Employers emerging from lockdown are looking to new COVID-19 screening tools to help workers get back on the job.
Why it matters: Neither employees nor customers are likely to return to businesses if they fear infection, so there needs to be some way to separate the sick from the well. But many new screening services are untested, and could open the door to intrusive health surveillance.
Waymo said Tuesday that it has raised another roughly $750 million for its self-driving technology, expanding the size of its first external investment round to $3 billion.
Why it matters: With the coronavirus pandemic likely to speed consolidation among self-driving tech firms, investors are lining up behind companies they see as the most likely winners.
While industrial robots may get more of the attention, the real acceleration in workplace automation will come via software.
Why it matters: Robotic process automation (RPA) allows companies to program computer software to emulate the actions of a human worker online. That potentially opens up a much larger portion of the economy to automation at a moment when the pandemic has already forced businesses to go remote.
Refraction AI, a robot delivery startup in Ann Arbor, Mich., was having trouble gaining traction before the pandemic — and now, it's racing to capitalize on our stay-at-home mentality.
Why it matters: In the midst of the pain and suffering from a crisis, there's often room for innovation by forward-looking entrepreneurs with good timing.
For his latest startup, entrepreneur and Pinterest veteran John Milinovich is betting automation can help even the highly human task of creative design.
Driving the news: Milinovich's new company, Aesthetic, aims to automate normally costly steps in building out companies' brand identities. It will announce today it has landed $3.1 million in seed funding to test out the premise, led by A.Capital with strategic investment from Y Combinator.
A team of researchers at Salesforce has been working to tap artificial intelligence to identify which tax rates would best achieve a balance of productivity and economic equality.
Why it matters: It's hard to do real-world experiments actually testing out changes in tax policy. Assuming the models work and can add complexity over time, AI could allow economists and regulators to test out lots of approaches to find one that best matches their desired outcome.
Google is in talks to acquire D2iQ, an enterprise cloud software company formerly known as Mesosphere, Axios has learned from a source close to the situation.
Pricing: Expectations are that D2iQ would be valued north of the $250 million that D2iQ has raised from venture capitalists, but less than the $775 million valuation it received via its Series D round in 2018.
An Italian-based artificial intelligence company is regularly analyzing social media posts about the coronavirus for their emotional content.
Why it matters: Classifying tens of thousands of posts by their emotional tone provides a snapshot of how people feel about the pandemic. Spoiler alert: not great!
Coronavirus appears to be accelerating the adoption of workplace automation — and the trend is likely to stick around after the pandemic.
Why it matters: Adopting robots and AI could keep businesses going during social distancing and reduce the health risk to human workers. But with unemployment already at Great Depression levels, many of the jobs lost to automation might never be regained.
Aiming to close what it calls a "data divide," Microsoft on Tuesday announced a plan to make more data widely available so the benefits of artificial intelligence aren't confined to a few large companies.
Why it matters: Machine learning has the potential to make governments and countries far more efficient but often requires an enormous amount of data, in addition to the necessary computing power.