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Apple announces new iphone privacy

 Apple on Monday said it is ramping up privacy and expanding features in new iPhone operating software to be released later this year.

The Silicon Valley technology colossus opened its annual developers conference by teasing improvements to security, privacy and interoperability of its devices, even as the company remains under fire for its tight control of its App Store.

“All of this incredible software will be available to all of our users this fall,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said during the Worldwide Developers Conference opening presentation.

“I am so excited for these new releases and how they will make our products even more powerful and more capable.”

The next version of iPhone operating software, called iOS 15, will have improved privacy features including overviews of how apps access smartphone cameras or microphones as well as data such as location or contacts.

“We don´t think you should have to make a trade-off between great features and privacy,” said Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi.

Apple added notifications on “tracking” in the current version of its mobile operating system, to the chagrin of app-makers such as Facebook that contended it would undermine the targeting of ads that support free online content.

The update comes with Apple being challenged on several fronts over its control of apps on its ecosystem.

Fortnite maker Epic Games has accused Apple in a lawsuit of having a monopoly power with its App Store that serves as the sole gateway onto iPhones or iPads.

Apple booted Fortnite from its App Store last year after Epic dodged agreed-upon revenue sharing with the iPhone maker.

The European Union has formally accused Apple of unfairly squeezing out music streaming rivals based on a complaint brought by Sweden-based Spotify and others, which claim the California group sets rules that favor its own Apple Music.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, who has described Apple as a rival, on Monday put out work that creators will continue to pay nothing to host paid or subscription events at the leading social network until the year 2023.

“And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30 percent that Apple and others take,” Zuckerberg said in a post at his Facebook page.


After Pandemic- Auckland stands out as most liveable country


The pandemic has shaken up the rankings of the world´s most liveable cities, a study released on Wednesday showed, with metropolises in Australia, Japan and New Zealand leaping ahead of those in Europe.

Auckland tops The Economist´s annual survey of the world´s most liveable cities in 2021 followed by Osaka and Tokyo in Japan, Adelaide in Australia and Wellington in New Zealand, all of which had a swift response to the Covid pandemic.

“Auckland rose to the top of the ranking owing to its successful the approach in containing the Covid-19 pandemic, which allowed its society to remain open and the city to score strongly,” the Economist Intelligence Unit said.

In contrast, “European cities fared particularly poorly in this year´s edition.”

“Vienna, previously the world´s most liveable city between 2018-20, fell to 12th. Eight of the top ten biggest falls in the rankings are European cities,” according to the study.

The biggest fall overall among the European cities was the port city of Hamburg in northern Germany, which fell 34 places to 47th.

The trend was motivated by a “stress on hospital resources” which the study said increased for most German and French cities and resulted in a “deteriorated healthcare score”.

Pressure on European health systems also had a knock-on effect on culture and overall liveability because of restrictions on movement, the Economist said.

The most notable rise was recorded by Honolulu, Hawaii, in the United States, which came 14th in the ranking and moved up 46 places because of its containment of the pandemic and fast vaccination program.

Damascus remains the city where life is most difficult because of Syria´s ongoing civil war.


Israel's Yair Lapid says 'obstacles' remain in bid to oust Benjamin Netanyahu

Israel´s centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid delivers a statement to the press at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on May 31, 2021. — AFP

Israeli Opposition leader Yair Lapid on Monday said many obstacles remain before a diverse coalition can be built to oust veteran Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but voiced hope it will achieve the “greater goal”.

Lapid, a secular centrist, has been locked in talks with the right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett on the terms of a “change alliance” that also hinges on an array of other parties ahead of a Wednesday midnight deadline.

Former TV anchor Lapid’s chances of success rose when tech millionaire Bennett, despite their ideological differences, said Sunday he would join a “national unity government” in which the two men would take turns to serve as premier.

Israel’s latest political turmoil comes more than two months after Israel’s fourth inconclusive election in less than two years, and could topple the right-wing leader known as Bibi, who has ruled for a total of 15 years.

The intense political bargaining follows Israel’s bloody 11-day military conflict with Islamist group Hamas in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, that ended with a May 21 ceasefire.

A viable anti-Netanyahu coalition would still need the support of other parties and lawmakers to gain a majority of 61 seats in the 120-member Knesset, Israel’s legislature.

But while Lapid warned of remaining hurdles, he also sought to strike a cautiously upbeat note.

“We’ll have to overcome them together,” he told members of his Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party.

“That’s our first test — to see if we can find smart compromises in the coming days to achieve the greater goal.”

Netanyahu, in power for the past 12 years following an earlier three-year term, has been fighting for his political life, warning on Sunday of “a left-wing government dangerous to the state of Israel”.

The 71-year-old is Israel’s longest serving prime minister, and the first to face criminal charges while in office — on fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges, which he denies.

The combative premier lashed out at Bennett, accusing him of “the scam of the century” for running on a right-wing platform, but then joining a prospective government that includes liberal parties.

Lapid, 57, is seeking to cobble together a diverse alliance which would include Bennett, a supporter of Jewish settlements in the Israel-occupied West Bank, as well as Arab-Israeli lawmakers.

In order to build such an anti-Netanyahu bloc, he must sign individual agreements with seven parties, whose members would then vote in parliament to confirm the coalition.

Among them are the centrist Blue and White party of Defence Minister Benny Gantz, and the hawkish New Hope party of Netanyahu’s former ally Gideon Saar.

Bennett allowed “us to make the change we are looking in Israeli politics, which makes him qualified to be the next prime minister,” Gantz said Monday.

Avigdor Lieberman’s pro-settlement Yisrael Beitenu party, as well as the historically powerful centre-left Labour party and the dovish Meretz party, would also join.

Netanyahu’s conservative Likud party won 30 seats in the last election on March 23, the best result of any party, but far short of a majority.

In a last-ditch bid Sunday, Netanyahu offered a three-way power sharing deal to his rivals Bennett and Saar — but Saar refused.

Bennett accused Netanyahu of seeking to take down the political right and “the whole country with him on his personal last stand”

Lapid’s party, with 17 seats of its own, had mustered a total of 51 votes of support from left, centre and right-wing parties before Bennett joined him.

Bennett’s Yamina (“Rightward”) bloc has seven seats, but one lawmaker swore he would not cooperate with the anti-Netanyahu camp.

To win the backing of four more lawmakers, needed to achieve the required 61 seats, Lapid is counting on parties representing Arab citizens of Israel, which have not yet announced their intentions.

They would have to support a coalition including Bennett, even though he has previously directed the Yesha Council which represents Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.

“The left is making far from easy compromises here,” Bennett acknowledged Sunday.

According to Israeli media, the coalition agreement would allow Bennett to head the government for the first two years, to be followed by Lapid.

It would end the long reign of Netanyahu, who first rose to power 25 years ago on a wave of opposition to Shimon Peres, the architect of the Oslo Peace Accords.

Despite the threat against him, it is too early to count out the wily political operator Netanyahu, said political scientist Jonathan Rynhold of Bar Ilan University.

“It’s never done until it’s done, particularly because, even if they (the alliance) got by far the best hand, Bibi is the best card player by miles, you can’t count him out,” he said.

If Lapid fails to muster a coalition, and lawmakers cannot agree on another leader, Israelis will return, yet again, to the polls.

Palestinian activist twins detained in east Jerusalem

Mona El-Kurd and her twin brother Mohammed El-Kurd. — Photos courtesy Middle East Eye & AFP

 Israeli police on Sunday detained the prominent activist El-Kurd twins, whose campaign against the threatened expulsion of Palestinian families from homes in the Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah has found a global audience.

On Sunday morning police arrested Mona el-Kurd, 23, at her home in Sheikh Jarrah, where a legal battle between Israeli settlers and several Palestinian families has crystallised anger over Israel’s settlement movement.

They also left a summons for her twin brother, Muhammad, their father told AFP.

Israeli police told AFP that Mona was “suspected of having participated in riots and other recent incidents in Sheikh Jarrah”.

They did not give details on the status of Mohammad, who had handed himself in after the summons, but family lawyer Nasser Odeh indicated that the 23-year-old remained under investigation.

Protesters had gathered outside the east Jerusalem police station, where their father, Nabil el-Kurd, told AFP said his daughter’s arrest was part of “an operation to terrorise the parents, because the voice that emerged from the neighbourhood was thanks to its youth”.

Protests in Sheikh Jarrah spread early last month into the city’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound, sparking a crackdown by Israeli security forces against Palestinians there that further inflamed tensions.

Hamas, the group that controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, responded by launching rockets towards Israel on May 10.

What followed was 11 days of bombardments by Israeli forces in the Strip.

While Palestinians and their backers see the issue as a microcosm of Israeli efforts to push them out of the highly contested city, Jewish settlers and their supporters have labelled it a property dispute to be decided by Israeli courts.

The el-Kurd twins, from one of the families that faces being ousted from their home, have led an active protest movement on the streets and online.

They have gained hundreds of thousands of followers on platforms including Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtags #SheikhJarrah and #SaveSheikhJarrah to bring their neighbourhood´s plight global attention.

Video posted online on Sunday showed Mona being led away in handcuffs.

Speaking to journalists outside the police station, their father said that Palestinian residents would stay in Sheikh Jarrah to “document the facts and show the terrorism practiced by the Israeli government.”

“Our weapon is the tongue and the camera,” he said. “Muhammad and Mona made the whole world turn around for our cause.”

Last month, as tensions in Jerusalem mounted during the build-up to the Gaza fighting, the Israeli supreme court postponed a hearing in the Sheikh Jarrah cases until further notice.

Under Israeli law, if Jews can prove that their families lived in east Jerusalem before the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that created the state of Israel, they can request the “return” of their property, even if Palestinian families have been living there for decades.

Palestinians whose ancestors became refugees in the 1948 war have no means to retrieve their homes or land in modern-day Israel.

Israeli right groups Ir Amim says up to 1,000 Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah and the nearby Silwan district face being displaced.

Sheikh Jarrah has also drawn the attention of press freedom watchdogs, as journalists say they have been targeted by police while trying to report on demonstrations there.

On Saturday Israeli forces arrested Al Jazeera reporter Givara Budeiri “in a brutal manner”, the network said in a statement, adding that authorities had destroyed a videographer’s camera as he was trying to work.

Budeiri was released from custody several hours after her arrest.

Al Jazeera television’s acting director-general, Mostefa Souag, decried “the systematic targeting of our journalists”, dubbing it “in total violation of all international conventions”.

The Paris-headquartered Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has voiced concern over Israel´s “disproportionate use of force against journalists”.

It criticised “attacks” on reporters filming in Sheikh Jarrah, the detention of Palestinian reporters, and the Jewish state’s demolition of a tower in the besieged Gaza Strip where news outlets operated.

During their military campaign in Gaza, Israel levelled the 13-storey building that housed the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television along with the US news agency The Associated Press after warning the structure’s owner to evacuate.

Israel defended the strike, alleging the building also hosted a Palestinian “terrorist” intelligence office.

Al Jazeera’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Walid al-Omari, accused Israel of trying “to silence media that are witnessing, documenting and reporting the truth”.

Violence against Palestinians triggered 'uncomfortable' Israel-UAE conversations


Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council and deputy mayor of Jerusalem, poses for a photo during an interview with AFP in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on June 3, 2021.Photo: AFP 

The violence by Israel in Gaza created “uncomfortable conversations ” between business partners from UAE and Israel months after the two countries recognised each other, the deputy mayor of Jerusalem told AFP.

But the conversations were “open” and “everybody was very moderate and understanding”, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum said.

Speaking on the sidelines of a bilateral investment conference in Dubai, Hassan-Nahoum, co-founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, also expressed hope that trade between the two countries would exceed the billion-dollar mark in the coming year.

The UAE in 2020 became only the third Arab country to establish full ties with Israel, under a Washington-backed deal condemned by the Palestinians.

The two sides have since announced a string of deals on investment, business cooperation and visa-free travel.

The two sides have since announced a string of deals on investment, business cooperation and visa-free travel.

But last month, Israeli violence in Jerusalem sparked an 11-day flare-up that saw Israeli jets pound the Gaza Strip, while Palestinians retaliated by firing rockets into Israel.

“It wasn’t easy,” Hassan-Nahoum said of the atmosphere between Israeli business leaders and their UAE counterparts.

“I am involved in a lot of different forums of Israelis and Emiratis and there were some uncomfortable conversations, but it was important that we had those conversations,” she said.

“We had very open conversations on areas of disagreements… people had a lot of questions about the (Israeli) military campaign” which involved air and mortar strikes on Gaza, she added.


“We are definitely at the beginning of this relationship… one of the most important things about having a long-lasting relationship is to build trust,” Hassan-Nahoum said.

“After many years of not having this friendship I think it takes time.”

The main questions centred on the “proportionality” of Israel’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza, but also “about Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem, about what happened in Al-Aqsa mosque,” she said.

The Gaza violence took place when Hamas retaliated by firing volleys of rockets into Israel after between Israeli security forces stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque, angering Palestinian worshippers.

It also followed weeks of clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protestors in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood against the planned expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in favour of Jewish settlers.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 260 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded over 1,900 people, the Gaza health ministry says.

Rockets and other fire from Gaza killed 13 people in Israel, including a child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian, and two Thai nationals, medics and the military say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

An Egyptian-mediated truce has so far held.

The Israeli massacre put a pause on months of warming relations, prompting the UAE to publicly criticise Israel over its actions, while some Emirati social media users called for a boycott.

“Israel lost the public relations campaign it carried out… to improve its image and gain acceptance,” prominent business lawyer Habib al-Mulla said on Twitter, denouncing Israeli “provocations”.

‘We will get there’

But Hassan-Nahoum vowed to press ahead with ties that have already produced trade worth “about half a billion dollars so far”.

“A few months ago it was like 300 million and I think that (there) has been a real push in the last few months,” she said, noting that this figure “would have been much higher” in the absence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it would have been already in the billion dollars mark — but we will get there, inshallah, next year,” she said.

This week’s trade fair sought to pave the way for cooperation deals in the fields of health, renewable energy and technology.

UAE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a further sign that the commercial relationship remains broadly on track, Israel and the UAE this week also agreed a bilateral tax treaty.

But a visit to Dubai by Israeli Tourism Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen to attend a travel industry forum in mid-May was cancelled.

The UAE was the third Arab country to normalise ties with Israel, following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan have since followed suit.

The Abraham Accords swept away decades of consensus that there should be no relations with Israel until it makes peace with the Palestinians.

Palestinians have condemned the normalisation agreements as “a stab in the back”.

Last month’s violence also saw Israel’s other new Arab partners publicly criticise Israeli actions.

India's rural population afraid of coronavirus test and vaccination


A health worker (right) speaks to a family during a coronavirus vaccine awareness campaign in Kalwa village, Haryana state, India. Photo: AFP

When health worker Neelam Kumari knocks on doors in Indian villages the occupants sometimes run out the back, terrified that she wants to vaccinate them against Covid-19. With India’s devastating recent virus surge easing in cities, the deadly pandemic is ravaging the vast poverty-stricken rural hinterland. But here, ignorance and fear rule.

 “A lot of people in my village don’t want to take the vaccine. They fear that they will die if they take it,” Kumari told AFP in Dhatrath, a collection of two-story buildings in Haryana state with buffaloes wandering the streets.”One of the villagers was so angry that he beat up a (health) worker who was trying to convince him to take the vaccine.”

Just 15 percent of people in rural areas, compared with 30 percent in towns and cities have received at least one vaccine dose so far — even though two-thirds of cases are being reported in the countryside, according to an analysis by The Hindu daily. Rumors are shared online or spread through messaging apps like WhatsApp. Fears that 5G causes Covid-19 led to mobile towers being attacked in Haryana.

“People do not even step forward for testing as they think the government will declare them Covid-positive even if they are not,” Shoeb Ali, a doctor in Miyaganj village in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, told AFP.

– ‘Deaths after shots’ –

This fear pervades despite the sight of bodies dumped in rivers and hundreds of shallow graves suggesting that Covid-19 is raging in India’s hinterland where 70 percent of the 1.3-billion population lives. In Nuran Khera village in Haryana, residents are reluctant to get inoculated even though they said many households reported having fever — and dozens of people dying.

 “Even after opening up a vaccine center here, nobody is ready to take it,” villager Rajesh Kumar, 45, told AFP.”I won’t take the vaccine because it has many side effects. People get sick after getting vaccines.”In other states, reports have emerged of people jumping into rivers or fleeing into forests just to escape mobile health teams.

Hom Kumari, a health worker at Bhatau Jamalpur village in Uttar Pradesh, said some locals seemed impossible to convince.”What do we tell someone who says, ‘If I’m destined to live, I will, even without the vaccine’?,” she asked.

Health facilities are also few and far between and some people believe that going to a public hospital is more dangerous than staying away.”People who went to hospital never came back,” another villager in Nuran Khera, who gave his first name as Kuldip, told AFP.

Kumar said that when his wife fell sick, a private clinic wanted 50,000 rupees ($700) in advance to treat her. A doctor at a public hospital said to take her home.” My neighbors started saying she has corona. They were frightened,” he added. “I took care of her and on the third day she was back on her feet.”

Virus has also dealt the Indian economy a heavy blow, and villagers are often more worried about making ends meet, said community health specialist Rajib Dasgupta.”It’s extremely difficult to communicate why vaccination is important until some of those distressed conditions are alleviated,” Dasgupta told AFP.

Experts say that India needs to apply the lessons learned in its polio vaccination campaign in the 2000s for children under five. The program succeeded after trusted community leaders were involved to spread the message to parents that inoculation was safe.

 Using a similar approach, religious leaders in Uttar Pradesh were recently called in to encourage their followers to get vaccinated for coronavirus. Navneet Singh, who oversees immunization efforts in Haryana’s Jind district, says that face-to-face communication had helped ensure that nearly 70 percent of over-45s in Kalwa and neighboring villages have received at least one shot.

Kalwa health worker Sheela Devi said her “heart was pounding” when her name was included in the vaccination list, but she was reassured when she saw the local doctor getting the shot. Now she works every day in the village, going door-to-door trying to talk people around, with some success.

“Gradually they were convinced that even if they get corona after getting vaccinated, they won’t need hospitalization. They can take medicines and recover at home,” the 45-year-old told AFP.


Study Confirms It’s Possible to Catch COVID Twice : By Brenda Goodman, MA


Researchers in Hong Kong say they’ve confirmed that a person can be infected with COVID-19 twice.

There have been sporadic accounts on social media sites of people who say they’ve gotten COVID twice. But scientists have been skeptical about that possibility, saying there’s no evidence it happens.

The new proof comes from a 33-year-old man in Hong Kong who first caught COVID-19 in March. He was tested for the coronavirus after he developed a cough, sore throat, fever, and headache for 3 days. He stayed in the hospital until he twice tested negative for the virus in mid-April.

On Aug. 15, the man returned to Hong Kong from a recent trip to Spain and the U.K., areas that have recently seen a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. At the airport, he was screened for COVID-19 using a test that checks saliva for the virus. He tested positive, but this time, had no symptoms. He was taken to the hospital for monitoring. His viral load — the amount of virus he had in his body — went down over time, suggesting that his immune systemwas taking care of the intrusion on its own.

The special thing about his case is that each time he was hospitalized, doctors sequenced the genome of the virus that infected him. It was slightly different from one infection to the next, suggesting that the virus had mutated — or changed — in the 4 months between his infections. It also proves that it’s possible for this coronavirus to infect the same person twice.

Experts with the World Health Organization responded to the case at a news briefing Monday.

“What we are learning about infection is that people do develop an immune response. What is not completely clear yet is how strong that immune response is and for how long that immune response lasts,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, Ph.D., an infectious disease epidemiologist with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

A study on the man’s case is being prepared for publication in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Experts say the finding shouldn’t cause alarm, but it does have important implications for the development of herd immunity and efforts to come up with vaccinesand treatments.

“This appears to be pretty clear-cut evidence of reinfection because of sequencing and isolation of two different viruses,” says Gregory Poland, MD, an expert on vaccine development and immunology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. “The big unknown is how often is this happening,” he says. More studies are needed to learn whether this was a rare case of something that is happening often.

Past Experience Guides Present

Until we know more, Poland says the possibility of getting COVID-19 twice shouldn’t make anyone worry.

This also happens with other kinds of coronaviruses — the ones that cause common colds. Those coronaviruses change slightly each year as they circle the globe, which allows them to keep spreading and causing their more run-of-the-mill kind of misery.

It also happens with seasonal flu. It is the reason people have to get vaccinated against the flu year after year, and why the flu vaccine has to change slightly each year in an effort to keep up with the ever-evolving influenza virus.

“We’ve been making flu vaccines for 80 years, and there are clinical trials happening as we speak to find new and better influenza vaccines,” Poland says.

There has been other evidencethe virus that causes COVID-19 can change this way, too. Researchers at Howard Hughes Medical Center, at Rockefeller University in New York, recently used a key piece of the SARS-CoV-2 virus — the genetic instructions for its spike protein — to repeatedly infect human cells. Scientists watched as each new generation of the virus went on to infect a new batch of cells. Over time, as it copied itself, some of the copies changed their genes to allow them to survive after scientists attacked them with neutralizing antibodies. Those antibodies are one of the main weapons used by the immune system to recognize and disable a virus.

Though that study is still a preprint, which means it hasn’t yet been reviewed by outside experts, the authors wrote that their findings suggest the virus can change in ways that help it evade our immune system. If true, they wrote in mid-July, it means reinfection is possible, especially in people who have a weak immune response to the virus the first time they encounter it.

Good News

That seems to be true in the case of the man from Hong Kong. When doctors tested his blood to look for antibodies to the virus, they didn’t find any. That could mean that he either had a weak immune response to the virus the first time around or that the antibodies he made during his first infection diminished over time. But during his second infection, he quickly developed more antibodies, suggesting that the second infection acted a little bit like a booster to fire up his immune system. That’s probably the reason he didn’t have any symptoms the second time, too.

How Hong Kong’s young innovators are using technology to build a safer society?

 by: Eric Cheung

·        Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Victor Lee has developed robots that can automatically disinfect shopping malls and deliver meals in quarantine hotels

·     Mattis Tsang says dedication was crucial as he built a flight simulator to train pilots and students with an emphasis on aviation safety

·     Inside Hong Kong’s busy K11 Musea shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui on the southern tip of Kowloon, a fleet of robots with expressive eyes can be seen moving along different floors and spraying disinfectant into the air.

Named Jasmine, each of these disinfection robots is equipped with two vents, four wheels and a tank that can store up to 10 liters of sterilising solution. They also have sensors that are able to detect obstacles, giving them the ability to move around and sanitise different areas without the need for human guidance.

The robots are the brainchild of Victor Lee, a Hong Kong engineer who founded autonomous robotics start-up Rice Robotics two years ago, and now serves as the company’s CEO. His company is based at Hong Kong Science Park.

His product is a timely creation amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, as companies seek new ways to strengthen hygiene standards and boost customer confidence.

The Jasmine disinfection robots, developed by Rice Robotics, can be seen disinfecting different floors inside Hong Kong’s busy K11 Musea shopping mall. Photo: K11 / HKSTP

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we have found a lot of demand for new products and new technology,” Lee says. “Our clients want a robot that can carry out disinfection in an area without human intervention, and that’s why we came up with the robot.”

Building robots for a safer tomorrow

However, Lee’s ambition goes well beyond finding solutions for the pandemic era. He first started Rice Robotics after realizing that automation has huge potential to make work more efficient for humans.

His inspiration came from a trip to Silicon Valley five years ago, where Lee noticed robots travelling on sidewalks to pick up and deliver meals. “I really wanted to bring that type of autonomous robot into Asia – not just Hong Kong, but all of Asia,” he says.

Victor Lee (left) says his inspiration for Rice Robotics came from a trip to Silicon Valley, where he noticed robots traveling on sidewalks to pick up and deliver meals.

At the beginning of Rice Robotics’ business journey, Lee’s team focused its attention on creating a relatively simple solution: a robot that hotels could use to automatically deliver food and daily necessities to guest rooms.

Rice, as this compact delivery robot is called, is less than 80cm tall and is capable of navigating around a multi-storey hotel by itself. After a staff member enters a room number, the robot gets on the elevator and makes its way to the doorstep of the designated room, before sending a message to notify the guests inside.

Rice has proven to be very popular during the pandemic as Hong Kong’s designated quarantine hotels, such as Nina Hotel Island South (formerly known as L’hotel Island South) in Wong Chuk Hang, sought ways to protect their employees from coronavirus risks while providing necessary services.

“Our clients needed a robot to deliver meals to quarantine rooms to reduce human-to-human contact,” Lee says.

The Rice delivery robots can travel on elevators to deliver meals in quarantine hotels, allowing the establishments to protect their employees while providing necessary services.

Besides quarantine hotels, Rice robots have also been deployed at the Tokyo headquarters of Japanese tech company SoftBank, where they are used to deliver snacks and drinks from a convenience store. Japan’s postal service has also used the robots to deliver mail in a residential neighbourhood in Chiba prefecture.

There are some concerns across society that automation may take over jobs and replace humans, but Lee says he has focused on designing robots that fit into existing workflows to assist workers.

We want to make robots as common as smartphones and laptops in the futureVictor Lee, founder and CEO of Rice Robotics

The delivery robots, for example, have enhanced both safety and efficiency for hotel staff serving travellers in quarantine, as they no longer have to go to multiple rooms in person to fulfil requests for meals and other items.

“[Robots] can help humans accomplish a lot of repetitive work, and it allows us to focus on something more valuable,” Lee says.

Lee says that being based at Hong Kong Science Park, a key hub for research and development (R&D) providing various forms of support for tech ventures to develop their businesses, has provided him with valuable opportunities to connect with clients in the city and around the world.

“Hong Kong always has the best resources for forming any type of companies, including robotics companies,” he says. “If you look at local universities, there are a lot of students with great talents in robotics … we believe there is huge potential in this market.”

Elevating aviation safety and know-how

Another company that has leveraged technology to improve safety and efficiency is Mattis Tsang, a Hong Kong pilot who co-founded aviation education start-up Aerosim with the goal of making air travel safer.

The company, which was founded in 2014, builds flight simulators that provide a more accessible option for aviation training and also help students better understand pilot procedures and safety practices.

According to Tsang, who is also Aerosim’s managing director, the company’s mission is based on the realisation that the majority of aviation accidents could have been prevented by better-trained pilots.

The US Federal Aviation Administration estimates that human error is a contributing factor in up to 80 per cent of aircraft accidents – for example, a pilot having a delayed response to an emergency situation.

Tsang’s work as a university lecturer several years ago also provided inspiration for Aerosim. He noticed that many aviation engineering students would get bored because the courses lacked practical, hands-on experience. But at that time, flight simulators could cost hundreds of thousands of US dollars each, making them too expensive to introduce into classrooms.

“As aviators, we are trying to make flight simulators more accessible,” Tsang says.

To lower costs, his team carefully planned the design of the flight simulators so that they could be made with more affordable materials. Hong Kong Science Park, where Aerosim is based, also suggested expanding the scale of production by building more simulators to be used for STEM education in primary and secondary schools.

In 2019, Aerosim unveiled its first simulator, which resembles the flight deck of a single- or twin-engine aircraft. When seated at the device, users can control the simulation through a flight control system and can also practise monitoring engine performance and the altimeters through a built-in digital display.

Aerosim’s flight simulators resemble the flight deck of a single- or twin-engine aircraft. and allow users to practice using a flight control system and monitoring engine performance 

Tsang says the simulators are useful for training pilots in how to respond to different emergencies so that they can build up safety awareness. The devices also feature an artificial intelligence-powered gaze-tracking system that helps ensure pilots are looking at the right spot at certain moments.

With the pandemic causing flight disruptions around the world, Tsang sees new opportunities for Aerosim as pilots look for ways to practice their skills while many aircraft remain grounded.

As aviators, we are trying to make flight simulators more accessible attic Tsang, co-founder and managing director of Aerosim

“We have an increasing number of inquiries from pilots of all kinds – private and commercial – who are trying to gain their recency in flying an aircraft,” he says.

Tsang believes that technology can go a long way towards elevating safety standards in the aviation sector by assisting pilots, rather then replacing them. “It will help pilots understand more about themselves, and check whether they are doing well or if they need a bit of improvement,” he says.

He also regards Hong Kong as having been a favorable the environment in which to start his business because of its close proximity to other markets.

“Next to Hong Kong, we have the Greater Bay Area, which is a market with 72 million people,” Tsang adds. “Hong Kong can also be our springboard to places like Southeast Asia and Australia, where there is great potential in aviation.”

Guiding the next generation of pioneers

Offering advice to other young tech pioneers looking to make a difference in the world, Lee of Rice Robotics emphasizes that perseverance is key.

“You have to spend a lot of time talking to clients, and making sure they understand your product and you understand their needs,” he says.

Lee also points out that setting up his company in Hong Kong Science Park allowed him to obtain support in R&D, as well as for marketing his products to clients in the city and across the region.

For example, Lee was able to test his disinfection robot at a hotel partnered with the R&D hub and tech incubator before it was sold to the wider market.

Tsang says one advantage of starting a tech venture at a the well-established incubator is the ability to connect with other innovators who share similar dreams.

Tsang, whose tech venture is based in Hong Kong Science Park, says making connections with fellow innovators opens up opportunities for developing new ideas.

“There are different entrepreneurs, and it is like having a peer support network,” he says. “Ultimately, you have synergy, and probably we could do some businesses together or get some great ideas together.”

To anyone who wishes to achieve success in innovation, Tsang advises that they be fearless and fully dedicated to their goals.

“If you are going to create something or look for new solutions, you are going to work very long hours and sacrifice a lot of your personal life,” he adds. “You need to be really, really passionate about your role or your job.”

Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) is running HK10X, an initiative that celebrates the success of Hong Kong’s pioneering innovators. Find out more 


Courtesy: South China Morning Post


Trumps stance will damage republicans

 Republican party has been badly damaged by Trump’s nonserious and jugular attitude which is never expected from the Head of superpower,who rule the world.

Trump didnot seem to realize that his amassed wealth cannot win election for him.He had been criticized a lot for his immaturity on number of issues.This is probably the first time that he pleaded for rigging and manoevering the american elections.

But this happened even in states where republican had never lost elections.This rhetoric of him is badly damaging the republicans rather than focusing on next elections Trump has directed their attention on false apprehensions of turning around the table through his legal battle ,which will set a bad precedence for the superpower and the great people.

Now its also a challenge for Biden administration to devise international policies and domestic policies in line with national objectives and interests .The solution lies in aggressive actions for fulfillment to reverse the damages of previous regime and their remnants.

But stillthe Biden’s focus will remain focused on afghanistan soil, middle east ever changing scenario and deeper entry of china in middle east and europe markets,and above all to safeguard Israeli interests at every forum

How badly Trump damaging republicans and the politics.

 Republican party has been badly damaged by Trump’s nonserious and jugular attitude which is never expected from the Head of superpower,who rule the world.

Trump didnot seem to realize that his amassed wealth cannot win election for him.He had been criticized a lot for his immaturity on number of issues.This is probably the first time that he pleaded for rigging and manoevering the american elections.

But this happened even in states where republican had never lost elections.This rhetoric of him is badly damaging the republicans rather than focusing on next elections Trump has directed their attention on false apprehensions of turning around the table through his legal battle ,which will set a bad precedence for the superpower and the great people.

Now its also a challenge for Biden administration to devise international policies and domestic policies in line with national objectives and interests .The solution lies in aggressive actions for fulfillment to reverse the damages of previous regime and their remnants.

But stillthe Biden’s focus will remain focused on afghanistan soil, middle east ever changing scenario and deeper entry of china in middle east and europe markets,and above all to safeguard Israeli interests at every forum