Tech product launches in the year of 2020 involve a kind of perspective whiplash that makes it more difficult than usual to decide whether or not you really need the thing. There's the consideration of whether the gadget fits into your life right now, at a time when our needs have changed considerably. There's also the fact that most of the products launching this year were dreamt up in 2019 or earlier. Back then, tech companies had a different vision of the future in mind, or at least different ideas of what the "lifestyle" images in their 2020 product marketing kits would look like. Do you need a fully autonomous surveillance drone for inside your home?
When Amazon released the Echo smart speaker in 2014, people still marveled at the convenience of voice-controlled computing. Now that the novelty has worn off, they are more likely to grumble about how often Alexa gets confused. Now, Amazon has a plan to make Alexa smarter--with you as the teacher. For some commands, Alexa will soon seek clarification if it gets confused. Ask to set the lights to "reading mode," for example, and the device will politely inquire what that means.
Facebook's artificial intelligence researchers have a plan to make algorithms smarter by exposing them to human cunning. They want your help to supply the trickery. Thursday, Facebook's AI lab launched a project called Dynabench that creates a kind of gladiatorial arena in which humans try to trip up AI systems. Challenges include crafting sentences that cause a sentiment-scoring system to misfire, reading a comment as negative when it is actually positive, for example. Another involves tricking a hate speech filter--a potential draw for teens and trolls.
This year, many people braved the risk of coronavirus infection to protest police brutality in Black neighborhoods, but physical violence isn't the only way law enforcement can harm marginalized and minority communities: Hacker Matt Mitchell wants us to pay attention to digital policing, too. He argues that marginalized communities have become a test bed for powerful and troubling new surveillance tools that could become more widespread. In 2013, Mitchell founded a series of free security workshops in his New York City neighborhood called CryptoHarlem as a way to work through the pain of watching the divisive trial over the death of Black Florida teen Trayvon Martin. "I talk to people about the surveillance in our neighborhood and how it got there and how it works and what we can do to circumvent it and what we can do to be safer," Mitchell said, in a video interview with WIRED's Sidney Fussell at the second of three WIRED25 events Wednesday. Society's growing dependence on digital platforms and infrastructure, combined with the events of 2020, have made his work more relevant than ever.
I've spent enough time in robotics labs to confidently say that machines are far, far from replacing humans en masse in the workforce. They're still too clumsy and stupid to work on their own, so they're more likely to automate parts of your job. But I'll be honest, I did not see this one coming: A robot named Curly just mastered the sport of curling, beating two Korean national teams. Building a robot to fire stones down a length of ice might sound eccentric, I'll grant that, but rather than simply paving the way to the All Robot Winter Olympics of 2026, Curly is actually a big achievement in machine intelligence, one that could have implications for robotics beyond the rink. Curling requires a mix of the physicality of bowling and the strategy of chess.
In the YouTube clip, they use the slo-mo video to get a ball speed of 1,538.46 This is significantly faster than the speed of sound in air--approximately 343 m/s (but this value changes a little bit depending on the air temperature). But you know what this means, right? The basic idea in video analysis is to look at the location of an object in each frame of the video. With an appropriate scale (like the distance between two sticks) you can get the position (x and y) of the object in each frame.
Physicists built the Large Hadron Collider to study the inner workings of the universe. Inside a 27-kilometer underground ring straddling the French-Swiss border, the machine smashes protons together at nearly the speed of light to produce--fleetingly--the smallest constituent building blocks of nature. Sifting through snapshots of these collisions, LHC researchers look for new particles and scrutinize known ones, including their most famous find, in 2012: the Higgs boson, whose behavior explains why other fundamental particles like electrons and quarks have mass. Less well known is the intricate software engine that powers such discoveries. With particle collisions occurring at approximately a billion times per second, the facility generates about 40 terabytes of data per second, according to LHC physicist Maurizio Pierini.
From the author: "Loose Ends" is a literary supercut composed entirely of last lines from 137 science fiction and fantasy books. After gathering these lines, I found they fell into a number of patterns--some surprising, others obvious--in how writers end their stories. With these patterns in hand, I arranged them into a sequence of interconnected vignettes. In these ways "Loose Ends" doubles as narrative and archive, short story and data analysis. To read a version that reveals the names of the books, click here.
Please don't complain to me about literally anything if you've touched human flesh since March. Being very single, I have not, and my Grubhub guy doesn't want a hug. So I am doomed, instead, to online dating in the context of a pandemic. Let me walk you through the torture. It starts typically enough, with endless scrolling through profiles of now-offensively-irrelevant travel photos.
When QAnon emerged in 2017, the game designer Adrian Hon felt a shock of recognition. QAnon, as you very likely know, is the right-wing conspiracy theory that revolves around a figure named Q. This supposedly high-ranking insider claims that the deep state--an alleged cabal led by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros and abetted by decadent celebrities--is running a global child-sex-trafficking ring and plotting a left-wing coup. Only Donald Trump heroically stands in the way. But what intrigued Hon was the style of nonsense.