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21 July, Fri
This little USB stick is designed to make AI plug-and-play

Step by step, artificial intelligence is moving down from the cloud and into the device in your hand. The latest sign? This unassuming little thumb drive from chipmaker Movidius, which packs one of the company’s machine vision processors — the same chip used by DJI for its autonomous drones — into a plug-and-play USB stick. If manufacturers want to beef up the AI capabilities of their new product, all they need to do is plug in one of these.

The Movidius Neural Compute Stick was actually announced last April as a prototype device called the Fathom. But then Intel came a’calling, and bought Movidius in September that year for an undisclosed amount. In all the work and confusion that comes with any sale like that, the Fathom got put on hold. Now though, it’s back.

From a technical point of view, the new Compute Stick is the same as the old one. At its heart is a Myriad 2 Vision Processing Unit or VPU — a low-power processor (it consumes just a single watt) that uses twelve parallel cores to run vision algorithms like object detection and facial recognition. Movidius says it delivers more than 100 gigaflops of performance, and can natively run neural networks built using the Caffe framework. (Caffe is one of the neural network libraries around, but it’s not clear if the Compute Stick will also work with Google’s popular TensorFlow framework.) For more details, you can check out the full spec sheet for the Myriad 2 here.


The main changes in this new version are that it’s made out of aluminum instead of plastic, and the price has been cut from a putative $99 for the original, to $79. Movidius says Intel’s involvement helped push this price down.

But who will use the Neural Compute Stick? Well, it’ll come in handy for a few different groups. AI researchers will be able to use the stick as an accelerator — plugging it in to their computers to get a little more local power when training and designing new neural nets. (Movidius notes that you can also chain multiple sticks together, boosting the performance linearly with each one you add). Companies looking to put AI powers in a physical product will also benefit, with the USB-compatible stick giving them an easy and fast way to execute neural networks locally.

But of course, a device like this certainly has its limitations. For a company building, say, an AI-powered security camera, there will be more efficient ways to incorporate specialized vision processors in their product, especially if they’re manufacturing at scale. And for a researcher training new neural nets, buying the latest graphic cards or renting processing power in the cloud will offer quicker results. It’ll just be more expensive too.

What a device like the Neural Compute Stick does well, is fill a gap in the market. And, in doing so, it make artificial intelligence that little bit more accessible.

July 2017
14 July, Friday
High-speed Hyperloop project ready for key test in Nevada

Engineers will soon conduct a crucial test of a futuristic technology championed by entrepreneur Elon Musk that seeks to revolutionize transportation by sending passengers and cargo packed into pods through an intercity system of vacuum tubes.

13 July, Thursday
Uber, Yandex combine ridesharing and UberEATS in Russian markets in a $3.72B JV

Uber announced that it will be combining its rides-on-demand business and UberEATS, its food ordering and delivery business, in Russia and neighboring markets, with Yandex.Taxi, the ridesharing business.

12 July, Wednesday
Microsoft's new iPhone app narrates the world for blind people

The app uses AI to recognize people, objects, and scenes

07 July, Friday
Tesla will build world’s largest battery storage facility for Australian wind farm

Tesla will up its game in the renewable energy storage market with the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the world, to be built for Australia’s Hornsdale Wind Farm, with a completion date of December 1, 2017. 

05 July, Wednesday
Amazon’s Alexa passes 15,000 skills, up from 10,000 in February

Amazon’s Alexa voice platform has now passed 15,000 skills — the voice-powered apps that run on devices like the Echo speaker, Echo Dot, newer Echo Show and others. The figure is up from the 10,000 skills Amazon officially announced back in February, which had then represented a 3x increase from September.

June 2017
29 June, Thursday
Instagram now uses AI to block offensive comments

Instagram is introducing an enhanced comment filter today meant to wipe out nasty remarks using AI. 

28 June, Wednesday
Russia and Brazil aim to develop high tech partnerships

During official talks with his Brazilian counterpart, Michel Temer, in Moscow on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the cooperation between the two countries in the field of technologies.

Putin noted that Russia and Brazil already cooperate closely in space exploration and that there are plans to develop cooperation in Earth monitoring from space.

27 June, Tuesday
Apple acquires SMI eye-tracking company

In a move that is sure to stoke rumors about Apple’s future work in augmented and virtual reality technologies, Apple has acquired SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), an eye-tracking firm, MacRumors reports.

22 June, Thursday
X-Ray Eyes in the Sky

UCSB researchers have proposed a new method for 3D through-wall imaging that utilizes drones and WiFi

21 June, Wednesday
Why Atlanta is a great place for startups

Atlanta has long been a hub for big companies—think Home Depot, UPS, Cisco, and Coca-Cola—and now it’s quickly becoming the tech startup center of the South

20 June, Tuesday
Global risk analysis gets an artificial intelligence upgrade with GeoQuant

The global risk analysis used by big banks, hedge funds, and governments to inform their decision-making around everything from foreign currency investment to foreign aid is getting the machine learning treatment with the launch of the new startup GeoQuant.

May 2017
31 May, Wednesday
Elon Musk's Solar Roofs Have Some Serious (and Seriously Cheap) Competition

A team of researchers in Australia has created a solution that could make solar energy far more accessible.

25 May, Thursday
Airbnb is running its own internal university to teach data science

Tech companies, and increasingly even non-tech companies, are struggling with the fact that there are not enough trained data scientists to fill market demand. 

23 May, Tuesday
IKEA launches online sales and builds giant distribution center in Russia

Illustrating the appeal of the Russian e-commerce market, IKEA Russia has made a substantial part of its assortment available online to the inhabitants of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and their surrounding areas, as well as of several cities of Siberia, the Far East, the Central and Northwestern federal districts.

22 May, Monday
2017 VC Market: U.S. Startup Investment Picks Up In Q1

U.S. startup investment activity somewhat rebounded after a downturn late last year, with larger rounds and an improving environment for tech IPOs. However, funding totals are still below the highs set several quarters ago...

18 May, Thursday
Russian programing language - Kotlin - on Android. Now official

Today, at the Google I/O keynote, the Android team announced first-class support for Kotlin. We believe this is a great step for Kotlin, and fantastic news for Android developers as well as the rest of our community. We’re thrilled with the opportunities this opens up.

17 May, Wednesday
The thaw of the Russian venture market

From the seed stage to maturity deals, venture investment amounted to $894 million last year, up from just $383 million in 2015. “Market growth was essentially driven by a dramatic increase in expansion deals, whereas the volume of seed- and startup-stage deals fell to new lows,” notes Arseniy Dabbakh of RG Partners


16 May, Tuesday
Mid-sized Japanese firms invest in robots and automation due to labor shortage

Desperate to overcome Japan’s growing shortage of labor, mid-sized companies are planning to buy robots and other equipment to automate a wide range of tasks, including manufacturing, earthmoving and hotel room service.

According to a Bank of Japan survey, companies with share capital of 100 million yen to 1 billion yen plan to boost investment in the fiscal year that started in April by 17.5 percent, the highest level on record.


15 May, Monday
Lyft and Waymo Reach Deal to Collaborate on Self-Driving Cars

SAN FRANCISCO — As the race to bring self-driving vehicles to the public intensifies, two of Silicon Valley’s most prominent players are teaming up.


12 May, Friday
Apple invested $200 million in a company that helped make the first iPhone

Apple isn't out to get all of its third-party suppliers, it seems. 

The company has handed $200 million (£155 million) to one of its most important suppliers for the iPhone — glass and ceramics maker Corning.

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