AI System Can Recreate Video Games It Observes

I wouldn’t be surprised if one day AI systems ruled the world. While there are skeptics, most people in the technological industry remain pretty optimistic. And with good reason. A system built by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology can recreate video games by observing them for only 2 minutes.

The team did this by training the AI on footage of two distinct types of players making their way through Level 1 of Super Mario Brothers. One that adopted an “explorer” style of play and the other a “speedrunner” style, where they headed straight for the goal.

The system managed to rebuild an accurate representation of the game with only minor deviations. It’s impressive and also far less creepy than an AI creating its own language.

“Our AI creates the predictive model without ever accessing the game’s code, and makes significantly more accurate future event predictions than those of convolutional neural networks,”

Okay, so its capabilities are still sort of spooky, but useful, nonetheless. The program, which is algorithm-based, could be vital in pattern recognition, among other things. In the end, the model is an effective training method that can also be easily controlled by users — phew!

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Magical Wooden Classroom Helps Children Bond with Nature

The past decade has probably seen the worst environmental damage humans have ever caused in history. However, it is also probably witness to the best human efforts in reversing the tragic situation and working towards accountability. Chile will create five new national parks in a preservation effort, China will reforest an entire area as big as Ireland (6.6 million hectares!), and announced most recently, Australia will spend 500 million dollars to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

If we are to continue these attempts at environmental preservation, then financial support from the government has to be accompanied by cultural efforts.  By which I mean we need education. And who else can we educate more than those who will inherit this earth? To continue our environmental progress, it is children who foremost need to understand how nature works.

That’s exactly the objective of this magical wooden classroom designed by Studio Weave for Belvue School.

[T]he building was created to help reconnect students with nature and it opens up to an adjacent woodland recently acquired by the school to serve as an educational nature reserve . . . Constructed from a low budget originally allocated for a cargotecture school expansion, the 1,600-square-foot Wooden Classroom comprises a “cozy lounge” informal teaching space and a “sociable kitchen” student-run school cafe next to the woods.

With curved ceilings and clerestory windows, the wooden classroom is entirely provided with natural lighting and ventilation. Students may appreciate the neighbouring woodland through large window walls. To constantly check in with the nature aspect, a forest management specialist was consulted by Studio Weave throughout the construction process for Belvue School.

“We identified that the boundary between the playground and woods marks the border between familiar school territory and the magical, mysterious world of trees,” said Studio Weave. “This very important threshold, symbolising the entrance to another world, like the gate to the secret garden, or the cupboard to Narnia became a focal point and we consequently designed the woodland classrooms to act as a gatehouse between one world and another.”

If that doesn’t sound magical, I’m not sure what does. It makes me want to be a child and rediscover the earth with fresh eyes again. Maybe that’s what we all need to really care for nature. Then again, bringing back the past is totally impossible. So here’s to hoping the children retain the wonder and magic they experience in this gorgeous wooden classroom to the bigger world once they themselves grow bigger in the future.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Taco Bell’s Education Support to 210,000 Employees

As individuals, we can all act even in little ways to alleviate the condition of people who do not have the same resources as ourselves, like perhaps helping underprivileged kids gain opportunities through donations or planned skill-training sessions. However, it is undeniable that more action from institutions is necessary for greater societal change. States like New York and Los Angeles have been responding to this truth through community projects such as providing free lunches to hundreds of thousands of children and making library books accessible to low-income families.

A groundbreaking move on the corporate side has come from a famous fast food chain as Taco Bell helps all 210,000 of its employees towards educational opportunities.

On March 15, Taco Bell announced that employees at the chain’s 7,000 stores nationwide are eligible for education classes at 80 online universities, as well as tuition assistance and college credit for job training at the restaurant.

Other chains such as McDonald’s and Starbucks also offer support to some employees through programs like this. Employees with a high school degree or less need the above-mentioned benefits to have better career prospects in the future.

“When we surveyed our employees, education support was one of the top three things they asked for,” Frank Tucker, global chief people officer at Taco Bell, said in a statement. “The barriers to achieving their education goals were time, money and support.”

Beyond this, the program also seems to be mutually beneficial to Taco Bell and its employees, as 98% of the people who participated in the pilot batch stayed in the company for more than six months. It’s a win-win situation for now, with even larger potential in the long run.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Senior Professor Schools Teachers On The Art Of Fun

It’s stories about locals risking their lives to save animals from an active volcano or a modest restaurant feeding the poor that restore my faith in humanity. Amidst a slew of tragedies, I became doubtful of the human capacity to do good. I then came across the story of Dr. Richard Overfelt, an 88-year-old professor who helps schoolteachers rediscover their love for educating. And to say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

“We cover teachers up today with statistics, with data, and testing almost every other day,” Overfelt said. And as a result he says “there isn’t enough time and energy to really teach the kids.”

Excellent point. On the first day of classes at Truman State University, senior professor Overfelt dresses in a clown costume. It’s unusual but hilarious, and nothing like Pennywise from Stephen King’s It. Overfelt teaches educators not just to revise their curriculums, but to relate to their students on a personal level. Looking back at my own academic life, I suppose I can confirm that what made the most impact to me then as a student is exactly what the senior professor tells his successors.

“I teach that if the heart is empty, it doesn’t make any difference how full the head [is],” said Overfelt.

Many have credited him for their decisions to remain in their professions, learning how to better educate and, in the process, have fun. Which leads me to say this… Maybe I ought to commission a therapy session with Dr. Overfelt on demotivating Mondays.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Donkeys Bring Books To Rural Zimbabwe

We all know rural communities hardly get their fair share of basic necessities. However, recent changes such as solar roofing and drone deliveries have been making life easier for them. For this humble town in rural Zimbabwe, donkey-pulled mobile libraries are making their way to schools and other establishments.

Dr. Obadiah Moyo, the founder of RLRDP (Rural Libraries and Resources Development Program), credits the organization with creating the world’s first donkey-powered mobile libraries . . . These small, roofed, two-wheeled units are divided into lockable compartments, with space for up to three rider-drivers.

Donkeys are abundant in rural Zimbabwe and are used to carrying heavy loads, making them perfect drivers of the project. (Hee-haw!) A few of the carts also sport solar panels for charging gadgets as well as providing Internet and a printer. The upkeep is difficult, but covered mostly by various benefactors.

Moyo estimates that it takes about $150,000 a year to cover the operating costs of RLRDP, and the charity has received financial support from the Latter-Day Saints and Save the Children. As for the books themselves, many of them are supplied by Book Aid International.

Since the arrival of the donkey-mobiles, educational passing rates have risen. And hopefully, children and teachers alike remain inspired.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Brighten Up The Future For Underprivileged Kids

They say the future is millennial, with a touch of Gen Z. With teens making headlines for diagnosing eye diseases and generating clean energy via passing traffic, I wouldn’t doubt it for a second. Still, where tomorrow looks bright for some, the sun has set on others. Despite a constantly advancing society, poverty often plagues potential, and a lack of opportunities for young minds persists. All the same, there is an abundance of ways to help underprivileged kids get hold of the opportunities they deserve.

For young professionals on the go, donating in cash or kind is a perfectly safe and practical option. While necessities such as clothing and food are useful options to circulate within youth groups, most prefer monetary pledges. This is because shelters can break down a budget to its greatest efficiency as they are familiar with their tenants’ needs. Regardless, materials such as school supplies and other equipment are welcome all year-round.

Instead of dedicating your weekends to B-movies on Netflix, lend your skills to an organization of your choice. As with most volunteer programs, schedules are flexible — so why not use your downtime to bring smiles to kids who need it? In place of an academic education, you can teach dozens of juveniles the handy art of stitching, or perhaps toy-building. You never know when brightening your impromptu students’ day with a lesson in programming can set passions on fire.

If fitness gets you going, coaching a sport may be just your caliber. The goal isn’t to craft the next LeBron James or Cristiano Ronaldo, but to mold team players. Game mechanics aren’t the simplest of things, but your trainees may walk away with a brand-new life skill. And anyway, what ten-year-old isn’t a fan of running wild with a ball or racket in hand?

Be that as it may, crawling through the mud isn’t everyone’s forte. For avid literature geeks or voracious art enthusiasts, take your kids on a field trip. Museums may not be every second-grader’s cup of tea, but a planetarium or dino-exhibit may just be up their alley. On the plus side, they’ll learn a thing or two. Being able to name a prehistoric animal other than a T-Rex usually earn plus points in a classroom setting.

Taking part in a youth group often makes bonds with certain children inevitable. You may be keen on the pigtailed girl with the square glasses or buck-toothed boy who can’t quit rambling about Pokemon. Your undeniable connection with a bright-eyed mass of unrestrained energy might inspire you to sponsor a child. By all means, it’s life-changing. The possibilities? Limitless. And the best part is being able to visit and stay in touch with your surrogate sibling.

Kids are the building blocks of what lies ahead and it’s us older siblings who have the tools to guarantee it. If you’re an only child, it’s the perfect opportunity to bring someone into the picture. If you aren’t? The more the merrier.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Dolly Parton Donates 100 Millionth Children’s Book

For the digital generation, printed novels are a thing of the past. While comics and classics alike are making their way into Kindles, Gen X’s are doing what they can to keep them old school. As an increasing number of libraries are scrapping fees, country superstar Dolly Parton is busy donating books. In fact, she just pledged her 100 millionth to children in need.

“I never thought about being ‘the book lady,’ ” [Parton] joked… “The painted lady, yes, the overexaggerated lady. That goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Founder of the nonprofit Imagination Library, Parton sends families a book a month. The songbird is donating up to a million books a month, and hit a milestone at the Library of Congress. Parton, clearly a daddy’s girl, has dedicated the selfless act to her late father.

“Of all the things I’ve done in my life — and it’s been a lot because I’ve been around — this is the most precious,” she said. “Maybe we’ll be back for a billion.”

Looks like a brand-new record isn’t the only thing going platinum this year!

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Detroit Natives Turning Empty Lots Into Bee Farms

After a months-long bout of trending, #SaveTheBees is finally making an impact on beekeeping communities. Where locals have banded together to repair equipment, governments have banned harmful pesticides. Building even greater hype for the movement, Detroit natives are transforming vacant lots into bee habitats.

“I thought that it would be new and different in the city of Detroit,” [beekeeper Timothy Paule] said. “We want to educate people about bees and spread the knowledge of medicinal properties of honey, and to preserve the bee population, all while removing blight.”

Paule, along with partner Nicole Lindsey run Detroit Hives, dedicated to honeybee preservation. The pair have purchased their first lot for $340 and neighbors are all for it.

“This is important because we’re changing the city, we’re cleaning out the blight in Detroit turning into beautiful bee farms with gardens,” Lindsey [said]. “We’re also helping save the lives of the bees… educating the community on the difference between honey bees and wasps and how important honeybees are to our lives.”

Remember, kids — honey bees are friends. Protect their hives and forget stinging!

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Library Books Are Free To Rent For L.A. Kids

In places like New York, educational institutions are becoming less restrictive towards low-income families. This is so much so that children are now enjoying free lunches to ease financial burdens and prevent bullying. But the fact remains — many continue to struggle with other expenses such as tuition fees and school materials. Realizing the sheer significance of free knowledge, L.A. County has waived library fees for readers under 21.

“When charges accrue on a young person’s account, generally, they don’t pay the charges and they don’t use the card,” [library administrator Darcy] Hastings said. “A few dollars on their accounts means they stop using library services.”

As past fines persist, the county is also offering a “Read Away” service for young bookworms. Simply by picking out a novel to digest for an afternoon, students can eliminate fees at $5 an hour.

“You tell them you’ll read and they’ll sign you in and you start,” said Leilany, a fifth-grader at Morris K. Hamasaki Elementary in East L.A. “When your head starts losing the book you can stop reading and they tell you how much money they took away.”

Reading for fun and paying off debts? Sounds like a win-win for literature lovers looking to knock off a couple of bucks!

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Eagles Defender Donates Game Paychecks To Charity

The holidays are nearing, and the charitable cheer is just about to pick up speed. Celebrity chef José Andrés is Puerto Rico’s very own Santa Claus, whipping up meals for thousands of flood victims. For shelter animals across the U.S., Christmas is coming early, thanks to Petsmart’s donation of 30 million meals. Also sharing the love is NFL player Chris Long, who pledged all his season checks to education groups.

“In my 10th year, I want to celebrate the awesome opportunity I’ve had to play football by giving back to the communities that have given me that gift,” Long said in a statement.

His $1 million salary will go to groups and scholarship funds in various states. In a society influenced by hate culture, proper education is vital for change.

“Educational opportunity and equity are the best gateway to a better tomorrow for everyone in America.”

Long has stood alongside teammates to protest racial inequality and police brutality. He has since launched the “Pledge 10 For Tomorrow” campaign to aid underprivileged children.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends: