Fully autonomous cars could make your travel time a lot more productive in the coming years--just think of all the things you could do if you didn't have to pay attention to driving. Though they're not that common yet, self-driving cars are moving toward consumer use, with companies like Google's Waymo testing them out on public roads. And these cars are likely to inflate the problem of motion sickness, which is caused when a person's eyes and inner ears send conflicting signals to the brain: the ear detects the motion of the automobile, but the eye sees the stationary surroundings of the interior. Driving helps mitigate the effects because it helps to constantly observe outside movement, but autonomous cars would take that crutch away. Without the need for a driver, it may also be more challenging for passengers to anticipate the car's motion and more likely that riders will be facing backwards or sideways rather than straight ahead--both things that can make you want to hurl.
Politicians worldwide are stealing one of the US government's best ideas by drawing up ambitious plans to make the most of advances in artificial intelligence. These AI manifestos, penned in Paris, Beijing, and elsewhere, follow the example of the Obama administration, which released a report on the technology toward the end of its tenure. This report did not include funding, but it made it clear that AI should be a key focus of government strategy. The Trump administration has abandoned this vision and has no intention of devising its own AI plan, say those working there. They say there is no need for an AI moonshot, and that minimizing government interference is the best way to make sure the technology flourishes.
A couple of years ago, Zipline created a national drone delivery system to ship blood and drugs to remote medical centers in Rwanda. Now it has developed what it claims is the world's swiftest commercial delivery drone, with a top speed of 128 kilometers an hour (a hair shy of 80 miles per hour). Zipline is hoping its new fixed-wing aerial robot, which is both speedier and easier to maintain than its predecessor, will help it win business in an industry that's attracted plenty of big players. They include Amazon, which has been testing its Prime Air drone delivery service for years in the UK and elsewhere, and Project Wing, part of Alphabet's secretive X lab, which is using its drones to deliver pharmaceuticals and burritos in a pilot project in Australia. Soon these and other companies will be able to experiment more in America, too.
Alphabet's X, the secretive lab charged with finding radical "moonshot" solutions to some of the world's biggest problems, is exploring ways in which AI could dramatically improve food production. Astro Teller, the head of X, revealed the plan at MIT Technology Review's annual EmTech Digital event in San Francisco. Teller declined to give specific examples, saying X's team hadn't yet zeroed in on particular approaches, but he hinted that it was looking at how machine learning could be combined with advances in areas like drones and robotics to advance farming practices. To be worthy of X's attention, a project must fulfill three criteria: it has to potentially solve a problem that affects millions or billions of people; it has to involve an audacious, sci-fi-sounding technology; and there has to be at least a glimmer of hope it's achievable within five to 10 years. AI-driven agriculture seems a perfect fit.
It might not look that special, but the robot above is, according to a new measure, the most dexterous one ever created. Among other tricks, it could sort through your junk drawer with unrivaled speed and skill. The key to its dexterity is not in its mechanical grippers but in its brain. The robot uses software called Dex-Net to determine how to pick up even odd-looking objects with incredible efficiency. The new robot was built by Ken Goldberg, a professor at UC Berkeley, and one of his graduate students, Jeff Mahler.
On Toronto's waterfront, where the eastern part of the city meets Lake Ontario, is a patchwork of cement and dirt. It's home to plumbing and electrical supply shops, parking lots, winter boat storage, and a hulking silo built in 1943 to store soybeans--a relic of the area's history as a shipping port.
In an office at Tsinghua University in Beijing, a computer chip is crunching data from a nearby camera, looking for faces stored in a database. Seconds later, the same chip, called Thinker, is handling voice commands in Chinese. Thinker is designed to support neural networks. But what's special is how little energy it uses--just eight AA batteries are enough to power it for a year.