this week

Eric Schmidt: The US Risks Falling Behind China in AI

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google owner Alphabet, has warned that the US is at serious risk of falling behind China in the development of AI, with significant implications for both commercial and military interests. Part of the problem, he says, is that many of the world's best AI experts cannot get US visas due to their nationalities.

Source: The Verge

BMW Promises Fully Self-Driving Cars by 2021

Car maker BMW has said that it is on track to deliver a vehicle with level 5 automation - a fully driverless car - by 2021. The car would be able to make all driving decisions itself, removing the need for human drivers. However, the company is unlikely to make the car commercially available for several years due to legal issues.

Source: Automotive News

Smartphones Are Changing Brains: Neuroscientists

The frequency of smartphone use is changing the shape and structure of our brains, particular among children, according to neuroscientists. Studies have found that there is now a clear difference between children's brains now and 10 or 20 years ago, leading to predictions that technology will future change the brains of future generations.

Source: NBC

Genetic Engineering Could Protect Galapagos Fauna from Extinction

The unique biodiversity of the Galapagos is under threat, with a host of species at risk of extinction at the hands of invasive newcomers. Genetic engineering could be the answer, allowing the activities of interlopers to be stemmed without resorting to poison. However, there are serious ethical and practical concerns to consider.

Sensors Used to Find Previously Undiscovered Void in Great Pyramid

A previously unknown cavity, spanning 30m, has been found in the Great Pyramid of Giza, using sensors designed to detect particles known as muons. The first major structure found in the pyramid since Victorian times, the cavity sits above the grand gallery, and may be a formerly undiscovered chamber or just play a structural role.

Source: The Guardian

AI Lawyer Outperforms Humans in Legal Competition

A content between AI lawyer Case Cruncher Alpha and legal professionals from some of London's biggest firms saw the software come out on top. Both the humans and the AI were tasked with predicting the outcome of hundreds of insurance mis-selling cases, with the AI getting an accuracy of 86.6% compared to the human's 66.3%.

Source: BBC

Scientists implant device to boost human memory

Scientists have enhanced human memory for the first time with a “memory prosthesis” brain implant. The team behind the device say it can boost performance on memory tests by up to 30%, and a similar approach may work for enhancing other brain skills, such as vision or movement.

Source: New Scientist

Astronomers discover Earth-sized world 11 light years away

A planet, Ross 128 b, has been discovered in orbit around a red dwarf star just 11 light years from the Sun. The planet is 35% more massive than Earth, and it likely exists at the edge of the small, relatively faint star's habitable zone even though it is 20 times closer to its star than the Earth is to the Sun.

Source: Ars Technica

An algorithm can see what you've learned before going to sleep

Researcher fed the brain activity from sleeping subjects to a machine learning algorithm, and it was able to determine what the subject had learned before falling asleep. In other words, an algorithm was able to effectively ‘read’ electrical activity from sleeping brains and determine what they were memorising as a result.

Source: Motherboard

Elon Musk unveils Tesla Truck and Tesla Roadster

Elon Musk has unveiled the long-anticipated 'Tesla Semi' – the company's first electric articulated lorry. The vehicle has a range of 500 miles on a single charge, and will go into production in 2019. Unexpectedly, Tesla also revealed a new Roadster, which will have a range of close to 1,000km (620 miles) on a single charge and will do 0-100mph in 4.2 seconds.

Source: BBC

Arrivo plans to build 200mph hyperloop-lite track

Arrivo, the company founded by former Hyperloop One engineer Brogan BamBrogan, has announced a partnership with Colorado’s Department of Transportation. Arrivo will now build a magnetised track to transport existing vehicles, cargo sleds and specially designed vehicles alongside preexisting freeways at 200mph in the city of Denver.

Source: The Verge

Boston Dynamics' Atlas robot can now do backflips

It's been a busy week for Boston Dynamics, first the company revealed it SpotMini robot dog was getting an upgrade, and now the company has shared a video of its Atlas humanoid robot leaping from platforms and doing a backflip. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but it's not easy to make a robot do a backflip, so how Boston Dynamics has managed it is anyone's guess.

Source: WIRED

The all new Factor Magazine is here – your guide to how today, tomorrow and beyond are being shaped

Guess who’s back, back again.

It’s been a few months, but Factor has returned with a bigger and better format, bringing the same future news and discussion, but on a platform that you can read on any device.

We’ve been working towards this for a long, long time: this is how we’ve always wanted the magazine to look, and we’re so happy to share this with you. It can be viewed on any web browser, on anything from a mobile to a monster PC, and if you’re on a desktop or laptop, click the button in the bottom right-hand corner for the ultimate shiny reading experience. A digital magazine has never looked this good. Probably.

Unfortunately that means no more iPad app, but as you can easily read the magazine from an iPad web browser, we hope you’ll agree that what we’ve gained is so much better than what’s been lost.

So anyway, here it is: the Winter 2017 issue of Factor, the first issue of the quarterly version of the magazine.

In case any of you are worrying about us publishing the magazine quarterly, trust us you don’t need to. We’ve produced the biggest issue of Factor ever, so packed with futuristic awesomeness, that we’ve had to divide it into three sections: Today, Tomorrow and Beyond.

Today deals with the futuristic present, as much of what we think of as ‘the future’ already exists today. We look at how humanoid robots are being employed as co-workers, hear from the legendary Richard Stallman about the vanishing state of privacy and discover how automation is already taking jobs. Plus, we take a light hearted look at the futuristic world of Mr Tesla, Elon Musk, and provide our festive present suggestions in a bumper futuristic gift guide.

Moving on to Tomorrow, and it’s all about the world of the next few decades, as technologies that are in development now reach fruition and seep into our everyday lives. We consider how flying cars are inching towards reality, with a look at both Lilium and the newly announced UberAir, and find out how driverless delivery may be the first true instance of the self-driving future.  Plus, we also look at the Christmas dinners of the future, because why the hell not.

Finally, in Beyond we look at the way-out future that many of us probably won’t live to see, but is supremely cool to think about. We ask leading futurists to predict what’s in store in the 22nd century – not the most positive of pictures, unfortunately – and consider what jobs will remain in a post-automation world. Plus, we look at the potential first homes of the human race beyond the solar system, and check out how asteroid mining is set to shape off-earth development.

Take a look, and if you like what you see and read, please share the magazine with your friends, or tell us what you think. This is a completely free magazine, with not an ad in sight, so it’s always good to know that it’s worth the effort.