What’s happened in AI: March 24th-31st

By | April 1, 2018

This week is highlighted by Emmanuel Macron’s push to make France an AI mecca and avoid “dystopia”. So far his initiative has been well received and DeepMind (Google subsidiary) even announced plans to open its second research center in Paris.

Company developments

Global AI Art Competition launched in Beijing – Mar. 31, 2018 (Xinhua Net)

  • The first Global AI Art Competition was launched in Beijing, with the aim of encouraging the integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and art to tap its industrial potential
  • Works from around the world that combine AI with fine arts, music, and literature can be submitted online until September. The prize-winning works will be auctioned in November and exhibited in Beijing and Shanghai in December
  • According to Qin Jingyan from the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Science and Technology Beijing, art is an expression of personal wisdom with intellectual property, while AI is a technology developed by a group. When incorporated with AI, art is no longer a personal thing

Facial Recognition Delivers Subaru SUV’s Big New Safety Feature – Mar. 31, 2018 (Mobile ID)

  • The 2019 Subaru Forester uses the biometric technology to automatically look for signs of fatigue or distraction in the driver’s face. When such signs are identified by the ‘DriverFocus’ system, the car’s software can engage its EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, enabling things like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision breaking, lane assist, and so on, in addition to warning the driver of the danger
  • The biometric technology can also be used to automatically adjust vehicle settings, personalizing them for up to five different drivers of a given vehicle. This is a vehicular application of biometric technology that multiple firms have been exploring, though of course fatigue alert systems could ultimately prove more impactful for drivers and passengers alike

Parametric adopting AI, machine learning for its back office – Mar. 30, 2018 (Pension & Investments)

  • Parametric Portfolio Associates LLC is planning its first use of artificial intelligence and is looking at a machine learning application to help the $240 billion Seattle-based firm better manage its complex back- and middle-office functions, said Brian Langstraat, CEO
  • “We have our first (AI) project being scoped right now,” Mr. Langstraat said in a telephone interview. “One of the things that’s unique about Parametric is we manage somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 individually managed customized separate accounts
  • The money manager also is looking at the potential use of robotic process automation, Mr. Langstraat said. “In a high-volume back office where you have a lot of workflow processes connecting reconciliation systems with custodians and trade settlements, there’s inevitably relatively routine and repetitive data-processing functions that are performed by human beings,”

Alphabet AI subsidiary DeepMind opens second international research lab in Paris – Mar. 29, 2018 (9 to 5 Google)

  • Earlier this week, Google Cloud highlighted leveraging tech from DeepMind to create more natural-sounding text-to-speech. It comes as the Alphabet subsidiary is being more closely integrated into consumer products. Today, DeepMind announced that its opening an AI lab in Paris to compliment another Google research team
  • Earlier this year, Google began expanding its presence in France with local hubs to teach digital skills, bigger offices, and an AI research team. That group is working on Deep Learning and Reinforcement learning, and applying research to health, science, and art
  • DeepMind is now doing the same after opening its first international artificial intelligence lab in Canada last July. Acquired by Google in 2014, DeepMind is headquartered in London, with the Paris lab being its first in continental Europe

Facebook Delays Home-Speaker Unveil Amid Data Crisis – Mar. 27, 2018 (Bloomberg)

  • Facebook Inc. has decided not to unveil new home products at its major developer conference in May, in part because the public is currently so outraged about the social network’s data-privacy practices, according to people familiar with the matter
  • The company’s new hardware products, connected speakers with digital-assistant and video-chat capabilities, are undergoing a deeper review to ensure that they make the right trade-offs regarding user data, the people said. While the hardware wasn’t expected to be available until the fall, the company had hoped to preview the devices at the largest annual gathering of Facebook developers, said the people, who asked not to be named discussing internal plans
  • The devices are part of Facebook’s plan to become more intimately involved with users’ everyday social lives, using artificial intelligence — following a path forged by Amazon.com Inc. and its Echo in-home smart speakers. As concerns escalate about Facebook’s collection and use of personal data, now may be the wrong time to ask consumers to trust it with even more information by placing a connected device in their homes. A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment

SBI Card to leverage Artificial Intelligence, chatbots – Mar. 27, 2018 (The Hindu Business Times)

  • SBI Card, India’s second largest credit card issuer, will soon leverage new age technologies like Artificial Intelligence and chatbots to enrich customer experience for its nearly 5.9 million users, a top official said
  • “We are going to come out with major interventions on the technology front. We might bring chatbots, AI to see that customers benefit immensely,” Hardayal Prasad, Managing Director & CEO, SBI Card, told BusinessLine here

Udacity announces School of AI with 4 new nanodegrees and 3D simulator – Mar. 27, 2018 (Venture Beat)

  • Online learning platform Udacity today announced plans to launch Universe, a 3D simulator for the makers of autonomous vehicles, as well as the opening of its first-ever School of AI to supply educational courses necessary for people to find jobs that require artificial intelligence knowledge. For users in China, Udacity also launched a WeChat app builder nanodegree today in partnership with Tencent, its first offering for chat app developers
  • The new and existing AI offerings together is Udacity’s attempt to make a comprehensive set of choices for those who wish to become AI practitioners. To make the School of AI, the company launched new courses for computer vision, natural language processing, and AI programming with Python. A reinforcement learning nanodegree will launch later this year. The new nanodegrees join a series of other AI-related courses like those for self-driving cars, deep learning, or autonomous flight
  • “We basically create the learning path that leads you into different jobs and professions that have an AI focus so that we can basically span the full spectrum of education, starting from the very beginning, where you learn programming for AI, to the very advanced topics, like deep reinforcement learning. And that means we have a dedicated team staffed behind this,” he said

Uber gives up autonomous vehicle testing rights in California – Mar. 27, 2018 (CNBC)

  • Uber will not renew its permit to test autonomous vehicles on California public roads when it expires Saturday. And the company will have some explaining to do if it wants to get a new permit
  • California’s Department of Motor Vehicles told the ride-hailing service in a letter Tuesday that it will lose testing privileges after Saturday. If Uber wants to return, it will need a new permit and has to address investigations into a fatal crash in Arizona last week

Nvidia suspends self-driving car tests in wake of Uber crash – Mar. 27, 2018 (The Verge)

  • Nvidia will suspend its autonomous vehicle testing on public roads in the aftermath of Uber’s fatal crash in Arizona, Reuters reports. Uber is a customer of Nvidia’s, using the chipmaker’s computing platform in its fleet of self-driving cars
  • Nvidia had been testing its self-driving cars in New Jersey, California, Japan, and Germany. The company is hosting its annual GPU Technology Conference in San Jose this week, where it is expected to make several announcements regarding its automotive products
  • The company is the latest to halt autonomous vehicle testing after a self-driving Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, last week. Toyota also said it would pause its testing in cities across the globe, citing the “emotional toll” of the Uber crash on its safety drivers

Intel Responds to Fatal Uber Self-Driving Car Crash – Mar. 26, 2018 (The Drive)

  • In a blog post, Professor Amon Shashua, head of Intel’s self-driving car program and CEO of Intel-owned sensor supplier Mobileye, said this is an important time to have “substantive” conversations about the safety of autonomous vehicles
  • Shashua said the crash, in which one of Uber’s autonomous Volvo XC90s struck pedestrian Elaine Herzberg while she was pushing a bicycle across a street in Tempe, Arizona, shows the difficulty of interpreting sensor data. He said recent developments in artificial intelligence have led some to believe that this process is easier than it actually is, and that the experience of more established “computer vision experts,” like those who help design existing driver-assist systems, should not be discounted
  • Shashua’s third point involved redundancy. He said an autonomous car should pull information from cameras, radar, and lidar independently, rather than fusing the information provided by all three into one data stream. He said Mobileye has built independent “end-to-end” systems for all three sensors types

Google’s Pichai Sings China’s Praises in AI, Pledges Bigger Team – Mar. 26, 2018 (Bloomberg)

  • China is already playing a big part in how AI will shape our futures,” Pichai said at the annual China Development Forum in Beijing. “When we build together we get to better ideas faster.”
  • Google has invested in Chinese startups, forged a patent alliance with Tencent Holdings Ltd. and is pushing its TensorFlow AI tools in the country despite key services such as search and email remaining blocked. The Mountain View, California-based company recently opened a research lab in Beijing focused on AI, a blossoming field but one at the center of tensions between China and the US

Users own data in Office 365 as our AI empowers them: Microsoft – Mar. 26, 2018 (Zee Business)

  • The data ownership belongs to the customers. We are just the custodians. Our Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms run on massive data sets in Office 365 and show the insights back in the application to the customers – allowing them to enhance their businesses. We have hundred of capabilities today running in our Cloud,” Jha told IANS in an interview here. According to Jha, who is part of the senior core team that reports directly to Nadella, data should always follow the users and remain in their control
  • “We take the data from the users, run AI and give the inputs back to them. This is what Office 365 does — working across platforms and giving customers evergreen capabilities to keep them up-to-date, helping them innovate in a secure and safe atmosphere,” Jha explained

Huawei to come up with FaceID alternative – Mar. 24, 2018 (Asian Age)

  • Renowned Apple special tipster Ming-Chi Kuo has written in one of his notes to AppleInsider that Huawei is working on a 3D facial recognition system. However, Huawei’s system will utilise cheaper Time of Flight (ToF) sensors which are also known to take lesser space than the ones that Apple uses in its TrueDepth system. The system will be ready for implementation in commercial smartphones by early 2019
  • The ToF system generates depth maps by calculating the time it takes laser light to bounce off an object’s surface and use the time difference to calculate the data. In contrast, Apple’s TrueDepth system utilises an infrared dot projector and an illuminator to light up the user’s face, which is captured by an infrared camera. Apple’s system relies on more sensors and therefore is expensive to manufacture
  • Kuo goes on to claim that Apple could be considering the ToF setup for its FaceID on its 2019 flagship iPhone. The new system is expected to liberate more space inside the device and could result in the notch getting a tad smaller, liberating more real estate in the display

China gives Baidu permission to test autonomous EVs in Beijing – Mar. 24, 2018 (Digital Journal)

  • The Chinese search engine and technology company Baidu has gained approval from the Chinese government to begin testing its self-driving cars in a sign of China’s strong support for the industry
  • Baidu’s certificate allows it to test vehicles on 33 roads about 105 kilometers or 65 miles in length altogether. The tests will be in less-populated suburbs of the city. Baidu is regarded as a leader in developing autonomous cars in China
  • Project Apollo is Baidu’s new autonomous vehicle platform. The platform is designed to help car manufacturers produce self-driving cars more quickly. The platform consists of both hardware and software. It will provide BaIdu partners with the tech and open-source code needed that will aid vehicles perceive obstacles, plan routes and navigate around roads

Nissan not changing autonomous drive tests over Uber crash – Mar. 23, 2018 (Fox News)

  • Nissan’s chief planning officer said Friday the Japanese automaker does not plan to change its road tests for self-driving vehicles after the recent fatal accident of an Uber autonomous vehicle
  • Nissan has been conducting autonomous driving tests in London, Tokyo and California. The company, which has an alliance with Renault SA of France and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. of Japan, has been aggressive in pursuing the technology
  • Nissan said Friday that it plans to equip 20 models in 20 markets with autonomous driving technology by fiscal 2022, one of the pillars of a strategy launched last year


Jaguar and Waymo Target Self-Driving Luxury, Even After Fatal Accident – Mar. 29, 2018 (The Street)

  • Jaguar Land Rover Ltd. plans to build about 20,000 self-driving cars as it pursues its partnership with Waymo, the Action Alerts Plus holding Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL – Get Report) unit that’s been testing new technology since 2009 and whose automated cars have now covered 5 million miles on public roads
  • Even after an accident involving a self-driving vehicle being tested by rival Uber in Arizona left one person dead, Waymo and Jaguar are confident in their technology, said Hanno Kirner, Jaguar’s executive director of corporate and strategy, speaking at the New York International Auto Show. And even though the rise of autonomous vehicles threatens automakers’ sales generally, Kirner said there will be a market for Jaguar’s luxury offerings
  • Jaguar’s Waymo-outfitted I-PACE, a fully electric SUV with a range of 240 miles and a price tag of about $70,000, has been pegged by the companies as the world’s first premium fully self-driving car

Applied Recognition & CognoSystems Partner to Accelerate Adoption of Face Recognition for Securing IT Resources – Mar. 27, 2018 (Global Newswire)

  • CognoSytems, Inc. has agreed to distribute Ver-ID Face Authenticator, Applied Recognition’s face recognition solution that eliminates corporations’ dangerous reliance on inherently vulnerable passwords
  • “Network attacks through password exploits are the #1 fear of IT administrators and CIOs,” said Logan Davidson, Managing Partner, CognoSystems. “Until now, there just hasn’t been any simple, user-acceptable, and powerful solution to eliminate the vulnerability. Ver-ID Face Authenticator is that solution. It reassures our customers that they won’t be caught in the headlines as yet another victim of a data spill or ransomware attack.”
  • Ver-ID Face Authenticator (FA) is a smart, seamless solution. It overlays a biometric verification step to any legacy network login process. Face verification is done via the FA mobile app and so adds an additional two factors of security: something you own (your phone) and something you are (your face) – to something you know (your password). The FA mobile app guides the user through a quick series of randomized poses to prevent spoofing (e.g., by a picture or video of user) while verifying the user’s identity against their pre-registered face. Once authenticated, the legacy login process is completed. The FA solution also provides a visual audit trail of all login activity. (Watch Face Authenticator in action at: https://vimeo.com/248874230/2c01cd490a).

DMM.com to examine application of AI via collaboration with Waseda University – Mar. 26, 2018 (Finance Feeds)

  • Earlier today, DMM.com announced it will partner with Waseda University in the area of AI research. DMM.com amd Waseda Research Institute for Science and Engineering are jointly opening a research lab that will be engaged in the research and development of various AI-based technologies using processes like machine learning, deep learning, and quantum annealing
  • Specifically, the lab will aim to apply the new technologies to real-life areas. The focus will be on recommendations, illegal transaction detection, financial transactions, quality assurance (QA), image recognition, and so on. Work with big data will be crucial

Fundraising / investment:

Google Backs Startup Working on Remote-Controlled Driverless Cars – Mar. 28, 2018 (Transport Topics)

  • Gradient Ventures, an early-stage venture fund within Google, is leading a $6 million investment in a new company that’s building software to let humans control cars remotely. Scotty Labs, a nine-person startup, works on “teleoperations,” an emerging slice of the autonomous vehicle business that may grow more critical as the field faces closer scrutiny
  • Scotty Labs (as in “beam me up, Scotty”) has built remote-driving equipment that looks like a souped-up arcade game. It’s also working on faster wireless networking technology so human operators can steer cars with minimal latency, a big outstanding hurdle
  • Nissan Motor Co. and other companies have begun testing their own remote-control systems. Some of these firms, including Alphabet’s Waymo, believe vehicles will, eventually, come without steering wheels. Scotty’s bet is that some person, somewhere, will still need to be involved. “The idea is to help get the safety driver out of the vehicle,” founder Tobenna Arodiogbu said.

Studies / breakthroughs:

2.3 million – the number of jobs that could be lost to artificial intelligence in China’s financial sectors by 2027 – Mar. 30, 2018 (South China Morning Post)

  • A study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that 23 per cent of the total 9.93 million jobs in the country’s banking, insurance and securities sectors will be affected, with entry-level staff engaged in repetitious daily operations bearing the brunt of any cuts
  • The study is based on interviews with highly skilled professionals in the finance and AI industries, and the use of analytical tools, the global consultancy said
  • BCG, however, also said the severity of the impact by AI on China’s financial industries should not be overestimated. As the world’s most populated market, it has a vast customer base, which will still need an adequate number of employees for face-to-face communication and to offer individualised services to clients

Chemical synthesis with artificial intelligence: Researchers develop new computer method – Mar. 30, 3018 (Physics.org)

  • The world’s best players cannot compete with the AlphaGo software. The recipe for the success of this computer program is made possible through a combination of the so-called Monte Carlo Tree Search and deep neural networks based on machine learning and artificial intelligence. A team of researchers from the University of Muenster in Germany has now demonstrated that this combination is extremely well suited to planning chemical syntheses—so-called retrosyntheses—with unprecedented efficiency. The study has been published in the current issue of Nature
  • Marwin Segler, the lead author of the study, says, “Retrosynthesis is the ultimate discipline in organic chemistry. Chemists need years to master it—just like with chess or Go. In addition to straightforward expertise, you also need a goodly portion of intuition and creativity for it. So far, everyone assumed that computers couldn’t keep up without experts programming in tens of thousands of rules by hand. What we have shown is that the machine can, by itself, learn the rules and their applications from the literature available.”

WEF paper proposes principles to prevent discriminatory outcomes in machine learning – Mar. 25, 2018 (OpenGov Asia)

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Future Council on Human Rights recently issued a white paper to provide a framework for developers to prevent discrimination in the development and application of machine learning (ML). The paper is based on research and interviews with industry experts, academics, human rights professionals and others working at the intersection of machine learning and human rights
  • The paper proposes a framework based on four guiding principles – active inclusion, fairness, right to understanding, and access to redress – for developers and businesses looking to use machine learning
  • Training data may exclude classes of individual who do not generate much data, such as those living in rural areas of low-income countries, or those who have opted out of sharing their data. The report presents an example where this might lead to discrimination. If an application’s training data demonstrates that people who have influential social networks or who are active in their social networks are “good” employees, it might filter out people from lower-income backgrounds, those who attended less prestigious schools, or those who are more cautious about posting on social media

Government / policy:

France to spend €1.5bn on artificial intelligence by 2022 – Mar. 29, 2018 (Independent.ie)

  • France will invest €1.5bn of public money into artificial intelligence research by 2022 in a bid to catch up with the United States and China and reverse a brain drain. The investment is part of an AI strategy laid out by President Emmanuel Macron at the elite College de France research institute in Paris, the French presidency said
  • The goal is to make better use of the French higher education system that trains computer engineers and mathematicians only to see them leave for jobs at top U.S. tech companies
  • Macron’s AI plan was inspired by a government-commissioned report by Cedric Villani, the self-styled “Lady Gaga of Mathematics” and winner of the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize

Delaware task force weighs possibility of driverless cars – Mar. 29, 2018 (The Delaware Business Times)

  • Since November, Secretary Jennifer Cohan of the Department of Transportation has led a 19-member task force to help position Delaware at the leading edge of autonomous vehicle technology. For Cohan, that means bringing other stakeholders interested in the future of transportation to the table
  • The advisory group is expected to make recommendations in four areas: economic development, technology, transportation infrastructure and impact on public and highway safety. The group will present its findings to the legislature in September
  • Cohan believes Delaware’s two-pronged approach – testing driverless car scenarios and researching the other infrastructure and safety concerns — will make the state attractive for future economic development

Jaywalkers under surveillance in Shenzhen soon to be punished via text messages – Mar. 27, 2018 (South China Morning Post)

  • Intellifusion, a Shenzhen-based AI firm that provides technology to the city’s police to display the faces of jaywalkers on large LED screens at intersections, is now talking with local mobile phone carriers and social media platforms such as WeChat and Sina Weibo to develop a system where offenders will receive personal text messages as soon as they violate the rules, according to Wang Jun, the company’s director of marketing solutions
  • “Jaywalking has always been an issue in China and can hardly be resolved just by imposing fines or taking photos of the offenders. But a combination of technology and psychology … can greatly reduce instances of jaywalking and will prevent repeat offences,” Wang said
  • First-tier Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have already employed AI and facial recognition technology to regulate traffic and identify driver’s who violate road rules, while Shenzhen traffic police began displaying photos of jaywalkers on large LED screens at major intersections starting in April 2017

Dubai to soon energise waste with artificial intelligence – Mar. 25, 2018 (Khaleej Times)

  • The Dubai Municipality (DM) has developed its ‘Wasteniser’ project as its proposal for the Dubai 10X Initiative, a venture overseen by the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF)
  • The project aims at converting the city’s solid waste into a source of energy by using artificial intelligence (AI) to address current and future waste-related challenges and maintain sustainability
  • The project includes carefully analysing the statistics pertaining to waste and the high costs of collection and treatment, in addition to the environmental disadvantages of harmful emissions from Dubai’s landfills. It increases the municipality’s efficiency by reducing operational costs, eliminates the environmental footprint of buried waste and prevents loss of land to landfills

China widens use of facial recognition system – Mar. 25, 2018 (Global Times)

  • A facial recognition system, which can scan China’s population in a second, is being used in 16 Chinese cities and provinces to help police crack down on criminals and improve security
  • By using motion facial recognition technology, the system, called “Sky Net”, can accurately identify people’s faces from different angles and lighting conditions, among others. The system is fast enough to scan China’s population in just one second, and it takes two seconds to scan the world’s population, Worker’s Daily reported
  • In the past two years, police arrested more than 2,000 fugitives with the help of Sky Net, the newspaper reported

China wants its own brains behind 30 million self driving cars – Mar. 25, 2018 (Bloomberg)

China’s aspiration to deploy 30 million autonomous vehicles within a decade is seeding a fledgling chip industry, with startups like Horizon Robotics Inc. emerging to build the brains behind those wheels

  • The Beijing-based company is taking aim at Nvidia Corp. and Mobileye NV just as the autonomous-driving business takes off and uncertainty looms over international trade. Annual revenue from the chips used in driverless vehicles globally should more than double to $5 billion by 2021, according to Gartner Inc
  • Horizon Robotics is an example of China’s resolve to move up the manufacturing value chain by focusing less on commodity smartphones and TVs, and more on sophisticated semiconductors and artificial intelligence that can help cars drive themselves or spaceships land on the moon. That industrial policy is meant to help China reduce its 1.75 trillion yuan ($276.4 billion) in annual chip imports, a value dwarfing its oil imports


Google’s TensorFlow Developer Summit – Mar. 30, 2018 (Medium)

  • The event brings together over 500 TensorFlow users in-person and thousands tuning into the livestream at TensorFlow events around the world. The day is filled with new product announcements along with technical talks from the TensorFlow team and guest speakers