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Amazon rolling out home robot soon

Amazon mulls to launch Astro-- first household robot- powered by its Alexa smart home technology.

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Amazon rolling out home robot soon
GNN Media: Representational Photo

The robot can be remote-controlled when not at home, to check on pets, people, or home security, the company said.

It can also patrol a home automatically and send owners a notification if it detects something unusual.

Amazon said it was more than "Alexa with wheels" and had been programmed with a range of movements and expressions to give it personality.

It demonstrated asking Astro to "beatbox" - and the robot bopped its head and made expressions while playing hip-hop beats.

Amazon was also keen to pre-empt privacy concerns.

It said Astro can be set with "out of bounds" zones, so it cannot go into certain areas, or could be set to "do not disturb". It also features buttons to turn off cameras and microphones - though it loses its ability to move around when they are switched off.

The small robot also comes equipped with an extendable "periscope" camera that pops up from its head. Amazon showed an example of using it to check if a gas hob had been left on after leaving the house.

The technology and retail giant suggested that the $999.99 (£740) robot could be a help to the elderly.

"Astro is a bold move by Amazon, but a logical step given its expertise in robots and desire to become more integrated into consumers' daily lives,"said Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight.

Unlike some rivals, Amazon "is willing to bring highly experimental products to market" and see how customers react, he said.

"Offering products resembling something from a science fiction novel positions Amazon as an innovative company in the eyes of consumers and investors," he said.

The robot will ship later this year, Amazon said - but only in the US. And after the initial, limited run, its price will go up to $1,449.99, it said.

SOURCE: BBC NEWS 

Faisal Ali Ghumman

Mr. Ghumman is a seasoned journalist who has 19 years of diversified experience in print, electronic and digital media. He has worked with 92 News HD, Daily Pakistan Today, Daily The Business, Daily Dawn, Daily Times and Pakistan Observer as News Reporter, Feature Writer, Editor, Web Content Editor and Article Writer. Mr Ghumman has graduated from the Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan and is currently enrolled in M.Phil in Mass Communication at the University of Punjab.

World

Flooding overtakes city of Sumas in Washington

In Sumas, officials used the flood siren at around 9 am and urged people to shelter in place as water bypassed the Cherry Street Bridge and then spread through town.

Published by Mehak Javed

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Flooding overtakes city of Sumas in Washington

Heavy rainfall and gusts brought flooding and power outages to parts of northwest Washington, forcing residents to evacuate while most roads in and out of the city were closed.  

The rainfall caused the Nooksack River to spill beyond its banks in Washington on November 29,

In an emergency alert Sunday afternoon, Skagit County officials said that the river levels weren’t expected to produce widespread flooding, but saturated soil increases the risk of landslides.

Following the alert, the Washington National Guard arrived in Everson late Saturday to fill and distribute sandbags to residents to prepare for flooding.

People in the small communities of Sumas and Everson in northwest Washington had been asked to evacuate voluntarily Saturday night. 

Both towns near the Canadian border previously saw hundreds evacuated and severe flooding from days of rain that caused an estimated $50 million in damage to Whatcom County.   

Over 1,600 homes were without power in the Puget Sound region Sunday, with the largest outage affecting Rockport in Skagit County. In the meantime, where 861 homes lost power because trees impacted power lines, according to Puget Sound Energy. 

On Monday afternoon, Sumas officials said there was a lot of water around town, but the water level had started to slowly drop.

Bellingham city officials said rainwater exceeded pumping capacity at times on Sunday resulting in an overflow that discharged about 9 million gallons of sewage water into Bellingham Bay.

Many local roads in the area and around Bellingham were closed Sunday and Monday because of water over the roadway.

Moreover, a landslide on Sunday blocked part of northbound Interstate 5 south of Bellingham and officials said an increased threat of landslides will remain for several days. 

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Sports

Messi wins Ballon d'Or for seventh time

Argentine football great Lionel Messi defeated Robert Lewandowski of Polish (Bayern Munich Club) and Georginho (Chelsea) of Italy for this annual award for the best player in the world of football. 

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Messi wins Ballon d'Or for seventh time

Paris: Argentina and Paris Saint-Germain forward Lionel Messi has created history as he won the Ballon d'Or award for a record-extending seventh time late on Monday night.    

Argentine football great Lionel Messi defeated Robert Lewandowski of Polish (Bayern Munich Club) and Georginho (Chelsea) of Italy for this annual award for the best player in the world of football. 

By winning the award, Messi has gone several miles ahead of Portugal’s star striker Cristiano Ronaldo in terms of winning the most Ballons d’Or. 

The 34-year-old Messi now has 7 awards to his name, while 36-year-old Ronaldo has won this honor 5 times. 

Besides this, the star footballer claimed a maiden Copa America title with his country this year and was top scorer in La Liga for the 2020-21 season with 30 goals.

Messi ​​won the Best Player of the Year award for the first time in 2009. He won this title in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 and now in 2021. 

Messi joined PSG on a free transfer from Barcelona during the off-season and collected 613 points to finish ahead of Lewandowski (580) and Chelsea's Italy midfielder Jorginho (460) at a star-studded ceremony in Paris. 

For the unversed, Messi and Ronaldo have won this award a total of 12 times since 2008. Thus, both players are dominating the world of football.

Awarded by France Football magazine, the Ballon d'Or has been awarded since 1956.

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World

'Very high risk': WHO warns of likely spread of Covid omicron variant globally

The global health body designated the variant B.1.1.529, which was first spotted in South Africa, as a “variant of concern” on Friday.

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'Very high risk': WHO warns of likely spread of Covid omicron variant globally

LONDON: The omicron variant of the coronavirus is likely to spread further and poses a “very high” global risk, according to the World Health Organization, which warned Monday surges of Covid infections caused by the variant of concern could have “severe consequences” for some areas.

“Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” the WHO said in its risk assessment on Monday within a technical brief to its 194 member states.

“Depending on these characteristics, there could be future surges of Covid-19, which could have severe consequences, depending on a number of factors including where surges may take place. The overall global risk related to the new VOC [variant of concern] Omicron is assessed as very high,” the U.N. health agency said.

The WHO designated the variant B.1.1.529, which was first spotted in South Africa, as a “variant of concern” on Friday.

It said in its report on Monday that it is “a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations ... some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.”

-- Known unknowns -- 

However, there are still considerable uncertainties and unknowns regarding this variant, it said, repeating that sentiment Monday.

First of all, experts don’t yet know just how transmissible the variant is and whether any increases in infections are related to immune escape, intrinsic increased transmissibility, or both.

Secondly, there is uncertainty over how well vaccines protect against infection, transmission and clinical disease of different degrees of severity, and death. And third of all, there is uncertainty over whether the variant presents with a different severity profile.

The WHO has said it will take weeks to understand how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Preliminary evidence suggests the strain has an increased risk of reinfection, however.

Early data suggests that the variant is spreading in South Africa more rapidly than previous strains did and that the variant could be starting to trigger a new wave of infections, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.

Covid symptoms linked to omicron have been described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first raised the alarm over the new strain.

Read more: South African doctor who first spotted the omicron Covid variant explains the symptoms

It’s very important to remember that, so far, there have only been a small number of cases reported around the world in several southern African countries and a smattering of cases in the U.K., France, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong, but none yet in the US so it could take a while to fully understand what specific symptoms, if any, are attributable to the omicron variant on a wider scale.

It’s also too early to tell what degree of health risk the new variant poses at a global level; the international community has already seen several increasingly virulent strains of the coronavirus, first with the “alpha” variant and then the “delta” variant, which is currently the globally dominant strain.

Covid vaccines have greatly helped to reduce severe infection, hospitalization and death, so new variants are closely monitored to assess whether, and how, they might impact the efficacy of vaccines.

-- Mitigation plans --

The WHO urged member states to enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand variants, including omicron, and to increase community testing to detect if omicron is circulating.

It also called on member states to accelerate Covid vaccinations “as rapidly as possible,” especially among high-priority groups.

News of a new variant spooked global markets Friday but European stocks climbed Monday morning. The region has already been battling a sharp surge in infections caused by the delta variant, putting pressure on health services in a number of countries, including Germany and the Netherlands.

The WHO urged countries to put in place mitigation measures to prepare for a possible increase in Covid caseloads “and associated pressure on the health system, ensure mitigation plans are in place to maintain essential health services and necessary health care resources are in place to respond to potential surges.”

SOURCE: CNBC

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