Sunday, February 19, 2017

Highlights and new discoveries in Computer Vision, Machine Learning, and AI (January 2017)

In the latest issue of this monthly digest series you can learn what happened at CES 2017, what's new in the world of self-driving cars, and how Intel got all these drones up in the sky during the Super Bowl's Halftime Show.

CES 2017

Las Vegas, Nevada, was fizzing with techno-buzz in January as CES 2017—the global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow—kicked off in style, showcasing the latest innovations and ideas from some of the top companies on the planet.

The eHang 184 had Brad Templeton talking flying cars and the future of personal transport. Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, showed its intricate vision for the future of deliveries in the form of the “Vision Van”. Their four-wheeled concept is designed to cut down on the amount of time it takes to sort packages for delivery as well as the actual delivery time, utilizing vans with roof-mounted autonomous drones, and robotic package-sorting devices to ferry packages from its vehicles. And Mercedes weren’t the only automotive giants sharing their vision for the future: Ford, Toyota, Hyundai and BMW were among others showcasing new concepts in self-driving technology.


The Intel drone fleet at the Super Bowl Halftime Show

There were 300 drones dancing behind Lady Gaga during the Super Bowl halftime show. They’re called Shooting Stars and were previously used in a holiday show at Disney World. These hundreds of Shooting Star drones flash, fall and flock in unison and are all controlled by one person — or rather one computer.

This is the latest project in Intel’s quest to take drones from individuals to fleets. One person commands the group, sending instructions and monitoring the drones’ health. And Intel says its limitless in its scale, able to control more than 10,000 drones at a time. The drones’ routes are pre-programmed and each drone does its own thing. The drones do not talk to each other and they lack the hardware to detect collisions. The software determines routes that eliminates collisions.

Several drones sit an inch apart on each launchpad. The Shooting Star drones rest in divots designed to cup the round LED housing, which also features the charging contacts for the drones. And they take off, en masse. One after another, seemingly randomly throughout the cluster of launchpads. A quick moment separates each launch as the drones take their position in the air prior to the show.


Robots that learn

Bots_alive launched a Kickstarter campaign involving a smartphone kit that gives simple but lifelike autonomy to a popular RC toy, the Hexbug® Spider. The aim is to pioneer a new form of character AI. Much like motion capture for scripted animation, this new technique may revolutionize how interactive characters are created, through observation of authentic human-generated behavior.


Self-driving cars were tested for the first time on the streets of Britain in January. The portentous trial saw a two-seater LUTZ Pathfinder travel 1.25 miles (2km) through pedestrianised areas of Milton Keynes, reaching speeds of up to 15mph whilst having to cope with walkers and cyclists for the first time. (via RoboHub)

Glassdoor again ranked Data Scientist as the no. 1 job in the USA. Also, 5 of the top 10 US jobs are related to Analytics, Big Data, and Data Science. (GlassDoor via KDNuggets)

The BBC released Spy in the Wild in January. The series deploys over 30 ultra-realistic animatronic 'Spy Creature' robots mounted with cameras, disguised as wildlife, filming their unique behavior closer than ever before. Going undercover in the animal world are Spy Pup, Spy Baby Monkey, Spy Penguin, and Spy Tortoise. (BBC)

Employing the techniques that drove their Go playing AI to mastery, Google has developed machines that have learned for themselves how to perform simple tasks like opening doors. Google are keeping their lips tight on many aspects of their AI developments, but it’s likely they’ll be sharing more of their learning machines in 2017. (Wired)

NVIDIA is partnering up with ZF, Bosch, and Audi to help build more autonomous vehicles. During CES, they released a concept video depicting their self-driving car (called BB8) interacting with the driver in natural spoken language as it negotiates stop lights, stop signs, and intersections. (NVIDIA Blog)

The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, aimed at tackling the threat to civilians posed by fully autonomous weapons systems, is calling for an international treaty pre-emptively banning the development, production, and use of such weapons. Is this a predictor of a growing movement against this new generation of decision making drones? (CBS)

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