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National University of Singapore demonstrates artificial skin to help robots 'feel'

ZDNet

Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) on Wednesday announced they have been conducting work that aims to give robots a sense of touch through artificial skin. The two researchers, who are also members of the Intel Neuromorphic Research Community (INRC), presented research that demonstrates the promise of event-based vision and touch sensing, in combination with Intel neuromorphic processing for robotics. The majority of today's robots operate solely based on visual processing and lack the capability humans have where the sense of touch is concerned. The researchers hope to change this using their artificial skin, which NUS touts as being able to detect touches more than 1,000 times faster than the human sensory nervous system. The artificial skin, NUS said, can also identify the shape, texture, and hardness of objects "10 times faster than the blink of an eye".


'There's no way back after this': Inside the unexpected tech revolution at the NHS

ZDNet

Technology has been absolutely vital in helping the NHS manage the overwhelming pressure placed on its services since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from video conferencing and remote appointments with GPs through to artificial intelligence systems designed to understand the demand for hospital beds, has been used to help keep healthcare services operating throughout the pandemic. In the early days of the coronavirus crisis, NHS Digital, which is responsible for a number of key digital services for health and social care in the UK, quickly found itself under strain as people began searching for information on COVID-19. In the first week of March alone, the organisation fielded an additional 120,000 calls to its NHS 111 hotline, forcing it to quickly increase capacity and set up an online system where people could check COVID-19 symptoms and get advice. Within a week, more than one million people had used the service; at its peak, NHS 111 online experienced 95 times its highest ever use, with over 818,000 accessing the service in a single day. "No CIO prepares for that," says Sarah Wilkinson, CEO of NHS Digital. The experience was testing for NHS Digital, which had to rapidly scale up services at a pace that, while necessary, Wilkinson admits felt "too fast for comfort" at times.


AI chip startup Graphcore enters the system business claiming economics vastly better than Nvidia's

ZDNet

Graphcore's 1U rack-mounted M2000 "IPU Machine" is a server dedicated to AI algorithm processing. For $32,450, you get a petaflop of processing power in 4 chips, a networking connection of 2.8 terabits per second, and up to 450 gigabytes of memory. In what appears to be a trend in the world of artificial intelligence hardware and software, AI chip designer Graphcore on Wednesday morning said that its latest very large chip for AI will be sold in a four-chip server computer that sits in a rack, putting Graphcore into the expanding market for dedicated AI server computers. Graphcore, based in Bristol, U.K., which has received over $300 million in venture capital, unveiled what it calls the Mk2 GC200, or Mark-2, as the company refers to it, its latest processor dedicated to handling machine learning operations of neural networks. It also said that it will begin selling a four-chip computer called the M2000 that is housed in a standard 1U pizza box chassis.


AI startup Abacus goes live with commercial deep learning service, takes $13M Series A financing

ZDNet

Abacus co-founders, from left, Siddartha Naidu, previously a principal engineer for Amazon's fulfillment team and also a developer of the BigQuery software at Google; Bindu Reddy, previously head of "AI Verticals" for Amazon's AWS; and Arvind Sundararajan, previously engineering lead for Google's ad delivery technology. Just under six months after coming out of stealth mode, startup Abacus dot AI of San Francisco Tuesday announced the company's service for commercial deep learning has gone live with customers such as 1-800-Flowers, and the company has gotten a Series A investment round totaling $13 million from major investors including Index Ventures. AI might be a hot topic but you'll still need to justify those projects. "This is a crowded space and very few AI/ML services actually manage to get customers to production and actually realize a positive ROI," Bindu Reddy, co-founder and chief executive officer, told ZDNet in email. As with its last major announcement, in January, the company also demonstrated technology for a novel approach in deep learning, in this case offering a new technique for de-biasing AI models.


Grandpa, tell me about the days before the Great Distancing

ZDNet

From cancelled conferences to disrupted supply chains, not a corner of the global economy is immune to the spread of COVID-19. In the video game franchise Fallout, the developers postulated a post-nuclear war scenario in which segments of the population survived the conflagration in hidden, fortified underground vaults. The game lets players experience what the world might be like if such a scenario took place. Science fiction often starts with a question and then builds a story around the answer. What would it be like if a federation of planets peacefully colonized the galaxy? What would it be like if an alien arrived with powers beyond that of mortal men?


Apple just told the truth about working from home

ZDNet

Mike from Finance has issues. There's little more personally disturbing than trying to act normal when things are at the outer edges of aberrance. Most every organization has been thrust into the future of work faster than prognosticators dared imagine. What will determine failure or success in this brave new world of work? Yet here we are on Zoom calls and Teaming with Microsoft and pretending we've got everything under control.


Microsoft: .NET 5 brings you these big performance improvements

ZDNet

Microsoft's .NET team boasts that the forthcoming .NET 5 development stack will offer major performance improvements. Microsoft started shipping previews of .NET 5 in March and plans for general availability in November. ".NET 5 has already seen a wealth of performance improvements, and even though it's not scheduled for final release until this fall and there's very likely to be a lot more improvements that find their way in by then, I wanted to highlight a bunch of the improvements that are already available now," said Stephen Toub, partner software engineer on Microsoft's .NET team. The sixth and newest preview of .NET 5 from June allowed developers to build and run Windows Forms apps on Windows Arm64 devices, like the Surface Pro X. Microsoft at that stage was still working on adding support for WPF on Windows on Arm. Toub's performance analysis covers the .NET garbage collector, the Just-In-Time compiler, 'hardware intrinsics methods', runtime helpers, text processing, regular expressions, threading and asynchrony, and more.


Pegasystems launches tool to enable self-healing RPA bots

ZDNet

Pegasystems is launching X-ray Vision, a tool that enables robotic process automation to fix itself without human intervention. X-ray Vision aims to address the problem of bot failures. The tool will be combined with automated bot authoring tools in Pega RPA, which is part of the Pega Infinity suite. Broken bots occur when applications user interfaces and processes change and can result in downtime and maintenance costs. X-ray Vision will detect broken bots and then fix them.


EFF's new database reveals what tech local police are using to spy on you

ZDNet

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has debuted a new database that reveals how, and where, law enforcement is using surveillance technology in policing strategies. Launched on Monday in partnership with the University of Nevada's Reynolds School of Journalism, the "Atlas of Surveillance" is described as the "largest-ever collection of searchable data on police use of surveillance technologies." The civil rights and privacy organization says the database was developed to help the general public learn about the accelerating adoption and use of surveillance technologies by law enforcement agencies. The map pulls together thousands of data points from over 3,000 police departments across the United States. Users can zoom in to different locations and find summaries of what technologies are in use, by what department, and track how adoption is spreading geographically.


5 reasons AI isn't being adopted at your organization (and how to fix it)

ZDNet

Like most nebulous technologies marketed as the cure-all for the enterprise in the 21st century, artificial intelligence--and more specifically anyone tasked with selling it--promises a lot. But there are some major obstacles to adoption for both the public and private sector, and understanding them is key to understanding the limits and potential of AI technologies as well as the risks inherent in the Wild West of enterprise solutions. Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton has helped the US Army use AI for predictive maintenance and the FDA to better understand and combat the opioid crisis, so it knows a thing or two about getting large, risk-averse organizations behind meaningful AI deployments. For insights on where AI still stumbles, as well the hurdles it will have to clear, I reached out to Booz Allen's Kathleen Featheringham, Director of AI Strategy & Training. She identified the five greatest barriers to AI adoption, which apply equally to public and private sector organizations.