Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: SILVIA

Intelligent Gaming

Kal Simpson recently had the chance to sit down and have an extensive interview with SILVIA's Chief Product Officer - Cognitive Code, Alex Mayberry.  SILVIA is a company that specializes on conversational AI that can be adapted to a variety of platforms and applications.  Kal's comments are in bold while Alex's are in italics.

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Always good to speak with you Alex. Whether it's the latest Triple-A video game release or the progress being made in changing the way we play, virtual reality for instance – your views and developments within the gaming space as a whole remains impressive. Before we begin, I’d like to give the audience a brief flashback of your career history. Prominent within the video game industry you’ve been involved with many, many titles – primarily within the PC gaming space. Quake 2: The Reckoning, America’s Army, a plethora of World of Warcraft titles.

Those more familiar with your work know you as the lead game producer for Diablo 3 / Reaper of Souls, as well as the executive producer for Star Citizen. The former of which we spoke on during the release of the game for PC, PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, back in 2014.

So I ask, given your huge involvement with some of the most popular titles, what sparked your interest within the development of intelligent computing platforms? No-doubt the technology can be adapted to applications within gaming, but what’s the initial factor that drove you to Cognitive Code – the SILVIA technology?

AM: Conversational intelligence was something that I had never even thought about in terms of game development. My experience arguing with my Xbox and trying to get it to change my television channel left me pretty sceptical about the technology. But after leaving Star Citizen, my paths crossed with Leslie Spring, the CEO and Founder of Cognitive Code, and the creator of the SILVIA platform. Initially, Leslie was helping me out with some engineering work on VR projects I was spinning up. After collaborating for a bit, he introduced me to his AI, and I became intrigued by it. Although I was still very focused on VR at the time, my mind kept drifting to SILVIA.

I kept pestering Leslie with questions about the technology, and he continued to share some of the things that it could do. It was when I saw one of his game engine demos showing off a sci-fi world with freely conversant robots that the light went on in my head, and I suddenly got way more interested in artificial intelligence. At the same time, I was discovering challenges in VR that needed solutions. Not having a keyboard in VR creates an obstacle for capturing user input, and floating text in your field of view is really detrimental to the immersion of the experience. Also, when you have life-size characters in VR, you naturally want to speak to them. This is when I got interested in using SILVIA to introduce an entirely new mechanic to gaming and interactive entertainment. No more do we have to rely on conversation trees and scripted responses.

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No more do we have to read a wall of text from a quest giver. With this technology, we can have a realistic and free-form conversation with our game characters, and speak to them as if they are alive. This is such a powerful tool for interactive storytelling, and it will allow us to breathe life into virtual characters in a way that’s never before been possible. Seeing the opportunity in front of me, I joined up with Cognitive Code and have spent the last 18 months exploring how to design conversationally intelligent avatars. And I’ve been having a blast doing it.

Click here to continue reading the entire interview!

SoftBank Invests $4 Billion In NVIDIA, Becomes Fourth Largest Shareholder

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 27, 2017 - 12:18 AM |
Tagged: vision fund, softbank, nvidia, iot, HPC, ai

SoftBank, the Tokyo, Japan based Japanese telecom and internet technology company has reportedly quietly amassed a 4.9% stake in graphics chip giant NVIDIA. Bloomberg reports that SoftBank has carefully invested $4 billion into NVIDIA avoiding the need to get regulatory approval in the US by keeping its investment under 5% of the company. SoftBank has promised the current administration that it will invest $50 billion into US tech companies and it seems that NVIDIA is the first major part of that plan.

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NVIDIA's Tesla V100 GPU.

Led by Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son, SoftBank is not afraid to invest in technology companies it believes in with major past acquisitions and investments in companies like ARM Holdings, Sprint, Alibaba, and game company Supercell.

The $4 billion-dollar investment makes SoftBank the fourth largest shareholder in NVIDIA, which has seen the company’s stock rally from SoftBank’s purchases and vote of confidence. The (currently $93) $100 billion Vision Fund may also follow SoftBank’s lead in acquiring a stake in NVIDIA which is involved in graphics, HPC, AI, deep learning, and gaming.

Overall, this is good news for NVIDIA and its shareholders. I am curious what other plays SoftBank will make for US tech companies.

What are your thoughts on SoftBank investing heavily in NVIDIA?

NVIDIA Launches Jetson TX2 With Pascal GPU For Embedded Devices

Subject: General Tech, Processors | March 12, 2017 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: pascal, nvidia, machine learning, iot, Denver, Cortex A57, ai

NVIDIA recently unveiled the Jetson TX2, a credit card sized compute module for embedded devices that has been upgraded quite a bit from its predecessor (the aptly named TX1).

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Measuring 50mm x 87mm, the Jetson TX2 packs quite a bit of processing power and I/O including an SoC with two 64-bit Denver 2 cores with 2MB L2, four ARM Cortex A57 cores with 2MB L2, and a 256-core GPU based on NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture. The TX2 compute module also hosts 8 GB of LPDDR4 (58.3 GB/s) and 32 GB of eMMC storage (SDIO and SATA are also supported). As far as I/O, the Jetson TX2 uses a 400-pin connector to connect the compute module to the development board or final product and the final I/O available to users will depend on the product it is used in. The compute module supports up to the following though:

  • 2 x DSI
  • 2 x DP 1.2 / HDMI 2.0 / eDP 1.4
  • USB 3.0
  • USB 2.0
  • 12 x CSI lanes for up to 6 cameras (2.5 GB/second/lane)
  • PCI-E 2.0:
    • One x4 + one x1 or two x1 + one x2
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth

 

The Jetson TX2 runs the “Linux for Tegra” operating system. According to NVIDIA the Jetson TX2 can deliver up to twice the performance of the TX1 or up to twice the efficiency at 7.5 watts at the same performance.

The extra horsepower afforded by the faster CPU, updated GPU, and increased memory and memory bandwidth will reportedly enable smart end user devices with faster facial recognition, more accurate speech recognition, and smarter AI and machine learning tasks (e.g. personal assistant, smart street cameras, smarter home automation, et al). Bringing more power locally to these types of internet of things devices is a good thing as less reliance on the cloud potentially means more privacy (unfortunately there is not as much incentive for companies to make this type of product for the mass market but you could use the TX2 to build your own).

Cisco will reportedly use the Jetson TX2 to add facial and speech recognition to its Cisco Spark devices. In addition to the hardware, NVIDIA offers SDKs and tools as part of JetPack 3.0. The JetPack 3.0 toolkit includes Tensor-RT, cuDNN 5.1, VisionWorks 1.6, CUDA 8, and support and drivers for OpenGL 4.5, OpenGL ES 3 2, EGL 1.4, and Vulkan 1.0.

The TX2 will enable better, stronger, and faster (well I don't know about stronger heh) industrial control systems, robotics, home automation, embedded computers and kiosks, smart signage, security systems, and other connected IoT devices (that are for the love of all processing are hardened and secured so they aren't used as part of a botnet!).

Interested developers and makers can pre-order the Jetson TX2 Development Kit for $599 with a ship date for US and Europe of March 14 and other regions “in the coming weeks.” If you just want the compute module sans development board, it will be available later this quarter for $399 (in quantities of 1,000 or more). The previous generation Jetson TX1 Development Kit has also received a slight price cut to $499.

Also read:

Source: NVIDIA

The first Cyber Grand Challenge; using AI to hunt bugs. What could go wrong?

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2017 - 01:36 PM |
Tagged: darpa, ai, security, Usenix Enigma 2017

DARPA hosted the first Cyber Grand Challenge last summer, in which the software from seven machine learning projects competed to find and patch vulnerabilities in a network, and to attack each other.  While the specific vulnerabilities discovered have not been made public you can read a bit about what was revealed about the contest at Usenix Enigma 2017 over at The Register.  For instance, one of the programs managed to find a flaw in the OS all the machines were running on and then hack into another to steal data.  A different machine noticed this occurring and patched itself on the fly, making sure that it was protected from that particular attack.  Also worth noting is that the entire contest was over in 20 minutes. 

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"The exact nature of these new bug types remains under wraps, although we hear that at least one involves exploitable vulnerabilities in data queues."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Alphabet Inc.'s DeepMind Working on StarCraft II AI

Subject: General Tech | November 4, 2016 - 02:55 PM |
Tagged: blizzard, google, ai, deep learning, Starcraft II

Blizzard and DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014 and is now a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., have just announced opening up StarCraft II for AI research. DeepMind was the company that made AlphaGo, which beat Lee Sedol, a grandmaster of Go, in a best-of-five showmatch with a score of four to one. They hinted at possibly having a BlizzCon champion, some year, do a showmatch as well, which would be entertaining.

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StarCraft II is different from Go in three important ways. First, any given player knows what they scout, which they apparently will constrain these AI to honor. Second, there are three possible match-ups for any choice of race, except random, which has nine. Third, it's real-time, which can be good for AI, because they're not constrained by human input limitations, but also difficult from a performance standpoint.

From Blizzard's perspective, better AI can be useful, because humans need to be challenged to learn. Novices won't be embarrassed to lose to a computer over and over, so they can have a human-like opponent to experiment with. Likewise, grandmasters will want to have someone better than them to keep advancing, especially if it allows them to keep new strategies hidden. From DeepMind's perspective, this is another step in AI research, which could be applied to science, medicine, and so forth in the coming years and decades.

Unfortunately, this is an early announcement. We don't know any more details, although they will have a Blizzcon panel on Saturday at 1pm EDT (10am PDT).

Source: Blizzard

Microsoft Focusing Efforts, Forming AI and Research Group

Subject: General Tech | October 6, 2016 - 11:37 PM |
Tagged: supercomputer, microsoft, deep neural network, azure, artificial intelligence, ai

Microsoft recently announced it would be restructuring 5,000 employees as it focuses its efforts on artificial intelligence with a new AI and Research Group. The Redmond giant is pulling computer scientists and engineers from Microsoft Research, the Information Platfrom, Bing, and Cortana groups, and the Ambient Computing and Robotics teams. Led by 20 year Microsoft veteran Harry Shum (who has worked in both research and engineering roles at Microsoft), the new AI team promises to "democratize AI" and be a leader in the field with intelligent products and services. 

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It seems that "democratizing AI" is less about free artificial intelligence and more about making the technology accessible to everyone. The AI and Research Group plans to develop artificial intelligence to the point where it will change how humans interact with their computers (read: Cortana 2.0) with services and commands being conversational rather than strict commands, new applications baked with AI such as office and photo editors that are able to proof read and suggest optimal edits respectively, and new vision, speech, and machine analytics APIs that other developers will be able to harness for their own applications. (Wow that's quite the long sentence - sorry!)

Further, Microsoft wants to build the world's fastest AI supercomputer using its Azure cloud computing service. The Azure-powered AI will be available to everyone for their applications and research needs (for a price, of course!). Microsoft certainly has the money, brain power, and computing power to throw at the problem, and this may be one of the major areas where looking to "the cloud" for a company's computing needs is a smart move as the up front capital needed for hardware, engineers, and support staff to do something like this in-house would be extremely prohibative. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft will win out in the wake of competitors at being the first, but it is certainly staking its claim and does not want to be left out completely.

“Microsoft has been working in artificial intelligence since the beginning of Microsoft Research, and yet we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible,” said Shum, executive vice president of the Microsoft AI and Research Group. “Today’s move signifies Microsoft’s commitment to deploying intelligent technology and democratizing AI in a way that changes our lives and the world around us for the better. We will significantly expand our efforts to empower people and organizations to achieve more with our tools, our software and services, and our powerful, global-scale cloud computing capabilities.”

Interestingly, this announcement comes shortly after a previous announcement that industry giants Amazon, Facebook, Google-backed DeepMind, IBM, and Microsoft founded the not-for-profit Partnership On AI organization that will collaborate and research best practices on AI development and exploitation (and hopefully how to teach them not to turn on us heh).

I am looking forward to the future of AI and the technologies it will enable!

Source: Microsoft