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10 Bits: the Data News Hotlist

by Michael McLaughlin

This week’s list of data news highlights covers June 27-July 3, 2020, and includes articles about using AI to promote original reporting and reducing coronavirus infections on buses.

1. Building a Better Spacesuit

Jacobs, an engineering firm in Dallas, is using AI to design aspects of a spacesuit for NASA. The software uses generative adversarial networks and genetic algorithms, which combine elements of different suit designs, to meet NASA’s size, strength, and temperature criteria. The AI-enabled software has reduced the mass of some spacesuit components by half.

2. Analyzing Bias in Soccer Broadcasts

Researchers from RunRepeat, a company that uses an algorithm to summarize reviews of shoes, have analyzed European soccer broadcasts to find that professional soccer commentators describe black and white players differently. The researchers analyzed more than 2,000 remarks from commentators about more than 600 players across 80 games. The researchers found that commentators were more likely to praise nonwhite players for their physical qualities and white players for their intelligence and leadership qualities. 

3. Transporting Goods Autonomously

TuSimple, an autonomous truck startup, is operating 40 autonomous trucks on seven routes in the United States. The company is making roughly 50 trips a week, transporting items for United Parcel Service (UPS) and U.S. Xpress Enterprises, a national truckload operator. A human driver is on board to take over if necessary.

4. Predicting Cancer Patients’ Lifespans

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have developed an algorithm that predicts which cancer patients are likely to die within six months. The algorithm makes its predictions using more than 500 variables from electronic health records. The researchers tested the algorithm on data from 25,000 patients, finding that 45 percent of the individuals the algorithm predicted as high risk died in the next six months. In comparison, only three percent of the patients the algorithm deemed to have a low risk died in the period. 

5. Using AI to Promote Original Reporting

Facebook is using AI to promote original news stories on News Feed. An AI-enabled system will analyze articles about a topic and identify the story that other articles most often cite as the original source. Facebook will then prioritize the original stories in News Feed. 

6. Modeling the Extinction of the Dinosaurs

Researchers from University College London, University of Bristol, and Imperial College London have used a supercomputer to determine that it was likely an asteroid strike, not volcanic eruptions, that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. The supercomputer modeled the effect of an asteroid impact and volcanic eruptions, illustrating that the asteroid impact could have caused temperatures to fall by 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In contrast, a volcanic eruption might have increased temperatures on Earth by releasing significant amounts of carbon dioxide. 

7. Reducing Coronavirus Infections on Buses

The government of Catalonia in Spain is using an app that leverages machine learning to inform passengers about the occupancy levels of buses. The app uses an algorithm to predict occupancy levels using ticket sales data, data from camera feeds inside buses, and occupancy rates from previous years. The cameras count the number of individuals entering and exiting buses at stops. 

8. Using Autonomous Pallet Trucks for Social Distancing

Vecna Robotics, a U.S. technology firm, has created autonomous pallet trucks that can transport goods. The devices can pick up, move, and put away goods, helping human workers stay socially distant. For example, FedEx uses the devices to unload packages from conveyor belts.  

9. Contact-Tracing For Seniors

Singapore is providing a contact-tracing device to individuals without smartphones. The devices send Bluetooth signals to nearby devices, allowing for the collection of proximity data. Singapore is using the data to determine the contacts of individuals with COVID-19. 

10. Quicking the Speed of Insurance Claims

Travelers, an American insurance company, is using a computer vision system to quicken the claims process for houses damaged by wildfires. The system, which the company trained on labeled images of damaged properties, can detect if a property is not salvageable. This determination allows the firm to begin processing a claim before sending human inspectors. 

Image: Steindy

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