MIT Technology Review


Uber's Other Big Problem: Driverless Cars Aren't Ready Yet

MIT Technology Review

For the past eight years, Uber's chief executive officer and co-founder Travis Kalanick played the role of disruptive entrepreneur with wild abandon--and to great effect. If the privately-held company were to go public in the future at anything approaching its current valuation of around $60 billion, taking a bite out of the $40 billion a year global taxi business would be table stakes. By improving its brand and improving relations with drivers, Uber can reverse recent declines in its share of the ride-hailing market, and generate tens of billions in annual revenue by taking share from the $40 billion global taxi industry. On Monday, the Japanese investment company Softbank announced a $100 million investment in 99.


From the NFL to MIT: The Double Life of John Urschel

MIT Technology Review

As a result, Urschel has been profiled in Sports Illustrated and the Washington Post and featured on HBO's Real Sports; written columns (featuring math puzzles) for The Players' Tribune; and even appeared in a nationally broadcast television commercial last season for Bose headphones, along with J.J. Watt, the superstar defensive end of the Houston Texans. But why is a highly paid pro football player grinding through problems in the math study room? Those papers cover areas such as spectral graph theory and feature titles like "Spectral Bisection of Graphs and Connectedness"--which appeared in Linear Algebra and Its Applications in the spring of 2014, around the time the Ravens drafted him. Despite the extraordinary degree of commitment required to play football at his level, Urschel remains fully committed to pursuing math at the highest level, too, Zikatanov says.


The Double Life of John Urschel

MIT Technology Review

As a result, Urschel has been profiled in Sports Illustrated and the Washington Post and featured on HBO's Real Sports; written columns (featuring math puzzles) for The Players' Tribune; and even appeared in a nationally broadcast television commercial last season for Bose headphones, along with J.J. Watt, the superstar defensive end of the Houston Texans. But why is a highly paid pro football player grinding through problems in the math study room? Those papers cover areas such as spectral graph theory and feature titles like "Spectral Bisection of Graphs and Connectedness"--which appeared in Linear Algebra and Its Applications in the spring of 2014, around the time the Ravens drafted him. Despite the extraordinary degree of commitment required to play football at his level, Urschel remains fully committed to pursuing math at the highest level, too, Zikatanov says.


Inspecting Algorithms for Bias

MIT Technology Review

If used properly, criminal-justice algorithms offer "the chance of a generation, and perhaps a lifetime, to reform sentencing and unwind mass incarceration in a scientific way." Raising the incidence of true positives or lowering the false positives are both ways to improve a statistical measure known as positive predictive value, or PPV. As Gummadi points out, ProPublica compared false positive rates and false negative rates for blacks and whites and found them to be skewed in favor of whites. Used properly, they offer "the chance of a generation, and perhaps a lifetime, to reform sentencing and unwind mass incarceration in a scientific way," according to Anthony Flores, Christopher Lowenkamp, and Kristin Bechtel, three researchers who found flaws in the methodology that ProPublica used to analyze COMPAS.


Tim Cook: Technology Should Serve Humanity, Not the Other Way Around

MIT Technology Review

Among them: the HomePod smart speaker (see "Apple Is Countering Amazon and Google with a Siri-Enabled Speaker") and new ways developers can build artificial intelligence into apps. Picard, an expert in using wearable devices and phone data to measure human emotions, is researching how data pulled from cell phones might help identify and perhaps even predict depression, a problem expected to be the second leading cause of disability in the world by 2020. Picard's lab doesn't use Apple phones for its research today, though she tells Cook she would like to. For their current study of student emotional health, her team can't get certain data from an iPhone that they need.


The Octogenarians Who Love Amazon's Alexa

MIT Technology Review

They can make calls via voice commands using Amazon's Alexa-to-Alexa calling service, which is compatible with other Echo devices and Amazon's Alexa smartphone app. For example, a resident trying to reach her grandson can say, "Alexa, ask Marvee to have Eric call me," and the app will send Eric a text or e-mail that says, "Call Grandma when you get a chance." Family members can also submit their own messages to Marvee, which can be retrieved just by saying, "Alexa, ask Marvee for family news." To help those users, Front Porch asked Amazon to release an equalizer feature that would let people adjust Alexa's treble, midrange, and bass range levels.


Blood from the Sky: Zipline's Ambitious Medical Drone Delivery in Africa

MIT Technology Review

This meant that Zipline's drones, which have a flight range of 150 kilometers, could serve nearly half the country from a single launch site. Zipline's plans for Rwanda include scaling up to a wide range of medical products, including emergency rabies vaccines; drugs to treat HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria; contraceptives; and diagnostic test kits. Today, Rwanda's Ministry of Health stores blood at a national center in Kigali and four regional depots around the country; its 58 facilities equipped to handle blood transfusions, mainly hospitals, keep a small inventory of common blood types and must continually restock from the depots or national center. The World Health Organization estimates that Rwanda has one maternal death for every 344 live births, 20 times the rate in the United States and 97 times the rate in the top-performing countries in Europe.


How AI Can Keep Accelerating After Moore's Law

MIT Technology Review

A paper from Google's researchers says they simultaneously used as many as 800 of the powerful and expensive graphics processors that have been crucial to the recent uptick in the power of machine learning (see "10 Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Deep Learning"). Feeding data into deep learning software to train it for a particular task is much more resource intensive than running the system afterwards, but that still takes significant oomph. Intel has slowed the pace at which it introduces generations of new chips with smaller, denser transistors (see "Moore's Law Is Dead. It also motivates the startups--and giants such as Google--creating new chips customized to power machine learning (see "Google Reveals a Powerful New AI Chip and Supercomputer").


An Open-Source (and Cute) Alternative to Amazon Echo

MIT Technology Review

When it comes to voice-enabled digital assistants, there are plenty of them available these days--in addition to the Echo, which runs Amazon's Alexa assistant, there's Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and Google's assistant. Mycroft--whose voice assistant, which runs on Mark 1, is also called Mycroft--isn't trying to rival any of these big companies' digital helpers, says CEO Joshua Montgomery. Rather, he says, the idea is to democratize the voice assistant--making it available and adaptable for everyone from kids working on school projects to companies that want to use open-source voice-enabled technology for a call center. Montgomery says that user data sent to Mycroft will only be used by the company for improving its technology if users give permission to do so.


Jim Hackett's Toughest Job Yet: Leading Ford into the Driverless Era

MIT Technology Review

Ford Motor Co. this week tapped Jim Hackett--a former office furniture chief executive who has been running its ride- and vehicle-sharing division since March 2016--to assume leadership of the company. Hackett's assignment: to transform the 114-year-old automaker from a company that designs and sells vehicles driven by their owners into one that makes autonomous vehicles (see "What to Know Before You Get In a Self-Driving Car"). Though driverless technology is under Ford research and development and the direction of Ken Washington, Ford's new chief technical officer, during Hackett's time as chairman of the mobility business he became more familiar with the technological challenges of automated driving. In February, he praised Ford's commitment to acquire and invest $1 billion over the next five years in Argo.ai, a small artificial intelligence startup created by former leaders in driverless tech at Uber and Google.