PIF-backed US tech firm planning innovation center with Aramco

PIF-backed US tech firm planning innovation center with Aramco
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Magic Leap is ‘digitizing the physical space’ for industries by putting an industry’s physical equipment and data into the augmented reality (AR) system, which could be meticulously examined and enhanced. (Supplied)
PIF-backed US tech firm planning innovation center with Aramco
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Magic Leap is ‘digitizing the physical space’ for industries by putting an industry’s physical equipment and data into the augmented reality (AR) system, which could be meticulously examined and enhanced. (Supplied)
PIF-backed US tech firm planning innovation center with Aramco
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Magic Leap is ‘digitizing the physical space’ for industries by putting an industry’s physical equipment and data into the augmented reality (AR) system, which could be meticulously examined and enhanced. (Supplied)
PIF-backed US tech firm planning innovation center with Aramco
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Magic Leap is ‘digitizing the physical space’ for industries by putting an industry’s physical equipment and data into the augmented reality (AR) system, which could be meticulously examined and enhanced. (Supplied)
PIF-backed US tech firm planning innovation center with Aramco
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Magic Leap is ‘digitizing the physical space’ for industries by putting an industry’s physical equipment and data into the augmented reality (AR) system, which could be meticulously examined and enhanced. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 March 2021

PIF-backed US tech firm planning innovation center with Aramco

PIF-backed US tech firm planning innovation center with Aramco
  • Augmented reality startup Magic Leap in pilot project to develop first-of-its-kind facility in KSA

CHICAGO: Magic Leap, a US augmented reality startup backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, is negotiating with oil giant Saudi Aramco to open a first-of-its-kind computing innovation center in the Kingdom, CEO Peggy Johnson has told Arab News.

The Florida-based tech firm, which was supported with an injection of $400 million from the Public Investment Fund (PIF) in March 2018, announced at January’s Future Investment Initiative forum in Riyadh a partnership with Aramco to expand uses of its virtual reality headset technology in the oil industry.

Johnson said Magic Leap I, which began manufacturing virtual reality headsets for the video gaming industry in 2010, was now at the cutting edge of a technology that allowed leaders in industries from medicine to manufacturing to collaborate on challenges in a virtual visual setting, all while being in separate geographic locations. “We are planning with Aramco eventually to jointly launch a dedicated special computing innovation center in Saudi Arabia and that will be the first of its kind in the world.

“So, it will allow us, together with Aramco and others in the Kingdom, to continue to innovate in the space and seek out new use cases for the platform and we are really excited to be working with Aramco on that,” Johnson added.

A timetable to open the center, which would bring Aramco’s physical and virtual worlds together, was still under discussion and “in the planning stages,” said the chief executive.

Johnson pointed out that Magic Leap was “digitizing the physical space” for industries by putting an industry’s physical equipment and data into the augmented reality (AR) system, which could be meticulously examined, discussed, and enhanced.

Based in southern Florida, Magic Leap signed a multiyear partnership agreement with Aramco to deploy the special transformation solutions within their operations.

When you look through the device you still see your physical world, but it enhances the environment with helpful digital content that we can place in your environment.

Peggy Johnson, Magic Leap CEO

“We are engaged right now … so the things we have been exploring, such as 3-D meetings and remote assistance, are to help solidify Aramco’s position as the leader in the oil and gas industry,” she added.

“We are starting pilot programs right away and also looking at virtual training to facilitate that idea of remote collaboration and education.”

Johnson noted that the business was preparing to release a highly advanced system, Magic Leap II, at the end of the year that would be widely available in 2022.

“Our first-generation product is a wearable Magic Leap I. It is essentially a head-mounted, augmented reality display. When you look through the device you still see your physical world, but it enhances the environment with helpful digital content that we can place in your environment,” she said, adding that users could interact together with the digital data and images on multiple virtual screens. 

FAST FACT

The Florida-based tech firm was supported with an injection of $400 million from PIF in March 2018.

Johnson said Magic Leap II would “be half the size of Magic Leap I and it will double the field of view that you can augment on top of.” It would also reduce the size of the equipment, making it 20 percent lighter, while allowing for even more visuals to be displayed.

Magic Leap I has already been used in the medical industry, where doctors at the University of California Davis Children’s Hospital prepared for the surgical separation of conjoined twin babies.

Johnson said the surgical teams prepared for the operation using Magic Leap technology. “That surgeon may not be the expert in the field, but when they are performing a surgery, they can actually call an expert in for remote assistance.

“Let us say it is brain surgery. They may be in the midst of things and they have a question and they really want to talk to somebody who has done maybe a number of these surgeries. You can actually do that with the device. You can make a call to a remote expert and they can see what that surgeon is seeing and talk them through assistance,” she added. There was “no limit” to the number of experts that could be brought in to help in a complex surgical procedure, improving success rates and also reducing costs.

She said the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic had accelerated potential uses, as Magic Leap offered solutions to people who could not travel or needed to be socially distanced.

“I do think the pandemic was a catalyst. We had been working on all of these use cases, but all of a sudden it became very important to companies,” Johnson added.


Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages
Updated 28 January 2022

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages

Apple’s holiday iPhone sales surge despite supply shortages
  • Apple to report iPhone sales of $71.6 billion for the October-December period

SAN RAMON, California: Apple shook off supply shortages that have curtailed production of iPhones and other popular devices to deliver its most profitable holiday season yet.
The results posted Thursday for the final three months of 2021 help illustrate why Apple is looking even stronger at the tail end of the pandemic than when the crisis began two years ago.
At that point, Apple’s iPhone sales had been flagging as consumers began holding on to their older devices for longer periods. But now the Cupertino, California, company can’t seem to keep up with the steadily surging demand for a device that has become even more crucial in the burgeoning era of remote work.
Apple’s inability to fully satisfy the voracious appetite for iPhones stems from a pandemic-driven shortage of chips that’s affecting the production of everything from automobiles to medical devices.
But Apple so far has navigated the shortfalls better than most companies. That deft management enabled Apple to report iPhone sales of $71.6 billion for the October-December period, a 9 percent increase from the same time in the previous year.
Those sales gains would have likely been even more robust if Apple could have secured all the chips and other components needed to make iPhones. That problem plagued Apple’s July-September quarter when management estimated that supply shortages reduced its iPhone sales by about $6 billion. The company may address how supply shortages affected its performance in the most recent quarter during a conference call with analysts scheduled later Thursday.
Despite what drag the shortages caused, Apple still earned $34.63 billion, or $2.10 per share, a 20 increase from the same time in the previous year. Revenue climbed from the previous year by 11 percent to $123.95 billion.
Apple’s ongoing success help push the company’s market value above $3 trillion for the first time earlier this month. But its stock price has tumbled 13 percent since hitting that peak amid worries about a projected rise in interest rates aimed at dampening the torrid pace of inflation that has been fueled in part by supply shortages.
Its shares gained more than 3 percent in Thursday’s extended trading after the Apple’s fiscal first-quarter numbers came out.
The supply issues looming around Apple’s devices have magnified the importance of the company’s services division, which is fueled by commissions from digital transactions on iPhone apps, subscriptions to music and video streaming and repair plans.
The up to 30 percent commissions collects from apps distributed through Apple’s exclusive app store have become a focal point of a fierce legal battle that unfolded in a high-stakes trial year, as well as proposed reforms recently introduced in the US Senate that tear down the company’s barriers that prevent consumers from using alternative payment systems.
For now, though, the services division is still booming. Its revenue in the past quarter hit $19.52 billion, a 24 percent increase.
Apple is widely believed to be maneuvering toward another potentially huge money-making opportunity with the introduction of an augmented reality headset that would project digital images and information while its users interact with other physical objects and people. True to its secretive form, the company has never said it is working on that kind of technology.
But Apple CEO Tim Cook has openly shared his enthusiasm for the potential of augmented reality in public presentations, and analysts believe the long-rumored headset could finally roll out later this year — unless it’s delayed by supply shortages.


Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’
Updated 28 January 2022

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

Lebanon’s finance minister says replacing central bank governor is not ‘wise’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s finance minister said on Thursday replacing the central bank governor, Riad Salameh, today is not “wise.”
Finance Minister Youssef Khalil told local broadcaster MTV that nobody proposed removing the central bank governor, but “I do not imagine changing the central bank governor today is a wise matter.”
Salameh, who has support from several top politicians, is being probed in Lebanon and at least four European countries, with his role under close scrutiny since Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019.
Salameh denies any wrongdoing during almost three decades leading the central bank.


Aramco CEO says energy transition not going smoothly: Reuters

Aramco CEO says energy transition not going smoothly: Reuters
Updated 27 January 2022

Aramco CEO says energy transition not going smoothly: Reuters

Aramco CEO says energy transition not going smoothly: Reuters

BEIRUT: Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said on Thursday that the energy transition “was not going smoothly,” pointing to a resurgence in demand for oil and gas as the global economy recovers while supplies lag on the back of falling investment, according to Reuters.

“We all agree that to move towards a sustainable energy future a smooth energy transition is absolutely essential but we must also consider the complexities and challenges to get there,” he told the B20 conference in Indonesia via video link.

“We have to acknowledge that the current transition is not going smoothly,” he said.

- Reuters


SNB board recommends dividends of over $1bn for the second half of 2021

SNB board recommends dividends of over $1bn for the second half of 2021
Updated 27 January 2022

SNB board recommends dividends of over $1bn for the second half of 2021

SNB board recommends dividends of over $1bn for the second half of 2021

RIYADH: Saudi National Bank, the Kingdom’s biggest lender, said its board has recommended cash dividends of SR4.03 billion ($1.1 billion), or 9 percent of capital, for the second half of 2021.

SNB’s shareholders will receive SR0.9 per share, with a total amount of 4.48 billion shares eligible for dividends, a bourse statement by the bank revealed.

This brings the annual dividend yield to 2.12 percent, based on a share price of SR73, given the bank paid out SR0.65 per share for the first half of the same year.

The distribution date is yet to be disclosed, according to the statement.


Data-led innovation needed to help Saudi firms process information, says Dell ahead of LEAP

Data-led innovation needed to help Saudi firms process information, says Dell ahead of LEAP
Updated 27 January 2022

Data-led innovation needed to help Saudi firms process information, says Dell ahead of LEAP

Data-led innovation needed to help Saudi firms process information, says Dell ahead of LEAP

RIYADH: The majority of Saudi businesses gather data faster than it can be analyzed and used, Dell Technologies has warned ahead of the LEAP tech event being held in Riyadh from Feb. 1-3.

The US firm is set to take part in the forum, which is focused on future and disruptive technologies.

Ahead of the event, Mohamed Talaat, vice president in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Levant at Dell Technologies, pointed to research by his company in 2021 that showed 70 percent of Saudi respondents have data-driven business and consider data as the lifeblood of their organisation.

However, 59 percent said they were gathering data faster than they could analyze and use.

Talaat said: “Saudi Arabia today stands at the threshold of change, underpinned by the nation’s ambitious vision and drive to transform, innovate and build a legacy for generations to come.

“Dell Technologies remains committed to advancing the country’s transformation agenda. We're empowering local organizations with end-to-end infrastructure and client solutions. They not only support a data-driven work culture, but are also capable of predicting the future and achieving better business results.”