Ichabod is itchy

November 15, 2006

Photo booth

Filed under: toys,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:39 pm

We’ve got a new mac desktop (early xmas present for Lewis) and have had great fun playing with it. One of the coolest ‘toys’ that it comes with is a program called ‘photo booth’– which uses the in-built camera at the top of the screen to take pictures of you. Not so interesting in itself– but the program lets you add all sorts of distortion affects. A bit like being at a funfair in front of all the crazy mirrors.

Check it out–



May 24, 2006


Filed under: toys,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:20 pm

Lewis has pointed me to the wonderful world of pandora bots, where you can create your very own chatBOT virtual personality. You can assign your chatBOT a 'basic' personality and then train her (or him) to answer questions as you would (well, that's the idea anyway!). This is done through a basic set of fields that describe the basics like favourite colour, where you live, what you name is etc. On top of that, you can keep track of the conversational logs your bot has with the 'public' and, if she doesn't give the answers you like, train her based on those specific questions (or broader ones via use of a wild character "*").

Pandora bots is created by ALICE, using AIML (Artificial Intelligence Mark-up Language), and has many options for customising your bot, particularly if you want to pay for bells and whistles like a talking bot. The subscription talking bots offer lots of customisation– voice, facial characteristics, clothes, background, movement etc. But there are also four 'standard' characters if you want to just try them out first. These can't be customised in terms of how they look, although you can assign them different voices. Each one comes with 500 free text-to-speech 'streams' per month.

I have set up ichaBOT– my virtual personality. She has a picture (that doesn't look like me in case you're wondering) and even an English accent!

There is also a text-only version of ichaBOT but trust me, the text-to-speech streaming is worth it. I'd recommend asking who Lewis is.
ichaBOT is still being trained– the more questions you ask, the more I'll be able to customise her, so please visit her and have a chat.

May 19, 2006

Trendy Google

Filed under: toys,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 9:58 pm

I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but have only just had my first go at playing with the new Google tool, Google Trends— with my stepson Dylan (aged 13). This latest effort from the innovators at Google Labs lets you compare up to five 'topics' (search terms) to see how often they have been searched for in Google over time and by geographical region. It also shows you how often these terms appear in news stories indexed by Google News and gives you a list of the top 10 cities, regions and languages searching.

Inevitably, almost the first search we did was "Dylan" vs "Harry" (other stepson). Dylan was feeling rather confident that he would come out on top (knowing that all the Bob-Dylan searches would count in his favour). But he had forgotten about Harry Potter, which, to Harry's great delight, nabbed all the news headlines as well as more than four times the search 'volume'.

According to the CBS Blogophile column, over 23,000 bloggers were talking about Google Trends in their blogs last week. Somewhat ironic then that the tool doesn't include blog posts in its searchspace!

My own take is that it's definitely a fun tool. Especially if you are just after a relative search to see how one term compares against another. But not so good for looking at a single term– there's no scale on the vertical axis! So you only get a sense of change over time (as well as the 'lists' of course). But you could argue that I should have got that from the name– Google Trends.

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