Scientists build AI designed to tell what a baby’s crying means

7 Jun 2019

Image: © Kirill Zdorov/

Efforts to better understand what a crying baby might want have led to the creation of AI that can determine if sounds are normal or abnormal.

How much influence should artificial intelligence (AI) have in the very human world of rearing a child? This is a question long posed by those working in both childcare and computer science, and AI has not been without its criticisms.

Adding further fuel to the debate is some US researchers who have devised a new AI that can identify and distinguish between normal cry signals and abnormal ones – such as those resulting from an underlying illness – in a noisy environment.

Publishing its findings to a joint US and Chinese journal, the team said it is based on a cry language recognition algorithm that taps into the experience of healthcare workers and seasoned parents who are able to pretty accurately distinguish between a baby’s many needs based on the crying sounds it makes.

Speaking of the project, corresponding author Lichuan Liu said: “The ultimate goals are healthier babies and less pressure on parents and caregivers.

“We are looking into collaborations with hospitals and medical research centres to obtain more data and requirement scenario input, and hopefully we could have some products for clinical practice.”

Amazon reveals its brand new delivery drone

Amazon revealed its latest piece of flying hardware at its Re:Mars Conference in Las Vegas: the latest Prime Air drone design.

The fully electric drone, with a distinct hexagonal shape, is designed to fly up to 24km in distance and deliver packages of about 2kg in less than 30 minutes. One of its big selling points, the company added, is its latest autonomous systems and sensors on board.

“If our drone’s flight environment changes, or the drone’s mission commands it to come into contact with an object that wasn’t there previously, it will refuse to do so – it is independently safe,” a blogpost said.

“A customer’s yard may have clotheslines, telephone wires or electrical wires. Wire detection is one of the hardest challenges for low-altitude flights. Through the use of computer vision techniques we’ve invented, our drones can recognise and avoid wires as they descend into, and ascend out of, a customer’s yard.”

The delivery giant expects the drones to start delivering packages – in the US at least – in the coming months.

Jaguar Land Rover and BMW team up for EVs

In yet another case of auto giants teaming up in a rapidly changing industry, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW have announced they are to jointly develop electric motors, transmissions and power electronics for electric vehicles (EVs).

According to the BBC, both companies have said that the move will spare them a significant amount of production cost as they can share the cost when buying large quantities of EV parts.

Meanwhile, a joint team of engineers from Jaguar Land Rover and BMW will work to develop the latter’s ‘Gen 5’ electric drivetrain technology. Afterwards, both will then go their own way to produce different drivetrains.

“Together, we have the opportunity to cater more effectively for customer needs by shortening development time and bringing vehicles and state-of-the-art technologies more rapidly to market,” said BMW board member Klaus Froehlich.

Russia and China sign major roll-out deal for 5G

As many in the west continue to shun Huawei and its 5G technology over national security risks, Russia has announced the signing of a major 5G network deployment deal with the company. According to The Guardian, Russian telecoms company MTS said it will work with the Chinese tech company to begin constructing the network over the course of 2019.

The agreement was signed between the countries’ heads of state, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, during a series of meetings between the two in Moscow earlier this week. One of Huawei’s leading figures, Guo Ping, said he was “very happy” that the deal could be signed “in an area of strategic importance like 5G”.

The US has been the strongest critic of Huawei, having announced in the past few months that US companies will be banned from working with the Chinese giant after president Donald Trump accused it of spying for Beijing.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic