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Belated PhD Blog – An Audio Man in AI Land

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It’s been a long time since my last post, turns out doing a PhD, running a business and freelancing takes up a lot of time by itself ;).

So to sum up the last few months. It has been. INTENSE. This is just a quick update and hopefully in the not too distant future I can discuss more about my research and my experience.

Currently I am on a two week course for Game Design through the IGGI program, focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI), at the University of Essex. OK so as I have said before I am not from a coding/AI background at all. If you asked me what Monte Carlo Tree Search (MCTS) was 6 months ago, I would have looked at you with a befuddled confused face (quite common actually). However, now I have heard MCTS more times than I ever thought I would haha, and am very aware of it’s existence.

I won’t lie, it’s been a tough course. When someone tells you briefly about genetic evolution AI algorithms, along with introducing you to high level AI concepts in just a few hours/days, that’s enough to turn your brain to mush. However, when they do that, and then once you’ve just about understood the theory, they ask you to go program it in Java, which you’ve never used in your life, it’s a very interesting (and frustrating) few hours! So apologies for the mildly ranty post :).

Don’t get me wrong I appreciate it may have some value in the future for me, being at least aware of these processes, but it just came at an inconvenient time with regards to my actual research. I’m going to have to catch up on some work when I get back because I’ve been away, which isn’t productive but I understand needs must.

I’m not very keen on the fact that the MSc students of AI or similar are in our group, as they have studied all this before their masters or at least have the background that is needed to understand a lot of this content. I have to say I feel a bit of a dunce frequently and it doesn’t do well for one’s confidence and is quite embarrassing sometimes on my part at least.

So with no Java experience, no AI background, and the fact that I’m a sound designer, led to me being very confused and out of my depth most of the time. Therefore I am trying to read around the subject though and endeavouring to understand enough to at least pass the module in the time I have :).

I have to be honest, the rest of the modules I’ve been on via IGGI, which were Research Methods, Game Design and Programming, have all had something relevant I could take from it and have actually been quite good. Sadly this is the one that has felt to me as almost a waste of time. It’s so fast and far ahead of my current knowledge base that it really is a stressful struggle, where I and a couple of others without the specific background, lose confidence as it can be quite demoralising. It’s also a bit strange considering these modules are stated as needing no preparation. If I’d known beforehand what langauge, or some basics that might be required I would have read up on it, I don’t mind the work! It’s just when something starts you on intermediate-advanced when you haven’t even started basic. Where’s my tutorial level ;)!? So it does feel a bit counter-productive to get behind on my research by doing a core module on the PhD as well, but hey ho, don’t want to rant too much ;)!

Overall, I am attempting to maintain a positive, learning attitude (as it is very interesting), but also at this stage, just grinning and bearing until I reach the end of the week :s. As always these are just my current thoughts (as apparently that’s what a blog is) and there are a lot of good things coming up with this program which I can tell you about after they happen. This is the last core module too so going to pass, learn and move on back to audio land :)! Hopefully I can survive (AKA pass) the rest of the course.

Wish me luck ;p!

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Sam Hughes
Sound designer, voice actor, musician and beyond who just has a big passion for conversations, knowledge sharing, connecting people and bringing some positivity into the world.

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