Toyota has turned to artificial intelligence for help in the hunt for new advanced battery materials and fuel cell catalysts. The Toyota Research Institute (TRI) is investing $35 million into the project and is teaming up with various institutions and companies, including MIT and Stanford University. By using artificial intelligence techniques, such as machine learning, the researchers can reduce the time it takes to conjure up new materials it wants to use for future zero-emission and carbon-neutral vehicles. "Toyota recognizes that artificial intelligence is a vital basic technology that can be leveraged across a range of industries, and we are proud to use it to expand the boundaries of materials science. Accelerating the pace of materials discovery will help lay the groundwork for the future of clean energy and bring us even closer to achieving Toyota's vision of reducing global average new-vehicle CO2 emissions by 90 percent by 2050."
If the human race has any hope of meeting the challenge of climate change, it will need to think its way out of the conundrum it has wrought. People need meaningful work to do. Business owners need profits to stay in business. Commerce takes energy -- lots of it -- to keep chugging ahead. But work and commerce generate effluent that poisons the land, the air, and the seas.
We've already heard of all the nasty consequences that could occur if the pace of global climate change doesn't abate by the year 2050 -- we could see wars over water, massive food scarcity, and the extinction of once populous species. Now add to the mix a potentially new wrinkle on the abrupt and irreversible changes – superintelligent robots would be just about ready to take over from humanity in the event of any mass extinction event impacting the planet. In fact, according to a mind-blowing research paper published in mid-August by computer science researchers Joel Lehman and Risto Miikkulainen, robots would quickly evolve in the event of any mass extinction (defined as the loss of at least 75 percent of the species on the planet), something that's already happened five times before in the past. In a survival of the fittest contest in which humans and robots start at zero (which is what we're really talking about with a mass extinction event), robots would win every time. That's because humans evolve linearly, while superintelligent robots would evolve exponentially.
Tado debuted a small improvement to its smart A/C control device, offering customers the option to use Amazon's Alexa digital assistant to control Tado-connected air conditioners. To use it, all you'll need do is add the Alexa Tado skill in your Amazon account. The Tado device renders otherwise dumb air-conditioning units programmable, and multiple units can work together to control air conditioners in different rooms of your home. So a simple phrase like "Alexa, set living room to 68 degrees," or "Alexa, increment (or decrement to decrease) living room by two degrees" will change the target temperatures for the A/C units in those rooms accordingly. Tado is using Amazon's smart-home API to make its voice commands sound a little more natural.
In the last few years, the world of artificial intelligence has mainly been dominated by large internet companies with huge computing infrastructures like Google and Facebook, or research universities like MIT or Stanford. The non-profit research firm is backed by heavy hitters like co-chairs Elon Musk (of SpaceX and Tesla fame), Y Combinator's Sam Altman, as well as investor Peter Thiel (who worked with Musk at PayPal). They claim to have garnered a billion dollars in private funding, from people like Thiel and Amazon Web Services. "We believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely," OpenAI writes in its first blog post, published just a few moments ago. The goal? Make the scope of A.I less narrow.
As micro-molding gives way to "nano-molding," processors will need creative answers to the problems of handling flyspeck-sized parts. Farms may replace oil wells as the source of new plastics. Biopolymers made from cornstarch or other renewable feedstocks will supple-ment petrochemical-derived polymers in a wide range of applications. What if you could change the color of every part right at the machine? Instant color changes may be part of the coming era of "mass customization." New methods of polymer production will allow custom materials to be "programmed" for individual applications. Say Hello to Nano Molding The new frontier of injection molding is "shrinking," says Carl Schiffer, managing partner at Dr. Boy GmbH in Germany. Miniaturization in electronic and medical parts will help push today's micro-molding toward "nano"-size parts. Machinery will need to evolve to meet the "nano" challenge. Shot sizes must become smaller, and screw diameters are already shrinking from the standard lower limit of 14 mm.
For $30, Intel's Arduino 101 board provides an easy path for makers to build a wearable computer, a mini-robot or a smart appliance for the home. The tiny board, which went on sale this week, fits in the palm of your hand and includes Intel's button-sized Curie wireless compute module. The Arduino board has wireless circuitry, sensors and expansion ports, and is now available from Mouser Electronics. This is the first developer board with Curie, which was announced a year ago at CES. But the best Curie demonstrations were at this year's show.
Amazon introduced Thursday two gadgets similar to its voice-controlled Echo speaker, which can be used to check the weather, order Domino's pizza or hail an Uber car. The Amazon Tap, a portable speaker that streams music, sells for $129.99. The $89.99 Echo Dot is a hockey puck-shaped device that responds to prompts to control smart appliances and connects to external speakers. For now, the Echo Dot is available only to Amazon Prime members who already have the original Echo device and Amazon's Fire TV set-top box. The original Echo, launched in 2014, is larger and cannot connect to external speakers.
Smart homes may soon be equipped with an AI concierge to help you manage all of your connected devices. San Francisco firm Thington has revealed a free iPhone app that pairs with smart lights, cameras, and other devices in the growing Internet of Things to provide centralized control, which can be securely shared with select people. The Thington Concierge chatbot will ask about your preferences and even help you set up your smart appliances so they work with each other, making for a safer and more efficient network. The app can communicate with users through text messages, allowing it to find out specific preferences on the setup of each device by simply asking you a question. To adjust the brightness of your smart lights, for example, you could command it to'Change the settings,' 'stop doing this,' or'leave it as it is.'
Google has spent billions of dollars over the past few months vacuuming up companies that specialize in smart appliances and machine learning. The search-engine giant has not yet revealed its master plan for these acquisitions, but analysts suspect that Google is investing in the "Internet of Things." You've likely seen glimpses of this concept in movies and TV shows. Science fiction promises houses that will take care of you, instead of the other way around. Product designers have finally started to deliver on this vision of the future, and it seems that Google wants to help lead the way.