‘If you can’t be there, you can beam there’ — company offers at-home hologram machines

‘If you can’t be there, you can beam there’ — company offers at-home hologram machines
Inventor David Nussbaum next to a life-size hologram of himself. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 August 2020

‘If you can’t be there, you can beam there’ — company offers at-home hologram machines

‘If you can’t be there, you can beam there’ — company offers at-home hologram machines
  • The devices can be equipped with artificial intelligence technology from Los Angeles-based company StoryFile to produce hologram recordings that can be archived

LOS ANGELES: Looking for a new way to communicate during the pandemic? A Los Angeles company has created phone booth-sized machines to beam live holograms into your living room. The device made by PORTL Inc. lets users talk in real time with a life-sized hologram of another person.
The machines also can be equipped with technology to enable interaction with recorded holograms of historical figures or relatives who have died.
Each PORTL device is seven feet (2.1m) tall, five feet (1.5m) wide and two feet (0.6m) deep, and can be plugged into a standard wall outlet. Anyone with a camera and a white background can send a hologram to the machine in what Chief Executive David Nussbaum calls “holoportation.”
“We say if you can’t be there, you can beam there,” said Nussbaum, who previously worked at a company that developed a hologram of Ronald Reagan for the former president’s library and digitally resurrected rapper Tupac Shakur.
“We are able to connect military families that haven’t seen each other in months, people from opposite coasts,” or anyone who is social distancing to fight the coronavirus, Nussbaum said.  Prices for the machine start at $60,000, a cost that Nussbaum expects will drop over the next three to five years. The company also plans a smaller tabletop device with a lower price tag early next year.
The devices can be equipped with artificial intelligence technology from Los Angeles-based company StoryFile to produce hologram recordings that can be archived.
Adding that to the current device brings the cost to at least $85,000. The companies are promoting to museums, which could let visitors question a hologram of a historical figure, and to families to record information for future generations.
People can feel like they are having a conversation with a recorded hologram, said StoryFile Chief Executive Heather Smith.
“(You) feel their presence, see their body language, see all their non-verbal cues,” she said. “You feel like you’ve actually talked to that individual even though they were not there.”


Tesla to accept bitcoin again when greener

Tesla to accept bitcoin again when greener
Updated 5 min 44 sec ago

Tesla to accept bitcoin again when greener

Tesla to accept bitcoin again when greener
  • Bitcoin are produced by powerful computers that have to solve equations and consume huge amounts of electricity in the process

NEW YORK: Elon Musk, CEO of electric vehicle maker Tesla, said on Sunday that the US company will accept bitcoin payments again when the virtual currency is greener.
The American manufacturer caused a sensation in February when it announced that customers could pay in cryptocurrency, an option that became possible at the end of March.
But then Musk changed his mind, indicating that bitcoin were no longer accepted — in the interest of protecting the environment.
“When there’s confirmation of reasonable (~50 percent) clean energy usage by miners with positive future trend, Tesla will resume allowing Bitcoin transactions,” the billionaire wrote on Twitter Sunday.
Bitcoin are produced by powerful computers that have to solve equations and consume huge amounts of electricity in the process.
The science journal Nature recently published a study showing that China’s bitcoin mines, which power nearly 80 percent of the world’s cryptocurrency trade and run in part from coal-fired power plants, risk jeopardizing the country’s climate goals.
Musk on Sunday reacted to an article raising the possibility that with his tweets, which regularly move the value of bitcoin in one direction or another, he is manipulating market prices for the benefit of his business.
“This is inaccurate,” he said. “Tesla only sold ~10 percent of holdings to confirm BTC could be liquidated easily without moving market.
The US automaker announced in early February that it had invested $ 1.5 billion of its ample cash in bitcoin and has since sold part of it.


Dubai’s yachts offer socially-distanced luxury

Dubai’s yachts offer socially-distanced luxury
Updated 11 min 26 sec ago

Dubai’s yachts offer socially-distanced luxury

Dubai’s yachts offer socially-distanced luxury
  • Charter companies said they have seen an increased interest in yachting after coronavirus measures eased, especially among those who want to spend time with friends and family

DUBAI: Dubai earned a reputation for delivering luxury for those with cash to splash years ago, but amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a new mode of travel has become popular — yachts.
“It’s more private, you’re with only family and friends, and it’s the ideal outing during a pandemic,” said Nada Naeem, a 36-year-old Saudi citizen living in Dubai.
Dozens of white yachts are seen every day zipping through the emirate’s bays, canals and islands, while others are docked along the coast in Gulf waters overlooking the skyline of high-rise towers.
“You feel like you can breathe,” Naeem said, adding that she had not left Dubai since the pandemic began last year. “It’s like you’ve traveled.”
Unlike so many parts of the world, Dubai opened its doors wide open to tourists just a few months after the coronavirus pandemic took hold last year.
Life in the Gulf emirate — one of the first destinations to welcome visitors again last July — returned to largely normal, with restaurants and hotels up and running and beaches open to the public.
The UAE, made up of seven emirates including Dubai, launched an energetic vaccination drive with some of the highest inoculation rates worldwide, and continues to enforce strict rules on wearing masks and social distancing.
But some are fearful of overseas travel, and wary of crowded places where the risk of catching COVID-19 is higher.
For those who can afford the price tag, yachts are seen as a safer bet.
“When they eased the lockdown ... people preferred something secure and safe with regulations,” said Mohammed Al-Sayyed, manager of Royal Star Yachts charter company.
“We are providing them with the proper customer service, following all the rules, sanitizing the yacht.”
For now, yachts are allowed to operate at 70 percent capacity.
The company has a fleet that includes a 141-foot (42-meter) yacht able to host 80 passengers at full capacity — if you can afford the $4,900 price for a three-hour cruise.
Charter companies said they have seen an increased interest in yachting after coronavirus measures eased, especially among those who want to spend time with friends and family.
“People want to do sightseeing, cruising,” said Sayyed, who has been in the yacht industry for eight years. “They want to relax.”
Cheaper yachts to hire include the company’s 90-foot “Big Daddy” — capable of normally carrying 65 people, at $1,225 for three hours — down to smaller boats.
Some in Dubai said that when the price was split between a group, the cost was not as steep as it seemed at first.
“It can actually be more affordable than an all-inclusive brunch at a restaurant,” said Naeem.
And while some groups have been busted by authorities flouting the rules and slapped with hefty fines, most excursions run smoothly.
Sayyed insisted his company follows all the rules and that even on the most luxurious “party yachts,” there are COVID-19 regulations still in place, including the need for passengers to socially distance from each other and wear masks.
Dubai, known for its skyscrapers and mega-projects, boasts the most diverse economy in the oil-reliant Gulf region and has built a reputation as a financial, commercial and tourism hub.
Tourism, which drew some 16 million visitors a year before the coronavirus hit, took a severe downturn in the first few months of the pandemic.
But a flood of arrivals since the beginning of the year has regenerated the industry, and helped many business activities recover.
Other yacht charter companies report an increase in demand for rentals in recent months.
And being out at sea doesn’t mean the guests must skimp on takeaway food or drinks. Jet skis and speed boats are on standby — for an extra fee — to take orders and deliver groceries from shore to ship.
“To go on a boat is as simple as being outdoors and being away from strangers, gathering with only those you trust,” said Palestinian Jeelan Herz, who has lived in the UAE for more than 30 years.
“It’s also something you can enjoy safely with children — go to the middle of the ocean, take part in water activities and take a nice dip.”


Kuwait’s economy contracted by 9.9% in 2020

Kuwait’s economy contracted by 9.9% in 2020
Updated 18 min 37 sec ago

Kuwait’s economy contracted by 9.9% in 2020

Kuwait’s economy contracted by 9.9% in 2020
DUBAI: Kuwait’s gross domestic product contracted 9.9 percent in 2020, compared with growth of 0.4 percent in 2019, mainly because of last year’s sharp drop in oil prices, state news agency KUNA reported on Sunday.
Kuwait, which makes half its revenues from oil, had its finances squeezed by an oil price crash and by the COVID-19 pandemic, while a draft law that would allow it to tap international debt has stalled amid disagreement between successive parliaments and cabinets.
The International Monetary Fund estimated in April that Kuwait’s GDP contracted 8 percent in 2020.
KUNA based its report on Central Bank of Kuwait’s governor, Mohammad Al-Hashel, who cited preliminary estimates and statistics and said the institution used all the tools available to it to blunt the pandemic’s impact.
He said preliminary estimates and statistics also showed the headline inflation rate increased to about 2.1 percent in 2020 from about 1.1 percent in 2019.
Kuwait’s population, which mostly comprises expatriate workers and their families, declined by 2.2 percent in 2020 after growing 3.3 percent in 2019.
Sources told Reuters in April that Kuwait has reached an agreement with state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corporation under which the company will pay the government billions in accrued dividends, part of government efforts to cover the deficit.

Oil holds near multi-year highs amid demand recovery

Oil holds near multi-year highs amid demand recovery
Updated 21 min 39 sec ago

Oil holds near multi-year highs amid demand recovery

Oil holds near multi-year highs amid demand recovery
  • The OPEC+ group has been restraining production to support prices after the pandemic wiped out demand in 2020

TOKYO: Oil prices held near multi-year highs on Monday, underpinned by an improved outlook for demand as increased COVID-19 vaccinations help lift travel curbs.
Brent crude was up 14 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $72.83 by 0123 GMT. It rose 1.1 percent last week and hit the highest since May 2019 of $73.09 on Friday.
US West Texas Intermediate was also up 14 cents, or 0.2 percent, at $71.05 a barrel, after reaching the highest since October 2018 at $71.24 on Friday and rising 1.9 percent on the week.
Vehicle traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels in North America and much of Europe and more planes are in the air as lockdowns and other restrictions are being eased, driving three weeks of gains for the oil benchmarks.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies, known as OPEC+, need to increase output to meet recovering demand, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its monthly report on Friday.
The OPEC+ group has been restraining production to support prices after the pandemic wiped out demand in 2020.
“OPEC+ needs to open the taps to keep the world oil markets adequately supplied,” the IEA said.
Goldman Sachs said last week it expects Brent to rise to $80 per barrel this summer as the rollout of inoculations boosts economic activity around the world.
US oil rigs rose by six to 365, the highest since April 2020, energy services company Baker Hughes Co. said in its weekly report.
It was the biggest weekly increase of oil rigs in a month, as drilling companies sought to benefit from rising demand.


Germany to set up hydrogen accord with Australia

Germany to set up hydrogen accord with Australia
Updated 14 June 2021

Germany to set up hydrogen accord with Australia

Germany to set up hydrogen accord with Australia
  • Germany’s €9 billion hydrogen strategy launched last summer is based on the assumption that some 80 percent of its hydrogen requirements may have to be imported in the long term

FRANKFURT: Germany on Sunday said it has taken steps toward a bilateral alliance on hydrogen production and trade with Australia to try and facilitate a renewable energy-based hydrogen supply chain between the countries. 

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and Education and Research Minister Anja Karliczek signed a letter of intent to set up a “Germany Australia Hydrogen Accord” with Australian Energy Minister Angus Taylor, the Economy Ministry said in a press release. It said the cooperation was about enabling “the import of sustainably produced hydrogen in relevant volumes, which is an important factor to reach our tighter climate targets.” Australia wants to develop a clean hydrogen and ammonia production chain to cut carbon, depart from fossil fuels and build up new export markets, Taylor said in an interview in May.

The two countries can take advantage of Australia’s limitless solar resources and employ German electrolysis technology, said Altmaier.

Karliczek said her ministry will fund a technology incubator called HyGate with €50 million ($60.53 million) over three years to test technologies from production through to storage and transport. Germany’s €9 billion hydrogen strategy launched last summer is based on the assumption that some 80 percent of its hydrogen requirements may have to be imported in the long term.