News spread Monday of a remarkable breakthrough in artificial intelligence. Microsoft and Chinese retailer Alibaba independently announced that they had made software that matched or outperformed humans on a reading-comprehension test devised at Stanford. Microsoft called it a “major milestone.” Media coverage amplified the claims, with Newsweek estimating “millions of jobs at risk.”
Those jobs seem safe for a while. Closer examination of the tech giants’ claims suggests their software hasn’t yet drawn level with humans, even within the narrow confines of the test used. READ MORE: AI Beat Humans at Reading! Maybe Not | WIRED
That statement probably requires some explanation. Two researchers named Adam Hammond and Julian Brooke have spent the past few years developing software that analyzes literary databases. Their program can identify dozens of structural and stylistic details in huge chunks of text, and if you give them a collection of great stories—stories that maybe you wished you had written—they are able to identify all the details that those great stories have in common. READ MORE: What Happens When an Algorithm Helps Write Science Fiction | WIRED
Engel and Resnick are part of Google Magenta—a small team of AI researchers inside the internet giant building computer systems that can make their own art—and this is their latest project. It’s called NSynth, and the team will publicly demonstrate the technology later this week at Moogfest, the annual art, music, and technology festival, held this year in Durham, North Carolina.
Spreadsheets are indispensable tools to us data geeks so I always keep an eye out for new ideas and tips in managing data using spreadsheets. I use many of the features and functions listed in the article and even inspired by a few I never thought of before! In the Related links below the first link is one of the most popular posts on infophile.
Spreadsheets get a raw deal. We are so dependent on tools like Excel and Google Sheets for managing budgets and P&Ls that it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing spreadsheets only as applications for managing money, or at the very least, for working with numbers.
But the structure and features of spreadsheets make them so useful for a wider range of purposes, from project planning to writing. Breaking information or text into cells helps you break your work into bite-size chunks so you can find different ways of structuring it. The ability to sort and filter cells makes it easy to find, categorize, or reorganize lists or content. And yes, it’s nice to be able to do quick calculations when you are working with numbers. READ MORE: An Ode to the Underappreciated Spreadsheet | HBR
Ever, Jane is an online role-playing game set in the dramatic, romantic worlds of Jane Austen. It invites players to attend sophisticated dinner parties and fancy balls, share gossip, keep secrets, fall in love, get married and climb the ribbon-lined social ladder of Regency-era England. It is definitely not a sex game, though sometimes players get wrapped up in this universe of exquisite gowns and forbidden desire, and they simply can’t help themselves.
Post Disclosure: I supported the Ever, Jane Kickstarter campaign by giving a small donation. Downloaded the beta version but unable to run software properly yet on my 2010 MacBook Pro Intel OS X Yosemite. Note to self: Buy new computer so I can play Ever, Jane.
You may not have heard of Toonz animation software, but you’ve no doubt seen work it was used in: Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away and Tale of the Princess Kaguya (above), or the animated series Futurama. Now, the Toonz Ghibli Edition used by legendary Japanese filmmakers like Hayao Miyazaki is going open-source, making it free to use by studios and novice animators alike.
CREATING EVEN A few seconds of a hand-drawn animation—think old-school Looney Tunes, or earlier Disney films like Snow White—is a painstaking process that requires artists to draw hundreds, if not thousands, of frames. Over the years, advances in digital animation tools have streamlined that process and, in doing so, created a new aesthetic best seen in the faces of Pixar’s canon of characters.
Microsoft Research, along with the University of Hong Kong and the University of Tokyo, just unveiled a proof-of-concept technology that could bring back the charm of older, hand-drawn cartoons, with the speed and fluidity of today’s animation software. “Autocomplete hand-drawn animations” debuted at the Siggraph Asia conference, and it’s an interactive system that watches what the artist draws and then predicts what frame or line might come next. READ MORE: Microsoft’s Dope New Tool Is Like Autocomplete for Drawing | WIRED
For Voss, Wall, and their colleague Nick Haber, a Stanford post-doc, the idea is that their Glass software will help autistic children recognize and understand facial expressions and, through them, emotions. It operates like a game or, as Voss calls it, an “interactive learning experience.” Through the Google Glass eyewear, children are asked to, say, find someone who is happy. When they look at someone who is smiling, the app recognizes this and awards “points.” The system also records what the child does for later review. “You can plot, as they wear the glasses, how they’re improving, where they’re improving,” Wall says. “You can look at video to understand why.” READ MORE: Clinical Trial Will Test if Google Glass Can Help Kids with Autism | WIRED