Robots


The bizarre thing that happened when a roboticist trained AI to tell people their fortunes

Washington Post

When Alexander Reben began feeding thousands of inspirational expressions he scraped off the Internet into an algorithm he designed, he wasn't sure what might happen next. The goal was to train artificial intelligence to create the sort of generic messages that someone might find in fortune cookies. The result took the artist and MIT-trained roboticist by surprise. Instead of producing the kind of playful and seemingly vaguely perceptive advice known to bring a smile to people's faces, Reben's technology turned dark -- and undeniably weird. About 75 percent of the machine's fortunes, Reben estimates, ended up being "very negative," though often no less hilarious.


The bizarre thing that happened when a roboticist trained AI to tell people their fortunes

Washington Post

When Alexander Reben began feeding thousands of inspirational expressions he scraped off the Internet into an algorithm he designed, he wasn't sure what might happen next. The goal was to train artificial intelligence to create the sort of generic messages that someone might find in fortune cookies. The result took the artist and MIT-trained roboticist by surprise. Instead of producing the kind of playful and seemingly vaguely perceptive advice known to bring a smile to people's faces, Reben's technology turned dark -- and undeniably weird. About 75 percent of the machine's fortunes, Reben estimates, ended up being "very negative," though often no less hilarious.


For his latest trick, Atlas the headless humanoid robot does parkour

Washington Post

You've seen him hop on boxes, run across a field and execute backflips with the precision of a professional gymnast. Perhaps it seems only natural that Atlas ---- the humanoid robot and YouTube sensation created and periodically updated on video by tech company Boston Dynamics ---- has begun mastering another sophisticated form of human movement: parkour. In the company's latest 29-second teaser, Atlas can be seen jumping over a log using one leg before nimbly bounding up increasingly high wooden boxes, his mechanical limbs adjusting midair to maintain balance in a fashion that seems unmistakably human. "The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace," the company said in a statement posted on YouTube. "Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately."


Google CEO quietly met with military leaders at the Pentagon, seeking to smooth tensions over drone AI

Washington Post

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai quietly paid the Pentagon a visit during his trip to Washington last week, seeking to smooth over tensions roughly four months after employee outrage prompted the tech giant to sever a defense contract to analyze drone video, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Pichai met with a group of civilian and military leaders mostly from the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Defense Department directorate that oversees the artificial-intelligence drone system known as Project Maven, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about the meeting. Google had worked with the Defense Department to develop Project Maven, which uses AI to automatically tag cars, buildings and other objects in videos recorded by drones flying over conflict zones. But in June, the tech giant said it would not renew its contract following an uprising from employees, who criticized the work as helping the military track and kill with greater efficiency. A Defense Department spokesperson said, "We do not comment on the details of private meetings.


Honda and GM partner for 'ultimate engineering challenge' -- a new autonomous vehicle

Washington Post

Self-driving car company Cruise Automation is rushing to create a new autonomous vehicle with the help of one of the largest names in the automotive industry. Honda said it will invest $2.75 billion into Cruise's autonomous vehicle operations over the next 12 years, an infusion that arrives several months after the Japanese firm SoftBank announced a $2.25 billion investment in the company. Both investments bring the four-year-old company's valuation to a whopping $14.6 billion, General Motors said in a news release Wednesday. Cruise Automation -- which is already building a fleet of autonomous vehicles that could hit American streets as early as next year -- is a subsidiary of GM. The Detroit automaker's stock was up nearly 2 percent Wednesday.


Fatal e-scooter accident emerges just as California legalizes riding without a helmet

Washington Post

A 24-year-old Dallas man who died after falling off a Lime electric scooter was killed by blunt force injuries to his head, county officials said Thursday, likely making him the first person to die while riding the electric mobility devices that have swept across the nation this year. The death of Jacoby Stoneking has been ruled an accident, the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office told The Washington Post before releasing the information publicly. Police said Stoneking was riding a Lime scooter home from a restaurant where he works when the accident occurred. He was found unconscious and badly injured in the early morning hours of Sept. 1, several hundred yards from a scooter that was broken in half. He was not wearing a helmet, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk freely about the investigation.


Fatal e-scooter accident emerges just as California legalizes riding without a helmet

Washington Post

A 24-year-old Dallas man who died after falling off a Lime electric scooter was killed by blunt force injuries to his head, county officials said Thursday, likely making him the first person to die while riding the electric mobility devices that have swept across the nation this year. The death of Jacoby Stoneking has been ruled an accident, the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office told The Washington Post before releasing the information publicly. Police said Stoneking was riding a Lime scooter home from a restaurant where he works when the accident occurred. He was found unconscious and badly injured in the early morning hours of Sept. 1, several hundred yards from a scooter that was broken in half. He was not wearing a helmet, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to talk freely about the investigation.


Self-driving shuttles arrive in Columbus this week

Washington Post

In the crowded streets of San Francisco, companies such as Uber and Cruise Automation have been testing self-driving vehicles for years now. In suburban Phoenix, hundreds of autonomous Waymo vehicles are driving as many as 25,000 miles per day. There are, in fact, dozens of cities around the world hosting pilot programs for self-driving vehicles. The latest addition to that list is Columbus, Ohio, where a series of self-driving shuttles are being deployed on city streets this week. The electric, low-speed vehicles -- operated by the Michigan-based start-up May Mobility -- will begin testing and mapping local streets before accepting passengers in December, the company said.


Aibo the robot dog will melt your heart with mechanical precision

Washington Post

I've been giving a robot belly rubs. I've scolded it for being a bad, bad boy. I've grinned when it greets me at the door. And I felt it for Aibo, a new "autonomous companion" dog made by Sony. Does that make me a sad sack?


Machines will create 58 million more jobs than they displace by 2022, World Economic Forum says

Washington Post

In the next four years, more than 75 million jobs may be lost as companies shift to more automation, according to new estimates by the World Economic Forum. But the projections have an upside: 133 million new jobs will emerge during that period, as businesses develop a new division of labor between people and machines. The Future of Jobs Report arrives as the rising tide of automation is expected to displace millions of American workers in the long term and as corporations, educational institutions and elected officials grapple with a global technological shift that may leave many people behind. The report, published Monday, envisions massive changes in the worldwide workforce as businesses expand the use of artificial intelligence and automation in their operations. Machines account for 29 percent of the total hours worked in major industries, compared with 71 percent performed by people.