Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘AI’ Category

Rain, Shine, Sleet, Snow, or AI

leave a comment »

Uncle Sam’s getting into the AI game, specifically with the U.S Postal Service.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, USPS is testing self-driving trucks on a more than 1,000-mile mail run between Phoenix and Dallas.

It’s a two-week pilot, and will use rigs supplied by autonomous trucking firm TuSimple to haul trailers on five round trips between distribution centers.

“The roughly 22-hour trip along three interstate highways is normally serviced by outside trucking companies that use two-driver teams to comply with federal regulations limiting drivers’ hours behind the wheel.”

Pretty simple equation. No humans, low cost, and no hours-of-service restrictions for AI Driver Dude.

So, dude (and dudettes), dissuade your kids from becoming truck drivers. There’s literally going to be no future for them.

Written by turbotodd

May 21, 2019 at 4:54 pm

Ok, Cupid, Goodbye “Chimerica”?

leave a comment »

Happy Tuesday.

The U.S. markets are experiencing slightly less turbulence today than they were yesterday. Maybe the Trump Put is on after all?

If so, that could very well lead to an upsurge in online dating!

In which case, Match.com has your back.

According to a report by Engadget, Match is now offering some human assistance for online daters in the form of “AskMatch,” a service that will connect its paid users to a dating coach for a chat on the phone.

“Match’s mission has always been around relationships and bringing people together. We want to go beyond just being an app on your phone,” said Match CEO Hesam Hosseini in an interview with Engadget. Match users will be able to find the option to “Talk to a coach” under the “Discover” area of the app. If selected, Match will connect you to one of its dating experts for a phone conversation. After the phone call, you can update your coach through the app with any progress you’ve made or ask further questions. 

Hosseini points out that there’s still plenty of room for us humans after all, and that the machines and algos can’t take over everything.

“Automation is great, but it’s not for everything–especially when it comes to relationships and love,” said Hosseini. While it’s doubtful that dating coaches will solve the bigger problems with online dating fatigue — chatting with a human person may help some users find clarity.

Meanwhile, the Chinese owner of Grindr, Beijing Kunlun Tech Co., released a statement indicating its being forced out of the gay-dating app game and will be required to sell Grindr by June 2020 under an agreement with U.S. officials.  

And Kai-Fu Lee, whose most recent book I would argue is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the coming AI revolution, is apparently also feeling the U.S./China trade pinch.

Lee had already left his Sinovation U.S. office last year, and now, according to CNBC, has “pulled back alongside many other Chinese investors who are struggling to put money to work in the current political environment.”

So much for “Chimerica,” you say?  

I’d say, China and the U.S. are heading down the wrong path. While trade agreements and disputes around intellectual property and related issues certainly need to be worked on to mutual benefit, a full on Chinese-American Cold War is exactly what we don’t need.

Written by turbotodd

May 14, 2019 at 2:14 pm

Robots Never Die

leave a comment »

I have personally been looking forward to the age of robots and artificial intelligence. Despite all the advances we’ve made in science and technology in the last few centuries, we seem to still be on the verge of living in a populist, nationalist, non-science driven dystopia.

I want my robots.

But I’m not apparently going to be getting them from Anki, a “once-hot” robotics startup that is shutting down after raising more than $200M.

Recode’s coverage indicated that close to 200 employees of the company would be paid a week of severance, and that CEO Boris Sofman had told employees the company was scrambling to find more money after a new round of financing fell through.

Anki had produced consumer robots like “Cozmo,” but had also raised what Recode described as “serious money” from the likes of Andreesen Horowitz.

The company said in a statement to Recode that it was left “without significant funding to support a hardware and software business and bridge to our long-term product roadmap.”
“Despite our past successes, we pursued every financial avenue to fund our future product development and expand on our platforms,” a company spokesperson said. “A significant financial deal at a late stage fell through with a strategic investor and we were not able to reach an agreement. We’re doing our best to take care of every single employee and their families, and our management team continues to explore all options available.”

Anki robots had been popular at stores like Toys R Us, but had more recently attempted to pivot from toys to a “developed robotics” company based on AI.

Company employees were being given only a week of severance pay. As for the company robots still lying around? I hope somebody removed their power source!

Written by turbotodd

April 30, 2019 at 9:16 am

Posted in 2019, AI, startups

Tagged with , , , ,

Itch for a Twitch

leave a comment »

Twitch got an itch for a new type of Twitch, so they’ve added “Squad Stream,” a few feature that will let up to four Twitch streamers go live simultaneously in one window.

According to a report from The Verge, this new feature will make it easier for viewers to watch the action from four different angles and provide bigger channels the opportunity to host smaller creators and share their screen with the audience as well.

Meanwhile, MacRumors reports that Apple has released watchOS 5.2, the fifth update to the watchOS operating system that runs on modern Apple Watch models.  this version expands the availability of the electrocardiogram app to Hong Kong and 19 European countries.

There are also two new watch faces for Hermes watches that match the spring Hermes band collection. The update also introduced support for the Apple News+ feature added to iOS earlier this week.

And Facebook continues to be under the gun for its ad targeting practices. The Department of Housing and Urban Development filed charges against the company today for violating the Fair Housing Act by encouraging, enabling, and causing housing discrimination through the company’s advertising platform.

According to a report from Axios, HUD alleges that Facebook unlawfully discriminates against users by restricting who can view housing-related ads on Facebook platform and across the internet.

  • It also alleges that Facebook mines extensive data about its users “and then uses those data to determine which of its users view housing-related ads based, in part, on these protected characteristics.”
  • The charge also claims that Facebook groups users who have similar attributes and behaviors — unrelated to housing — via machine learning and presumes a shared interest or disinterest in housing-related advertisements.
  • HUD says this process functions “just like an advertiser who intentionally targets or excludes users based on their protected class.”

This a day after Facebook banned white nationalism and separatism on the platform, a policy which will be officially implemented next week according to a report from Motherboard.

Specifically, Facebook will now ban content that includes explicit praise, support, or representation of white nationalism or separatism. Phrases such as “I am a proud white nationalist” and “Immigration is tearing this country apart; white separatism is the only answer” will now be banned, according to the company. Implicit and coded white nationalism and white separatism will not be banned immediately, in part because the company said it’s harder to detect and remove.

 The decision was formally made at Facebook’s Content Standards Forum on Tuesday, a meeting that includes representatives from a range of different Facebook departments in which content moderation policies are discussed and ultimately adopted. Fishman told Motherboard that Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was involved in the formulation of the new policy, though roughly three dozen Facebook employees worked on it.

Just another day in the life of Facebook circa 2019.

Written by turbotodd

March 28, 2019 at 10:46 am

Posted in 2019, AI

Tagged with ,

End of the AI Winter?

with one comment

Congrats go out to Yann LeCun, Geoffrey Hinton, and Yoshua Bengio, three researchers whose work on neural networks led to their being awarded this year’s Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery.

The Turing Award was introduced in 1966 and includes a $1 million prizee, which the three scientists will share, according to a report from The New York Times.

Over the past decade, the big idea nurtured by these researchers has reinvented the way technology is built, accelerating the development of face-recognition services, talking digital assistants, warehouse robots and self-driving cars. Dr. Hinton is now at Google, and Dr. LeCun works for Facebook. Dr. Bengio has inked deals with IBM and Microsoft.

“What we have seen is nothing short of a paradigm shift in the science,” said Oren Etzioni, the chief executive officer of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in Seattle and a prominent voice in the A.I. community. “History turned their way, and I am in awe.”

The Verge also recognized the trio, suggesting that their persistence helped bring a close to the seemingly interminable AI winter:

The trio’s achievements are particularly notable as they kept the faith in artificial intelligence at a time when the technology’s prospects were dismal.

AI is well-known for its cycles of boom and bust, and the issue of hype is as old as the field itself. When research fails to meet inflated expectations it creates a freeze in funding and interest known as an “AI winter.” It was at the tail end of one such winter in the late 1980s that Bengio, Hinton, and LeCun began exchanging ideas and working on related problems. These included neural networks — computer programs made from connected digital neurons that have become a key building block for modern AI.

“There was a dark period between the mid-90s and early-to-mid-2000s when it was impossible to publish research on neural nets, because the community had lost interest in it,” says LeCun. “In fact, it had a bad rep. It was a bit taboo.”

Perhaps the AI winter is over and sprin is coming.

In any case, there’s plenty more to do, but this is well-deserved recognition for some of AI’s most recent pioneers operating on the far reaches of the frontier.

Written by turbotodd

March 27, 2019 at 11:44 am

Posted in 2019, AI

Tagged with

Call for Big Tech Regulation

leave a comment »

Well, the gloves are coming off.

In a report this morning from The New York Times, Democratic presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren has announced a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s biggest Tech firms, including Amazon, Google and Facebook.

Specifically, the Proposal calls for the appointment of regulators who would unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition and legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.

Excerpts from her blog post announcing the proposal:

Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.

That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition — including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

Warren argues that America’s big tech companies have used mergers and proprietary marketplaces to limit competition, and that “weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector.”

Some specific remedies Warren calls for: Unwinding Facebook’s acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, Amazon’s acquisitions of Whole Foods and Zappos, and Google’s acquisitions of Waze, Nest, and DoubleClick (an acquisition that occurred, FYI, back in 2007 before the iPhone had even been introduced).

My own free market tendencies would generally disapprove of any such unwindings, but never mind the larger point I think that needs to be made, which is that Warren seems to be fighting the tech war of yesterday.

While she seems concerned about existing scale and domination, there doesn’t seem to be any focus on going on offense and preparing the workforce for the tsunami of robotic assistance and automation that is yet to come, a wave some would argue is already here and which could make this Big Tech trustbusting play look like, well, child’s play.

Written by turbotodd

March 8, 2019 at 11:01 am

Posted in 2019, AI, politics

Tagged with , ,

This Person Does Not Exist…No, Really!

leave a comment »

This one made me laugh out loud: According to a story in the Financial Times, two fifths of artificial intelligence (AI) start-ups don’t use any AI programs in their products.

This from a report by London-based investment firm MMC Ventures, which said it could not find any evidence of AI apps in 40 percent of 2,830 AI start-ups based on public information and interviews with executives.

And yet the companies were often described as AI-focused.

Hey, it’s AI. Everything can be AI when it’s AI. Except when it’s not, which just means the AI is fooling you into thinking it isn’t.

What’s up is down and what’s down is up, and as the White Queen explained in Alice in Wonderland, ”Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

This, increasingly, the world we’re moving into. 

Witness the most recent AI phenomenon, ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com, the creation of Uber software engineer Philp Wang.

If you haven’t checked this site out, it’s pretty simple (and yet, under the covers, quite complex): Every time you refresh the site its “generative adversarial network,” which was trained on a massive dataset of real images, produces a new facial image of a non-real person.

Yes, ladies and germs, a real website that creates images of fake people.

So if you thought you weren’t sure whether you could believe those sleazy photos of that sleazy politician were for real…well, now you’ll likely be right.

Then, extrapolate that scenario and multiply it by a gazillion others.

They always said truth was the first casualty of war…I think it’s safe to say you can now append AI to that list. 

Written by turbotodd

March 5, 2019 at 11:11 am

Posted in 2019, AI, startups

Tagged with , , ,

%d bloggers like this: