The Week’s Awesome Stories From Around the Web (Through July 22)


Verily Robot Will Raise 20 Million Sterile Mosquitoes for Release in California
Emily Mullin | MIT Technology Review
“To help breed and release the mosquitoes, Verily has partnered with Kentucky-based Mosquito Mate and Fresno’s mosquito control agency, the Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District. The mosquitoes the company is making aren’t genetically engineered. Rather, they’re bred to be infected with the bacteria, which essentially sterilizes them. When the treated males mate with females in the wild, the females’ eggs aren’t able to develop properly and don’t hatch. The idea is that the sterile males will help deplete the local mosquito population.”


MIT Created an AI That Knows the Ingredients in Your Food
Vice Motherboard | Caroline Haskins
“When the Pic2Recipe AI was asked to view an image of a meal, it was able to use the database to identify the correct ingredients 65 percent of the time. This is an 80 percent improvement from the 2014 Food-101 study in which Swiss researchers created an algorithm that could correctly identify a meal’s ingredients from an image 50.76 percent of the time.”


Wearable Sensors Give Skin Space to Breathe
Megan Scudellari | IEEE Spectrum
“The team’s solution was to create a nanomesh made of widely used polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) fibers spun into an ultra-thin sheet of just 300-500 nanometers. Next, they evaporated a thin (70-100 nm) layer of gold nanoparticles onto the PVA sheet to act as the conductive material…The patch contained sensors that accurately measured temperature, pressure, and the electrical activity of muscles.”


A Basic Income Really Could End Poverty Forever
Dylan Matthews | VOX
“In a little over a decade, basic income has gone from an idea about as fringe as #FullCommunism to something that could be benefiting 1.2 billion people imminently. It’s an astonishing rise. But the very speed with which basic income took off has led the debate over it to become confused in a deep way. And it’s particularly confused among its proponents, a group in which I include myself.”


Slate’s First Virtual-Reality Talk Show Was ‘A Hilarious Disaster’
Joseph Lichterman | NiemanLab
“The show was streamed from the perspective of a third avatar, a Slate producer, who controlled the locations and camera angles and also tried to help Preston when she had trouble operating some of the Spaces functionality…For Slate, this is a relatively low-risk way for the online publisher to dip its toes in the VR waters. Speaking to Digiday in May, Slate product head David Stern said the company was taking lessons from its successful podcasts and trying to implement them with VR.”

Stock Media provided by Science_Video / Pond5

Weekend Watch: Wintergatan’s Wonderful Works

Every video on Wintergatan’s channel is a little different, each focused on different aspects of engineering a wonderful homemade instrument.

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The post Weekend Watch: Wintergatan’s Wonderful Works appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Robots Learn to Speak Body Language

This body-tracking software could help robots read your emotions

The Possibilities Are Endless at Maker Faire Tokyo

Tokyo will be hosting its 6th annual Maker Faire at the beginning of August!

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The post The Possibilities Are Endless at Maker Faire Tokyo appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Make: and Maker Faire Expand with Korea’s Bloter & Media Partnership

We’re thrilled to announce our new partnership with South Korean media outlet Bloter & Media to publish a Korean version of Make: magazine and produce Maker Faire Seoul this October.

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The post Make: and Maker Faire Expand with Korea’s Bloter & Media Partnership appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Testing the Internet of Things

A peek inside Silicon Valley’s newest IoT test center

Tips of the Week: Cutting Resin with Microbeads, Herringbone CNC Tape, Hiring a Machine Shop

Learn the Feynman technique, skip the tabs on your CNC jobs, ID your tools, and learn how to talk to a machine shop.

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The post Tips of the Week: Cutting Resin with Microbeads, Herringbone CNC Tape, Hiring a Machine Shop appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Check Out What the Maker Camp Community Is Building

Maker Camp worked hard on creating education and amusing activities, and it makes us so happy to see people out there building things.

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The post Check Out What the Maker Camp Community Is Building appeared first on Make: DIY Projects and Ideas for Makers.

Teaching Machines to Understand, and Summarize, Text

We humans are swamped with text. It’s not just news and other timely information: Regular people are drowning in legal documents. The problem is so bad we mostly ignore it. Every time a person uses a store’s loyalty rewards card or connects to an online service, his or her activities are governed by the equivalent of hundreds of pages of legalese. Most people pay no attention to these massive documents, often labeled “terms of service,” “user agreement,” or “privacy policy.”

These are just part of a much wider societal problem of information overload. There is so much data stored—exabytes of it, as much stored as has ever been spoken by people in all of human history—that it’s humanly impossible to read and interpret everything. Often, we narrow down our pool of information by choosing particular topics or issues to pay attention to. But it’s important to actually know the meaning and contents of the legal documents that govern how our data is stored and who can see it.

As computer science researchers, we are working on ways artificial intelligence algorithms could digest these massive texts and extract their meaning, presenting it in terms regular people can understand.

Can computers understand text?

Computers store data as 0s and 1s—data that cannot be directly understood by humans. They interpret these data as instructions for displaying text, sound, images, or videos that are meaningful to people. But can computers actually understand the language, not only presenting the words but also their meaning?

One way to find out is to ask computers to summarize their knowledge in ways that people can understand and find useful. It would be best if AI systems could process text quickly enough to help people make decisions as they are needed—for example, when you’re signing up for a new online service and are asked to agree with the site’s privacy policy.

What if a computerized assistant could digest all that legal jargon in a few seconds and highlight key points? Perhaps a user could even tell the automated assistant to pay particular attention to certain issues, like when an email address is shared, or whether search engines can index personal posts. Companies could use this capability, too, to analyze contracts or other lengthy documents.

To do this sort of work, we need to combine a range of AI technologies, including machine learning algorithms that take in large amounts of data and independently identify connections among them; knowledge representation techniques to express and interpret facts and rules about the world; speech recognition systems to convert spoken language to text; and human language comprehension programs that process the text and its context to determine what the user is telling the system to do.

Examining privacy policies

A modern internet-enabled life today more or less requires trusting for-profit companies with private information (like physical and email addresses, credit card numbers and bank account details) and personal data (photos and videos, email messages and location information).

These companies’ cloud-based systems typically keep multiple copies of users’ data as part of backup plans to prevent service outages. That means there are more potential targets—each data center must be securely protected both physically and electronically. Of course, internet companies recognize customers’ concerns and employ security teams to protect users’ data. But the specific and detailed legal obligations they undertake to do that are found in their impenetrable privacy policies. No regular human—and perhaps even no single attorney—can truly understand them.

In our study, we ask computers to summarize the terms and conditions regular users say they agree to when they click “Accept” or “Agree” buttons for online services. We downloaded the publicly available privacy policies of various internet companies, including Amazon AWS, Facebook, Google, HP, Oracle, PayPal, Salesforce, Snapchat, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

Summarizing meaning

Our software examines the text and uses information extraction techniques to identify key information specifying the legal rights, obligations and prohibitions identified in the document. It also uses linguistic analysis to identify whether each rule applies to the service provider, the user or a third-party entity, such as advertisers and marketing companies. Then it presents that information in clear, direct, human-readable statements.

For example, our system identified one aspect of Amazon’s privacy policy as telling a user, “You can choose not to provide certain information, but then you might not be able to take advantage of many of our features.” Another aspect of that policy was described as “We may also collect technical information to help us identify your device for fraud prevention and diagnostic purposes.”

We also found, with the help of the summarizing system, that privacy policies often include rules for third parties—companies that aren’t the service provider or the user—that people might not even know are involved in data storage and retrieval.

The largest number of rules in privacy policies—43 percent—apply to the company providing the service. Just under a quarter of the rules—24 percent—create obligations for users and customers. The rest of the rules govern behavior by third-party services or corporate partners, or could not be categorized by our system.

The next time you click the “I Agree” button, be aware that you may be agreeing to share your data with other hidden companies who will be analyzing it.

We are continuing to improve our ability to succinctly and accurately summarize complex privacy policy documents in ways that people can understand and use to access the risks associated with using a service.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tough robots making an ImPACT

New and improved rescue robots tough enough to function in extreme and hostile environments were unveiled recently at a demonstration at Tohoku University, Japan.