Stories by Kaveh Waddell

Humanitarians turn to virtual reality so you can't avert your gaze

A seated man wearing a virtual reality headset
Christoph Hanger of the International Committee of the Red Cross prepares a virtual reality headset. Photo: Kaveh Waddell/Axios

A haunting choose-your-own-adventure, set in a modest Syrian home and rendered in immersive virtual reality, is the latest product from a humanitarian organization desperate to remind the world of the harms of urban warfare.

Why it matters: Syria’s seven-year-long civil war has killed roughly half a million civilians, and it’s just one of many ongoing conflicts that are lost in the wash of daily headlines. With new storytelling formats, aid organizations hope to ignite empathy in faraway viewers — and perhaps stoke some generosity.

MIT is investing $1 billion into AI research

A building at MIT with columns and a dome
Image: William B. Plowman/Getty Images

In its first fundamental restructuring in nearly 70 years, MIT has announced that it’s pumping $1 billion into creating a new college focused on computing and artificial intelligence.

Why it matters: MIT has lined up what it says will be the single largest investment in computing and AI by an American university at a time when the U.S. and China are competing to produce — and retain — top AI talent in order to reap the technology's economic and geopolitical gains.

Small, narrow — and revolutionary AI

Illustration of robot arms holding a scalpel, a wrench and a light bulb.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Talk of artificial intelligence goes almost inexorably to the very large. Companies, it is said, must embrace big data, along with future human-like AI, or be lost to history. But some tech leaders are going the other way: urging businesses to start thinking small.

What's happening: This growing mantra speaks of the upside of narrow AI ambitions, and small data. But by small bore, they don't mean small results. AI and data minimalism, they say, could be what revolutionizes business, industry, war and more.