If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Google, which prides itself on developing simple, intuitive software that seems to know what you want almost before you do, is finding itself in a very different world when it comes to its own phones and other gadgets. Its new Pixel 2 phones, released in October, got high marks for their camera and design -- at least until some users complained about "burned in" afterimages on their screens, a bluish tint, periodic clicking sounds and occasionally unresponsive touch commands . Then the company's new Home Mini smart speaker was caught always listening . Finally, its wireless "Pixel Buds" headset received savagereviews for a cheap look and feel, mediocre sound quality, and being difficult to set up and confusing to use. In short, Google is re-learning an old adage in the technology business: Hardware is hard.
A U.N. panel agreed yesterday to move ahead with talks to define and possibly set limits on weapons that can kill without human involvement, as human rights groups said governments are moving too slowly to keep up with advances in artificial intelligence that could put computers in control one day. Advocacy groups warned about the threats posed by such "killer robots" and aired a chilling video illustrating their possible uses on the sidelines of the first formal U.N. meeting of government experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems this week. More than 80 countries took part. Ambassador Amandeep Gill of India, who chaired the gathering, said participants plan to meet again in 2018. He said ideas discussed this week included the creation of legally binding instrument, a code of conduct, or a technology review process.
This sleek robotic dog may still be a mystery, but it clearly knows far more tricks than fetch, roll over and sit. Waltham-based Boston Dynamics has the tech world buzzing over a 24-second teaser video featuring its stylish new dog-like robot, SpotMini, which can climb stairs, handle objects and operate outdoors or in an office. The not-quite two-and-a-half foot tall, 60-pound robot is the smaller, younger brother of the company's Spot model, which was also unveiled with a YouTube video in February 2015. The SpotMini is battery powered and has a state-of-the-art 3D vision system. "SpotMini is a small four-legged robot that comfortably fits in an office or home," the company wrote on its website.
In the land of smart home appliances, Amazon has been tops for years. And after spending time with the company's new Amazon Echo, I have no reason to believe that's changing anytime soon. Over the last couple of weeks, I've been using the new Amazon Echo (2nd generation), an update to the company's wildly popular smart home appliance. And after putting it through its paces, adding skills, testing its microphone, and seeing how well its speaker could blast music around the house, I'm more convinced than ever that Amazon AMZN knows how to build a smart home device. Get Data Sheet, Fortune's technology newsletter And when the second-generation Echo launches on Tuesday for an affordable $100, I think many shoppers will discover the same.
Boston officials have formally approved a plan by self-driving car company nuTonomy to carry passengers in the Seaport, a service that could begin in a matter of weeks. The proposal comes as nuTonomy announced it has agreed to be acquired by auto part supplier Delphi. Earlier this year, nuTonomy and ride-hailing company Lyft said they would partner on a passenger service in Boston. Both companies said yesterday the program would continue despite nuTonomy's acquisition, but declined to comment on when they would be available. Like the test cars already driving on city streets, the passenger cars will have safety drivers, ready to take the wheel if necessary, and will be limited to the Seaport district.
Boston self-driving car start-up nuTonomy, which has been testing its autonomous cars in the Seaport since the beginning of the year, has agreed to be acquired by auto parts manufacturer Delphi for as much as $450 million, the companies said. "We're now a significant step forward towards delivering on the technology," said Karl Iagnemma, chief executive of nuTonomy. "This acquisition puts the combined team in the pole position to be one of the winners in the global AV race." Delphi's acquisition will include a $400 million up-front payment, with an additional $50 million in possible additional payments. "The acquisition of nuTonomy and bringing them in really helps us expand our scale and our capabilities," said Glen De Vos, chief technology officer of Delphi.
In the high-stakes contest to land Amazon's new headquarters, many consider Boston to be a serious contender competing against other big technology hubs around the United States and Canada. But it's also competing against its neighbors: Several smaller Massachusetts cities -- along with Rhode Island and southern New Hampshire -- are each submitting their own pitches to Amazon, using proximity to Boston's tech talent as a major draw. "Talent really is the unquestionable, huge priority," said Brian Dacey, president of the Cambridge Innovation Center and a former Boston economic development director who says the region could make a strong case for luring the Seattle e-commerce company. Local research strengths -- such as in artificial intelligence and robotics -- are important to Amazon's business model, he said. The Seattle company is promising $5 billion of investment and 50,000 jobs in whichever North American region it chooses to build a second headquarters.
Dozens of cities are working frantically to land Amazon's second headquarters, raising a weighty question with no easy answer: Amazon is promising $5 billion of investment and 50,000 jobs over the next decade and a half. Yet the winning city would have to provide Amazon with generous tax breaks and other incentives that can erode a city's tax base. Most economists say the answer is a qualified yes -- that an Amazon headquarters is a rare case in which a package of at least modest enticements could repay a city over time. That's particularly true compared with other projects that often receive public financial aid, from sports stadiums to the Olympics to manufacturing plants, which generally return lesser, if any, benefits over the long run. For the right city, winning Amazon's second headquarters could help it attain the rarefied status of "tech hub," with the prospect of highly skilled, well-paid workers by the thousands spending freely, upgrading a city's urban core and fueling job growth beyond Amazon itself.
Astronaut Mark Vande Hei made fast work of greasing the big robot arm's new hand. Vande Hei and station commander Randy Bresnik replaced the latching mechanism on one end of the 58-foot robot arm last Thursday. "I finish six months on the space station," Vande Hei replied. As the space station approached Italy early in the spacewalk, Mission Control urged Bresnik and Vande Hei to take some photos for their crewmate, Paolo Nespoli.
NASA astronauts took another spacewalk outside the International Space Station on Tuesday, this time to grease the robot arm's new hand. The pair replaced the latching mechanism on one end of the 58-foot robot arm last Thursday. Tuesday's work involved using a grease gun, which resembles a caulking gun, to keep the latching mechanism working smoothly. NASA plans to replace the latching mechanism on the opposite end of the arm early next year.