Meta announces plans to build an AI-powered ‘universal speech translator’

Meta, the owner of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has announced an ambitious new AI research project to create translation software that works for “everyone in the world.” The project was announced as part of an event focusing on the broad range of benefits Meta believes AI can offer the company’s metaverse plans.

“The ability to communicate with anyone in any language — that’s a superpower people have dreamed of forever, and AI is going to deliver that within our lifetimes,” said Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an online presentation.

The company says that although commonly spoken languages like English, Mandarin, and Spanish are well catered to by current translation tools, roughly 20 percent of the world’s population do not speak languages covered by these systems. Often, these under-served languages do not have easily accessible corpuses of written text that are needed to train AI systems or sometimes have no standardized writing system at all.

Meta says it wants to overcome these challenges by deploying new machine learning techniques in two specific areas. The first focus, dubbed No Language Left Behind, will concentrate on building AI models that can learn to translate language using fewer training examples. The second, Universal Speech Translator, will aim to build systems that directly translate speech in real-time from one language to another without the need for a written component to serve as an intermediary (a common technique for many translation apps).

In a blog post announcing the news, Meta researchers did not offer a timeframe for completing these projects or even a roadmap for major milestones in reaching their goal. Instead, the company stressed the utopian possibilities of universal language translation.

“Eliminating language barriers would be profound, making it possible for billions of people to access information online in their native or preferred language,” they write. “Advances in [machine translation] won’t just help those people who don’t speak one of the languages that dominates the internet today; they’ll also fundamentally change the way people in the world connect and share ideas.”

Crucially, Meta also envisions that such technology would hugely benefit its globe-spanning products — furthering their reach and turning them into essential communication tools for millions. The blog post notes that universal translation software would be a killer app for future wearable devices like AR glasses (which Meta is building) and would also break down boundaries in “immersive” VR and AR reality spaces (which Meta is also building). In other words, though developing universal translation tools may have humanitarian benefits, it also makes good business sense for a company like Meta.

It’s certainly true that advances in machine learning in recent years have hugely improved the speed and accuracy of machine translation. A number of big tech companies, from Google to Apple, now offer users free AI translation tools, used for work and tourism, and undoubtedly provide incalculable benefits around the world. But the underlying technology has its problems, too, with critics noting that machine translation misses nuances critical for human speakers, injects gendered bias into its outputs, and is capable of throwing up those weird, unexpected errors only a computer can. Some speakers of uncommon languages also say they fear losing hold of their speech and culture if the ability to translate their words is controlled solely by big tech.

Considering such errors is critical when massive platforms like Facebook and Instagram apply such translations automatically. Consider, for example, a case from 2017 when a Palestinian man was arrested by Israeli police after Facebook’s machine translation software mistranslated a post he shared. The man wrote “good morning” in Arabic, but Facebook translated this as “hurt them” in English and “attack them” in Hebrew.

And while Meta has long aspired to global access, the company’s own products remain biased towards countries that provide the bulk of its revenue. Internal documents published as part of the Facebook Papers revealed how the company struggles to moderate hate speech and abuse in languages other than English. These blind spots can have incredibly deadly consequences, as when the company failed to tackle misinformation and hate speech in Myanmar prior to the Rohingya genocide. And similar cases involving questionable translations occupy Facebook’s Oversight Board to this day.

So while a universal translator is an incredible aspiration, Meta will need to prove not only that its technology is equal to the task but that, as a company, it can apply its research fairly.

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AMD’s Ryzen road map spells out how it plans to beat Intel

AMD showed off its Ryzen road map on desktop and mobile during its Financial Analyst Day on Thursday, laying out how it plans to beat Intel to have the best processor. The road map reveals several key details about the upcoming Ryzen 7000 processors, as well as future CPUs for laptops and desktops. Although AMD didn’t provide hard performance numbers, the company still revealed expected performance for its Ryzen 7000 CPUs.

In particular, AMD says Ryzen 7000 comes with between an 8% and 10% increase in instruction per clock (IPC), and that it has a 25% performance-per-watt advantage over Ryzen 5000 CPUs. AMD reconfirmed the greater than 15% single-core performance increase it announced at Computex, too, which the company says is a very conservative estimate. In a pre-brief, AMD says it wants to underscore the “greater than” part of the claim.

Overall, AMD says Ryzen 7000 is 35% faster than the previous generation, which is a massive jump. It doesn’t stop at Ryzen 7000, though. In addition to 3D V-Cache coming back to Ryzen, AMD’s Ryzen road map (above) reveals some details about Zen 5 CPUs as well. AMD says they’re coming in 2024 and will offer a much more significant step up in performance.

These chips will use a 4nm manufacturing process for desktops, but that’s about all we know for now. The only major development is that Zen 5 CPUs could use a multinode architecture, similar to Intel Alder Lake. AMD didn’t outright confirm this is the case, but it talked up its fourth-gen Infinity architecture that enables multi-node designs.

In addition, the road map confirms that Threadripper processors built on Zen 4 are in the works. A leaked road map hinted at Threadripper 7000 earlier this year, and it is expected to launch in early 2023. You might not be able to buy them for your next PC build, though. Threadripper 5000 processors, for example, are currently only available in the Lenovo P620 workstation.

AMD's Ryzen mobile roadmap through 2024.

AMD provided a road map for its laptop processors, too (above). The company just launched Ryzen 6000 mobile, so now AMD’s sights are set on Phoenix Point chips in early 2023. We don’t have a confirmed name for this range yet, but AMD says they’ll use Zen 4 cores like Ryzen 7000 and be built using a 4nm manufacturing process.

Perhaps more exciting, these next-gen mobile CPUs will come with RDNA 3 graphics built-in — that’s the architecture behind AMD’s upcoming RX 7000 GPUs. Laptops have become a larger focus for AMD over the past few generations. Although Ryzen 6000 doesn’t beat Intel across the board, next-gen processors may.

Phoenix Point processors will target a power range of 35 watts to 45W for high-performance laptops, but AMD has previously confirmed an even more powerful lineup of mobile chips dubbed Dragon Range. These should launch around the same time as Phoenix Point, though they aren’t included on AMD’s new road map.

Beyond Phoenix Point, AMD will launch Strix Point built on Zen 5 CPU cores. We don’t know the manufacturing process yet, and details are light, as they are with Zen 5 desktop CPUs. The biggest announcement was that they will include RDNA 3+ graphics, which seems to be an enhanced version of AMD’s upcoming graphics architecture.

AMD Ryzen processor render.

Both Phoenix Point and Strix Point will also introduce an AI engine developed by Xilinx — a company that AMD recently acquired. It’s tough to say what specifically the engine will do, but it will likely target features that improve battery life, webcam performance, and system noise. AMD hasn’t revealed any details, though.

AMD is gearing up for a fight following the release of Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors. Looking forward, Ryzen 7000 will compete with Intel Meteor Lake, which is Intel’s next generation of processors. Intel is sticking with the same manufacturing process as Alder Lake, which could give AMD a leg up in the next generation. Intel has a road map of its own, however, so it’ll be an interesting few years.

Editors’ Choice

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Nvidia details plans to transform data centers into AI factories

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The road to more powerful AI-enabled data centers and supercomputers is going to be paved with more powerful silicon. And if Nvidia has its way, much of the silicon innovation will be technology it has developed.

At the Computex computer hardware show in Taipei today, Nvidia announced a series of hardware milestones and new innovations to help advance the company’s aspirations. A key theme is enhancing performance to enable more data intelligence and artificial intelligence for use cases.

“AI is transforming every industry by infusing intelligence into every customer engagement,” Paresh Kharya, senior director of product management at Nvidia, said during a media briefing. “Data centers are transforming into AI factories.”

Grace superchip is building block of AI factory

One of the key technologies that will help enable Nvidia’s vision is the company’s Grace superchips. At Computex, Nvidia announced that multiple hardware vendors, including ASUS, Foxconn Industrial Internet, GIGABYTE, QCT, Supermicro and Wiwynn, will build Grace base systems that will begin to ship in the first half of 2023. Nvidia first announced the Grace central processing unit (CPU) superchip in 2021 as an ARM-based architecture for AI and high-performance computing workloads.

Kharya said the Grace superchip will be available in a number of different configurations: One option is a two-chip architecture, which is connected with Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect. That configuration will enable up to 144 ARM v9 compute cores. The second approach is known as the Grace Hopper Superchip, which combines the Grace CPU with an Nvidia Hopper GPU.

“Grace Hopper is built to accelerate the largest AI, HPC, cloud and hyperscale workloads,” Kharya said.

Credit: Nvidia

New 2U reference architecture design

As part of its Computex announcements, Nvidia also detailed 2U (2 rack unit) sized server architecture designed to help enable adoption into data centers.

One of the reference designs is the CGX, which is intended to help accelerate cloud graphics and gaming use cases. The CGX includes the Grace superchip alongside Nvidia a16 GPUs and BlueField-3 data processing units (DPUs). Another reference design is the new OVX system, which is intended for enabling AI digital twin and Nvidia Omniverse workloads. OVX also uses the Grace Superchip and BlueField-3, while providing vendors with the option of using a range of different Nvidia GPUs. Finally, the HGX Grace and the HGX Grace Hopper 2U reference designs provide systems optimized for AI training and inference. 

Nvidia also announced new liquid-cooled GPUs, beginning with the A100. Kharya described the approach as the first data center PCIe GPU using direct-to-chip liquid-cooling technology. The new PCIe GPUs for direct-to-chip liquid cooling will ship starting in Q3 this year.

“Using this technology results in up to 30% lower power consumption,” he said.

More partners for Nvidia AI Enterprise 

Nvidia is also using its time at Computex to bring in more industry go-to-market partners in APAC for its Nvidia AI Enterprise software suite, which helps organizations build and support end-to-end data science workflows. The software first became generally available in August 2021. Among the new APAC partners are ADG, BayNex, Leadteck and ZeroOne.

“Solving challenges with AI requires a full-stack solution. At the base of our platform are the infrastructure components that are needed to build the AI factories, including our CPU, GPU and DPU,” Kharya said. “On top of that is our software stack that operates these AI factories and runs them optimally. “

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Sony reportedly plans to launch its answer to Xbox Game Pass this spring

Xbox Game Pass has been a hit for Microsoft, and it seems Sony is preparing to respond with its own version of an all-in-one game subscription service. The company is planning to merge PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now into a new offering, which is expected to debut this spring, according to Bloomberg.

The service, which is codenamed Spartacus, would likely be available on PS4 and PS5 for a monthly fee. It’s unclear whether players would be able to access it on other devices, though the report notes Sony is putting more resources into cloud gaming. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate allows players to delve into more than 100 Xbox titles via the cloud on , PC, phones and tablets. Microsoft plans to for TVs too.

It seems Sony will kill off PlayStation Now, but keep the PlayStation Plus branding. Sony may not yet have finalized how Spartacus will work, but there could be three tiers to the service. According to documents viewed by Bloomberg, the lowest tier would effectively be PlayStation Plus as it is now. The second level would add a “large catalog” of PS4 titles, with PS5 games joining later. The third and highest tier would include cloud gaming, expanded demos and, akin to , a bunch of older PS1, PS2, PS3 and even PSP games. However, those plans may not be set in stone.

It’s not clear whether Sony plans to bring its first-party exclusives to the service on their release date, as Microsoft does on Game Pass. Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan that the company wouldn’t “go down the road of putting new release titles into a subscription model. These games cost many millions of dollars, well over $100 million, to develop. We just don’t see that as sustainable.”

But the landscape has shifted since Ryan’s remarks. For one thing, Microsoft bought Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media this year. All of Bethesda’s games (save for a couple of timed PS5 console exclusives like ) are on Game Pass, and future Bethesda titles like might not come to PlayStation at all.

Although Game Pass would likely be Sony’s biggest competitor in the game subscription market, it’ll be up against several other major companies. and have subscription services, Amazon launched last year and to its existing plans. As for cloud gaming (a category Luna also falls into), there’s NVIDIA’s GeForce Now and Google Stadia, and even .

PlayStation Now was one of the earliest major game subscription services when it debuted in 2015, but it had a fairly tepid response. Players were only able to access PS Now games via the cloud until 2018, when they were able to to their console.

One of the biggest complaints we had about the service when was the lack of notable games. Since then, Sony has brought some big games like for a limited time.

By the end of Sony’s 2020 financial year, there were . Microsoft in January that it had 18 million Game Pass members. For that reason and many others, it’s a smart idea for Sony to go back to the drawing board and create a more robust subscription service. 

Much like Microsoft, Sony has started looking beyond PlayStation consoles to bring its games to new audiences. Over the last year or so, it released Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone on PC. A bundle of Uncharted 4 and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is coming to PC in early 2022, as is the 2018 reboot of God of War.

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EA is going ‘all-in on Battlefield’ with plans for a connected universe

Much like , Battlefield is morphing into a “connected universe.” EA is plowing more resources into the series and revamping the structure of its studios to support that vision, despite a lukewarm reception (to put it generously) for

“As a whole, we’re all-in on Battlefield,” EA chief operating officer Laura Miele told . “Collectively, we are out to unlock its enormous potential.”

Multiple studios in North America and Europe are said to be working on Battlefield games and experiences. One of those is , which will be released next year.

Vince Zampella, the head of and studio Respawn Entertainment, is now in charge of the Battlefield franchise. Zampella, last year, will continue to run Respawn. In addition to producing the original Call of Duty, he has worked on Titanfall and Medal of Honor games.

“We intend to build a Battlefield universe, one with multiple projects that are interconnected with the player at the center,” . “We will continue to evolve and grow Battlefield 2042, and we’ll explore new kinds of experiences and business models along the way that we can add to that foundation to provide an awesome array of experiences for our players.”

Byron Beede, another Call of Duty veteran EA hired as Battlefield general manager this year, said EA has a “long-term plan” for the series. However, the main focus right now is on supporting Battlefield 2042

Ripple Effect, which worked on Battlefield 2042’s , and a new studio run by Halo designer Marcus Lehto will help DICE improve that game. DICE just that targeted Battlefield 2042‘s clunky user interface and fixed a ton of bugs.

Meanwhile, DICE general manager Oskar Gabrielson will leave the company at the end of the year. Former Ubisoft Annecy studio director Rebecka Coutaz is taking over that role.

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How the New G4 Plans to Stand Out in the Twitch Era

G4 is back. The iconic TV channel made its official return to the air on November 16, both in a traditional cable television format and on Twitch and YouTube.

It’s a return to the airwaves for a channel that went offline in 2014 after a 12-year run on American cable TV. It was arguably at its height in the early 2000s as a primarily gaming-focused channel, with programs like Attack of the Show, X-Play, and American Ninja Warrior, as well as on-air talent that included Adam Sessler, Morgan Webb, and Olivia Munn.

G4 had been teasing a return to the airwaves since July 2020, with Sessler slated to return alongside revivals of Attack of the Show and X-Play. It’s slowly built a new pool of talent since then, which ranges from celebrity gamers like Xavier Woods to online broadcasters such as Gina Darling, Indiana “Froskurinn” Black, Jirard “The Completionist” Khalil, and the virtual YouTuber CodeMiko.

The first new original show on the network, Invitation to Party, focuses on Dungeons & Dragons-style live-play, with B. Dave Walters running adventures for Ify Nwadiwe (Smosh), Fiona Nova (Rooster Teeth’s Achievement Hunter), Froskurinn, and YouTuber Kassem G.

On the day after the network’s official return, I sat down with Brian Terwilliger, G4’s senior vice president of programming and development and a returning behind-the-scenes employee from G4’s original run. We discussed G4’s current game plan, its programming lineup, and how to create a new cable network in 2021.

Brian Terwilliger, G4’s senior VP of programming and development.

I assumed that when you said “cable channel,” you meant a traditional 24-7 network. Now it looks like it’s mostly on-demand. How does that work?

Brian Terwilliger: You are not incorrect. The cable channels are programmed as 24/7 linear channels. Twitch and YouTube, every day, is going to be a multihour live experience. Never reruns, never old stuff, fresh uploads every single day.

On linear, traditional cable, that’s where you’re getting the 24/7, warm and fuzzy, just like you remember it, curated and timed programs, specifically for that audience. We are taking different approaches based on the different platforms.

It does seem like you’re trying to split the middle between the on-demand system and the more traditional “appointment TV” sort of deal. How do you arrive at that programming schedule in an increasingly post-cable world?

BT: It’s a great question. I’ll say, what we look like at launch and what we look like 90 days from now, it’s going to evolve. We know that we’re going to learn, we’re going to have feedback across all of our platforms. At the end of the day, we want to be everywhere gamers are. That’s really the story we’re telling through our programming.

For Twitch and YouTube, I mentioned never having a rerun and always being live. The way we look at this, our core thinking for how this crazy Rube Goldberg content flow works, is that our Twitch and YouTube are the daily live studio taping. If you go to the Tonight Show taping, craziness is breaking loose, things break, and someone cursed. That’s OK, because that’s the live environment to us.

Then, for linear and traditional cable, that’s where a more curated approach is really required. Not all of Twitch and YouTube makes for good TV. They have a lot of interactivity, which is great for those digital platforms, but playing out linearly doesn’t quite work.

You saw a lot of this during the pandemic. There were a lot of digital formats just being thrown against the wall. We took that learning and assessment and really baked it into the foundation, of how you get Attack of the Show to work. How can it be true to the digital audience? If we expect an audience to grow with us, we’ve got to make sure we’re being inclusive, and that includes the younger demo. How do we get the legacy audience, who’s probably watching us on those more traditional platforms?

Over time, we’re going to learn more about who’s watching where and what we might find. We’re excited to learn. But our core thesis is that our digital is the live taping, our rawest form, all the fun, all the mistakes, all the ugly bits, and then we clean it up and it becomes a nice, pristine TV show.

That makes a lot of sense. I suppose it also explains the “we don’t know what we’re doing” aspect of your media presence. When you look at the website, it comes off like you all don’t quite know what’s going on.

BT: That’s dead-on accurate. That’s what we are. G4 has always been a comedic brand, and it just so happened that games and technology and gadgets were what that was applied to. That’s very much the most important thing. These are comedy brands that we feel embody the same shenanigans and sensibilities that are expressed across our stuff.

That’s just who we are. It’s not just the brand campaign. We will always be the first to acknowledge we’re terrible, we’re going to say we stink, we will be the first to punch ourselves. I think that defines G4, that’s what makes it accessible. We don’t have an ego. G4 can make fun of itself first.

It kind of reminds me of the original Muppet Show, that spit-and-baling-wire community theater feel.

BT: Yes. Yes!

What drew you to the talent that you picked for the relaunch? It’s this interesting mix of Twitch personalities, YouTubers, and a few returning people like Adam Sessler.

BT: As someone who worked at the original G4, it’s no secret: G4 was very white.

If you look at our cast now, our G4 cast today represents all gamers. I can say that with a full heart and complete sincerity. That’s who the gaming audience is. We’re representative across background, across sexuality, across gender. It’s really important. This is one of those things where, if you look back, G4 could’ve been better about. We didn’t necessarily have all the pieces that we needed.

The idea is that G4 is representing the industry, everyone’s very specific areas of interests and passions. We’ve got folks that are into esports, folks that are into cosplay, we’ve got tabletop. The world has changed. You look at our roster, it’s deep and dynamic. Because they’re successful Twitch streamers with those really deep points of passion, it’s authentic. You can’t be a successful Twitch streamer being inauthentic, you just can’t.

It’s consideration of who we want to be in 2021, and as we find our footing into 2022, as our programming evolves and we start covering events and we return to all the things that people expect G4 to participate in. At the old G4, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes did a weekly movie review that they didn’t need to come in and do. They did it because they wanted to be on G4 and to have fun.

Our programming is essentially our talent, putting our ideas together. We have the right people in play, and they want to create.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Editors’ Choice

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Acorio: Most enterprises have some kind of digital transformation plans

All the sessions from Transform 2021 are available on-demand now. Watch now.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) topped the list of strategic business initiatives according to a new report by Acorio and NTT Data company. 26% of respondents saying they had started their initiatives in the past year.

Above: Insight Vision 2021 Report

Image Credit: Acorio

Digital transformation efforts are increasing in every industry, but none more so than financial services and healthcare, Acorio said. During a period in which every company was forced to rethink its digital strategy due to the unforeseen toll of COVID-19, more than half of respondents to this year’s survey reported that their digital transformation initiatives started or increased in importance because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, as companies eye what the future workforce looks like, nearly 40% of respondents listed return to work as a newly important priority for this year.

Nearly two-thirds of larger firms reported having digital transformation initiatives underway for a year or more, and 15% reported being almost done with their digital transformation initiatives. Last year, only 8% said they were almost done with their digital transformation initiatives.

Innovation in advanced automation is becoming intertwined with digital transformation efforts. In last year’s report, 46% of the largest companies surveyed (those with 10,000+ full-time employees) reported having ‘just started’ on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) initiatives. Only 21% of the same group reported the same stage in our 2020 survey. Meanwhile, 55% of those companies today report having AI, Machine Learning, and Automation initiatives underway for a year or more, increasing by 21% since last year.

Acorio’s 2021 ServiceNow Insight and Vision Report comes from the largest global survey focused exclusively on ServiceNow and Technology Transformation. With nearly 500 responses, this year’s third annual report is Acorio’s largest study conducted to date. The responses were gathered anonymously through an online platform and come from a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, and financial services. 68% of takers from companies with more than 5,000 employee and 44% named themselves as directors or above.

Read the full Insight Vision 2021 report from Acorio.


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Netflix gaming plans confirmed by latest hire

Netflix is still considered to be the king of video streaming, but its once vast empire has now been split among other rivaling kingdoms, including the Kingdom of Mickey Mouse. Despite the increased competition, Netflix has kept true to its core service of distributing videos across multiple genres. It hasn’t dabbled in audio-only content like podcasts, for example, which seems to be experiencing a renaissance these days. It might, however, soon diverge into video games territory if its new exec is any indication.

Netflix’s gaming ambitions go back as far as 2018 when it launched the interactive fiction Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and Minecraft: Story Mode. Rumors have popped up here and there about its plans to offer video games alongside its video streaming content, but the company’s official statements didn’t exactly commit to or deny such speculation. Its latest hire, however, pretty much confirms that it has a specific executive position related to video games.

Bloomberg reports on the hiring of Mike Verdu, a name that might be familiar in game development circles. Verdu held various high-level positions in EA, Kabam, and Zynga, and his most recent stint was at Facebook, where he sat as VP for AR and VR content. Verdu will now be Netflix’s vice-president for game development.

While that confirms Netflix’s preparations for a gaming venture, it doesn’t exactly answer the form this side hustle will take. According to insiders, Netflix will offer video games alongside its normal video streaming content without charging extra.

It is actually curious that Netflix would dip its fingers in a cookie jar with no direct relation to streaming, presuming it won’t be streaming games like Google Stadia. Gaming subscriptions are gaining traction across different gaming platforms, and Netflix might hard-pressed to find developers and publishers to join its platform when there are half a dozen more established services already available.

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Tech News

GE and Safran’s hybrid engine plans could ground the guilt over air travel

A new aircraft engine design that could potentially cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20-percent is being developed, with GE Aviation and Safran suggesting the CFM RISE program could result in more frugal transportation by the mid-2030s. The new “Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines” program is also aiming to develop powertrain options for aircraft that support alternative fuels, as well as hybrid-electric operation.

The two companies are no strangers. The CFM collaboration began back in 1974, a 50/50 joint venture between GE Aviation and Safran. It’s now been extended to 2050, and credited with already cutting emissions by 15-percent in the existing LEAP engine compared to previous-generation aircraft engines.

RISE, though, will take things even further. It’ll form the basis of a new CFM engine design which the two companies hope to have ready for commercial deployment by the mid-2030s. As well as cutting fuel consumption and trimming CO2 emissions, it’ll have to be completely compatible with hydrogen and Sustainable Aviation Fuels.

“Central to the program is state-of-the-art propulsive efficiency for the engine, including developing an open fan architecture,” GE said today of the agreement. “This is a key enabler to achieving significantly improved fuel efficiency while delivering the same speed and cabin experience as current single-aisle aircraft. The program will also use hybrid electric capability to optimize engine efficiency while enabling electrification of many aircraft systems.”

There won’t be any one, individual component responsible for that sort of overall improvement and flexibility, of course. Instead, the joint GE/Safran engineering team is looking to everything from composite fan blades, heat resistant metal alloys, ceramic matrix composites (CMCs), hybrid electric capability, and additive manufacturing. In total, there’ll be more than 300 different component, module, and full engine builds.

It won’t be until the middle of the decade, or thereabouts, before a demonstrator engine is ready for testing. Flight testing, though, should come soon after that.

The aviation industry is targeting a 50-percent reduction in net carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, relative to the levels in 2005. It’s not just about the engines’ inherent fuel consumption, mind, with GE also focusing on things like easier ways to clean engines and thus make them more efficient, as well as 3D printing key components. The GE9X engine in the Boeing 777X, for example, already includes more than 300 3D printed components using additive manufacturing.

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Frequent run-ins with Indian government complicates tech giants’ plans

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(Reuters) — Another spat between India’s government and U.S. big tech has exacerbated disillusion among firms which have spent billions to build hubs in their largest growth market, to the extent some are rethinking expansion plans, people close to the matter said.

The government on Saturday said Twitter had not indicated compliance with new rules aimed at making social media firms more accountable to legal requests, and therefore risked losing liability exemptions for content posted on its platform.

Twitter joins compatriots, Facebook, and Facebook-owned WhatsApp in long being at loggerheads with the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over data privacy bills and policies some executives have called protectionist, but tension has escalated in recent weeks.

Police visited Twitter last month to notify it of a probe into the tagging of a political tweet as “manipulated media”, and in February interrogated an Amazon official about the potentially adverse social impact of a political drama. Meanwhile, WhatsApp is challenging the government in court over rules it said would force it to access encrypted data.

“The fear is there,” said a senior tech industry executive in India. “It weighs both strategically and operationally.”

There are no indications the increasing run-ins have led to the delay or cancellation of planned investment.

Still, three senior executives familiar with the thinking of major U.S. tech firms said perceptions of India being an alternative, more accessible growth market to China are changing, and that longstanding plans for India’s role in their operations are being reviewed.

“There always used to be these discussions to make India a hub, but that is being thought through now,” said one of the executives, who works at a U.S. tech firm. “This feeling is across the board.”

Four other executives and advisors also expressed concern about rising tension. All declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter and because discussions were private.

Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, WhatsApp and India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology did not respond to requests for comment.


The government has argued that its rules are needed to stem the spread of misinformation that can spark violence – such as in 2017 when kidnapping rumours shared on message apps including WhatsApp led to lynching. It also said the rules are necessary to hold large technology companies accountable for practices that hurt domestic businesses or compromise customer privacy.

India is a massive market for U.S. tech giants. It is the biggest market for both Facebook and WhatsApp by user numbers, showed data from Statista, and third for Twitter. Amazon has committed as much as $6.5 billion to invest in the country.

To attract small businesses through WhatsApp, Facebook last year invested $5.7 billion in Reliance Industries‘s media and telecommunications arm, Jio Platforms.

Alphabet’s Google also pumped $4.5 billion into Jio last year from a newly created $10 billion fund earmarked for investment in India over five to seven years.


The government has tried to balance attracting high-tech investment with nationalist policies aimed at protecting local businesses and, critics say, advancing its political agenda.

A border confrontation with China prompted it to effectively ban Chinese social media apps, including TikTok and WeChat.

The government has also forced foreign firms to store data locally against fierce lobbying, and its promotion of a domestic payment card network prompted Mastercard to complain to the U.S. government about the use of nationalism.

In 2019, compliance issues with new regulations saw Amazon remove thousands of products from its e-commerce platform. The e-tailer is separately facing scrutiny by the Competition Commission of India for its retailing practices.

Twitter publicly refused to comply with some government demands to remove content, a stance which some industry executives said may have aggravated its current situation.

WhatsApp has gone to court rather than comply with a new law requiring social media firms to trace the origin of dangerous or criminal posts on their platforms. The message app operator said it cannot comply without breaking encryption, while observers said yielding could prompt similar demands in other countries.

At the same time, WhatsApp has faced regulatory delays that have limited its payment service to just 4% of its 500 million customers. Nevertheless, it is pressing ahead with hiring for a service it has called a “globally significant” opportunity.

Government officials have shown little patience for objections. IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said any robust democracy must have accountability mechanisms, such as the ability to identify the originator of messages.

“A private company sitting in America should refrain from lecturing us on democracy when you are denying your users the right to effective redressal forum,” Prasad said in an interview with the Hindu newspaper published on Sunday.

Still, continued antagonism could imperil Modi’s ambition of making India a go-to investment destination.

“It’s a question of what you would develop in a three-to-five-year horizon,” said another executive familiar with the thinking of U.S. firms. “Do you do that in India or do you do that in another country. That’s where the conversation is.”


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