AI image sensor 📸, lingering water droplets 💧 and credit card expenditure drops 40% 💳!

Technology News

Sony’s first AI image sensor will make cameras everywhere smarter

Sony has announced the world’s first image sensor with integrated AI smarts. The new IMX500 sensor incorporates both processing power and memory, allowing it to perform machine learning-powered computer vision tasks without extra hardware. Machine learning can be used to not only improve the quality of the pictures we take, but also understand video like a human would; identifying people and objects in frame. The applications of this technology are huge, enabling everything from self-driving cars to automated surveillance. Sony expects the first products using the image sensor to arrive in the first quarter of 2021.

Facebook, telcos to build huge subsea cable for Africa and Middle East

Facebook, and a group of telecom companies including China Mobile International, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange and Vodafone, are collaborating to build the “most comprehensive” subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region where nearly a billion people are still offline. The project, called 2Africa, will see the companies lay cables that will stretch to 37,000km (22,990 miles) and interconnect Europe, the Middle East, and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa. The system is expected to be live by 2023 or early 2024.

Science News

Water droplets from talking can linger in the air ‘for tens of minutes’, study warns

Tiny water droplets produced from talking can linger in the air for “tens of minutes or longer” and are “eminently capable” of spreading diseases like coronavirus, a new research has found. The study published looked at how speech can emit thousands of ‘oral fluid droplets’ every second and found that those droplets can remain suspended in the air, allowing them to transmit diseases especially in confined spaces. Its conclusion “adds weight to the need for social distancing”, one expert has said, as well as raising important issues about the potential spread of coronavirus in confined spaces like offices and factories.

Blind people could ‘see’ letters that scientists drew on their brains with electricity

Scientists sent patterns of electricity coursing across people’s brains, coaxing their brains to see letters that weren’t there. The experiment worked in both sighted people and blind participants who had lost their sight in adulthood. Known as visual prosthetics, the implants were placed on the visual cortex and then stimulated in a pattern to “trace” out shapes that the participants could then “see.” More advanced versions of these implants could work similarly to cochlear implants, which stimulate nerves of the inner ear with electrodes to help enhance the wearer’s hearing ability.

Business News

JPMorgan’s U.S. credit card holders spent 40% less due to coronavirus

Credit card spending among some of JP Morgan Chase & Co’s U.S. customers fell 40% during March and early April compared to last year, as Americans stayed home to protect against the novel coronavirus. Spending on non-essential goods and services, like retail, restaurants, and entertainment, fell sharply across income brackets accounting for nearly all of the drop in spending during that period. The overall fall in spending was 8 times larger than the average drop in household credit card spending in the first month of unemployment during regular times.

Starbucks asks for a break on rent for the next year

Starbucks sent a letter to landlords demanding a break on rent for the next year as the coronavirus pandemic hammers U.S. sales. The restaurant company, one of the largest in the country by number of stores, told landlords that for at least the next 12 months, it will need changes to lease terms and base rent. The company estimated it lost $915 million in sales during its fiscal second quarter due to store closures, reduced operating hours and lower customer traffic resulting from the pandemic. Its earnings were cut in half as catastrophe pay for baristas, hourly pay increases and the cost of store safety items such as face coverings weighed on profits.

Miscellaneous News

Canada’s Calgary Zoo to return two pandas to China because it can’t get enough bamboo to feed them

The zoo usually flies in bamboo from China to feed the animals, but the Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted flights and caused delays in supplies. The duo, named Er Shun and Da Mao, were supposed to stay in Canada until 2023 as part of a 10-year agreement with China, but the zoo decided to send them back early out of concern that delays could worsen if there’s a second wave of coronavirus cases. A panda’s diet consists almost entirely of fresh bamboo and the animals typically eat about 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of it each day.

Restaurant to seat mannequins at empty tables to make social distancing less awkward

A highly-rated restaurant says it plans to fill empty tables with mannequins to make social distancing rules less awkward when customers are allowed to return. When the restaurant gets the green light to start serving customers inside its dining room, chef Patrick O’Connell plans to seat empty tables with mannequins, the news outlet reported. O’Connell says the mannequins will be decked out in vintage, 1940s-style outfits. The eatery, which features 23 guest rooms, also has plans to capitalize on its 20-acre property by offering picnic lunch-and-garden tours.

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