The Way You Walk

Move over facial recognition, there’s a new camera-based identification technology on the scene. Welcome gait recognition. 🚶‍♂️

Chinese company Watrix can now identify and track people based on the way they walk. So just walk like Monty Python all the time? Nope, won’t do the trick. 🙅‍♂️

According to Haung Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix: “You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity. Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

It appears that China is going to lead the way in all forms of tracking and recognition so it can all be bundled up in a citizen control monitoring system. Big Brother is watching indeed. 👁️

Src: Outer Places

Wu-Tang Was Right

Cash does rules everything around us. 💰

There seems to be a trend amongst Chinese tech companies to deflect when asked about what societal implications their tech could have by shrugging and talking dollar signs. 💲💲💲

Exhibit A:

“We’re not really thinking very far ahead, you know, whether we’re having some conflicts with humans, those kinds of things,” [SenseTime co-founder Tang Xiao’ou] said. “We’re just trying to make money.”

Src: Bloomberg

Exhibit B: (Outerplaces)

According to Haung Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix: “You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity. Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

Src: Outer Places

Exhibit C:

“We don’t support the government,” [Su Qingfeng, the head of ZTE’s Venezuela unit,] said. “We are just developing our market.”

Src: Reuters

I find it interesting that state supported companies in a Communist country keep using Capitalism as a shield. 🛡️


SenseTime is Watching 👀

Computer vision is the engine behind China’s Panopticon, and SenseTime is the engine behind many of these computer vision capabilities. And a lot of what they have developed has a dystopian feel to it with hidden cameras scanning faces and more and triggering the appropriate actions via AI. 📹

“That’s really how they see future interactions,” says Jean-François Gagné, who runs Canadian startup Element AI Inc. “You don’t need to log in to your computer, you don’t need to get a boarding pass, you don’t need to do anything anywhere. You’re just recognized.”

Not gonna lie, that does sound pretty cool. No more remembering passwords or tickets, no panicked pocket checking. But that glosses over the tyrannical implications of the tech as well, like freezing a dissident out of everything based on their face. 👤

Src: Bloomberg

Google Wages War on Gender

Ok, not really. But I can imagine that being a headline of some inflammatory “news” article. 🗞️

They’re working to remove implicit, societal gender bias from machine translations in Google Translate by changing the underlying architecture of the machine learning model they use. Basically, the model now produces a masculine and feminine version and then determines which is most likely needed. It appears that in some cases, like translating from the gender-neutral Turkish language, the system will return both versions. ✌️

This is after they announced that all gender pronouns will be removed from Gmail’s Smart Compose feature because it was showing biased tendencies with its recommendations. 📧

It’s early in the process but it appears that they are dedicated to this work and have big dreams. 🔮

This is just the first step toward addressing gender bias in machine-translation systems and reiterates Google’s commitment to fairness in machine learning. In the future, we plan to extend gender-specific translations to more languages and to address non-binary gender in translations.

Src: Google AI blog

They’re Making a List, And Checking it Lots 📇

Oh yay, China is exporting its panopticon. 🤐

First up? Venezuela. The land of oil, soaring inflation, an imploding economy, and a leader that’s super into overt political intimidation. 🔨

It can’t be that bad, right? 🤷

“What we saw in China changed everything,” said the member of the Venezuelan delegation, technical advisor Anthony Daquin. His initial amazement, he said, gradually turned to fear that such a system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government. “They were looking to have citizen control.”

Uh, maybe it can. 😟

This holiday season’s must have gift? A build-your-own-authoritarian-regmie kit. 🎁

Src: Reuters

Deepfake Detector 🔦

Detecting deepfakes is a problem garnering a lot of interest and effort in an ever upward-ratcheting race between the fakers and the breakers. A new approach being taken by at least two startups is to verify and record an image or video at the moment of creation to benchmark future versions against. 📸

This is probably the best method to truly thwart fakes since they can check on a price level for modifications compared to the original versus trying to spot signs of alteration in the image or video in questions. The latter method is always a footrace between the two competing interests for better methods, the former is a matter of widespread adoption. 🌎🌍🌏

Now that’s not to say that adoption is a trivial hurdle, but it’s a one-time hurdle. They key will be getting this kind of tech baked in to the devices, platforms, and apps we are already using instead of requiring people to add more to their home screens and habits. A problem and solution readily voiced by the current companies operating in this field. I’m very interested to see how this approach progresses and hope it can become the standard of our digital camera era. 🤞

Src: MIT Tech Review

Ghosts as Ethical Proxies 👻

Proof that the data used to train systems can impact the ethical fallout of their performance. And potentially the beginning of us getting a look under-the-hood at these still mysterious systems. I am interested to see how this approach will be applied to non-toy scenarios. 📡

Src: Fast Company

Hey, Who’s Driving that Trolley? 🚋

It is interesting to think about how cultural differences will impact reactions to some AI decisions and could make it difficult to scale a product with localizing it. 🤔

A study by the MIT Media Lab has collects global input on variations of the classic ethical dilemma thought experiment, the trolley problem, and found interesting distinctions between cultures. This could help AI developers work through ethics and bias issues, especially in the autonomous vehicle space. But the study noted an important caveat, this data isn’t a requirement or even a suggestion, it is just an input for consideration. Problematic trends shouldn’t be perpetuated in software. 🚫

Src: MIT Tech Review

The Autonomous Vehicle Economy

I’ve been toying with the economic consequences of the impending autonomous vehicle revolution for a while now and this recent IKEA thought exercise got me thinking about it again. 🔁

For now, a brain dump in bullet point format. Maybe I’ll expand on/gussy up these thoughts in the future. 🤷

  • Drie-thrus will die and be reborn. Fast food restaurants will struggle as their convenience factor will be eroded once hands do not need to be on steering wheels. Connected and networked cars will allow for safely ordering ahead and cars will become dining cars with expansive, outsourced kitchens. Any restaurant that desires could be a drivethru or grab-and-go establishment. A Ruth’s Chris at every interchange sliding surf and turf specials through windows to be eaten on the go. 🥩
  • Horizon lines are decluttered as billboards disappear. Why pay to mass advertise on a floating wall when you can deliver targeted messaging inside your dream customers vehicle on a heads up, digital dashboard product with dynamic creative tailored on the fly using input from onboard sensors and information and the targets data portfolio from the web. Or a subscription allows riders to opt out of all advertising and cruise in peace as the admire the landscape. 🏞️
  • The roadside motel/hotel/travelodge industry dwindles as cars assume the duty of sleeper car, transporting their charge as they sleep. Why stop and extend travel time if you can careen towards your destination while unconscious? 🛌
  • Roadside assistance and emergency response becomes a rare occurrence one vehicles form a networked hive mind that eradicates traffic and accidents and vehicles can predict, plan, and schedule all necessary maintenance. 🚨

Src: MIT Tech Review