VR gaming gears up for the mainstream


A group of gamers wearing VR headsets at Zero Latency Singapore. The VR arcade in Singapore is the latest to pop up around the world as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream. — AFP

Arcades seek to take virtual reality gaming mainstream

 

SINGAPORE: Gamers wearing headsets and wielding rifles adorned with flashing lights battle a horde of zombies, letting out the occasional terrified shriek.

The virtual reality arcade in Singapore is part of a wave of such venues being opened as backers of the technology seek to shake off teething problems and break into the mainstream.

The buzz around virtual reality (VR) gaming has seen Taiwan-based HTC, Sony and Facebook-owned Oculus VR battling to woo consumers with a range of headgear.

But it has been slow to really take off, partly due to the hefty price of top-end headsets, beginning at around US$350 (RM1,362), and the challenges in setting up complex VR systems at home.
But VR arcades, which have been springing up around the world, particularly in Asia, are now giving people the chance to try it out more easily and for a fraction of the price.

“Given the complications of at-home, PC-based VR systems, pay-per-use, location-based entertainment venues can fill the gap,” said Bryan Ma, from International Data Corporation (IDC), a consumer technology market research firm, in a recent note on the industry.

Several VR gaming companies have made forays into Singapore, seeing the ultra-modern, affluent city-state that is home to hordes of expatriates as a good fit.

The zombie fight-out was taking place at a centre where participants stalked a room with a black floor and walls.

“I did paintball before, it’s quite fun… but I think the whole scene is much more interesting here,” said Jack Backx, a 55-year-old from the Netherlands, who was playing with colleagues from the oil and gas industry on a work day out.

The location is run by VR gaming group Zero Latency, which started in Australia and has expanded to nine countries. It uses “free-roam” virtual reality – where gamers move around in large spaces and are not tethered to computers with cables.

It’s not all intense, shoot-’em-ups – VR group Virtual Room has an outlet in Singapore that transports gamers to scenarios in the prehistoric period, a medieval castle, ancient Egypt and even a lunar landing.

Asia leads the way

VR arcades have been springing up in other places. China was an early hotbed for virtual reality gaming although the industry has struggled in recent times, while they can also be found in countries across the region including Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

Many key industry milestones over the past two years have been in Asia but arcades have appeared elsewhere – London’s first one opened last year while there are also some in the United States.

Consumer spending on virtual reality hardware, software and services is expected to more than double from US$2.2bil (RM8.56bil) in 2017, to US$4.5bil (RM17.51bil) this year, according to gaming intelligence provider SuperData Research.

For the best-quality experience, it can be relatively expensive – a session in Singapore costs Sg$59 (RM175).

“The equipment here is not cheap,” said Simon Ogilvie, executive director of Tomorrow Entertainment, which runs the Zero Latency franchise in Singapore.

The industry faces huge challenges.

China offers a cautionary tale – according to IDC, VR arcades have struggled there after expanding too quickly.

There have also been warnings that improvements in home-based technology may eventually lead to VR gaming centres suffering the same fate as traditional arcades that were once filled with Pac-Man and Street Fighter machines.

“The rise and fall of coin-operated videogame arcades in the 1980s suggests that such VR arcades may eventually fade in relevance as home-based computing power and prices fall within mass consumer reach,” said the note from IDC’s Ma.

Rebecca Assice, who runs Virtual Room in Singapore, said one challenge was getting people interested in the first place as many still did not know about the arcades.

“VR is still a really new industry,” she said. “A lot of people just don’t know this sort of activity exists.” — AFP

Related posts:

The hottest tech in videogames is virtual reality. Find out its potential effects on kids before buying a headset.   VR can make you th…
Advertisements

What parents need to know about VR ?


The hottest tech in videogames is virtual reality. Find out its potential effects on kids before buying a headset.

 

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. —Dreamstime/TNS
EVERYONE who’s tried it agrees: virtual reality is mind-blowing. Once you strap on that headset, you truly believe you’re strolling on a Parisian street, careening on a roller coaster, or immersed in the human body exploring the inner workings of the oesophagus.

But for all its coolness – and its potential uses, from education to medicine – not a lot is known about how VR affects kids. Common sense Media’s new report, Virtual Reality 101: What You Need to Know About Kids and VR, co-authored by the founding director of stanford University’s virtual Human Interaction Lab, offers a first-of-its-kind overview of the expanding uses for the technology and its potential effects on kids.

Now that VR devices from inexpensive viewers to game consoles to full-scale gaming arcades are finally here – with lots more coming soon – it’s a good idea to start thinking about how to manage VR when it comes knocking at your door.

VR can make you think and feel things you know aren’t real. Other media can give you the sense of “being there” – what’s called psychological presence – but not to the extent that VR can. This unique ability is what makes it so important to understand more about the short- and long-term effects of the technology on kids. Here are some of the key findings from the report.

Even though we don’t yet have all the answers to how vR affects kids, we know enough to consider some pros and cons. And whether kids are using vR through a mobile device like Google Cardboard, on a console like the Playstation vR, on a fully tricked-out desktop rig like the Oculus Rift, or at a mall arcade, these guidelines can help you keep any vR experience your kids have safe and fun.

Pay attention to age ratings. Check the recommended age on the headset package and don’t let younger kids use products designed for older kids. The minimum age isn’t based on medical proof of adverse effects on the brain and vision, but it’s the manufacturer’s best guess as to who the product is safest for.

Choose games wisely. Because the vR game experience can be more intense than that of regular games, it’s even more important to check reviews to make sure the gameplay, the content and the subject matter are appropriate for your kid.

Keep it safe. A few precautions: Once you have the goggles on, orient yourself to the room by touching the walls; stick to short sessions until you know how you’re affected by vR; stay seated if possible; move furniture out of the way; and have a second person as a spotter.

Pay attention to feelings – both physical and emotional. If you’re feeling sick to your stomach, dizzy, drained, or sad, angry, or anxious – give it a rest for a while.

Talk about experiences. since vR feels so real, it’s an excellent time to talk through what your kid has experienced in a game. Ask what it felt like, what the differences are between vR and regular games, and how vR helps you connect to other people’s experiences by putting you in someone else’s shoes.

Find opportunities; avoid pitfalls. Don’t let your kids play vR games that mimic experiences you wouldn’t want them to have in real life, such as using violent weapons. On the other hand, take advantage of vR that exposes kids to things they wouldn’t normally get to see, feel, and learn, such as visiting a foreign country.

Keep privacy in mind. Devices that can track your movements – including eye movements – could store that data for purposes that haven’t yet been invented. — Common sense Media/Tribune news service.

Star2 Technology  by Caroline Knorr

Silicon Valley faces tech backlash: maybe needs to be taken down to size


Polarising content and Russian manipulation of social media are fuelling calls for greater regulation of firms like Google and FB. — 123rf.com

 

Demonstrators at a rally in opposition to white supremacists and the postponed right-wing “March on Google” protest of James Damore’s firing that was originally planned the same day. — Bay Area News Group/TNS

Once a darling, tech hub Silicon Valley is under attack for its technologies which are damaging our lives.

ONCE upon a time, there was a beautiful land filled with bright minds and gleaming prospects.

People called it Silicon Valley, and out of it flowed knowledge, ideas and innovations that gave us almost-unthinkable powers to learn, to communicate, to transform our lives into exactly what we wanted them to be. The region’s denizens toiled happily at the cutting edge, and day by day, they were making the world a better place.

But today, this beautiful land is under attack from within and without. The products and services it sends out into the world are being called addictive, divisive and even damaging, raising the cry that instead of making the world better, they are making it worse.

As technology plays a deeper and more pervasive role in nearly every aspect of our lives, the industry that has upended everything from shopping and travel to education and human relationships is facing a backlash the likes of which Silicon Valley has never seen.

Polarising online content and Russian manipulation of social media platforms have fuelled calls from the right and the left for greater regulation of firms like Google, Facebook and Twitter. World wide web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, Republican US Senator John McCain, leftist billionaire George Soros, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson have all joined the chorus demanding the government take action.


Terrific or terrible?

Critics argue that the big tech firms have become too economically dominant, intruded too far into our lives and have too much control over what gets seen and shared online. At the same time, critics contend, those same companies have failed to take responsibility for the misuse of their services by malevolent actors, for the spread of fake news and for the way their platforms and algorithms can be gamed.

Stanford computer science students are protesting Apple, demanding it make less addictive devices.

The #MeToo movement has amplified a debate over sexual harassment and diversity in Silicon Valley. And conservatives have attacked the whole region as a liberal echo chamber that stifles precisely the open debate it claims to embrace.

Thus the backlash.

“What makes it categorically different now is that this is the first time I have seen that people are saying, ‘Hmmm, maybe Silicon Valley needs to be taken down to size,’ said Leslie Berlin, project historian for Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives. “This notion that what Silicon Valley represents actually threatens rather than embodies what makes the country great, that is new.”

Berners-Lee in an open letter recently called the tech giants “a new set of gatekeepers” whose platforms can be “weaponised” to widen social rifts and interfere in elections. Benioff told CNBC in January that social media was “addictive” and should be regulated like cigarettes.

Carlson wants Google treated like a public utility because it “shuts down free speech for political reasons”.

Former president Barack Obama, at a February conference at MIT, said social media was Balkanizing public discourse, creating “entirely different realities” that contribute to “gridlock and venom and polarisation in politics”.

Even Facebook has jumped in with an unusual mea culpa, issuing a news release in February admitting it was “far too slow to recognise how bad actors were abusing our platform”.

Raking in the money

Despite its critics, Silicon Valley remains hugely successful and influential, with 21% of employed people working in tech, according to a 2017 Federal Reserve Bank report. Though the region’s economy has shown some signs of slowing, job growth in Silicon Valley has been more than double the national rate since the beginning of the economic recovery in 2010.

And the region remains home to the two most valuable public companies in the world, Apple and Google’s parent firm Alphabet, as well as world-class universities. Every day, people around the world benefit from Silicon Valley-built tools that have transformed communication, opened access to information, and made life easier.

The notion that Silicon Valley’s best days are over is far from new – people have been predicting its demise ever since the advent of the microprocessor, said Berlin.

“It was going to be the oil shocks of the 1970s that were going to take it down, and then competition from Japan, India and China, the Dot Com bust, Y2K – it’s just been one thing after another, the 2008 crash,” Berlin said. “Time and again, Silicon Valley has bounced back from these perceived threats. Silicon Valley has always been sort of the golden child of the Golden State.”

But this time, Berlin and others see something shifting.

“It is unprecedented,” UC Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Abhishek Nagaraj, said of the backlash. “I think this is because of how deeply penetrated tech is in people’s lives.”

Nagaraj, who studies the tech industry, compared the demonisation of Silicon Valley to the outcry against Wall Street after deceptive investment banking practices knocked the United States into the Great Recession.

“It appears as if, basically, tech is the new finance,” Nagaraj said.

Overwhelming force

Increasingly, the public views the tech industry as a force against which they are powerless, said San Jose State University anthropology professor Jan English-Lueck, who researches Silicon Valley’s culture.

“It’s now on people’s radar screen to be a place of the elite, where they’re changing the world in a way that ordinary people don’t have an influence on that change,” EnglishLueck said.

While the devices and social media platforms created by hugely successful Silicon Valley tech firms have given us new ways to connect, they’ve also thrown the worst of human nature into our faces, said English-Lueck.

“You don’t have to look in somebody’s eyes when you’re telling someone something ugly,” English-Lueck said. “That’s really exaggerated people’s ability to hate.”

She believes the optimistic view of technology as the great liberator and connector helped keep major tech firms from building more safeguards into their platforms to prevent vicious online attacks, dissemination of fake news and nation-state intrusions.

“Do we want free speech and free action that’s amplified by the Internet?” she said. “Sometimes we don’t want that.”

Stephen Milligan, CEO of pioneering San Jose data-storage firm Western Digital, doesn’t think technology can solve everything.

But Milligan doesn’t buy the notion that Silicon Valley has lost its bloom. The region’s companies are still trying to solve “real problems” in the world and having a positive impact on people’s lives.

“It’s still cool,” Milligan said. “I actually think it’s more cool.”

Silicon Valley boosters such as Peggy Burke, CEO of Palo Alto branding agency 1185, will tell you the technology industry can fix the problems it creates.

“You have to weigh the good and the bad, and if the bad gets so bad that it outweighs the good, someone will solve for that,” Burke said. “If there’s a problem – traffic, transportation, housing, stopping Russians, fake news – someone in the Valley right now is working on solving for that problem. I’ve been in the Valley for 30 years and I’ve seen it happen over and over.”

A reckoning for the region is likely, but it won’t be a fatal one, Berkeley’s Nagaraj said. The problems arising from technology will exacerbate the ongoing decentralisation of innovation, as boot camps bring entrepreneurial skills to new regions, and clusters of expertise – in “deep learning” artificial intelligence in Toronto, for example – lead to cooperative projects linking the Valley to other areas, he said.

“It’s going to be a much more collaborative process than one of replacement,” he said. “We are moving to a world where not all the big hits come from Silicon Valley.”

Source: By Ethan Baron – The San Jose Mercury News/Tribune News Service

 

Related posts:

Goodbye, Silicon Valley

 

 Fintech – disruptive technology

 

Startup’s components of a support system, govt incentives, market access – part 5, 6, 7

 How components of a support system nurture nascent companies – part 5 ….

 

The Malaysian world’s top performing IFCA Software stock surges 1,300% in Kuala Lumpur! 

 

 BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin

Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating…

What is Blockchain Technology, its uses and applications?

BLOCKCHAIN beyond Bitcoin


Blockchain is beginning to enter the spotlight as organisations see uses for it over and above the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. From combating fake degrees to being able to track the origin of organic products, blockchain is proving to be a reliable solution in trust.

The underlying technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and ethereum is blockchain.

Creating trust in transactions Varanasi: Blockchain can be used to store verified documents so that users don’t have to keep validating important documents every time it’s submitted to a new party.

While blockchain was confined to finanin cial tech the early days, many organisations are starting to employ it in other industries because the technology is highly secure and even allows for transparency.

This encourages trust and in some cases even eliminates the need for a third party to validate the data, making it valuable to many organisations.

WITH fake doctorates and degrees becoming increasingly common, how are employers and graduates to find an efficient way to bridge the gap in trust?

According to Dr Mohamed Ariff Ameedeen, from University Malaysia Pahang (UMP), the solution could lie with blockchain technology.

As director of IBM’s Centre of excellence, which has been based in the university since 2012, he is continuously exploring novel uses for blockchain beyond cryptocurrency.

he said one of the early ideas the team was working on was a secure database that would prevent students from hacking to change their grades.

however, his team then decided to solve a more pressing issue affecting universities – fake degrees.

Mohamed Ariff said some universities are already integrating QR codes into graduates’ certificates to help validate credentials. however, even QR codes are now easily tampered with.

Taking it one step further, the UMP team created a system called Valid8, a QR code linked to a student profile secured by blockchain, which contains the student’s name, photo, title of degree and the year it was awarded.

This made tampering with the QR code pointless, as it only acted as a key to the information on the blockchain.

“even if someone used another person’s QR code, the data would clearly show it was not the person’s name or photo connected to the certificate,” he said.

he added that all the info placed on the blockchain is already publicly available so it would not compromise the students’ privacy.

Mohamed Ariff said making the data trustworthy meant time savings – as employers don’t have to contact the university to verify the certificate, they can be quicker in deciding if they should hire the job applicant.

So far, UMP has run a pilot programme with Valid8 by issuing supplementary certificates to 180 graduates from the industrial Management Faculty.

Mohamed Ariff said it took a couple of days to configure the blockchain node and a few more days to input the 180 students’ data.

“Although entering the information is relatively straightforward, migrating 15 years of old data (of earlier graduates) that includes more than just the initial four data points is going to take a bit longer,” he said.

The full-scale test for Valid8 will be the students graduating at the year-end convocation, estimated to be around 2,000.

To make the student profiles more useful, Mohamed Ariff said the team is planning to add more information such as grades, attendance, courses and maybe even disciplinary records.

“The beauty of blockchain is that it can grow with time and track a student’s academic life. imagine how much data it would have if a profile was set up for students when they entered kindergarten,” he said.

To encourage such a situation, UMP is open to collaborating with other universities that wanted to adopt blockchain for student iDs.

however, eduValue founder Barry Ew Yong warned that even a secured system has an obvious point of failure – human error.

he added that once errors entered the system there is a chance that it will be perpetuated. “Technology does not increase trust. Systems increase trust, though technology can be a useful tool to do so,” he said.

Like with UMP’s Valid8, the quality assurance startup has adopted blockchain to secure graduate certificates, using the technology to store a softcopy of the degree.

The company serves around 30 private schools, mostly tertiary schools offering up to Masters. Founded in Singapore in December 2012, it only just started employing blockchain.

he said the company uses a two stage system to ensure that only qualified students would be given certificates.

in the first stage it will help set up the standard by which students will be evaluated in order for them to graduate, and the approval process will be audited – schools found lacking will be struck off the system.

in the second stage it will vet all data being uploaded to the platform.

For UMP this is just a start – it’s also testing a blockchain based e-wallet called Xchain that students, lecturers, staff and vendors would eventually use for all transactions in UMP.

Beyond the security benefits, Mohamed Ariff said the open-nature of blockchain’s shared ledger meant the spending patterns could be analysed, making the university a giant data pool.

“With a population of 13,000 users, there’s a lot of potential data. And as a university, we love data,” he said.

Xchain is still in beta as the team is waiting to get Bank Negara to issue it an e-wallet license.

Mohamed Ariff concluded that blockchain is promising, especially for the education field, which relies on data that is open to peer review while also being trustworthy and tamper-evident.

ACADEMICIAN hu Dong, who advises Shanghai Jiaotong University’s Zero Bay incubator, said the supply chain industry could see huge advantages by having a more efficient and transparent data manto agement system.

Blockchain can be used track a product’s origin and determine if the materials were sourced as claimed, which is invaluable to sectors such as organic farming and ethical diamond mining. Also, by tracking the product’s trail along each stop on the supply chain, should an issue arise that requires a product to be recalled, the company could zero in on where the fault occurred.

For example, if a company found that the computer it’s making has a faulty hard drive, it would be able to identify which one of its factories was responsible. it then only needs to recall the computers that originated from the affected factory instead of all its products.

This would save cost as the recall will be smaller

and speed up the process which could help limit damage to the company’s reputation.

Dong, who was in Malaysia for a conference by blockchain incubator WeMerge, said the highlight of blockchain is accountability and transparency so it would create a higher degree of trust, which makes it great for smart contracts.

A smart contract can digitally facilitate, verify, or enforce the performance of a contract without the need for third parties. And if executed via blockchain, the transactions are trackable and irreversible.

He said smart contracts could ensure factories, for instance, get paid faster, as the payment can be released once the contract is verified through the blockchain instead of waiting for a third-party to process it.

Startup Eximchain, which has raised US$20mil (rM78.41mil) in funding to continue developing blockchain solutions, is offering Smart Contracts.

Its solution allows banks to verify the validity of orders and provide the necessary financing; and the transaction history can be used by suppliers to prove their reliability to buyers and rating institutions. For banker turned blockchain technologist Bobby Varanasi, limiting the technology’s application to Bitcoin is just shortsighted.

The co-founder of Thynkblynk Technologies, along with partner Parag Jain, have developed ChainTrail, a “trust platform” for storing verified documents, including education certificates, medical records and contracts.

By using ChainTrail, you don’t have to keep verifying a document each time it’s presented to a new party.

However, Varanasi said the company was not in the business of certification and that the onus was on the data provider, be it a university or bank, to ensure that the data is correct.

“A lie, once committed to blockchain, would become an immutable one,” said Jain, referring to how data can only be added but not modified on a blockchain.

To mitigate such risks, ChainTrail vets customers by validating their credentials and ensuring that they are authorised to represent stakeholders.

For instance, it would verify that a lecturer is from the university he or she claims to represent.

It also offers templates for agreements such as contracts and term sheets.

“In today’s world, lack of trust is increasingly permeating the world of trade, both politically and financially… blockchain as a tech has finally presented an opportunity to create trust amongst a variety of parties that transact with each other,” said Varanasi.

Chain of trust:

 

Built for cryptocurrency Bitcoin, blockchain is being used in innovative ways in a number of industries.

  

Basics of blockchain

LIKE a lot of complex technologies, blockchain is easier to understand once you break it down.

A blockchain is made up of a block of “transaction data” which is why it’s also called a ledger. Each block also has a hash – a string of numbers which uniquely identifies the block.

And similar to how a person has their parent’s names added to theirs, a block features a portion of the preceding block’s hash.

Put in terms of family lines, it’s like how you could tell that Amir bin Ali is the son of Ali bin Abu, who is in turn the son of Abu bin Bakar, and so on.

Basically, the hash “chains” the blocks together, by affirming their place in relation to the blocks before and after, hence the term blockchain.

Security in numbers

A key feature of blockchain is security. Blockchain runs on the paraphrased adage that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.

So rather than making it tamper-proof, blockchain is tamper-evident – this is done by making a copy of the blockchain available to all members of the network, which is why blockchain is sometimes referred to as a public ledger.

As members of the network all have a copy of the same blockchain, if anyone’s chain is compromised by a hacker, it would look different from others.

If you have ever tried to organise a movie night with an extended group of friends on a WhatsApp group, you’ll get the idea.

Say, you want to watch Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War and get the ball rolling by choosing the day and cinema, and then ask whoever that’s interested to add their names to the list.

The original message can’t be altered as it has been sent to the group. Instead everyone adds to the data by including their names and maybe a request for a specific timeslot. This concept is called “persistence”, wherein the older data cannot be retroactively altered.

Though a cheeky friend could change the date to try to troll the group, he wouldn’t be able to hide the fact that earlier messages will show a different date. This is what makes a public ledger like the blockchain tamper-evident.

Blockchain transaction

The blockchain is stored on computers, also known as nodes, that are connected via a peer-to-peer network.

Related posts:

What is Blockchain Technology, its uses and applications?

Lift-off in space plane race as China tests hypersonic drone model


China launched a scaled-down model of a multipurpose, reusable space plane from a test site in the Gobi Desert late last month, part of its race to develop space travel technology.

The hypersonic space drone lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Inner Mongolia, accelerated to more than five times the speed of sound and reached orbital altitude before returning safely to ground, according to a researcher with knowledge of the experiment.

China’s goal was to develop a space plane for both military and civilian missions, capable of travelling fast enough to penetrate missile defence systems and with the heft to help rebuild satellite networks or lift tourists to space, the researcher said.

Development of the prototype was led by the China Aerodynamics Research and Development Centre in Mianyang, Sichuan province. Also known as Base 29, the military-run facility has some of the most advanced wind tunnels for hypersonic research in the country.

China fires up advanced hypersonic missile challenge to US defences

Ye Youda, a senior hypersonic vehicle researcher working at the base, confirmed the test took place but said he could not give details because the project was classified for defence purposes.

Without revealing the nature of the vehicle, state-run Science and Technology Daily said on February 23 that the test was a “breakthrough”, with the vehicle landing precisely as planned.

Lead scientist Liu Gang was quoted as saying it was the first time China had conducted this kind of test.

Liu said the mission would help China acquire critical technology for engineering and scientific research in space.

“It signals … a historic breakthrough in speed, altitude and applications,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, a major defence contractor in Beijing, confirmed on Tuesday that it was also working on space plane technology.

Zhang Hongwen, director of the company’s Third Research Academy, said China’s space plane would be very different from the reusable rocket developed by California-based SpaceX.

“It will be able to take off from a normal airport and take spacecraft into orbit. It will be a revolution for space transport,” Zhang told state broadcaster China Central Television.

He said Tengyun, a civilian version of the space plane, would be able to carry both passengers and cargo into orbit or to a space station.

The vehicle would be reusable – bringing down launch costs – and be driven by a hybrid engine that could take in air in the atmosphere and burn rocket fuel once in space.

Space planes are expected to be more attractive than rockets for tourists because they allow for smoother flight.

Beijing to New York in 2 hours? Chinese team reveal hypersonic plane ambition

Li Junwei, a professor from Beijing Institute of Technology’s school of aerospace engineering, said it was extremely difficult to building an engine that would work both in space and air.

“The aircraft can lose control while going through the boundary of different environments,” he said.

Other nations are developing similar technology. The US military has teamed up with Boeing to develop XS-1, a hypersonic space plane that would launch vertically as a rocket and return to ground as a plane.

Also known as the Phantom Express, the vehicle would be as large as a commercial airliner and be able to put a medium-size satellite to lower-Earth orbit.

The US project was launched last year with the first flight scheduled for 2020.

Stephen Chen
South China Morning Post

Stephen Chen http://www.scmp.com/news

 

More on this story

Researchers say the I-plane’s two layers of wings will mean it can handle significantly heavier payload than existing hypersonic vehicles. Photo: Science China Press


Beijing to New York in 2 hours? Hypersonic plane ambition revealed

More on this story

Weapons under development by China and Russia – as well as by the United States – can fly at many times the speed of sound and are designed to beat regular anti-missile defence systems.

East Asia

Why the US falls behind China in the hypersonic weapons race

CHINA’S Claims it has ‘QUANTUM’ Radar may leave $17 Billion F-35 Naked

 

Related post:

 

Singing and dancing to world domination

Tailwinds and headwinds into 2018


 

2017 was a year of smooth tailwinds, even though everyone was
mesmerized by the Trump reality show. Heading into 2018, one issue on
everyone’s minds is whether headwinds will finally catch up when the
tide goes out.

ALL markets function on a heady mix between greed and fear. When the markets are bullish, the investors know no fear and regulators think they walk on water. When fear grips the markets, and everyone is staring at the abyss, all eyes are on the central banks whether they will come and rescue the markets.

Last year was one of smooth tailwinds, even though everyone was mesmerised by the Trump reality show.

Heading into 2018, one issue on everyone’s minds is whether headwinds will finally catch up when the tide goes out.

Last week at a Tokyo conference, Fed vice chairman Randy Quarles was visibly confident about the US economy. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth through the final three quarters of 2017 averaged almost 3%, faster than the 2% average annual pace recorded over the previous eight years.

The European recovery, barring Brexit, looked just as rosy. Eurozone growth has stepped up to 2.7% in 2017, with inflation at around 1.2% and unemployment down to 8.7%, the lowest level recorded in the eurozone since January 2009.

In Asia, 2017 Chinese GDP grew by 6.9% to 59.7 trillion yuan or US$9.4 trillion, just under half the size of the United States. With per capita GDP reaching US$8,836, China is expected to reach advanced country status by 2022.

Meanwhile, the Indian economy has recovered from its stumble last year and may overtake China in growth speed in 2018, with an estimated rate of 7.4%.

The tailwinds behind the growth recovery seem so strong that the IMF’s January world economic outlook for 2018 sees growth firming up across the board. The IMF’s headline outlook is “brighter prospects, optimistic markets and challenges ahead.”

Expressing official prudence, “risks to the global growth forecast appear broadly balanced in the near term, but remain skewed to the downside over the medium term.”

Having climbed almost without pause in most of 2017 to January 2018, the financial markets skidded in the first week of February. On Feb 5, the Dow plunged 1,175 points, the biggest point drop in history. The boom in 2017 was too good to be true and fear came back with the re-appearance of volatility.

Amazingly, the drop of around 11% from the Dow peak of 26,616 on Jan 26 to 23,600 on Feb 12 was followed by a rebound of 9% in the last fortnight.

Global stock market indices became highly co-related as losses in Wall Street resulted in profit taking in other markets which then also reacted in the same direction.

Will headwinds disrupt the market this year or will there be tailwinds like the economic forecasts are suggesting?

What makes the reading for 2018 difficult is that the current buoyant stock market (and weak bond market) is driven less by the real economy, but by the current loose monetary policy of the leading central banks.

With clearer signs of firming real recovery, central banks are beginning to hint at removing their decade long stimulus by cutting back their balance sheet expansion and suggesting that interest rate hikes are in the books.

The projected three hikes for Fed interest rates in 2018 augur negatively on stock markets and worse on bond markets.

The broad central bank readout is as follows.

The Bank of England and the Fed are leaning on the hawkish side, the European Central Bank (ECB) is divided and the Bank of Japan will still be on the quantitative easing stance.

In his first testimony to Congress, the new Fed chairman Jay Powell was interpreted as hawkish. In his words, “In gauging the appropriate path for monetary policy over the next few years, the FOMC will continue to strike a balance between avoiding an overheated economy and bringing PCE price inflation to 2% on a sustained basis. In the FOMC’s view, further gradual increases in the federal funds rate will best promote attainment of both of our objectives.”

What is more interesting is the divided stance facing the ECB. In his latest statement to the European Parliament, ECB president Mario Draghi reaffirmed that the eurozone economy is expanding robustly. Because inflation appears subdued, although wage growth has picked up, he argued that “patience and persistence with respect to monetary policy is still needed for inflation to sustainably return to levels of below, or close to, 2%.”

In an unusually critical and almost unprecedented article published last month by Project Syndicate, the former ECB Board member and deputy president of the Bundesbank Jurgen Stark called the ECB “irresponsible”, suggesting that its refusal to normalise policy faster is drastically increasing the risks to financial stability. In short, the bigger partners in Europe think tightening is the right way to go.

If both central banks begin to reverse their loose monetary policy and unwind their balance sheets, liquidity will become tighter and interest rates will rise.

Financial markets have therefore good reason to be nervous on central bank policy risks.

There is ample experience of mishandling of policy reversals.

After the taper tantrum of 2014, when markets fell on the fear of the Fed unwinding too early and too fast, central bankers are particularly aware that they are walking a delicate tightrope.

If they reverse too fast, markets will fall and they will be blamed. If they reverse too slow, the economy could overheat and inflation will return with a vengeance, subjecting them to more blame.

In the meantime, trillions of liquid funds are waiting in the sidelines itching to bet on market recovery at the next market dip. But this time around, it is not the market’s invisible hand, but visible central bank policies that may pull the trigger.

Man-made policies will always be subject to fickle politics. The raw fear is that once the market drops, it won’t stop unless the central banks bail everyone out again. This means that central bankers are still caught in their own liquidity trap. Blamed if you do tighten, and damned by inflation if you don’t.

There are no clear tailwinds or headwinds in 2018 – only lots of uncertain turbulence and murky central bank tea leaves. Fear and greed will dominate the markets in the days ahead.


Andrew Sheng is distinguished fellow, Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong.

Related Links

Market weighed by external pressures | KLSE Screener

 

US Fed’s Powell nods to stronger economy, backs … – KLSE Screener

 

Jack Ma’s Alibaba to take on Kuala Lumpur’s traffic Artificial Intellligence project


Alibaba Cloud, which set up a datacentre in Malaysia last year, is considering a second one to further develop a local ecosystem, its president Simon Hu said. — Reuters

 

Jack Ma’s Life Advice Will Change Your Life (MUST WATCH) 

 

KUALA LUMPUR: Alibaba Group will set up a traffic control system harnessing artificial intelligence for Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, its first such service outside China, as the e-commerce giant pushes to grow its cloud computing business.

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, said on Monday it plans to make live traffic predictions and recommendations to increase traffic efficiency in Kuala Lumpur by crunching data gathered from video footage, traffic bureaus, public transportation systems and mapping apps.

It is partnering with state agency Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and the Kuala Lumpur city council to roll out the technology, which would be localised and integrated with 500 inner city cameras by May.

The partnership comes after Alibaba founder Jack Ma and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak launched an “e-hub” facility last year, part of an initiative aimed at removing trade barriers for smaller firms and emerging nations.

Alibaba Cloud, which set up a data centre in Malaysia last year, is considering a second one to further develop a local ecosystem, its president Simon Hu said on Jan 29.

He declined to elaborate on the company’s total investments made and planned for in Malaysia, but said it was “no small amount” and that the investments would continue if there was demand for cloud computing technologies.

MDEC’s chief executive officer Yasmin Mahmood said there was no estimate of City Brain’s impact on traffic in Kuala Lumpur yet. The traffic management system in the Chinese city of Hangzhou had resulted in reports of traffic violations with up to 92% accuracy, emergency vehicles reaching their destinations in half the time and overall increase in traffic speed by 15%.

Najib has forged close ties with China in recent years. Last year, the Malaysian leader announced a slew of infrastructure projects, many funded by China, as he worked up momentum towards a general election he must call by the middle of this year. — Reuters

Related Alibaba To Take On Kuala Lumpur’s Traffic In First Foreign Artificial
Intelligence Project

Relaterd Post

Jack Ma advisor to Malaysian Govt on digital economy to start with e-FTZ 

%d bloggers like this: