Microsoft President Brad Smith talks data, Covid-19, and a potential “digital 9/11”

In a virtual discussion hosted by MIT last week, viewers learned that there are many problems that concern Microsoft President Brad Smith: things like climate change, Covid-19, and the work of the future. Attendees also learned how seriously he takes the issue of computer security: 45 minutes into the event, his Windows system automatically rebooted for a lightning-quick software update. “There are a lot of benefits to working from home,” he said with a laugh after rejoining, “but it certainly also adds a level of unpredictability.” Smith’s conversation with MIT Professor Daniela Rus on May 14 spanned a wide range of topics, from the challenges of Covid-19 to the security of online voting. The fireside chat was held as part of MIT’s “Hot Topics in Computing” series, founded by the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). The series is now an Institute-wide effort being co-presented with the MIT Stephen Continue reading Microsoft President Brad Smith talks data, Covid-19, and a potential “digital 9/11”

Fireflies helps companies get more out of meetings

Many decisions are made and details sorted out in a productive business meeting. But in order for that meeting to translate into results, participants have to remember all those details, understand their assignments, and follow through on commitments. The startup Fireflies.ai is helping people get the most out of their meetings with a note-taking, information-organizing virtual assistant named Fred. Fred transcribes every word of meetings and then uses artificial intelligence to help people sort and share that information later on. “There’s a tremendous amount of data generated in meetings that can help your team stay on the same page,” says Sam Udotong ’16, who founded the company with Krish Ramineni in 2016. “We let people capture that data, search through it, and then share it to the places that matter most.” The tool integrates with popular meeting and scheduling software like Zoom and Google Calendar so users can quickly add Continue reading Fireflies helps companies get more out of meetings

The Short, Strange Life of the First Friendly Robot

Photo: Kagaku Chishiki Face Time: Makoto Nishimura [left] and his team designed Gakutensoku’s head so that it could express human affect. In 1923, a play featuring artificial humans opened in Tokyo. Rossum’s Universal Robots—or R.U.R., as it had become known—had premiered two years earlier in Prague and had already become a worldwide sensation. The play, written by Karel Čapek, describes the creation of enslaved synthetic humans, or robots—a term derived from robota, the Czech word for “forced labor.” Čapek’s robots, originally made to serve their human masters, gained consciousness and rebelled, soon killing all humans on Earth. In the play’s final scene, the robots reveal that they possess emotions just like we do, and the audience is left wondering whether they would also achieve the ability to reproduce—the only thing still separating robots from humans. The play was deeply disturbing for Makoto Nishimura, a 40-year-old professor of marine biology at the Continue reading The Short, Strange Life of the First Friendly Robot

Swiss Startup Developing UV Disinfection Robot for Offices and Commercial Spaces

When Rovenso’s co-founder and CEO Thomas Estier started thinking about how autonomous security and monitoring robots could be helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting them for UV-C disinfection seemed like it made a lot of sense—while you patrol at night, why not also lower the viral load of shared areas? But arguably the first question that a company has to ask when considering a new application, Estier tells us, is whether they can offer something unique. “For me, what was also interesting is that the crisis motivated us to consider existing solutions for disinfection, and then understanding that [those solutions] are not adapted for large workshops and offices,” he says. “Instead, it would make sense for a robot to ‘understand’ its environment and act intelligently and to better spend its energy, and this loop of sense-analyze-act is the essence of robotics. When you use the full power of robotics, then you Continue reading Swiss Startup Developing UV Disinfection Robot for Offices and Commercial Spaces

Machine-learning tool could help develop tougher materials

For engineers developing new materials or protective coatings, there are billions of different possibilities to sort through. Lab tests or even detailed computer simulations to determine their exact properties, such as toughness, can take hours, days, or more for each variation. Now, a new artificial intelligence-based approach developed at MIT could reduce that to a matter of milliseconds, making it practical to screen vast arrays of candidate materials. The system, which MIT researchers hope could be used to develop stronger protective coatings or structural materials — for example, to protect aircraft or spacecraft from impacts — is described in a paper in the journal Matter, by MIT postdoc Chi-Hua Yu, civil and environmental engineering professor and department head Markus J. Buehler, and Yu-Chuan Hsu at the National Taiwan University. The focus of this work was on predicting the way a material would break or fracture, by analyzing the propagation of Continue reading Machine-learning tool could help develop tougher materials

Marshaling artificial intelligence in the fight against Covid-19

Artificial intelligence could play a decisive role in stopping the Covid-19 pandemic. To give the technology a push, the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab is funding 10 projects at MIT aimed at advancing AI’s transformative potential for society. The research will target the immediate public health and economic challenges of this moment. But it could have a lasting impact on how we evaluate and respond to risk long after the crisis has passed. The 10 research projects are highlighted below. Early detection of sepsis in Covid-19 patients  Sepsis is a deadly complication of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. About 10 percent of Covid-19 patients get sick with sepsis within a week of showing symptoms, but only about half survive. Identifying patients at risk for sepsis can lead to earlier, more aggressive treatment and a better chance of survival. Early detection can also help hospitals prioritize intensive-care resources for their sickest patients. In a project led Continue reading Marshaling artificial intelligence in the fight against Covid-19

Artificial pieces of brain use light to communicate with real neurons

Researchers have created a way for artificial neuronal networks to communicate with biological neuronal networks. The new system converts artificial electrical spiking signals to a visual pattern than is then used to entrain the real neurons via optogenetic stimulation of the network. This advance will be important for future neuroprosthetic devices that replace damages neurons with artificial neuronal circuitry. More details