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Google Assistant to now answer Airtel-related queries

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New Delhi, Oct 22: Bharti Airtel on Monday announced that its customers will be able to interact with customer care through Google Assistant.

Currently available in English, the feature will also be rolled out in regional languages to deliver a personalised experience to millions of smartphone users, the company said in a statement.

Airtel will track what questions customer are asking and enable responses to them via Google Assistant.

“With smartphones fast becoming the norm for every Indian, this will make digital self-care much more interactive and step up the customer experience. We will continue to bring more of such exciting solutions for ‘Digital India,'” said Sarang Kanade, Director, Customer Experience and Retail, Bharti Airtel.

Airtel customers can ask Google Assistant questions about data and account balance, current outstanding, best offers, recharge, bill summary and pay bills, current data usage and available Airtel postpaid plans, among others.

The initiative is part of “Project Next” — Airtel’s digital innovation programme aimed at transforming customer experience across its services and touch points.

To get account details, the Airtel assistant will ask to link your Airtel account with Google.

If you click yes, you will be asked to enter your mobile number, accept the Terms of Service.

“Once you accept the Terms of service, you will receive an OTP. Enter the OTP to complete linking your account,” said the company.

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NASA Shared Gorgeous New Images of Jupiter & Europa From the Hubble Telescope

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NASA Jupiter Picture

It might not sport the photogenic rings of Saturn, but the striped clouds of Jupiter are gorgeous. NASA and ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured a beautiful new image of the solar system’s biggest planet.

The image was taken on August 25 and just shared, but it’s already giving researchers a fresh look at the weather on the planet. That includes the larger-the-Earth storm that is the Great Red Spot. You can also see a new storm that NASA calls “a cousin” to the Great Red Spot.

Additionally, in the upper left of the image, you can spot the moon Europa, the smallest of Jupiter’s four Galilean moons. Recent research has upped the estimate of total moons for Jupiter, putting the number at as many as 600. Europa is high on the list of places that might have some form of life inside our solar system. (Last week, Venus also climbed into that conversation.)

The announcement calls the new storm “unique and exciting.” It “appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright, white, stretched-out storm” moving at more than 340 miles per hour. Storms in this region aren’t atypical, according to NASA, but this one “appears to have more structure.” The researchers say that this could be the start of a long-duration storm in the planet’s northern hemisphere, “perhaps to rival the legendary Great Red Spot that dominates the southern hemisphere.”

The image also provides a good look at the Oval BA, which has been nicknamed Red Spot Jr. It’s the storm sitting just below the Great Red Spot.

The second image comes in surprising colors because Hubble snapped the multiwavelength image in ultraviolet/visible/near-infrared light. The image, according to NASA, ” offers insights into the altitude and distribution of the planet’s haze and particles.”

It’s a gorgeous image. But, as always, there’s a more than beauty to the images Hubble is sending back for us to admire.

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US judge declines to block Commerce Department WeChat order

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NEW YORK : A United States judge in California declined to block the Commerce Department order issued on Friday that will prohibit U.S. app stores from offering Tencent Holding’s WeChat for download starting late Sunday.

Judge Laurel Beeler said the request for a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit brought by U.S. WeChat users appeared moot after the Commerce order but said in an written order “the court is available today for a hearing on any emergency motions.” A lawyer for the WeChat users did not immediately comment.

Beeler issued a follow-up order that said lawyers for the WeChat users “will file something by 10:45 a.m. (PDT) about why the motion is not moot.” She tentatively sets a Zoom hearing for 11:00 a.m. (PDT)(1700 GMT).

The Justice Department said Friday in a court filing that Beeler should reject the request, saying President Donald Trump “has invoked his emergency powers to address (the WeChat) threat, and plaintiffs have articulated no legal basis for the Court to take the extraordinary step of enjoining his exercise of that authority.”

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Paytm App Removed From Google Play Store

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Paytm APP

Google has pulled the popular Indian financial services app Paytm from the Play Store for violating its gambling policies. Paytm is India’s most valuable startup and claims over 50 million monthly active users. Its marquee app, which competes with Google Pay in India, disappeared from the Play Store in the country earlier Friday.

Google said that Play Store prohibits online casinos and other unregulated gambling apps that facilitate sports betting in India. Paytm, which has promoted fantasy sports service within its marquee app, repeatedly violated Play Store’s policies, two people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. Paytm’s fantasy sports service, called Paytm First Games, was also available as a standalone app and it has been pulled from the Play Store, too.

The Android-maker, which maintains similar guidelines around gambling in most other markets, additionally noted that if an app leads consumers to an external website that allows them to participate in paid tournaments to win real money or cash prizes will also be deemed in violation of its Play Store policies.

In an email Google has sent to many firms in India, and was reviewed by TechCrunch, the company has asked developers to pause all advertising campaigns in their apps to drive users to websites that offer installation files of sports betting apps.

Google’s Pay app currently dominates the payments market in India, and Android commands about 99% of the smartphone market share in the country.

The announcement today from Google is also a preemptive attempt from the company to remind other developers about its gambling policies ahead of the popular cricket tournament Indian Premier League, which is scheduled to kick off tomorrow.

Previous seasons of IPL, which last for nearly two months and attract the attention of hundreds of millions of Indians, have seen a surge in apps that look to promote or participate in sports betting.

While sports betting is banned in India, fantasy sports, where users select their favorite players and win if their preferred teams or players play well, is not illegal in most Indian states.

A person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that Google has also asked Disney+ Hotstar, one of the most popular on-demand video streaming services in India, to display a warning before running ads about fantasy sports apps.

“We have these policies to protect users from potential harm. When an app violates these policies, we notify the developer of the violation and remove the app from Google Play until the developer brings the app into compliance,” wrote Suzanne Frey, Vice President, Product, Android Security and Privacy, in a blog post.

“And in the case where there are repeated policy violations, we may take more serious action which may include terminating Google Play Developer accounts. Our policies are applied and enforced on all developers consistently,” she added.

In a televised interview with CNBC TV18, Paytm co-founder and chief executive Vijay Shekhar Sharma accused Google of not allowing Paytm to acquire new users.

He acknowledged that Google had reached out to Paytm before and raised concerns about Paytm First Games, but the incident with Paytm’s main app, he said, is over “nothing but” paying cashback to customers.

The cashbacks were issued in ways of cricket-themed scratch cards, he said, adding that if Paytm isn’t allowed to issue cashback to customers, the same rule should be applied to every player. Google Pay, as well as Walmart’s PhonePe give customers similar incentives in India.

“This is the problem of India’s app ecosystem. So many founders have reached out to us… if we believe this country can build digital business, we must know that it is at somebody else’s hand to bless that business and not this country’s rules and regulations,” he said.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Madhur Deora, President of Paytm, said Google did not raise any issue about Paytm First Games app today. He said Paytm had rolled out the cricket-themed sticker for cashbacks early Friday. Hours later Google raised objection about it and suspended the app.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Indian Fantasy Sports (FIFS), an “industry body” that represents some fantasy sports firms, claims it complained to Google to take action on companies that distribute or promote fantasy sports through Play Store.

Dream Sports, the parent firm of India’s most popular fantasy sports app Dream 11, is the founding member of FIFS. Dream11 app is not available on the Play Store. In a message to their members, FIFS said the following:

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