Robots with truly humanlike dexterity are far from becoming reality, but progress accelerated by AI has brought us closer to achieving this vision than ever before. In a research paper published in September, a team of scientists at Google detailed their tests with a robotic hand that enabled it to rotate Baoding balls with minimal training data. And at a computer vision conference in June, MIT researchers presented their work on an AI model capable of predicting the tactility of physical things from snippets of visual data alone. Now, OpenAI -- the San Francisco-based AI research firm cofounded by Elon Musk and others, with backing from luminaries like LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman and former Y Combinator president Sam Altman -- says it's on the cusp of solving something of a grand challenge in robotics and AI systems: solving a Rubik's cube. Unlike breakthroughs achieved by teams at the University of California, Irvine and elsewhere, which leveraged machines tailor-built to manipulate Rubik's cubes with speed, the approach devised by OpenAI researchers uses a five-fingered humanoid hand guided by an AI model with 13,000 years of cumulative experience -- on the same order of magnitude as the 40,000 years used by OpenAI's Dota-playing bot.
Google has helped build intense speculation for its October 4 event in San Francisco, where it's expected to reveal new phones aimed at consumers that will power a new virtual reality platform, and possibly other smart home devices. Now that the buzz has reached a football-stadium roar, here comes the hard part: living up to the hype. Google has been teasing the event as one for the history books. A tweet Monday from Hiroshi Lockheimer, the company's senior vice president of Android, Chrome OS and Google Play, turned up the volume on the buzz. We announced the 1st version of Android 8 years ago today.
Wander around WIRED's San Francisco headquarters on any given day and you're likely to encounter quite a zoo: hoverboard-riding video shooters dodging begoggled editors who are testing beta VR hardware; one of our favorite TV makers coming in for a meeting; security writers debating the latest cyberwar skirmish around the corner from a conference call with the founder of the Valley's latest unicorn company; and dogs (10 of them, by my count). But this time of year, the always lively view from my desk takes on an especially electric feel as we train our focus on a new horizon. So to give you a sense of what we're gearing up to cover in 2016, I tapped the hive mind of writers and editors and pulled together a list of the big developments we expect to be following as the year unfolds. There's a lot to look forward to. Politics is all about message control, but Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Vine, et al. have rewritten the messaging playbook.
Google is set to bring updates to many of its product lines at this year's I/O developer conference Google's annual developer conference I/O (short for "input/output" in computer science lingo) is set to take place this year in Mountain View, California from Wednesday, May 18, through Friday, May 20. And with the arrival of the conference comes the possibility of new products from the search company. While Google is known for releasing products and updates throughout the year, some of its biggest releases are often saved for the I/O conference. Last year's Google I/O 2015 brought fans Android M, Google Cardboard on the iPhone, and Now On Tap -- a smartphone feature that surfaces the right information at the right time. We can't know for sure what the company (which is now technically a subsidiary of the larger conglomerate known as Alphabet) will announce, but some hints have dropped.
Microsoft doubled down on its message of Windows apps that can work on your PC, smartphone or Xbox One during Build 2016, its annual developers conference in San Francisco. Central to this idea was the big Windows 10 Anniversary update, which further opens up the operating system to developers. Chatbots and Cortana were also featured prominently as a potential future for Microsoft in a world that has left the desktop behind. "I am an optimist," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Wednesday during the Build 2016 keynote. "We, as a company, are optimistic about what technology can do for us.