Information Technology


UK porn ban: What is it, when does it come into effect and can I get around it?

The Independent

The UK is about to introduce restrictions on watching pornography of a kind never before seen in the world. The government is planning to stop children being damaged by watching adult content by stopping anyone from doing so unless they go through a "rigorous" age verification process. Websites that aren't part of the blocks could find themselves being punished or blocked entirely within the UK. We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.


Porn ban: VPN interest surges as people look for best ways to bypass ID checks

The Independent

The recently announced identity checks to stop under-18s from visiting pornographic websites in the UK have led to a surge in interest in technology that would allow people to bypass them. Critics claim the new rules are "disastrous" for people's privacy and are fundamentally flawed due to the ease of which they can be circumvented using virtual private networks (VPNs). Searches for VPNs on Google's search engine tripled in the hours following the government's announcement that the verification system would come into effect in July. We'll tell you what's true. You can form your own view.


Google Home can gently wake you up using Philips Hue lights

Engadget

Smart lights still tend to offer a rude awakening if you tie them to your alarm, but Google wants to fix that. It's delivering a promised Gentle Sleep & Wake feature for Home speakers that gradually dims or brightens your Philips Hue lights to provide a more natural rest. Say the right command (such as "turn on Gentle Wake Up," "wake up my lights" or "sleep my lights") and the lights will change over the course of half an hour. You can set specific times if you intend to use it as part of your daily routine. The feature won't be widely available, at least not for a while.


Ubisoft is donating $564,000 to help rebuild Notre-Dame

Engadget

Following the fire that devastated Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris this week, Ubisoft has pledged €500,000 ($564,000) to help restore the iconic church. The studio, which faithfully recreated Notre-Dame in Assassin's Creed Unity, is also offering that game for free until April 25th on PC to honor the landmark. "We want to give everyone the chance to experience the majesty and beauty of Notre-Dame the best way we know how," Ubisoft, which is headquartered in France and has studios in Paris, said. In solidarity with everyone moved by Monday's events we're donating to the restoration of Notre-Dame & giving you the chance to play @AssassinsCreed Unity on Uplay for free. Such is the level of accuracy and detail that Ubisoft put into its version of the cathedral, some have suggested the studio's efforts on Unity could help with the reconstruction more directly, though the developer is not involved as things stand.


Facebook is working on a voice AI rival to Siri and Alexa

Engadget

Facebook might introduce its own voice assistant à la Siri and Alexa in the future. According to CNBC, the social network's augmented and virtual reality team led by Ira Snyder has been developing a voice AI since 2018. The team has even started contacting smart speaker vendors, presumably to forge partnerships that would lead to devices powered by the new assistant. Based on what a spokesperson told Reuters, though, Facebook is mainly developing the assistant for its Oculus headsets, its Portal smart display and future AR/VR devices. "We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products."


Estimate the Pulling Force of Boston Dynamics' Robo-Dog Army

WIRED

When Boston Dynamics shares a new robot video, my robophobia levels increase just a little bit. There is something about these robots that get into the uncanny valley for me. This particular video is both fascinating and disturbing. It's fascinating because here are a bunch of robots pulling a truck (not a pickup truck--a real truck). It's disturbing because it shows a BUNCH of robots.


MIT Program in Digital Humanities launches with $1.3 million Mellon Foundation grant

MIT News

Before computers, no sane person would have set out to count gender pronouns in 4,000 novels, but the results can be revealing, as MIT's new digital humanities program recently discovered. Launched with a $1.3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Program in Digital Humanities brings computation together with humanities research, with the goal of building a community "fluent in both languages," says Michael Scott Cuthbert, associate professor of music, Music21 inventor, and director of digital humanities at MIT. "In the past, it has been somewhat rare, and extremely rare beyond MIT, for humanists to be fully equipped to frame questions in ways that are easy to put in computer science terms, and equally rare for computer scientists to be deeply educated in humanities research. There has been a communications gap," Cuthbert says. While traditional digital humanities programs attempt to provide humanities scholars with some computational skills, the situation at MIT is different: Most MIT students already have or are learning basic programming skills, and all MIT undergraduates also take some humanities classes. Cuthbert believes this difference will make MIT's program a great success.


Vivienne Sze wins Edgerton Faculty Award

MIT News

Vivienne Sze, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS), has received the 2018-2019 Harold E. Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award. The award, announced at today's MIT faculty meeting, commends Sze for "her seminal and highly regarded contributions in the critical areas of deep learning and low-power video coding, and for her educational successes and passion in championing women and under-represented minorities in her field." Sze's research involves the co-design of energy-aware signal processing algorithms and low-power circuit, architecture, and systems for a broad set of applications, including machine learning, computer vision, robotics, image processing, and video coding. She is currently working on projects focusing on autonomous navigation and embedded artificial intelligence (AI) for health-monitoring applications. "In the domain of deep learning, [Sze] created the Eyeriss chip for accelerating deep learning algorithms, building a flexible architecture to handle different convolutional shapes," the Edgerton Faculty Award selection committee said in announcing its decision.


Can science writing be automated?

MIT News

The work of a science writer, including this one, includes reading journal papers filled with specialized technical terminology, and figuring out how to explain their contents in language that readers without a scientific background can understand. Now, a team of scientists at MIT and elsewhere has developed a neural network, a form of artificial intelligence (AI), that can do much the same thing, at least to a limited extent: It can read scientific papers and render a plain-English summary in a sentence or two. Even in this limited form, such a neural network could be useful for helping editors, writers, and scientists scan a large number of papers to get a preliminary sense of what they're about. But the approach the team developed could also find applications in a variety of other areas besides language processing, including machine translation and speech recognition. The work is described in the journal Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, in a paper by Rumen Dangovski and Li Jing, both MIT graduate students; Marin Soljačić, a professor of physics at MIT; Preslav Nakov, a senior scientist at the Qatar Computing Research Institute, HBKU; and Mićo Tatalović, a former Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT and a former editor at New Scientist magazine.


Facebook is reportedly working on an Alexa rival

Mashable

But the company is now working on its own digital assistant, according to a new report from CNBC. It's not clear exactly how the assistant will work or what it will be called, though CNBC reports it could be integrated with Facebook's Oculus virtual reality headsets or with the company's Portal speakers. Right now, Portal relies on Alexa for assistant functionality, though you can control speaker functions like volume by saying "hey Portal." Facebook doesn't have an AI assistant of its own, however, despite longstanding rumors about its ambitions in the space. The latest project is reportedly being led by Ira Snyder, who works in Facebook's Reality Labs.