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) …
A curious add-on called "Looking Glass" started popping up on Firefox for a number of users this past week -- even if they didn't give the browser permission to install it. Due to its nebulous nature and creepy description that only said "MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT FROM YOURS," people took to social networks to ask other users and air their concerns. A screenshot of Looking Glass version 1.0.3 captured by TechCrunch shows that the extension's profile barely had anything in it. Based on the details unearthed by affected users, the add-on was developed by Mozilla's Shield Studies program, a platform available on all Firefox channels that gives you a way to test features before they're released. Some Shield studies ask for your permission to opt in, others automatically make their way to your browser and require you to actively opt out.
Waymo's lawsuit against Uber for allegedly stealing technology for self-driving cars hasn't gone to trial yet, because the judge received a letter from the Department of Justice suggesting Uber withheld crucial evidence. That letter, with some redactions, is now available for all to read and it's not good news for Uber. It was written by the attorney of a former employee, Richard Jacobs, and it contains claims that the company routinely tried to hack its competitors to gain an edge, used a team of spies to steal secrets or surveil political figures and even bugged meetings between transport regulators -- with some of this information delivered directly to former CEO Travis Kalanick. Alphabet's self-driving arm Waymo is making the case that Anthony Levandowski created the autonomous trucking company Otto as a scheme to steal its trade secrets and sell them to Uber. In the letter, it says that members of the Uber SSG team Jacobs worked on traveled to Pittsburgh after it acquired the company to instruct Otto employees on how to use burner phones and ephemeral communications apps to avoid discovery in an expected lawsuit.
Tech's biggest players have fully embraced the AI revolution. Apple, Qualcomm and Huawei have made mobile chipsets that are designed to better tackle machine learning tasks, each with a slightly different approach. Huawei launched its Kirin 970 at IFA this year, calling it the first chipset with a dedicated neural processing unit (NPU). Then, Apple unveiled the A11 Bionic chip, which powers the iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X. The A11 Bionic features a neural engine that the company says is "purpose-built for machine learning," among other things.
Volvo is adjusting the timeline on its ambitious Drive Me autonomous program until it can find the right sensors. "The development in sensor performance and processor capabilities is going so much faster than we expected in 2013," program director Marcus Rothoff recently told Automotive News Europe. "Because advancements are being made at such a rapid pace, we want to make this decision as late as possible." In addition to the sensors that enable Level 4 autonomy (the car can drive itself, but a steering wheel and pedals are still present), the Swedish automaker is having issues with the wiring. Rothoff said that laying copper has been "a really huge" challenge that was unanticipated at the project's outset in 2013.
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. After spending 35 hours researching and testing seven of the best kits for learning robotics, we found the Lego Boost to be the best kit for most beginners. With its Lego-based design, built-in sensors, and the most expansive set of options for creativity and personalization, it was the most fun to build with. And the streamlined tablet app's user-friendly instructions and super-simple programming made it the easiest to learn of any of the kits we tried.
While Canary's security cameras can notify you when they detect something moving in your home, they can't differentiate between an intruder and your pet Fluffy doing zoomies. Once their new feature rolls out, though, you won't have to get 20 notifications in an hour if you don't want to. The company has announced that it's rolling out Person Detection to all Canary and Canary Flex cameras in the near future -- for free. It relies on machine learning to figure out whether your camera is seeing a human being, so the system can send you specific person alerts. Canary didn't say when the feature will be available.
Rinspeed has been dreaming up insane vehicles for years -- from scuba cars plucked from James Bond's garage to modded self-driving rides. Even if they never make it to the public, the concepts are at least fun to check out, and the Rinspeed Snap is no different. Essentially a modular vehicle in two parts, the Snap is made up of interchangeable pods that attach to a rolling chassis, which houses data-processing computers and the EV power train. When the latter starts ageing, you simply slide a new one under your existing pod, theoretically extending the lifecycle of the vehicle at a fraction of the cost of buying a new car. And, if you get bored of the top half, you can swap that out too.
Yesterday we got an exterior view of the first flight for Blue Origin's Crew Capsule 2.0, but now the company is back to show us what it's like from inside. Its plan is to offer "space tourism" trips that take six people at a time beyond the Karman Line to experience weightlessness and views through the capsule's "biggest windows in space." The test capsule isn't looking as polished as the concept images we'd seen before, but this 11-minute video is a pretty good preview of what customers can expect when Blue Origin starts putting real people on top of its New Shepard spacecraft. Plus, according to Jeff Bezos, passengers will be able to get out of their seats to experience zero-g, and on the ground perhaps enjoy the company of this Blue2D2 landing pad robot. Take that, SpaceX drone ship.
Hunting for exoplanets is a very data-intensive and time-consuming task. Sifting through piles of data to find subtle signs of distant planets takes quite a lot of work, but researchers at Google have been developing a way to use AI to make the process faster and more effective. NASA's Kepler mission spent four years focused on one patch of sky and during that time it collected 14 billion data points from 200,000 stars. Spotting an exoplanet is typically done by observing when a star's light temporarily dims as an exoplanet passes between us and the star. During those years, Kepler took a picture every 30 minutes, so there were a lot of chances for that effect to be observed.
Astonishingly, Apple's long-delayed HomePod speaker might not be the last to market when it launches early next year. Samsung will release its own smart speaker in the first half of 2018, according to a Bloomberg report. Unsurprisingly, it will reportedly run Bixby, Samsung's personal assistant rivaling Siri and Alexa, and may be priced at $200. The yet-untitled speaker will focus on audio quality and managing smart home devices, sources told Bloomberg. It will also work with the SmartThings service and product network, the company Samsung acquired back in 2014.