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10 Bits: the Data News Hotlist

by Joshua New

This week’s list of data news highlights covers April 30-May 6, 2016 and includes articles about a cloud-based quantum computing service from IBM and a video game helping researchers understand dementia.

1. The White House Wants To Use Artificial Intelligence for Good

The White House has announced a series of new initiatives to study artificial intelligence and identify opportunities to leverage the technology for social and economic benefits. The White House will host four public workshops over the next several months exploring different aspects of artificial intelligence, including its legal, social, and economic implications. Additionally, the National Science and Technology Council has formed a subcommittee on machine learning and artificial intelligence to coordinate related federal government efforts to pilot artificial intelligence projects to improve government services.

2. A Robotic Surgeon Can Administer Stitches Better Than Humans

Researchers at the pediatric hospital Children’s National Health System have developed the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR), a robotic surgical system that can apply stitches more precisely and reliably than the best human surgeons. STAR uses advanced imaging sensors and force-sensing technology to stitch together soft tissue, such as skin or muscle tissue, with submillimeter precision, and, unlike most robotic surgical systems, does so without a human operating the controls.

3. Putting Quantum Computing in the Cloud

IBM has launched a new cloud-based service called the IBM Quantum Experience that allows members of the public to access and use the company’s quantum processor from any computer or mobile device. Unlike traditional processors which compute information with bits—ones and zeroes—quantum processors use qubits, which can be both a one and a zero. IBM’s quantum processor contains five qubits, which is enough to run simple quantum computing algorithms, and IBM expects that making this technology publicly available will accelerate research in the field of quantum computing.

4. Predicting When to Remind People to Take Their Medicine

Pharmaceutical company Sanofi has partnered with the Duke University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital to develop a predictive analytics system that can boost medication adherence rates for patients with type 2 diabetes. The partnership will focus on analyzing patient data as well as nontraditional health data, such as information about how patients fill their prescriptions and behavioral data, to help health-care providers develop treatment plans tailored to individual patients.

5. Training a Neural Network with Romance Novels

Google is training its artificial neural network to interpret language by having it analyze the text of 2,865 romance novels so it can improve its conversational skills. The team behind the project chose romance novels because they use complex language but also typically share similar narrative structures, which allows Google’s neural network to more easily recognize patterns in how certain language is used and develop a more nuanced understanding of the text. Google will use this approach to allow its apps to adopt a more conversational approach when communicating with users.

6. Cracking Down on Slumlords in New South Wales

The New South Wales government’s Data Analytics Centre (DAC) has launched an initiative to identify and punish landlords engaging in dangerous or exploitative housing practices with data analytics. DAC is analyzing data from the Ministry for Police and Emergency Services about emergency service calls from locations suspected to be managed by bad landlords, as well as data from utility companies, as abnormally high amounts of water or electricity use could indicate a landlord has forced too many people to live in the same house or apartment.

7, Giving Artificial Intelligence Access to Patient Records

The Royal Free National Health Service (NHS) Trust, which manages three hospitals in London, has granted artificial intelligence firm DeepMind access to 1.6 million patients’ de-identified health data to improve treatment efforts for patients with kidney disease. DeepMind will use the data to develop a patient monitoring application called Streams for NHS staff, as well as an analysis tool called Patient Rescue to support early detection of kidney diseases.

8. Streamlining the Space Data Supply Chain

The UK Space Agency and the National Centre for Earth Observation have partnered to support a project called the UK Climate Data from Space computing zone (CDS-zone) to improve the pipeline of space data and promote its use. CDS-zone will develop technical infrastructure and software designed to make it easier to access climate data from government satellites, which can advance scientific research, inform policy decisions, and support a wide variety of industrial applications of climate data.

9. Helping Companies Find People in Need of a Job

The city of Cape Town has announced plans to grant private sector companies and government agencies access to a database of unemployed people registered with the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to help connect them with opportunities for full-time employment. The EPWP database contains more than 160,000 names of people seeking jobs but EPWP is only currently allowed to share this information with government agencies seeking to temporarily fill vacancies.

10. Studying Dementia with Video Games

Researchers from University College London and the University of East Anglia have developed a video game called Sea Hero Quest that analyzes how players navigate 3D environments, which could lead to new insights into how dementia affects spatial reasoning. Sea Hero Quest requires players to steer a ship through a body of water with different obstacles to reach different checkpoints and the game generates a heatmap of the routes players create. Based on analysis of these routes, the researchers hope to identify how players’ navigational skills might be impaired by dementia. The game is free to play online and players can voluntarily share their demographic data.

Image: CDC/Debora Cartagena


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