Virtual bot speaking
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Bots Don’t Need Social Distancing

A chatbot is providing companionship for the locked-down and lonely. Downloads of Replika, a chatbot designed to be a virtual friend, have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, reports the New York Times.
Apple watch with countdown
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The AI of Small Things

Some tech companies boast that their AI will change the world. Apple’s latest just aims to make your life a little easier. Apple unveiled a flock of modest conveniences powered by machine learning at its annual developer conference.
Illustration of a broken heart with a smirk in the middle
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Outing Hidden Hatred: Facebook uses NLP and Vision AI to Detect Hateful Posts

Facebook uses automated systems to block hate speech, but hateful posts can slip through when seemingly benign words and pictures combine to create a nasty message. The social network is tackling this problem by enhancing AI’s ability to recognize context.
Illustration of two translators on a scale
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Choosing Words Carefully: NLP for Translation Chooses the Right Synonym

The words “big” and “large” have similar meanings, but they aren’t always interchangeable: You wouldn’t refer to an older, male sibling as your “large brother” (unless you meant to be cheeky). Choosing among words with similar meanings is critical in language tasks like translation.
Illustration of a doctor and a nurse
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Gender Bender

AI learns human biases: In word vector space, “man is to computer programmer as woman is to homemaker,” as one paper put it. New research helps language models unlearn such prejudices.
Talking bubbles inside talking bubbles
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Bigger is Better

Natural language processing lately has come to resemble an arms race, as the big AI companies build models that encompass ever larger numbers of parameters. Microsoft recently held the record — but not for long.
Illustration of two people talking with a typo
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Found in Translation

Language models can’t correct your misspellings or suggest the next word in a text without knowing what language you’re using. For instance, if you type “tac-,” are you aiming for “taco,” a hand-held meal in Spanish, or “taca,” a crown in Turkish?
Data related to methods for curating news feeds
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Algorithms Choose the News

Machines took another step toward doing the work of journalists. Microsoft laid off dozens of human editors who select articles for the MSN news service and app. Going forward, AI will do the job.
Screen captures from videos generated by VidPress
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Text to Video in Two Minutes

Will reading soon become obsolete? A new system converts text articles into videos. VidPress, a prototype project from Chinese tech giant Baidu, currently generates more than 1,000 narrated video summaries of news stories daily.
Generative BST example and graph
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Big Bot Makes Small Talk

Facebook recently rolled out its entry in the World’s Biggest Chatbot sweepstakes. In keeping with the company’s social-networking dominance, the bot is designed to excel at chitchat on any subject.
A chatbot called Meena and a graph comparing it with other chatbot services
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Toward Open-Domain Chatbots: Meena Scores High on System for Grading NLP Chatbots

Progress in language models is spawning a new breed of chatbots and, unlike their narrow-domain forebears, they have the gift of gab. Recent research tests the limits of conversational AI.
Animated drawing of hardware related to AI
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Horsepower for Next-Gen Networks

The for-profit research organization OpenAI has a new supercomputer to help achieve its dream of building the world’s most sophisticated AI. Microsoft engineered the new hardware network to train immense models on thousands of images, texts, and videos simultaneously.
Supermarket empty shelves
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New Behaviors Derail Old Training

The pandemic has radically altered online shopping behavior, throwing a wrench into many AI systems. AI inventory trackers, recommendation algorithms, and fraud detection systems trained on pre-pandemic consumer behavior have been flummoxed by the different ways people now browse, binge, and buy.
Information and examples of CheXbert, a network that labels chest X-rays
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Human-Level X-Ray Diagnosis

Like nurses who can’t decipher a doctor’s handwriting, machine learning models can’t decipher medical scans — without labels. Conveniently, natural language models can read medical records to extract labels for X-ray images.
False information about Covid-19 on Facebook posts
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Information Warfare: Covid Edition

Facebook’s AI can’t spot Covid-19 disinformation on its own. But with human help, it can slow the spread. Facebook uses a combination of humans and neural nets to crack down on messages that make false claims about Covid-19, which may have deadly consequences.

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