Technology

Training a computer to write like Tommy Wiseau

A nightmarish image of Tommy Wiseau as a half-digital being

Tommy AI-seau

In the past year or so there have been some very funny attempts to use neural networks (roughly, programs that try to learn to identify patterns in data) to produce text. From the RoboRosewater bot that creates new Magic: The Gathering cards, to the new episodes of Friends, to the attempt to beat G.R.R. Martin to the next A Song of Ice and Fire book, they’re everywhere.

The trouble is, they don’t feel natural. The grammar is always slightly off, characters simply appear without introduction, and no-one behaves like a human.

In most genres, this would be a disadvantage. For trying to create a script in the style of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room though, it’s a positive bonus.

Continue reading

Roman sci-fi

Marcus stepped in off the street into his heated villa. He watched the snow collect on the window sills and smiled. Once, he knew, houses had open windows with nothing more than skins and cloth to keep out the elements, but now a pane of crystal stood between him and the elements.

Antonia walked in from the kitchen, clad in the strange tunic and breeches that everyone in the city wore.

“How are the kitchen slaves?” Marcus asked, kissing his wife on the cheek.

“No-one’s had slaves for hundreds of years,” she giggled in reply. “You mean the dishwasher and the foodprocessor.” She said these words naturally, as if she said them every day.

“Oh yes, of course.” He sat in his chair next to the radiator. “You know, once upon a time, people put their radiators under the floor, and called them “hypocausts”. What a primitive people they were back then.”

“I once went to the First Century Museum in New Rome,” Antonia replied. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her cameraphone, a device that made paintings of incredible realism and displayed them on a glowing canvas. “They had a model of a 1st century house, and 1st century food as well. Did you know they used to eat meat straight from the animal?”

“How barbaric!” Marcus said, and as if in reply, he opened the box of chickuggets he’d bought from a takeaway on the way home. They smelled almost like the real thing. With grease-stained fingers, he reached down and picked up his laptop. “I should look up more of this on the internet.”

“What’s that?” Antonia asked.

“This? It’s called a computer. It’s not unlike the abacuses that people used many centuries ago, but instead of beads, it uses electrons, which are a type of bead too small to see.”

“Oh Marcus,” Antonia gasped, “isn’t it wonderful living in the 21st century?”

Maps! Wait, they don’t love you like I love you! Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaps!

Sadly, my original plan to show the flow of transport around Frankfurt over the course of a day failed due to the extreme lack of availability of timetable data in a halfway reasonable format. So instead, here’s some maps of Frankfurt and the surrounding area made by mucking about with OpenStreetMap data in MapPoint. Enjoy?

Continue reading

Adventures with Iris, or; “I have elephants between my toes”

You might have heard a few quiet rumours that Apple recently released a new iPhone. It’s not a “big thing” or anything, but you know, perhaps a whisper or two. You might also have heard that it contains a creepy pseudo-sentient voice-operated app called Siri. Well, in just 8 hours, a company called Dexetra knocked out the beta for an Android-equivalent called “Iris” (to be fair, the heavy-lifting work – voice recognition and speech-synthesis – had already been done by Google) . How is it? Well… let’s just say it’s interesting.

Continue reading