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Inside AI (Jan 13th, 2020)

1. Some experts are saying that AI is entering a new "cooling off" phase after the period of hype during the 2010s, the BBC reports. Noel Sharkey, a professor of AI and robotics at Sheffield University, described this new phase as an "AI autumn," which is not as severe as an AI winter but points to a potential plateau, particularly in the field of artificial general intelligence. AI pioneer and Turing Award winner Yoshua Bengio told the BBC that the abilities of AI were overhyped somewhat during the last decade by certain companies such as DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014. In addition, there was a lot of publicity and buildup surrounding artificial general intelligence in the early 2010s that has appeared to die down in recent years. "By the end of the decade there was a growing realization that current techniques can only carry us so far," said AI researcher Gary Marcus. However, while there is still a ways to go before machines truly intelligent, breakthroughs are likely to occur, even if they are more practical. "I hope we'll see a more measured, realistic view of AI's capability, rather than the hype we've seen so far," said former Amazon AI researcher Catherine Breslin, an ex-Amazon AI researcher. - BBC

2. A former San Diego employee filed a whistleblower complaint accusing the local police department of concealing information related to its now-defunct facial recognition program, KNSD reported. The employee, Tiffany Vinson, claims she was fired after filing the complaint last year, which accused the department and its Chief David Nisleit of failing to release information about the seven-year-old program to the public and to a federal congressional committee. Vinson claims that police and city agencies went to great lengths to avoid email documentation when preparing its response to a subpoena from the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The committee filed a subpoena with the city several years ago seeking information about privacy concerns concerning its use of facial recognition. Last week, reports noted that San Diego's facial recognition program was not linked to a single arrest. It was discontinued after California's legislature recently enacted a three-year ban on police use of mobile facial recognition technology. - KNSD

3. Swedish startup Skyqraft has raised $505,000 to expand its use of AI and drones in power line inspections, according to TechCrunch. Antler led the funding round, with participation from angels including Claes Ekström and Tomas Kåberger. Skyqraft uses drones to gather images and videos of power lines, which it then feeds into a machine learning system that automatically detects potential risks associated with the lines. The startup says it will use the cash infusion to further develop its ML software, grow its map user interface and drone teams, and test new devices. - TECHCRUNCH

4. Brazil is moving up the global ranks when it comes to AI innovation, VentureBeat reports. To back up the claims, the publication cited last year's Oxford Insights’ AI Readiness Index, which ranked the South American nation 40th out of 192 countries in how prepared they are to embrace AI technologies. (The top five countries, for the record, were Singapore, the U.K., Germany, the U.S., and Finland.) In reports, Brazil has been mentioned as a hub for AI in e-commerce, logistics, on-demand delivery, and digital media. In addition, the country's government recently unveiled plans to launch eight R&D labs focused on AI, which will work on innovation in areas like cybersecurity, agribusiness, and health care. - VENTURE BEAT

5. Astronomers successfully used AI in a study confirming that galaxy mergers result in the faster formation of stars, according to a new report published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. A team led by Lingyu Wang from SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research built a deep learning algorithm that was trained on a sample of more than 200,000 galaxies. The AI taught itself to identify when two galaxies merge. The results confirmed that there were up to twice as many starbursts - dubbed "stellar baby booms" - in merging galaxies than in single galaxies. The advantage of AI "is that it improves the reproducibility of our study because the algorithm is consistent in its definitions of a merger," said report author William Pearson. It was the first time researchers used AI in a study on galaxy mergers. - SCI TECH DAILY

6. “Smile with your eyes" is one of the tips offered by a South Korean career consultant, who is helping people learn how to pass so-called "AI hiring" exams. More and more companies in South Korea and worldwide are using AI tools like facial recognition to initially screen applicants in video interviews. For example, Reuters reviewed an AI video system that claims to analyze a person's word choices as well as facial expressions including "fear" and "joy." In South Korea, nearly 25 percent of the top 130 corporations currently utilize AI in hiring or plan to do so soon, according to the Korea Economic Research Institute. To "beat the bots," consultancies are selling lessons, which run for up to 100,000 won ($86.26) for a three-hour session. - REUTERS

7. A Singapore-based startup is selling prefabricated houses that come with a built-in AI assistant. The AI, named "Canny," is connected to the home's appliances and can automatically control things like security, heat, and lighting. The homes, which are as large as 263 square feet, start at $19,000 for a baseline model and go as high as $59,000. The assistant shouldn't be confused with the early stage startup Canny AI, which is based in Tel-Aviv and is working to to develop the perfect lip-sync between audio and video. - INMAN

Written and curated by Beth Duckett, a former reporter for The Arizona Republic who wrote a book about the solar industry and frequently covers hobby and commercial drones. You can follow her tweets here.

Edited by Sheena Vasani, Inside Dev editor.

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