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WhatsApp Enables Consecutive Voice Messages on Android, Working on PiP Mode Improvements

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WhatsApp has again submitted a new beta update for its Android app, and it brings along a new feature called the Consecutive Voice Messages. The Android beta app has been updated to version 2.19.86, and it also suggests that WhatsApp is working to bring improvements to Picture-in-Picture (PiP) mode. The PiP improvements are disabled by default for now, but can be expected to be enabled in the next updates once it is properly developed. WhatsApp is simultaneously also working on other features like fingerprint authentication that allows users to lock the app from prying users, and the anticipated Dark Mode.

The new Android 2.19.86 version brings a new feature called Consecutive Voice Messages feature. As the name suggests, this feature allows for auto-playing of two or more voice messages sent one after the other. This feature has finally been enabled, after being a work-in-progress since November last year, and you will need to be on the above mentioned beta version to use it. To test this feature once you are on the latest version, ask a friend to send you multiple voice messages. Play the first voice message and the second one should automatically play, after the first one ends. We tested it out and it works seamlessly on latest Android beta. WABetaInfo spotted this feature first.

WhatsApp Consecutive Voice Messages feature in Android beta version 2.19.86
Photo Credit: WABetaInfo

As per WABetaInfo, this version also suggests that Picture in Picture improvements are incoming. The PiP mode allows allows users to watch videos, hosted on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Streamable in-app. WABetaInfo spotted that WhatsApp is now working on letting users switch chat without closing the PiP video bubble. Users cannot switch chat without closing the video currently, and WhatsApp is reportedly now working on fixing this limitation. Furthermore, the next version of PiP mode will also allow WhatsApp users to watch a video in PiP mode even when the app is running in the background.

The tipster notes that these PiP improvements will only be available for users on Android 8 Oreo and above. There’s no timeline provided for when this new version of PiP will go live.


We discussed what WhatsApp absolutely needs to do in 2019, on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Azota is solving exam headaches for Vietnam’s teachers – TechCrunch

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Creating and grading tests is one of the most time-consuming tasks teachers need to deal with. In Vietnam, a startup called Azota wants to help with an online software platform that not only helps educators develop and proctor tests, but also automatically grades them using information from Vietnamese teaching materials. The company announced today it has raised $2.4 million in pre-Series A funding led by GGV Capital, with participation from Nextrans and returning investor Do Ventures. 

Founded last year, Azota now counts 700,000 teachers and 10 million students in primary, secondary and high schools among its users. It says that during peak test periods, it serves over six million users each month, or about 30% of the total number of teachers and students in Vietnam. It claims it can cut down the grading process from two hours when done manually to just two minutes. 

Azota’s creation came amidst the pandemic in 2021. Before co-founding the startup, Au Nguyen, its CEO, worked for Viettel, one of the largest telecoms in Vietnam. He led an educational unit on school management solutions, but realized that educators had many pain points that his team could not solve. As a result, he decided to team up with his friends, Dai Nguyen and Hung Le, to create Azota. 

“As the team sees it, there are two major scopes of work for teachers: teaching and assigning and grading tests,” they told TechCrunch in an email. “During the COVID times, teaching had to go online, and there were numerous tools to support this change such as Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Team, etc. But when it comes to online assigning and grading, there were few tools available, which made the process very labor-intensive and time-consuming.” 

Azota built an optical character recognition app to automatically recognize Q&A’s from test images taken from teachers’ phones. It shuffles those questions and answers to create hundreds of modified test combinations. Since the OCR was built using Vietnamese teaching materials, the team said it can recognize Vietnamese tests with a 99% accuracy rate. 

Azota’s founders are also working on a more advanced question bank features that will allow teachers to pick and chose from its inventory to create exams from scratch. 

The startup is used by educators across the nation, with about 22% coming from the major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and the rest distributed equally among all provinces in Vietnam, they added. 

The team identifies two main groups of competitors. The first are big corporations that provide learning management software (LMS) to schools, but they say it’s still a fragmented market in Vietnam with different companies dominating different regions.

The second are startups that provide tools for teachers, but Azota’s founders say the teaching tool segment is still early and Azota differentiates by using a product-led growth model, solving teachers’ main challenges as they grow, especially for assigning and grading, instead of trying to address every issue that comes up. 

In a prepared statement, GGV Capital global managing partner Jixun Foo said, “Using technology to empower teachers to teach better, Azota makes great education accessible to millions of students. They can unleash the true potential of teachers to groom the next generation of Vietnamese youth.”

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Raising capital for robotics startups with Bee Partners and Rapid Robotics – TechCrunch

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Jordan Kretchmer founded Rapid Robotics with the mission of simplifying robotics for manufacturing by providing out-of-the-box automation solutions. Founded in 2019, the company quickly gained the attention of top VCs, including Bee Partners, which led Rapid Robotics’ seed round and participated in each of the following rounds. Hear Rapid Robotics’ pitch and hear from Kira Noodleman, partner at Bee Partners, to learn why robotic companies are quickly (and easily) gaining VC money.

This TechCrunch Live event opens on July 6 at 11:30 a.m. PDT/2:30 p.m. EDT with networking. The interview begins at 12 p.m. PDT followed by the TCL Pitch Practice at 12:30 p.m. PDT. Register here for free.

TechCrunch Live records weekly on Wednesdays at 11:30 a.m. PDT/2:30 p.m. EDT. Join us! Click here to register for free and gain access to all TechCrunch Live events — including TechCrunch Live, City Spotlight, Startup Pitch Practice, Networking and other TechCrunch community events — with just one registration.

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AI chipmaker Rebellions gets $22.8M Series A extension from Korean telco company KT  – TechCrunch

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South Korean AI chip developer Rebellions has raised a $22.8 million (30 billion KRW) extension to its Series A financing from a strategic investor KT, one of the largest telecom companies in South Korea. 

Last month, TechCrunch reported on Rebellions closing on $50 million in funding that valued the company at an estimated $283 million. At that time, Rebellions CEO and co-founder Sunghyun Park told TechCrunch that the startup wrapped up its initial Series A, which was oversubscribed, in less than three months from financial investors. 

The Pavilion Capital-backed AI chipmaker has raised about $72.8 million (92 billion KRW) in total Series A funding, bringing its total funding to about $102.8 million since its inception in 2020. 

Rebellions spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company plans to use the extension round to mass-produce its second AI chip prototype, ATOM, that will be used for large companies in the cloud sector and data centers. 

KT says it wants to develop AI chips such as NPU (neural processing unit) that will be used for data centers, autonomous vehicles and fintech.

This is the second strategic investment KT has made with AI chipmakers in South Korea in its effort to accelerate the AI semiconductor business. Ku also said in a prepared statement that KT would continue to invest in startups amid a tough investment environment. 

The competition for AI chips has been heating up as companies, including big tech giants like Nvidia, Intel, Google, and Apple, develop competing products. Intel acquired Habana Labs, an Israeli startup developing AI chipmaker for data centers, in 2019.  

The global AI chip market is projected to reach $194.9 billion by 2030, up from $8.02 billion in 2021, per the AI chip market outlook report. 

“AI semiconductor is one of the next big technologies,” said CEO of KT Hyeon-Mo Ku in a prepared statement. “Through the partnership with KT, we hope Rebellions will become a global fabless company like NVIDIA and Qualcomm.”  

Rebellions is also currently in discussions with potential customers in the financial sector to get its first AI chip, ION, which was launched in November 2021.

“We are looking forward to collaborating with KT, a leader in the Cloud and internet data center industry, and the strategic partnership will be the driving force behind Rebellions’ new growth and business,” Park said in the statement. 

Investors participating in Rebellions’ Series A include Temasek’s Pavilion Capital, Korean Development Bank, SV Investment, Mirae Asset Capital, KT Investment and Kakao Ventures. 

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