coondoggie (973519) writes "Call it the ultimate auto-pilot — an automated system that can help take care of all phases of aircraft flight-even perhaps helping pilots overcome system failures in-flight. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) will in May detail a new program called Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) that would build upon what the agency called the considerable advances that have been made in aircraft automation systems over the past 50 years, as well as the advances made in remotely piloted aircraft automation, to help reduce pilot workload, augment mission performance and improve aircraft safety."
Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.
At Microsoft's BUILD conference today, the company announced that the Start Menu will officially be returning to Windows 8.1. It will combine the Windows 7 Start Menu with a handful of Metro-style tiles. They're also making it so Windows 8 apps can run in windows using the normal desktop environment. In addition to the desktop announcements, Microsoft also talked about big changes for Windows on mobile devices and Internet-of-Things devices. The company will be giving Windows away for free to OEMs making phones and tablets (9" screens and smaller), and for IoT devices that can run it. Microsoft also finally unveiled Cortana, their digital assistant software that's similar to Siri.
Increasing automation worries some people as a danger to the livelihood of those who currently earn their livings at jobs that AI and robots (or just smarter software and more sophisticated technology generally) might be well-suited to, as the costs of the technology options drop. The Washington Post, though, features an eye-opening look at one workplace where automation certainly does not rule. It's "one of the weirdest workplaces in the U.S. government" — a subterranean office space in what was once a limestone mine, where 600 Office of Personnel Management employees process the retirement papers of other government employees. The Post article describes how this mostly-manual process works (and why it hasn't been changed much to take advantage of advancing technology), including with a video that might remind you of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. As the writer puts it, "[T]hat system has a spectacular flaw. It still must be done entirely by hand, and almost entirely on paper. The employees here pass thousands of case files from cavern to cavern and then key in retirees’ personal data, one line at a time. They work underground not for secrecy but for space. The old mine’s tunnels have room for more than 28,000 file cabinets of paper records."
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Using sophisticated pattern matching software, researchers have had substantially better success with a computer, than was obtained with human subjects, in spotting faked facial expressions of pain. [Original, paywalled article in Current Biology] From the Reuters piece: '... human subjects did no better than chance — about 50 percent ...', 'The computer was right 85 percent of the time.'"
Beeftopia (1846720) writes "The New York Genome Center and IBM will investigate whether Watson can be used to parse cancer genome data and then recommend treatments. The trial involves 20 to 25 glioblastoma patients with poor prognoses. The article states, 'It should theoretically be possible to analyze [genomic] data and use it to customize a treatment that targets the specific mutations present in tumor cells. But right now, doing so requires a squad of highly trained geneticists, genomics experts, and clinicians. It's a situation that can't scale to handle the [number of] patients with glioblastoma, much less other cancers. Instead, that gusher of information is going to be pointed at Watson... Watson will figure out which mutations are distinct to the tumor, what protein networks they effect, and which drugs target proteins that are part of those networks. The net result will be a picture of the biochemical landscape inside the tumor cells, along with some suggestions on how clinicians might consider intervening to change the landscape.'"
SternisheFan sends this news from CTV: "The Cubestormer 3 took 18 months to build but only needed 3.253 seconds to solve [a Rubik's cube], breaking the existing record. Unveiled at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham, U.K., the Cubestormer 3 is constructed from the modular children's building-block toy but uses a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone with a special ARM chip addition as its brain. It analyzes the muddled-up Rubik's Cube and powers each of the robot's four 'hands,' which spin the cube until all sides are in order. Created by ARM engineer David Gilday and Securi-Plex security systems engineer Mike Dobson, Cubestormer 3's new record shaves just over two seconds off the existing record, set by Cubestormer 2, which the pair also built."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In early March, Lit Motors founder Danny Kim hit the road to meet investors. The Portland native needed to keep the momentum growing for his small firm, which builds the two-wheeled C-1. His modest lab, located in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood, could accommodate another 12 employees—but he needed the money to fund them, and to build a manufacturing facility that could turn his prototype ideas into a reality. Like Elon Musk and other manufacturing savants, Kim is someone who enjoys the challenge of building things—whether it's eyeglasses, chairs, or motor vehicles from scratch. He's spent the past five years re-thinking modern transportation, and using those insights to design prototypes of two-wheeled, motor-driven vehicles that can self-balance with a dancer's grace, thanks to an integrated software platform and a patented gyroscopic system. In a wide-ranging conversation with Slashdot, Kim discussed his plans for manufacturing the C-1, as well as the challenges in convincing consumers to try out a new kind of vehicle. "Seventy-two percent of commuters drive alone, so it just made sense to cut the car in half," he said, explaining the decision to go with two wheels instead of four. 'You have to think about this two-wheeled car as a robot because of its stability. It purely uses our AI/stability algorithm so it can balance and you don't have to. We had to develop our own firmware for our own dynamic system. It is code heavy.'"
dcblogs writes "Bill Gates and Alan Greenspan, in separate forums, offered outlooks and prescriptions for fixing jobs and income. Gates is concerned that graduates of U.S. secondary schools may not be able stay ahead of software automation. 'These things are coming fast,' said Gates, in an interview with the American Enterprise Institute 'Twenty years from now labor demand for a lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don't think people have that in their mental model.' Meanwhile, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan believes one way to attack income inequity is to raise the H-1B cap. If the program were expanded, income wouldn't necessarily go down much, but it would go down enough to make an impact. Income inequality is a relative concept, he argued. People who are absolutely at the top of the scale in 1925, for instance, would be getting food stamps today, said Greenspan. 'You don't have to necessarily bring up the bottom if you bring the top down.'"
Hallie Siegel writes "Robotics expert Alan Winfield offers a sobering counterpoint to Ray Kurzweil's recent claim that 2029 will be the year that robots will surpass humans. From the article: 'It’s not just that building robots as smart as humans is a very hard problem. We have only recently started to understand how hard it is well enough to know that whole new theories ... will be needed, as well as new engineering paradigms. Even if we had solved these problems and a present day Noonian Soong had already built a robot with the potential for human equivalent intelligence – it still might not have enough time to develop adult-equivalent intelligence by 2029'"
The latest title in the stealth game series Thief launched in North America yesterday for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows. Reviews of the game are mixed. Rock, Paper, Shotgun's John Walker says that the story is poor, but "it matters very little, since it's only there as an excuse to link epic, intricate and hugely enjoyable levels together." He also laments the loss of a dedicated "Jump" button, noting that veterans of the series will miss it. "There are far too often obstacles that a toddler could easily scale, but Garrett won't even try, and his refusing to jump certain gaps in order to force a challenge is maddening." Polygon's review says navigating the game's open environments was fun, but "In the latter half of the game, when a glimpse of that openness was dangled in front of me once again, Thief snatched it away with murderous AI and controls that didn't feel up to the challenge." They add, "a new obsession with scripted story sequences and stealth action often leaves Thief feeling like the worst of both worlds." Giant Bomb's review is brutal, saying Thief is "a game that spends an inordinate amount of time making the player do uninteresting things while shoving the more fun stuff so far in the corner you'd be forgiven for missing most of it."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Ray Kurzweil, the technologist who's spent his career advocating the Singularity, discussed his current work as a director of engineering at Google with The Guardian. Google has big plans in the artificial-intelligence arena. It recently acquired DeepMind, self-billed 'cutting edge artificial intelligence company' for $400 million; that's in addition to snatching up all sorts of startups and research scientists devoted to everything from robotics to machine learning. Thanks to the massive datasets generated by the world's largest online search engine (and the infrastructure allowing that engine to run), those scientists could have enough information and computing power at their disposal to create networked devices capable of human-like thought. Kurzweil, having studied artificial intelligence for decades, is at the forefront of this in-house effort. In his interview with The Guardian, he couldn't resist throwing some jabs at other nascent artificial intelligence systems on the market, most notably IBM's Watson: 'IBM's Watson is a pretty weak reader on each page, but it read the 200m pages of Wikipedia. And basically what I'm doing at Google is to try to go beyond what Watson could do. To do it at Google scale. Which is to say to have the computer read tens of billions of pages. Watson doesn't understand the implications of what it's reading.' That sounds very practical, but at a certain point Kurzweil's predictions veer into what most people would consider science fiction. He believes, for example, that a significant portion of people alive today could end up living forever, thanks to the ministrations of ultra-intelligent computers and beyond-cutting-edge medical technology."
An anonymous reader writes "Corporate employees editing Wikipedia articles about themselves or their employers sometimes commit major violations of Wikipedia's "bright line" against paid editing, devised by Jimbo Wales himself, to prevent 'COI' editing. (Consider the recent flap over the firm Wiki-PR's activities, for example.) Yet the Wikipediocracy website, run by critics of Wikipedia management, has just published an article about IBM employees editing Wikipedia articles. Not only is such editing apparently commonplace, it's being badly done as well. And most bizarrely, one of the IBM employees is a Wikipedia administrator, who is married to another Wikipedia administrator. She works on the Watson project, which uses online databases to build its AI system....including the full text of Wikipedia." Reading about edit wars is also far more informative (if less entertaining) than reading the edit wars themselves.
malachiorion writes "I'm surprised I haven't seen more coverage of Lockheed Martin's autonomous truck convoy demonstration — they sent a group of robotified vehicles through urban and rural environments at Fort Hood, without teleoperation or human intervention. It's an interesting milestone, and sort of a tragic one, since troops could have used robotic vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan. What's fascinating, though, is that Lockheed is hoping to get into Afghanistan just before the U.S. withdraws, to help ferry gear. Plus, they have their sights set on what would be the defense contractor's first real commercial product—kits that turn tractor trailers into autonomous vehicles. Here's my post for Popular Science."
v3rgEz writes "A new startup out of MIT offers early adopters a chance at the afterlife, of sorts: It promises to build an AI representation of the dearly departed based on chat logs, email, Facebook, and other digital exhaust generated over the years. "Eterni.me generates a virtual YOU, an avatar that emulates your personality and can interact with, and offer information and advice to your family and friends after you pass away," the team promises. But can a chat bot plus big data really produce anything beyond a creepy, awkward facsimile?"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Researchers in Germany have discovered what they say is a way to get computers to do more than execute all the steps of a problem-solving calculation as fast as possible – by getting them to imitate the human brain's habit of finding shortcuts to the right answer. A team of scientists from Freie Universität Berlin, the Bernstein Center Berlin, and Heidelberg University have refined the idea of parallel computing into one they describe as neuromorphic computing. In their design, a whole series of processors designed as silicon neurons rather than ordinary CPUs are linked together in a network similar to the highly interconnected mesh that links nerve cells in the human brain. Problems fed into the neuro mesh are broken up and processed in parallel, but not always using the same process. The method by which neuromorphic processors handle problems varies with the way they're linked together, as is the case with neurons in the brain. The chips are designed to copy the layout and functions of brain cells, but the way they're interconnected is based on another highly efficient biological model. 'The design of the network architecture has been inspired by the odor-processing nervous system of insects,' said one of the researchers. 'This system is optimized by nature for a highly parallel processing of the complex chemical world.' In tests using real-world datasets, the prototype was able to match the performance of specialized Bayeseian pattern-matching systems. Even better, the stable decisions reached by 'output neuron populations' take approximately 100 milliseconds, which is the same speed required by the insect nervous systems on which the network design is based, according to the paper."
theodp writes "Weighing in for the WSJ on Spike Jonze's Oscar-nominated, futuristic love story Her (parodies), Stephen Wolfram — whose Wolfram Alpha drives the AI-like component of Siri — thinks that an operating system like Samantha as depicted in the film isn't that far off. In Her, OS Samantha and BeautifulHandwrittenLetters.com employee Theodore Twombly have a relationship that appears to exhibit all the elements of a typical romance, despite the OS's lack of a physical body. They talk late into the night, relax on the beach, and even double date with friends. Both Wolfram and Google director of research Peter Norvig (who hadn't yet seen the film) believe this type of emotional attachment isn't a big hurdle to clear. 'People are only too keen, I think, to anthropomorphize things around them,' explained Wolfram. 'Whether they're stuffed animals, Tamagotchi, things in videogames, whatever else.' By the way, why no supporting actor nomination for Jonze's portrayal of foul-mouthed animated video game character Alien Child?"
TechCrunch reports that Google has acquired London-based artificial intelligence firm Deep Mind. TechCrunch notes that the purchase price, as reported by The Information, was somewhere north of $500 million, while a report at PC World puts the purchase price lower, at mere $400 million. Whatever the price, the acquisition means that Google has beaten out Facebook, which reportedly was also interested in Deep Mind. Exactly what the startup will bring to Google isn't clear, though it seems to fit well with the emphasis on AI that the company underscored with its hiring of futurist Ray Kurzweil: "DeepMind's site currently only has a landing page, which says that it is 'a cutting edge artificial intelligence company' to build general-purpose learning algorithms for simulations, e-commerce, and games. As of December, the startup had about 75 employees, reports The Information. In 2012, Carnegie Mellon professor Larry Wasserman wrote that the 'startup is trying to build a system that thinks. This was the original dream of AI. As Shane [Legg] explained to me, there has been huge progress in both neuroscience and ML and their goal is to bring these things together. I thought it sounded crazy until he told me the list of famous billionaires who have invested in the company.'"
mask.of.sanity writes "Life could become more difficult for fraudsters on Skype thanks to new research by Microsoft boffins that promises to cut down on fake accounts across the platform. The research (PDF) combined information from diverse sources including a user's profile, activities, and social connections into a supervised machine learning environment that could automate the presently manual tasks of fraud detection. The results show the framework boosted fraud detection rates for particular account types by 68 per cent with a 5 per cent false positive rate."
Zothecula writes "Scientists at Brigham Young University (BYU) have developed an algorithm that can accurately identify objects in images or videos and can learn to recognize new objects on its own. Although other object recognition systems exist, the Evolution-Constructed Features algorithm is notable in that it decides for itself what features of an object are significant for identifying the object and is able to learn new objects without human intervention."