Top flight fakery

A while ago I shared news of the world’s first AI presenter. And there’s lots here about fake news. But what about taking deepfake-style technology to produce true news?

Reuters uses AI to prototype first ever automated video reportsForbes
Developed in collaboration with London-based AI startup Synthesia, the new system harnesses AI in order to synthesize pre-recorded footage of a news presenter into entirely new reports. It works in a similar way to deepfake videos, although its current prototype combines with incoming data on English Premier League football matches to report on things that have actually happened. […]

In other words, having pre-filmed a presenter say the name of every Premier League football team, every player, and pretty much every possible action that could happen in a game, Reuters can now generate an indefinite number of synthesized match reports using his image. These reports are barely indistinguishable from the real thing, and Cohen reports that early witnesses to the system (mostly Reuters’ clients) have been dutifully impressed.

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(via Patrick Tanguay)

Update 26/02/2020

Just found another example of a deepfake video being used in a, if not true, at least positive sense.

We’ve just seen the first use of deepfakes in an Indian election campaignVice
When the Delhi BJP IT Cell partnered with political communications firm The Ideaz Factory to create “positive campaigns” using deepfakes to reach different linguistic voter bases, it marked the debut of deepfakes in election campaigns in India. “Deepfake technology has helped us scale campaign efforts like never before,” Neelkant Bakshi, co-incharge of social media and IT for BJP Delhi, tells VICE. “The Haryanvi videos let us convincingly approach the target audience even if the candidate didn’t speak the language of the voter.”

Balance and power

If you liked Universal Everything’s films on human and digital movement, you’ll enjoy this visualisation of the kinetics of sports.

Behold the invisible swoosh and swirl of athletic movement in digital artAeon
Forms is a collaboration between the London-based visual artists Memo Akten and Davide Quayolas, and it generates dynamic digital art from the bodies of world-class athletes at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Inspired by modernist and early photographic interrogations of bodies in motion, such as Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No 2 (1912), the project, in Akten’s words, plays with ‘abstract forms, visualising unseen relationships – power, balance, grace and conflict – between the body and its surroundings’.

The video above, Forms (process), shows how the source video was transformed into the final film.

FormsMemo Akten
Rather than focusing on observable trajectories, it explores techniques of extrapolation to sculpt abstract forms, visualizing unseen relationships – power, balance, grace and conflict – between the body and its surroundings.

Playing hardball

An interesting discussion with movie prop designers that just had to include this iconic figure.

The hardest props I ever made
It was very strange because I approached representatives of the company [Wilson Sporting Goods], and they were not interested at all. It just didn’t matter to them. I told them, “You know, we have Tom Hanks here. We have Robert Zemeckis, who did Back to the Future. We have this venue for this ball of yours that is incredible. And it’s named Wilson.” They were very polite, but not interested. I told them, “We’re depicting your product. It’s a wonderful character in this movie, and it saves this man’s life.”

At some point, I called back and got some kind of great sales rep. And she got it. She understood exactly what this was. She said, “Let me see what I can do.”

And the rest is history. So much so, that you can now buy your very own Wilson, as well as a variety of other movie-themed balls Tom Hanks might recognise.

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Sports days

Great to see some more work from this most patient of photographers.

“Crowded Fields” by photographer Pelle Cass
“I’m still fascinated by the body in motion and the strangeness of time (although I’m sick of watching college sports!). To make the compositions, I put my camera on a tripod, take up to a thousand pictures, and compile selected figures into a final photograph that is kind of a still time-lapse. I change nothing — not a pixel. I simply select what to keep and what to omit. It all happened precisely as you see it, just not at the same time.”

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A year of (mostly bad?) news

They say we all love bad news, which is all we ever get these days.

The media exaggerates negative news. This distortion has consequences
News is about things that happen, not things that don’t happen. We never see a journalist saying to the camera, “I’m reporting live from a country where a war has not broken out”— or a city that has not been bombed, or a school that has not been shot up.

And so we have another something of the year article, this time a hundred news photographs from Reuters.

Pictures of the year 2018

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Lots of shouting, lots of people in dreadful situations, lots of heart-wrenching tragedies. None of it I really want to show here, to be honest.

It wasn’t all like that, though, thankfully. Remember these, for instance?

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And if you want more, there’s this year’s Atlantic In Focus series:

2018 in photos: How the first months unfolded

2018 in photos: A look at the middle months

2018 in photos: Wrapping up the year

Will 2019 look any different, I wonder.

How the leopard- I mean football got its spots

That football competition‘s still going on. Here’s a quick look at what they’ve been kicking about.

Turning point: The original goal of soccer’s iconic black-and-white ball design
For decades, each subsequent competition saw an evolution in ball design. Still, most held to a similar format made up of parallel and perpendicular leather strips — that is, until the iconic Telstar ball hit the field during a crucial period of change for at-home sports viewing.

In 1970, the United States was in the middle of transitioning to color televisions. Most households had TVs, but the majority of those were still black-and-white sets. So the new ball design featured a high-contrast array of black pentagons alternating with white hexagons.

Don’t mess with golf balls

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you had a golf ball that doubled in density every hour?

How long would you have before you ran into trouble if you were given a golf ball that doubled in density once an hour?
3PM: It took nearly 4 full days, but we’ve finally arrived: The golf ball actually weighs just a bit more than the Earth does, now. Almost everyone is incapable of moving. Trees are falling down, as are buildings. There are massive earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.

4PM: Gravity is 3g. Humans that are left alive are gasping for breath on the surface. That is, if they haven’t been engulfed by lava. Earth is starting to shrink. Air pressure is going up, and the Moon is coming for us.

Needless to say, it doesn’t end well.

Mexican earth movers

I don’t really follow sports news, but this story caught my eye. All the children in my daughter’s class at school have been given, at random, the name of a football team from the World Cup to support. Her team is Mexico, who seem off to a great start.

Mexico fans set off earthquake sensors celebrating seismic World Cup win
Mexicans jumping in jubilation on Sunday shook the ground hard enough to set off earthquake detectors after their team scored a surprise victory over World Cup defending champions Germany. The Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Investigations said highly sensitive earthquake sensors registered tremors at two sites in Mexico City, seven seconds after the game’s 35th minute, when star player Hirving Lozano scored. It called the tremors an “artificial” quake.

A little busy out there

Pelle Cass must have the patience of a saint—not because of the number of photos he takes, but what must be involved in stitching them all together.

The dizzying patterns of movement at athletic events captured in composite photographs by Pelle Cass
Although the images are highly manipulated, with over five hundred Photoshop layers involved, Cass notes that each and every figure remains in the original location and position that they were in at the time the photo was taken. His compositional effort is to understand and convey the visual story that unfolded over the course of the sporting event. The artist explains to Colossal, “I scroll up and down, over and over looking for figures I think are interesting. It’s a little like slow-motion Tetris, trying to fit various shapes into various spaces. Then, with luck, a set of coincidences or a kind of gesture or spatial idea begins to emerge.”

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Some of Pelle Cass’s images were used in Nicholas Felton’s Photoviz infographics book.

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But compare those images with these from South Korea. A similar feel but without any digital manipulation.

Seung-Gu Kim creates Lowry-style photographs of South Korean holidays
Having documented the Korean relationship to the water, as well as recent trends in Korean housing – which sees cities recreating mountains within apartment complexes – one of Seung-Gu’s most recent series focussing on the irony of South Korean holidays, particularly caught our eye. Titled Better Days the series depicts how, as Koreans work extraordinarily long hours, when it comes to going on holiday, they often don’t have the time to travel very far. As a result, leisure parks and entertainment multiplexes have cropped up all over Seoul’s suburbs.

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