Update: [28 Nov 2016] I had written this blog post quickly, without really explaining the context; see my notes for a better explanation.
People have used sequence-to-sequence recurrent neural networks to "translate" words into pronunciation for speech synthesis. I have been trying to go the other direction. I was inspired by the name "Daneel Olivaw" in Asimov's stories. It's similar to "Daniel Oliver" but it's a little different. The idea is to take English names like Susannah, Michael, etc., convert them to pronunciation phonemes, alter those phonemes in some way (such as the Great Vowel Shift of Middle English), and then convert the altered pronunciation into a new spelling. Then someone could use these new names for a story or game.
I think of it as a "Spelling Bee" neural network. It hears the name and has to come up with a spelling for it. Unlike a regular spelling bee, this is for made-up words. These are results I've gotten so far:
- Changing the N in Jennifer → Jemifer Gengnifer Gethopher Jeffepher Jessifer Geshifer Gethopher Jeviffer Jesapher Jesifer
- Changing the C in Christopher → Bristougher Dristofer Gristopher Prestofer Tristofer Threstougher Fristopher Srystofer Shrystofer Thristopher Vristofer Zristopher Ghrystofer
- Changing the first E in Stephanie → Stophony Staphony Stophanie Stophony Stophony Styphony Sterfaney Staphony Stiffony Stephony Stophani Steuphony Stuphony Stuphony
- Changing the IE in Daniel → Danall Danall Dannell Dannall Danhowl Danile Danelle Dannerl Danail Dannyll Danielle Danole Danoyle Danule Daneule
I'm also going to try prefixes and suffixes. It's been a fun mini project. I got to learn some TensorFlow and recurrent neural networks, even though for the most part I'm just patching together code I've found without really understanding it. The results so far seem like plausible spellings for words, but most of them aren't sufficiently name-like.
Something that I hadn't thought about before: there can be lots of different spellings for the same sounds in English (what a messed up language!). For example michael →
M AY K AH L but the
AY K AH reverse maps to ichae in michael, icu in bicuspid, ica in formica, iche in lichen, yca in lycan, yco in glycogen, yche in psychedelic, yc in recycle, so which of these "should" it be using when spelling that sound? How would the neural network be able to learn something if there isn't a good answer?
See my notes for a longer explanation of what I was trying to do.
Image from Wikipedia
Recently two people asked me about making a tile-based game that uses a sphere topology. Some games have tile maps that wrap around. Civilization for example lets you go off the left side of the map and you warp to the right side. You can’t go off the top or bottom of the map. In 3D space, this would be a cylinder. Some games also let you go off the top side and warp to the bottom, and vice versa. In 3D space, this would be a torus. But most tile map games don’t use a sphere. Why? The sphere doesn't tile. I thought … can we almost tile it? The answer is yes!
I wrote up my notes here including a small interactive demo. This is a quick & dirty investigation and not one of my longer polished articles; see this post about my wanting to write pages more quickly.
I write interactive explanations; I'm always looking for simpler ways to explain things.
Think back to every technical paper you've read. The text connects to diagrams by using text such as "see figure 4". Maybe it's more specific and says "in figure 4 see circle 24". Maybe it's a hypertext link. However if I look at how I take notes on paper, I don't do that! I just draw an arrow to the thing I want to point to.
From an early age we have invisible boxes around text and diagrams, keeping them apart. It doesn't have to be this way. Pointing is the simplest way to direct attention to something. Why don't we do it more? I don't know, but these are the kinds of things I'm exploring on the web.
How did I implement this? The first guess would be that I'm using
a giant SVG overlay that covers the area between the pointer and
the target. I'm not! That's
the only SVG element in this blog post. What's the trick? By default, the
overflow for an SVG element is set to
hidden; in some versions of IE it was
I had to set it back to hidden. That keeps the content inside its
bounding box. But the IE situation made me wonder — if I set it to
what happens? It turns out you can draw outside the box! This
seems to work across the browsers I've tried.
The second thing I need to do is construct an arrow path. The
source and target of the arrow may be in different SVG elements,
or they might not be SVG at all. For this page I use
an invisible span
in the text as the anchor. I use
get the coordinates on the page. Then I pick the midpoint of one
side of the rectangle as the arrow source or target. I need to
translate all the coordinates into the coordinate space of the SVG
I'm drawing into.
For this demo I hard-coded the size, curvature, and directions of the arrows. I don't adjust them when the page is resized. For a reusable library, I think it'd be cleaner to have one svg per arrow anchor.