Monday, March 13, 2017

UK passes Brexit bill; Intel takes $15bn bet on driverless cars; The real money in virtual reality

1 UK passes Brexit bill (Anushka Asthana, Rowena Mason & Lisa O’Carroll in The Guardian) Theresa May’s Brexit bill has cleared all its hurdles in the Houses of Parliament, opening the way for the prime minister to trigger article 50 by the end of March.

Peers accepted the supremacy of the House of Commons late on Monday night after MPs overturned amendments aimed at guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and giving parliament a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.

The outcome means the government has achieved its ambition of passing a “straightforward” two-line bill that is confined simply to the question of whether ministers can trigger article 50 and start the formal Brexit process.

It had been widely predicted in recent days that May would fire the starting gun on Tuesday, immediately after the vote, but sources quashed speculation of quick action and instead suggested she will wait until the final week of March.

MPs voted down the amendment on EU nationals’ rights by 335 to 287, a majority of 48, with peers later accepting the decision by 274 to 135. The second amendment on whether to hold a meaningful final vote on any deal after the conclusion of Brexit talks was voted down by 331 to 286, a majority of 45, in the Commons.

A coalition of 11 grassroots groups campaigning for British nationals in the EU said it also felt for the millions of Europeans in the UK. “We share their suffering, and know exactly how stressful and unpleasant it is to live with this degree of uncertainty for ourselves and our families,” said spokeswoman Jane Golding, who lives in Germany.

2 Intel takes $15bn bet on driverless cars (BBC) US chipmaker Intel is taking a big bet on driverless cars with a $15.3bn takeover of specialist Mobileye. Intel will pay $63.54 a share in cash for the Israeli company, which develops "autonomous driving" systems.

Mobileye and Intel are already working together, along with German carmaker BMW, to put 40 test vehicles on the road in the second half of this year. Intel expects the driverless market to be worth as much as $70bn by 2030.

Jerusalem-based Mobileye has contracts with 27 car makers. It also controls about two thirds of the market for software that runs automatic emergency braking and semi-autonomous cruise control systems already fitted to cars and trucks. Technology companies are racing to launch driverless cars.

Earlier this month, Nissan test drove a converted Leaf vehicle and said it hoped to make the cars available by 2020. Google has also done extensive development of driverless cars. Announcing the deal, Intel said that as cars "progress from assisted driving to fully autonomous, they are increasingly becoming data centres on wheels".

The chipmaker reckons that by 2020 driverless cars will generate 4,000 GB, or 4 terabytes, of data a day that can be mined for information. Mobileye was founded in 1999 to develop "vision-based systems to improve on-road safety and reduce collisions".

3 The real money in virtual reality (Sanjiv Purushotham in Khaleej Times) On Nov 18, 2016 stated that the investments in augmented reality and virtual reality have grown 270 per cent versus 2015. In general, there is broad agreement across industry sources that 2017 will be a watershed year for VR. It is the year that many predict will see the emergence of a killer app that will set the story for the industry. Just as Pokemon go was the watershed moment in 2016 for AR.

Typically, VR is an impressive experience. Based on purpose-built headsets that delivers a surround visual and audio experience, closely mimicking the real world. AR on the other hand adds to the real world, not separating from it. Think Google Glass. Pokemon Go does not even need an additional piece of hardware but instead uses the phone for a mash-up of the real and virtual world.

The Business Insider report expects 50 million plus headsets to be shipped in 2022. Facebook has bought Oculus for a reported $2 billion. Google has invested $542 million in Magic Leap, an AR company. The results of these investments will start playing out over the next couple of years. For example, now both YouTube and Facebook host VR content.

Khaled Zaatarah, CEO and founder of 360VUZ understands VR and what it can do. Of Palestinian descent, he was turned away from the land of his origin at the border. At that moment, he knew what he wanted. If he couldn't see Palestine physically, he would do it virtually. In the process, he would enable himself and millions of people like him to visit places that they physically cannot.

360VUZ is now the leader and pioneer in Virtual Reality in the Middle East and it's the first Virtual Reality startup to be funded and invested in by VCs and big players in the region.

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