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Facebook confirms it's working on an AI voice assistant for Portal and Oculus products

#artificialintelligence

Facebook has confirmed a report from earlier today saying it's working on an artificial intelligence-based digital voice assistant in the vein of Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant. The news, first reported by CNBC, indicates Facebook isn't giving up on a vision it first put out years ago, when it began developing an AI assistant for its Messenger platform simply called M. This time around, however, Facebook says it is focusing less on messaging and more on platforms in which hands-free interaction, via voice control and potentially gesture control, is paramount. "We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products," a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge today, following the initial report. That means Facebook may not position the product as a competitor to Alexa or similar platforms, but as more of a feature exclusive to its growing family of hardware devices. CNBC reported that the team building the assistant is working out of Redmond, Washington under the direction of Ira Snyder, a general manager at Facebook Reality Labs and a director of augmented and virtual reality at the company.


Facial recognition is big tech's latest toxic 'gateway' app John Naughton

The Guardian

The headline above an essay in a magazine published by the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) caught my eye. "Facial recognition is the plutonium of AI", it said. Since plutonium – a by-product of uranium-based nuclear power generation – is one of the most toxic materials known to humankind, this seemed like an alarmist metaphor, so I settled down to read. The article, by a Microsoft researcher, Luke Stark, argues that facial-recognition technology – one of the current obsessions of the tech industry – is potentially so toxic for the health of human society that it should be treated like plutonium and restricted accordingly. You could spend a lot of time in Silicon Valley before you heard sentiments like these about a technology that enables computers to recognise faces in a photograph or from a camera.


Facebook AI turns real people into controllable game characters

Engadget

Facebook's AI Research team has created an AI called Vid2Play that can extract playable characters from videos of real people, creating a much higher-tech version of '80s full-motion video (FMV) games like Night Trap. The neural networks can analyze random videos of people doing specific actions, then recreate that character and action in any environment and allow you to control them with a joystick. The team used two neural networks called Pose2Pose and Pose2Frame. First, a video is fed into a Pose2Pose neural network designed for specific types of actions like dancing, tennis or fencing. The system then figures out where the person is compared to the background, and isolates them and their poses.


Zuckerberg could be held personally accountable for Facebook data breaches

Mashable

The federal government wants to hold Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook's privacy woes. According to a report in the Washington Post, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently investigating Facebook and looking into whether the Facebook's founder and CEO should be held liable for the company's data mishandling and privacy issues. Facebook and the FTC have been in discussions for more than a year over the agency's probe into the company. Sources familiar with these discussions say that the FTC is mulling over an unusual decision to hold Zuckerberg himself accountable for the company's data leaks and breaches. The FTC does not regularly go after executives when levying fines or other penalties for a company's wrongdoings.


Facebook's AI extracts playable characters from real-world videos

#artificialintelligence

Using these and combined pose data, Pose2Frame separates between character-dependent changes in the scene like shadows, held items, and reflections and those that are character-independent, and returns a pair of outputs that are linearly blended with any desired background. To train the AI system, the researchers sourced three videos, each between five and eight minutes long, of a tennis player outdoors, a person swinging a sword indoors, and a person walking. Compared with a neural network model fed three-minute video of a dancer, they report that their approach managed to successfully field dynamic elements, such as other people and differences in camera angle, in addition to variations in character clothing and camera angle. "Each network addresses a computational problem not previously fully met, together paving the way for the generation of video games with realistic graphics," they wrote. "In addition, controllable characters extracted from YouTube-like videos can find their place in the virtual worlds and augmented realities." Facebook isn't the only company investigating AI systems that might aid in game design. Startup Promethean AI employs machine learning to help human artists create art for video games, and Nvidia researchers recently demonstrated a generative model that can create virtual environments using video snippets. Machine learning has also been used to rescue old game textures in retro titles like Final Fantasy VII and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and to generate thousands of levels in games like Doom from scratch.


Google and Amazon make up — YouTube coming to Fire TV

USATODAY

Amazon Fire TV Stick & nbsp; & nbsp; & bull; Price: $24.99 & nbsp; & nbsp; & bull; Savings: $15.00 & nbsp; & nbsp; & bull; Percent off: 37.5% & nbsp; & nbsp; ALSO READ: 40 Places Young People Are Moving (Photo: Courtesy of Target) Google and Amazon, longtime corporate adversaries who have been feuding for years, have made up. Consumers who have complained about not being able to watch YouTube or the cutting-the-cord YouTube TV service via Amazon's popular Fire TV Stick streaming products and the Amazon branded Fire TV Edition TV sets will finally get to do so later this year. Additionally, Google is bringing Amazon's Prime Video service to the Android TV platform and the Google Chromecast streaming device. Still, the companies have a ways to go. You still won't be able to see YouTube on Amazon's Echo Show, the video version of the Alexa speaker, nor will Amazon be opening up the doors to sell products like the Google Home speaker (Alexa's main rival) or the Pixel phone, in its eStore.


Researchers find crowdsourcing, AI go together in battle vs. lung cancer

ZDNet

The AI and ML deployments are well underway, but for CXOs the biggest issue will be managing these initiatives, and figuring out where the data science team fits in and what algorithms to buy versus build. Researchers from Harvard, Brigham/Women's and Dana Farber Cancer Institute indicate that the combination of crowdsourcing and artificial intelligence can be used to battle lung cancer. In a JAMA article, researchers from those institutions outlined how they conducted a contest on Topcoder.com The contest was designed for three phases with $55,000 in a prize pool. The contest on Topcoder revolved around creating algorithms and artificial intelligence that could identify lung tumors and segment them for radiation therapy.


YouTube Music is free on Google Home, if you don't mind ads

Engadget

Starting today, YouTube Music is offering a free, ad-supported experience on Google Home speakers and other Google Assistant-powered speakers. Just navigate to account settings, tap services and select music, then set YouTube Music as the default music service. Then it's just a case of saying "Hey Google, play [whatever]" and you're away. However, the ad-supported YouTube Music experience won't let you request specific songs, albums or playlist. Instead, you can tell it a genre or style or mood of music you're looking for and your Google Home will play a station based on that request.


Facebook is making an Alexa rival for its Portal and Oculus hardware

ZDNet

Facebook this week slashed the price of its Portal video chat screen and now the company has revealed it is working on a voice assistant that could be used in the devices. Today the tablet-like devices ship with Amazon's Alexa voice assistant built-in, but the devices could soon have a Facebook-made assistant. "We are working to develop voice and AI assistant technologies that may work across our family of AR/VR products including Portal, Oculus and future products," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNET on Wednesday. According to CNBC, a Facebook team is based in Redmond and headed up Ira Snyder, a former Microsoft employee whose current Facebook title is "director of VR/AR and Facebook Assistant". The company reportedly kicked off the voice assistant project in early 2018, around the time it pulled its Messenger bot M. Facebook this week discounted its two Portal models by $100 hoping to capture extra sales on Mother's Day.


Pete and Chasten Buttigieg's em Other /em Potential First: a White House App Marriage

Slate

It's common knowledge that Barack Obama met the woman who eventually became his wife, Michelle Robinson, when he came to work at her law firm as a summer associate. George W. Bush met the future Mrs. Bush, who was Laura Welch back then, at a barbecue and took her mini-golfing the next day. And we all remember that Bill and Hillary Clinton were law school sweethearts. The historical record is full of these president-and-first-lady origin stories: Harry Truman was just 6 when he met the woman he would go on to marry, in church. So it's only natural to ask how the current crop of presidential candidates' how-they-met stories stack up.