Computer paints a "new Rembrandt" and prints it in 3D

The Next Rembrandt is an original portrait created with machine learning algorithms trained using the Dutch master's works. The resulting image isn't a plain old bitmap, either, but a fully three-dimensional artifact built with scans of real paintings' brushstrokes and protrusions.

"We really wanted to understand what makes a face look like a Rembrandt," Emmanuel Flores, director of technology for the project, told the BBC.

After they had been digitally tagged by humans, data on Rembrandt's paintings was gathered by computers which discovered patterns in how the Dutch master would, for example, characteristically shape a subject's eyes in his portraits.

Then, machine-learning algorithms were developed which could output a new portrait mirroring Rembrandt's style.

To limit the many possible results to a specific type of individual, the computer was asked to produce a portrait of a Caucasian male between the ages of 30 and 40, with facial hair, wearing black clothes with a white collar and a hat, facing to the right.

The involvement of human artists in the final work is unequivocally denied: "humans didn't decide the final look and feel of the final portrait - they simply chose algorithms based on their efficiency and let the computer come up with the finished result."

The suggestion of emergent brilliance from the machine, then, is quite exciting. That said, there are an awful lot of Rembrandt portraits in exactly this strictly-composed style – a good place to get started.

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What's the programming language for you?

The simple online questionnaire at bestprogramminglanguagefor.me will help starting-out programmers pick the right language for the job. It's not really for beginners who know absolutely nothing of code (start with javascript!) but more a guide to what tools are popular for what purposes and, hence, where all the free googlable help will be. Read the rest

Dell's making great laptops again

It might not be a huge surprise, in the big scheme of things, but Dell's return to private ownership brought focus to its laptop designs and it is seeing growth in places formerly filled only with doom.

Mark Walton explains:

Going private, Dell claimed, would help the company plough more money into R&D, and create better products for consumer and business alike. Three years on, and Dell's strategy may finally be coming to fruition. At this year's CES it unveiled a new line of business notebooks and tablets under its Latitude brand. They sport premium materials like carbon fibre tops and magnesium alloy chassis, and much thinner and lighter designs. Crucially, they continue to feature the strong encryption, wireless tech, and remote management services demanded by IT managers. Finally, Dell has a desirable set of business notebooks.

If you're in the market for a Windows laptop, Dell's thin-bezel models are my faves right now. Check out the new Latitude 7370, a work-harder version of last year's lighter but slighter XPS 13. Their monitors are excellent. too. Read the rest

The computer, tool of capitalism

An unforced mistake of Stalin's Soviet Union: to condemn the computer as a capitalist tool and pour scorn on "cynernetics", dooming official work to the shadows.

Working with computers required special care: One had to avoid using any suspicious cybernetic terms. Even the phrase “logical operations” was risky, because it might be interpreted as implying that machines could think. Instead of “computer memory,” researchers used the more neutral, technical term, “storage.” “Information” was replaced by “data,” and “information theory” by the convoluted expression “the statistical theory of electrical signal transmission with noise.” A joke about Stalin’s henchman, Beria, who was responsible for the nuclear weapons program, became popular. Beria comes to his boss and asks permission to use the notorious field of cybernetics for military purposes. Stalin puffs on his pipe and says, “Okay, but just please make sure the other Politburo members don’t find out.”

Bonus: Now you know what the deal was with Dune. Despite Stalin's death improving matters for the thinking machines, everyday users in Russia were still puttering along on rickety clones 25 years later. Read the rest