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Google announced Wednesday it was adding 20 new languages for its mobile translation application that reads text and instantly converts to another tongue.

The smartphone app now can read 27 languages and instantly convert the text without an Internet connection, the tech giant said.

Google also said it was making voice translation “faster and smoother” in the Translate app, which can interpret street signs, ingredient lists, instruction manuals and other texts.

The real-time text translation began with seven languages – English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The new ones added are Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian.

Additionally, one-way translations are available from English to Hindi and Thai.

Google’s picture mode translation, which requires a snapshot of text, can operate in 37 languages.

The California group said the new features come from extensive research to develop so-called “convolutional neural networks,” or using artificial intelligence to recognize letters and words and filter out backgrounds.

“We’ve still got lots of work to do,” said product leader Barak Turovsky.

“More than half of the content on the Internet is in English, but only around 20 percent of the world’s population speaks English.

“Today’s updates knock down a few more language barriers, helping you communicate better and get the information you need.”

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Yahoo on Wednesday unveiled a new mobile application allowing users to exchange live video, text and emoticons, without audio.
“We wanted to find that new and expressive way of communicating,” Yahoo senior vice president Adam Cahan said at a New York media event for the app called Livetext.

Cahan said the Yahoo team chose to focus on video without audio to encourage people to use the app in a variety of situations.

“We wanted to make sure there is no inhibition of answering or connecting,” he said.

With audio, he said, Yahoo found that in many situations, people “are not willing to engage.”

At the event, product manager Arjun Sethi demonstrated “conversations” over smartphone connections that showed live facial expressions accompanied by text and emoticons.

“We see video as a way to make your conversations more authentic, and we see text as a way to connect that’s quick and non-intrusive,” Sethi said.

The application is being made available for Apple and Android devices starting Thursday in the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany and France.

It has already been tested and is available in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Ireland.

The move comes with Yahoo aiming to refocus its business on mobile and video after losing leadership in Web search.

The tech industry already has a number of messaging apps ranging from Facebook-owned WhatsApp to Snapchat, which features disappearing video messages.

“Every platform shift leads to new forms of communication, driven by our desire to connect and interact in richer ways,” Cahan said in a statement

“We wanted to create a new way to communicate, blending the simplicity of texting with the emotion and immediacy of live video, to make your experience spontaneous and real.”

Sethi came to Yahoo from the mobile messaging application MessageMe, acquired by Yahoo last year.

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Sri Lanka teamed up on Tuesday with Google to bring high-speed Internet access to the island using balloons, aiming to become the first country in the region with complete coverage.

Foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera said officials signed an agreement with Google in the capital Colombo to launch the helium-filled, high-tech balloons above the Indian Ocean island in coming months.

Google announced Project Loon in 2013 aimed at delivering Internet connections to remote or rural areas worldwide using gear floating from thousands of the balloons.

“The entire Sri Lankan island – every village from (southern) Dondra to (northern) Point Pedro – will be covered with affordable high speed Internet using Google Loon’s balloon technology,” said Samaraweera, who is also IT minister.

Officials said local Internet service providers will have access to the balloons, reducing their operational costs.

Muhunthan Canagey, head of local authority the Information and Communication Technology Agency, said he expected Google to have finished sending up the balloons by next March.

“Service providers will be able to access higher speeds and improve the quality of their existing service once the balloon project is up and running,” Canagey told AFP.

“We can also expect prices to come down,” he said after he signed the agreement with Michael Cassidy, a Google vice president .

The balloons, once in the stratosphere, will be twice as high as commercial airliners and barely visible to the naked eye, Google has said.

Google plans to keep the balloons aloft in the stratosphere for 100 days, transmitting Internet signals to the ground, and with their movements guided by an algorithmic formula. Tests were carried out in New Zealand in 2013.

Official figures show there are 2.8 million mobile Internet connections and 606,000 fixed line Internet subscribers among Sri Lanka’s more than 20 million population.

Sri Lanka became the first country in South Asia to introduce mobile phones in 1989 and the first to roll out a 3G network in 2004. It was also the first in the region to unveil a 4G network two years ago.

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Facebook Inc reported quarterly revenue that beat forecasts but its profit fell 9 percent as the social media company sharply increased spending to boost mobile revenue and future growth.
Expenses will grow 55 to 60 percent in 2015 from last year, including an 82 percent jump in the second quarter to $2.77 billion, it added.

“We’re investing in the next set of services and what will be future investments like Messenger, WhatsApp and Oculus,” Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in an interview on Wednesday after the earnings report. She was referring to Facebook’s two messaging services and virtual reality headset maker Oculus Rift, whose first product for consumers has yet to be launched.

Messenger has more than 700 million users, and the app has been downloaded more than 1 billion times on Android, Google Inc’s mobile operating system, Facebook said.

Over the coming months, Facebook will add new advertising formats to photo-sharing app Instagram, which was launched in Brazil, Germany and Japan in the second quarter, Sandberg added on a conference call.

Macquarie Research analyst Ben Schachter said the costs and spending met expectations. “We think the company has a lot of opportunities ahead of it so we want to see them investing quite heavily in those investments,” he said.

Facebook shares fell more than 3 percent in after-hours trading. As of Wednesday’s close of $96.99, the stock has risen 24.3 percent this year, valuing the company at $276.4 billion.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, continued to expand its reach, hitting 1.49 billion monthly active users as of June 30, up 13 percent from a year earlier. Of these, 1.31 billion accessed the service through mobile devices, a rise of 23 percent.

Daily active users increased to 968 million in June, up 17 percent from the same month last year.

Market research firm FactSet StreetAccount had predicted 1.48 billion monthly active users, with 1.29 billion on mobile, and 960 million daily active users.

“It’s particularly impressive that users are more engaged than ever before – that the percentage of monthly users who visit every day continues to grow,” said Nate Elliott, an analyst with Forrester Research.

For the quarter, revenue jumped to $4.04 billion from $2.91 billion.

Net income attributable to stockholders fell to $715 million, or 25 cents per share, from $788 million, or 30 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the Menlo Park, California-based company earned 50 cents per share. Analysts on average had expected earnings of 47 cents per share on revenue of $3.99 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Excluding the impact of the stronger dollar, revenue would have been about $33 million higher.

Advertising revenue grew 43 percent to $3.83 billion. Mobile ads accounted for 76 percent of that, up from 62 percent in the same quarter last year. The average price paid per ad rose 220 percent while total ad impressions, a measure of the number of times an ad is viewed, fell 55 percent.

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Russian government-backed hackers who penetrated high-profile US government and defence industry computers this year used a method combining Twitter with data hidden in seemingly benign photographs, according to experts studying the campaign.

In a public report Wednesday, researchers at security company FireEye Inc said the group used the unusual tandem as a means of communicating with previously infected computers. FireEye has briefed law enforcement on what it found.

The technique, uncovered during a FireEye investigation at an unnamed victim organization, shows how government-backed hackers can shift tactics on the fly after they are discovered.

“It’s striking how many layers of obfuscation that the group adopts,” said FireEye Strategic Analysis Manager Jennifer Weedon. “These groups are innovating and becoming more creative.”

The machines were given an algorithm for checking a different Twitter account every day. If a human agent registered that account and tweeted a certain message, instructions for a series of actions by the computer would be activated.

The tweeted information included a website address, a number and a handful of letters. The computer would go to the website and look for a photo of at least the size indicated by the number, while the letters were part of a key for decoding the instructions in a message hidden within the data used to display the picture on the website.

Weedon said the communication method might have been a failsafe in case other channels were discovered and cut. Vikram Thakur, a senior manager at Symantec Corp, said his team had also found Twitter controls combined with hidden data in photos, a technique known as steganography.

FireEye identified the campaign as the work of a group it has been internally calling APT29, for advanced persistent threat. In April, it said another Russian-government supported group, APT28, had used a previously unknown flaws in Adobe Systems Inc.’s Flash software to infect high-value targets.

Other security firms use different names for the same or allied groups. Symantec recently reported another data-stealing tool used in tandem with the steganography, which it calls Seaduke. Thakur said both tools were employed by the group it knows as the Duke family.

Thakur said another tool in that kit is CozyDuke, which Russian firm Kaspersky Lab says is associated with recent breaches at the State Department and the White House.

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Windows 10, the latest iteration of Microsoft’s desktop operating system, will become available for purchase/ upgrade starting Wednesday. It boasts a number of new features, as well as brings back the good old Start Menu which the company had parted ways with while introducing Windows 8. But despite these tempting features, there are many concerning issues that should prevent you from making the jump.

Despite what Microsoft will have you believe, Windows 10 doesn’t seem like a finished product yet. For instance, both Settings app and Control Panel offer similar features. The company was expected to migrate the two into one, but that is yet to happen. It just looks weird to have both of them available on Windows 10. Another inconsistency can be seen in the context menu option. The background and layout of the menu changes as you switch between apps.

Windows 10 also doesn’t seem stable and smooth yet. Every once in a while the Action Center, the volume icon, and other applications in the notification area (or system tray), become unresponsive.

Another area for concern is compatibility. Windows 10, in itself, doesn’t ask for a heavy gear. In fact, if your computer can run Windows 7 or Windows 8, it should ideally have no qualms running the new operating system. There’s a compatibility tool that you can download to test your hardware’s readiness. Though, there’s no guarantee that your laptop/ desktop vendor will release new drivers that support the new operating system.

Speaking of incompatibility, your favourite application might not run on Windows 10. Say you’re using an old version of Adobe’s Photoshop, or your work requires you to use an old app, you would want to hold off the update for a while.

You’ll also miss out on a couple of features. If you’re moving from Windows 7, you should know that desktop widgets and Windows Media Center are not included in Windows 10.

By default, Microsoft won’t let Windows 10 Home users decide when and what updates they want to install. The company has since released a tool, but it still needs to be manually downloaded by users. Also, at this point, it is not certain if the tool will block only selected updates or every update.

The repercussion of forced update was on display earlier this week when several Nvidia users started facing software issues on their computers after installing an update from the company. In addition, automatic upgrades could also eat up a significant amount of data — something that you might not want.

If you are ready to brave that, there are plenty of new features to look forward to in Windows 10.

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Critics have long lamented that Twitter Inc is difficult to use and has had trouble defining itself, which is why it has not expanded its audience.
Add interim chief executive Jack Dorsey and Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto to the list of critics.

While Wall Street dumped the stock in after-hours trading on Tuesday, the frank comments by the two executives gave analysts reason to hope the company would start addressing the long-standing problems.

“People around the globe know of Twitter, but it’s not clear why they should use Twitter,” Dorsey said during a second-quarter earnings call with investors. “This is unacceptable and we’re not happy about it.”

Analysts said Dorsey and Noto’s comments were refreshing.

“You’ve got to believe by being bluntly honest about what their issues are, they’re going to be bluntly reactive in solving the issues,” said Debra Aho Williamson, social media marketing and advertising analyst at eMarketer.

Investors’ reaction to the candour was much harsher. Shares rose when the company’s results were released right after 4 pm ET, as Twitter reported better-than-expected revenue and earnings.

But its shares dropped sharply after the 5 pm start of a conference call with analysts, where Dorsey and Noto continually criticized the company’s disorganized product execution and inability to provide new users reasons to sign up for the site.

They also said new product initiatives, such as instant timelines and improving the experience for those without Twitter accounts who visit the site, have not yet helped grow the audience. Twitter’s user base grew at its slowest rate yet, adding only 2 million core users from last quarter.

“We have not communicated why people should use Twitter nor made easy for them to understand how to use Twitter,” Noto said on the call.

Dorsey said the company would focus on more disciplined product execution, simplify the site and better communicate Twitter’s purpose. He did not elaborate on how Twitter will carry out those changes.

Twitter did not offer criticisms that have not been heard before, analysts said, but Dorsey and Noto’s acknowledgement of the problems may mean they are more aggressively seeking solutions.

“They made those remarks … with full disclosure in mind,” said Ken Sena, Evercore ISI analyst. “They were giving investors a sense of the challenge.”

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Nokia has announced its first commercially available virtual reality (VR) camera, the Ozo. The company stresses that the Ozo has been designed and built for professional content creators.

The Finnish company on Monday revealed its Ozo 360-degree VR camera at an event in Los Angeles. Nokia had last week started sending invites for the virtual reality product launch. The Ozo is said to be the first in the portfolio of digital media solutions from Nokia Technologies, the company’s advanced technology and licensing business. In a press statement, Nokia announced that the final testing and refinements to Ozo will be done in partnership with industry professionals, which will before product’s commercial release.

The Ozo virtual reality (VR) camera is expected to start shipping in Q4 2015 and Nokia will be announcing the pricing and full technical specifications at a future date. The company confirmed that the Ozo will be manufactured in Finland.

The device can capture stereoscopic 3D video through eight synchronized shutter sensors and audio through eight integrated microphones. The Ozo software has been built to enable real-time 3D viewing.

“Ozo’s filmed content can be published for commercially available VR viewing hardware such as head mounted displays (HMDs), with immersive, full 360-degree imaging and spatially accurate original sound.” Nokia said in the statement. The company alongside also announced that Palo Alto-based VR production company Jaunt has committed to support Ozo.

Nokia’s entry into the virtual reality segment can be considered late when one looks at companies like Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, HTC, and even Facebook, which entered the market with VR (and in the case of Microsoft, AR) headsets. However, the Nokia is evidently not focusing on the consumer side, instead, is catering to the demand of VR content creators.

Commenting on the Ozo announcement, Ramzi Haidamus, President of Nokia Technologies said, “We’re thrilled to introduce Ozo to the content creation world, and to define a completely new category of virtual reality capture and playback solutions. Ozo aims to advance the next wave of innovation in VR by putting powerful tools in the hands of professionals who will create amazing experiences for people around the world. We expect that virtual reality experiences will soon radically enhance the way people communicate and connect to stories, entertainment, world events and each other. With Ozo, we plan to be at the heart of this new world.”

Nokia earlier this month confirmed its plan to re-enter the mobile device business by late next year. The company noted that one of the possible ways to get back into mobile business was through brand-licensing model. Nokia clarified that the partner they were looking for should be able to do all “heavy lifting” and should be able to work closely with Nokia to deliver a product.

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Consumers around the world admit it: they sleep with their smartphone, take it in the shower, and would rescue the device from a fire before saving the family cat.

Those are among the findings of a seven-country survey of more than 7,000 people about smartphone habits released Tuesday by Motorola, the newly acquired division of Chinese electronics giant Lenovo.

Sixty percent of those surveyed said they slept holding their handsets with the highest percentages in India (74 percent) and China (70 percent). And 57 percent said they took the device into the toilet, with the highest totals from China and Brazil.

One in six smartphone users said they used their phones while showering, and more than half 54 percent said they would reach for the smartphone before saving their cat in the event of a fire.

How close are people to their devices? 22 percent said they would give up sex for a weekend before parting with their smartphone. And 40 percent tell secrets to their phones they would not reveal even to their best friend.

But the relationship is not perfect. Only 39 percent said they were “happy” with their smartphone, and 79 percent felt bothered that their devices interrupted them at inopportune moments.

The survey was conducted online by KRC Research with a total of 7,112 smartphone owners in the United States, Britain, Brazil, China, Spain, Mexico and India.

It was released as Motorola unveiled two upgraded versions of its flagship Moto X handset one with a larger 5.7 inch display and another with a 5.5 inch screen. The company said the devices would be priced hundreds of dollars lower than other flagship devices.

The company also unveiled the third-generation Moto G, priced at under $200 (Rs. 11,999 in India) and aimed at emerging markets.

Motorola will be selling most of the devices unlocked for use with almost any carrier.

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Facebook may not prevent its users from using fake names, a German privacy watchdog said on Tuesday, in the latest privacy setback for the US company in Europe.

The Hamburg data protection authority, which is responsible for policing Facebook in Germany, said the social network firm could not unilaterally change users’ chosen usernames to their real names, nor could it ask them for official ID.

The German order comes after the Belgian privacy watchdog took Facebook to court in June over the way it tracks the activities of its users. The two authorities are working with their Spanish, Dutch and French counterparts to investigate Facebook’s new privacy policy.

A woman had complained to the Hamburg watchdog after Facebook blocked her account for using a pseudonym, requested a copy of her ID and unilaterally changed her username into her real name.

The Hamburg Data Protection Authority said the woman did not want to use her real name to avoid being contacted through it for business matters.

Forcing users to stick to their real names violated their privacy rights, it said.

Facebook said it was disappointed with the order and that German courts had reviewed it on many occasions and deemed it compliant with EU law.

“The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they’re sharing and connecting with,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Facebook has maintained that as its European headquarters are in Ireland it should only abide by Irish law in Europe and consequently has rejected the jurisdiction of other national authorities.

In an audit in December 2011 the Irish privacy watchdog concluded that Facebook’s authentic name policy did not contravene Irish law and its reasons for the policy, such as child safety and the prevention of online harassment, were justified.

However Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection, rejected the argument that Facebook should only be subject to Irish data protection laws.

“For that matter Facebook cannot again argue that only Irish Data Protection law would be applicable … anyone who stands on our pitch also has to play our game,” he said.

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