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ROBO SPACE
DeepMind forms ethics unit for AI; Google unveils $49 mini assistant
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 4, 2017


Google unveils $49 Home Mini digital assistant
San Francisco (AFP) Oct 4, 2017 - Google on Wednesday unveiled a slimmed down version of its digital assistant connected speaker starting at $49, stepping up its challenge to market leader Amazon.

The new Google Home Mini is available for pre-order in the seven countries where the device is offered, and will go on sale in stores October 19, the company said at a product unveiling in San Francisco.

The new speaker, which responds to voice commands using artificial intelligence, is less than half the price of Google's first generation speaker and makes this "more accessible to more people," said Google hardware designer Isabelle Olsson.

The event was expected to unveil upgrades to Google's hardware offerings ahead of the year-end holidays, including an upgraded version of the Pixel smartphone.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said the new devices aim to weave artificial intelligence that make them easier to use.

"We are working on software and hardware together, because that is the best way to drive computing forward," Pichai said.

DeepMind, the Google sibling focusing on artificial intelligence, has announced the launch of an "ethics and society" unit to study the impact of new technologies on society.

The announcement by the London-based group acquired by Google parent Alphabet is the latest effort in the tech sector to ease concerns that robotics and artificial intelligence will veer out of human control.

"As scientists developing AI technologies, we have a responsibility to conduct and support open research and investigation into the wider implications of our work," said a blog post announcing the launch Tuesday by DeepMind's Verity Harding and Sean Legassick.

"At DeepMind, we start from the premise that all AI applications should remain under meaningful human control, and be used for socially beneficial purposes. Understanding what this means in practice requires rigorous scientific inquiry into the most sensitive challenges we face."

The post said the focus would be on ensuring "truly beneficial and responsible" uses for artificial intelligence.

"If AI technologies are to serve society, they must be shaped by society's priorities and concerns," they wrote.

Google and DeepMind are members of an industry-founded Partnership of AI to Benefit People and Society which includes Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and other tech firms.

DeepMind, acquired by Google in 2014, gained notoriety for becoming the first machine to beat a grandmaster in the Asian board game Go last year.

New Pixel smartphone headlines Google device launch
San Francisco (AFP) Oct 4, 2017 - Google on Wednesday unveiled a redesigned version of its Pixel smartphone, part of a refreshed line of devices as part of the tech giant's efforts to boost its presence against hardware rivals.

The new Pixel 2 and larger Pixel 2 XL are the first Google-made devices since Google announced the acquisition of key segments of Taiwan-based electronics group HTC.

The smartphones will be available for order as of Wednesday in six countries starting at $649 for Pixel 2, and $849 for Pixel 2 XL.

Google said the new aluminum-body smartphones as well as its newly unveiled connected speakers and laptop computer all aim to infuse artificial intelligence to make the devices more user-friendly.

Google vice president Rick Osterloh said Google's new devices are designed to better integrate hardware and software with artificial intelligence.

"They're simple to use and they anticipate your needs," Osterloh told the product launch event in San Francisco.

"You interact with your devices naturally with your voice or by touching them."

Google, by bringing in a team of engineers from HTC, aims to emulate the success of Apple iPhones by controlling the hardware as well as the software used in the premium-priced handsets.

Google also unveiled a slimmed down version of its digital assistant connected speaker starting at $49 in the United States, stepping up its challenge to market leader Amazon.

The new Google Home Mini is available for pre-order in the seven countries where the device is offered, and will go on sale in stores October 19, the company said.

The new speaker, which responds to voice commands using artificial intelligence, is less than half the price of Google's first generation speaker and makes this "more accessible to more people," said Google hardware designer Isabelle Olsson.

Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said the new devices showcase the tech giant's artificial intelligence.

"We've been working hard continuing our shift from a mobile-first to an AI-first world," he said.

"We are working on software and hardware together, because that is the best way to drive computing forward."

The launch comes in the wake of Apple's announcement of a new line of iPhones, and Amazon's upgrades to its Echo speakers powered by its Alexa digital assistant.

Google also announced a new Pixelbook laptop, calling it a "high performance" computer powered by its Chrome operating system and designed as a rival to Microsoft's Surface and Apple's iPad Pro.

With a 12.3-inch display, the device is a convertible PC that can be used as a tablet and is sold starting at $999 for US customers.

ROBO SPACE
Researchers design soft, flexible origami-inspired robot
Cleveland OH (SPX) Oct 03, 2017
A Case Western Reserve University researcher has turned the origami she enjoyed as a child into a patent-pending soft robot that may one day be used on an assembly line, in surgery or even outer space. Kiju Lee, the Nord Distinguished Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and her lab have moved from paper robots to 3-D-printed models that bend, contract, extend and t ... read more

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