Asia


U.N. can't confirm Saudi oil facilities and airport were attacked with Iranian weapons

The Japan Times

UNITED NATIONS – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the United Nations has not been able to independently corroborate that the cruise missiles and drones used in attacks earlier this year on an airport and oil facilities in Saudi Arabia "are of Iranian origin." The U.N. chief said in a report to the council obtained Friday by The Associated Press that the U.N. also can't confirm that the missiles and drones were transferred from Iran "in a manner inconsistent" with the Security Council resolution that endorsed the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six key countries. The United States has blamed Iran for the attacks. The Saudis said the missiles and drones were Iranian but stopped short of accusing Iran of firing them. The U.N. chief said the U.N. examined debris from the weapon systems used in the attacks and is still collecting and analyzing additional information and trying to establish the supply chain.


A Robot-Themed Video Produced by Artificial Intelligence … That's How Storefriendly of Asia Rolls!

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Some companies just don't mess around … They see the future and embrace the tools and resources to take them there. That's how the Storefriendly self-storage brand in Asia is doing it! The operator just released an innovative video that not only highlights its GObots unit-retrieval service but displays the power of artificial intelligence (AI). "Make Space for the Future" was developed by feeding 200 pieces of company-related information into an AI program and machine-learning system. The result is a flamboyant ad featuring Gary the GObot that illustrates the operator's services, technology features, customer appeal and more.


World's First AI University Has More Than 3200 Applicants Already

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According to media reports more than 3,200 students have applied for the school in the first week admissions were open. Many of the applicants came from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, India, and China. In October Abu Dhabi announced the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, which will enable graduate students, businesses, and governments to advance AI. The university is named after the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is an advocate for developing human capital through science. The school aims to create a new model of academia and research for AI and to "unleash AI's full potential."


These were the most popular online courses in India in 2019

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For India's online learners, 2019 was the "Year of AI." Artificial Intelligence (AI) emerged as the most popular subject among e-learners, accounting for nearly two million enrollments in the last year alone, according to online learning platform Coursera's latest learner trends released yesterday (Dec. The analysis included 45 million learners, including five million Indians, on the platform. AI became accessible to the masses with AI For Everyone, which was launched in February this year by deeplearning.ai, Taught by Ng himself, AI For Everyone is described as a "primer course, geared toward non-technical learners--from marketers and designers to financiers and CEOs." It was the fifth most popular Coursera course of the year globally, and the fourth most popular in India.


John Zimmer, Tony Fernandes: Charting the future of transportation

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Those were some of the questions posed by John Zimmer, president and co-founder of U.S. rideshare firm Lyft, at the recent Rakuten Optimism 2019 conference in Yokohama, Japan. Lyft became the first ridesharing company to go public earlier this year when it completed an IPO with a valuation of $24 billion. It has also been pursuing autonomous driving technology: in partnership with Aptiv, Lyft recently notched 50,000 rides in Las Vegas in just a year, and has recently launched Waymo autonomous vehicles on the Lyft platform in Phoenix, Arizona. Against that background, Zimmer spoke about the future of transport with Mickey Mikitani, CEO of early Lyft investor, Rakuten. "We have to think about what is the right infrastructure to support (the future of transport)," Zimmer said during his second appearance at Optimism since speaking at the inaugural conference last year in San Francisco.


Artificial intelligence puts final notes on Beethoven's '10th Symphony' The Japan Times

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BERLIN – A few notes scribbled in a notebook are all that German composer Ludwig van Beethoven left of his 10th Symphony before his death in 1827. Now, a team of musicologists and programmers is racing to complete a version of the piece using artificial intelligence, ahead of the 250th anniversary of his birth next year. "The progress has been impressive, even if the computer still has a lot to learn," said Christine Siegert, head of archives at Beethoven House in the composer's hometown of Bonn.


Tokyo taxi firms tie up to offer autonomous driving experience for foreign visitors

The Japan Times

A consortium of companies is offering foreign visitors in Tokyo a taste of autonomous driving, in the world's first demonstration of a project that uses both an airport shuttle bus and a self-driving taxi to provide smooth travel from the airport to the Marunouchi shopping district near Tokyo Station. The Mobility as a Service experiment, which allows reservations by smartphone, is to be operated from Jan. 20 to Feb. 1. Foreign nationals are able to reserve a shuttle bus from Haneda or Narita airport to Tokyo City Air Terminal, and then ride an autonomous taxi from there on the around 3 kilometers leg to Marunouchi. They will also be able to ride in a fully autonomous single-seat vehicle for free on select days, and use a tablet to choose their destination within the Marunouchi area. The autonomous taxi will have a backup driver for safety reasons. Reservations for foreign nationals via smartphone app began on Dec. 2 and will run until Jan. 9.


For Chinese kids and young adults, world of computer coding is child's play

The Japan Times

BEIJING – Wearing a pair of black-rimmed glasses and a red T-shirt, an 8-year-old Chinese boy is logged in for an online coding lesson -- as the teacher. Vita has set up a coding tutorial channel on the Chinese video streaming site Bilibili since August and has so far garnered nearly 60,000 followers and over 1 million views. He is among a growing number of children in China who are learning coding even before they enter primary school. The trend has been fueled by parents' belief that coding skills will be essential for Chinese teenagers given the government's technological drive. "Coding's not that easy but also not that difficult -- at least not as difficult as you have imagined," said Vita, who lives in Shanghai.


China's AI Unicorns Can Spot Faces. Now They Need New Tricks

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A warehouse in an industrial park about an hour's drive north of downtown Beijing offers a paradoxical picture of China's much-hyped, and increasingly controversial, artificial intelligence boom. Inside the building, a handful of squat cylindrical robots scuttle about, following an intricate and invisible pattern. Occasionally, one zips beneath a stack of shelves, raises it gently off the ground, then brings it to a station where a human worker can grab items for packing. A handful of engineers stare intently at code running on a bank of computers. The robots and the AI behind them were developed by Megvii, one of China's vaunted AI unicorns.


SoftBank leads $30 million investment in Accel Robotics for AI-enabled cashierless stores

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Accel Robotics, one of a growing number of AI startups that's setting out to enable automated cashierless stores, has raised $30 million in a series A round of funding led by SoftBank, with participation from New Ground Ventures, Toyo Kanetsu Corporate Venture Investment Partnership, and RevTech Ventures. Founded out of San Diego in 2015, Accel Robotics is developing the AI and computer vision smarts needed for checkout-free stores, which are designed to make queuing a thing of the past and will generate vast swathes of consumer data. The general idea is that the shopper simply walks into a store, picks items from the shelves, and then walks out again -- with the receipt sent directly to their mobile device. Accel Robotics has largely flown under the radar compared to other companies operating in the burgeoning cashierless store sphere, but it said it is already working on deployments across North America and Japan -- including in restaurants and drugstore chains. Amazon is arguably the highest profile cashier-free store operator, and since the ecommerce giant debuted its concept Amazon Go stores back in 2016, it has expanded the outlets to 18 locations across the U.S. A number of startups have launched to bring automated supermarkets to every city by helping retailers adapt their existing stores.