All posts in “AI”

You’re a self-aware vacuum-cleaner robot in this adorable new video game

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Smart appliances are becoming more and more part of our lives, but what if one of them becomes self-aware? What if your Roomba develops a consciousness, emotions, feelings and all of that? 

That’s the concept behind Rumu, the debut adventure game by Robot House, a small Sydney-based team of developers. 

As the emotionally packed trailer for the game shows, Rumu is a vacuum-cleaning robot designed to clean in a fully automated smart home. 

The voice that talks to you and gives you orders is from Sabrina, the house AI. She’s your only companion except for Ada, the cat. What happens next is a mystery, but the game promises to be “intimate” and “narrative-driven.” 

“When something draws you away from your home maintenance duties and into the hidden passageways and long-forgotten rooms of the house, you’ll be faced with challenging moral dilemmas forcing you beyond your programming to uncover the truth about the love and loss of your elusive family,” says the game’s description. 

If you’re a Westworld fan or just passionate about the debate on AI, smart homes and privacy, this is definitely for you. There’s no release date yet, but it’s coming late 2017. 

Huawei Mate 10 Pro is an AI-powered phone with a unique design

China’s top smartphone maker, Huawei, has recently overtaken Apple in global smartphone sales and it’s second just behind Samsung. 

But with their new, most ambitious smartphone yet — the Mate 10 — the Chinese company is finally ready to take on the competition from all sides. 

The first thing that really strikes you about the Mate 10 and its more powerful variant, the Mate 10 Pro, is the snazzy, sleek, compact design, particularly compared with the past models.

Both the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro have an aluminium frame, glass back and front which is slightly bent around the edges and really slim bezels on top and bottom.

On the back, the Leica-branded vertical dual-camera module is encased in a horizontal strip that is in a lighter colour compared to the rest of the phone.

In the Pro version that strip, situated just above the fingerprint sensor and combined with the almost bezel-less screen, gives the phone a unique flavour, putting it on par with the new Note 8 or the LG V30. 

Image: huawei

Another important development on the Pro is the massive 6-inches, 18:9 display with 2160×1080 resolution and — finally — OLED technology. Until now, Huawei had obstinately refused to improve full HD, which is still the screen resolution of the Mate 10 version. 

But with the OLED screen, the Mate Pro is telling the iPhone and others things are getting serious. 

In September, after Apple launched its brand-new iPhone X with a much-talked about facial recognition feature, Huawei mocked the American tech giant with a Facebook video which branded their new device #TheRealAiPhone. 

And certainly, in the pre-briefing attended by Mashable, the Mate 10’s AI features took the biggest part of the Chinese company’s PR effort. So what’s all the fuzz about? 

The Mate 10 Pro will have Huawei’s new Kirin 970 chipset and according to Huawei it will be the “world’s 1st smartphone with dedicated neural network processor unit”. 

The chipset has a dedicated AI chip, called NPU or Neural Processing Unit, which is able to simultaneously process complex computing while interacting with its surroundings. Huawei claims the NPU has 25% improvement on performance and 50% on efficiency compared to the normal CPU chip. 

A chart produced by Huawei showed that in a minute the Mate Pro is able to recognise 2,005 photos, while the iPhone 7 Plus 487 and the Samsung S8 just 95. 

Among other things, this means the AI engine is able to give you smart tips based on the hour of the day, prioritising apps you’re more likely to use for example, or switching to low-light or eye-care mode. 

Image: HUAWEI

With Microsoft’s translation app, pre-loaded in the phone, the NPU is able to give fast real-time translation replacing the original text in augmented reality mode while pointing at anything that needs translation. 

But it’s with the camera — Huawei calls it “intelligent photography” — that the NPU has a vast area of applications. 

The phone replicates the 12-megapixel colour/20-megapixel monochrome combination of the Mate 9, with Bokeh effect, digital zoom and optical image stabilization. 

This time, though, those first-class Leica optics will have an impressive f/1.6 lens aperture, just like the LG V30, meaning that in low-light situations the camera will perform better than the f/1.8-equipped iPhone 7, allowing 25% more light. 

Huawei prides itself of the AI-powered object-recognition function that lets the camera identify objects in real-time so that it can swiftly change its settings and adjusts its metrics accordingly. 

At the moment, the categories are: snow, food, sunset, cat, dog, flower, plant and portrait, but Huawei claims the machine-learning system will add more categories as they become available. 

It is not clear whether these functions will overall improve your pictures or they’re just gimmicky.

Mashable briefly tried out the phone’s AI-fuelled camera system and while some features are actually useful — it seemed to swiftly and simultaneously detect night mode + portrait + words, and automatically adjust hue, temperature and sharpness — in other examples, such as the distinction between plant vs flower, it all seemed a bit preposterous. 

Image: HUAWEI

A professional photographer in the room explained how the camera’s intelligent core can help you shoot more accurate pictures of a green field at sunset, for example, as the colour “green” notoriously messes with your camera settings. Only time and a more throughout review will tell the truth. 

The Mate 10 will be available in four colours — Mocha Brown, Champagne Gold and Pink Gold — while the Mate 10 Pro is available in: Midnight Blue, Mocha Brown, Titanium Gray and Pink Gold. 

The Pro will have 6GB RAM + 128GB of memory while the Mate 10 will have 4GB RAM and 64GB memory. Both will have a 4,000mAh battery.

There will also be an exclusive Porsche design variant in Diamond Black. 

The Mate 10 costs 699 euros while the Pro will be at 799 euros. The Porsche design is at a staggering 1395 euros. 

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China’s biggest messaging app accidentally translates ‘black foreigner’ to the N-word

Image: HOW HWEE YOUNG/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

WeChat, China’s biggest messaging app, has apologised for a gaffe, where it translated the phrase “black foreigner” to the N-word.

The mistake was first spotted by Ann James, an American living in Shanghai. She translated an incoming Chinese message into English, which produced the text: “The n****r’s still late.”

The original Chinese message used a more neutral term, hei laowai, or “black foreigner.”

(Editor’s note: The language in the screenshot below has been obscured due to its offensive nature)   

WeChat rectified the error within 24 hours, but the company told Chinese outlet Sixth Tone that the translation was based on its neural machine learning engine, that picked up the term from broader usage.

WeChat, which has a huge base of over 900 million users, has been able to translate messages in-app since 2014. It relies on a combination of translation sources, including its own AI engine, and third parties like Microsoft Translator.

The error is reminiscent of other translation engines that have tried to learn from analysing big data. In August, two Chinese chatbots — one created by Microsoft — were taken down after they started posting unpatriotic content about the government.

Last year, another Microsoft chatbot, Tay, was pulled after it started tweeting racist and crude messages.

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Cortana will now interrupt your Skype chats


Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana has finally arrived in Skype. Announced at last year’s Microsoft Build 2016 event, the assistant’s integration was also previewed when the company released an overhauled, Snapchat-inspired version of its mobile messaging app this summer. But Cortana for Skype wasn’t ready at that time. Now, the feature is live, offering users in-context assistance during their chats, as well as the option to message Cortana directly to ask questions or get help with a number of other tasks.

It’s unclear why Cortana’s arrival in Skype took as long as it did, but the big Skype makeover could have contributed to the delay.

However, the idea to bring an A.I.-like helper to mobile messaging isn’t unique to Microsoft. Google’s Allo app is aided by Google Assistant, while Facebook Messenger has its own assistant, “M,” for example.

Similarly, Cortana will pop into conversations to offer suggestions based on the context of your chats. This includes “smart replies,” which are quick responses like “Yes!,” “Sure!”, and others, which you can select with a tap to save you from typing.

Cortana can also offer other input, like restaurant options, movie reviews, a good place to meet, a fact it knows the answer to, and more. Plus, the assistant can help with scheduling events and setting up reminders, which are then synced to your other devices where Cortana is enabled, like your Windows 10 PC.

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In addition, Cortana is being added to your Skype as a contact you can message directly, if you choose. In this case, you can chat with Cortana to ask it things like fact-based questions, the current weather, your flight status, stock quotes, restaurant ideas, directions, and more – very much like Google Assistant can already do.

While it seems like it’s now becoming table stakes to include an A.I.-powered assistant in mobile messaging apps, the real-world benefits of these integrations for end users are still a bit unproven. Too often, the suggestions interrupt and slow down conversations instead of adding value. And on multiple occasions, I’ve had to explain what those “dumb little icons” are that are getting in the way during a Facebook Messenger-based chat session. (“M” is suggesting stickers – and yes, that’s an exact quote from an annoyed friend.)

Smart replies on their own are a useful enough feature, as they feel more like an upgraded version of a keyboard app’s phrase suggestion, but many of the other A.I.-powered inputs are less than welcome. The problem is that these bots are butting in automatically, instead of being asked to contribute. Ideally, the user interface for these in-app assistants would be one where you press a button to ask for their help, rather than having them automatically add their 2 cents at every turn.

Microsoft says that Cortana began its rollout on Monday to iOS and Android users in the U.S. But this is not a switch that’s being flipped, so to speak – the rollout is gradual, meaning you may not yet see Cortana yet.

Google Lens will finally make its debut on Pixel phones later this year


Google first demoed Lens, its smart Google Assistant-connected image recognition app, at its I/O developer conference earlier this year. At the time, it was one of the highlights of the show, but like so many other announcements at the time, the company wasn’t quite ready to release it to the public yet and only said that it would arrive “soon.” That was in May.

As Google announced during its hardware event today, the first preview of Lens will make it to the company’s Pixel phones — but only as a preview — later this year. It’ll come to other devices “in time.”

Lens brings together a wide swath of Google’s machine intelligence services. It combines the company’s image recognition smarts with the real-time translation of Google Translate and the Google Assistant. That means that you can snap a picture of a flower, for example, and Lens can tell you what flower you are looking at and then tell you more about it. Same with landmarks and even restaurants.

The feature that probably got the most applause at I/O was Lens’ ability to read a Wi-Fi router’s SSID and password and automatically connect your phone to it.