will start at $1,999 and the 16-inch model will start at $2,499. Both computers will start shipping next week, Apple said.

Apple’s two new high-powered chips are called the M1 Pro and the M1 Max. The chips are meant to have better performance than the company’s previous M1 chips, but do so while using less power than rival chips from firms like Intel Corp and Advanced Micro Devices Inc .

Johny Srouji, Apple’s chip chief, said the M1 Max chip uses up to 100 watts less power than other high-end laptop chips, which translates to better battery life.

“It’s the most powerful chip we’ve ever built,” Srouji said of the M1 Max.

Before Monday, Apple’s most powerful laptops relied on chips from Intel. The company has already placed a first-generation in-house-designed M1 chip into some MacBooks as well as its Mac Mini and iMac desktop machines, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, Apple’s new AirPods are sweat- and water-resistant for use with workouts and will have some sound features previously found in the higher-end AirPods Pro, Apple said during the launch event. Apple said the new AirPods will cost $179 and start shipping next week.

Apple’s new AirPods are available to order online in the United States and more than 26 other countries and regions starting on Monday. The earphones will be available in stores beginning Oct. 26.

Add-on devices like AirPods tend to be large sellers during holiday shopping seasons and have become one of Apple’s fastest-growing categories, with its home and accessories segment growing 25% to $30.6 billion in Apple’s fiscal 2020.

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Google to ban political advertising ahead of Philippine election

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google said on Wednesday it will ban political advertising on its platform in the run-up to Philippine elections in May next year to choose a successor to President Rodrigo Duterte.

The move comes amid pressure on social media platforms over their handling of political advertising during the U.S. presidential election in 2020, Reuters reported.

Social media platforms have become political battlegrounds in the Southeast Asian nation, with studies showing Filipinos top the rankings globally for time spent on social media.

Election advertisements that promote or oppose any political party or the candidacy of any person or party for public office, would not be allowed to run between February 8 to May 9, next year, Google said in an update to its political content policy.

The dates cover the period of campaigning in the Philippines up to election day on May 9.

Google said notifications would be sent to affected advertisers about the policy update.

Google has banned political advertising on its platform before, including in Canada’s federal election in 2019 and before an election in Singapore in 2020.

Social media platforms like Facebook have helped strengthen Duterte’s support base, with analysts regarding them as instrumental in his election victory in 2016.

The Philippines will choose a successor to Duterte, who under the constitution is not allowed to seek another term, but will be standing for a senator’s seat.

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Citing debris risk, NASA delays spacewalk to fix space station antenna

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2021)

A spacewalk planned for Tuesday to repair a faulty antenna on the International Space Station was postponed indefinitely, NASA said, citing a “debris notification” it received for the orbiting research laboratory.

Two U.S. astronauts had been scheduled to venture outside the space station at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time (1210 GMT) to begin their work, facing what NASA officials had called a slightly elevated risk posed by debris from a Russian anti-satellite missile test this month.

But about five hours before the outing was to have commenced, NASA said on Twitter that the spacewalk had been called off for the time being.

“NASA received a debris notification for the space station. Due to the lack of opportunity to properly assess the risk it could pose to the astronauts, teams have decided to delay the Nov. 30 spacewalk until more information is available,” the space agency tweeted.

It was not made clear how close debris had come to the space station, orbiting about 250 miles (402 km) above the Earth, or whether it was related to the Russian missile test.

NASA TV had planned to provide live coverage of the 6-1/2-hour “extravehicular activity,” or EVA, operation by astronauts Thomas Marshburn and Kayla Brown. The outing would be the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, 61, a medical doctor and former flight surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and the first for Barron, 34, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer on her debut spaceflight for NASA.

The objective is to remove a faulty S-band radio communications antenna assembly, now more than 20 years old, and replace it with a new spare stowed outside the space station.

According to plans, Marshburn was to have worked with Barron while positioned at the end of a robotic arm operated from inside the station by German astronaut Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, with help from NASA crewmate Raja Chari.

The four arrived at the space station on Nov. 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, joining two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut already aboard the orbiting outpost.

Four days later, an anti-satellite missile test conducted without warning by Russia generated a debris field in low-Earth orbit, and all seven crew members took shelter in their docked spaceships to allow for a quick getaway until the immediate danger passed, according to NASA.

The residual debris cloud from the blasted satellite has dispersed since then, according to Dana Weigel, NASA deputy manager of the International Space Station (ISS) program.

But NASA calculates that the remaining fragments continued to pose a “slightly elevated” background risk to the space station as a whole, and a 7% higher risk of spacewalkers’ suits being punctured, as compared to before Russia’s missile test, Weigel told reporters on Monday.

Although NASA has yet to fully quantify additional hazards posed by more than 1,700 larger fragments it is tracking around the station’s orbit, the 7% higher risk to spacewalkers falls “well within” fluctuations were previously seen in “the natural environment,” Weigel said.

Still, mission managers canceled several smaller maintenance tasks under consideration for Tuesday’s spacewalk, Weigel added.

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US robot company offers $200,000 to use volunteer’s face for robot

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2021)

A US robot manufacturer said it will offer $200,000 to volunteers to allow the company to use their face on its robots that will work as assistants for airports, hotels, and shopping malls.

Promobot, which is making new realistic robots, said that the volunteers should be willing to transfer the rights to use of their face forever.

“The condition regarding appearance is set due to the project specifics as the robot will function as a consultant within crowded places. Gender and age do not matter,” Promobot said in a statement.

“Our company is developing technologies in the field of speech and facial recognition, autonomous navigation, and artificial intelligence, among other areas of robotics.”

“We have been actively building and supplying humanoid robots to the market. Our new clients want to launch a large-scale project,” the statement added.

By Monday afternoon, however, Promobot had closed the application process, noting it had received over 20,000 applications.

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