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University of Michigan School of Information


Fun Size for 2/3/23: Mittens, the chess bot

Waxing ecstatic 

It’s called the Endpoint Cylinder and Dictabelt Machine, but it may as well be called the audio Wayback Machine, since it can play delicate wax cylinders recorded at the turn of the last century. New York Public Library’s music librarians are delighted with the Endpoint acquisition, which will enable them to hear some of the earliest moments in recording history and digitize the entire collection, says the New York Times.

Zoom toon yourself

In its ongoing efforts to keep us engaged with our screens, Zoom now offers meeting-goers the ability to create their own human avatars. According to Endgaget, other new features include meeting templates and special Q&A popouts, but these pale in comparison to the fun of having your cartoon self sit in while you’re sneaking lunch.

Vintage tech 

Google maps can be a lifesaver in navigating unfamiliar destinations, but there’s still a place for good old-fashioned paper maps, claims The Map Room blogger Jonathan Crowe.They give “the bigger picture,” can be quite beautiful and offer context a digital map lacks. Apparently paper maps sales are booming, though there are no new insights into how to refold them.

Speaking of maps, Atlas Obscura has discovered Sasha Trubetskoy’s fantasy map of England’s ancient Roman roads, drawn in the style of the London Underground map. An optimistic “future line” goes up into Scotland. As the Scots would have said, “nae way.”

Breaking bad, data science edition 

Lying about the success of their startups eventually caught up with disgraced entrepreneurs Elizabeth Holmes and Samuel Bankman-Fried. Joining the ranks of millennial fibbers is Charlie Javice, who sold her college student loan company to JP Morgan for $175 million. Turns out, reports CBS News, the 4.2 million customer names in the deal had been created for her by an unnamed data science professor, who was paid $18,000. Just your ordinary, everyday request in data science, apparently. 

Edge does the splits 

File under Things You Didn’t Know You Wanted. ReviewGeek tells us Microsoft’s Edge browser is working on a split screen feature in a single tab. No more juggling between tabs and resizing pages to keep two documents in view at once. For those with just one monitor, this should be a welcome innovation–assuming you’re good with using Edge as your browser.

What happens in the oven stays in the oven 

Some manufacturers of smart, IOT appliances are scratching their heads over consumers’ failure to connect their new dishwasher, fridge or oven to the internet. How else are they going to track their customers’ usage and turn that data into service reminders, advertising targets and subscription offers? This ArsTechnica article quotes an LG official admitting that customers don't see the same value that the manufacturer does in providing personal data that “can help them in the long run.”

Mittens the chess bot 

“Meow. I am become Mittens, the destroyer of kings. Hehehe.” That’s the kind of smack a big-eyed chess-playing kitten bot talks while shredding her opponents, says the Deseret News. This demon puss of caused grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura to call her “the chess bot that will make you quit chess” when their game ended in a draw.

TikTok tabletops  

Among things trending among women right now on TikTok are pix of their nightstands. What started as videos celebrating womanhood set to Hozier’s song “Would That I” have devolved into photos of nightstands crammed with items that express women’s personalities. Elena Cavendar, writing for Mashable, says nightstand videos are another way women on TikTok are encouraged to define themselves by their stuff.

AI in the sky 

The New York Times reports that the University of Texas at Austin will be offering the first online master’s degree in artificial intelligence. While some of the big tech companies are laying off workers, demand for AI is expected to stay strong. UT-Austin plans to enroll about 2,000 students a year, starting in fall 2024, at the bargain price of $10,000 a head.

That little voice in your head 

Since most humans don’t have Extraordinary Attorney Woo’s encyclopedic legal knowledge, having an AI lawyer in your earbud could be the next best thing. CNET says that in February, an AI chatbot will counsel two individuals fighting speeding tickets in two undisclosed cities. While it’s a stunt, the company DoNotPay predicts that down the road, this technology could benefit people without access to legal help. Yes, but can a bot pass the bar exam? Oh, probably.