Associate Professor Julian Togelius works at the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) and games--a largely unexplored juncture that he has shown can be the site of visionary and mind-expanding research. Could games provide a better AI test bed than robots, which--despite the way they excite public imagination--can be slow, unwieldy and expensive? According to him, the answer is resoundingly yes. "I'm teaching computers to be more creative than humans," he says. Togelius, a member of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering's Department of Computer Science and Engineering, is at the forefront of the study of procedural content generation (PCG)--the process of creating game content (such as levels, maps, rules, and environments) by employing algorithms, rather than direct user input.
Microsoft knows that Minecraft can get kids into programming, and it's banking on that strategy again this year. It just teamed up with Code.org to introduce the Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a tutorial that teaches young newcomers (6 years old and up) how to create a simple game. The Designer uses a drag-and-drop interface to illustrate familiar code concepts, such as object-oriented programming and loops, while letting imaginations run wild in Minecraft's blocky universe. You can make chickens that drop gold, and otherwise set rules that are as logical or ludicrous as you'd like. The tutorial is available right now in 10 languages, and it'll be available in 50 languages by the time Computer Science Education Week kicks off on December 5th.
Google's survey highlights demographic inequalities in K-12 computer-science education. Research from Google and Gallup has found that black students are less likely to have access to computer-science classes at school and are less likely to use a computer at home or school, despite being more interested in learning about the subject than their white counterparts. The findings, based on a survey of 16,000 students, parents, teachers, principals and superintendents, highlight demographic inequalities in K-12 computer-science education. Just 47 percent of black students say they have dedicated computer-science classes, compared with 58 percent of white students and 59 percent of Hispanic students. White students also have greater access to computers than Hispanic and black students.
From a huge effort to help kids realize their potential to a celebration of our dear old planet, this week brought plenty of interesting and inspiring news around Microsoft. We've rounded up some of the highlights in this latest edition of Weekend Reading. Earlier this week, Microsoft announced grants to 100 nonprofit partners in 55 countries as part of YouthSpark, a global initiative to increase access for young people to learn computer science. In turn, these nonprofit partners -- such as Laboratoria, CoderDojo and City Year -- will use the power of local schools, businesses and community organizations to empower students to achieve more for themselves, their families and their communities. The nonprofits will build upon the work that Microsoft already has underway through programs like Hour of Code with Code.org,
Look no further than Google's Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), SoftBank's acquisition of ARM (SoftBank hopes to be a big player in AI), and now a venture-backed startup rolling out a family of "Deep Learning" computers. That startup is Wave Computing, based in Campbell, Calif. The six-year-old company came out of stealth mode Thursday (July 21), revealing its design of a massively parallel dataflow processing architecture called the Wave Dataflow Processing Unit (DPU) for deep learning. Derek Meyer, Wave Computing CEO, told EE Times, "In order to accelerate deep learning, the world needs a new computing architecture." Traditional computer architectures are designed for control flow-oriented applications.