This week’s joyful roundup is a little more grumpy than usual.

But I’m from the North of England, where grumpy is a synonym for joyful.

Infuriating IoT device of the week

Regular readers will know of my hatred for smart fridges, smart cups, smart toothbrushes (and the list goes on).

Well, add to that list the smart……salt pot.

Smalt includes a bluetooth speaker to pair with your phone and play music, there’s mood lighting in its head, and obviously it dispenses salt – a precise amount that you can set through your app, of course.

It’s really hard not to swear at this.

Smalt is raising funds on Indiegogo with an early-bird price of $99. More from The Verge.


Quote of the week


That’s how Chinese chatbot BabyQ, on Tencent’s QQ messaging platform, responded when asked “Do you love the Communist party?” BabyQ is no more.

Thanks to MIT Tech Review’s newsletter for this, reported in the Financial Times.

Apparently BabyQ also uttered unpatriotic responses when asked about the South China Sea. Tencent has not yet commented on the gaffe (of sorts).


Don’t be taken in by the dissident’s cute appearance

Hyperloop One is a thing that is happening

Remember Elon Musk’s wish to send people across the country in an underground tube?

Well, Hyperloop One has tested a 28-foot pod in a 500m-long vacuum tube at speeds of up to 192 mph. The pod uses magentic levitation, reducing drag.

Hyperloop One chair Shervin Pishevar said some heroic words in a statement: “When you hear the sound of the Hyperloop, you hear the sound of the future.”

LinkedIn wants users to hook up

Please allow for my poetic license here. LinkedIn is actually trying to enable career mentoring between its users.

TechCrunch makes a comparison with Tinder, but there isn’t yet a swipe UI.

The feature is in beta and free to users, who must specify what sort of person they are looking for and will then be shown a list of possible mentors.

Though it does sound like a good idea to me, I’m sure the mentors will need serious vetting to weed out the creepy and clueless.


Sponsored GIFs?!

As reported in Techcrunch, Giphy may be about to introduce sponsored GIFs into messaging apps in an effort to monetise.

Yes, the one source of innocence on the web may finally be chock full of branded messages.

Techcrunch envisages a search for ‘Monday’ or ‘morning’ might turn up a Starbucks GIF, or entertainment brands (e.g. big TV shows) could make hay with their content.


John Humphrys is trying to scare us about AI

…as is much of the media. Perhaps not intentionally, but in their haste to report stories about AI experiments, some are perhaps more alarmist than is appropriate.

This week I heard Humphrys on the Radio 4 Today show talking about how Facebook hurriedly shut down two AIs that had learned to talk to each other in a new language.

Of course, the reality is much more mundane, and Wired brings us the detail:

“A Facebook experiment did produce simple bots that chattered in garbled sentences, but they weren’t alarming, surprising, or very intelligent. Nobody at the social network’s AI lab panicked, and you shouldn’t either.

“…Researchers set out to make chatbots that could negotiate with people. …They started small, with a simple game in which two players were told to divide a collection of objects, such as hats, balls, and books, between themselves.

“…When two bots using reinforcement learning played each other, they stopped using recognizable sentences. Or, as Facebook’s researchers drily describe it in their technical paper, “We found that updating the parameters of both agents led to divergence from human language.”

And, wait for it, these nonsensical (to us) interactions were simply glorious. Here’s an example:

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

In Honolulu, it will soon be illegal to cross the street while looking at a smartphone

The fines commence in October at $35, rising for second and third offences. Slate takes a look at the reasoning behind the ban.

A 2013 Ohio State University study reported that the percentage of pedestrians visiting an emergency room for injuries sustained while using cell phones has risen (from <1% in 2004 to >3.5% in 2010)

However, the numbers are still only in four figures, and of course the increase observed has also correlated with that of driver injuries (as they use smartphones, too). Drivers using phones is indeed the bigger issue, with roadway fatalities increasing in the US, but plateauing in the UK, where smartphone use while driving is illegal.

330m books stored on one little cartridge

IBM has squeezed 330 terabytes of uncompressed data into a cartridge that can fit into the palm of your hand. The Verge reports that this is “more than 20 times the areal density currently used in commercial tape drives”.

Amazing stuff. I can’t be bothered finding the image of a large IBM computer being loaded on to a plane back in the mid 20th century, but imagine such an image in nice juxtaposition.