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Artificial Neural Networks

Deep Learning System Can Accurately Predict Extreme Weather

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Engineers at Rice University have developed a deep learning system that is capable of accurately predicting extreme weather events up to five days in advance. The system, which taught itself, only requires minimal information about current weather conditions in order to make the predictions.             

Part of the system’s training involves examining hundreds of pairs of maps, and each map indicates surface temperatures and air pressures at five-kilometers height. Those conditions are shown several days apart. The training also presents scenarios that produced extreme weather, such as hot and cold spells that can cause heat waves and winter storms. Upon completing the training, the deep learning system was able to make five-day forecasts of extreme weather based on maps it had not previously seen, with an accuracy rate of 85%.

According to Pedram Hassanzadeh, co-author of the study which was published online in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, the system could be used as a tool and act as an early warning for weather forecasters. It will be especially useful for learning more about certain atmospheric conditions that cause extreme weather scenarios. 

Because of the invention of computer-based numerical weather prediction (NWP) in the 1950s, day-to-day weather forecasts have continued to improve. However, NWP is not able to make reliable predictions about extreme weather events, such as heat waves. 

“It may be that we need faster supercomputers to solve the governing equations of the numerical weather prediction models at higher resolutions,” said Hassanzadeh, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of Earth, environmental and planetary sciences at Rice University. “But because we don’t fully understand the physics and precursor conditions of extreme-causing weather patterns, it’s also possible that the equations aren’t fully accurate, and they won’t produce better forecasts, no matter how much computing power we put in.”

In 2017, Hassanzadeh was joined by study co-authors and graduate students Ashesh Chattopadhyay and Ebrahim Nabizadeh. Together, they set out on a different path. 

“When you get these heat waves or cold spells, if you look at the weather map, you are often going to see some weird behavior in the jet stream, abnormal things like large waves or a big high-pressure system that is not moving at all,” Hassanzadeh said. “It seemed like this was a pattern recognition problem. So we decided to try to reformulate extreme weather forecasting as a pattern-recognition problem rather than a numerical problem.”

“We decided to train our model by showing it a lot of pressure patterns in the five kilometers above the Earth, and telling it, for each one, ‘This one didn’t cause extreme weather. This one caused a heat wave in California. This one didn’t cause anything. This one caused a cold spell in the Northeast,'” Hassanzadeh continued. “Not anything specific like Houston versus Dallas, but more of a sense of the regional area.”

Prior to computers, analog forecasting was used for weather prediction. It was done in a very similar way to the new system, but it was humans instead of computers. 

“One way prediction was done before computers is they would look at the pressure system pattern today, and then go to a catalog of previous patterns and compare and try to find an analog, a closely similar pattern,” Hassanzadeh said. “If that one led to rain over France after three days, the forecast would be for rain in France.”

Now, neural networks can learn on their own and do not necessarily need to rely on humans to find connections. 

“It didn’t matter that we don’t fully understand the precursors because the neural network learned to find those connections itself,” Hassanzadeh said. “It learned which patterns were critical for extreme weather, and it used those to find the best analog.”

To test their concept, the team relied on data taken from realistic computer simulations. They originally reported early results with a convolutional neural network, but the team then shifted towards capsule neural networks. Convolutional neural networks are not able to recognize relative spatial relationships, but capsule neural networks can. These relative spatial relationships are important when it comes to the evolution of weather patterns. 

“The relative positions of pressure patterns, the highs and lows you see on weather maps, are the key factor in determining how weather evolves,” Hassanzadeh said.

Capsule neural networks also require less training data than convolutional neural networks. 

The team will continue to work on the system in order for it to be capable of being used in operational forecasting, but Hassanzadeh hopes that it eventually will lead to more accurate forecasts for extreme weather. 

“We are not suggesting that at the end of the day this is going to replace NWP,” he said. “But this might be a useful guide for NWP. Computationally, this could be a super cheap way to provide some guidance, an early warning, that allows you to focus NWP resources specifically where extreme weather is likely.”

“We want to leverage ideas from explainable AI (artificial intelligence) to interpret what the neural network is doing,” he said. “This might help us identify the precursors to extreme-causing weather patterns and improve our understanding of their physics.”

 

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Alex McFarland is a historian and journalist covering the newest developments in artificial intelligence.

Artificial Neural Networks

Neural Network Makes it Easier to Identify Different Points in History

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One area that is not covered as much in terms of artificial intelligence (AI) potential is how it can be used in history, anthropology, archaeology, and other similar fields. This is being demonstrated by new research that shows how machine learning can act as a tool for archaeologists to differentiate between two major periods: the Middle Stone Age (MSA) and the Later Stone Age (LSA). 

This differentiation may seem like something that academia and archaeologists already have established, but that is far from the case. In many instances, it is not easy to distinguish between the two. 

MSA and LSA 

Around 300 thousand years ago, the first MSA toolkits appeared during the same time as the earliest fossils of Homo Sapiens. Those same tool kits were used all the way up until about 30 thousand years ago. A major shift in behavior took place around 67 thousand years ago when there were changes in stone tool production, and the resulting toolkits were LSA. 

LSA toolkits were still being used in the recent past, and it is now becoming clear that the shift from MSA to LSA was anything but a linear process. The changes took place throughout different times and in different places, which is why researchers are so focused on this process that can help explain cultural innovation and creativity. 

The foundation of this understanding is the differentiation between MSA and LSA.

Dr. Jimbob Blinkhorn is an archaeologist from the Pan African Evolution Research Group, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the Centre for Quaternary Research, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway. 

“Eastern Africa is a key region to examine this major cultural change, not only because it hosts some of the youngest MSA sites and some of the oldest LSA sites, but also because a large number of well excavated and dated sites make it ideal for research using quantitative methods,” Dr. Blinkhorn says. “This enabled us to pull together a substantial database of changing patterns to stone tool production and use, spanning 130 to 12 thousand years ago, to examine the MSA-LSA transition.” 

Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) 

The study is based on 16 alternate tool types across 92 stone tool assemblages, with a focus on their presence or absence. The study emphasizes the constellations of tool forms that often occur together rather than each individual tool. 

Dr. Matt Grove is an archaeologist at the University of Liverpool.

“We’ve employed an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) approach to train and test models that differentiate LSA assemblages from MSA assemblages, as well as examining chronological difference between older (130-71 thousand years ago) and younger (71-28 thousand years ago) MSA assemblages with a 94% success rate,” Dr. Glove says. 

Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) mimic certain information processing features of the human brain, and the processing power is heavily reliant on the action of many simple units acting together. 

“ANNs have sometimes been described as a ‘black box’ approach, as even when they are highly successful, it may not always be clear exactly why,” Grove says. “We employed a simulation approach that breaks open this black box to understand which inputs have a significant impact on the results. This enabled us to identify how patterns of stone tool assemblage composition vary between the MSA and LSA, and we hope this demonstrates how such methods can be used more widely in archaeological research in the future.” 

“The results of our study show that MSA and LSA assemblages can be differentiated based on the constellation of artifact types found within an assemblage alone,” Blinkhorn says. “The combined occurrence of backed pieces, blade and bipolar technologies together with the combined absence of core tools, Levallois flake technology, point technology and scrapers robustly identifies LSA assemblages, with the opposite pattern identifying MSA assemblages. Significantly, this provides quantified support to qualitative differences noted by earlier researchers that key typological changes do occur with this cultural transition.”

The team will now use the newly developed method to look further into cultural change in the African Stone Age. 

“The approach we’ve employed offers a powerful toolkit to examine the categories we use to describe the archaeological record and to help us examine and explain cultural change amongst our ancestors,” Blinkhorn says.

 

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Researchers Develop “DeepTrust” Tool to Help Increase AI Trustworthiness

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The safety and trustworthiness of artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest aspects of the technology. It is constantly being improved and worked on by top experts within the different fields, and it will be crucial to the full implementation of AI throughout society. 

Some of that new work is coming out of the University of Southern California, where USC Viterbi Engineering researchers have developed a new tool capable of generating automatic indicators for whether or not AI algorithms are trustworthy in their data and predictions. 

The research was published in Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence, titled “There is Hope After All: Quantifying Opinion and Trustworthiness in Neural Networks”. The authors of the paper include Mingxi Cheng, Shahin Nazarian, and Paul Bogdan of the USC Cyber Physical Systems Group. 

Trustworthiness of Neural Networks

One of the biggest tasks in this area is getting neural networks to generate predictions that can be trusted. In many cases, this is what stops the full adoption of technology that relies on AI. 

For example, self-driving vehicles are required to act independently and make accurate decisions on auto-pilot. They need to be capable of making these decisions extremely quickly, while deciphering and recognizing objects on the road. This is crucial, especially in scenarios where the technology would have to decipher the difference between a speed bump, some other object, or a living being. 

Other scenarios include the self-driving vehicle deciding what to do when another vehicle faces it head-on, and the most complex decision of all is if that self-driving vehicle needs to decide between hitting what it perceives as another vehicle, some object, or a living being.

This all means we are putting an extreme amount of trust into the capability of the self-driving vehicle’s software to make the correct decision in just fractions of a second. It becomes even more difficult when there is conflicting information from different sensors, such as computer vision from cameras and Lidar. 

Lead author Minxi Cheng decided to take this project up after thinking, “Even humans can be indecisive in certain decision-making scenarios. In cases involving conflicting information, why can’t machines tell us when they don’t know?”

DeepTrust

The tool that was created by the researchers is called DeepTrust, and it is able to quantify the amount of uncertainty, according to Paul Bogdan, an associate professor in the Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. 

The team spent nearly two years developing DeepTrust, primarily using subjective logic to assess the neural networks. In one example of the tool working, it was able to look at the 2016 presidential election polls and predict that there was a greater margin of error for Hillary Clinton winning. 

The DeepTrust tool also makes it easier to test the reliability of AI algorithms normally trained on up to millions of data points. The other way to do this is by independently checking each one of the data points to test accuracy, which is an extremely time consuming task. 

According to the researchers, the architecture of these neural network systems is more accurate, and accuracy and trust can be maximized simultaneously.

“To our knowledge, there is no trust quantification model or tool for deep learning, artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is the first approach and opens new research directions,” Bogdan says. 

Bogdan also believes that DeepTrust could help push AI forward to the point where it is “aware and adaptive.”

 

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AI Researchers Design Program To Generate Sound Effects For Movies and Other Media

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Researchers from the University of Texas San Antonio have created an AI-based application capable of observing the actions taking place in a video and creating artificial sound effects to match those actions. The sound effects generated by the program are reportedly so realistic that when human observers were polled, they typically thought the sound effects were legitimate.

The program responsible for generating the sound effects, AudioFoley, was detailed in a study recently published in IEEE Transactions on Multimedia. According to IEEE Spectrum, the AI program was developed by Jeff Provost, professor at UT San Antonio, and Ph.D. student Sanchita Ghose. The researchers created the program utilizing multiple machine learning models joined together.

The first task in generating sound effects appropriate to the actions on a screen was recognizing those actions and mapping them to sound effects. To accomplish this, the researchers designed two different machine learning models and tested their different approaches. The first model operates by extracting frames from the videos it is fed and analyzing these frames for relevant features like motions and colors. Afterward, a second model was employed to analyze how the position of an object changes across frames, to extract temporal information. This temporal information is used to anticipate the next likely actions in the video. The two models have different methods of analyzing the actions in the clip, but they both use the information contained in the clip to guess what sound would best accompany it.

The next task is to synthesize the sound, and this is accomplished by matching activities/predicted motions to possible sound samples. According to Ghose and Prevost, AutoFoley was used to generate sound for 1000 short clips, featuring actions and items like a fire, a running horse, ticking clocks, and rain falling on plants. While AutoFoley was most successful in creating sound for clips where there didn’t need to be a perfect match between the actions and sounds, and it had trouble matching clips where actions happened with more variation, the program was still able to fool many human observers into picking its generated sounds over the sound that originally accompanied a clip.

Prevost and Ghose recruited 57 college students and had them watch different clips. Some clips contained the original audio, some contained audio generated by AutoFoley. When the first model was tested, approximately 73% of the students selected the synthesized audio as the original audio, neglecting the true sound that accompanied the clip. The other model performed slightly worse, with only 66% of the participants selecting the generated audio over the original audio.

Prevost explained that AutoFoley could potentially be used to expedite the process of producing movies, television, and other pieces of media. Prevost notes that a realistic Foley track is important to making media engaging and believable, but that the Foley process often takes a significant amount of time to complete. Having an automated system that could handle the creation of basic Foley elements could make producing media cheaper and quicker.

Currently, AutoFoley has some notable limitations. For one, while the model seems to perform well while observing events that have stable, predictable motions, it suffers when trying to generate audio for events with variation in time (like thunderstorms).  Beyond this, it also requires that the classification subject is present in the entire clip and doesn’t leave the frame. The research team is aiming to address these issues with future versions of the application.

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