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Walmart experiments with new generative AI tools that can help you plan a party or decorate a space

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After launching a generative AI tool for corporate employees in August, Walmart is bringing the technology to its customers. During a demo with TechCrunch, a company spokesperson outlined how the retail giant is experimenting with generative AI to help shoppers in all stages of the shopping experience, from the search and discovery phase to making a purchase. Three features coming down the pipeline include a shopping assistant, generative AI-powered search and an interior design feature.

Walmart declined to share which AI models it’s using to develop these features but says it’s using a variety of different external models and they may change over time.

“Some other companies are essentially locking themselves into working with you know, Anthropic or OpenAI,” the spokesperson told us. “We want our tools to be flexible, knowing that some are going to be better than others over time, and we want to have that flexibility to put in and out different models.”

Image Credits: Walmart

The new shopping assistant – which is launching in the coming weeks — will allow customers to have a more interactive and conversational experience as it can answer specific questions, provide personalized product suggestions and share detailed information about a certain product. For instance, it can give shoppers Halloween costume ideas to wear to a horror-themed party or which cell phone a parent should buy for their child.

Similarly, users will soon be able to enter specific questions directly in the search bar. With the use of generative AI, Walmart’s search tool can understand context and generate a collection of items relevant to one query. For example, if a customer wants to plan for a unicorn-themed birthday, the AI displays a wide array of products such as balloons, paper napkins, streamers and so on. Instead of having to type in numerous separate searches, Walmart’s new AI search tool is designed to save customers time.

We also see this being done by other companies like Instacart, which recently rolled out a ChatGPT-powered search tool that can generate suggestions like a selection of high-protein foods or Thanksgiving dinner ideas. Plus, Meta announced a new Bing-backed AI Assistant last month as well as an AI personality chatbot, among other tools.

Image Credits: Walmart

Walmart is also developing an interior design assistant for customers to decorate their rooms. In addition to generative AI, the feature also leverages AR technology; users must upload a photo of a room and it will then take an image capture of every item that’s in the space. Customers ask the chat assistant for advice on how they should redecorate, and the AI places items in the room that they suggest. Users can express their opinions on which items they want to keep or buy. The AI also asks for a budget so it can find items that are affordable.

The continued investment in generative AI tools is a common theme these days as more companies rush to integrate the technology into their products and services.

“Generative AI technology is a priority for the company,” said the Walmart spokesperson.

The new tools come on the heels of Walmart rolling out its AI app, “My Assistant,” to 50,000 corporate employees in the U.S. to streamline tasks like summarizing documents, helping prep for meetings and speeding up projects. Walmart has been getting “great feedback” about the app and even found some employees using the assistant to draft “funny out-of-office messages,” the spokesperson added.



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Brain Cancer Cure Soon? New Treatment Removes Tumor In Woman Within 5 Days

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Researchers might have found a way to cure glioblastoma – a form of brain cancer – after a groundbreaking test. Experts from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) recently conducted a study wherein they achieved significant tumor regression in three patients. The study was conducted between March and July 2023 and it showed promise in treating glioblastoma which has no cure to date.

A step closer to treating glioblastoma?

In the preliminary clinical trial, the doctors used what they call the next generation CAR-T therapy and recorded dramatic results in patients within a few days.

For the treatment, the experts used the patient’s own cells to make them fight against cancer. The cells, after extraction, were modified to produce proteins on the surface called chimeric antigen receptors. These cells called CART-TEAM were then injected back into the patients to target the tumor cells.

After the treatment, a 74-year-old patient experienced tumor regression and it eventually became undetectable. In a second patient (72), the tumor decreased by over 60 percent by day 69 of the treatment and it remained so for the next six months.

ALSO SEE: Goodbye Cancer? For The First Time Ever Cancer Vanishes In All Patients In A Drug Trial

The most promising results, however, was recorded in a 57-year-old woman who had a near-complete tumor regression just five days after a single infusion of the CAR-TEAM cells.

Unfortunately, tumor progression was seen a few days later in all three cases along with some side-effects like fever and altered mental status.

Despite the results, study co-author Elizabeth Gerstner, who is a neuro-oncologist in the Department of Neurology of MGH is hopeful about success while admitting that more work is required.

“We report a dramatic and rapid response in these three patients. Our work to date shows signs that we are making progress, but there is more to do,” Gerstner said. The experts highlighted that removal of solid tumors using this therapy is limited because glioblastoma tumors are made of mixed cells which can evade the immune system’s response.

ALSO SEE: Getting A Tattoo? You Could Get Cancer; New Study Shows Ink May Contain Cancer-Causing Chemicals



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Suicide Pod To Be Used Soon In Switzerland Amid Threats Of Impending Ban: Report

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A newly developed portable suicide pod, Sarco, is set to be used for the first time in Switzerland within the coming months. The device, which enables death without medical supervision, was initially unveiled in 2019 and functions by replacing oxygen inside the pod with nitrogen, resulting in death by hypoxia.

The organization, known as The Last Resort, believes there are no legal barriers to the use of Sarco in Switzerland. Swiss law generally permits assisted suicide, provided the person performing the act does so voluntarily. Florian Willet, CEO of The Last Resort, expressed confidence in the device’s forthcoming use, describing it as a “beautiful way” to die during Wednesday’s press conference.

The Sarco pod. Image: The Last Resort

However, there is opposition to this viewpoint. Recent reports indicate that the Swiss government may be planning to ban the use of the pod. Article 115 of the Swiss Criminal Code states that assisting in suicide for selfish reasons is punishable.

ALSO SEE: Swiss Company Builds First Bioprocessor From Brain Cells, It’s A Million Times More Efficient

Public prosecutor Peter Sticher of Schaffhausen, per Metro, has warned of potential five-year prison sentences for anyone who uses the pod. Sticher has also sent a letter to the pod’s creator, Philip Nitschke, cautioning him about “serious legal consequences.”

The Sarco pod works by depriving the user of oxygen, which leads to unconsciousness, and then releasing nitrogen gas to ensure death. While the creators of the device claim it offers a painless death, a report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has raised concerns, warning that if the machine fails to induce unconsciousness, the death could be painful.

ALSO SEE: New smart mattress can change its surface temperature to wake you up

The cost to use the Sarco pod is reported to be $20. Prospective users will be subjected to automated questions as part of a psychiatric assessment before they can activate the device by pressing a button, after which there is no going back.

This development has sparked significant debate in Switzerland owing to the ethics and legality of such assisted dying methods.



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Check out NASA’s next space station. It won’t orbit Earth.

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As the International Space Station nears its retirement in 2030, NASA and its contractors are working full tilt on a new lab that will be whizzing through space much farther from Earth.

Right now, at a facility in Turin, Italy, engineers are stress-testing the core module for Gateway, a lunar space station designed to provide astronauts with a place to live, conduct scientific research, and prepare for moonwalks.

Though it may not look like much at the moment, the gunmetal-gray hollow cylinder, pictured above, is a critical facet of NASA’s Artemis moon missions. It will house life-support systems for astronauts, exercise equipment, and banks for scientific instruments. NASA has dubbed the main module HALO, short for Habitation and Logistics Outpost.

If this all sounds like sci-fi mumbo jumbo that is decades into the future, think again: NASA and its partners plan to send HALO and its propulsion element into lunar orbit on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket as early as next year, welcoming its first guests around 2028. If successful, Gateway will be the first moon-orbiting space station.

“NASA and its international partners will explore the scientific mysteries of deep space with Gateway,” the agency says, “to return humans to the Moon and chart a path for the first human missions to Mars.”

Moving the HALO module

NASA has dubbed the main module HALO, short for Habitation and Logistics Outpost.
Credit: Thales Alenia Space

Maintaining a space station around a planetary body other than Earth won’t be an easy feat. While the ISS orbits just 250 miles above Earth and is only a short spaceflight away in an emergency, the moon is over 230,000 miles in the distance, with the quickest journey back home taking two to four days. 

Despite the challenges, NASA is getting lots of international help to bring Gateway to fruition. Europe, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, and Japan are contributing key components to build the station, which will have a unique path around the moon.

Mashable Light Speed

Scientists considered many potential orbits before determining the best fit for Gateway. The station will fly in a so-called “near rectilinear halo orbit.” Since 2022, a small microwave-oven-sized spacecraft, CAPSTONE, has scouted out this path, which would look a little like a string of pearls hanging from a neck, if you drew it on paper. 

The unusual orbit is intended to be fuel-efficient and offer relatively close access to the lunar south pole, where astronauts will explore, look for water ice around the shadowy craters, and practice living in an extraterrestrial environment.

Why not a low circular orbit around the moon, one might ask? It certainly would put the station closer to the ground, but it would also require a lot more fuel to counteract the tug of the moon’s gravity, according to NASA. A distant retrograde orbit, on the other hand, while more stable and less fuel-consuming, would be too inconvenient for trips back and forth to the surface. 

But the near rectilinear halo orbit, a weeklong loop around the moon’s poles, is thought to offer the best of both worlds. The station would also continuously face Earth, allowing uninterrupted communication with flight controllers. 

The HALO section is just one of four modules where international astronauts will live and work. NASA has said the assembly of Gateway in space will happen in stages, beginning with the Artemis IV mission, slated for no earlier than September 2028, and finishing with Artemis VI. The expansion pieces will launch with the Orion spaceship atop NASA’s Space Launch System, casually referred to as the “mega moon rocket.” 

If you’re having trouble visualizing how this will all come together, take a look back at the new photo of HALO. Inside the module on the right side of the tube is where a cargo spacecraft and the European Space Agency’s Lunar View, a module with large windows, will dock. That crucial ESA part will have refueling capabilities for the propulsion module. 

NASA has given the propulsion module perhaps the least creative name in the agency’s history: the Power and Propulsion Element. It will harness solar power for Gateway’s subsystems and ionize xenon gas for the thrust needed to maintain the station’s orbit. 

Astronauts touring Gateway in VR

NASA astronauts see images like this when they’re touring the Gateway space station with virtual reality.
Credit: NASA Johnson Space Center

To the left on the outside of HALO is a docking port where SpaceX’s Starship and Blue Origin’s Blue Moon landers will dock during the Artemis IV and V missions, respectively. NASA administrator Bill Nelson has said using private vendors will help the agency buy down the technical risks and costs for the Artemis program, which seeks to use the moon as a springboard for eventual missions to Mars.

“I’ve said it before: We want more competition. We want two landers, and that’s better, and it means that you have reliability. You have backups,” Nelson told reporters last year. “These are public-private partnerships. It’s the new way that we go to the moon.”

After engineers finish stress-testing HALO at Thales Alenia Space in Italy, the module will go to Gilbert, Arizona, where Northrop Grumman, its builder, will finish its outfitting and prep it for launch. 





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