What’s happened in AI: July 16th-22nd

By | July 23, 2018

This past week has been quite a busy one. Highlights include Apple’s increased investment in its autonomous vehicle program, Softbank’s push to invest in Sensetime, Microsoft’s AI/cloud partnership with Walmart, Zoox’s $630mm potential investment round, and much more.

Company developments:

Get down with Google’s new pose-matching machine learning experiment – July 20, 2018 (Android Authority)

  • Google has released a new machine learning experiment that can match a pose you make in real time to an image of a person making the same pose. Announced on the Google Blog, the experiment is called Move Mirror and it works using just a web browser and a webcam. You can check out a video of the experiment in action below
  • Google built the experiment using PoseNet, a machine learning model that detects poses by identifying the relative location of 17 body parts. The experiment feeds the input from your webcam into a database of over 80,000 images to find the image that best matches the pose. Google stresses that all the matching happens on your browser and none of your images are sent to a server
  • Google hopes the experiment will help make machine learning more accessible to coders and makers in the future. In a post on Medium, the makers of PoseNet suggest that pose estimation can be used in fields such as augmented reality, animation, and fitness

How Olay used AI to double its conversion rate – July 19, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Olay, the popular skin care brand, started using AI to make recommendations to its millions of users almost two years ago, and says it has doubled the company’s sales conversion rate overall
  • The product is based on a single selfie, and leverages Olay’s image expertise. Skin Advisor offers up a personalized product regimen, taking into account problem areas it sees, as well as what the user tells it they are most concerned about (wrinkles, crow’s feet, dry skin, etc.)
  • It incorporates an AI-powered matching engine built by Nara Logics, a Boston company that specializes in content matching and also serves the CIA, among others. Its technology decides exactly which of Olay’s 100 or so products to recommend, and in what combinations

Consortium.AI wants to cure rare diseases using artificial intelligence – July 19, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • For DMD sufferers and other patients with rare degenerative diseases, there’s now hope on the horizon. Insilico Medicine and A2A Pharmaceuticals today launched Consortium.AI, a new venture founded with the goal of applying advances in artificial intelligence (AI) to cutting-edge drug discovery
  • Through Consortium.AI, the two companies will collaboratively develop therapeutic treatments for DMD and other severe genetic disorders and use machine learning to validate the most promising candidates
  • “We are pleased to partner with Insilico Medicine, combining our strengths and complementary technologies to accelerate the advancement of better therapeutics into the clinic for the patients that need them,” said Dr. Elena Diez Cecilia, head of business product development at A2A Pharmaceuticals. “Muscular Dystrophy is a debilitating and terminal degenerative condition that causes muscle inflammation and wasting, and there is a huge need for more effective therapies.”

Google Edges Back Into China With WeChat AI Game – July 19, 2018 (Caixin)

  • Google LLC has launched a Pictionary-like game in China, powered by its artificial intelligence (AI) technology, in the company’s latest attempt to boost its limited presence in one of the world’s largest internet markets

Despite Laying Off Its Operators, Uber Says Autonomous Vehicles Will Resume Local Testing – July 19, 2018 (90.5 WESA)

  • The company said the planned return to testing would be limited and that not all 200 cars would immediately be back on the road. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in January he wanted fully unmanned taxis serving paying customers in Pittsburgh by mid-2019

KT launches AI voice service with English support in Seoul hotel – July 18, 2018 (ZDnet)

  • KT has applied its artificial intelligence (AI) assistant to a hotel in South Korea with English language support to accommodate foreign visitors, the telco said. The company’s Giga Genie has been applied at the Novotel Ambassador Hotel & Residence at Dongdaemun, Seoul, which was newly opened on July 3
  • Guests can use voice commands in their rooms using the provided touch screen device to control lighting, AC, TVs, music, and to order hotel products. They can lie on their beds and give commands instead of using remote controls or wall pads, the telco stressed
  • KT said it will add concierge features that will allow guests to check out of their rooms and pay for their mini bar or room services just through voice commands. Foreign visitors booked for a stay can also receive a Genie Phone given to them in the airport. They can use the rental phone as a transportation card, or to make calls, control their rooms at Novotel, and get tax refund services

Apple continues to ramp up testing of its self-driving car technology in California – July 18, 2018 (9to5Mac)

  • Apple is continuing to expand its testing of autonomous vehicles. According to new details from macReports, the company now has upwards of 65 autonomous vehicles on the road in California, continuing the gradual increase that has been taking place over recent months
  • This information comes from records filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Apple is still not the most prolific tester of autonomous vehicles in the state, with GM Cruise leading the way at 117 cars with 333 drivers. Waymo is in second with some 72 cars and 411 drivers
  • Apple comes in next with 66 cars and 111 drivers. While the company is testing autonomous vehicles in California, it does not yet hold a driverless car permit. This means that there is still someone behind the wheel overseeing the testing of the cars at this point

Bloomberg Launches a Twitter Feed Optimized for Trading – July 18, 2018 (Business Insider)

  • Bloomberg announced today the expansion of its relationship with Twitter, launching a real-time feed of curated Twitter data, so that enterprise clients can incorporate the most financially relevant content into their trading algorithms. Built on the back of Bloomberg’s robust Natural Language Processing techniques and available through the company’s Event-Driven Feeds (EDF) product, the data allows financial firms to extract value by making sense of the over 500 million Tweets per day
  • “Our customers tell us that Twitter data is a vital part of their information-driven trading strategies, helping them uncover early trends and changes in sentiment,” said Tony McManus, Bloomberg Enterprise Data CIO. “Our Twitter EDF feed will help quantitative traders to capitalize on Twitter’s influence on the markets through constantly evolving curation methodologies. These include proprietary NLP modeling, coupled with Bloomberg’s reputation for data quality and the expertise of a world-class news organization.”

RealNetworks gives away facial recognition software to make schools safer – July 17, 2018 (CNET)

  • The move to facial recognition marks a radical transformation for RealNetworks, formerly a streaming-music service before a series of lawsuits, reorganizations and assets sales forced the company to look elsewhere for growth. The software is intended to combat a dramatic rise in school shootings, as a fierce debate continues over how to keep children safe from on-campus gun violence
  • “When tragedies like the Parkland [shooting] happened, it just seemed to us as parents that we can do something good for society [with this technology],” said Rob Glaser, CEO of RealNetworks and former Microsoft executive. “One of the things we heard from the schools was that [they] don’t have a lot of budget, so we say let’s just create a version for free that any school can use.”
  • The program isn’t intended to interact with the children. It’s for adults, specifically staff and parents. It’s been in testing for the past six months, guarding students at the University Child Development School in Seattle, where Glaser’s own children attend

AWS adds BYO streaming algorithms to SageMaker machine learning platform – July 17, 2017 (ZDNet)

  • Amazon is enabling enterprises to bring your own algorithms to stream on its SageMaker machine learning service in a move designed to increase training speeds. Those algorithms will initially run on TensorFlow
  • Dr. Matt Wood, director of machine learning at AWS, said at the AWS Summit in New York that SageMaker is bringing streaming algorithms as well as batch job improvements to SageMaker
  • Wood was outlining AWS’ machine learning frameworks and platforms as well as AI services such as Rekognition, Polly and Lex. AWS has shipped more than 100 new services since re:Invent 2017

Uber’s head of policy for flying taxis and autonomous vehicles leaves for self-driving car startup Voyage – July 16, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Uber’s head of policy for autonomous vehicles and urban aviation, Justin Erlich, has left the company to join self-driving car startup Voyage, TechCrunch has learned. “I was really excited at the prospect of joining such a great early stage team, and by its initial focus on deploying in communities who stand to benefit among the most from this technology – senior citizens,” Erlich told TechCrunch via email
  • To lead its policy efforts for autonomous vehicles, Uber recently brought on Miriam Chaum, previously of Philanthropy University. Erlich’s departure comes a couple of months after Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden, who oversaw Uber Elevate, left the company

AdHive launches AI-powered platform to promote ICOs – July 16, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • AI-controlled influencer marketing platform AdHive today announced an ICO-focused marketing solution designed specifically for this purpose. The product itself is a combination of influencer marketing and AI-powered campaign management
  • On the influencer marketing side, AdHive’s platform identifies individuals who have sway in the blockchain technology space and helps your engage with them. The chosen influencers then produce content in the form of reviews, AMAs, interviews, technical and white paper analysis, or native product placement
  • “We have our own analytical tool, which allows us to analyze influencers’ accounts and find out the quality of the content, their base of subscribers, their organic traffic, and comments,” AdHive cofounder Alexandr Kuzmin told me. “There are several categories of influencers in our base — micro-influencers with no more than 10,000 subscribers, a middle category with 10,000 to 50,000 subscribers, and macro-influencers with more than 50,000. Such classifications allow brands to take a ‘soft dip’ into our platform — make the first campaign among micro-influencers to see how it works and warm up the market, and then after that launch a big advertising campaign and create a buzz on the crypto market.”


Xilinx Buys China AI Startup – July 18, 2018 (EETimes)

  • Xilinx purchased DeePhi, a 200-person startup in Beijing, in a deal that shows the speed and global scale of the super-hot AI market. Analysts said that the move was likely an effort to grab hard-to-find deep-learning talent already developing neural-networking software for Xilinx FPGAs
  • The deal is not alone in showing how a fast-moving industry is outpacing government concerns about the ownership of technologies such as AI that both China and the U.S. have identified as critical
  • Founded by a group from Tsinghua and Stanford Universities, DeePhi has expertise in “deep compression, pruning, and system-level optimization for neural networks,” according to a press statement from Xilinx, one of the company’s Series A investors, in early 2017


SoftBank fund seeks investment in Chinese AI giant SenseTime – July 20, 2018 (South China Morning Post)

  • SoftBank Vision Fund is seeking to invest almost US$1 billion in SenseTime Group as it seeks a stake in the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence (AI) start-up, people familiar with the matter said
  • The fund, created by Japanese multinational conglomerate SoftBank Group Corp, and SenseTime are still finalising terms of the deal and the details could still change, the people said, asking not to be identified as the details are private
  • SenseTime, a four-year-old start-up established in the Hong Kong Science Park, has already announced two other funding rounds this year that helped it raise more than US$1.2 billion

Autonomous trucking startup Embark lands $30 million in funding – July 19, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Embark Trucks has raised $30 million in a Series B funding round led by Sequoia Capital in its bid to be the first to develop and launch a commercially viable driverless truck
  • Sequoia partner Pat Grady has joined Embark’s board. Existing investors including Data Collective, YCombinator, SV Angel and AME Cloud also participated in the round, Embark announced Thursday
  • The autonomous trucking field is starting to become crowded. A number of companies, and more it seems every day, are all developing and testing autonomous trucks, including TuSimple, Starsky Robotics, Anthony Levandowski’s new company Kache.aiWaymo, and Uber

Lifebit raises $3M to scale-up AI-powered analysis of DNA data – July 19, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • London-based Lifebit is building a cloud-based cognitive system that can reason about DNA data in the same way humans do. This offers researchers and R&D professionals, with limited-to-no computational and data analysis training, and their corresponding organisations (ie. pharmaceutical companies), a highly scalable, modular and reproducible system that automates the analysis processes, learns from the data and provides actionable insights
  • It’s now closed a $3m (£2.25m) Seed funding round led by Pentech and Connect Ventures, with participation from Beacon Capital and Tiny VC (AngelList). The company is simultaneously announcing the launch of its first product, Deploit, what it claims is the world’s first AI-powered genomic data analysis platform, and, says the company, is already being trialled by major pharmaceutical and biotech companies
  • Making sense of DNA data is a two-step process, namely the biochemical-sequencing of the DNA and the analyzing and extracting insights from the sequenced DNA data. As of today in 2018, the first part of this process is now almost fully automated requiring minimal human intervention. Even sequencing costs have dropped below $1,000 and soon they will reach $100, according to the industry. The second part of the process, however, is a long way from being automated because it’s very complex, time-consuming and requires highly specialized experts to analyze the data

AnyVision AI startup locks in $28M for its body and facial recognition tech – July 19, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • AnyVision is working on face, body and object recognition tech and the underlying system infrastructure to help companies deploy smart cameras for various purposes. The tech works when deployed on most types of camera and does not require highly sophisticated sensors to operate, the company says
  • The Tel Aviv-based AI startup announced today that it has closed a $28 million Series A funding round led by Bosch. The quickly growing company already has 130 employees and has plans to open up three new offices by the year’s end
  • The company also recently released a product called FaceKey that leverages the company’s facial recognition tech for verification purposes, allowing customers with phones that are not just the iPhone X to use their face as a two-factor authentication method in things like banking apps. Now, there have certainly been a lot of issues with maintaining the needed accuracy which is exactly what has made FaceID so novel, but AnyVision CEO Eylon Etshtein claims to have “cracked the problem

Landbot gets $2.2M for its on-message ‘anti-AI’ chatbot – July 19, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Who needs AI to have a good conversation? Spanish startup Landbot has bagged a $2.2 million seed round for a ‘dumb’ chatbot that doesn’t use AI at all but offers something closer to an old school ‘choose your adventure’ interaction by using a conversational choice interface to engage potential customers when they land on a website
  • In the case of Landbot, the team is deploying a familiar rich texting interface as a website navigation tool — meaning site visitors aren’t left to figure out where to click to find stuff on their own. Instead they’re pro-actively met with an interactive, adaptive messaging thread that uses conversational choice prompts to get them the information they need
  • It’s also of course mobile first design, where constrained screen real estate is never very friendly to full fat homepages. Using a messaging thread interface plus marketing bots thus offers an alternative way to cut to the navigational chase, while simultaneously creaming off intent intelligence on potential customers. (Albeit it does risk getting old fast if your site visitors have a habit of clearing their cookies.)

An app that uses AI to help you improve your basketball shot just raised $4 million – July 17, 2018 (TechCrunch)

  • Using phone cameras and image recognition on the back end, its primary app HomeCourt will measure a variety of variables like shot trajectory, jump height, and body position, and help understand how to improve a player’s shooting form
  • The company said it’s raised $4 million from Charmides Capital and Mandra Capital, as well as Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Sam “Trust The Process” Hinkie (sigh), Mark Cuban and Dani Reiss
  • We don’t call ourselves a basketball company, we think of ourselves as a mobile AI company,” CEO and co-founder David Lee said. “It happens that basketball is the first sport where we’re applying our tech. When you think about digitizing sports, as a runner or cyclist, you’ve had access to a feedback loop for a while [on treadmills and other tools]. But for basketball and other sports like basketball, that loop didn’t exist. We believed with computer vision, you can digitize a lot of different sports, one of which is basketball. We’re not just building an app for the professional basketball athletes, we’re focused on building an app where value can be generated across the basketball

China’s AI industry gets the most funding, but lags the US in key talent, says Tsinghua – July 17, 2018 (South China Morning Post)

  • China’s artificial intelligence industry has attracted the most funding, accounting for 60 per cent of all global investment from 2013 to the first quarter of 2018, but still lags behind the US in terms of AI talent, according to a new study
  • By the end of 2017 China had amassed an AI talent pool of 18,232 people, accounting for 8.9 per cent of the world’s total talent and well behind the 13.9 per cent share held by the US. The top 10 countries accounted for 60 per cent of AI talent
  • The report also stressed the country’s shortage of high level AI talent – those who produce research of high quality – with China only having one fifth the number of the US in this category, according to a report released Friday by Tsinghua University, China’s top research university

AI drug discovery startup Verge Genomics raises $32 million – July 16, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Verge Genomics believes that with the help of artificial intelligence, drug discovery can be dramatically accelerated. The Silicon Valley company today announced a $32 million funding round led by DFJ, WuXi AppTec’s Corporate Venture Fund, ALS Investment Fund, Agent Capital, and OS Fund
  • “We’re looking to take the guesswork out of drug discovery,” Verge Genomics founder Alice Zhang told VentureBeat in a phone interview. “This funding will allow us to advance our most promising drug candidates toward the clinic while continuing to expand our proprietary datasets and therapeutic portfolio.”
  • The bulk of Verge Genomics’ research concerns Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other neurodegenerative diseases that have historically proven difficult for pharmaceutical researchers to target. Roughly 400 clinical trials have tested experimental treatments for Alzheimer’s, for example, but the only approved drugs for Parkinson’s disease address its symptoms without halting its progression

Scoop: Secretive self-driving car startup Zoox is raising up to $630 million – July 16, 2018 (Pitchbook)

  • Autonomous vehicle company Zoox has authorized the sale of up to $630 million in new shares, PitchBook has learned. The terms of the deal have not been announced and are subject to change. The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A full $630 million funding could value the company at up to $3.43 billion, per a PitchBook estimate
  • Rumors of a possible fundraise emerged in September 2017, when Axios reported that Zoox was in talks with SoftBank about a funding that could total up to $1 billion and value the startup in the range of $3 billion to $4 billion.  Zoox is reportedly building a self-driving car from the ground up, with previously expressed hopes of deploying an entire fleet by 2020. With rivals like Cruise Automation, Waymo, Uber and Lyft working on autonomous vehicle technology, the company is part of a race to get self-driving cars on the road
  • Since Zoox was founded in 2014, the secretive startup hasn’t released much information about its autonomous vehicle technology. The company is “building an advanced mobility experience that will support the future needs of urban mobility for both people and the environment,” per its website, language that some suggest could mean Zoox is developing an on-demand service


Grab to set up artificial intelligence lab with Singapore university – July 18, 2018 (Reuters)

  • Southeast Asia’s Grab is jointly investing S$6 million ($4.4 million) with the National University of Singapore to launch an artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory to help improve the efficiency and utilization of vehicles on its platform
  • The lab’s efforts will expand to research on challenges such as congestion in Southeast Asian cities, Grab and NUS said in a statement on Wednesday. The AI lab is the latest move by Grab to leverage its vast trove of data and growing user base to improve its services. Last month, it received a $1 billion investment from Toyota Motor Corp in a partnership that includes data sharing
  • The lab’s research could provide more personalized services to passengers, improve driving safety through better understanding of driver behavior as well as improve precision in mapping pick-up points, Grab and NUS said

Microsoft and Walmart strike 5-year AI and cloud partnership – July 18, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • Microsoft today announced a five-year partnership with Walmart to speed the company’s digital transformation via a combination of AI, cloud, and Internet of Things (IoT) services. It is no coincidence that the strategic partnership is being announced on Prime Day, the biggest day of the year for Walmart’s chief competitor Amazon
  • As part of the deal, Walmart and Sam’s Club will migrate their cloud computing to Azure, and Walmart will utilize Azure’s IoT platform to track things like HVAC and refrigeration systems. Machine learning services from Microsoft will be used to perform tasks like routing company delivery trucks
  • “Walmart is already using Microsoft services for critical applications and workloads and is now embarking on a broad set of cloud innovation projects that leverage Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and data platform solutions for a wide range of external customer-facing services and internal business applications,” the company said today in a blog post

Major League Baseball Selects AWS as its Official Provider for Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Deep Learning – July 17, 2018 (Business Wire)

  • Today, Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), an Amazon.com company (NASDAQ: AMZN), announced that Major League Baseball (MLB) has chosen AWS as its official provider for machine learning, artificial intelligence, and deep learning workloads. In extending its long-standing relationship, MLB will use AWS machine learning services to continue development of Statcast—the tracking technology that runs on AWS to analyze player performance for every game—and develop new technologies to support MLB Clubs in driving innovative fan experiences and engagement across all 30 Major League ballparks
  • In addition, MLB will work with the Amazon ML Solutions Lab to amplify game statistical data integrations within broadcasts, including MLB Network, and live digital distribution, such as MLB.com and the MLB At Bat app, using machine learning, creating more personalized viewer experiences tailored for each market and geographic region
  • AWS’s broad range of cloud-based machine learning services will enable MLB to eliminate the manual, time-intensive processes associated with record keeping and statistics, such as scorekeeping, capturing game notes, and classifying pitches

Creative Destruction Lab Partners with Xanadu to Accelerate Quantum Machine Learning – July 16, 2018 (The Virginia Pilot)

  • Xanadu and the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management are pleased to announce a technology partnership. Ventures in CDL’s Quantum Machine Learning (QML) program will receive access and hands-on technical support to Xanadu’s Strawberry Fields, an open-source quantum software package featuring a quantum machine learning toolbox for quantum computing built on TensorFlow
  • “CDL brings together the world’s greatest concentration of quantum technologists, software programmers, and investors. We’re thrilled to support the program and its entrepreneurs as they develop real world applications for quantum computers,” said Nathan Killoran, Head of the QML team at Xanadu. “Our built-in TensorFlow backend, machine learning toolbox, and interactive interface allow users to start programming a quantum computer and generating machine learning models without requiring a deep knowledge of quantum circuits.”

Research / studies:

In breakthrough, Japanese researchers use AI to identify early stage stomach cancer with high accuracy – July 22, 2018 (The Japan Times)

  • Two Japanese national research institutes have succeeded in using artificial intelligence to identify early stage stomach cancer with a high accuracy rate. The breakthrough may help extend the lives of patients in Japan, where stomach cancer is one of the leading causes of death. According to the National Cancer Center, 45,531 people died of stomach cancer in 2016
  • According to Riken and the National Cancer Center, it took AI only 0.004 seconds to judge whether an endoscopic image showed early stage cancer or normal stomach tissue. AI correctly detected cancer in 80 percent of cancer images, while the accuracy rate was 95 percent for normal tissue
  • The accuracy rates were as high as those of veteran doctors, the institutes said Saturday, adding that they will aim to put AI into practical use as a device to support doctors in making diagnoses

IBM researchers train AI to follow code of ethics – July 16, 2018 (VentureBeat)

  • A team of scientists at IBM Research, in collaboration with MIT Media Lab, has developed an AI recommendation technique that, while optimizing its results for the user’s preferences, also makes sure it stays conformant to other constraints, such as ethical and behavioral guidelines
  • Led by Francesca Rossi, AI Ethics Global Leader at IBM Research, the team of scientists has demonstrated the functionality of the AI in a movie recommendation system that allows parents to set moral constraints for their children
  • There have been previous attempts to integrate ethical rules into AI algorithms, but they were mostly based on static rules. For instance, a user could designate a specific outlet or category of news that an algorithm should avoid recommending. While this approach can work in certain settings, it has its limits

Government / policy:

China, UAE expect closer economic cooperation under B&R Initiative – July 21, 2018 (Xinhua.net)

  • An economic forum on the business opportunities between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and China was held Friday evening in the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi, as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Arab country. The UAE-China Economic Forum, co-hosted by China’s Ministry of Commerce and the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, was attended by 450 officials and business representatives from the two countries, including Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan and UAE’s Economy Minister Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori
  • In his keynote speech, Zhong hailed the agreement to lift the China-UAE bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership during Xi’s visit. He pointed to the bright future for the pragmatic cooperation between the two countries against the backdrop of economic globalization and diversification, stressing China’s determination to uphold global free trade against unilateralism and protectionism

British Police Identify Two Russian Suspects in Novichok Poisonings Using Facial Recognition Tech – July 19, 2018 (Gizmodo)

  • British police have reportedly identified two suspects in the nerve agent poisonings that left one person dead and three others injured. The suspects were identified after UK police combed through “months” of surveillance footage at British airports, as well as security camera footage from around Salisbury
  • Both CNN and the BBC refer to an unnamed police source with knowledge of the case, but British authorities have yet to release an official statement. That source says that the two Russian suspects used aliases to leave the UK on commercial flights. The two suspects are reportedly “fresh identities,” not known to British intelligence agencies and were identified using facial recognition technology
  • “Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack through CCTV and have cross-checked this with records of people who entered the country around that time,” the unnamed police source told Britain’s Press Association

State task force to steer driverless cars – July 18, 2018 (CTPost)

  • A state task force is preparing for a world in which buses drive themselves, cars carry riders while they work on laptops and autonomous shuttles transport elderly and disabled residents to appointments. “This will happen fast,” said state Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, and a member of the state’s newly formed Autonomous Vehicle Task Force
  • The task force on Tuesday began planning for a future in which driverless vehicles using artificial intelligence to navigate become common on Connecticut streets and highways
  • Staffed with state department heads, lawyers, UConn researchers and lawmakers, the task force is charged with making recommendations on a variety of issues, including safety regulations, how disabled and blind people could benefit from driverless cars and how buses could be incorporated

How social media bots became an influential force in Africa’s elections – July 18, 2018 (Quartz)

  • Bots on social media became an influential voice during crucial Africa polls over the last year, claims a report called How Africa Tweets from communications consultancy Portland. These bots, defined by some as a new form of media, are software programs that combine artificial intelligence with communication skills and intimate human behavior. Using them, one could amplify a specific conversation on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook by posting videos, photos, and biased statements targeting particular hashtags and wordings
  • In 10 elections across nine African nations which took place between June 2017 and March 2018, bots were used as important vessels for spreading misinformation and furthering negative narratives about major issues, candidates, and perceived electoral irregularities, say the report’s authors. In many countries, the chat bots undermined the influence of media outlets, independent bloggers, government entities, and even messages from politicians and campaigners themselves. And once the voting cycle was over, these bot armies turned their attention to issues elsewhere including outside Africa

Elon Musk, DeepMind founders, and others sign pledge to not develop lethal AI weapon systems – July 18, 2018 (The Verge)

  • It’s the latest move from an unofficial and global coalition of researchers and executives that’s opposed to the propagation of such technology. The pledge warns that weapon systems that use AI to “[select] and [engage] targets without human intervention” pose moral and pragmatic threats. Morally, the signatories argue, the decision to take a human life “should never be delegated to a machine.” On the pragmatic front, they say that the spread of such weaponry would be “dangerously destabilizing for every country and individual.”
  • The pledge was published today at the 2018 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence (IJCAI) in Stockholm, and it was organized by the Future of Life Institute, a research institute that aims to “mitigate existential risk” to humanity. The institute has previously helped issue letters from some of the same individuals, calling on the United Nations to consider new regulations for what are known as lethal autonomous weapons, or LAWS. This, however, is the first time those involved have pledged individually to not develop such technology
  • Signatories include SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk; the three co-founders of Google’s DeepMind subsidiary, Shane Legg, Mustafa Suleyman, and Demis Hassabis; Skype founder Jaan Tallinn; and some of the world’s most respected and prominent AI researchers, including Stuart Russell, Yoshua Bengio, and Jürgen Schmidhuber

Vietnamese transport ministry supports autonomous car development – July 16, 2018 (Xinhua)

  • Vietnam’s Ministry of Transport supports the development of self-driving cars because it is in line with the government’s strategy on the fourth industrial revolution development, local media reported Monday
  • The ministry has positively responded to a proposal by a local technology firm named FPT Software on allowing it to operate its driverless cars on a trial basis on internal road in a hi-tech park in Ho Chi Minh City, local newspaper Giao Thong Van Tai (Transport) reported on Monday
  • In 2016, FPT Software established a specialized unit to develop automotive applications, including autonomous cars which are capable of sensing their environment and navigating without human input

Meet the HN-1, China’s New AI-Powered Underwater Drone – July 15, 2018

  • From last week but didn’t make the weekly update
  • HN-1, dubbed somewhat mysteriously as the “flexible vehicle” [柔性航行器], has a fish’s shape with head, fins, body and tail. The dorsal fin is said to house a communications antenna, allowing the vehicle to communicate with its mothership while in a semi-submerged status
  • Before one gets too excited about this platform, it is worth emphasizing that, according to this Chinese article, the HN-1 had completed all land tests and computer simulations, but water tests were only just about to begin. Given that these tests are planned as of mid-2017, there is obviously quite a long way to go in the development cycle