Washington Post


Giant Food Stores will place robotic assistants at 172 locations, company says

Washington Post

He goes by the name "Marty." Tall, slow-moving and gray, he has big cartoonish eyes that disguise something unique about the newest employee at Giant Food Stores: Marty is deliberate and relentless, and -- unlike his fellow employees -- he has the ability to work a seemingly endless number of hours without pay. Though he doesn't say much, a small message is always plastered to his slender trunk: "This store is monitored by Marty for your safety," it reads. "Marty is an autonomous robot that uses image capturing technology to report spills, debris and other potential hazards to store employees to improve your shopping experience." After a pilot program that kicked off in several Pennsylvania stores this past fall, Giant Food Stores announced Monday that it will place Martys in each of the supermarket chain's 172 stores across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.


Giant Food Stores will place robotic assistants at 172 locations, company says

Washington Post

He goes by the name "Marty." Tall, slow-moving and gray, he has big cartoonish eyes that disguise something unique about the newest employee at Giant Food Stores: Marty is deliberate and relentless, and -- unlike his fellow employees -- he has the ability to work a seemingly endless number of hours without pay. Though he doesn't say much, a small message is always plastered to his slender trunk: "This store is monitored by Marty for your safety," it reads. "Marty is an autonomous robot that uses image capturing technology to report spills, debris and other potential hazards to store employees to improve your shopping experience." After a pilot program that kicked off in several Pennsylvania stores this past fall, Giant Food Stores announced Monday that it will place Martys in each of the supermarket chain's 172 stores across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.


Hyundai's vision for the future: A car that walks on four legs

Washington Post

When experts ponder the future of automobiles, they tend to focus on two novel modes of transportation: driverless cars and flying cars. At this year's CES technology show in Las Vegas, Hyundai has introduced a third vision for how vehicles might traverse the world around them -- one that does not rely solely on wheels. More than 2,000 years after the wheelbarrow's debut in classical Greece, ushering in a new era of locomotion, Hyundai's latest concept car is designed to walk as easily as it rolls. Called "Elevate," the daddy-long-legs-like machine has wheels at the end of long robotic legs that would allow "users to drive, walk or even climb over the most treacherous terrain," according to the company. The company -- which labels the machine a UMV, or "ultimate mobility vehicle" -- said the concept was inspired by the need for "resilient transportation" in disaster zones, where conventional vehicles are often rendered useless.


Self-rolling suitcases and roll-up TVs: CES 2019's craziest and coolest gadgets

Washington Post

Hello future, you are weird. At least it is here at CES 2019, the tech industry's biggest annual conference. It's where companies big and small come to launch gadgets and test new ideas. Not all of them make it to stores. But there's an eternal optimism that technology can solve, well, almost any problem -- even ones you never knew you had.


A new fleet of autonomous robots is now making one of the world's oldest foods

Washington Post

In the beginning, archaeologists believe, the first breads were created using some of the most rudimentary technologies in human history: fire and stone. In the region that now encompasses Jordan, one of the world's most ancient examples -- a flatbread vaguely resembling pita and made from wild cereal grains and water -- was cooked in large fireplaces using flat basalt stones, according to Reuters. The taste is "gritty and salty," Amaia Arranz-Otaegui, a University of Copenhagen postdoctoral researcher in archaeobotany, told the news service. "But it is a bit sweet, as well." More than 10,000 years later, bread has clearly evolved but, perhaps, not as dramatically as the technology being used to bake it.


Google moves closer to creating 'Minority Report'-style sensors for controlling devices with hand gestures

Washington Post

Nearly two decades after its release, "Minority Report" still seems to be as prescient as the film's eerie crime-fighting "precogs," offering a clarifying vision of the future that continues to manifest in the real world. Though it debuted way back in 2002, the film highlighted technologies like driverless cars, hyper-targeted advertising and robotic insects -- all of which exist in 2019. Now, it appears Steven Spielberg's cinematic premonition may have included another technology that is potentially one step closer to reality: gesture-controlled sensing technology. Translated to English: technology that would allow us to control televisions, smartphones and computers without touching them, not unlike Tom Cruise's character, John Anderton, manipulating floating digital images like a conductor directing an orchestra (though he uses gloves instead of a baton). For years, Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab has been seeking to create motion sensors that might be used in similar technology, an effort the company dubbed Project Soli.


Hungry between classes? On this college campus, robot vending machines are delivering snacks to students.

Washington Post

In one of the iconic scenes from the teen movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," sun-baked stoner Jeff Spicoli has a double cheese and sausage pizza delivered to his classroom, boldly interrupting his uncompromising instructor mid-lecture. Spicoli was considered a mischievous airhead for flouting early-1980s dining etiquette, but he may actually have been way ahead of his time. More than three decades later, a California campus is embracing a kind of food delivery -- via robot. On Wednesday, students at University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., will be able to order snacks and beverages for the first time from a bright-colored roving robot on wheels known as the "Snackbot." Its stout body perched atop six small wheels, the electric Snackbot resembles some combination of an Igloo cooler and a Volkswagen Microbus.


Scarlett Johansson on fake AI-generated sex videos: 'Nothing can stop someone from cutting and pasting my image'

Washington Post

Scarlett Johansson is speaking out about the danger of computer-generated "deepfakes," in which women's faces are inserted into explicit pornographic videos. Her face has been grafted into dozens of graphic sex scenes by anonymous online "creators," who are using free artificial-intelligence software to create convincingly lifelike videos. One fake video, described as real "leaked" footage, has been watched on a major porn site more than 1.5 million times. Johansson, 34, is one of the world's highest-paid actresses, famous for roles in "The Avengers" and the sci-fi fantasy "Her," in which she played the faceless voice of an artificial-intelligence companion. And she has more experience than most with the dark reality of modern fame.


The NYPD's latest tool for keeping Times Square revelers safe: a remote-controlled drone

Washington Post

Before they pack into Times Square Monday night, thousands of New Year's Eve revelers will pass through the kind of intensive security measures that are normally found inside the nation's airports. While the crowd will probably be keenly aware of the heavy police presence, bomb-sniffing dogs and metal-sensing hand wands, there is one critical security measure that may escape their notice.


How fake-porn opponents are fighting back

Washington Post

The best hope for fighting computer-generated fake-porn videos might come from a surprising source: the artificial intelligence software itself. Technical experts and online trackers say they are developing tools that could automatically spot these "deepfakes" by using the software's skills against it, deploying image-recognition algorithms that could help detect the ways their imagery bends belief. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon's high-tech research arm known as DARPA, is funding researchers with hopes of designing an automated system that could identify the kinds of fakes that could be used in propaganda campaigns or political blackmail. Military officials have advertised the contracts -- code-named "MediFor," for "media forensics" -- by saying they want "to level the digital imagery playing field, which currently favors the manipulator." The photo-verification start-up Truepic checks for manipulations in videos and saves the originals into a digital vault so other viewers -- insurance agencies, online shoppers, anti-fraud investigators -- can confirm for themselves.