Microsoft is conducting what one senior researcher and scientist at the company says "could be the largest Turing test in history" in China.
In a report for Nautilus, the researcher, Yongdong Wang, outlined what the company was doing with Xiaoice — pronounced "Shao-ice" and translated as "little Bing" — in China.
The Turing test, created by British scientist Alan Turing, is a test that looks to see if a human can detect whether the entity answering a question is a human or a computer. The test has become a fixture in pop culture, with a starring role in the film "Ex Machina."
According to Wang, Xiaoice is used by millions of people every day and can respond with human-like answers, questions, and "thoughts." If a user sends a picture of a broken ankle, Xiaoice will reply with a question asking about how much pain the injury caused, for example.
"Xiaoice can exchange views on any topic," Wang wrote. "If it's something she doesn't know much about, she will try to cover it up. If that doesn't work, she might become embarrassed or even angry, just like a human would."
A report from GeekWire said millions of Chinese users were telling Xiaoice that they loved it, without any apparent irony. About 25% of Xiaoice's users — 10 million people — had said "I love you" while using the service.
But very few people outside Asia have heard of Xiaoice. According to Google Trends, which tracks what people are searching for, interest spiked in August last year but has fallen.
Xiaoice is, essentially, a large-scale test of artificial intelligence for Microsoft.
"Xiaoice is teaching us what makes a relationship feel human, and hinting at a new goal for artificial intelligence: not just analyzing databases and driving cars, but making people happier," Wang wrote.
The company has been making strides with AI outside China, buying up various startups and building its own apps for iPhone and Android.
Microsoft Research, the 1,000-strong arm of the company that does scientific research, said in a list of predictions published late last year that artificial intelligence would be a big trend in 2016.
Xiaoice can do many things Siri or Google Now can't, including offering a 33-day breakup course, according to Wang.
"Xiaoice is constantly memorizing and analyzing your emotional state," he writes. "If you have a recently failed romantic relationship, she will proactively ask whether you've gotten over it."
The software behind Xiaoice is Bing, the search engine that Microsoft runs. "Xiaoice is a big data project, built on top of the Microsoft Bing search engine," Wang wrote.
The data that Microsoft can glean from Xiaoice in China can then be used elsewhere. Cortana, the virtual assistant that is built into Windows 10, uses Bing data and could benefit from Xiaoice.
In an interview with GeekWire last year, Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, who leads the Xiaoice project, said the technology could be exported outside China but the company did not plan to do so.
Microsoft is betting big on artificial intelligence, and it has been for years. Microsoft Garage, an in-house app-development project, has made numerous lighthearted proof-of-concept apps that, at the core, use AI technology.
Cortana and the Office suite, two core components of Microsoft's businesses, use artificial intelligence and are powered by Bing, just like Xiaoice.
"Microsoft is a pretty serious business with clearly a lot going on in the AI and machine learning space," Azeem Azhar, an AI expert, said in an email to Business Insider last month. He cited Cortana and Xiaoice as examples.
"Through the tens of billions of conversations she's had over the past 18 months, Xiaoice has added considerably to her store of known conversational scenarios, and improved her ability to rank answer candidates," Wang wrote. "We can now claim that Xiaoice has entered a self-learning and self-growing loop [and] she is only going to get better."
NOW WATCH: How to find Netflix’s secret categories
Martial artist Chloe Bruce might not be a household name, but she's the woman responsible for the cool stunts by Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
A November video of Bruce is starting to go viral, where she demonstrates incredible staff skills and kicks. It's also shining some spotlight on the relatively unknown stuntwoman.
But Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn't the first time Bruce has assisted with a blockbuster film. She also served as a stunt double for Gamora in Guardians of the Galaxy, Lady Sif in Thor: The Dark World and Korrina in Wrath of the Titans.
Looking ahead, Bruce also stunt doubled in the Assassin's Creed movie for actresses Ariane Labed and Michelle Lin, according to her resume.
This is ridiculous. Hope they get good attorneys and sue back
A Three Rivers, Michigan, teenager is both the victim and perpetrator of a sex crime. He might land on the sex offender registry, and face criminal charges, all because he took an inappropriate photo—of himself.
The boy is unnamed in local news reporters, which note that he is under 15 years of age. He allegedly took a nude photo of himself on a girl’s cell phone. That girl sent the picture to another girl, who sent it to another. Preliminary charges are pending for all three—the boy was charged with manufacturing child porn, and the girls with distributing it. A prosecutor is still weighing whether to pursue the charges.
Police Detective Mike Mohney told WBST.com that sexting is a serious crime because it leads to “bullying,” and “real severe things like people committing suicide or violent crimes against others because they're so embarrassed about it.”
Mohney’s statement is a perfect example of the inherent contradiction of ruining kids’ lives for sexting. If the goal is to avoid “severe consequences,” why would they pursue charges in the first place? If sexting-induced embarrassment is a source of violence and suicide, certainly the risk of embarrassment is made much worse by branding the offender a pedophile—for abusing no one but himself—and sentencing him to the sex offender registry.
Criminal charges don’t appear to deter other teens from sexting, either. As I noted in a recent op-ed for USA Today, a Drexel University study found that more than 50 percent of college undergraduates had sent sexts as minors. Some 88 percent of people surveyed had sent sexts, period. In other words, this is something that almost everyone is doing.
Authorities warn that the consequences for the underage are just too dire, but the most awful outcome is the one the authorities themselves impose on perpetrators: criminal charges. Can you imagine being a 14-year-old, trying to get your life back on track, after being socially stigmatized, expelled, charged with a crime, and publicly branded a sex offender? All because you took a picture of yourself?
Teens who create and share sexy photos aren’t child pornographers. They are teenagers. To pretend the law can suppress their natural curiosity about their own bodies, and each other’s, is to subscribe to vindictive madness and paranoia about human sexuality. These kids aren't hurting themselves—we're hurting them.
Last Tuesday, the Fine Brothers sparked a great deal of controversy when they announced a licensing program called “React World”. As a result of the backlash, the Fine Brothers have since reversed their decision to move forward with the “React World” program and apologized for the controversy in a statement released earlier today.
The Fine Brothers intend to rescind all of the “React” trademarks and applications, which include “React”, “Kids React”, and “Elders React”, as well as “release all past Content ID claims”.
“React World” was a plan to trademark and license the “reaction video” format, as well as the word “React”, which many people objected to because so many people already make react videos. The Fine Brothers have built a successful business out of showing people, young and old, reacting to anything and everything. Their plan was to provide tools and assets for others to make react videos on their own channels.
The dangers of Kickstarter
Ant Simulator has been canceled, Eteeski LLC. announced over the weekend, with Eric Tereshinski resigning from the company.
The reason for the cancellation was detailed in a video published on Saturday, in which Tereshinski alleges his ex-business partners were secretly stealing company money and spent the “overwhelming majority” of funds raised via Kickstarter and the Ant Simulator investment money on “liquor, restaurant, cars, and even strippers.”
"A year and a half ago, I signed an LLC agreement with them," Tereshinski says. "I trusted them and they had been my friends for 11 years. I made the mistake of trusting them. So, that means that resigning, and therefore cancelling the development of Ant Simulator, since I was the programmer of Ant Simulator, is really the only option available to me right now."
Those who pre-ordered Ant Simulator should expect an email in order to try to arrange a refund, although we have no idea when Tereshinski will be able to pay as the situation sounds pretty bleak.
The truth is out there
Scully and Mulder take notice. The CIA is highlighting a few documents from its Freedom of Information Act UFO collection, in efforts to help the public "navigate the vast amount of data."
Photo via CIA website
Initially declassified in 1978, the CIA has "hundreds" of documents detailing unidentified flying objects open to the public. The documents date back primarily from the late 1940s and 1950s, and contain information that "both skeptics and believers will find interesting."
Warner Bros. Pictures has revealed new behind-the-scenes footage for J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The video sneak peek made its debut this weekend at "A Celebration of Harry Potter 2016," a Potter-centric fan event held at Universal Studios Orlando's Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Check out the clip below, which features commentary from Director David Yates, leading man Eddie Redmayne and several other cast members.
J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens in theaters on November 18, and will serve as the first chapter in a trilogy of films. Redmayne stars as Newt Scamander, and is joined by Katherine Waterston as Tina, Alison Sudol as Queenie and Dan Fogler as Jacob.
In the Processing Plant
Preparing the salmon for sale
One in five people today depend on fish as their primary source of protein, according to the United Nations. And as the world's population grows, and the quality of diets improves for many of those people (a.k.a. getting access to protein), so does this demand. The demand for salmon, for example, has been increasing an average of 13 percent a year, according to the Norwegian Seafood Council.
Fish populations in the world's oceans, in contrast, are crashing and burning. More than 70 percent of the world's fish species are fully exploited or depleted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Fish farming, or aquaculture, is one way to try and deal with this situation. I visited one such operation run by Cermaq in Hammerfest, Norway with a few other journalists. Here is how fish farms work today, and how different they'll look tomorrow.
"We have to do aquaculture," says Torgeir Neilson, a lifelong Hammerfester and former fisherman who now coordinates Cermaq's dozens of sea sites. "Some people think we can live off of wild fish we catch in the sea, but we can't anymore."
In Norway, the salmon farming industry has been expanding since the 1970s. The northern nation is now the biggest producer of farmed salmon in the world. That may be in part because Neilson says Norwegians are a fish-eating people. He, for example, eats salmon twice a week. But Norwegians are hardly alone in that. People in the rest of the world are big fans of fish as well.
Cermaq is a major player in the global farmed salmon market. They operate fish farms in Norway, Canada, and Chile and produce 137,000 tons of salmon annually, 50,000 of that in Norway. Since 2014, the company has been wholly owned by Mitsubishi. (Yes, the Japanese car company). Their fish are exported whole to more than 25 countries—95 percent of that fresh and the remaining 5 percent frozen.
The Atlantic salmon Cermaq raises are born at freshwater sites and then transferred to sea sites as smolt (young salmon), when they are between 2 and 6 ounces in size. In 2016, the Norwegian operation stocked 8 million fish.
Cermaq, like most of the world's fish farms, raises its fish in massive, net-like cages, which it places underwater, in fjords. Here the aquatic environment is somewhat similar to the fish's natural setting, and they are more protected that they'd be in the open ocean.
The salmon are fed fish meal, fish oil, and/or vegetable oil (although the latter leads to lower levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the salmon). The fish require just 12 to 18 months to mature. To keep an eye on their growing salmon, the company keeps underwater cameras in their cages.
This ship transports Cermaq's farmed salmon from the sea sites to the processing plant.
Each cage holds 200,000 salmon. That's a lot of fish, but Neilson assures me it isn't crowded. If you look at the volume of the cage, he says, its contents are 2.5 percent fish and 97.5 percent water. "We try to treat them as well as we can," he says. "I did that when I was fishing, too."
The fish are transported from the sea sites to a processing plant in Hammerfest with a well boat called the Dønnland. It has a sea lice filter as another layer of protection to keep parasites out. The salmon can stay in the boat for days if needed.
The plant can process 55,000 fish a day, which it sells fresh or frozen. That's 170 tons, on average.
The waste from the plant is neutralized to lower the pH, and then sold as fertilizer.
Aquaculture presents a number of real ecological concerns. Fish inevitably escape from these cages into the wild, for example, which can mess with wild populations' genetic pools or interfere with their spawning grounds. Cermaq claims they've only had two escapees between 2010 and 2015, but it's hard to believe that it's possible to keep track of all 8 million fish at all times.
Fish farms also produce a whole lot of waste, and the chemicals used to treat the fish against diseases can pollute ocean waters. The current limit for these treatments is three per growth cycle.
Prepping the Salmon for Sale
In the processing plant, salmon are cut open and cleaned.
An arguably more problematic issue with fish farms is that of sea lice. These are parasites that can kill fish and transmit bacterial or viral diseases. Whenever animals live at high concentrations in close quarters—people and fish included—lice tend to thrive. The sea is not immune.
The current legal limit for sea lice is 0.25. That means that there can be no more than 1 louse found for every four fish. Once the lice attack a farm, they can spread to nearby farms or to wild populations.
Another disease having a huge impact on salmon farms is Piscirickettsia salmonis, or SRS. This bacterial disease causes lesions, anemia, hemorrhaging, ulcers, and eventually death in fish. This has been a major problem in Chilean salmon farms, though Norway has not felt its effects as acutely.
Just like with livestock operations on land, antibiotics are a major concern in the oceans, too. Vaccinations against certain diseases have helped to drastically reduce the amount of antibiotics used, but SRS, for example, still doesn't have a viable vaccine.
So how many antibiotics are used for fish in Norway? "It's very, very little," Neilson says. "Less than one percent of the total antibiotics in Norway are used on fish." In fact, he said that antibiotics use for fish farms has been reduced about 99 percent since the 1980s.
Aquaculture Cages Ready for Cleaning
After the net-like cages have been used for one growth cycle, they get brought up and cleaned. These ones, covered in snow, are still waiting for their turn.
"There will always be people who are critical of what we are doing," Neilson says. But Cermaq is working to decrease their environmental impact and health risks in a number of ways. Among their 20-some licenses, they now operate two green licenses, which were recently introduced as an experiment by the Directorate of Fisheries. These licenses are in two of the company's sites in Alta, two hours south of Hammerfest. Four big changes are involved:
Ready for Delivery
The fresh salmon gets packed with ice in insulated boxes and then shipped around the world.
As the climate changes, temperatures in the Barents Sea are expected to rise, creating an environment that is hospitable to non-Arctic species of fish not normally seen here. Neilson says Cermaq is not feeling the effects in their sea sites just yet. "It's the same temperature today as when I started," Neilson says. Water temperatures have consistently been 50 degrees F in July, August, and September for "as long as I can remember," Neilson says.
To improve and innovate their operations, and to adapt to upcoming changes, Cermaq established the Arctic Salmon Research Center last year. The scientists there aim to come up with more customized food strategies, diversify the geography and species in their sea sites, look into different smolt, and improve the overall health of their fish.
One of the major shifts that Neilson expects down the road is land-based fish farming operations. By isolating closed cages on land, farms can reduce disease and pollution. To be sure, operations on dry ground introduce different challenges. Making space for a massive structure on the shore, for example, is a real problem in many coastal areas.
Cermaq has experimented with these methods already, but their set-up was taken out by a storm. (Yet another risk to consider with these kinds of farms.)
Still, they're giving it another go. Neilson is convinced the effort will pay off. "This is the future," he says. "We have to do a lot of research, but we think it's coming."
Ahead of Gotham's midseason return next month, FOX has released a new poster for its hit DC series.
The new art, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter, highlights the show's wide array of characters and spotlights a number of its key villains, including Jessica Lucas' Tabatha Galavan, Robin Lord Taylor's Cobblepot and Nathan Darrow as Victor Fries.
powered by 100 percent renewable energy
Open Compute Project
Matt Murdock knows how to throw a punch. If there's one thing viewers took away from Daredevil: Season 1, it's that the title character (played by Charlie Cox) is a fully believable and capable fighter. If there's a second thing they learned, it's that the stunt coordinators on the show know how to choreograph one hell of a fight scene.
That was showcased best in episode 2, "Cut Man," which saw Matt take down a hallway full of child traffickers in a fight sequence filmed in a single take. The "hallway scene," as it came to be known, was a jaw-dropping achievement in filmmaking. According to Cox, Daredevil: Season 2 plans to outdo it.
leave our jobs, pack up our belongings, and travel North America in a camper for a year,gaming on the road.
I first booted up Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain from a state park in rural Nevada. I finished playing from the northern tip of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, over 3500 miles away. In total, I played 48 hours and 38 minutes of MGS5, while traveling across 11 US states and 3 Canadian provinces.
Throughout this journey, my PlayStation 4 and TV were never once plugged into the grid. Instead, I’ve relied solely on the power of the sun.
Before this adventure, I never thought about gaming with solar power. But when my wife and I decided to leave our jobs, pack up our belongings, and travel North America in a camper for a year, I needed a solution to keep gaming on the road.
Batman v Superman isn't the only epic DC movie fans have to look forward to this year. Suicide Squad will be shining a light on the villains of the DC Universe as the members of Task Force X assemble on the big screen for the first time.
While some characters in Suicide Squad have already become iconic, the team as a whole may not be familiar to those who haven't read the comics or watched their appearances in the TV series Arrow. That's why we've put together this guide that breaks down each member of the team, their origin and powers from the comics, and how similar the movie and comic versions appear to be at this point.