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Uber Riders in Delhi-NCR Can Now Book Cab via Chatbot on WhatsApp

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Uber has announced that it has launched and extended its partnership with WhatsApp, which will now allow users in Delhi NCR to book a ride via a chatbot on the instant messaging app. Riders will no longer need to download or use the Uber app for booking a ride, and everything will be managed within the WhatsApp chat interface. The feature was first launched as a pilot in Lucknow in December 2021, and now it is being rolled out to a wider audience.

Uber announced that it has officially launched and expanded the WhatsApp to Ride (WA2R) product feature for users in Delhi NCR. Users in one of Uber’s top cities globally by volume, can now use WhatsApp for user registration, booking of a ride, and getting a trip receipt. They are not needed to download the Uber app for the same. Users can choose from English and Hindi languages to book a cab on WhatsApp.

As per WhatsApp the Lucknow Pilot revealed that “the WA2R audience is younger than the average Uber App user with almost 50 percent of them being less than 25 years old. The fact that 33 percent of the inbounds during this pilot were received from new users shows the potential of new user acquisition through this partnership.”

How to book an Uber cab via WhatsApp

  1. A new or existing user who has registered with only a phone number on Uber can book a ride via WhatsApp.
  2. They can send ‘Hi’ on Whatsapp to +91 7292000002, or Click to Whatsapp (Mobile phone only), or scan the code below.
  3. Users will be asked to provide pickup and drop off locations.
  4. Users will also receive upfront fare information and the driver’s expected time of arrival.
  5. They can then confirm their ride.
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Photo Credit: Uber

Uber’s official chatbot on WhatsApp is powered by Infobip and the feature is built on the WhatsApp Business Platform. Furthermore, the Meta-owned platform says that riders will get the same safety features and insurance protection as those who book trips via the Uber app directly. These include the name of the driver, licence plate of the car, ability to track the location of the driver en route to the pickup point, and ability to speak to the driver anonymously using a masked number.

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“The WhatsApp chat flow will inform the rider about safety guidelines, including how to reach Uber in case of emergencies (type help on-trip). If the user selects the ‘emergency’ option while on the trip, they will receive an inbound call from Uber’s customer support team. Uber riders will also have access to its safety line number to call, if needed, until 30 mins after the trip ends. This video explains the WA2R flow while booking an Uber ride,” Uber said.

The ride-hailing platform also said that future product iterations of WA2R will allow existing users of the Uber app to also book trips through WhatsApp.


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Meta Proposes Monthly Fee of Up to EUR 13 for Ad-Free Access to Instagram and Facebook: Report

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According to a report, Instagram and Facebook could soon be available in some countries without any ads as part of the company’s efforts to comply with privacy regulations. Parent company Meta has reportedly pitched regulators the possibility of offering users the ability to pay a monthly fee instead of viewing personalised ads based on their information. Meta does not currently charge users for access to the company’s core services in any region, but privacy-related regulation is set to impact the company’s revenue that relies on showing its users personalised advertisements.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Meta has proposed charging users in the European Union up to EUR 13 (roughly Rs. 1,130) a month for access to an ad-free version of Facebook or Instagram on mobile — the price for users who sign up via the web browser would be EUR 10 (roughly Rs. 870) as the company wouldn’t need to pay Apple or Google the in-app purchase commission. Users would need to pay another EUR 6 (roughly Rs. 520) for each additional account.

The “subscription no ads” plan — or SNA — will be offered to European users, the company said in discussions with privacy watchdogs in Belgium and Ireland last month, according to the report. However, users in the US and other regions are unlikely to gain access to the ad-free plan in the near future.

Meta’s core services are currently available for free to all users on the platform, and the firm’s photo and video sharing, chat, and social networking services are supported by targeted advertisements that are based on user’s personal information. However, a recently passed regulation in the EU will require Facebook and Instagram to offer users the ability to opt out of the company using their personal information to target them with advertisements.

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Last month, it was reported that Meta was mulling paid versions of Instagram and Facebook aimed at EU users, while users who did not pay for a subscription would continue to see ads on the service. The social media giant has already been fined in some regions — including Norway — for failing to comply with privacy regulations and using personal information to show users targeted advertisements.

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Meta Used Public Instagram, Facebook Posts to Train Its New AI Assistant

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Meta Platforms used public Facebook and Instagram posts to train parts of its new Meta AI virtual assistant, but excluded private posts shared only with family and friends in an effort to respect consumers’ privacy, the company’s top policy executive told Reuters in an interview.

Meta also did not use private chats on its messaging services as training data for the model and took steps to filter private details from public datasets used for training, said Meta President of Global Affairs Nick Clegg, speaking on the sidelines of the company’s annual Connect conference this week.

“We’ve tried to exclude datasets that have a heavy preponderance of personal information,” Clegg said, adding that the “vast majority” of the data used by Meta for training was publicly available.

He cited LinkedIn as an example of a website whose content Meta deliberately chose not to use because of privacy concerns.

Clegg’s comments come as tech companies including Meta, OpenAI and Alphabet’s Google have been criticized for using information scraped from the internet without permission to train their AI models, which ingest massive amounts of data in order to summarize information and generate imagery.

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The companies are weighing how to handle the private or copyrighted materials vacuumed up in that process that their AI systems may reproduce, while facing lawsuits from authors accusing them of infringing copyrights.

Meta AI was the most significant product among the company’s first consumer-facing AI tools unveiled by CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday at Meta’s annual products conference, Connect. This year’s event was dominated by talk of artificial intelligence, unlike past conferences which focused on augmented and virtual reality.

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Meta made the assistant using a custom model based on the powerful Llama 2 large language model that the company released for public commercial use in July, as well as a new model called Emu that generates images in response to text prompts, it said.

The product will be able to generate text, audio and imagery and will have access to real-time information via a partnership with Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

The public Facebook and Instagram posts that were used to train Meta AI included both text and photos, Clegg said.

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Those posts were used to train Emu for the image generation elements of the product, while the chat functions were based on Llama 2 with some publicly available and annotated datasets added, a Meta spokesperson told Reuters.

Interactions with Meta AI may also be used to improve the features going forward, the spokesperson said.

Clegg said Meta imposed safety restrictions on what content the Meta AI tool could generate, like a ban on the creation of photo-realistic images of public figures.

On copyrighted materials, Clegg said he was expecting a “fair amount of litigation” over the matter of “whether creative content is covered or not by existing fair use doctrine,” which permits the limited use of protected works for purposes such as commentary, research and parody.

“We think it is, but I strongly suspect that’s going to play out in litigation,” Clegg said.

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Some companies with image-generation tools facilitate the reproduction of iconic characters like Mickey Mouse, while others have paid for the materials or deliberately avoided including them in training data.

See also  WhatsApp Working to Keep Iranians Connected Amid Widespread Internet Shutdown Over Nationwide Protests

OpenAI, for instance, signed a six-year deal with content provider Shutterstock this summer to use the company’s image, video and music libraries for training.

Asked whether Meta had taken any such steps to avoid the reproduction of copyrighted imagery, a Meta spokesperson pointed to new terms of service barring users from generating content that violates privacy and intellectual property rights.

© Thomson Reuters 2023


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WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger to Get AI Assistants; Meta Shows Off Image Generation Tool Emu

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Meta showcased a host of new products and services, including the Meta Quest 3 mixed reality headset and a pair of smart glasses made in collaboration with Ray-Ban, at its Meta Connect annual conference on Wednesday. Alongside the hardware, the company also announced its own AI assistant, Meta AI, and a variety of AI experiences across Meta’s suite of apps and devices, including AI stickers in Meta apps and AI editing tools for Instagram. Meta AI, a conversational generative AI assistant much like OpenAI’s ChatGPT or Microsoft’s Bing, will be available on WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram.

Meta AI will be powered by the company’s custom model that borrows from Meta’s large language model, Llama 2. The AI assistant, Meta said, will provide real-time information in response to text-based queries, trawling the internet via Bing search. Meta AI will also generate images based on text prompts. The AI assistant can help plan hiking trips with your friends in a group chat, prepare recipes, or help with your shopping list. Users can type in “@MetaAI /imagine” inside their chat box and follow it up with descriptive text prompts for what they want the AI assistant to do. Meta AI is also coming to the company’s latest devices, the Meta Quest 3 and the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses.

In addition to its default AI assistant, the company also showed off AI avatars with distinct personalities. Meta is bringing 28 AI characters, each with a unique backstory and behaviour. These AI characters can be conversed with in WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, and will also include some public figures and influencers that Meta has partnered up with for their likenesses. Famous people coming as AI characters include Dwayne Wade, Kendall Jenner, Mr. Beast, Snoop Dogg and more.

See also  WhatsApp Feature That Lets Users Create Avatars, Share Them as Stickers Spotted in Development: Report

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Emu can generate stickers based on user prompts

Photo Credit: Meta

Meta is calling its image generation tool ‘expressive media universe’, or Emu. The tool can also quickly generate AI stickers based on a user’s text prompts inside apps like WhatsApp or Instagram to share with friends. “It’s high-quality, photorealistic,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during the presentation. “But, one of the coolest things is the Emu generates that fast. It’s not a minute. It takes five seconds to generate one of these,” he added. This custom sticker generation feature will roll out to select English-language users over the next month in WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and Facebook Stories.

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The Facebook parent is also bringing new AI-powered image editing tools, specifically two new features — Restyle and Backdrop — that utilise technology from the Emu tool. Restyle acts as a kind of custom filter that works based on user prompts. Based on single descriptor or a more detail prompt, Restyle will edit your images to reflect a particular mood. And as the name suggests, Backdrop will let users change the background of their images based on custom prompts. Images created using both tools will carry markers that indicate the image is AI-generated. Meta said that Restyle and Backdrop were coming soon to Instagram but did not provide a concrete release date for the same.


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