TIME


Why Self-Driving Cars Might Not Lead to a Huge Drop In Fuel Consumption

TIME

Automated cars–once a far-off dream–have in recent years left the realm of science fiction and leapt closer to the American garage. Leading U.S. automakers say that bona fide self-driving cars are coming within two decades and they're fighting to stay competitive, from Ford's $1 billion investment in an artificial-intelligence company earlier this year to Uber's 2016 purchase of self-driving truck company Otto. These advances promise relief to drivers sick of two-hour commutes and bumper-to-bumper traffic, but they leave open questions for a society shaped for the past century around the automobile. Perhaps no area is more quantifiably uncertain than the environmental impact of automated vehicles. One report from the Department of Energy found that automated vehicles could reduce fuel consumption for passenger cars by as much as 90%, or increase it by more than 200%.


The 25 Best Inventions of 2017

TIME

Personal robots, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, have come a long way in recent years. But fundamentally, they're still stationary speakers whose defining expression is a light that turns on when you speak. It's not just that he--and I use the term he here, because that's how Jibo refers to himself--looks like something straight out of a Pixar movie, with a big, round head and a face that uses animated icons to convey emotion. It's not just that his body swivels and swerves while he speaks, as if he's talking with his nonexistent hands. It's not just that he can giggle and dance and turn to face you, wherever you are, as soon as you say, "Hey, Jibo."


Think AI Is Scary Already? This Software Writes its Own Horror Stories

TIME

Don't throw away your Stephen King collection just yet. But the Master of the Macabre might want to keep an eye out behind him, because scientists have just unleashed a nightmare machine on a mission to churn out its own bone-chilling tales. MIT researchers have applied the electrodes and brought to life a new fiction-writing bot they call Shelley -- after "Frankenstein" author Mary Shelley. To keep the bot busy -- no wandering the countryside terrorizing villagers! Now Shelley's artificial neural network is generating its own stories, posting opening lines on Twitter, then taking turns with humans in collaborative storytelling.


Review: What It's Like to Have Microsoft's Virtual Butler in Your Living Room

TIME

Microsoft is out to prove that Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant aren't the only virtual concierges worth inviting into your home. After first teasing its Cortana-powered speaker last December, Harman Kardon's Invoke will finally launch on October 22 for $199. Invoke's arrival along with similar high-end devices also marks a turning point for intelligent speakers. Potential buyers no longer need choose between high quality audio and having a smart assistant they can summon by voice. Early Internet-connected speakers, such as the first generation Echo and Google Home, provided good enough sound for casual listening.


'This Should Not Have Happened.' A Drone Crashed Into a Canadian Passenger Plane

TIME

A drone crashed into a commercial plane in Canada on Thursday, renewing the aviation industry's worries about the growing number of small hobbyist aircraft taking to the skies. A landing Skyjet flight was less than two miles from Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City when a drone struck the aircraft, according to CTV News. The plane landed successfully and "only sustained minor damage," according to a Sunday statement from Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau. "This should not have happened," Garneau told reporters, according to CTV News. "The drone should not have been there."


Google Wants to Give Your Computer a Personality

TIME

All of which is part of his job as principal personality designer for Google Assistant, the company's voice-activated helper found on a wide range of smartphones and its Home smart speaker, which first went on sale last fall. To do so, the company has turned to a team of left-brained creative types that Google isn't exactly known for hiring: fiction writers, filmmakers, video-game designers, empathy experts and comedians. Making that character seem plausible falls to Google's personality team, which has been working on turning Assistant into a digital helper that seems human without pretending to be one. Coats, whose title is character lead for personality, draws on years of experience developing fictional characters.


The Artificial Intelligence Gap Is Getting Narrower

TIME

Sci-fi author Isaac Asimov came up with the "Laws of Robotics," an influential concept, in order to help clarify how humans might constrain their creations. For Asimov, robot intelligence is categorically different from humans': we're governed by ethics we can change in the moment, whereas for robots, self-preservation comes only after protecting and serving man. The Matrix (1999) depicted a burned-out world destroyed by conflict between man and machine but characterized the machines that governed it (and thrived off energy produced by the bodies of imprisoned humans) mainly as skittering, spider-like entities. Westworld, the HBO series based on a Michael Crichton film, plays with similar themes--its robot "hosts" are there to show humans a good time in a futuristic theme park, but the robots crave freedom.


How Robots Are Changing the Way You See a Doctor

TIME

Machine learning, the most basic form of artificial intelligence, is already infiltrating the medical field, and it turns out that machines can play an important role in improving our health--including making diagnoses more accurately and quickly and finding better treatments that save people time and money and prevent exposure to harmful side effects. And with the amount of data available to physicians today--from information about disease symptoms to new drugs, interactions between different drugs and how different people treated in the same way can have very different outcomes--the ability to access and digest information is fast becoming a required skill. One level will focus on providing patients with the best available information for treating their cancer with existing therapies; Watson provides access to a database of the collected knowledge of Memorial Sloan Kettering's cancer doctors, as well as the most important cancer studies in the medical literature that these doctors rely on when making their decisions about how to treat patients. The genetic options are based on a careful analysis of the patient's specific tumor, the mutations driving the disease and drugs that might be targeted to address those mutations.


Google Just Unveiled the Home Mini to Challenge Amazon's Echo Dot

TIME

Google will release a smaller version of its Home smart speaker, the company revealed during an event on Wednesday. The device, called the Google Home Mini, will cost $49 and launches on October 19. The speaker will be available in light grey, dark grey, and orange color options. The Google Home Mini is a direct competitor to Amazon's Echo Dot, a smaller version of Amazon's smart speaker that is also priced at $49.


Google Just Took Aim at Apple With Its New Home Max Speaker

TIME

If that sounds familiar, it should: Apple's Siri-powered HomePod speaker, which it announced in June, is also intended to adapt to its audio based on its environment. Google says the Home Max will be available for $399 in December, $50 more than Apple's HomePod, which is expected to debut in the same timeframe. The Home Max's sound is 20 times more powerful than that of the standard Google Home, and the speaker uses artificial intelligence to alter the sound accordingly. If one were to move the Home Max a few feet in a particular direction, for example, the speaker would be able to compensate for that change.