All posts by lahariu

Gmail’s Smart Reply for you

Back in 2009, Google teased users with  Gmail Autopilot, a service which would both read and respond to emails automatically. The service would get to know you by reading your emails and being responding using your personal communication style. Of course, people quickly recognized this as an infamous Google hoax.

Example Autopilot Responses
©2011 Google

This may have seemed far-fetched six years ago, but personal, automated email responses are now becoming a reality thanks to Google’s new artificial intelligence technology:

“Google just unveiled technology that’s at least moving in that direction. Using what’s called “deep learning”—a form of artificial intelligence that’s rapidly reinventing a wide range of online services—the company is beefing up its Inbox by Gmail app so that it can analyze the contents of an email and then suggest a few (very brief) responses. The idea is that you can rapidly respond to someone while on the go—without having to manually tap a fresh message into your smartphone keyboard.”

Google’s “deep learning” technology, called ‘Smart Reply,’ now allows Gmail to analyze the content of your email and suggest a few brief responses to it. In this process, composing new mail can be substituted by this new bit of Google’s artificial intelligence.

According to Google’s product Manager Alex Gawley, Smart Reply will tailor both tone and content of the email and suggest three responses. The user can still choose to either use one of them or modify them with one’s own words.

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This particular feature of Gmail is a result of something called ‘Machine Learning.’ Pieces of information from all over the world are constantly fed into a neural network (a network of computers intended to represent and perform functions of neurons in the human brain) called long short-term memory (LSTM system). One half of this neural network on receiving these new pieces of information analyzes them and ‘learns’ the underlying patterns in diverse sets of phrases in the language. The second half works on generating potential responses (typically 3-6 words long), one word at a time.

For example, by feeding enough pictures of a human, the machine eventually ‘learns’ how to identify a human. However, this feature is not new. It can be thought of as an extension of the ‘suggest search’ feature in the Google Search engine, the ‘auto-complete’ feature on our phones’ texting applications, or the personal assistants, Siri or Cortana, on our phones.

Naturally, this feature depends on the amount of data input into a neural network. With only a finite amount of data, the machine’s responses can be rudimentary at best. Nevertheless, this technology is a leap in that direction.

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Rumors are that this machine can even process jokes and suggest appropriate responses to them!

Welcome to the future! Comment here and let us know what you think. Fascinating use of technology or unnecessary AI intervention?

Google AI
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Apple’s new emojis

Along with the much anticipated release of iOS 9.1 for iPhone and iPad – and its whole deck of tech specs – Apple appealed to wider range of audiences by releasing 184 new emoji characters. Texting is now easy and fun-filled with emojis for robots, unicorns, hot dogs, burritos, a nerd-bunny face and a super cute sick-face emoji. My personal favorite is the Sherlock icon. If you aren’t already updated about the new emojis, do checkout the emojipedia and let us know which ones are your favorites!

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Screening Scholarship Media Festival 2016

We are excited to announce the call for submissions for ​camra’s ​4th​ annual Screening Scholarship Media Festival. We’ve collaborated with camra for a while, and they are co-sponsoring our annual faculty symposium. In 2013, we shared student work from Lisa Mitchell’s South Asia Studies class at SSMF.  We love their focus on multimedia for expression of ideas

This year’s festival, on April 1-2, 2016, has the theme of “Race, Media and Social Justice.” ​camra welcomes innovative submissions exhibiting original work that either engages with how racial difference and its attendant intersectionalities are constructed within a particular national or local context, or work that engages with a careful analysis and critique of mainstream and new media coverage of race and racialized thinking as it materializes in everyday life.

Please visit the camra website to learn more about the theme and various categories of submission, and submit your materials before November 15.

Check out our latest workshops or request a consultation session to help with your submissions!

Also take a look back at what happened in SSMF 2015, 2014, 2013.

Working with High-Res Media on Social Networking Websites

When you upload high resolution media on a social networking website or send it to a friend on an instant messenger, the applications reduce the quality of the media to a lower resolution in order to save storage space on servers. Facebook is no stranger to this tactic.

However, if you want to upload a full resolution image on Facebook, there is a way to work around this. According to Facebook, images that are at least 2048 pixels wide are not affected, apparently. When uploading pictures on Facebook, it is helpful to select “Create Photos Album” and check off  the “High Quality” box before uploading, and you’re all set.


Instagram also now allows users to upload images larger than 640 X 640 pixels.

Here is an interesting comparison of the media upload sizes on different social media websites like Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.

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Task your 3D mind to win these 3D challenges

As you might have noticed, the last couple of posts of mine have been about 3D printing and obviously this one is too. I just cannot stop my fascination with the subject. This morning, I found this page about 3D challenges. The news is too good to keep to myself, although sharing it could potentially put me at a disadvantage by decreasing the odds of getting my own MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer !

There you go! If you did not know it already, you can own a 3D printer – all you have to do is put your imagination to work and we can print out your creation at the Education Commons. Go Brains!

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3D printers and Science

One fine day, a friend, Jon, came up to me with a 3D print request. He wanted to print out parts to help in some of his experiments. I asked him to explain and here are his plans for with the printed parts.

A thin film is typically a very thin layer of advanced materials which is generally found in household electronics, batteries and other everyday use items like mirror having a silvered coat on the back, reflection coats on window panes, compact or digital versatile discs, tapes, touch phone screens etc.

Jon was trying to perform tests on a new structure, for which the testing machines in the lab were not suitable. So, he wanted to create a customized interface between the the testing machines to and the new material. That is where the 3D printers came in. He printed out a few parts and tried this out.


Sounds exciting. I hope it works!

Our bots print in 3D!

I am getting increasingly fascinated by the work our 3D printers at Education Commons have been contributing to.

3D printing is a truly disruptive and a revolutionary technology. They break down complex pieces of art into a fascinating assembly of simple units. Elements that have been beyond the reach of a good manufacturing process, 3D printing makes very much feasible, easy and cheap in terms of infrastructure.  I’ve been studying the mechanics behind this particular gem and discovered the extensive applications for this technology.

In 3D printing, the ink (a plastic material – some are biodegradable materials and others are not) is heated to very high temperatures. It turns into a semi solid state and is forced out through a very small nozzle. Once outside the nozzle, this ink solidifies on the printer plate. Over time, structures are made by progressively adding small amounts of material over the solidified ink.

Aerospace industry uses 3D printing in making pats of airplanes. In New York, a fashion designer launched her collection last year in 3D printed fabric and clothes. Prosthetic limbs, engineered tissues, scaffolds are being made using a 3D printer! I am so much more thrilled to just see how the landscape is going to change in the future.

Meanwhile, here at Penn, I have seen students make use of the printers to make usable parts for various scientific experiments. We’ve printed keepsakes, cheer plates, a bust of Stalin, Honeycomb structure, switch, miniature tables, houses, nameplates, cups, chains, a flower pot, a pen stand and a key ring so far.

So, have you used our Makerbot printers yet? What are you going to print? Write to us if you would like to use the printers for your projects.

For more information about how to request a print job on the Makerbots check out our 3D printing page.

Check out our latest jobs on Penn Libraries Flickr Album.