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The United Kingdom collaborates with McLaren Formula 1 racers in an effort to enhance their fleet

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On Saturday, the U.K. Defense Ministry made an announcement about its collaboration with McLaren, the British motor-racing Formula 1 team, in order to enhance several military initiatives.

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said in a press release that McLaren Racing would use their exceptional knowledge and skills from the racetrack to contribute to various defense initiatives. “Through our collaboration with industry, we will consistently foster innovation by exchanging knowledge, resulting in significant advantages for Defense’s engineering and operations throughout the partnership and in the future.”

Since its establishment in 1963, the McLaren Racing team has had remarkable success, having won 20 Formula 1 world championships and 183 Formula 1 grands prix.

According to the agreement, the motor-racing team will provide their extensive knowledge and experience in high-level motorsport to assist the ministry in developing cutting-edge military initiatives, such as the electrification of armored vehicles via Project Lurcher.

The relationship started with McLaren Racing and the ministry presenting their individual cars, namely the NEOM McLaren Extreme E, an all-electric off-road sports car, and the Project Lurcher armored vehicle, at BattleLab, a military innovation center located in Dorset, England.

In the release, Matt Dennington, the co-chief commercial officer for McLaren Racing, stated that the new partnership with the Ministry of Defense presents a valuable chance to utilize our expertise in innovation and technology, as well as our high-performance culture, to enhance operational efficiencies in various exciting projects.

McLaren has shown a history of successfully creating electric devices that can be easily expanded in size, including the 5G edge computing antenna for rail and integrated inverters. Additionally, the company has introduced many vehicle types, such as the McLaren Artura, a hybrid electric sports car.

Electric vehicles on the battlefield provide enhanced fleet efficiency and minimize the need for fuel replenishment, hence reducing the risk of endangering human lives.

The recent long-term collaboration follows the ministry’s decision to provide a one-year contract to Babcock International, a defense company, for the conversion of four operational British Army Land Rovers from diesel to electric power as part of Project Lurcher.

The United Kingdom has developed a 15-year strategy to achieve a transition to hybrid or entirely electric land capabilities by the year 2035, which is based on a study the Army published in 2022. Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith, the former head of the British Army’s General Staff, stated in 2021 that it is still unclear whether the army will be able to fully switch over to electric power by the target date.

“We are still far from achieving a state where carbon engines are completely absent from our primary military equipment,” Carleton-Smith said while still in his position.

The alliance aims to enhance expertise in advanced engineering, which might attract a broader range of applicants for military positions in the domains of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

 

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft releases Copilot+ PCs because it wants to turn Windows into an AI operating system

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Microsoft wants to make generative AI a big part of Windows and the PCs that run it.

This week, at a keynote event before its annual Build developer conference, the company showed off a new line of Windows computers it calls Copilot+ PCs. The computers also have generative AI-powered features like Recall that help users find apps, files, and other content they’ve seen before. Copilot is Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, and it will soon be a lot more built into Windows 11. Also, new Microsoft Surface gadgets are on the way.

All the important news has been put together here.

The Copilot+ PCs

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Copilot+ PCs are Microsoft’s idea of the best Windows hardware for AI. All of them have special chips, called NPUs, that power AI games like Recall. They also come with at least 16GB of RAM and SSD storage.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite and Plus chips will be in the first Copilot+ PCs. Microsoft says these chips can power up to 15 hours of web browsing and 20 hours of video playback. Intel and AMD have also promised to work with a number of manufacturers, such as Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung, to make processors for Copilot+ devices.

Some Copilot+ PCs can be preordered today for as little as $999.

Surface Book and Surface Pro
The Surface Laptop and Surface Pro, which Microsoft just released, are designed to be fast and last a long time.

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The most recent iteration of the Surface Laptop, which comes in either a 13.8- or 15-inch size, has undergone a redesign featuring sleeker screen bezels and contemporary aesthetics. According to the company, the device has a battery life of up to 22 hours and is claimed to be 86% faster than the Surface Laptop 5. Additionally, it is compatible with Wi-Fi 7 and features a touchpad with haptic feedback.

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Regarding the new Surface Pro, Microsoft claims that it offers a performance boost of up to 90% compared to the previous-generation Surface Pro (the Surface Pro 9). It also features a new OLED display with HDR, Wi-Fi 7 (with the option for 5G connectivity), and an improved ultrawide front-facing camera. In addition, the keyboard of the device has been strengthened with extra carbon fiber and now includes haptic feedback.

Retrieve

Windows 11’s upcoming Recall feature has the ability to retain information about apps and content that a user accessed on their PC, even if it was weeks or months ago. This feature can be helpful in locating specific information, such as in a Discord chat where the user was discussing potential clothing purchases. Recall’s timeline feature allows users to easily review their recent work and navigate through files, such as PowerPoint presentations, to find relevant information for their searches.

Microsoft claims that Recall has the capability to establish connections between colors, images, and other elements, enabling users to search for virtually anything on their personal computers using natural language, similar to the technology employed by startup Rewind. The company asserts that all user data linked to Recall is maintained as private and stored on the device without being utilized for training AI models, which is of significant importance.

Here is additional information from Microsoft: “Your snapshots are stored exclusively on your personal computer and are not shared or stored elsewhere.” To delete specific snapshots, modify and remove time intervals, or pause the process, you can access the corresponding options in the Settings menu. Alternatively, you can directly perform these actions by clicking on the icon located in the System Tray on your Taskbar. You also have the option to apply filters that prevent certain apps and websites from being saved.

Photo manipulation and real-time language translations
Windows now incorporates a greater amount of artificial intelligence (AI) than ever before, with certain AI features available exclusively on the new Copilot+ PCs.

The Super Resolution feature has the ability to automatically enhance and enlarge old photos. Copilot now has the capability to analyze images and provide users with suggestions for creative compositions. Users can utilize the Cocreator feature to generate images and instruct the AI model to modify or transform the image based on their drawings.

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Additionally, live captions with live translations can translate any audio that passes through a PC, regardless of its source (such as YouTube or a local file), into the user’s preferred language. Live translations will initially support approximately 40 languages, including English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Russian.

The Windows Copilot Runtime is a crucial component for your system.
Enabling features like Recall and Super Resolution is the Windows Copilot Runtime, a set of approximately 40 generative AI models that Microsoft refers to as “a new layer” of Windows. Similar to an IT project manager, the Windows Copilot Runtime enables generative AI-powered apps, including third-party apps, to run on an individual Copilot+ PC without relying on an internet connection. The semantic index and a vector-based system are responsible for making this possible.

According to Microsoft’s announcement, CapCut, the well-known video editor from TikTok owner ByteDance, will use the Windows Copilot Runtime to improve the effectiveness of its AI capabilities.

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Artificial Intelligence

OpenAI asked Scarlett Johansson to use her voice, she says

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OpenAI is taking away one of the voices that ChatGPT uses. The company announced on Monday that users thought it sounded like Scarlett Johansson. In response, Johansson said in a statement that she had hired a lawyer to look into the Sky voice and find out exactly how it was made. The game Sky is being stopped because OpenAI used it last week to show off its new GPT-4o model.

According to the company in a blog post, AI voices shouldn’t try to sound like famous people. For example, Sky’s voice is not an imitation of Scarlett Johansson’s; it belongs to a different professional actress who uses her own natural speaking voice. “To protect their privacy, we can’t say who does our voice work.”

Last week, a video of the demo went viral on social media because people thought the voice sounded like Scarlett Johansson’s. There were jokes about how flirtatious the voice was, and some people compared it to a man’s fantasy.

People have said that the flirty voice sounds a lot like Scarlett Johansson’s role as a seductive virtual assistant in the 2013 movie “Her.” Joaquin Phoenix plays the lead role in the movie, and the main character falls in love with the virtual assistant.

The company hasn’t said anything about the similarity between Sky’s voice and Johansson’s, but OpenAI CEO Sam Altman tweeted the word “Her” after the event.

OpenAI’s demo last week was supposed to show off the chatbot’s better ability to have conversations, but it went viral when the sultry voice laughed at almost everything an OpenAI employee said. It said to the worker, “Wow, that’s quite the outfit you’re wearing at one point.” There was another time when the chatbot got complimented and said, “Stop it, you’re making me blush.”

It says in a blog post that it wants the voices of its chatbots to sound “approachable” and “inspire trust.” It also wants them to have a voice that is “warm, engaging, confidence-building, and charismatic.”

In the future, OpenAI says it will “add more voices to ChatGPT to better match the wide range of users’ interests and preferences.”

The whole statement from Johansson is:

“In September, Sam Altman asked me to work for him as a voice actor for the current ChatGPT 4.0 system.” He told me that he thought that by speaking out about the system, I could help tech companies and artists work together and make people feel better about the huge change between humans and AI. He told me that he thought my voice would make people feel better.

I turned down the offer after giving it a lot of thought and for personal reasons. After nine months, everyone, including my friends, family, and strangers, said that the new system called “Sky” sounded a lot like me.

When I heard the demo that was made public, I was shocked, angry, and confused that Mr. Altman would be interested in a voice that sounded so much like mine that even my closest friends and news outlets couldn’t tell the difference. By tweeting the word “her,” Mr. Altman even made it sound like the resemblance was on purpose, referring to the movie in which I voiced Samantha, a chatbot who becomes close with a human.

Mr. Altman called my agent two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo came out and asked me to think again. It was out there before we could connect.

Because of what they did, I had to hire a lawyer. The lawyer sent two letters to Mr. Altman and OpenAI explaining what they had done and asking them to explain in detail how they made the “Sky” voice. Because of this, OpenAI reluctantly agreed to remove the “Sky” voice.

Many of us are dealing with deep fakes and how to protect our own likenesses, work, and identities right now. I think these are questions that need to be answered completely. “I look forward to resolution in the form of openness and the passing of appropriate legislation to help protect individual rights.”

OpenAI shared this quote from Altman: “Sky’s voice is not Scarlett Johansson’s, and it was never meant to sound like hers.” Before we reached out to Ms. Johansson, we hired the voice actor who would be Sky’s voice. Because we respect Ms. Johansson, we have stopped using Sky’s voice in our apps and games. We’re sorry that we didn’t talk to Ms. Johansson better.

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Medicine and Health

By getting COVID vaccines on a regular basis, you protect your immune system against new viruses and variants

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A new study suggests that getting your COVID shots on a regular basis might have benefits beyond just protecting you against the newest strains that are going around. The Washington University School of Medicine led a group of researchers who found that the vaccine makes antibodies that are effective against a wide range of variants. These antibodies might even help us build our defenses against future coronaviruses.

This is why immune imprinting is bad:
In the past four years, we’ve heard a lot about how COVID-19 is similar to and different from influenza, which is another very dangerous respiratory virus.

Since the flu is a seasonal disease (unlike COVID, as far as we know), scientists have to make changes to the flu vaccine every year based on their best guesses about which strains of the virus will be causing the most trouble. But there’s a catch. The immune system makes memory cells in response to a vaccine one year, but they don’t always make room for new cells that make antibodies the next year. This makes the immune response weaker. It’s called imprinting when this happens.

There was no information on whether imprinting could hurt the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine like it could with the flu shot. Even though it doesn’t happen every year like the flu, we all know how easily this virus can change into new types, so the vaccines have been updated several times.

What the research showed
To find out more, the researchers looked at antibodies from people and mice that had been vaccinated with mRNA COVID-19. The vaccines were designed to target two different types of COVID-19: the older OG variant from the time of social distance and running out of toilet paper, and the newer Omicron variants. At some point during the pandemic, some of the people who took part had also gotten antibodies from a natural COVID infection.

There was evidence of imprinting from the first vaccine, but it didn’t seem to be having the bad effects that it can have with flu shots. Not many of the antibodies that were found were specific to either original COVID or Omicron. Instead, most of them were cross-reactive, which means they recognized both types of the virus.

The antibodies were then put to the test against a group of different coronaviruses. Two types of SARS-CoV-2 came from different Omicron lineages. These included a pangolin coronavirus, the SARS virus from the 2002–2003 epidemic, and the virus that caused Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The antibodies were able to stop all of these viruses except for MERS, which is more different from the others in terms of how it evolved.

The combination of the different vaccines was what the scientists found to be the key to this cross-reactivity. When people were only vaccinated against the original COVID variant and not given an Omicron booster, they did not make the same range of antibodies. This means that staying up-to-date on the newest variants and regularly immunizing more people against them could have even bigger benefits than just keeping COVID away.

When COVID hit, we had to start over. Most people had never seen or heard of a virus like this before, so there wasn’t a level of immunity in the population to help protect us. If people keep getting vaccinated against COVID, this study raises the interesting possibility that things would be very different if a new coronavirus showed up.

“We don’t know for sure if getting a new COVID-19 vaccine every year would protect people against new coronaviruses, but it seems likely,” said Michael Diamond, a senior study author. “Based on these results, it looks like these cross-reactive antibodies may help protect against a pandemic caused by a related coronavirus if they don’t go away quickly. To be sure, we would have to keep an eye on their levels over time.”

What’s new with vaccines and the different types of FLiRT?
That all sounds pretty good, though. Just recently, there was news about a whole new set of COVID variants. How are our efforts to vaccinate people right now?

The FLiRT variants are the most recent ones to receive a lot of calls around the world. One in particular, KP.2, has recently passed JN.1 as the most common virus in the US, causing the second most infections.

Some people believe that KP.2’s mutations may have protected it from infections and vaccines in the past. However, this new research backs up what many health experts have already said: all the antibodies you’ve made in the past will still be helping to protect you.

Staying healthy is important, though, so if you can get an up-to-date shot where you live (especially if it’s been a while since your last one), you might want to think about it, or you could wait until the next round of updates. Not long ago, epidemiologist Adrian Esterman told Newsweek, “There will be a new vaccine available around September that will give much better protection. It will be based on either JN.1 or one of the FLiRT subvariants.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine was taken off the global market not long ago, which also changed the vaccine landscape. When new types of viruses came out, AstraZeneca did not change the formula for their vaccine, Vaxzevria. This is different from some other companies that make mRNA vaccines, for example.

Without these updates, Vaxzevria probably isn’t working as well as it used to, and because of a drop in demand, AstraZeneca is said to have decided to stop making it for business reasons. When it was first made, it was an important part of the global pandemic response. But now that there are so many other options—something we could only dream of in the darkest days of 2020—it seems like it’s done its job.

But if you were one of the millions of people who got this vaccine, this new antibody research should give you confidence that the good effects could last for a long time after the vaccine is no longer available. This is because of any booster shots you have had or will continue to get.

The study was written up in Nature.

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