Today, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced that the university is launching the Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing, which is specifically focused on the rise of artificial intelligence. MIT is committing $1 billion to focus on the "ethical evolution" of AI that is already affecting and shaping our society in order to be a global leader in this popular field. The new school clearly is emphasizing the ethics and personal responsibility when it comes to creating, manipulating and utilizing artificial intelligence. So often, the conversation in tech revolves around "can we," not "should we." MIT appears to be taking the issue seriously and making the ethics of AI foundational within this new program, presumably to create some sort of stopgap in the rise of our robot overlords. The new college will open in September of 2019; it's a college, rather than a school, because the emphasis is that it will be interdisciplinary.
Everyone has an opinion about Magic Leap. It's either a revolutionary augmented reality company that could change the face of entertainment, or it's emblematic of everything wrong with the technology industry -- an over-hyped, multi-billion dollar pipe dream. Last week, we saw the first impressions of the company's long-awaited headset, which splashed a bit of reality on the company's hype cycle. Now that we have a better sense of what Magic Leap's $2,295 hardware is capable of, we can take a step back and consider what the company is actually trying to accomplish. In a brief demonstration, I found the Magic Leap One headset much lighter than I expected, even though it looks like a pair of '80s sci-fi goggles.
A manuscript written by Ada Lovelace, who's considered by many to be the first computer programmer, was just sold at auction for more than $125,000, the Guardian reports. A first edition and just one of six known copies of the book, it contains Lovelace's translation of a paper written by Italian mathematician Luigi Menabrea that describes Charles Babbage's plans for his "Analytical Engine" computing machine. The manuscript also contains copious explanatory notes and observations from Lovelace as well as a formula for calculating Bernoulli numbers that has been called the world's first computer program. Lovelace was the daughter of Lord Byron and her interest and aptitude for mathematics led to a years-long friendship and intellectual partnership with inventor Charles Babbage. "Until recently, her story of mathematical excellence was a lesser known one," author Kate Pankhurst told the Guardian.
Your smartphone is probably the computer you rely on most throughout the day. But Intel thinks there's still a place for PCs. They've gone from being huge desktops to laptops, convenient all in ones, and convertible machines that can twist, turn and mimic tablets. At Computex next week, Intel's Client Computing head Gregory Bryant will lay out his vision of what's next with PCs -- and that starts with redefining what that term actually means. "What people need from a PC, what they expect is really more diverse than ever," Bryant said in an interview.
Lots of tech companies including Apple, Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA and Intel itself have created chips for image recognition and other deep-learning chores. However, Intel is taking another tack as well with an experimental chip called "Loihi." Rather than relying on raw computing horsepower, it uses an old-school, as-yet-unproven type of "nueromorphic" tech that's modeled after the human brain. Intel has been exploring neuromorphic tech for awhile, and even designed a chip in 2012. Instead of logic gates, it uses "spiking neurons" as a fundamental computing unit.
Toyota is teaming up with Intel, and an assortment of tech and automotive firms, to develop an ecosystem for connected cars. By sharing self-driving vehicle data, the companies aim to develop maps and improved driver assistance systems based on cloud computing. Rounding out the alliance (dubbed the "Automotive Edge Computing Consortium") will be Ericsson, Japanese auto parts-maker Denso Corp, and telecoms firm NTT DoCoMo. Practically everyone is wading into the autonomous car space. And, collaboration between firms is just as common.
Tesla may have promised that all its newly-made vehicles from October 2016 onward would have the groundwork for self-driving capabilities, but that doesn't mean its technology is set in stone. Electrek has learned that Tesla is quietly equipping new Model 3, S and X production units with upgraded Autopilot hardware (HW 2.5). Don't put your barely-used P100D up for sale, though, as this isn't a night-and-day upgrade. Although Electrek says the new gear includes a secondary node to enable more computing power, a spokesperson says 2.5 is really about adding "computing and wiring redundancy" that "very slightly" boosts reliability. Every HW 2.0 or later car should still have the foundations for self-driving functionality, in other words.
Microsoft just announced a new initiative called AI for Earth. Headed by Microsoft Research's computational ecologist Lucas Joppa, the program will help researchers and organizations use AI to solve the major environmental issues we face today. Leaders of projects focusing on water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change can apply for access to Microsoft's cloud and AI computing resources and it's putting down $2 million towards the initiative this year. In a statement, Microsoft President Brad Smith said, "Our goal is to empower others in new and more impactful ways to help create a more sustainable future. This program expands our commitments to democratizing AI and advancing sustainability around the globe."
Google Lens is both a return to form for the search giant, and a tantalizing glimpse into what lies ahead. Google's early claim to fame was its ability to efficiently index the web and fetch search results quickly, bringing some much needed organization to the chaotic early days of the internet. Lens, similarly, uses computer vision and AI to make sense of your photos, videos and the real world. Most intriguingly, Lens is yet another way for Google to expand on its original mission statement: "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Though we've only seen brief a brief, pre-produced demonstration of Lens, it looks compelling.
South Korea will soon open an 88 acre facility with everything an autonomous car might encounter, including expressways, parking areas and bus-only lanes, according to the Korea Business Times. First announced last year, it will be the world's largest, dwarfing Michigan's 32-acre Mcity facility that it's reportedly based on. The idea is to let companies test self-driving tech in a repeatable way, without the hard-to-get permits normally required to test vehicles on Korea's public roads. South Korea produces some of the world's most popular cars, but is well behind other nations in allowing self-driving vehicles on its streets. Despite that, it recently announced the ambitious goal to produce Level 3 vehicles (fully autonomous with a driver backup) by 2020.