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LingoBoingo: Play Games, Make the World Smarter

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Who doesn’t like playing games? What if you could play fun games online and in the process make the world a smarter place? That’s the idea behind LingoBoingo.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Linguistic Data Consortium and department of Computer and Information Science, the University of Essex, Queen Mary University of London, the Université de Montpellier, and the Sorbonne have teamed up to bring together a group of online games that contribute to research in language science and technology. Sponsored in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation, LingoBoingo currently contains seven online language games with more on the way. Lovers of language, grammar, and literature can test their knowledge, earn high scores, and compete against other players in a variety of challenging games.

Linguistic research helps make technologies smarter. Image: Wiki Images Creative Commons.

Linguistic research helps make technologies smarter. Image: Wiki Images Creative Commons.

Getting computers to understand language requires large amounts of linguistic data and “correct” answers to language tasks (what researchers call “gold standard annotations”). Large sets of language data and annotations are used in machine learning to train technologies to understand human voice commands, recognize a language, automatically translate one language into another, and lots of other things that make our computers, phones, and even our refrigerators smart!

Simply by playing language games online you can help create the linguistic data used by researchers to improve language technologies. You don’t have to be a linguist or a computer scientist to contribute to research. Most everyone on the planet has lots of intuitive knowledge about the languages they speak, and researchers could use your help.

Developed by researchers at the University of Essex and Queen Mary University of London, Phrase Detectives is an annotation game where players act as a detective solving cases by interpreting coreference (for example, the relationship between proper nouns and pronouns) in public domain literary and Wikipedia texts. Players earn points for solving cases and can get their scores listed on the game’s leader board. Having citizen scientists involved in playing language games has been crucial.

“Research in computational linguistics is still mainly driven by the availability of annotated data,” explained game co-creator and professor of computational linguistics, Massimo Poesio. “By raising the profile of this type of citizen science, it may greatly help researchers like us to collect the very large language datasets on which our research relies. By providing a single portal where games for studying all types of language interpretation can be found, hopefully LingoBoingo can result in players attracted by one game then starting to explore other games as well.”

In addition to Phrase Detectives, researchers from Essex and Queen Mary also created Tile Attack, a two player game where players earn points by collaboratively identifying noun phrases (persons, places, and things). Players not only earn virtual points in the game, but can also win monthly prizes. The results of these games can help computers automatically extract and summarize relevant information from texts, such as locations or person names.

Name That Language, developed by the Linguistic Data Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania, tests your ability to recognize a language in a short audio clip. Players listen to an audio clip and have to identify the language from multiple choice options. Players earn points for correct answers, and the game gets more challenging as a player progresses. Bonus rounds give players an opportunity to earn double points by identifying languages in clips where the language being spoken has not yet been confirmed. By compiling the judgments about languages made by the game players, researchers will learn more about which languages are more easily confused and improve technologies that can automatically recognize human languages.

Computer Science students at the University of Pennsylvania, in cooperation with their professors, have created a fun game called Know Your Nyms. In this game, players are challenged to name as many “-nyms” for a given word as they can before the timer runs out. These can include synonyms, antonyms, hyponyms, and meronyms. Don’t know what a hyponym is? Play the game to find out! Fans of language-related games such as crossword puzzles will love Know Your Nyms.

LingoBoingo also contains a number of French language games. In existence since 2007, JeuxDeMots builds semantic networks in French by having game players cooperatively provide different relationships and associations for French words. Developed by researchers at INRIA, LORIA and the Sorbonne, Zombilingo is a fun game for lovers of grammar and zombies! Players collect brains (points) by identifying grammatical relationships in French sentences. A spin-off of Zombilingo, Rigor Mortis presents an Egyptian mummy-themed game where players earn points by identifying French multi-word expressions such as “hot air balloon” and idioms like “hit the road.”

Playing these games is not only fun and educational, but it also creates language data that linguists and computer scientists need for their research. And, in turn, their research helps benefit the world by increasing knowledge about language and by creating better technologies. If you like playing language games, then head to LingoBoingo and help make the world a smarter place!

Want more citizen science? Check out SciStarter’s Project Finder! With 1100+ citizen science projects spanning every field of research, task and age group, there’s something for everyone!


JFiumaraBWAbout the Author

James Fiumara

“James develops and manages projects with a primary focus on new initiatives and alternative uses of language resources, corpus development methods, and analytic techniques.” Bio Source: https://www.ldc.upenn.edu/staff/james-fiumara

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Ecology

Today’s letters: ‘Visionary’ plans don’t always work in Ottawa

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The opinion piece written by Tobi Nussbaum, CEO of the NCC, declares that a “bold, visionary transit plan” would showcase the capital.

As a long-term resident of Ottawa, I’ve had it with visionary plans. In the 1950s, the streetcars serving Ottawa so well were sent to the scrapyards. In the early ’60s, Queensway construction bulldozed established neighbourhoods and ripped the city apart. Later in the decade, the downtown railway station, which could have formed the hub of a commuter network, was relocated to the suburbs. These actions, in the name of “progress,” were undertaken with the “vision” to make Ottawa a car-reliant city.

Now we have an LRT, built just in time for most people to realize that they do not have to go downtown as they can work from home.

Current thinking is pushing a new “link” between Ottawa and Gatineau, with yet more expensive and disruptive infrastructure projects being touted, including a tramway or another tunnel under the downtown core.

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That was then: Biggest earthquake since 1653 rocked Ottawa in 1925

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A regular weekly look-back at some offbeat or interesting stories that have appeared in the Ottawa Citizen over its 175-year history. Today: The big one hits.

The Ottawa Senators were playing a Saturday night game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Auditorium, the score tied 0-0 halfway through the second period. Sens’ rookie Ed Gorman and the Habs’ Billy Boucher had just served penalties for a dustup when the building began to make “ominous creaking sounds.” A window crashed to the ground.

Nearby, at Lisgar Collegiate, all eyes were on teenager Roxie Carrier, in the role of Donna Cyrilla in the musical comedy El Bandido. She had the stage to herself and was singing “Sometime” when the building rocked, the spotlight went out, and someone in the audience yelled “Fire!”

At a home on Carey Avenue, one woman’s normally relaxed cat suddenly arched its back, rushed around the room two or three times, spitting angrily, and climbed up the front-window curtains.

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Ottawa delays small nuclear reactor plan as critics decry push for new reactors

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TORONTO — Canadians will have to wait a little while longer to see the federal government’s plan for the development of small nuclear reactors, seen by proponents as critical to the country’s fight against global warming.

Speaking at the opening of a two-day virtual international conference on Wednesday, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of natural resources said the plan will lay out key actions regarding the reactors. Its launch, Paul Lefebvre said, would come in the next few weeks.

“We’re still putting the finishing touches on it,” Lefebvre said. “The action plan is too important to be rushed.”

Small modular reactors — SMRs — are smaller in size and energy output than traditional nuclear power units, and more flexible in their deployment. While conventional reactors produce around 800 megawatts of power, SMRs can deliver up to 300 megawatts.

Proponents consider them ideal as both part of the regular electricity grid as well as for use in remote locations, including industrial sites and isolated northern communities. They could also play a role in the production of hydrogen and local heating.

“SMRs will allow us to take a bold step of meeting our goal of net-zero (emissions) by 2050 while creating good, middle class jobs and strengthening our competitive advantage,” said Lefebvre.

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan had been scheduled to speak at the conference but did not due to a family emergency.

Industry critics were quick to pounce on the government’s expected SMR announcement. They called on Ottawa to halt its plans to fund the experimental technology.

While nuclear power generation produces no greenhouse gas emissions, a major problem facing the industry is its growing mound of radioactive waste. This week, the government embarked on a round of consultations about what do with the dangerous material.

Dozens of groups, including the NDP, Bloc Quebecois, Green Party and some Indigenous organizations, oppose the plan for developing small modular reactors. They want the government to fight climate change by investing more in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“We have options that are cheaper and safer and will be available quicker,” Richard Cannings, the NDP natural resources critic, said in a statement.

Lefebvre, however, said the global market for SMRs is expected to be worth between $150 billion and $300 billion a year by 2040. As one of the world’s largest producers of uranium, Canada has to be part of the wave both for economic and environmental reasons, he said.

“There’s a growing demand for smaller, simpler and affordable nuclear technology energy,” Lefebvre said.

Joe McBrearty, head of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, told the conference the company had signed a host agreement this week with Ottawa-based Global First Power for a demonstration SMR at its Chalk River campus in eastern Ontario. A demonstration reactor will allow for the assessment of the technology’s overall viability, he said.

“When talking about deploying a new technology like an SMR, building a demonstration unit is vital to the success of that process,” McBrearty said. “Most importantly, it allows the public to see the reactor, to kick the tires so to speak, and to have confidence in the safety of its operation.”

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