Smile Innovation’s Watch — #20
It’s 🏫back to school season, the public transportation will be crowded again and you’ll probably make more time to go to work. Let’s face it. But it’s also the time of the year where TV shows are starting the new season and that’s already better news isn’t it?
It’s also our 20th issue today 🎉 We are very proud to produce this selection of link for you and hope you still enjoy it. Pro tips: you can vote at the end of the newsletter with 👍 and 👎 to tell us what you think of each issue.
Here we go, in this edition you’ll have #machinelearning to produce deepfake without training a model to a particular subject, SNCF #chatbot available on #googleassistant, #3D #bioprinting, Facebook new privacy scandal, WeWork IPO, Verizon selling Tumblr, Uber losing more money than ever but also good initiatives from tech companies like Amazon or Telegram. Finally, our fun selection with tools, nature miracle and some weird arty performance in Nantes, France.
This is Smile’s Innovation Watch.
This content was sent on August, 30th via our Tech Watch Newsletter
Innovation • /ˌɪnəˈveɪʃən/
Well, I guess you’ve all heard about the face-swapping technique. There’s a bunch of smartphone apps doing this with your picture with mixed (read: poorly) results. There are also neural networks trained to do it with celebrities, on video this time. That’s what gave us deep fake and the so-called deep porn (videos where celebrities faces were swapped with porn actors). But here’s the limit, you need to train a model from a video of the targeted people. Rejoice! (or not). That’s not the case anymore.
(in 🇫🇷) It used to be only available on Amazon Alexa. Oui.sncf is now fully available in Google Assistant. From now on you can book a train easily using your (smooth) voice or any smart screen. And that may be the reason why you needed to wait a bit longer to get this feature on Google. Alexa is “just” a voice assistant. The interactions are voice-based. Whereas Google Assistant is so much more. It runs on a smart speaker, also on a smart screen, smartphones, tablets, smartwatches and even on Google Chrome! So you need to think about your interactions quite differently. Like bridging your chatbot enhanced controls with the voice, all powered by Google. Sadly, the skill is only accessible in France.
So far, when you wanted to “print” living tissues, like veins network or cardiac valves, you had to print a negative of it in sugar-like material, then make cells grow around it than dissolve said sugar in whiter. Time-consuming for sure. Now, you can directly bioprint the final structure by projecting a laser down to a tube with hydrogel full of stem cells. It will create the structure in seconds (where the layered based traditional printing is slower) and you simply have to introduce endothelial cells to add vessels to the tissue.
Privacy • /ˈpɹaɪ. və. si/
Facebook ads publicly disclose your presumed sexual orientation (along with more than 2000 other sensitive data points)
Ads targeting in Facebook lets you use more than 2000 advertising attributes that the GDPR would classify as “sensitive” such as race or political leaning. So let’s just imagine you’re visiting a country, like Saudi Arabia, which imposes a death penalty for homosexuality. Well, researchers from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid found that’s 2% of users living in that country are publicly targetable by Facebook ads for this sexual orientation. Same in Afghanistan with 12% and over 5% in Brunei. Of course, the line of defence at Facebook is, they are not giving you directly the profiles associated. That’s true. But putting some dummy, like a contest, and target user groups can let you extract people information and link them to their real identity very easily. For about $0.17 per person.
GAFAM had hired subcontractors to listen to the audio you are using with their voice assistants or to read your Skype chats for Microsoft, but Facebook seems to want to go the extra mile by listening to the audio clip you are sending through Messenger app. We could say Facebook is just doing the same as anyone else in the industry because training a model to understand human language and transcribe it to text isn’t an easy task and require supervision. But Facebook was doing that to ALL voice clips, not just the ones from people who had turned on the auto transcription function. And their support pages never state they have humans listening to you, quite the opposite in fact. One more stone to the conspiracy theories about Facebook secretly listening to the conversation of all their users.
Kashmir is contested territory. Both India and Pakistan have claims on it, resulting in a massive source of tension. While India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, promotes the rapid adoption of the Internet, particularly on smartphones, he decided to shut down the internet and cellular network in the whole region. Letting inhabitants without any communication medium, including doctors, pharmacies, and shops which are dependent on internet access to communicate with patients and order stock refill. Since 2012, each time any kind of disturbance happens, shutting down internet access is the main threat used by the Indian government. Making India the world leader in this game, with 134 internet shutdowns nationwide, 54 times in Kashmir just for this year, Pakistan is ranked 2nd, with only 12 shutdowns.
Acquisition • /ˌakwɪˈzɪʃ (ə) n/
As WeWork is about to go public, their IPO prospectus went out and, the least we could say is it generated a lot of reaction from the internet and finance experts. (Not) so surprisingly, running a coworking business isn’t that much profitable, especially when you are running it like a tech company where you need to babysit your customers. But that doesn’t stop WeWork empire to continue to expand with WeSchool and WeLive project. Total dystopia or future of living for the so-called digital nomad? Only time will tell.
After Verizon bought Yahoo, they inherited Tumblr as Yahoo bought it for $1.1 billion in 2013. The thing is, they are now selling it lower than $10 million, mainly because Verizon wants to see it out of their company’s folio. Pornhub was the only player publicly interested by buying the platform, well known for hosting pornographic content, even after Yahoo banned it and Verizon enforced stricter content removal rules. Therefore, Automatic states they plan to maintain the ban. We can only wonder what is the point of doing this move now since the platform is currently mostly used by scams, spammers and content farms trying to hide more scams and spam.
Well, to be fair, if you exclude the impact of their IPO, they “only” lost $1.2 billion. Still, it’s more than the $1 billion of the first quarter. Results lead to a global freeze of hiring software engineers and product managers in the US and Canada. After Uber laid off 400 marketing workers recently, the company employees are worried that could be a prelude to broader cuts as the company struggles to stem its losses.
👍 Don’t be Evil
So far, when you’re selling something on Amazon, you can send your products to Amazon warehouse to benefit Amazon’s fulfilment infrastructure. The price you pay to store your products varies of the size, volume, kind but also the time it holds. The more it stays in the warehouse, the more it’s costly. So Amazon pushed you to get your stuff back, or ask them to destroy it (since destroying is free, shipping it back would cost you money). You can imagine they had a lot of complaints over time because of the system they designed to push people to ask for destroying perfectly functional goods. Well, it’s about to change. Sellers in that store goods in U.S. or U.K. warehouses now have the option, by default, not to destroy but give away the unsold or unwanted products to charities. All of this follows a French TV documentary estimating Amazon to have to be destroyed over 3 million products, just in France, last year.
Large group chat feature of the end to end encrypted app are widely used by HK protesters. And until now, it made them vulnerable to mainland China government and HK authorities who try to infiltrate discussion groups to collect the phone numbers and identify the protesters. Even if the phone number isn’t displayed publicly, authorities have been reported faking the discovery function that let you get in touch with people who you already have the phone number by faking the app behaviour, uploading large listing and then see which are matching, which pseudo they use and then track them down on chat groups. Fortunately, people will be able to disable the discoverable by phone number option, in an upcoming release.
Fun • /fʌn/
Chinese scientists turn sand into soil
As crazy as it sounds, Chinese scientists found a way to make things grow in the desert. A cellulose paste you can apply on the ground to help to retain water, nutriment and let the airflow. Do you remember when you were a kid having fun making lentils grow in cotton with just water and sun? Well, it’s kinda like this but just bigger. The paste is non-toxic, environmentally friendly, cheap and suitable for mass production. We can’t help but think about the fact that it is a step closer to terraforming.
xkcd is a big piece of internet culture and if you’ve never heard of it, well, I can only recommend you check it out. The humour is rather special but this is what makes it’s magic touch 😃. For the “connoisseurs”, you know diagrams are a big thing into his universe. So some cool folks decided to create a JS library that lets you draw charts with the unique xkcd style in your webpages.
« Beware, robots will take over your job sooner or later ». Who has never seen those kinds of clickbait title somewhere over the Internet in the last few years? While AI and robots are prophecies to replace us at work, the British artist Giles Walker played with the idea for the anniversary of the SC-Club in Nantes. With high heels, plastic body from mannequins and CCTV cameras on the top of their head, the artist is challenging the notion of voyeurism.
That’s all folks!