Apple iPhone AR, VR Could Improve After Eye-Tracking Company SMI Acquisition

International Business Times

Apple has acquired German eye tracking company SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), MacRumors reported Monday. In the report, MacRumors cited the power of attorney signed by German law firm Hiking Kühn Lüer Wojtek giving power to Delaware-based shell company Vineyard Capital Corporation to represent it in all business related to the acquisition. SMI has been working in the arena of eye-tracking hardware and software for close to three decades in the segments of augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in-car systems, clinical research, cognitive training, linguistics, neuroscience, physical training and biomechanics, and psychology. The tech giant recently announced its ARkit to help developers create augmented reality experiences.

Amazon patents beehive-like structure to house delivery drones in cities

The Guardian

The application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, which was written in 2015 and published last week, included a number of drawings of drones flying in and out of tall cylinder-shaped buildings that Amazon wants to locate in central metropolitan areas. The buildings would also allow for traditional vehicle deliveries and could possibly include a self-service location for customers to pick up items in person. If Amazon moves forward with its vision of urban drone centers outlined in the patent application, the Seattle-based corporation could also likely face a range of obstacles in the regulation of the nascent industry of commercial drones – including attempts to control their movement and local zoning and development laws. The company also made headlines last year with a patent for flying warehouses, called "airborne fulfillment centers", that could be located above metropolitan areas, functioning like giant airships coordinating drone deliveries.

Tesla's new AI guru will help its cars learn for themselves


Elon Musk has hired a new director of AI research at Tesla, and it may signal a plan to rethink the way its automated driving works. This week, Musk poached Andrej Karpathy, an expert on vision, deep learning, and reinforcement learning, from OpenAI, a nonprofit that Musk and others are funding that's dedicated to "discovering and enacting the path to safe artificial general intelligence." After Stanford, Karpathy interned with DeepMind, where reinforcement learning is a major focus. Appointing Karpathy a Tesla's director of AI research indicates something else about the challenge of autonomous driving: there's some distance left to go before it's solved (see "What to Know Before You Get in a Self-Driving Car").

Drone Company Leaders Meet With Trump To Ask For More Clarity On Rules


This week, U.S. drone companies met with President Trump to discuss industry regulations. NPR's Melissa Block talks with April Glaser of Recode about how these companies actually want more regulation.

What Does Your Smart Meter Know About You?

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

But machine learning systems, looking at that data, can tell something else about your home besides its energy use--they can tell if you are home, or if you are not. In a recent paper, Jin and his colleagues demonstrated that machine learning systems can be trained to detect occupancy without any initial information from a home owner. Using this assumption, the machine learning algorithms were able to tease out more detailed characteristics about power consumption when a home is occupied; they then are able to tell when someone is home or not, even when that person's patterns are outside the norm. "Right now, meters are sending accurate information about energy consumption.

As Uber Flails, Its Self-Driving Car Research Rolls On


Last month, Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, its self-driving car lead who allegedly brought that IP over from Google. In the past year, it has lost talented employees to competitors like Ford's Argo AI and Aurora, a startup run by former Google autonomous vehicle head Chris Urmson. But researchers, roboticists, and entrepreneurs in the small automation community say Uber remains stuffed with smart, hardworking people, and that the research is going forward at Uber's Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Peter Rander, one of those poached CMU roboticists who became engineering lead at the ATG, founded Argo AI, joined by autonomous vehicle engineer Brett Browning.

Why Net Neutrality Matters


Under the current net neutrality rules, broadband providers like Comcast and Charter, and wireless providers like AT&T and Verizon, can't block or slow down your access to lawful content, nor can they create so-called "fast lanes" for content providers who are will to pay extra. In other words, your internet provider can't slow your Amazon Prime Video stream to a crawl so you'll keep your Comcast cable plan, and your mobile carrier can't stop you from using Microsoft's Skype instead of your own Verizon cell phone minutes. Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and a handful of other services may dominate the online video market, but without net neutrality, broadband providers might try to make it more expensive to access popular streaming sites in an attempt to keep customers paying for expensive television packages. Lewis also points out that there are a few other consumer friendly protections in the FCC's net neutrality rules.

The Curiosity rover and other spacecraft are learning to think for themselves

Popular Science

That's why engineers are increasingly giving spacecraft the ability to make their own decisions. Space robots have long been able to control certain onboard systems--to regulate power usage, for example--but artificial intelligence is now giving rovers and orbiters the ability to collect and analyze science data, then decide what info to send back to Earth, without any human input. Since May 2016, NASA has been testing out an autonomous system on the Curiosity rover. A new report shows that the new system, named AEGIS (Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science), is working well, and has the potential to accelerate scientific discoveries.

Watch This Robot Navigate Like a Rat

IEEE Spectrum Robotics Channel

Rats are nimble navigators, able to find their way around, under, and over obstacles, and through the tightest spaces. Roboticists have long dreamed of giving their creations similar navigation skills. At the Queensland University of Technology, in Brisbane, Australia, Michael Milford and his collaborators have spent the past 14 years honing a robot navigation system modeled on the brains of rats. This biologically-inspired approach, they hope, could help robots navigate dynamic environments without requiring advanced, costly sensors and computationally-intensive algorithms.

When AI Can Transcribe Everything

The Atlantic

Despite the recent emergence of browser-based transcription aids, transcription's an area of drudgery in the modern Western economy where machines can't quite squeeze human beings out of the equation. That is until last year, when Microsoft built one that could. Automatic speech recognition, or ASR, is an area that has gripped the firm's chief speech scientist, Xuedong Huang, since he entered a doctoral program at Scotland's Edinburgh University. Huang and his colleagues used their software to transcribe the NIST 2000 CTS test set, a bundle of recorded conversations that's served as the benchmark for speech recognition work for more than 20 years.