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The Lead

Liability Laws in the Age of Self-driving Cars

February 19, 2015 2:00 pm | by Inside Science News Service, Joel Shurkin | News | Comments

Ninety percent of automobile accidents involve human error. If scientists succeed in producing computer-driven cars, responsibility may shift to programming errors. In that case, who sues whom? Who is liable?

New tool monitors effects of tidal, wave energy on marine habitat

February 6, 2015 12:07 pm | by Michelle Ma, Univ. of Washington | Videos | Comments

Researchers building a new underwater robot they’ve dubbed the “Millennium Falcon” certainly...

Human insights inspire solutions for household robots

February 5, 2015 11:12 am | by Aaron Dubrow, NSF | News | Comments

People typically consider doing the laundry to be a boring chore. But laundry is far from boring...

Octopus robot makes waves with ultra-fast propulsion

February 5, 2015 10:47 am | by Glenn Harris, Univ. of Southampton | Videos | Comments

Scientists have developed an octopus-like robot, which can zoom through water with ultra-fast...

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Harnessing the power of drones to assess disaster damage

February 5, 2015 9:38 am | by Michael Price, San Diego State Univ. | News | Comments

When disaster strikes, it's important for responders and emergency officials to know what critical infrastructure has been damaged so they can direct supplies and resources accordingly. Doug Stow, a geography professor from San Diego State Univ., is developing a program that uses before-and-after aerial imagery to reveal infrastructure damage in a matter of minutes.

Programming safety into self-driving cars

February 4, 2015 11:21 am | by Aaron Dubrow, NSF | News | Comments

For decades, researchers in artificial intelligence, or AI, worked on specialized problems, developing theoretical concepts and workable algorithms for various aspects of the field. Computer vision, planning and reasoning experts all struggled independently in areas that many thought would be easy to solve, but which proved incredibly difficult.

Building trustworthy big data algorithms

January 30, 2015 8:41 am | by Emily Ayshford, Northwestern Univ. | News | Comments

Much of our reams of data sit in large databases of unstructured text. Finding insights among emails, text documents and Websites is extremely difficult unless we can search, characterize and classify their text data in a meaningful way. One of the leading big data algorithms for finding related topics within unstructured text (an area called topic modeling) is latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA).

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Parallelizing common algorithms

January 30, 2015 8:28 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every undergraduate computer science major takes a course on data structures, which describes different ways of organizing data in a computer’s memory. Every data structure has its own advantages: Some are good for fast retrieval, some for efficient search, some for quick insertions and deletions and so on. Today, hardware manufacturers are making computer chips faster by giving them more cores, or processing units.

Possible drone found on White House grounds

January 26, 2015 9:17 am | by Nedra Pickler, Associated Press | News | Comments

A device, possibly an unmanned aerial drone, was found on the White House grounds during the middle of the night while President Barack Obama and the first lady were in India, but his spokesman said today that it posed no threat. It was unclear whether their daughters, Sasha and Malia, were at home at the time of the incident with their grandmother, Marian Robinson, who also lives at the White House.

Optimizing optimization algorithms

January 21, 2015 9:36 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Optimization algorithms are everywhere in engineering. Among other things, they’re used to evaluate design tradeoffs, to assess control systems and to find patterns in data. One way to solve a difficult optimization problem is to first reduce it to a related but much simpler problem, then gradually add complexity back in, solving each new problem in turn and using its solution as a guide to solving the next one.

First critical-care transport helicopter simulator for flight nurse training

January 16, 2015 1:51 pm | by Case Western Reserve Univ. | News | Comments

Acute care nurse practitioner students, specializing in flight nursing at Case Western Reserve Univ., will soon be training in the nation’s first state-of-the-art simulator built in an actual helicopter. The simulator creates the sense of treating critically injured patients from takeoff to landing. The helicopter simulator was installed at the university’s Cedar Avenue Service Center.

New movie highlights FIRST students’ famous underdog robotic victory

January 15, 2015 3:15 pm | by FIRST | News | Comments

The stars are aligning for science and engineering, as a new movie about a high school robotics team makes its debut in theaters nationwide. The movie, “Spare Parts,” is based on FIRST Robotics Competition Team 842 - Falcon Robotics, from Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix, Ariz., and their famous robotic underdog victory against MIT which was chronicled in the WIRED article “La Vida Robot” in 2005.

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Vision system for household robots

January 12, 2015 7:36 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

For household robots ever to be practical, they’ll need to be able to recognize the objects they’re supposed to manipulate. But while object recognition is a highly studied topic in artificial intelligence, even the best object detectors still fail much of the time. Researchers at MIT believe that household robots should take advantage of their mobility and their relatively static environments to make object recognition easier.

FAA OKs two commercial drone permits

January 7, 2015 9:35 am | by Associated Press, Joan Lowy | News | Comments

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued permits to use drones to monitor crops and photograph properties for sale, marking the first time permission has been granted to companies involved in agriculture and real estate. The exemptions to the current ban on commercial drone flights were granted to Advanced Aviation Solutions in Star, Idaho, for “crop scouting,” and to Douglas Trudeau of Tierra Antigua Realty in Tucson, Arizona.

Robot 'shadow hand'

December 12, 2014 10:57 am | by ESA | News | Comments

ESA is developing technologies for advanced human–machine interaction to transfer the human sense of touch to space.                                       

Baby steps toward molecular robots

December 11, 2014 8:32 am | News | Comments

A walking molecule, so small that it cannot be observed directly with a microscope, has been recorded taking its first nanometer-sized steps. It's the first time that anyone has shown in real time that such a tiny object – termed a "small molecule walker" – has taken a series of steps.

‘Electronic skin’ detects pressure from different directions

December 10, 2014 2:12 pm | by American Chemical Society | News | Comments

For the first time, scientists report the development of a stretchable “electronic skin” closely modeled after our own that can detect not just pressure, but also what direction it’s coming from.                

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Computers that teach by example

December 8, 2014 8:49 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Computers are good at identifying patterns in huge data sets. Humans, by contrast, are good at inferring patterns from just a few examples. In a recent paper, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers present a new system that bridges these two ways of processing information, so that humans and computers can collaborate to make better decisions.

Artificial intelligence magic tricks

November 17, 2014 8:46 am | by Queen Mary Univ. of London | Videos | Comments

Researchers from the Queen Mary Univ. of London gave a computer program the outline of how a magic jigsaw puzzle and a mind-reading card trick work, as well the results of experiments into how humans understand magic tricks, and the system created completely new variants on those tricks which can be delivered by a magician.

Cockroach cyborgs use microphones to detect, trace sounds

November 6, 2014 9:47 am | by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State Univ. | News | Comments

North Carolina State Univ. researchers have developed technology that allows cyborg cockroaches, or biobots, to pick up sounds with small microphones and seek out the source of the sound.                  

IBM, Repsol launch world’s first cognitive technologies collaboration for the oil industry

October 30, 2014 11:46 am | Videos | Comments

Scientists at IBM and leading global energy company Repsol S.A. announced this week the world’s first research collaboration to leverage cognitive technologies that will help transform the oil and gas industry. IBM and Repsol are jointly developing two prototype cognitive applications specifically designed to augment Repsol’s strategic decision making in the optimization of oil reservoir production and in the acquisition of new oil fields.

Harnessing error-prone chips

October 30, 2014 7:40 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

As transistors get smaller, they also grow less reliable. Increasing their operating voltage can help, but that means a corresponding increase in power consumption. With information technology consuming a steadily growing fraction of the world’s energy supplies, some researchers and hardware manufacturers are exploring the possibility of simply letting chips botch the occasional computation.

Projecting a robot’s intentions

October 29, 2014 1:27 pm | by Jennifer Chu, MIT | Videos | Comments

Inside Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Building 41, a small, Roomba-like robot is trying to decided where to go. As the robot considers its options, its “thoughts” are projected on the ground in the form of different colored dots and lines. This new visualization system, called “measurable virtual reality”, combines projectors with motion-capture technology and animation software to project a robot’s intentions in real time.

Underwater robot for port security

September 26, 2014 7:42 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers unveiled an oval-shaped submersible robot, a little smaller than a football, with a flattened panel on one side that can slide along an underwater surface to perform ultrasound scans. Originally designed to look for cracks in nuclear reactors’ water tanks, the robot could also inspect ships for the false hulls and propeller shafts that smugglers frequently use to hide contraband.

Video games could dramatically streamline education research

September 19, 2014 9:12 am | by C. Brandon Chapman, Washington State Univ. | News | Comments

Washington State Univ. professor Rich Lamb has figured out a dramatically easier and more cost-effective way to do research on science curriculum in the classroom, and it could include playing video games. Called “computational modeling,” it involves a computer “learning” student behavior and then “thinking” as students would. Lamb, who teaches science education, says the process could revolutionize the way educational research is done.

Where to grab space debris

September 10, 2014 10:10 am | by Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Objects in space tend to spin—and spin in a way that’s totally different from the way they spin on earth. Understanding how objects are spinning, where their centers of mass are, and how their mass is distributed is crucial to any number of actual or potential space missions, from cleaning up debris in the geosynchronous orbit favored by communications satellites to landing a demolition crew on a comet.

A new foundation for mathematics

September 3, 2014 12:57 pm | by Florian Meyer, ETH Zurich | News | Comments

Proofs are the key method of mathematics. Until now, it has mainly been humans who have verified whether proofs are correct. This could change, says Russian mathematician Vladimir Voevodsky, who points to evidence that, in the near future, computers rather than humans could reliably verify whether a mathematical proof is correct.

Robots unlikely to take big bites out of employment, expert says

September 2, 2014 11:59 am | by Steve Talley, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics mean that machines will soon be able to do many of the tasks of today's workers. But David Hummels, a professor of economics at Purdue Univ., says humans still have a unique advantage that machines may never be able to emulate: our ability to respond to other humans.

Delivery by drone

August 21, 2014 9:16 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

In the near future, the package that you ordered online may be deposited at your doorstep by a drone: Last December, online retailer Amazon announced plans to explore drone-based delivery, suggesting that fleets of flying robots might serve as autonomous messengers that shuttle packages to customers within 30 mins of an order.

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