Weekly Bytes | Airbus’ electric air taxi, Google’s meeting features, and more


Here’s our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.

Airbus’ electric air taxi

European aerospace firm, Airbus, is developing a new fully electric air taxi to carry up to four passengers in urban environments. The CityAirbus NextGen will be equipped with fixed wings, a V-shaped tail, and eight electrically powered propellers as part of its uniquely designed distributed propulsion system. The air taxi is being developed to fly within 80 km range and to reach a cruise speed of 120 kmph. Airbus is working on keeping the vehicle’s sound levels below 65 dB(A) during fly-over and below 70 dB(A) during landing, as it is being developed for the emerging urban air mobility market. It is optimised for hover and cruise efficiency, while not requiring moving surfaces or tilting parts during transition. CityAirbus NextGen prototype’s first flight is planned for 2023 and certification is expected around 2025, the aerospace company said. This week, Airbus also led a chorus of pledges by aviation leaders to cut emissions under an eco-friendly new slogan, but was forced to defend its jet-selling business under criticism from campaigners urging the industry to tame its growth.

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Google’s meeting-related features

Google has introduced two new features to improve the meeting experience for its users. The first feature improves the visibility of meeting participants in Meet using artificial intelligence (AI). Meet on the web now automatically detects when a user appears underexposed and enhances the brightness to improve their visibility, Google said in a blog post. The other enhancement makes it easier to chat with meeting participants, directly from Google Calendar. This feature can be accessed within a Calendar event on the web or mobile, by selecting the Chat icon next to the guest list. Once a group chat is created containing all event participants, it’s convenient to chat with guests before, during, or after any meeting. Both meeting features have started rolling out and will be available to all Workspace customers, as well as G Suite Basic and Business customers, Google said. In another development, Google plans to buy a Manhattan office building for $2.1 billion, even as most of its employees work from home and hybrid working models become common.

Hyundai’s robot for industrial site safety

Hyundai Motor Group introduced a robot for industrial site safety, with applied AI, autonomous navigation, and teleoperation technologies, enabling people to observe and survey industrial areas remotely. The ‘Factory Service Safety Robot’ is based on Boston Dynamics’ quadruped robot, Spot. Hyundai has applied several of its technologies to the Robot, including AI for detecting people, thermal camera for detecting high-temperature risks, LiDAR for recognising door openings, and navigation technology that allows it to move autonomously along designated areas within industrial sites. The Robot’s AI technology also allows it to send alarms to managers through a secure webpage. It is also possible to connect multiple robots to the control system to simultaneously check various zones. Hyundai announced the robot’s pilot operation at Kia’s plant in South Korea. In another update, Hyundai recently launched the much-anticipated i20 N Line in India, which marked the debut of the automaker’s performance-focused N brand in the country.

MeitY, AWS team up to support startups

The MeitY Startup Hub (MSH) has joined forces with Amazon Web Services (AWS), to promote technology innovation and the sustainable growth of startups in India. The duo will work together to identify startups with deep technology capabilities, and enable and empower them to build impactful solutions to address the biggest problems facing society in India, a joint statement said. Initially, the collaboration will focus on startups addressing healthcare, agriculture, public safety, transportation, smart cities and citizen engagement. MSH will facilitate and organise government-backed innovation challenges to help startups. Besides, through the AWS Startup Ramp programme, startups will gain access to AWS Credits, a community of experts, technical training and support covering cloud architecture, cost optimisation, security, and scalability readiness. In a separate development, Infosys announced a strategic collaboration with Amazon Web Services to develop quantum computing capabilities and use cases.

Honda, Google collaborate to offer in-vehicle connected service

Honda and Google have agreed to integrate the latter’s in-vehicle connected service into an all-new model that will come to market in the second half of 2022 in North America, then expand it globally in stages. The new collaboration will improve the user experience of Honda customers with voice assistant, navigation and in-vehicle apps. Using Google Assistant, the driver can easily send messages, get directions, and control media, vehicle functions and compatible smartphone devices hands-free. With Google Maps, the driver can talk to Google to navigate home, get an estimated time of arrival, find the closest fuel stations or EV charging stations, and check the business hours of stores. With Google Play, users can easily enjoy and download their favourite apps. They can listen to music, podcasts and audiobooks directly from their vehicle without using their smartphones. In another update, a recent study revealed that problems getting smartphones to connect properly with vehicle infotainment systems are now the No. 1 gripe among consumers.

Harley-Davidson’s limited-edition eBike

Harley-Davidson’s eBicycle brand, Serial 1, unveiled its limited-edition S1 MOSH/TRIBUTE eBike, the first release in an exclusive new S1 Series. The eBike pays homage to the prototype drawn from the vintage motorcycle that inspired the creation of the Serial 1 brand. The S1 MOSH/TRIBUTE includes rich gloss black paint with gold graphics, distinctive, white-toned Schwalbe Super Moto-X tires, a hand-crafted, honey-coloured leather saddle and matching leather grips, and a stamped-brass shield mounted to the front signature light. Behind the special paint and components, the limited-edition eBike maintains all the features and functionality of the standard Serial 1 MOSH/CTY model. The S1 Series will roll out limited-edition versions of the firm’s production eBikes that have been elevated with premium finishes, added technology, and exclusive components, it said. Last month, a one-of-a-kind custom eBike from Serial 1, was auctioned for about ₹10.5 lakh. In a separate development, Hero Electric said it has joined hands with EV startup Massive Mobility to set up 10,000 charging stations across the country in next one year.

You can read more at thehindu.com/technology


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