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An AI algorithm can draw letters as well as a human

It's just handwriting for now, but one day it could pick out Sarah Connor in a crowd.

Researchers claim to have made a breakthrough in artificial intelligence by giving machines cognitive powers similar to humans. The team from MIT, York University and the University of Toronto first trained an algorithm to draw characters in 50 languages by studying the required pen strokes. Once completed, it was able to successfully draw a new character that it had never seen before, meaning it had essentially "learned" the skill. That might not sound impressive, because we humans can do it easily. But so far, similar feats have only been done by large neural networks that require huge databases of images and learn more by brute force than smarts.

Rather than a neural network, the team used a so-called Bayesian program learning framework. Because the algorithm is based on probability and guessing, it's using a cognitive process like humans and not a typical rote computer method. When the machine "drew" characters on the screen, each one was slightly different but still identifiable like the ones we would draw. As a result, only 25 percent of judges who compared the samples to human-drawn characters were able to tell the difference. Author Joshua B. Tenenbaum told the NYT that "it's amazing what you can do with lots of data and faster computers. But when you look at children, it's amazing what they can learn from very little data. Some comes from prior knowledge and some is built into our brain."

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