Why a Traffic Flow Suddenly Turns Into a Traffic Jam - Issue 71: Flow


Few experiences on the road are more perplexing than phantom traffic jams. Most of us have experienced one: The vehicle ahead of you suddenly brakes, forcing you to brake, and making the driver behind you brake. But, soon afterward, you and the cars around you accelerate back to the original speed--and it becomes clear that there were no obstacles on the road, and apparently no cause for the slowdown. Because traffic quickly resumes its original speed, phantom traffic jams usually don't cause major delays. But neither are they just minor nuisances.

Mind-reading device uses AI to turn brainwaves into audible speech

New Scientist

Electrodes on the brain have been used to translate brainwaves into words spoken by a computer – which could be useful in the future to help people who have lost the ability to speak. When you speak, your brain sends signals from the motor cortex to the muscles in your jaw, lips and larynx to coordinate their movement and produce a sound. "The brain translates the thoughts of what you want to say into movements of the vocal tract, and that's what we're trying to decode," says Edward Chang at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). He and his colleagues created a two-step process to decode those thoughts using an array of electrodes surgically placed onto the part of the brain that controls movement, and a computer simulation of a vocal tract to reproduce the sounds of speech. In their study, they worked with five participants who had electrodes on the surface of their motor cortex as a part of their treatment for epilepsy.

Robotic tube for surgery autonomously navigates inside a beating heart

New Scientist

A robotic surgical device has learned to autonomously navigate inside a beating heart. Using only a small camera for vision, it successfully travelled to the correct location in the hearts of pigs for surgeons to then complete the operation. Pierre Dupont at Harvard Medical School in Boston and his colleagues created a robotic catheter --a thin tube widely used in surgeries to deliver devices or drugs. The device has a camera and LED light on its tip and is connected to a motor system that controls its movement from the other end. The team used 2000 images of the interior of a heart to train an algorithm to control the movement of the catheter.

There's little evidence that a Huawei 5G ban is the right approach

New Scientist

The UK government is happy to allow Huawei equipment to form part of the UK's 5G network – just not any of the crucial parts, according to leaked discussions from the National Security Council. The United States and Australia have taken much more hardline approach, with complete bans on using Huawei equipment to form any part of their 5G network. What is all the worry about? According to telecoms firm Qualcomm, 5G mobile internet gives a massive speed boost – at least 10 or 20 times greater – over our current 4G networks. As devices start sharing more and more data, from phones streaming data-rich video to self-driving cars, it's vital to have a speedy connection.

Facebook expecting $5bn fine for privacy violations

The Independent

Facebook has said that it expects to be fined up to $5bn by the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations. The penalty would be a record by the agency against a technology company and a sign that the United States was willing to punish big tech companies. The social network disclosed the amount in its quarterly financial results on Wednesday, saying it estimated a one-time charge of $3bn to $5bn in connection with an "ongoing inquiry" by the commission. Facebook added that "the matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome". We'll tell you what's true.

Apple will now fix broken MacBook keyboards within a day, leaked memo suggests as problems continue

The Independent

Apple is prioritising repairs to its controversial MacBook keyboards as it attempts to deal with concern about just how many of them are breaking. When Apple introduced the new design for its MacBooks, they also brought a new keyboard design. The company said that the new mechanism would save space in the keys, allowing the laptop to be smaller and lighter. But the new keys have proved controversial among users who say they are given to breaking, in many cases leaving them unable to type certain letters. We'll tell you what's true.

Amazon Alexa auditors could reportedly access user locations


It emerged earlier this month that thousands of Amazon employees are reviewing some Alexa recordings (which are captured after you've said the wake word). The auditors transcribe, annotate and analyze a selection of commands to help improve Alexa. But it seems these workers could view users' personal information too, according to Bloomberg. At least some employees are said to have had access to location data, addresses and phone numbers. There's no indication any workers have tried to look up a customer's home (say, on Google Street View) using the data from these tools.

Bumble will use AI to detect unwanted nudes


Artificial intelligence will soon weed out any NSFW photos a match sends to you on Bumble. The dating app that requires women to make the first contact said it is launching a "private detector" to warn users about lewd images. Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd and Andrey Andreev, CEO of the dating app parent company that includes Bumble, Badoo, Chappy and Lumen, made the announcement Wednesday in a press release. Beginning in June, all images sent on Bumble and the other apps will be screened by the AI-assisted "private detector." If a photo is suspected to be lewd or inappropriate, users will have the option to view, block or report the image to moderators before they open it.

Implant turns brain signals into synthesized speech


People with neurological conditions who lose the ability to speak can still send the brain signals used for speech (such as the lips, jaw and larynx), and UCSF researchers might just use that knowledge to bring voices back. They've crafted a brain machine interface that can turn those brain signals into mostly recognizable speech. Instead of trying to read thoughts, the machine learning technology picks up on individual nerve commands and translates those to a virtual vocal tract that approximates the intended output. Although the system accurately captures the distinctive sound of someone's voice and is frequently easy to understand, there are times when the synthesizer produces garbled words. It's still miles better than earlier approaches that didn't try to replicate the vocal tract, though.

Next Nissan GT-R to likely feature hybridization and autonomous driving


The first- and second-generation Nissan GT-R sold for four years, from 1969 to 1973. The R32 to R34 generations covered 13 years, from 1989-2002. The current R35 generation, already 12 years into its run, will shuffle its bones perhaps as long as the first five versions combined. A lot's happened in the last dozen years, so we can expect enormous changes from the next GT-R. Top Gear spoke to Philippe Klein, Nissan's chief planning officer, about what's on the cards.