Software

AI + ML

Boffins try to grok dogs using AI, a cyber-brain charter, a bot running for mayor, and more

Would you vote for a machine for public office?


Roundup Here are a few bits and pieces from this week's news in AI. Researchers have collected a dataset to analyze dog behaviour using neural networks, the first AI-assisted medical device for diagnosing diabetic retinopathy has been approved by the FDA, and, finally, an AI is running for mayor in Japan.

Who’s a good doggo? A team of researchers have developed a machine learning model that attempts to predict and understand dog behaviour.

They attached sensors and a GoPro camera to a dog to collect video data, a canine is an Alaskan Malamute called Kelp M. Redmon. The clips show Kelp interacting with the environment around it with a dog's eye view. Image stills from the video feed are then fed into a convolutional neural network as inputs and act as an embedding for a LSTM (long-short term memory network).

The LSTM processes the features of each progressive image from the clip over each time step, and is trained to predict the next frame. For example, it might be given images of a human throwing a ball that bounces past Kelp, and the neural network guesses that she will scramble and move right for the ball.

In a paper published on arXiv, the researchers from the University of Washington and the Allen Institute for AI, said the work was “a first step towards end-to-end modelling of intelligent agents. This approach does not need manually labeled data or detailed semantic information about the task or goals of the agent.”

Dogs obviously rely on a lot more than vision to navigate the world. The researchers hope to include more sensory data such as smell or touch. It’s also limited to one type of dog, and are interested to see if their work maps to multiple dogs across different breeds.

“We hope this work paves the way towards better understanding of visual intelligence and of the other intelligent beings that inhabit our world,” the paper includes.

The paper will be presented at the Conference of Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) later this year in June.

DeepMind gets a new COO - DeepMind have employed Lila Ibrahim as its first chief operating officer, it announced on Wednesday.

Ibrahim began her career in technology working for Intel as a microprocessor designer, assembler programmer, business development manager and rose to be chief of staff to its CEO & Chairman, Craig Barrett. She also was president and COO of Coursera, a company focused on education offering a variety of courses online.

She will work alongside DeepMind’s co-founders: Demis Hassabis, CEO; Shane Legg, chief scientist; and Mustafa Suleyman, head of applied AI.

FDA approves AI medical gizmo for diabetic retinopathy The US Food and Drug Administration have given the green light to the first medical AI device that uses algorithms to detect diabetes in retinal scans.

The company, IDx LLC, developed the tool known as IDx-DR. The FDA found it could detect mild diabetic retinopathy to an accuracy of 87.4 per cent, and was able to identify patients who did not the disorder to an accuracy of 89.5 percent.

“IDx-DR is the first device authorized for marketing that provides a screening decision without the need for a clinician to also interpret the image or results, which makes it usable by health care providers who may not normally be involved in eye care,” the FDA said.

It means IDx can now sell its devices to hospitals and clinics. Retinopathy is a well-known area in medicine and AI. Even Google has taken a stab at the problem, and have used machine learning to tell a patient’s risk of heart disease and even if they’re a smoker or not from retinol scans to a decent accuracy.

Fancy a trip to Korea? If you’re a pretty good at TensorFlow and deep learning and want to get away, then maybe consider applying to Deep Learning Camp Jeju at Jeju Island, Korea.

The month-long bootcamp will let you work on a deep learning project with mentors surrounded by about 20-30 participants. If you get accepted, you’ll get a $1,000 stipend (£811.50) $300 (£243.45) towards your flights and $1,000 worth of Google Cloud credits with access to its TPUs.

No visas are required if you plan to stay less than 30 days. The event is organised by TensorFlow Korea, and is a push to advance deep learning in Korea.

Previous projects have included computer vision research self-driving cars, recommender systems, and GANs. It’s all sounds pretty sweet, and you can apply here.

OpenAI’s AGI strategy OpenAI published a charter to help guide its long-term mission of creating artificial general intelligence (AGI).

AGI is a contentious topic. Some believe the world is deathly close to developing crazed killer robots (looking at you Elon and the now deceased Hawk), others believe it’s a useless term, some think it’s an impossible feat.

The charter is pretty interesting, nevertheless. It’s the first time a major AI research lab has declared it will stop its work in creating AGI if another project gets there first, on the condition that it won’t be used maliciously.

“We are concerned about late-stage AGI development becoming a competitive race without time for adequate safety precautions. Therefore, if a value-aligned, safety-conscious project comes close to building AGI before we do, we commit to stop competing with and start assisting this project. We will work out specifics in case-by-case agreements, but a typical triggering condition might be “a better-than-even chance of success in the next two years,” it said.

It also warned that as safety and and security issues escalate as AI progresses, it might have to be more careful about publishing research so openly in the future.

“We are committed to providing public goods that help society navigate the path to AGI. Today this includes publishing most of our AI research, but we expect that safety and security concerns will reduce our traditional publishing in the future, while increasing the importance of sharing safety, policy, and standards research.”

Other points on the charter include the usual announcements around building safe AI that will benefit humanity.

EU member states sign AI deal - Twenty-five countries under the European Union signed a “Declaration of cooperation on Artificial Intelligence”.

The deal promises to work together on the most pressing issues in AI, including ethical and legal issues, competitiveness in research, and where and how it should be deployed. It means that there should be more funding for research, development, and industry.

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, UK, and Norway, all signed the agreement.

Assess your algorithms The AI Now Institute at New York University have published a framework to help companies and public agencies assess the impact of its algorithms.

The Algorithmic Impact Assessment (AIA) report can be summed up in five points:

  • 1. Agencies should conduct a self-assessment of existing and proposed automated decision systems, evaluating potential impacts on fairness, justice, bias, or other concerns across affected communities.
  • 2. Agencies should develop meaningful external researcher review processes to discover, measure, or track impacts over time.
  • 3. Agencies should provide notice to the public disclosing their definition of “automated decision system,” existing and proposed systems, and any related self-assessments and researcher review processes before the system has been acquired.
  • 4. Agencies should solicit public comments to clarify concerns and answer outstanding question.
  • 5. Governments should provide enhanced due process mechanisms for affected individuals or communities to challenge inadequate assessments or unfair, biased, or otherwise harmful system uses that agencies have failed to mitigate or correct.

Although the AIA is inspired by other impact assessment such as environmental protection, data protection, privacy, or human rights, it can’t be legally enforced. So it relies on the good nature of organizations.

Despite this, Jason Schultz, professor of clinical law at NYU and a senior advisor on technology policy in the White House under Obama, told The Register, he does believe many companies will happily audit their own algorithms.

“The pressure for algorithmic accountability has never been greater, especially for public agencies. We believe that it’s urgent that public agencies begin evaluating algorithmic decision-making with the same level of scrutiny as these other areas [such as ] environmental effects, human rights, data protection, privacy, etc."

"And lawmakers are finally beginning to take this issue seriously. So I would anticipate many agencies adopting these frameworks voluntarily or with minimal policy interventions. Otherwise, they run huge risks of inflicting harms on the very people they are meant to serve and ultimately undermining public trust in government to help improve our lives with new technologies."

“Ultimately, this will require a multi-pronged approach. Legislation will likely be part of that. We also believe it’s imperative for companies developing these systems to take responsibility for providing transparency and ensuring that they do not create unintended harm.”

The AI Institute also calls for an “independent, government-wide oversight body” to take on third-party auditing to avoid any conflicts of interest.

An AI overlord In other news: An AI is running for mayor in Tama City, Japan.

Michihito Matsuda is a unique mayoral candidate. He? She? It? really is different from all the other politicians. (Matsuda, dressed all in silver, has quite feminine features so El Reg will refer to as her for now). Matsuda isn’t even human for god’s sake, but her supporters are.

Tetsuzo Matsumoto, a senior advisor to Softbank and Norio Murakami, an ex-representative for Google Japan are fans apparently, according to Otaquest.

Remember when Saudi Arabia granted Sophia, a bald, creepy robot citizenship? This could the beginning of the end for politicians, wouldn't that be a shame. ®

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FPGA now means Finally, PRC Grants Approval: China OKs AMD's $35bn Xilinx buy

hurdles <= hurdles - 1;

Chip megadeals have become daunting, with governments looking at transactions suspiciously, though AMD can breathe a sigh of relief: the path to acquire FPGA giant Xilinx is now clearer.

The National Anti-Monopoly Policy Bureau of the State Administration for Market Regulation of the People's Republic of China has approved the $35bn all-stock takeover that was announced in October 2020, according to an 8-K filing [PDF] by AMD with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

In late December, AMD said it had to delay closing the deal as China's regulators were still reviewing the proposal. The US and EU have already approved the acquisition; AMD now expects the merger to close in the first quarter of 2022 thanks to the Middle Kingdom's approval.

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Thanks for the memory: Samsung says DRAM, NAND profits up Q-on-Q, sales down as global supply chain bites

Expects more stability but warns of potential fab lockdowns on road ahead

Samsung blamed disruptions in the global supply chain for failing to meet its own guidance for DRAM and NAND shipments during final three months of 2021, nevertheless racked up a record quarterly sales at group level.

The South Korean megacorp said Q4 2021 delivered revenue of ₩76.57 trillion ($63.8bn), up 24 per cent year-on-year, and an operating profit of ₩13.87trn ($11.6bn), up almost 5 per cent.

Indicating the volatility in the sector, Semiconductor unit turnover was up 43 per cent year-on-year to ₩26.01trn ($21.6bn) but fell 2 per cent on the prior quarter. Similarly, the Memory division grew 44 per cent year-on-year to ₩19.45trn ($16.16bn), but fell 7 per cent sequentially.

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For first time in 31 years, stable Linux kernel version has over 999 commits – but not everyone heard about it

'Script was adding the cc: to msg.000 not msg.0000'

A small SNAFU in Linux kernel land meant that a notification regarding the stable review cycle for the 5.16.3 release didn't reach everyone it should have.

For the first time in the 31-year history of the Linux kernel, there were over 999 commits to a stable version, which caused a very minor problem.

Greg Kroah-Hartman, lead maintainer of the -stable branch, has a set of scripts which CC various interested parties when there's been a new release.

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Targeted ransomware takes aim at QNAP NAS drives, warns vendor: Get your updates done pronto

Nasty demands hefty Bitcoin ransom

QNAP has urged NAS users to act "immediately" to install its latest updates and enable security protections after warning that product-specific ransomware called Deadbolt is targeting users' boxen.

"DeadBolt has been widely targeting all NAS exposed to the internet without any protection and encrypting users' data for Bitcoin ransom," warned the Taiwanese company in a statement late yesterday.

The ransomware leaves a note demanding payment of 0.03 Bitcoins.

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Instant Ump: HP Inc's subscription ink services hiking prices from next month

Customers in mid-tier band facing up to 50% higher fees... and they're delighted

HP is hiking the UK price of Instant Ink monthly plans by more than 50 per cent in some cases, although the company website is still showing the cost of the soon-to-be out-of-date bands.

The subscription service was launched in the UK in 2014, and "eliminates ink anxiety" according to the US vendor, with a small cartridge in the box re-ordering ink before it runs out. HP also said it "slashes ink costs" in half when compared to the cost per page using most low-end colour inkjet toners.

There were 10 million plus subscribers [PDF] to the service globally as of October 2021, according to HP's Securities Analyst Meeting. The firm said revenues generated by Instant Ink in fiscal '21 were forecast to grow 30 per cent year-on-year to more than $500m. HP reported pre-tax profit from printing for the whole financial year of $3.635bn, up from $2.49bn a year earlier.

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Toaster-friendly alternative web protocol Gemini attracts criticism for becoming exclusive clique

While creators were stripping away annoying styling, users started to make Geminispace a bunker, says engineer

Project Gemini is a new internet protocol designed to be simpler and lighter to make it easier for people to design, run, and use their own websites.

Described by network engineer Stéphane Bortzmeyer at FOSDEM 2021 as a new ultra-simple protocol that is modern but "looks retro," it was designed to help the user opt out of "pervasive user tracking [and]... distractions from the actual content."

Some of those with a penchant for irritating spelling call it the "smol web." It's light enough for vintage computers, and easy to create both clients and pages. It's not designed to replace the web, but as an adjunct to it. It also makes it much easier to host your own site. As the project points out, it's "heavier than gopher... lighter than the web, [and] will not replace either."

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January edition of Azure Sphere OS cancelled after Microsoft actually listens to customer's complaint

Wait – is this the same company that gave us Windows?

Microsoft has cancelled the latest release of Azure Sphere OS, its take on securing IoT devices, citing problems reported by a customer during evaluation.

Far be it from us to wonder if that is THE Azure Sphere customer, or one of a multitude. After all, if an IoT device has a borked connection, but nobody is using the thing, can it truly be said to have borked at all?

Philosophy aside, the reported issue is concerned with intermittent network connection failures during the OS update while using the ENC28J60 Ethernet interface for internet connectivity. "To adhere to our quality standards," intoned the company, "we are cancelling the 22.01 release while we investigate this."

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ServiceNow CEO says mergers and acquisitions are off the table – too messy

It's as if Bill McDermott's SAP tenure never happened

In a reminder – if ever one were needed – of the sheer brass neck of celebrity tech CEOs, Bill McDermott, head honcho at helpdesk-cum-workflow-slinger ServiceNow, has informed investors that mergers and acquisitions (M&As) are bad for tech integration and engineers hate them.

ServiceNow has reported revenue of $1.6bn in the fourth calendar quarter of 2021, up 29 per cent on a year earlier. The firm posted a $2m loss, which had narrowed slightly, but was bullish about the future. Subscription sales hit $1.5bn in the fourth quarter, up 30 per cent on a year earlier. The firm expects them to reach $1.6bn by the next quarter, 25 per cent growth year-on-year.

But it was the earnings call that might just to ruffle the feathers of seasoned industry watchers.

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Burning plasma signals step forward in race for nuclear fusion as researchers get bigger capsule for their 192-laser experiment

But work at US security-linked lab falls short of true ignition. 'This is physics,' they say

US scientists have succeeded in demonstrating self-heating plasma in a crucial step towards self-sustaining fusion energy.

Researchers at National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have published a peer-reviewed paper describing how they achieved burning plasma — where the heat from fusing nuclei take over as the main source of fuel heating — across four experiments which each produced more than 100 kilojoules of energy.

The result marks an important milestone towards the promised land of nuclear fusion, but is only one step toward true ignition – where a self-sustaining reaction will produce more energy than goes in. Even then, engineering challenges of efficiency, scale and reliability remain on the road ahead.

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Court papers indicate text messages from HMRC's 60886 number could snoop on Brit taxpayers' locations

Bitter contract dispute revealed HLR lookup capability baked into agreement

Exclusive Britain's tax collection agency asked a contractor to use the SS7 mobile phone signalling protocol that would make available location data of alleged tax defaulters, a High Court lawsuit has revealed.

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs had the potential to use SS7 to silently request that tax debtors' mobile phones give up location data over the past six years, according to papers filed in an obscure court case about a contract dispute.

SMS provider MMGRP Ltd, operators of HMRC's former 60886 text messaging service, filed a suit against the tax agency after losing the contract to send text messages on its behalf. Court documents obtained by The Register show that the secret surveillance capability was baked into otherwise mundane bulk SMS sending carried out by MMGRP Ltd.

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Imagination GPU cleared for RISC-V CPU compatibility, licensed to chip designers

We love it when a plan comes together

It seems we're a step closer to system-on-chips containing a mix of RISC-V CPU cores and a mainstream GPU powering Linux devices and the like.

Imagination Technologies' BXE-2-32 entry-to-mid-level GPU has been tested and validated to work with RISC-V-compatible CPU cores – and licensed to several companies building RISC-V chips, including RIOS Lab, SiFive, and Yadro, the biz told The Register.

That means we could soon see devices featuring system-on-chips that bring together RISC-V CPU cores and Imagination's graphics-rendering tech.

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