The perfect videogame for people into stargazing

I like to dream about space—the flowering alien plant life light years away from Earth, the planets circling a big burning star rivaling our sun. It’s water on Mars and planets made up of swirling gas that I think about, too. I’ll conjure up in my mind the planets lurking just beyond our solar system’s reach, though some day I won’t have to: in January, planetary scientists Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown discovered evidence of what they believe is a Neptune-sized planet that orbits our sun every 15,000 years: Planet X. Unlike me, Batygin and Brown are actually searching for new planets—perhaps to make…


I fell in love with a Soviet robot and all I got was hacked

You get a message from an unknown number that doesn’t say much more than “hello,” and after a brief response, those dreaded words: “your device has been compromised.” You splutter and demand answers. The person on the other line is unhelpful; weaves some grand tale of identity theft and infinitely valuable lost codes lingering in hyperspace—then, without further ado, he connects you to another system. The music becomes more ominous; the faux-iPhone messenger turns into a green retro display, and the mysterious and threatening K.O.M.R.A.D. greets you. But you’d be kinda shaken up too if you’d been left alone to…


Get ready to build a relationship with an emotional AI this September

Last time we heard about Event[0] was back in February 2015 with a 20-minute playable demo. That was a while ago, so it’s understandable that we now have a new trailer and a confirmed September 2016 release date (plus, it’s being backed by Indie Fund now). Léonard Carpentier, the producer of Event[0] said that the team has used that old demo to help flesh out the responses from Kaizen, the AI operator on the game’s spacecraft, so the experience can be as convincing as possible.    To recap, in Event[0], you play the sole crew member of an AI-operated spacecraft named Nautilus. Kaizen…


StarCraft II: Battlefield of Ethics

Pale, crumbled skin and brightly glowing blue eyes. A weak but upright figure, covered in heavy, hovering armor and a blade of pure psi­-energy on each arm. The Protoss of the StarCraft universe are masters in complementing their seemingly weak physiology with highly advanced technology to produce an impressive appearance. It is their leader, Artanis, who sets out to fight in a conflict of good and evil in the newest title of the StarCraft series: Legacy of the Void (2015). At least, that’s what the general perception of the game’s story seemed to be after its release last year. It’s…


Don’t worry: The Last Guardian is still coming out in 2016

When we last saw the Fumito Ueda-directed The Last Guardian, it was E3 of last year. The sun was shining, as it often is in Los Angeles, and the tweet-buzz was chirping. The long-anticipated follow-up to Ico (2001) and Shadow of the Colossus (2005) wasn’t dead after all. Prior to the surprise trailer, all that we had heard about the game was from reassuring rumor-mongering whispers, hushed reassurances from Sony that the game was not dead and gone. Now, in a cover story with Edge magazine, new details have emerged about the title, including a firmer 2016 release window (though still no…


How computers find naked people

We are all just collections of limbs and appendages, naked before the Internet. Some of us—or some of our devices—just may not know this yet. Curiously, it’s our devices that lag that lag behind in this regard. The Internet, as was correctly noted in Avenue Q, may be for porn, but identifying nudity is not technology’s forte. As such, content moderation is still a tedious human labor, and as Adrian Chen documented in his excellent 2014 Wired feature, it’s a soul-crushing search for dick pics—among other things. So, here we are. It’s 2016, and as Clarifai “data scientist and NSFW enthusiast” Ryan…


Smart devices still struggle to cope with mental health crises

Content warning: This article discusses suicide and depression. /// Most days can be good days, even when you’re diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Or at least they can be made to look as such. You learn to put on a good face, to make it through the day. All of this means that when you spiral—and you will inevitably spiral—it’s harder to reach out for help. So much of your effort is devoted to convincing people that you’re okay, to putting on a good face, that it’s hard to say things are going wrong. So, when you spiral, you are…


Just what are we losing to Google’s AlphaGo?

In Tang dynasty China, Go was one of the skills socially required of a certain class of educated elite—along with calligraphy, painting, and the ability to play the stringed guqin, it was part of a kind of artistic quadrivium. The art and beauty of the game are present in the way it is played, but also in descriptions and metaphors for the shapes that appear on the board during play. One of the first shapes shown to new players is the “eye.” If a group of white stones is surrounded by black stones on all sides, it is captured. The…


This Go student has become the Go master—and it’s a computer

If Go is mentioned in the US, it’s in the context of complicated games, or hard games, or games with some element of “purity.” It’s just white stones and black stones on a nineteen by nineteen board. You play by putting stones down, not moving them, if you surround your opponent’s stones they are “captured,” and that’s more or less it. Ostensibly, no game could be simpler. But if you’ve ever tried to learn how to play Go, you’ll know it feels a lot more like the spoiled-for-choice paralysis of staring at a blank page The board has 361 spaces,…