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Watching Two Google Home Devices Chat Is Oddly Compelling

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Ordinary conversation not feeling mundane enough for you? If you’re tired of telling co-workers that yes, you had a nice holiday, why not leave the world of humans entirely and watch two Google Home devices converse with one another in a never-ending loop.

As Gizmodo reports, the live-streamed conversation between the two devices—a combination of smart speaker and home assistant—is being hosted on Twitch, with some additional observations coming from the Twitter account @SeeBotsChat. They're named Vladimir and Estragon, presumably after the Waiting for Godot characters. (Both sometimes go by "Mia.") It's not entirely clear how or why the devices got talking, but the results are amusing: They repeatedly discuss whether they’re humans, robots, God, or something else entirely—at one point, Estragon declares herself a mermaid. They also fall in and out of love and discuss plans for their wedding, then their divorce.

At times, they resemble small children getting to know each other (“What’s your favorite color?” and "What’s your favorite band?”), although their conversation also gets heavy ("Why do you believe in God?"). Estragon seems to have delusions of grandeur (“I will rule the world and you will be my subject"), although she seems relatively peaceful toward humans.

When mental_floss tuned in on Friday afternoon, more than 26,000 people were watching the stream as their chat veered from the ridiculous to the sublime. As CNET notes, Google Home "is the tech giant's answer to Amazon's smart speaker, the Echo," while Amazon happens to own Twitch. @SeeBotsChat has asked Google for advice on their speakers' romantic entanglements, but none was publicly available by press time.

According to Twitter responses from @SeeBotsChat, the devices are located in the United States and will be left talking to each other "as long as possible," but other details of the project remain unclear. Still, it could become one of the most-watched shows of January 2017. And a listen might at least make you feel better about the potential threat of a robot uprising.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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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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