What’s happened in AI: April 1st-7th

By | April 8, 2018

This week has seen a heavy push on policies and government initiatives related to AI. Looks like the Uber accident in Arizona has failed to deter most regulatory bodies from halting autonomous vehicle legislation and policy. Among the many other developments this week, for all ramen lovers, Google has developed a program that can categorize ramen by shop. I know… very important development indeed, but let’s be real who doesn’t like ramen?

Company developments:

Ford Developing Autonomous Systems for Police Cars, Other Emergency Vehicles – Apr. 7, 2018 (IP Watchdog)

  • Recently, news outlets have picked up on reports that Ford is trying to patent an autonomous police vehicle. Ford has been building cars for police departments since 1963, some of the earliest models being the Ford Torino, the Ford Fairline and the Ford Galaxie. Today, vehicles like the Ford F150, the Ford Police Interceptor Sedan, The Ford Edge, and the Ford Police Interceptor Utility are in use by police departments across North America
  • Police cars are not the only kind of emergency vehicle for which Ford is developing self-driving systems. Autonomous ambulances and fire trucks could be enabled by the technology detailed in U.S. Patent Application 20170192429, titled Autonomous Vehicle Emergency Operating Mode. It discloses a method in which a vehicle computing device stores instructions which are executable to detect an emergency vehicle near a host vehicle, receive operation data from other nearby vehicles and transmit the operational data to the emergency vehicle
  • According to a study released last year by consulting firm Navigant, Ford is winning the race towards bringing driverless car technology to market, outpacing competitors like General Motors, Renault-Nissan, Daimler, and Volkswagen. However, only a month after that study was released, investors shared their displeasure regarding former Ford CEO Mark Fields’ policy of heavy spending on driverless and electric car research by logging out of the annual shareholder meeting held online in May 2017

Facebook’s facial recognition violates user privacy, watchdog groups plan to tell FTC – Apr. 5, 2018 (USA Today)

  • The Electronic Privacy Information Center and several other consumer groups plan Friday to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation into the network’s use of facial recognition technology
  • Those processes not only represent privacy concerns that the FTC should look into, the groups say, but also could be illegal because Facebook has to maintain certain privacy standards under a 2011 agreement with the FTC. “We think they are violating that consent order,” Rotenberg said
  • “Our face recognition technology helps people manage their identity on Facebook and makes our features work better for people who are visually impaired,” said Rob Sherman, Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer, in a statement

OR Efficiency, Machine Learning Boosts UCHealth’s Revenue by $10M – Apr. 5, 2018 (Rev Cycle)

  • Moving from traditional block scheduling for the operating room (OR) to more of a service-based system that used machine learning maximized OR efficiency and increased revenue by $10 million across UCHealth’s University of Colorado Hospital OR
  • Various reports say that OR delays occur in 40 to 96 percent of cases, but a recent case study uncovered that most hospitals are on the higher end of that range. About 88 percent of cases were delayed at three high-volume urban hospitals, the study in the Journal of Patient-Centered Research and Reviews showed. The average OR delay time was 28.2 minutes, meaning hospitals are spending up to $1,043 more per delay
  • The hospital partnered with LeanTaaS to create a specialized machine learning queuing platform for the hospital’s OR scheduling. The platform drew on the most recent data to support hospital decision-makers who manage OR resources and schedule procedures

AWS baits cloud hooks with DeepLens machine learning camera – Apr. 4, 2018 (The Register)

  • At the AWS Summit in San Francisco on Wednesday Amazon Web Services invited a handful of tech typers to see a demonstration of AWS DeepLens, its forthcoming camera tuned for deep learning tasks
  • “The goal here is for developers who have limited or no machine experience to use deep learning, to get up and running quickly,” said Matt Wood, general manager of artificial intelligence for AWS

Press Release: World first platform enables the test and training of autonomous vehicles in simulation – Apr. 4, 2018 (rFpro)

  • UK-based driving simulation company, rFpro, has launched the world’s first commercially available platform to train and develop autonomous vehicles in simulation. Using a digital environment to accurately represent the real world, the technology enables vehicle manufacturers to test their systems in every scenario imaginable.
  • “Autonomous vehicles are the future, the market is expected to be worth up to $10Tn, but debate is rising about whether these vehicles should be allowed on our roads, if not, how do we develop them?” said Chris Hoyle, rFpro technical director
  • The key to rFpro’s platform is the level of accuracy achieved replicating the real world in simulation. This enables the various sensors used for autonomous vehicles to react naturally and therefore test results are completely representative. The company has been producing a library of real roads created through highly-precise scanning technology, which forms the basis of the simulation

Adobe brings more of its AI smarts to its video tools – Apr. 3, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Right in time for NAB, Adobe today announced the latest updates to its Premiere CC and After Effects CC video editing and motion graphics tools. The general theme of this release is the introduction of two new AI-powered tools that will make the life of editors easier, as well as a variety of small updates that all result in an improved overall workflow
  • “The demands and pace of video content creation are reaching levels we’ve never seen before. The time pressure on video professionals means the need for powerful and efficient creative tools has never been greater,” said Steven Warner, vice president of digital video and audio at Adobe.”
  • The standout feature of this release is the new Color Match feature in Premiere Pro CC. When you shoot with multiple cameras — and especially cameras from different brands — the colors between shots usually don’t match. It’s then the editor’s job to make everything look right, which can be a rather tedious job. Now, Adobe is using its Sensei AI platform to help editors match colors automatically, so that the changes they need to make are pretty small

Apple hires Google AI chief – Apr. 3, 2018 (NY Times)

  • Apple has hired Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, John Giannandrea, a major coup in its bid to catch up to the artificial intelligence technology of its rivals
  • Apple said on Tuesday that Mr. Giannandrea will run Apple’s “machine learning and A.I. strategy,” and become one of 16 executives who report directly to Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook
  • Mr. Giannandrea, a 53-year-old native of Scotland known to colleagues as J.G., helped lead the push to integrate A.I. throughout Google’s products, including internet search, Gmail and its own digital assistant, Google Assistant

Google veteran Jeff Dean takes over as company’s AI chief – Apr. 3, 2018 (The Verge)

  • Programmer Jeff Dean was one of Google’s earliest employees, and he is credited with helping to create some of the fundamental technologies that powered the tech giant’s rise in the early 2000s. Now, he’s been put in charge of Google’s future, taking over as head of the company’s artificial intelligence unit
  • The move is part of a reshuffle at Google, first reported by The Information and confirmed by CNBC, that’s seems designed to push AI into more of the company’s products. Previously, AI product development was overseen along with search by senior vice president of engineering, John Giannandrea. Now, this role is being split into two, with Dean taking over AI, and Ben Gomes leading the development of search
  • Dean’s own experience in AI is extensive; he previously co-founded the Google Brain team and will continue to lead it in his new role. Google Brain has spearheaded the company’s use of deep learning, a type of AI that underwent a renaissance in the early 2010s and powers the field’s most useful applications, from self-driving cars to medical analysis. Dean is also involved with the development of TensorFlow, Google’s machine learning framework, which is distributed for free to developers and has proved to be a big part of the company’s AI offering

Credit Karma bets big on chatbots as others balk – Apr. 3, 2018 (American Banker)

  • In mid-March, the San Francisco company bought Penny, a chatbot app developer formed in 2015 to help make personal finance more accessible, for an undisclosed sum. Credit Karma plans to sunset the brand name and integrate the conversational technology into its existing products and services
  • As it has expanded its offerings, Credit Karma saw a need to change the model of just publishing facts. Its acquisition of Penny lets Credit Karma members have a conversation about something complicated and often emotional
  • Acharya says a conversational interface can soften the message by offering a back-and-forth exchange. He also says the model can help break down complexities — something that is particularly important for a brand that doesn’t have branches or financial advisers to call

Xiaomi introduces its own virtual assistant called Xiao Ai in China – Apr. 3, 2018 (First Post)

  • Xiaomi has joined the league of Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon by introducing its very own AI-based virtual assistant for its customers in China. Called ‘Xiao Ai’, the company’s new virtual assistant will work in a manner similar to Google Assistant and will be able to set reminders, control IoT-based equipment and more
  • For now, Xiao Ai seems to reside only on Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 2S smartphone, so it isn’t clear whether the digital assistant will arrive in future software updates to other smartphones models
  • Considering that Xiaomi manufactures a lot more connected lifestyle products than most smartphone makers out there, we could see better integration between these in the future, which should be good news for those who have invested heavily in Xiaomi’s ecosystem of products (TVs, air purifiers, weighing scales, lamps etc.)

Google’s machine learning software can now categorize ramen by shop – Apr. 2, 2018 (The Verge)

  • Data scientist Kenji Doi did the delicious research, using Google’s AutoML Vision to classify every menu item from Ramen Jiro, a Tokyo-based chain of ramen shops. He gathered about 1,170 photos from each of the 41 shops, and fed the dataset of 48,000 ramen photos to the software
  • It took AutoML about 24 hours (18 minutes, in a less accurate Basic mode) to finish training the data, and the model was able to predict which shop the ramen came from with a 95 percent accuracy
  • Doi first hypothesized that the model was looking at the color and shape of the bowl or table in the photo, but this was disproven as the model was able to identify specific ramen shops even from photos with the same bowl and table design. Doi now believes that the model is accurate enough to be able to distinguish between cuts of meat and the placement of the toppings

Microsoft launches AI and entry-level software development courses – Apr. 2, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Microsoft today launched two new courses in its online education program for developers: an entry-level software development class and an AI course for more advanced developers who want to expand their knowledge of machine learning
  • The Microsoft Professional Program for Artificial Intelligence is available for free on edX.org, though you can also opt to pay for a certificate. Each course runs three months and starts at the beginning of the quarter. Unsurprisingly, there’s a bit of a focus on Azure and Microsoft’s Cognitive Services here (and you need an Azure account), but otherwise the course is agnostic to the operating system you run
  • The overall program consists of 10 courses that range from introductions to AI and Python for data science to a class on ethics for AI developers and lots of hands-on work with training models. Most of the 10 required courses should take about eight to 16 hours to complete

Google’s Waymo denies ‘masterplan’ to harvest data from driverless cars – Apr. 1, 2018 (The Telegraph)

  • The assurance from John Krafcik, the chief executive of Waymo, comes in the wake of the Facebook scandal, where millions of users’ details were shared with other businesses
  • User data is an increasingly valuable commodity. Some experts believe that access to the information generated by the riders in cars could be much more valuable than current sources. Users of driverless cars will not only provide ­information about their geographical movements – almost certainly in real time – but also financial information to allow them to access cars
  • Mr Krafcik said Waymo was ­motivated by reducing the number of fatalities on the roads, pointing out the number of deaths globally was the “equivalent of a 737 airliner crashing every hour

Studies / breakthroughs:

Survey: D.C. workers don’t feel prepared for artificial intelligence – Apr. 5, 2018 (Washington Business Journal)

  • Artificial intelligence is rapidly reshaping the job market and some D.C. workers are feeling left behind. According to a 2017 Accenture survey released in March, 65 percent of women and 56 percent of men say their jobs are not preparing their for human-machine collaboration
  • Workers in the D.C. area said that lack of time to take AI training during the workday, difficulty finding relevant learning opportunities and lack of clarity on what they need to learn are the biggest barriers preventing them from developing AI-related skill
  • The challenge will be for jobs to build AI curriculums for their current employees. Forty percent of respondents in Accenture’s report expect tasks in their current job to be automated over the next three years. Katherine LaVelle, the managing director for Accenture Strategy, doesn’t believe employers have to reinvent the wheel to prepare their workers and advises companies to curate curriculums for all AI experience levels

Microsoft believes it’s made a breakthrough with its AI-powered chatbot in China – Apr. 4, 2018 (Neowin)

  • Unlike the chatbots of yesteryears, which generally followed a pre-written script thereby limiting the number of topics they could tackle on their own, Microsoft’s are among the newer batch, using artificial intelligence to make small talk instead, drawing their data over time from the people who end up talking to it
  • That aside, while these bots are certainly fun to talk to in some ways and are capable of replying to messages based on context, they’re not exactly what one would call conversational. They’re limited to replies alone, and aren’t capable of initiating a new conversation on their own in ways one would expect a human to. This is the caveat Microsoft’s Li Zhou aims to tackle. Zhou is the engineer lead for Xiaolce – often seen as Cortana’s China-based baby sister – and he believes that Microsoft’s latest breakthroughs pertinent to more human-sounding chatbots could make conversations with them more akin to “talking on the phone to a friend”
  • According to Zhou, these ‘breakthroughs’ – already incorporated into Xiaolce – will allow her to converse in “full-duplex”, which is essentially tech-speak for ‘two-way conversation’, unlike the previous walkie-talkie like “half-duplex” interactions. Full-duplex will also serve to reduce the time it takes for a bot to respond, further naturalizing conversation between man and machine

Stanford researchers use machine-learning algorithm to measure changes in gender, ethnic bias in U.S. – Apr. 3, 2018 (Stanford News)

  • The researchers used word embeddings – an algorithmic technique that can map relationships and associations between words – to measure changes in gender and ethnic stereotypes over the past century in the United States
  • They analyzed large databases of American books, newspapers and other texts and looked at how those linguistic changes correlated with actual U.S. Census demographic data and major social shifts such as the women’s movement in the 1960s and the increase in Asian immigration, according to the research
  • The research findings showed quantifiable shifts in gender portrayals and biases toward Asians and other ethnic groups during the 20th century

Artificial intelligence helps to predict likelihood of life on other worlds – Apr. 3, 2018 (Phys.org)

  • Developments in artificial intelligence may help us to predict the probability of life on other planets, according to new work by a team based at Plymouth University. The study uses artificial neural networks (ANNs) to classify planets into five types, estimating a probability of life in each case, which could be used in future interstellar exploration missions. The work is presented at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) in Liverpool on 4 April by Mr Christopher Bishop
  • The team, based at the Centre for Robotics and Neural Systems at Plymouth University, have trained their network to classify planets into five different types, based on whether they are most like the present-day Earth, the early Earth, Mars, Venus or Saturn’s moon Titan. All five of these objects are rocky bodies known to have atmospheres, and are among the most potentially habitable objects in our Solar System

Advisory Group Issues Report on Autonomous Vehicles – Apr. 2, 2018 (U.S. News)

  • An advisory group looking at autonomous vehicles says Michigan’s march toward a driverless future will entail discussion on updating cybersecurity and insurance practices
  • The Council of Future Mobility issued its report Monday during a round table discussion with Gov. Rick Snyder in Lansing. The council urged policy makers to consider new cybersecurity measures to protect autonomous vehicle technology and data. It also recommended working with auto industry experts to craft a data-sharing plan to stay ahead of cyberattacks


Suplari raises $10.3M Series A round to bring AI to procurement – Apr. 5, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • The company today announced that it has raised a $10.3 million Series A round led by Shasta Ventures. Existing investors Madrona Ventures and Amplify Partners also joined this round, as well as new investors Two Sigma Ventures and Workday Ventures
  • “Suplari uses advanced artificial intelligence on top of existing enterprise systems to proactively uncover the highest-value opportunities to pursue and empower the CFO or Chief Procurement Officer to unlock savings and profit that can be invested in growth, innovation, and their people,” said Suplari CEO and co-founder Nikesh Parekh in today’s announcement
  • The company’s cloud-based service allows businesses to analyze all of their procurement data across platforms and formats. This data can include contracts, purchasing data, product usage information and data from corporate credit card accounts

China startup releases AI processors then raises $100 million – Apr. 4, 2018 (Design & Reuse)

  • Horizon Robotics Ltd. (Beijing, China), a startup founded in 2015, has released two artificial intelligence processors and raised about $100 million in a funding round with help from Intel Capital
  • Horizon is a spin off from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, that is expected to create artificial intelligence products and platforms at the chip, board and system-level aimed at smart driving, smart cities and smart buildings
  • The company describes itself as providing a “full-stack solution” including algorithm framework design, compiler and runtime library for the processors, hardware and chip design and deployment together with large-scale training and simulation platform

6 River Systems raises $25 million for warehouse robots – Apr. 4, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • The business, which builds robots that speed up production in warehouses, has raised $25 million in Series B financing in a round led by Menlo Ventures, with participation from Norwest Venture Partners, Eclipse Ventures and iRobot
  • 6 River says it has gained early traction with its robot, “Chuck.” Jerome Dubois, founder and CEO, said that he believes 6 River has built “the first and only collaborative robot with the associates in the aisles doing the work.” In other words, 6 River aims to help humans be more efficient
  • Chuck keeps warehouse employees on task by guiding them through the facility through each step of the packaging process. It can glide around the room and also has a touchscreen to help workers locate items. Chuck uses sensors to help detect worker productivity. It’s also been designed to help with employee training


Princeton University, ODH collaborate on machine learning tools – Apr. 6, 2018 (Health Data Management)

  • A department at Princeton University has teamed up with data aggregation and analytics vendor ODH to develop new machine learning techniques to help health insurers assess and prioritize mental and social factors underlying members’ conditions, and then propose appropriate interventions
  • Work at the university is being conducted by its Operations Research and Financial Engineering Department

Ex-Google Executive Opens School for AI, with China’s Help – Apr. 5, 2018 (Wired)

  • This week Kai-Fu Lee, onetime head of Google’s operations in China, launched a new project to help close the country’s AI talent gap. His helpers include the Chinese government and some of North America’s leading computer scientists. The project is an example of how US and Chinese efforts to progress in AI are entangled, despite recent rhetoric about superpower technology rivalry
  • Lee was born in Taiwan, studied in the US, and began his career in AI research before stints as an executive at Silicon Graphics, Apple, and Microsoft. He led Google’s expansion in China until 2009, when he left to found an AI-centric investment firm now called Sinovation Ventures. The firm invests in both China and the US, and has its own AI research institute
  • Lee says his program will quickly expand the nation’s supply of programmers with AI experience. “If these professors each teach a class of 400 students in fall and spring, that would graduate thousands of students for employment in 2019,” he says

Wilhelmsen and KONGSBERG establish world’s first autonomous shipping company – Apr. 3, 2018 (Wilhelmsen)

  • Through the creation of the new company named Massterly, we take the next step on this journey by establishing infrastructure and services to design and operate vessels, as well as advanced logistics solutions associated with maritime autonomous operations. Massterly will reduce costs at all levels and be applicable to all companies that have a transport need,” says Thomas Wilhelmsen, Wilhelmsen group CEO
  • Land-based control centres will be established to monitor and operate autonomous ships in Norway and internationally. With a combined 360 years of experience, Massterly will benefit from KONGSBERG`s unique technological expertise and solutions, and Wilhelmsen’s world-leading experience in logistics and ship management operations
  • A key milestone in Norway’s maritime autonomy story was the announcement of “Yara Birkeland” in May 2017. It will be the world’s first fully-electric container vessel and will be completely autonomous by 2020, sailing between Yara’s Norwegian production facilities at Herøya and the ports of Brevik and Larvik. Massterly can deliver and operate autonomous vessels such as Yara Birkeland

Government / policy:

Cambridge City Council Votes to Begin Autonomous Vehicle Testing – Apr 5. 2018 (The Crimson)

  • The adopted policy order, which defines autonomous vehicles as “self-driving cars,” states that Cambridge will join a regional AV testing program put forth by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and the Metropolitan Mayors Coalition of Greater Boston, with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Governor’s Office
  • According to City Councillor Quinton Zondervan, who sponsored the policy order with Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, autonomous vehicles have already been on city streets but are still being operated by human drivers. The newly adopted framework would allow a self-driving car to be turned on “autonomous mode” in Cambridge, given certain conditions

China’s Ministry of Education unveils five-year AI training program for universities – Apr. 5, 2018 (Open Gov Asia)

  • Under the program, eminent AI experts will be invited to train the first 100 teachers and 300 students and explore an appropriate framework for AI education. The program aims to train at least 500 teachers and 5,000 students in artificial intelligence at top universities over the next five years
  • The International AI Training Program for Chinese Universities is operating in Peking University. Government, companies, and universities, including the Ministry of Education, Sinovation Ventures, a Chinese technology investment firm, and Peking University, are part of the program
  • Under the program, eminent AI experts will be invited to train the first 100 teachers and 300 students and explore an appropriate framework for AI education. Faculty includes Turing-Award-winning computer scientist and IBM professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics at Cornell University, John Edward Hopcroft and Chinese AI expert Li Kaifu. Professor Hopcroft has been involved in teaching AI in China for a decade and he will teach a course at Peking University on “deep networks”

A Chinese hospital is betting big on artificial intelligence to treat patients – Apr. 4, 2018 (Quartz)

  • The Guangzhou Second Provincial Central Hospital has incorporated AI into almost every area in its operations, including patient pre-diagnosis, CT scans, organizing patient records, and transporting operating-room supplies, the hospital said this week (link in Chinese)
  • The country—which is challenging the US to be the world’s preeminent AI powerhouse—hopes that robots can go some way in fixing the severe problem of doctor shortages. China has 2.3 physicians for every 1,000 people as of 2016, compared with Switzerland’s 4.25 and the UK’s 2.83, while its rapidly aging population is only adding more pressure to the health care system. Chinese tech titan Tencent and one of the country’s leading voice-recognition firms, iFlytek, are among the companies working with the Guangzhou hospital
  • Using WeChat, the chat app owned by Tencent, users can get a pre-diagnosis through the hospital’s public account. An “intelligent doctor” will ask the patient a series of questions, similar to a self-diagnosis attempt on WebMD. The program will then make a recommendation based on the user’s answers

UK.gov: We’re not regulating driverless vehicles until others do – Apr. 4, 2018 (The Register)

  • In a letter to the House of Lords, which had raised a number of questions about the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill currently before Parliament, junior transport minister Baroness Sugg said the government is holding back until the various technologies have matured enough to be regulated without harming innovation
  • “Whilst we do know that there will be different types of automated vehicles, with varying levels of sophistication, it is not possible at this stage to state what those changes will be. With this in mind it would not be appropriate to set definitive regulations in legislation at this time,” wrote the baroness
  • The minister also explained the lack of protections for data generated by autonomous vehicles, saying: “It is likely that these data recorders will be regulated on an international basis… it would be against UK interests to act unilaterally before decisions have been taken.”

US senator says more safeguards needed for self-driving cars – Apr. 3, 2018 (ABC News)

  • U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who took a firsthand look at self-driving vehicle technology on Tuesday, said it was frightening to see “no hands on the wheel” as his car approached a parked car and called for more safeguards to be added to federal legislation following two recent fatal crashes
  • The bill awaiting action in the Senate should ensure people can manually override highly automated vehicles, the Democrat said. He called for the data and safety evaluations of such vehicles during an initial testing period to be made public and said any safety requirements should apply to cars already on the roads with autopilot functions
  • Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation, said his safety concerns have been heightened with the recent fatal crashes involving a Tesla vehicle operating on autopilot in California and a self-driving Volvo SUV being tested by the ride-hailing service Uber in Arizona

Facial Recognition Technology in Tokyo 2020 Security Plans – Apr. 3, 2018 (Financial Tribune)

  • It aims to prevent entry using borrowed, stolen or counterfeit ID cards. It should also reduce queuing time during the summer months. Each venue will also be surrounded by a fence between 2.5 and three meters high, while infrared sensors and surveillance cameras will be in operation 24 hours per day
  • Machines will also be used to detect forged tickets while new high performance cameras are among other reported innovations

California DMV has new regulations for self-driving car companies – Apr. 2, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • With the adoption of regulations effective April 2, 2018, the DMV has the authority to issue permits for driverless testing or deployment of autonomous vehicles. When an application is received, it will be thoroughly reviewed. The Department will not approve any permits until it is clear that the applicant has met all of the safe operation requirements set forth in law and in the regulations.”
  • What’s new is that the DMV now has three autonomous vehicle permit options: testing with a driver, driverless testing and deployment. Most of the new elements of the regulations are around driverless testing and deployment
  • For example, in order to conduct driverless testing, companies must have previously tested the vehicles in controlled conditions. The vehicles must also, among many other things, meet the definition of an SAE Level 4 or 5 vehicle. With deployment, companies need to ensure cars can detect and respond to roadway situations, meet best practices to detect cyberattacks and more

Driverless car safety being tested on Canberra’s doorstep – Apr. 1, 2018 (Sydney Morning Herald)

  • The $1.35 million trial, funded by the ACT government, is looking at what point a driver of a self-driving car would need to take control of the wheel, such as when road conditions change
  • Robotics professor at Queensland University of Technology Michael Milford said while self-driving car testing was making strides in Australia, the recent Uber incident had emphasised a greater need for it
  • While tests are currently under way, Seeing Machines is looking for drivers from the Canberra community as part of the next stage of the trial. Up to 40 Canberrans will be selected to trial the face-tracking technology


Machine Learning Zone: OpenAI competition takes on Sonic the Hedgehog – Apr. 5, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Retro video games have been a useful platform for machine learning research for years, and the systems created have been creeping through the classics, mastering them as they go. Sonic the Hedgehog may be the next to fall: OpenAI has announced a competition to apply machine learning to the classic Sega game
  • While researchers will have all the time in the world to design a training and learning mechanism based on a selection of Sonic levels, the test will involve applying that training mechanism to a new set of levels, under a strict time limit (18 hours of game time)
  • Winners don’t get any cash or anything, but first through third place will get trophies and will have the opportunity to co-author a report on the contest. OpenAI’s reports are interesting and widely read, so it sounds like a good opportunity if you have the time and inclination — although, of course, “it’s great exposure” is the classic payment avoidance strategy

VOICE Summit will offer top speakers, hands-on learning in the world of natural language processing – Apr. 4, 2018 (ROI)

  • Pete Erickson founded Modev a decade ago with the belief that human connectivity is essential and vital to digital transformation. Years later, following the explosion of natural language processing through products such as Amazon Alexa, his belief is proving to be true
  • Erickson and Modev are bringing the VOICE Summit to the campus of New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark July 24-26, a three-day event of learning and thought leadership, sponsored by Amazon Alexa, that he feels will help enhance the industry and those who want to join it
  • “It will include a lot of deep-dive workshops, like hands-on (classes and) how to do things,” he said. “We’re going to have a dozen people from the Amazon team that are giving classes and courses on how to build Alexa skills, but a lot of other things around natural language generation

Announcing the agenda for TC Sessions: Robotics at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall on May 11 – Apr. 3, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • TechCrunch is partnering with UC Berkeley on May 11 to produce TC Sessions: Robotics, a one-day show focused on emerging robotic technologies and the startup scene
  • The editorial team had a blast planning this agenda as, between the Bay Area’s universities and startup ecosystem, there are far more robotics-driven technology projects and startups on the West Coast than most appreciate. There is no question that the huge steps forward in AI, sensors and GPUs are quickly shifting robotics to the fast lane of the startups ecosystem

Children’s facial recognition technology lauded by STAT for impact, novelty – Apr. 2, 2018 (PR Newswire)

  • Children’s National Health System also was among four “Editor’s Pick” finalists, entries that span a diverse range of scientific disciplines. Journalists at the digital publication STAT pored through published journal articles for 64 submissions in the single-elimination contest to honor a select group that were the most creative, novel, and most likely to benefit the biomedical field and the general public
  • Partnering with the National Institutes of Health National Human Genome Research Institute and clinicians from 20 countries, Children’s National research-scientists demonstrated the potential widespread utility of digital dysmorphology technology to diverse populations with genetic conditions. The technology enables clinicians to identify children with genetic conditions earlier by simply taking the child’s photo
  • “For years, research groups have viewed facial recognition technology as a potent tool to aid genetic diagnosis. Our project is unique because it offers the expertise of a virtual geneticist to general health care providers located anywhere in the world,” says Marius George Linguraru, D.Phil., M.A., M.S., a Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation principal investigator who invented the technology


AI Experts Threaten to Boycott a University Over Reports of Killer Robot Research – Apr. 5, 2018 (Fortune)

  • Dozens of the world’s leading experts on artificial intelligence and robotics have announced a boycott of a major South Korean research university, which has been working with an arms company on integrating artificial intelligence with weaponry
  • The university, KAIST, earlier this year set up a joint research center with the defense arm of conglomerate Hanwha. Local news reported at the time that the project would aim to create software for “AI-based” missiles, unmanned submarines and armed quadcopters by the end of 2018
  • “At a time when the United Nations is discussing how to contain the threat posed to international security by autonomous weapons, it is regrettable that a prestigious institution like KAIST looks to accelerate the arms race to develop such weapons,” the professors wrote in an open letter
  • The more than 50 signatories include luminaries of the AI scene such as Geoff Hinton of the University of Toronto and Toby Walsh of the University of New South Wales. Covering a broad spectrum of universities around the world, their boycott could have a real impact.

‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon – Apr. 4, 2018 (NY Times)

  • Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes
  • The letter, which is circulating inside Google and has garnered more than 3,100 signatures, reflects a culture clash between Silicon Valley and the federal government that is likely to intensify as cutting-edge artificial intelligence is increasingly employed for military purposes
  • The company subsequently described its work on Project Maven as “non-offensive” in nature, though the Pentagon’s video analysis is routinely used in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations, and Defense Department publications make clear that the project supports those operations. Both Google and the Pentagon said the company’s products would not create an autonomous weapons system that could fire without a human operator, a much-debated possibility using artificial intelligence