Google's AlphaGo beat a world champion Go player, a driverless truck completed its first commercial delivery (a 143-mile beer run!) and Microsoft researchers claimed to reach human parity in conversational speech recognition. It was also a year of stumbles, massive hype and painful failures such as Microsoft's chatbot Tay, which learned from the people it interacted with on Twitter, thereby morphing into a racist, hate-spewing embarrassment in less than 24 hours. And, lest we forget, Facebook was widely panned for (and is now taking some steps to address) its laissez-faire attitude about propagating fake news and the possibility that this may have affected the outcome of the presidential election. Taken together, these stories contain the seeds of the major trends I'll be following this year. You're going to see a lot more "Oooh!
That was the repeated response from Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz when Reed Albergotti of The Information asked about the technology behind the startup's augmented-reality glasses. For months, as Albergotti recently reported, Magic Leap has wooed investors and journalists by strapping them into a bulky helmet that augments their world with Star Wars-like spaceships and other digital creations. The rub, according to ex-employees speaking with The Information, is that the company is having trouble actually making that happen. Abovitz wouldn't let Albergotti try the glasses on, and when asked how they work, all he would say was: "Squirrels and sea monkeys." Magic Leap, which WIRED featured in our May cover story about the history of virtual reality, declined requests for an interview with Abovitz and told us that its technology is progressing just fine.
Beijing, CHINA: A Chinese jobseeker walks pass a poster showing Microsoft founder Bill Gates (L) and Apple computers' Steve Jobs, at an employment fair in Beijing 27 February 2007. This week's milestones in the history of technology include the first patent for aerial photography leading eventually to Google Earth, how Popular Mechanics made Bill Gates drop out of Harvard, and Apple becoming the planet's most valuable company 22 years after going public. Cornele B. Adams is awarded the first US patent for aerial photography. His method of photogrammetry can produce a topographic map by means of photographing the same tract of land from different points from an unmanned stationary balloon on a tether. Keyhole, Inc. launched the Earth Viewer application in 2001 and was acquired by Google in 2004.
Of all the big firms in Silicon Valley, Amazon had the most to lose from Donald Trump's presidency. And lose it did, albeit briefly, its share price dropping 5% shortly after the election. During the campaign, Trump warned that Amazon had a "huge antitrust problem" – a reasonable stance for the populist that he once aspired to be. Most likely, though, his animosity had more to do with the fact Amazon's founder, Jeff Bezos, also owns the Washington Post, an influential newspaper that took an early strong dislike of Trump. By the time of Amazon's massive cloud-computing conference, which kicked off in Las Vegas at the end of November, such squabbles seem to have been forgotten.
Question: can AI vision systems from Microsoft and Google, which are available for free to anybody, identify NSFW (not safe for work, nudity) images? Can this identification be used to automatically censor images by blacking out or blurring NSFW areas of the image? Method: I spent a few hours creating in some rough code in Microsoft office to find files on my computer and send them to Google Vision and Microsoft Vision so they could be analysed. I spent a few hours over the weekend just knocking some very rough code. Yes, they did reasonably well at (a) identifying images that could need censoring and (b) identifying where on the image things should be blocked out.
It's become clear that the algorithms Facebook and Google designed to deliver news to their users have failed. But while fake news is a headache for those tech giants right now, the underlying research question--whether and how machines tell truth from lies on the internet--is one that will persist as long as the world wide web stays an open forum. Facebook and Google's sizable machine learning divisions have created algorithms that effectively surface information that users want to see. But they've been unable to actually understand or vet that info--and in fact, experts across the tech industry say it's unrealistic to expect any AI or machine learning algorithm to do this task well. All our best efforts so far are built on research in natural language processing, which teaches AI to read a piece of text, understand the concepts within, and provide insight about its meaning.
Amazon, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft have announced they are forming a non-for-profit organisation to educate the public about artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, as well as alleviate anxieties around its application. The collective, which includes Google's AI subsidiary DeepMind, also plans to develop best practices on the challenges and opportunities within the field of AI. The organisation, called Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society (Partnership on AI), will address legal and ethical challenges that AI presents, encourage public discourse, and identify opportunities to use AI to bring improvements to society. The organisation does not intend to be a regulatory body, with a statement saying it does "not intend to lobby government or other policymaking bodies." Members of the Partnership on AI will conduct research, recommend best practices, and publish research under an open license in areas such as ethics, fairness, and inclusivity; transparency, privacy, and interoperability; collaboration between people and AI systems; and the trustworthiness, reliability, and robustness of the technology.
The biggest names in tech are encouraging developers to build products for their app ecosystem. File photo taken in 2015 shows an illustration of an iPhone held up in front of the Apple logo. SAN FRANCISCO -- Like a dressed-down awards season, Apple's WWDC conference concludes a three-month developer season. But will it end with a bang, as the Academy Awards do for the film industry? It began with Microsoft's Build in March and continued with Facebook's F8 show in April and Google I/O in May.
With its new music-and-art project, called Magenta, Google is putting the "art" in artificial intelligence. The minds inside the Google Brain team have released a 90-second piano melody that was generated through machine learning. The project, first announced at Moogfest, is built on top of Google's TensorFlow, the web giant's open-source AI engine. Magenta's algorithm was primed with only four notes to start with, and it took off from there to plunk out a verse and bridge of sorts. The drum parts were added later for texture.