Middle East Creators Win Big at Snap Inc.’s ‘Build the Future Lensathon’
Snap Inc. recently announced the results of its worldwide ‘Build the Future Lensathon’, which called on augmented reality (AR) creators from around the world to come up with innovative and engaging AR experiences to help people express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together. The competition engaged more than 3,000 developers internationally who competed for $200,000 in prizes.
Denis Rosiev, a budding designer and creator from the UAE, won the global competition and took home $40,000 in prize money. Meanwhile, creators Ibrahim Boona from Saudi Arabia and Mohamad el Asmar from Oman each bagged silver awards worth $5,000 each.
Commenting on his victory, Rosiev said, “I’m a big fan of pixel and voxel art – everything square and low-poly. Initially, I wanted to build a Lens that turns everything into voxels, but later it evolved into the idea of a full-featured voxel scanner that can be used to create art. I like the freedom Lens Studio provides: it’s so powerful that I was able to build a robust tool inside a Lens!”
Making it to the top among hundreds of submissions, Denis’ LiDAR Lens, VOXELIZE, is a real-time AR voxel scanner that exports 3D models as .glbs. VOXELIZE’s intuitive two-finger touch gestures can be used to effortlessly scale and rotate the voxel grid for precise resolution selection and alignment with the walls or borders of the target object. A built-in machine learning model automatically segments objects from the background, streamlining the scanning process. Scans can then be exported as .glbs for editing in any 3D software. VOXELIZE has a broad range of applications across construction, architecture, interior design, and more.
Speaking about what’s next in store for VOXELIZE, Rosiev added, “I’m planning to build an actual iOS app using Snap Camera Kit. It will open more possibilities, such as in-app scan storage and direct export. As Lens Studio evolves, I’m going to use this technology to build experiences where users can scan, edit and share cool voxel objects between different lenses and locations.”
Talking about the brilliant talent discovered from the region, Jake Thomas, Head of UAE at Snap Inc. in MENA, expressed, “We are pleased to see young creators within the region’s creative community not only share their passion and showcase their talent to a global audience but come first place and thrive within the rapidly evolving AR ecosystem. It’s exciting to see creators push the boundaries of AR development and build their careers with Snap’s advanced AR tools. We will continue supporting our AR community and we look forward to offering more global opportunities for local creators here in the MENA region.”
Other winners hailed from countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, India, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.
BOTIM and Fawry Offer Digital Bill Payments for Egyptian Expats in UAE
BOTIM, the UAE’s Ultra app that Astra Tech has recently acquired, and Fawry, Egypt’s leading digital payments platform, have signed a groundbreaking agreement to provide residents in the UAE and GCC countries with a seamless and convenient way to pay bills & invoices in Egypt through BOTIM app and enable international money transfer services.
This first-of-its-kind agreement will allow users in the UAE to transfer money and pay bills in a new and convenient way. Astra Tech is introducing a new service to the BOTIM app called Bill Payments, which aims to make everyday payments easier for users. Under this agreement, Fawry will provide all Egyptians residing in the UAE who use the BOTIM application with solutions to pay utility bills and subscriptions and carry out financial transactions in Egypt. Customers can also withdraw financial money from the UAE through the BOTIM, powered by Payby, application through Fawry’s payment and collection channels. This agreement is a game-changer, providing users in the UAE with a new and innovative way to manage their everyday payments.
By utilizing this new service, users in the UAE and GCC can pay a wide range of bills and invoices in Egypt, such as utility bills, school, and university fees, driving and car licenses, club memberships, and medical and social insurance, through the BOTIM app. Adding to sending money services, Fawry will support the local beneficiaries of money remittance in Egypt to disburse the money through Fawry Channels.
Abdallah Abu Sheikh, Co-Founder and CEO of Astra Tech, BOTIM’s parent company, said, “We are excited to work with Fawry to bring a seamless and hassle-free bill payment experience to our users in Egypt. This collaboration represents a significant milestone in our expansion strategy, particularly in the promising Egyptian market, and our commitment to driving digital transformation and financial inclusion in the region.”
Eng. Atef Magdy, CCO, Financial Services, Digital Solutions & International Business, added, “The partnership between Fawry and Astra Tech is a concrete manifestation of Fawry’s strategy to attract new segments from various sectors and offer them the benefits of its digital services and solutions. It also reflects Fawry’s unwavering commitment to expanding its financial business and services and reaching the broadest possible audience to provide cutting-edge payment technologies that are both easy and secure. This further strengthens Fawry’s position as a leading platform in the digital payment market and solidifies its position as the preferred choice for Egyptian citizens.”
Microsoft Announces Mystery Event to Intro ChatGPT Rival
Microsoft has called a special event for the press on February 7, starting at 10 AM at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. Despite keeping the details of the event under wraps, indications suggest that the focus of the event will be on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Microsoft has recently revealed its plans to integrate AI into multiple products in the coming months and years, including a $10 billion partnership with OpenAI, the developers of ChatGPT.
The company has already integrated AI into Microsoft Teams Premium, where the technology is used for summarizing virtual meetings in writing, generating highlights, and more. The appearance of a new version of Microsoft Bing with ChatGPT integration for some users, before it was deactivated, hints that the company is ready to launch a new way of searching the web. This is expected to be among the announcements made at the event on February 7.
It is yet to be seen what other AI-powered products Microsoft has in store. Google has recently released its ChatGPT rival, Bard, which is available for a limited number of select testers. As the competition in AI heats up, it seems that Microsoft wants to be at the forefront of the race.
Google Unveils its Rival to ChatGPT
Google has launched a new AI chatbot, Bard, in a move to compete with the rapidly growing success of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. CEO Sundar Pichai stated in a blog post that Bard, which is powered by Google’s large language model LaMDA, will be available to trusted testers before being rolled out to the general public in the coming weeks.
Google’s announcement of Bard comes as its search business faces increasing competition from ChatGPT, which has been generating essays, stories, song lyrics, and answering user questions since its public release in November. Microsoft, which is investing billions into OpenAI, is rumored to be planning to integrate ChatGPT into its search engine Bing.
Google’s AI-powered tools will also soon be integrated into its flagship search tool. Pichai emphasized the importance of using AI in a responsible manner, as these tools have the potential to spread biases and misinformation. “Soon, you’ll see AI-powered features in Search that distill complex information and multiple perspectives into easy-to-digest formats, so you can quickly understand the big picture and learn more from the web,” Pichai wrote, “whether that’s seeking out additional perspectives, like blogs from people who play both piano and guitar, or going deeper on a related topic, like steps to get started as a beginner.”
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