Three Things Artificial Intelligence did in 2016

Not long ago artificial intelligence was something found in the pages of science fiction novels. Today it is becoming more and more of a reality. While we don’t have computers plotting to take over the world, AI’s did manage to do some pretty amazing things in 2016.


The Next Rembrandt – Case study from J. Walter Thompson Amsterdam.

  1. In March Deepmind’s AlphaGo was able to beat the world champion 4-1 at Go. Go is a very old Chinese game considered much more complex than Chess. For comparison, an AI beat a master at chess all the way back in 1997. Prior to AlphaGo scientists thought AIs were far from being able to beat human Go competitors as they were struggling in even amateur matches. For its win, AlphaGo received an honorary master title.
  2. Human characteristics like imagination and creativity have been the hardest things to get computers to do. In April 2016, however, an AI was able to create a new Rembrandt painting. A team, over the course of more than a year, showed various paintings of the famous artist to the computer. The painting it produced won several awards and generated a lot of discussion about artificial intelligence.
  3. Language is one of the basics of what being human is. Google created the Google Neural Machine Translation, or GNMT, to improve its translation service and it has done some remarkable things. First, it started translating between two languages despite never being given examples of them. It then did something even more amazing and created its own language. Because of its success, Google is now using it in all of the translation service.

Artificial intelligence did a lot more in 2016 besides these three accomplishments. Building on the new advances made 2017 will no doubt bring us even closer to true artificial intelligence.

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go has, no doubt, taken the world by storm. It’s estimated that the game has more active users than Snapchat. It’s the first widely popular augmented reality game and people have been willing to go to extreme measures to catch ’em all. Pokémon Go uses real world locations and virtual images to sends users on wild quests in search of the elusive Pokémon. Here are some interesting stories that demonstrate Pokémon Go’s influence on its players.

Gotta Catch ’em All

To be the very best you have to catch as many Pokémon as possible. The first one is usually located somewhere close by. But after that, you have to leave the comfort of your home if you want to advance in the game. Try going to places that are heavily populated to begin. Pokémon mostly appear in malls, parks, and tourist attractions.

Pokémon - Cubone

How to Track and Catch Pokémon

The map on your app will show you all the Pokémon that are near you. You can track one by clicking on it. One track will appear if you are close and more if it’s further away. Once you have found the Pokémon you must catch it with your Poké Ball. Throw it by tapping your Poké Ball and flicking it towards your conquest. Don’t hesitate. Throw it immediately to prevent the Pokémon from escaping.

How to Battle

Once you have reached level 5 you can begin battling. You join a Pokémon Gym and battle other players. You have to pick a side; Team Instinct, Team Mystic, and Team Valor are the three opposing teams. To battle you have to enter a gym that is controlled by an opposing team. Select six of your Pokémon to use in battle. You can either attack or dodge. After the battle is over, the winning team gains prestige. Prestige levels determine how difficult it will be to defeat a gym. This is just a glimpse into the complex adventure game, Pokémon Go.

Stabbed, not stirred

ABC 7 reports that Oregon resident Michael Baker was out playing Pokémon Go when he approached what he thought was a fellow Pokémon Go player. Turns out, this other man was not playing Pokémon Go and instead turned around and stabbed Baker. Baker refused any medical service and continued playing.

“I basically risked my life,” Baker said in an interview with ABC 7. “It’s important to me. I gotta basically catch them all.”

Pokemon in Zoos

At the Toledo Zoo, a man and a woman were reported to have scaled a fence in order to try to catch Pokémon. Robin Bartholomy was one of the trespassers.

“It wasn’t the most responsible thing to do, but hey, gotta catch ’em all,” Bartholomy said in an interview with the Toledo Blade. The two, having been spotted by security cameras, were eventually caught by a tiger exhibit.

Dead On

Within days of the game’s release, Shayla Wiggins found a dead body while playing Pokémon Go. She said she hoped to find unique Pokémon by a natural water resource. She might have found Pokémon by the river, but she found something else too.

“I probably would have never went down there if it weren’t for this game,” Wiggins told CNNMoney. “But in a way, I’m thankful. I feel like I helped find his body. He could have been there for days.”

Laaija's Pokémon Adventure

Laaija’s Pokémon Go Adventure.

Pokémon Go in India

In the early days of its release, even though it is not officially launched, Indians were fortunate enough to play Pokémon Go. Unfortunately, it is no longer playable and Indians have to wait for the official release of Pokémon Go.

So while you’re out there on the search for Mewtwo, remember to play responsibly.

Update: Dec 14, 2016 – Pokémon Go is officially launched in India.

React Workshop for JavaScript Developers

React

The Alaris Prime Team, recently, completed a highly performant re-write of the front end visual layer of Aditya Birla’s flagship eCommerce site ABOF.com. The team was able to make the site exceptionally fast, even on a low 3G Bandwidth connection in India. The CEO of ABOF happily claims their site is the fastest eCommerce site in India. You can read more about our journey, experience, and our learnings during that 5-month stint with ABOF.

We believe that it is a good practice to teach others what we experienced. We have decided to do an extensive 2-Day hands-on Workshop on React, for JavaScript Developers – React in-depth for JavaScript Developers.

Seats are limited to a max of 10 developers. Bring your development friendly computers.

We were planning to charge a premium for the workshop to make sure only the most interested developers can join and benefit. However, we have decided against it. but the seats will remain limited to 10.

Donate, and book your seat now – React in-depth for JavaScript Developers

Stop abusing Sass’s ‘&-rule’ while drugged in BEM

BEM is awesome and we all love it. Our team at Razorfish, India have successfully moved bag-n-baggage to writing BEM style class names. The best benefit so far is that it is easier to work together in larger teams and much faster while fixing bugs. The other advantage I’ve seen is that we can move and/or switch team members across projects without having to do an extensive knowledge transfer. They feel right at home and in ease with the patterns across projects.

So, when Sass 3.4 released with a well-defined &-rule, we went crazy and went BEM-BEM with it on everything we wrote. Here is how it goes;

This looks pretty good and harmless. In-fact, you feel that you can now avoid writing that classname, .block multiple times and thus DRY everything. Unfortunately, we realized that the moment we go deeper, wrote more codes, switch/add more people to the team – it was getting harder to do the usual global search to debug the codes.

Well, we ended up not using it. Thus,

What happens now is that we can quickly do a project-wide search for that ‘element’ or the ‘modifier’ with its full namespace as seen in the HTML. The question though, that might arise, is what happens if we have to change the block’s classname. Well, it is matter of an easy find-n-replace. With IDEs capability to select multiple selections, this should not be an issue at all. For instance, you can do a quick CMD + d in Sublime Text and Atom to select all the ‘block’.

So, the thumb-rule is to avoid &-rule for full classnames that you find in HTMLs but use it with ones that you do not really see it in your HTML code – pseudo classes.

Setup Dropbox to manage your screenshots on Mac OS X

There are quite a lot of Screenshot management apps for Mac OS X. I like most of them but I also like Dropbox a lot. With the Screenshot management feature from Dropbox, you can now do away with all those Screenshot apps and use the tool you already have.

First, enable Dropbox to handle your Screenshots.

Dropbox Screenshots

Second, drop your OS X screenshots automatically into Dropbox’s Screenshot folder.

Via the Terminal

Or use a utility such as OnyX

OnyX Screenshot

I’m guessing you can do this on Windows and Linux too if you can automatically drop your screenshots to the Dropbox/Screenshots folder.

Now, the screenshots you take with your OS X is now in Dropbox and the URL is copied and ready to be pasted anywhere.

Aside: I use Hazel to clean up my Screenshots folder to remove file older than a month. You can use any of your favorite cleaning utility to clean yours to avoid Screenshots piling up your Dropbox folder.


Just in case:

  • CMD + SHFT + 3: Fullscreen Screenshot.
  • CMD + SHFT + 4 & drag crosshair: Screenshot of your desired area.
  • CMD + SHFT + 4 & Spacebar: Screenshot specific app, dialog boxes, etc.

The missing step to all Productivity Advices – Disable Notifications

We all want to boost our productivity and avoid procrastination. The problem is that we live in a world where it’s a norm to check our phones as soon as we wake up, read and send email at the breakfast table, catch up on Twitter and Facebook in the Bathroom. It is no longer surprising to hear terms like “screen-off days”, “no phones at the dinner table”, “no devices in the bedroom”, “screen-time for kids”, “phone jammers in the classroom” et al.

Many articles about productivity have been written and published by industry pundits, time management experts and productivity gurus. They are all good, and honestly I tend to read anything that helps productivity and try to practice the ones that suits me.

I’m no productivity guru nor a time management expert but I have experimented with quite a lot of routines and disciplines. I have somehow come to the realization that none of these productivity advices, tips, tricks and routines are useful and effective if we have one thing constantly nagging us – Notifications. So, I’ll focus on one, just one, sure shot routine that will change the way you focus and increase productivity.

Stop the Notifications.

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A Smarter WordPress Theme Design & Development Workflow with node.js, ruby, sass, bower and grunt

WordCamp Mumbai 2014

I was lucky to be one of the speakers at the WordCamp Mumbai, Mar 15-16, 2014. When I stumbled upon their Call for Speakers, I was excited with the speaking opportunity and an uncanny chance to visit Bombay after so many years. Thankfully, the organizing team accepted my proposal and thus, presented and spoke on, “A Smarter WordPress Theme Design & Development Workflow with node.js, ruby, sass, bower and grunt.”

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Why won’t index files deployed on Cloudfront work like it does in S3?

I seriously had no clue about this. It was one the most irritating thing while deploying static site hosting on Amazon Cloudfront. I had in-fact stayed with S3 for sites that had folders with “index.html”. Here is the solution for those who haven’t figured out yet.

I was recently deploying a Jekyll powered static site for LxiDD – pitch.lxidd.com. During the test phase, it all worked fine being deployed on the S3. When I decided that it’s ok to move to Cloudfront — except for the root index, anything else inside a folder won’t display without appending the “index.html” at the end.

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Google Reader dies – Spring Clean your Digital Overload

Google Reader

I was a voracious consumer of RSS feeds. It all started during the early days of the blogging revolution (the early 2000’s). I started with FeedDemon (Windows) then continued to NetNewsWire (Mac) and finally landed on Google Reader. I even wrote an article on – How to squeeze the best out of NetNewsWire.

For quite a while I’ve been simplifying my life a lot. My digital life is one that I’ve been experimenting a lot with – reducing my time spent on apps, emails, and ignoring a lot of stuffs. One such exercise is to stop actively seeking information via RSS feeds and I have been successful in reducing my interaction with Google Reader a lot.

The news that Google is shutting down one of its ‘popular service’ – Google Reader was kind of a good news for me. I had mixed feelings and I did searched for other alternatives, even tried digging up my purchased app to see which Desktop App I should use.

However, Today I finally decided to stop seeking information by subscription. With the death of Google Reader, I’m retiring my usage of RSS feeds. Let’s see how this goes. If a news is news-worthy, it will pop-up somewhere and I’ll definitely know about it.