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AI

Microsoft Researchers Offer Predictions For AI, Deep Learning (theverge.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Microsoft polled 17 women working in its research organization about the technology advances they expect to see in 2017, as well as a decade later in 2027. The researchers' predictions touch on natural language processing, machine learning, agricultural software, and virtual reality, among other topics. For virtual reality, Mar Gonzalez Franco, a researcher in Microsoft's Redmond lab, believes body tracking will improve next year, and then over the next decade we'll have "rich multi-sensorial experiences that will be capable of producing hallucinations which blend or alter perceives reality." Haptic devices will simulate touch to further enhance the sensory experience. Meanwhile, Susan Dumais, a scientist and deputy managing director at the Redmond lab, believes deep learning will help improve web search results next year. In 2027, however, the search box will disappear, she says. It'll be replaced by search that's more "ubiquitous, embedded, and contextually sensitive." She says we're already seeing some of this in voice-controlled searches through mobile and smart home devices. We might eventually be able to look things up with either sound, images, or video. Plus, our searches will respond to "current location, content, entities, and activities" without us explicitly mentioning them, she says. Of course, it's worth noting that Microsoft has been losing the search box war to Google, so it isn't surprising that the company thinks search will die. With global warming as a looming threat, Asta Roseway, principal research designer, says by 2027 famers will use AI to maintain healthy crop yields, even with "climate change, drought, and disaster." Low-energy farming solutions, like vertical farming and aquaponics, will also be essential to keeping the food supply high, she says. You can view all 17 predictions here.
AI

Apple To Start Publishing AI Research To Hasten Deep Learning (bloomberg.com) 25

In what is a major deviation in its strategy, Apple will allow its artificial intelligence teams to publish research papers for the first time. From a report on Bloomberg: When Apple introduced its Siri virtual assistant in 2011, the company appeared to have a head start over many of its nearest competitors. But it has lost ground since then to the likes of Alphabet's Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa. Researchers say among the reasons Apple has failed to keep pace is its unwillingness to allow its AI engineers to publish scientific papers, stymieing its ability to feed off wider advances in the field. That policy has now changed, Russ Salakhutdinov, an Apple director of AI research, said Monday at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference in Barcelona. One attendee posted a photo of a slide from Salakhutdinov's presentation stating "Can we publish? Yes. Do we engage with academia? Yes."
Power

Engineers Explain Why the Galaxy Note 7 Caught Fire (digitaltrends.com) 273

Engineers with manufacturing technology company Instrumental tore apart a Galaxy Note 7 to try and figure out what may have caused some devices to overheat and explode, causing Samsung to recall and eventually cancel all Galaxy Note 7 devices. In their damning new report, the engineers discovered the root of the problem appears to be that the battery is too tightly packed inside the body of the Note 7. Digital Trends reports: They discovered the battery was so tightly packed inside the Galaxy Note 7's body that any pressure from battery expansion, or stress on the body itself, may squeeze together layers inside the battery that are never supposed to touch -- with explosive results. Batteries swell up under normal use, and we place stress on a phone's body by putting it our pocket and sitting down, or if it's dropped. Tolerances for battery expansion are built into a smartphone during design, and Instrumental notes Samsung used "a super-aggressive manufacturing process to maximize capacity." In other words, the Galaxy Note 7 was designed to be as thin and sleek as possible, while containing the maximum battery capacity for long use, thereby better competing against rival devices such as the iPhone 7 Plus and improving on previous Note models. The report speculates that any pressure placed on the battery in its confined space may have squeezed together positive and negative layers inside the cell itself, which were thinner than usual in the Note 7's battery already, causing them to touch, heat up, and eventually in some cases, catch fire. Delving deeper into the design, the engineers say the space above a battery inside a device needs a "ceiling" that equates to approximately 10 percent of the overall thickness. The Galaxy Note 7 should have had a 0.5mm ceiling; it had none.
AI

Many CEOs Believe Technology Will Make People Largely Irrelevant (betanews.com) 499

An anonymous reader shares a report on BetaNews:Although artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other emerging technologies may reshape the world as we know it, a new global study has revealed that the many CEOs now value technology over people when it comes to the future of their businesses. The study was conducted by the Los Angeles-based management consultant firm Korn Ferry that interviewed 800 business leaders across a variety of multi-million and multi-billion dollar global organizations. The firm says that 44 percent of the CEOs surveyed agreed that robotics, automation and AI would reshape the future of many work places by making people "largely irrelevant." The global managing director of solutions at Korn Ferry Jean-Marc Laouchez explains why many CEOs have adopted this controversial mindset, saying: "Leaders may be facing what experts call a tangibility bias. Facing uncertainty, they are putting priority in their thinking, planning and execution on the tangible -- what they can see, touch and measure, such as technology instruments."
Google

Google's DeepMind is Opening Up Its Flagship Platform To AI Researchers Outside the Company (businessinsider.com) 22

Artificial intelligence (AI) researchers around the world will soon be able to use DeepMind's "flagship" platform to develop innovative computer systems that can learn and think for themselves. From a report on BusinessInsider: DeepMind, which was acquired by Google for $400 million in 2014, announced on Monday that it is open-sourcing its "Lab" from this week onwards so that others can try and make advances in the notoriously complex field of AI. The company says that the DeepMind Lab, which it has been using internally for some time, is a 3D game-like platform tailored for agent-based AI research. [...] The DeepMind Lab aims to combine several different AI research areas into one environment. Researchers will be able to test their AI agent's abilities on navigation, memory, and 3D vision, while determining how good they are at planning and strategy.
AI

Stephen Hawking: Automation and AI Is Going To Decimate Middle Class Jobs (businessinsider.com) 468

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Business Insider: In a column in The Guardian, the world-famous physicist wrote that "the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining." He adds his voice to a growing chorus of experts concerned about the effects that technology will have on workforce in the coming years and decades. The fear is that while artificial intelligence will bring radical increases in efficiency in industry, for ordinary people this will translate into unemployment and uncertainty, as their human jobs are replaced by machines. Automation will, "in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world," Hawking wrote. "The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive." He frames this economic anxiety as a reason for the rise in right-wing, populist politics in the West: "We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent." Combined with other issues -- overpopulation, climate change, disease -- we are, Hawking warns ominously, at "the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity." Humanity must come together if we are to overcome these challenges, he says.
Social Networks

Facebook Developing AI To Flag Offensive Live Videos (reuters.com) 104

Facebook is working on automatically flagging offensive material in live video streams, building on a growing effort to use artificial intelligence to monitor content, said Joaquin Candela, the company's director of applied machine learning. Reuters added: The social media company has been embroiled in a number of content moderation controversies this year, from facing international outcry after removing an iconic Vietnam War photo due to nudity, to allowing the spread of fake news on its site. Facebook has historically relied mostly on users to report offensive posts, which are then checked by Facebook employees against company "community standards." Decisions on especially thorny content issues that might require policy changes are made by top executives at the company. Candela told reporters that Facebook increasingly was using artificial intelligence to find offensive material. It is "an algorithm that detects nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies," he said.
AI

Amazon Said to Plan Premium Alexa Speaker With Large Screen (bloomberg.com) 84

Amazon's Echo speakers have garnered a lot of interest over the past few months. Many people believe that they like Amazon Echo because of how easy it's to operate -- there is no display, you talk with Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, which is reasonably good at understanding your queries. But in what seems like a deviation from the idea that made Echos so popular, Amazon is reportedly working on an Echo-like speaker, only this time it is more premium and has a 7-inch display, too. From a report on Bloomberg: The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon's existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company's voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing, one of the people said.
China

Microsoft Confirms Its Chinese-Language Chatbot Filters Certain Topics (fortune.com) 19

Microsoft's Chinese-language AI chat bot filters certain topics, the company confirmed Monday, although it did not clarify whether that included interactions deemed politically sensitive. From a report on Fortune: Last week, CNNMoney and China Digital Times reported that Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state. References to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or "Steamed Bun Xi," a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping, would draw evasive answers or non sequiturs from the chat bot, according to the report. "Am I stupid? Once I answer you'd take a screengrab," read one answer to a question that contained the words "topple the Communist Party." Even the mention of Donald Trump, the American President-elect, drew an evasive response from the chat bot, according to reports. "I don't want to talk about it," Xiaoice said, reports CNN Money. In response to inquiries from Fortune, Microsoft confirmed that there was some filtering around Xiaoice's interaction. "We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice," a Microsoft spokesperson tells Fortune. "With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics." The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.
Transportation

Self-Driving Trucks Begin Real-World Tests on Ohio's Highways (cbsnews.com) 178

An anonymous reader writes: "A vehicle from self-driving truck maker Otto will travel a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33 on Monday in central Ohio..." reports the Associated Press. The truck "will travel in regular traffic, and a driver in the truck will be positioned to intervene should anything go awry, Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said Friday, adding that 'safety is obviously No. 1.'"

Ohio sees this route as "a corridor where new technologies can be safely tested in real-life traffic, aided by a fiber-optic cable network and sensor systems slated for installation next year" -- although next week the truck will also start driving on the Ohio Turnpike.

Google

Google's DeepMind Made an AI Watch Close To 5000 Videos So That It Surpasses Humans in Lip-Reading (thetechportal.com) 80

A new AI tool created by Google and Oxford University researchers could significantly improve the success of lip-reading and understanding for the hearing impaired. In a recently released paper on the work, the pair explained how the Google DeepMind-powered system was able to correctly interpret more words than a trained human expert. From a report: To accomplish the task, a cohort of scientists fed thousands of hours of TV footage -- 5000 to be precise -- from the BBC to a neural network. It was made to watch six different TV shows, which aired between the period of January 2010 and December 2015. This included 118,000 difference sentences and some 17,500 unique words. To understand the progress, it successfully deciphered words with a 46.8 percent accuracy. The neural network had to recognize the same based on mouth movement analysis. The under 50 percent accuracy might seem laughable to you but let me put things in perspective for you. When the same set of TV shows were shown to a professional lip-reader, they were able to decipher only 12.4 percent of words without error. Thus, one can understand the great difference in the capability of the AI as compared to a human expert in that particular field.
PlayStation (Games)

Virtual Reality is Pushing Gaming Into Another 'Golden Age': Xbox Co-founder (cnbc.com) 114

From a CNBC report:The Xbox and PS2 were two of the most popular consoles ever and now gaming is entering "another golden age," according to Otto Berkes (a pioneer of the gaming industry), driven by virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI). "One of the aspects of VR that has incredible potential is interaction and communication -- interacting with characters that are both artificial and virtual, being able to blur distance and geography, you can be anywhere and literally in any time," Berkes told CNBC in an interview on Wednesday. "We're entering another golden age of interactive content development."
Communications

Google's AI Translation Tool Creates Its Own Secret Language (techcrunch.com) 69

After a little over a month of learning more languages to translate beyond Spanish, Google's recently announced Neural Machine Translation system has used deep learning to develop its own internal language. TechCrunch reports: GNMT's creators were curious about something. If you teach the translation system to translate English to Korean and vice versa, and also English to Japanese and vice versa... could it translate Korean to Japanese, without resorting to English as a bridge between them? They made this helpful gif to illustrate the idea of what they call "zero-shot translation" (it's the orange one). As it turns out -- yes! It produces "reasonable" translations between two languages that it has not explicitly linked in any way. Remember, no English allowed. But this raised a second question. If the computer is able to make connections between concepts and words that have not been formally linked... does that mean that the computer has formed a concept of shared meaning for those words, meaning at a deeper level than simply that one word or phrase is the equivalent of another? In other words, has the computer developed its own internal language to represent the concepts it uses to translate between other languages? Based on how various sentences are related to one another in the memory space of the neural network, Google's language and AI boffins think that it has. The paper describing the researchers' work (primarily on efficient multi-language translation but touching on the mysterious interlingua) can be read at Arxiv.
Transportation

Flying Robot Ambulance Finally Takes Its First Flight (popsci.com) 43

What weighs 2,400 pounds, flies 100 miles per hour, and doesn't haven't a pilot? An anonymous reader writes: This week Popular Science remembers a 2007 article which discovered "an amazing machine of the future, almost like a flying car, that seemed plausible but just out of reach" -- and reports that it's now finally performed "a full, autonomous flight on a preplanned route." Designed to provide unmanned emergency evacuations, it's been described as "a hovercar-like aircraft" flown with a built-in AI-controlled flight system.

Tuesday's route was two minutes long, and "According to Urban Aeronautics, the vehicle's Flight Control System made the decision to land too early." But what's significant is there's no human pilot. "Decisions by the flight controls are checked by the craft's flight management system, like a pilot overseen by a captain...all informed by an array of sensors, including 'two laser altimeters, a radar altimeter, inertial sensors, and an electro-optic payload camera.'"

The test brings the giant unmanned vehicle one step closer to its ultimate goal of becoming "a robot that can fly inside cities, weaving between buildings and hovering above any dangers on the ground below."
AI

Why Automation Won't Displace Human Workers (diginomica.com) 540

"There was never a job opening for a drone pilot until there was something to fly," writes the founder of market research firm Beagle Research Group, arguing that automation won't inevitably lead society to a universal basic income "free lunch" because new jobs arise when "new capabilities, technical and otherwise, innovate them into existence." Heck, computer programmers had no existence until computers. At one point a computer was just someone who was very good at math performing calculations all day...it took a year to check all of the calculations needed to produce the atomic bomb and that work was all done by humans. Imagine how history might be different if even one of them had a pocket calculator. You get the idea. New technology inspires new jobs.
He also argues that historically automation eliminates jobs that were "dull, dirty, and dangerous," and that automation also ends up performing previously-nonexistent jobs -- or work that was forced onto customers in self-service scenarios.
Google

Is Google's AI-Driven Image-Resizing Algorithm Dishonest? (thestack.com) 79

The Stack reports on Google's "new research into upscaling low-resolution images using machine learning to 'fill in' the missing details," arguing this is "a questionable stance...continuing to propagate the idea that images contain some kind of abstract 'DNA', and that there might be some reliable photographic equivalent of polymerase chain reaction which could find deeper truth in low-res images than either the money spent on the equipment or the age of the equipment will allow." An anonymous reader summarizes their report: Rapid and Accurate Image Super Resolution (RAISR) uses low and high resolution versions of photos in a standard image set to establish templated paths for upward scaling... This effectively uses historical logic, instead of pixel interpolation, to infer what the image would look like if it had been taken at a higher resolution.

It's notable that neither their initial paper nor the supplementary examples feature human faces. It could be argued that using AI-driven techniques to reconstruct images raises some questions about whether upscaled, machine-driven digital enhancements are a legal risk, compared to the far greater expense of upgrading low-res CCTV networks with the necessary resolution, bandwidth and storage to obtain good quality video evidence.

The article points out that "faith in the fidelity of these 'enhanced' images routinely convicts defendants."
AI

Intel Lays Roadmap For 100-Fold AI Performance Boost With Nervana and Knights (hothardware.com) 44

MojoKid writes: Intel is laying out its roadmap to advance artificial intelligence performance across the board. Nervana Systems, a company that Intel acquired just a few months ago, will play a pivotal role in the company's efforts to make waves in an industry dominated by GPU-based solutions. Intel's Nervana chips incorporate technology (which involves a fully-optimized software and hardware stack) that is specially tasked with reducing the amount of time required to train deep-learning models. Nervana hardware will initially be available as an add-in card that plugs into a PCIe slot, which is the quickest way for Intel to get this technology to customers. The first Nervana silicon, codenamed Lake Crest, will make its way to select Intel customers in H1 2017. Intel is also talking about Knights Mill, which is the next generation of the Xeon Phi processor family. The company claims that Knights Mill will deliver a 4x increase in deep learning performance compared to existing Xeon Phi processors and the combined solution with Nervana will offer orders of magnitude gains in deep learning performance. "We expect the Intel Nervana platform to produce breakthrough performance and dramatic reductions in the time to train complex neural networks," said Diane Bryant, Executive VP of Intel's Data Center Group. "We expect Nervana's technologies to produce a breakthrough 100-fold increase in performance in the next three years to train complex neural networks, enabling data scientists to solve their biggest AI challenges faster," added Intel CEO Brian Krzanich.
Transportation

Are Tesla Crashes Balanced Out By The Lives That They Save? (eetimes.com) 198

Friday EE Times shared the story of a Tesla crash that occurred during a test drive. "The salesperson suggested that my friend not brake, letting the system do the work. It didn't..." One Oregon news site even argues autopiloted Tesla's may actually have a higher crash rate.

But there's also been stories about Teslas that have saved lives -- like the grateful driver whose Model S slammed on the brakes to prevent a collision with a pedestrian, and another man whose Tesla drove him 20 miles to a hospital after he'd suddenly experienced a pulmonary embolism. (Slate wrote a story about the incident titled "Code is My Co-Pilot".) Now an anonymous Slashdot reader asks: How many successes has the autopilot had in saving life and reducing damage to property? What is the ratio of these successes to the very public failures?
I'd be curious to hear what Slashdot readers think. If you add it all up, are self-driving cars keeping us safer -- or just making us drive more recklessly?
AI

IBM's Project Intu brings Watson's Capabilities To Any Device (siliconangle.com) 17

IBM has launched a new system-agnostic platform called Project Intu with which it aims to bring "embodied cognition" to a range of devices. From a report on SiliconAngle: In IBM's parlance, "cognitive computing" refers to machine learning. The idea behind Project Intu is that developers will be able to use the platform to embed the various machine learning functions offered by IBM's Watson service into various applications and devices, and make them work across a wide spectrum of form factors. So, for example, developers will be able to use Project Intu's capabilities to embed machine learning capabilities into pretty much any kind of device, from avatars to drones to robots and just about any other kind of Internet of Things' device. As a result, these devices will be able to "interact more naturally" with users via a range of emotions and behaviors, leading to more meaningful and immersive experiences for users, IBM said. What's more, because Project Intu is system-agnostic, developers can use it to build cognitive experiences on a wide range of operating systems, be it Raspberry PI, MacOS, Windows or Linux. Project Intu is still an experimental platform, and it can be accessed via the Watson Developer Cloud, the Intu Gateway and also on GitHub.
Social Networks

Ask Slashdot: Should Web Browsers Have 'Fact Checking' Capability Built-In? 240

Reader dryriver writes: There is no shortage of internet websites these days that peddle "information", "knowledge", "analysis", "explanations" or even supposed "facts" that don't hold up to even the most basic scrutiny -- one quick trip over to Wikipedia, Snopes, an academic journal or another reasonably factual/unbiased source, and you realize that you've just been fed a triple dose of factually inaccurate horsecrap masquerading as "fact". Unfortunately, many millions of more naive internet users appear to frequent sites daily that very blatantly peddle "untruths", "pseudo-facts" or even "agitprop-like disinformation", the latter sometimes paid for by someone somewhere. No small number of these more gullible internet users then wind up believing just about everything they read or watch on these sites, and in some cases cause other gullible people in the offline world to believe in them too. Now here is an interesting idea: What if your internet browser -- whether Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Opera or other -- was able provide an "information accuracy rating" of some sort when you visit a certain URL. Perhaps something like "11,992 internet users give this website a factual accuracy rating of 3.7/10. This may mean that the website you are visiting is prone to presenting information that may not be factually accurate." You could also take this 2 steps further. You could have a small army of "certified fact checkers" -- people with scientific credentials, positions in academia or similar -- provide a rolling "expert rating" on the very worst of these websites, displayed as "warning scores" by the web browser. Or you could have a keyword analysis algorithm/AI/web crawler go through the webpage you are looking at, try to cross-reference the information presented to you against a selection of "more trusted sources" in the background, and warn you if information presented on a webpage as "fact" simply does not check out. Is this a good idea? Could it be made to work technically? Might a browser feature like this make the internet as a whole a "more factually accurate place" to get information from?That's a remarkable idea. It appears to me that many companies are working on it -- albeit not fast enough, many can say. Google, for instance, recently began adding "Fact check" to some stories in search results. I am not sure how every participating player in this game could implement this in their respective web browsers though. Then there is this fundamental issue: the ability to quickly check whether or not something is indeed accurate. There's too much noise out there, and many publications and blogs report on things (upcoming products, for instance) before things are official. How do you verify such stories? If the NYTimes says, for instance, Apple is not going to launch any iPhone next year, and every website cites NYTimes and republishes it, how do you fact check that? And at last, a lot of fake stories circulate on Facebook. You may think it's a problem. Obama may think it's a problem, but does Facebook see it as a problem? For all it care, those stories are still generating engagement on its site.

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