I was only trying to help…

heather-wise-jesus

Stories surfaced of a botched restoration of baby Jesus’ head at a Canadian church. The local artist volunteered to provide her services, saving the church the $10,000 quoted for a professional restoration. She was honored to be chosen but was clearly  out of her league and openly admitted her experience was thin.

She had learned how to sculpt at a local college, but had never worked with stone. Still, she felt compelled to help.

You get what you pay for.

Related to a 2012 story of another act of kindness gone wrong. In Spain authorities suspected vandalism of the famous “ecco homo” until they discovered that it was just the worst art restoration project of all time.

ecco-homo

Then there was Mr. Bean

12 Hidden Gems from Rio

There were so many stories that came out of Rio but what I enjoyed the most from the SmartNews Rio Olympics page were the lesser reported stories that bubbled up on the page. Over the past couple weeks I kept a list of my favorites and below are the best.

ONE: Before the games even started, The Independent’s incredible profile of Yusra Mardini had us rooting for the Olympic’s first refugee team.

TWO: During the opening ceremonies everyone looked sharp but USA Today’s sports site, For The Win, caught wind of the secret hidden in Team Australia’s blazer lining. Elle gave us the skinny on what each athlete got in their swag bag.

aussie-olympic-blazer

THREE: ESPN wrote about a high school in California that has been sending athletes to every Summer Olympics since 1952.

FOUR: Most outlets flock to the high dive platforms to catch still frames of the athletes but Buzzfeed took pleasure in the trampoline shots.

FIVE: Golf returned to the Olympics after a long absence (hilariously celebrated in an advertisement) and it only took four holes for the very first Olympic hole-in-one to be recorded.

SIX: Sharing the thrill of victory is why we all love to watch the Olympics. Deadspin shares a clip of two young Irish rowers doing an interview on Irish television and it’s hard not to get caught up in their youthful exuberance.

SEVEN: No one can forget the fateful collision of Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin during the 5000 meter qualifying round. The story of the two helping each other to the line will remain in our hearts as a shining example of Olympic Spirit. The pair was later awarded the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal for their behavior – something that The Telegraph tells us has only happened 17 times in Olympic history.

EIGHT: The Telegraph also dug into a question that we didn’t even think to ask. What’s involved in getting the equestrian horses get to the Olympics?

NINE: Meanwhile Fox Sports asks why Michael Phelps was laughing during the national anthem while Complex tries to find out more about his playlist.

TEN: Every Olympics has athletes that premier a sport for their country. Sports Illustrated covers Trinidad and Tobago’s first rower and SB Nation writes about a sprinter for the Marshall Islands.

ELEVEN: FiveThirtyEight is famous for its statistics and data-oriented view of the world. For the Olympics they dug into the science of pacing.

olympic-pacing

TWELVE: While acrobatics is not an Olympic sport, it did feature in an opening exhibition. Thanks to Cosmo for sharing what they called, Human Jump Rope.

I hope you enjoyed this list. Football season is coming up and we’ve got a Football channel on SmartNews so you can start to collect your own list of hidden gems.

Tables – poking fun at tech advertising

I finished Season Three of Silicon Valley, the HBO comedy series built around the mythical company Pied Piper.

One of the episodes opens with a brilliant takedown of every over-produced tech commercial you’ve ever seen.

What do you do when you have a technical product that defies simple explanations? You string together a bunch of stock video of happy people over an acoustic guitar instrumental.

Kagura, making music with your body

Brian Eno once said, “The problem with computers is that there is not enough Africa in them.” The interfaces we use to interact with computers are too digital, not fuzzy enough to sense analog inputs. We’re stuck with mouse and keyboard.

Kagura is a game that runs on a laptop and uses the camera to detect movement of the players as they interact with musical instruments projected on the screen in front of them to play along or riff on a musical track.

Part Dance Dance Revolution and part Guitar Hero, the UI is intuitive and easy and fun to pick up. All that’s required is a Windows laptop (Mac coming later) and they launched a Kickstarter today to fund the final development and release in August.

Shunsuke Nakamura, the inventor of the game, stopped by the SmartNews offices on Friday to show us how the game works. He’s been working on the concept of using your body to make music for 14 years but only now has technology reached a point where his dream could be realized.

We truly live in amazing times.

SmartNews TV commercials featuring Tamori

SmartNews (where I work) is running a series of TV commercials in Japan featuring Japanese celebrity, Tamori. The tagline for the campaign is “禁断のニュースアプリ” which roughly translates as “The forbidden news application” as in it’s so addicting that you binge use it when you’ve got time alone.

News Junkie are you? Check out the US Edition.

AI is only human

I’m so glad that The New York Times ran this op-ed (Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem) about the inherent biases in Artificial Intelligence algorithms. Popular culture and much media coverage of AI tends to mysticize how it works, neglecting to point out that any machine learning algorithm is only going to be as good as the training set that goes into its creation.

Delip Rao, a machine learning consultant, thinks long and hard about the bias problem. He recently gave a fascinating talk at a machine learning meetup where he implored a room of machine learning engineers to be vigilant in making sure their algorithms were not encoding any hidden bias.

The slides from his talk are posted online but Delip’s final takeaway lessons have stuck with me and are good to keep in mind whenever you read stories of algorithms taking on a mind of their own.

Delip Rao takeaways

It is still very early days and many embarrassing mistakes have been made and more will be made in the future. Our assumption should be that every automated system is fallible and that each mistake is an opportunity to make things better (both ourselves and the algorithm) and should not be an indictment of the technology.