Deep in the bowels of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a machine is learning to scare us. The Nightmare Machine is actually a set of computer algorithms fed a diet of spooky images. It uses deep machine learning to find common scary features in images of haunted houses and graveyards, all the while searching for what we find terrifying. The next step is to show us. Here the machine applies the tricks it’s learnt, the goose-bump-inducing tricks of perspective, lighting and unease to Tower Bridge in London. But the Nightmare Machine isn’t finished – now it needs a steady stream of human brains. Visitors to this website can rank scary images, telling the machine which ones raise a whimper. Such interaction between human and machine may help to understand the psychology of fear and also suggest new avenues in artificial intelligence, which you may find even scarier.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.