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DeepMind’s new AI can perform over 600 tasks, from playing games to controlling robots

Gato is what DeepMind describes as a “general-purpose” system, a system that can be taught to perform many different types of tasks. Researchers at DeepMind trained Gato to complete 604, to be exact, including captioning images, engaging in dialogue, stacking blocks with a real robot arm and playing Atari games. On 450 of the 604 aforementioned tasks, DeepMind claims that Gato performs better than an expert more than half the time. Remarkably, Gato is orders of magnitude smaller than single-task systems, including GPT-3, in terms of the parameter count. Gato has just 1.2 billion, while GPT-3 has more than 170 billion.

Apple Testing iPhones That Ditch Lightning Ports in Favor of USB-C

Applis testing future iPhone models that replace the current Lightning charging port with the more prevalent USB-C connector, a move that could help the company conform with looming European regulations. In addition to testing models with a USB-C port in recent months, Apple is working on an adapter that would let future iPhones work with accessories designed for the current Lightning connector. If the company proceeds with the change, it wouldn’t occur until 2023 at the earliest. Apple is planning to retain the Lightning connector for this year’s new models. By moving to USB-C, Apple would streamline the collection of chargers used by its various devices.

Science News

Protein gel could help treat type 1 diabetes

Researchers injected a natural agent called streptozotocin, which kills islet beta cells, into seven monkeys, inducing type 1 diabetes. Twelve days later, the scientists took islets from healthy monkeys, mixing them with the microgels. The cells and microgels were then transplanted onto a tissue layer in the monkeys’ abdomens. Over the next six months, the monkeys that received the SA-FasL microgel produced insulin at the same level as before they developed diabetes, at least on an empty stomach. The monkeys’ after-meal insulin production was 80 to 90 per cent normal, so they only occasionally required minor insulin supplementation.

Algae-powered computing: scientists create reliable and renewable biological photovoltaic cell

Researchers have used a species of blue-green algae to power a microprocessor continuously for a year using nothing but ambient light and water. The system contains a type of non-toxic algae called Synechocystis that naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis. And despite the fact that photosynthesis requires light, the device can even continue producing power during periods of darkness. The device was used to power an Arm Cortex M0+, which is a microprocessor used widely in Internet of Things devices. It operated in a domestic environment and semi-outdoor conditions under natural light and associated temperature fluctuations.

Business News

UAE telecoms group confirms £3.3bn raid on Vodafone

A Middle Eastern telecoms group has taken a near 10% stake in Vodafone as the UK mobile phone company comes under pressure for a business shake-up. The state-controlled Emirates Telecommunications Group, which recently rebranded from Etisalat to e&, is now Vodafone’s biggest shareholder after confirming a £3.3bn raid on the UK group. E& said it had made the investment “to gain significant exposure to a world leader in connectivity and digital services.” The Abu Dhabi-based group said it planned to be a “long-term and supportive shareholder in Vodafone and is not seeking to exert control or influence the company’s board or management team.”

India’s Reliance to acquire dozens of brands in $6.5 billion consumer goods play

India’s biggest retailer Reliance will acquire dozens of small grocery and non-food brands as it targets building its own $6.5 billion consumer goods business to challenge foreign giants like Unilever. Reliance plans to build a portfolio of 50 to 60 grocery, household and personal care brands within six months and is hiring an army of distributors to take them to mom-and-pop stores and bigger retail outlets across the nation. The consumer goods push under a vertical named Reliance Retail Consumer Brands will come on top of Ambani’s brick-and-mortar store network of more than 2,000 grocery outlets and ongoing expansion of “JioMart” e-commerce operations.

Miscellaneous News

Finland and Sweden confirm intention to join Nato

The leaders of Finland and Sweden have confirmed they intend to join Nato, signifying a historic Nordic policy shift triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that will redraw the security map of Europe. Finland shares an 810-mile border with Russia and, like Sweden, has maintained strict policies of neutrality then non-alignment since the end of the second world war, viewing Nato membership as a provocation of Moscow. The two countries’ governments will present their proposals to their respective parliaments and are expected to formally submit a joint membership application to the 30-member alliance as soon as the decisions are ratified.

Fear and adrenaline as Czechs open world’s longest suspension footbridge

Fear and adrenaline were some of the feelings as the first tourists stepped out on the world’s longest suspension footbridge, spanning a mountain valley in the Czech Republic. Named Sky Bridge 721, it took two years to build at a cost of 200 million crowns ($8.4 million) and is suspended by six main supporting ropes and 60 wind ropes. It sits at more than 1,100 metres above sea level and connects two mountain ridges in the country’s northeast region, 200 km from Prague and near the border with Poland. Officials hope it will boost tourism in the area by giving a different look at the forested landscape.

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