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Can algorithms create a pop-music hit?

This week's Question: Sony Computer Science Laboratory (CSL) in Paris is developing a system of algorithms which can create songs that cater to the user's taste, based on styles adapted from existing music. Starting with a sheet-music database of more than 13,000 existing songs, users choose several titles with the sound or feel that they would like the new song to incorporate.

Posted in: Question of the Week, Software

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Will selfies become the primary mode of authentication?

This week's Question: MasterCard has tested facial biometrics for payment authentication and has now begun rolling out its MasterCard Identity Check, or "selfie pay," to a greater number of users. The biometric authentication app is available throughout Europe, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. MasterCard’s Identity Check app also supports fingerprint biometrics, offering customers a choice of authenticating a mobile payment with either their face or finger at the point of purchase. What do you think?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Will solar road panels catch on?

This week's Question: Solar Roadways — a startup developing solar powered road panels — will soon install the first solar road tiles in Sandpoint, Idaho. The transparent solar road panels contain colorful LEDs, which can be controlled by a computer to create the impression of signs and lines, without the need of paint. The panels also include heating elements that prevent the accumulation of ice and snow on the road panel's surface. The solar devices can also generate enough energy to power nearby restrooms and fountains. Founder Scott Brusaw says that there are more than 28,000 square miles of paved surface that, if covered with panels, could produce three times more energy than what is needed. What do you think?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Will ground-based delivery robots catch on?

This week's Question: This fall, Starship Technologies, an Estonia-based startup created by two Skype co-founders, will begin testing its autonomous delivery robot in Washington, D.C. Washington is the first U.S. municipality to approve ground-based robots to traverse city sidewalks. Starship aims to bring packages from its fulfillment center directly to customers' homes. Ground-based delivery, Starship’s founders say, is an easier delivery option compared to drones, which require compliance with FAA regulations. What do you think?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Will you watch drone racing?

This week's Question: The Drone Racing League announced on Wednesday that it had signed deals to broadcast a 10-episode season on ESPN and ESPN2, along with the European stations Sky Sports Mix and 7Sports. According to league officials, stationary pilots will use headsets and joysticks to steer the drones through obstacle-filled courses — at up to 80 miles per hour. Tiny cameras mounted on the drones offer the human controllers a cockpit-like view. What do you think?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Can AI be used to make a good movie?

This week's Question: In early September, Concourse Media and Productivity Media, Inc. (PMI) announced the acquisition of Impossible Things, a feature-length film with a screenplay written via artificial intelligence. Greenlight Essentials, a company founded by Jack Zhang, uses AI software to create plot frameworks for target markets within the entertainment sector. What do you think?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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Would you ride in an autonomous taxi?

This month, Singapore unveiled the world's first self-driving taxis. Select passengers hailed free rides last Thursday through their smartphones. While multiple companies, including Google and Volvo, have been testing self-driving cars on public roads for several years, nuTonomy, an automonomous vehicle software startup, says it is the first company to offer rides to the public. The taxis are currently only running in a 2.5-square-mile business and residential district, and pick-ups and drop-offs are limited to specified locations. What do you think?

Posted in: Question of the Week

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