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Programmed for Humor

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Researchers at the University of Cincinnati are trying to program computers to recognize a joke. So far, they've only gotten to the kindergarten level, by teaching computers to recognize words that sound the same (but are spelled differently) or words that sound somewhat similar and can be taken more than one way. In a word, puns. The example in the article reminds me of my daughter's first joke. She approached me carrying a broom and said, "Shh! Be quiet! I'm trying to SWEEP!" I laughed at that all day, but mainly because she was two years old and had never successfully told a joke before.

Joke recognition software could be very useful to someone like me. I'm always searching the internet for humor, but funny stories are often not labeled with the words "humor", "funny", or "joke". The program in this project allows a computer to recognize a joke, but it still cannot discriminate between a funny joke and a dud. That's fine, if you're a kindergarten humorist, but it won't lead to an improvement in joke-telling when all you receive is positive feedback (insert mechanical voice: "That is a joke. Ha ha ha"). They hope to expand the program's repertoire eventually, and learn more about human reactions to humor by replicating them in a computer. It seems like an uphill battle to me. The human brain has an almost unlimited capacity for obscure connections, which many people never use. You can tell a lot about a person by whether they understand and appreciate very subtle humor. If he "gets it", he shows a certain level of intelligence. If he gets it and still doesn't crack a smile, he may be a snob or just too serious for my tastes. Studying human reactions to humor is a complex process that most of us do without thinking.

What will this lead to? Will we eventually have household robots who not only do chores, but laugh at our lame attempts at humor? That's what we have children for!

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Getting Calls From Your Own Phone Number? Don't Answer!
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There’s a new phone scam that could affect you, according to Washington’s KIRO 7 News. In addition to keeping your eyes open for calls that come from area codes like 473 or involve people claiming to be Equifax representatives, you now have to watch out for your own phone number.

Scammers are manipulating your phone’s caller ID to make it look like you’re getting a call from your own phone number, then posing as someone from a wireless carrier like AT&T or Verizon. They tell whoever answers the phone that their account has been flagged for security reasons, then ask for the last four digits of that person’s Social Security number. The FCC has been aware of these scams for at least two years, but they seem to be ramping up once again.

In general, you shouldn’t give out any part of your Social Security number over the phone on an incoming call. If you’re suspicious, you can always call your carrier back using the official customer service phone number on their website or on your bill. But it’s best not to pick up at all. If you receive a call from your own number, don’t answer or press any buttons. Instead, file a complaint with the FCC.

[h/t KIRO 7 News]

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Samsung’s Star Wars Vacuums Offer Everything You Want in a Droid
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Samsung

Hate housecleaning but love Star Wars? Samsung’s got the solution. In anticipation of December’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the newest film in the Star Wars saga, Samsung has transformed a limited number of its VR7000 POWERbot robot vacuum cleaners into two familiar faces from George Lucas’s legendary space opera: a Stormtrooper and Darth Vader (which comes with Wi-Fi connectivity and a remote control).

In order to create a unique device that would truly thrill Star Wars aficionados, Samsung consulted with fans of the film throughout each stage of the process. The result is a pair of custom-crafted robo-vacuums that fill your home with the sounds of a galaxy far, far away as they clean (when you turn Darth Vader on, for example, you'll hear his iconic breathing).

“We are very pleased to be part of the excitement leading up to the release of The Last Jedi and to be launching our limited edition POWERbot in partnership with Star Wars fans,” B.S. Suh, Samsung’s executive vice president, said in a press statement. “From its industry-leading suction power, slim design, and smart features, to the wonderful character-themed voice feedback and sound effects, we are confident the Star Wars limited edition of the VR7000 will be a big hit.”

Be warned that this kind of power suction doesn’t come cheap: while the Stormtrooper POWERbot will set you back $696, the Darth Vader vacuum retails for $798. Who knew the Dark Side was so sparkling clean?


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