Twitter Turns Its Privacy Policy Into a Videogame about a Dog

What did you think of Twitter Data Dash?
The Guardian describes it as “a Super Nintendo-style browser game that recaps Twitter’s private policy.”

And the Verge applauds the game — released Wednesday — for its “delightful pixel art aesthetic.”

“Welcome to PrivaCity!” reads a description of the game on the site. “Get your dog, Data, safely to the park.

“Dodge cat ads, swim through a sea of DMs, battle trolls, and learn how to take control of your Twitter experience along the way….”

The game itself is a pretty straightforward side-scrolling platformer. Each level is themed around what I can best describe as Twitter Things — one features cats wearing ad boards, another has you avoiding trolls — and your goal is to collect five bones as quickly as you can. If you get the bones, the game will explain something about Twitter’s privacy settings related to that level and even offer a button linking to Twitter’s settings. When you beat the cat ad level, for example, you’ll see a message about how Twitter customizes your experience on the platform and points to where you can turn personalized ads on or off….

Twitter introduced the game as part of a bigger push around its privacy policy, which the company has rewritten. “We’ve emphasized clear language and moved away from legal jargon,” Twitter said on its Safety account.

Gizmodo calls the game “adorable,” but also “buggy”. And they also have some quibbles with its ultimate message:
It’s a bit rich that Twitter made a game about avoiding faceless advertisers when the platform is actively doing everything it can to make ads tougher to avoid….
[A]fter watching our personas bounce from level to level with our lil blue dog in tow, it became clear that this game is less for us — or any Twitter user, really — and more for the company itself. It’s a way to paper over uncomfortable topics like “privacy” and “consent” and “ownership of our personal data” with a lil blue dog, collecting lil bones by hopping across lil stages. Just promise you won’t think about where those bones came from in the first place.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Can AI Help Us Reimagine Chess?

Three research scientists at DeepMind Technologies teamed up with former world chess champion Vladimir Kramnik to “explore what variations of chess would look like at superhuman level,” according to their new article in Communications of the ACM. Their paper argues that using neural networks and advanced reinforcement learning algorithms can not only surpass all human knowledge of chess, but also “allow us to reimagine the game as we know it….”

“For example, the ‘castling’ move was only introduced in its current form in the 17th century. What would chess have been like had castling not been incorporated into the rules?”

AfterAlphaZero was trained to play 9 different “variants” of chess, it then played 11,000 games against itself, while the researchers assessed things like the number of stalemates and how often the special new moves were actually used. The variations tested:

– Castling is no longer allowed
– Castling is only allowed after the 10th move
– Pawns can only move one square
– Stalemates are a win for the attacking side (rather than a draw)
– Pawns have the option of moving two squares on any turn (and can also be captured en passant if they do)
– Pawns have the option of moving two squares — but only when they’re in the second or third row of squares. (After which they can be captured en passant )
– Pawns can move backwards (except from their starting square).
– Pawns can also move sideways by one square.
– It’s possible to capture your own pieces.
“The findings of our quantitative and qualitative analysis demonstrate the rich possibilities that lie beyond the rules of modern chess.”

AlphaZero’s ability to continually improve its understanding of the game, and reach superhuman playing strength in classical chess and Go, lends itself to the question of assessing chess variants and potential variants of other board games in the future. Provided only with the implementation of the rules, it is possible to effectively simulate decades of human experience in a day, opening a window into top-level play of each variant. In doing so, computer chess completes the circle, from the early days of pitting man vs. machine to a collaborative present of man with machine, where AI can empower players to explore what chess is and what it could become….

The combination of human curiosity and a powerful reinforcement learning system allowed us to reimagine what chess would have looked like if history had taken a slightly different course. When the statistical properties of top-level AlphaZero games are compared to classical chess, a number of more decisive variants appear, without impacting the diversity of plausible options available to a player….
Taken together, the statistical properties and aesthetics provide evidence that some variants would lead to games that are at least as engaging as classical chess.

“Chess’s role in artificial intelligence research is far from over…” their article concludes, arguing that AI “can provide the evidence to take reimagining to reality.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Secrets of ‘Space Invaders’ — and One Very Tiny Homegrown Cabinet

IEEE Spectrum has republished an article from nearly 40 years ago remembering one of the long-forgotten secrets of the classic video game Space Invaders.

It’s about that iconic descending musical notes accompanying the onslaught of the aliens…

The more aliens a player shot, the faster they approached; their drumbeat quickened, the tension mounted. Ironically, says Bill Adams, director of game development for Midway Manufacturing Co., of Chicago, Ill., which licensed Space Invaders for sale in the United States, these features of the game were accidental. “The speeding up of the space invaders was just a function of the way the machine worked,” he explained. “The hardware had a limitation — it could only move 24 objects efficiently. Once some of the invaders got shot, the hardware did not have as many objects to move, and the remaining invaders sped up. And the designer happened to put out a sound whenever the invaders moved, so when they sped up, so did the tone.”

Accident or not, the game worked. As of mid-1981, according to Steve Bloom, author of the book Video Invaders, more than 4 billion quarters had been dropped into Space Invaders games around the world — “which roughly adds up to one game per earthling.”

But Space Invaders also enjoyed at least one special home-grown revival earlier this month. Hobbyist Nu Iotachi used an Arduino Pro Micro board to build their own Space Invaders arcade cabinet that’s just 3.15 inches tall (80 millimeters).

Made from thin hand cut plywood with pinhead joysticks, “Its Microchip ATmega328 microcontroller contains a processor running at 16MHz,” reports the project’s site Hackster.io, “which is far faster than the processor in the original Space Invaders arcade cabinet.”

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17-Year-Old Beats Magnus Carlsen in World Rapid Chess Championship

Each player gets 15 minutes for all moves (plus a 10-second-per-move increment) at the World Rapid Chess Championship.

But players only get three minutes for all moves (plus a 2-second-per-move increment) in the World Blitz Chess Championship.

So what happened? World chess champion Magnus Carlsen entered both events, and…

A little-known 17-year-old from Uzbekistan made a clean sweep of Magnus Carlsen and the global chess elite on Tuesday, incidentally setting a world age record. Nodirbek Abdusattorov won the World Rapid championship in Warsaw, claiming en route the scalps of Magnus Carlsen and the No 1’s last two challengers, Fabiano Caruana and Ian Nepomniachtchi…

After 21 rounds of three-minute games on Wednesday and Thursday, France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave defeated Poland’s Jan-Krzysztof Duda in a tie-break to win the World Blitz title. The 18-year-old world No 2, Alireza Firouzja, was third but Carlsen was well adrift in 12th place. He said: “Some days you just don’t have it. I was nowhere near close to the level I needed to be today.”

At 17 years three months Abdusattorov becomes the youngest ever world champion in open competition… After 13 rounds he was in a quadruple tie on 9.5 points with Carlsen, Caruana and Nepomniachtchi, but the regulations excluded Carlsen and Caruana from the play-off due to their inferior tie-breaks. An angry Carlsen denounced the rules as “idiotic. Either all players on the same amount of points join the play-off or no one does…”

[In the final play-off game] Abdusattorov easily drew with Black, then won the second game despite twice missing mate in two near the end.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Magnus Carlsen Wins 8th World Chess Championship. What Makes Him So Great?

“On Friday, needing just one point against Ian Nepomniachtchi to defend his world champion status, Magnus Carlsen closed the match out with three games to spare, 7.5-3.5,” ESPN reports. “He’s been the No 1 chess player in the world for a decade now…

“In a technologically flat, AI-powered chess world where preparation among the best players can be almost equal, what really makes one guy stand out with his dominance and genius for this long…?

American Grandmaster and chess commentator Robert Hess describes Carlsen as the “hardest worker you’ll find” both at the board and in preparation. “He is second-to-none at evading common theoretical lines and prefers to outplay his opponents in positions where both players must rely on their understanding of the current dynamics,” Hess says…

At the start of this year, news emerged of Nepomniachtchi and his team having access to a supercomputer cluster, Zhores, from the Moscow-based Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology. He was using it for his Candidates tournament preparation, a tournament he went on to win. He gained the challenger status for the World Championship and the Zhores supercomputer reportedly continued to be a mainstay in his team. Zhores was specifically designed to solve problems in machine learning and data-based modeling with a capacity of one Petaflop per second…. Players use computers and open-source AI engines to analyze openings, bolster preparation, scour for a bank of new ideas and to go down lines that the other is unlikely to have explored.

The tiny detail though is, that against Carlsen, it may not be enough. He has the notoriety of drawing opponents into obscure positions, hurling them out of preparation and into the deep end, often leading to a complex struggle. Whether you have the fastest supercomputer on your team then becomes almost irrelevant. It comes down to a battle of intuition, tactics and staying power, human to human. In such scenarios, almost always, Carlsen comes out on top. “[Nepomniachtchi] couldn’t show his best chess…it’s a pity for the excitement of the match,” he said later, “I think that’s what happens when you get into difficult situations…all the preparation doesn’t necessarily help you if you can’t cope in the moment….”

Soon after his win on Friday, Carlsen announced he’d be “celebrating” by playing the World Rapid and Blitz Championships in Warsaw, a fortnight from now. He presently holds both those titles…

The article also remembers what happened in 2018 when Carlsen was asked to name his favorite chess player from the past. Carlsen’s answer?

“Probably myself, like, three or four years ago.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.