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Microsoft Hololens Lands Big, Turing Awards And More In This Week’s Top News

On Wednesday, the US Army announced its decision to award Microsoft the contract to build more than custom HoloLens augmented reality headsets. According to reports, the contract for over 120,000 headsets could be worth up to $21.88 billion over 10 years. This contract is a follow up to the one Microsoft received to give the Army prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmented System(IVAS) in 2018. Now, the $22 billion deal will take the VR headsets from labs to production.

The standard-issue HoloLens costs $3,500, using which people can interact with their surroundings using hand and voice gestures. “Microsoft has worked closely with the U.S. Army over the past two years, and together we pioneered Soldier Centered Design to enable rapid prototyping for a product to provide Soldiers with the tools and capabilities necessary to achieve their mission,” said Microsoft in a blog post.


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This deal fortifies the Departments of Defense’s trust in Microsoft’s advanced tech capabilities. Earlier, Microsoft managed to land the $10 billion controversial cloud deal, which was eyed by other biggies like Amazon Web Services. 

Image credits: Microsoft

“The IVAS aggregates multiple technologies into an architecture that allows the Soldier to Fight, Rehearse, and Train using a single platform. The suite of capabilities leverages existing high-resolution night, thermal, and Soldier-borne sensors integrated into a unified Heads Up Display to provide the improved situational awareness, target engagement, and informed decision-making necessary to achieve overmatch against current and future adversaries. The system also leverages augmented reality and machine learning to enable a life-like mixed reality training environment so the CCF can rehearse before engaging any adversaries,” said the US Army in a statement.

Apple Joins Hands With Tesla

On Wednesday, Apple announced that it’s building a battery-based solar energy storage facility in California. The company said the facility will be capable of storing 240 megawatt-hours of energy, enough to power more than 7,000 homes for one day. The setup will include 85 of Tesla’s Megapack battery energy storage systems, which were first announced in 2019. The energy will be used to help power the company’s headquarters.

Tesla forayed into the solar business in 2016 when it acquired SolarCity for $2.6 billion. Apple will leverage Tesla’s expertise to use 100 percent renewable energy for their production. According to Apple, these initiatives will avoid over 15 million metric tons of CO2e annually. Apple also declared that it will be investing directly in renewable energy projects to cover a portion of upstream emissions, as well as a major energy storage project in California to pilot new solutions for renewable infrastructure.

“We are firmly committed to helping our suppliers become carbon neutral by 2030 and are thrilled that companies who’ve joined us span industries and countries around the world, including Germany, China, the US, India, and France,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president for Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives.

AndrewNg’s Coursera Goes Public

Source: Andrew Ng Twitter

On Tuesday, Coursera went public and raised nearly $520 million at an implied $4.3 billion valuation. Coursera was founded by Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller in 2012. It quickly rose to prominence with courses taught by tutors from top companies and universities.  “When I think about what we can do to build a brighter future for our children, the most important thing is to create a foundation for education. Because education is knowledge. And knowledge is human progress,” tweeted Andrew Ng.

“We see education as a lifelong opportunity and a lifelong obligation for most people,” said CEO Jeff Maggioncalda to CNBC. “What has happened with industry after industry is now happening with education. Technology can lower cost and increase access and affordability, and that’s precisely what we see happening with degrees on Coursera.”

Turing Award 2020 Winners Announced

The Association for Computing Machinery, has named Alfred Vaino Aho and Jeffrey David Ullman the recipients of the 2020 ACM A.M. Turing Award for fundamental algorithms and theory underlying programming language implementation. They have been recognised for synthesising these results in their highly influential books, which educated generations of computer scientists. 

First issued in the formative years of the soon-to-explode computer industry, these books became required reading for millions of future computer scientists. Meanwhile, Ullman and Aho’s collaborations in algorithm design and analysis techniques led to a catalog of standard techniques such as “divide and conquer,” which became the core of computer science theory in subsequent decades, according to the ACM.

“Aho and Ullman established bedrock ideas about algorithms, formal languages, compilers and databases, which were instrumental in the development of today’s programming and software landscape,” said Jeff Dean, SVP, Google AI.

Waymo’s CEO Steps Down

Image credits: Waymo blog

Waymo LLC Chief Executive John Krafcik said he is stepping down from his role, bringing an end to the former auto executive’s more than five-year tenure leading Google’s  self-driving ambitions.

The company said Friday that it is promoting its chief technology and operating officers, Dmitri Dolgov and Tekedra Mawakana, to lead a decade-old effort to make self-driving cars a reality. They will share the title of co-chief executive. According to Krafcik, The Waymo Driver has driven autonomously tens of millions of miles on public roads across 25 U.S. cities, and more than 20 billion miles in simulation; safely gets anyone in Phoenix with the Waymo One app to their destinations across thousands of miles each week

Krafcik has also led Waymo into becoming an independent subsidiary of Alphabet and the raising of $3.25 billion of external funding. “Going forward, two extraordinary leaders, Dmitri Dolgov and Tekedra Mawakana will take the helm at Waymo as co-CEOs. Tekedra and Dmitri are an incredibly talented pair who are ideally suited for this moment. Dmitri and Tekedra have my full confidence and support, and of course, the full confidence of Waymo’s board and Alphabet leadership,” wrote Krafcik in an email to his team.

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Ram Sagar
I have a master's degree in Robotics and I write about machine learning advancements.

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