Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why Japan is building an exam-taking robot at laptop scale

Why Japan is building an exam-taking robot at laptop scale:
The Todai Robot project made headlines a couple weeks ago for its goal of building an artificial intelligence system capable of passing the University of Tokyo’s stringent entrance exam, but developing the robot’s reasoning skills are only a part of the challenge. The team — which is headed by Japan’s National Institute for Informatics and includes IBM, Fujitsu Laboratories and others — is building the system to run on a laptop computer, which is just a fraction of the computing power that other famous AI systems such as IBM’s Watson and Deep Blue had at their disposal.
I spoke last week with Hirokazu Anai of Fujitsu Labs, who explained to me the thinking behind the Todai Robot project and the challenges in making it happen. At a high level, the project wants to create a system that can read and understand questions on the university’s entrance exams (Fujitsu is focused on math, while IBM is working on the history portion) and be able to answer them at a rate high enough to pass — currently between 80 percent and 90 percent for the first-stage exam, and then 30 percent to 40 percent for the second, more-difficult stage. The most-difficult problem, Anai said, is getting the robot to understand the questions and convert them into code that a computer can understand.
However, he added, trying to create a system that can carry out all the necessary calculations on a single consumer processor only makes the project more challenging. For the math questions Fujitsu is focused on, once the system converts natural language into computer-readable code, it then must choose from a collection of computationally complex computer-algebra algorithms the correct one to answer the question. If the system were running on a supercomputer, Anai said, the whole process would run a lot faster because of the increased computing power.

A workflow for a sample math question.
The Todai Robot project’s anticipated completion date of 2021 speaks to the difficulty of pulling this off, as do the issues IBM is running into trying to convert its Watson question-answering system into something capable of running on devices such as mobile phones. Building such intelligent systems is never easy — it took IBM several years to get Watson Jeopardy!-ready — and doing so on a single processor means a lot of optimization just to account for the limited capacity. Anai acknowledges it will be a tough goal to meet, although he’s confident that his team, at least, will be able to solve the math aspect ahead of schedule.
Through a translator, though, Anai said designing the exam-taking robot to run on a laptop means the project has greater utility once it makes its way into the public sphere. He noted manufacturing, insurance and even the travel industry as areas that could benefit by putting this type of decision-making power in the hands of regular users who might come across tough math problems in their day-to-day jobs. And even expanding the system to a small computing cluster could help generate answers significantly faster, still without requiring a major capital investment.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Palto.

Google Maps Goes Diving, Provides “Seaview” Of Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii and Philippines

Google Maps Goes Diving, Provides “Seaview” Of Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii and Philippines: seaview1
Thanks to a partnership with The Catlin Seaview Survey, Google Maps now displays Street View-ish images of the Great Barrier Reef and popular underwater spots around Hawaii and the Philippines. Clear your calendar. Forward your emails. It’s time for an undersea adventure.
As Google explained in a blog post today (now pulled) you can now use Google Maps to swim with a turtle, follow a manta ray or lose yourself watching the sun set over a reef. You can go diving in Maui’s Molokini crater or join snorkelers in Oahu’s Hanauma Bay. And of course all this is possible without swim lessons or sunscreen thanks to the magic of Google Maps.
The video below shows how the amazing imagery was captured. Using a special one-off camera called the SVII, divers for The Catlin Seaview Survey swam at 4 kilometers an hour to capture the stunning footage.
Right now the imagery is very limited. Outside of the links above, it’s rather difficult to find an area to go swimming. Seaview spots are marked with an orange circle that’s only revealed when the Street View icon is dragged onto the map. Even then, these spots only show up when the map is zoomed in nearly all the way. It seems Google announced this service a bit prematurely.
Google pulled the announcement post shortly after it went live. Several of the outbound links — to maps.google.com/ocean and The Catlin Seaview Survey — do not resolve at the time of this article’s posting. A much larger rollout is likely in the books.
But the data is still in the maps right now. You can still leave your cubical behind and explore ancient boulder coral at Apo Island within a Philippines marine reserve. Who needs a vacation when you have Google Maps.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Video: Reality Of Human Flight – Wingsuit, Tracksuit Flying

Video: Reality Of Human Flight – Wingsuit, Tracksuit Flying:

Man this looks fun. GoPro HD athlete Alexander Polli tests the limits of human flight with insane proximity wingsuit and tracksuit dives along the landscapes of New Zealand, Switzerland, and Norway.
Video: Reality Of Human Flight – Wingsuit, Tracksuit Flying is a post by on Highsnobiety.

Bamford Watch Department Rolex Datejust

Bamford Watch Department Rolex Datejust:
Bamford Watch Department Rolex Datejust
Bamford Watch Department has just released images of its latest custom watch and it looks to be an absolute stunner. Starting with a standard Rolex Datejust, the company has applied its signature black PVD coating to the watch and has topped it off by adding gold markers and hands for the dial. More subtle than some of the company’s recent customs, this just might be the cream of the crop. For Further information and to inquire about the watch, check Bamford’s website.

Read more at Hypebeast.com