Turbotodd

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

Posts Tagged ‘artificial intelligence

AI Distortion

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Happy Friday. 

For those of you in the U.S., are you ready for a longgg holiday weekend?

You’re already on the road, you say?  Well, more power to ya!

I think we had another AI moment yesterday.

WAPO is reporting that there were distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that had been altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkely slurring her words.

The videos spread rapidly across social media, including Twitter, FB, and YT.

One version, posted by the conservative Facebook page Politics WatchDog, had been viewed more than 2 million times by Thursday night, been shared more than 45,000 times, and garnered 23,000 comments with users calling her “drunk” and “a babbling mess.”

WAPO goes on to write that the origins of the altered video remained unclear.

Another video that made the rounds this week: One of now and former world leaders like Trump, Putin, May, Obama, others, singing along to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Their moving lips were totally in synch with Lennon’s lyrics.  Their policies, that’s another story.

This is our future.

If we can’t tell the difference between a Tweet originating at the White House or the Kremlin, what chance do we have with video??

Maybe we could just make up a presidential candidate from AI scratch, give he/she a good neural network, and send them off and running.  They could make decisions 24 hours a day, wouldn’t require food or sleep, and wouldn’t necessarily even need their own Twitter account. 

Because they’re AI, they know and see all, and are omnipotent. 

Happy start to your Memorial Day weekend.  ; )

Written by turbotodd

May 24, 2019 at 11:06 am

Ok, Cupid, Goodbye “Chimerica”?

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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

Boxed In

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Big news coming out of SCOTUS this morning: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Apple in case involving its App Store, allowing iPhone users to move forward with an antitrust suit against the company.

According to a report from CNBC, the iPhone users argue that Apple’s 30 percent commission on sales through the App Store was passed along to consumers, an unfair use of monopoly power.

Apple argued that only app developers, and not users, should be able to bring such a lawsuit:

“Apple’s line-drawing does not make a lot of sense, other than as a way to gerrymander Apple out of this and similar lawsuits,” [Justice] Kavanaugh wrote.

Shares of Apple, already battered by trade concerns, were down more than 5%, lagging the broader market.

The result of the iPhone users’ litigation could affect the way that Apple, as well as other companies that operate electronic marketplaces like Facebook, Amazon and Alphabet’s Google, structure their businesses. For Apple, hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties could hang on the outcome.

And if you’re worried about becoming boxed in by looming new automation technologies, you might want to steer clear of the Amazon warehouses. 

Reuters is reporting that Amazon is rolling out machines to automate a job held by thousands of its workers: boxing up customer orders.

The company started adding technology to a handful of warehouses in recent years, which scans goods coming down a conveyor belt and envelopes them seconds later in boxes custom-built for each item, two people who worked on the project told Reuters.

Amazon has considered installing two machines at dozens more warehouses, removing at least 24 roles at each one, these people said. These facilities typically employ more than 2,000 people.

That would amount to more than 1,300 cuts across 55 U.S. fulfillment centers for standard-sized inventory. Amazon would expect to recover the costs in under two years, at $1 million per machine plus operational expenses, they said.

A video shot by Reuters accompanying the story suggested the human workforce decline would come through attrition: Amazon would simply “refrain” from refilling packing roles over time, a job that already has huge turnover work for its 10-hour shifts.

On the man v. machine front, it sounds as though the machine boxes that box the boxes themselves will eventually beat the humans hands down.

My question is, will the boxing machines ever buy anything from the company store?  

Will Amazon give them a discount for being so efficient at their jobs??  A promotion??

Maybe a corner office on the warehouse floor??

Written by turbotodd

May 13, 2019 at 10:32 am

Show Me the Money

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Facebook had a big quarter. Or, should I say, a BIG quarter.

Despite all the privacy snafus and regulatory chafing, the company reported Q1 revenue of $15.08B, with advertising revenue up 26% at $14.91B. 

Also, Facebook explained it would set aside $3B to cover expenses associated with a fine from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practice (although the fine apparently could go as high as $5B).

Facebook also indicated that its Facebook stories feature now has 500M daily users across both FB and Messenger, and WhatsApp’s status has 500M daily users (poor Snapchat has a paltry 190M DUs by comparison).

In other words, Facebook sneezes, the rest of the ad industry still catches cold.

Microsoft also announced big earnings, reporting Q3 revenue was up 14% to $30.6B and net income was up 19% to $8.8B. Intelligent Cloud Revenue was up 22% to $9.7B. 

Earlier today, the company became only the third U.S. company ever to pass a market cap of $1T (the other two were Apple and Amazon).

But it’s not just the techs who are in tech.

TechCrunch reported that Walmart announced earlier today a new “store of the future,” a sort of proving ground for emerging tech, including A.I.-enable cameras and interactive displays.

Code-named “IRL” (for, the “Intelligent Retail Lab”), the store operates out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market and contains over 30,000 items. Not unlike Amazon Go’s convenience stories:

the store has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling. But unlike Amazon Go, which is a grab-and-go store with smaller square footage, Walmart’s IRL spans 50,000 square feet of retail space and is staffed by over 100 employees.

Plus, in Walmart’s case, these A.I.-powered cameras are not being used to determine what items customers are buying in order to automatically charge them. It still has traditional checkout stations. Instead, the cameras will monitor inventory levels to determine, for example, if staff needs to bring out more meat from the backroom refrigerators to restock the shelves, or if some fresh items have been sitting too long on the shelf and need to be pulled.

The idea is that the A.I. will help the store associates know more precisely where and when to restock products. And this, in turn, means customers will know the produce and meat is always fresh and in stock when they arrive.

The system apparently generates so much data, 1.6TB per second, that it necessitates a big data center on site.

And yet it seems to be obviously avoiding getting into the business of automated checkout solutions (which Amazon has tackled head on), instead “using the A.I. system to ensure that there are shopping carts available at all times and that registers are open and staffed.”

But don’t kid yourself…it’s probably only a few years before we’ll be seeing a virtual Sam hologram himself welcoming you to the new and improved Ai-driven Walmart.

Save Money. Live Better.

Written by turbotodd

April 25, 2019 at 10:41 am

The Masters 2019

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It’s my favorite time of the year.  

It’s the week of The Masters, golf’s first and arguably most prestigious championship of the year.

I have a feeling this weather front moving across the midwest could wreak havoc on this year’s tournament, but putting that aside, let’s talk about two key things: Players I favor in this year’s tournament and IBM’s continuing technology partnership with The Masters.

First, the players I’ll be keeping an eye on at the top of my list: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, and Jon Rahm.  In no particular order and just based on what I know of their games and their recent play (from tee to green, but especially with approach shots and putting).

If the weather gets really bad (i.e. windy, rainy), look for bad weather players like Tiger Woods, Ricky Fowler, Sergio Garcia, and a host of other world players (especially from Europe) comfortable playing in adverse conditions.

For funsies, I would also throw in the mix world class players like Henrik Stenson, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Shauffele, Branden Grace and Marc Leishman.

Now, to IBM’s continuing partnership with Augusta National. At this year’s tournament, you will once again be able to watch the best highlights of a competitor’s round in three minutes. These highlight reels will be generated using IBM Watson Media technology to analyze video from every player, and it will score every stroke based on characteristics that may indicate a significant or exciting moment: Cheers or groans from the crowd, an overexcited TV announcer, etc. 

Using all those data points, AI from Watson will score, combined and rank those clips and pull them all together for the highlight clip.

You can read more about this and other IBM technologies used behind the scenes at The Masters.

Okay, well it’s less than 24 hours until the day that golfers around the world wait for and look forward to every year.  You can try calling me this weekend, but you likely won’t get an answer.

And if you find the waiting to be excruciating like I do, check out today’s gallery pics.  They’ll whet your appetite for Augusta National’s great gift to we golfers.

Written by turbotodd

April 10, 2019 at 10:43 am

Would You Like a Human With Your Popcorn?

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I did something I haven’t done in a long time recently. 

I went to an actual movie theatre where they show movies. 

Not Netflix, not Amazon Prime…a real, live movie theatre.

Two things stood out from my experience.

The first was the ticket price. I won’t say what it was, because those prices vary across the country. 

Let’s just say it was higher than that to which I had become accustomed.

The second was, when I got to the area where one purchases tickets…well, I’m not quite sure how to put this, but there weren’t any humans selling tickets.

Not…a….single…one.

Now, this wasn’t some off time mid week. This was a prime weekend matinee showing, and the only way to buy tickets was a kiosk.

So for those of you out there urging us to stand in the grocery line where humans still check other people out (as opposed to self-service checkout), that all sounds great until there are no more humans in that job.

If the movie theatre’s strategy is the direction of our future, just remember this: Robots don’t ever have to worry about standing in an unemployment line. 

That is, unless they’re holding open a place for we humans.

Written by turbotodd

April 9, 2019 at 9:41 am

Posted in 2019, robots

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End of the AI Winter?

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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

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