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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Morgan Stevens

This week’s list of data news highlights covers January 29, 2022 to February 4, 2022 and includes articles on discovering new tree species with a supercomputer and using an autonomous robot to scan shelves.

1. Writing Code

DeepMind, a U.K.-based AI company, has created an AI system that can write computer programs as well as the average human programmer. While the system only works on certain competitive programming challenges, its abilities could soon be used to develop coding assistants.

2. Tracking the Spread of COVID-19

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added a new tool to their COVID-19 data dashboard that shows the detection of COVID-19 genetic material found in sewage systems across the United States. The tool shows the number of systems in a given area, the number of systems that detected COVID-19, the percentage change in the past 15 days, and the population count in the service area.

3. Monitoring Patients

Researchers at the U.S. National Eye Institute have created an AI system that can measure the amount of light-sensing retina cells in patients with Stargardt, an eye disease that can lead to vision loss in pediatric patients. The team created the system with medical data and retinal images from 66 patients with Stargardt. Doctors can use the system to better provide patient care.

4. Scanning Shelves

Sam’s Club, a U.S.-based grocery store chain, has added inventory-analysis software to its autonomous cleaning robots. The software consists of an AI system that uses data collected from on-board sensors to inform store managers about pricing accuracy, stock levels, and product placement.

5. Accessing Healthcare

Walmart and Health at Scale, a U.S.-based healthcare technology company, have partnered to provide personalized care to Walmart employees with Health at Scale’s AI system. The system uses data on employees’ health information to match them with doctors who have treated similar patients.

6. Discovering Tree Species

An international team of researchers has used a supercomputer to estimate the number of tree species on Earth. The team curated a dataset of 40 million trees from nearly 10,000 field studies of forests. They then used a supercomputer to calculate a species accumulation curve, which estimates the total number of tree species in a forest from the observed number of tree species. With the supercomputer, they determined that there are likely 73,000 tree species on Earth, 9,200 of which are currently undiscovered.

7. Monitoring Public Parks

Officials in Clark County, Nevada have installed optical sensor technology to track park occupancy and count vehicles. The sensors consist of cameras that turn images into metadata which can inform local governments about park attendance and usage.

8. Finding Viruses

An international team of researchers has identified new RNA viruses and coronaviruses by using a supercomputer to analyze genetic data from 5.7 million biological samples from a range of environments. They found 132,000 RNA viruses and 9 coronaviruses.

9. Improving AI Usage

Singapore has released an open source software toolkit to help the financial sector use AI systems responsibly. The toolkit is meant to make financial institutions’ IT systems more fair, ethical, accountable, and transparent.

10. Viewing Home Goods

Pinterest, a U.S.-based image-sharing platform, has added a new tool that uses augmented reality to let users view furniture in their homes. The tool will feature 20,000 products from their retail partners, product details, and pricing information.

Image credit: Flickr user bjornsphoto

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