Facebook’s Yann LeCun, Mila’s Yoshua Bengio and Google’s Geoffrey Hinton share the 2018 Turing Award. (ACM Photos) The three recipients of the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2018 Turing Award, known as the “Nobel Prize of computing,” are sharing the $1 million award for their pioneering work with artificial neural networks — but that’s not all they share. Throughout their careers, the researchers’ career paths and spheres of influence in the field of artificial intelligence have crossed repeatedly. Yann LeCun, vice president and chief AI scientist at Facebook, conducted postdoctoral research under the supervision of Geoffrey Hinton, who is now a vice president and engineering fellow at Google. LeCun also worked at Bell Labs in the early 1990s with Yoshua Bengio, who is now a professor at the University of Montreal, scientific director of Quebec’s Mila AI institute, and an adviser for Microsoft’s AI initiative. All three also participate in the program sponsored by CIFAR, previously known as the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. In , ACM credited the trio with rekindling the AI community’s interest in deep neural networks — thus laying the groundwork for today’s rapid advances in machine learning. “Artificial intelligence is now one of the fastest-growing areas in all of science, and one of the most-talked-about topics in society,” said ACM President , a professor emeritus of computer science at Oregon State University. “The growth of and interest in AI is due, in no small part, to the recent advances in deep learning for which Bengio, Hinton and LeCun laid the foundation.” And you don’t need to work in a lab to feel their impact. “Anyone who has a smartphone in their pocket can tangibly experience advances in natural language processing and computer vision that were not possible just 10 years ago,” Pancake said. The current approach to machine learning, championed by Hinton starting in the early 1980s, shies away from telling a computer explicitly how to solve a given task, such as object classification. Instead, the software uses an algorithm to analyze the patterns in a data set, and then apply that algorithm to classify new data. Through repeated rounds of learning, the algorithm becomes increasingly accurate. Hinton, LeCun and Bengio focused on developing neural networks to facilitate that learning. Such networks are composed of relatively simple software elements that are interconnected in ways inspired by the connections between neurons in the human brain.
Trek Aerospace’s FlyKart 2 personal aerial vehicle has 10 ducted propellers and is custom-designed to meet the GoFly challenge’s specifications. (Trek Aerospace Illustration) Five teams from around the world have risen to new heights in the GoFly Prize competition, a $2 million contest backed by Boeing to encourage the development of personal flying machines. The Phase II contest winners, unveiled today at the SAE AeroTech Americas conference in Charleston, S.C., will receive $50,000 prizes and the chance to compete for the $1 million grand prize in a future fly-off. “Now we can unequivocally say we will be able to make people fly within the next one to two years,” Gwen Lighter, GoFly’s CEO and founder, told GeekWire in advance of the announcement. Judges chose the five Phase II winners from an initial field of more than 800 teams from 101 countries. The competition’s requirements call for the development of flying machines that can make vertical or near-vertical takeoffs and transport a single person up to 20 miles. Last year, on the basis of their designs for aerial vehicles, which ran the gamut from mini-helicopters to flying bikes and “Star Wars”-style landspeeders. For Phase II, competitors had to build and test prototypes, either scaled-down or actual size, and show that they could be operated safely and quietly. The five winning teams are: Aeroxo LV, based in Russia and Latvia. Aeroxo’s ERA Aviabike is a tiltrotor aerial vehicle that performs like a flying bicycle. It combines the vertical-flight capabilities of a helicopter with the range and speed of a fixed-wing aircraft. DragonAir Aviation, based in Florida. DragonAir’s Airboard 2.0 is an all-electric, self-stabilizing hovercraft that carries a single passenger in a standing position. Silverwing Personal Flight, based in the Netherlands. Silverwing’s S1 is a flying motorcycle. The device’s main features are two electric ducted fans, a passenger shell for safety, and a landing gear and battery pack integrated into the wing. Texas A&M Harmony, based in Texas. The Harmony team’s Aria aircraft is a compact rotorcraft designed to minimize noise and maximize efficiency, safety and reliability. The team includes researchers from Texas A&M and other institutions. Trek Aerospace, based in California. Trek Aerospace’s FlyKart 2 is an electric, single-seat, multi-rotor, ducted-fan, vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft that’s designed to be inexpensive to build, own and operate. Lighter said the winning prototypes reflect a diversity of design approaches, geographical origins and career experiences. The team members range from veteran aerospace engineers and former jet pilots to engineering students. “Innovation can truly come from anyone, anywhere,” Lighter said. The next phase of the competition calls for finalists to turn their prototypes into full-scale flying machines, for a fly-off at a site yet to be selected in the western United States in early 2020. That time frame is a bit later than the original plan to have the fly-off late this year. “Our primary focus has been on safety and weather and wind,” Lighter explained. “The sites that we are most interested in using are better if we slide the final fly-off back two to three months.” A media programming campaign will be built around the fly-off, but Lighter said it was too early to provide specifics. The teams participating in the fly-off will have the option of sending up a human rider or a lifesize mannequin. Finalists will put their machines through a , and will be scored on the basis of vehicle size, speed and noise. GoFly will award the $1 million grand prize to the top-scoring team. Prizes worth $250,000 each will go to the quietest vehicle that meets the contest’s requirements, and to the smallest compliant vehicle. There’s also a Pratt & Whitney Disruptor Award worth $100,000. Then what? Lighter said GoFly’s mission is to “catalyze the technology” for personal flight — while leaving it up to the participating teams to find the right niche for their technologies. “GoFly believes that it is the public’s opportunity to be able to decide what fliers are best for what uses,” she said. She drew a comparison to the automotive industry, where customers can buy a minivan, a convertible, a sedan or a pickup truck, depending on how they want to use those vehicles. “We want to set up a system where there are many different types of flier designs,” Lighter said. “Some will be more applicable to first responders, Some will be more applicable to package delivery. … Some will be more applicable to short commutes. Some will be more applicable to future sports — you know, human drone racing or a version of quidditch that comes to life.” To paraphrase Chairman Mao, . “World, you get to decide what’s best for all of you,” Lighter said.
Nanodropper team members Jennifer Steger, Mackenzie Andrews and Allisa Song. (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) What if something as simple as a more precise eyedropper could cut the cost of glaucoma medication by more than half? That’s the idea behind the startup Nanodropper, which won the $15,000 grand prize at the University of Washington Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge on Wednesday night. The team also won a $2,500 medical device consulting award. created an FDA-approved adapter for eyedrop bottles that aims to reduce waste in the delivery of medication, especially for patients with glaucoma, which causes blindness. Here’s how it works: Take any eyedropper medication, screw on Nanodropper’s device, and you’ll get drops that are much smaller — but still large enough to deliver the medication effectively. Eyedroppers often deliver more medication than the eye can physically absorb, and the Nanodropper reduces the size of drops by a quarter or more. The team was inspired by about how larger-than-necessary eyedrops were increasing costs for glaucoma patients, who can spend $500 per month on medication. The issue is , in which patients sued massive drug companies like Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer. “The problem is that the companies have no incentive to reduce the size of their drops, because then they would be selling less medication,” Nanodropper’s Allisa Song, a medical student at the Mayo Clinic, told GeekWire. Nanodropper’s team also includes UW graduate students Jennifer Steger and Mackenzie Andrews, as well as Elias Baker, a mechanical engineer who has worked with SpaceX and Spacelabs. Following its launch a year ago, Nanodropper has raised $60,000 primarily from healthcare providers. The grand prize was sponsored by Seattle-based life science incubator Intuitive X. Nanodropper said five eye care clinics are interested in presales and that it’s in talks with Premera Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and Bartell Drugs. The startup will use the cash to start making the product, which is manufactured in Minnesota and will sell for $12.99. The device has received class I FDA approval with a 510(k) exemption. $10,000 2nd Place Prize: Appiture (Washington State University) (Matt Hagen / UW Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship Photo) Appiture is developing a mobile-based hardware and software system to detect autism spectrum disorder in children. The team, which includes students from Washington State University’s chemical engineering, bioengineering and veterinary medicine departments, also won a $2,500 digital health prize. The Herbert B. Jones Foundation sponsored the second-place prize. (GeekWire Photo) $5,000 3rd Place Prize: Pulmora (University of Washington) Pulmora created an autonomous ventilator that can easily be applied to patients who have stopped breathing. The company, comprised of UW bioengineering students, said that it hopes to make ventilators common and easy to use, in the same way that defibrillators are today. The third-place prize was sponsored by WRF Capital, the investment arm of the Washington Research Foundation. $1,000 “Judges Also Really Liked” Award: DopCuff and Insulin Anywhere In addition to the top prizes, the judges gave $1,000 to DopCuff, which is working on a better blood pressure device for patients with end-stage heart failure. Insulin Anywhere also won the “Judges Also Really Liked Award” for its system that is both an insulin-cooling chamber and a compact needle kit, which was designed to get insulin to diabetics in emergency situations such as natural disasters.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gives a thumbs up at an event at Zillow Group in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota) Russell Wilson won’t suit up on Super Bowl Sunday but he’s still staying busy off the field in Atlanta this weekend. The Seahawks star quarterback has been making the rounds all week, jumping from media interviews to sponsor events to high-profile parties before today’s big game. Top of mind for Wilson is , a new sports prediction app that he’s been touting to reporters this week. The free-to-play app debuted a few months ago and offers real cash prize payouts to users who can make the most accurate prediction on. For the Super Bowl, it is offering a $250,000 grand prize to anyone who correctly predicts all 16 questions on the line. They range from specific in-game predictions — which team will have the longest field goal? — to off-the-wall questions such as: What color shirt will Adam Levine be wearing when he takes the stage for his halftime performance? Tally mimics gamification and engagement concepts from HQTrivia, a live mobile game which went viral last year. The app last month expanded beyond sports and ran predictions games for The Golden Globes, The Bachelor, and even President Trump’s national address on immigration. Prizes go to users who rack up the most points, which are awarded on a probability scale — if you predict something with a low chance of happening, you win more points. There’s also a jackpot — $250,000 for the Super Bowl — that goes to people who ace all the predictions. Tally funds the prize payouts, which are issued to winners via PayPal within three days. The company’s CEO, Jason LeeKeenan, said the app is not related to sports betting, which has caught the attention of investors and technologists expecting more legalization across the U.S. after a key Supreme Court last year. “We see this as a really friendly version of fantasy,” he GeekWire in November. Tally is an evolution of TraceMe, a celebrity content app that was the original premise of the company . TraceMe shut down , laying off staff and closing its Los Angeles office as it shifted focus to Tally. TraceMe had aimed to connect celebrities with “superfans” through its app via , community features, and more. But according to LeeKeenan, who now heads up Tally, the company overestimated the addressable market for TraceMe, which a $9 million round last year from investors such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, YouTube founder Chad Hurley, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai, and Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group. Speaking of Bezos — the Amazon chief is also in Atlanta this weekend. He and Wilson were spotted making a friendly exchange at the NFL Honors awards ceremony Saturday night. Sports reporter Darren Rovell posited that Bezos could be a potential new owner of the Seahawks, whose previous owner Paul Allen . Is Russell Wilson talking with his future owner tonight in Atlanta? Jeff Bezos has made the trip (