Abu Dhabi hosts international trade show of military drones

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A model of a Wing Loong II weaponized drone hangs above the stand for the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp. at a military drone conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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A visitor to a drone conference looks at a machinegun-carrying ground drone made by Serbian firm Yugoimport'DPR J.P. in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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An Emirati in the national dress stands near a General Atomics Predator XP drone on display at a drone conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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A visitor to a drone conference tries out a parachute simulator in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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A model of a General Atomics Predator XP drone hangs on display at a drone conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
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An unmanned helicopter drone AV500 and a painting of a drone are seen at the stand for the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp. at a military drone conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018. (AP)
Updated 25 February 2018
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Abu Dhabi hosts international trade show of military drones

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: Walking through a trade show all about military drones, Emirati officials made a point on Sunday to stop first at a stand run by Chinese officials with a mock armed drone hanging above them.
Defense analysts believe that drone, the Wing Loong II, is now being used by the Emirati military while the UAE remains barred from purchasing weaponized drones from the United States.
That purchase, as well as Abu Dhabi hosting the Unmanned Systems Exhibition & Conference this week in the Emirati capital, shows the power these weapons now hold across the Middle East.
Top UAE officials, including Abu Dhabi's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, were on hand for the drone conference, which opened on Sunday.
The UAE, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai, already has embraced drones. Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has given the $1 million Drones for Good Award in recent years. Meanwhile, civil defense officials fighting fires and lifeguards trying to save those at risk of drowning use drones in their work.
But the UAE remains highly interested in military drones.
Al-Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, which hosts some of the 5,000 American troops in the UAE, is also home to some of the US military's unmanned aircraft that flew missions over Iraq and Syria targeting Daesh.
Chief among those aircraft is the Predator, built by San Diego-based defense contractor General Atomics. The UAE previously purchased some $200 million worth of surveillance-only Predator drones from General Atomics.
The Obama administration opposed selling the UAE armed versions of the Predator over Missile Technology Control Regime, a 30-year-old agreement that aims to limit the spread of missile technology.
But that apparently didn't stop the UAE from purchasing weaponized drones. Satellite photographs taken of a mysterious Emirati air base in the country's deep south — a desert area known as the in the Empty Quarter — appear to show three Wing Loong IIs there, according to a January article by IHS Jane's Defense Weekly.
China has never acknowledged selling the drones to the UAE, though the state-run Xinhua News Agency has reported a major sale of the drones to a foreign buyer.
Asked if China sold the UAE the Wing Loong II, sales manager Zhao Chuang of the China National Aero-Technology Import & Export Corp. only smiled and said: "No idea."
"We are trying to find the world market," he told The Associated Press after his colleagues greeted high-ranking Emirati officials.
General Atomics, which displayed a massive Predator surveillance drone nearby, declined to speak to the AP. However, US lawmakers last year sent a letter to President Donald Trump asking him to allow armed Predator drone sales to both the UAE and Jordan.


Amazon aims to make Alexa assistant bigger part of users’ lives

An overhauled Echo Dot smart speaker boasts much-improved sound and design while keeping the $50 price tag of the original. (Getty Images/AFP)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Amazon aims to make Alexa assistant bigger part of users’ lives

  • Alexa has gotten smarter, more conversational and even intuitive during the past year as teams at Amazon work hard on getting the digital assistant to better understand people
  • Alexa uses artificial intelligence to identify patterns in the lives of users, factoring in habits, weather, time of year and more

SEATTLE: From the kitchen to the car, Amazon on Thursday sought to make its Alexa digital assistant and online services a bigger part of people’s lives with an array of new products and partnerships.
Updates to the Internet giant’s Alexa-infused Echo smart speakers will allow them to tend to microwave cooking and even have “hunches” regarding what users may want or have forgotten.
When Alexa is told “corn on the cob,” a digital Echo speaker starts an AmazonBasics microwave oven in a faux home demonstration room, setting the preferred time and voicing what it is doing.
But when asked to add 30 seconds, Alexa paused and then started to play songs by the band “Thirty Seconds to Mars.”
Such misunderstandings are routine enough with smart speakers that they have become fodder for humor, and even cropped up while Amazon devices and services senior vice president David Limp showed off new devices in a nearby building a short time earlier.
Alexa has gotten smarter, more conversational and even intuitive during the past year as teams at Amazon work hard on getting the digital assistant to better understand people, according to Limp.Alexa is even developing a personality, complete with a favorite pet or beer.
It has also learned to understand whispers, responding in equally hushed tones in a feature to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
Amazon on Thursday teased a coming feature called Alexa Hunches that is designed to infuse the digital assistant with intuition. For example, when a user bids Alexa a good night, it might respond by mentioning they forgot to lock a door.
Alexa uses artificial intelligence to identify patterns in the lives of users, factoring in habits, weather, time of year and more. To know what is happening with other smart devices in a home, the Echo speaker needs to be connected to them.
Amazon recently passed the 20,000 mark for smart home devices made by the Seattle-based company or partners.
“We are really at a tipping point for the smart home,” Limp said while unveiling a cornucopia of new devices.
An overhauled Echo Dot smart speaker boasts much-improved sound and design while keeping the $50 price tag of the original.
Amazon added Echo equivalents of stereo components for home sound systems, along with improvements to its online music service, with partners including Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer.
Limp unveiled a “frustration free setup” platform intended to grow into a framework that any smart device maker can use to make getting gadgets to talk to Alexa as easy as plugging them into an outlet.
“That is not going to happen overnight,” Limp said. “As we imagine a future that has thousands of these devices in your home, this is going to become absolutely essential.”
And, of course, there was the $60 microwave, which Limp contended was a strong test because of how much microwaves interfere with wireless connectivity used by devices to communicate.
A freshly announced Alexa Guard service synchronizes with Echo speakers in the home and security cameras from Amazon-owned smart doorbell maker Ring.
When Echo speakers are set to guard mode, they listen for breaking glass or the sound of alarms from smoke or carbon dioxide detectors and send alerts to smartphones or even security companies.
Ring cameras can also be connected to Echo devices with screens, letting people see who has come calling, demonstrations showed.
A new Echo Show device boasted twice the screen display area as its predecessor, and Fire TV Recast that acts as a digital recorder for traditional television broadcasts.
Not satisfied with being built into new cars, Alexa will be able to work in older models with an Echo Auto device that can be affixed to dashboards and reach the Internet through smartphones.
“Amazon launched today what I believe is the industry’s largest assortment of home automation products and added meaningful improvements to its services,” said analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy.
“The company once again separated itself again in the smart home space from both Google and Apple by adding new devices and capabilities.”