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New science magazine INGENUITY launched

Featured image above: At the launch of INGENUITY with UNSW Dean of Engineering Mark Hoffman, Refraction Media cofounders Karen Taylor-Brown and Heather Catchpole, and UNSW Engineering’s senior communications advisor Wilson da Silva

INGENUITY, a new science magazine focusing on the frontiers of engineering research at UNSW and with a global distribution, was launched on Tuesday by UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, Mark Hoffman.

“We are, without question, a powerhouse of engineering research in Australia,” said Hoffman. “With nine schools, 32 research centres and participating or leading 10 Cooperative Research Centres, we do truly amazing research – among the world’s best. And we work with more than 500 partners in industry and government to bring the fruits of that research to society.

“We have capacity to do more, as many potential research partners in Australia and overseas are not necessarily aware of the breadth and depth of what we do,” he added. “If we are to have the greatest impact in the world at large, as a university and as engineers, we need to get our research out to the world.  And the creation of INGENUITY is part of that effort.”

Hoffman said the magazine was one of a number of initiatives UNSW Engineering is pursuing to enhance the Faculty’s global impact and its academic and research excellence.

“In May, we hosted the first Ingenuity Fellow, a journalist-in-residence program for overseas science journalists. Our inaugural recipient was Rebecca Morelle, global science correspondent for BBC News in London, and she spent three weeks on-campus meeting some of our best minds and most impressive innovators. And last month, we held a sold-out public event with Peter Norvig, Research Director at Google, talking about Google’s approach to artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“We mean to not just be the leading engineering faculty in the country but, in a global industry, to be seen as one of the great engineering faculties of the world,” he concluded.

Through engaging storytelling by some of the country’s finest science writers, stylish design and beautiful photography, INGENUITY will bring to life the Faculty’s work in areas like quantum computing, bionic vision, solar energy, water and city environments, artificial intelligence, biomedical instrumentation, robotics, advanced polymers, space research, materials and membranes, cyber security and sustainable design.

The free magazine is being distributed to senior executives of Australia’s largest corporations, federal and state parliamentarians and senior government officials, scientific and industry collaborators of UNSW’s Faculty of Engineering globally, as well as science and technology journalists worldwide. The print edition is also being distributed to Australian embassies and trade offices overseas, and at the biennial World Conference of Science Journalists and the Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The magazine is produced by specialist custom publishing house Refraction Media, whose clients include Google, the CRC Association, the Office to the Chief Scientist and ANSTO, and who was named Best Small Publisher in 2015 at the annual Publish Awards.

“Quality long-form journalism in science and technology is hard to come by in Australia,” said Wilson da Silva, the faculty’s senior communications advisor and former editor-in-chief of COSMOS magazine, which he co-founded with Alan Finkel, now Australia’s Chief Scientist. “There’s a wealth of great research stories to tell at UNSW, and we hope that everyone, including the general public, will enjoy the quality writing in INGENUITY and the great stories of Australian research excellence it has to tell.”

How to receive INGENUITY:

This information was first shared by UNSW Engineering on 5 July 2017. 

Why digital disruption will create your next career

Like many of you I am waiting for digital disruption to make my job redundant so I can lean out, reclaim my work-life balance and let the robots do the rest.

As a journalist, my first thought was to see how digital disruption could work for me, so I looked for an artificial intelligence that could write this article for me (it couldn’t). But it came scarily close.

While so-called artificially intelligent chatbots are at best frustrating, programs such as Wordsmith can take sets of data and generate various articles based on simple coding of parameters, while stuffing a few synonyms in to sound like a genuine journalist.

Last week, an inaccurate post titled ‘The Trump Effect: It’s Happening Already!!’ went viral, and Facebook announced it would instigate third party fact checking to crack down on fake news. Imagine a world where AI could both check the accuracy of posts, but also one in which AI could generate endless streams of viral click bait.

Need a meeting? Download an artificial assistant like Amy from x.ai to contact your clients directly and discuss suitable times. All you do is turn up.

Fancy a bite to eat? Before long autonomous vehicles will be at your beck and call to escort you to your favourite restaurant or deliver a much-loved takeaway.

Work in a construction trade or manufacturing? Robotics and 3D printing can download, print and stack your bricks, scaffolds and planking, twist your toothpaste caps on and sort quality from flawed product.

What about a highly-paid, precision career such as surgery? Google is already working with Johnson and Johnson’s medical device company Ethicon on the next generation of surgical robots – research that is based on Google’s work in autonomous cars.

Chances are if you teach and/or work in academic research, you’ll already be aware of the possibilities of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and their potential for disrupting the way we learn, and allow access to our institutions. In four years, MOOCs have gone from zero to over 4,000 courses reaching around 35 million students.

Worried? You’re not alone, a PwC survey of CEO’s globally found 62% of 1300 surveyed were concerned about the impact of digital disruption in their industry. I recently heard a leader from the giant resources company BHP talking at the AFR Innovation Summit about being a recycler rather than a producer of steel after their disastrous 2015 downturn.

But if you think digital disruption means the robots are coming for your job, you’re wrong. While just under half of our jobs are expected to be at risk of automation in the next 10–15 years, for every disrupted career area, new opportunities arise. Like writing the programming software to create news stories or humanising the language used by AIs. By researching the signals that can make autonomous cars safer for pedestrians or by understanding the psychology behind creating incentives for innovation in your staff.

Where are we most at risk from missing the opportunities from digital disruption? Our team of thought leaders have the answers.

Heather Catchpole

Managing Director and Head of Content, Refraction Media

Read next: Head of KPMG Innovate, James Mabbott, uncovers the point of difference between those who remain resilient to change and those who get left behind.

Spread the word: Help Australia become digital savvy nation! Share this piece on digital disruptors using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Women in STEM Thought Leadership Series here.

Driverless cars disrupting industries and lifestyle

On a recent visit to the USA, I came across several professors and entrepreneurs who held the view that autonomous vehicles would be “an invention with greater significance than the original invention of the automobile”.  

Seeing many of the world’s earliest automobiles in person, at the enlightening Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, I saw how their design was derived from either a bicycle dispensing with the rider, or a buggy dispensing with the horse.

Autonomous vehicles can be a lot more than just dispensing with the driver. They provide an opportunity for radical rethinking of design and usage.

Massive changes are set to occur in the automobile industry, with many people already choosing to buy rides instead of cars. The continuation of this trend will see today’s car manufacturers and dealerships, rental car companies, taxi companies, ride-sharing companies, bus companies, pickup and delivery services, intercity transportation entities and other transportation services morph into fresh entities with new business models.

Rides will be significantly cheaper than today’s taxis and Ubers, because the major cost – the driver – will be eliminated. For many, it may be financially unattractive to own a car.

Significant lifestyle changes will also be possible. Commuting will no longer be about driving, but focused instead upon working, studying, socialising, entertaining, sleeping, dining and business meetings. Perhaps some rides will be free, funded by face-to-face selling and marketing.  

Long distance commuting will have less of a lifestyle impact, but rural and regional transportation will become more integrated. Travelling between meetings will be quicker and more efficient. The elderly and disabled will be more mobile, with no fears of driving on busy roads and no parking problems.

Think about your current daily activities and how driverless cars will change them! You’ll choose what type of car you need, when you need it, and you’ll travel efficiently. New patterns of life, leisure, work and commuting will emerge. 

With major growth predicted in our cities over the next few decades, pollution-free autonomous vehicles will be a relief in terms of congestion and amenity.

What happens in our cities when all cars become driverless? Roads will carry up to 3-6 times more traffic. Tailgating may be encouraged for less drag, heightened fuel efficiency and maximum utilisation of road real estate. Speed limits will increase, as will lane channelling during peak hours. Cars will no longer need to park on streets meaning defacto clearways, 24/7.  Extra lanes could be added to freeways by making existing lanes narrower. Traffic lights may become superfluous. Cars will reroute depending upon congestion.

Most importantly, roads will be safer, helping to eliminate most of the 34,000 accidents in Australia today at an annual health cost of $16 billion. There will be no guardrails needed if autonomous vehicles are accident free. No acoustic barriers required if all cars are electric. No more driving offences, meaning no fines, no points, fewer police. Drink and drug driving will be eliminated, as will driver distraction from mobile phones. If autonomous cars can see and sense better than humans, and drive without distraction, then pedestrians may be safer as well.

If every car is driverless, we can totally rethink our infrastructure. But the transition won’t come without challenges. How will older cars, driver assisted and driverless cars all coexist in the short to medium term? Will older cars have their own lanes, roads, circuit tracks or specific hours of use? Will they be tolled more to discourage people from driving cars?

For the evolution to autonomous vehicles, digital technology and disruption processes have been converging, resulting in precision GPS, 3D mapping, odometry, deep learning, computer vision, ultrasonic sensors, LiDAR, radar, driver assist options, smartphones, ride sharing and much more new tech. 

The driverless car transition will take several decades with a step-by-step approach. Australia has the opportunity to become a global leader in several fields including design, technology, infrastructure, specialist systems and fitout. There are vast opportunities for innovation and technology for associated spin-off and support industries.

Hollywood’s driverless cars such Herbie (‘The Love Bug’ in 1969) and K.I.T.T. (David Hasselhoff’s ‘Knight Rider’ in 1980) no longer seem like far-fetched dreams. Soon we can turn these dreams into reality for new lifestyles, improved amenity and new industries for Australia.

Simon Maxwell

Managing Director, Information Gateways

Read next: Heather Catchpole, Managing Director of Refraction Media, explains why digital disruption will create your next career.

Spread the word: Help Australia become digital savvy nation! Share this piece on digital disruptors using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Women in STEM Thought Leadership Series here.

New Zealand welcomes Careers with Code

Featured image above: Google software engineers Edwina Mead and Sara Schaare, who graduated from the University of Canterbury and the University of Waikato. Credit: Lauren Trompp, Careers with Code 2016

The Minister for Innovation, the Hon Steven Joyce, launched the inaugural New Zealand edition of Careers with Code in front of an audience of students and educators at Kapiti College, Paraparaumu.

Dedicated to improving diversity in careers with computer science, Careers with Code 2016 smashes stereotypes about the ‘nerdy programmer’ and what computer scientists really do.

Supported by Google, half a million copies of the magazine have been distributed to students in Australia, the United States and now New Zealand since the magazine’s inception in 2014.

“The internet, automation, smart sensors – all of today’s digital technologies contribute about 8% of economic output in New Zealand, while in Australia that contribution is set to grow from 5% to 7% by 2020. Most of this growth will happen outside the areas traditionally associated with tech – like agriculture, health, finance, education,” says Sally-Ann Williams, Google’s Engineering Community and Outreach Manager.

“Careers are no longer as straightforward as they used to be. It used to be that if you studied medicine you’d go on to become a doctor, or if you studied accounting you’d join the professional services. Today, those traditional outcomes aren’t always the norm. Digital disruption is creating a workforce with a greater intersection of disciplinary skills. Areas like finance, advertising, law and agriculture, for example, are increasingly overlapping with core skills in computer science.”

Sara Schaare, who features on this issue’s cover, moved to Sydney from Hamilton, New Zealand and began working on Google Maps in her Honours year while completing a Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Waikato.

“Even though I was interested in computing and video games from an early age, I never really considered computer science as a career.”

“Now I’m working on developing products for emerging markets. One of the most awesome challenges that computer science will overcome is making the interaction between humans and technology seamless and making technology easy for everyone to use.

“That’s why combining computer science with something else you love will ensure the greatest success in your career.”

The magazine features profiles of 40 young people working in computer science, with 60% women. It also features data on the top ten jobs in computer science, and top ten employers in technology in New Zealand and Australia.

By combining computer science with sports, arts, business and law, students equip themselves to be agile workers across career areas that haven’t been invented yet, says Heather Catchpole, head of content at STEM-specialist publishers Refraction Media.

“Careers with Code is about combining computer science skills and computational thinking with goals of global change, new fields or students’ own interests to help them prepare for a future in which digital disruption is constantly shifting their career focus,” says Ms Catchpole.

“Careers with Code is about creating visible role model and job paths for everyone that shows that computer science skills can take you into vastly different career areas, and are essentially creative jobs where females can be part of a collaborative or lead the pack.”

– Heather Catchpole

Click here to read Careers with Code 2016.

Click here to order copies of Careers with Code 2016 in print.

How Google taught an AI to play Go

Researchers at Google DeepMind have developed an artificial intelligence program  — AlphaGo — that can outgun a professional player at the ancient Chinese game of strategy, Go.

While it may not sound world changing, artificial intelligence (AI) developers use games to develop and test their algorithms, with the ultimate goal to apply these techniques to important real-world problems such as climate modelling to complex disease analyses, says CEO of DeepMind, Demis Hassabis,

The team published the algorithms used by AlphaGo in the journal Nature on January 27.

Nature Senior Editor, Dr Tanguy Chouard says that this achievement “will surely be seen as a historical milestone in artificial intelligence.”

DeepMind is a London-based artificial intelligence (AI) company co-founded by Hassabis, Shane Legg and Mustafa Suleyman in 2010, and acquired by Google in 2014.

“Go is probably the most complex game devised by man,” says Hassabis, with each move having 10 times more possible outcomes than in chess.

This complexity has proven to be a big obstacle for programmers of AI. Creating a program that can defeat a human expert player has long been considered the Holy Grail of AI developers.

Deep learning

Until AlphaGo beat a three-time reigning European Go champion, Go-playing programs have only been able to attain amateur status.

The DeepMind team previously used deep learning— a form of machine learning where programs model how humans learn— to train a computer to play video games by trial and error without providing any prior instructions; the computer performing better with each successive game to eventually surpass human players.

They published the research in Nature in February 2015.

To create AlphaGo, the research team integrated more than one deep learning technique. Silver says that the key was to reduce the search possibilities to something more manageable by limiting the search to moves most likely to win — teaching the program to think intuitively, more like a human player.

They “taught” the computer thousands of moves used by human Go players and allowed the machine to learn from trial and error by itself. Essentially, they succeeded where others had failed by adding human intelligence to their algorithms.

One of the pioneers of artificial intelligence, Marvin Minsky, passed away only days before the announcement of the success by AlphaGo. Minsky — who helped lay the foundations for artificial intelligence research — also believed that the solutions to the world’s most challenging problems could one day be solved by intelligent machines.
Sue Min Liu

Search engine collaboration

Lead researcher Associate Professor Falk Scholer is delighted with the $US56,000 Google Faculty Research Award for the project in the area of information retrieval, extraction, and organisation.

“It’s particularly exciting to receive support for this kind of research into search engine effectiveness from a leader in web search, like Google,” Scholer says.

The Google award will fund user-study experiments and support a top research student to work on the project, titled “Magnitude Estimation for the Evaluation of Search Systems”.

Scholer is running the project in collaboration with Professor Andrew Turpin, now of the University of Melbourne, but a former leader of RMIT’s celebrated Information, Search and Retrieval group (ISAR), which is ranked second in Asia/Oceania for Information Retrieval research.

“The project will be looking at a new approach for measuring whether users are satisfied with the results that they get from search engines,” he says.

“The aim is to enable more precise measurement of search effectiveness, and therefore allow future improvements to search systems to be identified more easily and reliably, supporting the faster development of impactful search technology.”

The current leader of ISAR, Professor Mark Sanderson, said the award underlined how information retrieval research at RMIT was well regarded internationally.

“Understanding how to improve search engines is an important research field here at RMIT, and getting support from Google is a big boost for us,” he says.

“I’m sure we’d all join in congratulating Falk, and wish him the best of luck with the project.

“It’s great to receive global recognition like this, especially as it follows on from his paper being selected as one of the top five presented at SIGIR 2015 – the world’s foremost information retrieval conference.”

SIGIR, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval, is the major international forum for the presentation of new research results and for the demonstration of new systems and techniques in Information Retrieval.

Scholer’s SIGIR paper, “The Benefits of Magnitude Estimation Relevance Assessments for Information Retrieval Evaluation”,  foreshadowed the project that has now won the Google award.

“The paper at SIGIR reported on an initial study in the area and the Google grant will enable us to investigate evaluation using magnitude estimation more deeply, in particular in the context of web search,” he says.

RMIT is ranked in the world’s top 100 universities for computer science and information systems. Find out more.

This article was first published by RMIT on 1 February 2016. Read the original article here.

Using algorithms to capture risk

IN THE HEALTH SECTOR, big data has been harnessed with remarkable success. One high-profile example is Google’s Flu Trends website, reported in a paper for the journal Nature in 2009 for accurately predicting the spread of epidemics based on the frequency of disease-related search queries.

Associate Professor Trish Williams, who heads the eHealth Research Group at Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, WA, says that unlike a lot of health research, projects using big data don’t focus on ‘cause and effect’. Instead, they tap into the huge potential of predictive analytics.

That’s an area where collaborative research can come to the fore, she says. Williams adds that big data research is most effective when done by cross-disciplinary teams who can both interpret information and present the findings to a broad audience.

“In health, it is really important that the semantics of the data are well-understood before you start analysing things,” she says. “You’ve also got to work out how to use some very big datasets, perhaps in ways that they weren’t necessarily intended to be used.”

“We’re working to improve the algorithms that detect what kind of problem the person has.”

This conundrum is very familiar to Associate Professor Jane Burns, CEO of the Young and Well CRC. When her team compared the results of a national survey that used ‘traditional’ computer-assisted telephone interviews with those from a similar Facebook survey, they expected both datasets would reveal similar trends.

“We found that the results were not similar at all; the internet results showed far higher levels of psychological distress,” she says, adding that there’s no sure way to work out which survey style had less bias. “Possibly, people are far more honest over the internet than they are over a telephone interview.”

Researching suicide indicators in social media is in its early stages, with researchers from the Young and Well CRC working with key industry partners such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.

“We’re trying to understand from a suicide prevention perspective, how we might be able to use big data to understand trends in the way in which people respond to things, to see if we can look to algorithms to capture some of the risks,” says Burns.

Twitter profile on Apple iPhone 5S
Social networking media holds a wealth of information on the public’s mental health.

With more than 500 million short messages going out through the Twitter network daily, Burns says that finding algorithms to uncover keywords for suicide risk is a huge challenge.

Included in the research is suicide contagion – where one suicidal act within a community increases the likelihood of more occurring. Burns says a key focus of their research around suicide contagion, as well as identifying early warning symptoms or signs, is initiating support networks.

Within the Young and Well CRC, Associate Professor Rafael Calvo of the University of Sydney is working to design tools that help moderators in online health-focused communities, such as youth mental health support service ReachOut.com, to provide appropriate feedback and support for their members.

Thousands of forum posts can be automatically processed, generating a report that prioritises more serious problems so moderators can respond immediately. The team has also developed suggested ‘intervention’ templates, which link to helpful resources.

“We have built the interface for the moderator, and we’re now working on improving the algorithms that detect what kind of problem the person has,” Calvo says.

One of the hopes for big data analysis is to uncover measurable biological indicators for devastating mental health disorders.
One of the hopes for big data analysis is to uncover measurable biological indicators for devastating mental health disorders.

Social media is just one of the big data examples in health. At the CRC for Mental Health, researchers are looking for biomarkers – measurable biological indicators that might enable early intervention for people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, mood disorders, schizophrenia and Parkinson’s disease. Datasets include the Australian Imaging, Biomarker & Lifestyle Flagship Study of Ageing, which has genomic information for more than 1500 people – some with normal cognitive function, others with mild cognitive impairment and others who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr Noel Faux, a bioinformatician at the Florey Department of Neuroscience and Mental Health, says that the vast amounts of information already available include blood measurements of thousands of hormones and proteins. Cognitive and clinical assessments are also being gathered.

His team is working with software developer Arcitecta to help researchers capture clinical data on-site and feed it into a data repository that can be used by multiple research institutions.



Tracking health

HealthTracks, a web-based tool built by the CRC for Spatial Information, has been used by researchers at Western Australia’s Department of Health to merge health data with spatially-based datasets. The aim is to identify populations at risk of disease and gaps in the location of essential health services.

So far, hospital and regional health data has been combined with public datasets via the WA Landgate Shared Land Information Platform. When rolled out nationally, the tool will include modular enhancements for the analysis of mental health, child health and environmental health data.