Automation and AI

The big picture

The disinformation threat from text-generating AI

A new report raises alarms over the power of systems like GPT-3 to generate vast quantities of deceptive content.

May 19, 2021 - Technology
AI is industrializing

The challenges AI faces are shifting from what the field can do to what it should do

Mar 3, 2021 - Technology
How the automation economy can turn human workers into robots

Automation isn't destroying warehouse work, but it is shaping it in challenging ways.

Feb 27, 2021 - Technology
AI and automation are creating a hybrid workforce

But without changes to tax regulations and training, human workers will lose ground over time

Oct 31, 2020 - Technology
The next wave of job automation will be virtual

Virtual agents could augment human workers in online services at a time of mass unemployment

May 2, 2020 - Technology
Automation is 2020's least understood issue

It deserves more attention than it's getting in the 2020 presidential race.

Dec 8, 2019 - Economy & Business

All Automation and AI stories

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 22, 2021 - Technology

Smart calendar startup ScheduleIQ launches

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A startup is launching a new smart scheduling platform designed for the stresses — and the busyness — of the remote work era.

Why it matters: With many workers still at home rather than concentrated in an office, even a quick conversation still often requires a dedicated time slot. Smarter calendar tools can help lighten some of the burden of managing our time.

Jul 21, 2021 - Technology

Argo, Lyft to launch self-driving Ford vehicles in Miami and Austin

The Ford self-driving robotaxi, which uses technology from Argo AI. Photo: Courtesy of Argo

Ford and its self-driving technology partner, Argo AI, plan to deploy robotaxis on the Lyft ride-hailing network later this year, as autonomous vehicles inch closer to reality.

Why it matters: The AV technology race has narrowed to a half-dozen major players, including Pittsburgh-based Argo, which is backed by Ford and Volkswagen. But it has long been unclear how any of them will turn AVs into a viable commercial service.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 20, 2021 - Technology

Software bots could be the future of business automation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Businesses are building a new kind of assembly line — and this one is digital, staffed by software bots.

Why it matters: For all the hopes and fears around industrial robots, more progress is being made in the realm of digital workers: Bots that can perform a growing number of often tedious and time-consuming tasks in an increasingly online business world.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 15, 2021 - Technology

Using AI — and dumpster cameras — to better manage urban trash

A sanitation worker sifts through a dumpster in Washington, D.C. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A startup called Compology is using high-tech cameras in dumpsters and AI analytics to help companies and cities better manage their waste streams.

Why it matters: Trash — unlike electricity or water — isn't easy for cities to meter, "which contributes to the inefficiency around waste management," says Jason Gates, Compology's CEO.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jul 14, 2021 - Technology

Discord acquires anti-online harassment software firm Sentropy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Discord, a San Francisco-based chat platform valued by VCs at $7 billion, agreed to buy Sentropy, a Palo Alto-based provider of AI software for detecting and removing online harassment.

Why it matters: Because engaging with others online shouldn't include an entrance fee of harassment and abuse. Discord once was known as a place where such misdeeds proliferated, but it cracked down after Charlottesville, and this deal reflects its continued efforts around user safety.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 14, 2021 - Technology

Text-reading AI will do your research for you

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Bay Area-based startup Primer is offering natural language processing (NLP) models for businesses that can rapidly read and analyze written text of all kinds.

Why it matters: NLP — machine-learning agents that comprehend and even write text — is one of the most exciting areas of AI research, and the new product points to a future when text-crunching AI will be available as a service, accelerating the technology's adoption.

Jul 14, 2021 - Technology

The robot Olympics

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Courtesy Toyota

With no spectators allowed at the Tokyo Olympics, robots might be the only ones on hand to witness the athletic feats at this year's Summer Games.

Why it matters: Organizers had billed the 2020 Olympics as "the most innovative ever," with plans to deploy teams of robots to assist and dazzle visiting athletes and fans.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 9, 2021 - Technology

An automated tool to police offensive language

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A startup has developed an AI tool that can copyedit written text with an eye toward specific corporate style and potentially offensive language.

Why it matters: The shift to distributed work means employees are spending more time communicating internally and externally in writing, even as norms for what's acceptable in workplace speech keep evolving.

Jul 9, 2021 - Technology

In Las Vegas, "driverless" cars arrive via remote control

Halo's remote operators deliver driverless cars in Las Vegas via T-Mobile's 5G network. Photo courtesy of T-Mobile

A new ride-hailing service in Las Vegas is targeting people who are curious about autonomous vehicles but aren't yet ready to climb into the back seat and let a robot drive.

Why it matters: Electric AVs promise to make urban transportation safer, more affordable and more accessible, potentially easing congestion and cutting carbon emissions.

Jul 8, 2021 - Technology

Wheelchairs get the Tesla treatment with new smart tech

LUCI is an add-on software and hardware platform that introduces smart technology for power wheelchair users. Photos courtesy of LUCI.

Motorized wheelchairs promise greater freedom for people with mobility challenges, and now, with technologies inspired by nascent self-driving cars, they're getting smarter — and safer.

Why it matters: A specialized wheelchair can cost as much as a Tesla but has none of its modern technology, putting vulnerable users at risk for collisions and other accidents, like tipping over a curb.

What's happening: A startup formed by two brothers with a personal motivation developed LUCI, a software and hardware platform that introduces smart technology for power wheelchair users.

  • The "smart frame" kit includes multiple sensors — cameras, radar and ultrasonic — along with an ARM processor that acts as the chair's "brain."
  • LUCI can detect pets or a crawling baby, for instance, and automatically stop the chair. It can also stop for uneven pavement or dangerous drop-offs.
  • With built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections, users can link their chair to an at-home assistant like Alexa, and also communicate with caregivers.
  • "We’re turning the wheelchair into the edge device, or command module, for these folks," said Jered Dean, LUCI co-founder and chief technology officer.

The backstory: Jered and his brother Barry Dean set out to help Barry's 19-year-old daughter, Katherine, who was born with cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair her entire life.

  • Their hack of Katherine's chair led to a realization that there is no commercially available smart tech for custom wheelchairs.
  • They figured they could adapt off-the-shelf technology from robotics companies or self-driving cars but found it didn't translate well to wheelchairs.
  • "There are no maps or street signs [as for cars] or geotags [as for robots] in a warehouse," Jered told me. "Everywhere you go in a week, that’s where a wheelchair has to go and it has to work."
  • The pair ended up inventing their own radar and ultrasonic sensors, applying for 19 patents, 10 of which have already been issued.

The bottom line: A motorized wheelchair can cost anywhere from $30,000 to $90,000. For an additional $8,445, LUCI makes it smarter.

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