1 – Project AIX: Using Minecraft to Build More Intelligent Technology

Microsoft researchers at the company’s New York-based lab are using Minecraft to teach an AI agent how to learn. While there’s been much progress in teaching AI to perform narrow tasks – such as translation or computer vision, often at levels that surpass that of adult humans – agents still lack more general intelligence, the type of contextual and instinctual intelligence that allows humans to make the slew of varied decisions in our everyday realities. The research project is based on the AIX platform, developed by a team at Microsoft’s Cambridge, UK lab and revealed to the public on Monday. Minecraft is an ideal virtual world in which to try and teach an AI agent more general intelligence, due to the myriad of tasks and decisions that can be made in the game; actions in the game are associated with real consequences, but don’t impact those infrastructures that humans depend on for work and communication. The platform is strictly designed for researchers and is not open to the public.

(Read the full article on Microsoft’s Blog)

2 – Kit CRM’s New API Brings Us One Big Step Closer to AI ’Employees’

Kit CRM is an AI virtual assistant that assist eCommerce businesses in running their marketing decisions via SMS text messages. This week, the company introduced an API that allows connected apps to provide functionality and expand upon the software’s original role of helping manage customer communications and sales and marketing decisions (such as alerts of sales and requests to send a thank-you email). Current launch partners using the API include Bold, ShopPad, New Leaf Labs, Yotpo, and Shoe Lace. Customers who use Kit in tandem with Bold, for example, can receive suggestions on discounts to existing products (based on sales and inventory levels) and durations of sales; if a customer replies ‘Yes’, Bold collaborate with Kit to implement the sale. More system integration also increases the complexity of decisions, as there’s the potential for one system to contradict another’s recommendations. In the future, the company plans to add deeper thinking technology that better understands a user’s business and suggests best apps to integrate with an existing Kit account.

(Read the full article on VentureBeat)

3 – Expert System Establishes Advanced Cognitive Computing Research Labs in the US

Expert System, a leader in multilingual advanced cognitive computing and text analytics software, is expanding its presence into the U.S. with  new research and development labs in Washington D.C. and the Silicon Valley area. The company’s Cogito Labs system was developed to further the research and abilities of algorithms to gain human-like comprehension. Existing locations around the world, including in Italy, France, and Spain, bridge the efforts of engineers and developers with linguistic professionals, researchers and AI specialists. Marco Varone, CTO of Expert Systems, stated,

“Our newest Cogito Lab will be dedicated to further expanding the core functionalities of our technology and take new steps towards bringing to market software that really reads like humans and learns from humans. Additionally, we will have a related effort in developing tools that make this power available to almost anyone.”

The company will continue to work on developing software that enables organizations to better discern which information is most important in real-time and leads to more effective management and decision-making processes.

(Read the full article on Silicon Valley Business Journal)

4 – Google Puts Boston Dynamics Up for Sale in Robotics Retreat

Google has put up the formerly acquired Boston Dynamics for sale this month, amidst rumor that the company is looking to distance itself from robotics for the time being. The reasons given are multi-pronged, but seem to be mostly based on the belief that the robot unit – dubbed Replicant – is not able to come up with products that will generate revenue in the new few years. Other issues include frequent change in and lack of leadership, as well as concerns around the negative press associated with humanoid robots and job automation. Marc Raibert, former MIT professor and founder of Boston Dynamics, said previously,

“I firmly believe the only way to get to a product is through the work we are doing in Boston. (I) don’t think we are the pie in the sky guys as much as everyone thinks we are.”

Though there is certainly no hard evidence as of yet, proposed potential acquirers include Toyota Research Institute and Amazon.com Inc.

(Read the full article on Bloomberg Business)

5 – Driverless Cars Must Have Steering Wheels, Brake Pedals, Feds Say

A new report from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) states that all driverless cars must have steering wheels and brake pedals, among other ‘standard’ features, in order to be street legal. These classifications are in opposition to Google’s hope to revolutionize the makeup of cars, which includes the eventual absence of these features, as well as other radical changes like replacing windshields with video displays and realigning seats that there is no clear driver’s seat. Decisions were made by DoT’s Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center, which reviewed Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in line with Google’s proposed plans for increased levels of automation. Despite initial friction, other automakers, including General Motors and Ford Motor Col, continue to increase investments in autonomous technology.  Ragunathan “Raj” Rajkumar, a professor of electrical and computer engineering in Carnegie Mellon University’s CyLab, has said in response to this phenomenon,

 “The transition to roadways filled with driverless drones will be gradual. People will buy cars with more and more autonomous features in the coming years until, sometime in the 2020s, the majority of vehicles on the road will for the most part be fully autonomous.”

(Read the full article on Scientific American)

Image credit: Microsoft