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Disney’s new chatty toys patent

April 26th, 2021

As Disney’s newly awarded US patent 10,981,073 (April 20th, 2021) points out :

“Toys and characters often have prerecorded phrases or audio effects that can be played to increase the immersion for users who interact with the character. For example, some toys have pull strings, push buttons, and the like that triggers one or more prerecorded sound effects.”

The new aspect of the invention is that the toys no longer just ‘talk’ to their human companions – they can now chat amongst themselves too. And tell each other jokes.

See : Localized and standalone semi-randomized character conversations

Note: The patent document has some nice examples of somewhat-longer-than-normal sentences – which, for reasons not yet entirely clear, are much beloved of patent document compilers. For example :

“A method comprising: determining to output audio based on receiving, by a first device, a first input signal; responsive to determining to output audio, selecting, by the first device, a first communication pattern from a plurality of communication patterns, wherein each respective communication pattern of the plurality of communication patterns specifies a respective plurality of audio profiles, and wherein the first communication pattern, when selected, has no association with any particular audio file and is selected without reference to any particular audio file and with at least a degree of randomness; identifying, by the first device, a first audio profile specified in the first communication pattern, wherein the first audio profile specifies a first length of time and is not associated with any particular audio file; subsequent to selecting the first communication pattern, selecting, by the first device, a first audio file from a plurality of audio files, wherein the first audio file, when selected, has no association with the first communication pattern and is selected without reference to the first communication pattern and with at least a degree of randomness; extracting, by the first device, with at least a degree of randomness, from the first audio file, a first portion of audio corresponding to the specified first length of time; modifying, by the first device, the first portion of audio based on the first audio profile; outputting, by the first device, the first modified portion of audio; determining to output additional audio based on receiving, by the first device, a second input signal; and outputting, by the first device, a second modified portion of audio generated based at least in part on a second audio profile in the first communication pattern.”

Research research by Martin Gardiner

In short, how to take a group photo with no blinks

April 24th, 2021

Every Ig Nobel Prize celebrates something that makes people laugh, then think—each is a good, true, short story. An organization called Short Story, in South Korea, made this short video that tells the story of the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize for mathematics :

The 2006 Ig Nobel Prize for mathematics was awarded to Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed.

They described that research, in the report “Blink-Free Photos, Guaranteed,” Velocity, June 2006,

The Height of Policing

April 22nd, 2021

The higher one stands skeletally, the higher one is likely to rise in rank, if one is officially part of Dutch policing, suggests this study:

Effect of Self-reported Height on Occupational Rank Among Police Officers: Especially for Women it Pays to be Tall,” Abraham P. Buunk, (pictured here), Gert Stulp, and Wilmar B. Schaufeli, Evolutionary Psychological Science, epub 2021.

The authors, at the University of Groningen, KU Leuven, and Utrecht University, explain:

“This study among 725 male and 247 female police officers from The Netherlands examined the association between self-reported height and occupational rank from the perspective of sexual selection. Male and female police officers were taller than the average population. A larger percentage of women than of men was found in the lowest ranks, but in the leadership positions, there was a similar percentage of women as of men. Overall, but especially among women, height was linearly associated with occupational rank: the taller one was, the higher one’s rank.”

The graph you see here comes with this explanation: “Percentage of women and of men in the various ranks. The percentages refer to the percentage within each sex in a given rank. Numbers in white represent sample sizes in each rank.”

Study Hints that Low Viagra Price Enlivens Men in Sweden

April 22nd, 2021

Cheap thrills save lives, some might infer from this new study:

Sildenafil and Suicide in Sweden,” Ralph Catalano, Sidra Goldman-Mellor, Tim A. Bruckner, and Terry Hartig, European Journal of Epidemiology, epub 2021. (Thanks to Staffan Yngve for bringing this to our attention.)

Here’s a plot of data from the study, which comes with the explanation “Observed (points) and expected (line) suicides among Swedish men aged 50–59 for 120 months beginning January 2005 and ending December 2014 (first 6 months of expected values lost to modeling). Lower than expected sequence of observed suicides marked with ‘X’ “:

The authors, at Uppsala University; and at the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Merced; and the University of California, Irvine, explain:

We use an intent-to-treat design, implemented via interrupted time-series methods, to test the hypothesis that the monthly incidence of suicide, a societally important distal measure of mental health in a population, decreased among Swedish men aged 50–59 after July 2013 when patent rights to sildenafil (i.e., Viagra) ceased, prices fell, and its use increased dramatically….

Consistent with the argument that suicides fell below expected values after the introduction of relatively inexpensive sildenafil, the differences between expected and observed values appear increasingly negative in the last 18 months.

The Apostrophe’s Greatest Champion Has Died

April 22nd, 2021

Sad news from Boston, England: John Richards, Ig Nobel Prize-winning founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society, has died. He taught the world that proofreading is a form of moral philosophy.

David Seymour reports, in the Boston Standard:

Tribute paid to Boston man and founder of internationally famous Apostrophe Protection Society following his death, aged 97

The family of a Boston man who achieved international fame as a grammatical crusader have paid tribute to his memory following his death.

The Apostrophe Protection Society itself has published a tribute to its founder. That tribute includes exactly one apostrophe (as does the headline on the blog item which you are reading at this moment).

The 2001 Ig Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to John Richards of Boston, England, founder of The Apostrophe Protection Society, for his efforts to protect, promote, and defend the differences between plural and possessive.

UPDATE: (April 25, 2021) The Washington Post reports: “Mr. Richards’s efforts in behalf of the apostrophe did not go without recognition. In 2001, he received the Ig Nobel Prize for literature — bestowed at Harvard University by the satirical journal the Annals of Improbable Research — and in 2015, he was featured in a calendar printed by the Dull Men’s Club of Britain. (The model for another month showed off his collection of orange traffic cones.)”

Improbable Research