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Heroes

What tricks does Pixar use to make us cry? This AI might know.

It’s not unusual for something made or written on a computer to be able to make you sad.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a somber, melancholy game about dealing with loss and defeat, for instance, and computer-generated Pixar characters — like Bing Bong in "Inside Out" and Hector in "Coco," for example — have made audiences cry for years.

[rebelmouse-image 19476752 dam="1" original_size="500x275" caption="Truly, 'tis like Hamlet. GIF from Disney/Pixar's "Inside Out."" expand=1]Truly, 'tis like Hamlet. GIF from Disney/Pixar's "Inside Out."


But even though they were made on a computer, behind each of those emotional moments were human beings — be they musicians, directors, actors, or designers. In 2016, a computer wrote the "Sunspring" short film, but, well, it's a really interesting experiment but not the most inspiring story ever told.

In the future, though, a computer might be able to break your heart all on its own. Or at least offer its thoughts on how to do it best.

And the benefit for us? Better movies.

Researchers from MIT’s Lab for Social Machines and McKinsey’s Consumer Tech and Media Team recently taught artificial intelligence to identify emotional moments in popular movies and dissect exactly which lines of dialogue, musical cues, or visuals tugged at the viewers' heartstrings.

This, for example, is how the computer perceived the opening sequence of Pixar’s "Up." The high points represent happier moments while the troughs represent sadder ones.

The researchers taught the AI how to do this by asking volunteers to review thousands of movie sequences then write down their emotions and the triggering moments. The researchers translated this into numbers the computer could understand.

According to researchers, the long-term goal is to create intelligence that can help human filmmakers by suggesting specific shots, lines of dialogue, or musical cues as they’re making the film. Imagine something akin to Microsoft's Clippy saying, "It looks like you’re writing a touching death scene between the protagonist and their mother. Maybe don't go with a chiptune cover of 'All About That Bass' as the background music?"

Though some have reacted to the news with warnings about some pretty science-fiction-esque implications, I, for one, welcome anything that brings robots closer to feeling human emotions. After all, if we have to suffer, so should they.

And if you personally feel like having a trip down the ol' feels-trip lane, we've oh-so-helpfully provided the "Up" official trailer below. Enjoy.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

Because you're a girl.

This article originally appeared on 04.14.17


I was promoted a few weeks ago, which was great. I got a lot of nice notes from friends, family, customers, partners, and random strangers, which was exciting.

But it wasn't long until a note came in saying, “Everyone knows you got the position because you're a girl." In spite of having a great week at a great company with great people whom I love, that still stung, because it's not the first time I've heard it.

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Identity

This blind chef wore a body cam to show how she prepares dazzling dishes.

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Image pulled from YouTube video.

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This article originally appeared on 05.26.17


There is one question chef Christine Ha fields more than any other.

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The question: "How do you cook while blind?"

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I have plenty of space.

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Most dads know what it's like to struggle with braiding hair, but we also know that bonding time provides immense value to our daughters. In fact, studies have shown that women with actively involved fathers are more confident and more successful in school and business.

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From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.3 million people were deported to Auschwitz, the largest complex of Nazi concentration camps. More than four out of five of those people—at least 1.1 million people—were murdered there.

On January 27, 1945, Soviet forces liberated the final prisoners from these camps—7,000 people, most of whom were sick or dying. Those of us with a decent public education are familiar with at least a few names of Nazi extermination facilities—Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen—but these are merely a few of the thousands (yes, thousands) of concentration camps, sub camps, and ghettos spread across Europe where Jews and other targets of Hitler's regime were persecuted, tortured, and killed by the millions.

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Health

What I realized about feminism after my male friend was disgusted by tampons at a party.

"After all these years, my friend has probably forgotten, but I never have."

Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

It’s okay men. You don’t have to be afraid.

This article originally appeared on 08.12.16


Years ago, a friend went to a party, and something bothered him enough to rant to me about it later.

And it bothered me that he was so incensed about it, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It seemed so petty for him to be upset, and even more so for me to be annoyed with him.

Recently, something reminded me of that scenario, and it made more sense. I'll explain.

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