Oracle to launch Melbourne cloud region


Oracle will launch a Melbourne region for its cloud services as part of its push to add 20 new regions to its portfolio by the end of next year.

The company aims to end 2020 with a total of 36 Oracle Cloud infrastructure regions. Currently the company operates 16 Oracle Cloud regions (five of those are dedicated to government).

Oracle last month launched a new Generation 2 Cloud region in Sydney.

The company used its Oracle Openworld conference in San Francisco to detail its in-country dual region strategy, offering customers on-shore options for disaster recovery.

“Enterprise customers worldwide require geographically distributed regions for true business continuity, disaster protection and regional compliance requirements. Multiple availability domains within a region will not address this issue,” said Don Johnson, executive vice president, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.




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Facebook, Microsoft launch contest to detect deepfake videos – Cloud – Networking – Security – Software


Facebook Inc is teaming up with Microsoft Corp , the Partnership on AI coalition and academics from several universities to launch a contest to better detect deepfakes, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

The social media giant is putting US$10 million into the “Deepfake Detection Challenge,” which aims to spur detection research. As part of the project, Facebook is commissioning researchers to produce realistic deepfakes to create a data set for testing detection tools.

The company said the videos, which will be released in December, will feature paid actors and that no user data would be utilized.

In the run-up to the US presidential election in November 2020, social platforms have been under pressure to tackle the threat of deepfakes, which use artificial intelligence to create hyper-realistic videos where a person appears to say or do something they did not.

While there has not been a well-crafted deepfake video with major political consequences in the United States, the potential for manipulated video to cause turmoil was recently demonstrated by a “cheapfake” clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, manually slowed down to make her speech seem slurred.

In August, the Democratic National Committee demonstrated the threat from deepfake videos by creating one of its own Chairman Tom Perez, to make the audience at hacker convention Def Con think the real Perez had Skyped into the conference.

“They (deepfakes) lower the bar for an adversary that wants to create manipulated media,” said Matt Turek, who runs DARPA’s Media Forensics program.

Some researchers are working on systems to authenticate a video or image at the point of capture through digital watermarking. But the rapid evolution of deepfake technology has created an arms race between deepfake creators and those trying to detect videos.

“It’s a cat-and-mouse game. If I design a detection for deepfakes, I’m giving the attacker a new discriminator to test against,” said Siddharth Garg, an assistant professor of computer engineering at New York University’s Tandon School.

The technology is also growing more accessible for less-skilled creators. Last week, a Chinese app called Zao that allows users to convincingly morph their faces onto movie stars rocketed to the top of the country’s app store, though it also faced a backlash over privacy concerns.

Some online deepfake creators have also been tapping into this market for easy-to-make deepfakes. Machine-learning enthusiasts based in countries from Poland to Japan are making it easier for people to access custom deepfakes.

They are uploading step-by-step YouTube tutorials, charging US$30 for 50 words of an AI-powered Trump voice impersonation and running self-service websites that churn out deepfakes.

The Deepfake Detection Challenge is not the first time that Facebook, which does not currently have a specific policy regarding deepfake videos, has funded academic research into the threat.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff demanded in July that Facebook, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google , which owns YouTube, share their plans to tackle deepfakes. Facebook said it is spending US$7.5 million on teams at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maryland and Cornell University in response to the threat.

One of these teams, run by UC Berkeley Professor Hany Farid, is building “soft biometric models,” which map real politicians’ facial quirks, from Senator Bernie Sanders’ eyebrow jumps to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s head turns, to detect if a new video is fake.

Facebook’s new contest, which builds on its ties with these researchers, will involve academics from Cornell Tech, MIT, University of Oxford, UC Berkeley, University of Maryland, College Park, and University at Albany-SUNY.

In a statement on Thursday, Schiff called the contest a “promising step.”


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Facebook, Microsoft launch contest to detect deepfake videos


Facebook is teaming up with Microsoft, the Partnership on AI coalition and academics from several universities to launch a contest to better detect deepfakes, the company said in a blog post on Thursday.

The social media giant is putting US$10 million into the “Deepfake Detection Challenge,” which aims to spur detection research. As part of the project, Facebook is commissioning researchers to produce realistic deepfakes to create a data set for testing detection tools.

The company said the videos, which will be released in December, will feature paid actors and that no user data would be utilized.

In the run-up to the U.S. presidential election in November 2020, social platforms have been under pressure to tackle the threat of deepfakes, which use artificial intelligence to create hyper-realistic videos where a person appears to say or do something they did not.

While there has not been a well-crafted deepfake video with major political consequences in the United States, the potential for manipulated video to cause turmoil was recently demonstrated by a “cheapfake” clip of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, manually slowed down to make her speech seem slurred.




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Samsung will reportedly launch a foldable luxury clamshell next year



Samsung’s Galaxy Fold phone is set to launch this month. However, there are rumors suggesting the company might be working on a second luxury foldable already. According to a report by Bloomberg, the Korean tech giant is working on a clamshell phone which folds inwards.

The report notes that the device will have a 6.7-inch screen that “collapses into a square.” It will apparently use cutting edge screen tech and will have a hole punch display to accommodate the selfie camera.

Samsung has reportedly paired up with famed American designer Thom Browne – known for self-branded fashion wear – to create a phone that has better fashion appeal and nostalgic value. Bloomberg notes that because of the 6.7-inch display, the device will be able to run Android apps in the native state, without any modification for the foldable form factor.

Apart from this, the company is already working on the Galaxy Fold’s successor which will be cheaper and thinner. So that makes three foldables for the Korean giant, before the category has seen any success

If Samsung decides to launch a clamshell phone, it’ll have to face competition from Motorola’s rumored foldable refresh of the famous Moto Razr and a possible Google phone. I dig it!

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Published September 3, 2019 — 12:34 UTC




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NSW quietly delays digital driver’s licence launch – Software


NSW citizens will have to wait a while longer to ditch their physical driver’s licence, with the state-wide rollout of digital permits now expected to take place in “late 2019”.

The electronic vehicle licence was expected to become available to all citizens from August following a series of pilots in metropolitan and regional regions over the last two years.

Treasurer Dominic Perrottet even spruiked the proposed launch date for the opt-in digital pass in his June budget speech.

“After successful trials in key locations – New South Wales drivers will be the first in the country to have a choice of a digital driver’s licence from August this year,” he said.

But all mention of the August launch date has since been removed from the Service NSW website and replaced with “late 2019”.

A Service NSW spokesperson told iTnews the rollout would now take place “in the coming weeks”, but would not indicate why the launch had been delayed.

More than 14,000 citizens are already using the digital driver’s licence on the the Service NSW app for police checks and to gain access to pubs and clubs in the trial areas.

Dubbo was the first regional city to take part in the trial in late 2017, followed by Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs last year and the border city of Albury earlier this year.

Participants of the pilot are, however, still required to carry their physical driver’s licence through the trial period.

This will change with the state-wide rollout, with citizens to be required to ensure they can produce either a digital or physical version of their licence when requested to do so by police.

The legislation, which was introduced and passed in May 2018, also addresses privacy concerns by only requiring driver to display their digital licence to police.

The digital driver’s licence is also said to better protect citizen against identity fraud, with the pass “encrypted and stored securely on a person’s device”.

NSW’s digital driver’s licence will be the second to be introduced in Australia, and follows the South Australian government’s, which was introduced in late 2017.

Other digital licences are available to NSW citizen, including recreational fishing licences, responsible service of alcohol competency cards, and responsible gambling competency cards are.


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Telegram promises to finish messy launch of its ‘cryptocurrency’ Gram by October 31



The long-awaited cryptocurrency token from instant messaging platform Telegram is allegedly rolling out to investors very soon, but we should remain skeptical.

According to a report from The New York Times, Telegram will be delivering the “first batches” of the Gram tokens to investors by October 31.

Three investors – that have spoken with Telegram – told NYT that the messaging app is planning to make Gram wallets available to two-thirds of its 300 million global users. NYT‘s sources asked to remain anonymous as they have signed nondisclosure agreements.

The informants also told NYT that a test net of the Gram network will be released within the next week or two.

It’s a bold move from the messaging platform. Similar companies, like Facebook and Kik, have faced continued scrutiny over plans for their so-called cryptocurrencies.

Kik’s Kin token has been dragged across the regulatory coals following comments from the company’s CEO to employees that demand would be so great for the token its price would be sure to rise. “Buy today, sell tomorrow, profit,” he said.

As for Libra, it’s been an onslaught of regulatory challenges and scrutiny ever since it officially announced plans for its cryptocurrency. It’s faced Senate hearings, competition probes from the EU, and even early members of its Libra Association are thinking about leaving the project.

Telegram however, has largely progressed unchallenged, mostly because it’s been quite secretive about its plans for Gram.

Compared to the likes of Facebook, there hasn’t been much news about Telegram’s Gram token, even its initial token sale last year was a predominantly private affair.

In May 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that Telegram had raked in nearly $1.7 billion by selling Gram tokens to private accredited investors. After the initial coin offering – which remains one of the largest ever – Telegram decided to ditch its public offering.

However, Telegram wants to make Gram a new type currency for use in international payments, which means normal folk will need to be able to get their hands on it. And so far, there haven’t been many ways for individuals to buy Gram tokens directly from Telegram itself.

Circulating Gram tokens have largely come about as early backers and accredited investors sell off their tokens. Something we can expect more of in November, assuming Telegram sticks to its October 31 deadline.

Earlier this year, Asia’s biggest holder of Telegram’s tokens, Gram Asia, ran a sale of its own Gram tokens on cryptocurrency trading platform Liquid.com. According to a report from Bloomberg, Gram Asia sold rights to its Gram tokens for $4.00 a piece, nearly three times the price of the token during its ICO.

As it stands, there is barely a real-world use case for Gram tokens and motivations to buy it have been fuelled by speculation that it will be worth more at a later date. So we should remain skeptical.

What’s more, given the furore surrounding Libra, we shouldn’t expect regulators to let Gram slip through the net uncontested.

Published August 28, 2019 — 13:53 UTC




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Google will discontinue Google Hire by 2020 — just 2 years after launch



Another Google service bites the dust, and this time it’s Google Hire. The company said it’ll shut down the job tracking system by next year.

Hire helped HR departments keep track of and communicate with candidates. This tool was a product in development at Bebop, a startup Google acquired for $380 million in 2015. Its founder and CEO, Diane Greene, helped Google build this product. She later joined the Alphabet board in early this year, and left the seat in June.

The company said in an email to customers that it’ll focus its resources in other products in the Google Cloud portfolio:

While Hire has been successful, we’re focusing our resources on other products in the Google Cloud portfolio. We are deeply grateful to our customers, as well as the champions and advocates who have joined and supported us along the way.

As TechCrunch noted Google won’t take any charges for Google Hire’s services after the next billing cycle for the existant customers. Guess it’s time to update the Google Cemetary.




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Feds launch two new mining data research centres – Strategy


Education minister Dan Tehan on Tuesday revealed the government will be putting $7.67 million towards two new mining research centres to develop data science skills in the sector.

One hub will be established at the University of Sydney, and the other at the University of Adelaide, in collaboration with commercial partners.

The Sydney centre, which gets $4 million of the funding, will focus on data analytics related to the long-term impact of resource use on Australia’s economy, society and environment, aiming to improve resource industries’ use the quality of evidence-based decisions when using natural resources.

It will also examine ecological issues in the mining sector, including water storage and biodiversity loss.

The centre based in Adelaide will train future scientists and engineers in the use of advanced sensor equipment and data analytics, with the goal of increasing the certainty on product quality to maximise resource recovery.

University of Adelaide deputy vice-chancellor (research), Professor Mike Brooks, said the centre will deliver vital tools, training and “workforce needs” to help keep Australia as a prominent global figure in the resources sector, through the combination of its expertise in artificial intelligence and machine learning, advanced sensors, and data analytics.

Dr Michael Spence, vice-chancellor and principal at the University of Sydney, added that, for Australia to maintain its prime global position in the sector, “it’s important we invest in transformative technologies and collaborative research”.

“New approaches to data analysis will allow for an improved understanding of how the resource sector can mitigate risk and impact, while in turn preparing Australia’s resource economy for a long term approach to resources and mining.”

Tehan said translational research will also be a key driver of jobs and productivity.

“When we get collaboration between research and industry right, the benefits are unambiguous.”


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Huawei won’t launch a HarmonyOS-powered phone in 2019


On August 9, Huawei launched it’s much talked about operating system, HarmonyOS. However, the company is not releasing any phones powered by that in 2019. Huawei‘s Senior Vice President, Vincent Yang, told media in New York there’s no phone running HarmonyOS in the launch pipeline. 

Yang said the Chinese tech giant wants to maintain one ecosystem at the moment, and its upcoming flagship will run Android. He also added HarmonyOS is just a Plan B in case the US authorities upholds the ban on the company.

The company released a smart TV running HarmonyOS under its sub-brand Honor, and according to Yang, it might launch a smartwatch using the same platform as well.

With this statement, Huawei has squashed the rumors of a HarmonyOS powered phone for now. Plus, on Monday, the US authorities extended the company’s temporary general license by 90 more days. So, there’s no reason for it to launch a non-Android phone just yet.

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Published August 22, 2019 — 11:39 UTC




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Apple TV+ will reportedly launch in November with a $10 monthly fee



In March, Apple announced its grand plans to launch a streaming service called Apple TV+, without giving out many details. Now, a report by Bloomberg suggests the streaming offering will launch in November and will have a monthly fee of $9.99.

The report notes the company will also offer a free trial, so you can get a taste of the service at no charge. Apple had announced 14 shows during the Apple TV+ unveil; it will launch some of them on day one, and add more shows from that roster later. A report published by the Financial Times last night said the Cupertino-based company has already spent over $6 billion to produce its original shows.

Here’s a fresh new trailer for one of Apple’s upcoming shows, ‘The Morning Show,’ a drama series starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carrell:

Apple’s price is a tad higher if you compare it to the base plan of its competitors. Amazon Prime Video offers its streaming for $8.99 per month if you pay for an annual subscription, while Netflix’s basic standard definition plan starts at $9 per month. Dinsey’s upcoming service will launch at $6.99 per month, and if you pay $13 per month, it’ll throw in ESPN+ and Hulu subscriptions too.

The streaming market is heating up, and Apple will have to invest heavily in original content and licensing to lure viewers away from its competition. Another thing the company could do is bundle all its online services and serve them up for cheap to keep customers locked in – Apple Music, iCloud, and Apple TV+, the upcoming Apple Arcade, and Apple News+. Apple Prime anyone?


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