Drones Help Rid Galapagos Island of Invasive Rats

Fast and efficient, drones are a versatile new tool against invasive species The Galapagos Islands are famous for their exotic wildlife, which in most cases is not nearly as afraid of humans as it should be. Humans have done some seriously horrible things to the animals living there, like packing thousands of giant tortoises upside down on ships because they would stay alive without food or water for months and could then be eaten. People traveling to and living in the Galapagos have caused other serious problems to the fragile ecosystem: In addition to devastating oil spills, humans have introduced numerous invasive species to the islands. In particular, goats, which were brought on purpose, and rats, which were brought accidentally, have been catastrophic for endemic animal populations.  For decades, the Galapagos National Park Directorate (DPNG) has been working to remove invasive species island by island, including tens of thousands of feral goats, pigs, Continue reading Drones Help Rid Galapagos Island of Invasive Rats

Learning to teach to speed up learning

The first artificial intelligence programs to defeat the world’s best players at chess and the game Go received at least some instruction by humans, and ultimately, would prove no match for a new generation of AI programs that learn wholly on their own, through trial and error. A combination of deep learning and reinforcement learning algorithms are responsible for computers achieving dominance at challenging board games like chess and Go, a growing number of video games, including Ms. Pac-Man, and some card games, including poker. But for all the progress, computers still get stuck the closer a game resembles real life, with hidden information, multiple players, continuous play, and a mix of short and long-term rewards that make computing the optimal move hopelessly complex. To get past these hurdles, AI researchers are exploring complementary techniques to help robot agents learn, modeled after the way humans pick up new information not only on Continue reading Learning to teach to speed up learning