New York (CNN Business)Soon every Sam's Club will have a robot to scrub the store floors. In partnership with Brain Corp, an artificial intelligence company, the membership-only warehouse chain will distribute 372 new autonomous floor scrubbers to its stores this fall. Sam's Club, which is owned by Walmart, has already deployed hundreds of the robotic scrubbers. With the addition of 372 new robots, the company will soon have a scrubber in each location. It will also implement one of Brain Corp's accessories that will allow them to analyze shelf inventory.
The immune system is complex and involves many genes, including those that encode cytokines known as interferons (IFNs). Individuals that lack specific IFNs can be more susceptible to infectious diseases. Furthermore, the autoantibody system dampens IFN response to prevent damage from pathogen-induced inflammation. Two studies now examine the likelihood that genetics affects the risk of severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) through components of this system (see the Perspective by Beck and Aksentijevich). Q. Zhang et al. used a candidate gene approach and identified patients with severe COVID-19 who have mutations in genes involved in the regulation of type I and III IFN immunity. They found enrichment of these genes in patients and conclude that genetics may determine the clinical course of the infection. Bastard et al. identified individuals with high titers of neutralizing autoantibodies against type I IFN-α2 and IFN-ω in about 10% of patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia. These autoantibodies were not found either in infected people who were asymptomatic or had milder phenotype or in healthy individuals. Together, these studies identify a means by which individuals at highest risk of life-threatening COVID-19 can be identified. Science , this issue p. [eabd4570], p. [eabd4585]; see also p.  ### INTRODUCTION Interindividual clinical variability is vast in humans infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), ranging from silent infection to rapid death. Three risk factors for life-threatening coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia have been identified—being male, being elderly, or having other medical conditions—but these risk factors cannot explain why critical disease remains relatively rare in any given epidemiological group. Given the rising toll of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of morbidity and mortality, understanding the causes and mechanisms of life-threatening COVID-19 is crucial. ### RATIONALE B cell autoimmune infectious phenocopies of three inborn errors of cytokine immunity exist, in which neutralizing autoantibodies (auto-Abs) against interferon-γ (IFN-γ) (mycobacterial disease), interleukin-6 (IL-6) (staphylococcal disease), and IL-17A and IL-17F (mucocutaneous candidiasis) mimic the clinical phenotypes of germline mutations of the genes that encode the corresponding cytokines or receptors. Human inborn errors of type I IFNs underlie severe viral respiratory diseases. Neutralizing auto-Abs against type I IFNs, which have been found in patients with a few underlying noninfectious conditions, have not been unequivocally shown to underlie severe viral infections. While searching for inborn errors of type I IFN immunity in patients with life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia, we also tested the hypothesis that neutralizing auto-Abs against type I IFNs may underlie critical COVID-19. We searched for auto-Abs against type I IFNs in 987 patients hospitalized for life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia, 663 asymptomatic or mildly affected individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2, and 1227 healthy controls from whom samples were collected before the COVID-19 pandemic. ### RESULTS At least 101 of 987 patients (10.2%) with life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia had neutralizing immunoglobulin G (IgG) auto-Abs against IFN-ω (13 patients), against the 13 types of IFN-α (36), or against both (52) at the onset of critical disease; a few also had auto-Abs against the other three individual type I IFNs. These auto-Abs neutralize high concentrations of the corresponding type I IFNs, including their ability to block SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro. Moreover, all of the patients tested had low or undetectable serum IFN-α levels during acute disease. These auto-Abs were present before infection in the patients tested and were absent from 663 individuals with asymptomatic or mild SARS-CoV-2 infection ( P < 10−16). They were present in only 4 of 1227 (0.33%) healthy individuals ( P < 10−16) before the pandemic. The patients with auto-Abs were 25 to 87 years old (half were over 65) and of various ancestries. Notably, 95 of the 101 patients with auto-Abs were men (94%). ### CONCLUSION A B cell autoimmune phenocopy of inborn errors of type I IFN immunity accounts for life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia in at least 2.6% of women and 12.5% of men. In these patients, adaptive autoimmunity impairs innate and intrinsic antiviral immunity. These findings provide a first explanation for the excess of men among patients with life-threatening COVID-19 and the increase in risk with age. They also provide a means of identifying individuals at risk of developing life-threatening COVID-19 and ensuring their enrolment in vaccine trials. Finally, they pave the way for prevention and treatment, including plasmapheresis, plasmablast depletion, and recombinant type I IFNs not targeted by the auto-Abs (e.g., IFN-β). ![Figure] Neutralizing auto-Abs to type I IFNs underlie life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia. We tested the hypothesis that neutralizing auto-Abs against type I IFNs may underlie critical COVID-19 by impairing the binding of type I IFNs to their receptor and the activation of the downstream responsive pathway. Neutralizing auto-Abs are represented in red, and type I IFNs are represented in blue. In these patients, adaptive autoimmunity impairs innate and intrinsic antiviral immunity. ISGs, IFN-stimulated genes; TLR, Toll-like receptor; IFNAR, IFN-α/β receptor; pSTAT, phosphorylated signal transducers and activators of transcription; IRF, interferon regulatory factor. Interindividual clinical variability in the course of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection is vast. We report that at least 101 of 987 patients with life-threatening coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pneumonia had neutralizing immunoglobulin G (IgG) autoantibodies (auto-Abs) against interferon-ω (IFN-ω) (13 patients), against the 13 types of IFN-α (36), or against both (52) at the onset of critical disease; a few also had auto-Abs against the other three type I IFNs. The auto-Abs neutralize the ability of the corresponding type I IFNs to block SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro. These auto-Abs were not found in 663 individuals with asymptomatic or mild SARS-CoV-2 infection and were present in only 4 of 1227 healthy individuals. Patients with auto-Abs were aged 25 to 87 years and 95 of the 101 were men. A B cell autoimmune phenocopy of inborn errors of type I IFN immunity accounts for life-threatening COVID-19 pneumonia in at least 2.6% of women and 12.5% of men. : /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abd4570 : /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abd4585 : /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abe7591 : pending:yes
Automation and a new division of labor between humans and machines will disrupt 85 million jobs globally by 2025, according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday. The Future of Jobs 2020 report showed that COVID-19 has led the labor market to change faster than anticipated. "More than 80% of business executives are accelerating plans to digitize work processes and deploy new technologies," the report said. It said that contrary to the previous years, job creation is now slowing down while job losses fasten. Some 43% of businesses surveyed indicated that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, while 34% plan to expand their workforce, the report said.
The University of Miami in recent days rebutted claims it uses facial-recognition technology after students accused campus police of using the tool to identify them at a protest related to the coronavirus pandemic. Two students claim UM's dean of students told a handful of campus protesters at a virtual meeting on Sept. 22 that they were identified at an unsanctioned demonstration using specialized software that analyzed camera footage of the event.
The integration of AI and IoT into robot systems is expected to significantly expand their application scope. According to a recent study from market research firm Global Market Insights, robotics and automation have emerged over the past few years to become an indispensable part of modern-day manufacturing. A vast majority of manufacturers are integrating robotic systems in production facilities to enhance the production capacity, boost profit margins, and cut operational costs. These trends have created a substantial demand for robotic components, including robot sensors like 3D vision, force-torque, and tactile sensors. It is estimated that the global robot sensor market will be worth more than US$4 billion by 2026. The integration of AI and IoT is expected to expand the application scope of these sensors significantly, particularly across production activities.
Japan plans to use facial recognition technology, originally intended for security purposes, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus when it hosts the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year, government sources said Wednesday. The technology was initially intended to ensure security identification of personnel involved in the games and the media, and detect suspicious persons. But virus countermeasures have become an urgent concern for the government in its hope of staging a successful Olympics, which has already been delayed by a year due to the pandemic. According to the sources, one plan is to station security cameras equipped with the technology at stadiums and venues to record spectators' faces and body surface temperatures, and to see if they are wearing masks. The recorded data is expected to help prevent cluster infections in case an individual at a game is discovered to be infected later, by helping pinpoint possible virus carriers, tracing their routes and notifying those who were in close contact.
You can order a self-driving car on Lyft again. The company paused its autonomous taxi program, which only operates in Las Vegas, in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Starting Thursday, the fleet will be picking up passengers again. Before the shutdown, Lyft's cars had completed more than 100,000 autonomous trips. The sensor- and camera-loaded BMWs have a new logo and branding. That's because Lyft's autonomous driving partner Aptiv rebranded over the summer after it combined forces with Hyundai.
New forms of "empathetic computing" are helping human users feel more comfortable in opening up to a program. Why it matters: Our mental health has taken a major hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, while social distancing means it's harder to meet in person with therapists. That has opened a space for emotionally attuned machines to help us. By the numbers: A survey of thousands of employees and executives released earlier this month by Oracle and the HR research and advisory firm Workplace Intelligence found 68% of people reported they would prefer to talk to a robot over their manager about stress and anxiety at work. Of note: In April, the FDA suspended many of its rules for digital therapeutic devices for psychiatric disorders because of the pandemic, which led to an increase in doctors prescribing new forms of digital therapy.
The next five years might see 85 million jobs displaced by new technologies, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), although the trend could be balanced out by the creation of 97 million new roles – subject, however, to businesses and governments putting in extra efforts to upskill and retrain the workforce. While the adoption of technologies that automate human labor has been long-anticipated by analysts, who have predicted the start of the "Fourth Industrial Revolution" for years now, 2020 has come with its share of unexpected events, and they have greatly accelerated changes that could threaten the stability of the labor market sooner than expected. The COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked most businesses' digital transformation, bringing remote work into the mainstream but also sparking CIOs' interest in new technologies. Surveying 300 of the world's biggest companies, which together employ eight million people around the world, the WEF found that an overwhelming 80% of decision makers are planning on accelerating the automation of their work processes, while half are set to increase the automation of jobs in their company. Industries like finance, healthcare and transportation are showing renewed interest in artificial intelligence, while the public sector is keen to increase the use of big data, IoT and robotics.