Here's a look at what made news in the world of science and technology this week.
Google rolled out new AI-powered features for Maps in India on 19 December, aiming to make Maps more comprehensive and localised. The three key new features include Address Descriptors, Lens in Maps and Live View Walking Navigation. Address Descriptors will allow people to easily find locations based on closest landmarks, a feature Google says is India-first. The new visually immersive features—Lens in Maps and Live View Walking Navigation—combine Street View imagery, which was launched in India in 2022, along with advanced AI and augmented reality technologies. The company also announced the new fuel-efficient routing feature in India. Speaking with Mint on the sidelines of a news conference in Delhi, Miriam Karthika Daniel, vice-president, Google Maps Experiences, said: “We have made massive progress (in India) over the past year, which has enabled us to bring these solutions very quickly to India... With fuel-efficient routing, we cannot assume that the models that work in other countries will work in India. Indian traffic patterns, roads are very unique. So, we took our time to localise the models and live-tested them before releasing the new features.”
The Jeff Bezos-owned space tourism company Blue Origin launched its suborbital New Shepard rocket on 19 December, in its first mission since a failure last year led to a 15-month grounding. The rocket, which was carrying research payloads, lifted off from Blue Origin’s remote Van Horn, Texas, US launch site. It soared to space for a few minutes, 106km above ground, before its reusable rocket booster returned to land safely, completing its ninth trip to space, a Reuters report said. At peak altitude, the booster deployed 33 research experiments encapsulated in a gumdrop-shaped pod, which also softly returned to land under parachutes minutes later. New Shepard is the company’s only active rocket that can carry humans and cargo on short trips to and from the edge of space.
Can an AI system own patent rights? In a landmark case, the UK’s Supreme Court on 20 December unanimously rejected US computer scientist Stephen Thaler’s appeal to register patents over inventions created by his artificial intelligence system called DABUS. According to a Reuters report, Thaler’s attempt to register the patents was refused by Britain’s Intellectual Property Office on the grounds that the inventor must be a human or a company, rather than a machine. Thaler lost a similar bid in the US earlier this year.
— With inputs from wires