Stories by Kaveh Waddell

How AI made a huge shark for the big screen

The eponymous giant shark of the film "The Meg" swims in the ocean.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures

When you make a film that everyone will call "that big shark movie," it’s important that the fish be satisfyingly enormous. So the team behind a new film called The Meg brought on a software company that specializes in creatures.

The big picture: Computer-generated imagery has long been a staple of big-budget films, but computer animation is expensive and time consuming. By contrast, the AI-powered system that created the megalodon made it easy to tweak the shark in ways small and large once a model has been created.

Google-developed AI can read eye scans as well as humans

An animation of DeepMind’s segmentation network interpreting a 3D eye scan.
AI segments a 3D eye scan into sections representing different types of tissue. Animation: DeepMind

Doctors at a U.K. eye hospital are getting algorithmic help interpreting the results of 3D eye scans, using a system developed at Google's DeepMind that can identify more than 50 eye problems and recommend a course of action with human expert-level accuracy.

Why it matters: DeepMind's system shows an intermediate step in its work, and tells doctors how confident it is in its assessment. This is crucial, because AI systems are often too opaque to be able to explain their reasoning, making them risky to deploy in high-stakes environments like hospitals.

Confronting demons of the computer age

A laptop displays menacing eyes on a red screen.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a shift that is roiling typically cocooned computer scientists, some researchers — uneasy in part about the role of technology in the 2016 election — are urging colleagues to determine and mitigate the societal impact of their peer-reviewed work before it's published.

The big picture: The push — meant to shake computer scientists out of their labs and into the public sphere — comes as academics and scientists are suffering the same loss of popular faith as other major institutions.