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Many aircraft are still grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic, but would-be and real pilots took to the virtual skies on Tuesday with the first update in years of Microsoft’s venerable Flight Simulator game.

The bestselling title dates all the way back to 1982, when home computers had less processing power than a graphics card today, and Microsoft tasked French developers Asobo Studio with giving it the biggest overhaul since 2006.

Two of Asobo’s co-founders even took flying lessons over the past four years to inject real-world experience into their design efforts, and the firm enjoyed access to Microsoft’s Bing satellite mapping and cloud-powered processing.

“The lessons were essential (to introduce) something sensory to the game,” one of them, Marcel Bossard, told AFP.

“What sensations does a pilot feel? How does the plane react under a cloud and above the sea? In past simulations, it was a bit rigid,” said Bossard, who is lead software engineer for the game.

The new title went on sale initially for PCs and online streaming, with an Xbox version due later. Microsoft also plans to adapt it for a more immersive experience on HP‘s upcoming virtual reality headset, the Reverb G2.

Illustrating its technical complexity, the desktop version comes on no fewer than 10 DVDs and requires at least 90GB of hard disk space, prompting some complaints of installation problems from early buyers.

But in general, critics gave sky-high praise for Asobo’s hyper-realistic graphics and attention to cockpit detail, with review aggregator Metacritic scoring the game 93 out of 100.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is the most incredible experience I’ve ever had on a computer,” commented IGN reviewer Seth Macy, who served in the US Air Force.

“The realism, the depth, the almost limitless replayability, it’s like nothing I’ve ever played before.”

The game is something of a take-off for Asobo, which was founded by 12 gaming friends in an apartment in Bordeaux.

 


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(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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AWS re:Invent Day 1: Top 5 announcements include machine learning, storage innovations, and container capabilities

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CEO Andy Jassy covered 24 new product announcements in his three-hour keynote on the first day of the virtual Amazon Web Services event.

Aurora is the fastest growing service in the history of AWS, CEO Andy Jassy said in announcing the next version of Amazon Aurora Serverless at AWS re:Invent.

The newest products and services from Amazon Web Services (AWS) extend cloud tools and services to on-prem installations, reduce the cost of machine learning operations, and create more storage options. AWS CEO Andy Jassy announced 24 new capabilities during the keynote at the first day of AWS re:Invent which is a virtual event this year. The news covered everything from customer service platforms and computer vision algorithms to machine learning operations and serverless deployments.

Jassy said the company has been focused on listening to customers and inventing more options for instances, containers, and serverless deployments. Reducing costs is always a priority as well, he said, so AWS engineers looked for ways to make common operations more cost efficient.

Here is a look at all the product news AWS announced today.

More support for machine learning

Jassy said that machine learning has been growing rapidly, and a lot of the costs are related to inference, not necessarily training the data initially. He said that cloud providers have not focused on reducing those costs. 

“Alexa has reduced their cost of inference by 30% and lowered their latency by 25% using our Inf1 instances,” he said.

SEE: Cloud data storage policy (TechRepublic Premium)

AWS is also working on reducing costs for training models with Habana Gaudi-based Amazon EC2 instances that will be available in 2021. AWS Trainium is another option for reducing costs and will be available in the second half of 2021. 

The company also announced five new industrial machine learning services:

  • Monitron for end-to-end machine monitoring that includes sensors, gateway, and machine learning service to detect abnormal equipment conditions that may require maintenance
  • Lookout for Equipment to give customers with existing equipment sensors the ability to use AWS machine learning models to detect malfunctions
  • AWS Panorama Appliance for customers with existing cameras in industrial facilities to use computer vision to improve quality control and workplace safety
  • AWS Panorama Software Development Kit (SDK) to allow industrial camera manufacturers to embed computer vision capabilities in new cameras
  • Lookout for Vision to use AWS-trained computer vision models on images and video streams to find flaws in products or processes

Axis, ADLINK Technology, BP, Deloitte, Fender, GE Healthcare, and Siemens Mobility are using these new machine learning services, according to a press release.

Bringing cloud container capabilities on prem

Jassy claimed that two thirds of the containers in the cloud run on AWS. AWS has three offerings for containers: Elastic Kubernetes Service, Elastic Container Service, and Fargate.

He said all three offerings continue to grow like weeds, and that many customers use all three services to accommodate a particular team or use case.

Jassy said customers have requested options to manage containers on premises as they make the transition to the cloud. The four new container capabilities announced today extend the same cloud tools to on-prem containers:

  • ECS Anywhere enables customers to run Amazon Elastic Compute Services in their own data centers
  • Amazon EKS Anywhere provides the ability to run Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Services in their own data centers
  • AWS Proton provides a new service to automate container and serverless application development and deployment
  • Amazon Elastic Container Registry Public provides developers a way to share and deploy container software publicly

New storage innovations

In his keynote presentation, Jassy emphasized the need to constantly reinvent products and services and to build what customers want. He said Amazon customers have been asking for more options for global content distribution, storage compliance, and data-sharing. These four storage innovations announced Tuesday meet those needs: 

  • Amazon EBS io2 Block Express volumes: A storage area network (SAN) built for the cloud, with up to 256,000 IOPS, 4,000 MB/second throughput, and 64 TB of capacity
  • Next-generation Amazon EBS Gp3 volumes: A new iteration that gives customers the ability to provision additional IOPS and throughput performance independent of storage capacity and is priced 20% lower per GB than previous generation volumes
  • Amazon S3 Intelligent-Tiering: Now includes S3 Glacier Archive and Deep Archive access to existing Frequent and Infrequent access tiers to automatically reduce storage costs for objects that are rarely accessed
  • Amazon S3 Replication (multi-destination): The ability to replicate data to multiple S3 buckets simultaneously in the same AWS Region or any number of AWS Regions 

Supporting a move to serverless installations

Aurora is the fastest growing service in the history of AWS, Jassy said in announcing the next version of Amazon Aurora Serverless

SEE: Top cloud providers in 2020: AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, hybrid, SaaS players (TechRepublic)

This new capability is designed in part to make it easier to migrate from SQL Server to Amazon Aurora. This new iteration includes these features:

  • Aurora Serverless v2 to accommodate hundreds of thousands of transactions in a fraction of a second, delivering up to 90% cost savings compared with provisioning for peak capacity
  • Babelfish for Aurora PostgreSQL to provide the ability to run SQL Server applications directly on Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL with little to no code changes 
  • Open source Babelfish for PostgreSQL to extend the benefits of the Babelfish for Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL translation layer which will be coming in 2021 under the permissive Apache 2.0 license in GitHub

Expanding analytics capabilities

Rahul Pathak, vice president of analytics at AWS, said in a press release that these new services represent an order-of-magnitude performance improvement for Amazon Redshift. These new services make it easier for customers to move data between data stores and to ask natural language questions in their business dashboards and receive answers in seconds, according to the company. The new options include:

  • Advanced Query Accelerator for Amazon Redshift provides a new hardware-accelerated cache to improve query performance  
  • AWS Glue Elastic Views lets developers build materialized views that automatically combine and replicate data across multiple data stores
  • Amazon QuickSight Q is a machine learning-powered capability lets users type questions about their business data in natural language and receive highly accurate answers in seconds

Five new capabilities for Amazon Connect 

Amazon Connect is the company’s customer service-in-a-box offering. John Hancock, Capital One, Intuit, Best Western, Fujitsu, GE Appliances, and Square use the service to make customer service more efficient, according to AWS. The new features announced today include

  • Connect Wisdom provides contact center agents with real-time information 
  • Connect Customer Profiles gives agents a unified profile of each customer  
  • Real-Time Contact Lens offers a new option for contact center managers to use during a call
  • Connect Tasks automates, tracks, and manages tasks for contact center agents
  • Connect Voice ID delivers real-time caller authentication using machine learning-powered voice analysis

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Skoltech scientists run a ‘speed test’ to boost the production of carbon nanotubes

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Skoltech researchers have investigated the procedure for catalyst delivery used in the most common method of carbon nanotube production, chemical vapor deposition (CVD), offering what they call a “simple and elegant” way to boost productivity and pave the way for cheaper and more accessible nanotube-based technology. The paper was published in the Chemical Engineering Journal.

Skoltech scientists run a ‘speed test to boost the production

Image credit: Skoltech/Pavel Odinev

Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT), tiny rolled sheets of graphene with a thickness of just one atom, hold huge promise when it comes to applications in materials science and electronics. That is the reason why so much effort is focused on perfecting the synthesis of SWCNTs; from physical methods, such as using laser beams to ablate a graphite target, all the way to the most common CVD approach, when metal catalyst particles are used to “strip” a carbon-containing gas of its carbon and grow the nanotubes on these particles.

“The road from raw materials to carbon nanotubes requires a fine balance between dozens of reactor parameters. The formation of carbon nanotubes is a tricky and complex process that has been studied for a long time, but still keeps many secrets,” explains Albert Nasibulin, a professor at Skoltech and an adjunct professor at the Department of Chemistry and Materials Science, Aalto University School of Chemical Engineering.

Various ways of enhancing catalyst activation, in order to produce more SWCNTs with the required properties, have already been suggested. Nasibulin and his colleagues focused on the injection procedure, namely on how to distribute ferrocene vapor (a commonly used catalyst precursor) within the reactor.

They grew their carbon nanotubes using the aerosol CVD approach, using carbon monoxide as a source of carbon, and monitored the synthesis productivity and SWCNT characteristics (such as their diameter) depending on the rate of catalyst injection and the concentration of CO2 (used as an agent for fine-tuning). Ultimately the researchers concluded that “injector flow rate adjustment could lead to a 9-fold increase in the synthesis productivity while preserving most of the SWCNT characteristics”, such as their diameter, the share of defective nanotubes, and film conductivity.

“Every technology is always about efficiency. When it comes to CVD production of nanotubes, the efficiency of the catalyst is usually out of sight. However, we see a great opportunity there and this work is only a first step towards an efficient technology,” Dmitry Krasnikov, a senior research scientist at Skoltech and co-author of the paper, says.

Source: Skoltech




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Instagram Is Featuring a Giving Tuesday Shared Story to Highlight Accounts That Are Donating

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Instagram is featuring a ‘Giving Tuesday’ story at the front of the stories section on the app today. It will highlight accounts you follow that have used the ‘I Donated’ or ‘Donation’ stickers. This is part of Instagram’s plan to encourage users to donate during the charitable season that lasts till Giving Tuesday. On its main and creators handles, the Facebook-owned company is also highlighting creators who are helping to make a difference in their communities.

Soon, Instagram will be testing a more permanent way for users to create and share fundraisers for non-profits within their feed. The company said in a blog post that with this new upcoming feature, users will be able to link to any eligible non-profit directly within their posts.

The “I Donated” or the “Donation” stickers, meanwhile, will be added to a shared story for a limited time. On using the donation sticker, your story will be added to the shared Giving Tuesday story on Instagram.

Besides spotlighting creators who are helping to make a difference in their communities on Instagram’s main handle and creators handle, the company is also offering tips on how you can give back — such as volunteering, making donations or simply making a kind gesture to someone in need.

The Facebook owned company noted some other ways users can show love to small businesses on the app, such as using “Support Small Businesses” or “Buy Black” stickers on Stories to highlight businesses to their followers. Other ways to encourage small businesses mentioned by Instagram include ordering directly from restaurants via Instagram and the @shop account which showcases people behind businesses and lets users shop directly.

Meanwhile, Facebook has also introduced new features to give back during the season. The tech giant has pledged to match up to $7 million in eligible donations to US non-profits made on Facebook on Giving Tuesday, (today). Drives was also launched on Facebook in the US — a Community Help feature that makes it easier to collect food, clothes, and other necessities for those in need.


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