Turbotodd

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

Archive for the ‘artificial intelligence’ Category

Answering the Call for Code

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Today is the first day submissions can be made for Call for Code, an open source initiative to minimize the devastating human impact of natural disasters.

Starting today and ending on August 31st, developers and/or developer teams can submit technology solutions to help organizations like the United Nations Human Rights Office and the international services of the American Red Cross in their efforts to better prepare against fires, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, and earthquakes, and benefit Call for Code’s charitable partners — the United Nations Human Rights Office and the American Red Cross.

Developers will have access to IBM technologies such as weather data from The Weather Company, cloud, AI, and blockchain technologies, as well as training and other resources to help jump start projects.

Since announcing the initiative on May 24th, Call for Code has received support from across the global community. Events have taken place in over 50 cities around the world, the Linux Foundation is rallying developers to participate, and Linux Torvalds, the creator of Linux, will help evaluate submissions.

The winner will be announced at a benefit concert in mid-October, with proceeds going to the United Nations.

You can learn more about Call for Code here.

Written by turbotodd

June 18, 2018 at 10:10 am

The Supercomputing Summit

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Okay, let me be up front: I’m just back from a week’s vacation and my brain is mush.

But the neurons are slowly starting to refire.

NOT as fast, I might add, as IBM’s new supercomputer, Summit, which was built in partnership with the Oak Ridge National Lab and is now the world’s smartest and most powerful AI machine.

WIRED recently wrote up the new machine, and here are some noteworthy bits:

America hasn’t possessed the world’s most powerful supercomputer since June 2013, when a Chinese machine first claimed the title. Summit is expected to end that run when the official ranking of supercomputers, from an organization called Top500, is updated later this month

Summit, built by IBM, occupies floor space equivalent to two tennis courts, and slurps 4,000 gallons of water a minute around a circulatory system to cool its 37,000 processors. 

Oak Ridge says its new baby can deliver a peak performance of 200 quadrillion calculations per second (that’s 200 followed by 15 zeros) using a standard measure used to rate supercomputers, or 200 petaflops. That’s about a million times faster than a typical laptop, and nearly twice the peak performance of China’s top-ranking Sunway TaihuLight.

Summit has nearly 28,000 graphics processors made by Nvidia, alongside more than 9,000 conventional processors from IBM.

Summit will be used to help analyze a wide array of deep learning challenges ranging from astronomy to chemistry to biology and beyond.

Written by turbotodd

June 11, 2018 at 3:53 pm

Oculus Went, Atlas Shrugged

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This has been some couple of weeks in technology. 

First, Facebook’s F8 conference last week, then Microsoft Build and Google I/O this week.

Coupla things stand out.

First, Facebook’s introduction of Oculus Go, the company’s new “everyperson’s” more friendly and accessible VR.  Looking back, I think the announcement was almost understated (and yes, there was a lot of other new news).

Like I always do when I’m considering a new tech purchase, I started searching for early reviews, and clearly Oculus/Facebook had done a good job getting devices into the hands of valued reviewers and sources. Almost to a one had mostly good things to say.

How often does that happen?  So I bit, and received my device one day ago this week.

For me, getting the Oculus Go was kind of like one of those moments you won’t forget: The first time I used the Netscape browser, the first time I used instant messaging, the first Tweet…Oculus Go was that moment for me where VR is concerned.

At SXSW two years ago I got to handle several of the leading VR goggles, and wasn’t really blown away by any of them — maybe it was all the umbilical cords and overweighted goggles. And maybe it was also the experiences themselves.

But when I got the Oculus Go last Friday, it just went. From the moment I turned it on to the quick setup to immediately blowing another $40 on a bundle of VR games and experiences, it was all easy peasy and sense surround.

Saturday morning, I downloaded a single shooter space game called “End Space.” It was so immersive that it had my brain thinking I was traveling through 360 degrees of space, requiring a spinning chair and, later, the spinning brain and dizziness to prove it. 

Now THAT was the kind of VR experience I’d been waiting for. Like I said when I first got it, finally good enough is more than good enough. Sure, you can complain if you’d like about the resolution not being where we’d like it and the fact that it’s really only 180 degrees, but those are minor roadblocks.

And these are still early days.

No, if nothing else, Oculus Go opens one’s imagination as to all the possibilities of full VR immersion, from education to virtual travel to gaming (already a strong suit in VR) to remote work and collaboration and beyond.  You can’t smell it yet, but you sure can touch it and feel it, and it feels pretty cool.

The second thing was experiencing yet another of those AI aha moments.

My first was back in the Web’s early Dark Ages, in 1997 in the auditorium of the Equitable Center in NYC where IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov in chess — for those who saw it either there or online, it was an unmistakable leap forward — the machine beat the man. The next were IBM’s Watson beating the world’s best in Jeopardy!, and Google’s AlphaGo beating the world’s best humans in Go.

This week, watching the Google I/O webcast, I saw the Google Duplex technology in action, one where a disembodied Google Assistant voice was “smart” enough to call a hair salon and make an appointment…over the phone, and using her voice. The hair salon attendant seemed none the wiser.

I don’t know if that comes close to passing the Turing Test, but it’s pretty damned close.

And yet the very next day, I was attending a social media seminar given by our friends at Fleishman Hillard where I was introduced to “Lil Miquela” an Instagram influencer with over 1.1 million followers. 

Lil Miquela supports Black Lives Matter and seems to have a keen fashion sense. Lil Miquela is also not real. “She” was invented by an influencer marketing company called Brud, which Crunchbase says is “a group of problem solvers specializing in robotics, AI, and their applications to media businesses.”

Brud is in the business of selling access to brands to made-up influencers like Lil Miquela, and is backed by the likes of Sequoia Capital. And if you think about it, such a venture makes sense. As our Fleishman friends explained, “You don’t have to worry about Lil Miquela and her friends doing something in Vegas they shouldn’t be doing.” A, because Lil Miquela isn’t real, and B, because she has no “real” friends.

In other words, Lil Miquela and her ilk are “brand safe,” so why wouldn’t having a big brand associate themselves with her/it??

As I said in a room filled with actual real people, “We’re entering a wild wild “Westworld” where there are no rules and the boundaries aren’t clear…which makes for a nice petri dish in which just about anything and everything can by manipulated by digital, social and, now, AI and VR media. One day you’re talking to a Google Assistant to make your hair appointment, the next day you’re talking to a fake virtual IRS agent who’s taking control of your tax refund for you.

On October 30, 1938, renowned actor Orson Welles aired a radio broadcast on CBS based on H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. 

Because the program was hosted on a “sustaining” show without commercial interruptions, “Mercury Theatre on the Air,” the program went on for 30 minutes and people across the country mistook the science fiction for an actual new broadcast. It caused panic across the country and people took to the streets. The Martians had arrived at Grover’s Mill!

That was 56 years before we saw the advent of the commercial Internet, and 80 years before we witnessed the Google Duplex phone call.

The saying used to go “Truth is stranger than fiction.”  Now, VR goggles and AI algorithms in tow, truth is increasingly turning into fiction, and that may be the slippery-est slope of all.

Written by turbotodd

May 11, 2018 at 10:21 am

Didi Chuxing Cha-Ching

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Greetings from the Big Apple.

I arrived here over the weekend to visit some friends and prepare for some meetings in NYC. 

The weather has been beyond spectacular — if I’d have planned ahead, I would have brought my golf clubs and teed up in the middle of 5th Avenue to attempt my first mile long drive.

But instead, I’m following the attempts of China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co. to drive for a humongous IPO that The Wall Street Journal is claiming could happen as soon as this year.

Didi operates China’s largest ride-sharing platform and is expanding in Latin America and other parts of Asia, and according to the Journal report, is hoping to garner a valuation of at least $70 to $80 billion if it goes public.

The report also suggests that Didi is looking to “amass a large war chest to fend off rivals in China and other countries.”

But the company is also apparently looking to develop a smart car customized for ride-sharing and looking for auto makers that could manufacture such a car. 

The car is anticipated to be an electric vehicle and would be connected to the internet, allowing Didi to monitor data from the car for safety by applying artificial intelligence technology.

The Journal article suggests this worries some automakers, as it would put companies like Didi (and potentially others who move in this direction) in direct competition, one which could put the Didis of the world in the driver’s seat when it comes to the “operating system” for cars (i.e., the software).

Written by turbotodd

April 24, 2018 at 8:12 am

AI Funding and Talent

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I was too busy to blog yesterday, but a couple of stories about AI funding did hit my radar that I wanted to mention.

TechCrunch reported first that a startup out of London, BenevolventAI, announced that it had raised $115 million “to continue developer its core ‘AI brain’ as well as different arms of the company that are using it specifically to break new ground in drug development and more.”

That round values the company at $2.1 billion. 

Some background:

The core of BenevolentAI’s business is focused around what Mulvaney describes as a “brain” built by a team of scientists — some of whom are disclosed, and some of whom are not, for competitive reasons; Mulvaney said: There are 155 people working at the startup in all, with 300 projected by the end of this year. The brain has been created to ingest and compute billions of data points in specific areas such as health and material science, to help scientists better determine combinations that might finally solve persistently difficult problems in fields like medicine.

The crux of the issue in a field like drug development, for example, is that even as scientists identify the many permutations and strains of, say, a particular kind of cancer, each of these strains can mutate, and that is before you consider that each mutation might behave completely differently depending on which person develops the mutation.

This is precisely the kind of issue that AI, which is massive computational power and “learning” from previous computations, can help address. (And BenevolventAI is not the only one taking this approach. Specifically in cancer, others include Grail and Paige.AI.)

Another one that caught my attention was Eightfold.ai, “a new technology service aimed at solving nothing less than the problem of how to provide professional meaning in the modern world.”

Founded by former Googler and IBM researcher Ashutosh Garg (who is a search and personalization expert), the company “…boasts an executive team that has a combined 80 patents and more than 6,000 citations for their research.

What’s more interesting to me is their mission: “To bring the analytical rigor for which their former employers are famous to the question of how best to help employees find fulfillment in the workforce.”

Lightspeed Ventures and Foundation Capital are among those backing the venture to the tune of $24 million.

How it works:

“We have crawled the web for millions of profiles… including data from Wikipedia,” says Garg. “From there we have gotten data round how people have moved in organizations. We use all of this data to see who has performed well in an organization or not. Now what we do… we build models over this data to see who is capable of doing what.”

There are two important functions at play, according to Garg. The first is developing a talent network of a business — “the talent graph of a company,” he calls it. “On top of that we map how people have gone from one function to another in their career.”

Using those tools, Garg says Eightfold.ai’s services can predict the best path for each employee to reach their full potential.

Did you get that? “Building models for the talent graph of a company and how people have gone from one function to another in their career. I’m calling it a Maslowe AI play!

As for how hot the war for AI talent is, check out this New York Time’s article.  It reveals that AI specialists with little or no industry experience can make between $300K and $500K a year in salary and stock. 

Might be time to go back to school!

Written by turbotodd

April 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

No Laughing Matter

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Did you hear the one about the personal voice assistant that, for seemingly no apparent reason whatsoever, started breaking into strange laughing noises at random?

No?

Well, I heard about it firsthand, but apparently I missed the opportunity to hear random guffawing of my own personal Amazon Tap.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon confirmed yesterday that in rare circumstances, the voice assistant can mistakenly hear the phrase “Alexa, laugh,” which under its normal programming would cause it to chuckle. 

Amazon has updated a fix for the problem, and is changing the trigger phrase for laughing to “Alexa, can you laugh?” instead.

A few moments ago, I tried the new command, and all I got from Alexa was a “Tee hee.”  

How very anti-climactic.

This quirk has been referred to in AI circles as a “false positive.”

Let’s just hope the voice commands for the AI algos running the armed drones have their laughs in order.

Written by turbotodd

March 8, 2018 at 9:02 am

Real Not Fake News

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Read about Farhood Manjoo’s “slow-jamming” of the news. Manjoo stopped looking at news online for two months, and instead reverted back to getting real paper newspaper subscriptions. 

I won’t give away the whole story, but one of his verdicts was that he felt as though reading an actual newspaper, he felt he was was getting some actual real news.  

What a concept, and no bots!

Of course, if bots are your thing, you may want to know about the $13.5 million Series A round that Voicera just raised.

Voicera’s elevator pitch is that it wants to make it simpler to record meetings and pull out action items automatically using AI. It will do so by recording and creating a transcript of the meeting.

It’s technology centers around “Eva,” an AI-fueled note-taking assistant. Eva’s job is to record the meeting, create the transcription, identify the important stuff, and then send out an email with the highlights to all meeting participants.

What? Eva won’t do my to dos in the process?!  What kind of AI is this?!

 

Written by turbotodd

March 7, 2018 at 12:26 pm

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