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More than 1,000 humans fail to beat AI contender in top crossword battle • The Register

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In brief An AI system has bested nearly 1,300 human competitors in the annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament to achieve the top score.

The computer, named Dr Fill, is the brainchild of computer scientist Matt Ginsberg, who designed its software to automatically fill out crosswords using a mixture of “good old-fashioned AI” and more modern machine-learning techniques, according to Slate.

It was able to solve multiple word conundrums fast with fewer errors than its opponents. Dr Fill, however, was not eligible for the $3,000 cash prize, which instead went to the best human player, a man named Tyler Hinman, who presumably isn’t feeling somewhat redundant.

Ginsberg’s machine contained a computer running a 64-core CPU and two GPUs, and was trained on tons of text scraped from Wikipedia to learn words, and a database of crossword clues and their answers to parse the competition questions. You can watch it in action below.

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Google defends large language models like the ones used by Google

In a new paper, researchers from Google and University California, Berkeley have outlined various ways to slash the environmental impact of the large amounts of energy consumed during the training of text-generation models like the ones used by Google.

Large language models are a particularly controversial area for The Chocolate Factory. The co-leads of its AI Ethics research group, Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, were ousted this year over a paper that detailed the power usage and financial costs of these models as well as concerns over their inscrutable nature.

Now, Google has published a counter-study. Large language models don’t have that big of a carbon footprint if they are trained using resources from data centers running efficiently in countries using renewable energy, the internet giant argued. You can read the whole thing here.

The paper coauthored by Gebru, computational linguistics professor Emily M. Bender, and others was shot down by Google for supposedly not including enough references to relevant research. What’s unfortunate here is that Google’s latest paper failed to mention or reference Gebru and Bender’s paper in their study. One of the researchers later confirmed they were going to add a hat-tip to the pair in an updated version of their study.

Beware of deepfake satellite imagery

Academics are warning of the potential dangers of fake AI-generated satellite images.

A team of geographers led by the University of Washington in the US demonstrated how machine-learning algorithms could be trained to spit out fake geospatial images. The outputs could be used to disrupt applications relying on satellite imagery, such as Google Earth or even military software.

“This isn’t just Photoshopping things. It’s making data look uncannily realistic,” said Bo Zhao, assistant professor of geography at the UW and lead author of the study published in the journal Cartography and Geographic Information Science, this week. “The techniques are already there. We’re just trying to expose the possibility of using the same techniques, and of the need to develop a coping strategy for it.”

Zhao showed examples of how real images from cities could be manipulated by pasting on fake buildings to create made-up towns or adding false fires to mimic natural disasters. While it’ll take a lot more than deepfakes to attack real software systems, the researchers are raising awareness of it now in the hopes they can be one step ahead of the threat.

iGiant to create new jobs in AI

Apple pledged to invest $430bn in the US to employ 20,000 new staff focusing on emerging technologies, like AI to new chips, over the next five years. Apple plans to spend $1bn to launch a new campus in North Carolina too, with around 3,000 employees working on advanced research and development.

“At this moment of recovery and rebuilding, Apple is doubling down on our commitment to US innovation and manufacturing with a generational investment reaching communities across all 50 states,” Apple’s CEO. Tim Cook, announced this week.

“We’re creating jobs in cutting-edge fields — from 5G to silicon engineering to artificial intelligence — investing in the next generation of innovative new businesses, and in all our work, building toward a greener and more equitable future.”

New SiFive AI chip produced by Samsung coming soon

An AI accelerator system-on-chip developed in collaboration between SiFive and a mystery partner is set to be manufactured by chip Samsung.

Not much is known about the chip, except that it’s based on a 14nm FinFET design and contains SiFive RISC-V cores as well as PCIe Gen. 4 connectivity and quad-channel 32-bit LPDDR4 memory.

SiFive didn’t reveal who the chip was for or when it would be sent off for mass production.

“Working in partnership with Samsung Foundry has accelerated SiFive’s ability to deliver our highly-efficient and configurable approach for SoC design and implementation,” Yunsup Lee, CTO of SiFive, said in a statement.

“We’re excited to continue to co-innovate with Samsung Foundry as we launch our latest SiFive Intelligence products to accelerate the development of next-generation AI SoCs with Samsung’s advanced process technology.” ®



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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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