All posts in “AI”

A running list of every company backed by the $93B SoftBank Vision Fund

When SoftBank announced the first close of its $93 billion Vision Fund back in May, it was hard to understand how the company would even manage to deploy so much capital in an already saturated ecosystem. Two months have passed and we’re starting to get a taste of the strategy of the fund — bet big and bet often and you just might be able to influence who wins and loses in the technology industry.

It’s far too early to evaluate the viability of such a fund. This is the first time such a fund has been raised and there is zero precedent for the manner in which the capital is being deployed. But, for starters, it seemed like a good idea to keep a running list of all Vision Fund investments for reference. We will update this list on a regular basis as more deals are made public.

China is using AI to predict who will commit crime next

This sounds a little like Minority Report to us. China is looking into predictive analytics to help authorities stop suspects before a crime is committed.

According to a report from the Financial Times, authorities are tapping on facial recognition tech, and combining that with predictive intelligence to notify police of potential criminals, based on their behaviour patterns.

Guangzhou-headquartered Cloud Walk has been trialing its facial recognition system that tracks a person’s movements. Based on where someone goes, and when, it hands them a rating of how at risk they are of committing a crime.

For instance, someone buying a kitchen knife is not suspicious. But if the same person goes and gets a hammer and a sack later, that person’s suspicious rating goes up, a Cloud Walk spokesperson told the FT.

The company’s software is tapped into the police database in over 50 cities and provinces, and can flag up suspicious characters live.

China isn’t the first country to tap on such technology; data has been used to predict crime in cities like Los Angeles and Milan for years. 

KeyCrime, which has been used in Milan for over a decade, is able to predict where robberies may happen based on past data, while PredPol, used by more than 20 of 50 largest police departments in the U.S., tries to forecast when and where crime will occur.

But this development in China is interesting, because the government is using its extensive archive of citizen records to predict who is more likely to commit crime.

China has more than 176 million surveillance cameras, according to industry research company IHS Markit. The number is only expected to grow. 

Image: VCG via Getty Images

And tech like Cloud Walk’s shows that people can be marked for past behaviour, too. The company said in Chinese reports, its technology will track “high-risk” individuals and inform police when they appear at key facilities.

Gait analysis can help pick out suspicious people in crowds.

The crime technology is dependent on other AI techniques like behavioural recognition and gait analysis, and it is reportedly even able to pick out suspicious people in crowds.

Another Chinese company, named UniView, tracks individuals who frequently travel to sensitive countries like Myanmar and Vietnam and automatically marks them. 

UniView also claims to be able to flag suspicious characters through behavioural analysis, and alert police if a blacklisted person has appeared on a surveillance camera.

A jaywalking camera.

A jaywalking camera.

Image: Weibo

China continues to embraced facial recognition technology in its public services. It’s used cameras to ID jaywalkers and watch over university dorms — to even limiting how much toilet paper you can get at a time.

The country also declared on Thursday that it plans to build a $150 billion AI industry by the end of 2030. No doubt much of those developments will go into crime fighting, too.

China’s vice-minister of science and technology Li Meng said that crime prediction will become a key function of AI in government.

“If we use our smart systems and smart facilities well, we can know beforehand…who might be a terrorist, who might do something bad,” Li said. 

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These cool Lenovo AI concept products make us excited about the future

Lenovo. Yes, Lenovo.
Lenovo. Yes, Lenovo.

Image: Chesnot /Getty Images

Google Home. Amazon Echo. Apple HomePod. Lenovo SmartCast+?

The company that brought you the Yoga Book has big plans for an artificially intelligent smart-device future — plans that it will reveal at the June 20 third annual Lenovo Tech World conference in Shanghai. 

The Chinese company has created a host of concept products that it says demonstrate its “vision for the future of AI.”

“We believe an intelligent future makes people’s lives better, and that starts with smart devices,” a spokesperson wrote in a press release. “Cloud enabled devices – such as PCs, tablets, smartphones, smart speakers, smart TV and AR/VR – bring you content, services and experiences in a new way.”

So what exactly did Lenovo cook up? A few things, actually. 

For starters, let’s take a look at the SmartCast+. According to the company, this is “an intelligent, interactive speaker, to do more – it recognizes sounds, objects and delivers AR experiences. It makes learning fun and immersive like with the fairytale module where children can learn Chinese, project their illustrations and Chinese subtitles while listening to the lesson.”

So smart.

So smart.

Image: lenovo

But Lenovo has its sights set past the smart speaker category, and is at least tentatively foraying into the world of computer vision. Say hello to the daystAR, “an optical display with an independent vision processing unit and free-formed surface lenses with a 40-degree field of view.”

Well that sounds pretty cool. 

It's a star, for sure.

It’s a star, for sure.

Image: lenovo

Another standout idea is CAVA, the “context aware virtual assistant” that “uses deep learning-based face recognition systems and natural language understanding technologies to manage calendar events and remind you based on your habits.”

That, plus the SmartVest (which, no, will not dry you off after falling from your hoverboard into water) and the Xiaole platform — envisioned to “constantly learns from conversations with customers and adjusts accordingly to provide a personalized and customized user experience” — round out the tech giant’s ideas for our shared AI-powered future.  

Keep in mind: these are just concept products, so don’t expect to see one on a store shelf any time soon. Even so, they prove that Lenovo is looking ahead and working toward a time when artificial intelligence is so interwoven into our lives that it literally interacts with the clothing we wear. 

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TrueFace.AI busts imposters in the facial recognition game

TrueFace.AI knows if it's looking at a real face or just a photo of one.
TrueFace.AI knows if it’s looking at a real face or just a photo of one.

Image: ian waldie/Getty Images

Facial recognition technology is more prevalent than ever before. It’s being used to identify people in airports, put a stop to child sex trafficking, and shame jaywalkers

But the technology isn’t perfect. One major flaw: It sometimes can’t tell the difference between a living person’s face and a photo of that person held up in front of a scanner. 

TrueFace.AI facial recognition is trying to fix that flaw. Launched on Product Hunt in June, it’s meant to detect “picture attacks.”

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The company originally created Chui in 2014 to work with customized smart homes. Then they realized clients were using it more for security purposes, and TrueFace.AI was born. 

Shaun Moore, one of the creators of TrueFace.AI, gave us some more insight into the technology.

“We saw an opportunity to expand our reach further and support use cases from ATM identity verification to access control for data centers,” said Moore. “The only way we could reach scale across industries would be by stripping out the core tech and building a platform that allows anyone to use the technology we developed.”

“We knew we had to focus on spoof detection and how we could lower false positives.” 

TrueFace.AI can detect when a face or multiple faces are present in a frame and get 68 raw points for facial recognition. But its more unique feature is spoof detection, which can tell real faces from photos.

“While working on our hardware, we tested and used every major facial recognition provider. We believe that doing that (testing every solution available) and applying facial recognition to a very hard use case, like access control and the smart home, allowed us to make a better, more applicable solution,” said Moore. “All of these steps led us to understand how we could effectively deploy technology like ours in a commercial environment.”  

They made their final product by using deep learning. They trained classifiers with thousands of attack examples they collected over the years, and liked the results.

A “freemium” package is available to encourage the development community that helped TrueFace.AI come up with a solution. Beyond that, the Startup Package is $99 per month while the Scale Package is $199 per month. An Enterprise Plan is available via a custom agreement with TrueFace.AI. 

While Moore couldn’t divulge exactly which companies are using the technology, he did say some of them are in the banking, telecommunications, and health care industries.

It’s a service that could become increasingly valuable as companies turn to facial recognition technology. 

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How Google Assistant saved me from my own messy life

Let’s face it: Most voice assistants are still too dumb be useful in everyday life. Siri is an abomination, and even Alexa can’t answer some of the most basic questions that I ask. Luckily for me, Google Assistant has gotten ridiculously smart in the past year, and it’s legitimately changed my life since I’ve started using it.

Google Assistant wasn’t always great, and it wasn’t even widely available until recently. When the search giant launched its artificially intelligent assistant back in May 2015, it was exclusively available for the company’s own Pixel phone. 

Google didn’t even give other Android phone makers like Samsung and LG access to the app. If you didn’t have a Pixel phone, you were simply out of luck.

But things finally changed for the better about a month ago. This May at Google I/O, the company finally announced it was releasing the app on Android’s chief rival, iOS. 

Safe to say most iPhone fans didn’t notice or hated the experience. Our very own reporter Karissa Bell detailed the ridiculous issues she faced when using the app shortly after launch. Even my first few experiences testing the app were grim — but I vowed to check back in every week or so to see if I could find new uses for it. What I’ve learned in the ensuing month is that Google Assistant for iOS is practically the only app I need.

Google Assistant has straight up improved my quality of life. The first time I discovered just how useful it could be, I was riding my bike. It was pretty late, and I may or may not have had some adult beverages, and I was trying to navigate an unfamiliar part of Brooklyn. I remember belligerently opening the app and asking, “How do i get home?”

The app heroically pulled up directions to my apartment across town, and with the push of a button, it launched Google Maps, and I was soon biking in the right direction, safely in my own bike lane. Phew. Huge save by the assistant.

Then it saved me in a pinch again. The second time it was earlier in the morning, and I was running behind schedule as I got ready. I asked my phone what was on my calendar, and pulled up a preview of my events with — crucially — with the locations of each of the events.

One of the events happened to be a fancier outing for my gaudy friend who was throwing himself a birthday. The evening was starting at a hotel bar. Woof. Not only was I surprised, I had to change and basically revaluate my plans for the day. No bag. No sneakers. Another crucial save chalked up to Google Assistant.

That’s when I was sold.

The reality is that these apps are made for people who are completely disorganized, overwhelmed with the realities of being an adult, and need constant prodding to stay on course. They’re for weaklings — and unfortunately, I fall right into that target demographic. I can’t say it’s the best looking or most fun app that I use, but it’s finally starting to work exactly as its designers intended. It helps me course-correct, and for that reason, it’s my new favorite app on the iPhone.

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