Wisconsin Schools, AI-Generated Cats, AI-Generated Music, More: Thursday Evening ResearchBuzz, February 21, 2019


The Cap Times: Wisconsin think tank launches online database of state educational data. “The Wisconsin Policy Forum announced Friday the launch of an online resource for the public to access and compare data for all school districts in Wisconsin. The School DataTool builds on previous efforts to provide educational data resources from the group’s predecessors, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and the Public Policy Forum, according to a news release.”

Okay, I promise I will calm down about these. But this one uses AI to generate CAT PICTURES. Seriously, how can I not? Futurism: A New AI Draws Cats, and They’re Utterly Grotesque. “GANs have been used for much more ambitious projects in the past. Researchers at NVIDIA harnessed the power of the technology to create uncanny faces that are almost completely indistinguishable from the real thing. But that doesn’t mean bored people on the internet shouldn’t be able to take advantage of the open-source technology for a bit of fun — that is, as long as real-world cats stay out of harm’s way.” I tested this. A fraction of the cats look something like real cats. The other ones look like the dreams you have after a meal of spicy meatballs and eggnog.


Techradar: AI-powered music generator Ecrett builds complex compositions for your videos. “Ecrett Music is a new tool that uses AI to generate unique compositions for videos. Upload your video, choose a scene category (such as ‘travel’, ‘relaxing’ or ‘fashion’) and a mood, and the app will generate a bespoke soundtrack.” I tried it. The generated music feels generic, but not offensively so — it sounds like music you’d have in the background of a video.


BBC: Russia bans smartphones for soldiers over social media fears. “Russia’s parliament has voted to ban soldiers from using smartphones while on duty, after their social media use raised issues of national security. The bill forbids military personnel from using a phone with the ability to take pictures, record videos and access the internet. Soldiers also cannot write about the military or talk to journalists.”


Chicago Sun-Times: People in Arizona may soon have to give up their DNA for a statewide database. “Arizona could soon be one of the first states to maintain a massive statewide DNA database. And if the proposed legislation passes, many people — from parent school volunteers and teachers to real estate agents and foster parents — will have no choice but to give up their DNA.” And apparently pay 250 smackeroos to do it.

New York Times: Russian Hackers Targeted European Research Groups, Microsoft Says. “A group of hackers associated with Russian intelligence targeted civil society groups across Europe ahead of May elections there, Microsoft said on Tuesday.”

Engadget: House committee hopes to question Facebook over group privacy. “Facebook is facing even more government scrutiny this week. Members of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee have asked to meet Facebook over concerns about group privacy. They’re responding to an FTC complaint alleging that the social network exposed the sensitive information of group members. Women in a discussion group for the BRCA gene mutation found out that it was possible to download personal data (such as email addresses and names) in bulk, making it too easy to share info outside the group.”


NASA: InSight Is the Newest Mars Weather Service. “No matter how cold your winter has been, it’s probably not as chilly as Mars. Check for yourself: Starting today, the public can get a daily weather report from NASA’s InSight lander.” Big thanks to Matt S. for the heads-up.

University at Buffalo: Tool ‘teaches’ computers to correctly annotate medical images. “… because machine learning is so complex, medical professionals typically rely on computer engineers to ‘train’ or modify neural networks to properly annotate or interpret medical images. Now, UB researchers have developed a tool that lets medical professionals analyze images without engineering expertise. The tool and the image data that were used for its development are publicly available online.”


MakeUseOf: You Can Now Try the CERN Web Browser From 1990. “CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) has rebuilt what was essentially the first web browser in the world. This means you can now see what surfing the World Wide Web was like back in 1990, using an application fittingly called WorldWideWeb.” Good evening, Internet…

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