Search This Blog

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Google’s Machine Learning Software Has Learned to Replicate Itself

As reported by Futurism: Back in May, Google revealed its AutoML project; artificial intelligence (AI) designed to help them create other AIs. Now, Google has announced that AutoML has beaten the human AI engineers at their own game by building machine-learning software that’s more efficient and powerful than the best human-designed systems.

An AutoML system recently broke a record for categorizing images by their content, scoring 82 percent. While that’s a relatively simple task, AutoML also beat the human-built system at a more complex task integral to autonomous robots and augmented reality: marking the location of multiple objects in an image. For that task, AutoML scored 43 percent versus the human-built system’s 39 percent.

These results are meaningful because even at Google, few people have the requisite expertise to build next generation AI systems. It takes a rarified skill set to automate this area, but once it is achieved, it will change the industry. “Today these are handcrafted by machine learning scientists and literally only a few thousands of scientists around the world can do this,” WIRED reports Google CEO Sundar Pichai said. “We want to enable hundreds of thousands of developers to be able to do it.”
Much of metalearning is about imitating human neural networks and trying to feed more and more data through those networks. This isn’t — to use an old saw — rocket science. Rather, it’s a lot of plug and chug work that machines are actually well-suited to do once they’ve been trained. The hard part is imitating the brain structure in the first place, and at scales appropriate to take on more complex problems.

The Future of Machine-Built AI
It’s still easier to adjust an existing system to meet new needs than it is to design a neural network from the ground up. However, this research seems to suggest this is a temporary state of affairs. As it becomes easier for AIs to design new systems with increased complexity, it will be important for humans to play a gatekeeping role. AI systems can easily make biased connections accidentally — such as associating ethnic and gendered identities with negative stereotypes. However, if human engineers are spending less time on the grunt work involved in creating the systems, they’ll have more time to devote to oversight and refinement.

Ultimately, Google is aiming to hone AutoML until it can function well enough for programmers to use it for practical applications. If they succeed in this, AutoML is likely to have an impact far beyond the walls of Google. WIRED reports Pichai stated, at the same event from last week, that “We want to democratize this,” — meaning, the company hopes to make AutoML available outside Google.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Dubai Police will Ride Hoverbikes Straight out of 'Star Wars'

As reported by Mashable: Dubai is aggressively turning itself into a "Future City," putting self-flying taxis in the skies and a facial recognition system in its airport. The Dubai police department's latest ride is now adding another sci-fi transportation staple: the hoverbike.
The Dubai police, which already has luxury patrol carsself-driving pursuit drones, and a robot officer, just announced it will soon have officers buzzing around on hoverbikes, which look like an early version of the speeder bikes used by the scout troopers on Endor in Return of the Jedi. 

The force (see what I did there?) unveiled its new Hoversurf Scorpion craft at the Gitex Technology Week conference, according to UAE English language publication Gulf News. The police force will use the hoverbike for emergency response scenarios, giving officers the ability to zoom over congested traffic conditions by taking to the air. 


The Russian-made craft is fully electric and can handle loads of up to 600 pounds, offering about 25 minutes of use per charge with a top speed of about 43 mph. The Scorpion can also fly autonomously for almost four miles at a time for other emergencies.

The Russian-made craft is fully electric and can handle loads of up to 600 pounds, offering about 25 minutes of use per charge with a top speed of about 43 mph. The Scorpion can also fly autonomously for almost four miles at a time for other emergencies.

Hoversurf CEO Alexander Atamanov announced on Facebook the company and the Dubai police have signed a memorandum of understanding that will allow Hoversurf to begin mass production of the Scorpion crafts in the Dubai area to serve the department. 

The police hoverbikes join the Dubai fire department's use of "jet packs" to fight fires, providing sci-fi solutions to real-life emergencies. Let's just hope the Dubai police are better pilots than the Empire's scout troopers. 



Elon Musk Unveils Tesla Factory Model3 Video to Showcase Full Automation

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has released another video showing the autonomous robots
of the Model 3 production line hard at work.  Musk is likely hoping to prove the
vehicle is not being assembled by hand.
As reported by Futurism: Elon Musk took to Instagram to post another video of Tesla’s team of KUKA industrial robots at work building the Model 3, to showcase Tesla’s focus on automation in its development of electric vehicles. Earlier this week Musk sent out a video of Tesla’s Model 3 assembly line slowed down to 1/10th speed.

Robots Under Pressure
The new video, described as, “Stamping Model 3 body panels (real-time)” shows the automated process of fabricating the electric vehicle’s body at full speed. This comes amid numerous advances and controversies surrounding the automation of production. A few days ago, Jane Kim of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors established a committee dubbed the Jobs of the Future Fund, to explore how best to smooth the transition toward more automation.

Skeptics of an automated future like World Bank Chief Jim Yong Kim warn that humans are in for a job disruption not seen since the industrial revolution, and that we’d best invest in education and health. Kim argues that intelligent automation and reactionary political elements may threaten economic development (e.g., the resistance to forces of globalization)—putting the world, Kim adds, on a “crash course.”

But billionaire entrepreneur and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson thinks we have meaningful alternatives, telling the BI Nordic reporters that a safety net provided by a basic income could help counter the effects of artificial intelligence and increased automation.

Why Elon Musk is Sharing
Musk is likely sending out these videos in response to claims that the Model 3 is largely being built by hand, a claim which Tesla has stated to be “fundamentally wrong and misleading.” The company has been unable to keep pace with production level announced by Musk just this past summer.

Another statement from Tesla said, “We are simply working through the S-curve of production that we drew out for the world to see at our launch event in July. There’s a reason it’s called production hell.”

We can expect more videos of Musk proving the Model 3 is in the hands of an autonomous, streamlined production line. Hopefully, soon we can see the results of the process finally translate into speedy production. The company has so far had difficulty meeting the high demand of the new model.




Saturday, October 14, 2017

Elon Musk’s Rocket Could Get You Anywhere on Earth in 60 Min. Here’s What It Would Feel Like.

When Elon Musk announced the new BFR, he also showed an "unexpected" use
for it.  More than just sending people to Mars, the redesigned rocket and spacecraft
 could also be used to ferry people between the world's major cities
 in less than 60 minutes.
As reported by Futurism: To get from one city to another in just 30 to 60 minutes—who doesn’t want that? SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk definitely wants it, and that’s one of the potential uses for his redesigned BFR: earth to earth flights between major cities.

Musk previewed the latest BFR update at the 2017 International Astronautical Congress in September. Designed to be Musk’s new rocket and spacecraft for Mars, the BFR could also be a suborbital spacecraft for SpaceX, said former astronaut Leroy Chiao. Essentially, suborbital spacecrafts—like Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity and Blue Origin’s New Shepard—are meant for the budding space tourism industry, and could function something like extremely high-tech, high-flying airplanes. Flying at the BFR’s 4.6 miles per second, you could get from New York to Los Angeles in just 25 minutes.



But just how would riding such a spacecraft feel? Chiao, who’s flown aboard three NASA space shuttles and a Russian Soyuz, described it to Business Insider“[L]aunch, insertion and entry would be similar to a capsule spacecraft [like the Soyuz], with the difference being in the final phase of landing,” he said.

Can You Handle It?
Chiao suggests that flying aboard a BFR won’t exactly be easy. “During launch on a rocket with liquid engines […] the liftoff is very smooth and one really can’t feel it,” he described. “Ignition of the next stage engine(s) causes a momentary bump in g-force. As you get to the last part of ascent, you feel some g’s come on through your chest, but it is not uncomfortable.”


Astronaut Leroy Chiao on the way to the launch of ISS Expedition 10. (Image credit: NASA)
The crucial moment is when the BFR’s rocket engines separate from the spacecraft, when passengers would feel “instantly weightless.” Here’s how he describes it:
"You feel like you are tumbling, as your balance system struggles to make sense of what is happening, and you are very dizzy. You feel the fluid shift [in your body], kind of like laying heads-down on an incline, because there is no longer gravity pulling your body fluids down into your legs. All this can cause nausea. As you start to re-enter the atmosphere, you would feel the g’s come on smoothly and start to build."
Then, finally the BFR lands. “[Y]ou would both feel and hear [the engines],” Chiao said. “As the thrust builds, you would feel the g’s come on again and then at touchdown, you would feel a little bump.”

If you think you can handle it, then maybe the BFR’s Earth-to-Earth travel is for you. “[T]his would not be for the faint of heart, and it is difficult to see how this would be inexpensive,” he said. Keep in mind, however, that there’s still a lot SpaceX and Musk have to figure out before this actually works. “But the one thing I’ve learned from observing Elon, is not to count him out,” Chiao added.



Friday, October 13, 2017

Toyota’s Fuel-Cell Big Rigs are Ready to Haul Cargo

As reported by Engadget: After completing 4,000 "development" miles at the port of Los Angeles, Toyota's Project Portal hydrogen fuel-cell big rig is ready to start transporting cargo from that port and the one in Long Beach to rail yards and warehouses beginning on October 23.

The class 8 Toyota truck (Cummins and Tesla proposed EV trucks are only class 7's) is capable of producing more than 670 horsepower with 1,325 pounds of torque -- more than enough for even the heaviest Amazon delivery. The semi began its testing at the ports back in April, with Toyota partnering with drayage (transporting goods over short distances) provider Southern Counties Express. As the trial progressed, more and more cargo had been added until the two companies decided the truck was ready to become part of the proper fleet of vehicles later this month.

Powering the truck are two fuel stacks from Toyota's fuel-cell Mirai sedan and a 12kWh battery. The automaker says the big rig is capable of transporting 80,000 pounds and has a range of about 200 miles per fill-up. That's more than enough to move cargo around the Los Angeles area. Plus, it can quickly be put back on the road thanks to the fact that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles can be refuelled as quickly as traditional gas-powered car.


While automakers have been touting their long-term electric vehicle plans, many of them have been simultaneously working on fuel-cell vehicles as a way to hedge their bets. A hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle can refuel as quickly as a gasoline vehicle, but like an EV, produces no CO2. It seems like it would be a seamless transition from traditional driving, or at least more so than what's expected from electric vehicles, which need to be plugged in and charged for hours to fulfill their range promises.

At issue is the lack of a robust hydrogen fuel-cell refueling infrastructure. Toyota and other automakers have worked closely with third parties to set up stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and the north east. Anywhere else, and you're basically out of luck. But if programs like Toyota's Project Portal prove to be a hit, it might be just the boost the fuel-cell infrastructure needs for mass adoption.



Thursday, October 12, 2017

Richard Branson and Virgin join forces with Hyperloop One

As reported by Engadget: Today, the Virgin Group has announced that it has invested in Hyperloop One, the startup that recently demonstrated a working prototype of the travel system. As well as cash, and the involvement of Sir Richard Branson, the company will re-brand as Virgin Hyperloop One in the near future. In a statement, Branson described the technology as the "world's most revolutionary train service."

The strength of the Virgin brand, coupled with the speed at which Hyperloop One has developed its prototype, augurs well for the future of travel. Branson is a brand-name CEO with deep connections all across the world, which should reduce political resistance to an upstart business. It's not clear just how much cash Branson has put into the business, but the company's last funding round stood at around $85 million.


Branson's involvement will also raise eyebrows in his homeland, who will be delighted to see the trip between London and Edinburgh cut to under 50 minutes. On the other hand, Brits are already well-aware how Branson runs a train service, and the reviews for Virgin Trains on Trustpilot are a sea of one-eyed invective. Hopefully the far shorter journey times will soothe the clear nervousness about sky-high prices and lackluster customer service.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Elon Musk Just Gave Hyperloop Makers a Tip on How to Reach 700MPH

As reported by InverseElon Musk  has given a helping had of sorts to the startups developing his hyperloop idea toward achieving the goal of sending pods through a vacuum-sealed tube at 700 miles per hour.

The man behind the original white paper for hyperloop's design responded on Twitter Wednesday to a query about how best to propel pods using an air bearing suspension system. The nugget of info could help teams reach the theoretical maximum speed and enable trips from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes. And it’s all about more gas.

Hyperloop pods tend to use one of three suspension systems: wheels, magnetic levitation, and air bearing suspension. WARR Hyperloop from Germany, which achieved a speed of 201 mph back in August, used wheels for its record-breaking pod, but they suffer from friction that could cause slowdown. Magnetic levitation is used on a select few train tracks, and Hyperloop One uses it with its test track to reach 192 mph, but it’s incredibly expensive. Air bearings, which uses a thin film of pressurized air, could save money and reduce friction.

“Air bearings offer stability and extremely low drag at a feasible cost by exploiting the ambient atmosphere in the tube,” Musk said in his 2013 paper. “Externally pressurized and aerodynamic air bearings are well suited for the Hyperloop due to exceptionally high stiffness, which is required to maintain stability at high speeds.”

So what does Musk propose to help this gas-based suspension system reach high speeds? More gas.

Ever since Musk released his idea, third party teams have been working hard to reach those theoretical maximum speeds. Hyperloop One, one of the more prominent hyperloop firms, has built a 0.3-mile “DevLoop” test track in the Nevada desert. In tests back in August, the team managed to get its magnetically levitating pod to reach speeds of 192 mph, and it believes that it could easily reach the top 700 mph speed.

Musk’s space exploration company SpaceX has held two competitions on its 0.8-mile test track, aimed at getting college teams and others to focus on pod design rather than building a full-scale test track. In the second event, WARR Hyperloop made its record-breaking run.

The race to reach full speed is on, and any advancements that save on cost while improving speed could prove welcome. But while air bearings could serve as a good way of reaching even higher speeds, Musk’s paper does not propose ditching the trusty wheel altogether. At speeds of under 100 mph, landing gear wheels similar to those found on airplanes could deploy and allow for easier maneuvering. Some technologies never go out of fashion.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

NVIDIA Introduces a Computer for Level 5 Autonomous Cars

The chipmaker prepares automakers for the world of robotaxis.
As reported by Enadget: At the center of many of the semi-autonomous cars currently on the road is NVIDIA hardware. Once automakers realized that GPUs could power their latest features, the chipmaker, best known for the graphics cards that make your games look outstanding, became the darling of the car world.

But while automakers are still dropping level 2 and sometimes level 3 vehicles into the market, NVIDIA's first AI computer, the NVIDIA Drive PX Pegasus, is apparently capable of level 5 autonomy. That means no pedals, no steering wheel, no need for anyone to ever take control.

The new computer delivers 320 trillion operations per second, 10 times more than its predecessor. Before you start squirreling away cash for your own self-driving car, though, NVIDIA's senior director of automotive, Danny Shapiro, notes that it's likely going to be robotaxis that drive us around.

In fact, the company said that over 25 of its partners are already working on fully autonomous taxis. The goal with this smaller, more powerful computer is to remove the huge computer arrays that sit in the prototype vehicles of OEMs, startups and any other company that's trying to crack the autonomous car nut.

NVIDIA's announcement should make all those companies happy. The computing needed to power a self-driving car's AI and data-crunching, not to mention the huge amounts of data coming from potentially dozens of cameras, LiDAR sensors, short and long-range radar is staggering and usually means there's a small server room stored in the trunk. All that processing power sucks up a ton of power from the vehicle and as more cars are going electric, the last thing an automaker wants is a system that cuts into the range of their new car.


The new NVIDIA Drive PX Pegasus AI computer is the size of a license plate and uses far less power than the current model. But it's going to be a while before anyone gets their hands one. The new computer will be available in the second half of 2018 with next generation GPUs that NVIDIA hasn't actually announced yet.

There's already one institution that's ready to go autonomous: the Deutsche Post DHL. The delivery service is looking to deploy a pilot fleet with the current Drive PX in 2018. The idea is to have a car that is able to shadow its delivery people as they drop off packages. A driver could get out of the truck or van with a few packages for a block and when they are finished, the vehicle will be waiting for them outside the last house.

The autonomous future isn't just about delivering people, it's also about delivering your online purchases.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Elon Musk Offers to Rebuild Puerto Rico’s Power Grid Using Solar

As reported by The Verge: A casual comment on Twitter by Tesla CEO Elon Musk about rebuilding Puerto Rico’s power grid using solar technology is being treated seriously by the storm-ravaged island’s top elected officials.

On Twitter, Musk said that his technology, which powers several smaller islands, could be scaled up to work for Puerto Rico. The island’s governor promptly responded: “Let’s talk.”


Tesla recently absorbed one of Musk’s other companies, SolarCity, which manufactures residential solar roofs and energy storage units. The company has been exploring ways to scale up its battery storage projects. A Twitter bet between Musk and an Australian software entrepreneur ultimately led to plans for the world’s largest lithium-ion battery facility in South Australia. The plant, which will cost $50 million, could provide electricity to more than 30,000 homes.
Musk has been known to offhandedly propose huge projects on Twitter, and occasionally he’s been known to follow through. His idea to speed up the tunnel boring process resulted in the creation of a new company and the green light to dig a two-mile tunnel under Los Angeles.

So the question is whether Musk will follow up with Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello about his offer to rebuild the island’s power grid. And if so, what would a Tesla-backed solar power project on the still-recovering island look like. The company says it has powered small islands, such as Ta'u in American Samoa. There, it installed a solar grid which can power the entire island and store enough electricity for three days without any sun. (The Verge reached out to Musk with some follow-up questions, and we’ll update this story if we hear back.)

The company is also working with residents on Kauai in the Hawaiian islands to find better ways to produce and — most importantly — store solar energy, so that it can reliably power homes on days when the sun may not be shining. In March, Tesla cut the ribbon on a grid-scale battery installation on the island, a key test of the viability of energy storage in making renewable energy a more reliable part of the grid.