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New XPrize: Can an AI project get a standing ovation at TED?

The AI XPrize, announced today at TED.


(Credit:
XPrize)

Can an artificial intelligence system get a standing ovation at the TED conference?

That’s the challenge for the brand-new A.I. XPrize, announced Thursday at TED in Vancouver by XPrize Foundation head Peter Diamandis.

Unlike most XPrizes, which have clear rules and goals, this one is a bit more free-form. Described as “a modern-day Turing test, [it will] be awarded to the first A.I. to walk or roll out on stage and present a TED talk so compelling that it commands a standing ovation from you, the audience.”

And TED and the XPrize Foundation is turning to the global community for ideas on how to make this a reality. Fortunately, though, it is offering a few sample ideas on what could be the winning formula:

In advance of the TED conference, a group of judges develop 100 different TED talk subjects. During the TED conference, the TED audience chooses one of these subjects (or the subject is randomly chosen) and then the competing A.I. is given 30 minutes to prepare a compelling 3 min TED talk. The team coulddecide how their A.I. would present on stage — would it be a physical robot that walks out to present? Or a disembodied voice? After the talk, the audience would vote with their applause and, if appropriate, with a standing ovation. Next, the A.I. would need to answer two questions from Chris Anderson, the host of the conference, and then a panel of experts would also add their votes.

Each year at the TED conference, an interim prize would be offered for the best A.I. presentation until such time that an A.I. truly delivers a spectacular TED talk, and the A.I. XPrize presented by TED winner is crowned.

That, of course, is just one approach. The winning angle may be something altogether different. And it’s as yet unclear how much the victorious team will win.

Still, it’s an interesting idea. One hopes that TED audiences of the future will not be so bowled over by the very concept of an A.I. giving a talk that they automatically give the first one to take the stage a standing O. Instead, let’s hope that the first-ever ovation is truly deserving. Maybe it’ll be a meta talk, an A.I. explaining how it took on the challenge of getting a standing ovation at TED, and the process it took to achieve success.

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‘Say hello to my e-go’: 10 funny first tweets we love

Twitter is the open mic at The Improv of the Internet, so unless you’re a funny person who wants to be heckled, you might want to make your first tweet chuckle-worthy. To celebrate turning 8, Twitter on Thursday opened its archive, making it easy to look up anyone’s first tweets. Yeah, we confess; we fell down the first-tweets rabbit hole fast. But at least you get to share in the adventure with a sample of our favorites funnies. See any we missed? Let us know in the comments.

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How to issue your own emotional Bitcoin

Now who might deserve that? And why?


(Credit:
GoodFor)

Traditional forms of currency just aren’t current any more.

They’re made of stupid, old-fashioned things like paper and metal.

Everyone knows that real value can only be online, virtual and, at best, semi-sincere.

So along comes the iOS app called GoodFor, which allows you to create your own personalized, meaningful and even entirely insincere IOUs, good for as long as you decide they’re good.

This emotional Bitcoin is the brainchild of Satoshi Nakamoto, who, I understand, worked on some very secret and emotional projects at many institutions such as the US Postal Service and Starbucks.

I’m sorry, I don’t have that quite right. The GoodFor app was created by coupon company SnipSnap, which, for all I know, invented Bitcoin.

The SnipSnappers happened upon this idea when they realized that with their ordinary coupon app, people were trying to create their own versions.

So now you can use your creative skills to promise your lover four minutes of nuzzling every second Tuesday, or your dad the
car keys for two hours every Thursday.

You can spend minutes choosing your backgrounds and borders before offering your religious guru the password to your Playboy video subscription for precisely 12 hours every month.

You can even send your ex an IOU for all the years you wasted her time with your Meccano set.

Yes, it’s totally and utterly silly. But so are emoticons. And so is life.

The GoodFor app at least allows you to spice up your promises and hopefully encourages you to keep them, instead of what you usually do — flush them down the drainpipe of your self-involvement.

Moreover, it gives the recipients a chance to have an artistic record of just what a good-for-nothing you turned out to be.

I can imagine that in future divorce settlement negotiations, lawyers will project GoodFor IOUs on large screens, in order to help prove that something was, indeed, promised and not delivered.

Exhibit 73: A depiction of hearts and flowers and the caption: Good For One Expression Of Affection Every 48 Hours. Was fulfilled only twice. In 16 years.

Here, then, is your challenge: show that you can create a work of art and keep the promise within it.

It’s easier sent than done.

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Pi Day celebrations kick off with a ‘pi in the sky’

Pi Day skywriting by AirSign aircrafts in Austin.


(Credit:
Sara Stevens)

With everybody’s favorite holiday around the corner — Pi Day, of course — celebrations have already begun to take place around the US.

Sky gazers in Austin, Texas, may have noticed something interesting happening with skywriting airplanes on Thursday — namely, a “pi in the sky.”

To celebrate Pi Day and honor the great mathematical constant of 3.141592 etc., AirSign aircrafts took to the skies to attempt to spell out the infinite pi sequence across 100 miles of sky in Austin.

The skywriting was part of a public art project put on by AirSign and California artist ISHKY to applaud the “universal language of pi and the limitless potential it represents,” an AirSign spokesperson told CNET. The hundreds of numbers written across the afternoon sky were done by five synchronized AirSign aircrafts flying at 10,000 feet using dot-matrix technology.

The numbers — each measuring a quarter-mile in height — were written out in a spiral that eventually became several miles wide. “Pi In The Sky explores the boundaries of scale, public space, impermanence, and the relationship between Earth and the physical universe,” AirSign said in a statement.

Pi Day, March 14 (3/14), was commemorated as an official holiday by Congress in 2009. The idea was to draw attention to improving math and science education in the US. Celebrations have often included eating pies, reciting as much of the pi number sequence as possible, and talking about the significance of the mystifying number.

AirSign’s airplanes get ready to take off in Austin.


(Credit:
AirSign)

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Colin Powell, pioneer of the selfie?

Genius?


(Credit:
Colin Powell/Facebook)

The young think they’re all so clever.

When they get older, they realize that they were right all along.

They don’t actually get more enlightened as they age. Indeed, they look back and wish they’d been more insistent about their cleverness when they were young.

As living proof, might I present retired general Colin Powell?

Here is a man you might think of as a voice of loyalty and reason. But on Thursday, he proved himself a man far, far ahead of his time.

He posted a selfie. No, not one taken with his iPhone last week at some white-tablecloth bash. This selfie was taken 60 years ago.

In this remarkable photograph, the young Powell looks just as dapper as he is today. Moreover, he offered a message to another famous person who recently tried to co-opt selfies as her own — with two different phones: Ellen Degeneres.

He wrote: “Throwback Thursday – I was doing selfies 60 years before you Facebook folks. Eat your heart out Ellen! The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

This photo has already had such an impact that even such political luminaries as Mark Zuckerberg have clicked the Like button.

The selfie does, though, lead to one fanciful thought: A Powell-Zuckerberg ticket for the next election.

They are both Republicans, right?

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Titanfall live action series inbound

Titanfall live action series inbound

Playfight has previously done work on Call of Duty live-action content.


Multiplayer mech-shooter game Titanfall is to be joined by its own live action series.

In a collaboration between developer Respawn Entertainment and Playfight, Titanfall: Free the Frontier will build on the Titanfall universe.

The content will be launched tomorrow alongside the game’s North American launch. Titanfall will be launching in the UK on Thursday.

‘Titanfall is set in a rich near future universe with visceral, epic battles with Pilots and their Titan companions, reads the announcement site. ‘We wanted to partner with Playfight, who has a history of delivering movies that meld gameplay, live action and stellar CG into truly entertaining media, for Titanfall.’

Playfight has previously worked on Video Game High School and Call of Duty: Operation Kingfish. The production house specialises in visual effects, animation and motion graphics.

Video games have increasingly been experimenting with this sort of cross-media project. A live action series, Forward Unto Dawn, was used to support the launch of Halo 4 in October 2012 and proved a successful method of promotion.

Other games have also received anime or comic book treatments while Hollywood has also turned its attention to several successful game franchises, most recently Minecraft and The Last Of Us.

Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment, a studio formed of several ex-Call of Duty developers, is proving to be a highly anticipated title and has already garnered positive press from its beta rounds. The game was originally intended as an Xbox One release title but along with several other next-gen titles such as Watch Dogs, its delay was put back several months.

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We are sooo getting trolled by Satoshi Nakamoto right now

This man is Satoshi Nakamoto, but maybe not THAT Satoshi Nakamoto.


(Credit:
Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET)

The ongoing bitstorm over Newsweek‘s claimed outing of mysterious Bitcoin godfather Satoshi Nakamoto, which was later rebuked by the subject of that report, is beginning to resemble a mashup of a futuristic manga thriller and an Andy Kaufman prank. The latest chapter in the crypto-currency commedia dell’arte seems to have the “real” Satoshi Nakamoto behind Bitcoin breaking a years-long silence to also dispute the Newsweek report.

Newsweek editor Leah McGrath Goodman tracked down a man named Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto living near San Bernardino, Calif., who she believed fit the profile of the person who published this paper as well as this forum post describing Bitcoin back in 2009 under the name Satoshi Nakamoto.

In a bizarre confrontation outside Dorian S. Nakamoto’s home with local police in attendance, Goodman quoted the man thusly:

“I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it,” he says, dismissing all further queries with a swat of his left hand. “It’s been turned over to other people. They are in charge of it now. I no longer have any connection.”

Hours later, Dorian S. Nakamoto took a ride with an Associated Press reporter (while being chased across Los Angeles by a gaggle of other reporters), who videotaped Dorian’s debunking and disbelief of the Newsweek report. He says he was not referring to involvement in Bitcoin in the above quotes. You can watch a clip of the AP’s interview at the end of this post.

Then, just to top off the weirdness, a new comment from Satoshi Nakamoto appeared late Thursday on the original 2009 forum post introducing Bitcoin. It read simply “I am not Dorian Nakamoto.”

But is this the same Satoshi Nakamoto? Is Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin, even a real person? All that seems to be confirmed is that the account on the forum was registered with the email address listed on the original paper on Bitcoin, according to the forum’s creator, Josef Davies Coates.

The suggestion has gone out on Twitter and elsewhere that Satoshi could sign a message with his known PGP key to verify his identity, but so far that’s not happening.

Interestingly, if you look at the history of the PGP key for the email address associated with Bitcoin’s creator, you’ll see that it was apparently signed by one Dorian S. Nakamoto on April Fool’s Day of 2013.

Aha! So Dorian Nakamoto is trolling us! Actually, no, not likely. It seems that those PGP time stamps can be pretty easily spoofed, and that the entry for Dorian doesn’t show up in other recent results for the same query, or in the Google cache, for that matter. So it appears that someone is going to great, geeky lengths to keep trolling poor Dorian Nakamoto. Or Dorian just wants us to think that, because he is the real Satoshi trolling us all with some brilliant, hidden, reverse psychological PGP key manipulation.

Or maybe, just maybe, we’ve all missed the truth completely. Clearly, the real Satoshi Nakamoto who created Bitcoin was none other than the proto-troll himself, Mr. Andy Kaufman.

Mystery solved. You’re welcome. Meanwhile, this guy is having a rough week:

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That’s Chef Watson to you

Guests at a dinner hosted by IBM Research Thursday night at SXSW were treated to, among other dishes, this Italian roast duck. Each of the six dishes was designed, in large part, by IBM’s Watson cognitive computer.


(Credit:
Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

AUSTIN, Texas — We know that IBM’s Watson computer is the world’s best “Jeopardy” player. But does it have a clue about what tastes good?

On Thursday night, I was one of a small and very lucky group of people invited to an IBM event to find out.

Called “Cognitive cooking,” the event was a demonstration of Watson’s so-called “computational creativity.” Essentially, the idea went, IBM set out to have its famous computer help design a gourmet meal, one filled with dishes made from recipes the world had never seen before. And, yes, it needed to be tasty.

But let’s step back two years.

Fresh off its “Jeopardy” glory, IBM Research set out to broaden Watson’s appeal. The first, and most important, direction was health care. But Big Blue also wanted to show that it could use Watson to partner with people to create all-new things, not just analyze and interpret things that were already known, said Steve Andrews, director of the Watson group.

Another goal was finding ways to showcase Watson for the general public. In other words, though winning at “Jeopardy” was impressive and fairly easy to understand, IBM wanted to show how the computer system could be applied to every day problems. “Some people say that the crown jewel of human achievement is creativity,” Andrews said. “So we wanted to show people that cognitive computing could be taken beyond [just] answering questions.”

The aha moment was to focus this particular computing energy on cooking.

In 2012, IBM approached New York’s Institute for Culinary Education and asked if they would be interested in working together. The project? To come up with recipes that had never existed before, Andrews explained, “created in cooperation between the cognitive cooking system and [ICE] chefs.”

One can imagine the ICE people evaluating the proposal and responding the way most of Thursday night’s guests did when we got our dinner invites: “Um, yes. Please.”

This was no easy task. The first thing was for ICE to let IBM and Watson have access to its 30,000-plus item recipe database. “It was like reading a giant cookbook,” Andrews said. The idea here was for Watson to begin to understand the nature of different cuisines to be able to distinguish between, say, Spanish food and Chinese food. And to be able to recognize the kinds of ingredients that are commonly used together in certain kinds of dishes. More important, maybe, was for Watson to understand what made a particular dish different, Andrews explained, than, say, soup.

Over time, Watson learned a “tremendous” amount about food science and food chemistry at the molecular level, all the while compiling a new culinary competency that would help it develop all-new recipes based on patterns it learned. But also throw in a surprise that would leave diners smiling. At least, that was the goal.

Lest you think that someone connected Watson to a giant stove and let it make dinner, that’s not quite what was meant to happen. Rather, the IBM people and the ICE people worked on giving Watson a set of inputs — three main criteria: a dish’s geographic region; its type (a stew, or a soup, or a salad, for example); and the main ingredient. Once it had those in hand, Watson would think and think and then come up with the ingredients list that the chefs would use. The humans in the picture would be free to decide on quantities of each ingredient to use. “It’s really a partnership to create a culinary experience,” Andrews said.

So, you’re probably wondering: Does it work?

After having eaten every single morsel provided to me at dinner — a total of six courses — I can say quite clearly that the answer is yes.

Would this food scare Thomas Keller of French Laundry and Per Se fame? I doubt it. But there are a lot of nice restaurants out there that would be happy to serve the food we ate Thursday night.

It started with a Czech pork belly moussaka, moved on to Kenyan Brussels sprouts, then a Russian beet salad, two different takes on Italian roast duck (using the same ingredients for each), and finally an Ecuadorian strawberry dessert.

Each dish was tasty, though the flavors for many of them lacked a bit of punch. I’m no foodie, and certainly no food reviewer, so I’ll leave that job to others, but I will say that the presentation was lovely, the smells were terrific, and the taste was very nice. The dessert was amazing, with several of us agreeing it was the star of the evening.

During the meal, ICE chefs James Briscione and Michael Laiskonis explained the process behind each dish. They talked about the surprise of mixing particular ingredients — for example, adding avocado oil to the strawberry dessert, and what was clearly the thrill of seeing what came out of the kitchen. “Brussels sprouts with cardamom, there’s something you can take home with you,” Briscione said. “Certainly, there are elements that [I'll be taking] away with me.”

At South by Southwest this week, attendees will be able to take something away from the project with them as well. All week, IBM will have a food truck set up near the Austin Convention Center, and is inviting people to come by and experiment with the system. They can suggest cuisine, and people can vote on the suggestions. Each day, IBM will tally the votes and come up with a single dish for the next day and Watson will produce the set of ingredients for it. You can see the project in action at IBMFoodTruck.com.

But back at dinner, what did others think of the experience? Did they like it? Were they scared of top cuisine designed by a computer? Judging by the non-stop eating, and the frequent utterings of “oh, good,” it’s safe to say IBM is on the right track.

“It was very interesting, and certainly connected with things I already think about in terms of our humanity and how we maintain that in the face of technology obsession without denying upgrades and advantages that technology can give us,” said comedian and author Baratunde Thurston. “I love the idea of using robots and Skynet to help us be more creative or to be creative in different ways….Tonight, for me, was a good example of how we might expand the way we see the world and not replace what we see as human in the world.”

Also, Thurston added, “It was just delicious.”

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Asteroid breaks up just like in Atari game

Atari was right! This screenshot from the video game maker’s online version of Asteroids illustrates the way the space rocks break up into smaller and smaller pieces, as recently witnessed by astronomers.


(Credit:
Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET)

Remember the old Atari Asteroids game and how the space rocks would split into smaller and smaller pieces as your little arrowhead-shaped ship shot tiny balls of light at them? Well, astronomers at UCLA have just seen, for the first time ever they say, that asteroids really do break up that way.

The discovery was made possible by data derived from a team of telescopes. It began when a fuzzy, strange-looking shape was spotted in the skies by the Catalina telescope array, located both outside of Tucson, Ariz., and in Australia, and a Pan-Starrs telescope atop Mount Haleakala on Hawaii’s island of Maui. Astronomers then used the Keck telescopes on the Hawaii Mauna Kea volcano, where they believed they saw three bodies moving together in a cloud of dust that measured roughly the same diameter as that of of Earth.


Asteroid

This series of images from the Hubble Space Telescope shows an asteroid coming apart, likely from forces applied to it by sunlight. (Click to enlarge.)


(Credit:
NASA and ESA)

“The Keck telescope showed us that this asteroid was worth looking at with Hubble,” according to David Jewitt, a professor in the UCLA Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences and the UCLA Department of Physics and Astronomy who led the investigation.

So the astronomers aimed the mighty space telescope at the debris and discovered that the dust cloud contained 10 different mini asteroids, with the largest fragments measuring about twice the size of a football field.

The observations, which were published online Thursday in Astrophysical Journal Letters, postulate that the asteroid began coming apart early last year, but that it continues to disintegrate even now.

As we all know, there are no arrowhead-shaped ships in the asteroid belt shooting at these big space rocks, so just how did the asteroid (known as P/2013 R3) begin breaking up?

The researchers ruled out collision with another asteroid because that would have been spectacularly violent and would have instantly smashed the rocks to bits. They also eliminated the idea that interior ice turned to steam and blew the asteroid apart as, according to Jewitt, P/2013 R3 has kept a cool approximate 300-million-mile distance from the sun pretty much since the solar system was born.

But that’s not to say the sun didn’t play a role.

Jewitt postulates that the asteroid is breaking apart due to something called “YORP torque.” “Light is made of photons and photons carry momentum. Not very much, but a finite amount,” he told Crave. “When an asteroid radiates away the heat it receives from the sun, it tends to do so asymmetrically… because the day-side is hot and radiates much more heat than the cold night-side. This results in a net reaction force on the asteroid just like throwing a sack of coal forwards would tend to knock you backwards.” It’s this force that caused P/2013 R3 to fail.

Like many things in the vastness of outer space, Jewitt says the YORP torque process took a very long time to take hold. “Because photon momentum is very weak,” he said, “the time taken to spin up an asteroid is very long. For R3, the time is probably 100,000 or even a million years — it’s actually impossible to calculate without knowing the exact size and shape and surface nature of the asteroid. But that is short compared to the age of the solar system, so YORP can still be effective.”

I kind of think NASA should put out a new video game called YORP where you spin asteroids to death. But I want part of the royalties.

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The 404 1,437: Where we get a scorching case of HTML (podcast)


Leaked from today’s 404 episode:

This “Back to the Future” hoverboard will blow your mind.

– 11 percent of Americans think HTML is an STD.

– Explore Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment using Oculus Rift.

– Check out the first episode of Comedy Central’s “Review” with Andy Daly on Thursday, March 6, at 10/9 CT.

Follow Andy Daly on Twitter.



Episode 1,437

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