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Here’s an A.I. preview of what climate change will do to your neighborhood

For the people of the Maldives, a string of islands off the southern tip of India, the realities of climate change lie right outside their front door. A 2007 report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted that unfettered carbon emissions could push sea level rise to 23 inches by 2100. With an average elevation of less than five feet, even a slight increase in sea level could make these islands inhabitable. The teal blue sea is swallowing them up.

But not everyone experiences the ravages of climate change so overtly. Climate change denialism persists despite the overwhelming scientific consensus that it’s real, and even those who recognize the reality often seem caught in the mental trap of thinking that the most serious impacts will be felt some place far away.

To remedy this, a team of researchers at the Mila Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute wants to bring the not-so-distant climate crisis reality closer to home. They’re creating an A.I.-powered platform that shows users how climate change-related natural disasters may impact their homes. The goal is to develop more intimate understandings of how climate change will upend communities, while empowering people to make more informed decisions about whether they fuel or fight the impending crisis.

“It’s hard for people to relate to climate change when we only mention remote areas and polar bears,” said Victor Schmidt, a PhD Candidate at Mila and lead author of a paper from May that outlined the team’s approach. “But there are so many consequences of climate change. It’s going to impact everyone. We want to help people better understand that and help them engage in actually taking action.”

Mila’s Visualizing Climate Change platform is designed to show people what the future has in store if we don’t significantly cut emissions soon. Similar to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Level Rise Viewer, which offers an aerial perspective on the how far the ocean will creep up or shores, Visualizing Climate Change will let users input street addresses and see what things will look like in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The platform will focus on flooding to begin with, before tackling more difficult to depict, climate-change related events, such as wildfires.

Visualizing Climate Change

“We feel that showing people the potential consequences of climate change in their neighborhoods is a good way of making climate change more personal and less distant,” Schmidt said.

The Mila team uses an image-to-image translation algorithm to transform photos captured from Google Street View into ones depicting the aftermath of flooding. They use a generative adversarial network (GAN) to train the system. GANs work by pitting two algorithms against each other—one algorithm generates an image and the other tries to guess whether that image is real or fake. In this way, the first algorithm creates more realistic images as the second challenges it to perform better.

“Showing people the potential consequences of climate change in their neighborhoods is a good way of making climate change more personal and less distant.”

One of the biggest challenges holding the Mila team back is its lack of images from the aftermath of extreme weather events, which it uses to train its algorithm. The group launched the ClimatePix application in August to gather pictures from the public.

“We need images of houses in populated areas that have gone through floods,” he said. “It’s easy enough to get images houses without floods.”

Visualizing Climate Change

Schmidt and his colleagues don’t claim to be climate scientists and their platform is not meant to be scientifically precise. Rather, they see their role as communicators, helping people interpret the predictions of the latest climate science. And the Mila team want to provide more than just a wake-up call. They hope to integrate resources to guide users on ways to address the climate issue.

Efforts are underway elsewhere to use A.I. to tackle climate change issues more directly. Earlier this month, a consortium of science institutions including the European Space Agency put out a call for proposals for a €500,000 (about $550,000) A.I. Moonshot Challenge. The challenge hopes to fund projects that use machine learning and space technologies to combat climate change.

Meanwhile, David Rolnick, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, is leading Climate Change A.I., a group he founded to support the use of machine learning in addressing the climate crisis.

“The tools that work on in machine learning can have a huge impact when applied to the problem of climate change,” he said.

In June, Rolnick and his colleagues published a paper called Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning, which presented various ways in which A.I. can be used to aid in climate change mitigation, resiliency, and adaptation. Algorithms can help provide data about flooding to city planners, for example, aid in the development of more efficient batteries, or help optimize transportation networks.

“Machine learning is not a silver bullet. It is not suddenly going to come in and solve any of these problems.”

However, Rolnick stressed, “machine learning is not a silver bullet. It is not suddenly going to come in and solve any of these problems. There are many aspects of action on climate change to which machine learning is holy inapplicable.” The people behind Climate Change A.I. insist that the technology be considered one piece to the complicated puzzle of addressing climate impacts.

These initiatives come at a critical time. As California burns, Venice floods. The canaled city is no stranger to ocean encroachment but tides high enough to flood Venetian squares now happen more often than ever, as sea level rises and warmer oceans amplify storms. Five of the ten highest Venetian tides have occurred in the last twenty years. If trends like this continue, the public may not need an algorithm to show them what climate change looks like—they can simply look out their front door.

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Sennheiser GSP 670 headset review: premium price, subpar performance

The search for a new headset can really get frustrating. Sure, there are a million options on Amazon for under $50, but when you want something premium, where do you start? If you’re looking for the best possible audio quality, you start with the Sennheiser GSP 670 and hope you can find it on sale because these things don’t come cheap.The GSP 670 is a premium headset with sound quality and a price tag to match. Launching at $350, you’re paying for the Sennheiser name and quality. We’ve tested multiple Sennheiser headsets throughout the years and have almost always come away impressed. That’s the same story here.The first thing you may notice about this headset is just how big it is. It looks big before you pick it up and it feels big once you put it on. Coming in at just shy of 400g, it has the weight to make those extremely long gaming sessions taxing, but luckily Sennheiser included one of the best headbands I’ve seen in a headset yet. It’s big and comfortable without looking too ridiculous.The earcups are equally nice with large plus fabric cups that will keep your ears away from the driver covers. If you prefer leatherette cups you’ll want to find another option, but I did find these to be one of the most comfortable headsets to just sit and listen to music on. The clamping force is just right (although uneven; more on that later) and the earcups provide a wonderful seal to keep the noise of the world away from your ears.One the outside of the headset, there’s a small tactile wheel to adjust chat volume if you’re using a gaming console, a large volume knob, and a multifunction button that will provide audio prompts for battery level and put you into pairing mode when you hold it down. The only thing we’re missing here is a physical switch to move between Bluetooth and 2.4ghz connection standards, and we’ll tell you why that matters in a bit.The microphone is on the left side of the headset and provides a nice tactile click when you flip it all the way up. This is how you mute your microphone and comes in handy when you need to have a quick conversation and get back to whatever you were doing before.I wish I could report that the microphone provided better audio quality but I was pretty disappointed. It’s been a struggle to find a wireless headset that really gives great performance in this area (I’m guessing there’s a bandwidth issue) and the Sennheisers fall disappointingly short. I think they sound much the same as every other headset released in the last decade, which isn’t saying a lot.Both Bluetooth and 2.4ghz connection standards are here. Plugging the USB dongle into my computer, the headset paired almost instantly and opened up a world of opportunity to tune through the Sennheiser app. There are options to tune your EQ, how the microphone sounds, and even provide a noise gate in case you have a noisy background. I didn’t find much difference in how the microphone sounded using these options so hopefully, they continue to be tuned in future updates.The sound that comes through these headphones is a completely different story. This has been one of the best audio experiences I’ve had in my time reviewing tech. I’d put it up there with the Sony WH-1000xm3 in terms of enjoyment. Where Sony offers amazing noise cancelation, the Sennheiser GSP 670 takes the crown in terms of audio quality.I found music pleasingly bass-y without feeling like I’m slogging through the mud just to listen. Mids are very clear while highs are crisp without being piercing.I just wish I enjoyed wearing these more. I can’t overstate how heavy these things are. At just under 400g, they’re one of the heavier headsets I’ve tested and it can be exhausting during long sessions. With 16 hours of battery life, those sessions can last all night, but you’ll need breaks.Additionally, I don’t like wearing these because of how the cups sit on my head. While the cups themselves are large enough that my ear doesn’t touch anything, the clamping is uneven and annoying. You can use the sliders in the headband to adjust your clamp, but I always end up with more pressure on the bottom of the cups than at the top.Frankly, these don’t look great and certainly don’t look like something I’d pay over $300 for. They’re big and bulky with muted colors and an … aggressive? design. I’m not entirely sure what to call this design language but there are definitely better-looking options on the market. This won’t matter to some, but for those who do care, it’s a bit of a killer and makes the cost harder to justify.ConclusionThere are always trade-offs when you’re using a wireless headset. Sennheiser smartly did not skimp on the audio quality and if you’re looking for a wireless headset that sounds great, this is definitely where you want to start. I put it at the top of the list in that respect.But, where it falls apart is pretty much everywhere else. Tradeoffs become pretty obvious when you use these for more than a few hours.Yep, they’re built solidly and the plastic design means they’ll hold up to some abuse. But, these look cheaper than competing options like the Astro A50s and Arctis Pro Wireless. Plus, as I’ve said a few times, they’re heavy.It’s awesome that they have both 2.4ghz and Bluetooth standards. But there’s no way to manually switch between them and the second that your computer plays audio via the USB dongle, the Bluetooth cuts out completely. If you’re using these to take a phone call or listen to music on your phone and you accidentally click on a YouTube link on your computer, say goodbye to your audio. This would be an easy fix with a manual switch and we hope to see that in a future revision.Best over-ear headphones (spring 2020)I can’t state enough how crappy the audio from the mic is. Maybe I’m spoiled by streamers who invest hundreds and hundreds of dollars into their audio equipment, but this sounds like every headset I’ve heard the last decade of gaming and that’s pretty disappointing.If your voice quality matters to you at all, I’d suggest getting a standalone mic. But you have to ask yourself if you’re grabbing something like a Blue Yeti, is there a justification for the GSP 670 when you can buy a wireless headset for far cheaper?I know it probably looks like I hate the Sennheiser GSP 670 but I don’t. In true dad fashion, I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. While they’re best in class in terms of audio quality, the things they miss on are a killer and make them harder to recommend over other competitors.After a bit of searching, I’ve found the Sennheiser GSP 670 around $300 and sometimes cheaper on sale. I think if you can find these cheaper than that, go for it. Your ears will thank you. At full price, they’re a tough sell.Buy the Sennheiser GSP 670 at Amazon

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