22 Nov 2019

TechBits, Nov 22, 2019

1. MIT researchers develop a much better way to optimize the control of soft robots

  • MIT researchers have developed a new way to optimize how soft robots perform specific tasks — a huge challenge when it comes to soft robotics in particular, because robots with flexible bodies can basically move in an infinite number of ways at any given moment, so programming them to do something in the best way possible is a monumental task.
  • To make the whole process easier and less computationally intensive, the research team has developed a way to take what is effectively a robot that can move in infinite possible dimensions and simplify it to a representative “low-dimensional” model that can accurately be used to optimize movement, based on environmental physics and the natural ways that soft objects shaped like any individual soft robot is actually most likely to bend in a giving setting.

2. Google’s Explainable AI service sheds light on how machine learning models make decisions

  • Google LLC has introduced a new “Explainable AI” service to its cloud platform aimed at making the process by which machine learning models come to their decisions more transparent.
  • The idea is that this will help build greater trust in those models, Google said. That’s important because most existing models tend to be rather opaque. It’s just not clear how they reach their decisions.
  • Tracy Frey, director of the strategy for Google Cloud AI, explained in a blog post today that Explainable AI is intended to improve the interpretability of machine learning models. She said the new service works by quantifying each data factor’s contribution to the outcome a model comes up with, helping users understand why it makes the decisions it does.

3. Ubisoft joins Ultra’s blockchain testnet as an infrastructure partner and block producer

  • Next-generation games distribution platform Ultra announced today that Ubisoft Inc., the big developer, publisher and distributor of video games, will become the first major gaming company to join its blockchain distributed ledger.
  • Ubisoft it doing so as a corporate block producer during a trial period on Ultra’s testnet. Block producers provide infrastructure for validating transactions that happen on Ultra’s blockchain. Such transactions include the creation of in-game assets, ownership transfers between players and payments.
  • “Ubisoft’s rich portfolio of world-renowned brands, including ‘Assassin’s Creed,’ ‘Just Dance’ and ‘Far Cry,’ is a testament to their dedication to creating quality content for all,” said Nicolas Gilot, founder and co-chief executive of Ultra. “Their years-long dedication to exploring blockchain technology ensures they have the knowledge and skills to be excellent block producers.”

4. Keywee introduces a new Loyalty Score to help publishers reach the most valuable readers

  • At least, that’s how things look from a user acquisition perspective, where publishers running ad campaigns to reach new readers might end upbringing in a whole bunch of random visitors who are unlikely to ever return their site again.
  • “It’s less about just getting eyeballs on the content,” said Jared Lansky, chief commercial officer at marketing startup Keywee. “Loyalty is just more valuable for publishers.”
  • Keywee (backed by Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors and The New York Times) is trying to solve this problem with a new feature called the Loyalty Score. Lansky told me that the score does exactly what the name suggests — it measures reader loyalty, based on how many times someone returns to the site and how many pages they view.
  • This, in turn, can help publishers make smarter decisions about growth. They can see which of the Facebook ad campaigns run through Keywee are actually bringing in loyal readers and which aren’t. And they can tweak the campaigns accordingly, targeting audiences and highlighting articles in a way that’s most likely to attract loyal readers rather than random visitors.

5. Splice teaches AI to sell Similar Sounds as users double

  • Splice is blowing up like a hit song. The audio sample marketplace has doubled revenue and user count in a year and now reaches 3 million musicians. Many pay $7.99 for unlimited access, and 70% of subscribers visit weekly to hunt down the freshest and trendiest sounds to give their tracks that special something.
  • But words can’t always describe music. Searching by genre and subjective tags can take forever and leave artists frustrated when the sounds they find they don’t resonate right. So Splice has taught a machine-learning algorithm to draw connections between samples. That allows it for the first time to recommend Similar Sounds to one a musician is currently listening to, based on their pitch, melody, rhythm, and harmonic profile. Sometimes the similarities are surprising — something only a machine could hear.

6. Facebook Dating now integrates with Instagram and Facebook Stories

  • Facebook Dating, an opt-in feature of the main Facebook app, will begin to tap into the content users are already creating across both Facebook and Instagram to enhance its service. Today, Facebook Dating users will be able to add their Facebook or Instagram Stories to Facebook Dating in order to share their everyday moments with daters.
  • As opposed to more polished profile photos, Stories can give someone better insight into what a person is like by showcasing what activities they like to engage in, their hobbies, their interests, their personality, and their humor, among other things. And if the daters themselves appear in a Story, it lets others see what they really look like, even if their online photos are out-of-date.

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