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.
"That was anticlimactic," Jason Les said with a smirk, getting up from his seat. Unlike nearly everyone else in Pittsburgh's Rivers Casino, Les had just played his last few hands against an artificially intelligent opponent on a computer screen. After his fellow players -- Daniel McAulay next to him and Jimmy Chou and Dong Kim in an office upstairs -- eventually did the same, they started to commiserate. The consensus: That AI was one hell of a player. The four of them had spent the last 20 days playing 120,000 hands of heads-up, no-limit Texas Hold'em against an artificial intelligence called Libratus created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. A similar scene had unfolded two years prior when Les, Kim and two other players decisively laid the smackdown on another AI called Claudico.
The Internet of Things still mostly feels like the Internet of Crap, but there's one ray of hope in the connected home on which plenty of companies are jumping aboard: Amazon's Alexa. In particular, I'm talking about the voice-powered ecosystem that's quickly grown around the company's virtual assistant. At CES, we saw Alexa integration in Dish's upcoming Hopper, washing machines and, much to our delight, a dancing robot. It's even heading outside the home: Both Ford and Volkswagen are bringing Alexa to their cars for hands-free commands. In a little over two years, Alexa has gone from being a baffling product (a connected speaker from Amazon, really?!) to an essential feature for any connected device.
Our self-driving future will initially be extremely expensive. That's why GM and Ford are working on autonomous systems for ride-hailing ahead of selling cars to individuals. Meanwhile, Korean automaker Hyundai is researching another approach: a system that uses less computing power and therefore is cheaper. Of course this vehicle, like all autonomous cars, won't be available for a very long time, but what Hyundai showed off in Las Vegas looks promising. The two test Ioniqs (one hybrid and one pure electric) were fitted with cameras in the windshield, radar behind the automaker's logo and lidar sensors in the front and sides of the bumper.