Rockstar Games, the world-renowned developer behind the Grand Theft Auto series, has been hard at work this month promoting its latest digital epic, the cowboy-simulator Red Dead Redemption 2. It is set to be one of the biggest releases of 2018, but it seems that this comes at a cost. According to an interview given by Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser, staff have apparently been working 100-hour weeks to get the game finished. That may be true, but overwork is treated as a fact of life in the tech sector – watch a movie about a plucky tech startup and you'll see people chugging energy drinks and working through the night to meet deadlines. In reality, it ruins lives and destroys relationships, and it has been doing so for decades. Given that tech firms hoover up some of the smartest minds on the planet, you would think they could find a better way.
What are the best two legs for running an obstacle course? One leg that crawls at the knee joint, and one massive leg dragged behind for stability like a kangaroo's tail, according to a recent simulation. David Ha, a researcher at Google, created a virtual robot with a wide head supported by two legs and tasked it with crossing a randomly generated landscape within a time limit. It learnt to do this with an algorithm used in artificial intelligence called reinforcement learning. When the terrain is fairly flat, the AI crossed most quickly when it developed a jaunty skipping gait that it performed on the'knees' of its long, skinny legs.
ARTIFICIAL intelligence breakthroughs have become a regular occurrence in recent years. One of the most impressive achievements so far was in 2016, when Google DeepMind's AlphaGo AI beat champion Lee Sedol at one of the world's most complex games, Go. The feat made headlines around the world as an example of machines besting humans, but in some sense it wasn't a fair fight.
In the five steps from door to reception desk my photo has been taken, my face saved in the system and an ID number assigned. For the rest of my time in Great Ormond Street Hospital's new high-tech unit in London, which opens today, I am followed by an AI. Video screens show my head in a red box, annotated with a score showing how confident the computer is that I am who it thinks I am.
A chocolate brown dog looks down the barrel of the camera lens. A spider is suspended above grass by its web. They are gorgeous photographs, but they don't actually exist – artificial intelligence dreamt them up. Andrew Brock of Heriot-Watt University and colleagues at Google's DeepMind created a generative adversarial network (GAN), a type of algorithm that pits two AIs against each other, to produce new images. The GAN, known as BigGAN, was first trained on thousands of images linked to particular words, such as dog or butterfly.
"It has been two weeks, and the last of my kind has gone." It is even more impressive when you realise the writer isn't human, but a newly developed artificial intelligence. Getting machines to create stories is hard. At a minimum, a good yarn must have a plausible sequence of events that lead you from the beginning to the end.
Facebook is being forced to apologise once again – this time for the biggest hack in its history. On Friday it announced that that it had discovered an attack that exposed the personal details of 50 million accounts, including those of co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg. The attack also gave the hackers access to other services that people logged into using their Facebook account, such as Tinder, Instagram, Spotify and Airbnb. To break in, the attackers exploited an interaction between several different bugs in Facebook's code, tricking the site into handing over the digital keys to individual accounts. When using the "View As" feature, which lets you see what your profile looks like to another user, a video-upload box was incorrectly left activated.
China's second space station, Tiangong-2, is coming back to Earth as planned. It will finish its two-year mission as a temporary space station and start de-orbiting for a controlled destruction in the middle of next year. After a year of delay, Tiangong-2 blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert of northern China, in September 2016. This 8.6-tonne spacecraft serves as a laboratory for 14 experiments including a plant cultivation study, a quantum communication experiment, and a robotic arm.
Robots are great for exploring places that are hard to reach. We've sent them to explore the surface of Mars and the depths of the oceans. Soon they could be crawling over the outside of your body. SkinBot is a palm-sized bipedal robot with suction-cup feet inspired by leeches and the suckers of cephalopods. Artem Dementyev at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab is interested in developing small helper robots that live on our bodies.
Dozens of spiral tubes emerged from the ground overnight, constructed like giant cocoons. These weren't created by nature, but by a swarm of silkworm-inspired robots called Fiberbots. Each Fiberbot is a 30-centimetre-tall cylinder with a thin arm sticking out from the top. After creating an 8-centimetre long segment, Fiberbot then crawls forward to build the next section.