Last Week in AI #126: New robotics company from Google, automatic code generation, AI chatbot therapists

Alphabet launches new robotics software company Intrinsic , Is GitHub Copilot a blessing, or a curse? , Something Bothering You? Tell It to Woebot, and more!

Top News

Alphabet launches new robotics software company Intrinsic

Google's parent company Alphabet launched a new robotics software company called Intrinsic. This is an offshoot of a project group under X, Google's moonshot project division. The Intrinsic team has been around for 5 years, and with this public launch the company aims to bring AI-enabled robot arms to manufacturing tasks. Intrinsic showed off video demos of a robot assembling plug-and-play furniture and inserting USB cables. It remains to be seen what specific tasks the company will tackle and commercialize.

Is GitHub Copilot a blessing, or a curse?

Among the auxiliary models to follow OpenAI's GPT-3 has ben GitHub CoPilot. The new service aims to be an AI-enabled "pair programmer," that can ostensibly understand the code you intend to write, using context like docstrings, and write a significant amount of that code itself. In a blog post, fast.ai founder Jeremy Howard gives a demo of Copilot and explains some of its issues. In particular, while Copilot is an achievement in creating reasonable-looking code, its output is code "that doesn’t work, doesn’t check edge cases, and uses obsolete methods, and is verbose and creates technical debt." Copilot could be useful in a limited number of situations, but an over-reliance on its code-generation capabilities, coupled with automation bias, could be a detriment for less experienced programmers in particular.

Something Bothering You? Tell It to Woebot

Woebot is an app that acts as a simple AI-based ‘automated therapist’ to help users improve their mental health, with a focus on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) based techinques. It was founded in 2016 by psychologist and healthcare designer Alison Darcy after she was a post-doctoral researcher fellow and instructor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. With the COVID pandemic having greatly increased the demand for mental health services, it is among seen a large amount of growth in the past year; the number of its daily users doubled and is now in the tens of thousands. Other similar automated therapists exists, and Woebot differentiates itself by being heavily based on clinical research that demonstrate the benefits of CBT therapy. The company states that its intent is not to replace human therapists, but rather provide additional support that can complement the help of human therapists.


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News

Advances

Researchers from IBM, MIT and Harvard Announced The Release Of DARPA "Common Sense AI" Dataset Along With Two Machine Learning Models At ICML 2021 - "Building machines that can make decisions based on common sense is no easy feat. A machine must be able to do more than merely find patterns in data; it also needs a way of interpreting the intentions and beliefs behind people's choices."

A machine learning breakthrough: using satellite images to improve human lives - "Deep streams of data from Earth-imaging satellites arrive in databases every day, but advanced technology and expertise are required to access and analyze the data."

Google's Wordcraft Text Editor Advances Human-AI Collaborative Story Writing - "Neural language models are gaining popularity in real-life creative tasks such as text-adventure games, collaborative slogan writing, and even sports journalism, poetry and novel generation."

Machine learning models to help photovoltaic systems find their place in the sun - "Although photovoltaic systems constitute a promising way of harnessing solar energy, power grid managers need to accurately predict their power output to schedule generation and maintenance operations efficiently."

Microsoft-powered autonomous beach-cleaning robot is here to clean our shores - "Until we can get the human race to stop tossing its trash in places it's not supposed to be, people continue to get creative picking it up. That's exactly the case for Martijn Lukaart and Edwin Bos, two Dutch engineers who started TechTics and built what you see here: BeachBot, or BB for short."

AI Tool Shows How Machine Learning Could Make Video Editing More Efficient - "Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek."

DeepMind open-sources protein structure dataset generated by AlphaFold 2 - "DeepMind and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL), a life sciences lab based in Hinxton, England, today announced the launch of what they claim is the most complete and accurate database of structures for proteins expressed by the human genome."

The AlphaFold2 Method Paper: A Fount of Good Ideas - "Just over a week ago the long-awaited AlphaFold2 (AF2) method paper and associated code finally came out, setting to rest questions that I and many others raised about public disclosure of AF2."

Trucks Move Past Cars on the Road to Autonomy - "In 2016, three veterans of the still young autonomous vehicle industry formed Aurora, a startup focused on developing self-driving cars. Partnerships followed with major automakers, including Hyundai and Volkswagen."

This YouTube channel is using AI to gloriously remaster classic game intros and cutscenes - "Twenty years ago, when photorealistic games were still just a faraway dream, companies like Square sent our imaginations soaring before we played, with big-budget intros and cutscenes."

Business

How we built an AI unicorn in 6 years - "Today, Tractable is worth $1 billion. Our AI is used by millions of people across the world to recover faster from road accidents, and it also helps recycle as many cars as Tesla puts on the road."

Berkshire Grey Secures $23+ Million Order For Grocery Picking Robots - "Berkshire Grey's Intelligent Enterprise Robotic Solutions for Grocery help grocers get goods to shoppers faster - and at lower operational costs. Berkshire Grey, Inc."

Ford, Argo AI to launch self-driving vehicles on Lyft network - "Ford Motor Co. and its self-driving unit Argo AI plan to launch autonomous vehicles on the Lyft ride-hailing network by the end of the year. Passenger rides will start in Miami, and initial deployment of the vehicles will use safety drivers."

Path Robotics raises another $100M - "In May, Path Robotics announced a $56 million Series B. It was a sizable raise, as far as robotics rounds go. But the Columbus, Ohio-based startup is already back for more, raising a "pre-emptive" Series C a mere two and a half months later. And it's a biggie."

Clearview AI raises $30 million from investors despite legal troubles. - "Hoan Ton-That, the chief executive of Clearview AI, demonstrating the company's app in 2019.Credit...Amr Alfiky for The New York TimesClearview AI is currently the target of multiple class-action lawsuits and a joint investigation by Britain and Australia. That hasn't kept investors away."

Self-driving project Waymo to open Pittsburgh office in Bakery Square - "Waymo, the former Google self-driving car project, is opening an office in Pittsburgh."

Mobileye begins testing autonomous cars in New York - "People on the streets of New York will soon see a new type of vehicle meandering around: Mobileye's prototype autonomous cars."

Microsoft Chatbot Spinoff Xiaoice Reaches $1 Billion Valuation - "China-based AI chatbot developer Xiaoice increased its valuation to $1 billion in a funding round led by Hillhouse Capital Management, a boon for the provider of voice and text services used in digital assistants, consumer electronics and cars. The company, split off from Microsoft Corp."

Concerns

AI and Robots Are a Minefield of Cognitive Biases - "Humans anthropomorphize our technology, sometimes to our own distraction and detriment"

Beware explanations from AI in health care - "Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) algorithms are increasingly developed in health care for diagnosis and treatment of a variety of medical conditions (1)."

Why a YouTube Chat About Chess Got Flagged for Hate Speech - "Last June, Antonio Radic, the host of a YouTube chess channel with more than a million subscribers, was live-streaming an interview with the grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura when the broadcast suddenly cut out."

Humanoid Robot Keeps Getting Fired From His Jobs - "Pepper, SoftBank's robot, malfunctioned during scripture readings, took breaks in exercise class and couldn't recognize the faces of family members"

Consumer Reports concerned Tesla uses owners to test unsafe self-driving software - "A Tesla in full self-driving mode makes a left turn out of the middle lane on a busy San Francisco street. It jumps in a bus lane where it's not meant to be. It turns a corner and nearly plows into parked vehicles, causing the driver to lurch for the wheel."

Want your unemployment benefits? You may have to submit to facial recognition first - "After being let go from his job as a software quality-assurance engineer in April, Eric Watkins said he filed for unemployment benefits in Colorado. But he hasn't received a penny of the $6,490 he said he was eligible to receive and he's not sure when he will."

The Chatbot Problem - "In 2020, a chatbot named Replika advised the Italian journalist Candida Morvillo to commit murder. 'there is one who hates artificial intelligence. I have a chance to hurt him. What do you suggest?" Morvillo asked the chatbot, which has been downloaded more than seven million times."

Hype

Can A.I. Grade Your Next Test? - "Neural networks could give online education a boost by providing automated feedback to students. This spring, Philips Pham was among the more than 12,000 people in 148 countries who took an online class called Code in Place."

AI Is Not Going To Replace Writers Anytime Soon - But The Future Might Be Closer Than You Think - "Is AI for content creation over-hyped or will all writers eventually be replaced by bots? Businesses don't necessarily need more content, they need better content that actually performs. AI is doing a lot to help streamline content marketing and management for companies across the board."

Analysis

AI startup funding remained strong in Q2, report finds - "The pandemic spurred investments in AI across nearly every industry. That's according to CB Insights' AI in the Numbers Q2 2021 report, which found that AI startups attracted record funding - more than $20 billion - despite a drop in deal volume."

Policy

Russia "Weaponizing" AI: Pentagon Intelligence Report - "Russia is on the fast track to developing a range of autonomous weapon systems in a challenge to US military dominance, according to a report commissioned by the Pentagon's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC)."

How the National Science Foundation is taking on fairness in AI - "Most of the public discourse around artificial intelligence (AI) policy focuses on one of two perspectives: how the government can support AI innovation, and how the government can deter its harmful or negligent use."

Explainers

Tour of the Sacred Library - "Come, walk with me for a while through latent space. Welcome, Traveler! We"re so glad to have you here! Take a moment to collect yourself by the entrance before we begin the tour."


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