All you ever wanted to about Tetris…

28 08 2007

tetris start screen

…but were too nerdy to ask.


This article describes how a computer can play the classic video game Tetris by getting information about the board, determining good actions, and performing those actions.

This article includes software capable of playing Tetris in real time. The software includes the best real-time Tetris-playing algorithm in the public domain.

This article defines rules for “Standard Tetris”, a specification based on the original 1986 pre-commercial version of Tetris for the Personal Computer (PC).

In 2003, the software included in this article was used to enable a computer to play Tetris running on a separate computer. An ordinary USB web camera was used to enable the computer to “see” the screen of the other computer. A relay board was controlled via an RS-232 interface to enable the computer to “press keys” on the keyboard of the other computer. Thus, the first computer has a relationship to the second computer that is similar to a typical human player’s relationship to a computer when playing Tetris; the game state is only known by looking at the screen, and player actions can only be initiated through a keyboard. The configuration in this demonstration established that a computer can play Tetris better than a human, under normal real-time Tetris-playing conditions.

More here


Is stealing wireless wrong?

23 08 2007

stealing wireless

Finlo Rohrer in BBC News Magazine

But if it can be interpreted as illegal, can it be truly said to be immoral?

Heavy downloading might affect the unsecured person’s speed of access or download limit, but a use like checking an e-mail is hardly likely to be noticed. Most “victims” will suffer no loss.

Philosopher Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, says with technology moving rapidly, socially-accepted moral positions can be slow to solidify.

“I haven’t thought about it. I’m not sure anybody has. It might be one of those areas where cultural norms haven’t evolved or stabilised yet. It’s so new it’s not clear whether it’s stealing or not. And sometimes the law trails public norms.

“If you steal a silver Mont Blanc pen it’s theft but if it’s an ordinary ballpoint pen or a pencil it is assumed you can take it.

“In the olden days people had norms about whether you were able to pick apples from someone else’s tree. Perhaps it’s OK if the branches hang over the road, but not from inside their garden. You have generally shared expectations.”

More here.

Daniel C. Dennett on Kasparov vs. Deep Blue

21 08 2007

Daniel C. Dennett in Technology Review

The verdict that computers are the equal of human beings in chess could hardly be more official, which makes the caviling all the more pathetic. The excuses sometimes take this form: “Yes, but machines don’t play chess the way human beings play chess!” Or sometimes this: “What the machines do isn’t really playing chess at all.” Well, then, what would be really playing chess?

This is not a trivial question. The best computer chess is well nigh indistinguishable from the best human chess, except for one thing: computers don’t know when to accept a draw. Computers–at least currently existing computers–can’t be bored or embarrassed, or anxious about losing the respect of the other players, and these are aspects of life that human competitors always have to contend with, and sometimes even exploit, in their games. Offering or accepting a draw, or resigning, is the one decision that opens the hermetically sealed world of chess to the real world, in which life is short and there are things more important than chess to think about. This boundary crossing can be simulated with an arbitrary rule, or by allowing the computer’s handlers to step in. Human players often try to intimidate or embarrass their human opponents, but this is like the covert pushing and shoving that goes on in soccer matches. The imperviousness of computers to this sort of gamesmanship means that if you beat them at all, you have to beat them fair and square–and isn’t that just what ­Kasparov and Kramnik were unable to do?

More here.

Scene Completion Using Millions of Photographs

17 08 2007

image completion

James Hays and Alexei Efros at Carnegie Mellon


What can you do with a million images? In this paper we present a new image completion algorithm powered by a huge database of photographs gathered from the Web. The algorithm patches up holes in images by finding similar image regions in the database that are not only seamless but also semantically valid. Our chief insight is that while the space of images is effectively infinite, the space of semantically differentiable scenes is actually not that large. For many image completion tasks we are able to find similar scenes which contain image fragments that will convincingly complete the image. Our algorithm is entirely data-driven, requiring no annotations or labelling by the user. Unlike existing image completion methods, our algorithm can generate a diverse set of image completions and we allow users to select among them. We demonstrate the superiority of our algorithm over existing image completion approaches.

Paper here

Iraq’s Coming Robot Wars

14 08 2007
iraq american robot

Mark Thompson in Time Magazine

With military recruitment a constant struggle, the U.S. Army is coming up with a new way to come up with bodies: it is going to build them. This week, the Army begins a “drive-off” to see what contractor is going to provide up to 1,000 bomb-clearing robots by year’s end, with a possible follow-on order for 2,000 more. The requirement is for a remote-controlled, wireless robot that weighs 50 pounds or less “to be used for Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection and identification,” according to the Pentagon’s solicitation.

IEDs have killed 48.5% of the 3,270 U.S. troops killed in action in Iraq. Finding — and disarming — such roadside bombs before they detonate is one way to curb such bloodshed. “You send out a robot to interrogate these things to see if it is, in fact, a roadside bomb or if it’s just trash,” Army Colonel John Castles of the 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team said from Iraq last week. “They’re a huge benefit to what we’re trying to do.”

More here.

Man Alters Thumb For Better iPhone Use

9 08 2007

From North Denver News

Thomas Martel, 28, of Bonnie Brae is a big guy. So he has a hard time using the features on ever-shrinking user interfaces on devices like his new iPhone. At least, he did, until he had his thumbs surgically altered in a revolutionary new surgical technique known as “whittling.”

“From my old Treo, to my Blackberry, to this new iPhone, I had a hard time hitting the right buttons, and I always lost those little styluses,” explains Martel. “Sure, the procedure was expensive, but when I think of all the time I save by being able to use modern handhelds so much faster, I really think the surgery will pay for itself in ten to fifteen years. And what it’s saving me in frustration – that’s priceless.”

More here

That Kubrick was full of shit, man

28 07 2007

It seems to be quite some time until the global robot uprising.