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Google’s mad playground

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The good thing about being one of the most successful companies of all time is that it gives you the opportunity to play around a bit and Google has done a lot of that.

The games and experiments in the Experiments with Google archive are many in number and hugely varied but are linked by their use of AI, algorithmic coding and machine learning so by association the user is touching the technologies that are defining our trajectory in technology.

There’s some great literacy resources like Talk to Books, it works something like Shazam but for literature; using AI (we like AI) Talk to Books responds to typed or spoken words, it works better with spoken words, and matches them to passages in books. It’s also a good way to see how a really bleeding edge technology like AI employs word association for searches and to imply and anticipate meaning.

It’s kind of like a thesaurus but with real published context around it, so if you’re stuck for inspiration and maybe want to see what the greats did with certain words and feelings Talk to Books is a great place to go.

Semantris is kind of similar in that it uses AI word association to create a kind of text-based Tetris, you’re given a word and have to say or type in a word that you associate with it, the idea being that if the word is associated it is placed below a line and you win. There’s also a timer on it so the going can get a bit hectic, a great way to increase vocabulary and explore the meaning and context of words.

Story Speaker reminds us of those old text based adventure games oldies used to play in the days when screen text was green and there were things called floppy discs. It works with Google docs and to access it involves installing it a as a tool into Google docs.

Story Speaker provides templates which provide a structure and an arc for a story which you can plug pretty much anything into, you can then ask the app to play what you have written and any google home device will repeat back what you have said, instant creation and no coding.

Here’s some nuttier stuff; Body Synth tracks your movements and turns them into sounds so if you want to take the opportunity to bust some moves and see what kind of music your boogie creates have a look at this one.

You can adjust the sensitivity so it tracks big or small movements so you can low key get down. And you can adjust the instrument or chord using your voice merely by saying 'guitar' or 'g chord'.

We’ve all wanted to conduct and orchestra at one stage but, unfortunately, it’s quite hard to get that opportunity, but Semi Conductor lets you get your inner Mahler on, moving and pointing activates different sections of the browser based orchestra. It uses PoseNet, a machine learning library, to map out your movements through the webcam. An algorithm plays along to the score as you conduct, using hundreds of tiny audio files from live recorded instruments.

Fontjoy is one for the graphics people. If anything, this app shows that the creative process can be replicated using maths and deep learning. The idea is that you identify a font you might want to use and the software will suggest to you a matching, contrasting or complementary font.

The results are generated by using maths to identify the differences between fonts using vector mapping and so generating a graphic appeal mathematically, who’d a thunk it?

There are hundreds of resources in Experiments with Google and they provide a great introduction to higher level tech concepts in a light way, leading to deeper investigation. The code is usually available for each activity.


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