Latest Disney Accelerator Backs AI, VR, Autonomous Vehicles

The Walt Disney Company has selected five companies to be in its annual Accelerator program, three of them AI startups, one in robotics and one developing VR. The program, now in its tenth year, identifies promising new tech companies to benefit from Disney funding and mentorship in exchange for an inside track on talent and acquisitions. The class of 2024 includes AudioShake, which leverages AI to aid in mixing and dubbing audio tracks for mixing or dubbing; ElevenLabs, which has a text-to-speech app for GenAI voicing; and Promethean AI, a digital archives search platform that informs prototype design. Continue reading Latest Disney Accelerator Backs AI, VR, Autonomous Vehicles

CES: FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Bias in Healthcare

Introduced by Consumer Technology Association VP of Regulatory Affairs David Grossman, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf took the CES stage with interviewer Lisa Dwyer, a partner at international law firm King & Spalding. Califf noted the monumental differences in technology that have taken place between his first stint at the Food & Drug Administration in 2015 and today. “The changes are so dramatic, it’s hard to characterize them,” he said. “We’re moving into a different world.” He’s excited about “the hundreds of products with AI” that can bring so much good to the market but also noted the potential harms. Continue reading CES: FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on Bias in Healthcare

Nvidia Leverages OpenAI’s GPT-4 to Train Dexterous Robots

Nvidia Research has debuted Eureka, an AI agent that autonomously teaches robots complex motor skills. Powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4, Eureka has successfully trained a robotic hand to handle a pen with the dexterity of a human — a first, according to Nvidia. Eureka has also enabled robots to do things like open drawers, manipulate scissors and toss and catch balls, along with dozens of other tasks. “Eureka is a first step toward developing new algorithms that integrate generative and reinforcement learning methods to solve hard tasks,” according to Nvidia Senior Director of AI Research Anima Anandkumar said. Continue reading Nvidia Leverages OpenAI’s GPT-4 to Train Dexterous Robots

Amazon Introduces New Robots to Improve Fulfillment Speed

Amazon now has more than 750,000 robots that relieve warehouse employees from some intensely repetitive tasks. Just in time for the holiday shopping rush, the company is adding a new robotic technology, Sequoia, which is already operating at a fulfillment center in Houston, Texas. Amazon says Sequoia is a complete “reimagining” of how inventory is stored and managed, resulting in a 75 percent improvement in how inventory is identified and housed, and also improves employee safety. Amazon is also expanding its robot workforce with the addition of a bipedal robot called Digit, from Agility Robotics. Continue reading Amazon Introduces New Robots to Improve Fulfillment Speed

DeepMind and Academics Advance General Purpose Robots

“Robots are great specialists, but poor generalists,” according to Google DeepMind, which says models are typically trained for individual tasks, and changing a single variable can mean starting again from scratch. Now the London-based Alphabet subsidiary thinks it’s come up with a way to combine knowledge across robotics for a general purpose machine helper. In conjunction with 33 academic labs, Google DeepMind has pooled data from 22 different robot types to create the Open X-Embodiment dataset. Simultaneously, the group releases the RT-1-X robotics transformer (RT) model derived from RT-1. Continue reading DeepMind and Academics Advance General Purpose Robots

Walmart Leans into AI, Retools Site to Compete with Amazon

Walmart has rolled out a new online look in a bid to catch up with Amazon, simultaneously advancing its conversational AI capabilities using OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Google’s BERT. Starting last year, generative AI has reportedly been a major initiative of the Arkansas-based retailer in key areas including search, supply chain management and virtual shopping, although it is only now that the company is emphasizing the tools to customers by expanding its offerings like Text to Shop. The text- or voice-activated way to add items to Walmart.com shopping carts is one of nearly two dozen conversational AI experiences at Walmart. Continue reading Walmart Leans into AI, Retools Site to Compete with Amazon

CES: Nvidia Intros AI Impact on Gaming, Omniverse, Laptops

At Nvidia’s CES 2023 keynote, executives revealed new products and innovations in laptops, gaming, the omniverse, robotics and auto technology. Nvidia senior vice president of gaming Jeff Fisher focused on the company’s AI developments, emphasizing that, “AI will define the future of computing,” and adding that “this has influenced much” of what the company is showing at CES. He highlighted the company’s “new era of laptop computing,” powered by its Ada Lovelace architecture, GeForce RTX 40 Series GPUs and new 5th generation Max-Q technologies with DLSS 3 for quadrupled speed. Continue reading CES: Nvidia Intros AI Impact on Gaming, Omniverse, Laptops

Robot Renaissance Triggers a Surge in Automaton Workforce

The world is experiencing a skilled labor shortage, and robots are stepping in to fill the void. Last year, some 500,000 industrial robots were added to the global workforce, bringing the total figure to about 3.5 million, according to a new report by the International Federation of Robotics trade group, which says the number of robots added in 2021 exceeds by 22 percent a record set in 2018. The pattern indicates the industrial robotics market will grow from $15.7 billion in 2022 to $30.8 billion by 2027, a CAGR of 14.3 percent, according to the report. Continue reading Robot Renaissance Triggers a Surge in Automaton Workforce

Amazon Faces Economic Challenges, Continues Cost-Cutting

Amazon is continuing the cost-cutting that CEO Andy Jassy emphasized when the company reported a $2 billion loss in Q2. The company is shutting down Amazon Explore, a virtual tourism initiative launched during the COVID-19 lockdown, unplugging the robotics ventures Canvas and ORCA, and dimming the lights on the Amazon Glow, a video-calling projector for kids. In recent weeks, Amazon also confirmed the end of field tests for the autonomous delivery service Scout. This in the wake of a hiring freeze at its retail division and the closure of the Amazon Care telehealth venture. Continue reading Amazon Faces Economic Challenges, Continues Cost-Cutting

Congress Passes CHIPS Act to Boost Production, Research

After more than a year of wrangling, the Senate on Wednesday passed a bipartisan tech and science funding bill in a 64-33 vote. The CHIPS and Science Act commits $280 billion to be spent over five years in what is being called the largest manufacturing, research and development initiative of its kind. The largest single area of investment is $76 billion to fund domestic semiconductor production, which includes $24 billion in new tax incentives. Yesterday, the bill passed in a 243-187 House vote and now heads to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law. The legislation aims to bolster national security by making the U.S. chip independent and boosting competition against China. Continue reading Congress Passes CHIPS Act to Boost Production, Research

DeepMind’s Gato Moves Toward Artificial General Intelligence

Alphabet-backed research lab DeepMind last week released a new AI system called Gato that takes a step toward artificial general intelligence, or AGI, technology that enables machines to undertake and learn the same tasks as humans. Described by DeepMind as a “general purpose AI, Gato’s debut coincides with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman securing $225 million to fund Inflection AI, an artificial intelligence company the pair launched earlier this year to simplify communication between humans and computers. Neither investors nor valuation were disclosed. Continue reading DeepMind’s Gato Moves Toward Artificial General Intelligence

Amazon, Google Among Companies Testing Drone Deliveries

Companies including Amazon, Google and Walmart are quietly beginning drone deliveries across the U.S., according to reports. Everything from Advil to take-out meals are fair game for robot delivery to one’s doorstep, with the various companies experimenting in the space completing between dozens and up to hundreds of deliveries a day. Walmart has begin working with San Francisco startup Zipline on deliveries in Arkansas. Israeli startup Flytrex, specializing in U.S. food delivery, opened a station in Texas following testing in North Carolina. Wing, a unit of Google-owner Alphabet, is delivering in Virginia. Continue reading Amazon, Google Among Companies Testing Drone Deliveries

Pew Research Finds Americans Suspicious of AI and Biotech

A Pew Research study finds the public has a cautionary attitude toward artificial intelligence and human enhancements, with concerns about potentially unintended consequences of autonomous machines, and fear of what accelerated change in these areas might mean for society. The survey of more than 10,250 U.S. adults in November 2021 examined opinions of six technologies broken down into two categories: AI and bioengineering, with crossover in the area of AI-enhanced exoskeletons. Across all categories, a majority believe that federal government and “end users” should be involved — along with the creators or inventors — in setting standards. Continue reading Pew Research Finds Americans Suspicious of AI and Biotech

Russia’s Native Tech Star Yandex Collapsing Over Sanctions

Yandex — the giant Russian tech brand involved in everything from search to music streaming and ride-hailing — has been reeling from the effects of economic sanctions and the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Yandex stock, described as “soaring” on its Nasdaq debut in 2011, was in February said to be “in freefall,” having declined to about half of its value. The company has an estimated 67 million users worldwide, including in Michigan, Arizona, Ohio, London and Paris, where partnerships with Uber and Grubhub were followed by forays into robotic food delivery and self-driving cars. Continue reading Russia’s Native Tech Star Yandex Collapsing Over Sanctions

Unity Game Engine Makes ‘Digital Twins’ for Industrial Tests

Game giant Unity is using its game engine technology to help businesses make “digital twins” of real-world objects, environments and even people. These virtual entities take the brunt of testing products, machines and environments. Currently there are dozens of companies reportedly using Unity’s game engine to model digital doubles that can sub-in for robots, manufacturing lines and buildings, among other things, virtually operating and monitoring them even as they are optimized and trained. These twins rust when exposed to water and respond to things like temperature. They learn to avoid a ditch or call attention to a broken part. Continue reading Unity Game Engine Makes ‘Digital Twins’ for Industrial Tests