IoT weekly round-up: Thursday 17th August 2017

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Welcome to the IoT weekly round-up – your link to the latest from the connected world. This week, customers in Canada and the U.S. can use Google Home to make phone calls, Microsoft’s been testing autonomous gliders, and machine learning could help unearth new species of plant life from among centuries of unclassified data.

Google acquires Fabby app makers AIMatter

Google has got its hands on AIMatter – a startup that has created a neural network AI platform to see and process images, which it then uses to run programs. The Belarus company has also built an app for photo and video editing, so that users can apply masks, backgrounds, colour-swaps and other creative wizardry to their photos. Early information about the deal suggests that most of AIMatter’s employees will move over to Google, though it’s not clear whether that will mean they have to relocate.

Will the new iPhone be an augmented reality device?

Those who are prepared to do a little digging into the Maps app package on iOS 11 may find clues that suggest the iPhone will soon make a decent augmented reality device. A mysterious 3D arrow, coupled with code that tells walkers in search of directions to position their phone in front of their face, suggests something more interesting than the usual turn-by-turn direction capabilities. The new iPhone ships in September, so we’ll have to wait and see.

You can make calls for free using Google Home

Good news for telephone bill payers in the U.S. and Canada – as of this week, you can now make free phone calls through Google Home. Conveniently, you don’t need to know the phone number of the place you’re ringing – just ask to call the café round the corner and Google Home will do the rest. You can link your contacts so that it knows who you mean when you say, ‘OK Google, call Benny’, and if you’ve voice recognition set up, it will be able to differentiate between your contacts and those of another member of the household.

Microsoft tests autonomous gliders

Microsoft has been testing autonomous, lightweight gliders in the Nevada desert to see how un-manned aircraft cope with uncertain conditions to remain flying. The gliders need very little power, can track upward hot air currents and even predict where they’re going to go next, enabling them to adjust their position to stay airborne as long as possible. The record so far is over five hours – showing that the gliders are reasonably adept at dealing with uncertainty, and making accurate predictions as to the location of the next hot air current.

OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot is still belle of the ball

AI bots are still leading the way when it comes to Dota 2 games. OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot beat the world’s top pros in one-on-one battles on Thursday night, retaining its title as undefeated champion. OpenAI researcher Jakub Pachoki explained that, rather than hard-coding any strategy, the bot had learned by playing against a duplicate of itself, making tiny improvements with each new match.

Deep learning could discover new species of plant from centuries of data

Machine learning has a new application: discoverer of new plant species. Researchers from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology and the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development have been applying this technology to vast backlogs of plant samples, to help identify and digitize some 350 million specimens. Sifting through the plethora of flora data in order to find new species would be prohibitively time-consuming for human researchers, but more easily achievable for a deep learning system. We shall see what the results will bring.

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