Weekly Roundup: Chrome uses AI to describe images to blind users and more

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Artificial Intelligence is without a doubt on the hot topics in the tech world so it can be hard to keep up with all the latest trends. Alldus has you covered with the latest stories from the world of AI and Data Science.

Spark Cognition raises $100M in C-series funding

The Austin based AI technology startup announced that it had raised over $100M in funding this week. With this round, SparkCognition has raised a total of $175 million since it was founded in 2013. This last round was raised at a valuation of more than $725 million, according to Pitchbook.

Founded by Amir Husain in 2013, SparkCognition aims to provide businesses ranging from energy, oil and gas to finance and aerospace with cybersecurity and machine learning technology.

The company plans to use the new capital to invest in growing its research group, continuing to expand globally, and in building out an integration facility near its home base of Austin, according to Husain.

National Science Foundation sets aside $200M For AI research

The program will focus on funding “larger-scale, longer-term research”. Over half of it - about $120m - will go towards planning grants and be given to up to six research hubs in academia, industries, and nonprofit groups.

Here are some of the areas the NSF is interested in:

  • Trustworthy AI
  • Foundations of Machine Learning
  • AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System
  • AI-Augmented Learning
  • AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing
  • AI for Discovery in Physics

New Chrome feature will describe images to its users who are blind or have low vision

The new feature utilises Machine Learning to offer users text descriptions of images. It is based on the same technology which lets users search for images by keyword, and the description of the image is auto-generated.

"The unfortunate state right now is that there are still millions and millions of unlabeled images across the web," said Laura Allen, a senior program manager on the Chrome accessibility team. 

Laura Allen, who understands the problem as she has low-vision herself.

The feature is available only for users with screen readers that output spoken feedback or Braille. The images descriptions will be read by the screen reader, but will not appear visually on the screen.

Brazil to create massive biometric database that will store the data of all 200M of its citizens

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has signed a decree to create a single database containing personal information on all 200 million of the country's citizens. Somewhat embarrassingly, the news comes only a week after a leaked dataset of 92 million records was auctioned on the dark web.

Initially, this database would hold more commonly captured information, such as names, date of birth, social security numbers and addresses. But in a second stage, more sensitive data would be added including fingerprints, facial scans, irises, voices and gait.

Consortium to develop a common computing platform for autonomous vehicles. 

The group includes automakers General Motors and Toyota, suppliers Robert Bosch, Continental and Denso, as well as chipmakers Nvidia, NXP and Arm.

The Autonomous Vehicle Computing Consortium (AVCC), which wants to work together to speed up the delivery of driverless-car technology, will start out by developing a set of recommendations for a joint system architecture and computing platform. That will allow scalable deployment of automated and autonomous vehicles, the group hopes.

The initiative was announced last week against a backdrop of growing worries over slower global new-car sales and rising R&D costs. Automakers and suppliers are particularly worried that the core elements of today’s auto-industry transformation – electric mobility and autonomous driving – will require huge investments that won’t yield returns for decades to come.

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