The Stack Overflow Podcast

From your lips to AI’s ears

Episode Summary

The team talks about voice-to-code features, how game developers built accessibility into God of War, and why lab-grown meat is officially safe to eat (hail seitan!). Plus: this YouTube channel is a strong contender for the most entertaining robotics content on the internet.

Episode Notes

In a win for accessibility, GitHub Copilot now responds to voice commands, allowing developers to code using their voices.

Speaking of accessibility, learn how Santa Monica Studio worked with disabled gamers and the community to build accessibility into God of War Ragnarök.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that lab-grown meat is safe to eat.

Looking for some high-quality entertainment content? Look no further than Simone Giertz’s YouTube channel, where she builds robots to (among other things) wash her hair and wake her up with a slap in the face.

Blast from the past: Listen to our episode with MongoDB CTO Eliot Horowitz.

Shoutout to Lifeboat badge winner ralf htp for their answer to How to listen for and react to Ace Editor change events.

Episode Transcription

[intro music plays]

Ben Popper Hello, everybody. Welcome back to the Stack Overflow Podcast, a place to talk all things software and technology. I'm here with my compatriots, Cassidy Williams and Matt Kiernander, to bring you the latest and greatest in software, news, and technology. Hello, everyone. 

Cassidy Williams Hello! 

Matt Kiernander Hello!

BP So we've got some fun news hits today. I want to start with the sort of basics, the little things. It's the little things. GitHub Copilot now has voice commands. It's just that one step closer to J.A.R.V.I.S. It's, “I’ve got to go make a coffee. While I'm doing it, can you throw together this function and I’ll be right back?” I don’t know, what is this for?

MK I just saw this today, and as I get older I appreciate when technology makes my life a lot easier. And just having a look at some of the commands available for GitHub Copilot, like for example, import graph plotting library, or, I can press enter– that one's not too much hair off my back. But things like cleaning records from Titanic data, there seems like there's a lot of utility here that might be fun to play with. But I'm still considering how my existing voice automated controls work. I'm still a little bit curious as to how this will work in practice. 

CW I'm excited about it in particular for people who have RSI or are dealing with hand issues and stuff, because I've had a couple developer friends where they suddenly can't use their hands. Their carpal tunnel got really bad or something and they've had to learn all of these voice tools to be able to type things out. And it's tedious, they're able to do it, but it's very, very tedious. And so something like this for that use case could be great if it works well. 

BP Yeah, I myself suffer from a lot of tendonitis and I've done a bunch of different tricks. Dictation is definitely one of them. Now, a lot of times I'll use my desktop to see what's going on and then I'll respond to the email on my phone. Just using my thumbs is okay. So as long as I'm getting away from that wrist typing, but I have a bunch of different tactics I use, including voice.

MK So I actually worked with a blind developer when I was working at a previous company. And just chatting to him around the kind of different workflows he had to go through just to be able to program and do his job was pretty incredible. It was also very bizarre because you'd walk past him in the office and his screen was completely black like his monitor wasn't turned on, and he'd just be sitting there typing away happy as anything. And so he had to rely very heavily on screen readers because he obviously couldn't see what it was that he was looking at, and then also where his cursor was. And so he had to do a lot of workarounds around really fast screen readers that could very easily parse his IDE. I think JetBrains was his favorite IDE. It had a lot of accessibility options there. But having something like this where he can kind of skip the whole reading the entire document and finding out exactly what's going on, but relying on something that would say, “Hey, do this,” and it would do that for him and save him a lot of work, it was pretty cool. It made me have a lot of respect because I struggle enough programming being able to see, let alone doing it blind. 

BP This also gives us a nice segue into another link you dropped in here, Matt, which is about accessibility in game development with a shout out to God of War. What are they getting a shout out for? For being good about this or bad about this?

MK Incredibly good. Sony has really done a good job with accessibility as part of their video games. Naughty Dog, which is a Sony studio, got a lot of praise for its accessibility, and The Last of Us and God of War, they’ve made a lot of improvements here as well. I follow one of the accessibility writers on Twitter for God of War Ragnarök, and it was just kind of cool seeing how involved and integral accessibility was from the get-go with the development of Ragnarök. I feel like accessibility is something that's kind of tacked on at the end of things, not implemented from the absolute get-go of the feature, and it seems like that was done here and they're receiving a lot of praise for how well it was implemented. And it's good because Ragnarök is a good game and it's nice that people who do have a lot of accessibility issues, I think there's 60 different settings that they can use to change text, contrast, color, actual quick time events, skipping things. When I see stuff like this I like to praise it because I know if I needed those settings I would very much appreciate having them there. 

CW I love seeing how much that is growing in game development in general because, yes, these studios are doing really awesome things, but also Microsoft has been coming out with those Xbox controllers that are more accessible that have different shaped controls and buttons and stuff so that way anybody can use them. And seeing that just makes me happy because it lets more people just have fun with these games. It's not necessarily something that is essential for life, but I think a lot of innovation in general does come from games in general, and so the fact that game development is leaning more into this is very nice to see and exciting to see because I feel like that will go a long way in the long run.

BP All right. Moving on to some stranger stuff here. This one came up from Smithsonian which is actually a great publication for science, technology, nature, all of those things. The FDA has approved, pretty close to approving all the way, getting closer, who knows exactly what they have to do. But the FDA has approved lab-grown meat, specifically chicken, and it will be hitting plates across the states pretty soon, so buckle up. Cassidy, the face you're making implies you will not be one of the first taste testers, I guess? 

CW I am down to try. I’ve got to say, I am a meat eater. You can take Korean barbecue from my cold dead hands. I'm a huge fan of a lot of different foods. But if lab-grown meat is safe to eat and good and all that, then I am all for it and I'm down to try. 

BP Yeah. Supposedly maybe some environmental benefits. Get back a lot of land that is pasture, turn it into forest, less cow farts which are methane, bad for the environment. On the other hand, probably way more expensive, just for now. One of the things they said in there that I thought was interesting was that it's kind of like brewing beer. They compared it to the act of getting yeast and making it do its thing, and then through the alchemy it turns into beer. Here you have some cells and you sort of activate them and through that alchemy it grows into chicken. 

MK That would be kind of cool. You know how you do with kombucha where you just get that little blob and then you just kind of brew your own kombucha? It would be kind of cool if you could grow your own meat just in a fridge, just have a little jar and then leave it for a week and come back and there's a patty there. 

BP Oh, man. I mean, the thing about the kombucha mother that's so magical is how durable it is, and if you feed it right, you give it the right water and tea and sugar, it'll go forever. You can cut it in half and give half to somebody else and then you come back six months later and it's back to the same size. So if they could do that with chicken, I mean, world peace. Everybody's fed.

CW Yeah, exactly. I do worry about the cost, kind of like what you said, because I've had the fake burgers and stuff before where they taste okay but they're like $5 more expensive per burger or something like that. And that's something that we have to consider. But if this is something where on a mass scale it can be just as affordable, if not more so, in addition to being good for the environment, then that would be amazing. But yeah, not everybody has the privilege and ability to be like, “Yes, I'll eat this lab-grown meat.”

BP Right, right. 

MK You might see a lot of governments come in and fund this dramatically if there is kind of a quantifiable cost benefit here where they are trying to reduce meat consumption, everything else, then that might come into effect. But just to your point earlier, Cassidy, I am all down for lab-grown meat if it's good for the environment and it tastes somewhat palatable, but I just don't want it to be a situation where we go all-in on lab-grown meat and then five years later they're like, “Oh, actually there's a carcinogen in here that is not very good for you. We're so sorry about that.” When it comes to health and changing diet, I want to be as safe as I can. 

BP Well, that was the big thing. I mean, the FDA gave it its clearance, its provisional clearance. It's been around for a while and so they're sort of saying, “We feel like it's safe.” People have been eating it in Singapore, apparently. That was one of the first nations to bring lab-grown meat to the table. And yeah, I wonder to your points, is it something like solar where when it scales then it becomes cheaper? Or is it not? Does it have that capacity where it's like, “Oh, well if we make really big factories and a lot of people are ordering it, suddenly it gets cheaper and cheaper,” or maybe not. We’ll see.

CW In general, I really like vegetarian foods as long as it's not lying about being other foods. And unfortunately that happens a lot.

BP Seitan! 

CW Yeah, where I’m just like, “This isn't real cheese,” or, “This isn't a real egg,” or something, and then it ends up having a weird texture because it's telling you that it's trying to be something when it's not. Just give me a tomato. Don't lie to me. 

MK Just a real quick tangent to that– I spent about two hours making potentially the best beef mince I've ever made in my life. This was a labor of love. And I was living in the Netherlands at the time, and unbeknownst to me, I picked up some vegan cheese. And the cheese is the last part. You just drop it on, put it in the oven for 15 minutes, melts, bubbly, good. It was in the oven for about an hour and a half and it still wasn't melting and I was like, “What on God's green Earth is going on here?” And basically what ended up happening was all the chips burnt. The beef mince was fine, but the cheese was indestructible. Not a single piece had melted, and to this day, I'm still really dark about the vegan cheese that ruined my four-hour nachos.

CW That's where the lies get you. 

BP All right. Well, I'm interested. If I somehow can get access, I will be sending lab-grown meat out to the podcast crew. We'll do a taste test and then we can all weigh back in. 

CW Perfect.

MK That would be fun. 

BP Speaking of sending things to folks, I wanted to give a shout out and we'll put it in the show notes. I was on Smithsonian reading about meat and then they had the best 10 STEM toys to give for the holidays for all different ages. My favorite was the mega cyborg hand. Children can pretend to be Ironman while learning about hydraulics. There you go. 

CW That's so fun. I want more fun adult STEM toys where you can build little robots and stuff. I love that those are kind of getting more popular too. 

MK A friend of mine just ordered a robotic arm off of Kickstarter and she finally got it the other day, and it is crazy how cool this thing is. It latches onto your desk and she's trying to program it to make her bubble tea. And so that is her current end goal. At the moment she's basically just trying to get it to draw on a piece of paper on a flat plane, which is proving difficult as it is, so the bubble tea might be a little bit more advanced, but that's the end goal here.

BP Yeah. Shout out– if you didn't hear the episode with Eliot Horowitz. He was the CTO at MongoDB for a long time, and he left that company and he can do whatever he wants. He got into robotics. He was like, “Well, I went and bought a robotic arm and I tried to teach it to play chess against me, and then I realized that robotics are too hard.” So now he's got a whole company and their goal is to make it easy for anybody to build robotics, like a platform where they take a lot of the guesswork out of it for you. 

CW Have either of you seen videos by Simone Giertz? 

MK Oh, I love her. Yes. 

CW She's awesome. For those who don't know who she is, she makes robots and she's known as the queen of crappy robots on the internet and they very purposely are stupid, but she's so smart about it and makes such clever things where it's like, “This is a really great alarm that can wake you up,” but it's just a hand that slaps you in the morning. Similar things like that, and it's incredibly fun to watch her channel if you ever get a chance.

BP Yeah, I love those channels. Her and Mark, the former NASA guy who builds the glitter bombs to get the package stealers. Such great builders. 

MK Yes, he’s great. I look forward to his yearly video where he upgrades his porch scammer equipment. I've been religiously watching that in December every year for the last two or three years.

BP Yeah, he's got some high quality content. All right, the last link on here is just that my wife has gotten very into swimming and so I bought her swimming headphones, and the interesting thing about them is that Bluetooth does not work underwater. So your average Bluetooth headphones, no matter what, are just not going to work. So you have two options. You can get ones that you just store the songs on, it's not streaming from something. Or you can get one that has a radio tower that you put on the edge of the pool while you're swimming and it broadcasts to you. So we went with the one with no radio tower, but I thought that that other one was very funny.

CW So it's an iPod Shuffle is what you're telling me? 

BP Yeah, I think it’s like, put the songs on and go forward and go back, and actually once I got it I realized, “Do we even have MP3s anymore?” I've kind of gotten myself into a kerfuffle here.

MK I was fully thinking that there was a little antenna that shot up from the ear, or maybe on a little pack on your back.

CW It could look like a little shark fin.

MK Yeah. So I subscribed to, which is kind of like a coding interview platform that so far has actually been really good. So for anyone looking to prep for job interviews, they’ve basically got a list of system design coding interviews, machine learning, and front end development. So it basically goes through everything like a framework for how to prep for interviews, so that was cool. I have been cooking a lot more, so I picked up a nice big wooden chopping block as well as a Le Creuset Dutch oven.

CW Fancy!

MK That was a big investment. That was a very well-researched product that I've been actually loving. I cooked a Japanese curry in it over the weekend, and big fan so far. It's been fun.

[music plays]

BP All right, everybody. Well as always, we appreciate you listening. If you have thoughts on lab-grown meat, maybe a Twitter poll. We'll see. And if you have thoughts for the show, we'll take them. But before we do that, we have to shout out the winner of a lifeboat badge as we always do, and give a little love to somebody who came and shared some knowledge with the community. “How to listen for and react to Ace Editor change events.” Thanks, Ralf, for providing an answer and winning a lifeboat badge. I am Ben Popper. I'm the Director of Content here at Stack Overflow. You can always find me on Twitter @BenPopper. Email us with questions or suggestions, And if you like the show, leave us a rating and a review. It really helps. 

CW I'm Cassidy Williams. I am CTO over at Contenda. You can find me @Cassidoo on most things. 

MK And I'm Matt Kiernander. You can find me online @MattKander.

BP All right, everybody. Thanks for listening, and we will talk to you soon.

[outro music plays]