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News Roundup: AI hunters, VR cycling, and driverless morals

A roundup of the week’s tech news including dancing robots, Trump spam, and Intel’s diversity.

AI hunter

Last week at DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge, we saw groups of self-reliant robots independently find and patch vulnerabilities in applications they had never seen before, showing that Machine Learning will soon become a big part of cyber-security. This week, researchers at Arizona State University have shown off a new system that trawls marketplaces and forums on the dark web for software vulnerabilities, and then reports them back. One month, the system found 16 zero-day vulnerabilities, and is spotting around 300 threats each week.

Another AI project involves teaching facial recognition technology to spot people even if their faces are covered. Researchers from Germany’s Max Planck have created what they call the “Faceless Recognition System”, which is taught to learn not only the face, but the whole head and body to spot familiar patterns. Bring a hat and fat suit if you plan on avoiding being spotted in the future.  

It’s no secret that sometimes AI researchers don’t always understand why the systems they create make the decisions they do. This could be a problem if you’re expecting people to start using systems that might be telling them something different to what they’ve previously known. The clever people over at DARPA have recognized this issue, and started a project to make self-learning systems explain themselves better, and essentially demonstrate their working.

US elections

Neither Donald Trump nor Hilary Clinton have particularly endeared themselves to the tech crowd, but that hasn’t stopped a new movement in Silicon Valley calling for election day to be a holiday.

Take Off Election Day, initially inspired by Venture Capitalist Hunter Walk, currently has over 180 companies on board, including Twitter/Square CEO Jack Dorsey, Twilio, Spotify, SurveyMonkey, Giphy, and Autodesk. If you want, or for some reason need, a full day of thinking to decide your vote, get pressuring your boss to join the movement now!

Diversity

Intel released its mid-year diversity report this week. After pledging some $300 million on the issue, some progress has been made: women and minorities now make up some 40% of new hires, while the pay equality is up to 99%. However, there’s still a way to go -  25.4% of the workforce is female (up 0.6% in six months) and minority representation actually dropped 0.1% to 12.3%.

NSA

-          Twitter isn’t liable for whatever ISIS post on its site

-          Spam revolving around Donald Trump is far more common than spam involving Hilary Clinton

M&A

Apple has acquired AI/Machine Learning startup Turi, Facebook has acqi-hired music app EyeGroove, Google has bought Orbitera, Microsoft has snapped up esports livesteaming service Beam, HPE has purchased SGI, Intel now owns AI startup Nervana, Palatinir has snaffled Silk, Samsung has got its hands on luxury appliance company Dacor.

Activity tracking wearables maker Jawbone is reportedly looking for a buyer as it struggles to compete in a crowded but undercooked wearables market.

No Jibo for you

Another week, another crowdfunded campaign disappoints its backers. Jibo, an IndieGoGo-funded smarthome hub robot equipped with cameras and voice/facial recognition, has announced it will only be shipping in the US due to latency issues and Europe’s recent changes to privacy laws. It plans to try and go international again sometime in 2017.

Driverless morals

A week of ups and downs for Tesla. Researchers announced they had found a way to hack the car’s sensors and hide objects from its view, and a man in China claims his car crashed while under the guidance of Autopilot.

However, a man suffering a pulmonary embolism while driving was able to get to a hospital thanks to the autonomous driving of his Tesla. There is an augment he should have just waited (a man suffering a blood clot in his lungs definitely isn’t in control of his car, as one should be when using what is essentially smart cruise control), but it still makes good PR for Elon Musk & Co.

In other news, self-driving car company Comma.ai – the one where a guy built his own self-driving software for $1,000 – has released a slew of driving data so other companies can teach their own systems without having to crash their own cars a few times first.

You’ve probably read a lot of the ethical issues of driverless cars; what they should and shouldn’t do in strange hypothetical scenarios where someone positively has to die. Ignoring the fact programming them to brake is probably the easiest and safest option, MIT has instead come up with a ‘fun’ little game to see where the morals of the people lie. The Moral Machine gives you a set of life and death scenarios and instructs you to pick which person, group, or even animal, you’d like to see expire because of a driverless car.

VR cycling

Whether at home or in the gym, I’ve always found workouts to be pretty dull. But Aaron Puzey decided to liven up his cycling-machine sessions with VR. By hooking up a Galaxy Gear to Google Street View, he was able to virtually cycle from Land's End to John o' Groats – a distance of some 1000+ miles – without leaving his house. Home exercise revolution, or another reason for people never to leave the house?

Dancing bots

A world record was broken this week. The Qingdao Beer Festival in Shandong, China, saw a record 1,007 robots all dancing simultaneously. Those 43.8 cm tall critters might be preparing to take all our jobs and rule the world, but at least they’ll look graceful while they do it. 

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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