philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


The Los Angeles River as you’ve never seen it — in augmented reality

90“Rio de Los Angeles” is a new augmented reality app produced by RYOT, a production studio run by Verizon Media that specializes in interactive and immersive experiences, in collaboration with digital studios Vrai Pictures and Superbright.

The app is an interactive experience for iPhone and iPad that walks a viewer through some of the river’s history from the pre-historic era to the present. Point it at a flat surface, and a 3-D map of the Los Angeles Basin materializes on the screen. From there, a menu of options walks you through the river’s history, from the shifting waterway on a broad flood plain to the channelized water body encased in concrete.

Jessica Brillhart, founder of Vrai Pictures, a studio that has worked on virtual reality projects in the cultural arena — including a cosmic visualization of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra — says she was intrigued by the story of the L.A. River after paying a visit to architect Frank Gehry’s studio and learning about his firm’s work on the river master plan.

Jake Sally, head of development at RYOT, which focuses on creating immersive content, saw an educational opportunity in the project — taking assembled information but finding a fresh way to present it. (Full disclosure: The Times has a partnership with RYOT as part of the Yahoo News XR Partner Program.)

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Philosophers On GPT-3 (updated with replies by GPT-3)

(PhilNote: TLTR!!!  26 pages at 13pt font)

philosophers-on-gpt-3Nine philosophers explore the various issues and questions raised by the newly released language model, GPT-3, in this edition of Philosophers On, guest edited by Annette Zimmermann.

Annette Zimmermann, guest editor

GPT-3, a powerful, 175 billion parameter language model developed recently by OpenAI, has been galvanizing public debate and controversy. As the MIT Technology Review puts it: “OpenAI’s new language generator GPT-3 is shockingly good—and completely mindless”. Parts of the technology community hope (and fear) that GPT-3 could brings us one step closer to the hypothetical future possibility of human-like, highly sophisticated artificial general intelligence (AGI). Meanwhile, others (including OpenAI’s own CEO) have critiqued claims about GPT-3’s ostensible proximity to AGI, arguing that they are vastly overstated.

Why the hype? As is turns out, GPT-3 is unlike other natural language processing (NLP) systems, the latter of which often struggle with what comes comparatively easily to humans: performing entirely new language tasks based on a few simple instructions and examples. Instead, NLP systems usually have to be pre-trained on a large corpus of text, and then fine-tuned in order to successfully perform a specifictask. GPT-3, by contrast, does not require fine tuning of this kind: it seems to be able to perform a whole range of tasks reasonably well, from producing fiction, poetry, and press releases to functioning code, and from music, jokes, and technical manuals, to “news articles which human evaluators have difficulty distinguishing from articles written by humans”.

The Philosophers On series contains group posts on issues of current interest, with the aim being to show what the careful thinking characteristic of philosophers (and occasionally scholars in related fields) can bring to popular ongoing conversations. Contributors present not fully worked out position papers but rather brief thoughts that can serve as prompts for further reflection and discussion.

The contributors to this installment of “Philosophers On” are Amanda Askell (Research Scientist, OpenAI), David Chalmers (Professor of Philosophy, New York University), Justin Khoo (Associate Professor of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Carlos Montemayor (Professor of Philosophy, San Francisco State University), C. Thi Nguyen (Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah), Regina Rini (Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Moral and Social Cognition, York University), Henry Shevlin (Research Associate, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge), Shannon Vallor (Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and Artificial Intelligence, University of Edinburgh), and Annette Zimmermann (Permanent Lecturer in Philosophy, University of York, and Technology & Human Rights Fellow, Harvard University).

By drawing on their respective research interests in the philosophy of mind, ethics and political philosophy, epistemology, aesthetics, the philosophy of language, and other philosophical subfields, the contributors explore a wide range of themes in the philosophy of AI: how does GPT-3 actually work? Can AI be truly conscious—and will machines ever be able to ‘understand’? Does the ability to generate ‘speech’ imply communicative ability? Can AI be creative? How does technology like GPT-3 interact with the social world, in all its messy, unjust complexity? How might AI and machine learning transform the distribution of power in society, our political discourse, our personal relationships, and our aesthetic experiences? What role does language play for machine ‘intelligence’? All things considered, how worried, and how optimistic, should we be about the potential impact of GPT-3 and similar technological systems?

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The AI Foundation raises $17 million to create digital AI-powered personas

Brittani-GIF Reality-Defender-1The AI Foundation, which ambitiously hopes to develop “ethical” AI agents that can be trained to complete tasks, today closed a $17 million funding round. A spokesperson said the funds will be used to scale the company’s platform, which allows people to create a digital persona that mirrors their own.

Established in 2017, the AI Foundation, which was founded by Rob Meadows and former EA vice president Lars Buttler, is a dual commercial and nonprofit enterprise with the stated mission of bringing “the power and protection of AI to everyone in the world so they can participate fully in the future.” At the center of this mission is the company’s proprietary “human-AI collaboration” platform, which brings together innovations from third-party research partners.

The AI Foundation’s steering committee — the Global AI Council — has a mandate to anticipate the negative effects of AI and figure out how to counteract them. One proposal that reached production is Reality Defender, a free tool that scans images, videos, and other media for known deepfakes and supports the reporting of suspected fakes. Underlining the deepfake threat, Amsterdam-based cybersecurity startup Deeptrace found 14,698 deepfake videos on the internet in June and July, up from 7,964 in December 2019.

It also draws on the AI Foundation’s partnerships with content creators to establish an “honest AI” watermark that clearly identifies AI-generated deepfakes.

To further its research, the AI Foundation recently partnered with a team at the Technical University of Munich’s (TUM) Visual Computing Lab to explore new media forgery detection and flagging techniques,...

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NexTech AR appoints augmented reality expert Ori Inbar to its board of directors

672z311_1595942872_2020-02-21-09-35-08_3fb6e00eda84576c256ca880a50b4573NexTech AR Solutions Corp (CSE:NTAR) (OTCQB: NEXCF) said Monday it has appointed augmented reality expert Ori Inbar to its board of directors.

The company said Inbar, who has been involved in the AR industry for over a decade as both a startup entrepreneur and a venture capital investor through SuperVentures, is uniquely positioned to help guide NexTech on its growth trajectory and identify potential acquisition opportunities.

"I’m excited to lend my 14 years experience in the AR industry at the moment it’s exploding to one of the few pure-AR companies that are public,” said Ibar, adding that the company seems “to be doing the right things - and most importantly - growing!"

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The new Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge virtual reality experience introduces new locations and characters in Black Spire Outpost on the Star Wars planet of Batuu, the setting for the 14-acre lands at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

cantina-interior-star-wars-tales-from-the-galaxy-s-edge-973f9wj2The new “Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge” virtual reality experience introduces new locations and characters in Black Spire Outpost on the Star Wars planet of Batuu, the setting for the 14-acre lands at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

“We’re going to explore and expand on the story of Black Spire Outpost, which you can see at Galaxy’s Edge,” ILMxLAB director Jose Perez III said in a new video for “Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge.”

Disneyland remains closed until further notice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida — home to Batuu East — reopened on July 15.

The new “Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge” from Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB in partnership with Walt Disney Imagineering blurs the line between real-world theme park fantasy and video game hyperreality by bringing Batuu and Black Spire Outpost to the virtual world.

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GDC State of the Industry: Work from Home survey

State of the Industry: Work from Home Edition Results

The organizers of the Game Developers Conference (GDC) released the results of the State of the Industry: Work from Home Edition survey, which provides a snapshot of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the game industry.


The main themes and takeaways from the nearly 2,500 game developers polled are:

  • The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affected the business of a majority of game developers, with some seeing upticks even as others suffer significant business downturns.

    • 34% said they saw business decline, 37% said it remained about the same, and 31% said they saw business increase.

    • While less than 10% of developers have been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19, 26% of respondents said that their household income has fallen.

    • 33% reported that their games were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • COVID-19 has taken a toll on quality of life, productivity, mental and emotional health for game developers.

    • Poor communication, isolation, and lack of access to critical tools are some of the common challenges devs are dealing with right now.

    • Nearly ½ respondents cited productivity dropped; ⅓ said creativity decreased.

    • The amount of hours worked increased for nearly half of developers.


A full detailed analysis of the survey results can be found at:


Artificial General Intelligence will not resemble human intelligence

Fotolia-ktsdesign-112175279_Sub_370pxPhilNote: I like to summary quote.

Summary: Airplanes don't flap their wings like birds, and artificial general intelligence (AGI) will never think like the human brain, which is more complex than we imagine

My take

We are not close to "situational awareness." I see no path to an AGI that is a duplicate (and superior one) to human intelligence. Our current efforts are not much more than point solutions. Nor do I see the need. Airplanes don't flap their wings, they fly higher and faster than birds.

What I do see, however, is a third thing — an artificial intelligence that is different and superior to human intelligence. We will have the technology for this in this century. While the relentless push to AGI raises serious ethical questions, they will not moderate progress.

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Augmented Reality and Hearables: Where the Two Technologies Meet

Researchers from Markets and Markets claim that pivotal factors driving this market are:

  • the increasing role of smartphones as a source of entertainment;
  • the extensive use of wearable and portable devices;
  • the growing use of hearing aids and health monitoring solutions.

At the same time, personal voice assistants developed by tech giants — Alexa from Amazon, Siri from Apple, and Google Assistant — are standing at the forefront of the audio augmented reality market.

Top 3 Types of AR-Enabled Hearables

1. In-Ear Devices for Simultaneous Interpretation

2. Headphones With AI-Based Noise Cancellation

3. Smart Hearing Aids

The devices can both enhance the desired sound and cancel background noise in real time. Hearing aid producers can add the capability to track physical activity and provide health data, as well as handle calls, stream music, and control smart home devices. ReSound, Audicus, and Starkey are in the list of top hearing aid brands.livio-edge-ai-overview

Bottom Line

Juniper Research named two distinct groups of vendors leveraging hearable technology to add value to premium audio products. While Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser are the key players in integrating hearable technology into headphones, Apple, Google, and Samsung are leading producers of earbuds with AI capabilities. It can be challenging for new players to compete with these tech giants, but for those willing to brave the market there could be massive rewards.

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Smell-o-vr? Vt. Company Aims to make VR more realistic through scent.

PhilNote: this is a new form factor for scent delivery in VR.


Smell-O-VR? Vt. Company Aims to Make Virtual Reality More Realistic Through Scent


Tired of Zoom? Try having random video chat with strangers on Omegle

  • Omegle, a website that pairs random visitors through video and text chat, has spiked in popularity over the last four months.
  • Recordings of Omegle videos have helped creators generate content on other platforms and go viral.
  • Omegle has been a boon for Gen Z influencers, who have used the site to host impromptu virtual meet-and-greets and events.

Though the site has been around for more than a decade (it was founded in 2009, a few months before Chatroulette, by tech entrepreneur Leif K-Brooks, who was 18 at the time and did not respond to a request for an interview), it has recently seen a resurgence, particularly with teenagers feeling alienated by months of remote learning and limited face-to-face socializing.

It’s been really popular for TikTokers to search their names and see the fans’ reaction when they see them pop up onscreen. It’s a big trend.”

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