Amazon Alexa App and Dot

Regulating AI Technology

As we have propelled ourselves into the future, technology is developing at an outstanding rate. Many companies and countries have had to adjust laws and regulations in order to meet the demands of the ever-changing digital world. Anti-hacking laws and cyber security have seen many amendments and adjustments to cope with the un-probed areas of the digital landscape. Recently, calls for better regulations to control the developing area of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been issued.

AI technology is an expansive area which in essence aims to mimic human intelligence with machine learning. The areas this technology can lend itself to varies from simple tasks to complex roles. We have already begun to see the uses of which in our everyday lives, many of us have Apple’s “Siri” in our pockets or Amazon’s “Alexa” in our homes. If not, the experiences of equivalent voice recognition technology in our phones, computers, TV’s, cars and more is not unknown.

The development of driver-less cars, virtual agents, management and learning systems all utilize AI technology. Its reach can be seen in that of agriculture, marketing, security, transport, manufacturing, climate change, healthcare and beyond. Its use and autonomy in all of these areas is rapidly developing and spreading into broad and specific niches.

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It’s no wonder therefore, that there are calls for not only a more extensive look at AI regulation but a tailored approach. CEO of Alphabet, parent company of Google, recently called for such regulations. Where there are guidelines developing in both the US and EU he calls for a global standard. Writing in the Financial Times, he states that Google’s own AI regulations were outlined in 2018, the aims of which are to ensure principles such as “safety, privacy, fairness and accountability, alongside monitoring where AI should not be used, for example, where it could violate human rights.”

This call for regulation has not only been heard from Google, but other companies such as Twitter, who have recently confronted AI company Clearview, (a company used by homeland security and the FBI), to stop taking images from the site for facial recognition and thus violating Twitter’s privacy policies. Further, the European commission is considering a ban on facial recognition technology in order to catch up and address areas where the equipment could be abused and presumably prevent that. Where some countries such as China are embracing facial recognition and rolling it out rapidly, many campaigners have spoken out against the use of such technology as it infringes upon an individual’s privacy rights.

The use and development of AI technologies has exposed many challenges and considerations in ethics, safety, justice and beyond. Whilst technology companies and leaders develop Artificial Intelligence, they have the power to regulate and develop it into areas that they see fit. Therefore, without a government or a world code of conduct, how will these developers hold to a universal standard and fairly use these systems?

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The answer to this seems already underway. In 2019, countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and beyond, totaling forty-two countries, formally agreed to uphold standards in AI technology development “to ensure AI systems are designed to be robust, safe, fair and trustworthy.” Countries such as the USA, UK and many in South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East came together to agree on policies. The official OECD press release summarizes objectives such as:

1. AI should benefit people and the planet by driving inclusive growth, sustainable development and well-being.
2. AI systems should be designed in a way that respects the rule of law, human rights, democratic values and diversity, and they should include appropriate safeguards – for example, enabling human intervention where necessary – to ensure a fair and just society.
3. There should be transparency and responsible disclosure around AI systems to ensure that people understand when they are engaging with them and can challenge outcomes.
4. AI systems must function in a robust, secure and safe way throughout their lifetimes, and potential risks should be continually assessed and managed.
5. Organisations and individuals developing, deploying or operating AI systems should be held accountable for their proper functioning in line with the above principles.

Where innovation and technology are rapidly developing the question is how can we foresee all of the pitfalls and downsides that the advancement of such technology will bring? The call for regulation in itself may be something that needs constant revisiting and re-writing, alongside encouraging more and more governments to agree to universal standards. Without stalling progress and allowing all of the benefits of artificial technology to permeate and advance humanity, it seems a mammoth task to envisage and pre-meditate protection against all of the potential downsides and abuses.

Industrial Factory

What To Expect From CES 2020

CES stands for “Computer Electronics Show,” and every year technology lovers and business owners alike get together to hear from some of the world’s biggest tech names about what’s to come in the next year. Smart TVs took the spotlight at last year’s CES event, giving high definition entertainment a whole new look with the implementation of 8K quality and curved screen technology. So what does CES 2020 have in store for the world’s digital future? 

CES: Unveiled” was an event that took place the night before the actual show, in which reporters were able to come and get a first glimpse at all the new technology being introduced. This way they could gauge what gadgets, software, and trends would be the most talked about before the massive crowds flood the Las Vegas arena the following day. Remember, not all gadgets or concepts are released to the general public after CES, as some of the exhibits are meant to show technology lovers what some companies are striving to perfect in the future. 

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First up, Samsung wanted to keep riding the TV high that came from last year’s CES event, so they announced their new Sero TV. Sero TV was made with the mobile user in mind, as it literally turns to be vertical from traditional landscape mode when you hit a button. The orientation-changing television is meant to make mirroring from your phone much easier, and in this new age where a lot of online video content is modified to adjust to vertical mobile screens, this television wants to take that to the next level. 

Kohler, an appliance company, partnered with Amazon to bring the fantasy of a “smart home” even more to life with Alexa-powered showers. The two companies plan on releasing a shower head with Alexa enabled speaker technology for all of us who love to listen to music in the shower. Additionally, Kohler intends on releasing a lot more bathroom tech throughout 2020, including a new “intelligent” toilet system. 

CES tends to always have a robotic energy about it, quite literally. Every year new types of robo-friends are brought to the CES floor and this year will be no different. This year, CES will be introducing a bread-making robot, Sony’s Aibo Dog, and Buddy, the cute companion robot. Companion robots, and those that are meant to perform just one human task, such as bread making, are fairly common for this event. A cat robot, however, is new. 

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Startup company Elephant Robotics is developing a new robotic feline friend that they’re calling MarsCat. According to reports from CES: Unveiled, the “bionic feline can walk, stretch, play with toys, avoid obstacles and bite its nails. It can also recognize human faces and knows 20 commands and phrases, including ‘sit’ and ‘come here.’”

Segway has developed a new line of single-person transport systems called “Segway S-Pods.” The S-Pod is an electric pod meant for indoor travelling and can accelerate up to 24 miles per hour. Users control the speed and direction with a single knob on the arm rest of the pod. 

Colgate and Oral-B, two of the country’s top dental product providers, wanted to get a piece of the CES action this year, so they both announced their versions of “dental tech innovation.” The Oral-B iO electric toothbrush is meant to work with an app on your phone to tell you when you’re brushing your teeth too hard or too softly. The app also ensures that you’re brushing for a full two minutes, and are covering as much of your mouth’s surface area as possible. 

Colgate, on the other hand, is developing their own electric toothbrush that can detect any sort of “biofilm” build up in the gums. Additionally, it “notifies users when they need to brush longer in one area of their mouth. A light ring around the toothbrush will turn blue when buildup has been found. A white light displays when teeth are clean,” according to reports.

For the rest of what was announced during the CES: Unveiled event, click here. Media outlets will be posting all week about what new and exciting innovations come out of CES this year.   


2019 Holiday Tech Gift Guide

With the holiday’s right around the corner, it’s high time that we all need to start thinking about the gifts that we will be getting our friends and family, and with the next decade also coming up, it just feels fitting to get people some technology to add into their collections of smart devices. Tech gifts are often well received because of how much we all incorporate digital devices into our everyday life. It makes navigating throughout the world and it’s everyday stresses a lot more manageable, so this year, get your loved ones something that will help them manage their life a little more easily. 

A standard for tech gift giving is a good speaker system. Music and entertainment is how most of us enjoy unwinding, and more times than not is always playing the backgrounds of our day to day lives, so why not get a quality speaker to enjoy those moments to the best of their ability. One of the most popular brands for speakers on the market today is Sonos. Sonos has a myriad of options for anybody to enjoy. These speakers are bluetooth and battery powered, making them completely portable and easy to manage. If you purchase multiple Sonos speakers, you can connect to them all on the official Sonos app on your mobile device. This means you’ll have complete control over your entire home speaker system, all from your phone. So you can play one song in the living room while guests sit by the fire, and another in the kitchen while you cook your holiday turkey. Sonos speakers are available on the official Sonos website, as well as Amazon. They range in price, and do tend to lean more towards the pricier size, however, these speakers are the epitome of “you get what you pay for” in terms of advanced speaker technology. 

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Amazon also has it’s now iconic line of Alexa-powered Echo systems. There’s a vast range of Echo products, all of which range in prices, so if you want to spend a little less, you can buy an echo dot for your niece, and spend no more than $50, and the more interactive Echo Show, which has a tablet like presence, but will only cost you $80.  What’s great about the Alexa systems is that you can connect them to any smart products that you buy from Amazon, which includes plugs, light-bulbs, doorbell cameras, and more! This way, you’re able to turn off the lights upstairs and set a timer for 30 minutes, all without having to leave the couch. Browse through the many options, which also now include an Echo Glow speaker, perfect for any younger child in the family, and find the next best Smart home device for your loved ones. 

Speaking of smart homes and lighting, Philips has been a powerhouse for home lighting for years, and now, they’re dipping their toe into the Smart Home world with their brand “Philips Hue” the popular light-bulb brand that you control from your phone. Hue light-bulbs are typically much more pricier, due to the advanced technology, but also make a great gift. The newest release from Philips Hue, however, is a vintage style light-bulb that you can control either via app, or voice control, for the price of $25 per bulb. Hue also has starter kits from their original collection that is priced at $200 for a total of four bulbs and base outlet station. These light-bulbs are great for setting the mood for any occasion, whether it be a fun birthday party, or romantic dinner for two. With your hands full you can simply say “lights on blue” and you’re transported to an underwater paradise, right in your living room.

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Apple is no stranger to being one of the world’s top developers for smart technology, and this holiday season they have a whole bunch of products that would be great for any member of the family. They just released their next generation of smart watches and wristbands. As one of the original wearable tech experts, Apple’s smart watches are the perfect gift if you know anyone who’s constantly moving, to the point that even checking their phones becomes busy work. This way, they can just look at their wrist and quickly go through any emails, texts, or reminders that their phone is notifying them for. Additionally, one of the more popular Christmas gifts every year is Apple’s AirPods, and now Apple has released AirPods Pro, with noise cancelling technology, perfect for any commuters you know who dread the sound of buzzing cities and mass public transit. 

Apple also just released their next generation of iPhone, and while you may be thinking of a new phone is a pretty expensive gift, there’s a lot of parents out there who view Christmas as the perfect opportunity to upgrade their family lines. Apple also is now offering a bunch of trade in programs, which means you can get up to $300 off a new iPhone when you trade in your old one! Definitely worth it for anyone who’s constantly wanting to get the next best thing. 

Regardless of the smart gift, there’s plenty of options set at a variety of prices, making tech gift giving one of the easiest and smartest ways to get your holiday shopping done this season. 

Amazon App

Amazon Alexa To Be Integrated In New Smart Glasses, Earbuds, And Rings

Amazon hosted a huge hardware/media event this week where they announced a whole bundle of new products. Is it any surprise that the star of the show was a lovely lady named Alexa?

The Amazon Echo family grew quite a bit this week as the companies attempt to give you the most access to its smart AI technology also grows. The company’s goal is to get as many devices in the home as possible, essentially turning everything into an Amazon smart home. 

Amazon first announced updates to it’s larger speaker collections releasing the Echo Speaker Generation 3, and the brand new Echo Studio, which is a large speaker meant to compete with brands like Sonos and Apple’s now popular HomePod. This is meant to be the company’s first ever “high end” speaker delivering 3D audio! A new feature in modern speaker technology that is meant to have music fill a room in the same way a stadium distributes noise during a concert. With the Echo Studio you’ll be able to ask Alexa to play all of your favorite songs in 3D audio, bringing the concert experience to your living room. The Echo Studio will be released November 3rd, but is currently available for pre-order and retails for $200.

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The Echo Speaker Generation 3 may not offer the same 3D audio technology, but does promise to deliver improved crystal clear audio thanks to a collaboration between Amazon and Dolby. If you’re looking for a large quality speaker but don’t want to break the bank as much, this could be the option for you. The Echo Speaker Generation 3 is also currently available to pre-order, and will begin shipping out October 16th for $100. 

The Echo Show also got a fresh new upgrade with a much larger eight inch screen compared to last generations five inch display. The Show retails for $130, and is currently available for pre-order to be shipped out on November 21st. Amazon also announced two cheaper Echo devices known as the Echo Glow, which can connect to any Alexa enabled device and can be set to change colors, set alarms, play music and strobe to the beat, and set timers. The Glow retails for $30 and will be shipped out on the 20th. Echo Flex is a small white box that you plug directly into a wall socket and boom! You have a mini Echo speaker directly plugged into an outlet. The speaker retails for $30, so the quality probably won’t compare to the new Amazon Studio’s 3D sound, but your wallet will surely thank you.

The Echo Dot got a make over for its third generation and is now known as the Echo Dot Clock, commemorating the digital time display on the speaker. The display can also be set to show alarms, timers and the temperature. This upgrade will be available on October 16th, and for pre-order, and retails for $60.

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All new Amazon Ring devices were also announced this week. Ring devices are all Alexa enabled, of course, and are specifically meant for home security purposes. Many updates were added to their security camera systems such as the Ring Stick Up Cam, which features images captured in 1080p to any of your house devices, which now retails at $100, which is much cheaper than last years model. The Ring Stick Up Elite Cam also got an upgrade with faster Ethernet processing speeds, and better quality cameras. The Elite will retail for $200, both will be available on October 23rd, but again are available for pre-order.

Amazon also announced it’s newest WiFi innovation, the Echo Eero. For $100 and currently available to pre-order, the Eero devices work on a mesh system. Mesh WiFi systems are becoming highly popularized, as they ensure that you’re WiFi router is sending signals to every room in the home. You can buy a bundle of 3 for $250 as well to ensure the fastest internet speeds possible. The Eero devices are also Alexa capable.

In an even larger attempt to get into every part of your home, Amazon has announced Alexa powered ovens, to go with your Alexa microwaves of course. While an Alexa oven doesn’t mean you’ll be able to speak to your oven like any other Echo device, it does connect to any other Echo device in the home, so you’re able to check on meals, preheat, set timers, etc. all without having to get up. These new smart kitchen appliances will be available on November 14th, but once again, of course you can pre-order.

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Finally, and arguably more significantly, Amazon released a new line of personal accessories that are all Alexa enabled. First, the long awaited Echo wireless earbuds have been announced. The tech community was waiting to see if Amazon would release a competitor to Apple’s popular Airpods, as normally Amazon releases similar technology to Apple but at a more desirable price point. The earbuds promise high end sound quality and combined Bose noise-cancelling technology as well. They also included an “ambient sound” mode, that would allow a user to be more aware of their surroundings. The earbuds should last for five hours on a single charge, and the case can charge them up to three times fully. They will cost $130 and are available to pre-order and ship out October 30th.

Amazon is also starting a new exclusive program known as the “Day 1 Edition” pilot program. The program is available only by invitation and if you want any shot at trying the next two devices you’ll need to get your hands on one. Luckily, you can apply on Amazon’s website, or by clicking here.

The first product being offered to this exclusive program are Amazon’s new smart glasses! No these won’t work like Virtual Reality video games, there are no holograms or displays on the lenses, which is the main reason they’re being advertised as having an all day battery life.

Amazon said in a statement that “They basically work like an audio smartwatch, reading your notifications out loud and allowing you to ask Alexa questions. They even support optional access to the Google Assistant. But the microphones can also be turned off when you want some extra privacy.”

The glasses will retail for $180 for those lucky enough to get into the Day 1 Edition program. Those individuals will also have access to the new Echo Loop! A new Amazon ring accessory, that also essentially works like a smart watch, but smaller! The $130 accessory has an action button that you press and can use to hear the weather, reminders, information regarding reservations, and basically anything else you would ask Alexa to do, you can even make short phone calls. Overall, Amazon has showed that they’re not going anywhere, and are ready for you to meet Alexa in her most advanced form yet!

Tech at Home

How Technology will Shape Life in the Home

Already, rapid advancements in technology have fundamentally changed the way most of us spend time in our homes, adding convenience into our daily routines and expanding options for entertainment beyond what was once considered possible. This rapid pace of technological advancement is sure to continue, and while it’s difficult to predict exactly how technology will change our lives at home far into the future, looking at current trends and the research and development being conducted can give a general understanding of the direction technology is taking us.

It’s worth taking a look back several decades into the past to determine which previous predictions about the homes of the future came true and which didn’t. Some concepts, such as video calling and advanced thermostats, have manifested into technologies like Apple’s Facetime and Nest’s Learning Thermostat. Other predictions turned out to be off the mark, such as the idea that homes of the future would be made out of glass or Thomas Edison’s prediction that steel would become the primary material for building furniture. Most of the predictions that came true involved how technology would impact the way we engage with information and conduct our daily routines; as such, the best predictions are the ones that look to how technology can work in these domains. For instance, Phillip’s Hue system of smart light bulbs can be programmed to automatically adjust to our schedules, and Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home devices allow us to interact with our personal computers by using natural language. While the rate of technological progress has produced these impressive devices, there is plenty of room for improvement, and continued investment and innovation by these companies is sure to produce even more advanced generations of the same fundamental concepts.

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One of the most promising domains of technological development can be found in the field of artificial intelligence. Machine learning systems which take advantage of neural network technology have already produced incredible results, as speech synthesis systems can sound totally indistinguishable from a genuine human voice and can even mimic the speaking styles of real individuals with great verisimilitude. This technology would not only allow for natural-sounding communication between humans and AI, but assistants could even be programmed to mimic the tone of voice of different emotions, enabling a personal assistant which always sounds happy to speak with you to create a more pleasant experience. In the future, deep learning technology could be used to make these assistants smarter, as they would be able to better parse and interpret the complex information expressed in natural speech to accomplish specific and unique tasks. For instance, in the future you may be able to ask a computer assistant to take notes, send emails, and set reminders without having to worry about how you phrase your requests and with confidence that the computer will understand you correctly. We will continue to carry these assistants with us on our phones, but they will also be integrated in the home in the form of connected smart speakers placed in different rooms.

Another field worth paying attention to involves the rising interconnectivity of our devices. Though compatibility varies across manufacturers, already consumers are able to synchronize their activity between their tablets, laptops, smartphones, and desktop consumers, and it’s even possible to wirelessly stream content from a phone to a TV. As our devices get better, their capabilities begin to overlap, causing some specialized devices to become obsolete. Tablets such as the iPad have incorporated much of the functionality of laptops, making ownership of the latter device unnecessary, and improvements in smartphone cameras have all but killed the compact camera industry.

As virtual reality headsets and computer graphics become more realistic, the allure of vacationing in a distant location will become overshadowed by the difficulties of transportation and the cost of travel and accommodations

This trend is sure to continue, and as devices become more versatile, we’ll find that our smartphones, which will have folding screens and seamless wireless compatibility with a host of input and display options, will become our primary computing devices. We will still have displays around our houses, and in fact even more of them as we add smart mirrors and wallpapers to our televisions and desktop monitors, but these displays will function not as discrete computing entities but instead will connect to our personal smartphones. As such, all of our computing needs will be handled by a single portable computing device, which will be deeply integrated with the cloud and which we will interact with in different ways by using wirelessly connected devices, such as keyboards, monitors, large tablets with styluses, our voices, and our television sets with remote controls. In this way, our computers will seem to follow us wherever we go, as sitting down in front of a monitor in a public place will grant exactly the same experience as sitting in front of a monitor at home.

As our devices become more interconnected and artificial intelligence streamlines our relationship with technology, more opportunities to fundamentally transform our lives at home will continue to open up. A new generation of young professionals will increasingly view the commute to work in the office as unnecessary and burdensome, as computing and communications technology will replicate nearly all of the functionality of the office environment. Instead, young people will opt to work from their home offices, using high-quality video calls and augmented and virtual reality systems to replicate the experience of participating in conferences and meetings. Home offices will be customized to suit the individual’s professional needs to the same degree that office buildings can provide, and though professional attire will remain an expectation, the flexibility of the home environment will ensure a more efficient collaborative experience. As a result, the boundaries between the home environment and the work environment will be blurred, and while this is sure to enable a great degree of convenience for professionals, it may increase levels of stress among the professional population, as they will be expected to be available throughout the day whenever they’re in their houses.

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Technology is also likely to transform the way we think about leisure. As virtual reality headsets and computer graphics become more realistic, the allure of vacationing in a distant location will become overshadowed by the difficulties of transportation and the cost of travel and accommodations, and the alternative of staying at home during vacation time will become more appealing. As consumer devices will be able to replicate the look and feel of visiting exotic destinations, even fictional ones, the natural urge to travel and explore different places will be satisfied by simulations of these experiences. Developers will have the freedom to craft entire vacation experiences, which will be able to be enjoyed either for a few hours at the end of the day or for days at a time, and consumers will be able to download and share these experiences digitally without having to leave home at all.

Of course, no one can be totally accurate in predicting the future of technology in the home, but by looking at the general principles by which technology has already shaped our home lives it’s easy to imagine how it will continue to do so with time. Human nature, of course, will always stay the same fundamentally, and future generations will still have the same needs of experiencing novelty, finding purpose in life and work, and interacting socially, but the ways we go about fulfilling these needs are sure to radically change.

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Amazon Alexa

Amazon Continues To Build Market In India By Teaching Alexa Hindi

Amazon and Jeff Bezos alike have been working since 2014 to expand their market in India. The country has over half a billion potential internet users that Amazon has already started infiltrating. Just recently the company opened its largest office headquarters in Hyderabad, India’s business district. The building made headlines for its massive size, taking up 9 acres of land, and for the job market expansion it’s bringing in.  

Now, Amazon has taken another step to expand its Indian market by finalizing the technology to get their Amazon Alexa speakers to speak Hindi. The devices can now speak and understand the language which is spoken by about 530 million individuals living in India, according to its 2018 census. In addition to every Amazon Alexa device, some second party speakers that are powered by Alexa voice-assist will also be able to speak the language, as well as “Hinglish” which is a hybrid of both Hindi and English. Hinglish is said to be spoken widely across the country. 

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Amazon’s Newest Headquarters In Hyderabad, India

Experts with Amazon have been working with multiple tech developers in India in order to gain the technology to teach the Alexa hardware how to speak the complex language. Specifically the company has been focusing on working with Hindi voice app developers for around two months, where they’ve conducted workshops to “teach” the devices how to “speak” new languages. 

Amazon is already aware of the 600 million internet users in the country, they’re already clearly making multiple business decisions to appease to those current users. However, their biggest goal is to expand their market to reach the additional 700 million individuals in the country who have never even been on the internet. Language is the overlying code that needs to be cracked, India has citizens that speak over twenty languages in a hundred different dialects. Creating technology that can accommodate to any version of any language is what tech developers are working on globally, especially in Asia. 

The Asian Internet market is the most lucrative due to the densely saturated populations within every country. However, the diversity in population means a multitude of languages, meaning technology is needed that can work with those languages, this is especially apparent in India. 

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A Few Of The Newest Amazon Alexa Powered Devices

“India is somewhat unique in the degree to which multilinguality is expressed. Diversity in India is expressed to an extent that one does not see anywhere else. It’s very resistant to standardization of anything.” Prem Natarajan, an Alexa vice president heading the effort to teach the voice assistant new languages, told CNN Business.

Amazon has already introduced a Hindi language setting on its mobile app, pushing itself ahead of the curve in India compared to other tech companies. According to CNN, by 2021 India will have three times the amount of people accessing the internet in their own specific language, compared to those in the country using English. 

Amazon has already invested up to $5 billion in India alone, a majority of which went to their new headquarters, all in a greater effort to continue to expand and grow their market in India. “India is important to us, and I think it’s fair to expect us to continue working towards demonstrating that sort of importance and maximizing utility to the Indian user base,” Natarajan said.