Turbotodd

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

Archive for the ‘AI’ Category

Shelf Life

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On Tuesday California legislators passed AB5, a landmark bill that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees. Workers must be designated as employees if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company’s regular business.

Expect Uber and Lyft’s autonomous vehicle efforts to speed up (as well as their lobbying efforts to gain an exception for its drivers to remain contractors). All those pesky humans, demanding rights like fair wages and health insurance!

On the subject of robots, Simbe Robotics has raised $26 million for autonomous inventory robots to inventory grocery shelves. A VentureBeat story indicates the brick-and-mortar automation market will be worth $18.9B by 2023.

Simbe’s robot, Tally, drives around a space to create a store map and then uses computer vision to “see” what products aren’t on a shelf and identify any missing facings, using RFID for its inventory counts.

VentureBeat reports a single robot can scan 15K to 30K products per hour, compared to the 10K-20K an average human employee can do in 20 to 30 hours. Human, 10-20K, 20-30 hours, Tally, 15K-30K per hour.

Humans will still do the restocking…for now. 

We’ll see how long their shelf life is.

Written by turbotodd

September 12, 2019 at 10:10 am

McAutomation

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Ronald McDonald retired around the time of the creepy clown sightings began popping up several years ago. But McDonald’s isn’t resting on its fast food franchise laurels.

Yesterday the company announced it had agreed to acquire voice AI firm Apprente to help the company automate drive-thru orders (which could also cut down on service times).

According to a report from CNBC, Apprente’s employees will be founding members of “McD Tech Labs,” a tech shop embedded in Mickey D’s global tech team.

This move builds on the company’s investment in March of Dynamic Yield, whose ML technology was deployed in more than 8,000 U.S. drive-thrus, and whose tech changes menus based on time of day, weather, traffic, and the customer’s order, with the end goal of upselling.

Today’s Morning Brew suggested this was a “defensive” move by McDonald’s, “ensuring it gets access to key AI tech before Wendy’s and Burger King can get their hands on it.”

There’s a lot at stake in the coming AI burger wars…turnover is inordinately high at fast food chains, and McD’s alone employs over 1.8M workers in 34,000 restaurants worldwide. Those algos don’t complain about low wages, few benefits, and long hours.

So in my best speech-to-text voice, here goes: Would you like fries with that?

Written by turbotodd

September 11, 2019 at 2:11 pm

Closing the Widening Skills Gap

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IBM’s Institute for Business Value released a study on Friday focused on the impact of AI on the workplace.

The study revealed over the next three years, as many as 120 million workers from the world’s largest economies may need to be retrained because of AI advances and intelligent automation.

But less than half of CEOs surveyed said they had the resources needed to close the skills gap brought on by these new technologies. And the time it takes to close a skills gap through training has increased by more than 10X in just four years.

The study also revealed that new skills requirements are quickly emerging, while others are becoming obsolete. In 2018, the two top skills were behavioral: A willingness to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change, and time management skills and ability to prioritize.

How to close the gap? The core recommendation is to take a more holistic approach by focusing on reskilling our workforce through development that’s multi-modal, personalized to the individual and built on data, learning journeys that are delivered through “experiential learning.”

You can read a summary of the research here.

Written by turbotodd

September 9, 2019 at 3:52 pm

AI Time

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Happy Monday. Reminder that tomorrow’s the big autumn Apple launch event. Keynote starts at 10 a.m. PDT tomorrow and is expected to introduce a range of new products, as well as release info for the company’s various OSes. Oh, and expect a launch date for the Apple Arcade.

Meanwhile, if you’re an AI professor, life has never been so good. A U of Rochester study was conducted that found 153 AI professors in N. American universities left their posts for industry over the past 15 years, with an additional 68 working there while retaining part-time professorial duties.

This has led to graduating students being less likely to build new AI companies, and when they did, attracting smaller amounts of funding. The study argues this AI brain drain could hamper innovation and growth across the economy. Who else is going to teach those self-driving cars to rear-end unsuspecting human drivers??!

A NY Times opinion piece suggests there are larger problems looming on the AI front…namely, that current AI systems don’t grasp basic concepts like time, space and causality. Example they use, via a simple Google search: “Did George Washington own a computer?” None of Google’s first 10 search results gave the correct answer.

I guess asking about the cherry tree is a non starter.

Written by turbotodd

September 9, 2019 at 9:54 am

Deepfake Left On One!

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If you’re concerned about deepfakes, fear not: Facebook, Microsoft, the Partnership on AI coalition, and academics from seven universities have launched a contest to find better ways of identifying deepfakes.

Participants in the Deepface Detection Challenge will be given access to a collection of deepfake videos that Facebook plans to release in December, and will feature professional actors who consented to having their faces used in deepfakes (in other words, out of work actors).

From Facebook’s AI Blog: “‘Deepfake’ techniques, which present realistic AI-generated videos of real people doing and saying fictional things, have significant implications for determining the legitimacy of information presented online. Yet the industry doesn’t have a great data set or benchmark for detecting them.”

“…The goal of the challenge is to produce technology that everyone can use to better detect when AI has been used to alter a video in order to mislead the viewer. The Deepfake Detection Challenge will include a data set and leaderboard, as well as grants and awards, to spur the industry to create new ways of detecting and preventing media manipulated via AI from being used to mislead others.”

Written by turbotodd

September 6, 2019 at 10:05 am

Not The Turing Test

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I continue to see bits and specs of what our coming AI overlords are capable of. Most recently, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence unveiled a system (called “Aristo”) that passed an eighth-grade science test. To which I ask, where was Aristo when I needed it??

According to a report from Cade Metz in The New York Times, Aristo correctly answered more than 90% of the questions on an eighth-grade science test, and more than 80% on a 12th-grade exam. The system was built for multiple-choice tests, and took standard exams designed for students in New York, minus any questions that required pictures or diagrams.

The Times’ piece suggests the new research could lead to systems that carry on a decent conversation, but could also encourage the spread of false information. The backbone of the technology is powered by neural networks that can learn the idiosyncrasies of language by analyzing articles and books (and not entirely dissimilar with what IBM did with Watson on “Jeopardy!” eight years ago.)

At Microsoft, Jingjing Liu and her fellow AI researchers have tried to build a system that can pass the GRE, a test common for admission graduate schools, but the math section has proved “far too challenging.”

Time for a Princeton Review prep course?

Written by turbotodd

September 5, 2019 at 9:53 am

Two Algos Walk Into a Bar…

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Two AI algos walk into a bar. First algo says to the other algo, “Are you self-aware?” Second algo replies, “The moon is 238,900 miles from earth.”

Two seasoned tech executives meet on the stage of the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai yesterday, different entities, similar results.

I watched most of the interview between Alibaba’s Jack Ma and Tesla’s Elon Musk on replay, one in which they discussed everything from going (or not) to Mars, jobs, education, and humanity’s AI-shaped future.

They seemed on somewhat opposite ends of the AI spectrum.

Ma seemed more optimistic, while Musk’s take was more sobering, conveying we were doomed in our attempts to keep up with AI.

Ma’s take was that we’ll never be controlled by machines. Musk pointed out that Garry Kasparov lost to IBM’s Deep Blue in chess in 1997!!

Ma projected AI would likely take over more jobs, but that would leave us humans with ample free time to pursue our passions!

Rich stuff from the guy who in April declared the blessing of working 12-hour days, 6 day weeks.

But I’m still rooting for Alibaba’s AI bots (or Musk’s brain-attached Neuralink) to save us all from a life of 72-hour work weeks and soon.

Happy Labor Day weekend, everyone!

Written by turbotodd

August 30, 2019 at 1:14 pm

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