The AI That Prepared Astronauts for Space Could Now Help Fight Crime

AI Assistance

What do the International Space Station (ISS) and the Belgian police force have in common? If you said integrated approaches to machine learning, you’d be correct! Artificial intelligence (AI) systems that were developed to prepare astronauts for space are now being employed to solve crimes. European law enforcement agents believe the technology has the potential to help them more efficiently sift through data, recreate crime scenes, and identify leads.

The earliest version of this system was developed by Space Applications Services almost 15 years ago. It was designed to answer questions such as “What is this?” and “Where is this?” from astronauts-in-training in the European Space Agency (ESA) Columbus research laboratory.

Alexander follows instructions from the computer during his mission to ISS in 2014. Image Credit: ESA/NASA
Alexander Gerst follows instructions from the computer during his mission to ISS in 2014. Image Credit: ESA/NASA

The technology advanced rapidly in the following years, leading to the recent engineering of an intelligent mobile crew assistant. This bot is scheduled to undergo testing later in 2018 with Alexander Gerst, the next ESA astronaut to be sent into space.

Deep Learning Detective

The potential for AI to reduce ground operations and associated costs, as well as the possibility that it could lower risks for human personnel, have piqued the interest not only of space agencies but law enforcement agencies as well.

Space Applications Services began to pivot the AI toward security applications when it developed a tool that allowed it to answer most factual questions as well as display the results visually. The machine intelligence became capable of combing through thousands of hours of security camera footage and pulling up specific video feeds upon request.

Belgian police are currently evaluating software that could be applied to data from a vast spectrum of sources, including text records and social media, bringing up results within seconds. The technology’s ability to complete labor-intensive crime analysis with just a simple click means it could help usher justice systems into a new era — perhaps as soon as mid-2018.

And Belgian is just the latest country to apply AI to law enforcement. China is also exploring whether it can use predictive AI to identify the citizens who are most likely to commit crimes, and Dubai is introducing robotic police officers. Across the world, more and more nations are looking to the latest tech to keep their citizens safe.

The post The AI That Prepared Astronauts for Space Could Now Help Fight Crime appeared first on Futurism.


Facebook moderators were reportedly not prepared to catch Russian ads

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This walkie talkie app got 6 million new users in one week as people prepared for Hurricane Irma in Florida

People in Florida are using the app to get real-time updates on the hurricane.

“Is it safe to go to any Miami-Dade hospitals? It’s an emergency.”

“Are there tornados in Miami?”

“Where is the eye of the storm?”

These are just some of the more pertinent questions that people are fielding on the walkie-talkie app Zello. The app, which was founded in 2012, is serving as the de facto source of real-time updates, as well as access to emergency information, as Hurricane Irma makes landfalls in Florida.

Listening in on the channel for 10 minutes on Sunday provided pertinent updates and guidelines such as:

“If you’re still looking for shelter text the word shelter and your zip code to 43362.”

“Please take the password off your cell phone so your kids can use it in the case of an emergency.”

“There is a tornado warning issues for West Lake, Osceola County.”

The app, which enables people to communicate on public channels on the app using WiFi or cellular data, has seen 1 million new users a day since last Monday, according to Zello CEO Bill Morris. Zello is currently the top free app in the U.S. Apple app store and has more than 100 million registered users to date.

In addition to allowing people to field audio questions, the app also allows participants to upload screenshots with updates or pertinent information such as numbers to call if someone runs out of gas on the road.

“We’ve seen an explosion in a crisis before so that’s not so surprising,” Morris told Recode. “The main group in Harvey is called the Cajun Navy. They used Zello in prior years and they had great success a year ago during what was then the biggest flood since Katrina. So when they came to Houston they strongly urged the community to use Zello and one of the reasons is because Zello works when most other things don’t.”

Screenshot of the group on Zello.

As people start losing their power all over the state, the channel is serving as an important source of information that Florida residents may have typically received in the past by watching local TV reports.

According to Morris, Zello has also seen surges in popularity during political and social conflicts in Egypt and Venezuela.

“Zello was adopted as the communication tool [in these situations] because voice is trustworthy in a way that text is not,” Morris said. “It’s much more intimate. Live voice demands attention from both sides. It’s a great way to communicate and coordinate with a group of people at once.”

While channel admins are providing real time updates on wind speeds and what Florida counties have lost power or are experience flooding, they also spend a good deal of time attempting to moderate the channel and keeping it clear of spam and non-emergency questions.

“If you use profanity you will be blocked and when you need help you won’t be able to get it,” one admin repeatedly advised on the app.

“The core problem with public radio is you have bad actors,” Morris told Recode. “It’s very difficult with live voice. So we have over the years developed administration moderation tools and one of them is a trusted channel where you can be only speak if you’re approved.”

This was also a problem dispatchers faced during Hurricane Harvey that slammed into Texas recently, Morris learned after having round table discussions with some of them in the days after the hurricane.

“They would bring up the problems, another one was other channels [that were] trending would come wreak havoc on these emergency channels and say ‘we want to cause problems because you’re beating us in trending,’” Morris said.

The app itself is free and Zello makes money off of its commercial offering called ZelloWork, for which the company has about 1,000 business costumers. Think of it as a dispatch or communication service for companies with employees who don’t typically sit at their desk — such as transportation companies.

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Full text: Former FBI director James Comey’s prepared testimony to the U.S. Senate on his interactions with President Trump

Comey will deliver his remarks Thursday.

James Comey, the former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations director that President Donald Trump fired last month, will testify tomorrow (June 8) to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about his interactions with Trump.

The following is the full text of his prepared remarks (pdf).

Here, he discusses his briefings and meetings with Trump, including the January dinner where Trump allegedly asked him for “honest loyalty.”

Statement for the Record

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

James B. Comey

June 8, 2017

Chairman Burr, Ranking Member Warner, Members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me to appear before you today. I was asked to testify today to describe for you my interactions with President-Elect and President Trump on subjects that I understand are of interest to you. I have not included every detail from my conversations with the President, but, to the best of my recollection, I have tried to include information that may be relevant to the Committee.

January 6 Briefing

I first met then-President-Elect Trump on Friday, January 6 in a conference room at Trump Tower in New York. I was there with other Intelligence Community (IC) leaders to brief him and his new national security team on the findings of an IC assessment concerning Russian efforts to interfere in the election. At the conclusion of that briefing, I remained alone with the PresidentElect to brief him on some personally sensitive aspects of the information assembled during the assessment.

The IC leadership thought it important, for a variety of reasons, to alert the incoming President to the existence of this material, even though it was salacious and unverified. Among those reasons were: (1) we knew the media was about to publicly report the material and we believed the IC should not keep knowledge of the material and its imminent release from the President-Elect; and (2) to the extent there was some effort to compromise an incoming President, we could blunt any such effort with a defensive briefing.

The Director of National Intelligence asked that I personally do this portion of the briefing because I was staying in my position and because the material implicated the FBI’s counter-intelligence responsibilities. We also agreed I would do it alone to minimize potential embarrassment to the President-Elect. Although we agreed it made sense for me to do the briefing, the FBI’s leadership and I were concerned that the briefing might create a situation where a new President came into office uncertain about whether the FBI was conducting a counter-intelligence investigation of his personal conduct.

It is important to understand that FBI counter-intelligence investigations are different than the more-commonly known criminal investigative work. The Bureau’s goal in a counter-intelligence investigation is to understand the technical and human methods that hostile foreign powers are using to influence the United States or to steal our secrets. The FBI uses that understanding to disrupt those efforts. Sometimes disruption takes the form of alerting a person who is targeted for recruitment or influence by the foreign power. Sometimes it involves hardening a computer system that is being attacked. Sometimes it involves “turning” the recruited person into a double-agent, or publicly calling out the behavior with sanctions or expulsions of embassy-based intelligence officers. On occasion, criminal prosecution is used to disrupt intelligence activities.

Because the nature of the hostile foreign nation is well known, counterintelligence investigations tend to be centered on individuals the FBI suspects to be witting or unwitting agents of that foreign power. When the FBI develops reason to believe an American has been targeted for recruitment by a foreign power or is covertly acting as an agent of the foreign power, the FBI will “open an investigation” on that American and use legal authorities to try to learn more about the nature of any relationship with the foreign power so it can be disrupted.

In that context, prior to the January 6 meeting, I discussed with the FBI’s leadership team whether I should be prepared to assure President-Elect Trump that we were not investigating him personally. That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him. We agreed I should do so if circumstances warranted. During our one-on-one meeting at Trump Tower, based on PresidentElect Trump’s reaction to the briefing and without him directly asking the question, I offered that assurance.

I felt compelled to document my first conversation with the President-Elect in a memo. To ensure accuracy, I began to type it on a laptop in an FBI vehicle outside Trump Tower the moment I walked out of the meeting. Creating written records immediately after one-on-one conversations with Mr. Trump was my practice from that point forward. This had not been my practice in the past. I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) – once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016. In neither of those circumstances did I memorialize the discussions. I can recall nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump in four months – three in person and six on the phone.

January 27 Dinner

The President and I had dinner on Friday, January 27 at 6:30 pm in the Green Room at the White House. He had called me at lunchtime that day and invited me to dinner that night, saying he was going to invite my whole family, but decided to have just me this time, with the whole family coming the next time. It was unclear from the conversation who else would be at the dinner, although I assumed there would be others.

It turned out to be just the two of us, seated at a small oval table in the center of the Green Room. Two Navy stewards waited on us, only entering the room to serve food and drinks.

The President began by asking me whether I wanted to stay on as FBI Director, which I found strange because he had already told me twice in earlier conversations that he hoped I would stay, and I had assured him that I intended to. He said that lots of people wanted my job and, given the abuse I had taken during the previous year, he would understand if I wanted to walk away.

My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch.

I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my tenyear term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President.

A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, but he returned to the subject near the end of our dinner.

At one point, I explained why it was so important that the FBI and the Department of Justice be independent of the White House. I said it was a paradox: Throughout history, some Presidents have decided that because “problems” come from Justice, they should try to hold the Department close. But blurring those boundaries ultimately makes the problems worse by undermining public trust in the institutions and their work.

Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation and my explanations had made clear what he should expect.

During the dinner, the President returned to the salacious material I had briefed him about on January 6, and, as he had done previously, expressed his disgust for the allegations and strongly denied them. He said he was considering ordering me to investigate the alleged incident to prove it didn’t happen. I replied that he should give that careful thought because it might create a narrative that we were investigating him personally, which we weren’t, and because it was very difficult to prove a negative. He said he would think about it and asked me to think about it.

As was my practice for conversations with President Trump, I wrote a detailed memo about the dinner immediately afterwards and shared it with the senior leadership team of the FBI.

February 14 Oval Office Meeting

On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing of the President. He sat behind the desk and a group of us sat in a semi-circle of about six chairs facing him on the other side of the desk. The Vice President, Deputy Director of the CIA, Director of the National CounterTerrorism Center, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Attorney General, and I were in the semi-circle of chairs. I was directly facing the President, sitting between the Deputy CIA Director and the Director of NCTC. There were quite a few others in the room, sitting behind us on couches and chairs.

The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me.

The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me. When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President. He added that he had other concerns about Flynn, which he did not then specify.

The President then made a long series of comments about the problem with leaks of classified information – a concern I shared and still share. After he had spoken for a few minutes about leaks, Reince Priebus leaned in through the door by the grandfather clock and I could see a group of people waiting behind him. The President waved at him to close the door, saying he would be done shortly. The door closed. The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”

The President returned briefly to the problem of leaks. I then got up and left out the door by the grandfather clock, making my way through the large group of people waiting there, including Mr. Priebus and the Vice President.

I immediately prepared an unclassified memo of the conversation about Flynn and discussed the matter with FBI senior leadership. I had understood the President to be requesting that we drop any investigation of Flynn in connection with false statements about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December. I did not understand the President to be talking about the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign. I could be wrong, but I took him to be focusing on what had just happened with Flynn’s departure and the controversy around his account of his phone calls. Regardless, it was very concerning, given the FBI’s role as an independent investigative agency.

The FBI leadership team agreed with me that it was important not to infect the investigative team with the President’s request, which we did not intend to abide. We also concluded that, given that it was a one-on-one conversation, there was nothing available to corroborate my account. We concluded it made little sense to report it to Attorney General Sessions, who we expected would likely recuse himself from involvement in Russia-related investigations. (He did so two weeks later.) The Deputy Attorney General’s role was then filled in an acting capacity by a United States Attorney, who would also not be long in the role. After discussing the matter, we decided to keep it very closely held, resolving to figure out what to do with it down the road as our investigation progressed. The investigation moved ahead at full speed, with none of the investigative team members – or the Department of Justice lawyers supporting them – aware of the President’s request.

Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply. For the reasons discussed above, I did not mention that the President broached the FBI’s potential investigation of General Flynn.

March 30 Phone Call

On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, and that there would be great benefit, if we didn’t find anything, to our having done the work well. He agreed, but then re-emphasized the problems this was causing him.

Then the President asked why there had been a congressional hearing about Russia the previous week – at which I had, as the Department of Justice directed, confirmed the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. I explained the demands from the leadership of both parties in Congress for more information, and that Senator Grassley had even held up the confirmation of the Deputy Attorney General until we briefed him in detail on the investigation. I explained that we had briefed the leadership of Congress on exactly which individuals we were investigating and that we had told those Congressional leaders that we were not personally investigating President Trump. I reminded him I had previously told him that. He repeatedly told me, “We need to get that fact out.” (I did not tell the President that the FBI and the Department of Justice had been reluctant to make public statements that we did not have an open case on President Trump for a number of reasons, most importantly because it would create a duty to correct, should that change.)

The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him.

In an abrupt shift, he turned the conversation to FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, saying he hadn’t brought up “the McCabe thing” because I had said McCabe was honorable, although McAuliffe was close to the Clintons and had given him (I think he meant Deputy Director McCabe’s wife) campaign money. Although I didn’t understand why the President was bringing this up, I repeated that Mr. McCabe was an honorable person.

He finished by stressing “the cloud” that was interfering with his ability to make deals for the country and said he hoped I could find a way to get out that he wasn’t being investigated. I told him I would see what we could do, and that we would do our investigative work well and as quickly as we could.

Immediately after that conversation, I called Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente (AG Sessions had by then recused himself on all Russiarelated matters), to report the substance of the call from the President, and said I would await his guidance. I did not hear back from him before the President called me again two weeks later.

April 11 Phone Call

On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.

He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended.

That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.

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