Issue #70

This week – augmenting human senses, stealing AI, Google tries to harness cloud robotics, Samsung gets its own Siri and we get a closer look on a farming robot. Plus – what is life and what is synthetic biology, designer babies and the future of human reproduction and a mask that allows you to smell virtual worlds.

More Than A Human

Hacking Our Senses Will Transform How We Experience the World

Biohacking may open us a way to sense the world in a completely and different way. And there are people who are working on projects aimed at augmenting our senses in a new and creative way.

A Device For The Deaf That Lets You “Listen” With Your Skin

And here’s an example of such sense augmenting device. It’s called Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer, or VEST in short, and it works by picking up sound either from surrounding or from a smartphone, and then translates them into movement of 32 tiny motors that vibrate on your back. Over time, your brain learns how to interpret that new input and it comes a new sense for you.

(Im)mortality: Researchers Find That Human Lifespan Has A Max Limit

Recent research suggests that we have already reached the maximum lifespan constrained by biology and our bodies. Which means that if we want to go beyond this limit we need to look what synthetic biology, gene engineering, and biotech have to offer.

Mind-Controlled Bionics: New Tech Translates Thoughts Into Motion

New technology in prosthetics is allowing for controlling appendage mechanisms with brain activity. While not an equivalent replacement of a lost limb, further development of the technology will bring us closer to tapping into the full potential of advanced prosthesis.

One ‘killer app’ will bring biohacking to the people, says transhumanist

Meet Amal Graafstra, a biohacker who injects RFID tags under the skin and travels the world talking about people merging their bodies with technology.

Artificial Intelligence

Samsung acquires Viv, a next-gen AI assistant built by the creators of Apple’s Siri

Apple has Siri, and now Samsung has Viv.

Can we open the black box of AI?

We know how to build AI systems and how to train them to perform a variety of tasks. We can make them good at these tasks, but we don’t know why the system made certain decision. It’s hard to debug neural networks, but some researchers are trying to do so and they hope to create an AI that will be able to explain why it did this and this.

Can we build AI without losing control over it?

Scared of superintelligent AI? You should be, says neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris — and not just in some theoretical way. We’re going to build superhuman machines, says Harris, but we haven’t yet grappled with the problems associated with creating something that may treat us the way we treat ants. I highly recommend Sam’s talk.

How to Steal an AI

Why should you spend time and money on training your AI system from scratch when you can steal it from the competitors? Researchers have shown it is possible to reconstruct an AI model by using its API and just asking for responses.

Partnership on AI: Tech Giants Unite to Develop Synthetic Intelligence for Humanity

Google, Microsoft, and IBM are joined by Facebook and Amazon—teaming up to form the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society. It’s a coalition, of sorts, composed of a 10-member board, with representatives coming from the five founding companies. Their goal is to make it fair, inclusive, and (most importantly) ethical.

Capturing the Intelligence of the Crowd: How to Create Your Own Super AI

Numerai has an interesting approach to solving AI. Instead of building one model to fit all the cases, they have crowdsourced the problem. They collect different models, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, from data scientists across the world and apply the right part of the right algorithm to the right data. Check the video in the article, it explains more in the details how Numerai works.

Japan’s AI schoolgirl has fallen into a suicidal depression in latest blog post

Microsoft has a bad luck when it comes to the AI bots pretending to be teenage girls.


The Automation Paradox

Vanessa Hill from BrainCraft explains the Automation Paradox, which states that with more automation people lose their skills in that system, resulting in more automation.

A Robot That Sews Could Take the Sweat Out of Sweatshops

Meet Sewbo, a robot that chemically stiffened pieces of fabric and then guides the fabric through a commercial sewing machine.

Google’s next big step for AI: Getting robots to teach each other new skills

Google is experimenting with cloud robotics, where a number of machines share the same “mind” and experiences. For example, they put a couple of robots and by using reinforced learning made them learn how to open the door. Many robots were trying to perform the task by trial and error and all of them were sharing what they have learned.

FarmBot: open source backyard robot for a fully automated garden

FarmBot is an open source farming robot that looks like a big CNC-machine, but instead of carving metal, it plants and takes care of the crops. In this 30-minutes long video you can learn in details how FarmBot works and how it was built.

Self-Replicating Robots and Galactic Domination

Excellent video from PBS SpaceTime on Von Neumann’s probes and self- replicating robots whose goal is to spread across the galaxy in the quest for galactic domination.


Synthetic Biology: It’s Alive, but Is It Life?

We have become capable of more than just reading and editing life. We can build organs that could save the lives of thousands of people in need of organ transplants, and in the future, we could even potentially create cyborgs using the tech. And with this ability comes so many questions. How far can we go? How far should we go?

Designer Babies and the New Technology of Having Children

Technology is going to change how we reproduce. From egg freezing to designer babies to artificial wombs, we may ditch how we reproduced for ages and take control over the process of making a new human being.

Virtual Worlds

This Mask Allows You To Smell Virtual Reality

If you want to fully immerse in the virtual world and smell the virtual environment. I would take it off when the game takes place in dungeons, though.

Train on This Augmented Reality Rock Climbing Wall

By using augmented reality, someone had turned an ordinary rock climbing wall into an interactive surface on which you can play games like pong while climbing. Looks cool!

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