Real ‘Westworld’ Haptic Vests Better Than Fiction

By Jeremy Hsu | June 8, 2018 12:35 pm
Private military contractors wearing haptic vests in the show "Westworld." Credit: HBO

Private military contractors wearing haptic vests in the show “Westworld.” Credit: HBO

Most of the HBO show “Westworld” focuses on artificial intelligence and android robots that seem indistinguishable from humans. But the show has also occasionally snuck in some real-world technology that seems futuristic enough to blend in with the science fiction setting. One example of such real technology in “Westworld” comes in the form of haptic vests that made their debut in the show’s second season.

Freeze all motor functions and turn back now if you want to avoid spoilers about the second season. All good? OK, you’ve been warned. Welcome to Westworld. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

‘Westworld’ Science Advisor Talks Brains and AI

By Jeremy Hsu | June 7, 2018 10:17 pm
A scene from the first episode of season 2 of the HBO show "Westworld." Credit: HBO

A scene from the first episode of season 2 of the HBO show “Westworld.” (Credit: HBO)

One of many hats that neuroscientist David Eagleman wears in real life is science advisor for HBO’s science fiction show “Westworld.” The show takes place in a futuristic theme park staffed by robotic hosts who seemingly exist only to fulfill the dark and violent fantasies of wealthy human guests who want to indulge adventure and vice in a Western-style playground for adults. But as the show hints from the very first episode, the robotic hosts are not necessarily content to remain subservient human playthings for too much longer.

During season one of “Westworld,” Eagleman took a break from his work as adjunct professor in the department of psychiatry & behavioral sciences at Stanford University to visit the show’s writers and producers in Los Angeles and have an intense brainstorming session about the meaning of consciousness and the possibilities of artificial intelligence. As season two rolls toward its conclusion, Eagleman got on the phone to help separate the show’s science fiction from science fact—and to talk about some intriguing real-world questions that may not have answers just yet.

Warning, there will be spoilers for both seasons one and two of “Westworld” in this Q&A. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: mind & brain, technology, top posts

Google Decides Not to Renew a Military AI Contract

By Jeremy Hsu | June 6, 2018 11:26 pm
The U.S. military logo for Project Maven, also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team. Credit: U.S. Department of Defense

The U.S. military logo for Project Maven, also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team. Credit: U.S. Department of Defense

Google recently bowed to employee protests by deciding to wind down involvement in a U.S. military initiative called Project Maven next year. The Pentagon project focuses on harnessing deep learning algorithms–specialized machine learning technologies often described as “artificial intelligence”–to automatically detect and identify people or objects in military drone surveillance videos.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Boycott Threat Terminated ‘Killer Robot’ Project

By Jeremy Hsu | May 6, 2018 2:58 pm
A fictional killer robot in the film "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." In reality, researchers are less worried about a robot uprising and more concerned about how development of lethal autonomous weapons that take responsibility for killing out of human hands. Credit: Studio Canal | Carolco Pictures

A fictional killer robot in the film “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” In reality, researchers are less worried about a robot uprising and more concerned about how development of lethal autonomous weapons that take responsibility for killing out of human hands. Credit: Studio Canal | Carolco Pictures

Notable tech leaders and scientists have signed open letter petitions calling for a ban on lethal autonomous weapons powered by artificial intelligence technologies. But a group of AI researchers recently went a step farther by using the threat of boycott to discourage a university from developing so-called killer robot technologies. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

College AI Courses Get an Ethics Makeover

By Jeremy Hsu | April 26, 2018 7:39 pm
Poster for the course "Artificial Intelligence Methods for Social Good." Credit: Fei Fang | Carnegie Mellon University

Poster for the course “Artificial Intelligence Methods for Social Good.” Credit: Fei Fang | Carnegie Mellon University

Years after it became a running gag on HBO’s show “Silicon Valley,” the idea of companies automatically “making the world a better place” through profit-driven technological development has lost much of its shine. The next generation of computer engineers and tech entrepreneurs may benefit from a more socially conscious education that combines training in artificial intelligence with teachings on societal issues and ethics. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

How the USB Taught North Korea to Love K-Pop

By Jeremy Hsu | April 6, 2018 4:13 pm
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets four members of the K-pop group Red Velvet and other South Korean music artists. Credit: KCNA

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets four members of the K-pop group Red Velvet and other South Korean music artists. Credit: KCNA

A seemingly cheap and ordinary technology may have paved the way for a cultural exchange breakthrough that saw South Korean K-pop idols receive an unprecedented welcome from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

It was not the first time that democratic South Korea has sent music acts to North Korea as part of diplomatic overtures to the authoritarian regime. In 1999, two pioneering K-pop groups, including the girl group Fin.K.L. and the boy band Sechskies, performed in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. In 2003, a similar K-pop outreach concert featuring the K-pop boy band Shinhwa and the girl group Baby V.O.X. met with a fairly lukewarm reception from a blank-faced North Korean crowd.

But this year’s K-pop delegation received a standing ovation from a North Korean audience that included Kim Jong Un, whose presence at the April 1 concert marked the first time a North Korean leader has ever attended a South Korean performance in Pyongyang. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Fastest Delivery Drone Starts Lifesaving Flights

By Jeremy Hsu | April 3, 2018 12:07 am
Zipline Delivery Drone Launch

The launch of a Zipline delivery drone that can parachute medical supplies to remote hospitals and clinics. Credit: Zipline

Delivery drones can be game changers if they go beyond merely offering convenience to becoming lifesaving technologies on a daily basis. That has already become reality in Rwanda, where a Silicon Valley startup called Zipline uses delivery drones to make timely drop-offs to hospitals and clinics across the country. Now Zipline has begun flying what it describes as the world’s fastest commercial delivery drones in its expanding operations that could include the United States by the end of 2018. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

WWII Warship Lost with Five Sullivan Brothers Has Been Found

By Jeremy Hsu | March 27, 2018 4:18 pm
A gun turret containing a Mark 12 5-inch gun from the USS Juneau that was discovered as part of the sunken warship's wreckage on March 17, 2018. Credit: Navigea Ltd.

A gun turret containing a Mark 12 5-inch gun from the USS Juneau that was discovered as part of the sunken warship’s wreckage on March 17, 2018. Credit: Navigea Ltd.

One of the most well-known stories of family sacrifice in wartime is the loss of the five Sullivan brothers aboard the light cruiser USS Juneau during World War II. That story resurfaced after an expedition headed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen discovered wreckage from the USS Juneau lying on the ocean floor in the South Pacific. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Video Shows Self-Driving Uber Inaction in Pedestrian Death

By Jeremy Hsu | March 21, 2018 9:57 pm
An Uber self-driving car prototype on the road. Credit: Uber

An Uber self-driving car prototype on the road. Credit: Uber

A self-driving Uber accident that killed a homeless woman represents a somber milestone in the development of self-driving car technologies. Now a video of the accident may raise more questions about why the Uber vehicle failed to react to the woman and thereby claimed the life of the first pedestrian victim in self-driving car history. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts

Rediscovered US Carrier Sank in Historic WWII Duel

By Jeremy Hsu | March 18, 2018 10:19 pm
An antiaircraft gun from the wreckage of the USS Lexingon, a U.S. Navy carrier that was sunk during the Battle of Coral Sea in World War II. Credit: Navigea Ltd.

An antiaircraft gun from the wreckage of the USS Lexingon, a U.S. Navy carrier that was sunk during the Battle of Coral Sea in World War II. Credit: Navigea Ltd.

When the aircraft carrier USS Lexington sank beneath the surface of the Coral Sea, it represented a significant casualty of history’s first clash between carriers during World War II. 76 years later, an expedition led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced that it had rediscovered wreckage from the carrier known as “Lady Lex” lying on the seafloor about 500 miles off the eastern coast of Australia. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: technology, top posts
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Lovesick Cyborg

Lovesick Cyborg examines how technology shapes our human experience of the world on both an emotional and physical level. I’ll focus on stories such as why audiences loved or hated Hollywood’s digital resurrection of fallen actors, how soldiers interact with battlefield robots and the capability of music fans to idolize virtual pop stars. Other stories might include the experience of using an advanced prosthetic limb, whether or not people trust driverless cars with their lives, and how virtual reality headsets or 3-D film technology can make some people physically ill.
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