Last Week in AI #150: Cuddly robo-dogs, self-farming farms, AI-crafted craft beer recipes
Japanese are increasingly turning to "social robots", John Deere's latest self-driving tractor will enable autonomous farming, a new South Australian craft beer has been designed entirely by AI
Adoption of "social robots" has seen an uptick in Japan in recent years, no doubt in part due to the impacts of COVID-19 related isolation. Examples of such robots include:
Aibo, a ~$3,000 robotic puppy with a front-facing camera and pressure sensors on multiple parts of their body
Lovot, a ~$2800 cute penguin-esque robot that can move on wheels, move its torso, and respond to its environment via various sensors
Qoobo, a ~$200 robotic pillow that has a motorized cat tail and responds to petting
Paro, a ~$6000 FDA-approved social robot that resembles a seal and is specialized for therapeutic uses
In addition to being bought by individuals, these robots are making their way into hospitals, elderly care homes, and classrooms. The majority of responders to a survey in 2020 still stated they were not interested in owning such a robot, but the market size for it is predicted to continue to increase in the coming years.
Our take: None of these robots are new, but reading about their various uses in this article is interesting. Personally I am a big believer in this use of robotics, and hope similar products will continue to be developed and be made more affordable; i’d love to own one!
Facing a growing population and worsening labor shortage, the agriculture industry is looking for new autonomous solutions that can improve both the productivity and yield of farms. John Deere’s self-driving tractor, to be sold later this year, is a step in that direction. The tractor can plow fields, avoid obstacles, and plant crops. A smartphone app allows users to remotely monitor the tractor. Its cost is yet to be known, but the non-autonomous version is around $600k.
While this is a big tractor targeted at big farms, other recently developed precision agriculture tools will also play a role in the self-farming farms of the future. These include networks of soil sensors, drones that can monitor crops and spray pesticides, and seed planting robots the size of washing machines. As a CMU researcher notes:
Similar to the autonomous car industry, full autonomy of farm vehicles and equipment can also be considered as an important, if not the ultimate, goal in the agriculture industry,
Our take: Autonomy on farms is in many ways easier than autonomy on roads since the former is a more controlled and static environment. The difficult part might be that modern farms are already highly optimized, so new solutions might need to be really good to make their use cost-effective. Nonetheless, this is a very promising application area for AI, and there should be many low-hanging fruits in the near future.
University of Adelaide computer science students Christopher Fusco and Jash Vira have developed a machine learning model that is able to design novel craft beer recipes, in collaboration with Barossa Valley Brewing. They built a dataset from over 260,000 existing online craft beer recipes as well as statistics about how popular and well-rated they are, and built a model capable of predicting how well received a given recipe would be. The model evaluated 200,000 recipes, and 30 final candidates were passed on to the experts at Barossa Valley Brewing who chose one of these to be made real and sold — it is named Rodney AI²PA in honor of Rodney Brooks, and will be available for sale soon.
Our take: This is a really fun project! It is really impressive these students were able to achieve this over the course of an internship, and that an actual new beer will be made available to buy soon as a result. The brewery founder’s comment about it is pretty cool - “It tastes like the future! Seriously, it’s a fruit driven IPA which I am very proud of and can’t wait to release.” I’d like to try it!
National AI Initiative Office Launches AI Researchers Portal - "The portal will aid artificial intelligence researchers in finding and learning more about federal resources and funding programs."
Nvidia's upgraded AI art tool turned my obscure squiggles into a masterpiece - "It's incredible, the things we can do with AI nowadays. For artists looking to integrate artificial intelligence into their workflow, there are ever more advanced tools popping up all over the net."
CSET: China Leads the World in Computer Vision Surveillance Research - "A new report from the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) has found that China’s research sector produces ‘a disproportionate share’ of research into three core AI-related surveillance technologies"
Meta claims its AI improves speech recognition quality by reading lips - "To investigate whether visuals — specifically footage of mouth movement — can improve the performance of speech recognition systems, researchers at Meta (formerly Facebook) developed Audio-Visual Hidden Unit BERT (AV-HuBERT), a framework that learns to understand speech by both watching and hearing people speak."
Researchers Use Machine Learning To Repair Genetic Damage - "A team of researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and the National Cancer Research Centre have identified a way to repair genetic damage and prevent DNA alterations using machine learning techniques. "
Machine Learning for MRI Image Reconstruction - "Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has long scan times, sometimes close to an hour for an exam. This sucks because long scan times makes MRI exams more expensive, less accessible, and unpleasant. [How does it feel like to be in an MRI?]"
Autonomous race cars to compete at CES 2022 - "The Autonomous Challenge, an autonomous high-speed racing competition, will make history (again) by taking place at this year's CES"
Machine Learning Used to Predict Synthesis of Complex Novel Materials - "AI presents a roadmap to define new materials for any need, with uses in green energy and waste reduction"
Seoul Robotics launches Level 5 Control Tower to enable autonomous mobility - "Korea-based Seoul Robotics introduced its Level 5 Control Tower (LV5 CTRL TWR), a mesh network of sensors and computers on infrastructure that guides vehicles autonomously without requiring sensors on individual vehicles."
US Army Announces New Machine Learning Tech For Burn Treatment - "The Defense Department announced a new partnership focused on using machine learning technology to allow anyone—even those without any medical background—to treat burn wounds on the battlefield."
Will Chatbots Replace the Art of Human Conversation? - "The fundamental roadblock is that, although computer algorithms are really, really good at identifying statistical patterns, they have no way of knowing what these patterns mean because they are confined to MathWorld and never experience the real world."
Artificial Intelligence Can Now Craft Original Jokes—And That’s No Laughing Matter - "The prospect of an AI that understands why we are laughing, and that can generate its own genuinely funny material, is sort of a holy grail for a subset of AI researchers. "
AI, ML bubble to the top in new beverage-ordering solution - "In an interview with a group of senior leaders at Bees, including Lambert, Murray, and Pratap Ranade, CEO of Arena-ai, shared insights for data architects, technologists, and developers alike"
Geely’s Zeekr to build autonomous vehicles for Waymo - "Zeekr, Geely Holding Group’s premium electric brand, announced Tuesday that it will manufacture vehicles for Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo One, the company’s autonomous ride-hailing service throughout the United States."
What Tech Jobs Demand A.I. and Machine Learning Skills in 2022? - "Organizations across the country see A.I. as increasingly vital to their long-term strategies, and they’re looking for technologists with the right mix of A.I. and machine-learning skills. "
Future of Work: Computer vision and machine learning may soon bolster restaurant jobs - "Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol expects the restaurant industry to adopt more emerging technologies to deal with supply chain issues, worker turnover"
Chinese AI giant Baidu ups the ante on autonomous driving, plans to launch its first car with level 4 automation next year - "Baidu is looking to race ahead of its rivals in autonomous driving, announcing that its first production model, powered by Nvidia chips, will have a high level of automation and deliveries will start next year."
Sanofi partners with AI firm Exscientia to develop up to 15 new drugs - "Exscientia will get an upfront cash payment of $100 million, leading discovery and design of small molecule drugs up to nomination of the candidate most likely to be viable. After that, Sanofi will take charge of clinical development."
IBM tries to sell Watson Health again - "IBM has resurrected its sale process for IBM Watson Health, with hopes of fetching more than $1 billion, people familiar with the situation tell Axios."
Delivers.AI presents its first autonomous delivery robot - "Madrid Futuro with the City Council has presented the first autonomous delivery robot pilot, Delivers.AI that will be tested in the Villaverde mobility Sandbox, a unique opportunity to position Madrid in the top 10 Smart Cities in the world. "
Warehouse executives: We need more information on AI to truly benefit - "Artificial intelligence was supposed to usher in a new era of efficiency and cost savings for warehouse and fulfillment operations, but despite its great promise – and high interest among executives – it is failing to deliver."
AI’s 6 Worst-Case Scenarios - "Who needs Terminators when you have precision clickbait and ultra-deepfakes?"
Artificial intelligence reflects the world around us, and that's a challenge - "Developers and data scientists are human, of course, but the systems they create are not -- they are merely code-based reflections of the human reasoning that go into them."
How no-code AI development platforms could introduce model bias - "But there are risks in abstracting away data science work — chief among them, making it easier to forget the flaws in the real systems underneath."
China’s new algorithm rules are at odds with its tech giants’ business models - "In essence, they require companies that use algorithm-based recommendations in their services to offer more transparency on how they work, and how that affects users."
How A.I. is set to evolve in 2022, according to the experts - "Machines are getting smarter and smarter every year, but artificial intelligence is yet to live up to the hype that's been generated by some of the world's largest technology companies. AI can excel at specific narrow tasks such as playing chess but it struggles to do more than one thing well."
Beth Singler interview: The dangers of treating AI like a god - "Artificial intelligence’s lack of transparency is leading many to fear the technology and others to elevate it to a mysterious god-like figure, but we should be more critical of those making decisions about how AI is used, says anthropologist Beth Singler"
Real-time machine learning: challenges and solutions - "This post outlines the solutions for (1) online prediction and (2) continual learning, with step-by-step use cases, considerations, and technologies required for each level."
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