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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Morgan Stevens
The Vistula River

This week’s list of top data news highlights covers August 6, 2022 to August 12, 2022 and includes articles on making autonomous vehicles more accessible for passengers with visual impairments and creating an augmented reality game about local rivers.

1. Shopping for Houses Using AI

Zillow has created an AI system to help homebuyers better view and shop for houses online. The system can create floor plans from listings, combine floor plans with photos from the listing, and estimate room dimensions and square footage. 

2. Making Robotaxis More Accessible

Waymo has added new features to its autonomous vehicles to improve accessibility for passengers with visual impairments. The features include displaying riders’ initials on a rooftop dome, playing a chime sound to help passengers identify the correct vehicle, and using data on sidewalks, crosswalks, and nearby pedestrian routes to map a turn-by-turn route for pedestrians to reach the vehicle. 

3. Improving Search Results

Google has updated one of the AI systems behind its search function to make featured snippets, or information highlighted at the top of search results, more reliable. The new system checks snippets against other online sources for consensus. If the system cannot identify consensus among other sources, the snippet will feature a content advisory warning.  

4. Patrolling Space Stations

The U.S. Space Force is testing two robot dogs to patrol the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The Space Force hopes to use the dogs to conduct damage assessments and patrols around the station. Each dog contains visual and auditory sensors and can operate autonomously and under human control. 

5. Piloting Aircraft

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created an AI system for aircraft that can predict the intended movement of other aircraft and coordinate its movement accordingly. The team trained the system with data on air traffic patterns, images of aircraft, and radio transmissions from the Allegheny County Airport in Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport. 

6. Enforcing Traffic Rules

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has partnered with Hayden AI, a U.S.-based smart traffic technology company, to install AI-powered cameras on buses in the city. The cameras can detect cars illegally parked in bus lanes and submit data on the car’s license plate and the time, date, and location of the offense as well as a short video of the encounter to transportation officials. 

7. Predicting Flashovers

An international team of researchers has created an AI system that can predict flashovers, or a phenomenon in which all combustible material in a burning room suddenly ignites, before they occur. The team trained the system with digital simulations of 41,000 fires in 17 different types of buildings. The system improves upon previous models by increasing the number of buildings for which the system can issue a prediction.

8. Restocking Convenience Stores

FamilyMart, a convenience store chain based in Japan, and Telexistence, a Japanese robotics company, have deployed autonomous robots to support workers in 300 FamilyMart stores. The robots will restock drinks in FamilyMart’s refrigerators and can replace one to three hours of human labor per day. 

9. Riding in Robotaxis

Baidu, a technology company based in China, has received permission to operate its autonomous taxis without a safety driver. The taxis will initially drive passengers in designated zones in Wuhan and Chongqing during the day. Baidu is the first autonomous taxi company to receive permission to operate without a human safety driver in China. 

10. Teaching Local History

Officials in Warsaw, Poland have launched a game to teach visitors more about the local Vistula River, one of the largest rivers in Europe. The game uses augmented reality to display graphics and educational content about the river at five points along the river. 

Image credit: Flickr user Radek Kucharski

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