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This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

How the quest to type Chinese on a QWERTY keyboard created autocomplete

—This is an excerpt from The Chinese Computer: A Global History of the Information Age by Thomas S. Mullaney, published on May 28 by The MIT Press. It has been lightly edited.

When a young Chinese man sat down at his QWERTY keyboard in 2013 and rattled off an enigmatic string of letters and numbers, his forty-four keystrokes marked the first steps in a process known as “input” or shuru.

Shuru is the act of getting Chinese characters to appear on a computer monitor or other digital device using a QWERTY keyboard or trackpad.

The young man, Huang Zhenyu, was one of around 60 contestants in the 2013 National Chinese Characters Typing Competition. His keyboard did not permit him to enter these characters directly, however, and so he entered the quasi-gibberish string of letters and numbers instead: ymiw2klt4pwyy1wdy6…

But Zhenyu’s prizewinning performance wasn’t solely noteworthy for his impressive typing speed—one of the fastest ever recorded. It was also premised on the same kind of “additional steps” as the first Chinese computer in history that led to the discovery of autocompletion. Read the rest of the excerpt here.

If you’re interested in tech in China, why not check out some of our China reporter Zeyi Yang’s recent reporting (and subscribe to his weekly newsletter China Report!)

GPT-4o’s Chinese token-training data is polluted by spam and porn websites. The problem, which is likely due to inadequate data cleaning, could lead to hallucinations, poor performance, and misuse. Read the full story.

+ Why Hong Kong is targeting Western Big Tech companies in its ban of a popular protest song.

Deepfakes of your dead loved ones are a booming Chinese business. People are seeking help from AI-generated avatars to process their grief after a family member passes away. Read the full story.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Election officials want to pre-bunk harmful online campaigns
It’s a bid to prevent political hoaxes from ever getting off the ground. (WP $)
Fake news verification tools are failing in India. (Rest of World)
Three technology trends shaping 2024’s elections. (MIT Technology Review)

2OpenAI has started training the successor to GPT-4
Just weeks after it revealed an updated version, GPT-4o. (NYT $)
OpenAI’s new GPT-4o lets people interact using voice or video in the same model. (MIT Technology Review)

3 China is bolstering its national semiconductor fund
To the tune of $48 billion. (WSJ $)
It’s the third round of the country’s native chip funding program. (FT $)
What’s next in chips. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Nuclear plants are extremely expensive to build
The US needs to learn how to cut costs without cutting corners. (The Atlantic $)
How to reopen a nuclear power plant. (MIT Technology Review)

5 Laser systems could be the best line of defense against military drones
The Pentagon is investing in BlueHalo’s AI-powered laser technology. (Insider $)
The US military is also pumping money into Palmer Luckey’s Anduril. (Wired $)
Inside the messy ethics of making war with machines. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Klarna’s marketing campaigns are the product of generative AI
The fintech firm claims the technology will save it $10 million a year. (Reuters)

7 The US has an EV charging problem
Would-be car buyers are still nervous about investing in EVs. (Wired $)
Micro-EVs could offer one solution. (Ars Technica)
Toyota has unveiled new engines compatible with alternative fuels. (Reuters)

8 Good luck betting on anything that’s not sports in the US
The outcome of a major election, for example. (Vox)
How mobile money supercharged Kenya’s sports betting addiction. (MIT Technology Review)

9 Perfectionist parents are Facetuning their children
It goes without saying: don’t do this. (NY Mag $)

10 Why a movie version of The Sims never got off the ground
The beloved video game would make for a seriously weird cinema spectacle. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“Once materialism starts spreading, it can have a bad influence on teenagers.”

—Chinese state media Beijing News explains why China has started cracking down on luxurious influencers known for their ostentatious displays of wealth, the Financial Times reports.

The big story

Recapturing early internet whimsy with HTML

Screenshot 2023 12 14 223914 1

December 2023

Websites

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: autocorrect’s surprising origins, and how to pre-bunk electoral misinformation
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/05/28/1092902/the-download-autocorrects-surprising-origins-and-how-to-pre-bunk-electoral-misinformation/
Published Date: Tue, 28 May 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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The return of pneumatic tubes

2CTK80D scaled

Pneumatic tubes were touted as something that would revolutionize the world. In science fiction, they were envisioned as a fundamental part of the future—even in dystopias like George Orwell’s 1984, where the main character, Winston Smith, sits in a room peppered with pneumatic tubes that spit out orders for him to alter previously published news stories and historical records to fit the ruling party’s changing narrative.

Doctor holding pneumatic tube carrier while standing in pharmacy
Abandoned by most industries at midcentury, pneumatic tube systems have become ubiquitous in hospitals.ALAMY

In real life, the tubes were expected to transform several industries in the late 19th century through the mid-20th. “The possibilities of compressed air are not fully realized in this country,” declared an 1890 article in the New York Tribune. “The pneumatic tube system of communication is, of course, in use in many of the downtown stores, in newspaper offices […] but there exists a great deal of ignorance about the use of compressed air, even among engineering experts.”

Pneumatic tube technology involves moving a cylindrical carrier or capsule through a series of tubes with the aid of a blower that pushes or pulls it into motion. For a while, the United States took up the systems with gusto. Retail stores and banks were especially interested in their potential to move money more efficiently: “Besides this saving of time to the customer the store is relieved of all the annoying bustle and confusion of boys running for cash on the various retail floors,” one 1882 article in the Boston Globe reported. The benefit to the owner, of course, was reduced labor costs, with tube manufacturers claiming that stores would see a return on their investment within a year.

“The motto of the company is to substitute machines for men and for children as carriers, in every possible way,” a 1914 Boston Globe article said about Lamson Service, one of the largest proprietors of tubes at the time, adding, “[President] Emeritus Charles W. Eliot of Harvard says: ‘No man should be employed at a task which a machine can perform,’ and the Lamson Company supplements that statement by this: ‘Because it doesn’t pay.’”

By 1912, Lamson had over 60,000 customers globally in sectors including retail, banks, insurance offices, courtrooms, libraries, hotels, and industrial plants. The postal service in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York also used tubes to deliver the mail, with at least 45 miles of Lamson tubing in place by 1912.

On the transportation front, New York City’s first attempt at a subway system, in 1870, also ran on a pneumatic system, and the idea of using tubes to move people continues to beguile innovators to this day. (See Elon Musk’s largely abandoned Hyperloop concept of the 2010s.)

But by the mid to late 20th century, use of the technology had largely fallen by the wayside. It had become cheaper to transport mail by truck than by tube, and as transactions moved to credit cards, there was less demand to make change for cash payments. Electrical rail won out over compressed air, paper records and files disappeared in the wake of digitization, and tubes at bank drive-throughs started being replaced by ATMs, while only a fraction of pharmacies used them for their own such services. Pneumatic tube technology became virtually obsolete.

Except in hospitals.

“A pneumatic tube system today for a new hospital that’s being built is ubiquitous. It’s like putting a washing machine or a central AC system in a new home. It just makes too much sense to not do it,” says Cory Kwarta, CEO of Swisslog Healthcare, a corporation that—under its TransLogic company—has provided pneumatic tube systems in health-care facilities for over 50 years. And while the sophistication of these systems has changed over time, the fundamental technology of using pneumatic force to move a capsule from one destination to another has remained the same.

By the turn of the 20th century,

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By: Vanessa Armstrong
Title: The return of pneumatic tubes
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/19/1093446/pneumatic-tubes-hospitals/
Published Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

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The Download: video-generating AI, and Meta’s voice cloning watermarks

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology

I tested out a buzzy new text-to-video AI model from China

You may not be familiar with Kuaishou, but this Chinese company just hit a major milestone: It’s released the first ever text-to-video generative AI model that’s freely available for the public to test.

The short-video platform, which has over 600 million active users, announced the new tool, called Kling, on June 6. Like OpenAI’s Sora model, Kling is able to generate videos up to two minutes long from prompts.

But unlike Sora, which still remains inaccessible to the public four months after OpenAI debuted it, Kling has already started letting people try the model themselves. Zeyi Yang, our China reporter, has been putting it through its paces. Here’s what he made of it.

This story is from China Report, our weekly newsletter covering tech in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

Meta has created a way to watermark AI-generated speech

The news: Meta has created a system that can embed hidden signals, known as watermarks, in AI-generated audio clips, which could help in detecting AI-generated content online.

Why it matters: The tool, called AudioSeal, is the first that can pinpoint which bits of audio in, for example, a full hour-long podcast might have been generated by AI. It could help to tackle the growing problem of misinformation and scams using voice cloning tools. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

The return of pneumatic tubes

Pneumatic tubes were once touted as something that would revolutionize the world. In science fiction, they were envisioned as a fundamental part of the future—even in dystopias like George Orwell’s 1984, where they help to deliver orders for the main character, Winston Smith, in his job rewriting history to fit the ruling party’s changing narrative. 

In real life, the tubes were expected to transform several industries in the late 19th century through the mid-20th. The technology involves moving a cylindrical carrier or capsule through a series of tubes with the aid of a blower that pushes or pulls it into motion, and for a while, the United States took up the systems with gusto.

But by the mid to late 20th century, use of the technology had largely fallen by the wayside, and pneumatic tube technology became virtually obsolete. Except in hospitals. Read the full story.

—Vanessa Armstrong

This story is from the forthcoming print issue of MIT Technology Review, which explores the theme of Play. It’s set to go live on Wednesday June 26, so if you don’t already, subscribe now to get a copy when it lands.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Nvidia has become the world’s most valuable company 
Leapfrogging Microsoft and Apple thanks to the AI boom. (BBC)
Nvidia’s meteoric rise echoes the dot com boom. (WSJ $)
CEO Jensen Huang is now one of the richest people in the world. (Forbes)
The firm is worth more than China’s entire agricultural industry. (NY Mag $)
What’s next in chips. (MIT Technology Review)

2 TikTok is introducing AI avatars for ads
Which seems like a slippery slope. (404 Media)
India’s farmers are getting their news from AI news anchors. (Bloomberg $)
Deepfakes of Chinese influencers are livestreaming 24/7. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will stay in space for a little longer
Officials need to troubleshoot some issues before it can head back to Earth. (WP $)

4STEM students are refusing to work at Amazon and Google
Until the companies end their involvement with Project Nimbus. (Wired $)

5 Google isn’t what it used to be
But is Reddit really a viable alternative? (WSJ $)
Why Google’s AI Overviews gets things wrong. (MIT Technology Review)

6 A security bug allows anyone to impersonate Microsoft corporate email accounts
It’s making it harder to spot phishing attacks. (TechCrunch)

7 How deep sea exploration has changed since the Titan disaster
Robots are taking humans’ place to plumb the depths. (NYT $)
Meet the divers trying to figure out how deep humans can go. (MIT Technology Review)

8 How the free streaming service Tubi took over the US
Its secret weapon? Old movies.(The Guardian)

9 A new AI video tool instantly started ripping off Disney
Raising some serious questions about what the model had been trained on. (The Verge)
What’s next for generative video. (MIT Technology Review)

10 Apple appears to have paused work on the next Vision Pro
Things aren’t looking too bright for the high-end headset. (The Information $)
These minuscule pixels are poised to take augmented reality by

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By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: video-generating AI, and Meta’s voice cloning watermarks
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/19/1094041/the-download-video-generating-ai-and-metas-voice-cloning-watermarks/
Published Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2024 12:10:00 +0000

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Scaling green hydrogen technology for the future

Thyssenkrupp Nucera green

Unlike conventional energy sources, green hydrogen offers a way to store and transfer energy without emitting harmful pollutants, positioning it as essential to a sustainable and net-zero future. By converting electrical power from renewable sources into green hydrogen, these low-carbon-intensity energy storage systems can release clean, efficient power on demand through combustion engines or fuel cells. When produced emission-free, hydrogen can decarbonize some of the most challenging industrial sectors, such as steel and cement production, industrial processes, and maritime transport.

Thyssenkrupp Nucera green hydrogen 1200px 1

“Green hydrogen is the key driver to advance decarbonization,” says Dr. Christoph Noeres, head of green hydrogen at global electrolysis specialist thyssenkrupp nucera. This promising low-carbon-intensity technology has the potential to transform entire industries by providing a clean, renewable fuel source, moving us toward a greener world aligned with industry climate goals.

ccelerating production of green hydrogen

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, and its availability is key to its appeal as a clean energy source. However, hydrogen does not occur naturally in its pure form; it is always bound to other elements in compounds like water (H2O). Pure hydrogen is extracted and isolated from water through an energy-intensive process called conventional electrolysis.

Hydrogen is typically produced today via steam-methane reforming, in which high-temperature steam is used to produce hydrogen from natural gas. Emissions produced by this process have implications for hydrogen’s overall carbon footprint: worldwide hydrogen production is currently responsible for as many CO2 emissions as the United Kingdom and Indonesia combined.

A solution lies in green hydrogen—hydrogen produced using electrolysis powered by renewable sources. This unlocks the benefits of hydrogen without the dirty fuels. Unfortunately, very little hydrogen is currently powered by renewables: less than 1% came from non-fossil fuel sources in 2022.

A massive scale-up is underway. According to McKinsey, an estimated 130 to 345 gigawatts (GW) of electrolyzer capacity will be necessary to meet the green hydrogen demand by 2030, with 246 GW of this capacity already announced. This stands in stark contrast to the current installed base of just 1.1 GW. Notably, to ensure that green hydrogen constitutes at least 14% of total energy consumption by 2050, a target that the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimates is required to meet climate goals, 5,500 GW of cumulative installed electrolyzer capacity will be required.

However, scaling up green hydrogen production to these levels requires overcoming cost and infrastructure constraints. Becoming cost-competitive means improving and standardizing the technology, harnessing the scale efficiencies of larger projects, and encouraging government action to create market incentives. Moreover, the expansion of renewable energy in regions with significant solar, hydro, or wind energy potential is another crucial factor in lowering renewable power prices and, consequently, the costs of green hydrogen.

Electrolysis innovation

While electrolysis technologies have existed for decades, scaling them up to meet the demand for clean energy will be essential. Alkaline Water Electrolysis (AWE), the most dominant and developed electrolysis method, is poised for this transition. It has been utilized for decades, demonstrating efficiency and reliability in the chemical industry. Moreover, it is more cost effective than other electrolysis technologies and is well suited to be run directly with fluctuating renewable power input. Especially for large-scale applications, AWE demonstrates significant advantages in terms of investment and operating costs. “Transferring small-scale manufacturing and optimizing it towards mass manufacturing will need a high level of investment across the industry,” says Noeres.

Industries that already practice electrolysis, as well as those that already use hydrogen, such as fertilizer production, are well poised for conversion to green hydrogen. For example, thyssenkrupp nucera benefits from a decades-long heritage using electrolyzer technology in the

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By: MIT Technology Review Insights
Title: Scaling green hydrogen technology for the future
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/18/1092956/scaling-green-hydrogen-technology-for-the-future/
Published Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2024 14:00:00 +0000

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