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Why is Facebook Keen on Robots? It’s Just the Future of AI

For Facebook, planting a flag in the hot field also allows it to be competitive for AI talent emerging from universities, Facebook's LeCun said

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Facebook announced several new hires of top academics in the field of artificial intelligence Tuesday, among them a roboticist known for her work at Disney making animated figures move in more human-like ways.

The hires raise a big question — why is Facebook interested in robots, anyway?

It’s not as though the social media giant is suddenly interested in developing mechanical friends, although it does use robotic arms in some of its data centers. The answer is even more central to the problem of how AI systems work today.

Today, most successful AI systems have to be exposed to millions of data points labeled by humans — like, say, photos of cats — before they can learn to recognize patterns that people take for granted. Similarly, game-playing bots like Google’s computerized Go master AlphaGo Zero require tens of thousands of trials to learn the best moves from their failures.

Creating systems that require less data and have more common sense is a key goal for making AI smarter in the future.

“Clearly we’re missing something in terms of how humans can learn so fast,” Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, said in a call with reporters last week. “So far the best ideas have come out of robotics.”

Among the people Facebook is hiring are Jessica Hodgins , the former Disney researcher; and Abhinav Gupta, her colleague at Carnegie Mellon University who is known for using robot arms to learn how to grasp things.

Pieter Abbeel, a roboticist at University of California, Berkeley and co-founder of the robot-training company Covariant.ai, says the robotics field has benefits and constraints that push progress in AI. For one, the real world is naturally complex, so robotic AI systems have to deal with unexpected, rare events. And real-world constraints like a lack of time and the cost of keeping machinery moving push researchers to solve difficult problems.

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FILE – A visitor shakes hands with a humanoid robot at 2018 China International Robot Show in Shanghai, China, July 4, 2018. (VOA)

“Robotics forces you into many reality checks,” Abbeel said. “How good are these algorithms, really?”

There are other more abstract applications of learnings from robotics, says Berkeley AI professor Ken Goldberg. Just like teaching a robot to escape from a computerized maze, other robots change their behavior depending on whether actions they took got them closer to a goal. Such systems could even be adapted to serve ads, he said — which just happens to be the mainstay of Facebook’s business.

“It’s not a static decision, it’s a dynamic one,” Goldberg said.

In an interview, Hodgins expressed an interest in a wide range of robotics research, everything from building a “compelling humanoid robot” to creating a mechanical servant to “load and unload my dishwasher.”

While she acknowledged the need to imbue robots with more common sense and have them learn with fewer examples, she also said her work in animation could lead to a new form of sharing — one in which AI-powered tools could help one show off a work of pottery in 3-D, for example.

“One thing I hope we’ll be able to do is explore AI support for creativity,” she said.

Also Read: Facebook Accused of Protecting Far-Right Activists Who Broke the Site Rules

For Facebook, planting a flag in the hot field also allows it to be competitive for AI talent emerging from universities, Facebook’s LeCun said.

Bart Selman, a Cornell computer science professor AI expert, said it’s a good idea for Facebook to broaden its reach in AI and take on projects that might not be directly related to the company’s business — something that’s a little more “exciting” — the way Google did with self-driving cars, for example.

This attracts not just attention, but students, too. The broader the research agenda, the better the labs become, he said. (VOA)

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Samsung to Develop AI-Enabled Multi-Device System

Samsung is now planning to expand its AI research centres to other technology and talent-rich areas

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Samsung planning to develop AI-powered multi-device system. Flickr

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) pushing the frontiers of communication technology, Samsung Electronics is planning to develop a multi-device platform — a variety of AI-enabled devices that communicate seamlessly with each other — to make experiences more personal and relevant.

The South Korean tech giant presented its future vision for AI while announcing this week a new AI centre in Montreal, Canada.

“By leveraging the power of AI in Samsung’s products and services, we must focus on creating new values, never seen nor experienced before,” said Seunghwan Cho, Executive Vice President of Samsung Research.

By providing multiple touchpoints where a user can interact with AI, Samsung said its multi-modal interaction platform (voice, vision, screen, touch) will make experiences more relevant and personal in the future.

“One key element that will move AI to being more widely adopted is multi-device systems — i.e., a variety of AI-enabled devices that communicate seamlessly with each other,” said Larry Heck, Head of AI Centres for Samsung Research America.

“Samsung is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this regard. It’s not just how each device uses AI, it’s how they use it together,” Heck said.

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The South Korean tech giant presented its future vision for AI while announcing this week a new AI centre in Montreal, Canada.

The newly opened AI centre in Montreal is Samsung’s seventh AI research facility to open this year making it the fourth in North America alone.

The global AI centres, which are also located in South Korea, Russia and Britain, support the company’s efforts in AI that include the development of Samsung’s virtual assistant, Bixby.

Gregory Dudek of the McGill University School of Computer Science and an expert in a wide range of AI technologies — from Machine Learning to human-robot interactions — will lead the Montreal AI Centre.

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“We are excited to open a new Samsung AI Centre in Montreal, which will conduct research in machine learning and robotics enabled multi-modal interactions,” Dudek said.

Samsung is now planning to expand its AI research centres to other technology and talent-rich areas.

Earlier this year, the company announced its plans to expand the number of advanced AI researchers to a total of about 1,000 globally by 2020. (IANS)