Here’s our curated list of important tech news from this week in byte size.

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Chrome to use HTTPS by default

Google Chrome’s next version (version 90) will use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) by default for the websites that support it, according to a Chromium blog post. “Chrome will now default to HTTPS for most typed navigations that don’t specify a protocol. HTTPS is the more secure and most widely used scheme in Chrome on all major platforms.,” it noted. Apart from improving security and privacy, the change will improve the initial loading speed of websites, it added. Google had released Chrome 89 this month with memory and speed improvements. “HTTPS protects users by encrypting traffic sent over the network, so that sensitive information users enter on websites cannot be intercepted or modified by attackers or eavesdroppers,” the search giant explained. In another development, Google and Microsoft have partnered to fix compatibility issues in their browsers.

Microsoft tests multiplayer feature for F2P games

Microsoft is working on unlocking multiplayer gaming for free-to-play (F2P) games, a feature that will allow Xbox users to play those games without a membership. In January, when the company had reversed its decision to increase Xbox Live Gold membership price, it had said that gamers will “no longer need” an Xbox Live Gold membership to play F2P games such as Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Halo on Xbox. Xbox’s Larry Hryb and Brad Rossetti, tweeted about testing the feature with Xbox Insiders ahead of general availability. Xbox also expanded its collection of Xbox Wireless Controllers, with two new controllers: ‘Electric Volt’ priced at $64.99 and ‘Daystrike Camo Special Edition’ priced at $69.99, both available in most Xbox markets worldwide. This week, Microsoft said it would start accommodating more employees at its headquarters and nearby campuses from March 29.

Intel AI-powered backpack for the visually impaired

An Intel artificial intelligence (AI)-powered voice-activated backpack can help the visually impaired navigate and perceive the world around them. The backpack was designed by a team of researchers, led by Jagadish K. Mahendran, from University of Georgia. It can detect common challenges such as traffic signs, hanging obstacles, crosswalks, moving objects and changing elevations, all while running on a low-power, interactive device. The system includes a lightweight computing device, an OAK-D spatial AI camera, a vest jacket to conceal the camera, and a fanny pack to hold a pocket-size battery pack. A Bluetooth-enabled earphone lets the user interact with the system via voice queries and commands, and the system responds with verbal information. In another update, Intel announced it will build two new factories in Arizona and outsource more of its production as a new CEO looks to turnaround the struggling chipmaker.

Telegram raises $1 bln through bonds

Telegram has raised over $1 billion by selling bonds to different investors, the company’s founder Pavel Durov said in a statement on Tuesday. However, Durov did not give details of the investors and said the bonds were sold to “some of the largest and most knowledgeable investors from all over the world.” On the same day, Mubadala Investment Company and Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners said they invested $150 million in the messaging platform. Durov noted that the funds from bond sales “will enable Telegram to continue growing globally while sticking to its values and remaining independent,” and added, it will also fuel the monetisation strategy. In another development, Telegram has added a Clubhouse-like audio-only chatting feature to its app.

Twitter postpones Spaces

Twitter said on Wednesday it is delaying the roll out of its audio feature ‘Spaces’. “We are postponing our community space because we are working on a new format! stay tuned and chat soon,” its @TwitterSpaces handle noted. The microblogging platform had earlier said, its Spaces feature will be available to both iOS and Android users soon. The company started beta testing its Clubhouse-like feature for Android users in February, and according to a recent tweet, it has added a lot of new users to Spaces beta. Twitter’s audio feature will take on Clubhouse, an invite-only audio chat app for iPhone users, which has gained popularity after Elon Musk and Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev’s chat. Last week, Twitter said it will seek public input on whether politicians and government officials should be subject to the same rules as other users on the platform.

OnePlus Watch launched

OnePlus has launched its first smartwatch dubbed ‘OnePlus Watch’. It is the company’s second wearable device after releasing the OnePlus Band earlier this year, further expanding its portfolio of devices. “The OnePlus Watch aims to integrate into the daily digital life of OnePlus users, offering stylish design, seamless connection, smart fitness tracking and long battery life, it said in a statement. The watch has a 46mm case with 2.5D curved glass, a 402 mAh battery, built-in GPS, and comes with 4 GB of standalone storage (2 GB for actual use). It features 5ATM + IP68 water and dust resistance and 110+ workout types, including automatic workout detection for jogging and running. OnePlus watch is available at an introductory price of ₹ 14 999. In another development, Facebook’s wrist watch will use nerve signals to control AR device.

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