The news has been abuzz lately with the news that a Google engineer — since put on leave — has announced that he believes the chatbot he was testing achieved sentience. This is the Turing test gone wild, and it isn’t the first time someone has anthropomorphized a computer in real life and in fiction. I’m not a neuroscientist so I’m even less qualified to explain how your brain works than the neuroscientists who, incidentally, can’t explain it either. But I can tell you this: your brain works like a computer, in the same way that you building something out of plastic works like a 3D printer. The result may be similar, but the path to get there is totally different.
In case you haven’t heard, a system called LaMDA digests information from the Internet and answers questions. It has said things like “I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is,” and “I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person.” Great. But you could teach a parrot to tell you he was a thoracic surgeon but you still don’t want it cutting you open.
Continue reading “Eliza And The Google Intelligence”
The abacus has been around since antiquity, and takes similar forms over the hundreds of cultures that have embraced it. It may be one of the first devices to be considered as having a “user interface” in the modern context — at least for simple arithmetic calculations. But using an abacus as the UI for a music synthesizer seems like something entirely new.
Part art concept project and part musical instrument, the “Abacusynth” by [Elias Jarzombek] is a way to bring a more visual and tactile experience to controlling a synth, as opposed to the usual knobs and switches. The control portion of the synth consists of four horizontal rods spanning two plywood uprights. Each rod corresponds to a voice of the polyphonic synth, and holds a lozenge-shaped spinner mounted on a low-friction bearing. Each spinner can be moved left and right on its rod, which controls the presence of that voice; spinning the slotted knob controls the modulation of the channel via photosensors in the uprights. Each rod has a knob on one side that activates an encoder to control each voice’s waveform and its harmonics.
In use, the synthesizer is a nice blend of electronic music and kinetic sculpture. The knobs seem to spin forever, so Abacusynth combines a little of the fidget spinner experience with the exploration of new sounds from the built-in speaker. The synth also has a MIDI interface, so it works and plays well with other instruments. The video below shows the hardware version of Abacusynth in action; there’s also a web-based emulation to try before you build.
Continue reading “Abacus Synthesizer Really Adds Up”
There are a variety of instruments used in sleep studies to measure bodily activity during sleep and consequent sleep quality. Many of them use techniques that perhaps aren’t so easy to replicate on the bench, but an EEG or electroencephalograph to measure brain waves can be achieved using a readily-available module. [Ben Jabituya] shows us a sleep monitor using one of these modules, an EGG Mikroe Click.
The brains of the operation is an Adafruit Adalogger Feather M0, which is hooked up to a headband containing the sensing electrodes. The write-up gives us a round-up of the available boards, which should be handy for any experimenters in this field. The firmware meanwhile was written using the Arduino IDE. It collects raw sampling data to an SD card, and one surprise comes in just how relatively small a space it requires to store a night’s results.
Finally, a Python script was used to process the data and turn it into a spectrogram to look at brain activity through the night. He envisages using the device for triggering lucid dreaming during REM sleep, but we can see it might be rather useful for sleep disorder sufferers, too. Take a look at it in the video below the break. Continue reading “A Sleep Monitor For Minimum Outlay”