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Engadget

Digital contact tracing apps in the US that use ENS tech from Google and Apple are still ‘weeks’ away


In the US Google says that 20 states and territories covering about 45 percent of the population are “exploring apps” based on the systems, and the first ones should launch “in the coming weeks.” Read More

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VentureBeat

Cloud contact center Talkdesk raises $143 million at a $3 billion valuation


Talkdesk, a company that provides cloud-based contact center software for enterprises, has raised $143 million in a series C round of funding, taking the company’s valuation to more than $3 billion.

Founded out of Portugal in 2011, Talkdesk — which is now headquartered in San Francisco — is one of a number of companies striving to replace legacy contact center systems with an end-to-end cloud platform for accepting, managing, and routing customer service calls, with support for SMS, live chat, email, and social networks. It comes with additional tools and services, such as virtual customer service agents and analytics. Talkdesk claims a number of big-name clients, including IBM, Dropbox, and Peloton. Read More

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VentureBeat

Amazon makes Contact Lens generally available


Last December during its re:Invent 2019 conference in Las Vegas, Amazon unveiled Contact Lens, a virtual call center product for Amazon Connect that transcribes calls while simultaneously assessing them. After a monthslong preview, Contact Lens today launched in general availability in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (Oregon), EU (Frankfurt), EU (London), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Amazon Web Services (AWS) regions, with rollouts in additional regions to come later this year. Read More

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The Verge

Microsoft’s AI-powered ‘Eye Contact’ feature is finally coming to the Surface Pro X


Microsoft’s AI-powered “eye contact” feature for the Surface Pro X is finally starting to roll out, months after it was originally announced for the ARM-powered Surface laptop last year.

The new feature is rolling out now as part of Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 20175, which means that it likely isn’t too far from a broad release.

According to Microsoft, the new feature relies on the “artificial intelligence capabilities of the Microsoft SQ1 processor” to adjust where your eyes are looking in a video call or chat to make sure that you always appear to be making eye contact with the camera — even if the lens is off to the side or you’re looking down at your display. When enabled, the eye contact correction will automatically apply to any app that uses the front camera (like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet), although it only works when the Surface Pro X is in landscape mode. Read More

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VentureBeat

Uber launches COVID-19 contact tracing service


(Reuters) — Uber has quietly launched a service to give public health officials quick access to data on drivers and riders presumed to have come into contact with someone infected with COVID-19, company officials told Reuters.

The service, offered free of charge, could help burnish the image of the ride-hailing giant, which recently launched a new ad campaign spotlighting its “No Mask, No Ride” policy in the United States.

Now being promoted to government health officials in all the countries where it operates, the service provides health departments with data about who used Uber’s services and when and allows health agencies to urge affected users into quarantine, the company officials said. Read More

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VentureBeat

Where the U.K. went wrong with its COVID-19 contact tracing app


(Reuters) — As Britain’s COVID-19 infections soared in the spring, the government reached for what it hoped could be a game changer — a smartphone app that could automate some of the work of human contact tracers.

The origin of the NHS COVID-19 App goes back to a meeting on March 7, when three Oxford scientists met experts at NHSX, the technical arm of the U.K.’s health service. The scientists presented an analysis that concluded manual contact tracing alone couldn’t control the epidemic. Read More

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Engadget

UK contact tracing app may warn you about areas with high infection rates


A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson didn’t comment on the specific details. Instead, they reiterated the goal of supporting the NHS Test and Trace service.

The extras would come alongside a possible new “PPE in your pocket” marketing scheme, and would underscore the challenges the UK faces. Widescale adoption of the contact tracing app may be important to preventing infection spikes that lead to further lockdowns, but there’s no guarantee a wary public will download it. Singapore has considered smart bracelets after struggling to recruit users for its app — the UK might not fare much better if residents see few immediate benefits. Read More

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The Verge

Japan rolls out Microsoft-developed COVID-19 contact tracing app


Japan’s government today released its coronavirus contact tracing app for iOS and Android. The apps rely on Apple and Google’s co-developed exposure notification platform, using Bluetooth to help determine whether users have come into close contact with others who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Though the app store listing simply reads “COVID-19 Contact App,” Japan refers to the app as COCOA, a somewhat convoluted backronym that stands for COVID-19 Contact-Confirming Application. It was developed by Microsoft engineers, according to Nikkei, who were hired in May after Google and Apple’s conditions reportedly led the government to abandon the work done by a Tokyo-based team in favor of a bigger corporation. Read More

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The Verge

Gulf states using COVID-19 contact tracing apps as mass surveillance tools, report says


A new study analyzing COVID-19 contact tracing apps conducted by Amnesty International has found that Bahrain and Kuwait are using their public health apps as mass surveillance tools.

The study analyzed a collection of contact tracing apps, which are designed to inform and monitor physical contact between people in the event someone contracts COVID-19, from 11 countries: Algeria, Bahrain, France, Iceland, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Norway, Qatar, Tunisia, and United Arab Emirates. It found three particularly egregious apps that collected satellite location data from users, instead of relying simply on Bluetooth signals, and matched accounts with real identities. Read More

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Engadget

Germany’s COVID-19 contact tracing app arrives this week


The country faces similar challenges, too. Contact tracing apps generally require large-scale adoption to be truly effective, and that doesn’t always happen — Singapore is considering tracing devices for every resident after relatively low uptake of its app. And while Germany’s system makes data theft and abuse more difficult, there are lingering concerns about technology that requires constant (if anonymous) Bluetooth interactions.

Still, a lot may ride on this app. Germany is poised to hold limited events like IFA as soon as September. If it’s going to go forward with these, it needs as much information as possible about potential outbreaks if it’s going to keep infections down and have visitors feel relatively safe. Read More