Members of the Future of Life Institute, a “research and outreach organization working to mitigate existential risks facing humanity,” has signed an open letter pledging to protect humankind from the dangers of artificial intelligence.

The signatories, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, consist of programmers, scientists, and artificial intelligence researchers from universities and tech giants worldwide. They believe progress in AI research makes it timely to focus it not only on making AI more capable, but also on maximizing its societal benefit. The FLI Institute’s research priorities document details the various directions artificial intelligence research and development should go, all in order to avoid the apocalyptic future and AI doom Hollywood has predicted for humanity for decades.

The open letter and ever-growing list of signatories is available here.

Google updates Project Ara MDK
Google has released the alpha of the Project Ara MDK version 0.2 ahead of the second Project Ara Developers Conference on Wednesday, Jan. 14.

The 0.2 MDK includes details on specifications and system outlines for the latest Project Ara device prototype known as the Spiral 2, as well as a new “Greybus” communications protocol suite designed to let each separate phone module communicate with the phone’s core and with each other. The MDK also previews and gives an initial explanation of a new Project Ara Module Marketplace, which will allow module makers to sell hardware through the Google Play Store and developers to submit details through the Ara Developer Console.

Microsoft announces Mojio Windows Phone Developer App Contest
Microsoft has announced a new mobile developer contest, joining with Windows Dev Center partner Mojio (a connected car development platform) to create Windows Phone apps for improving the connected car experience.

The Mojio Windows Phone Developer App Contest will award US$1,000 Visa Gift Cards and will highlight winning apps in the Windows Store in five categories:
• Green app: Focuses on reducing drivers’ carbon footprints.
• Fleet app: Focuses on managing a fleet of more than one vehicle more effectively.
• Business app: Focuses on helping a business manage its resources (i.e., people, time, money) more effectively.
• Gamification app: Focuses on gamifying driving in a safe manner.
• Wildcard app: An app with a primary function that doesn’t fit into any other categories.

More details about the contest are available here.