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Welcome to the HacDC Natural Language Processing and Artificial Intelligence Group (NARG)


.The mission of NARG is to bring HacDC community members that are interested in NLP and AI together for research, projects, and knowledge sharing. Supporting members in getting projects done is the primary goal. Contact User:Obscurite for more info.

Reference and Resources

Add links to AI/NLP reference material, courseware, etc.


Some profiles of our members and what they're into:

  • User:Obscurite (Daniel Packer) - Interested in emotional interfaces, responsive human interfaces, brain and bio signals, intelligent metadata, and cyborg tech.
  • Philip Stewart - Primarily interested in figurative language comprehension, semantics, and digital poetics. Secondarily, event-related potential (ERP) studies, consciousness, and applying scientific findings to philosophical "problematics" in novel ways. Coursework in psycholinguistics, physiological psychology, pharmacology, and functional neuroanatomy.
  • Darius Roberts - Interested in novelty detection, as applied to the Ambient Lighting Project.
  • Todd Fine - Interested in analyzing the stream of meaning from humans on the internet -- twitter is especially curious. I am a bit obsessed with text-to-speech integrated into ambient soundscapes. Have flirted with various machine learning and ai algorithms, but always need to refresh. I am also interested in simple game AI and strategy. Also like computer word games and computer-generated theater/poetry. Have used nltk and would like to learn more.
  • Al Haraka
  • Phil Kimmey: Interest in AI, with a primary interest in learning more about non-deterministic approaches and applications, which hopefully will lead to an interest in NLP as well.
  • Mike Daren (User:Mdaren) - Most experience in discrete event-based simulations.
  • Michael


NARG meets on Thursdays at HacDC from 7-9pm. AI and NLP focus switch every week to give folks 2 weeks to digest the previous meeting's content/projects.

Other events and cancelations will be announced via the mailing list. Check it out! NARG mailman page

Meeting minutes for September 2 2010

Discussed new [Google AI competition] and began to work with simulator and basic code.

Meeting minutes for August 12 2010

Arc Riley presented a talk on some advanced aspects of XMPP -- PubSub, Data Forms, and Ad-Hoc Commands -- for use in the sensor network/ambient lighting project.

Meeting minutes for July 29 2010

Ambient Lighting Project with HacDC's Artifical Intelligence Working Group (NARG) Interested in the "smart home" concept, HacDC is taking the blinky lights and LEDs that have always been a foundation of microcontroller work and starting an ambient lighting platform with an API that could link into various algorithms -- smart, simple, or silly -- to affect the color and intensity of lighting in the space and the "mood" of the space (from sensor data).

NARG will discuss and outline the hardware and software needs for this platform.

Meeting minutes for July 22 2010

attended: Ben, Sam, Darius, Alan, Brock, Bevan, Arc, and some other people

LIVE CODING MADNESS This was the definitive lecture on K-Means clustering. Rather than focus on the uses of K-Means, we explored the nuts-and-bolts. Brock broke out a little P E R L, on top of an ImageMagick library.

We discussed different clustering approaches, such as support vector maps.

Some conceptual discussion of AI followed.

Meeting minutes for July 8 2010

Discussed Spaced Repetition and software that currently implements it (SuperMemo and Anki especially]. The group discussed how machine learning or AI techniques could be used to improve or personalize learning rates, and explored how to make that a measurable goal.

(... insert more details here ...)

Meeting minutes for June 17 2010

In attendance were Brad, Daniel, Todd, Sean and Jason.

Brad gave his presentation on PushGP, implementing a parser for a limited PushGP-based system, and implementing an evolutionary loop with this parser.

Alan posted his Lua code featuring a working implementation of the evolutionary loop here Genetic_programming_example_in_lua

Meeting minutes for May 28 2010

In attendance were Brad, Daniel, Darius, Todd, Mike D, Tino, Alan, Dirk, and one other person who found us via google.

Brad presented on GP and continued his workshop. Folks build interpreters and generators for random programs, and those who'd already done it began working on the evolutionary functionality. Next week the workshop will continue.

Daniel posted his python code from part I of Brad's GP workshop here NARG_GP_stacks_code

Meeting minutes for May 13 2010

In attendance were Brad, Darius, Alan, Daniel, Todd, Mike D, and Tom C.

Todd gave a talk about using genetic algorithms (based on a paper by Karl Sims) to create aesthetically pleasing 2D graphical images and textures. He deployed Pyevolve and the Python Imaging Library. The slides are available here:

Meeting minutes for May 6 2010

In attendance were Brad, Nikolas, Daniel, Alan, Todd, Phil S, Mike D, and Bjorn

Brad gave a talk on Genetic Algorithms and showed off a LUA implementation. Slides will be posted.

Meeting minutes for Apr 29 2010

In a brutal battle between gorgeous weather and HacDC NARG on Thursday, NARG suffered a humiliating defeat when gorgeous weather was presumably the cause of the lowest NARG attendance ever witnessed. Reportedly, Daniel Packer arrived on the scene at 7pm to find an empty house and by 7:30 had eaten all dozen mini muffins that he'd intended to pawn off on NARG attendees. "We'll get you next time, gorgeous weather," Daniel was quoted as muttering as he wandered off into the sunshine, full of mini muffin.

Meeting minutes for Apr 22 2010

In attendace were Daniel, Brad, Alan, Dirk (new to NARG), Melissa (new to NARG), Phil S., Tino, Mike D.

Brad presented more on Particle Swarm Optimization and started on Neural Nets (Perceptrons).

Meeting minutes for Apr 15 2010

In attendance were Daniel, Mike, and Todd F

We discussed a web spidering project and started looking into a python project using mechanize, beautiful soup, and NLTK. Todd suggested looking at presidents and we turned to Wikipedia for a source of content.

Daniel and Mike hacked on spidering while Todd did NLKT research and set up a git repos (that we are still figuring out). This code downloads president wikipedia entries, pickles and saves them, cleans and saves them. Next step is to tokenize and process in NLTK. Will be put into a git repos (when Todd gets time). When you run it the first time it will download and serialize the data from wikipedia. (Please check wikipedia terms and conditions, license, EULA, etc before running)

Meeting minutes for Apr 8 2010

Brad did a great presentation on Swarms and optimization problems, non-euclidean spaces...

Meeting minutes for Apr 1 2010

In attendance were Daniel, Darius, Todd, and Brad,

We attempted to get Darius's Rovio robot going, but had networking issues. Todd did an overview on K means clustering algorithm and clustering in general using the Collective Intelligence book (listed in resources) as a reference. Brad gave some insights into generalization of the Euclidean distance calculations from a math perspective - there are different distance equations for clustering and he mentioned at NASA manhattan distance was very useful for artificial vision. We brainstormed on ways to use clustering for social networks and other web databases. We also discussed potential hadoop/map reduce projects using pycloud or other cloud processing services. The meeting closed with burritos, fried tacos, and a bit of late night hacking.

Meeting minutes for Mar 18 2010

In attendance were Daniel, Brad, Mike, and New-Mike.

We had a general discussion about many things.

Meeting minutes for Mar 11 2010

In attendance were Darius, Daniel, Brad, Phil Stewart, Mike, and A.J.

Brad presented on Subsumption architectures. He will attach slides for this and the previous presentation. We watched a Breve demo of Brad's subsumption implementation (a very abstracted version equivalent to nested ifs), and he did some live coding which was fun.

Brad suggested a long term contest idea analogous to Hackerspaces in Space, maybe using pygame. We discussed various ideas that would make fun competitions.

Meeting minutes for Mar 4 2010

Second hand minutes about meeting from Daniel (did not attend due to sched. conflict):

  • NLTK intro from Todd Fine (first few chapters of NLTK book - see resources section for link)
  • Discussion of approaches to AI vs NLP in group (AI more game/sim oriented NLP more machine learning oriented i.e. bayesian)

Meeting minutes for Feb 25 2010

In attendance were Nikolas, Todd, Phil, Michael, Daniel, Brad, and Darius.

  • We agreed to alternate AI and NLP topics every other week to give people more time to digest material and lighten the burden of presenters/teachers
  • Daniel will present on NLP/NLTK next meeting

Brad did a great demo of several Breve simulations including the capture the flag simulation he ported to python from a class he'd taken. We looked at simulations of Braitenberg machines moving towards or away from stimulation sources. We analyzed the two existing CTF bots and looked at the code that defines them, and asked Brad a lot of questions about what the bots could do in code (there are a lot of specifics!) We're supposed to install Breve for the next AI focus meeting and start poking at the code.

During Brad's presentation at the point where he briefly covered AI history, there was a fascinating conversation between Brad, Nikolas and Todd about ways to define and contrast machine learning and AI. In the end it seemed the consensus was that machine learning is a rigorous academic field with a focus on mathematics and numerical analysis, whereas AI is more general, and has a more philosophical bent. Brad said that in his school days, the machine learning profs would make a point to say they weren't in "AI". Nikolas posited that it might be due to the stigma AI received from it's failures to achieve the rapid results it promised early on, and that seemed logical.

The code for CTF has been put up on a github

Meeting minutes for Feb 20 2010

The first NARG meeting was held on Feb 20, 2010 at Sticky Fingers Bakery. In attendance were Brad, Darius, Phil (not Stewart - a HacDC newcomer), and Daniel. The conversation was relatively free form but a few suggestions were favored:

  • Meetings will be ongoing at HacDC on Thursday evenings at 7pm, realizing that due to the high frequency of meetings, some folks will miss some meetings.
  • Brad put together a demo/tutorial using the breve environment on Brattenberg Vehicles as an entry point into AI learning. We will collectively try to use this environment (virtual 3d world with actuators and sensors for 3d movement and input) and graduate to Subsumption Architectures and neural nets. We'll use python since most people are willing to use it and have at least played with it, though Brad personally prefers Steve (spelling?? - some unholy combo of smalltalk and javascript?) (correct this info)
  • Daniel put together a demo/tutorial based on NLTK and the book "Natural Language Processing with Python", which he has a copy of for reference.
  • We will eventually choose a robotics platform for physical AI, either a repurposed roomba type solution (favored by Phil) or an open avr/arduino/ucontroller based bot like:

Other topics:

  • Brad, Todd, Darius and Daniel have downloaded the google AI tron code - Brad and Todd have working custom code and we will keep an eye out for good show and tell opportunities. Brad's solution is a neural net based one.
  • Daniel brought up the idea of machine readable codification of human ideas/statements and the political ramifications after Phil mentioned .gov open data and how it's not well formatted for real time use. Brad mentioned the language - which attempts to remove ambiguity.
  • Daniel is interested in using AI for bio signals interpretation and NLP for emotionally contextual interfaces/digital ghosts. Darius is interested in using NLP for matching content with expertise, like which got acquired by google a week or so ago. Brad is interested in AI as a practitioner (it's his job) and wants to do some virtual 3d simulations. Phil is open to pretty much anything (he's too young to know better).
  • Brad suggested there were ways to bridge AI and NLP. The idea of bridging NLP and AI via the use of agent based AI that use NLP based communication models in evolutionary scenarios was brought up by Daniel and it generally convinced everyone there were some exciting potential bridges between the two disciplines.