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Tech News

Google AI experiment compares poses to 80,000 images as you move

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Google released a fun AI experiment today called Move Mirror that matches whatever pose you make to hundreds of images of others making that same pose. When you visit the Move Mirror website and allow it to access your computer’s camera, it uses a computer vision model called PoseNet to detect your body and identify what positions your joints are in. It then compares your pose to more than 80,000 images and finds which ones best mirror your position. Move Mirror then shows you those images next to your own in real time and as you move around, the images you’re matched to change. You can even make a GIF of your poses and your Move Mirror matches.

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“With Move Mirror, we’re showing how computer vision techniques like pose estimation can be available to anyone with a computer and a webcam,” Google said in a blog post. And if you’re worried about what’s happening with your image when you use Move Mirror, Google assures that it’s not being stored or sent to a server. Because Move Mirror is powered by TensorFlow.js, all of the pose tracking is done directly in your browser.

Other Google AI experiments have allowed users to type in statements or questions and get related book passages in response, or get rhymes based on what objects are in front of their cameras.

You can try out Move Mirror here and read more about how it was made here.

Tech News

IBM extends deal using Watson to support veterans with cancer

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Andrew Spear for The Washington Post via Getty Images

IBM is making further use of Watson in the fight against cancer. The tech giant has extended a team-up with the US Department of Veterans Affairs that taps Watson for help treating soldiers with cancer, particularly stage 4 patients who have few other options. The new alliance runs through “at least” June 2019 and will continue the partnership’s existing strategy. Oncologists and pathologists first sequence tumor DNA, and then use Watson’s AI to interpret the data and spot mutations that might open up therapeutic choices.

The pact could do more to help health care in the US than you might think. IBM noted that Veterans Affairs treats about 3.5 percent of all American cancer patients, the largest in any one cancer group. If even a fraction of them can find viable cancer treatments through Watson, that could help a significant portion of the population.

The company also points out that “more than one-third” of VA patients in this oncology program (about 2,700 have received support so far) are rural residents who have a harder time getting access to cutting-edge treatments. To some extent, this could make specialized cancer therapy more accessible, not just more commonplace.

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'Robot chemist' could use AI to speed up medical breakthroughs

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Getty Images/iStockphoto

Scientists can only do so much to discover new chemical reactions on their own. Short of happy accidents, it can take years to find new drugs that might save lives. They might have a better way at the University of Glasgow, though: let robots do the hard work. A research team at the school has developed a “robot chemist” (below) that uses machine learning to accelerate discoveries of chemical reactions and molecules. The bot uses machine learning to predict the outcomes of chemical reactions based on what it gleans from direct experience with just a fraction of those interactions. In a test with 1,000 possible reactions from 18 chemicals, the machine only needed to explore 100 of them to predict study-worthy reactions in the entire lot with about 80 percent accuracy.

The University said it found four reactions just through this test, and one reaction was in the top one percent of unique responses.

That may not sound like a great success rate, and it will ideally get better. However, it’s easy to see the robot dramatically speeding up the discovery process by letting scientists focus on the handful of reactions that are most likely to pan out. That could accelerate the development of new treatments, new battery formulas and extra-strong materials. And it wouldn’t necessarily cost jobs — rather, it could help chemists focus on the trickier aspects of research instead of plowing through mundane tests.

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DeepMind, Elon Musk and more pledge not to make autonomous AI weapons

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Today during the Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, the Future of Life Institute announced that more than 2,400 individuals and 160 companies and organizations have signed a pledge, declaring that they will “neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade or use of lethal autonomous weapons.” The signatories, representing 90 countries, also call on governments to pass laws against such weapons. Google DeepMind and the Xprize Foundation are among the groups who’ve signed on while Elon Musk and DeepMind co-founders Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman have made the pledge as well.

The pledge comes as a handful of companies are facing backlash over their technologies and how they’re providing them to government agencies and law enforcement groups. Google has come under fire for its Project Maven Pentagon contract, which is providing AI technology to the military in order to help them flag drone images that require additional human review. Similarly, Amazon is facing criticism for sharing its facial recognition technology with law enforcement agencies while Microsoft has been called out for providing services to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“Thousands of AI researchers agree that by removing the risk, attributability and difficulty of taking human lives, lethal autonomous weapons could become powerful instruments of violence and oppression, especially when linked to surveillance and data systems,” says the pledge. It adds that those who sign agree that “the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine.”

“I’m excited to see AI leaders shifting from talk to action, implementing a policy that politicians have thus far failed to put into effect,” Future of Life Institute President Max Tegmark said in a statement. “AI has huge potential to help the world — if we stigmatize and prevent its abuse. AI weapons that autonomously decide to kill people are as disgusting and destabilizing as bioweapons, and should be dealt with in the same way.”

Google has already released its own set of principles, the purpose of which is guide the company’s ethics on AI technology. Its policy states that it won’t design or deploy AI for use in weapons, surveillance or technology “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” Microsoft has stated that its work with ICE is limited to email, calendar, messaging and document management, and doesn’t include any facial recognition technology. The company is also working on a set of guiding principles for its facial recognition work.

In 2015, Musk donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute for a research program focused on ensuring AI will be beneficial to humanity. And last year, Musk, Hassabis and Suleyman signed a Future of Life Institute letter sent to the UN that sought regulation of autonomous weapons systems.

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Google Assistant adds a snapshot of your daily agenda

July 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Google is no stranger to serving up contextual info and commands when they’re relevant. But wouldn’t it be nice if could curate and organize that info in a way that could help with a jam-packed schedule? It does now. The search firm is currently trotting out a “visual snapshot” for Assistant on mobile devices that provides the info and controls the AI helper believes you’ll need to make it through the day. It prioritizes navigation, but scrolling down will show you your itinerary, reminders, reservations (such as flights and movies) and eventually less essential content like stock prices and Assistant action suggestions.

As you’d expect, the data will vary based on the time of day, where you are and your recent history with Assistant.

The feature will expand over time, Google said. You’ll eventually see an overview of your notes and to-do lists (whether or not they’re from Google apps), a discovery section for new activities, music suggestions and even your parking spot. Clearly, Google is hoping that you’ll have a reason to keep returning to Assistant over and over again, rather than remembering to juggle apps at the right times.

You may have to wait a few days for the feature to show up, but you’ll know when it’s ready. There will be an inbox-like icon when you invoke Assistant on Android, while iOS users will see it as soon as they launch the Assistant app. It’s not a radical departure for Google, especially if you’re used to receiving “leave now” notifications and similar alerts, but the consolidation could prove supremely helpful for those days where the sheer number of tasks proves overwhelming.

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Samsung's new DRAM chip will make phones run faster and longer

July 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Samsung

Samsung has been busy improving its microSD range, introducing SSDs with faster write speeds, and opening the world’s biggest mobile factory, but the electronics maker doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon — it’s just completed tests on a 8GB LPDDR5 DRAM prototype, a faster, low power RAM that will be used to power machine learning applications and AI in 5G phones.

Compared to devices that use LPDDR4X chips, the 8GB LPDDR5 DRAM module offers a data rate which is up to 1.5 times faster. At 6,400 Mbps, LPDDR5 can transfer around 51 GB in one second, which Samsung says is the equivalent of roughly 14 HD video files. It also comes in two bandwidth flavors — 6,400 Mbps at 1.1 operating voltage, or 5,500 Mbps at 1.05 V. LPDDR5 has been specifically engineered to reduce voltage while in active mode, but Samsung’s emphasizing the ‘deep sleep mode’ — a feature which slashes power usage to half of the ‘idle mode’ offered by LPDDR4X chips.

These power saving attempts will supposedly decrease power consumption by up to 30 percent, and in the long run, help increase the the battery life of future smartphones. While Samsung didn’t spell out when LPDDR5 chips would be ready to hit the market, production will coincide with demand from global customers.

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Microsoft and National Geographic team up on AI research grant

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Microsoft and National Geographic are partnering on a new grant program that will put $1 million towards projects using AI to address environmental challenges. Between five and 15 projects will be selected as recipients of the AI for Earth Innovation Grant program and winning researchers will receive funding, access to Microsoft cloud and AI tools, inclusion in the National Geographic Explorer Community and affiliation with National Geographic Labs.

“Microsoft is constantly exploring the boundaries of what technology can do, and what it can do for people and the world,” Lucas Joppa, chief environmental scientist at Microsoft, said in a statement. “We believe that humans and computers, working together through AI, can change the way that society monitors, models and manages Earth’s natural systems.” In a similar vein, Google just announced a partnership with UN Environment that will provide real-time data to organizations and governments about the impact of human activity on ecosystems.

Grant applications are open to researchers now and will remain open through October 8th. Projects should focus on biodiversity conservation, climate change, agriculture or water and funding requests must be $200,000 or less. Any models generated through the grant’s provided resources must be made open source so that other researchers can use the tools as well. Recipients will be announced in December.

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Facebook improves AI by sending 'tourist bots' to a virtual NYC

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Reuters/Brendan McDermid

As a general rule, AI isn’t great at using new info to make better sense of existing info. Facebook thinks it has a clever (if unusual) way to explore solutions to this problem: send AI on a virtual vacation. It recently conducted an experiment that had a “tourist” bot with 360-degee photos try to find its way around New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen area with the help of a “guide” bot using 2D maps. The digital tourist had to describe where it was based on what it could see, giving the guide a point of reference it can use to offer directions.

The project focused on collecting info through regular language (“in front of me there’s a Brooks Brothers”), but it produced an interesting side discovery: the team learned that the bots were more effective when they used a “synthetic” chat made of symbols to communicate data. In other words, the conversations they’d use to help you find your hotel might need to be different than those used to help, say, a self-driving car.

The research also helped Facebook’s AI make sense of visually complex urban environments. A Masked Attention for Spatial Convolution system could quickly parse the most relevant keywords in their responses, so they could more accurately convey where they were or needed to go.

As our TechCrunch colleagues observed, this is a research project that could improve AI as a whole rather than the immediate precursor to a navigation product. With that said, it’s easy to see practical implications. Self-driving cars could use this to find their way when they can’t rely on GPS, or offer directions to wayward humans using only vague descriptions.

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It's now easier to change Google Assistant's voice

July 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Now that Google Assistant has a slew of voices to choose from, shouldn’t you have an easy interface for picking one of those voices? You do now. Google is rolling out an update that gives US users a new, simple interface for changing Assistant’s voice. It’s very colorful, to put it mildly: you just tap on a color associated with a given voice (Google told us it chose them at random) and listen to be sure they’re the dulcet tones you want to hear.

The addition should be platform-agnostic and will be widely available in the US by the end of the week. It’s not certain when other countries will receive the fresh interface, but that’s also dependent on having multi-voice support in the first place. If you live in a region where you only have one voice to choose from, you’ll just have to be patient.

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Former Google AI chief will lead Appleā€™s new machine learning team

July 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Back in April, Google’s former AI and search chief John Giannandrea left the company to join Apple for an undisclosed role. Today, the latter company announced he will head a new team combining the Core ML and Siri groups.

It’s not a leap for Giannandrea, who led Google’s Machine Intelligence, Research and Search teams over an eight-year tenure at the company. The new Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning team he will supervise won’t change the structure of the Siri and Core ML teams, per TechCrunch. But having Giannandrea at the helm of both will unify the direction of the company’s machine learning and AI endeavors, especially after the company continued its hiring frenzy this spring to expand the Siri team.