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) …
As it continues to improve its sensor technology to help its vehicle understand its surroundings and respond quickly and safely to unfolding events, it's also been considering how to deal with unavoidable collisions, whether it's with a "soft" human that could easily sustain an injury, or a harder object like another vehicle. A patent recently awarded to Waymo offers some insight into how the company is approaching the issue. In Waymo's own words: "The vehicle may contain tension members that are arranged so that a change in tension across one or more of the tension members will alter the rigidity of the vehicle's surface. The vehicle may identify and respond to a potential collision by altering the tension that is applied to one or more tension members, thereby altering the rigidity of the vehicle's surface."
Looking to ever expand ways to deliver goods to its customers, Amazon has patented a way to allow its drones to deliver packages without ever having to land. The patent would not only provide a safe distance between the UAVs and the people receiving the packages, but also cut down on noise pollution, BizJournals noted. Bezos, now the world's third-richest man with an estimated fortune of $83.3 billion according to Forbes, first showed off Amazon's drone delivery unit in a Dec. 2013 interview on "60 Minutes." It recently filed patents for a beehive-like structure that would allow drones to pick up and drop off packages.
The next time you're strolling through a Walt Disney theme park, your snugly hug or photo with your favorite character may be with a super realistic robot-- and not a person in a costume. Disney Enterprises Inc. announced it has filed a U.S. patent for a 3D printed, interactive, soft robot. The application describes the new "soft body" robot to be built specifically for "physical interaction with humans." Disney has a dedicated robotics research department, which is currently developing several projects designed to create a "future in which robots interact with humans in complex, unpredictable environments." If thoughts of a sci-fi world where sentient Disney characters take over the planet and wipe out humanity crossed your mind, fear not, the patent details the robots will actually be operated via a romote controlled device.
Tired of searching far-flung corners of a big box retail store for that item you want? Walmart may have a high-tech solution – the retail giant has filed a patent to use drones within its stores. The patent application describes "dispatching an airborne drone to an item located within a retail shopping facility, securing that item of inventory to the airborne drone, and then directing the airborne drone to carry the item of inventory to a delivery area located within the retail shopping area." While it is not clear whether delivery drones will ever make it into Walmart stores, the patent filing comes at a time when the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company is looking to increase its level automation.
Apple has been awarded a new patent for facial-recognition technology that has stoked flames the company might be planning to integrate it into the iPhone 8 and Apple Car technology. The patent, called "Enhanced face detection using depth information," describes a method by which a device's built-in camera would capture a depth map and places a window frame over each face. Using the depth information it's already mapped, the technology in the patent, which was earlier reported on by AppleInsider, would scale each face to accurately depict how far away or close people are in the frame. Interestingly, the technology was invented by Primesense, the company that created Microsoft's original Kinect and Apple subsequently acquired in 2013. While Apple files for patents all the time on technologies that might or might not make their way to its devices, this one describes in detail a feature that the rumor mill has been churning out about Apple's iPhone 8. Specifically, rumors have said that Apple wants to deliver a high-end front camera in its iPhone 8 that would feature 3D-sensing capabilities similar to what's described in the patent.
Besides government regulations, bad weather, weight restrictions, and all the other issues that plague Amazon's budding drone delivery service, the company must also face the prospect of thieves shooting down drones to steal their packages. It's a problem that Amazon has been working on since at least 2014, when it filed a patent for "countermeasures" to protect drones against everything from gunshots to hackers breaching its navigation software. The patent was approved last week, GeekWire reported, offering insight into how Amazon intends to safeguard drone-borne packages of the future. The patent describes two main lines of defense for the drones. The first are electronic systems designed to detect signal jammers or other hacking attempts, including a backup communications interface if the primary one is compromised.
Amazon's Prime Air drone delivery service, if it ever gets off the ground, could one day use the top of street lights, cell towers, and even church steeples as docking stations for its flying machine. The stations would serve as charging points for the drones, enabling them to stop off at multiple points for a battery boost thereby giving them a much greater flying range. Such a system could, in theory, open up pretty much the whole of the country to the possibility of drone delivery, as a single drone could hop from point to point on its way to an address. The docking stations could also shelter the drones from harsh weather conditions that may develop after they leave the distribution center to begin their delivery run. The new ideas are outlined in a patent awarded this month by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) under the title, "Multi-use UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) docking station systems and methods."