Make Strange Stories from Your Pictures with Word Camera


Is a picture really worth 1000 words? Taking pictures has gotten easier than ever, knocking the word/picture exchange rate way out of balance. But Ross Goodwin, an NYU graduate student, recently made it a lot easier to get your picture’s worth, by automatically generating long, wordy, and sometimes eerily strange descriptions of your photos.

Goodwin created, an app that creates “lexographs,” or text documents generated from photographs. It takes images, either directly from your camera or from uploaded files, and uses Clarifai, an image recognition tool, to extract tags and then feeds them into ConceptNet, a network trained on the relationship of words to meaning and real world knowledge. It feeds the result through a template that creates sentences to weave the information together and returns a description that might be given by a Martian who’s read an encyclopedia and is looking at the picture through a foggy telescope. This can be fun, and often weirdly poetic.

For example here’s the first few paragraphs from a lexograph of this photo:


Accordingly, a singer, a stringed instrument, and a european. Now, the singer is made from a person who singing. The stringed instrument is for jam session, and the european is a native or inhabitant of europe. For this purpose, the singer yearns for smoking marijuiana. There, it is a person who singing. To put it another way, it evokes crooner. In conclusion, it evokes performer.

To sum up, a ballet dancer and a group: the ballet dancer belongs to a company that producing ballets, and the group evokes accession. Never, the group may include individual. Nonetheless, it is a set with composition operation. Once, it is a collecting in one place. Also, it is a set that being closed, associative, has an identity element and every element has an inverse. Immediately, the ballet dancer is known to some as ballerina. However, it may perfect his posture. Though, it is also known as a ballerina. Doubtedly, it is a one who dancing ballet.

Or a skeleton, which is for teach anatomy to student. To repeat, it is an organisation. Surely, it evokes bone. For example, it evokes skeleton in closet. Nonetheless, it evokes endoskeleton. Nevertheless, it evokes secretting.

To this end, a dalmatian, a musical performance, and a theater. By all means the dalmatian evokes romance. The musical performance may happen in auditorium, and the theater appertains to a building where theatrical performances or motion-picture shows can be presented. And yet, the dalmatian is a video game. Nearly, it is known to some as далматинец. Hence, it is a video game. Nonetheless, it is known to some as dalmát.

Yes, there is a performance happening, there is crooning and dancing. Are they Europeans? Yes. Are they Dalmations? No, they are supposed to be cats, but yes, they do sort of look like Dalmations. Do they yearn for marijuana, do they have skeletons in their closets? Well, they just might. The lexograph may know more than we do.

When I ran a bland picture of a parachute harness, the lexograph circled, semi-sensibly, around the ideas of harnesses, buckles, leg holes, and sports, but also went on a strange tangent about animals only dying once and children buttering bread, making the bland photo weirdly interesting. When someone else ran a picture of young Vladimir Putin the lexograph led with “Meanwhile, a history, a group, and an outfit. Undoubtedly, the history may repeat itself” before veering off to watercraft and war.

If you’re interested in artificial intelligence, playing with may give you interesting insights into the limits and strengths of image recognition and semantic networks. If you’re not, it may still give you serendipitous insights into the strange meanings that lurk in your photos and the world around you.

Play with here. If you make any you like, you can even turn them into albums or postcards.

George Washington’s Incredible Hair Routine

America's Founding Fathers had some truly defining locks, but we tend to think of those well-coiffed white curls—with their black ribbon hair ties and perfectly-managed frizz—as being wigs. Not so in the case of the main man himself, George Washington.

As Robert Krulwich reported at National Geographic, a 2010 biography on our first president—Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow—reveals that the man “never wore a wig.” In fact, his signature style was simply the result of an elaborately constructed coiffure that far surpasses most morning hair routines, and even some “fancy” hair routines.

The style Washington was sporting was actually a tough look for his day. In the late 18th century, such a hairdo would have been worn by military men.

While the hair itself was all real, the color was not. Washington’s true hue was a reddish brown color, which he powdered in a fashion that’s truly delightful to imagine. George would (likely) don a powdering robe, dip a puff made of silk strips into his powder of choice (there are a few options for what he might have used), bend his head over, and shake the puff out over his scalp in a big cloud.

To achieve the actual ‘do, Washington kept his hair long and would then pull it back into a tight braid or simply tie it at the back. This helped to showcase the forehead, which was very in vogue at the time. On occasion, he—or an attendant—would bunch the slack into a black silk bag at the nape of the neck, perhaps to help protect his clothing from the powder. Then he would fluff the hair on each side of his head to make “wings” and secure the look with pomade or good old natural oils.

To get a better sense of the play-by-play, check out the awesome illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that accompany Krulwich’s post.

"American Mall," Bloomberg
Unwinnable Video Game Challenges You to Keep a Shopping Mall in Business
"American Mall," Bloomberg
"American Mall," Bloomberg

Shopping malls, once the cultural hub of every suburb in America, have become a punchline in the e-commerce era. There are plenty of malls around today, but they tend to be money pits, considering the hundreds of "dead malls" haunting the landscape. Just how hard is it to keep a mall afloat in the current economy? American Mall, a new video game from Bloomberg, attempts to give an answer.

After choosing which tycoon character you want as your stand-in, you're thrown into a mall—rendered in 1980s-style graphics—already struggling to stay in business. The building is filled with rats and garbage you have to clean up if you want to keep shoppers happy. Every few seconds you're contacted by another store owner begging you to lower their rent, and you must either take the loss or risk them packing up for good. When stores are vacated, it's your job to fill them, but it turns out there aren't too many businesses interested in setting up shop in a dying mall.

You can try gimmicks like food trucks and indoor playgrounds to keep customers interested, but in the end your mall will bleed too much money to support itself. You can try playing the bleak game for yourself here—maybe it will put some of the retail casualties of the last decade into perspective.

[h/t Co.Design]


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