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Are you being overcharged by clever AI? Watchdog looks at whether algorithms hurt competition

ZDNet

To stop algorithms from charging unfair prices when we shop online, the UK's competition watchdog is launching a new investigation into the ways that AI systems might harm consumers – an issue that has so far lacked in-depth research and analysis, says the organization, and yet affects most of us in our everyday lives. While a lot of attention has focused on algorithmic harms in general, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) suggested that little work has been done in the specific area of consumer and competition harms, and reported that almost no research on the topic exists in the UK. There is particularly little insight into the ways that automated systems tailor costs, shopping options or rankings to each individual's online behavior, often leading to consumers paying higher prices than they should. For this reason, the CMA has asked academics and industry to submit evidence about the potential misdeeds caused by the misuse of algorithms, and is launching a program called "Analyzing Algorithms", which could even help identify specific firms that are violating consumers' rights, so that cases can be taken forward if needed. Kate Brand, director of data science at CMA, said: "We want to receive as much information as possible from stakeholders in academia, the competition community, firms, civil society and third sector organizations in order to understand where the harm is occurring and what the most effective regulatory approach is to protect consumers in the future."


Apple's 2021 iPhone could feature Touch ID after face masks 'ruin' Face ID

Daily Mail - Science & tech

While face masks were once rare sightings, they're now compulsory in a range of settings across the UK. The face coverings play a key role in stopping the spread of Covid-19, yet many iPhone users have been frustrated that their masks have prevented them from unlocking their iPhones using Apple's facial recognition technology, Face ID. Now, a report indicates that Apple could be bringing back its Touch ID technology in its 2021 iPhone, in the form of an in-screen fingerprint reader, to help users unlock their smartphones without having to remove their masks. Rather than being a replacement for Face ID, Touch ID would be an additional method of unlocking the iPhone, according to the report. Many iPhone users have been frustrated that their masks have prevented them from unlocking their iPhone using Apple's facial recognition technology, Face ID (stock image) The report, by Bloomberg, indicates that changes to this year's iPhone will be minor.


UK police warn of sextortion attempts in intimate online dating chats

ZDNet

As politicians play whack-a-mole with COVID-19 infection rates and try to balance the economic damage caused by lockdowns, stay-at-home orders have also impacted those out there in the dating scene. No longer able to meet up for a drink, a coffee, or now even a walk in the park, organizing an encounter with anyone other than your household or support bubble is banned and can result in a fine in the United Kingdom -- and this includes both dates and overnight stays. Therefore, the only feasible option available is online connections, by way of social networks or dating apps. Dating is hard enough at the best of times but sexual desire doesn't disappear just because you are cooped up at home. Realizing this, a number of healthcare organizations worldwide have urged us not to contribute to the spread of COVID-19 by meeting up with others for discreet sex outside of our social bubbles, bringing new meaning to the phrase, "You are your safest sex partner."


Artificial intelligence beats us in chess, but not in memory

#artificialintelligence

In the last decades, artificial intelligence has shown to be very good at achieving exceptional goals in several fields. Chess is one of them: in 1996, for the first time, the computer Deep Blue beat a human player, chess champion Garry Kasparov. A new piece of research shows now that the brain strategy for storing memories may lead to imperfect memories, but in turn, allows it to store more memories, and with less hassle than AI. The new study, carried out by SISSA scientists in collaboration with Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience & Centre for Neural Computation, Trondheim, Norway, has just been published in Physical Review Letters. Neural networks, real or artificial, learn by tweaking the connections between neurons.


CLAIRE COVID-19 Initiative Video Series: Meet the Team Leaders – Emanuela Girardi

AIHub

CLAIRE, the Confederation of Laboratories for AI Research in Europe, launched its COVID-19 Initiative in March 2020 as the first wave of the pandemic hit the continent. Its objective was to coordinate volunteer efforts from its members to contribute to tackling the effects of the disease. The taskforce was able to quickly gather a group of about 150 researchers, scientists and experts in AI organized into seven topic groups: epidemiological data analysis, mobility data analysis, bioinformatics, medical imaging, social dynamics monitoring, robotics, and scheduling and resource management. We brought you a comprehensive article about the activities of this initiative in one of last month's AI for Good series posts. You can read more about the outcomes and experience of this bottom-up approach in the article: The CLAIRE COVID-19 Initiative: a bottom-up effort from the European AI community.


Recent and forthcoming machine learning and AI seminars: January 2021 edition

AIHub

This post contains a list of the AI-related seminars that are scheduled to take place between now and the end of February 2021. We've also listed recent past seminars that are available for you to watch. All events detailed here are free and open for anyone to attend virtually. This list includes forthcoming seminars scheduled to take place between 15 January and 28 February. Zero-shot (human-AI) coordination (in Hanabi) and ridge rider Speaker: Jakob Foerster (Facebook, University of Toronto & Vector Institute) Organised by: University College London Zoom link is here.


One, two, tree: how AI helped find millions of trees in the Sahara

The Guardian

When a team of international scientists set out to count every tree in a large swathe of west Africa using AI, satellite images and one of the world's most powerful supercomputers, their expectations were modest. Previously, the area had registered as having little or no tree cover. The biggest surprise, says Martin Brandt, assistant professor of geography at the University of Copenhagen, is that the part of the Sahara that the study covered, roughly 10%, "where no one would expect to find many trees", actually had "quite a few hundred million". Trees are crucial to our long-term survival, as they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global heating. But we still do not know how many there are.


Xayn introduces user-friendly and privacy-protecting web search

ZDNet

I like the idea that users can take back control of their data in a variety of ways, and I really like the fact that my web search results are not being used to direct ultra-targeted ads toward me. I have been using DuckDuckGo for a while now, have used Presearch when I use Chrome as a browser, and Startpage is my search tab on my Edge browser. Recently I have been having a look at Germany-based tech startup Xayn's app for my Android device. It is based on research in privacy-protecting AI and stands for transparency and ethical AI made in Europe. The app lets you have control over its search algorithms.


How to keep drones flying when a motor fails

Robohub

Robotics researchers at the University of Zurich show how onboard cameras can be used to keep damaged quadcopters in the air and flying stably – even without GPS. As anxious passengers are often reassured, commercial aircrafts can easily continue to fly even if one of the engines stops working. But for drones with four propellers – also known as quadcopters – the failure of one motor is a bigger problem. With only three rotors working, the drone loses stability and inevitably crashes unless an emergency control strategy sets in. Researchers at the University of Zurich and the Delft University of Technology have now found a solution to this problem: They show that information from onboard cameras can be used to stabilize the drone and keep it flying autonomously after one rotor suddenly gives out.


O2 expands its 5G coverage in the UK to more than 150 locations

Daily Mail - Science & tech

O2 has rolled out its 5G network in 53 new towns and cities across the UK, pulling ahead of its rival EE to become the nation's biggest provider of ultra-fast mobile internet. The new locations include Birmingham, Durham and Portsmouth, bringing O2's total number of locations with 5G to 150. The network also allows for larger amounts of data to be transferred at once, which could one day help power technologies such as fully autonomous cars. O2 has rolled out its 5G network in 53 new towns and cities across the UK, taking it ahead of its rival EE to become the nation's biggest provider of the ultra-fast internet The network also allow for larger amounts of data to be transferred at once, which could one day help power technologies such as fully autonomous cars. For most consumers, 5G will allow you to carry out tasks on your smartphone more quickly and efficiently.