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The Download: artificial surf pools, and unfunny AI

by News7

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

The cost of building the perfect wave

For nearly as long as surfing has existed, surfers have been obsessed with the search for the perfect wave. 

While this hunt has taken surfers from tropical coastlines to icebergs, these days that search may take place closer to home. That is, at least, the vision presented by developers and boosters in the growing industry of surf pools, spurred by advances in wave-­generating technology that have finally created artificial waves surfers actually want to ride.

But there’s a problem: some of these pools are in drought-ridden areas, and face fierce local opposition. At the core of these fights is a question that’s also at the heart of the sport: What is the cost of finding, or now creating, the perfect wave—and who will have to bear it? Read the full story.

—Eileen Guo

This story is from the forthcoming print issue of MIT Technology Review, which explores the theme of Play. It’s set to go live on Wednesday June 26, so if you don’t already, subscribe now to get a copy when it lands.

What happened when 20 comedians got AI to write their routines

AI is good at lots of things: spotting patterns in data, creating fantastical images, and condensing thousands of words into just a few paragraphs. But can it be a useful tool for writing comedy?

New research from Google DeepMind suggests that it can, but only to a very limited extent. It’s an intriguing finding that hints at the ways AI can—and cannot—assist with creative endeavors more generally. Read the full story.

—Rhiannon Williams

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Meta has paused plans to train AI on European user data
Data regulators rebuffed its claims it had “legitimate interests” in doing so. (Ars Technica)
+ Meta claims it sent more than two billion warning notifications. (TechCrunch)
+ How to opt out of Meta’s AI training. (MIT Technology Review)

2 AI assistants and chatbots can’t say who won the 2020 US election
And that’s a major problem as we get closer to the 2024 polls opening. (WP $)
+ Online conspiracy theorists are targeting political abuse researchers. (The Atlantic $)
+ Asking Meta AI how to disable it triggers some interesting conversations. (Insider $)
+ Meta says AI-generated election content is not happening at a “systemic level.” (MIT Technology Review)

3 A smartphone battery maker claims to have made a breakthrough
Japanese firm TDK says its new material could revolutionize its solid-state batteries. (FT $)
+ And it’s not just phones that could stand to benefit. (CNBC)
+ Meet the new batteries unlocking cheaper electric vehicles. (MIT Technology Review)

4 What should AI logos look like?
Simple, abstract and non-threatening, if these are anything to go by. (TechCrunch)

5 Radiopharmaceuticals fight cancer with molecular precision
Their accuracy can lead to fewer side effects for patients. (Knowable Magazine)

6 UK rail passengers’ emotions were assessed by AI cameras 
Major stations tested surveillance cameras designed to predict travelers’ emotions. (Wired $)
+ The movement to limit face recognition tech might finally get a win. (MIT Technology Review)

7 The James Webb Space Telescope has spotted dozens of new supernovae
Dating back to the early universe. (New Scientist $)

8 Rice farming in Vietnam has had a hi-tech makeover
Drones and AI systems are making the laborious work a bit simpler. (Hakai Magazine)
+ How one vineyard is using AI to improve its winemaking. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Meet the researchers working to cool down city parks
Using water misters, cool tubes, and other novel techniques. (Bloomberg $)
+ Here’s how much heat your body can take. (MIT Technology Review)

10 The latest generative AI viral trend? Pregnant male celebrities.
The stupider and weirder the image, the better. (Insider $)

Quote of the day

“It’s really easy to get people addicted to things like social media or mobile games. Learning is really hard.”

—Liz Nagler, senior director of product management at language app Duolingo, tells the Wall Street Journal it’s far trickier to get people to go back to the app every day than you might think.

The big storyThe big new idea for making self-driving cars that can go anywhere

May 2022

When Alex Kendall sat in a car on a small road in the British countryside and took his hands off the wheel back in 2016, it was a small step in a new direction—one that a new bunch of startups bet might be the breakthrough that makes driverless cars an everyday reality.

This was the first time that reinforcement learning—an AI technique that trains a neural network to perform a task via trial and error—had been used to teach a car to drive from scratch on a real road. It took less than 20 minutes for the car to learn to stay on the road by itself, Kendall claims.

These startups are betting that smarter, cheaper tech will let them overtake current market leaders. But is this yet more hype from an industry that’s been drinking its own Kool-Aid for years? Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Twin Peaks meets Sylvanian Families: what’s not to love?
+ You heard it here first: Brat is the album of the summer.
+ Chilis can be pretty painful to eat, but we love them anyway. 🌶️
+ How people have been crafting artificial eyes for thousands of years.

Source : Technology Review

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