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Fun Size for 3/1/24: Air Canada disowns generous chatbot

Blame game 

A Canadian court stepped in when Air Canada tried to distance itself from its own chatbot that mistakenly promised a refund. “We’re not responsible for mistakes our chatbots make,” the airline claimed, going so far as to say the chatbot should be responsible for its own actions and held accountable. “Um, no,” ruled the court, Mashable reports.

Virtual reality for seniors 

Residents of a senior living community in Florida went parachuting, landed a jet on an aircraft carrier and played with puppies as part of a Stanford University study on adapting VR to improve the health and well-being of senior citizens. Stanford works with Mynd, one of the few companies specializing in VR for seniors, according to AP News. Soon Mynd will incorporate Google Earth so dementia patients can virtually visit old neighborhoods and familiar places to spark memories and conversations.

But mommy, I don’t wanna be an influencer

Some mother influencers, or momfluencers, are beginning to realize that sharing their children’s lives on the internet can border on privacy invasion and exploitation. The PBS Newshour finds that the growing and lucrative practice of platform parenting is gaining the attention of some legislators. In August, Illinois became the first state to require parents set aside a percentage of money made from these videos in a trust fund for their children, reported the Daily Northwestern.

Levar Burton’s worthy successor 

Here’s an influencer we can cheer for. California librarian Mychal Threets shares his “library joy” with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media, says HuffPost. Sporting quirky clothes, a library card tattoo and an Afro, he posts videos that welcome people, and especially kids, to public libraries where “everyone can exist.” Find Mychal on TikTok at mychal3ts.

A very very very fine print house 

3D printers can produce an amazing variety of things, from medical instruments to chocolate. In Detroit, Michigan’s first 3D printed house just went up for sale. A project of the non-profit Citizen Robotics, the tidy two-bedroom home took three years from design to reality. The Detroit Free Press covered the ribbon-cutting.

Shoot like an astrophotographer 

You know not to look directly into the sun during a solar eclipse, but do you know the best way to capture the astronomical phenomenon on your smartphone? has eight tips from an expert, just in time for the upcoming totality on April 8.

Reddit goes public 

If you missed investing in Nvidia before its recent rocket-like surge, here’s another ground-floor option. CNBC reports the social network Reddit will be the first major tech offering of the year when its IPO is listed on the NYSE in March. The company, now worth about $10 billion, was founded in 2005 with the help of investors like TenCent and Sam Altman, CEO of Open AI.

Google search explained 

For the curious, Search Engine Journal found a five-part video series with Google engineer Gary Illyes explaining how search works. Apparently aimed at marketers, the videos cover SEO concepts like crawling, indexing and ethical optimization. But the most surprising revelation is that one of the most searched entries on Google is… Google. Really.

Listen up for free 

Audiobooks can make a commute or a tedious task more bearable, and even enjoyable. But commercial subscriptions from vendors like Audible and Barnes and Noble can be pricey. FastCompany has a short list of free resources for audiobooks, and a couple are surprising.

And we have a winner 

Fun Size readers may remember the Vesuvius Challenge, a machine learning and computer vision competition to read the Herculaneum Papyri (June 2023). The challenge was to decipher scrolls of carbonized ash that couldn’t be exposed to air. In February, an international superteam of three students won the $700,000 grand prize for digitally unrolling and reading the first lines from the 2000-year-old scrolls. Learn how they did it and what’s next.