Bird Poop Tech

by Megan M. on February 5, 2009 · View Comments (Blog) |

First of all, I don’t know anything about artificial intelligence—so let’s just get that out in the open right now.

But this idea has been plaguing me in the car. It started a few days ago and every time I hit driving flow (or open my sunroof) I remember it. I’m going to post it now to pacify those demons, even though I don’t know much about the subject in question. Bear with me.

Background: A long time ago, I decided that World of Warcraft should have more depth. I was annoyed that the NPC guards let me run through the Temple of the Moon, quest or no quest. Why didn’t they stop me and tell me to show more respect in such a sacred place? And if they did, what would happen if I argued with them? Acted like a goon? Could they throw me in night elf jail?

How would I get out of night elf jail? Would I have to come up with bail? Negotiate with the night elf mob? Could it be easier or harder to do this, depending on the night elf mobsters who were free that particular evening? Or the mood they were in?

Or maybe just how charming I came off, trying to talk my way out of it?

I wanted to get my hands on a game that allows interactions like that—but organic games, infinite outcome games. World of Warcraft does what it does excellently, but could be better. This would obviously require some good AI and a hell of a lot of other things I fail to grok. (It would also make Warcraft far more addictive. Yikes!) But wouldn’t it be fascinating? To be able to type a normal sentence and have it understood in the context of the game? It would have to know what things are (like @cyc_ai does and better) and it would have to know what reactions to have. And it would have to dole those things out on a case by case basis, depending on the NPC in question, the player’s behavior, all kinds of different situations.

I’m sure people are already doing wonderful things like this, and I don’t imagine it will be too long before we have what I was thinking about. The other day, however, I had an idea that was an extension—or an inversion—of this one.

I had my sunroof open and was driving merrily along. “I wonder,” I thought to myself, “exactly what is the statistical probability of a bird pooping on my car while my sunroof is open? More specifically, the statistical probability of a bird pooping through my sunroof and into my car? How awful and annoying it would be for it to land in my purse in the passenger seat, for instance. Is it more or less likely when I’m driving under an overpass, with all the birds that hang out in nests and so on? Is it more or less likely when I have the sunroof closed? What about the differences between different months? February or August?”

I thought, “I’ll have to look that up!” And then I realized that perhaps no one has ever gathered statistics on when and where birds poop, or how often said poop lands in someone’s purse inside the car. I wouldn’t blame them for not bothering, honestly. But how on earth do I get this information if no one’s done the legwork? I’m so used to having information at my fingertips, it was a jolt to realize that I wanted information that maybe no one had yet. (And, well, I’m not going to do bird poop research.)

My next thought was this: We’d need sensors. Everywhere. Lots of sensors! And they’d have to know what bird poop is. Instead of building a dumb chip just to notice bird poop, we might as well build a smart chip that notices everything, understands everything. Then we can have whatever statistics we want! But most specifically, we can know how likely it is that we will get pooped on if we drive with a sunroof open.

This is important work, people.

Nevertheless, I realize I’ve just covered some pretty scary territory. We’re talking “I, Robot” territory and “Big Brother” territory. The vastness of the possible repercussions of what I’m talking about elude me. Lots of bad stuff would need to be avoided somehow. But wow, under the right circumstances… it would be something!

So maybe someday soon I can have my organic World of Warcraft game and my bird poop technology? Without robot uprisings or destruction of privacy?

What do you think?

  • CoCreatr
    You have many things to do this Saturday. What is the most efficient order to do them in?

    Tales Of Mere Existence "Saturday" by Lev Yilmaz
  • Michael Vanderdonk
    Almost there - Just pull out your phone.

    Well, the iphone is a fairly average start (and about 8 years late imo). It can do simple things, gps, temp, traveling speed etc. So while bird poop sensors are probably not going to be standard for some time, having thousands of iphones all feeding their travel information onto the web and a fairly accurate traffic congestion map could be generated.

    Another example: Google street view have done alot of the groundwork that in 5 years time will be done automatically via a distributed net of phones...

    The US military have done tests on triangulation of enemy targets by using the inbuilt audio pickups on their soldiers as it 'hears' enemy fire.

    With enough data points it becomes (mostly) simple maths leaving the AI part for us with natural I.
  • Pace
    I think that unfortunately, your WoW idea is AI-complete, so it probably won't exist for another couple of decades at least.

    As for privacy, I think it's a deprecated concept that old-generation folks are desperately clinging to, and it'll be tossed out the window by our grandkids. (:
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