Katherine Yelick to testify before House Committee on Science, Space and Technology

Prof. Katherine Yelick is one of four witnesses set to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  The committee is conducting a hearing on “Big Data Challenges and Advanced Computing Solutions.”  Yelick, who is the Associate Laboratory Director for Computing Sciences at Berkeley Lab, will discuss the emerging role of machine-learning methods that have revolutionized the field of artificial intelligence and may similarly impact scientific discovery.  The hearing will be livestreamed on Thursday, July 12, 2018.

Oasis Labs raises $45M for ‘privacy-first’ cloud

Oasis Labs Inc., a startup co-founded and led by Prof. Dawn Song to build a high-performance cloud computing platform on blockchain, announced that it has raised $45 million in funding. Oasis is building a cloud-based blockchain platform intended to outdo existing distributed-ledger implementations in two key areas: performance and privacy. Song elaborated in a statement that “the Oasis platform aims to give users control over their data, without the underperformance and lack of privacy of existing blockchain platforms.”  The funding round saw the participation of more than 70 investors including Accel and a16z crypto, an Andreesson Horowitz fund.

Maxim Rabinovich named 2018 Hertz-Gates Fellow

CS Ph.D. student Maxim Rabinovich (joint advisors: Michael Jordan and Daniel Klein) has received a 2018 Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Hertz-Gates Fellowship in Global Health and Development.  Rabinovich is currently researching machine learning and natural language processing, and is interested in developing artificial intelligence tools that support and extend human reasoning. Recent work in this direction includes projects on minimax theory for multiple testing, code generation from natural language specifications, fine-grained entity typing, and function-specific mixing rates for MCMC.  Rabinovich's work has been supported by the Hertz Foundation since 2015.

Startup Elph secures $875K in pre-seed funding

The House Fund has backed a $875,000 pre-seed round for Elph, a startup co-founded by two EECS alumni:  Ritik Malhotra (B.S. '15) and Tanooj Luthra (B.S. '13).  Elph operates a portal for accessing decentralized apps known as Ethereum dApps.  It provides a place to store digital assets (cryptocurrencies, tokens, collectibles), find dApps without having to scour the web, and use them natively.  Elph also plans to roll out a software development tool to simplify the process of building dApps.  The House Fund is a berkeley-based AI-focused startup accelerator.

Stuart Russell dissects the hype around AI in Paris

CS Prof. Stuart Russell's speech at an event at the American Library in Paris titled "AI And The Future Of Humanity" has been described as a "potential game-changer."  The lecture is explored in an article for Forbes by  Lauren deLisa Coleman titled "Here's The Real Reason You're Terrified Of The $1.2-Trillion AI Industry But Don't Yet Truly Know Why."  Russell is credited with dissecting the hype around AI, including affirming the value of the technology to humanity while asking questions about the ways it might evolve, and exploring some of the shared strategies that are needed during the foundation of this evolution.  The event was produced by Ivy Plus European Leaders, a think tank of alumni from leading US and European Universities, in partnership with UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

AJ Shankar's startup Everlaw raises $25M in series B funding

Everlaw, a legal-tech startup founded by alumnus AJ Shankar (CS Ph.D. '09, advisor: Rastislav Bodik), has raised $25 million in a series B funding round.  Berkeley-based Everlaw was established in 2011 as a cloud-based e-discovery platform that lets lawyers easily organize and search through millions of documents, videos, emails, and pictures exchanged between legal teams before a trial.  Shankar, the company's CEO, said the money will be used to invest in AI which which they hope can be used to determine what documents will be a priority or what documents should be looked at next. The funding round was led by existing investors and Silicon Valley venture firm Andreeseen Horowitz.

Chelsea Finn is one of MIT TR's 2018 35 Innovators Under 35

CS PhD student Chelsea Finn (advisers: Pieter Abbeel and Sergey Levine) has been named to MIT Technology Review's 2018 list of "35 Innovators Under 35," an honor which recognizes "exceptionally talented young innovators whose work we believe has the greatest potential to transform the world."  Finn is cited in the Pioneers category because "her robots act like toddlers—watching adults, copying them in order to learn."  She works in the Berkeley AI Research Lab (BAIR) developing robots that can learn just by observing and exploring their environment. Her algorithms require much less data than is usually needed to train an AI—so little that robots running her software can learn how to manipulate an object just by watching one video of a human doing it. “In many ways, the capabilities of robotic systems are still in their infancy,” she says. “The goal is to have them gain common sense.”

Alessandro Chiesa named one of MIT TR's 35 Innovators Under 35

CS Assistant Prof. Alessandro Chiesa has been named to the 2018 roster of MIT Technology Review's "35 Innovators Under 35."  The list acknowledges "exceptionally talented young innovators whose work we believe has the greatest potential to transform the world."  Chiesa, who co-founded Zcash, was cited in the Pioneers category for "a cryptocurrency that’s as private as cash."  Zcash employs a cryptographic protocol called a succinct zero-knowledge proof--an efficient way to convince both parties to a transaction that something is true without divulging any other information. It allows people to do transactions online without risking their privacy or exposing themselves to identity theft.  Launched 4 years ago, Zcash now has a market cap of over a billion dollars.

John Schulman named MIT TR Pioneering Innovator Under 35

CS alumnus John Schulman (Ph.D. '16, adviser: Pieter Abbeel) has been named to MIT Technology Review's 2018 list of "35 Innovators Under 35," an honor which recognizes "exceptionally talented young innovators whose work we believe has the greatest potential to transform the world."  Schulman, whose dissertation was on "Optimizing Expectations: From Deep Reinforcement Learning to Stochastic Computation Graphs," is cited in the Pioneer category for "training AI to be smarter and better, one game of Sonic the Hedgehog at a time."   He is the co-founder of OpenAI, where he has created some key algorithms in reinforcement learning: he trains AI agents in the same way you might train a dog, by offering a treat for a correct response--in this case, by racking up a high score in a video game.  These algorithms, once trained, might be applied in the real world, where they can be used to improve robot locomotion.

Siemens to acquire startup Comfy

German conglomerate Siemens announced it will acquire Comfy, an Oakland-based startup co-founded in 2012 by two CS alumni, Andrew Krioukov (M.S. '13) and Stephen Dawson-Haggerty (Ph.D. '14).  Both students were advised by David Culler.  Comfy (formerly named Building Robotics) is an end-to-end solution utilizing sensors and smart technology to control all aspects of the workplace environment, allowing office workers to not just control temperature and lighting but determine whether a room is currently empty.  This comprehensive approach has helped Comfy land numerous tech giant clients, including Microsoft, Intel, Salesforce and Infosys.  "Our unique strength is that we have, from the beginning, focused on the end user experience," explained Krioukov. "The building of the future that we envision is one that from the moment you walk into work, it knows who you are and what you're doing that day."  The purchase is part of Siemens' expansion into smart building strategies.