Industry News [Week of August 31]

This is the regular weekly post where I share updates about things happening in gaming, machine learning, audio, or frankly anything that catches my eye and seems relevant to share or discuss here. Let’s hop right in!

Google wants to provide “AI Ethics as a Service.” While I’m obviously a huge fan of initiatives for corporations to collaborate on ethical issues, it seems like in this case, Google is trying to use it as a business opportunity, which produces…suboptimal incentives. I hope they’ll be sharing tools (especially datasets!) as well as just offering consulting services, since in general, “access to good ways to measure how equitable your model is” is a much bigger blocker for smaller companies than having the experience and passion to recognize what risks might exist.

In related news, Microsoft announced two new tools they’ve developed (in collaboration with many other orgs) to detect and combat deepfakes, especially political ones. This is really valuable work, though there are limitations. Firstly, the tool only works on images or video – it doesn’t analyze audio (which I’m obviously paying attention to.) Secondly, the tool reports a confidence percentage when given a video to analyze. This is generally good – it’s important to be able to have different cutoffs depending on your risk – but also exposes them to the possibility that folks will be able to specifically train new models designed exactly to fool Microsoft’s detector. There are still likely many years of this cycle left, but it ultimately ends with synthetic media which cannot be detected – which is why Modulate and others have been so excited about tools like watermarks which provide veracity for specific known clips, rather than trying to detect fakes.

The Biden/Harris campaign has launched official yard signs…in Animal Crossing. Metaverse, here we come 🙂

More metaverse news – Dual Universe, the long-anticipated game which styles itself the “first true Metaverse”, has now entered open beta. Of course, they are far from the only ones trying to build a true open-world platform! We’re going to see more and more in the coming few years that new game announcements will transition from “go on this specific adventure” to “here is the world, here are your tools, go and create something for yourselves.”

…and then there’s Nintendo, who as is their way, have found a truly unique approach to the expanding possibilities of virtual worlds – mixed-reality RC cars Mario Kart. Basically, you build your track and have physical cars drive through it, while your switch manages things like items and boosts that tell the cars when to drive faster, turn, or spin out over a banana peel. It sounds like a fascinating opportunity for unique kinds of courses, but I’m somewhat skeptical they’ll see enough people purchasing the physical cars for it to really take off the way other Mario Kart games have done in the past. Then again, I still don’t quite understand Amiibo’s, so maybe Nintendo knows something I don’t.

That’s all for this week! As always, any thoughts or feedback are welcome. Stay safe, healthy, and sane, all!

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