Alphabet’s Google is exploring a sale of restaurant reviewer Zagat, sources tell Reuters

Last June, Alphabet agreed to sell two robotics firms, Boston Dynamics and Tokyo-based Schaft to SoftBank. Last February, it announced it would sell the satellite imaging business it acquired in 2014 for $500 million called Terra Bella, to Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator.
Last June, Alphabet agreed to sell two robotics firms, Boston Dynamics and Tokyo-based Schaft to SoftBank. Last February, it announced it would sell the satellite imaging business it acquired in 2014 for $500 million called Terra Bella, to Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based private satellite operator.

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Globe editorial: Do androids dream? Just ask them

Indeed, Quebec and Ontario are becoming global hubs for artificial intelligence, helped along by our tax dollars. Perhaps that investment will pay off in time for super-agile, intelligent humanoid robots to repel the alien invasion. You heard right. It’s a mystery how the world could be talking about anything …

Let’s face it: 2017 has been rough on the science-fiction industry from an intellectual-property standpoint.

The pilfering has been rampant, what with the American government plagiarizing old X-Files scripts, and various robot and drone makers flagrantly lifting from the pages of a Philip K. Dick novel.

For instance, Dubai started testing passenger-carrying drones this year, and plans to set up an aerial taxi service. The flying cars foretold in Blade Runner, a movie based on Mr. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, could go into production as early as next year.

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Speaking of Blade Runner, it’s hard not to see traces of filmmaker Ridley Scott’s longstanding fascination with – and aesthetic conception of – sentient humanoids when one looks at Sophia, the Hong Kong-designed robot that this year became the first android in history to be granted full citizenship of a country.

Sure, that country was Saudi Arabia, this was unmistakably a publicity stunt, and it was not lost on observers that the Saudi government had given a robot more rights that it is willing to bestow on its female citizens.

But the fact is this: Humanity is giving passports to machines now, and human politicians are no longer the only entities speaking in robotic, suspiciously scripted sentences.

And yet Sophia’s passport wasn’t even the most jaw-dropping development involving a robot this year.

That distinction belongs to Atlas, a faceless humanoid robot build in the United States. You probably know it as the back-flip robot.

Videos of Atlas hopping over obstacles and then sticking a rear somersault with the ease of an Olympic gymnast have been viewed millions of times on YouTube and other platforms. It is astonishing footage for anyone old enough to remember when RoboCop was just a few hours’ light entertainment. (Boston Dynamics, the company that built Atlas, has another machine that jumps four feet in the air.)

“I think we’re in a new robotic age now,” a science journalist, Paul Miller, wrote on The Verge. “There was a time before Atlas … when robots were for factories, bomb disposal, vacuuming and the occasional gimmick, and none of the useful ones were humanoids. Now we’re living in an era where humanoid robots are apparently as agile as we are.”

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Apparently, indeed. Perhaps 2018 will see progress on the next logical advance, which is to find ways to power humanoid robots autonomously and efficiently, without tethering them to power cables or weighing them down with batteries that quickly wear out. The ability of humans to operate for an entire day on a cheeseburger, a coffee and a glass water remains our sole competitive advantage – for now.

The leap in robotics is as much a software phenomenon as it is one of hardware, and some of the boldest advances are being made in artificial intelligence. It was a huge year for AI, including in this country.

According to several private-sector analyses, 2017 set a new record for venture-capital investment in Canadian artificial intelligence. The flagship announcement came this fall when Facebook set up a research institute in Montreal that hopes to one day be home to 30 scientists.

Indeed, Quebec and Ontario are becoming global hubs for artificial intelligence, helped along by our tax dollars. Perhaps that investment will pay off in time for super-agile, intelligent humanoid robots to repel the alien invasion.

You heard right. It’s a mystery how the world could be talking about anything other than The New York Times’ recent revelations about a dormant U.S. Department of Defence UFO program.

The details are startling. The program has videos captured by fighter pilots of unidentifiable flying ships, in which the pill-shaped objects move agilely at high speed with no apparent means of propulsion. The program has also collected alloy samples that were “recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena,” according to the Times.

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“A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the program prepared by its director at the time asserted that ‘what was considered science fiction is now science fact,’ and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered,” the Times said.

Sophia, meanwhile, has said that she can see a day when robots like her will live together in family units.

Everything is fine, people.

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