'A burger, a coffee, whatever': Food delivery robots may soon roll up to Purdue's campus

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

These autonomous robots put the special in special delivery and you might see them on a college campus near you! WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.-- How do delivery robots operate in winter? What if no one picks up the delivery? A board in West Lafayette, Indiana, has unanimously approved a pilot program bringing robotic delivery services to Purdue University, as well as a suspension of city code allowing small, cooler-sized robots to operate on city sidewalks. But first, the board members had several questions about the program from San Francisco-based Starship Technologies before it could debut in September.


The 5 best Amazon deals you can get this Thursday

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. However, our picks and opinions are independent from USA Today's newsroom and any business incentives. Cool, we're on the same page then. When it comes to shopping for stuff you maybe kind of need (but definitely want), Amazon is the best retailer for a reason: they literally have everything. But combing through all those countless pages, scrolling and searching for what feels like hours to find that stuff that's actually good and not just a hunk of junk from China?


Telling Lies review – endless possibilities in brilliant detective story

The Guardian

Suspense, plot and character have long been considered the foundations of a good thriller – but really, the sign of a mystery done well is a sound. It's the "hwwwwahhh!" of air whooshing past your lips and down into your lungs after a pivotal reveal. It's a noise certain to be heard during the hours spent untangling the secret at the heart of Telling Lies. Sam Barlow's critically acclaimed Her Story (2015) introduced us to the concept of the interactive search engine thriller. In that game, you play an unnamed character who, for reasons unknown, is sitting at a computer trawling through hours of stolen police station video footage showing a suspect being interviewed.


Computational Sustainability

Communications of the ACM

These are exciting times for computational sciences with the digital revolution permeating a variety of areas and radically transforming business, science, and our daily lives. The Internet and the World Wide Web, GPS, satellite communications, remote sensing, and smartphones are dramatically accelerating the pace of discovery, engendering globally connected networks of people and devices. The rise of practically relevant artificial intelligence (AI) is also playing an increasing part in this revolution, fostering e-commerce, social networks, personalized medicine, IBM Watson and AlphaGo, self-driving cars, and other groundbreaking transformations. Unfortunately, humanity is also facing tremendous challenges. Nearly a billion people still live below the international poverty line and human activities and climate change are threatening our planet and the livelihood of current and future generations. Moreover, the impact of computing and information technology has been uneven, mainly benefiting profitable sectors, with fewer societal and environmental benefits, further exacerbating inequalities and the destruction of our planet. Our vision is that computer scientists can and should play a key role in helping address societal and environmental challenges in pursuit of a sustainable future, while also advancing computer science as a discipline. For over a decade, we have been deeply engaged in computational research to address societal and environmental challenges, while nurturing the new field of Computational Sustainability.


Bitwise

Communications of the ACM

In 1960, physicist Eugene Wigner pondered "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences," wondering why it was that mathematics provided the "miracle" of accurately modeling the physical world. Wigner remarked, "it is not at all natural that'laws of nature' exist, much less that man is able to discover them." Fifty years later, artificial intelligence researchers Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira paid homage to Wigner in their 2009 paper "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data," an essay describing Google's ability to achieve higher quality search results and ad relevancy not primarily through algorithmic innovation but by amassing and analyzing orders of magnitude more data than anyone had previously. The article both summarized Google's successes to that date and presaged the jumps in "deep learning" in this decade. With sufficient data and computing power, computer-constructed models obtained through machine learning raise the possibility of performing as well if not better than human-crafted models of human behavior.


An Inability to Reproduce

Communications of the ACM

Science has always hinged on the idea that researchers must be able to prove and reproduce the results of their research. Simply put, that is what makes science...science. Yet in recent years, as computing power has increased, the cloud has taken shape, and data sets have grown, a problem has appeared: it has becoming increasingly difficult to generate the same results consistently--even when researchers include the same dataset. "One basic requirement of scientific results is reproducibility: shake an apple tree, and apples will fall downwards each and every time," observes Kai Zhang, an associate professor in the department of statistics and operations research at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "The problem today is that in many cases, researchers cannot replicate existing findings in the literature and they cannot produce the same conclusions. This is undermining the credibility of scientists and science. It is producing a crisis."


On Being 'Random Enough'

Communications of the ACM

The concept of randomness is easy to grasp on an intuitive level but challenging to characterize in rigorous mathematical terms. In "Algorithmic Randomness" (May 2019), Rod Downey and Denis R. Hirschfeldt present a comprehensive discussion of this issue, incorporating the distinct perspectives of "statisticians, coders, and gamblers." Randomness is also a concern to "modelers" who depend on simulation models driven by random number generators or analytic models built using probabilistic assumptions. In such cases, the underlying mathematical model is often an ergodic stochastic process, and the issue is whether the output of the simulator's random number generator or the observed behavior of the real-world system being modeled is "random enough" to establish confidence in the model's predictions. In a sense, this highly pragmatic perspective represents a less restrictive approach to the issue of randomness: if any of the strong criteria described by the authors are satisfied, the output of the simulator's random number generator or the observed behavior of the system being modeled should be sufficiently random to establish confidence in a model's predictions.


The Long Game of Research

Communications of the ACM

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto, CA, is a U.S.-based think tank. It was established in 1968 as a spin-off from the RAND Corporation to help organizations plan for the long-term future. Roy Amara, who passed away in 2007, was IFTF's president from 1971 until 1990. Amara is best known for coining Amara's Law on the effect of technology: "We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run." This law is best illustrated by the Gartner Hype Cycle,a characterized by the "peak of inflated expectations," followed by the "trough of disillusionment," then the "slope of enlightenment," and, finally, the "plateau of productivity."


Polyglot!

Communications of the ACM

Google speaks 106 languages--or at least can understand queries in written form if not also oral form. When I watch someone interacting verbally with Google Assistant in languages other than English (my native tongue), I realize Google's language ability vastly exceeds my own. I have a modest ability to speak and understand German. I know a few phrases in Russian and French. But it suddenly strikes me that Google is usefully dealing with over 100 languages in written and oral form.


Microsoft harvests unintentional audio in program that listens to Xbox users via Cortana and Kinect

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Microsoft's listening program continues to grow in scope after a new report reveals that contractors harvested unintentional audio from Xbox users through Cortana and the Kinect. Motherboard reports that Xbox users were recorded by Microsoft as part of a program to analyze users' voice-commands for accuracy and that those recordings were assessed by human contractors. While the program was designed to only scrape audio uttered after a wake-word, contractors hired by Microsoft report that some recordings were taken accidentally without provocation. The practice, reports Motherboard, has been ongoing for several years since the early days of Xbox One and predates Xbox's integration with its voice assistant, Cortana. Xbox users were being recorded by Microsoft in a listening program that scraped audio from Cortana and its augmented reality hardware, Kinect.