How AI picks up our all-too-human biases

AI demonstration

Princeton researcher Aylin Caliskan demonstrates how Google’s automatic translation program shows signs of gender bias. (Princeton University via YouTube / Aaron Nathans)

There’s fresh evidence that artificial intelligence software absorbs human biases about race and gender, and it may be due to the very structure of languages.

Scientists came to that conclusion after creating a statistical system for scoring the positive and negative connotations associated with words in AI-analyzed texts.

A similar system, known as the Implicit Association Test or IAT, has suggested that humans harbor biases about the comparative status of different races, as well as men and women, even though they don’t explicitly acknowledge them.

Princeton University’s Aylin Caliskan and her colleagues adapted the IAT for a textual analysis tool they call the Word-Embedding Association Test, or WEAT. They describe the method, and its application, in research published today by the journal Science.

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Video arcades are back, with virtual reality

Teen playing virtual reality game

Max Tomlinson, a 13-year-old from Puyallup, Wash., brandishes controllers as he walks a virtual plank, seemingly suspended 50 stories above street level, at the Portal VR arcade in Ballard. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Remember the days when arcades were the places where kids could play the coolest video games? No? Well, now you can get in on that experience, this time with immersive virtual reality adventures instead of Frogger and Pac-Man.

Portal, at 2601 NW Market St. in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, is the latest local addition to the genre – joining other hangouts such as Odyssey VR in Redmond and Virtual Sports in Tukwila.

“Our primary target was twentysomethings, tech workers,” said Tim Harader, a technology evangelist who founded Portal in league with his wife, Page. “But what we found is that the target market is just all over the place. Whether they’re 8 years old or 80, they’re all just blown away.”

Portal’s vibe is different from the arcade environment of the ’80s. “You won’t hear a cacophony of blaring arcade sounds here,” the establishment says on its website. “Instead, you’ll enter an atmosphere of comfortable coolness.”

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Amazon plays role in space video milestone

Peggy Whitson on ISS

The International Space Station’s commander, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, will chat with AWS Elemental’s CEO during the first space-to-Earth live stream to make use of ultra-high-definition video. (NASA Photo)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson stars in the highest-resolution video ever broadcast live from the International Space Station, bur Amazon Web Services plays a supporting role.

The 4K ultra-high-definition live stream, set to start at 10:30 a.m. PT (1:30 p.m. ET) April 26, makes use of a UHD-capable video encoder from AWS Elemental that was sent up to the space station just last December aboard a Japanese cargo craft.

The video link also takes advantage of a UHD-ready RED Epic Dragon digital camera aboard the station. NASA has sent down 4K UHD footage before, but not as a live stream.

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LaserMotive stealthily raises $1.5 million

LaserMotive executives

LaserMotive’s David Bashford and Tom Nugent monitor an experiment. (LaserMotive via YouTube)

LaserMotive, a stealthy pioneer in laser-based power transmission that’s based in Kent, Wash., has raised more than $1.5 million in an equity offering, according to documents filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Investments totaling $1,515,733 have been registered over the past year, according to the filing. The investors’ identities have not yet been made public, and LaserMotive did not immediately respond to GeekWire’s inquiries today.

The company’s co-founder, president and CEO, Tom Nugent, told GeekWire in a January email exchange that LaserMotive has “continued to be in stealth mode over the last couple of years, and we’re not ready to go into too many details yet on where we are.”

LaserMotive focuses on laser applications for transmitting power. In 2009, the company won a $900,000 NASA prize in a competition for laser-powered robot climbers. In 2012, it kept a drone flying for 48 hours straight during a beamed-power demonstration for Lockheed Martin. And in 2013, it unveiled a commercial product to transmit electrical power over fiber-optic cables.

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Hyperlapse video shows off UW campus

UW in Motion video

Charles Johnson’s “UW in Motion” hyperlapse video puts some extra zap into campus scenes. (Charles Johnson via YouTube)

What is hyperlapse? Like the bullet-time realm of “The Matrix,” hyperlapse videos provide an unorthodox perspective on time and space – and you can see the result in a two-minute clip created by the University of Washington’s Charles Johnson.

The technique captures time-lapse videos of an environment, with an additional twist: Instead of remaining stationary, the camera moves through the scene, making it seems as if you’re soaring through a speeded-up space-time continuum.

“If you follow my work, you know that for the past six months I’ve been getting into hyperlapse photography,” Johnson, a videographer and editor for University of Washington Intercollegiate Athletics, said today in a Facebook post. “I’ve been slowly collecting hyperlapses of the UW campus to make an official UW hyperlapse edit, and I’m glad to [be] finally able to release it in time for the UW 2017 Maker Summit!”

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Tesla briefly tops GM’s market value

Image: Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 candidates are being road-tested in preparation for production. (Credit: Tesla Motors)

For a time on April 10, Tesla edged out GM in market capitalization to become the most valuable U.S. automaker, even though Tesla is on track to lose almost a billion dollars this year while GM is expected to make a $9 billion profit.

The share prices for both car companies dipped today, putting GM ever so slightly back in the lead with a market cap of just less than $51 billion. What’s more, U.S. automakers still fall short of foreign companies such as Toyota and VW. Nevertheless, the rapid rise in Tesla’s share price left some observers predicting a sea change in the auto industry – while others were left just shaking their heads.

“Clearly General Motors is undervalued and Tesla is overvalued,” AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson was quoted as saying at a forum setting the stage for this week’s New York Auto Show. He said Tesla was “either one of the great Ponzi schemes of all time or it’s gonna work out.”

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Luxembourg and Seattle forge space links

Planetary Resources tour

Luxembourg’s Princess Stephanie and Prince Guillaume bend down to get a good look at Planetary Resources’ Arkyd 6 mini-satellites during a visit to the clean room at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Luxembourg’s royal heir and its top economic official got the grand tour of the Seattle area today, deepening a business relationship that could someday turn far-flung asteroids into the next commercial frontier.

“The exciting field of space technology could enable many more partnerships and economic success stories between Luxembourg and Seattle,” Prince Guillaume told a VIP gathering at Seattle’s Space Needle.


Don’t underestimate the tiny country nestled between Belgium, Germany and France: Over the past few decades, Luxembourg has built itself into a financial powerhouse as well as a center for Europe’s satellite industry. Now Luxembourg’s government and investment companies are aiming to do it again, with asteroid mining.

Asteroid mining?

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