February 2017 — March 2017
Explore the International Space Station in VR Right Now (Mar 14, 2017)
Mission: ISS — a virtual reality collaboration between Oculus and three space agencies — is now available for free to Oculus Rift and Touch owners. The experience is a detailed recreation of the International Space Station where participants can do things like dock cargo capsules, conduct spacewalks, and “perform mission-critical tasks” just like real astronauts. It was designed by visual effects studio Magnopus in partnership with NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space ...Read More
81-year-old Woman Makes iPhone App After Only Starting to Use Computers at 60 (Mar 13, 2017)
If you laugh at how older people use computers, this 81-year-old from Japan is going to set you straight. Masako Wakamiya is making the news for an app she created to show people the correct way to place their traditional doll displays ahead of Hinamatsuri, or Girl's Day, in Japan. Wakamiya is a former banker who clocked 43 years of service at a major Japanese bank, and only learned how to use computers when she was 60. In the app, named Hinadan — a combination of the words hina, a type of dol...Read More
Cognitiv+ is Using AI for Contract Analysis and Tracking (Mar 13, 2017)
Another legal tech startup coming out of the UK: Cognitiv+ is applying artificial intelligence to automate contract analysis and management, offering businesses a way to automate staying on top of legal risks, obligations and changing regulatory landscapes. Co-founder Vasilis Tsolis might therefore be forgiven for viewing Brexit as a sizable opportunity for his startup — though he more tactfully describes it as a “legislative challenge that we can help out with”. “There’s going to be a...Read More
Robotics, AI, And Cognitive Computing Are Changing Organizations Even Faster Than We Thought (Mar 12, 2017)
The world of AI, robotics and cognitive computing are changing business even faster than we thought. JPMorgan Chase & Co now uses software to perform the mind-numbing job of interpreting commercial loans, reducing 360,000 hours of lawyer time each year. AI software can now identify leukemia in photos and X-rays, learning faster than technicians. Amazon.com reduced new hire training to only two days because of its newest robotics used in shipping. And the stories go on and on. Is this real and ...Read More
Teaching Robots How to Trust (Mar 12, 2017)
The word “trust” pops up a lot in conversations about human-robot interactions. In recent years, it’s crossed an important threshold from the philosophical fodder of sci-fi novels into real-world concern. Robots have begun to play an increasing role in life and death scenarios, from rescue missions to complex surgical procedures. But the question of trust has largely been a one-way street. Should we trust robots with our lives? A Tufts University lab is working to turn the notion on its he...Read More
Science Remains Male-Dominated (Mar 11, 2017)
MARCH 8th was International Women’s Day. That seemed to Elsevier, an academic publisher, a good occasion to publish a report looking at the numbers and performance of female scientists around the world. The report, “Gender in the Global Research Landscape”, analysed the authorship of more than 62m peer-reviewed papers published in 27 subject areas over the past 20 years, in 11 mostly rich countries and in the European Union as a whole. The papers and their citations are indexed in Scopus, ...Read More
Are Robotics a Key to the Next Phase of Recycling? (Mar 11, 2017)
About 10 years ago, computer scientist Matanya Horowitz became intrigued at how far robotics had come within some industries and he started thinking about its potential in recycling, particularly for recognizing and sorting materials. Horowitz postulated that intelligent systems could have a huge impact if they could be designed to identify any material in a waste stream and pull it out.
Baidu’s Artificial Intelligence Lab Unveils Synthetic Speech System (Mar 10, 2017)
In the battle to apply deep-learning techniques to the real world, one company stands head and shoulders above the competition. Google’s DeepMind subsidiary has used the technique to create machines that can beat humans at video games and the ancient game of Go. And last year, Google Translate services significantly improved thanks to the behind-the-scenes introduction of deep-learning techniques.
Scientists Want to Borrow Power From Your Phone to Cure Cancer (Mar 10, 2017)
Japanese scientists want your help to cure cancer. No, they don't want your money -- they want the processing power of your phone.The Smash Childhood Cancer project utilises people's phones and computers to run drug simulations, which would take thousands of years to run on a single computer. Akira Nakagawara and his team at the Saga-ken Medical Centre Koseikan developed the system, which they call the World Community Grid, in 2004 alongside IBM. "Computing processing that would require 55,000 y...Read More
Salesforce Einstein AI Can Generate Models Automatically (Mar 7, 2017)
When Salesforce announced its spring release this week, it revealed that its artificial intelligence platform, dubbed Einstein, can build data models automatically, even when customers have customized their products to meet the company’s unique requirements. They called this “using artificial intelligence to generate artificial intelligence,” and it’s not something they have talked about before when describing the platform’s capabilities.
Now You Can Finally Embarrass a Robot For its Mistakes (Mar 7, 2017)
Baxter the robot is blushing. It made yet another embarrassing mistake by placing a spray paint can in the wrong bin. A moment later, the big, red bot makes the right choice, placing a bundle of wire in the wire bin. Baxter smiles at the researcher in front of it, a young woman who’s wearing a rather unattractive electroencephalography (EEG) cap. We’re witnessing a visibly symbiotic relationship between metal and flesh. That’s because Baxter, from Rethink Robotics, and the researcher are c...Read More
Hell on Wheels: It's Google's Latest Mad Robot (Mar 2, 2017)
We're girding ourselves for our robot overlords, but we're not entirely sure what they're going to look like. Fortunately, there's Boston Dynamics. This fine Google-owned company creates robots that do the sorts of things we wish we could. Who could forget its marvelous robo-dogs? They carried so much for the US Marines. The only slight drawback is that they made so much noise that the enemy could hear them coming from far away. On Monday, the company officially unveiled its latest creation. It'...Read More
Women in STEM Fields Get Boost from President Trump (Mar 2, 2017)
President Donald Trump signed into law two bills that aim to encourage women to pursue careers in science and technology. The bills — "Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act" and "Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act" — were both introduced by women in Congress.
IBM Built a Voice Assistant for Cybersecurity (Mar 1, 2017)
In this week's This Feels A Little Like Skynet: IBM built a new voice assistant using artificial intelligence called Hayvn, focused on cybersecurity. Think of it as Amazon Alexa, but instead of ordering soap, it's helping you manage threats. Sure, this might sound like it's ripped straight out of the plot for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, in which the military unleashes a new AI called Skynet to fight a virus that's been disrupting worldwide networks.
Scientists Use Robots, Drones to Accelerate Plant Genetic Research, Improve Crop Yield (Mar 1, 2017)
It may be a while before robots and drones are as common as tractors and combine harvesters on farms, but the high-tech tools may soon play a major role in helping feed the world's rapidly growing population. At the University of Georgia, a team of researchers is developing a robotic system of all-terrain rovers and unmanned aerial drones that can more quickly and accurately gather and analyze data on the physical characteristics of crops, including their growth patterns, stress tolerance and ge...Read More
Conversational AI and the Road Ahead (Feb 28, 2017)
In recent years, we’ve seen an increasing number of so-called “intelligent” digital assistants being introduced on various devices. At the recent CES, both Hyundai and Toyota announced new in-car assistants. Although the technology behind these applications keeps getting better, there’s still a tendency for people to be disappointed by their capabilities — the expectation of “intelligence” is not being met.
This Creepy Robot Walks Like a Chicken and Could Someday Deliver Your Groceries (Feb 28, 2017)
This could be the future of robotics — and it kind of looks like a chicken. Agility Robotics unveiled a bipedal robot called Cassie this week. The company, which spun out of the ATRIAS project at Oregon State University, is focused on "legged locomotion" and hopes to someday engineer robots that can walk just like people. That should be incredibly useful in a wide range of applications — but it needs some more work before then. Cassie was built using a 16-month, $1-million grant from the U.S...Read More
Code.org is Drastically Increasing the Number of Underrepresented Minorities Taking AP Computer Science (Feb 27, 2017)
Code.org, which started offering an advanced placement computer science principles this school year in partnership with The College Board, could more than double the number of underrepresented minorities enrolled in AP computer science classes across the nation. During the last school year, 8,442 underrepresented minorities (black, Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander) took the AP Computer science test in the U.S., according to The College Board. For the ...Read More
Robotics Researchers Discovered a Better Way For Insects to Walk (Feb 27, 2017)
A popular approach to designing robots that can navigate a world built for living creatures is to simply copy Mother Nature’s designs. But while trying to improve how a six-legged robot walks, researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne actually found a faster way for six-legged creatures to get around. While many vertebrates are able to run quickly and with minimal ground contact, six-legged insects take a different approach to speed. They use what’s called a tripod gait,...Read More
Computer Bots are More Like Humans Than You Might Think, Having Fights Lasting Years (Feb 26, 2017)
Researchers say 'benevolent bots', otherwise known as software robots, that are designed to improve articles on Wikipedia sometimes have online 'fights' over content that can continue for years. Editing bots on Wikipedia undo vandalism, enforce bans, check spelling, create links and import content automatically, whereas other bots (which are non-editing) can mine data, identify data or identify copyright infringements. The team analysed how much they disrupted Wikipedia, observing how they inter...Read More
Research Heralds Better and Bidirectional Brain-Computer Interfaces (Feb 26, 2017)
A pair of studies, one from Stanford and another from the University of Geneva, exemplify the speed with which brain-computer interfaces are advancing; and while you won’t be using one instead of a mouse and keyboard any time soon, even in its nascent form the tech may prove transformative for the disabled. First comes work from Stanford: an improved microelectrode array and computer system that allows paralyzed users to type using an on-screen cursor.
Flabby Heart Keeps Pumping With Squeeze From Robotic Sleeve (Feb 20, 2017)
Scientists are developing a robotic sleeve that can encase a flabby diseased heart and gently squeeze to keep it pumping. So far it’s been tested only in animals, improving blood flow in pigs. But this “soft robotic” device mimics the natural movements of a beating heart, a strategy for next-generation treatments of deadly heart failure. The key: A team from Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital wound artificial muscles into the thin silicone sleeve, so that it alternately co...Read More
Calling All Computer Science Majors: Jobs are Waiting For You (Feb 20, 2017)
When he was 14 years old, Lawrence Birnbaum taught himself how to program, but he had trouble even finding a computer to work on. Still, he knew computers were going to be the future. That was in the late 1960s. When Birnbaum — today a computer science professor at Northwestern — was in college, there were relatively few computer science majors, and his professors had graduated from schools of math or electrical engineering. The field was still new. Fast forward to now. New computer science ...Read More
OxSight Uses Augmented Reality to Aid the Visually Impaired (Feb 19, 2017)
One percent of the world’s population, approximately 70 million people, are blind. That is not a huge number when you think of it in terms of a potential use base for a consumer product, but it is massive when you consider that there are currently few assistive technologies available as an aid to make easier the lives of the visually impaired. A new startup that spun out of Oxford last year, OxSight, is looking to change that. The company built and is testing augmented reality glasses to help ...Read More
The Dark Side of AI (Feb 19, 2017)
For all the good that machine learning can accomplish in cybersecurity, it's important to remember that the technology is also accessible to bad actors. While writers and futurists dream up nightmarish scenarios of artificial intelligence turning on its creators and exterminating mankind like Terminators and Cylons – heck, Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have warned AI is dangerous – the more pressing concern today is that machines can be intentionally programmed to abet cybercriminal operatio...Read More