My week with Harman Kardon's Cortana-powered Invoke speaker


During the past week, I've said "Hey Cortana" more times than I have over the past couple of years combined. I've been testing the Harman Kardon Invoke speaker, which is powered by Cortana and includes a custom version of Linux inside. The Invoke speaker will go on sale in the US on October 22. While I've played a bit with a family member's Amazon Echo Dot, I never bought a voice-activated speaker for use at home. I was curious if, after using the Invoke for a week to do everything from set timers, to add items to my calendar, to play music would change my mind and make me want one.

Scientists built this Raspberry Pi-powered, 3D-printed robot-lab to study flies


Researchers have created a Raspberry Pi-powered robotic lab that detects and profiles the behaviour of thousands of fruit-flies in real-time. The researchers, from Imperial College London, built the mini Pi-powered robotics lab to help scale up analyses of fruit flies, which have become popular proxy for scientists to study human genes and the wiring of the brain. The researchers call the lab an ethoscope, an open-source hardware and software platform for "ethomics", which uses machine vision to study animal behaviour. And while computer-assisted analysis promises to revolutionize research techniques for Drosophila (fruit fly) neuroscientists, the researchers argue its potential is constrained by custom hardware, which adds cost and often aren't scalable. The Raspberry Pi-based ethnoscope offers scientists a modular design that can be built with 3D-printed components or even LEGO bricks at a cost of €100 per ethoscope.

This week's 'live' giant robot battle was fake


We've been following the development of the giant robot battle for years now, and it finally took place earlier this week. Engadget writer Saqib Shah said of the live stream, "the entire event may have been as choreographed as a WWE match, but it was strangely watchable regardless." Well, it turns out that Saqib was right on the nose. Motherboard revealed, in a move that broke all our hearts, that there was absolutely nothing "live" about the "live streamed" fight. The actual epic robot battle took place over days, and the constant repairs were removed from the footage.

It Still Doesn't Really Matter What A.I. Can Score on IQ Tests


That's partly what makes testing for IQ in A.I. so frustrating. Building an A.I. able to ace an SAT test doesn't necessarily mean it's equipped to do much else. Even if an A.I. agent can pull out information from the entire Encyclopedia Britannica on a penny-drop or solve complex integrals in calculus, it doesn't mean it has the common-sense skills needed to go out and order a sandwich from the nearest deli. How would it know how to wait in line? Decide what's a better combo deal?

How to Make Self-Driving Cars See the World Like Humans, and Other News From the Week in Cars


Amidst the robocar hype, it's easy to forget that for all their powers, computers are still lousy drivers compared to humans. This week, Eric Adams introduced us to the people working to interpret hominid behavior for driving robots. Turns out perception is a remarkable, variegated thing, and cars need to learn how to do all the cool stuff we the fleshy can before performing seamlessly on the road. The same goes for companies. Google parent company Alphabet announced this week it will construct a techified neighborhood in Toronto.

Review: What It's Like to Have Microsoft's Virtual Butler in Your Living Room


Microsoft is out to prove that Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant aren't the only virtual concierges worth inviting into your home. After first teasing its Cortana-powered speaker last December, Harman Kardon's Invoke will finally launch on October 22 for $199. Invoke's arrival along with similar high-end devices also marks a turning point for intelligent speakers. Potential buyers no longer need choose between high quality audio and having a smart assistant they can summon by voice. Early Internet-connected speakers, such as the first generation Echo and Google Home, provided good enough sound for casual listening.

The first speaker with Microsoft Cortana is a great listener


In the universe of digital voice assistants, Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant are the indisputable rulers of the consumer AI solar system. By contrast, Microsoft's Cortana is like Pluto. We know it's generally the same as the others, but we can't decide if it has all the attributes required for classification as a planet... er... true voice assistant. Part of the problem is that people don't talk to Cortana. Microsoft introduced its digital assistant, named after the synthetic intelligence character in Halo, in 2014 on the Windows Phone platform.

CBI calls for special commission to look at the impact of AI on UK businesses

The Independent

The Confederation of British Industry is calling on the Government to establish a joint commission tasked with examining the impact of Artificial Intelligence on people and jobs across all sectors of the UK economy. Based on research it conducted into the way that technology is changing the way we live and work, the CBI said on Friday that it had identified three technologies -- AI, Blockchain and the Internet of Things – that are set to move from the fringes to the mainstream within the next five years. It also found, however, that only a third of businesses currently have the skills and capabilities needed to adopt AI technologies, and that more therefore needs to be done to help prepare those companies for the future. The aim of the commission, the CBI said, would be to examine the impact of AI on people and jobs, and to subsequently set out plans for action that will "raise productivity, spread prosperity and open up new paths to economic growth". "The UK must lead the way in adopting these technologies but we must also prepare for their impacts," said Josh Hardie, deputy director-general of the CBI.

Microsoft-Harmon answer to Amazon Echo is promising, pricey, and plays catch-up


"Of all the questions you could have asked…" That's how Microsoft Cortana, the digital assistant and female voice inside the new $199 Invoke voice-activated speaker from Harman Kardon, responded when I asked what she thought of Amazon Echo, the rival speaker it will inevitably draw comparisons to. It was Echo and its own chatty artificial intelligence-infused assistant Alexa, after all, that started what is rapidly becoming an increasingly crowded market for such intelligent cloud-connected speakers. The speakers let you use your voice to set alarms and timers, turn on lights, list appointments, deliver the news and play music. More: Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod -- or all 3? How to choose a smart speaker Google's been expanding its lineup of Google Home speakers with the Google Assistant. Apple is readying a HomePod speaker with Siri for a December release.

How to use an Arduino and Raspberry Pi to turn a fiber optic neural network into wall art


Hollywood has made many big promises about artificial intelligence (AI): how it will destroy us, how it will save us, and how it will pass us butter. One of the less memorable promises is how cool it will look. There's a great example of amazing AI visualization in Avengers: Age of Ultron when Tony Stark's AI butler Jarvis interacts with Ultron and we see an organic floating network of light morphing and pulsing. I wanted to make something similar to fill blank space on my apartment wall (to improve upon the usual Ikea art). Obviously, I couldn't create anything as amazing as Jarvis as a floating orb of light; however, I could use a machine learning algorithm that looks interesting with quirky data visualization: a neural network!