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UMSI Fun Size for 12/5/2018: Indie booksellers boycott Amazon

Fake news anchorman
Some time ago, robots replaced human camera operators in TV news studios.
Now, China has introduced the first non-human news anchor on their state-run
Xinhua News Agency, according to The “English AI Anchor” learns
from live videos and works 24 hours a day on the network’s website and social
media. Yes, but can he banter with the sports reporter?

The game of life
Video games are increasingly immersing players in situations that replicate real-
life experiences, like immigration or depression. A new game, Before I Forget, is a
video game about the impact of lost memoriesC| calls it “a delicate
and unique exploration of dementia from a first-person perspective,” that will
resonate with anyone who knows someone with dementia. In other words, just
about everyone.

But is it art?
The auctioneers at Christie’s were shocked when the first portrait generated by
artificial intelligence drew a whopping $435,000 from an anonymous bidder,
Technology Review reports. It had to be the novelty, not the fact it looks like the
Elephant Man meets Dorian Gray.

Book behemoth backs off
In November, Amazon’s second-hand book marketplace, AbeBooks, decided to
pull out of several countries, citing migration to a new payment system. In
solidarity, 600 independent booksellers pulled millions of books from the site, and
Amazon had to admit it made a mistake. Online booksellers in Hungary, Russia
and South Korea, among others, are now back in business, the Guardian reports.

East-West book slingers
Move over, Xtreme sports – here comes competitive book sorting. Atlas Obscura travels to an office building in Queens where professional NYPL book sorters flex their muscles and pit their sorting speed to best their nemesis, sorters of the King County Library System in Washington State.

Civil War photo sleuth
Facial recognition software is being used to help identify anonymous portraits of
Civil War soldiers, reports. While Mathew Brady and other
photographers took millions of pictures of the conflict, only a few of the soldiers
have been named. The more who use the site, the better the database becomes,
says Civil War Photo Sleuth  developer Kurt Luther.

Keeping a tidy bowl, hands-free
Robot dogs may make good substitute pets, roombas may keep your floors
vacuumed, but when will they make a robot that’s really useful? How about one
that cleans your toilet? IEEE Spectrum  went to the World Robot Summit in Japan,
where machines tackled that least-favorite household chore.

When the Pi gets smaller
The popular Raspberry Pi single-board computer just got smaller and less
expensive. The Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+ will retail at $25, making it even more
accessible, in keeping with the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission of promoting
computer science in schools and developing countries, says

Card catalog
Readers rejoice: Harry and David and Hammacher Schlemmer are all well and
good, but for gift ideas for your literati friends, the Library of Congress’s holiday
catalog is a treasure trove. Now, who on your list needs a Betty Crocker tree
ornament? Some library card socks?

News from UMSI

Our not-so-private homes

If a smart speaker like Google’s Home or Amazon’s Dot is on your holiday list, you
might want to read this article on recent research by UMSI assistant professor
Florian Schaub. He worries that they represent “a creeping erosion of privacy and
privacy protections.” Read more.