Is The Google Car Kind Of A Jerk? And A Cool Inventor

Some robot news for you today. ZDNet reports that the Google Self-Driving Car has caused its first accident by assuming a bus would yield, aka by kind of cutting it off.

The early reports on the Google Car said that it was perhaps too hesitant and polite, causing it to be the recipient of road violence (rear-endings) rather than the dispenser of same. Maybe Google engineers need to turn the asshole knob down a notch now.

Reminds me of this Google car I saw parked in an Austin lot in a rather questionable fashion:

google car

And in other robotics news, I discovered this hilarious inventor today. She’s like a sober, Arduino-happy version of My Drunk Kitchen’s Hannah Hart with all the genial charm and three times the geek chic. Pure win, especially watching her absorb abuse from her own creations.

I do fear that some people will criticize her for making “frivolous” gadgets, but I applaud her (get it?) for showing that technology can be fun and accessible. Plus I am fully aware that her skill with a breadboard is well beyond mine.


Do You Watch Your Friends Play Games?

Not everybody enjoys watching others play videogames, just like not everybody enjoys others play sports. There’s something about games that demands that hands-on experience.

Of course, a big part of it depends on the style and personality of the person you’re watching. If you’re a stealth gamer, you probably wouldn’t enjoy watching a brawler barrel through levels, for example.

But assuming you’re watching someone who plays like you do, or perhaps faster than you do (!), do you enjoy watching them play? Or are you itching for them to get an urgent call from their significant other?

I don’t love watching gameplay video, but I’m watching theRadBrad on Youtube right now. He’s got a pretty good style, he moves quickly, and he’s got a friendly, funny energy to him.


Videogames Are Murderer Kryptonite, Says NPR

videogames-and-murderersFor your enjoyment, here’s another salvo in the ongoing discussion about “do videogames make kids into psychopaths,” aka “First-Person Shooters Were Designed by ISIS and the Taliban to Extend Satan’s Nefarious Reach into Our World.”

As you might expect, this TED Radio Hour episode connotes play with balanced human psychology. Less expected, perhaps, is a researcher who finds that the lack of play is part of the formative story for murderers.

Yes, that’s right. Murderers might’ve turned out okay if they’d only played more first-person shooters. 

I mean, maybe the infamous University of Texas mass murderer, Charles Whitman, wouldn’t be the first guy you’d want to see pumping quarters into a Silent Scope cabinet at the corner arcade. But, says Dr. Stuart Brown, the lack of unbounded, reckless, communal play might’ve been a factor in his lack of normal psychological development.

Personally, I find the demonization of videogames to be a bit tiresome, a symptom of a society looking for easy answers. Sure, like anything else, videogames can be taken to excess. But outlawing videogames is like outlawing kids playing cops and robbers in the local park. Just because it’s popular and loud and visceral doesn’t mean it’s evil.

In many cases, the solution for violent, unruly kids is quality parenting. Right? That’s my easy answer for the day. (“Said like a true non-parent” would be a valid riposte.)

Anyhow, I think we can all agree with the theory that play is an important part of the human experience. Here’s your podcast breakdown:

Does something serious happen when we play? In this episode, TED speakers describe how all forms of amusement — from tossing a ball to video games — can make us smarter, saner and more collaborative.

Here are the four parts:

  1. Comedian Charlie Todd and his group Improv Everywhere choreograph bizarre, hilarious and unexpected public scenes, creating whimsical opportunities for total strangers to play together.
  2. Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing and fantasy are more than just fun; humans are hard-wired to play. He came to this conclusion after conducting some somber research about the stark childhoods of murderers.
  3. Primatologist Isabel Behncke explains how bonobo apes learn by constantly playing. She says play isn’t frivolous; it appears to be a critical way to solve problems and avoid conflict.
  4. When video game researcher Jane McGonigal was bedridden after a concussion, she gave herself a prescription: play a game. She says games helped her get better; and for many of us, virtual games can improve our real lives.