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Meet a 12-year-old who is building robots to save honey bees

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New Delhi, April 12 : Just like any other girl her age, 12-year-old Kavya Vignesh likes to have fun when she is not studying. But unlike many others, she likes to make those moments memorable by creating something that helps solve some real-world problems.

Yes, you read that right. These days, she is busy giving final touches to a robot that has the potential to save honey bees in residential areas — and for making a presentation of her bot at an international robotics event to be held in Denmark next month.

Vignesh, a Class 7 student of Delhi Public School, Vasant Kunj, is part of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious — India’s youngest ever team to qualify for the First Lego League – European Open championship in Aarhus, scheduled for May this year.

Using a combination of robotics and hi-tech components, Vignesh has developed a Bee Saver Bot that removes honey bees — the species primarily responsible for pollination and honey production around the world — safely and carefully without harming them or humans.

“I have been practising Robotics since I was nine. My aim in life is to use the power of robotics to solve some real-world problems,” Vignesh told IANS.

Over the past three years, she has won several robotics championships (Delhi Regional robotics championship 2015 and 2016) and is now excited about representing India in the forthcoming international competition.

The robot — Lightning McQueen — is made using Lego Mindstorms EV3, the third generation robotics kit in Lego’s Mindstorms line.

Lego Mindstorms is a programmable robotics construction set that gives you the power to build, programme and command your own LEGO robots. The Lightning McQueen uses EV3 large motors, colour sensors that are used for line following, gyro sensor to take accurate turns, and pneumatics for multi-tasking.

The First Lego League championship is organised by FIRST Scandinavia foundation in cooperation with the city of Aarhus, Aarhus University, Aarhus School of Marine and Technical Engineering and IT-forum.

It will witness some 100 teams and 1,000 children from all over the world competing on their skills in construction, programming and presentation of ideas and solutions while also sharing their culture, values, making friends and having fun.

Here’s why Vignesh chose only honey bees.

“We chose honey bees, because they are mostly overlooked. Bees are mostly killed by us humans through pesticides, colony collapse disorder and many more ways,” Vignesh said.

“We learnt that more than 85 per cent of the world’s crops are pollinated by honey bees. Every third bite of food comes from a bee pollinated crop or animal that depends on bee pollination,” she emphasised.

In general, when people see a beehive near their houses and in parks and the like, they tend to call the pest controllers, who burn the hive, killing nearly 20,000 to 80,000 bees.

“So we thought of building a solution that can safely relocate the beehive without harming the bees,” Vignesh said.

The ‘Bee Saver Bot’ scans the beehive, and relocates it by building an enclosure that safely transports the beehive to the nearest bee farm, without harming any humans or bees.

“This solution can save millions of bees from getting hurt and actually relocate them back to bee farms from where they can be back on the fields where they contribute so much to our food chain,” the robotic champion noted.

In her efforts to participate in the event, Vignesh started crowdfunding through Fueladream — a Bengaluru-based platform that allows for pooling of funds for a cause.

“Although crowdfunding in India has been relatively a new concept, it is growing very quickly,” Ranganath Thota, Founder and CEO at Fueladream, told IANS.

“Funding is the biggest challenge for students in India. Crowdfunding is a very democratic way to tell your stories and use social media and friends to raise money,” he added.

Vignesh’s achievement also earned her praise from Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha.

“Proud of 12-year-old Kavya Vignesh, representing India at the European Robotics Championship in Denmark,” Sinha said in a tweet.

Vignesh, who is also a digital graphic designer, said that she looks up to her mother, Shikha Suman, founder of a health-tech start-up, as her role model.

“Believe in your dream and do whatever you want and don’t let anyone bring you down,” Vignesh said as a message to children.

To parents who put all their focus on their children’s studies alone, Vignesh says, “All work and no play may make children dumb; so they should balance out studies as well as such extra-curricular activities.”

(Rachel V. Thomas can be contacted at [email protected])

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OnePlus 6 with all-glass design now in India

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Mumbai, May 17: With the aim to make a dent in the premium smartphone market, Chinese player OnePlus on Thursday launched its flagship OnePlus 6 in India — a first in the OnePlus’ line-up featuring an all-glass design.

The device will be available for open sales across all channels, starting May 22 — in 6GB RAM + 64GB storage and 8GB RAM and 128GB options for Rs 34,999 and Rs 39,999, respectively.

The smartphone features 6.28-inch Full Optic AMOLED display with 19:9 aspect ratio for immersive viewing experience.

“With the OnePlus 6, we challenged ourselves to deliver an external design as smooth and elegant as the work we’ve done inside the device,” OnePlus Founder and CEO Pete Lau, told reporters here.

OnePlus 6 is powered by Qualcomm’s top-notch Snapdragon 845 chipset which improves performance by 30 per cent while being 10 per cent more power efficient.

“The Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform with X20 LTE is designed with new architectures for AI, immersion, and blazing fast download speeds, allowing users to do even more with their mobile device”,” said Keith Kressin, Senior Vice President of Product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

“It was purpose-built for premium user experiences like immersive gaming, cinema-grade video capture and long-lasting battery life,” Kresain added.

Coupled with Adreno 630 GPU, which is 30 per cent faster than the previous generation, the OnePlus 6 is a powerhouse for everything — from streaming HD video to playing graphically intense games.

With up to 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM, the device switches between multiple apps running at the same time without lag.

OnePlus 6 has dual-camera system with 16MP main camera, supported by a 20MP secondary camera.

With an f/1.7 aperture, the 16MP main camera features a19 percent larger sensor and OIS.

The device also marks the introduction of OnePlus’ “Slow-Motion” mode, which can capture high-definition video frame-by-frame with astonishing detail, ensuring users never miss the action.

The “OnePlus 6 x Marvel Avengers Limited Edition” device will be available with 8GB RAM and 256 GB storage for Rs 44,999 and will go on sale, starting May 29.

The limited-edition silk white device with 128GB of storage will be available for purchase on June 5 for Rs 39,999.

OnePlus 6 customers can avail cashback of Rs 2,000 while using SBI debit and credit card during the first week of launch, the company said.

The smartphone will be available for purchase on OnePlus.in, Amazon.in, OnePlus Experience store as well as all other OnePlus offline stores.

IANS

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Xiaomi tops smartphone market, Jio leads 4G handset segment in India: IDC

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New Delhi, May 14: While the smartphone market in India saw a healthy shipment of 30 million units in the first quarter of 2018, Xiaomi maintained its lead with 30.3 per cent market share, with Samsung at second place with 25.1 per cent share, the International Data Corporation (IDC) said on Monday.

The 4G feature phone market continued to grow at more than 50 per cent quarter-on-quarter, driven primarily by Reliance JioPhone which led the market with 38.4 per cent share.

The operator disrupted the market by introducing aggressively priced data plans at Rs 49 in the initial weeks of the quarter, acting as catalyst for growth.

According to the IDC’s “Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker”, the India smartphone market maintained a healthy year on year (yoy) growth of 11 per cent. However, the market remained almost flat compared to the previous fourth quarter of 2017.

Xiaomi increased its share of total online shipments from 32 per cent a year ago to 53 per cent in Q1.

“Xiaomi is in a unique position with a diversified channel approach and strong demand in each of the channels. Huawei’s Honor 9 Lite also made into the top 5 online models in its debut quarter 2018Q1,” said Jaipal Singh, Senior Market Analyst, IDC India.

Xiaomi maintained its lead in the market for second quarter in a row with further expansion in the offline channel and popularity of its models such as Redmi 5A and Redmi Note 5.

Commenting on local manufacturing of smartphones, Upasana Joshi, Senior Market Analyst, IDC India, said: “The recent import duty hike on PCBs, camera modules and connectors by the Indian government, definitely puts cost pressure on the smartphone companies, till such time that they set up lines for CKD (Complete Knock Down) type of manufacturing to reduce this impact.”

“This will increase the challenges for smaller companies even more,” she added.

Samsung remained at the second spot with flat annual growth in Q1.

“Samsung’s two-pronged approach with the focus on low-to-mid range J series and the latest flagships Galaxy S9 series along with Galaxy S8 series and Note 8 in the premium segment drove shipments for the vendor,” said the IDC.

OPPO climbed to third spot from fifth in the last quarter. Vivo slipped to fourth position as its shipments declined by 29.4 per cent year-over-year in Q1.

However, the brand grew by 2.1 per cent as compared to the previous quarter. The Y series of Vivo continued to generate close to 70 per cent demand.

China-based Transsion Group made its debut in the top 5 with more than threefold annual growth in shipments in Q1. The China-based group has four brands under its umbrella – itel, Tecno, Infinix and Spice.

“The government push for high-end electronics local manufacturing and accompanying duty hike puts most of the mobile phone vendors under further margin pressure. However, a vendor looking to establish itself for long term will have to show commitment by setting up the SMT units here,” Singh added.

IANS

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Microsoft working on ‘trustworthy AI’ to curb fake news

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Redmond (Washington), May 12: Alarmed by the mammoth spread of fake news, tech giant Microsoft is working round-the-clock on building “trusted” algorithms to control false news on its platforms like Bing Search engine and professional networking website LinkedIn.

According to David Heiner, Strategic Policy Advisor at Microsoft, the problems Facebook and YouTube are facing with fake news today have alerted the tech companies the world over and Microsoft is right on the job in building Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven systems to fight back.

“We are already working on a couple of such AI-powered initiatives towards Bing and Linkedin. We are also trying to forge tie-ups with trusted news sources and then indicate to users what is the source of the news and letting them make their own decisions,” Heiner told IANS at the company’s sprawling, 500-acre campus here.

The main challenge, according to him, are concerns regarding censorship and defining what is fake news.

“A very high percentage of people get news from Facebook and (Google-owned) YouTube and both these major platforms are having troubles with handling fake news.

“In the meantime, we have to draw a line for giving too much power to tech companies – in order to figure out what is being presented to the users that often leads to utterly fake news which is injurious to democracy and the civil society,” the senior company executive noted.

The need of the hour is to build “trustworthy AI” that is fair and doesn’t differentiate between religion, caste and colour.

“The whole idea is to build applications around AI in a trustworthy way. People will not share data and they must not be. With respect to users’ privacy, we need trusted AI systems that are safe and transparent,” Heiner explained.

There is a notion outside that a handful of big US tech companies or Chinese ones like Tencent Holdings and Alibaba will finally control the AI technology.

“Our vision is very different. We want AI for humanity, for all. AI is the new fundamental technology in terms of creating a huge impact on the society,” the executive emphasised.

There are six core concepts to achieving “trustworthy AI”.

AI-based systems need to treat everyone fairly, must be safe, protect privacy and security, include everyone and need to be transparent as algorithms can be mysterious at times.

“Lastly, people who are deploying AI systems — be it at Microsoft or at other companies – are to be treated as accountable for the trustworthiness of their AI systems,” Heiner explained.

Microsoft is infusing AI into a whole range of applications — Office 365, Azure Cloud, cognitive services and translation solutions, etc.

“The challenge is to ensure how data is it being collected and fed into an AI system. This demands utmost fairness and responsibility and we are very serious about it,” he added.

AI promises new capabilities but it has also raised questions about potential disruptions to the nature and distribution of jobs.

“It is really hard to predict the future on whether AI will kill jobs. Technology has always eliminated certain jobs and created new ones. We don’t know yet whether this will hold true for AI.

“But one thing is sure. Technology in overall, irrespective of AI, will have some impact on jobs like with automation in the recent past,” Heiner said.

What will not be transferable to AI, perhaps, are distinct human qualities like judgment, emotions and empathy.

Microsoft is optimistic that AI systems are needed to be built in such a way that they augment human capabilities.

The company has announced “AI for Accessibility” — a new $25 million, five-year programme for developers globally including in India.

“AI is well suited to us as we build software to improve lives. The technology can do wonders in voice, speech recognition and translation solutions. Aided by AI, humans can reduce errors to a great extent — almost negligible — be it in healthcare or any other field,” Heiner noted.

IANS

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