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Google Is Teaching A.I. How to Travel Through Cities Like a Human

Navigating familiar areas like the streets of your childhood neighborhood is less about carrying around a map and more about remembering what’s around the corner. This comes almost naturally to humans and animals, but can a computer learn to walk the streets of New York City the same way? Google thinks so.

A team of computer scientists at the tech company’s artificial intelligence wing, DeepMind, have developed an A.I. that can travel city streets by simply exploring them on foot. The group exclusively used images from Google Street View to turn their A.I. into a bonafide city slicker by just setting it loose in picture renditions of cities like Paris, London, and NYC.

“The task of navigation can be solved by answering two questions,” Piotr Mirowski, first author of this research, tells Inverse. “Where are you? And how do you get to where you want to go? This can be a child walking in a neighborhood without a smartphone, a bird learning to fly back to its nest, or a robot. So there’s room to get inspired by real life.”

Five areas of Manhattan used in this study.

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Mirowski and his colleagues explain how they were the first to teach an A.I. to cruise through cities around the world without using map or GPS data in a paper published by the Cornell University Library. While this human-like computer vision technique still isn’t ready for real-world application, it could see uses in aiding self-driving cars navigate areas without reliable map data.

This research made use of neural networks, or artificial replicas of the human brain. These electronic craniums start off like completely clueless tourists, getting lost in bustling city streets, but soon become experts in urban travel after a few million trials.

“We train the neural network to navigate through Central Park, the West Village, Midtown, and Harlem,” says Mirowski. “It is able to memorize a map of the environment without ever seeing a map of the environment. It does this by exploring the area at random in the beginning, but then it receives a reward after getting to a destination. It’s establishing a connection with that [reward] signal and its perception.”

Our agent navigates in visually diverse environments, without having access to the map of the environment.

While Mirowski and his team have successfully trained an A.I. almost exactly like a human, there are still some kinks to be worked out. The system needs to be completely retrained every time it’s dropped into a new city, which is keeping it from seeing real-time implementation.

So once the team is able to figure out how to carry the navigational skills the computer learned in one city to other cities, this could become an extremely simple way to train smart cars, drones, and other devices.

Neuralink: Will Martians Control Teslas With Their Mind? Elon Musk Responds

A Martian colony could use mind control to wire into the internet.

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s brain-computer linkup venture, has sparked fans’ imaginations. Martians controlling Teslas, anyone?

The ambitious business plan, detailed in a San Francisco presentation Tuesday evening, involves implanting a chip with 1,024 ultra-thin electrodes to interact with a user’s brain. Four of them could be used as early as next year for medical patients in clinical trials, enabling them to interact with a computer and potentially control other devices.

Neuralink: 6 Things We Learned From Elon Musk's Brain-Powered Reveal

The machine linkup could pave the way for safer A.I.

Neuralink, Elon Musk’s ambitious project to wire up the brain to computers, stepped out of the shadows Tuesday evening.

In a detail-laden presentation at the California Academy of Sciences’ Morrison Planetarium, the tech entrepreneur explained how his foray into brain-machine interfaces could pave the way for a symbiotic relationship with artificial intelligence.

PS5: Patent Filings Detail Sony's Plan to Make a Breakthrough VR Headset

Sony has groundbreaking VR plans in its future.

Virtual reality has been a fixture of the PlayStation 4 since Sony launched PlayStation VR in 2016, whose hardware attachments let gamers transform their console into full-fledged VR rigs. Rumor has it that, VR-wise, the PS 5 will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps.

Sony has already confirmed that its next-generation console will be compatible with current PSVR hardware, but it’s also clear that the entertainment giant has much bigger plans for VR further down the line.

Nintendo Switch vs. Switch Lite: Release Date, Pros and Cons, Which to Get

Two consoles for two distinct types of gamers. 

Two years after the first Nintendo Switch, the Japanese gaming giant unveiled the next chapter for its widely popular hybrid console. The Switch Lite, announced Wednesday, will fall somewhere between the original gaming system and its 2013 Nintendo 2DS, giving shoppers not one, but two Switches to choose from during the holiday spending season.

PS5: Price, Release Date, Specs, and Features for Sony's VR-Ready War Horse

Console gaming will reach heights never though possible.

The current generation of consoles is about to pass the torch. Sony has already revealed a great deal about the war horse it will ride into battle against the Xbox Scarlett consoles. The PlayStation 5 will tout PC-caliber graphics capabilities, and possibly come with a wireless virtual reality headset to take console gaming to new heights. But many crucial details about the PS5 remain unclear.