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Make Valentine’s Day weird with machine-generated candy hearts

Computers are doing all kinds of wild stuff these days thanks to the power of neural networks and machine learning. They’re defeating Go champions, fixing Henry Cavill’s mustache in post, and writing extremely weird Christmas songs. Speaking of holidays, researchers have pointed a neural network at the second most romantic of all holidays, Valentine’s Day.

Sure, you could get candy hearts that say UR COOL and BE MINE. Or if you’re Colorado-based researcher Janelle Shane, you could hand out candy hearts that say SWEAT POO and BEAR WIG. And FANG.

Shane fed 360 different candy heart messages into the software she uses to see if computers could get the hang of the sort of quick, short messages we print onto candy hearts and come up with something fresh.

“The neural network tried its best to imitate these candy heart messages, but the vocabulary was tough to learn,” Shane told NPR. In addition to the intensely romantic SWEAT POO were a few options a bit closer to the traditional expectation, like LOVE BUN, CUTE KISS, and YOU ARE BABE. It strayed further with STANK LOVE, and then went full deepdream with those other ones. Personally, I’d rather get a candy heart that said YOU ARE BAG on it than another XOXO one.

Shane told NPR that she’s pointed her software at other short naming schemes like paint swatch colors, and that the program was “not very good at those, either.”

This project highlights just how far neural networks have to go, and gives us a better idea of what they’re bad at. The nuance of language is difficult for neural networks. When you start digging into slang the more imaginative edges of language, where context and cultural awareness matter, things fall apart. So maybe we don’t have to worry about the machines taking over.

But then again, there’s this:

So who knows.

These candy hearts aren’t available this year, so don’t sweat your boring, mundane ones, but Shane said she’s thinking about printing some for next year.

The most romantic holiday, of course, is Arbor Day.

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Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...


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