+174 123 456 789 Saturday - Mar 24, 2018


  • Watch this AI figure out how to place blocks in Minecraft

    Artificial intelligence doesn’t compare favorably to humans when it comes to problem solving. Ask any eight year old child to place a few blocks on a grid in Minecraft and they’ll almost certainly be bored by the task. A computer, on the other hand, doesn’t grasp such difficult concepts so easily. Stephan Alaniz, a researcher with the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Technische Universitat Berlin, yesterday published a white paper titled “Deep Reinforcement Learning with Model Learning and Monte Carlo Tree Search in Minecraft.” In his paper the scientist explains his efforts to create a superior method for…

    This story continues at The Next Web

  • These two indie platforms are partnering to help authors produce audiobooks at affordable prices

    Indie authors who publish through platforms like Amazon or CreateSpace usually don’t have the resources to publish an audiobook, which can be an expensive endeavor with production costs that self-published or first-time authors cannot afford. Now, self-publishing platform and ebook distributor Smashwords has teamed up with production platform and audiobook distributor Findaway Voices to give these indie authors a cheaper way to make audiobooks.

    In an announcement, Smashwords CEO Mark Coker said today the deal would give “greater control over pricing and distribution” to authors and publishers, making it more “economically feasible” to get into audiobook production even with short or cheaper books. By using Findaway, Smashwords’ authors…

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  • This MIDI-powered robotic music box is the good news I needed this week

    It’s been a bit of a tumultuous week, to put it lightly, but one must always remember that no matter how dire things look on the global stage, there are always makers working obsessively to create something beautiful and useless — like this MIDI-driven, robotic music box.

    Tinkerer and music box aficionado Mitxela (via Hackaday) was pleased by this music box that takes punch cards or rolls as input, rather than having a metal drum with the notes sticking out of it. But who wants to punch cards all day to make a music box go? These things are supposed to be simple!

    Mitxela first made a script that takes a MIDI file and outputs an image compatible with his laser cutter, allowing cards or paper strips to be created more or less automatically. But then there’s the question of wear and tear, storing the strips, taping them together for long pieces… why not just have the MIDI controller drive the music box directly?

    It clearly took some elbow grease, but he managed to create a lovely little machine that does just that. The MIDI pattern maps to a set of small servos, each of which is attached to a rigid brass wire and plastic tip. When the servo activates, the tip pushes the corresponding little cylinder in the music box, producing a note.

    Now MIDI files (single-instrument ones, anyway) can be played directly. But there’s more! Mitxela’s efforts to lower the power draw and simplify the mechanisms had the incidental side effect of lowering the latency so much that you can even play the music box in real time using a MIDI keyboard. How delightful!

    The video has quite a few breaks to listen to video game themes, so if you’re just interested in the device, you can skip through to the (relatively) technical parts. But hearing the Mario theme tinkling through a neat little gadget like this isn’t the worst way to spend a Friday afternoon after a week like this one.

    You can check out the rest of Mitxela’s little hardware projects at his website.

  • New iPad expected to support Apple Pencil, and future iPhones may as well

    The iPad Pro-exclusive Apple Pencil may finally be for everyone starting next week, as a new rumor suggests it’ll be supported by the entry-level New iPad 2018.

    The anticipated New iPad is believed to be the focus of Apple’s education event on March 27 and act as a refresh to the cheapest iPad, the 9.7-inch iPad. The consumer model starts at $329 / £339 / AU$469, and a new model may come at an even lower price, making it extra affordable for students.

    The suggestion that the new iPad will also support the Apple Pencil comes from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, courtesy of 9to5Mac. Kuo has a long record of solid leaks for Apple’s moves.

    Why this is important to you, and maybe your iPhone

    The Apple Pencil supporting a cheaper iPad will make it much more accessible, and Kuo believes this will see its sales this year double what they were last year.

    This is certainly great news for anyone hoping to snatch up a new tablet that supports a bit more creative and productive activities. But, there’s more to the Apple Pencil speculation.

    It’s been previously rumored that a new iPhone could get an Apple Pencil in 2019, and this just adds a little validity to that speculation. With Apple competing closely against Samsung and doubling down on larger-screened smartphones, it would make sense for Apple to offer a phablet style iPhone with stylus support like the impressive Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

  • Dropbox shares soared today in biggest tech IPO since Snapchat

    Cloud storage and collaboration company Dropbox — which started 10 years ago as a small startup in the San Francisco-based Y Combinator incubator program — went public today, and its shares were up nearly 36 percent as of market close this afternoon. The successful performance makes Dropbox the biggest tech IPO since Snapchat’s in March 2017. Dropbox ended the day of trading, under the ticker symbol “DBX,” with a market valuation of around $10 billion.

    We knew Dropbox was likely expecting a favorable outcome, considering it priced its shares at $21, above its initial projected $18 to $20 range. But the surge in share price, which helped Dropbox match its last private funding valuation, is a welcomed vote of market confidence for a…

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  • Steven Soderbergh’s all-iPhone movie Unsane makes a poor showing for the iPhone 7 Plus

    Steven Soderbergh’s new movie Unsane fits into a long line of “Who’s the crazy one here?” stories. Films like Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, Otto Preminger’s Bunny Lake Is Missing, and modern equivalents like Flightplan and The Forgotten all hinge on protagonists being told they’re deluded, and that someone they clearly remember never actually existed. Unsane plays a similar game, with The Crown’s Claire Foy as a fragile, angry woman convinced that her stalker has somehow infiltrated the psychiatric ward where she’s been committed. For the first act or so, Soderbergh teases the audience with the possibilities. Is Foy’s character Sawyer actually being stalked, or are her minders right when they tell her she’s irrational, and can’t…

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