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‘Blade Runner’ and ‘A Scanner Darkly’ reconstructed with an autoencoder
05.26.2016
10:49 am

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Movies
Science/Tech

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“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” said the Nexus-6 replicant Roy Batty at the end of the film Blade Runner.

Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears ... in ... rain.

It’s a great speech—one written by Rutger Hauer—which suggests this bad boy android or replicant has experienced a state of consciousness beyond its intended programming.

While we can imagine what Batty’s memories look like, we can never see or experience them as the replicant or android saw them. Which is kinda damned obvious—but raises a fascinating question: Would an android, a robot, a machine see things as we see them?

It is now believed that humans use up to 50% of their brain to process vision—which gives you an idea the sheer complexity involved in even attempting to create some machine that could successfully read or visualize its environment. Do machines see? What do they see? How can they construct images from the input they receive?

The human eye can recognize handwritten numbers or words without difficulty. We process information unconsciously. We are damned clever. Our brain is a mega-supercomputer—one that scientists still do not fully understand.

Now imagine trying to create a machine that can do what the human brain does in literally the blink of an eye. Our sight can read emotion. It can intuit meaning. It can scan and understand and know whether something it inputs is dangerous or funny. We can look at a cartoon and know it is funny. Machines can’t do that. Yet.

A neural network is a computer system modeled on the human brain and nervous system. One type of neural network is an autoencoder.

Autoencoders are “simple learning circuits which aim to transform inputs into outputs with the least possible amount of distortion.”

Here’s a robotic arm using deep spatial encoders to “visualize” a simple function.
 

 
Terence Broad is an artist and research student at Computing Department at Goldsmiths University in London. Over the past year, Broad has been working on a project reconstructing films with artificial neural networks. Broad has been

training them to reconstruct individual frames from films, and then getting them to reconstruct every frame in a given film and resequencing it.

The type of neural network used is an autoencoder. An autoencoder is a type of neural net with a very small bottleneck, it encodes a data sample into a much smaller representation (in this case a 200 digit number), then reconstructs the data sample to the best of its ability. The reconstructions are in no way perfect, but the project was more of a creative exploration of both the capacity and limitations of this approach.

The resultant frames are strange watercolor-like images that are identifiable especially when placed side-by-side with the original source material. That they can reproduce such fast flickering information at all is, well, damned impressive.

Among the films Broad has used are two Philip K. Dick adaptations Blade Runner and A Scanner Darkly, which is apt considering Dick’s interest in androids and asking the question “What is reality?”
 
Much more after the jump…....
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Body’: Little-known 1970 Roger Waters soundtrack features uncredited Pink Floyd performance
05.09.2016
01:41 pm

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Music
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The Body is an innovative scientific documentary film that was directed and produced by Roy Battersby (actress Kate Beckinsale’s Trotskyite stepfather) in 1970. The film’s soundtrack, composed by quirky Scotsman Ron Geesin and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, was released as Music from the Body. Some of Geesin and Waters’ songs made use of the human body as a sort of musical instrument. Pink Floyd were always big on using the heartbeat, but Music from the Body even used farts. One of the songs is called “More Than Seven Dwarfs In Penis Land.”

In Battersby’s film, internal cameras are used to show different parts of the human anatomy in action. The film was narrated by actor Frank Finlay and Battersby’s fellow Trotsky admirer Vanessa Redgrave.
 

 
“Sea Shell and Stone/Breathe in the Air” plays under the opening credits. If you can’t take the sight of a mother’s breast in a science doc, don’t click play, you’ve been warned, weirdo:

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
China bans live streams of women ‘eating bananas seductively’
05.09.2016
11:11 am

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Food
Science/Tech
Sex

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Lately it’s become a trend in China for live streaming websites to feature women eating fruits—especially bananas—in an “erotic” manner. The authorities in China, however, are not amused, and have moved to block distribution of the images.

As part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on “inappropriate” online content, Chinese live-streaming video services are banned from showing images of women filming themselves while eating bananas “erotically,” China’s state-run CCTV news reported last week. The details of what is and isn’t legal have not yet been set, but people featuring themselves in live streams are henceforth barred from eating “bananas seductively” in front of the camera.

On April 14 China’s Culture Ministry announced an investigation of popular live-broadcast websites for “allegedly providing content that contains pornography or violence and encourages viewers to break laws and harms social morality.”

On Thursday, CCTV reported that the targeted websites had already moved to restrict the behavior of some of the most popular hosts, which were “predominately attractive women showing their cleavage.”

The draconian new regulations require live-streaming sites to monitor their output 24 hours a day to make sure that explicit material is not broadcast.

Some Chinese social media users think that the new regulations can be circumvented by dispensing with bananas. “They will all start eating cucumbers, and if that’s no good, yams,” one user commented. (I am reminded of this song. Wait for the punchline)

Here’s an example of the kinds of streams that will no longer be allowed:

 
via Dazed

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Toys for boys: Tech Hifi catalogs of vintage stereo equipment are bizarre fun
05.03.2016
11:48 am

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This 1981 system, featuring components from Cerwin Vega, Hitachi, Philips, and Audio-Technica, cost $829 at the time.
 
Only the staunchest of old-school stereo dorks remember it today, but from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, Tech Hifi was one of the best-known retailers of audio equipment on the East Coast.

The chain was founded by two MIT academics, mathematician Sandy Ruby and engineer John Strohbeen. According to the New York Times, Tech Hifi’s franchises were known for their “knowledgeable salespeople who could satisfy the comparison-shopping stereo connoisseur”—a type so gorgeously satirized by Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope in Boogie Nights.

Another of the hallmarks of Tech Hifi was apparently its expensive and imaginative catalogs, which presented elaborate tableaux of the store’s stereophonic offerings being used in fanciful and even borderline bizarre situations.

Seizing on a ripe market of affluent audiophiles, Tech Hifi grew rapidly, and by the 1970s it had become one of the nation’s largest sources for consumer electronics, with upwards of 80 stores, mostly in the Northeast, including more than a dozen in and around New York City.

Nobody knew it when these catalogs were being produced, but Tech Hifi’s days were numbered. Unanticipated competition from discount retailers and a wobbly economy forced it out of business in the mid-1980s.

Note that inflation has increased the prices of equivalent goods by roughly 289%, so you have to triple the prices listed here in order to get an accurate assessment of the pricing at that time. All of the photos in the 1979 catalog were taken by Al Rubin, and all of the photos in the 1981 catalog were taken by Clint Clemens. You can enlarge all photos by clicking on them.
 

The cover of the 1979 catalog.
 

This 1979 system featuring components from Crown, Nikko, Infinity, Micro Seiki, Ortofon, Micro-Acoustics, Tandberg, and Phase Linear, cost $10,000 at the time.
 
More goodness from vintage Tech Hifi catalogs after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Crazed loner builds a robotic tongue to lick images of his favorite anime characters
04.26.2016
02:49 pm

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Animation
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So this guy created a little device where he attached an artificial tongue to a little robotic contraption, and now whenever he presses the button, the tongue swings into action and strokes a vertical surface in an up-and-down motion until he removes his finger.
 

 
He designed it specifically to lick the screen of his computer while it has images of his favorite anime characters displayed on it. In other words the device was created to enable him to worship his favorite characters without getting his regular human tongue involved. Seems to me his “worship” has certain limits…...

Then again, I suppose he intended it tongue-in-cheek, right? (runs away)
 

 
via The Daily Dot

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Serial killers, death masks and other strange 100-year-old wax anatomical anomalies
03.28.2016
07:52 am

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History
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100-year-od wax head/bust of a man showing its age
100-year-old wax head/bust of a man showing its age.
 
What is said to be the largest collection of anatomical wax figures to ever be on public display, including a life-sized version of horrific German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann (called the “Vampire of Hanover” and “the Wolf Man” due to penchant for sawing through his unfortunate victims throats with his teeth), can be seen at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum.
 
The wax feet and legs of German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann and pieces of his victims
The wax feet and legs of German serial killer Friedrich Heinrich Karl “Fritz” Haarmann and pieces of his victims.
 

“Moulages” (the casting and molding of “mock” injuries for training/instructional purposes) of patients with lupus and leprosy.
 
A female anatomical figure displaying the effects of wearing tight corseting
A female anatomical figure displaying the effects of wearing tight corseting.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
This is ‘What the Future Sounded Like’: Meet the pioneers of ‘music without frontiers’
03.18.2016
10:44 am

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Music
Pop Culture
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If you’re British and of a certain age then Doctor Who was most likely your first introduction to the sounds of electronic music. Apart from its famous theme tune, Doctor Who used an electronic soundtrack composed by Tristram Cary to underscore the arrival of the Daleks onto TV screens in 1963. At the time, most people considered electronic music as weird, alienating noise. Using it in a primetime TV series like Doctor Who was—as one commentator explains in the fascinating documentary What the Future Sounded Like—a rather subversive act.

Tristram Cary struck upon the potential of tape and electronic music while serving in the Royal Navy during the Second World War. The son of the Irish novelist Joyce Cary (The Horse’s Mouth), Tristram was one of the earliest pioneers of electronic music during the 1950s. A classically-trained composer, he had scored such movies as The Ladykillers and Town on Trial but found traditional music inhibiting. Reasoning that music was just the organization of sound, Cary began to experiment with electronic sounds, tape recordings and musique concrète, in a bid to create “music without frontiers.”
 
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At the same, two other electronic music pioneers, the aristocratic Peter Zinovieff and engineer David Cockerell were separately testing out their own ideas. The three eventually came together to form the Electronic Music Studios in 1969. Their intention was to produce a versatile monophonic synthesiser, which could be cheaply produced for public use. While this proved tricky, Cockerell did manage to design one of the first British portable commercially available synthesizer—or Voltage Controlled Studio—the EMS VCS3. This once futuristic-looking “suitcase synth” is what Brian Eno was seen using during his tenure in Roxy Music.

Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Creationists prove that dinosaurs and people coexisted in goofball ‘X-Files’ parody skit
03.03.2016
12:01 pm

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Amusing
Belief
Science/Tech
Television

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Recently we’ve seen the return of one of the most popular TV shows of the 1990s, The X-Files, scratching that conspiratorial itch for millions of fans (who probably are more interested in Mulder and Scully getting it on than the truth value of the UFO theories the show so hysterically presents).

So it’s a good a time as any to resurrect this chestnut that dates from the early to mid-Bush years, a spoof of The X-Files called The X-Tinct Files purporting to uncover the hidden truths scientists are too fixed in their ways/arrogant/brainwashed to countenance, mainly that history does not stretch millions of years back and that dinosaurs lived a short time ago, alongside human beings.
 
More cringeworthy creationist fun after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Pictures of women using boxy office computers from the early 1980s
02.29.2016
11:40 am

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Amusing
History
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In early February Tara McGinley ran a really wonderful post on DM with the title “Photos of Women and Giant-Ass Mainframe Computers from the 1960s”—I don’t know if the people at Retrospace were paying attention, but in any case a couple weeks later they ran a pretty rad gallery called “Women at Computers,” which focused on the go-go years of 1979 to 1991.

This is the era in which most of the Michael Fassbender movie Steve Jobs takes place, but you won’t see a single Apple product anywhere in this gallery—in fact, nothing could make Jobs’ case of the importance of his company’s success in that movie better than the clunky DOS-munchers on display here. The big boxy models pictured here in the gray casings are all Radio Shack products—in the early 1980s their signature product was called the TRS-80. Most of the rest are from Xerox, which famously pissed away mountains of valuable interface research in the early 1970s.

For an amusing history of the era in which most of these things were manufactured, you can’t go wrong with Robert X. Cringely’s Accidental Empires.

Added bonus: some of the earliest documented examples of mansplaining in the tech world!
 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Today’s best country music songwriter is a Twitter bot
02.29.2016
11:18 am

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Music
Pop Culture
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In 2016 the most interesting and prolific lyricist in the genre of American roots music is a twitter bot named horse_bluegrass.

Programmer Jared Wenerd fed the lyrics of 1,796 bluegrass songs into a text prediction algorithm. The algorithm creates sentences with a certain degree of randomness, but using predictions of words likely to follow the preceeding word, based on the input of the original songs fed into the program. The end result are lyrics that are at times nonsensical, but at other times quite poignant and profound.

The code takes text, parses it into individual words, to create a model where the algorithm knows the likeliness that one word will follow another or end a phrase. For instance starting with the word “in” it knows that a likely word to follow will be “the”, “a”, or 43 other different words. The algorithm decides to go with “the” due to the statistical likeliness and randomness. It then continues and chooses the next word after “the” using the same process… and so on until the algorithm decides the phrase should end. Once it has a complete phrase, it publishes the text to Twitter

.

The twitter account updates every couple of hours.

Here’s some of horse_bluegrass’ fine work. Certainly as good as, if not better than, anything coming out of Nashville in 2016. Check it out, no songs about pick-up trucks or beer:
 

 

 

 
More robotic country music lyrics after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
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