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Chatbot helps abuse victims

An artificial intelligence chatbot is set to change how abuse victims can understand and cope with abusive relationships, writes BRYAN TURNER.



An engaging AI bot named Bo is at the heart of a new Facebook Messenger chatbot service called rAInbow, launched in South Africa to help victims of abuse.  It provides advice on coping with abuse, as well as stories of abuse victims who have overcome their experiences and circumstances.

Domestic abuse is a big issue in South Africa, according to the South African Medical Research Council. In a household survey, it found that 40% of men had hit their partners and that one in four men had raped a woman. The same study found that just 2% of women who have been raped had reported it to the police.

Backed by the Sage Foundation, rAInbow aims to break the silence around domestic abuse by starting a conversation with victims. The chatbot can also chat to friends of abuse victims, and offers advice on how to get the conversation started with victims of abuse.

The chatbot’s AI is geared to learn from behavioural patterns of users and provide responses in line with the situation.

The developer and CEO of AI for Good, Kriti Sharma, says rAInbow was created with ethics in mind. It is not a replacement for a therapist, and claims only to provide options and stories from which abuse victims can learn.

rAInbow is accessible to a large portion of South Africans, as it does not require a smartphone. All it needs to run is access to Facebook Messenger, which can run on smartphones and some feature phones. It does also use data, although many South African networks provide access to Facebook Lite for free.

From left to right: Debbie Wall, VP Sage Foundation; Josina Machel, Speaker & activist for violence against women; Kriti Sharma, AI lead at Sage & founder of AI for Good; Joanne van der Walt, Global Director Sage Foundation.

A huge positive of the chatbot is that it isn’t in a separate app and exists on Facebook Messenger under a gender-neutral name: Hi Rainbow. This helps in the event of an abuser going through the victim’s device.

“The app is powered by the AI and natural language processing, but there has been a lot of work on the user experience,” says Sharma. “We’re trying to make the chatbot technology as easy to use as possible so the powerful technology behind it can fulfil its purpose.”

Data collected will make rAInbow smarter but will not be able to identify users, as users are assigned a random ID every time they chat with the bot. Data that will be used is how abusive situations affect the lives of South Africans and how to deal with it.

rAInbow is available now by searching “Hi rAInbow” in the search bar of Facebook Messenger.


YouTube Music announces Smart Downloads, SA playlists

The service has introduced Smart Downloads which takes allowing users to store and play hundreds of tunes offline, automatically.



The latest updates from YouTube Music, for subscribers of its Music Premium and Premium services, include a new feature that allows users to switch seamlessly between a song and its music video for an uninterrupted experience.

It has also introduced Smart Downloads which takes the work out of downloading music, allowing users to store and play hundreds of tunes offline, automatically. YouTube Music has also announced new playlists for South Africa. 

The updates all reflect features that are popular on the global leader in music streaming, Spotify, and that have been key to its growth.

YouTube said in a statement on Friday: “Imagine listening to a new track by your favourite artist in the YouTube Music app and having the ability to seamlessly switch over to watch the music video – no pauses, no interruptions, just a simple tap that keeps the music flowing. This standout new feature from YouTube Music allows YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium subscribers to make a seamless transition between a song and its music video for uninterrupted listening and/or watching. Whether you’re in the mood for listening or watching (or a little of both)… it’s all here – no app switching required.”

With Smart Downloads, YouTube Music automatically saves music at night, when connected to Wi-Fi, helping subscribers to use less mobile data, enjoy a smoother updating experience and save up to 500 songs offline using Liked Songs playlist as well as other playlists and albums. 

Previously, music lovers could use the Offline Mixtape feature to download up to 100 songs, specifically chosen for them based on what they listened to most on the platform. Now, with Smart Downloads, they select the number of songs they would like automatically downloaded by toggling their YouTube Music Settings. This means YouTube Music Premium subscribers with Smart Downloads enabled on their mobile devices can now access hundreds of tracks regardless of connectivity. 

This feature is currently available on Android, with plans to bring it to iOS in the future.

Click here to read more about YouTube Music playlists, and find out what is inside them.

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Make cars, not waste



Jaguar Land Rover is trialling an innovative recycling process which converts plastic waste into a new premium grade material that could feature on future vehicles. 

It’s estimated that the amount of waste plastic is predicted to exceed 12 million tonnes globally by 2050*. Today, not all of this plastic can be recycled for use in automotive applications – especially in vehicle parts that are required to meet the most exacting safety and quality standards.

Working in conjunction with chemical company, BASF, Jaguar Land Rover is part of a pilot project called ChemCycling that upcycles domestic waste plastic, otherwise destined for landfill or incinerators, into a new high-quality material. 

The waste plastic is transformed to pyrolysis oil using a thermochemical process. This secondary raw material is then fed into BASF’s production chain as a replacement for fossil resources; ultimately producing a new premium grade that replicates the high quality and performance of ‘virgin’ plastics. Importantly, it can be tempered and coloured making it the ideal sustainable solution for designing the next-generation dashboards and exterior-surfaces in Jaguar and Land Rover models.

Jaguar Land Rover and BASF are currently testing the pilot phase material in a Jaguar I-PACE prototype front-end carrier overmoulding to verify it meets the same stringent safety requirements of the existing original part.

Pending the outcome of the trials and progression in taking chemical recycling to market readiness, adoption of the new premium material would mean Jaguar Land Rover could use domestically derived recycled plastic content throughout its cars without any compromise to quality or safety performance**. 

Chris Brown, Senior Sustainability Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Plastics are vital to car manufacturing and have proven benefits during their use phase, however, plastic waste remains a major global challenge. Solving this issue requires innovation and joined-up thinking between regulators, manufacturers and suppliers.

“At Jaguar Land Rover, we are proactively increasing recycled content in our products, removing single-use plastics across our operations and reducing excess waste across the product lifecycle. The collaboration with BASF is just one way in which we are advancing our commitment to operating in a circular economy.”

This is the latest example of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to addressing the challenge of waste plastic. The company has collaborated with Kvadrat to offer customers alternative seat options that are both luxurious and sustainable. The high-quality material, available initially on the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque, combines a durable wool blend with a technical suedecloth that is made from 53 recycled plastic bottles per vehicle. 

Jaguar Land Rover has already met its 2020 target for Zero Waste to Landfill for UK operations. This includes the removal of 1.3 million m2 – equal to 187 football pitches – of plastic from its manufacturing lineside and replacing 14 million single use plastic items in business operations. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Jaguar Land Rover’s vision for Destination Zero; an ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner. Delivered through relentless innovation to adapt its products and services to the rapidly-changing world, the company’s focus is on achieving a future of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion.

Editor’s notes:

** All Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles tested have achieved a Euro NCAP 5* rating.

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