‘Tinder for friends’ uses AI to block flirty messages

Making new friends as an adult is hard, and it’s easy to find yourself relying on old college pals and work colleagues to bolster your social life, even if the former live on the other side of the country and the latter are, well, your work colleagues.

Many an app has tried and largely failed to address this problem, but as any woman who’s been brave enough to seek friends — genuine platonic friends — online will know, it’s not long before your inbox is inundated with dire pickup lines, weak attempts at ‘cheeky banter’ and, of course, the ubiquitous dick pic. Enter Patook. Launching globally on July 7 on iPhone and Android, the app claims to make finding new friends easier and less traumatic thanks to an algorithm which detects and blocks flirty language.

Using an AI method known as natural language processing, the ‘flirt detector’ has been trained on millions of creepy messages and pick-up lines circulating the internet, including a huge number submitted to Reddit (of course). It also responds to the behavioral activity of the user: who they message, how often, whether it’s a copy/paste job or if they’ve bothered to think of something original, and so on.

All of this combines into what Patook’s founders unsettlingly call a ‘magic sauce’, which determines whether a message is sent or not. “What kind of music do you like?” is fine. “Would you like to sit on my face?” is not. Break the rules, and you’re banned. In fact, upon the app’s beta release in 2016, five percent of users were banned before their first message was even delivered.

According to Patook CEO Antoine El Daher: “Initial feedback to the app has been extraordinary. People seeking friends and not romantic relationships have been left out in the cold until now. We anticipate rapid growth among all genders, and so far have seen approximately 40% women, 40% men, and 20% joining as couples.”

Romantic advances aside, Patook (which means ‘little hug’ in Armenian) operates in much the same way as a dating app. There’s an extensive set of privacy controls, and users build a profile and search for friends based on the usual criteria: location, interests, age range. The app also uses a points system to specifically identify and rate the value of the criteria they want in a friend. So if you’re into hiking, you might give five points to people who list ‘the great outdoors’ as an interest, or if you’re into Napalm Death, you might give points to other metalheads. Whatever floats your boat, as long as you keep it clean.

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Google Sheets uses machine learning to build you better charts

Google spent plenty of time at its I/O developer conference earlier this month talking about how we’re entering the age of AI. Today, the company’s humble spreadsheet app Sheets is getting an upgrade thanks to Google’s machine learning smarts. Sheets has long had an “explore” tool that analyzes your spreadsheets and builds charts automatically, but as of today you’ll be able to ask for charts using natural language.

Hitting the “explore” button brings up some default charts based on your particular spreadsheet. But if you want to get custom, you can just type things like “histogram of 2017 customer ratings” or “bar chart for ice cream sales” (two examples Google provided).

Another handy new feature closely links Sheets with Google’s presentation app Slides. Last year, Google added the ability to automatically update data from Docs into Slides with one click. Now, Google’s adding similar syncing features that go from Sheets into both Docs and Slides. That is, if you’re using the same table for data between these apps, you can just click an “update’ button to pull in the latest information from the master source.

Google also added a bunch of new functions to Sheets, bringing the total to more than 400. There’s also a new chart editor sidebar that should make building the right graph a little bit easier; this will also be available on Sheets for iPad and iPhone today as well. And for those of you who still need to put your spreadsheets on dead trees, there are a few new tools that make it easier to print your document. If you want to give these new features a shot, Google says they’re live today.

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Google Maps uses Street View to keep you on the right path

Google Maps for Android got a slight remake this week, with a couple handy new features on board. It still looks and functions basically the same as the Google Maps you know and potentially love, but Google has smartly integrated some Street View features directly into the navigation view. When you ask the app for directions, you can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to see the all the turn-by-turn steps as before. But now each step is accompanied by a Street View image of that exact turn.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Google added it to the web version of Maps many year ago, in 2008 in fact (as Android Police notes). Tapping on the Street View image opens it up full-screen, properly facing the direction you’re going on the route. Most people are probably happy enough with the info provided by the turn-by-turn navigation, but if you’re the type to get a little lost these images might help you prepare for the route.

The default view when you pop open the Google Maps app has changed a bit, as well. Now, the bottom third or so of the screen contains info relevant to the time of day and your location, like local lunch spots. Google’s had this location-specific info in Maps for a long time now; they’re just surfacing it in a more obvious way here. These changes should all be available in Google Maps for Android now, but they haven’t rolled out to the iOS app just yet. Given how Google is keen on keeping its apps in parity, these new features will likely hit the iPhone before long.

Via: Android Police

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