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WIRED


This Chinese Lab Is Aiming for Big AI Breakthroughs

WIRED

In a low-rise building overlooking a busy intersection in Beijing, Ji Rong Wen, a middle-aged scientist with thin-rimmed glasses and a mop of black hair, excitedly describes a project that could advance one of the hottest areas of artificial intelligence. Wen leads a team at the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence (BAAI), a government-sponsored research lab that's testing a powerful new language algorithm--something similar to GPT-3, a program revealed in June by researchers at OpenAI that digests large amounts of text and can generate remarkably coherent, free-flowing language. "This is a big project," Wen says with a big grin. "It takes a lot of computing infrastructure and money." Wen, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing recruited to work part-time at BAAI, hopes to create an algorithm that is even cleverer than GPT-3. He plans to combine machine learning with databases of facts, and to feed the algorithm images and video as well as text, in hope of creating a richer understanding of the physical world--that the words cat and fur don't just often appear in the same sentence, but are associated with one another visually.


A Site Published Every Face from Parler's Capitol Riot Videos

WIRED

When hackers exploited a bug in Parler to download all of the right-wing social media platform's contents last week, they were surprised to find that many of the pictures and videos contained geolocation metadata revealing exactly how many of the site's users had taken part in the invasion of the US Capitol building just days before. But the videos uploaded to Parler also contain an equally sensitive bounty of data sitting in plain sight: thousands of images of unmasked faces, many of whom participated in the Capitol riot. Now one website has done the work of cataloging and publishing every one of those faces in a single, easy-to-browse lineup. Late last week, a website called Faces of the Riot appeared online, showing nothing but a vast grid of more than 6,000 images of faces, each one tagged only with a string of characters associated with the Parler video in which it appeared. The site's creator tells WIRED that he used simple open source machine learning and facial recognition software to detect, extract, and deduplicate every face from the 827 videos that were posted to Parler from inside and outside the Capitol building on January 6, the day when radicalized Trump supporters stormed the building in a riot that resulted in five people's deaths.


NASA Is Training an AI to Detect Fresh Craters on Mars

WIRED

For the past 15 years, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been doing laps around the Red Planet studying its climate and geology. Each day, the orbiter sends back a treasure trove of images and other sensor data that NASA scientists have used to scout for safe landing sites for rovers and to understand the distribution of water ice on the planet. Of particular interest to scientists are the orbiter's crater photos, which can provide a window into the planet's deep history. NASA engineers are still working on a mission to return samples from Mars; without the rocks that will help them calibrate remote satellite data with conditions on the surface, they must do a lot of educated guesswork when it comes to determining each crater's age and composition. For now, they need other ways to tease out that information.


The Legend of Zelda, 'Dinky,' and a Bridge to My Daughter

WIRED

When winter made its second pandemic appearance here in Montana, I found myself pining to relive my first experience with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. To my dismay, the sequel, Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, the bash-fest Nintendo released in November, didn't scratch my itch for sweeping, soothing landscapes and low-stakes puzzle solving during a year of high-stakes reality. I've been home with toddlers for 11 months straight, my every lockdown minute a battle against darkness and chaos, replete with my own two tiny red Bokoblins perpetually swinging their Boko Clubs at my weakened defenses. I wondered daily: Are there even enough stamella shrooms in the entire gaming universe to get us through this year? When we first hunkered down last spring, my kids were 18 months and 4 years old.


How to Bust Your Spotify Feedback Loop and Find New Music

WIRED

If you're listening to music right now, chances are you didn't choose what to put on--you outsourced it to an algorithm. Such is the popularity of recommendation systems that we've come to rely on them to serve us what we want without us even having to ask, with music streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer all using personalized systems to suggest playlists or tracks tailored to the user. This story originally appeared on WIRED UK. Generally, these systems are very good. The problem, for some, is that they're perhaps really too good.


The Autonomous Saildrone Surveyor Preps for Its Sea Voyage

WIRED

If you happen to be crossing the San Francisco Bay or Golden Gate bridges this week, look for a massive surfboard with a red sail on top cruising slowly across the water. Don't flinch if you don't see anyone on board. It's actually an autonomous research vessel known as the Saildrone Surveyor and it's being steered remotely from shore. The 72-foot-long vessel is launching this week into the bay from its dock at a former naval base in Alameda, California. It is designed to spend months at sea mapping the seafloor with powerful sonar devices, while simultaneously scanning the ocean surface for genetic material to identify fish and other marine organisms swimming below.


Why Do Exploding Barrels Make Video Games So Much More Fun?

WIRED

Too often game worlds can feel like static backdrops for gameplay. But by incorporating elemental reactions, developers bring complexity and characterization to a player's surroundings. By now we're all familiar with the overused exploding barrel trope. A single bullet is all it takes to create an explosion that can take out multiple enemies, turning an element in the environment into an interactive arrow in your quiver as you progress. While environmental storytelling has stolen the spotlight when it comes to designing spaces, emergent environmental narrative design is quietly the bigger innovation happening in games right now, with elemental reactions being the easiest to grasp.


Former DOD Head: The US Needs a New Plan to Beat China on AI

WIRED

On Wednesday, I hosted a discussion with former secretary of defense Ashton Carter, who is now the director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School. The conversation was part of WIRED's CES programming, which tackled the biggest trends that will shape 2021, from medicine to autonomous driving to defense. We took questions from viewers in real time. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity. Nicholas Thompson: You've had an incredible 35-year career in the US government and in the private sector, working for Republicans and Democrats, always trying to identify what the most important issue of our time is, the smartest solutions to it, and the fairest ways to think about it.


DJI's Latest Compact Drone Is a Blast to Fly

WIRED

DJI's Mini 2, as the name suggests, is the second generation of the company's least-expensive, and in many ways most-compelling, drone. What's notable is the new camera, which can now shoot 4K video at up to 30 frames per second and capture RAW still images. Its new motors are more powerful, which gives the Mini 2 more speed and, more important, better performance in the wind. Despite all the new features though, the best thing about the Mini 2 is the same thing I said about its predecessor--it's just plain fun to fly. The Mini 2 looks identical to Mavic Mini it replaces.


AI-Powered Text From This Program Could Fool the Government

WIRED

In October 2019, Idaho proposed changing its Medicaid program. The state needed approval from the federal government, which solicited public feedback via Medicaid.gov. But half came not from concerned citizens or even internet trolls. They were generated by artificial intelligence. And a study found that people could not distinguish the real comments from the fake ones.