Google Launches Free Course on Deep Learning: The Science of Teaching Computers How to Teach Themselves

Last Friday, we mentioned how Google's artificial intelligence software DeepMind has the ability to teach itself many things. It can teach itself how to walk, jump and run. Even take professional pictures. Or defeat the world's best player of the Chinese strategy game, Go. The science of teaching computers how to do things is called Deep Learning. And you can now immerse yourself in this world by taking a free, 3-month course on Deep Learning itself. Offered through Udacity, the course is taught by Vincent Vanhoucke, the technical lead in Google's Brain team. You can learn more about the course via Vanhoucke's blog post. Or just enroll here. (You will need to create an account with Udacity to get started.)

The free course takes about 3 months to complete. It will be added to our list of Free Computer Sciences courses, a subset of our larger collection,  1,250 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Google Creates a Digital Archive of World Fashion: Features 30,000 Images, Covering 3,000 Years of Fashion History

Both the fashion and art worlds foster the creation of rarified artifacts inaccessible to the majority of people, often one-of-a-kind pieces that exist in specially-designed spaces and flourish in cosmopolitan cities. Does this mean that fashion is an art form like, say, painting or photography? Doesn’t fashion’s ephemeral nature mark it as a very different activity? We might consider that we can ask many of the same questions of haute couture as we can of fine art. What are the social consequences of taking folk art forms, for example, out of their cultural context and placing them in gallery spaces? What is the effect of tapping street fashion as inspiration for the runway, turning it into objects of consumption for the wealthy?

Such questions should remind us that fashion and the arts are embedded in human cultural and economic history in some very similar ways. But they are also very different social practices. Much like trends in food (both fine dining and cheap consumables) fashion has long been implicated in the spread of markets and industries, labor exploitation, environmental degradation, and even microbes. As Jason Daley points out at Smithsonian, “The craze for silk in ancient Rome helped spawn the Silk Road, a fashion for feathered hats contributed to the first National Wildlife Refuges. Fashion has even been wrapped up in pandemics and infectious diseases.




So how to tell the story of a human activity so deeply embedded in every facet of world history? Expansively. Google Arts & Culture has attempted to do so with its “We wear culture” project. Promising to tell “the stories behind what we wear,” the project, as you can see in the teaser video at the top, “travelled to over 40 countries, collaborating with more than 180 cultural institutions and their world-renowned historians and curators to bring their textile and fashion collections to life.” Covering 3,000 years of history, “We wear culture” uses video, historical images, short quotes and blurbs, and fashion photography to create a series of online gallery exhibits of, for example, “The Icons," profiles of designers like Oscar de la Renta, Coco Chanel, and Issey Miyake.

Another exhibit “Fashion as Art” includes a feature on Florence’s Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a gallery dedicated to the famous designer and containing 10,000 models of shoes he created or owned. Asking the question “is fashion art?”, the exhibit “analyses the forms of dialogue between these two worlds: reciprocal inspirations, overlaps and collaborations, from the experiences of the Pre-Raphaelites to those of Futurism, and from Surrealism to Radical Fashion.” It’s a wonder they don’t mention the Bauhaus school, many of whose resident artists radicalized fashion design, though their geometric oddities seem to have had little effect on Ferragamo.

As you might expect, the emphasis here is on high fashion, primarily. When it comes to telling the stories of how most people in the world have experienced fashion, Google adopts a very European, supply side, perspective, one in which “The impact of fashion,” as one exhibit is called, spans categories “from the economy and job creation, to helping empower communities.” Non-European clothing makers generally appear as anonymous folk artisans and craftspeople who serve the larger goal of providing materials and inspiration for the big names.

Cultural historians may lament the lack of critical or scholarly perspectives on popular culture, the distinct lack of other cultural points of view, and the intense focus on trends and personalities. But perhaps to do so is to miss the point of a project like this one—or of the fashion world as a whole. As with fine art, the stories of fashion are often all about trends and personalities, and about materials and market forces.

To capitalize on that fact, “We wear culture” has a number of interactive, 360 degree videos on its YouTube page, as well as short, advertising-like videos, like that above on ripped jeans, part of a series called “Trends Decoded.” Kate Lauterbach, the program manager at Google Arts & Culture, highlights the videos below on the Google blog (be aware, the interactive feature will not work in Safari).

Does the project yet deliver on its promise, to “tell the stories behind what we wear”? That all depends, I suppose, on who “we” are. It is a very valuable resource for students of high fashion, as well as “a pleasant way to lose an afternoon,” writes Marc Bain at Quartz, one that “may give you a new understanding of what’s hanging in your own closet.”

We wear culture” features 30,000 fashion pieces and more than 450 exhibits. Start browsing here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Learn Python: A Free Online Course from Google

Google has created a free Python class designed for "people with a little bit of programming experience who want to learn Python." A fortunate thing since Python is a computer language that's now strongly in demand. (By the way, did you know that Python takes its name from Monty Python? A true story.)

According to Google's course description:

The class includes "written materials, lecture videos, and lots of code exercises to practice Python coding. These materials are used within Google to introduce Python to people who have just a little programming experience. The first exercises work on basic Python concepts like strings and lists, building up to the later exercises which are full programs dealing with text files, processes, and http connections. The class is geared for people who have a little bit of programming experience in some language, enough to know what a "variable" or "if statement" is. Beyond that, you do not need to be an expert programmer to use this material.

This material was created by Nick Parlante working in the engEDU group at Google. Google's Python class will be added to our list of Free Online Computer Science Courses, a subset of our larger collection, 1,250 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.




For anyone interested in an introductory programming course that uses Python, see: Introduction to Computer Science and Programming: A Free Course from MIT.

Other outfits offering free instruction in Python include UdacityCodecademy, and Coursera.

(Note: Coursera has a five-course series call Python for Everyone from the University of Michigan, which you might want to check out. It costs $79.)

If you're looking for a generally well-reviewed textbook, consider Learning Python, 5th edition (from O'Reilly Media.

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If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Google Gives You a 360° View of the Performing Arts, From the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Paris Opera Ballet

We've long been able to read books online. More recently, the internet has also become a favored distribution system for movies, and certainly we've all heard more than enough about the effects of downloading and streaming on the music industry. No new technology can quite substitute, yet, for a visit to the museum, but as we've often posted about here, many of the museums themselves have gone ahead and made their paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts viewable in great detail online. At this point, will the experience of any art form at all remain unavailable to us on the internet?

Not long ago, I would have named any of the performing arts, but the brains at the Google Cultural Institute have now got around to those most living of all forms as well. The New York Times' Michael Cooper writes of our newfound ability, through a series of 360-degree videos, to "stand, virtually, on the stage of the Palais Garnier, among the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet," " journey to Stratford-upon-Avon, where you can try to keep up with a frenetic Alex Hassell of the Royal Shakespeare Company as Henry V, exhorting his troops to go 'once more unto the breach,'" or "go onstage at Carnegie Hall, where the video places you smack in the middle of the Philadelphia Orchestra as it plays a rousing 'In the Hall of the Mountain King.'"




These come as part of a virtual exhibition involving "an innovative assemblage of performing arts groups" that went live earlier this month at the Google Cultural Institute's site. The organizations, now more than 60 in total, include not just the Paris Opera, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Carnegie Hall, but the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna State Opera, the American Ballet Theater, the American Museum of Magic, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Opera, and the Rome Opera. You can find the performances neatly divided into categories: Music, OperaTheatre, Dance, and Performance Art.

Google's blog describes some of the technology behind all this, including the 360-degree performance recordings, the "indoor Street View imagery" of the grand venues where many of the performances happen, and the "ultra-high resolution Gigapixel" images available for your scrutiny. When you play the video above of the Philadelphia Orchestra, you can click and drag to view the performance from every possible angle from your vantage right there in the midst of the musicians. I can't imagine what the Google Cultural Institute will come up with next, but surely it won't be long before we can see things from the Black Swan's point of view.

You can start exploring the 360s performances here.

via The New York Times/Google

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinemaand the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future? Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Climb Virtually Up “El Capitan,” Yosemite’s Iconic Rock Wall, With Google Street View

Google has used its Street View technology to let you take virtual tours of some far-flung places -- places like Shackleton’s Antarctic, Mt. Everest and other high mountain peaks, The Amazon River, and The Grand Canyon. Now you can add to the list, El Capitan, the iconic rock wall in the middle of Yosemite National Park.

Yesterday, Google's official blog declared, "Today we’re launching our first-ever vertical Street View collection, giving you the opportunity to climb 3,000 feet up the world’s most famous rock wall: Yosemite’s El Capitan. To bring you this new imagery, we partnered with legendary climbers Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell." Above, you can see this trio in action, talking about what makes El Cap a mecca for rock climbers everywhere.

To create this Street View of El Capitan, Hill, Honnold and Caldwell worked with Google engineers to figure out how to haul a camera up this sheer rock face. And what you ultimately get are some amazing 360-degree panoramic images. According to Caldwell, these "are the closest thing I’ve ever witnessed to actually being thousands of feet up a vertical rock face—better than any video or photo." Which, hating heights, is good enough for me.

via Google Blog

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

Do Not Track: Interactive Film Series Reveals the Personal Information You’re Giving Away on the Web

If Facebook knows everything about you, it’s because you handed it the keys to your kingdom.  You posted a photo, liked a favorite childhood TV show, and willingly volunteered your birthday. In other words, you handed it all the data it needs to annoy you with targeted advertising.

(In my case, it’s an ancient secret that helped a middle aged mom shave 5 inches off her waistline. Let me save you a click: acai berries.)

Filmmaker Brett Gaylor (a “lefty Canadian dad who reads science fiction) seeks to set the record straight regarding the web economy’s impact on personal privacy.

Watching his interactive documentary web series, Do Not Track, you’ll inevitably arrive at a crossroads where you must decide whether or not to share your personal information. No biggie, right? It’s what happens every time you consent to “log in with Facebook.”

Every time you choose this convenience, you’re allowing Google and other big time trackers to stick a harpoon (aka cookie) in your side. Swim all you want, little fishy. You’re not exactly getting away, particularly if you’re logged in with a mobile device with a compulsion to reveal your whereabouts.

You say you have nothing to hide? Bully for you! What you may not have considered is the impact your digital easy-breeziness has on friends. Your network. And vice versa. Tag away!

In this arena, every “like”---from an acquaintance’s recently launched organic skincare line to Star Trek---helps trackers build a surprisingly accurate portrait, one that can be used to determine how insurable you are, how worthy of a loan. Gender and age aren’t the only factors that matter here. So does your demonstrated extraversion, your degree of openness.

(Ha ha, and you thought it cost you nothing to “like” that acquaintance’s smelly strawberry-scented moisturizer!)

To get the most out of Do Not Track, you’ll want to supply its producers with your email address on your first visit. It’s a little counter-intuitive, given the subject matter, but doing so will provide you with a unique configuration that promises to lift the veil on what the trackers know about you.

What does it say about me that I couldn’t get my Facebook log-in to work? How disappointing that this failure meant I would be viewing results tailored to Episode 3’s star, German journalist Richard Gutjahr?

(Your profile… says that your age is 42 and your gender is male. But the real gold mine is your Facebook data over time. By analyzing the at least 129 things you have liked on Facebook, we have used our advanced algorithm techniques to assess your personality and have found you scored highest in Openness which indicates you are creative, imaginative, and adventurous. Our personality evaluation system uses Psycho-demographic trait predictions powered by the Apply Magic Sauce API developed at the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre.)

I think the takeaway is that I am not too on top of my privacy settings. And why would I be? I’m an extrovert with nothing to hide, except my spending habits, browsing history, race, age, marital status…

Should we take a tip from our high school brethren, who evade the scrutiny of college admissions counselors by adopting some ridiculous, evocative pseudonym? Expect upcoming episodes of Do Not Track to help us navigate these and other digital issues.

Tune in to Do Not Track here. You can find episodes 1, 2 and 3 currently online. Episodes 4-6 will roll out between May 12 and June 9.

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Ayun Halliday an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine invites you to look into her very soul @AyunHalliday

Take a Virtual Tour of Robben Island Where Nelson Mandela and Other Apartheid Opponents Were Jailed

Ted Mills recently told you all about the Google-powered virtual tour of Abbey Road Studios. What shouldn't go without mention is the new, Google-powered virtual tour of Robben Island -- "the island where Nelson Mandela and many of South Africa’s freedom fighters were imprisoned during their quest for equality." Along with over 3,000 political prisoners, Nelson Mandela spent 18 years imprisoned here, much of the time confined to a 8 x 7 foot prison cell. (Don't forget Mandela also spent another nine years in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison.)

All of the Robben Island tours are conducted by ex-prisoners. On the new virtual tour, you will encounter Vusumsi Mcongo (see above), a member of the anti-Apartheid movement who was jailed on Robben Island from 1978 to 1990.

You can start the tour of the maximum security prison and UNESCO World Heritage Site here.

via Google

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn and  share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

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