Industrial
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Imagining the technological singularity with Factorio

The trouncing of the world’s top Go player by Google’s AlphaGo AI has led more than a few people to speculate on how we’ll be feeling the ramifications of this victory in the near future. What this speculation mainly concerns is the question of what will happen if software continues to eat the world with such a voracious appetite that we are only beginning to truly fathom. For now, “Big Data,” the truly massive collection of data that humans collectively generate through any and all combinations of internet browsing history, biometrics, credit card payments, and more, provides the equivalent of…

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Cat++ turns our feline obsession into a coding language

Cat++ is a code developed by Nora O’ Murchú, an Irish new media art curator, designer, and academic. Oh, and a cat lover, of course. Created during a residency at Access Space in the UK, Cat++ is thought of as a one-of-a-kind “cat simulator.” The coding alternates cat interactions with random and uncontrollable events that are translated through a series of 8-bit-esque animations. The code is based on real cat characteristics and assigns different dynamic visuals to user input. What’s even more wonderful is that O’ Murchú invites others to expand on the code with more cats and behaviors for new and unexpected…

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New word processor lets you type letters with satellite images

Imagine painstakingly combing through the entirety of Google Maps trying to find buildings, pools, and other structures that resemble letters, then compiling those images together to make new fonts created wholly out of aerial imagery. That’s exactly what creators Benedikt Groß (a computational designer) and Joey Lee (a geographer) did while working on Aerial Bold Typewriter, a new word processor that allows users to easily type full sentences using satellite images of various man-made structures. “Satellite and aerial imagery are rich with stories,” write the duo, explaining how they came up with the idea for the Typewriter. In 2013, they released a…

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The peculiar future of videogame history

The history of videogames maps directly onto the history of computation. At least, that’s how speakers cast it at GDC this year. Chelsea Howe, Chris Crawford, Dave Jones, Graeme Devine, Ken Lobb, Lori Cole, Luke Muscat, Palmer Luckey, Phil Harrison, Raph Koster, Seth Killian, and Tim Schafer (phew) each talked about one aspect of videogame history in which they were personally involved. The keynote was both an homage to GDC, the event, and to GDC’s prime mover, that repugnant, beautiful monstrosity known as ‘the videogame industry’. At the 30th iteration of an event that has become one focal point for…

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The AI being forced to climb Minecraft’s highest hills

Somewhere in Microsoft’s New York offices right now, an artificial intelligence is busy repeatedly trying and failing to climb a hill in Minecraft (2011), as if a modern day reenactment of the Sisyphus myth. This AI is being watched by a team of five computer scientists, and its many deaths are being meticulously recorded. Its name is Project AIX, and it’s part of a new open source initiative from Microsoft to advance not only games, but artificial intelligence as a whole. It’s a project not dissimilar to the one going on at Germany’s University of Tübingen entitled Social Mario, the concept of which…

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Social Mario teaches AI to learn by imitating each other

As videogames are frequently focused on having a single human player interact with dozens or even hundreds of computer-controlled characters at a time, they tend to be particularly fertile ground for development of artificial intelligence. This is why it should come as no surprise that when the Chair of Cognitive Modeling at Germany’s University of Tübingen decided to create new ways for artificial intelligence to grow and interact, they opted to do so through the lens of Nintendo’s Mario series. Dubbed Social Mario, the project’s concept is simple: Rather than reacting to players or following the scripted commands of a programmer,…

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The wearable tech that’s getting girls into coding

This article is part of a collaboration with iQ by Intel. Taking friendship bracelets into the digital age, Jewelbots teaches young girls to tinker and code their way into the exploding world of wearable technology. Whether it’s the Queen of Coding Grace Hopper or the new wave of women innovation engineers, fashion brand CEOs and musicians, young girls today have a growing number of role models who use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in their recipes for success. Having more role models is critical, but according to the founders of Jewelbots—the so-called friendship bracelets for the iPhone era—the next…

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Stupid Hackathon celebrates the creativity of useless tech

San Francisco’s residents can’t escape the blossoming tech start-up culture, no matter how hard they try. It’s a strange place where it’s not out of the ordinary to hear of another “techie” (an affectionate term San Franciscans use for the influx of tech workers) pitching their app to an unassuming local at a public place, be it yet another dating app or a Yelp-esque knock off. Apps and start-ups are everywhere in San Francisco—techies alongside ‘em, fiending to throw their business cards at you even while you’re enjoying a Japanese curry at the city’s outskirts. The most bewildering part of living…

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Stunning art exhibit reminds us that nature cannot truly be replicated

A video of a landscape: trees dance as what might be wind sings. The sound becomes more intense, revealing itself to not be wind but rain, though the image does not at first reflect it. It carries on, and as the branches move, they blur, as if they were never video but rather paint that has not dried and cannot withstand the added water. It shifts from photographic clarity to an impressionistic style that mirrors Monet, then further still, until the once crystal clear image is just a series of abstract colors. to explore the tension between the real and…