New Scientist


Dogs really can smell your fear, and then they get scared too

New Scientist

Dog owners swear that their furry best friend is in tune with their emotions. Now it seems this feeling of interspecies connection is real: dogs can smell your emotional state, and adopt your emotions as their own. Science had already shown that dogs can see and hear the signs of human emotions, says Biagio D'Aniello of the University of Naples "Federico II", Italy. But nobody had studied whether dogs could pick up on olfactory cues from humans. "The role of the olfactory system has been largely underestimated, maybe because our own species is more focused on the visual system," says D'Aniello.


AlphaGo's AI upgrade gets round the need for human input

New Scientist

NOT so long ago, mastering the ancient Chinese game of Go was beyond the reach of artificial intelligence. But then AlphaGo, Google DeepMind's AI player, started to leave even the best human opponents in the dust. Yet even this world-beating AI needed humans to learn from. AlphaGo Zero has surpassed its predecessor's abilities, bypassing AI's traditional method of learning games, which involves watching thousands of hours of human play. Instead, it simply starts playing at random, honing its skills by repeatedly playing against itself.


Online dating may be breaking down society's racial divisions

New Scientist

PEOPLE often marry people who are just like them – similar in terms of social background, world view and race. Online dating may be changing that, however, breaking us out of our existing social circles. Economists Josué Ortega at the University of Essex, UK, and Philipp Hergovich at the University of Vienna, Austria, suggest it could even lead to more integrated societies. Before the first dating websites appeared in the 1990s, most people would meet dates through existing networks of friends or colleagues. But the rise of dating sites like Match.com and apps like Tinder has made online dating the norm for many.


Driverless cars could let you choose who survives in a crash

New Scientist

An "ethical knob" could let the owners of self-driving cars choose their car's ethical setting. When humans drive cars, instinct governs our reaction to danger. The team have designed a dial that will switch a car's setting from "full altruist" to "full egoist", with the middle setting being impartial. If everybody were to choose the impartial option, the ethical knob will not help with the existing dilemma.


Skin-tight exoskeleton is worn like Spanx and lets you turn left

New Scientist

A body-hugging robotic suit lets the wearer turn as they walk – a first for this technology. It's an important step toward finally letting people take home supportive exosuits after injuries, rather than having to stay in hospital. Instead of joint motors driving leg movement, it has four actuators at the hips to control criss-crossing soft plastic wires that mimic the action of human muscles, which contract to generate movement. John is working on a sensor system that will detect when a wearer makes a slight turning motion, and complete the motion for them.


Google's new earbuds act as two-way translators in your ear

New Scientist

IF YOU have a Google Pixel phone, you will soon be able to speak 40 languages. All you need is a pair of the earbuds Google announced last week in San Francisco. To talk in one of the supported languages, you use the earbuds to access Google Assistant and the Google Translate app. Existing tech already does a similar job, including the Google Translate app and Skype Translator.


The stock market is run by wild robots we don't fully control

New Scientist

And researchers like Lo are beginning to find that the more the stock market is run by machines, the less it behaves like one. To understand why machines are taking over, it helps to look at how perceptions of the stock market have changed following the financial crisis of 2007-08. The alternative, espoused by the likes of finance tycoon Warren Buffet, is to invest in index funds. A market index is a collection of companies that give a snapshot of the market's value at any given time, like the FTSE 100 and the Standard & Poor's 500.


We urgently need to broaden the conversation on AI

New Scientist

The scholars, too, critiqued the descriptions rather than tackling the implications; some seemed affronted by the very idea of thinking machines. Meanwhile, machine learning applications are quietly becoming integral to our daily lives, with little consideration of the consequences (see "How scaremongering steps us asking the right questions about AI"). Machine learning alone may be fine when it comes to optimising, say, your power usage. Then there's the problem of "algorithmic bias" in AI decision-making (see "Biased policing is made worse by errors in pre-crime algorithms").


This AI can tell true hate speech from harmless banter

New Scientist

Another option is to detect hate speech automatically. "you're pretty smart for a girl" was deemed 18 per cent similar to comments people had deemed toxic, whereas "i love Fuhrer" was 2 per cent similar. Instead of focusing on isolated words and phrases, they taught machine learning software to spot hate speech by learning how members of hateful communities speak. "Comparing hateful and non-hateful communities to find the language that distinguishes them is a clever solution," says Thomas Davidson at Cornell University, who – together with Warmsley – has trained machine learning software to tell the difference between offensive and inoffensive speech by feeding it hand-picked examples of both.


Phone calls can be beamed right into your central nervous system

New Scientist

Just what you need in the age of ubiquitous surveillance: the latest cochlear implants will allow users stream audio directly from their iPhone into their cochlear nerve. Apple and implant manufacturer Cochlear have made "Made for iPhone" connectivity available for any hearing implants that use the next-generation Nucleus 7 sound processor. While some cochlear implants already offer Bluetooth connectivity, these often require users to wear extra dongles or other intermediary devices to pick up digital signals, and then rebroadcast them to the hearing aid as radio. That's unlikely to be a problem for cochlear implant users, as these devices can only stimulate a limited number of frequencies in the ear anyway -- because of this low sound quality, cochlear implants are reserved for those with profound hearing loss.