Yet as staff gathered on Tuesday morning at Uber's headquarters in San Francisco, there was one very conspicuous absence. "Let us address the elephant in the room," said Arianna Huffington, perhaps the most high-profile member of Uber's board. The answer: Travis Kalanick, Uber's 40-year-old co-founder and chief executive, was taking a leave of absence from the taxi-hailing app he has transformed into a global behemoth valued at almost $70bn. Huffington told Uber's staff that the company would not await Kalanick's return, choosing instead to act immediately on the findings of a damning investigation, accepted by the board, into the company's workplace culture amid claims of sexual harassment. "Uber is his life," she said of Kalanick. The embattled company had hit the reset button, without its controversial CEO, it would, Huffington declared, be "a new Uber".
Now select users will get to test it. One of the most anticipated new features of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 prior to the phone's launch in March was an artificial intelligence assistant named Bixby that you were supposed to be able to control by voice. Unfortunately while some of Bixby's capabilities made into onto the phones, the voice-based commands that would make Bixby respond more like the Google Assistant, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa was delayed, at least in the U.S. (Bixby is fully operational in South Korea, where Samsung is based). On Friday, Samsung Electronics America announced it will give "select" Galaxy S8 and S8 users early access to Bixby's vocal capabilities as part of what it still considered an early preview test. Samsung hasn't disclosed how many Bixby testers will gain access to this sneak preview, which will let you hold down a Bixby button and start speaking to get the phone to send texts, change settings and make calls.
Artificial intelligence is ascendant in medicine--from AI eye doctors to chatbot therapists. As medical databases balloon in size and complexity, researchers are teaching computers to sift through and identify patterns, hinting at a future in which machine learning algorithms diagnose disease all on their own. Sometimes, algorithms pick up on early signs of disease that humans wouldn't even know to look for. Last week, researchers at the University of North Carolina and Washington University reported an AI that can identify autistic infants long before they present behavioral symptoms. It's a thrilling opportunity: Early detection gives autism neuroscience a big leg up, as researchers try to understand what goes wrong during development.
A buried line in a new Facebook report about chatbots' conversations with one another offers a remarkable glimpse at the future of language. In the report, researchers at the Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research lab describe using machine learning to train their "dialog agents" to negotiate. At one point, the researchers write, they had to tweak one of their models because otherwise the bot-to-bot conversation "led to divergence from human language as the agents developed their own language for negotiating." They had to use what's called a fixed supervised model instead. In other words, the model that allowed two bots to have a conversation--and use machine learning to constantly iterate strategies for that conversation along the way--led to those bots communicating in their own non-human language.
Wrangling a pig--even a virtual one--is much easier if you get a friend to help. This much seems clear from a contest organized by Microsoft researchers to test how artificially intelligent agents could cooperate to solve tricky problems. How best to cooperate with your pig-wrangling pal is another question. The competition addresses an area of artificial intelligence that has had relatively little attention so far. AI researchers often develop software capable of performing a specific human task, such as playing chess or Go, and then measure it according to its ability to defeat a human player.
Robots that sketch, play ping pong, solve mazes, and attempt to juggle strutted their stuff at the annual demo day for Stanford's Experimental Robotics class. Each year, Professor Oussama Khatib's students aim to teach a selection of industrial robots some new skills. The toughest project: teaching a Kuka robot to juggle. The other projects included two robots that had been taught to draw (a Sawyer and a Puma), a Ping Pong–playing robot (the Kuka again) that scored a few points against its human opponents, a cowboy hat–wearing Sawyer robot that shot at a moving target, a Puma 500 robot that manipulated a maze to send a ball along the correct path, and a drone-loading Sawyer robot that tracked a less-than-stable hovering drone. Check them all out in the video below.
A drunk man reportedly ran into an armless K5 robot in the Knightscope parking lot in Mountain View, California and met his match. The April incident occurred after 41-year-old Jason Sylvain tipped over the 300-pound robot. Unfortunately, when the roving security robot found itself off-balance, the K5 called the police and signaled for help. The company spokesman Stacy Dean Stephens said that members of the robot company Knightscope -- which developed the robot that appears similar to the iconic Star Wars Droid R2D2 -- came out and detained Sylvain as the police came. Robo-Cops Are Now A Reality! Silicon Valley Gets KnightScope K5 Patrolling Robot… https://t.co/BiytOrxpPU
Those fretfully debating artificial intelligence (AI) might best start by appraising the half dozen general pathways under exploration in laboratories around the world. While these general approaches overlap, they offer distinct implications for what characteristics emerging, synthetic minds might display, including (for example) whether it will be easy or hard to instill human-style ethical values. Most problematic may be those efforts taking place in secret. The "Moore's Law crossing" argument is appraised, in light of discoveries that brain computation may involve much more than just synapses. Will efforts to develop Sympathetic Robotics tweak compassion from humans long before automatons are truly self-aware? It is argued that most foreseeable problems might be dealt with the same way that human versions of oppression and error are best addressed -- via reciprocal accountability. For this to happen, there should be diversity of types, designs and minds, interacting under fair competition in a generally open environment. As varied concepts from science fiction are reified by rapidly advancing technology, some trends are viewed worriedly by our smartest peers. Portions of the intelligencia -- typified by Google's Ray Kurzweil  -- foresee AI, or Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) as likely to bring good news, perhaps even transcendence for members of the Olde Race of bio-organic humanity 1.0. Others, such as Stephen Hawking and Francis Fukuyama, warn that the arrival of sapient, or supersapient machinery may bring an end to our species -- or at least its relevance on the cosmic stage -- a potentiality evoked in many a lurid Hollywood film. Swedish philosopher Nicholas Bostrom, in Superintelligence , suggests that even advanced AIs who obey their initial, human defined goals will likely generate "instrumental subgoals" such as self-preservation, cognitive enhancement, and resource acquisition. In one nightmare scenario, Bostrom posits an AI that -- ordered to "make paperclips" -- proceeds to overcome all obstacles and transform the solar system into paper clips. A variant on this theme makes up the grand arc in the famed "three laws" robotic series by science fiction author Isaac Asimov . Taking middle ground, SpaceX/Tesla entrepreneur Elon Musk has joined with YCombinator founder Sam Altman to establish OpenAI , an endeavor that aims to keep artificial intelligence research -- and its products -- accountable by maximizing transparency and accountability. As one who has promoted those two key words for a quarter of a century, I wholly approve .
Apple and Amazon are fierce competitors, especially now that the iPhone maker has released its own home speaker. However, the companies seem to have been putting their differences aside lately. This year, Amazon and Apple introduced changes that goes beyond their rivalry, with the most recent move announced this week at the Worldwide Developers Conference. The Apple logo is displayed at a store in the central business district of Sydney, April 6, 2017. Apple announced the Amazon video app will finally come to the Apple TV worldwide this year.