1 – Apple is Reportedly Building a Siri Speaker to Rival Amazon’s Echo

Apple is looking to make inroads into the virtual household assistant platform with a Siri-powered speaker for the home, facing competitors like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s recently unveiled Google Assistant technology. In another move that follows competitors, Apple has reportedly expressed intentions to open up its Siri software to third-party developers, a move that could be made public as early as June 2016 during Apple’s annual WWDC conference. Siri SDK would let any developer use the Apple voice assistant technology and help progress the technology as the Siri speaker is under development. While Amazon and Google already have a lead in this space, Apple’s Siri speaker (supposedly in development before the release of Amazon’s Echo) is bilingual and inside sources described existing abilities to turn off and on any appliance supported by Apple’s HomeKit platform, though the “reimagined” Siri is more helpful across a broad range of cloud-based capabilities and less restrained by Apple’s core technologies.

(Read the full article on The Verge)

2 – No Industry Can Afford to Ignore Artificial Intelligence

The fact that artificial intelligence and smart software will affect almost every industry in the near term was one of the key points discussed during MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference this week in San Francisco. Jason Pontin, MIT Technology Review’s editor in chief, said:

“Cars that drive themselves through busy streets and personal assistants that seem to anticipate our every need—are already among us. Every imaginable industry will need to reckon with this artificial intelligence sea change.”

Speakers at EmTech covered a variety of topics at the conference, from increasing productivity by creating robots that work with people to self driving cars to news article and financial document writing software. Amidst discussion of how AI technologies have increasingly become more subtle and part of the everyday fabric of how many of us function, there was also discussions around we are really any further along than we were 60 years ago in areas like AI mastery of language. Despite existing gaps, it’s next to impossible to ignore the power of  emerging AI technologies like deep learning and advanced robotics that are creating new business and social opportunities and triggering discussions on humans’ and AIs’ respective roles.

(Read the full article on MIT Tech Review)

3 – Sharp Releases Portable ‘Robot’ Phone

Tokyo-based Sharp Corp., recently taken over by Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., is releasing a ‘humanoid robot’ phone called RoBoHoN next month. Sharp is launching with 5,000 units of the product, each one costing about $2,000 (not including a monthly basic fee and extra telecommunication charge). RoBoHoN has AI-endowed conversational capabilities, which it uses to learn a user’s preference and behavior patterns. In addition to use as a phone, it can also walk, dance, and play programmed games, and is mostly controlled by voice. The RoBoHoN initiative is part of an broader effort by Sharp and Hon Hai to develop next-level home devices.

(Read the full article on The Japan Times)

4 – ‘Black box’ No More: This System Can Spot the Bias in Those Algorithms

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have developed one of the first systems to help uncover the decision-making process behind algorithmic systems, commonly used in recommendation and predictive analytics’ systems. The Quantitative Input Influence (QII) measures can help “reveal the relative weight of each factor in an algorithm’s final decision”, said Anupam Datta, a CMU associate professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering. For example, in a job where lifting heavy weight is important and that factor is associated with getting hired, one question is which factor – gender or weight-lifting ability –  is weighted more heavily in a machine learning algorithm? In this case, QII fixes the weight-lifting factor while allowing variation in gender, in turn helping to uncover any gender-based biases in decision-making. The QII system, outlined in a paper that was presented at this week’s IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, was developed in response to more vocal calls for algorithmic transparency.

(Read the full article on PC World and Carnegie Mellon paper)

5 – The Future of Humanity’s Food Supply Is in the Hands of AI

How we grow the world’s food supply will be revolutionized by introduction and integration of AI and machine learning technology. Deep learning systems are able to recognize patterns undetectable by humans by taking in vast amounts of information and considering thousands of variables at a time. This is a particularly useful tool at at time when Earth’s global climate is changing and affecting health of crops and best ways to grow those crops. NASA’s Landsat satellites may provide useful information to government and in turn to farmers concerning weather and growing patterns that will allow for more efficient allocation of crop-growing capital and other resources. AI is also showing up in new agricultural machines and tractors that have the ability to better analyze crop issues and intervene at the level of the plant, as opposed at a blanket crop level. Blue River Technology has created the LettuceBot, which is powered by machine learning and  can photograph 5,000 young plants per minute. This machine, and others that will undoubtedly be built, have the potential to assist farmers in reducing their chemical use by 90 percent, an important economical and epidemiological implications for the long-term.

(Read the full article on Wired)

Image credit: Engadget.com