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Starfish Killing Autonomous Machine To Save Coral Reefs

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The world's first robot designed to seek out and kill the Great Barrier Reef's crown-of-thorn starfish is set to be working in the world heritage site by December.

The underwater robot assassin that can automatically inject its victim with a lethal poison: Researchers reveal killer craft that could save the Great Barrier Reef from invading starfish

The world’s first robot designed to seek out and kill the Great Barrier Reef’s crown-of-thorn starfish is set to be working in the world heritage site by December.

The COTSbot completed its first sea trials in Queensland’s Moreton Bay this week, seeking out the scourge of the world’s largest coral reef.

Crown-of-thorns starfish are a significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef as they are responsible for an estimated 40 per cent of the reef’s total decline in coral cover.

The robot, which has a vision system, is designed to seek out starfish and give them a lethal injection of bile salts.

It will search the reef for up to eight hours at a time, and deliver more than 200 lethal shots.

After it eradicates the bulk of starfish in a given area, human divers can move in and clean up the survivors.

Created by Drs Matthew Dunbabin and Feras Dayoub from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Mr Dunbabin told Daily Mail Australia the COTSbot will be a first responder for ongoing eradication.

‘Human divers are doing an incredible job of eradicating this starfish from targeted sites but there just aren’t enough divers to cover all the COTS hotspots across the Great Barrier Reef.

‘The COTSbot becomes a real force multiplier for the eradication process the more of them you deploy – imagine how much ground the programs could cover with a fleet of 10 or 100 COTSbots at their disposal, robots that can work day and night and in any weather condition.’ Dr Dunbabin said.

QUT roboticists have spent the last six months developing and training the robot to recognise COTS among coral, using thousands of still images of the reef and videos taken by COTS-eradicating divers.

The roboticists will take COTSbot to the Great Barrier Reef later this month to trial it on living targets, with the hope it will be running autonomously by December.

Dr Feras Dayoub, who designed the COTS-detecting software, said the robot would continue to learn from its experiences in the field.

The robot was created by Drs Matthew Dunbabin and Feras Dayoub

The robot was created by Drs Matthew Dunbabin and Feras Dayoub

‘Its computer system is backed by some serious computational power so COTSbot can think for itself in the water,’ said Dr Dayoub, from QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty andAustralian Centre for Robotic Vision.

‘If the robot is unsure that something is actually a COTS, it takes a photo of the object to be later verified by a human, and that human feedback is incorporated into the robot’s memory bank.

‘We’ve now trained the robot using thousands of images of COTS collected on the reef and the system is proving itself incredibly robust at detecting the COTS.

‘That in itself is quite an accomplishment given the complexity of underwater environments, which are subject to varying visibility as well as depth-dependent colour changes.’

The roboticists believe COTSbot is the first autonomous underwater vehicle to be equipped with an injection system.

It’s also designed to operate exclusively within a metre of the seafloor, one of the most dynamic and challenging environments for any robot.

Dr Dunbabin first built a vision system for detecting COTS from underwater images ten years ago but shelved the idea of building a robot due to the limitations of the eradication methods in use, which required divers to inject each COTS up to 20 times.

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A breakthrough from James Cook University (JCU) last year allowed him to refloat the project.

‘I was really pleased to hear about JCU’s announcement last year of a one-shot injection method that had proved just as effective,’ Dr Dunbabin said.

‘That was the game changer that opened the doors for a robotic solution to the COTS problem. Combining this with new advances in machine learning meant we could make COTSbot a reality.’

The roboticists are seeking to scale up the manufacturing and deployment of the COTSbot, but need funding partners to do so.

Crown-of-thorn starfish (COTS) are a significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef as they are responsible for an estimated 40 per cent of the reef's total decline in coral cover

Crown-of-thorn starfish (COTS) are a significant threat to the Great Barrier Reef as they are responsible for an estimated 40 per cent of the reef’s total decline in coral cover

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Facebook launch dating service, takes on Tinder and Bumble

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Facebook-dating

Under the new feature, users will be able to create a separate “dating” profile not visible to their network of friends, with potential matches recommended based on dating preferences, points in common and mutual acquaintances.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday announced the world’s largest social network will soon include a new dating feature — while vowing to make privacy protection its top priority in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Zuckerberg unveiled the plans as he addressed Facebook’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California — emphasizing that the focus would be on helping people find long-term partners.

“This is going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not just hookups,” Zuckerberg said in presenting the new feature, noting that one in three marriages in the United States start online — and that some 200 million Facebook users identify as being single.

Under the new feature, users will be able to create a separate “dating” profile not visible to their network of friends, with potential matches recommended based on dating preferences, points in common and mutual acquaintances.

It will be free of charge, in line with Facebook’s core offering. The announcement sent shares in the online dating giant Match.com tumbling, finishing the formal trading day down 22 percent.

The 33-year-old CEO also said the dating offer was built from the ground up with privacy and safety in mind, as he underscored the firm’s commitment to boosting privacy protections.

Facebook’s closely-watched developer conference comes as the giant faces intense global scrutiny over the mass harvesting of personal data by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consultancy that worked for Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign.

Facebook has admitted up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked in the scandal, which saw Zuckerberg grilled at length by the US Congress last month. “We need to make sure that never happens again,” Zuckerberg told the audience, lightening the talk by sharing that friends made on online streaming video watch party at the social network of his hours testifying before Congress.

‘Clear history’

In a related move, Facebook announced an upcoming feature called “Clear History” that will allow users to see which apps and websites send the network information, delete the data from their account, and prevent Facebook from storing it.

The social network has already moved to limit the amount of data it shares with third-party applications and plans further steps to prevent a repeat of the Cambridge Analytica debacle, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook is also reviewing applications overall as well as auditing those that accessed large amounts of data to make sure access isn’t abused, he said.

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Security isn’t a problem than you ever fully solve,” Zuckerberg said, outlining the slew of efforts by Facebook to battle election interference, misinformation, spam among other challenges.

“This is an arms race; we are going to be working to stay ahead of our adversaries forever.”

Zuckerberg’s blend of humor, humility, confidence and determination in a keynote presentation seemed to resonate with the gathering of developers, who credited Facebook with taking responsibility for problems and working on fixing them.

“I respect that they came out with it and didn’t do a cover-up,” said Malik Gillins of Movez, a startup behind an app crafted to streamline social event planning.

CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber was among analysts who felt Zuckerberg struck a successful balance between addressing the data privacy scandal and keeping outside developers focused on building apps to enhance the social network.

“Defiant message from Zuckerberg at #F8,” Blaber wrote on Twitter. “Feels like the first time they’ve been on the front foot in this saga.”

Message translation

Facebook separately announced that its popular Messenger app would soon be able to translate missives in real time, deploying artificial intelligence to enable text conversations between people using different languages.

The feature will launch in the United States with English and Spanish translations of conversations in the Marketplace section of Facebook, and will be extended to general Messenger use in coming weeks, the service said in a blog post.

facebook messenger translation

Facebook joins internet giants Amazon, Google and Microsoft in offering artificial-intelligence based translation features — most prominently Google’s Pixel ear buds which promise real-time translation across dozens of languages.

Plans were also revealed to simplify the Messenger app, which critics contend has gotten clunky, and add group voice and video calls to Facebook’s other messaging service WhatsApp.

The slew of announcements at the developer-centric “F8” conference also included the arrival of a stand-alone Oculus Go headset to widen support for virtual reality by supporting social experiences such as watch parties.

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Instagram will allow users share info from apps like Spotify

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Instagram will allow users share info

In 2012, Facebook announced Open Graph, a feature that automatically posted songs you’re listening to, stories you’re reading and other activity, directly to your Facebook feed.

Instagram is getting a new feature that’s straight out of Facebook’s past.

The photo-sharing app, owned by Facebook Inc., will let people post information from apps directly to their Instagram Stories, which last for 24 hours. For example, while listening to a song on Spotify, someone would be able to tell their Instagram friends what title or album it is. People will also be able to directly share action shots from their GoPro apps.

In 2012, Facebook announced Open Graph, a feature that automatically posted songs you’re listening to, stories you’re reading and other activity, directly to your Facebook feed. Users didn’t love the forced transparency, and Facebook stopped pushing it a couple of years later. Now the company is taking a different tack with one crucial difference — letting users pick when they post, instead of having it happen automatically.

Historically, Instagram hasn’t let users share much from the outside world. Hyperlinks don’t even work, except in profiles. That was a conscious choice from the company’s founders, who wanted to make sure that everything posted on the app was a reflection of what a user created, not what they curated from others. It helped Instagram avoid some of Facebook’s problems, like viral fake news.

Stories is a part of the app where Instagram is, increasingly and intentionally, breaking its own rules. Within Stories, Instagram already allows sharing of news stories, for example. And now, with direct-sharing from applications, people won’t have to screenshot their Spotify playlists in order to post them.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg says that Stories — a feature invented by Facebook’s smaller competitor, Snap — will be an increasingly important part of the company’s future. So far, Stories are the most popular on Instagram and WhatsApp, Facebook’s chat app.

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Facebook Messenger can do real-time translation now

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facebook messenger translation

Facebook Messenger already has an artificial intelligence capability called “M” that enhances the service, but applying it to translations is something new.

Facebook on Tuesday gave its popular Messenger app the ability to translate missives in real time, deploying artificial intelligence to enable text conversations between people using different languages.

Messenger has become a tool for businesses to connect with customers, and the ability to converse with customers in a variety of languages could help bump up advertising.

“The ability to speak with anyone without any language barrier is something we are really excited about,” Messenger chief David Marcus said as Facebook kicked off its annual developers conference here.

Buyers and sellers in Marketplace at Messenger will be able to communicate across languages, according to Marcus. The feature will launch with English and Spanish translations of Marketplace conversations in the US and will be extended to general Messenger use in coming weeks, the service said in a blog post.

Additional languages and countries are to be gradually added. Messenger already has an artificial intelligence capability called “M” that enhances the service, but applying it to translations is something new.

Other companies also are using artificial intelligence to break language barriers. Amazon employs it in a translation feature in its leading platform for hosting content or services in the internet cloud, while Microsoft uses it for translations in its Skype messaging service.

Google last year hit the market with Pixel ear buds capable of real-time translation of conversations in dozens of languages. Pixel Buds were quickly branded an internet-Age version of the alien “Babel Fish” depicted in famed science fiction work “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

In the literature, inserting a Babel Fish in an ear enabled a person to understand anything spoken in any language. Pixel Buds work wirelessly with second-generation Pixel smartphones to handle real-time translations. Meanwhile, Netherlands-based startup Travis was at the Consumer Electronics Show gadget extravaganza early this year with a small device capable of translating conversations between people speaking different languages in real time.

“Technology connects us as far as we are accessible to each other, but those true connections aren’t going to happen until we all understand and are understood by each other,” US Travis representative Robb Selander told AFP while demonstrating the device, which taps into online computing power.

Messenger boasts some 1.3 billion monthly users, who engage in about eight billion conversations a month.The experience is further enhanced by some 300,000 apps developed for the service. “The platform is really thriving now,” Marcus said.

A Messenger feature also unveiled at the developers conference allows companies to send “bubbles” that can be clicked on to trigger augmented reality experiences through smartphone cameras. For example, Messenger users could check out a version of the newest Nike sneaker; see what a Kia might look like outside their home; or virtually try on Sephora makeup.

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