Inside AI - January 14th, 2020

Inside AI (Jan 14th, 2020)

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1. Google released new information about its "precipitation nowcasting," which uses machine learning to forecast rainfall up to six hours in advance, outperforming other techniques. In Google's AI Blog, the company said it can generate the rainfall forecasts on a "nearly instantaneous" basis for the short-term. The model is in the early stages and hasn't been integrated commercially yet, though Google says it will have a lot of applications, from boosting crisis response to reducing deaths and property damage due to extreme weather. As The Verge points out, Google’s approach is faster than two existing models that forecast weather, and much less "computationally intensive." Researchers trained the model on NOAA radar data collected from 2017 and 2019 in the contiguous U.S. It outperformed other existing methods that used the same data, until it had to make forecasts more than six hours in advance. - THE VERGE

2. A new AI system can reportedly "read" some of the emotions of students in a classroom, which could help determine if they are focused or bored. The system, developed by a team at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, was described in a research paper published this month in the journal IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics. According to the researchers, a visual analytics system could accurately detect happiness and other more "obvious emotions," while anger and sadness were harder to pinpoint. One reason could be that people often frown when focused or listening intently, which raises questions about how accurate AI "emotion recognition" really is. (Hint: It's not really, according to a significant review of the technology released last year.) To help counteract these issues, Huamin Qu, a Hong Kong computer scientist and co-author of the student paper, says his team will need to add new emotion categories, relabel the data, and retrain their AI model. - IEEE SPECTRUM

3. Cambridge, Massachusetts, became the latest city in the state to outlaw its use of facial recognition technology. Monday night's vote by the City Council comes after the cities of Brookline, Northampton, and Somerville approved similar municipal bans on the AI-based software, which is facing scrutiny worldwide for its inherent racial biases and potential to infringe on people's privacy. The Massachusetts State House is also considering a bill to temporarily suspend the use of facial recognition until it can be regulated, stating that the tech "has a history of being far less accurate in identifying the faces of women, young people, and dark-skinned people," which can lead to "harmful 'false positive’ identifications.” - MASS LIVE

4. Huawei has created a fourth business group that will oversee its AI and cloud computing divisions, a possible signal that the Chinese tech company plans to focus more in these areas. The group will be led by Hou Jinlong, who had the same role previously but now has the title of president of the business unit. The news comes as the company faces a number of challenges, including its placement on the U.S. government blacklist, and pressure from the U.S. government on other countries to ban Huawei from their 5G networks. - TECHNODE

5. Pizza chain Domino's has been using Nvidia Turing T4 GPUs in its AI applications, ZDNet reports. This includes the potential use of computer vision applications to enhance the pizza carryout experience for customers, according to the company, which has also been using Nvidia GPUs to more accurately predict when orders will be ready. The news comes almost a year after Domino's launched its "Points for Pie" AI project, which collected customers' pizza images and used them to train a machine learning model. The AI can classify pizza images with an Nvidia DGX system, which is equipped with eight V100 Tensor Core GPUs. Nvidia is highlighting the Domino's efforts at this week's National Retail Federation's conference. - ZDNET

6. A new AI can detect hypoglycemic episodes - or extreme drops in blood sugar - using simple electrocardiograph (ECG) signals, making the approach non-invasive. Researchers from the University of Warwick say the AI can detect such events using data from a wearable ECG, according to a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports. In two pilot studies, the AI model was 82 percent reliable in detecting hypoglycemia, which is similar to current continuous glucose monitors. In the case of the AI, there was no need to insert needles into the patient. - NEW ATLAS

7. Theme park digital technology is predicted to tranform visitors’ experiences via IoT, virtual assistants, facial recognition and wearable devices. Industry experts say IoT will be used to automate stock for merchandise and food, plus it will collect data on rides, restaurants and shows. Connected speakers and virtual assistants are expected to be integrated into parks, which will allow guests to order food ahead of time, get ticket prices and book hotel rooms. Facial recogniton will enable gateless entry into theme parks. - BLOOLOOP 

A version of this story first appeared in Inside IoT.

8. Blockchain beat out AI as the most in-demand "hard skill" among employers this year, according to a recent LinkedIn blog. AI ranked fourth on the "Skills Companies Need Most in 2020," after blockchain, cloud computing, and analytical reasoning. It fell down two notches from last year. LinkedIn said workers who can harness AI, machine learning, and natural language processing "will help organizations deliver more relevant, personalized, and innovative products and services." - TNW

9. AI startups in the U.S. raised a record $18.46 billion last year, up from $16.8 billion in 2018, according to data from the National Venture Capital Association and the PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor. There were 1,356 AI-related companies that raised the money in 2019, an increase from 1,281 companies in 2018. Overall, AI investing outperformed the general VC market, according to the NVCA. - VENTUREBEAT

10. Two experts in the field of autonomous vehicle technology have joined TC Sessions: Robotics+AI event, which is scheduled for March 3. They are Anca Dragan and Jur van den Berg. Dragan, an assistant professor at U.C. Berkeley’s electrical engineering and computer sciences department, is also a senior research scientist and consultant for Waymo. In 2019, she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Van den Berg is co-founder and CTO of Ike Robotics, a self-driving truck startup, and a former senior autonomy engineer at Uber after its acquired Otto, another self-driving truck startup. - TECHCRUNCH

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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