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Artificial Intelligence System Learns to Realistically Mimic Sounds

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Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab are teaching computers about the relationship between sound and vision. The team has created an artificial intelligence system that can not only predict what sounds are linked to certain images, but can mimic those sounds itself. Popular Science reports that they've created a deep-learning algorithm so skilled at re-creating sounds that it can even trick humans—a kind of "Turing Test for sound," as the researchers describe it. 

In order to teach the computer about sound, researchers recorded 1000 videos of a drumstick hitting, scraping, and tapping different surfaces. All in all, the videos captured some 46,000 sounds. Using those videos, the computer taught itself which sounds matched up to specific images—for instance, learning to distinguish between the sound of a drumstick hitting a surface, splashing water, rustling leaves, and tapping a metallic surface.

To test just how much the computer had learned, researchers presented it with a series of new videos, also of a drumstick tapping different surfaces, with the sound removed. Using the existing dataset of sounds, which researchers dubbed their ‘Greatest Hits,’ the computer created new sounds for the new videos. The computer took tiny sound clips from the original videos and stitched them together to create totally new sound combinations.

When researchers presented human volunteers with the computer-generated sounds, they were, for the most part, unable to distinguish them from real sounds. In some cases, participants were even more likely to choose the computer’s fake sounds over real sounds.

Researchers believe that the technology they’ve created could one day be used to automatically generate sound effects for movies and TV. They also say it can help robots better understand the physical world, learning to distinguish between objects that are soft and hard, or rough and smooth, by the sounds they make.

“A robot could look at a sidewalk and instinctively know that the cement is hard and the grass is soft, and therefore know what would happen if they stepped on either of them,” researcher Andrew Owens explains. “Being able to predict sound is an important first step toward being able to predict the consequences of physical interactions with the world.”

[h/t Popular Science]

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Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
The New MacBook Has a Crumb-Resistant Keyboard
Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0
Arthur Shi, iFixit // CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Soon, you won’t have to worry about ruining your Macbook’s keyboard with muffin crumbs. The 2018 MacBook Pro will feature keys specifically designed to withstand the dust and debris that are bound to get underneath them, according to Digital Trends. The keyboard will also be quieter than previous versions, the company promises.

The latter feature is actually the reasoning Apple gives for the new design, which features a thin piece of silicon stretching across where the keycaps attach to the laptop, but internal documents initially obtained by MacRumors show that the membrane is designed to keep debris from getting into the butterfly switch design that secures the keycaps.

Introduced in 2015, Apple’s butterfly keys—a change from the traditional scissor-style mechanism that the company’s previous keyboards used—allow the MacBook keyboards to be much thinner, but are notoriously delicate. They can easily become inoperable if they’re exposed to dirt and debris, as any laptop is bound to be, and are known for becoming permanently jammed. In fact, the company has been hit with multiple lawsuits alleging that it has known about the persistent problem for years but continued using the design. As a result, Apple now offers free keyboard replacements and repairs for those laptop models.

This new keyboard design (you can see how it works in iFixit's very thorough teardown), however, doesn’t appear to be the liquid-proof keyboard Apple patented in early 2018. So while your new laptop might be safe to eat around, you still have to worry about the inevitable coffee spills.

[h/t Digital Trends]

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Finally! Windows Notepad Is Getting an Update for the First Time in Years
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While some of Window's core programs have evolved dramatically over the years, or disappeared all together, Notepad has remained pretty basic. But as The Verge reports, the text-editing app is about to get a little fancier: Microsoft is updating it for the first time in years.

Since it debuted in 1985, Notepad has become a popular platform for writing out code. One common complaint from programmers working in non-Windows coding language is that Notepad doesn't format line breaks properly, resulting in jumbled, messy text. Now, both Unix/Linux line endings (LF) and Macintosh line endings (CR) are supported in Notepad, making it even more accessible to developers.

For the first time, users can zoom text by holding ctrl and scrolling the mouse wheel. They can also delete the last word in their document by pressing ctrl+backspace. On top of all that, the new update comes with a wrap-around find-and-replace feature, a default status bar with line and column numbers, and improved performance when handling large files.

The arrow keys will be easier to navigate as well. You can now use the arrow keys to deselect text before moving the cursor. And if you ever want to look up a word online, Microsoft will allow you to connect directly to Bing through the app.

The new Notepad update will be made available first to Windows Insiders through Windows 10 Insider Preview, then to everyone on the forthcoming update, codenamed Redstone 5, likely later this year.

[h/t The Verge]

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