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Microsoft's Cortana now has 230 skills (and Amazon's Alexa, 25,000)

ZDNet

There are currently 230 skills, or supplemental apps, available for Microsoft's Cortana digital assistant, while there are at least 25,000 for Amazon's Alexa. No, that's not a typo. I'm not missing a comma or some zeros. There are only 230 Cortana skills, as of December 2017. And this includes as part of the total more than a few school fight songs.


Robots will soon be able to taste and smell your bad cooking

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Rewired, a robotics-focused "venture studio" based in London and Lausanne, Switzerland, just struck a partnership with a company called Aromyx, which is bringing two long-neglected senses into the digital world. Based in Palo Alto, Aromyx develops technologies that enable scientific, reproducible measurement and digitization of taste and scent. They've commercialized the human olfactory system. Digitally replicating taste and smell in a repeatable way has been difficult for engineers, biologists, and chemists, in part because it requires a complex coordination of all three fields. But Aromyx, working with scientists at Stanford, has figured out how to reproduce the biochemical signals that our sensing organs send to the brain and measure those signals in a meaningful way.


The Droids of Star Wars: Feel the Dark Side

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Which is better: Star Trek or Star Wars? I saw the film opening week when I was eight years old. I had the action figures, toys, playsets, the lunch boxes, the pajamas. I remember it as if it was yesterday. Star Wars was really the beginning of the mainstreaming or dumbing down of Science Fiction.


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Naver Labs, the research subsidiary of South Korean search giant Naver, has opened the patent and design for its robotic cart, dubbed AIRCART, the company announced. Third-party developers will be able to use an open kit provided by the firm sometime within the first half of next year to create related robotic products, the company said. The kit will have the source code, circuit design board, and user guide for the patents. AIRCART is an electronic cart with physical human-robot interaction technology applied that augments strength. A strength sensor on the handle reads the user's intention and controls power and direction, and the user can then move heavy items with little exertion.


Samsung to launch smart speaker in first half of 2018: Report

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Samsung plans to launch a smart speaker to rival Amazon Echo, Google Home, and others, in the first half of 2018, according to Bloomberg. The smart speaker will use Samsung's Bixby voice assistant utilized in the Galaxy smartphone lineup, and aims to connect smart home appliances. It's not clear what Samsung plans to call its smart speaker, however the report said it may be priced at $200 and harp on audio quality. Samsung's focus for the speaker is to be a hub for its SmartThings ecosystem and other Samsung devices including smart refrigerators and Galaxy smartphones. Bixby, like Apple's Siri and Amazon Alexa, allows users to access information like weather, sports scores, news, traffic info, web services, and more with their voice.


Welcome to the data-driven machine: Digital transformation in the construction industry

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The Internet of Things is creating serious new security risks. We examine the possibilities and the dangers. Building and operating the machines that make infrastructure and construction works such as roads, buildings and bridges possible is something that seldom gets mainstream attention. These machines may not seem as shiny and cool as cars for example, but in many ways they are not just more important, but more advanced as well. It's not just that without them none of the material to build everything the industry builds would not be available, transportation would be a major issue, and everything we come to take for granted would be disrupted.


StreamSets updates ETL to the cloud data pipeline

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The emergence of real-time streaming analytics use cases has shifted the center of gravity for managing real-time processes. Because they operate in the moment, streaming engines by nature have been confined to performing rudimentary operations such as monitoring, filtering, light transformations of data. But as the need for performing more complex operations, such as using streaming data to retrain machine learning models, data pipelines have gained new prominence. Data pipelines spick up where streaming and message queuing systems leave off. They provide end-to-end management of data flows from ingest through buffering, filtering, transformation and enrichment, and basic analytic functions that can be squeezed into real time.


GPU killer: Google reveals just how powerful its TPU2 chip really is

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A custom high-speed network in TPU2s means they can be coupled together to become TPU Pod supercomputers. So far, Google has only provided a few images of its second-generation Tensor Processing Unit, or TPU2, since announcing the AI chip in May at Google I/O. The company has now revealed a little more about the processor, the souped-up successor to Google's first custom AI chip. As spotted by the Register, Jeff Dean from the Google Brain team delivered a TPU2 presentation to scientists at last week's Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference in Long Beach, California. Earlier this year, Dean explained that the first TPU focused on efficiently running machine-learning models for tasks like language translation, AlphaGo Go strategy, and search and image recognition.


AI and big data converge to improve your airport customer experience

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Did you know airports are just as worried about competing for your business as everyone else? Next time you walk through an airport terminal, think about all the systems and processes swirling around you, or could potentially swirl around you, intended to improve your experience there. If you were the CIO or IT director of the facility, what would be the focus of your efforts? Imagine all the tech possibilities with Chicago O'Hare. The airport customer experience happens at two levels - either delivered by the airline or by the airport itself.


Connected car security outfit Upstream Security snags $9m in funding

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Upstream Security has secured $9 million in a Series A funding round and plans to use the investment to expand further in the US and Europe. On Wednesday, the company said in a statement that the funding round, led by Charles River Ventures (CRV), includes cash injections from Israeli-based Glilot Capital Partners and Maniv Mobility. The funding builds on a successful seed funding round in June which secured $2 million. Israel-based Upstream Security offers cloud-based security solutions for connected cars to automakers which need to outsource the security aspect of such technologies. The firm uses Big Data, analytics, and machine learning to provide non-intrusive defense against cyberattacks and to detect anomalies which may be malicious behavior.