Inside AI - January 15th, 2020

Inside AI (Jan 15th, 2020)

Shanahan warns about deepfakes / Google's Coral initiative / AI assistants in space


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1. Computer models have helped design evolved frog embyros, which are being dubbed as the first-ever "living machine." Researchers took stem cells from existing African clawed frogs and created small living tissue "blobs" whose bodies were designed using special algorithms. Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist and robotics expert at the University of Vermont, said the moving, autonomous organisms are "neither a traditional robot nor a known species of animal," but actually a new type of artifact he called "a living, programmable organism." The algorithms were trained on constraints, such as max muscle power, and were able to produce generations of the so-called xenobots, which are "almost like a wind-up toy," said Sam Kriegman, a doctoral candidate studying evolutionary robotics in the University of Vermont's Department of Computer Science. A study about the findings was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. - LIVE SCIENCE

2. U.S. Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, who heads the Pentagon’s Joint AI Center, recently warned about the dangers of deepfakes, including the likely spread of disinformation campaigns during elections. During a recent visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Shanahan said the AI-generated fake videos and audio could have a “corrosive influence” on what people perceive to be reality during election cycles. The "level of realism and fidelity [in deepfakes] has vastly increased from just a year ago," he noted, saying that there are areas of "increasing concern across the whole of society, not just the U.S. military.” An example of a threatening deepfake might be if a leader "announces" that a country is at war when it's not, he said. - THE TELEGRAPH

3. Google's Coral initiative is helping to make on-device AI a reality, according to a report by The Verge. The program, which launched out of beta in October, is made up of hardware development kits and accessories that can accelerate neural networks at the edge and without the cloud, explains Vikram Tank, product manager at Coral. The initiative's accelerators and dev boards are designed "for prototyping new ideas," while its modules will "power the AI brains of production devices," including smart cameras and sensors, The Verge reports. The hardware is powered by Google’s Edge TPU ASIC chip, which is optimized to process lightweight machine learning algorithms. - THE VERGE

4. Future astronauts will likely be accompanied by AI assistants similar to CIMON, but even more emotionally intelligent, according to MIT Tech Review. While the concept might bring up fears of a HAL 9000 situation, the publication notes that NASA has already deployed various digital assistants, including its latest iteration of CIMON, CIMON 2 (which just launched to the ISS last month and is said to be more empathetic and emotionally attuned than its predecessor). Even so, current robots still lack the emotional intelligence to watch over astronauts, looking for signs of distress and to keep tabs on mental health, while also addressing technical problems and controlling the spacecraft itself. - MIT TECH REVIEW

5. Verbit has raised $31 million in a Series B round led by equity growth firm Stripes, with participation from Viola Ventures, HV Ventures, Oryzn Capital, Vertex Ventures, and ClalTech. The Tel Aviv- and New York-based startup developed adaptive speech recognition tech, which it says can transcribe in detail at an accuracy of greater than 99 percent. (For the record, its AI tools can reach 90 percent accuracy, while human transcribers boost that to 99 percent). Co-founder Tom Livne says the new infusion will allow Verbit to expand its language support and grow its speech recognition tech. The company also plans to triple its workforce at its New York office in 2020. The company has raised $65 million since its 2017 founding. - VENTUREBEAT

6. As Elon Musk unveils technology advancements at Tesla, he is sticking by his claim that by the end of 2020, Tesla will have fully-autonomous robotaxis operating unrestricted on city streets. Musk’s initial deadline for Tesla’s Full Self-Driving feature was the fourth quarter of 2019. In a Tweet over the weekend, user @StrangeCosmos asked Musk when the feature was coming out and Musk replied, “Soon.” Tesla’s Full Self-Driving feature is a small step-up from its AutoPilot capabilities, promising automatic parking, lane changes and merging on and off ramps. - THE NEXT WEB

A version of this story first appeared in Inside IoT.

7. A digital rights advocacy group known as Fight for the Future (@fightfortheftr) is working to keep (and remove) facial recognition technology from university campuses. Through its new campaign, the group wants to prevent the spread of facial recognition, calling it "a profound threat to our basic liberties, civil rights, and academic freedom." The effort, which is affiliated with Fight for the Future’s larger Ban Facial Recognition campaign, apparently has support from student advocacy groups at The George Washington University and DePaul University. - ARS TECHNICA

8. The Chinese Institute of Electronics projects that China's AI industry will hit $30 billion by 2022. China is a leader in computer vision and language recognition, according to a new report from the non-profit, academic corporate body. The "2019 White Paper on New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Industry" also says that generating talent is crucial to the development of AI technology. (A copy of the report could not be found online at the time this newsletter was published.) - CHINADAILY.COM

9. New York-based startup KeyMe has raised $35 million to expand its AI-based key duplication services to more locations. Brentwood Associates led the funding round, which brings the AI and robotics company's total raised to roughly $200 million. It plans to expand its key-scanning kiosks from about 3,000 right now across the U.S., to 10,000 locations in the coming months. - FORBES

10. TechCrunch has announced its agenda for TC Sessions: Robotics+AI, which takes place at UC Berkeley on March 3. Among the many sessions planned are "Saving Humanity from AI," led by Berkeley professor and AI expert Stuart Russell, and "Automating Amazon," from Amazon Robotics’ CTO Tye Brady. - 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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