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Inside AI (Dec 6th, 2019)

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1. Following criticism from groups like the ACLU, the Department of Homeland Security has dropped plans to expand facial recognition checks to U.S. citizens at airports. The department currently only scans non-U.S. citizens traveling into the country, but recently said it could expand that to include all travelers. As a result, Democratic Senator Ed Markey pledged to develop legislation to block the proposed facial recognition checks, which also drew criticism from privacy advocates. Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the proposal "never should have been issued, and it is positive that government is withdrawing it after growing opposition from the public and lawmakers.” - TECHCRUNCH

2. The NFL and Amazon Web Services announced a partnership to use AI to develop solutions for head injuries in football. The NFL has a massive amount of data on its players, which it will use to create simulations that could improve helmet design and develop rule changes. It will use the AWS SageMaker toolset to crunch the data, according to Matt Wood, AWS’s VP of artificial intelligence. Amazon will help the NFL collect players’ health data, scan game footage, and analyze medical research and statistics to prevent and treat injuries, with a particular focus on data surrounding head injuries, which have been linked in recent years to a neurological disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The agreement was announced by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and AWS CEO Andy Jassy; AWS is in the second year of a $130 million contract to broadcast Thursday night NFL games on its streaming service. - TECHCRUNCH

A version of this story first appeared in Inside Cloud.

3. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has opened a new AI institute for researchers. The National Artificial Intelligence Institute, which is led by biomedical informatics expert Gil Alterovitz, is a joint initiative of the VA's office of research and development and the VA secretary's center for strategic partnerships. The VA has gathered data on veterans, including 800,000 volunteers, for the agency's genomic database, according to Politico. Its researchers will work with public and private partners on AI projects, including using the data to identify veterans with a high risk of suicide. The institute will also collaborate with federal agencies on a national AI strategy. - POLITICO

4. Federal agencies need to cooperate more on their AI efforts, according to members of the bipartisan Congressional Artificial Intelligence Caucus. During a meeting on Thursday, caucus co-chairs Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, and Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-California, said individual departments’ AI offices - which so far have worked on AI initiatives independently - need to interact more so they can avoid duplicating their efforts. These include initiatives like the Department of Defense's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), which launched last year, and the Department of Energy's recently announced AI office. The goal of the caucus is to educate Congress members about AI so they can make better legislative decisions. - FEDERAL TIMES

5. A second version of the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (or CIMON for short) is headed to the International Space Station. The AI-powered robot assistant is equipped with emotion-sensing voice detectors, microphones, and cameras to interact with astronauts. Developed by IBM, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and Airbus, its emotional intelligence is based on IBM's Watson Tone Analyzer, which can analyze conversations between CIMON and the astronauts to see how they’re feeling, according to Matthias Biniok, IBM's lead architect. CIMON 2 is nearly identical to CIMON 1, which launched in 2018, but has updated technology to make it more sociable with crew members. “The overall goal is to really create a true companion," Biniok said. - REUTERS

6. Facebook's AI researchers developed a bot that achieved a record score in the card game Hanabi. The AI attained a score of 24.61 out of 25, beating the previous high of 23.92 out of 25. Researchers applied deep reinforcement learning with a search algorithm to create the bot, which they say could benefit robotics systems, self-driving vehicles, or conversational AI agents by helping them solve “theory of mind” challenges. “This is something that comes very naturally to humans, this idea of being able to put yourself in the shoes of another person and understand why they’re taking the actions they’re taking, what they’re thinking, and even if they don’t know certain things. But it’s something that AI has historically really struggled with,” Facebook AI researcher Noam Brown said. - CNET

7. Softbank plans to invest $184 million over the next 10 years to launch the Beyond AI Institute in Japan. The company's mobile arm SoftBank Corp. has partnered with the University of Tokyo to establish the institute, which will support 150 researchers focused on taking AI research from the academic to the commercial. SoftBank Group Corp founder Masayoshi Son announced the initiative on Thursday during an on-campus chat with Alibaba’s Jack Ma. - BLOOMBERG

8. The medical AI platform Medicus AI has raised $22 million in its latest funding round. The Series B was led by Sunhope, a Chinese and international VC, as well as contributions from previous investors. Medicus' platform and app use AI to translate medical reports and health data into personalized insights for patients. The company recently expanded into China and is eyeing a global expansion into markets such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan, Portugal, and Brazil, according to its CEO. - SILICON CANALS

9. Volvo's venture capital group has invested an undisclosed amount in Apex.AI, a startup that's developing a robotic operating system for cars. The cash infusion will help the Palo Alto-based startup develop a safety-certified software framework for autonomous systems. Earlier investors in the startup include Toyota, Airbus, Canaan Partners, and Lightspeed Venture Partners. - TECHCRUNCH

10. Google’s AI-powered voice recorder app is now available to Android users with older Pixel devices, including the Pixel 2, Pixel 3 and Pixel 3a. The app, which was initially rolled out to Pixel 4 devices, uses speech processing, and speech recognition to transcribe voice recordings while the person is speaking. It also records high-quality audio and allows users to search for specific parts of a clip. - THE VERGE

Written and curated by Beth Duckett in Scottsdale, Arizona. Beth is a former reporter for The Arizona Republic who has published a book about the solar industry and frequently writes about hobby and commercial drones. You can follow her tweets about breaking news in artificial intelligence here.

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