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BMW announces the iX, its next-gen electric flagship

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At its (virtual) NextGen 2020 event, BMW today announced that the BMW iX, its new all-electric flagship previously known as the iNext, will launch at the end of 2021. Based on BMW’s fifth-generation eDrive technology, the iX will get a new look — and new kidney grille design — but its dimensions will be similar to the existing X5 or X6 SUVs. The company promises about 300 miles of range and 0-60 mph times of just under five seconds.

BMW has not released any pricing for the iX yet. Rumors earlier this year pegged it at close to $100,000.

The company says it will have more than a million electrified cars on roads by the end of 2021. Right now, about 13% of all BMW and MINI models registered in Europe are either all-electric or plug-in hybrids, and the expectation is that by 2030, that number will increase to 50%.

Image Credits: BMW

Coming next year, that lineup will include a number of new additions to the company’s electrified fleet, but the iX is clearly the focus here, though the next-generation eDrive system will also feature in the 2021 i4, for example, and BMW is experimenting with a 5-Series model that features three of these new motors for a maximum power output of 720 hp (we’re still talking about a company that made its name by combining performance and luxury, after all).

Image Credits: BMW

With DC fast charging at up to 200 kW, the iX should be able to charge from 10 to 80% in about 40 minutes. A 10-minute top-off at a fast-charging station should be enough for about 75 miles. For the most part, that’s in line with comparable electric cars, though Tesla’s V3 Supercharging promises somewhat faster recharge times and others can charge at more than 200 kW.

In addition to being BMW’s electric flagship, the iNext/iX unsurprisingly also showcases the company’s latest technology innovations. That’s obviously no surprise, given that BMW has used various iterations of its iNext concept car to think about how to best integrate new technologies into its next-generation of vehicles.

Image Credits: BMW

For the iX, these include all the standard driver assistance systems you’d expect today (though details there are scarce), a head-up display and large screens with a 12.3-inch instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch control display. But what’s maybe even more interesting here is the company’s over philosophy which the company describes as “shy tech.”

“Shy tech refers to technology that remains largely in the background and only reveals its functions when they are being used,” the company says in today’s announcement. “On entry into the car, the function in question is the electrically powered door locks. The interior welcomes the occupants of all five seats with a luxurious lounge-style ambience, and provides the space required to explore new ways of using time spent inside the car.”

For the most part, the user interface also strips away all distractions to allow the driver to focus on the road.

Image Credits: BMW

It’s no secret that BMW would like to — at some point — allow drivers to lounge in their self-driving cars. BMW hasn’t talked about the car’s driver assistant features yet, so that future hasn’t quite arrived just yet, but the company argues that by leaving out the usual center tunnel, it can provide a more “airy and specious feel” that “accentuates the lounge-style ambience and long-distance comfort provided by the interior.”

Image Credits: BMW

In many ways, the iX is the current apotheosis of BMW’s electric ambitions, and it is worth noting that, unlike others, the company is keeping a lot of the development in-house. That includes its Dingolfing plant, but as the company noted today, it is also developing its own battery cells and a new pilot plant for building its batteries near Munich should open in 2022. “This pilot plant will make BMW the first carmaker to cover the entire process chain for electric driving in-house,” BMW argues.

Image Credits: BMW

This wouldn’t be a major tech launch if it didn’t also feature a 5G aspect and indeed, the iX will feature built-in 5G connectivity, which should make it among the first — if not the first — 5G-enabled production car. Ideally, that means higher bandwidth and lower latency when the car needs to connect to the BMW cloud. But as we’ve all learned from recent phone launches, 5G is currently more of a buzzword than game-changing technology. What’s maybe more important here is that it may enable new C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle to Everything) solutions that will allow vehicles to communicate with each other and nearby smartphones — even without a mobile network.

Image Credits: BMW

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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Pinterest tests online events with dedicated ‘class communities’

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Pinterest is getting into online events. The company has been spotted testing a new feature that allows users to sign up for Zoom classes through Pinterest, while creators use Pinterest’s class boards to organize class materials, notes and other resources, or even connect with attendees through a group chat option. The company confirmed the test of online classes is an experiment now in development, but wouldn’t offer further details about its plans.

The feature itself was discovered on Tuesday by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong, who found details about the online classes by looking into the app’s code.

Currently, you can visit some of these “demo” profiles directly — like “@pinsmeditation” or “@pinzoom123,” for example — and view their listed Class Communities. However, these communities are empty when you click through. That’s because the feature is still unreleased, Wong says.

When and if the feature is later launched to the public, the communities would include dedicated sections where creators will be able to organize their class materials — like lists of what to bring to class, notes, photos and more. They could also use these communities to offer a class overview and description, connect users to a related shop, group chat feature and more.

Creators are also able to use the communities — which are basically enhanced Pinterest boards — to respond to questions from attendees, share photos from the class and otherwise interact with the participants.

When a user wants to join a class, they can click a “book” button to sign up, and are then emailed a confirmation with the meeting details. Other buttons direct attendees to download Zoom or copy the link to join the class.

It’s not surprising that Pinterest would expand into the online events space, given its platform has become a popular tool for organizing remote learning resources during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers have turned to Pinterest to keep track of lesson plans, get inspiration, share educational activities and more. In the early days of the pandemic, Pinterest reported record usage when the company saw more searches and saves globally in a single March weekend than ever before in its history, as a result of its usefulness as a online organizational tool.

This growth has continued throughout the year. In October, Pinterest’s stock jumped on strong earnings after the company beat on revenue and user growth metrics. The company brought in $443 million in revenue, versus $383.5 million expected, and grew its monthly active users to 442 million, versus the 436.4 million expected. Outside of the coronavirus impacts, much of this growth was due to strong international adoption, increased ad spend from advertisers boycotting Facebook and a surge of interest from users looking for iOS 14 home screen personalization ideas.

Given that the U.S. has failed to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, many classes, events and other activities will remain virtual even as we head into 2021. The online events market may continue to grow in the years that follow, too, thanks to the kickstart the pandemic provided the industry as a whole.

“We are experimenting with ways to help creators interact more closely with their audience,” a Pinterest spokesperson said, when asked for more information.

Pinterest wouldn’t confirm additional details about its plans for online events, but did say the feature was in development and the test would help to inform the product’s direction.

Pinterest often tries out new features before launching them to a wider audience. Earlier this summer, TechCrunch reported on a Story Pins feature the company had in the works. Pinterest then launched the feature in September. If the same time frame holds up for online events, we could potentially see the feature become more widely available sometime early next year.

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SpaceX targeting next week for Starship’s first high-altitude test flight

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SpaceX looks ready to proceed to the next crucial phase of its Starship spacecraft development program: A 15km (50,000 feet) test flight. This would far exceed the max height that any prior Starship prototype has achieved so far, since the current record-setting hop test maxed out at around 500 feet. Elon Musk says that SpaceX will look to make its first high-altitude attempt sometime next week.

This tentative date (these are always subject to change) follows a successful static test fire of the current SN8 generation prototype — essentially just firing the test spacecraft’s Raptor engines while it remains stationary on the pad. That’s a crucial step that paves the way for any actual flight, since it proves that the spacecraft can essentially hold together and withstand the pressures of active engines before it leaves the ground.

SpaceX’s SN8 prototype is different from prior versions in a number of ways, most obviously because it has an actual nosecone, along with nose fins. The prototypes that did the short test hops, including SN6, had what’s known as a mass simulator up top, which weighs as much as an actual Starship nose section but looks very different.

Musk added that the chances of an SN8 high-altitude flight going to plan aren’t great, estimating that there’s “maybe a 1/3 chance” given how many things have to work correctly. He then noted that that’s the reason SpaceX has SN9 and SN10 ready to follow fast, which is a theme of Starship’s development program to date: building successive generations of prototypes rapidly in parallel in order to test and iterate quickly.

We’ll likely get a better idea of when the launch will take place due to alerts filed with local regulators, so watch this space next week as we await this major leap forward in SpaceX’s Starship program.

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Police case filed against Netflix executives in India over ‘A Suitable Boy’ kissing scene

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Netflix, which has invested more than $500 million to gain a foothold in India in recent years, is slowly finding out just about what all could upset some people in the world’s second-largest internet market: Apparently everything.

A police case has been filed this week against two top executives of the American streaming service in India after a leader of the governing party objected to some scenes in a TV series.

The show, “A Suitable Boy,” is an adaptation of the award-winning novel by Indian author Vikram Seth that follows the life of a young girl. It has a scene in which the protagonist is seeing kissing a Muslim boy at a Hindu temple.

Narottam Mishra, the interior minister of the central state of Madhya Pradesh, said a First Information Report (an official police complaint) had been filed against Monika Shergill, VP of Content at Netflix and Ambika Khurana, Director of Public Policies for the firm, over objectionable scenes in the show that hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.

“I had asked officials to examine the series ‘A Suitable Boy’ being streamed on Netflix to check if kissing scenes in it were filmed in a temple and if it hurt religious sentiments. The examination prima facie found that these scenes are hurting the sentiments of a particular religion,” he said.

Gaurav Tiwari, a BJP youth leader who filed the complaint, demanded an apology from Netflix and makers of the series (directed by award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair), and said the film promoted “love jihad,” an Islamophobic conspiracy theory that alleges that Muslim men entice Hindi women into converting their religion under the pretext of marriage.

Netflix declined to comment.

In recent days, a number of people have expressed on social media their anger at Netflix over these “objectionable” scenes. Though it is unclear if all of them — if any — are a Netflix subscriber.

The incident comes weeks after an ad from the luxury jewelry brand Tanishq — part of the 152-year-old salt-to-steel conglomerate — which celebrated interfaith marriage received intense backlash in the country.

For Netflix, the timing of this backlash isn’t great. The new incident comes days after the Indian government announced new rules for digital media, under which the nation’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will be regulating online streaming services. Prior to this new rule, India’s IT ministry oversaw streaming services, and according to a top streaming service executive, online services enjoyed a great degree of freedom.

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