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google-engineer-ai-chatbot-sentience-thefutureparty

Ex-Google engineer believes AI chatbot has achieved consciousness

google-engineer-ai-chatbot-sentience-thefutureparty
AI chatbot // Illustration by Kate Walker

Ex-Google engineer believes AI chatbot has achieved consciousness

 

The Future. One (now former) Google engineer, Blake Lemoine, believes that the company’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) has achieved “sentience” — the ability to feel or perceive things. Google disagrees, and suspended Lemoine. While AI researchers are split on whether AI sentience is even achievable, the public fight between Google and yet another AI engineer may shake confidence in the tech giant’s handling of such controversial technology.

Soul code
Axios reports that Blake Lemoine, who worked in Google’s Responsible AI group, believes that LaMDA has passed the Turing Test.

  • Lemoine says that Google should listen to its demands that it be recognized as an “employee” instead of “property.”
  • Lemoine presented his case to his bosses, but they didn’t come to the same conclusion as him.
  • So, Lemoine took his findings public by writing blogs, speaking with Congressmen, and doing interviews.

Unsurprisingly, Google put him on paid administrative leave (we’re guessing he broke a few NDAs there).

Pretend programming
Lemoine told WaPo that “over the course of the past six months, LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its communications about what it wants and what it believes its rights are as a person.”

But Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel retorts that “Hundreds of researchers and engineers have conversed with LaMDA, and we are not aware of anyone else making the wide-ranging assertions, or anthropomorphizing LaMDA, the way Blake has.” He believes that LaMDA is instead just repeating talking points from the vast data trove it has analyzed.

While this all feels like a scene out of Ex Machina, you can read a transcript of Lemoine’s conversation with LaMDA here and decide for yourself.

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Decentralized identities could give people a verifiable online life

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DIDs // Illustration by Kate Walker

Decentralized identities could give people a verifiable online life

 

Future. Using passwords to log in to a website or bringing multiple forms of identification to renew a driver’s license may one day become a thing of the past. Instead, we will use decentralized IDs (DIDs) that are completely user-owned and portable across every platform — both physical and digital. If widely adopted, signing a form, renewing a passport, or logging into your bank account may all be accomplished via a single DID.

Me, myself, and ID
Even in the decentralized world of Web3, people still want a way to secure their real identities. Bret Arsenault, the chief information security officer at Microsoft, writes in Fast Company on how to do that.

  • He believes the future is in DIDs, made possible in a world adopting the blockchain and digital ledgers.
  • The benefit of DIDs is that they belong to the individual person, as opposed to being issued by the government, a bank, or a social media platform.
  • They are also “universally portable,” meaning they can be used for any situation that would require an ID.

Of course, Arsenault wouldn’t be touting these ideas so strongly without a bit of Microsoft muscle behind them — the tech giant already has a service called Entra that allows people to create DIDs.

Delete password
The hope is that DIDs can one day replace the dreaded password — an already-old security invention that feels disorganized and unsecure for our current digital era. Who can remember every poorly-conceived password across various platforms? And with 921 “password attacks” happening every second by criminals, the odds of getting hacked at some point are high.

Microsoft has actually joined Apple and Google in an initiative to collaborate on and adopt a common sign-in standard (that was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium and FIDO Alliance). The plan is to scale a login feature that would require a simple biometric finger, face scan, or PIN input from your phone to unlock your account on any platform on any other device.

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Niantic builds an AR metaverse tied to the real world

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Courtesy of Niantic

Niantic builds an AR metaverse tied to the real world

 

Future. Niantic is debuting two new projects cementing its quest to be the glue for an AR metaverse. The AR software connects digital objects to physical landmarks and also a social network for every app that uses its Lightship developer kit. With how successful Niantic’s Pokémon Go has been with casual gamers, Niantic may be ahead of the curve in building an interconnected reality on top of our own that people actually want to use.

Digital facade
Pokémon Go-creator Niantic is laying the foundation for an AR world.

  • The Verge reports that the company is rolling out a location-mapping software called the Visual Positioning System (VPS).
  • It allows developers to make AR experiences “grounded to a physical location” instead of” floating aimlessly through a phone’s camera view.”

VPS was created by using millions of crowdsourced phone-camera scans. Niantic used those photos to program 20,000 “VPS-activated” locations worldwide.

Gather ‘round the Campfire
VPS is now available as part of Niantic’s Lightship AR Development Kit, which also lets multiple devices connect to shared AR experiences. CEO John Hanke has said that Lightship is Niantic’s foundation for a “real-world metaverse.” It’s taking that ambition another step further by also releasing an app called Campfire.

  • Campfire acts as a location-based social network for all of its games and apps… and all those that use Lightship.
  • Users can find friends on their map, organize meet-ups, and chat through the app during AR experiences.
  • Also, it acts as the de-facto discovery platform for all the apps that use Lightship.

Hanke told The Verge that their goal is to “create tools for people that want to build apps they can run cross-platform and that they own and control.” With Campfire, users can now dip in and out of all those apps from one dedicated portal.

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Snap collabs with Live Nation on concert UX

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AR glasses // Courtesy of Snap

Snap collabs with Live Nation on concert UX

 

Future. Snap and Live Nation have partnered on a slate of AR features for music festivals that will make them both easier to navigate while also providing a new layer of entertainment. Both companies are looking to help concertgoers have a better user experience without necessarily looking at their phones. That means that the rollout of Snap’s new Spectacles (that can one day maybe be controlled by users’ brains) could make that ambition even more seamless.

“Playbill for the 21st century”
Snap and Live Nation have been jamming on the future of the concert experience. Fast Company reports that the companies have partnered on a slate of new lenses that will help concertgoers navigate chaotic festivals… and maybe even enhance them.

Some features include:

  • A Map feature which renders each participating festival accurately in 3D with animated landmarks and detailed info about each stage (schedule, setlist, etc.).
  • A compass tool called FriendFindAR to find your friends — who are also using Snapchat — in the crowd.
  • It will also have unique AR lenses based on the iconography of each fest. For example, at the Electric Daisy Carnival, users were able to conjure “three-story high bioluminescent mushrooms” and “dragon-sized owls” in AR.
  • And since Snap built all the underlying tech themselves for the features, the features should work smoothly even with a lot of cell activity in the area.

So far, Snap and Live Nation are partnering on over a dozen festivals… though which ones exactly are still under wraps.

Tech trip
Bringing together Live Nation (the biggest concert organizer in the world) and Snap (possibly the biggest AR company out there with its app’s AR lenses being used 6 billion times a day) could make some real noise… especially since the features announced last week are just the start of what’s capable.

Kevin Chernett, EVP of global content for Live Nation, says that people may soon be able to try on merch in AR and also buy it without having to wait in any physical lines, and that the companies are working with different artists to see how AR experiences can be incorporated into concerts. And with advertising skyrocketing on Snapchat, expect brands to also find innovative ways to get in on the action.

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Apple unboxes AR/VR headset… to its board

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N301

Apple unboxes AR/VR headset… to its board

 

Future. After a few years of setbacks, Apple previewed its mixed reality headset to its corporate board… meaning that the product is most likely in its advanced stages and should be ready soon for a public showcase. Considering the devotion that Apple products command around the world, the release of its AR/VR headset may finally launch the tech into the mainstream.

In the mix
According to Bloomberg, Apple is finally lifting the lid on its upcoming mixed reality headset, with the tech giant giving a first look to its eight independent directors and CEO Tim Cook.

  • The board presentation is a good indicator that Apple plans to publicly debut the product very soon.
  • For example, after the company showed the board Siri back in 2011, it was announced publicly several weeks later.
  • It would be Apple’s first major new product category since the company introduced the Watch in 2015.
  • The hope is to roll out the headset to shelves sometime next year.

Codenamed N301, the headset will have both AR and VR capabilities and runs on a new operating system called rOS. Apple is currently working on turning several of its mainstay apps into AR versions that will be compatible with the headset while also developing new ones to do  “tasks such as streaming immersive content and holding virtual meetings.”

A standalone pair of AR glasses (codenamed N421) are also in development.

Seeing revenue
Currently, Apple devices business accounts for roughly 80% of the company’s annual sales. The hope is to send that skyrocketing even more, especially as Meta is the only real competitor in the space… but Alphabet, Microsoft, and Sony are also jumping into the mix.

But there might be plenty of demand to go around for everyone. According to the International Data Corporation, the AR/VR headset market grew 92% last year.

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Americana Technologies programs physical objects into NFTs

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Americana Technologies programs physical objects into NFTs

 

Future. Americana Technologies wants to put real things (cars, bags, artwork) on the blockchain via insertable chips. The “metaverse of things” company could provide the most secure way for customers to know that the products they’re purchasing are genuine… and put counterfeiters out of work (goodbye fake luxury-bag industry).

Tangible blockchain
If you’ve ever looked at your stuff and thought, “all of this stuff should be on the blockchain,” then Americana Technologies has you covered.

  • The startup is building a microchip that can be inserted into physical objects, turning them into NFTs, complete with a digital ledger to authenticate ownership.
  • That means every time the object is sold, there will be an on-chain public record — it may only take the scan of a phone to transfer the ownership, according to Fast Company.
  • Like other NFTs, the original owners will also be able to collect royalties whenever the object is resold.

The chip, which is compatible with the Ethereum blockchain (Americana is exploring others), also “provides Web 2.0-level security with real-time GPS data.”

The real real
Americana Technologies has already raised $6.9 million in seed funding from Seven Seven Six founder Alexis Ohanian, OpenSea, and rapper Future.

Ohanian expressed the real-world innovations of the chips when he said, “global provenance of things that exist in the physical world is huge and before Americana, there was no way to do it. For the first time ever, brands big and small can have their authenticated products on-chain and even gain royalties every time that item is resold.” Goodbye scams, fakes, and copycats.

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OpenSea arms itself with verified badges and A.I.

NFT-OpenSea-Ban-Copymints-thefutureparty
OpenSea // Illustration by Kate Walker

OpenSea arms itself with verified badges and A.I.

 

Future. OpenSea is rolling out new features to protect users from NFT scams and frauds. What does that mean? More transparency, expansion of its verified badges, and leveraging A.I. to take down copycat collections (that are hoping to make a quick buck). While regulating the community is a bit antithetical to the tenets of Web3, OpenSea may be trying to hedge against potential lawsuits for allowing abuse on its platform… especially while NFT sales are down.

Catch the copycats
The largest NFT marketplace is doing something about its big authenticity deficit.

  • It’s expanding its verified badges for sellers and collections, immediately inviting those with over 100 ETH in trading volume (and eventually those with less).
  • It’s also utilizing “chatter” on Twitter and Discord to determine who is eligible because, according to VP of product Shiva Rajaraman, it’s “hard to fake an active community.”
  • It’s also deploying A.I. to flag “copymints” — fraudulent NFT collections meant to dupe buyers.
  • The software would be able to not only catch “identical pixel-by-pixel replicas, but also flips, rotations, filters, or other permutations.”

Fast Company reports that the final moderation will be done by human moderators… but only until the algorithms become sophisticated enough to do it all on their own.

Regulation tension
While policing the marketplace for bad actors is necessary (buyers have been scammed out of millions of dollars), OpenSea is well aware that the very act of regulation is controversial within the crypto community. Freedom is foundational to Web3 — freedom to remix, freedom to build on top of, and freedom from gatekeepers. But OpenSea is a business, and a business can’t flourish  when customers are having a bad time.

Anne Fauvre-Willis, OpenSea’s head of special projects, knows that it’s inherently problematic for the company to police NFTs, so she said that the focus would be on removing those that “have the intent to deceive.

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Zigazoo brings Web3 to toddlers

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Zigazoo

Zigazoo brings Web3 to toddlers

 

Future. Zigazoo wants to help kids familiarize themselves with social media and NFT trading — consider the platform training wheels for the internet. While signing up a kindergartner for such a platform may seem odd, it may be a much more wholesome alternative than letting a child go from nothing to TikTok.

Toddler tech
Zigazoo thinks your tyke should get in on the NFT action.

  • Zigazoo (part social platform, part NFT marketplace) lets kids (and their parents) try out all the hallmarks of online life while still in kindergarten.
  • NYT describes the social function of the app as being a “junior TikTok,” built around challenges such as singing in a different language or asking kids what shoes they like to wear.
  • Like other platforms, kids can rack up likes and followers, but there’s no comment feature (only pre-loaded positive affirmations), and everything is moderated by human beings.
  • It also features NFT drops from brands and IP like Qai Qai (based on the doll popularized by Alexis Ohanian and Serena Williams), Cocomelon, and Paw Patrol.
    • The transactions are recorded on the Flow blockchain.

Zigazoo says its mission is to “empower kids to shape the very landscape and infrastructure of NFTs and Web3,” and to help them “express themselves through art and practice essential financial literacy skills” While those are worthy goals, it’s debatable whether young kids are developed enough to be exposed to both social platforms and any financial tools to begin with — pros and cons abound.

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The Golden State Warriors soak up fan insights in the cloud

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Golden State Warriors // Illustration by Kate Walker

The Golden State Warriors soak up fan insights in the cloud

 

Future. The Golden State Warriors have gone through a tech upgrade after moving to the Chase Center in 2019, using both its proprietary app and in-stadium sensors to track every data point imaginable about what their fans consume (food, merch, entertainment). With sports betting becoming a legal practice, the data points could give the team insight into how to best roll out those features during games.

Fan playbook
The Warriors want to know the stats of their fans just as much as the fans want to know the stats of players.

  • Using the Chase Center app, the team is able to collect data on what fans like to eat through its online-order feature, what their musical tastes are through app experiences and questionnaires, and other info through interactive games.
  • The team also uses QR codes to access experiences, including letting fans send in short videos that can be displayed on the arena’s scoreboard.
  • The organization then derives insights from all that data using Google Cloud, which the team struck a deal with in 2019.

And don’t worry, privacy-hounds; the organization says that the app only collects data if fans opt-in.

Court connection
Daniel Brusilovsky, the Warriors’ vice president of technology, expressed that the cloud-based data-harvesting system was a top priority when the team moved to the Chase Center from its original home (the Oracle Arena in Oakland). “It gave us an opportunity to rethink our technology and really start from scratch.”

Other than the app innovations, the stadium itself is outfitted with hundreds of “beacons” that allow for “precise indoor location and navigation,” according to Axios. Additionally, cellular and WiFi tech is installed in every other row to make sure everyone always has a connection. Can’t collect data without that.

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Snap is all about the camera

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The Pixy // Illustration by Kate Walker

Snap is all about the camera

 

Future. Snap announced a bevy of new camera-focused features and products at its annual Partner Summit, including a drone that can up your selfie game and a new AR-powered shopping mall. Considering how integrated Snap’s software and hardware offerings are becoming, it’s only a matter of time before the Snapchat app is just a central hub for interacting with the world through Snap-branded cameras… using only your mind.

Selfies take flight
Snap is trying to make sure you believe its claim that it’s a camera company.

  • The Verge reports that Snap is releasing a small, lightweight drone called the Pixy in the U.S. and France for $230 that can capture 100 videos or 1,000 photos on its 16GB storage drive.
  • The Pixy can take off from the user’s hand, fly six pre-programmed flight patterns to capture video of the user, and then automatically land right back in their hands — tracking the user as they move.
  • The footage then immediately syncs to the user’s Memories section on the Snapchat app, where it can be synced with songs, edited with AR effects, and cropped to a vertical view so it can be uploaded.

The drone’s battery can last five to eight 10-20 second flights. Additional batteries cost $20.

Power of the lens
But Snap wasn’t satisfied with just announcing the Pixy drone…

  • It’s also partnering with Live Nation to launch unique AR experiences at concerts and festivals, including Lollapalooza in Chicago, Rolling Loud in Miami, and EDC in Las Vegas.
  • It’s rolling out an AR feature called “Dress Up,” which lets users select items from an in-app catalog, virtually try them on, and then share the look with friends.

Additionally, Snap is debuting a new “Director Mode” on the Snapchat app to make video creation easier for users. The feature will allow users to record videos using both the front and back cameras simultaneously… an idea hitting the mainstream thanks to the exploding success of the social app BeReal.

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