July 1, 2020

A new case for deepfakes

July 1, 2020
The Hustle
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School’s out, and you know what that means: TikTokers are dressing like… *checks notes* 19th-century professors. Flickering candles, tweed blazers, and black turtlenecks are flooding the platform — it’s all part of an aesthetic called Dark Academia.

Not feeling very scholarly? Instagram is a hub of cottagecore — AKA escapist photos of farm life. Or maybe try grandmacore, goblincore, or fairiecore.

Frankly, I’m jealous. So far, my only quarantine aesthetic has been doomcore.

–Michael

Digital Veil

Can deepfakes be good?

Fire up HBO’s new documentary Welcome to Chechnya, and you might not even realize that many of the faces you see are edited.

Welcome to Chechnya follows survivors of the Chechen Republic’s anti-gay purges. Speaking up is risky, so the producers tried a new method for keeping interviewees anonymous: deepfakes.

Deepfakes use AI to manipulate video or audio — you can swap out faces or say something in another person’s voice. 

The HBO doc is maybe the most high-profile use of deepfake tech for privacy protection.

But it’s part of a growing field: The startup Teus Media offers a “digital veil” that digitally swaps out the faces of, say, sexual assault survivors. 

Wait, I thought deepfakes were used to harass people?

Don’t get the wrong impression: One report found that 96% of deepfakes on the internet involve pornography, practically all made without the subject’s consent.

Deepfakes have also been used to spread misinformation, as a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi last year made clear. Facebook has tried to ban them altogether.

But these fakes might also have some upside:

  • Startups like D-ID claim they can manipulate videos to hide your face if, say, you’re caught on closed-circuit TV.
  • The company Synthesia has made dubbing less terrible — just watch its video of David Beckham talking in 9 languages.
  • The self-driving software vendor Oxbotica trains its system by generating thousands of images of real-life road scenarios.
  • In a case that’s maybe less “good for society” and more “good for movies,” Disney has gotten closer to perfecting deepfakes in big-budget films. 

Can we keep it out of the wrong hands? 

Should we decide there are positives of deepfake tech, the MIT Technology Review considered ways to ensure it isn’t abused. 

A few ideas: Deepfake vendors should vet their clients in depth, add video watermarks, and keep logs of who uses the technology. 

Some companies have also come up with ways to restrict which faces or voices can be manipulated in a given video. 

In essence: You might have license to play around with David Beckham’s voice, but the technology will freeze up if you move on to someone else.

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Teamwork makes dreamwork

Whoda thunk? An AI project brings together an unlikely alliance

Can’t we all just get along? Apparently we can… as long as we’re talking about AI. 

As The New York Times reports, the National Research Cloud would combine Big Tech’s vast resources with the research muscle of academic heavyweights — all to drive advances in artificial intelligence.  

The effort’s gotten bipartisan support from both the House and the Senate, as well as institutions like Stanford, Ohio State, and Carnegie Mellon. Plus buy-in from IBM, Google, and Amazon. 

Wait… what’s the National Research Cloud?

The project aims to use advances in AI tech to keep the US economy competitive with China. And to strengthen the national defense.

Basically, the government will supply the funding, Big Tech will supply the infrastructure, and academia will supply the brainpower.

The brainpower element is vital: In the past, academic researchers nurtured new technology until it was ready for companies to run with. But lately, researchers have left the Ivory Tower for the warmer waters of Big Tech careers.

So how will this work?

The companies will own the cloud centers. Academic researchers will get government subsidies to become customers of these tech titans, who ideally would charge the same discounted rates they do their business partners.

The arrangement could be a win-win-win. 

Universities could have everything they need to drive pioneering research, tech companies could count on federal funding and the fruits of future innovation, and the government could shore up national interests.

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5 ways Wi-Fi’s is about to get far better

Wi-Fi has gotten faster, more secure, and better overall. Get ready for another leap forward, thanks to new and emerging Wi-Fi standards

That means big opportunity, with the market in Europe alone predicted to balloon from $61 million last year to $1.6 billion in 2024, according to IDC. Market size aside, the new standards will have widespread benefits for consumers and businesses alike. They include:

Faster speeds

Wi-Fi 6 — the newest standard —  increases the channels and numbers of devices a router or access point can communicate with simultaneously. It ups speeds and stops dense installations (for example, a large business or packed public spaces) from getting bogged down.

Better security

The next iteration of security is WPA3, which addresses many of the vulnerabilities of the 15-year old WPA2, plus doubles down on existing security measures and protections and keeping both individual users and companies protected.

Integration with 5G

5G is designed so that the edge of the network — the radio access network (aka RAN) — can be just about any kind of physical network. That means a Wi-Fi 6 network can operate as a 5G RAN, connecting Wi-Fi 6 clients to the 5G core and allowing devices to seamlessly move between Wi-Fi and cellular networks. In other words? No more dropped calls.

Want to see what else is coming? Head over to Enterprise.nxt to read the full article.

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Prized possessions

Bye-bye Bic pen, hello hand sanitizer: Corporate swag goes utilitarian

Whatchoo got rolling around in your junk drawer? For many of us, it’s spare change, a couple of bottle caps, and an array of branded odds and ends we picked up at conferences. 

But now this crap is getting a corona makeover

Gone are the days of logoed baseball caps and lousy ballpoint pens. 

As the Washington Post reports, businesses welcoming workers back to the office — or trying to engage employees who are still at home — are handing out all kinds of imprinted doodads.

They’re giving out bottles of hand sanitizer, “clean keys” for elevator buttons, lights to make your video calls look better, and branded face masks.

Some people might take offense at having big logos splashed across their mugs. Then again, masks with small ones in muted tones could be easier to incorporate into dress codes.

But really, whatcha got?

At The Hustle, our team has seen all sorts of terrific and terrible corporate swag. A peek into our Slack convo:

  • Kaylee: “I got a blow-up dinosaur from an old email company. They also sent notebooks, which I thought was a lil ironic.
  • Bobby: “I got a steel credit-card-shaped bottle opener with a company’s info on it. It fits right in my wallet. Still have it.”
  • Katy: “This isn’t swag, but I went to a conference once where Tim McGraw was a booth babe.”

What’s the best or worst piece of corporate swag in your everything drawer? Tell us here

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Puff, Puff… Profit?

This cannabis company is mining the celeb-to-consumer pipeline

The inevitable byproduct of Martha Stewart’s buddy-buddy relationship with Snoop Dogg has arrived: Martha Stewart-approved edibles.

Everyone’s favorite homemaker/onetime criminal is one of several celebs developing and sponsoring products with the cannabis company Canopy Growth.

After an impressive climb in early 2019, Canopy started to slip — reporting a $1.3B net loss in its most recent earnings report. The company is hoping some star power will ignite a rebound.

These marijuana mavens are turning over a new leaf

The collabs are only a part of Canopy’s comeback strategy. The company’s supply chain includes a farming operation that grows 4m+ square feet of marijuana crops, multiple health-research firms, and a constellation of consumer brands.

With flashy sponsors like Stewart, Drake, Seth Rogen, and Snoop Dogg, the Canadian company hopes to make CBD more palatable to the average consumer.

So what’s in a name?

Snoop named his cannabis line Leafs. Rogen’s is called Houseplant. Drake went with More Life Growth Co.

Canopy has yet to release the name of Stewart’s products, so we here at The Hustle would like to offer up some suggestions: 

  • Marthajuana
  • Insider THC-ing
  • Martha’s Crock-Pot
  • HomeBaked

Thank us later, Martha!

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Snippets

1️⃣  Booking.com won its trademark case at the Supreme Court — meaning even generic-sounding company names with .com in them can be trademarked.

2️⃣  Remember Google Glass? We might be in for a redux: Alphabet bought the smart-glasses company North

3️⃣  Netflix shifted $100m into the coffers of Black-owned banks. 

4️⃣  The new surge of COVID-19 in the US is leading to a 2nd round of layoffs.

5️⃣  The ad boycott is really nothing to sneeze at: A full one-third of the world’s biggest spenders are expected to pause their social media ads.

6️⃣  IBM is using AI to improve the quality of old Wimbledon footage. 

7️⃣  These days, a Sotheby’s auction looks a lot more like a game show.

8️⃣  Costco has a clever strategy to crack down on your big birthday parties: The company has stopped selling half-sheet cakes. 

9️⃣  Lockdown is rough if you don’t have a printer at home. A new report predicts that printer sales are about to soar.

🔟  Speaking of printers: An Israeli startup plans to launch 3D printers for making… plant-based steaks.

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