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A Short History of a Short Tone: The Dial Tone

Did you ever pick up the phone in another country and miss our North American dial tone? When I spent three years abroad, I never got used to the various tones I heard in my ear, both the dial tones and the ringing tones. It seems like a small thing, but when I finally moved back to New York, the dial tone was one of the most comforting things I experienced!

So what’s the deal with our warm dial tone? Well, for starters, it’s not just one frequency, it’s two tones that modulate or “beat” together quickly between 350 Hz and 440 Hz. Most of Europe, by comparison, uses a single 425Hz tone.

In the old days, when operators used to place calls for people, there was no dial tone. But then, in the 1940s, when automated systems were developed, phone companies figured out that their customers were seriously confused by the lack of response/silence. You can imagine why, right? For eons, you’d pick up the phone and a polite woman would ask where you wanted to call. Now you picked up the receiver and nothing! To avoid this confusion, exchange systems started playing what they called a “comfort noise” – and like that, the dial tone was born.

If all this dial-tone-talk has got you itching to actually hear one, by all means, that is what we've loaded on the play bar below:

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technology
AI Algorithm Tells You the Ingredients in Your Meal Based on a Picture
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Your food photography habit could soon be good for more than just updating your Instagram. As Gizmodo reports, a new AI algorithm is trained to analyze food photos and match them with a list of ingredients and recipes.

The tool was developed by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). To build it, they compiled information from sites like All Recipes and Food.com into a database dubbed Recipe1M, according to their paper. With more than a million annotated recipes at its disposal, a neural network then sifted through each one, learning about which ingredients are associated with which types of images along the way.

The result is Pic2Recipe, an algorithm that can deduce key details about a food item just by looking at its picture. Show it a picture of a cookie, for example, and it will tell you it likely contains sugar, butter, eggs, and flour. It will also recommend recipes for something similar pulled from the Recipe1M database.

Pic2Recipe is still a work in progress. While it has had success with simple recipes, more complicated items—like smoothies or sushi rolls, for example—seem to confuse the system. Overall, it suggests recipes with an accuracy rate of about 65 percent.

Researchers see their creation being used as a recipe search engine or as a tool for situations where nutritional information is lacking. “If you know what ingredients went into a dish but not the amount, you can take a photo, enter the ingredients, and run the model to find a similar recipe with known quantities, and then use that information to approximate your own meal,” lead author Nick Hynes told MIT News.

Before taking the project any further, the team plans to present its work at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition Conference in Honolulu later this month.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Dungeons & Dragons Gets a Digital Makeover
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Since the 1970s, players have been constructing elaborate campaigns in Dungeons & Dragons using nothing but paper, pencils, rule books, and 20-sided dice. That simple formula has made D&D the quintessential role-playing game, but the game's publisher thinks it can be improved with a few 21st-century updates. As The Verge reports, Wizards of the Coast is launching a digital toolset meant to enhance the gaming experience.

The tool, called D&D Beyond, isn’t meant to be a replacement for face-to-face gameplay. Rather, it’s designed to save players time and energy that could be better spent developing characters or battling orcs. The resource includes a fifth-edition rule book users can search by keyword. At the start of a new campaign, they can build monsters and characters within the program. And players don’t need to worry about forgetting to bring their notes to a quest—D&D Beyond keeps track of information like items and spells in one convenient location.

"D&D Beyond speaks to the way gamers are able to blend digital tools with the fun of storytelling around the table with your friends,” Nathan Stewart, senior director of Dungeons & Dragons, said in a statement when the concept was first announced. "These tools represent a way forward for D&D.”

This isn’t the first attempt to bring D&D into the digital age; videogames inspired by the fictional world have been produced since the 1980s. Unlike those titles, though, D&D Beyond will still highlight the imagination-fueled role-playing aspect of the game when it launches August 15.

[h/t The Verge]

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