This Week In Digital – Week 24, 2019

This Dota 2 AI predicts player death within a 5-second window, Smart Contract Startup Tapped By Google As Blockchain Partner, Alexa’s voice apps for kids can now offer purchases that parents approve, IBM’s AI creates new labelled image sets using semantic content, Facebook says it’s shipping new Portal hardware in the fall and many more. Here’s your weekly update of This Week In Digital covering all the latest tech developments around the world.

Facebook says it’s shipping new Portal hardware in the fall – Lucas Matney, June 10, 2019.

Portal devices may still have plenty of privacy questions lingering around them since launch, but that hasn’t swayed the company’s dedication to bringing more video chat hardware to market. Onstage at Vox Media’s Code Convention, Facebook’s VP of AR/VR Andrew Bosworth shares that sales of the existing hardware were “really good,” but more interestingly let fly that there would be new form factors of Portal hardware coming to market in the fall of this year.

Amazon launches Personalize, a fully managed AI-powered recommendation service – Kyle Wiggers, June 10, 2019.

Amazon today announced the general availability of Amazon Personalize, an AWS service that facilitates the development of websites, mobile apps, and content management and email marketing systems that suggest products, provide tailored search results, and customize funnels on the fly. It’s available in select AWS regions to start, including US East (Ohio), US East (North Virginia), US West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Asia Pacific (Singapore), and EU (Ireland). Additional locations are on the way.

IBM, KPMG, Merck, Walmart team up for drug supply chain blockchain pilot – Ron Miller, June 13, 2019.

IBM announced its latest blockchain initiative today. This one is in partnership with KPMG, Merk and Walmart to build a drug supply chain blockchain pilot. These four companies are coming together to help come up with a solution to track certain drugs as they move through a supply chain. IBM  is acting as the technology partner, KPMG brings a deep understanding of the compliance issues, Merk is of course a drug company and Walmart would be a drug distributor through its pharmacies and care clinics.

This Dota 2 AI predicts player death within a 5-second window – Kyle Wiggers, June 13, 2019.

If there’s one insight that might be gleaned from continuing AI research, it’s that many events once assumed unknowable are, in fact, predictable with relatively high accuracy. Case in point? A paper (“Time to Die: Death Prediction in Dota 2 using Deep Learning“) published by researchers at the University of York describes a system that can reliably anticipate (within a 5-second window) which player characters won’t survive Dota 2 matches.

AI improves Alexa’s error rate with challenging training sets – Kyle Wiggers, June 13, 2019.

Machine learning algorithms at the core of voice assistants learn to make predictions from libraries of labeled samples. For instance, Amazon’s Alexa is regularly fed text snippets like “Play the Prince song 1999,” where “1999” and “Prince” are mapped to the categories “SongName” and “ArtistName,” respectively. It’s a highly effective means of driving systems to classify data on their own, but it’s not exactly easy — annotation is a painstaking process that must be undertaken by hand.

Smart Contract Startup Tapped By Google As Blockchain Partner – John Biggs, June 14, 2019.

Google has tapped a startup token project, Chainlink, as an official Cloud Partner and the relationship suggests a deep and detailed interest in blockchain technology by the Mountain View giant. The partnership, described in a detail Google Cloud blog post, aims to place BigQuery data on the blockchain using a “Chainlink oracle smart contract.” BigQuery is Google’s data warehousing and business intelligence solution.

AI Weekly: ICML 2019 top papers and highlights – Khari Johnson, June 14, 2019.

Conference organizers gave best paper honors to “Rates of Convergence for Sparse Variational Gaussian Process Regression” from University of Cambridge and “Challenging Common Assumptions in the Unsupervised Learning of Disentangled Representations.” With authors from ETH Zurich, Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, and Google Brain, the latter work evaluates more than 12,000 disentanglement models to dispel some beliefs. It asserts, for example, that unsupervised learning of disentangled representations is impossible without inductive biases on models and data.

Google’s Evolved Transformer achieves state-of-the-art performance in translation tasks – Kyle Wiggers, June 14, 2019.

The Transformer, a type of AI architecture introduced in a 2017 paper (“Attention Is All You Need“) coauthored by scientists at Google, excels at writing prose and product reviews, synthesizing voices, and crafting harmonies in the style of classical composers. But a team of Google researchers believed it could be taken a step further with AutoML, a technique in which a “controller” system identifies a “child” architecture that can then be tailored to a particular task. Remarkably, the result of their work

Alexa’s voice apps for kids can now offer purchases that parents approve – Sarah Perez, June 14, 2019.

Amazon will now allow developers to offer premium content for purchase in Alexa skills aimed at children. The company on Friday introduced new tools for building skills with in-app purchases that requires the Amazon account holder — typically mom or dad — to approve or decline the requested purchase via a text or email. In-skill purchasing was first introduced to all U.S. Alexa developers last year, and more recently became available to international developers.

Researchers say 6G will stream human brain-caliber AI to wireless devices – Jeremy Horwitz, June 14, 2019.

As 5G networks continue to expand in cities and countries across the globe, key researchers have already started to lay the foundation for 6G deployments roughly a decade from now. This time, they say, the key selling point won’t be faster phones or wireless home internet service, but rather a range of advanced industrial and scientific applications — including wireless, real-time remote access to human brain-level AI computing.

IBM’s AI creates new labelled image sets using semantic content – Kyle Wiggers, June 14, 2019.

In a paper scheduled to be presented next week during the annual Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), scientists at IBM, Tel Aviv University, and Technion describe a novel AI model design — Label-Set Operations (LaSO ) networks — designed to combine pairs of labeled image examples (e.g., a pic of a dog annotated “dog” and a sheep annotated “sheep”) to create new examples that incorporate the seed images’ labels (a single pic of a dog and sheep annotated “dog” and “sheep”). The coauthors believe that in the future, LaSO networks could be used to augment corpora that lack sufficient real-world data.

Facebook open-sources AI Habitat to help robots navigate realistic environments – Khari Johnson, June 14, 2019.

Facebook AI Research is today making available AI Habitat, a simulator that can train AI agents that embody things like a home robot to operate in environments meant to mimic typical real-world settings like an apartment or office. For a home robot to understand what to do when you say “Can you check if laptop is in the other room and if it is, can you bring it to me?” will require drawing together multiple forms of intelligence.

MIT CSAIL’s AI can visualize objects using touch – Kyle Wiggers, June 16, 2019.

Robots that can learn to see by touch are within reach, claim researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Really. In a newly published paper that’ll be presented next week at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition in Long Beach, California, they describe an AI system capable of generating visual representations of objects from tactile signals, and of predicting tactility from snippets of visual data.


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