Tea & Testing ☕️🎮

On Monday 14 October, games students from across the department came together for our very first ‘Tea & Testing’ session.

Created by games lecturer Alan Zucconi, the event is an opportunity for students in different years and on different courses to test out their games, and explore the games that are being made by their fellow students. What’s more, there’s tea and biscuits, an important part of the testing process.

As a bonus addition to the first session, a guest visitor was invited.
Award-winning game developer Alan Hazelden came along to get some feedback on a new game he is developing. The room was buzzing and many different weird and wonderful games were played, and plenty of chatting and mingling alongside.

The event highlighted that alcohol isn’t a necessary ingredient for testing sessions. Alan Zucconi said “Most social events that give students an opportunity to playtest their games tend to revolve around pubs, which are rarely accessible and not always promoters of an inclusive environment.

“The people who don’t feel comfortable in those environments are the ones we need to hear the most. The idea to switch to tea instead is to provide students with a safer and more inclusive space.”

If you’re interested in attending the next session – either because you have a game you would like to playtest, or because you want to play some games – the next sessions are….

  • Goldsmiths library, 3pm-6pm Friday 8 November
  • Room 219, Whitehead Building, 5pm-7pm Monday 25 November

Hacksmiths: Ethics in modern AI

Goldsmiths’ student-run tech society, Hacksmiths are running a day of talks about the ways in which ethics are considered and ignored in modern applications of Artificial Intelligence.

When: 11am-2pm, Saturday 12 October 2019
Where: St James Hatcham Building, Goldsmiths. Map
Tickets: Free on eventbrite

Technology is ingrained in most of our lives. So why is it that only a small fraction of us understand how our everyday choices are being steered by others, and the systems they create?

Whether it’s who Facebook is telling you to vote for, or what Amazon is telling you to buy, democracy and freedom are being tested. Academic experts give us their insight on why we should be embedding ethics into Artificial Intelligence in 2019.

11.30am: Professor Stuart Russell
Stuart’s research on the history and future of Artificial Intelligence and its relation to humanity includes machine learning, probabilistic reasoning, knowledge representation, real-time decision making, multitarget tracking, computer vision, inverse reinforcement learning, and the movement to ban the manufacture and use of autonomous weapons.

Prof Stuart Russell

Stuart was born in Portsmouth, England. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with first-class honours in Physics from the University of Oxford where he was an undergraduate student at Wadham College in 1982, and his PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1986.

12.30pm: Dr Dan McQuillan on Post-austerity AI
This talk will not focus on the long term future of AI but on the political and social damage that will flow from the AI we already have. It will describe the way its concrete operations of optimisation and prediction lead to thoughtlessness, epistemic injustice and segregation, and how that resonates with the wider politics of austerity and the rise of the far right. The talk will propose a route to an alternative AI based on feminist technology studies and forms of direct democracy such as people’s councils. It will call for an approach to AI in the here and now that puts matters of care at its core, and that recomposes the very idea of AI as computation in the service of togetherness.

Dr Dan McQuillan

Dan is a Lecturer in Creative and Social Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London. After a PhD in Experimental Particle Physics, he worked with people with learning disabilities and mental health problems, and was Digital Director for Amnesty International.

12.50pm: Dr Kate Devlin
Kate is Senior Lecturer in Social and Cultural Artificial Intelligence at King’s College London, where she researches how society reacts to technological change.

Dr Kate Devlin

Her book, Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots (Bloomsbury, 2018) has received wide acclaim.

She campaigns for gender equality in tech, and has recently been elected as a Director of the Open Rights Group. She tweets far too often as @drkatedevlin.

1.10pm: Q&A
1.50pm: Stuart’s book signing for Human Compatible: AI and the Problem of Control

World’s smallest escape room induces claustrophobia and dread

METRO newspaper reported this week on Goldsmiths Computing student George Larkwright’s coffin-like escape room, which exhibited at the MA Playable Experiences degree show. We reproduce it here…

Why spend your weekend watching TV or drinking in a pub when you could be locked in a small box, trying desperately to escape?

We live in a time when ‘fun’ includes pretending to be in prison, smashing TVs, and choosing to go into horribly stressful situations, and so it makes total sense that someone has created the world’s smallest escape room, measuring 120cm by 70cm by 50cm.

Just like any other escape room, the idea behind The Subject (that’s the official name of the room) is to work hard and figure out clues in order to break free. Unlike your average escape room, there are no padlocked doors and dark corridors. Instead, there’s just a box.

The Subject is the creation of Goldsmiths student George Larkwright, 24, who wanted to create a truly disturbing escape room experience to induce claustrophobia, desperation and dread. Sounds delightful.


One player is shut inside and needs to figure out the clues on the box’s walls

Fed up of seeing escape rooms used for corporate team bonding and smug selfies, George designed a challenge to make players leave ‘haggered and almost aged by the experience’.

The room, which is basically just a big coffin, is designed for two players. Player one is locked inside the box, while player two has to help them escape.

Inside the box is a pencil, paper and a torch. The trapped player has to decode a load of cryptic messages and clues written across the box’s interiors. The player outside the box has to look through a load of documents and figure out a code in order to piece information together, solve the puzzle, and unlock the box, freeing their pal.

The theme has some pretty dark sources of inspiration. George first thought of the idea after watching Kill Bill 2, which includes a scene in which a bride is trapped in a coffin. He then drew inspiration from the horrifying histories of wartime human experimentation and the American security services mind control programmes during the Cold War.

George has a load of experience writing for theatre, so was able to pull together these ideas into a tricky narrative that sounds more than a little bit stressful.

The contestant in the box is a prisoner of war locked up in a laboratory, while player two is a secret services operative tasked with freeing them, all under a 30 minute time limit.

As we said, this is supposed to be fun.

George said: ‘I want participants to emerge haggard, almost aged by the experience, but also triumphant, proud of navigating a game that is both physically and mentally taxing.’

The Subject was part of the Experiments in Play exhibition, for students at Goldsmiths at the weekend. The quickest escape thus far took 17 minutes. George now plans to take the box on tour, so keep an eye out for dates if you fancy giving the challenge a go.



Welcome Week 2019

The new academic year begins on Monday 23 September, and we’re looking forward to welcoming all our new and returning undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Monday 23 September

Wednesday 25 September

11am – 1pm: Undergraduate induction events

  • FOUNDATION YEAR, Room LG01, Professor Stuart Hall Building
  • COMPUTER SCIENCE, Room LG02, Professor Stuart Hall Building
  • BUSINESS COMPUTING, Room 306A, Richard Hoggart Building
  • GAMES PROGRAMMING, Room 306A, Richard Hoggart Building
  • CREATIVE COMPUTING, Room 219, Whitehead Building
  • DIGITAL ARTS COMPUTING, Room 208, Whitehead Building

Thursday 26 September

All students are welcome to meet Hacksmiths, our student-run tech society. They’re running an exhibition of games and other tech creations they have made in the past year or so.

  • 11am – 3pm: Meet Hacksmiths, Weston Atrium, Professor Stuart Hall Building
  • 3pm – 6pm: Undergraduate social event at New Cross House

Friday 27 September

Postgraduate induction event

  • 1pm – 2pm: Tea and cake social, Whitehead Building foyer
  • 2pm – 3.30pm: Welcome to the Department of Computing, Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Whitehead Building
  • 3.30pm – 4.30pm: About your degree programme
  • 4.30pm – 7pm: Postgraduate social event at New Cross House

Hack your Future

Calling employers and students! Hackathon meets careers event at Goldsmiths

When? Wednesday 13th February, 2 to 6pm

Where? Goldsmiths College, New Cross, London

What? 4 hours of challenges and building cool stuff

Students

  • Be part of yet another amazing event brought you by student society extraordinaire Hacksmiths with the opportunity to check out potential employers and chat with our Careers Department
  • Build fun projects with like-minded people in an informal environment
  • Try out new, exciting tech and challenge yourself
  • Book your space here: http://explore.gold/hackfuture

Employers

  • See the freshest and brightest Computing minds in action
  • Create challenges to bring out the skills your company is looking for, using your own tech and expertise
  • Invest in your company’s future whilst helping our students with theirs
  • Be part of a unique and exciting event hosted in a world-leading visionary and creative environment

New 3D interactive software unravels ‘fabric of life’

Dynamic new interactive technology which visualises the 3D structures inside DNA has been launched by a team of computational artists, game developers and scientists, working together to help the public better understand the cause of diseases.

CSynth is a software platform created by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London and Oxford University. Described by its designers as ‘bio-visualisation made interactive’, it shows how cell machinery physically interacts with a structure as complex and compact as the genome.

Viewers can watch and explore the 3D models on a screen, or use a Virtual Reality headset to immerse themselves in genetic material and manipulate it themselves.

Traditionally, scientists have only been able to visualise and understand the genome – the complete set of genetic material present in a cell – in 2D presentations, on a screen or through graphs or histograms.

But as researchers gather more data about how cells work it is clear that a 3D structure is extremely important for gene regulation and how cells differentiate. For example, a white blood cell looks and behaves differently to a red blood cell even though its genome is exactly the same.

Subtle differences in the way the genome is folded can impact on whether genes can be switched on and off at particular times, which then dictates what a cell can do. Changes in the way chromatin is folded can cause rare blood diseases, for example, because it impacts on how genetic code is read by a cell.

Understanding this process is vital for seeking the cause of diseases such as diabetes or anaemia, and for the development of treatments for them.

Thanks to advances in genetic techniques, researchers are able to harness more information than ever before from biological data provided by patients and volunteers.

The CSynth software then integrates data from genome sequencing and computer modelling and presents it in an attractive and engaging way, using computer game technology.

The team have launched a complete software package that will also allow the import of public data, and help both the public and medical researchers gain a better understanding of how the genome is folded in a cell, and the complex mechanisms involved.

Professor Frederic Fol Leymarie and Professor William Latham from the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths are the computer artists and software designers behind CSynth, working with Steve Taylor, Head of Analysis, Visualisation and Informatics at the WIMM Centre of Computational Biology, and Professor Jim Hughes at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford. They are joined by Professor Stephen Todd, lead software architect at London Geometry Ltd and Visiting Professor in Computing at Goldsmiths, and Peter Todd, senior developer, London Geometry Ltd.

Steve Taylor said: “We have made a web-based interface where any researcher can load in the data from their experiments. Previously the software had to be installed and all the parameters were adjusted in text files by us behind the scenes. Now you can upload or drag and drop the data into a web page, and it will build a model allowing investigators to really get a handle on their data. You also get a fantastic user interface to interact with the model and overlay other data, such as genes and enhancers. We get asked a lot about making CSynth available for teaching and and now we can do this easily.”

Professor Fol Leymarie said: “Our body is made of trillions of cells, each one containing chromatin tightly folded. This very long molecular strand is not static, but rather keeps moving, vibrating, unfolding and refolding locally, more like a molecular dance.

“Furthermore, it keeps interacting with other molecular structures present in the cell and with itself. It is this dynamic nature that CSynth makes visible and interactive, so that a user – a researcher, student or even a curious member of the public – can load different data sequences, try out various parameters, compare various situations, to eventually get a much better, intuitive understanding, which we hope may help lead to new discoveries.”

Visit www.csynth.org or read the paper CSynth: A Dynamic Modelling and Visualisation Tool for 3D Chromatin Structure on the open access bioRxiv platform for more information.


This post was originally written by Sarah Cox for Goldsmiths News

Sign language glove wins Santander award

A smart glove designed by a Goldsmiths, University of London student has received a top prize at Santander’s annual ceremony for student entrepreneurs.

BrightSign Glove, which translates hand gestures into speech and text, won the People’s Choice audience vote at the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Awards.

Hadeel Ayoub, PhD candidate in the Department of Computing, began developing the glove four years ago during her MA Computational Arts at Goldsmiths, and has since attracted international media attention and a raft of technology awards.

The glove is equipped with multiple sensors and machine learning software to enable individuals who use sign language as their primary language to communicate through text or digital voice directly, without the need for a translator.

BrightSign Glove was voted by the audience at the Santander awards event as having the greatest social, community, and environmental impact, and won a prize of £7,500.

Goldsmiths MA Social Entrepreneurship student Jack O’Donoghue from the Institute of Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship was a runner up, having reached the Santander finals with his project ‘Of The Ilk’ – an organic cotton-based re-usable food wrapping developed as an alternative to cling-film.

Hadeel and her development team aim to make BrightSign available to everyone who needs it, at an accessible price. The product is still in development, and eagerly awaited by a fast-growing list of schools and parents. With 70 million sign language users globally, and 90% of deaf children being born to hearing parents, the glove has the potential to revolutionise communication across barriers.

Santander Universities Entrepreneurship winners were announced by Nathan Bostock, CEO of Santander UK, and received their awards from Ana Botín, Group Executive Chair, Santander Group.


This post was originally written by Sarah Cox for Goldsmiths News