The Million Dollar Programming Prize

Netflix’s bounty for improving its movie-recommendation software is almost in the bag. Here is one team’s account

9 min read
Photo of trophy.
Image: Randi Silberman

photo of trophy Image: Randi Silberman

It’s 7:50 p.m. on 1 October 2007 at AT&T Labs, in Florham Park, N.J., and three of us are frantically hitting the “refresh” buttons on our browsers. We have just submitted our latest entry in the year-old Netflix Prize competition, which offers a grand prize of US $1 million for an algorithm that’s 10 percent more accurate than the one Netflix uses to predict customers’ movie preferences. Although we have not reached that milestone, we are hoping at least to do better than anyone else has done so far; if we can make it to 8 p.m. with the best score, we’ll win a $50 000 Progress Prize. For most of the summer we’d been ahead of our nearest rivals by a comfortable margin, and as recently as 36 hours before this moment, our victory still seemed to be a slam dunk.

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Print an Arduino-Powered Color Mechanical Television

Anyone with a 3D printer can make a new twist on the oldest type of TV

5 min read
A disk with a spiral of holes is mounted on a motor. Buttons and switches form a control panel below it.

Early 2020s 3D printing meets late 1920s mechanical television.

James Provost

Before flat screens, before even cathode-ray tubes, people watched television programs at home thanks to the Nipkow disk. Ninety years ago in places like England and Germany, broadcasters transmitted to commercially produced black-and-white electromechanical television sets, such as the Baird Televisor, that used these disks to produce moving images. This early programming established many of the formats we take for granted today, such as variety shows and outside broadcasts.

The size and weight of a Nipkow disk makes a display with more than a few dozen scan lines impracticable (in stark contrast to modern screens with thousands of lines). But when a mechanical TV is fed a moving image, the result is surprisingly watchable. And Nipkow displays are fascinating in their simplicity—no high voltages or complex matrices. So I wondered: What was the easiest way to build such a display that would produce a good quality image?

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World Builders Put Happy Face On Superintelligent AI

The Future of Life Institute’s contest counters today’s dystopian doomscapes

4 min read
A cityscape ensconced in an iridescent dome of light and shapes.
Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty Images

One of the biggest challenges in a world-building competition that asked teams to imagine a positive future with superintelligent AI: Make it plausible.

The Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on existential threats to humanity, organized the contest and is offering a hefty prize purse of up to US $140,000, to be divided among multiple winners. Last week FLI announced the 20 finalists from 144 entries, and the group will declare the winners on 15 June.

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Harnessing the Power of Innovation Intelligence

Through case studies and data visualizations, this webinar will show you how to leverage IP and scientific data analytics to identify emerging business opportunities

1 min read
Clarivate
Clarivate

Business and R&D leaders have to make consequential strategic decisions every day in a global marketplace that continues to get more interconnected and complex. Luckily, the job can be more manageable and efficient by leveraging IP and scientific data analytics. Register for this free webinar now!

Join us for the webinar, Harnessing the power of innovation intelligence, to hear Clarivate experts discuss how analyzing IP data, together with scientific content and industry-specific data, can provide organization-wide situational awareness and reveal valuable business insights.

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