You may know someone who sends messages with more emojis than words, but chances are they don’t need those symbols to communicate. For some with language disorders such as aphasia, a disorder that can make it difficult to read, talk, or write, emojis can be an ideal way for those with the disorder to communicate with others around them. Samsung Electronics Italia, the company’s Italian subsidiary, just came out with a new app called Wemogee that helps those with language disorders talk to others by using emoji-based messages. READ MORE: Samsung develops emoji-based chat app for people with language disorders | Ars Technica
Google’s search algorithm appears to be systematically promoting information that is either false or slanted with an extreme rightwing bias on subjects as varied as climate change and homosexuality.
Following a recent investigation by the Observer, which found that Google’s search engine prominently suggests neo-Nazi websites and antisemitic writing, the Guardian has uncovered a dozen additional examples of biased search results. READ MORE: How Google’s search algorithm spreads false information with a rightwing bias | Technology | The Guardian
Image Source: Google/WIRED
SOMETHING FUNNY HAPPENS when your computer or phone can’t display a font: A blank rectangular box pops up in place of the missing glyph. This little box is called .notdef, or “not defined,” in coder lingo, but everyone else just calls it tofu. Bob Jung hates tofu…His team spent six years working with designers at Monotype to banish tofu from Google’s devices with a cohesive, pan-language set of fonts called Noto (short for “no more tofu”). Noto, one of the most expansive typographic families ever made, supports 800 languages, 100 scripts in up to eight different weights, innumerable special characters, and absolutely no tofu. READ MORE: Meet Noto, Google’s Free Font for More Than 800 Languages | WIRED
When the writer Rebecca Forster first heard how Google was using her work, it felt like she was trapped in a science fiction novel. “Is this any different than someone using one of my books to start a fire? I have no idea,” she says. “I have no idea what their objective is. Certainly it is not to bring me readers.”
After a 25-year writing career, during which she has published 29 novels ranging from contemporary romance to police procedurals, the first instalment of her Josie Bates series, Hostile Witness, has found a new reader: Google’s artificial intelligence.
“My imagination just didn’t go as far as it being used for something like this,” Forster says. “Perhaps that’s my failure.” Forster’s thriller is just one of 11,000 novels that researchers including Oriol Vinyals and Andrew M Dai at Google Brain have been using to improve the technology giant’s conversational style. After feeding these books into a neural network, the system was able to generate fluent, natural-sounding sentences. READ MORE: Google swallows 11,000 novels to improve AI’s conversation | Books | The Guardian
At a dig outside Florence, a group of researchers have unearthed a massive stone tablet, known as a stele, covered in Etruscan writing. The 500-pound stone is 4 feet high and was once part of a sacred temple display. But 2500 years ago it was torn down and used as a foundation stone in a much larger temple. READ MORE: Rare example of lost language found on stone hidden 2500 years ago | Ars Technica
Ms. McKean started a campaign last month on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site, to unearth one million “missing” English words — words that are not currently found in traditional dictionaries. To locate the underdocumented expressions, she has engaged a pair of data scientists to scrape and analyze language used in online publications. Ms. McKean said she planned to incorporate the found words in Wordnik.com, an online dictionary of which she is a co-founder…Before her analytics project gets underway next month, Ms. McKean is crowdsourcing a list of missing words for possible inclusion in Wordnik.
(Edmonton) When you live 400 kilometres from the nearest library, getting information can be a real challenge. Professor Ali Shiri of the University of Alberta’s School of Library and Information Studies is leading a project to address this issue. Together with co-investigator Dinesh Rathi, Shiri and a team of collaborators have begun to bridge the information gap for some of Canada’s most isolated people with a project called Digital Library North.
Currently, people in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region—an area that spans 90,650 square kilometres—must travel to the Inuvialuit Cultural Resource Centre to access hard-copy information. The challenges with distance and winter above the treeline limit the access. The SSHRC-funded project will create a digital library infrastructure to address the unique information needs in Canada’s northern regions over the next three years. READ MORE: Creating the first cultural digital library in Canada’s North | University of Alberta.
Language takes an astonishing variety of forms across the world—to such a huge extent that a long-standing debate rages around the question of whether all languages have even a single property in common. Well, there’s a new candidate for the elusive title of “language universal” according to a paper in this week’s issue of PNAS. All languages, the authors say, self-organise in such a way that related concepts stay as close together as possible within a sentence, making it easier to piece together the overall meaning.
Language universals are a big deal because they shed light on heavy questions about human cognition. The most famous proponent of the idea of language universals is Noam Chomsky, who suggested a “universal grammar” that underlies all languages. Finding a property that occurs in every single language would suggest that some element of language is genetically predetermined and perhaps that there is specific brain architecture dedicated to language. READ MORE: MIT claims to have found a “language universal” that ties all languages together | Ars Technica.
Image Credit: The British Library
A sword on display at the British Library has an 800-year-old mystery engraved on its blade. Dating back to between 1250 and 1330 AD, the sword was discovered in the east of England, in the River Witham near Lincoln, in the 19th century. The sword is a particularly fine double-edged steel weapon of English design. It was most likely forged in Germany and belonged to a wealthy man or a knight.
The hilt is cross-shaped, which is normal for swords from this period of the Middle Ages, and is heavy enough to have cloven a man’s head in twain if swung with sufficient strength.
But the sword, on loan to the library from the British Museum, does have a couple of highly unusual features. Down the centre of the blade, it has two grooves known as fullers, where most blades only have one. On one side, it also bears an inscription:
It’s not the presence of the inscription that has researchers nonplussed, but its content: Experts don’t know what the inscription means. READ MORE: British Library asks for help deciphering a medieval sword | CNET.
One of the most intense experiences you’ll ever have is visiting a country that speaks a language different than yours. There’s a host of tools you can use, but Google’s Translate product has leapfrogged just about everything out there over the years.
Its most handy, and impressive, tool is the six-month-old instant translation feature, using the goodies from the acquired Word Lens, that lets you point your camera at something written in another language, say a sign, and it’ll translate into your language with ridiculous accuracy in almost real-time.
Today, that feature is expanding today from seven languages to 27 languages: English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian. The update is rolling out over both iOS and Android.