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Firewatch, Gretzky, and the Game of Go

Apple: 1 Billion Active devices. Apple is huge and getting bigger. Federico Viticci at MacStories has the full coverage.

Panic: 2015 Report. In the latest iteration of their excellent annual reports, Cabel Sasser for Panic unpacks many aspects of being a small software shop and the challenges with it. The whole report is just great, but two bits caught my eye: 1.) Firewatch, Panic’s first major video game (developed by Campo Santo), gets released in two weeks, and 2.) Panic shelved an unnamed “app to share and discover music,” which was 95% of the way done.

Google: What We Paid the Guy Who Bought Google.com for Six Minutes. Eduardo Vela Nava, writing for Google’s Security Blog:

You may have read about Sanmay Ved, a researcher from who was able to buy google.com for one minute on Google Domains. Our initial financial reward to Sanmay—$ 6,006.13—spelled-out Google, numerically (squint a little and you’ll see it!). We then doubled this amount when Sanmay donated his reward to charity.

If it wasn’t a system error that let Mr. Ved register Google.com, given Google paid him to get the domain back, why wasn’t it set to automatically renew in the first place?

Science

Google: DeepMind AI “AlphaGo” Masters the Ancient Game of Go. First off, this has nothing to do with Go, Google’s programming language (also referred to as Golang to prevent confusion). Rather, Google has developed a Go-playing AI that went 5-0 against reigning 3-time European champion, Fan Hui. Google’s David Silver and Demis Hassabis, writing for the Google Research Blog:

We first trained the policy network on 30 million moves from games played by human experts, until it could predict the human move 57% of the time (the previous record before AlphaGo was 44%). But our goal is to beat the best human players, not just mimic them. To do this, AlphaGo learned to discover new strategies for itself, by playing thousands of games between its neural networks, and gradually improving them using a trial-and-error process known as reinforcement learning. This approach led to much better policy networks, so strong in fact that the raw neural network (immediately, without any tree search at all) can defeat state-of-the-art Go programs that build enormous search trees.

This bit from Elizabeth Gibney, reporting for Nature, also touched on a difficulty in AI that I hadn’t thought much about:

[DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis] says that many challenges remain in DeepMind’s goal of developing a generalized AI system. In particular, its programs cannot yet usefully transfer their learning about one system — such as Go — to new tasks; a feat that humans perform seamlessly. “We’ve no idea how to do that. Not yet,” Hassabis says.

CBC News: Certain Rare Mineral Clay May Prove Effective Against Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria. Here’s the paper they link to, and it’s worth a skim. These things always have a long way to go before application, but it’s interesting to see such a simple, natural solution to a problem we’ve created.

Entertainment

Five Thirty Eight: Wayne Gretzky’s Individual Numbers Are Untouchable. Neil Paine, reporting on Gretzky’s game-defying statistics. My favorite part: “On a shot-by-shot basis, there’s some evidence that Gretzky’s otherworldly passing led to higher shooting percentages for his teammates than when they played without him.”

Netflix: House of Cards Season 5 Coming in 2017. Well, there goes my theory that 13 episodes (cards) a season (suit) meant that season four would finish out the series.

Monument Valley Vinyl Released. This is gorgeous. Some of the best cover art and record colors I’ve seen.

Rymdkapsel Creator Releases Twofold Inc. for iOS and Android. I didn’t got into Rymdkapsel, a hyperminimalistic RTS, but Twofold Inc. has proven both beautiful and addictive in a similar manner to Threes!, which is quite the compliment.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016