Ford Self-Driving Vans Will Use Legged Robots to Make Deliveries


Ford is adding legs to its robocars--sort of. The automaker is announcing today that its fleet of autonomous delivery vans will carry more than just packages: Riding along with the boxes in the back there will be a two-legged robot. Digit, Agility Robotics' humanoid unveiled earlier this year on the cover of IEEE Spectrum, is designed to move in a more dynamic fashion than regular robots do, and it's able to walk over uneven terrain, climb stairs, and carry 20-kilogram packages. Ford says in a post on Medium that Digit will bring boxes from the curb all the way to your doorstep, covering those last few meters that self-driving cars are unable to. The company plans to launch a self-driving vehicle service in 2021.

The AI Breakthrough Will Require Researchers Burying Their Hatchets


At their core, neural networks are complex mathematical functions composed of thousands of variables. During the "training" phase, the network ingests numerous labeled examples and tunes its variables based on the common patterns it finds among each class of examples. Afterward, when you run a new piece of data through the network, it can classify the data based on its statistical similarity to examples the network has previously seen. Neural networks are especially efficient at tasks such as image classification, voice recognition, and natural language processing, areas where rule-based AI has historically struggled.

Driverless Delivery Vans Are Here as Production Begins in China


The future of deliveries may be robo-vans. A Chinese startup called Neolix kicked off mass production of its self-driving delivery vehicles Friday -- saying it's the first company globally to do so -- and has lined up giants such as JD.Com Inc. and Huawei Technologies Co. as customers. Neolix expects to deliver a thousand of the vehicles, which resemble tiny vans, within the first year as it broadens out. The implications are potentially huge: Billionaire Jack Ma predicts there will be 1 billion deliveries a day in China within a decade and the commercialization of the technology could provide lessons for autonomous vehicles carrying passengers. Neolix isn't alone in this space as Silicon Valley's Nuro raised almost a billion dollars this year and is starting to deliver groceries in Arizona.

DeepMind's AI has used teamwork to beat humans at a first-person shooter


Deep-learning algorithms have already mastered games like Starcraft to beat humans, and now they have shown they can team up to beat us too. The news: In a paper published in Science yesterday, DeepMind showed how it had let AI programs loose in a modified version of the 3D first-person video game Quake III Arena. The team used an algorithm called "For the Win," which trains a host of agents in parallel using reinforcement learning, the technique that lets AI learn which tactics work and which do not (and that famously enabled DeepMind's AI to win at Go). This time, AI agents were trained on around 450,000 games of Capture the Flag, the classic game that involves snatching a flag from your opponent's base while protecting your own. Each agent could only see a first-person view of the maze-like structure, just as a human player would.

Uncrewed deep-sea robots will help map the world's oceans

New Scientist

More than 80 percent of the world's oceans are currently unmapped, but a $7 million prize pool to explore the deep sea hopes to change that. The Ocean Discovery XPrize was today awarded to teams using uncrewed deep-sea vehicles to map the ocean floor and trace chemical signals underwater. The goal is to develop a comprehensive atlas by 2030. The grand prize required entrants to develop an autonomous vessel capable of mapping at least 250 square kilometres of the sea floor within 24 hours, up to a depth of 4 kilometres below surface level. The maps must be fairly high resolution, with data points taken no more than five metres apart.

New York school district's facial recognition system sparks privacy fears

The Guardian

A school district in western New York is launching a first-of-its-kind facial recognition system, generating new privacy concerns about the powerful but controversial technology. The Lockport city school district is beginning implementation of the Aegis facial recognition system this week, officials said, with the technology expected to be fully up and running in time for the new school year in September. "Much to our dismay, school shootings continue to occur in our country. In many cases, these shootings involve students connected to the schools where these horrific incidents occur," superintendent Michelle Bradley said in a message to parents. "The Lockport city school district continues to make school security a priority."

Rise of the machines: AI thrashes humans in multiplayer shooter 'Quake III Arena'

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON - It's official: the machines are going to destroy you (if, that is, you're a professional gamer). A team of programmers at a British artificial intelligence company has designed automated "agents" that taught themselves how to play the seminal first-person shooter "Quake III Arena," and became so good they consistently beat human opponents. The work of the researchers from DeepMind, which is owned by Google's parent company, Alphabet Inc., was described in a paper published in Science on Thursday and marks the first time the feat has ever been accomplished. To be sure, computers have been proving their dominance over humans in one-on-one turn-based games such as chess ever since IBM's Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997. More recently, a Google AI agent beat the world's No. 1 go player in 2017.

This robot watches you flex to learn to be a better teammate


Flex it: Researchers at MIT have created a robot that closely monitors your biceps as you lift and move things around. The idea is to develop a system capable of collaborating with people more effectively.

If DARPA Has Its Way, AI Will Rule the Wireless Spectrum


In the early 2000s, Bluetooth almost met an untimely end. The first Bluetooth devices struggled to avoid interfering with Wi-Fi routers, a higher-powered, more-established cohort on the radio spectrum, with which Bluetooth devices shared frequencies. Bluetooth engineers eventually modified their standard--and saved their wireless tech from early extinction--by developing frequency-hopping techniques for Bluetooth devices, which shifted operation to unoccupied bands upon detecting Wi-Fi signals. Frequency hopping is just one way to avoid interference, a problem that has plagued radio since its beginning. Long ago, regulators learned to manage spectrum so that in the emerging wireless ecosystem, different radio users were allocated different frequencies for their exclusive use. While this practice avoids the challenges of detecting transmissions and shifting frequencies on the fly, it makes very inefficient use of spectrum, as portions lay fallow.

In Yemen Conflict, Some See A New Age Of Drone Warfare

NPR Technology

Iranian soldiers carry part of a target drone used in air-defense exercises. Iran is also turning some target drones into low-tech weapons for its proxies. Iranian soldiers carry part of a target drone used in air-defense exercises. Iran is also turning some target drones into low-tech weapons for its proxies. In January, a group of high-level military commanders gathered at an air base in Yemen.