artificial intelligence

Lyft will add Chrysler Pacifica minivans to its self-driving fleet, open new road test center

Lyft is doubling down on its self-driving car efforts with this week’s announcement that it will open a second road test site. The center will be in Palo Alto, California, near its self-driving HQ — the Level 5 Engineering Center. Lyft also took the wraps off a new car that will join its autonomous fleet: a modified Chrysler Pacifica minivan equipped with cameras, radar, and lidar sensors akin to those employed by Alphabet’s Waymo.

Lyft told TechCrunch that work at the new facility will complement the GoMentum Station testing center it uses in Concord, California, enabling a larger number of

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Snapdocs raises $25 million to streamline mortgages with AI

Real estate tech company Snapdocs today revealed that it has raised $25 million in series B funding to further develop its products and platform. Coinciding with the news, the San Francisco-based company announced the opening of a new office in Denver, Colorado. Snapdocs said the new office would serve as a center for a “wide variety” of roles, with an emphasis on engineering and operations.

F-Prime Capital led this latest raise, with participation from Sequoia Capital. (Among previous backers are Y Combinator and SV Angel.) The series B brings Snapdocs’ total raised to around $45 million, following a $15 million

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Microsoft debuts Azure Synapse Analytics, updates database offerings

Workflow automation was a predictable focus as Microsoft Ignite kicked off in Orlando, Florida this morning. To this end, the company took the wraps off new cloud-hosted AI, data analytics, and managed database services in preview and announced updates to existing offerings like Azure SQL Database Edge.

Azure Synapse Analytics

Perhaps the headliner is Azure Synapse Analytics, a service now in preview that leverages on-demand or provisioned resources to ingest, prepare, manage, and serve data for business intelligence and AI apps. It’s the evolution of Azure SQL Data Warehouse and pulls together insights from data warehouses and big data analytics

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Microsoft beefs up Word, Excel, and Outlook with machine learning

Microsoft’s Ignite conference starts today in Orlando, Florida, where the company is expected to announce updates across its product portfolio. More than a few were revealed this morning on the Microsoft 365 side of the business, which encompasses not only Office 365 products like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook but Yammer, OneNote, and OneDrive.

Word and Excel

Word

A preview of Ideas in Word for the web is rolling out for Office 365 commercial users. It’s an AI-powered proofreader that taps natural language processing and machine learning to deliver intelligent, contextually aware suggestions that could improve a document’s readability. For

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AI Weekly: Samsung comes to terms with Bixby’s second-class status

Samsung’s Bixby assistant won’t be the reason you buy (or don’t buy) your next Samsung-manufactured smartphone, smart refrigerator, smart router, or smart speaker. And Samsung is finally coming to terms with that.

This was the implicit thread underlying the 2019 Samsung Developer Conference (SDC), which kicked off in earnest on Tuesday at the San Jose Convention Center. Unlike last year, when Samsung announced new languages for Bixby (German, French, Italian, and Spanish), plus Bixby Marketplace for third-party voice apps, this year’s enhancements were on the whole understated.

Bixby Templates and Bixby Views make it easier for developers to create

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Watch Google’s AI teach a picker robot to assemble objects

Manipulating objects in a range of shapes isn’t machines’ forte, but it’s a useful skill for any robot tasked with navigating the physical world. To advance the state-of-the-art in this domain, researchers at Google, Stanford, and Columbia recently investigated a machine learning system dubbed Form2Fit, which aims to teach a picker robot with a suction arm the concept of assembling objects into kits.

“If robots could learn ‘how things fit together,’ then perhaps they could become more adaptable to new manipulation tasks involving objects they have never seen before, like reconnecting severed pipes, or building makeshift shelters by piecing

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Werner Vogels: For IoT, security and privacy are top concerns

Startups and tech giants alike are vying for a slice of the burgeoning internet of things (IoT) market, and Amazon is in pole position with an estimated 34% of IoT developer market share. Its lengthy list of IoT services includes IoT Core, which lets connected devices interact with cloud apps, and IoT Greengrass, which extends Amazon Web Services to edge devices so they can act locally on the data they generate. There’s also the analytics service IoT SiteWise; the application builder IoT Things Graph; and the cybersecurity suite IoT Device Defender, to name a few others.

To get a sense

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DeepMind’s AlphaStar Final beats 99.8% of human StarCraft 2 players

Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind — which famously developed AlphaZero, a machine learning system that bested world champions in chess, shogi, and Go — returned to the video game domain once again in January with AlphaStar, which tackled Activision Blizzard’s popular real-time strategy title StarCraft 2. It beat top player Grzegorz “MaNa” Komincz and teammate Dario “TLO” Wünsch in a series of 10 matches, but a paper today published in the journal Nature describes a more impressive feat: Further training boosted AlphaStar’s ranking above 99.8% of all active players and earned it the level of GrandMaster — a spot among the

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RhythmNet uses AI to estimate your heart rate using your face

A wearable heart rate monitor is one thing, but what about a system that’s able to estimate a person’s heartbeat from footage of their face alone? That’s what researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences set out to design in a preprint paper published on Arxiv.org. In it, they describe RhythmNet, an end-to-end trainable heart rate estimator that taps AI and photoplethysmography (PPG) — an optical technique that detects blood volume changes in skin tissue — to address challenges in head movement and variations in lighting.

As the researchers explain, PPG-based HR estimation is made possible by the fact that

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MIT CSAIL’s swarm of robotic cubes can shapeshift at will

Collaborative robots have captured the public’s imagination for decades, and it’s no wonder — machines can achieve incredible feats by working together as a team. One need look no further for evidence than a new study from the MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), which was supported in part by the National Science Foundation and Amazon’s robotics division. Building on a project that kicked off six years ago, researchers developed self-assembling cubes capable of climbing over and around one another, leaping through the air, and rolling across the ground.

It’s not the first time a team at MIT

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