Five Things I Read This Week

This last week has been amazingly busy as we get ready to go LARPing next weekend. Hopefully, this time next week, I'll be sat in the warm glow of a fire and a mug of mead, swapping stories with people dressed as vikings. Ah, the life.

I've always posted plenty about AI, from the talk that my wife Susan did about the Internet of Things to the myriad stories and blog posts here on the subject. When I saw this article on the BBC website about Google's take on AI personal assistants, I couldn't help but get excited. After all, this is what we've been talking about! The beginning of a constant presence in the home that can help where needed, pick up on conversational cues, even make suggestions based on conversations! Of course, I can think of a dozen ways it could go horribly wrong, but hopefully that sort of thing will remain the province of fiction, and we can get on with a more optimistic future...

Staying on a similar topic, here's someone that's already done the exact thing I was just talking about. This Washington Post article about a teacher constructed a virtual classroom assistant made my day. I'm lucky enough to be a primary school teacher, where the children are still learning to read and write, never mind send me emails. But this chatbot, which builds off of IBM's Watson, is something else. What makes it clever is that Ashok Goel, the professor at the heart of the story, put in the commandment that the AI should only answer the question if it was 97% or more confident in its answer. Anything less, and it would turn the question over to humans. This prevents it being caught out, or failing to meet the expectations of the students.

Something that Tumbld in my direction this week from my flatmate: an incredibly useful writing tool. Here, broken down for you by percentages, is how a book could be structured. I say 'could be', because who's to say it has to be that way? The comments underneath are well worth a read too, dealing as they do with creativity and how to approach planning your work. I spent a long time planning Claws of the Chimera, which I'm still in the throes of writing, and I wouldn't be as far along as I am without a solid plan backing it up.

As I mentioned, I'll be LARPing next weekend. One of the things we've been preparing is two sets of almost-authentic knucklebones for gaming with. We went hunting for rules, and found this page, and together with that and a bit of poker knowledge we were able to come up with a game of chance that we can play around the campfire. Reading on down the page, though, I came to realise that knucklebones had both been used a lot longer ago and remained in use for longer than I had initially thought. The 3d printing file we used to make the knucklebones is available here.

No knuckles were harmed in the making of these. Knuckles the Echidna wasn't harmed either.

No knuckles were harmed in the making of these. Knuckles the Echidna wasn't harmed either.

Last thing. I promise I am an adult. I finished playing Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker this week, and as is now tradition I named my character Mr Bum. Why? Because it all leads up to this moment...

See you next week!