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By Katia Moskvitch

All it took was a ball of discarded Scotch tape in the waste basket.

There was residue on the tape’s sticky side — the result of researchers at the University of Manchester cleaning up graphite, the material in pencil lead. Curious, physics professor Andre Geim examined the residue under the microscope, then folded the tape in half and pulled it apart. The graphite flakes were thinner than any he’d ever seen. Geim had discovered graphene, an atom-thick layer of carbon — the thinnest, yet the strongest material known. …


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(Image: Getty)

By Stuart Harwood, ExxonMobil, Claudio Gambella, IBM Quantum, Dimitar Trenev, ExxonMobil, and Andrea Simonetto, IBM Quantum

About 90 percent¹ of world trade relies on maritime shipping, every year moving goods with a total value of $14 trillion², with more than 50,000³ merchant ships delivering everything from food to natural gas to widgets. Logistically speaking, this isn’t the “traveling salesperson problem.” It’s a problem with thousands of companies moving every kind of good imaginable around the globe, on ships that can carry as many as 200,000 containers¹, each.

In an industry with such large and complex logistical challenges, route optimization problems…


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AI tidying up a virtual home is nice. Maybe in the future we could have AIs putting our real shirts into real wardrobes!

By Keerthiram Murugesan, Kartik Talamadupula & Pavan Kapanipathi

You know a shirt belongs in a wardrobe. I know a shirt belongs in a wardrobe. Does an AI know that?

Typically, not.

But it can learn by interacting with the world around it. We wanted to boost this technique, known as Reinforcement Learning, by injecting common sense into an AI model — and helping it to learn faster.

In a recent paper, “Text-based RL Agents with Commonsense Knowledge: New Challenges, Environments and Baselines,” introduced at the 2021 AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, we describe an AI that trades off “exploration” of…


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Join Heike Riel LIVE for a behind-the-scenes discussion hosted by IBM Research Editorial Lead Katia Moskvitch on 4 February, 2021 at 7:00 PM CET / 1:00 PM US Eastern on YouTube Live. Don’t miss your chance to ask Heike questions through the livestream comments!

By Angela Harp

“I relish pushing myself” chuckles Dr. Heike Riel, IBM Fellow — who has just been named a Fellow of the prestigious American Physical Society (APS). “No matter if it’s math, handball, playing the accordion, or breaking new ground in quantum computing — I enjoy giving my best at everything I do. And if it works it’s even more fun.”


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By Anup Kalia, Jin Xiao & Maja Vukovic

Average ‘legacy’ applications written for an earlier operating system or hardware platform that many companies are still using can be huge: think millions of lines of archaic code written and evolved by teams who may have moved on.

More than 80 percent of these old-but-necessary apps remain on physical machines built a long time ago and often with scarce documentation — but which are still critical to the business, as they’re still in use, or need to be kept for records compliance.

To help the developers that update these applications, our team…


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IBM’S RoboRXN chemistry tool could greatly boost molecular design

By Philippe Schwaller, Teodoro Laino, and Alain Vaucher

Just like an astronomer investigates outer space, a chemist explores chemical space — a theoretical territory with all possible known (and unknown) chemical compounds. Researchers estimate chemical space to contain up to 10180compounds — more than twice the magnitude of the number of atoms in the universe. Currently, the largest public database of molecules synthesized so far called PubChem contains just over 100 million, or roughly 108. Throw in the chemical reactions between molecules, and you’ve got an even larger chemical reaction space.

It’s easy to see why the vastness of chemical…


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By Ritesh Krishna and Katia Moskvitch

Developing new software for a specific scientific task can be time-consuming and costly. Software repurposing can help — at times it can even improve the results of the task compared to the traditional methods. This is exactly what our global team from IBM Research Daresbury in the UK, and Almaden and Yorktown in the US has achieved.

In our latest paper, “Repurposing software for functional characterization of the microbiome,” published in the Microbiome Journal, we propose a way to improve the speed, sensitivity and accuracy of what’s known as microbial functional profiling — determining…


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Two decades separate these two devices. Impressive? I think so.

A chat with one of IBM’s leading computer scientists and 2020 ACM Fellow Chandra Narayanaswami

By Katia Moskvitch

We now take smartwatches for granted. But did you know that very early models go back two decades?

Between 2000 and 2001, IBM Research made headlines when it unveiled an internet-enabled designer watch that ran on the open-source operating system Linux. Dubbed WatchPad, its aim was to demonstrate the capabilities of the then-novel OS for mobile and embedded devices — complementing other efforts to adapt Linux for devices ranging from workstations to large enterprise servers.

The futuristic watch featured Bluetooth communication and…


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Even programmers themselves often have no idea how neural networks make decisions

By Wang Zhou and Levente Klein

Cats aren’t dogs. Even modern AI knows that.

But how exactly AI distinguishes cat images from those of dogs is not clear. Standard neural networks are akin to a black box, as even the people who program them often have little to no idea how they make decisions.

It’s not as critical when it’s just a picture of a cute puppy or a kitten. But it becomes important when an AI tries to interpret, say, a sequence of weather images that show the formation of a hurricane and its propagation across the Atlantic. …


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Yes, actions do have consequences. Always.

By Debarun Bhattacharjya

Actions have consequences.

And typically, when something happens, the order of the causes of the event really does matter. But understanding exactly how each action affects the final result is not always easy. Our latest work, “Order-Dependent Event Models for Agent Interactions,” presented at the International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence Organization (IJCAI), can help.

Take two countries historically in conflict. Say one makes a negative statement about the other, leading the latter to retaliate but not as strongly. …

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