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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Morgan Stevens
Amazon warehouse

This week’s list of top data news highlights covers June 18, 2022 to June 24, 2022 and includes articles on using data analytics to improve government websites and deploying autonomous robots in warehouses.

1. Building Text-to-Image Models

Researchers at Google have created two new text-to-image models. The first, named Parti, breaks down collections of images into different parts known as image tokens. The system then translates user-submitted text into these tokens and constructs new images according to token sequences. The second, known as Imagen, transforms user-submitted text into images with a diffusion model. These models first translate user-submitted text into low-resolution images. The model then progressively increases the resolution until the image becomes photorealistic. 

2. Determining Bridge Health

Esri, a U.S.-based geographic information systems software company, has created an interactive map of all the bridges in the United States that are 100 years or older. The map displays data on the bridge’s age and daily traffic, and uses data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to rank their condition as good, fair, or poor. According to the map, New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge is the highest-traffic bridge that received a poor condition ranking. 

3. Automating Warehouses

Amazon has created an autonomous robot that can move large carts through warehouses. The robot, named Proteus, uses safety, perception, and navigation technology to move around human employees during its travel. Next year, the company plans to deploy another robot that uses a computer vision system to identify individual packages in a pile and a robotic arm to lift and move them. 

4. Redesigning Government Websites

The New Jersey State Office of Innovation has used data analytics to redesign two government websites. Officials used data from search queries, user-submitted questions, website behavior, and live-chat and call center conversations to determine needs of residents. They redesigned the state’s business information hub and COVID-19 website to host better content, organization, navigation, and layout. 

5. Verifying Users’ Ages

Meta has launched new options to verify the ages of users on Instagram. Users can either upload their ID, ask three mutual friends to verify their age, or submit a video selfie. The platform uses an AI system from Yoti, a U.K.-based identity verification company, to estimate users’ ages from their facial features. 

6. Clearing Away War Debris

The U.S. Army has given a robotic dog to HALO Trust, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to removing land mines, to help clear war debris from areas near Kyiv, Ukraine. Spot the robot dog will take unexploded munitions from areas formerly controlled by Russia to explosion pits where they can be safely detonated away from humans.

7. Editing 3D Graphics

Nvidia has created a new technique to turn 2D images into modifiable 3D graphics. The technique uses an AI system to determine certain attributes in a 2D image, like its geometry and lighting. It then reconstructs the image into a 3D graphic with vertices, edges, and faces. Creators and game studios can use the system to edit 3D graphics faster than current methods.

8. Testing Wastewater

The Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati in Ohio has launched a pilot program to use sensors to collect data on wastewater in sewers. Local officials can use the sensors to locate pollution dumping sites and mitigate the damage. The sensors reduce the amount of time required to collect wastewater samples by making it easier for crews to collect data without blocking off roads.

9. Designing Magazine Covers

Cosmopolitan, a U.S.-based fashion and entertainment magazine, used DALL-E 2, a text-to-image model from OpenAI, to create the world’s first magazine cover designed by an AI system. The cover features an astronaut walking through a purple lunar environment. 

10. Shopping with Augmented Reality

Walmart has added an augmented reality feature to its app that lets users view furniture and home decor in their surrounding environment. The company has also announced plans to add another augmented reality feature that customers can use to identify products that match certain preferences, like price or ingredients, on store shelves. 

Image credit: Flickr user D K

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