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QR Codes

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Last week we announced that we're giving away a BRAND NEW FORD FIESTA in NYC through a special QR code hunt a week from today. But what on earth is a QR code? Well, if you've ever been to Japan, you probably already know, because they're very popular over there already in billboard ads and magazines. This should come as no surprise seeing as QR codes are used in conjunction with mobile phones and the Japanese have had cameras on their cell phones since like 1928 (!)

Also, QR codes were invented by the Japanese to track car vehicle parts way back in 1994, so it's no wonder they're ubiquitous there already. Here in the States, however, they're just beginning to catch on a little bit. QR stands for quick response—as in, you scan the code with your phone's camera and you're immediately taken to whatever the code has be programmed to do. The code might send you an SMS, it might take you to a Web page, it might trigger a video or even have your phone call a phone number.

Recently, we got a Target catalog in the mail with a bunch of QR codes next to some of the toys. When you scan one, you get a video commercial showing you what the toy could do. Likewise, New York Times tech writer Nick Bilton's new book, I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works. uses QR codes in conjunction with video. Each chapter has a QR code at the top of it and when you scan them, some take you to YouTube videos of Nick talking about the chapter. You get to meet the author through the video and even interact with him through the YouTube vid comments.

Many Nokia phones are now coming with scanners and code readers built into them. Then there are all the wonderful free apps available for download to iPhones and Androids and the like. My favorites include ScanLife, RedLaser and Mobiletag. If you get a little high off of scanning groceries at those automated check-out lanes, you'll really love using QR codes. For more, check out the Rocketboom video below.

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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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