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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Morgan Stevens
An ant

This week’s list of top data news highlights covers August 13, 2022 to August 19, 2022 and includes articles on using an AI system to build a global map of ant species and adding augmented reality features to postage stamps. 

1. Building Robots

Google has created a robot that can complete everyday tasks, such as retrieving a snack, at the verbal request of an employee. The robots contain a language model that can interpret spoken requests and direct the robot to follow the instructions regardless of whether the model has received data on it before.

2. Mapping Ant Species

An international team of researchers has created a map of where the world’s 14,000 known ant species are located. The team used an AI system to process 1.5 million records on ant species from studies, museum archives, and field work and found that only one in six of the areas landing in the top 10 percent of diversity was located in a protected region such as a reserve. 

3. Addressing Clickbait

Google has announced two new updates to its search feature to address clickbait and improve the relevancy of results. As part of its updates, the company will modify search results and product reviews to more highly rank high-quality, original content over low-quality content created primarily for ranking well in search engines, particularly for content related to online education, arts and entertainment, shopping, and tech.

4. Publishing COVID-19 Data

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General has launched a data dashboard showing information on the COVID-19 vaccination status of individuals held in federal prisons and vaccination trends. The Office of the Inspector General, which serves as a watchdog for the Department of Justice, published the dashboard to improve transparency about COVID-19 in federal prisons.  

5. Detecting Plastic Litter

Researchers at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in Plymouth, England have created an AI system that can detect and classify different types of plastic found in images of marine environments. In tests, the system detected plastic with 95 percent accuracy and classified the type of plastic with 68 percent accuracy. Marine scientists and environmentalists can use the system to locate areas with large amounts of plastic litter and learn more about their sources and travel patterns. 

6. Monitoring Patients

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have created a wearable sensor that can monitor patients’ levels of vitamins, minerals, hormones, and similar compounds in real time. The team built the sensor to detect molecular signatures of each compound in users’ sweat. 

7. Creating TikTok Backgrounds

TikTok has launched a new filter that uses an AI system to turn user-submitted text into an image. TikTok creators can use the filter to generate background images for their videos. The new filter follows the release of OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 system earlier this year and shows how quickly text-to-image systems have developed. 

8. Riding in Robotaxis

Lyft, a U.S.-based ride-hailing service, has partnered with Motional, a U.S.-based autonomous vehicle company, to offer free rides in semi-autonomous vehicles in Las Vegas, Nevada. While the cars will still host a safety driver at first, the companies plan to introduce fully autonomous ride-hailing services next year.

9. Judging Players’ Performances

The New York Times has updated Wordlebot, its AI-powered assistant that can assess players’ performances in Wordle games. The new bot uses approximately 2,200 more words than the old bot, has a different scoring method for each guess, and can judge each guess against the guesses of other players. According to the bot, the new best starting word for games in regular mode is slate. 

10. Designing Postage Stamps

The U.K. Royal Mail has launched an augmented reality-enabled stamp collection featuring the Transformers television series. Users can scan the stamp to view a clip from the series in augmented reality.

Image credit: Flickr user Samantha Henneke

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