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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Soul Machines: Avatars for AI Presence

Brought to my attention and related to work recent and past.

Soul Machines is Humanizing Computing to Better Humanity    Some examples.

Democratizing and Disrupting the Economics of Human Interaction

Where Deep Science & Technology Meets
Real World Applications

For innovators and brands seeking to communicate, collaborate and cooperate like never before Soul Machines™ is the first Human Experience Platform that gives you the ability to automate and personalise digital interfaces and interactions at scale.

Soul Machines™ is a deep science and technology company fusing AI, computational brain models and experiential learning to usher in a new era of Human Experience across all digital platforms and interfaces. We are first applying our innovations to redefine customer and brand experience – through digital interfaces and applications ranging from service and support to sales and product. In the process we’ve created the world’s most human digital beings.

Leading innovators and brands are using Soul Machines™ AI HX™ Platform to create, deploy and manage new forms of digital interfaces that operate independently. They are driving the shift from transmission to interaction. From content to compelling communications and powerful emotional connections.

Our revolutionary AI HX™ Platform consists of Soul Machines Digital DNA Studio for creating and personalising hyper-real interfaces rapidly and at scale. Our Soul Engine™ integrates deep AI, computational brain models and Experiential Learning to dynamically manage interfaces across all environments, infusing them with intelligence and your brand personality. SoulX™ provides the community, tools and services to deploy with development and brand partners. .... "

Embedding Human Expertise

Useful examination of delivering expertise, human and otherwise.

Crate and Barrel marries human expertise with tech advances in a new concept store   by Matthew Stern

Crate and Barrel is piloting a standalone store concept that lets customers take advantage of all of their design and decorating expertise and guidance in one physical location.

Crate and Barrel opened its first Design Studio at the end of January in Pasadena, CA, according to the Pasadena Star News. The new location brings the online experience of Crate and Barrel’s design services to its own store, where customers can get specialized help from experts on how to decorate rooms from the ground up, using 3-D renderings and choosing from furniture and décor. The store will have items not available at other Crate and Barrel locations and will also allow visitors to choose custom and made-to-order furniture.  ....  "

Facial Expressions Don't Tell Whole Story

Blatantly Obvious,  which we explored in a number of cases.  It can be one input into may vectors,  it may tell only a very minor part of the story, or none at all.  It can lead to categorizing useful behavior for kinds of goals.  We worked with various approaches like 'expression glasses' to work with varying context understanding.   Including chatbot interactions.  Note also the whole large amount of work in understanding 'neural' activity.

Facial expressions don't tell the whole story of emotion
by Laura Arenschield, The Ohio State University

Interacting with other people is almost always a game of reading cues and volleying back. We think a smile conveys happiness, so we offer a smile in return. We think a frown shows sadness, and maybe we attempt to cheer that person up.

Some businesses are even working on technology to determine customer satisfaction through facial expressions.

But facial expressions might not be reliable indicators of emotion, research indicates. In fact, it might be more accurate to say we should never trust a person's face, new research suggests.

"The question we really asked is: 'Can we truly detect emotion from facial articulations?'" said Aleix Martinez, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at The Ohio State University.   ... "

Bioprinting the Very Small

Impressive capability, with many possible healthcare applications.

Printing Tiny, High-Precision Objects in Seconds
EPFL (Switzerland)
Sarah Perrin
February 13, 2020

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a high-precision technique for three-dimensionally (3D) printing small, soft objects in seconds. The method employs the principles of tomography, in which models of objects are constructed from surface scans. The printer transmits a laser through a translucent gel that is either organic or liquid plastic, hardening the material as algorithms calculate the areas the laser targets, the beam's angles, and intensity. The system currently produces 2cm structures with 80-micrometer precision, and new devices should be able to print larger objects, potentially up to 15 centimeters. The researchers partnered with a surgeon to test 3D-printed arteries fabricated with this method, and the technology could potentially have bioprinting applications due to its ability to print solid objects of different textures. ... "

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Smart Diaper : Now with RFID

Recall just such a proposal, long ago.  Not sure of any patent status.  Some interesting details in the full article below.

Design combines a common diaper material with RFID technology.

Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office
For some infants, a wet diaper is cause for an instant, vociferous demand to be changed, while other babies may be unfazed and happy to haul around the damp cargo for lengthy periods without complaint. But if worn too long, a wet diaper can cause painful rashes, and miserable babies — and parents.

Now MIT researchers have developed a “smart” diaper embedded with a moisture sensor that can alert a caregiver when a diaper is wet. When the sensor detects dampness in the diaper, it sends a signal to a nearby receiver, which in turn can send a notification to a smartphone or computer.

The sensor consists of a passive radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, that is placed below a layer of super absorbent polymer, a type of hydrogel that is typically used in diapers to soak up moisture. When the hydrogel is wet, the material expands and becomes slightly conductive — enough to trigger the RFID tag to send a radio signal to an RFID reader up to 1 meter away.

The researchers say the design is the first demonstration of hydrogel as a functional antenna element for moisture sensing in diapers using RFID. They estimate that the sensor costs less than 2 cents to manufacture, making it a low-cost, disposable alternative to other smart diaper technology.  ... " 

Hacking Cubesat Satellites

In FastCompany,  I had mentioned the worry about them polluting space.  Here a further issue when you put so many targets up there.  I assume the threat is being carefully considered,but consider too that new hacks are constantly emerging.  and software will be updated to defend it.  Depends on the seriousness of the results of the hack. How many Cubesat Satellites are to many?

What happens when all the tiny satellites we’re shooting into space get hacked?
Hackers could shut them down—or turn them into weapons.   .... " 

Last month, SpaceX became the operator of the world’s largest active satellite constellation. As of the end of January, the company had 242 satellites orbiting the planet, with plans to launch 42,000 over the next decade. This is part of its ambitious project to provide internet access across the globe. The race to put satellites in space is on, with Amazon, U.K.-based OneWeb, and other companies chomping at the bit to place thousands of satellites in orbit in the coming months.  ... " 

AI and MRO Inventory Data

Another problem we often tangled with in the enterprise:

Maintenance Repair Operations

Artificial Intelligence wades through murky MRO Inventory Data to drive down costs with better business decisions

Webinar from Verusen and Accenture Details How AI and Predictive Analytics Clarify Data Across Multiple Systems to Right-Size Plant Inventories

ATLANTA, Jan. 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve visibility of ERP inventory data, as well as the implementation timeline for using AI on a daily basis, were among the top interests of participants during a recent webinar, "Taking Stock of AI Technology for Inventory Management."

The webinar featured expert advice from CEO Paul Noble of Verusen, an innovator in materials inventory and data management technology, and Erik Green, practice lead, Materials & Equipment, at Accenture, a leading global professional services company.

"Reducing MRO inventory is one way for asset-intensive manufacturing industries to quickly drive value, but siloed data in ERP and other systems result in redundant parts—and understocking—that infrequent manual cleansing can't address to support dynamic business decisions," said Noble. "It's important for organizations to know that AI is a very real option today that can wade through data from multiple systems to present real-time suggestions for in-house teams—and then learn from those decisions."

The webinar demonstrated how AI replaces disconnected data silos with a digitized network footprint of all goods, services and logistics throughout the supply chain so inventory decisions are visible to teams across an organization. It covered how AI's machine-learning capability continually updates and interprets market trends to drive accurate predictive inventory analyses for indirect MRO, direct goods and even finished products, instead of relying on subjective decisions.  ... "

Machines Understanding Language

Have seen a number claims recently of how good machine understanding of human language had advanced.  Here is a contrary view.  Its all hack to the basics of common sense.

Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
AI still doesn’t have the common sense to understand human language
Natural-language processing has taken great strides recently—but how much does AI really understand of what it reads? Less than we thought.  ... 
by Karen Hao

Friday, February 14, 2020

Seeking Stretchy Electronics

More on skin friendly electronics solutions.

Engineers mix and match materials to make new stretchy electronics
Next-generation devices made with new “peel and stack” method may include electronic chips worn on the skin.

Watch Video

Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office

At the heart of any electronic device is a cold, hard computer chip, covered in a miniature city of transistors and other semiconducting elements. Because computer chips are rigid, the electronic devices that they power, such as our smartphones, laptops, watches, and televisions, are similarly inflexible.

Now a process developed by MIT engineers may be the key to manufacturing flexible electronics with multiple functionalities in a cost-effective way.

The process is called  “remote epitaxy” and involves growing thin films of semiconducting material on a large, thick wafer of the same material, which is covered in an intermediate layer of graphene. Once the researchers grow a semiconducting film, they can peel it away from the graphene-covered wafer and then reuse the wafer, which itself can be expensive depending on the type of material it’s made from. In this way, the team can copy and peel away any number of thin, flexible semiconducting films, using the same underlying wafer.  .... "

Confidence in Automated Systems

Interesting example of personal data being used in automated systems and how it is handled.

Confidence in automated systems  from Fraunhofer
Research News / 3.2.2020

When it comes to cars that drive themselves, most people are still hesitant. There are similar reservations with respect to onboard sensors gathering data on a driver’s current state of health. As part of the SECREDAS project, a research consortium including the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE is investigating the safety, security and privacy of these systems. The aim is to boost confidence in such technology.

A new system controls whether, and under what circumstances, personal data is allowed to be transferred to a specific destination.
© Fraunhofer IESE

A new system controls whether, and under what circumstances, personal data is allowed to be transferred to a specific destination.

There is still some way to go before people can be persuaded to embrace a new technology like self-driving cars. When it comes to taking decisions in road traffic, we tend to place greater trust in human drivers than in software. Boosting confidence in such connected, automated systems and their ability to meet safety and data privacy concerns – whether in the field of mobility or medicine: that’s the aim of the consortium behind the SECREDAS project. SECREDAS – which stands for “Product security for cross domain reliable dependable automated systems” – brings together 69 partners from 16 European countries, including the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE. This project is seeking to ensure that European OEMs remain competitive in this field. It has total funding of 51.6 million euros, with the EU contributing around 15 million euros to this sum.

Increasing the safety of self-driving cars

The control of autonomous vehicles lies to an ever greater extent in the hands of neural networks. These are used to assess everyday road-traffic situations: Is the traffic light red? Is another vehicle about to cross the road ahead? The problem with neural networks, however, is that it remains unclear just how they come to such decisions. “We’re therefore developing a safety supervisor. This will monitor in real time decisions taken by the neural network. If necessary, it can intervene on the basis of this assessment,” says Mohammed Naveed Akram from Fraunhofer IESE. “The safety supervisor uses classical algorithms, which focus on key parameters rather than assessing the overall situation – that’s what the neural networks do. Our work for the SECREDAS project is mainly about identifying suitable metrics for this purpose, but we are also looking at how best to take appropriate counter measures in order to avert danger.”   ... ." 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Spot Got a Job on an Oil and Gas Vessel

Was thinking that he would be great to test for security in some sort of high security fenced area.  Would worry about its general interaction with the public. Oil vessel makes even more sense. Also would include some navigation challenges like doors, steps, ladders, etc.   But still have interactions with workers.   By itself would be a good deterrent to trespass.

The Boston Dynmics Robot Dog Got a Job on an Oil Rig  in Popular Mechanics   By Courtney Linder

Congratulate him on LinkedIn.   

The robot will survey an oil and gas production vessel, according to Bloomberg.
Since last September, Boston Dynamics has been making Spot available for commercial lease. This looks to be the second organization to take the robotics company up on the offer, after a bomb squad in Massachusetts.... "

See more about Spot on his Boston Dyanmics site.

Rewriting Wikipedia Articles with AI

Just mentioned the Wikipedia on another piece,  here is another kind of bot that could be useful for internal articles and reports as well, depending on how well it worked.

AI can automatically rewrite outdated text in Wikipedia articles
You wouldn't have to wait for a human editor to handle a trivial task.

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas

It's good to be skeptical of Wikipedia articles for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the possibility of outdated info -- human editors can only do so much. And while there are bots that can edit Wikipedia, they're usually limited to updated canned templates or fighting vandalism. MIT might have a more useful (not to mention more elegant) solution. Its researchers have developed an AI system that automatically rewrites outdated sentences in Wikipedia articles while maintaining a human tone. .... '

New Cybersecurity Standards

New cybersecurity standards are being launched for industry working with the Pentagon.

In National Defense Mag.  Brought to my attention:

Pentagon Rolling Out New Cybersecurity Standards for Industry   By Jon Harper

"... The Defense Department unveiled its plans Jan. 31 for implementing a new set of cybersecurity standards that companies must eventually adhere to if they want to do business with the Pentagon.

Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification version 1.0, or CMMC, is an effort to prod the defense industrial base to better protect its networks and controlled unclassified information against cyberattacks and theft by foreign adversaries such as China.

“Adversaries know that in today's great power competition environment, information and technology are both key cornerstones [of national security], and attacking a sub-tier supplier is far more appealing than a prime,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters at the Pentagon.  ... "

Innovative AR in Automobiles

Some quite innovative AR systems being used to compete among upscale automobiles.   But ultimately distracting? 

With In-Car AR, Drivers Get a New View of the Road Ahead  By  Alex Davies in Wired
Navigation screens with augmented reality are the latest in an arms race among upscale auto makers like Mercedes and Cadillac.

"... The addition of augmented reality to navigation is the latest in the unending arms race among upscale auto makers hoping to lure wealthy customers with ever fancier tech. Cadillac just announced that the 2021 Escalade will offer a similar guidance system. Hyundai’s luxury brand, Genesis, is debuting the technology in Korea on the GV80 SUV. And like many such novelties—massage seats, perfume systems, gesture controls—it’s a very cool idea with a lot of room for improvement.  ... " 

Marketing Looks at Voice Assistants

Former colleague and correspondent Lou Killeffer of FiveMileRiver Marketing writes an interesting and cautious piece about voice assistants, AI and the future of tech for consumers.  Entitled:   Alexa, What just Happened here?  In particular is about two superbowl commercials that mark a turning point in how consumers think about 'assistance' from computers.   Which have now more obviously have entered our homes.      Good thoughts Lou. 

"... We just passed a tipping point that should be noted. And we're well on our way to who knows where with enormous implications. But like the easy to use and convenient services they promote, I think in hindsight Amazon's "Before Alexa" and Google's "Loretta" will be seen as “the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down”.  .... Even as precisely how "delightful",  and just for whom and how many, remains largely to be seen. .... " 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Way that Emerging Tech is Disrupting Business Strategy

Good piece from HBS Bus School in HBSWK, fairly obvious examples, but worth a look.

Workig Knowledge:  Business Research for Business Leaders

6 Ways That Emerging Technology Is Disrupting Business Strategy  by Danielle Kost

How are AI, data analytics, and the Internet of Things changing the way business leaders think about strategy? Harvard Business School faculty members discuss how emerging technology has changed the rules of competition.

Even though the internet has been publicly available for almost three decades, executives at just about every company are wrestling with how to use digital technology to advance their business strategy.

We asked professors from Harvard Business School’s Strategy Unit how emerging technologies involving artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and the Internet of Things are changing the way business leaders think about strategy. Here’s what they said:

1. Talent and data are more critical than ever

“Traditionally, companies focused on technology they own and have exclusive rights to use as a critical driver of competitive advantage. However, increasingly cutting-edge technology is developed as a shared resource where the core technology is freely available to anyone who wants to use it and it is frequently released as open source software.

Therefore, instead of the technology itself, companies are considering their user data and their tech employees as the primary drivers of competitive advantage.”

Frank Nagle (@frank_nagle), an assistant professor who is also affiliated with the HBS Digital Initiative, the Managing the Future of Work Project, and the Laboratory for Innovation Science.  ... "

(click through for 5 more comments)

Tesla's Approach to Innovation

Been impressed, now how long will it last?

Lessons from Tesla’s Approach to Innovation
By Nathan Furr, Jeff Dyer in HBR

Few companies have attracted as much scorn and adoration as Tesla. When Tesla launches a product like the Cybertruck, the reception tends to be divisive: critics see it as further evidence that founder Elon Musk is out of touch and doomed to fail, while supporters buy in — within a month Tesla received 200,000 preorders for the new vehicle. Compare that to the Ford-150, the world’s best-selling car in 2018, which sold just over 1 million vehicles that year.  ... "

Autonomous Swarming Pods

A favorite topic, distributing tasks, combining to solve tasks.

Autonomous Pods SWARM Together Like Bees in World-First Demonstration
University of Warwick
January 30, 2020

Researchers at the University of Warwick's Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) in the U.K., in collaboration with self-driving technology maker Aurrigo and the town of Milton Keynes, have created autonomous pods (driverless vehicles) that swarm together. The pods are engineered for pedestrian areas and shared spaces, and the researchers enhanced the pods with swarm intelligence to cluster into a "platoon" and follow each other, keeping individual vehicle movements and supervision to a minimum. The pods also can automatically optimize their behavior to satisfy future passenger demand by distributing themselves within a city to locations where rides are most likely to be requested. Aurrigo's Simon Brewerton said, "The collaborative SWARM algorithms have been developed to enable our autonomous vehicles to optimize their own trip schedules, so they deliver the optimum efficiency from a fleet of vehicles."  ... '

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Who Will Build the Next Moon Rover?

A natural move forward:

NASA wants the auto industry to build its next Moon rover     in TNW

We've narrowed down who we think will win the contract
ASA earlier this week released an official contract inquiry seeking help from the automobile industry in designing a new Moon rover.

While this isn’t exactly out of character for NASA, we thought the timing was interesting. After all, if there’s one vehicle that screams “I belong on the Moon,” it’s Tesla‘s recently unveiled Cybertruck.  ... " 

Nokia 5G Tests with Connected Cars

Tests moving forward.  Look forward to seeing how this will change the way we interact with automobiles, before and after they become autonomous.  More details at the link.

Nokia supporting SoftBank Corp. in completing the world-first 5G connected car test  in Streetinsider

Nokia supporting SoftBank Corp. in completing the world-first 5G connected car test Press Release SoftBank Corp. installed 5G network with Nokia’s end-to-end offering at a Honda Research and Development site.   ... 

Espoo, Finland – Nokia provides end-to-end 5G portfolio to SoftBank Corp. to become first in the world to have successfully completed tests demonstrating that non-standalone 5G technology can be used to commercially operate connected cars. ... " 

Why Don't People Use Voice to Buy?

 Good points made here about the buying use via smart speakers.   Privacy concerns and lack of screens hurt.    But it's also a matter of the speakers being unable to carry on a smart, contextual conversation about products.    The 'assistance' aspect of speakers is still not well delivered, making it hard to close the sale.

Why isn’t voice commerce taking off?  in Retailwire by Tom Ryan  with further expert opinion at the link.

eMarketer last week lowered its outlook for smart speaker buyers (consumers making a purchase via a smart speaker) and smart speaker users (consumers using smart speakers for any purpose).

In a statement, eMarketer said it believes smart speaker usage still faces hurdles over payment security and privacy. 

Hub Entertainment Research’s recently-released “The Case for Voice Control” study, based on a survey of 2,512 U.S. consumers, likewise found 59 percent of those who regularly use a smart speaker have concerns about privacy. Those concerns include the threats of unwanted listening (91 percent) and data being unknowingly collected (90 percent).

The heightened privacy concerns follow numerous stories of digital assistants eavesdropping in homes. European Union privacy watchdogs indicated last month that they’re working on ways to police the reach of digital assistants into private conversations.

eMarketer also points to the absence of screens on most smart speakers as an inhibitor. Although manufacturers are releasing smart speakers with screens, many users haven’t felt the need to upgrade.

“There’s a good deal of friction in the voice-based buying process because people can’t see what they’ll actually be purchasing unless they have a screen on their smart speaker,” said eMarketer principal analyst Victoria Petrock. “So, most of the purchases made today are reorders and things that don’t need to be inspected.”  ... " 

More on Google Meena Chatbot: Making Contextual Sense

More on the recently announced Google chatbot.  As I have said before, we often see intelligence in our day to day world as a conversation.   Person to person, person to machine,  person to assistant, even person to document.  We have adjust to different expectations based on  'who' is communicating.    But there is also the matter of context, if its not well understood the apparent intelligence can be poor.   Consider 'making sense' to be a primary measure of achieving a conversational goal.    Making sense, common or otherwise, needs a firm contextual basis.  Evidence here:

Artificial intelligence: Does another huge language model prove anything?  By Ben Dickson in Techtalks

This article is part of our reviews of AI research papers, a series of posts that explore the latest findings in artificial intelligence.

This week, Google introduced Meena, a chatbot that can “chat about… anything.” Meena is the latest of many efforts by large tech companies trying to solve one of the toughest challenges of artificial intelligence: language.

“Current open-domain chatbots have a critical flaw — they often don’t make sense. They sometimes say things that are inconsistent with what has been said so far, or lack common sense and basic knowledge about the world,” Google’s researcher wrote in a blog post.

They’re right. Making sense of language and engaging in conversations is one of the most complicated functions of the human brain. Until now, most efforts to create AI that can understand language, engage in meaningful conversations, and generate coherent excerpts of text have yielded poor-to-modest results.  .... " 

Algorithm to Improve Marketing

Seems something we have done for a while.  Is the algorithm more efficient? More numerical?  Note the claim for use of statistical methods and ML.

Algorithm Analyzes Social Media Data to Help Brands Improve Marketng
University of Tokyo
February 4, 2020

Researchers at the University of Tokyo in Japan have created an algorithm that predicts consumer purchases from data on consumers’ social media activity, which brands could use to refine their marketing strategies. The algorithm integrates statistical modeling and machine learning-based image recognition. The researchers assessed the algorithm against purchase history and questionnaires, and learned that credit card or point (loyalty) card companies could accurately forecast customers' past purchasing patterns, while their program could accurately predict customers' willingness to try new brands. Said the university’s Toshihiko Yamasaki, “People might say that professionals already ‘see’ these kinds of patterns, but being able to show the similarity between brands numerically and objectively is a new innovation. Our algorithm is demonstrably more effective than judging these things based on intuition alone.”

Explaining Bioprinting

From MIT's 'Audio Explaining' feature, well done.   Full audio at the link below.

Audio explainer: Exploring the fields of bioprinting and biohybrid materials  MIT News Office

The following audio excerpt and transcript features an explanation of bioprinting and biohybrid materials by MIT graduate student Rachel Smith of the Mediated Matter Group at the Media Lab. It corresponds with this MIT News article on those subjects.

HOST: 3-D printing is everywhere. From bike parts to fashion, to novelty key chains, to tools and light fixtures. We often see it employed to accelerate production processes and prototyping, but what about the biological potential of printing? You may have heard terms such as bioprinting, bioinks or biomaterials, but what exactly are they? We’ve asked Rachel Smith, a graduate student of the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab to explain what bioprinting is and what biohybrid materials are, and to give us some idea of where these fields of study are going.

RACHEL SMITH: Bioprinting and biohybrid materials: though these terms overlap, it is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Bioprinting is a type of material fabrication process, whereas biohybrid materials are one type of material resulting from fabrication processes like this. Both bioprinting and biohybrid materials involve the use of living cells.

First, lets think about living cells as fabrication materials: something that you could integrate, like other components, into human-made engineering processes and products.

Many cells can naturally replicate, differentiate, and self-organize, and over time, we have also engineered ways to guide their movement, their growth, and the products that they excrete and consume. Thus, you can think of living cells as sensing and computing machines that are extremely sensitive to their surroundings, but we can control and ‘code’ their responses. As a material, they have uniquely responsive and programmable properties.

Bioprinting is the process of printing with living cells. You can include living cells in the ink of a 2D printer, or in the build material for a 3D printer to create tissue-like structures. Currently, 3D-bioprinting can be used to print tissues and organs with the appropriate biological and mechanical properties as the real thing to help with a wide variety of medicinal research. In some cases, researchers print with porous materials that encourage cells to migrate inside and begin to ossify into bone. Another exciting example is 3D printing cardiac cells, which can begin to contract in sync to regenerate mechanical functions of the heart.  ... "

Monday, February 10, 2020

Coronavirus Examination via AI

No idea if there is any credibility in this, but the initial link is connected to the Lancet, a well known professional healthcare journal, Worth a close look. the latter in Forbes.

Some intriguing items emerged reported Via O'Reilly (Connect with their newsletter)

AI identified a drug that could help contain the spread of coronavirus.

 On the other hand, AI’s coronavirus predictions may not be credible. Here’s why  .... '

Testing Self-Driving Cars in Extreme Conditions

Extremes of data can be important.  Now how are they folded into the tests being proposed?

Research Data Puts Self-Driving Cars to the Ultimate Test: Canadian Winter   By U of T News

Driving in snowy conditions.

A new dataset will train future autonomous vehicles to drive in winter conditions.

Researchers at Canada's universities of Toronto (U of T) and Waterloo collaborated with San Francisco-based artificial intelligence (AI) infrastructure firm Scale AI to create a dataset for training future autonomous vehicles to drive in winter conditions.

The Canadian Adverse Driving Conditions dataset uses real-world scans of icy, snow-covered Canadian roads as a virtual training course for self-driving cars' algorithms.

U of T's Steven Waslander said most driving datasets are collected in summer, and self-driving algorithms trained on such data tend to be confounded in adverse conditions.

Waslander and Waterloo's Krzysztof Czarnecki compiled the new dataset over the past two winters, using a Lincoln MKZ hybrid equipped with cameras, a LiDAR scanner, and a global-positioning system tracker to record conditions across more than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) of roads.

Scale AI labeled the data through computer and human image recognition, and further analysis and processing converted the data into a software-parsable format.

From U of T News

Bots that Make the Wikipedia Work

Quite instructive and interesting look at behind the scenes at the WP.  I can see this same approach being used for some things we tried to do with enterprise level knowledge.   I note that often when I make a positive point about the WP  I get negative responses.   It 'lies, deceives, steals, can't be trusted ...'     And yes, like everything on the internet is use must be carefully considered, based on use context.  Its flawed, contains opinion, as all writing does.  Yet I don't know of anyone who does not use it.   Wikipedia is now 19 years old, and I remember using it very early on.

Meet the 9 Wikipedia bots that make the world’s largest encyclopedia possible   By Luke Dormehl in Digitaltrends  

The idea behind Wikipedia is, let’s face it, crazy. An online encyclopedia full of verifiable information, ideally with minimal bias, that can be freely edited by anyone with an internet connection is a ridiculous idea that was never going to work. Yet somehow it has.

Nineteen years old this month (it was launched in January 2001, the same month President George W. Bush took office), Wikipedia’s promise of a collaborative encyclopedia has, today, resulted in a resource consisting of more than 40 million articles in 300 different languages, catering to an audience of 500 million monthly users. The English language Wikipedia alone adds some 572 new articles per day.

For anyone who has ever browsed the comments section on a YouTube video, the fact that Wikipedia’s utopian vision of crowdsourced collaboration has been even remotely successful is kind of mind-boggling. It’s a towering achievement, showing how humans from around the globe can come together to create something that, despite its flaws, is still impressively great.

What do we have to thank for the fact that this human-centric dream of collective knowledge works? Well, as it turns out, the answer is bots. Lots and lots of bots.  ... " 

More Power in Chips at the Edge

Move forward here, to learn and implement AI in edge applications of IOT,  Here a look at some progress with more to follow.

ARM’s new edge AI chips promise IoT devices that won’t need the cloud
The smart devices of the future might not need servers to enable AI
By Chaim Gartenberg  @cgartenberg ...  in The Verge. ... 

Arena Scale VR

Location based experiences.  Games, entertainment and beyond.    At large scale.   Will be be able to broadly participate in large scale games?  Considerable look at what is happening in this article.

The Virtual Arena: The Standalone LBE VR Experience!

This new two-parter looks at the influence of standalone headsets on location-based VR.    By Kevin Williams 

Covering the immersive Out-of-Home entertainment scene for VRFocus, in his latest Virtual Arena column, industry specialist Kevin Williams reports in two parts on the new phase of investment with the growth in “Arena-Scale VR – Standalone”, This first part looking at the influence the new Oculus Quest has had on the deployment of this latest phase of location-based entertainment (LBE) VR, seeing phenomenal growth in interest.

“Arena-Scale VR” – the ability for groups of players to compete in the same virtual world has proven to be a big trend in the latest phase of commercial VR entertainment. Offering a unique element for this VR application, totally unachievable from a consumer perspective. Currently, the popular trend was for backpack PC’s to be employed to supply the virtual experience – but with the advancements in technology a new category has emerged with “Arena-Scale VR – Standalone”.   ... 

Employing standalone headsets with positional tracking, and enough processing power to create compelling content, one benefit is the ability to wirelessly communicate with each other, and in some cases additional peripherals and operator management screens; removing the cost and complexity of the backpack PC solutions." 

Game Plan for Quantum Computing

Good thoughts on the new technology and its specific applications.

A game plan for quantum computing
February 2020 | Article  McKinsey
By Alexandre Ménard, Ivan Ostojic, Mark Patel, and Daniel Volz
A game plan for quantum computing

Pharmaceutical companies have an abiding interest in enzymes. These proteins catalyze all kinds of biochemical interactions, often by targeting a single type of molecule with great precision. Harnessing the power of enzymes may help alleviate the major diseases of our time.

Unfortunately, we don’t know the exact molecular structure of most enzymes. In principle, chemists could use computers to model these molecules in order to identify how the molecules work, but enzymes are such complex structures that most are impossible for classical computers to model.

A sufficiently powerful quantum computer, however, could accurately predict in a matter of hours the properties, structure, and reactivity of such substances—an advance that could revolutionize drug development and usher in a new era in healthcare. Quantum computers have the potential to resolve problems of this complexity and magnitude across many different industries and applications, including finance, transportation, chemicals, and cybersecurity.... " 

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Why all Those Satellites?

Been watching all those Starlink satellite launches.  60 per launch.  Being an observational astronomer ave been concerned about  throwing all that stuff into orbit.    Here is the motivation.

Elon Musk Says He's About to Deliver the Future of High-Speed Internet
Get your investment dollars ready.  .... 
By Don Reisingerin Inc.

Elon Musk has been saying for years that he believes the future of the internet resides in space. And now he's planning to make a major change that could facilitate that transition sooner rather than later.

In a move that could send shock waves through the internet space, SpaceX is planning to spin out its Starlink satellite-based internet service into its own entity. It'll also make Starlink public, allowing investors to get a piece of what Musk believes is the future of internet connectivity  ... " 

Bayer's use of Digital Twins, Decision Science

Another example of AI and Digital Twins being used to construct virtual models at major enterprises.

Bayer uses digital twins to reshape business strategy
Bayer Crop Science has created 'virtual factories' to provide dynamic digital representations of the equipment and processes for each of its nine North American corn seed manufacturing sites.
     By  Thor Olavsrud in CIO

For the past several years, Bayer Crop Science has been working to embed decision science into every facet of its business, from logistics to genetic sequencing. The strategy, driven by machine learning and artificial intelligence, now includes digital twins, or "virtual factories," that model each of the nine corn seed manufacturing sites that Bayer operates in North America.   ... " 

Samsung's Imaginary Keyboard

A long time student of ways to efficiently communicate with machines.    This not being sold yet,

Samsung’s Latest AI Project Is an Imaginary Keyboard for Your Phone  By Ryan Whitwam in ExtremeTech

The typing experience on smartphones has gotten vastly better over the years, but typing with your thumbs will never be as fast as using a real keyboard. Samsung thinks it’s onto something with its latest Android feature, which it calls SelfieType. At CES, the company is demoing this AI-powered system that lets you type on an imaginary keyboard.

SelfieType comes from Samsung’s C-Lab program, a sort of internal incubator that develops quirky technologies that may eventually find their way into real products. Samsung’s decision to announce SelfieType suggests that it’s relatively confident in its capabilities. I say “relatively” because Samsung does have a history of rolling out products and features before they’re ready. The Galaxy Fold is just the latest example.

When you fire up SelfieType (assuming you ever get the opportunity), the phone activates the front-facing camera and begins watching your hands. SelfieType doesn’t rely on depth sensors or IR dot projectors to follow your fingers — it uses AI to map where each finger moves, allowing you to “mime” typing on a keyboard that doesn’t exist. As you tap the tabletop, the phone translates those presses to the on-screen keyboard. And like magic, you get the text on your screen.  ... "

Saturday, February 08, 2020

Neon Digital Avatars

Interesting in seeing Samsung involved in this, meaning unclear.

Neon CEO explains the tech behind his overhyped ‘artificial humans’  in TheVerge  Neon Genesis Evangelicalism

The most buzzed-about company at CES 2020 doesn’t make a gadget you can see or touch. It doesn’t even have a product yet. But for reasons I’m still not entirely sure I grasp, the lead-up to this week’s show in Las Vegas was dominated by discussion of a project called Neon, which has emerged from a previously unknown Samsung subsidiary known as STAR Labs.

What Neon has been promising is so ambitious that it’s easy to swing your expectations around full circle and assume the mundane. The project’s Twitter bio simply reads “Artificial Human,” which could mean anything from an AI chatbot to a full-on android. Promotional videos posted in the run-up to CES, however, suggested that Neon would very much be closer to the former.  .... "

On AI Crisis of Confidence

More like a crisis of expectations.   Understanding is good, useful, needed.  But it is not the driving need.   The failures that will occur will first be those of results rather than those of understanding.  Its significant, just not enough to match the hype.  AI is still narrow and contextually insufficiently aware.

How AI will Address its Crisis of Confidence
By Brad Anderson  in ReadwriteWeb

Artificial intelligence has advanced by leaps and bounds in recent years, becoming smarter and more autonomous than thought possible. However, there’s one area where AI could use some improvement in the decade ahead: transparency. But how will AI address its crises of confidence?

Historically, AI has operated like a black box. Select developers knew how the algorithms inside worked, but for everyone else, the mechanics of the AI remained obscured. Businesses have asked users to trust that AI’s insights are complete and accurate. But without understanding where those insights originated — what data and logic informed their basis — it’s hard to trust AI is as intelligent as it’s made to be.  .... "

Possibilities Created by 5G together with IOT

Some useful starting thoughts on the possibilities driven by the emergence of these technologies.   Sill qite a bit to do to make this really remarkable, like data security.

Mind-Blowinguossibilities Created by 5G-Enhanced IoT
Sadia Mehmood in ReadwriteWeb

We all know 5G and IoT have been making a splash since 2016. However,  we won’t see its standard commercial network until later in 2020. But now that the time has arrived let’s see what possibilities IoT and 5G will create together. Here are the mind-blowing possibilities created by 5G-enhanced I0T.

A Brief History of 5G
Now the question arises why it was hyped at such an early age? If you look at the cycle from 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G, it almost took ten years to get from one generation to another. Nonetheless, the same is the case with 5G.

The reason is how the entire standard body is constructed, it’s a very complicated process to introduce a new generation, though it works really well globally. But you need to get everybody on the same table, and agreements have to be made on every single thing — such as antenna, modulation, security, mobility, authentication, and billing.

You have the entire ecosystem there, that’s why it took years to build an entire generation of cellular connectivity.   ... " 

Friday, February 07, 2020

Talk on Service Design from ISSIP

I am a long time member of the below:

Upcoming Presentation from ISSIP: International Society of Service Innovation Professionals

Horrors and heroes of building design capabilities in organizations: an industry experience

Speakers: Dr. Marzia Aricò and Alexandra Coutsoucos - Livework on 12th February, 2020 from 11 am - 11:30 am EST

Service design consultancies are increasingly moving from designing the service to designing the machine that delivers the service. We will compare two cases from telco and financial sectors to draw learning on the reality of building design capabilities in large organizations. We will walk you through the experience, from planning to execution, highlighting what works and what doesn’t. How does the plan translate to reality? How can you ensure to plug-in effectively into the existing organizational context? And how do you factor human error in?

Zoom information available on registration.  

7 Eleven Experiments with No Cashier Store

Would imagine this concept would work best where speed is of the essence.  Another test to watch.

7-Eleven tries out an Amazon Go-like store  in Retailwire by George Anderson plus expert comments. 

Convenience store giant 7-Eleven has announced it is testing a “cashierless” concept at its corporate headquarters in Irving, TX.

The 700-square-foot, non-traditional store currently stocks some of the chain’s most popular food, drink and non-food products. The pilot program is only open to company employees who use 7-Eleven’s mobile app to check into the store, pay for items and receive their receipts.

“Ultimately, our goal is to exceed consumers’ expectations for faster, easier transactions and a seamless shopping experience,” said Mani Suri, 7-Eleven senior vice president and chief information officer, in a statement. “Introducing new store technology to 7-Eleven employees first has proven to be a very productive way to test and learn before launching to a wider audience. They are honest and candid with their feedback, which enables us to learn and quickly make adjustments to improve the experience.” ... "

Autonomous Vehicles to Bypass Safety for Testing?

Note the specific mention of Nuro, which is testing with Kroger and others.  I am imagining how it might work in a suburb like ours.

U.S. Lets Autonomous Vehicle Bypass Safety Rules
Associated Press via CACM
Tom Krisher

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has granted temporary approval to Nuro, a robotics company, to run low-speed autonomous delivery vehicles designed with no accommodations for human drivers. The vehicles lack mirrors, windshield wipers, steering wheels, and brake pedals. The approval marks the first time the federal agency has approved a company's request to deploy self-driving vehicles that do not meet the same safety standards for cars and trucks driven by humans. Under the temporary approval, Nuro must submit real-time safety reports to NHTSA, and will have to hold regular meetings with the agency and keep in contact with the community where the vehicles will travel. NHTSA will use its enforcement powers if it finds any evidence of an unreasonable risk to safety.  ... " 

CPG : Navigating Industry 4.0

Having been in that industry an interesting take,  have heard relatively little about the definition of 4.0.

2020 Consumer Products Industry Outlook

Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) trends: Navigating Industry 4.0
With economic uncertainty looming, how can CP executives balance prudent investment strategies with technology initiatives that address the needs of increasingly empowered consumers? Our 2020 consumer products industry outlook explores Industry 4.0 dynamics, rising consumer expectations, and new go-to-market strategies. ... "   

Tracking the Movement of Cryptocurrency

Quite an extensive look at the process and how it must be adapted to make sure monetary regulations are enforced.  And how will this further be be enforced under rules like GDPR and other standards?  Implications for the enforcement of smart contracts?

Inside the Standards Race for Implementing FATF’s  (Financial Activity Task Force) Travel Rule   By Ian Allison in Coindesk

The Takeaway:
- Crypto businesses are figuring out how to comply with the Financial Action Task Force’s “Travel Rule,” where all crypto transactions above a certain amount must be accompanied by identifying information.
- Competing visions for the technical implementation have emerged, though there appears to be general agreement on the need for messaging standards.
- Legal and operational issues will be as challenging as putting technical solutions in place.
- The FATF is set to kick the tires of a range of proposed tech solutions in June 2020.

Imagine SWIFT’s interbank messaging system but for crypto.

Hardcore blockchain libertarians would probably rather not. But firms that deal in cryptocurrency have been asked to abide by the so-called “Travel Rule,” and the clock is ticking.

Although it goes against the grain to shoehorn an identity layer onto a technology specifically designed to be pseudonymous, firms have no choice if they want to abide by the law. The shape and form this will take is something the industry must agree on, and fast.

In June 2019, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global anti-money laundering (AML) watchdog, updated its guidance to explicitly state that virtual asset service providers, or VASPs, must share sender (originator) and receiver (beneficiary) information in cryptocurrency transactions above a certain threshold.  .... "

AI in Energy Management Marketing

Note the use of AI in analysis and forecasting in this space.

BUSINESS WIRE: AI in Energy Management Market Industry - Opportunity Analysis and Growth Forecast to 2024 - ResearchAndMarkets.com

AI in Energy Management Market Industry - Opportunity Analysis and Growth Forecast to 2024 - ResearchAndMarkets.com

February 5, 2020, 10:24 AM Eastern Standard Time From $4,439.1 million in 2018, the artificial intelligence (AI) in energy management market is projected to grow to $12,200.9 million in 2024, at a 19.8% CAGR during 2019-2024 (forecast period). Based on end user, the market was dominated by the utility category, in 2018, as AI solutions are being deployed by numerous companies, including Dominion Energy Inc. and Duke Energy Corporation, to bridge the gap between the demand and supply  .... " 

Cost of Electricity Affordable, but not Decreasing

Useful details on electric power currently and in the near future.   Useful as a baseline for establishing manufacturing costs.

Electricity: It’s Wonderfully Affordable, But it’s No Longer Getting Any Cheaper

The generations-long trend toward lower prices reversed around the turn of the century, and increasing use of solar and wind power is part of the reason why   By Vaclav Smil

The generations-old trend toward lower electricity prices now appears to have ended. In many affluent countries, prices tilted upward at the turn of the century, and they continue to rise, even after adjusting for inflation.

Even so, the price we pay for electricity is an extraordinary bargain, and that’s why this form of power has become ubiquitous in the modern world. When expressed in constant 2019 dollars, the average price of electricity in the United States fell from $4.79 per kilowatt-hour in 1902 (the first year for which the national mean is available) to 32 cents in 1950. The price had dropped to 10 cents by 2000, and in late 2019 it was just marginally higher, at about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. This represents a relative decline of more than 97 percent. A dollar now buys nearly 44 times as much electricity as it did in 1902.

Because average inflation-adjusted manufacturing wages have quadrupled since 1902, blue-collar households now find electricity about 175 times as affordable as it was nearly 120 years ago. And it gets better: We buy electricity in order to convert it into light, kinetic energy, or heat, and the improved efficiency of such conversions have made the end uses of electricity an even greater bargain. ... "

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Google Tries Glass Again

Looking for developers to buy and build business demand.  Still think there are narrow useful applications here, as we tested in plant industrial maintenance settings.    And that will  lead to further consumer interest.

Google opens up Glass Enterprise Edition 2 for direct purchases
Developers will be allowed to buy the smartglasses individually as Google looks to build business demand.

By Matthew Finnegan, Computerworld

Having launched a revamped version of its Glass Enterprise Edition last May, Google now wants to spur wider usage of its smartglasses among businesses. It has now made the device available for developers to buy directly through its hardware resellers for $999. 

The first iteration of Glass, launched in 2013, was aimed at consumers. But it proved to be a flop amid criticism over the device’s power needs and concerns about the ability to record other people without their consent. 

Google next targeted the technology for business use where hands-free computing is advantageous, such as in manufacturing. It unveiled the first Glass Enterprise Edition in 2017, as Glass graduated from Alphabet’s ‘X’ division to a fully fledged product due to demand for wearables in the workplace, Google said. 

This was followed by an updated version in 2019, featuring a faster processor, larger battery and USB-C connection. The Glass Enterprise Edition 2 was priced starting at $999, though pricing was subject to customization and support upon consultation with Google partners selling the devices.  ... "

Skype for Business to be Retired

This had been rumored, now its out,   been using Teams now for a year, its nicely done.  Unclear how this be done with regards to Business vs 'Home'  users.

...Skype for business: OOO
Skype for Business Online is headed for retirement.

New Office 365 customers will be onboarded to Microsoft Teams. Existing Skype for Business customers will be encouraged to make that transition, too. However, there are migration issues to consider, as well as other alternatives.

Here's how to prepare for the end of Skype for Business.  (hpe.com)

Teaching Automobiles to Hear

Makes sense to add another sense to the car.

Teaching Tomorrow's Automobiles to Hear
Christian Colmer  in ACM

Researchers at Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology (IDMT) have developed a system that allows self-driving cars to recognize external noises such as sirens. The team trained the system to recognize the acoustic signature of specific sound events, using machine learning methods that rely on acoustic libraries. In addition, the researchers created beamforming algorithms that enable the system to dynamically locate moving sound sources. The researchers also developed artificial intelligence-based algorithms to distinguish specific noises the system is designed to identify from other noise. Said IDMT's Danilo Hollosi, “Such systems would be able to immediately recognize the siren of an approaching emergency vehicle, for example, so that the autonomous vehicle would then know to move over to one side of the highway and form an access lane for the rescue services." .... '

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Wuhan Virus Detected by AI Epidemiologist

Quite interesting revelation.  The depth of this discovery still unclear.  Recall our work in detecting epidemics and bioterror by retail data.

AI Epidemiologist Sent First Warnings of Wuhan Virus in Wired via CACM   By Eric Niiler

Canadian health monitoring platform BlueDot was the first organization to alert its customers to the outbreak of coronavirus, on Dec. 31. BlueDot’s algorithm analyzes foreign-language news reports, animal and plant disease networks, and governmental information in order to warn its clients to avoid dangerous regions where disease outbreaks appear to be occurring. The algorithm also considers global airline ticketing data, to help predict where and when infected residents are traveling. BlueDot correctly predicted the coronavirus would jump from Wuhan, China, to Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo in the days following its initial appearance. Said BlueDot CEO Kamran Khan, “What we have done is use natural language processing and machine learning to train this engine to recognize whether this is an outbreak of anthrax in Mongolia versus a reunion of the heavy metal band Anthrax.”

End of the Blackberry

Blackberries were the first phone we issued to executives.  At their request after they saw how they could be used with their own portfolios.  And were the first that had the ability to work with mail, and later the use of 'Apps' for corporate data, which led to more concern about the security of data.  Spent lots of time considering what apps would lead to better corporate decisions  For us these were the first hand-held portable task devices.  Now it's mostly just the name that is also going away.

The end of BlackBerry phones: TCL will cease sales in August 2020
TCL's brand-name license will expire, leading to a clean, swift death.
 By Ron Amadeo in Ars Technica

BlackBerry is quitting the phone business—again. You might recall BlackBerry quit manufacturing smartphones back in 2016, but it licensed its brand name to the Chinese smartphone corporation TCL. TCL started pumping out BlackBerry-branded devices—some of which were QWERTY equipped and some of which were shameless rebadgings of existing TCL phones. TCL's Zombie BlackBerry plan apparently wasn't working too well, though, since now that's dead, too.  ... " 

Samsung to Announce Smart Speaker

More competition in what I call the assistant world.   Bixby powered from Samsung.  Beyond just in Korea?  Appears include smart home oriented sensors. 

Samsung Galaxy Home Mini Smart Speaker Arriving Feb. 12
  Eric Hal Schwatrz in Voicebot.ai

...   The smart speaker will use Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant as expected, but won’t need to connect to a smartphone to send and receive messages. On the hardware side, the AKG speakers built into the device are supposed to give it a higher quality sound than the standard smart speaker and it comes with sensors designed to detect dangerous problems like fires or burst pipes, alerting the people who live there about the issue.

The description of the Home Mini fits with what has been seen of the smart speaker already at the Samsung Developer Conference with some extra details. One addition that somewhat changes the smart speaker’s place in the market, however, is the price. Entry-level smart speakers from Google and Amazon cost $50 and are frequently discounted below that. An $83 price tag elevates the Galaxy Home Mini into its own category. If Samsung wants to seed the smart speaker into people’s homes, it may have to use a different tactic like bundling it with the Galaxy S20 smartphone pre-orders. There’s precedent for that as Samsung did the same thing with the Galaxy Buds and the Galaxy S10 smartphone.   .... " 

Towards a Reality of Fusion Power

Quite a number of advances in recent years. Excellent overview.  With some technology explanation.

5 Big Ideas for Making Fusion Power a Reality In IEEE Spectrum

Startups, universities, and major companies are vying to commercialize a nuclear fusion reactor
By Tom Clynes

Fusion Vortex: General Fusion’s magnetized target reactor injects pulses of plasma into a sphere filled with swirling molten lead and lithium.

The joke has been around almost as long as the dream: Nuclear fusion energy is 30 years away...and always will be. But now, more than 80 years after Australian physicist Mark Oliphant first observed deuterium atoms fusing and releasing dollops of energy, it may finally be time to update the punch line.

Over the past several years, more than two dozen research groups—impressively staffed and well-funded startups, university programs, and corporate projects—have achieved eye-opening advances in controlled nuclear fusion. They’re building fusion reactors based on radically different designs that challenge the two mainstream approaches, which use either a huge, doughnut-shaped magnetic vessel called a tokamak or enormously powerful lasers.

What’s more, some of these groups are predicting significant fusion milestones within the next five years, including reaching the breakeven point at which the energy produced surpasses the energy used to spark the reaction. That’s shockingly soon, considering that the mainstream projects pursuing the conventional tokamak and laser-based approaches have been laboring for decades and spent billions of dollars without achieving breakeven. .... " 

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

IBM Upgrades Debate AI Tool to Better Derive Evidence

Intriguing approach to mining information to support a goal directed conversation.   A key aspect to making conversational systems more powerful.  Note also the crowdsourcing integrated here to grade evidence.  Noting that the report here does not mention 'Watson', it seems IBM is using their AI trademark much less these days.

IBM's Debating AI Just Got a Lot Closer to Being a Useful Tool
By MIT Technology Review via CACM

The IBM Debater system taking part in a debate at the University of Cambridge last year.
IBM upgraded the neural networks used by its Project Debater system, to improve the quality of evidence the argument-mining system uncovers.

IBM upgraded the neural networks used by its Project Debater system to improve the quality of evidence the argument-mining system uncovers.

One new add-on for the debating system is BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), a network designed by Google for natural language processing and answering queries.

IBM Research scientists trained the AI on 400 million documents from the LexisNexis database, providing a natural language dataset of roughly 10 billion sentences; the researchers combined the dataset with claims about several hundred different topics, then had crowdsourced workers label the sentences based on the quality of their evidence for or against specific claims.

A supervised learning algorithm digested this data, allowing BERT to manage queries on a wide range of subjects and to yield more relevant sentences compared to previous systems.

Project Debater was 95% accurate for the top 50 sentences across 100 distinct topics, according to IBM researcher Noam Slonim,  ... " 

The Healthcare Supply Chain

Useful and logical piece here.  Good additional data at the link.

Five Tips for Optimizing Healthcare Supply Chains

By James Hickland, SCB Contributor

Healthcare supply chains tend to be high-margin, regulated businesses with strict quality requirements, such as the need for cold-chain storage and transportation. Yet they’re often ripe for improvements across the board.
  ... " 
Inefficiencies often crop up due to the outsourcing of capability to logistics service providers (LSPs) without appropriate control, the cross-border nature of many products, and complex regulations that often are not adequately understood.

Companies in the sector can realize significant improvements in a number of key areas, including cost, inventory and working capital, service quality, and sales. Potential benefits are many, including:

MIT Smart Surface Improves WiFi

From the images , seems it may be difficult to install, but having a more universal surface could be quite useful for smart home and business installations.

MIT's 'Smart Surface' Could Improve Your Wi-Fi Signal Tenfold   By Engadget

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have designed a prototype "smart surface" that can concentrate wireless radio signals to maximize reception.

The RFocus device has more than 3,000 minuscule antennas arranged by software into optimal receptive configurations, with control enabled via central beamforming rather than through transmitters and client devices. RFocus can improve signal strength nearly 10-fold without any signal amplification, and could potentially strengthen longer-ranged connections for Wi-Fi as well as high-band 5G.

The CSAIL researchers hope to find a way to produce the smart surface at scale, preferably as a thin, wireless "wallpaper." ..... '

From Engadget 

Monday, February 03, 2020

Competition in Retail Pricing Algorithms

Algorithms don't just come from the suggestion of AI methods,  we worked with many, over many years.   Here an attempt to infer retail pricing strategies from data, and implications.  Note increased data from online.  Also note the implication of action and reaction,  what actions are being caused by competitive actions.   Can be taken all the way to game theory, which we examined as well.

Competition in Pricing Algorithms
by Zach Y. Brown and Alexander MacKay

The adoption of pricing technology can lead to higher prices, by increasing the frequency of price changes and/or encoding pricing strategies in algorithms. This raises new antitrust questions for policymakers, as firms do not need to coordinate or collude to raise prices.
Author Abstract

Increasingly, retailers have access to better pricing technology, especially in online markets. Through pricing algorithms, firms can automate their response to rivals’ prices. What are the implications for price competition? We develop a model in which firms choose algorithms, rather than prices. Even with simple (i.e., linear) algorithms, competitive equilibria can have higher prices than in the standard simultaneous Bertrand pricing game. Using hourly prices of over-the-counter drugs from five major online retailers, we document evidence that these retailers possess different pricing technologies. In addition, we find pricing patterns consistent with competition in pricing algorithms. A simple calibration of the model suggests that pricing algorithms lead to meaningful increases in markups, especially for firms with superior pricing technology.

Paper Information
Full Working Paper Text (pdf)
Working Paper Publication Date: November 2019
HBS Working Paper Number: HBS Working Paper #20-067
Faculty Unit(s): Strategy

Behavioral Economics Driven by Digital Design

All design drives behavior, but how well does it do in achieving goals?  Financial domain an obvious space where there are numbers and needs.

How Digital Design Drives User Behavior
Shlomo Benartzi, Saurabh Bhargava in the HBR

Decisions of all kinds are increasingly made on screens — and with that shift comes an often-ignored consequence: the design of the digital world can profoundly, and often unnoticeably, influence the quality of our decisions.

A review of recent research provides clear evidence that many organizations are currently undervaluing the power of digital design and should invest more in behaviorally informed designs to help people make better choices. In many cases, even minor fixes can have a major impact, offering a return on investment that’s several times larger than the conventional use of financial incentives or marketing and education campaigns.

In our recent working paper, written with Lynn Conell-Price at the University of Pennsylvania, and Richard Mason at City, University of London, we collaborated with Voya Financial, a leading retirement service provider, to investigate how variation in the digital design of online enrollment interfaces could influence the initial contribution decisions of employees in 401(k) plans. The research involved more than 8,500 employees across a few hundred plans, who prior to being automatically enrolled in the plan, had visited a standardized online enrollment interface to either actively confirm their enrollment at the default rate, personalize their enrollment at a different rate, or decline enrollment altogether by selecting one of three horizontally arranged options. Our goal was to get employees to consider a deferral rate higher than the default, which is often too low to achieve financial security in retirement.  ... "

Sunday, February 02, 2020

On Realism Considered

Not sure what to fully make of this, but recently have listened to some podcast conversations about how we were all in a Matrix-like simulation of sorts, and this seems to be in a similar vein.    Posting it not because I think this is true, but because I think the whole concept can open your eyes to how complex  things can be simulated,  and thus enhanced and delivered. 

I recall talking this to (non engineering) management about this at times, and they seemed perplexed.  But then I pointed out there was a long tradition in engineering and their enterprise in doing exactly that.  Even today's Machine Learning can be seen as a means of simulating the world to understand it.   So here in the spirit of all that:

From the Edge

Realism Is False
A Conversation with Donald D. Hoffman [1.27.20]

. . . I want to propose that realism is false, and what we're seeing is more like a user interface or a virtual reality headset. Think about a virtual reality game of tennis. You're playing VR tennis with a friend, you both have your headset and body suits on, you see your friend's avatar on a tennis court and you start playing. Your friend hits the tennis ball to you, and you hit the same tennis ball back to your friend, but is your friend seeing exactly the same tennis ball that you're seeing? Well, of course not. There's no public tennis ball. You have some photons being sprayed to your eye by your headset, and those photons are causing your visual system to create your own perception of what you would call a green tennis ball. Your friend has a headset on, which is spraying photons to his eye, and his visual system is creating his own green tennis ball perception.

It turns out that both of those perceptions are coordinated by something else, namely a supercomputer that's sending the photons to both headsets, causing both headsets to work in coordination. . . .

All the things that we would do to say that objects really exist even when they're not perceived hold here in virtual reality. . . . That doesn't mean that the tennis ball exists and has any physical properties when it's not perceived; it just means that there is some objective reality.   ....   " 

DONALD D. HOFFMAN is a full professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author, most recently, of The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes. Donald D. Hoffman's Edge Bio Page

Digital Twins for Urban Planning

Reminds me of the urban/city planning games like SimCity.   And then also the Agent Models we used to construct simulations of very complex country spaces.  The Digital Twin idea allows us to further specify the details of the participants,  which was hard in the past methods.   But are we aiming to optimize or just explore?

Digital Twins Give Urban Planners Virtual Edge
By Financial Times in CACM

Showing the interrelationships of municipal activities and the data they generate.
Digital twins give a city's planners, policymakers, resource managers, asset owners, and  
Digital twins—virtual simulations of cities—give urban planners, policymakers, resource managers, asset owners, and citizens the advantage of more dynamic tools and information, which can benefit new construction and traffic management, and provide tools for residents to explore the effects of planned projects.

One example is Glasgow, Scotland's Future City project: the initiative's tools offer citizen-accessible data on sustainability overlaid on interactive maps, customized dashboards with widgets on environmental conditions, and data on seasonal food availability.

Meanwhile, Cambridge University's National Digital Twin Project created a U.K. network of city-scale digital twins, with guiding principles that prioritize trust, transparency, social value, ownership, responsibility, and security.

Neil Thompson at engineering company Atkins Global said, "Digital twins offer new opportunities for sustainability and wellbeing—from a physical and a psychological perspective." ..... "

Can an AI System Reinvent Physics?

The idea has been kicked around a bit.  I see Gary Marcus is one of the authors.  have much enjoyed his book on the current limitations of AI.  See my review at the tag below.  So the answer is if we include a rather narrow range of predictions, based on lots of data, we might get some predictive things that look like 'laws'.   But will they be useful broadly, testable in broader contexts?

Are Neural Networks About to Reinvent Physics?
The revolution of machine learning has been greatly exaggerated.
By   Gary Marcus and Ernest Davis in Nautil.us

Can AI teach itself the laws of physics? Will classical computers soon be replaced by deep neural networks? Sure looks like it, if you’ve been following the news, which lately has been filled with headlines like, “A neural net solves the three-body problem 100 million times faster: Machine learning provides an entirely new way to tackle one of the classic problems of applied mathematics,” and “Who needs Copernicus if you have machine learning?”. The latter was described by another journalist, in an article called “AI Teaches Itself Laws of Physics,” as a “monumental moment in both AI and physics,” which “could be critical in solving quantum mechanics problems.”

The trouble is, the authors have given no compelling reason to think that they could actually do this.

None of these claims is even close to being true. All derive from just two recent studies that use machine learning to explore different aspects of planetary motion. Both papers represent interesting attempts to do new things, but neither warrant the excitement. The exaggerated claims made in both papers, and the resulting hype surrounding these, are symptoms of a tendency among science journalists—and sometimes scientists themselves—to overstate the significance of new advances in AI and machine learning.

As always, when one sees large claims made for an AI system, the first question to ask is, “What does the system actually do?”  .... "

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Looking at the Google Meena Chatbot

Just pointed to this, the claims are considerable.  A very good conversational model would be a big step forward.  Current assistants do poorly except for the simplest requests.  I want assistants to be to not only consider context of a question, but to also expand that context during conversation.  Thats a big step towards 'general intelligence'.    Will be examining this.   Comments out there from people that have?   More to follow.

Just how big a deal is Google’s new Meena chatbot model?
By Ronald Ashri, Greenshot labs,  @Ronald_IStos in Venturebeat

Technology behemoths like Google and Facebook have got us used to, even fatigued by, their never-ending string of impressive announcements of progress in the AI field. Nevertheless, when Google announced that it has built a “conversational agent that can chat about… anything,” even the most jaded amongst us had to pay attention.

Since I work in the field, helping organizations build conversational solutions, I was particularly intrigued. One of the biggest challenges for bots is to handle the infinite possible phrases that a user might say and respond appropriately. A bot that can chat about anything seems like just the thing we would need to solve this challenge. So the question becomes, exactly what impact Google’s new bot, called Meena, will have on organizations looking to deploy conversational AI applications. Have we found the holy grail? Will our bots finally stop saying “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite understand that”? Well, the short answer is that no, we are not quite there yet. Nevertheless, Meena is incredibly impressive and represents a fascinating attempt to solve the problem. In the next few paragraphs, I will summarize what Google did and how this might impact conversational AI in the days, months, and years to come.   .... " 

Assistants Disappoint When asked for Aid

If a system assists it should at least refer to other resources in these cases.   Perhaps there is a case here to construct a centralized knowledge base for all of these assistants.

Virtual Assistants Provide Disappointing Advice When Asked for First Aid, Emergency Information: Study  in CACM

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have found that virtual assistants do not live up to their potential in terms of providing users with reliable, relevant information on medical emergencies.

The team tested four commonly used devices—Alexa, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana—using 123 questions about 39 first aid topics, including heart attacks, poisoning, nosebleeds, and splinters.

The devices' responses were measured for accuracy of topic recognition, detection of the severity of the emergency, complexity of language used, and how closely the advice given fit with accepted first aid treatment and guidelines.

Google Home performed the best, recognizing topics with 98% accuracy and providing relevant advice 56% of the time.

Alexa also scored well, recognizing 92% of the topics and giving accepted advice 19% of the time.  The quality of responses from Cortana and Siri was so low that the researchers could not analyze them.   .... " 

Amazon Show Scans Barcodes

Was surprised this didn't happen much sooner, given their earlier experiments with wands and buy buttons.    As suggested, put it right next to the can for quick reorder of staples.  (Tried this and it worked fine in populating the shopping list)

Amazon’s Echo Show can now scan barcodes to flesh out your shopping list    Prime placement: right next to the kitchen can    By Sean Hollister@StarFire2258 in theVerge

In our review of the Amazon Echo Show 5 smart display, Dan called it the “smart alarm clock to get.” But I think I might move mine to the kitchen, right next to the garbage can.

That’s partly because Amazon has just added the ability for the Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 8’s camera to scan barcodes, and automatically add those items to your shopping list (via VentureBeat). I might do that when I’ve got an empty package I’m about to toss in the trash.  ... "

Friday, January 31, 2020

Online Communications of the ACM

I was reminded that there is an online version of the CACM magazine, which contains many of its articles,   Here it is for the February issue.

Why is Amazon Dominating the Market?

Amazon continues to thrive.   What is driving them in retail?

These 3 Numbers Explain Why Amazon Is Dominating Everything Right Now

Amazon reported earnings on Thursday, and clearly investors were happy. In after-hours trading, the company's stock was up 12 percent at one point, adding $100 billion in market cap and pushing the company past a $1 trillion valuation.  ... 

Amazon's best-ever quarter is about these three things:   By Jason Aten in Inc.

Hint:  (Prime memberships, AWS Cloud Usage, Holiday Season numbers)

Useful details at the link. ...

DNA Based Archival Storage

Seems a strange idea, but its a look at forms of data, like DNA and the needs for computing.  A form of biomimicry.

$25M Project Will Advance DNA-Based Archival Data Storage
Georgia Tech Research Horizons
By John Toon
January 16, 2020

The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) will co-develop exabyte-scalable DNA-based molecular data storage using a $25-million grant from the U.S. Defense Department’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) Molecular Information Storage program. The objective is to substantially shrink the size, weight, and power requirements for archival data storage through the proposed Scalable Molecular Archival Software and Hardware project. Biotechnology developer Twist Bioscience will develop a silicon-based DNA synthesis platform that "writes" data-carrying DNA strands, for which Roswell Biotechnologies will develop molecular electronic DNA reader chips. The University of Washington and Microsoft will provide system architecture, data analysis, and coding expertise, with GTRI overseeing fabrication.  ... " 

Top ACM Technews Articles of 2019

A group I have written for for over a decade, and who I have a member of for much longer.   Kept me up to date in many ways.  They gather, distribute and expand lots of emergent tech ideas that use computing,  and I have been glad to make a small contribution.  Its also much more that just academic computer science, its the application in real business.   Here is an overview of last year.  I suggest joining, it is well worth the cost.

Top ACM TechNews articles of 2019
By Lawrence M. Fisher
January 29, 2020

Three times each week, ACM provides timely coverage of established and emerging areas of computer science, the latest trends in information technology, and related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics news to a global audience of more than 110,000 readers, in the form of ACM TechNews . A benefit of ACM membership, ACM TechNews is assembled from hundreds of relevant English-language technology publications from all over the world, in order to help keep ACM's members informed on a wide range of technology topics.

ACM tracks readers' usage of the dozen or so links in each ACM TechNews edition that provide access to the full texts of each of ACM TechNews article abstract, in order to stay on top of readers' topic preferences. We use that capability to dig through the data to determine which of the more than 2,500 article abstracts delivered during the course of 2019 were most popular with readers, based on the numbers of clicks each received.  ... " 

Swarming Defense Drones

Drones by their more flexible nature are creating new options with different kinds of precision, scale and application.   Here a Defense example.

DARPA is testing drones it can launch from a plane—then collect mid-air in MIT Technology Review

The news: The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has conducted the first test of a new type of drone that can be launched from a plane in a swarm then recovered in mid-air when it's done its job.

How it works: A military transport or bomber plane releases a series of drones in rapid succession, they carry out the task designated to them (surveillance, for example), then they return to the plane, docking on a line before being winched in. It looks a bit like the airborne refueling process.  ... "

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Aiming to Dupe AntiFraud Systems: Digital Doppelgangers

Quite an interesting discovery.  Constructing fake user profiles to facilitate fraud.   Goes back to the need for stronger means of constructing foolproof real identities, probably cryptographically determined.  'Fraud on Demand'?  The linked-to article contains considerable detail on the current activity here.   Doppelgangers vs Digital Twins?     'Synthetic Identities'

Dark Web's Doppelgängers Aim to Dupe Antifraud Systems  By Paul Marks

Communications of the ACM, January 2020, Vol. 63 No. 2, Pages 16-18

Deep within the encrypted bowels of the dark Web, beyond the reach of regular search engines, hackers and cybercriminals are brazenly trading a new breed of digital fakes. Yet unlike AI-generated deepfake audio and video—which embarrass the likes of politicians and celebrities by making them appear to say or do things they never would—this new breed of imitators is aimed squarely at relieving us of our hard-earned cash.

Comprising highly detailed fake user profiles known as digital doppelgängers, these entities convincingly mimic numerous facets of our digital device IDs, alongside many of our tell-tale online behaviors when conducting transactions and e-shopping. The result: credit card fraudsters can use these doppelgängers to attempt to evade the machine-learning-based anomaly-detecting antifraud measures upon which banks and payments service providers have come to rely.

It is proving to be big criminal business: many tens of thousands of doppelgängers are now being sold on the dark Web. With corporate data breaches fueling further construction of what market analyst Juniper Research calls "synthetic identities," Juniper estimates online payment fraud losses will jump to $48 billion by 2023, more than double the $22 billion lost in 2018.

The existence of a doppelgänger dark market was first discovered in February 2019 by security researcher Sergey Lozhkin and his colleagues at Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software house. His team was carrying out their regular threat analyses on several underground dark forums, "when we discovered a private forum where Russian cybercriminals were hosting information about something called the Genesis Store," Lozhkin says.  .... "