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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Martin Makaryan

This week’s list of top data news highlights covers April 6, 2024 to April 12, 2024 and includes articles on creating a building’s digital twin and automating grading in schools.

1. Creating Digital Twins of Universities

The University of Liverpool partnered with a Glasgow-based climate technology firm called  Integrated Environmental Solutions to produce a digital twin of a university building. The university connected live operational data about the building to the digital twin to evaluate the efficiency of an ongoing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning refurbishment project. So far, the digital twin has helped the university cut energy consumption by 23 percent, and costs by £25,000. 

2. Digitizing State Policy 

Sacramento-based nonpartisan and nonprofit news organization CalMatters has launched a searchable database called Digital Democracy to make information regarding California state government more accessible to the public. Digital Democracy uses a custom-built AI tool to gather data relevant to California state politics, such as hearings, policy discussions, and donations, and suggests topics and tips for journalists. 

3. Growing Better Coffee Beans

Cisco has partnered with a coalition of Tanzanian coffee bean farmers and Italian plant researchers to  collect data on soil, sun, climate, carbon capture, insects, and coffee plants’ electrical energy fields. The data helps researchers study and monitor the beans to cut wasteful irrigation and make farming more efficient and environmentally sustainable.

4. Improving Quantum Computing Accuracy

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles have developed new ways to  improve the accuracy and reliability of quantum systems. They created new types of control pulses, which are signals that are used to manipulate and control the behavior of quantum systems. Using control pulses reduces the error rate of quantum computers, making them more accurate and stable.

5. Upgrading Photo Editing

Google is making free AI-powered photo editing tools available to all Google Photos users. These tools use AI to complete more advanced editing tasks that would otherwise require special editing skills and software, such as one called Magic Editor that removes unwanted items from photos, sharpens blurry photos, and fills gaps in the photo. 

6. Automating Grading in Schools

The Texas Education Agency is launching an automated scoring system to grade open-ended questions on the annual state exams for reading, writing, science, and social studies. The tool uses natural language processing, similar to what AI chatbots use, to automate grading. The agency estimates that automation will save taxpayers roughly $15-20 million a year. 

7. Automating Government Operations

Salesforce has launched a platform called Einstein 1 that uses generative AI to automate administrative tasks for government employees. The platform will help cut the time governmental staff spends on routine operations, such as automatically transcribing information and generating reports.

8. Training College Students

The Georgia Institute of Technology has partnered with AI chip company Nvidia to launch the first AI supercomputer exclusively dedicated to teaching  students. Faculty have redesigned courses to enable students to tackle real-world AI challenges and develop advanced applications such as those related to smart cities.

9. Advancing Generative AI Capabilities

Meta and OpenAI are preparing to launch new large language models (LLMs) that will be capable of reasoning and planning. The new models aim to create human-like words, images, code, and video that are of a quality indistinguishable from human output.

10. Assisting People With Autism

The UK National Health Service (NHS) has partnered with a New Zealand-based virtual reality firm called oVRcome to help people on the autism spectrum navigate hospital environments and social interactions. Their pilot program will immerse autistic individuals in virtual environments, exposing them to simulated hospital environments and social settings. The program intends to empower autistic individuals and reduce the number of times they cancel their hospital appointments.

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