Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Voice of HAL 9000 actor dies

Douglas Rain, the actor best known for voicing the homicidal HAL 9000 computer in Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odysseyhas died aged 90. HAL 9000 is probably the most famous computer in Science-Fiction. The movie was prescient is showing that speech would be the primary method that we would use to communicate with computers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Film fans see red over Netflix ‘targeted’ posters for black viewers

We're used to the idea of Netflix and other online services, recommending us content based on our viewing history. What you might be surprised to learn is that Netflix is altering the promo images of shows based on our ethnicity. In the image above a white viewer would see the image on the left showing the show's leading actors. A black viewer would see the image on the right where it looks like the show stars Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu who are minor players. The Observer has an interesting article on this story. We can't even accuse Netflix of algorithmic bias since this seems to be deliberate!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Vitamin Pills: Miracle or Myth?

The BBC's flagship science documentary series, Horizon, has just screened a doco called "Vitamin Pills: Miracle or Myth?" All of us like to be healthy and many people take supplements in the belief they are good for them. This show examines the scientific evidence and comes to the conclusion that for most people supplements are not needed.
Available from the usual places. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Bob Doran - R.I.P.

I'm really sad to have just learned that my colleague Bob Doran has died. He had been fighting cancer for many years and has finally succumbed. He was a founder of my Computer Science department in 1982 and in recent years was the curator of our excellent computer history museum, a passion that I shared with him. Though, I have to say I wasn't as interested in the history of the New Zealand Tote as he was. He was a regular contributor to this blog on all aspects of computing history and I will miss him dearly. My sincere condolences to his wife, Joyce, and his family.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

'The discourse is unhinged': how the media gets AI alarmingly wrong

In June of last year, five researchers at Facebook's Artificial Intelligence Research unit published an article showing how chatbots can simulate negotiation-like conversations. They also showed that the chatbots sometimes talked with each other in a non-standard form of English they seemed to have invented. The media jumped on this and started likening the event to the rise of Skynet in the Terminator movie. Zachary Lipton, an assistant professor at the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University, watched with frustration as this story transformed from “interesting-ish research” to “sensationalized crap”. The Guardian has an interesting article on how AI is commonly reported.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Welcome to the Myra Cohen Department of Computer Science

As New Zealand celebrates it's historic decision, 125 years ago, to give women the vote my department has renamed itself, for one week, the Myra Cohen Department of Computer Science after an illustrious female graduate, Myra Cohen a friend of mine. Women have always played an important role in the development of Computer Science. Two of my favourite heroines would be Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Māori and Machine Learning

Māori and Machine Learning, might not seem like a natural pairing. However, for Māori Language Week Spark have released Kupu, an app for your smartphone that will help you improve your vocabulary. Take a photograph of an object and the app will use Google's object recognition system to recognise it and then tell you what it is in Māori. It will speak the word as well so you can hear the correct pronunciation. Kupu is available for iOS and Android.