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Inside AI (Nov 15th, 2019)

Friends,

Today we will be launching our 58th newsletter, Inside Meditation. Over the last decade I’ve been meditating and it’s had a profound impact on my life, lowering stress, making me more focused and fostering a sense of equanimity in my life.

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1. Digital rights activists in Washington D.C. scanned the faces of thousands of people with Amazon’s Rekognition software on Thursday to demonstrate the harmful consequences of permitting facial recognition surveillance. The activists navigated the nation's capital in white jumpsuits with cell phones strapped to their heads to scan people they encountered outside the halls of Congress and inside the city’s busiest metro stations. As they collected their data, digital rights group Fight for the Future cross-checked the scanned faces with a database of journalists, lobbyists and members of Congress. The unique form of protest was intended to show these groups of people how this technology could affect them directly. - VICE

A version of this story first appeared in Inside Amazon.

2. Google's Creative Lab launched the FreddieMeter, an AI experiment that shows how closely people can mimic the voice of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. Google's latest AI system was developed with the blessing of the band's remaining members, along with help from YouTube, Universal Music Group, and Hollywood Records. Users can pick from several songs on the microsite; once they're done singing, the AI analyzes their voice based on pitch, timbre, and melody and assigns a score from 0 to 100. The site also encourages people to donate to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which helps fight HIV and AIDS-related diseases. - ENGADGET

3. Moveworks, which developed a machine learning platform to resolve help desk tickets, has raised $75 million in a Series B round. Iconiq Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and Sapphire Ventures led the round, with participation from existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, and Comerica Bank. Microsoft chairman John Thompson, a partner at LightSpeed, also contributed a personal investment of an undisclosed amount. The company's platform uses natural language understanding to interpret the content of IT help desk tickets and automatically resolve them. - TECHCRUNCH

4. Microsoft opened an AI-dedicated space in Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this week to house its Future of Work initiative, which is focused on educating workers about AI, data science, and IoT. The tech giant announced plans for its first regional AI hub earlier this year; one of its goals is to train employees on how to work alongside AI and robots. Ben Reno-Weber, the director of Future of Work, said the hub will host classes to educate people on using data and is also "where entrepreneurs and investors and big companies are going to gather." Microsoft chose Louisville because 28 percent of jobs in the area are at risk due to automation, according to research cited by CTO Jennifer Byrne. - COURIER-JOURNAL

5. Kraft Heinz's new global CIO wants to boost the company's use of AI in order to drive growth, according to Forbes magazine. Corrado Azzarita, 49, formerly of Procter & Gamble and Mondelez International, replaces former Kraft CIO Francesco Tinto, who took on the role of global CIO at Walgreens Boots Alliance earlier this year. Azzarita wants to digitize more internal processes and further develop machine-learning models to crunch data including sales and macroeconomic variables, which could help Kraft Heinz advertise its products better. In its latest quarter, the company beat analysts’ forecasts with adjusted earnings per share of $0.69, surpassing market expectations of $0.54 per share. - FORBES

6. U.K.-based Sensyne Health announced plans to work with the IT services company Cognizant and data infrastructure specialist Agorai to help bring its AI tools to the U.S. Initially, Sensyne plans to roll out its therapeutic software known as GDm-Health, which uses AI to help patients manage gestational diabetes. About 6,100 patients in the U.K. currently use the product, which was developed with the U.K.'s National Health System in collaboration with the University of Oxford. Sensyne says it won't share any U.K. patient data as part of the U.S. rollout. - FIERCE BIOTECH

7. Airbus is developing single-pilot planes built around AI technology to meet the rising demand for air travel, according to CTO Grazia Vittadini. The company plans to test a single pilot model with freighter aircraft, which it expects will become commercially viable within the next decade. AI will handle routine tasks on the planes, freeing up the pilot to focus on strategic decisions, Vittadini said. Examples of the technology include image recognition of runways and airport signs, as well as speech-to-text conversion since "communication plays a significant part of the pilot’s workload," Vittadini said. - LIVE MINT

8. A team from the U.S. Department of Energy developed an algorithm that can help breed plants that adapt to their environments. The team is led by Dan Jacobson, an R&D staff member in the Biosciences Division at the department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee. According to Jacobson, their efforts are focused on using AI in plant breeding and bioenergy, including what he called "genomic selection." An algorithm driven by "explainable AI" methods can determine what variations are needed in a genome to produce plants that can better adapt to their environments, he said. "This informs breeding efforts, gene editing efforts, or combinations of those, depending on what sort of bioengineering strategy you want to take." - LAB MANAGER

9. Sony plans to open an undisclosed number of AI labs in India starting next year. The first lab will open in Bangalore, the company said Thursday, making it its seventh global R&D center after Japan, the U.S., and China. Sony plans to hire local employees with strong IT skills and engineers who have worked abroad. (The company also pays many of its AI workers 20 percent more than other employees). Many of the labs will be located near prominent universities and research institutes. - NIKKEI ASIAN REVIEW

10. Cinephil, an Israel-based international sales firm, has secured the rights to “iHuman,” a documentary focused on the AI revolution. The political thriller comes from Norway's Tonje Hessen Schei’s, who directed the 2014 documentary "Drone" about the use of drones in warfare. “iHuman” explores the dilemmas of AI through top minds in the industry, including Google whistleblower Jack Poulson, computational psychologist Michal Kosinski, deep fake pioneer Hao Li, and techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufecki. It will premiere later this month at Amsterdam’s International Documentary Film Festival. - VARIETY

Written and curated by Beth Duckett in Orange County. Beth is a former reporter for The Arizona Republic who has written for USA Today, Get Out magazine and other publications. Follow her tweets about breaking news and other topics in southern California here.

Editor: Kim Lyons (Pittsburgh-based journalist and managing editor at Inside).

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