Delivery drones are real and they're operating on a national level, but they're not dropping off impulse purchases, and some of the most important applications are not in the United States. Zipline, a Bay Area startup, inked a deal with the government of Rwanda in 2016 and now uses small, autonomous planes to deliver medical supplies, and in particular blood, to rural communities across the African country. "It's a pretty cool paradigm shift for people who think all technological revolution is going on in US, and it'll trickle down to poor countries," says Zipline CEO, Keller Rinaudo, presenting his vision for drone deliveries on stage at the WIRED25 summit in San Francisco on Monday. "This is the opposite of that." Amazon created an internet-wide buzz when it announced it wanted to start delivering online shopping via drone, in a 60 Minutes interview in 2013.
America's first autonomous robot farm launched last week, in the hopes that artificial intelligence (AI) can remake an industry facing a serious labor shortage and pressure to produce more crops. Claiming an ability to "grow 30 times more produce than traditional farms" on the strength of AI software, year-round, soilless hydroponic processes, and moving plants as they grow to efficiently use space, the San Carlos, California-based company Iron Ox aims to address some of the agricultural industry's biggest challenges. Such challenges have also caught the attention of investors, who made more than $10bn in investments last year, representing a 29% increase from 2016. In a 2,000-sq ft grow space, leafy greens and herbs are planted in individual pots housed in 4ft by 8ft white "grow modules", which weigh about 800lb. Autonomous machines do the heavy lifting, farming and sensing.
Other companies experimenting in Arizona with similar technology include Waymo. The Google spinoff has been trying out robotic cars to help commuters get to stops on Phoenix's transit system. The company is also conducting a pilot program with Walmart shoppers taking the vehicles to pick up online grocery orders. Supermarket chain Kroger Co. recently partnered with Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup founded by ex-Google engineers, to test delivering groceries with driverless cars in the suburb of Scottsdale.
Wherever artificial intelligence is deployed, you will find it has failed in some amusing way. Take the strange errors made by translation algorithms that confuse having someone for dinner with, well, having someone for dinner. But as AI is used in ever more critical situations, such as driving autonomous cars, making medical diagnoses, or drawing life-or-death conclusions from intelligence information, these failures will no longer be a laughing matter. That's why DARPA, the research arm of the US military, is addressing AI's most basic flaw: it has zero common sense. "Common sense is the dark matter of artificial intelligence," says Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Allen Institute for AI, a research nonprofit based in Seattle that is exploring the limits of the technology.
In recognition of the fact that their obituary pages had been dominated by white men, in 2018 the New York Times published an obituary of the Countess Ada Lovelace. Alongside Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson, Lovelace has become an icon for women in technology. So much so that the second Tuesday in October is recognised internationally as Ada Lovelace Day. Lovelace was from a wealthy background; her father was the poet Lord Byron and her mother, Anne Isabella Milbanke, the "princess of parallelograms", was a keen mathematician and social reformer. Social scientists of today would describe Lovelace as having high "science capital" – her well-connected parents meant her mentors and advisers were members of the British scientific elite, including the polymaths Mary Somerville and Charles Babbage.
Data center-hosted artificial intelligence is rapidly proliferating in both government and commercial markets, and while it's an exciting time for AI, only a narrow set of applications is being addressed, primarily limited to neural networks based on convolutional approach. Other categories of AI include general AI, symbolic AI and bio-AI, and all three require different processing demands and run distinctly different algorithms. Virtually all of today's commercial AI systems run neural network applications. But much more control-intensive and powerful AI workloads using symbolic AI, bio-AI and general AI algorithms are ill-suited to GPU/TPU architectures. Today, commercial and governmental entities that need AI solutions are using workarounds to achieve more compute power for their neural net applications, and chief among them is specialty processors like Google TPUs and NVIDIA GPUs, provisioned in data centers specifically for AI workloads.
Self-driving car spinoff Waymo says the technology behind its new autonomous vehicles is safe. Waymo's CEO says they will buy up to 20,000 electric vehicles from Jaguar Land Rover to help realize their vision for a robotic ride-hailing service. SAN FRANCISCO -- Later this year, Alphabet's self-driving car company, Waymo, plans an historic first: offering a self-driving, ride-hailing fleet to the general public in the city of Phoenix. After nearly a decade of building and testing its autonomous cars -- which just hit the 10 million-mile milestone -- the former Google Car Project is about to hit start on what eventually will be self-driving car services in a few of the 25 U.S. in which it currently tests. So what's it like to hand over your daily driving chores to a robot?
Before Tuesday's deal, it raised $2 billion in 2018, led by Toyota Motor Corp and financial firms, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Capital. Singapore-headquartered Grab has taken its ride-hailing business to 235 cities in eight countries in Southeast Asia in the past six years. It is looking to transform itself into a leading consumer technology group, offering services such as food and parcel deliveries, electronic money transfers, micro-loans and mobile payments, besides ride-hailing. Grab will work with Microsoft to explore mobile facial recognition, image recognition and computer vision technologies to improve the pick-up experience, the companies said in a statement on Tuesday. For example, passengers will be able to take a photo of their current location and have it translated into an actual address for the driver.
Smart displays are the new smart speakers. A day after Facebook revealed Portal, a WiFi-connected video-chatting device for your home, Google has announced Home Hub, a new 7-inch smart screen that acts as a voice-controlled conduit for the Google Assistant. It's Google's first smart home gadget that's comprised largely of a touchscreen display, after having launched three different display-free smart speakers over the past couple years. The Home Hub is also part of Google's larger strategy to make its virtual assistant infinitely more useful, and also, to get its tech into every facet of your life that it can. Both Google and Facebook's connected displays are coming on the heels of Amazon's second-generation Echo Show, another smart display that's equipped with Alexa and displays snippets of information.