Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense: Ars is excited to be hosting this online debut of Sunspring, a short science fiction film that’s not entirely what it seems.

Sunspring screenplay sample

Benjamin is an LSTM recurrent neural network, a type of AI that is often used for text recognition. To train Benjamin, [researcher, Ross] Goodwin fed the AI with a corpus of dozens of sci-fi screenplays he found online—mostly movies from the 1980s and 90s.

As the cast gathered around a tiny printer, Benjamin spat out the screenplay, complete with almost impossible stage directions like “He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor.” Then Sharp [the director] randomly assigned roles to the actors in the room. “As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight,” Sharp told Ars.

Sunspring

For Sharp, the most interesting part of the Benjamin experiment has been learning about patterns in science fiction storytelling. Benjamin’s writing sounds original, even kooky, but it’s still based on patterns he’s discovered in what humans write. Sharp likes to call the results the “average version” of everything the AI looked at. Certain patterns kept coming up again and again. “There’s an interesting recurring pattern in Sunspring where characters say, ‘No I don’t know what that is. I’m not sure,'” said Goodwin. “They’re questioning the environment, questioning what’s in front of them. There’s a pattern in sci-fi movies of characters trying to understand the environment.”

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Light-based media

Sunspring: a short film written by an algorithm

In the wake of Google’s AI Go victory, filmmaker Oscar Sharp turned to his technologist collaborator Ross Goodwin to build a machine that could write screenplays. They created “Jetson” and fueled him with hundreds of sci-fi TV and movie scripts. Building a team including Thomas Middleditch, star of HBO’s Silicon Valley, they gave themselves 48 hours to shoot and edit whatever Jetson decided to write.

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Use your words

Tip: Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

A simple rule that more people giving presentations should follow…

The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.

Guy Kawasaki: The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint

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Pixar – What Makes a Story Relatable

A quick look at Pixar’s approach to storytelling and character development.

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Indie magazines
Craft and creativity

Making a sustainable independent print magazine

Kai Brach is the publisher, editor and designer of Offscreen Magazine. He has written about the lessons he has learned in a comprehensive Medium post: Indie Magonomics

Kai covers everything from sourcing content (“The hard truth is that most indie publications rely on a lot of favours by a lot of generous people”), to printing (“A lot of indies start with 1000–2000 copies. I started with 3000 for my first issue, but it did take me more than a year to sell them all”), to distribution (“Ask anyone who sells physical products and they will tell you that one of the most biggest challenges is getting the product from A to B. Shipping is hard”), and marketing (“…no matter how boring or old-fashioned it seems, email is still the most powerful marketing tool for most online businesses”), and finally, to making moneyContinue reading

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The Freewrite ‘smart typewriter’ with an e-ink display.
A “distraction-free tool for writing composition.”

Astrohaus Freewrite - top

Boing Boing: The $500 price is high, and driven by the device’s high-spec manufacturing: the full-sized mechanical keyboard’s kitted out with Cherry MX switches, and the body of the device is machined aluminum. It weighs four pounds and you carry it by pulling out a recessed handle.

The Freewrite originally launched on Kickstarter (as the ‘Hemingwrite’) and is currently at a special promotional price.

TechCrunch: The FreeWrite will be available today for a 24-hour flash sale at $449, after which the price will increase to $499 through March, with a final MSRP of $549. Shipments will begin this March.

Wired: Freewrite weighs four pounds—about halfway between the weight of the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pro. But you won’t need to bring the Freewrite’s charger to the coffee shop, because get this: It gets more than four weeks worth of battery life from a single charge.

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Craft and creativity

Freewrite: A ‘smart typewriter’ with an e-ink display

“We are quickly seeing people becoming more disenchanted than ever with the nag of constant consumption,” explains Adam Leeb, cofounder of Freewrite manufacturer Astrohaus. “Everyone, particularly the millennial generation, understands that we now have to fight for our own attention from the outside world. Instead of allowing it to be a general purpose computer, we focused on one purpose, making the best possible writing experience.” — Wired

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Shouf Baba Shouf
Use your words

Unified Arabic: an effort to simplify Arabic letters for printing and to aid literacy

In 1932 Lebanese architect Nasri Khattar developed a simplified Arabic script for printing and to aid literacy:

Unified Arabic (UA) is basically a set of 30 letterforms, one for each letter of the Arabic alphabet, plus hamza and lam alef, eliminating the variant forms that make reading and writing Arabic difficult for beginners.

Shouf Baba Shouf

Sample pages from the children’s book ‘Shouf Baba Shouf’. The UA forms are placed next to the traditional ones for direct comparison and learning.

The large number of Arabic letter variants made typing Arabic immensely complicated. Khattar realised that matters could be greatly simplified by distilling the hundreds of variant shapes into their most characteristic forms. The letters are designed to be representative of the streamlined spirit of Western civilisation: quick, mechanised and labour saving, similar to Latin type forms and proportions, which Khattar acknowledged as one of his inspirations.

In 1986, Nasri Khattar was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifelong Unified Arabic project and its implications for the fields of linguistics, literacy, printing, computers, and telecommunications. He was probably the only designer / typographer considered for the prestigious award.

In one sense, new technologies made Unified Arabic obsolete before it could overcome the massive obstacles opposing its adoption. But from another point of view, the issues that led to its development still demand resolution.

Fighting Illiteracy With Typography by Yara Khoury Nammour (via).

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