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The Download

The Download: new AI regulations, and a running robot

Plus: Nvidia has unveiled a whole load of new AI chips

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology

The AI Act is done. Here’s what will (and won’t) change

After three years, the AI Act, the EU’s new sweeping AI law, jumped through its final bureaucratic hoop last week when the European Parliament voted to approve it.

But the reality is that the hard work starts now. The law will enter into force in May, and people living in the EU will start seeing changes by the end of the year. Regulators will need to get set up in order to enforce the law properly, and companies will have between up to three years to comply with the law.

Here’s what you need to know about what will (and crucially won’t) change after then—from the types of AI uses that will be banned, to a new era of AI transparency. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

This story is from The Algorithm, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things AI. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

To read more about the AI regulations, take a look at:

+Five things you need to know about the EU’s new AI Act. Why the new rules will effectively turn the EU into the world’s AI police. Read the full story.

+ Here’s why it was such a difficult Act for the EU’s governing bodies to agree on.

+ Four lessons from 2023 that tell us where AI regulation is going this year—and why it matters.

+ How judges rather than politicians could help to dictate AI rules in America.

How AI taught Cassie the two-legged robot to run and jump

If you’ve watched Boston Dynamics’ slick videos of robots running, jumping and doing parkour, you might have the impression robots have learned to be amazingly agile. In fact, these robots are still coded by hand, and would struggle to deal with new obstacles they haven’t encountered before.

However, a new method of teaching robots to move could help to deal with new scenarios, through trial and error—just as humans learn and adapt to unpredictable events.

Researchers used an AI technique called reinforcement learning to help a two-legged robot nicknamed Cassie to run 400 meters, over varying terrains, and execute standing long jumps and high jumps, without being trained explicitly on each movement. Their approach taught the robot to generalize and respond in new scenarios, instead of freezing like its predecessors may have done. Read the full story.

Rhiannon Williams

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Nvidia has unveiled a slew of AI chips
They’re faster, larger, and a lot more powerful. (WSJ $)
+ A quick primer on why these chips matter so much. (Bloomberg $)
+ The company plans on making itself integral to the future of autonomous cars, too. (Reuters)
+ It’s the hottest stock in town. (WP $)

2 Meta has offered to slash the price of its ad-free subscription service
In a bid to appease privacy regulators in Europe. (Reuters)

3 We’re edging closer to a global cybersecurity standard for smart home tech
Not all gadgets are equally secure. A universal standard could help. (The Verge)

4 Carmaker Fisker has paused making EVs
Things aren’t looking too good for the embattled company—and money is tight. (Wired $)
+ Why the world’s biggest EV maker is getting into shipping. (MIT Technology Review)

5 No one knows why electroconvulsive therapy works
But new research suggests that zapping a brain with electricity may help to restore balance between excitation and inhibition. (Quanta Magazine)
+ Here’s how personalized brain stimulation could treat depression. (MIT Technology Review)

6 How generative AI is warping Google’s search results
Its Search Generative Experience is still working out what to prioritize. (Insider $)
+ We are hurtling toward a glitchy, spammy, scammy, AI-powered internet. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Scientists have created a synthetic blood-clotting drug
The most common version, called heparin, is traditionally made using pig intestines. (New Scientist $)
+ AI is dreaming up drugs that no one has ever seen. (MIT Technology Review)

8 Gig workers don’t get proper time to rest between jobs
So this is what they do instead. (Rest of World)
+ What TikTok can learn from Uber. (Slate $)

9 AI-generated waffle is cropping up in academic journals
Certain phrases are a dead giveaway to ChatGPT’s involvement. (404 Media)
+ YouTube has added an AI content labeling tool to its services. (The Verge)

10 Sony can’t shift its newest VR headset
It’s got a massive backlog of units, because they just aren’t selling. (Bloomberg $)
+ VR headsets can be hacked with an Inception-style attack. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“If you think of the internet ecosystem as a colander with a million holes in it, I don’t know why they think plugging one of those tiny holes is going to fix these problems.”

— Calli Schroeder, global privacy counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, tells Bloomberg why the US government’s obsession with banning TikTok is misdirected.

The big story

One city’s fight to solve its sewage problem with sensors

April 2021

In the city of South Bend, Indiana, wastewater from people’s kitchens, sinks, washing machines, and toilets flows through 35 neighborhood sewer lines. On good days, just before each line ends, a vertical throttle pipe diverts the sewage into an interceptor tube, which carries it to a treatment plant where solid pollutants and bacteria are filtered out.

As in many American cities, those pipes are combined with storm drains, which can fill rivers and lakes with toxic sludge when heavy rains or melted snow overwhelms them, endangering wildlife and drinking water supplies. But city officials have a plan to make its aging sewers significantly smarter. Read the full story

—Andrew Zaleski

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction to brighten up your day. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ These kind wildlife workers in Virginia really went above and beyond to look after an orphaned fox kit.
+ This version of Smells Like Teen Spirit is banging.
+ Techno, techno, techno! Why Berlin’s clubbing culture has been placed under Unesco protection.
+ Enjoy a bit of John Denver this morning, for no reason other than it’s a wonderful song.

Deep Dive

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