Microsoft manages to cram artificial intelligence on the Raspberry Pi 3 PC board

artificial intelligence
Microsoft - Dan DeLong
The Raspberry Pi 3 is one of the most popular devices you can buy. For $35, this inexpensive all-in-one computer board can be used to power numerous projects ranging from miniature Linux-based PCs to gaming consoles and more. Now Microsoft reports that it built a device based on the Raspberry Pi 3 that uses artificial intelligence to hunt down pesky rodents.

The device was created by the head of Microsoft’s Machine Learning and Optimization group, Ofer Dekel. He discovered that squirrels were stealing flower bulbs along with seeds in the bird feeder in his backyard garden. Naturally, he couldn’t literally keep watch in the shadows and chase down the furry-tail rodents with his bare hands, so he came up with a plan.

Using his team located at the Redmond, Washington, research lab (he has one in India, too), they trained a computer-vision model to detect squirrels. The artificial intelligence was then deployed onto a Raspberry Pi 3 board inside a special device he mounted in his backyard. Thus, when a squirrel rears its head, the device will turn on the sprinkler system, thwarting the rodent’s thieving habits.

This backyard “project” is just part of Microsoft’s overall picture of an artificial intelligence-first world. “We’re moving from what is today’s mobile-first, cloud-first world to a new world that is going to be made up of an intelligent cloud and intelligent edge,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said during the recent Build developer conference.

The big accomplishment in the squirrel-hunting project, according to Microsoft, was cramming a deep neural network onto an extremely small chip. Dekel and his team used “a variety of techniques” to compress the neural network, which is essentially “a class of predictors” inspired by our brains.

One technique is called weight quantization, capable of cramming more parameters into a smaller physical space. This compression enables the artificial intelligence to work faster, too. Additionally, Dekel’s group is examining a technique called pruning, which removes redundancies in neural networks. This has a double benefit: the ability to run a neural network on extremely small processors, and faster evaluation times.

However, the team wants to get artificial intelligence running on the smallest ARM-based processor to date: the Cortex M0. According to ARM, this processor has a “floorplan area” of 0.007mm squared. That’s very, very tiny, and will require the team to make its machine learning models up to 10,000 times smaller than what they’re compressing for the Raspberry Pi 3.

“There is just no way to take a deep neural network, have it stay as accurate as it is today, and consume 10,000 less resources. You can’t do it,” said Dekel. “So, for that, we have a longer-term approach, which is to start from scratch. To start from math on the white board and invent a new set of machine-learning technologies and tools that are tailored for these resource-constrained platforms.”

To see what the team is currently working on, early previews can be downloaded from Microsoft’s GitHub depot here. It also provides previews of the compression techniques and training algorithms.

Product Review

Glas may be gorgeous, but this spendy thermostat is no smarter than the rest

A stunning OLED screen tops the prettiest thermostat we’ve reviewed in years. But GLAS lacks the brains required to justify its premium price. Read more about it in our full review.
Product Review

Why get anything bigger? The new Mac Mini is all the desktop you need

Apple’s new Mac Mini doesn’t look much different from its predecessor, and it’s more expensive. Yet the changes under the hood make a case for its consideration as your new Mac. Can this entry-level machine hold its own?

Premiere Pro A.I. plug-in for Adobe paints your videos in the style of van Gogh

CyberLink is bringing its suite of artificial intelligence-based video effects directly to Adobe users as a plug-in for Premiere Pro. The A.I. Style video plug-in "redraws" video in the styles of artists like Vincent van Gogh.

Xiaomi chooses Mi 8 Pro and Mi 8 Lite phones to spearhead British invasion

Xiaomi has launched its first official smartphones in the U.K., after steadily entering Europe over the past 12 months. The company has brought the Mi 8 Pro and the Mi 8 Lite, along with a selection of connected products.

Should you buy the affordable MacBook Air, or is the MacBook Pro worth the price?

Though they both share Retina Displays and similar keyboards, there are still some specs differences and other changes which distinguish the new 2018 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. In this guide, we stack the two up against each other.

Want to save a webpage as a PDF? Just follow these steps

Need to quickly save and share a webpage? The best way is to learn how to save a webpage as a PDF file, as they're fully featured and can handle images and text with ease. Here's how.

After a month of bugs, the Windows 10 October 2018 Update is finally here

After more thoroughly investigating and resolving all bugs and related issues, Microsoft is announcing the Windows 10 October 2018 is again rolling out to consumers starting today, November 13. 

Installing fonts in Windows 10 is quick and easy -- just follow these steps

Want to know how to install fonts in Windows 10? Here's our guide on two easy ways to get the job done, no matter how many you want to add to your existing catalog, plus instructions for deleting fonts in the process.

Changing file associations in Windows 10 is quick and easy with these steps

Learning how to change file associations can make editing certain file types much quicker than manually selecting your preferred application every time you open them. Just follow these short steps and you'll be on your way in no time.
Emerging Tech

New simulation shows how Elon Musk’s internet satellite network might work

Elon Musk has the dream of building a network for conveying internet traffic via thousands of satellites. A new simulation created by a computer scientist looks at how feasible the idea is.

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement, or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.

Great PC speakers don't need to break the bank. These are our favorites

Not sure which PC speakers work best with your computer? Here are the best computer speakers on the market, whether you're working with a tight budget or looking to rattle your workstation with top-of-the-line audio components.

Printing to PDF in Windows is easy, no matter which method you use

Microsoft's latest operating system makes it easier than ever to print to PDF in Windows, but there are alternative methods for doing so, even if you want to forgo Adobe Acrobat. Here's how.

These are the 5 best free antivirus apps to protect your MacBook

Malware protection is more important than ever, even if you eschew Windows in favor of Apple's desktop platform. Thankfully, protecting your machine is as easy as picking from the best free antivirus apps for Mac suites.