Google’s new phone is different from rivals. The Google Pixel Fold is a folding phone that opens out to a tablet but, unlike nearly every other folder out there, this one is wider, so that when open it really is tablet-shaped, that is, it has a landscape look rather than a square one. But the launch of the new tablet—and you can read my review in the coming days—is accompanied by the release of a brand-new mystery ebook (which is great).
The book is by the popular crime author Ajay Chowdhury, and is the latest episode starring Kamil Rahman, former Kolkata policeman now in London. The Invitation is designed to complement a commute, offering a highly engrossing interactive crime story that lasts around 20 minutes, complete with sound effects, drawings and countdown timer.
Since the Pixel Fold opens out to a book-shaped device, you might have expected it to play on left and right pages, but Google, who commissioned the story, has formatted it so it fills the screen, which adds to the visual impact.
The story is highly engaging, with London locations from the Tower of London to a street notorious for its connection to Jack the Ripper, and a plot that moves quickly across the British capital.
This being Google, there are several mentions of its products, such as Google Maps, though I’m told that the company left it to Chowdhury to write it as he pleased. It’s just the right side of product placement.
I talked to Andrea Zvinakis, Google’s product lead for Android foldable and large-screen surfaces, who is based in London. She was excited about the product, saying, “I actually I read it on my commute into the office yesterday. It’s a quick 20-minute read but it’s really fun, with a lot of Easter eggs sprinkled in. It’s fun to read, especially in London, just because there are so many landmarks mentioned in the book. The sound and video effects mean it feels like a mix between reading a book and consuming some interactive entertainment, or even participating in the murder mystery yourself.”
The book can be read on other devices, too, and there’s also a competition, with the chance of a prize of a Pixel Fold if you can count how many “folds” there are in the book.
This story is a first for Google, and I hope the company will do more. For now, though, it’s an intriguing and highly enjoyable way to spend a commute. And a great introduction to Google’s latest hardware. To get the story, go to ajaychowdhury.com and look for The Invitation.
Ajay partners with Google to create a unique gamified murder mystery ebook: The Invitation
From Joyless to Joyride: 64% of commuters look forward to going to work if they revel in immersive entertainment experiences
London, UK, 15th August 2023 – Google Pixel has teamed up with best-selling crime author, Ajay Chowdhury, to create a new and entertaining, interactive murder mystery eBook designed especially for commuters. New research reveals there is a surge of interest in the crime genre, with a massive 82% of people consuming this on average, and almost a third of commuters (30%) enjoying crime content on their commute.
The latest instalment in Chowdhury’s celebrated Kamil Rahman crime fiction series – The Invitation – is perfect for the commute – and what’s more, it’s free for anyone to download on any device. The gripping, gamified story is optimised especially for foldable devices like the brand new Pixel Fold, available on shelves in the UK from August 22nd.
Consuming Crime on the Commute
Commuting is back, and it’s not all bad. Research shows that 62% of people are now commuting to work at least four or more days a week, and of them 64% look forward to consuming content on their way to work, jumping to 81% among high earners. Chowdhury’s latest short story is perfect for the average commute which research shows takes approximately 32 minutes.
It seems consuming crime really could help catch a killer career! While research shows 82% of people consume crime, this rises to a staggering 88% among high earners. And though 30% of people reveal they are interested in crime and mystery on the commute, this jumps to 43% for high earners, who consume crime because it provides an escape (46%).
Unfolding Problem Solving
The research also reveals that over half (55%) of commuters who consume crime on their way to work believe that it enhances their confidence and problem-solving skills, rising to three quarters (74%) among high earners. TV psychologist and crime expert, Emma Kenny explains how this immersive eBook experience is perfectly designed to have a positive impact on both the brain and work.
Emma Kenny’s Top Tips
According to Kenny, the following 3 tips will set you up for a successful day.
Kenny said: “Unfolding or de-stressing during our commute can help support a better work-life balance, avoiding the cognitive strain that’s caused when we restrict our Liminal Space. Entertaining and immersing themselves in this new eBook will allow commuters to do this in the most enjoyable and effective way”.
The new eBook – The Invitation – offers a fun and interactive 20-minute read, ideal for filling the average commute. Embedded with puzzles designed to stimulate and challenge, the eBook is optimised for the Pixel Fold – Google’s first foldable phone.
Chowdhury’s story plunges readers into London’s Brick Lane, following characters Anjoli and Kamil as they decipher clues to find a killer. As the eBook unfolds, commuters are encouraged to crack the puzzles designed to both stimulate and challenge.
Author of the short fiction story, Ajay Chowdhury, said: “It’s amazing how crime stories not only capture our imaginations, but also engage our minds as we try to beat the detective to the solution. It has been a pleasure collaborating with Google Pixel to bring this interactive eBook to life and lead commuters on a mysterious journey through London’s multicultural East End.”
What’s more, commuters have the chance to win a fresh-on-the-shelf Pixel Fold, Google’s first and much anticipated foldable phone worth £1749 – perfect for consuming entertainment, books and games – if they can correctly count how many ‘folds’ are in the book.*
Andrea Zvinakis, Android Product Manager at Google, said: “The Google Pixel Fold, the first foldable engineered by Google, is truly the perfect commutable companion. The commute has become a precious space post-pandemic – with many using their time to consume their favourite multi-media content on their journeys to work. With the huge immersive display when opened, the Pixel Fold makes watching and reading even more pleasurable, which is why we teamed up with Ajay Chowdhury to offer up a free e-book full of intrigue, drama, games and easter eggs – designed for commuters especially. Those who enjoy the full-screen reading experience would particularly enjoy this on a Pixel Fold.”
Commuters can download their free copy at theinvitation.ajaychowdhury.com before they head underground and immerse themselves in a thrilling tale set in London’s East End, with no extended WIFI access needed.
*Terms and conditions apply. See ajaychowdhury.com for details of how to enter.
Research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Google Pixel who surveyed 2,008 Nationally representative commuters from the UK, including 200 who have an Income of £100,000 (Weighted by Gender and Age) between 22/06/2023 – 26/06/2023.
About Google Pixel Fold
Introducing Pixel Fold, the first foldable phone engineered by Google. All the power of the Google Tensor G2 chip – in a thin, pocket-sized design. It’s a Pixel phone on the outside. And a big, immersive display on the inside for movies, photos, work and multitasking. So you can do even more, in so many ways. Pre-order on the Google Store today, available on-shelf from 22 August in the UK.
For many writers, AI poses an existential threat to their livelihoods – but one author believes the technology could help drive him and his fellow creatives to new heights.
Saturday 19 August 2023 02:32, UK
The rain tapped lightly against the windowpanes of my London apartment, a steady rhythm that mirrored the musings within my little gray cells.
It was a day like any other, or so I believed, until a peculiar letter arrived. As I delicately unfolded the note, its contents gave rise to a most intriguing puzzle.
‘Mr Hercule Poirot,’ it began in elegant script, ‘I implore you to lend your unparalleled expertise to a matter of utmost secrecy and importance.
‘An enigma of art, an amalgamation of shadows, a crescendo of whispers, await your perceptive insight.’
Asked to open a new novel starring detective Hercule Poirot, one of Agatha Christie’s most famous creations, that’s ChatGPT‘s first attempt at grabbing your attention.
Ciphers Of The Midnight Mind is the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot’s suggested title – and it could no doubt craft the entire rest of the story in a matter of seconds.
For fans of the more than century-old character, whose popularity has endured beyond Christie’s death in 1976, new stories composed on demand may be a tantalising prospect.
After all, the author’s estate – like those who hold the keys to James Bond and Sherlock Holmes – has happily commissioned other writers to give readers new Poirot and Miss Marple adventures. Who’s to say those same fans couldn’t find enjoyment in a passable imitation by AI?
For many writers, it’s an existential question that has them fearing for their livelihoods.
But for Ajay Chowdhury, an award-winning crime author, it presents an opportunity for them to reach new heights.
“There’s a lot of fear around it for a writer – but I don’t believe it is going to replace us,” he says.
“I started experimenting with AI in writing six or seven months ago, and it was of course slightly scary.
“But it’s like having a fantastic editor on demand.”
Useful editor or existential threat?
Chowdhury’s fascination with AI speaks to his background in tech, one which included co-founding the music discovery app Shazam, later bought by Apple for a reported $400m (then £300m).
But he is now known for his Kamil Rahman crime series, inspired by his Indian roots, which has won him several awards and will see a fifth entry – The Spy – released next year.
AI tools are playing a key role in its development – helping Chowdhury bounce thoughts around, generate potential outcomes for certain scenes, and rephrase sections to help with pacing.
He even used an image generator, Midjourney, to visualise a dramatic chase scene through a cave on the island of Elephanta, a world heritage site off the coast of Mumbai. It helped spark ideas about how it could play out.
“Eight out of 10 times, whatever AI gives you might be thrown away, but the other two times you might think it’s a decent idea that can be expanded on,” he says.
“Using a combination of these tools is giving me a much better draft to submit. I am finding that I get to what would have been a fifth draft by the second draft.”
For Chowdhury, there’s no shame in using AI to help get there, despite what many of his contemporaries fear.
Earlier this month, author Jane Friedman had to contend with AI-generated books purportedly written in her name, falsely listed as such on Amazon. She managed to have them removed, despite them not technically falling foul of copyright law because she had not trademarked her name.
“This promises to be a serious problem for the book publishing world,” she warns.
‘Marvel formula’ most at risk
More than 100,000 writers have endorsed an open letter by America’s Authors Guild, which has demanded AI’s development show “respect for human creators and copyright”.
Generative models like ChatGPT are trained on huge amounts of trademarked material, prompting writers including comedian Sarah Silverman to sue its creator OpenAI for copyright infringement.
This potential to imitate human work is a driving force behind ongoing writers’ strikes in Hollywood.
TV and theatre writer Lisa Holdsworth, who is chair of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain, told the Sky News Daily podcast that would constitute theft more than creation, and the longer AI models are left to be trained without safeguards in place, “the more of a threat it becomes”.
Chowdhury backs the cause, saying left to its own devices, AI will only serve to indulge mediocrity.
“That beige world of creativity where everything is sequel 32 to something, that worries me,” he admits.
“Look at films like Oppenheimer and Barbie, both extremely well written. Could AI create those? No. But could they write the next Marvel? Possibly, it’s a pretty clear formula.”
A world of mediocrity?
For Chowdhury, the genie is out of the bottle and there’s no going back – writers, like all of us, need to adapt.
Aside from the next main entry in his Kamil Rahman series, AI helped Chowdhury find time to work with Google on interactive novel The Invitation, a crime story set in London’s East End.
The free short story – which includes puzzles to solve, a countdown timer, and sound effects – was made with commuters in mind and only takes around 20 minutes to get through.
It’s a little heavy on the Google product placement, with nods to Gmail and Maps that are clever or eye-rolling depending on your level of cynicism, though as a proof of concept for quick to make, accessible interactive novels, the kinds of which gamers have long been familiar, overall it’s quite effective.
The whole thing came together in six weeks to mark the UK launch of the tech giant’s new Pixel Fold phone, optimised to take advantage of its book-like screen. The production speed helped by Chowdhury generating the artwork using Midjourney.
It does the job, but it’s a move that will no doubt rub some the wrong way given the criticism levelled at Marvel for using AI to generate opening title graphics for its latest TV series.
But Chowdhury still sees AI as a tool to take him and others “to another level”.
“The utopia to me is people using AI to enhance their creativity,” he says.
“The side that worries me is if large corporations start to think we don’t need creatives any more.
“That will become a world of mediocrity.”
As the rain continued to dance its elegy on the windowpane, Poirot leaned back in his chair, his little gray cells still whirring with satisfaction.
For within the labyrinthine corridors of art and deception, he had once again illuminated the truth, dispelling the shadows that sought refuge in the enigmatic corners of the human soul.
Thanks, ChatGPT, but when it comes to Poirot, I think I’ll stick with Christie.
The use of AI in writing novels is a ‘con trick’ according to celebrated British author and journalist Frederick Forsyth.
Mr Forsyth, best known for thrillers such as The Day of the Jackal and The Odessa File, argued that AI could be used for editorial purposes but the core creation and attribution of novels must be human.
In an interview with TalkTV’s Rosanna Lockwood, he said: “It’s a con trick, frankly, I got no time for it. I believe that artificial intelligence, however sophisticated it may be, is still essentially the product of a machine, not a human brain.
“If you’re going to write a novel, I think it will be your novel, meaning stemming 100% from your brain. That I suspect is what the reader paying good money over a counter will expect and want.”
It comes after author and entrepreneur Ajay Chowdhury used AI to create his latest novel, The Detective.
Mr Chowdhury initially researched the pitfalls of using AI but found its uses were useful to cut down his editing time.
He said: “I don’t think any novel is the product of one person’s brain, you have editors, you have readers, you have a lot of people who provide input into it. The way I use it, I will never use AI to write my book for me.
“But I would use it very much to bounce ideas off, just as I might have my editor, and I would absolutely use it if I’m stuck.
“It actually cut the time of writing and gave my editor a much more polished draft.”
The authors agreed AI is not advanced enough to create authenticity within a story, or empathetic and lovable characters.
Mr Chowdhury said: “When people read my books, they read them because they like the characters, they like the arcs, and the AI could come up with a plot.
“Indeed, occasionally, if I’m stuck, I’ll go to the AI and ask it for ideas and I might use some of those ideas, but will never actually create a great character in my view.”
Mr Forsyth concurred: “I think it’s a question of attribution. As long as that’s made plain, I don’t think there’s any trickery involved.
“What I worry about is that it may not be made plain that some of this comes from a machine, a clever machine, but nevertheless a machine.”
Crime writer Ajay Chowdhury says the future of AI will be so common, it will be like using spell-check.
“I could see a future, I’m not very pleased about that future, where an Agatha Christie or a Poirot could be written by AI,” he told TalkTV contributor Rosanna Lockwood.
“One thing AI cannot do is create empathy, it cannot create lovable characters, real characters.
“The AI could come up with a plot and indeed, occasionally if I’m stuck, I’ll go to the AI and ask it for ideas and I might actually use those some of those ideas but it’ll never actually create a great character.”
We have partnered with author Ajay Chowdhury to create a gamified murder mystery eBook, free for all UK commuters.
It turns out a lot of people in the UK love chewing over a good murder mystery, and with the average commute in the UK lasting 32 minutes — and lots of people turning to their smartphones to pass the time on public transit — what better time to play detective?
Which is why, ahead of the Google Pixel Fold going on-shelf in the UK at the end of the month, we have teamed up with crime fiction author Ajay Chowdhury to create a gamified murder mystery eBook designed especially for commuters. (It just takes 20 minutes to read!) Anyone can download the book for free on their device, but for those using a Pixel Fold, the experience is designed to be particularly immersive (and frightening!), helping you to escape entirely via the large unfolded screen.
“The Invitation,” written exclusively for the launch of the Google Pixel Fold in the UK, is the latest installment of Chowdhury’s celebrated “Kamil Rahman” crime fiction series. Free to download to any device, the interactive tale takes us to London’s Brick Lane and Liverpool Street, following characters Anjoli and Kamil as they decipher clues to find a killer, gripping you right until the end while you head into the office. The story is embedded with puzzles designed to stimulate and challenge, while the eBook is also optimised especially for the Pixel Fold — Google’s first foldable phone — to give readers a full-screen tablet reading experience, and to pull you right in.
New research conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Google Pixel reveals there is a surge of interest in the crime genre, with a massive 82% of people in the UK consuming this on average, and almost a third of UK commuters (30%) carving out this time to absorb crime content on their journeys to work — making the commute more fun than arduous, overall.
Interestingly, this research also reveals that over half (55%) of commuters who consume crime on their way to work believe that it enhances their confidence and problem-solving skills, and that preference rises to three quarters (74%) among high earners. Engaging in fun forensic science before presenting that proposal to your boss may just have a positive effect!
Commuters can download their free copy at the-invitation.ajaychowdhury.com.
People who download the book also have the chance to win a fresh-off-the-shelf Pixel Fold — if they can correctly count how many “folds” are in the book.
Google knows some of the best smartphones for powering through your ebook backlog are foldable ones, so it has tapped up crime fiction author Ajay Chowdhury to help celebrate its debut folding phone going on sale in the UK. And for anyone that hasn’t got a Pixel Fold on pre-order, the free download comes with a chance to win one.
The Invitation is a 20 minute short story tied into the author’s “Kamil Rahman” series, which is set to reach book four early next year. Set in London’s Brick Lane and Liverpool Street, characters Anjoli and Kamil have to decipher clues in order to find a killer. No mere murder mystery, the story is filled with embedded puzzles to make sure you’ve been paying attention (plus clues in case you haven’t). Naturally Chowdhury has found ways to incorporate Google’s expansive portfolio of apps and services, including Gmail and Google Maps, into the mix too.
It’s long enough to keep you guessing through the average UK train commute, with atmospheric backing tracks (make sure to bring a pair of headphones) and sound effects. You’ll be able to read it on any device with a web browser, but the ebook has been optimised to fill the Pixel Fold’s expansive 7.6in inner screen.
As part of the release, Google is giving away a box-fresh Pixel Fold, which officially goes on sale on the 22nd of August. If you download a copy, correctly count how many ‘folds’ are in the book, and submit an answer before the 15th of September, you could be in with a shot of winning.
The Culture Secretary today accused Boris Johnson of trying to undermine the independence of London’s Arts Council by appointing a “Tory patsy” to head the organisation.
The Waiter Ajay Chowdhury
27 May 2021
It’s rare we get to see such a thrilling looking debut from an Asian author, and we are thrilled to get our hands on this one. From the winner of the Harvill Secker-Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Award, we expect big things.
BBC Studios has optioned TV rights for The Waiter by Ajay Chowdhury, winner of the Harvill Secker Crime Writing Competition in association with Bloody Scotland.
The deal was negotiated by Watson, Little agent Laetitia Rutherford and the adaptation is already in development.
Chowdhury’s novel is about disgraced detective Kamil Rahman, who moves from Calcutta to London to start afresh as a waiter in an Indian restaurant on Brick Lane. After catering for his boss’ friend’s 50th birthday party at a north London mansion, he becomes embroiled in an investigation with his boss’ daughter Anjoli, when the host is found dead in his swimming pool.
Jade Chandler, editorial director at Harvill Secker, said: “I am so pleased that our competition winner, Ajay, has had his fantastic debut optioned for TV already. We can’t wait to publish The Waiter in May of next year and to introduce his unforgettable detective, Kamil Rahman, to the world.”
The Waiter will be published by Harvill Secker in hardback, e-book and audio in May 2021.
Tech founder Ajay Chowdhury has won the inaugural Harvill Secker and Bloody Scotland competition with Arvon to find a new crime writer from a BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) background with his detective-turned-waiter murder mystery.
Harvill Secker editor Sara Adams acquired world rights to Chowdhury’s currently untitled debut novel, which will be published in 2020. Disgraced detective Kamil moves from Calcutta to London to start afresh as a waiter in a Brick Lane Indian restaurant but after catering a party for his boss’s friend, he becomes embroiled in an investigation with his boss’s daughter Anjoli when the host is found dead in his swimming pool.
Chowdhury’s background is in tech, and he is the m.d. of BCG Digital Ventures, an investment and incubation firm, for which he launched the London centre.
The competition run by the Penguin Random House imprint, residential writing charity Arvon and crime festival Bloody Scotland, aimed to discover a debut crime writer from a BAME background.
It was judged by crime novelist Abir Mukherjee, creator of the Shetland and Vera series Ann Cleeves and co-founder of BAME in Publishing, former Bookseller web editor and editor-at-large at Little Tiger Sarah Shaffi along with Harvill Secker editorial director Jade Chandler.
The prize will see Chowdhury have his debut published under the Harvill Secker imprint in a publishing deal with an advance of £5,000. Other perks include a panel appearance at the Bloody Scotland festival in 2019 and a series of three one-to-one mentoring sessions with Mukherjee. Arvon is offering the winner the chance to attend any one of their creative writing courses or writing retreats in 2019, with all expenses paid.
The inaugural competiton was launched in June and it is not yet known if it will run in 2019.
Chandler said Chowdhury’s entry “captured all the judges with his brilliant lead character, a detective from Calcutta turned waiter”. She added: “Ajay has written a clever, funny and insightful crime novel and we can’t wait to publish it in 2020.”
Chowdhury said: “As a teenager I devoured Holmes, Poirot and Inspector Ghote and never dreamed that I might one day have my own novel published, so it was a wonderful surprise to hear I’d won the Harvill Secker BAME crime writing competition. I was thrilled that the judges liked the character I created, because I had so much fun discovering him as I wrote.”
Ajay Chowdhury has been named Chair of the Board of Cambridge Enterprise. He assumed leadership of the Board in January, overseeing the strategy of Cambridge Enterprise, which is tasked with supporting the commercialisation of the ideas that emerge from the University.
Chowdhury has 25 years of start-up venture experience, building disruptive, new digital businesses in a wide range of industries.
He has particular expertise in mobile, e-commerce, digital media, data analytics, digital retail and government as well as strong functional expertise in sales, strategy development, product development and fund raising.
Chowdhury is Partner and Managing Director in the London office of BCG Digital Ventures. Prior to joining BCG, he was CEO of Seatwave, a European online ticketing marketplace that was sold to Ticketmaster. Before joining Seatwave he was CEO of ComQi, a global omni-channel retail technology company that was sold to AU Optronics.
Chowdhury was a founding partner of IDG Ventures Europe, a $100 million European venture capital fund. He also served as Chairman of Shazam, a $1 billion mobile audio recognition company and invested in and served on the board of Lionhead, a games developer sold to Microsoft.
Selected as one of the Asian Power 100—the 100 most influential and powerful Asians in the UK— Chowdhury has also been recognised with the 2015 Dealmaker of the Year award from M&A Magazine, Top 100 Asian tech stars and selected as one of 2016’s Sunday Times top 100 BAME business leaders in the UK.
Chowdhury has an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He serves on the board of the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport.
Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations, said: “Cambridge Enterprise has played a critical role in the development of the Cambridge cluster, supporting a wide array of University spin-outs and start-ups. As digitalisation continues at pace, Ajay’s background and experience will be invaluable to Cambridge Enterprise and the wider University.”
Chowdhury said: “I am delighted to be joining Cambridge Enterprise as its Chair. Knowledge exchange and technology transfer are important and increasingly vital parts of the mission of universities in general. The University of Cambridge is amongst the most important university sources of new deep tech ventures and promising therapeutics in the UK and internationally.”
Tony Raven, CEO of Cambridge Enterprise, said: “We are indebted to our outgoing Chair, Sir Keith O’Nions for his role in the development of the organisation and the Board over his five-year tenure. We look forward to welcoming and working with Ajay.