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UK public broadcasters want top billing on streaming services

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As streaming services and set-top boxes continue to creep up on traditional TV, public service broadcasters (PSBs) in the UK are worried about being left behind. The heads of ITV, BBC, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are urging the government to require tech...
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TSA outlines its plans for facial recognition on domestic flights

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The Transportation Security Administration is determined to make facial recognition and other biometrics a regular part of the airport experience, and it now has a roadmap for that expansion. The effort will start by teaming with Customs and Border...
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AT&T’s TV and internet service is down in Texas because of a fire

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AT&T customers in Dallas, Texas are experiencing service outages after a fire in one of the telecom company’s facilities in the Dallas area. The company’s customer service account has been responding to customers’ complaints but hasn’t yet offered a timeline for a fix. The blanket statement just references the fire. Service appears to have been down for hours and is affecting AT&T U-verse, which provides internet and TV. Cell phone service isn’t affected.

Although most of the complaints seem to be coming from Texas, Down Detector suggests that service might be down in other parts of the US, too, like Seattle and Portland. An AT&T spokesperson says these are unrelated, however.

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Sears, the Amazon of its day, files for bankruptcy

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Sears, which invented the strategy of selling everything anyone with a mailing address long before Amazon, has been mortally wounded by its spiritual successor. After nearly a decade of struggle, the US retailer announced that it has filed for bankru...
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Deepfakes helped Charli XCX imitate the Spice Girls in her latest music video

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When mainstream readers first became aware of deepfakes at the end of 2017, it was thanks to a creepy subculture that used the face-swapping tool to insert celebrities into pornography. More recently, experts have worried that the same AI technology could supercharge fake news. But here’s evidence that deepfakes could also be used for mainstream video editing: the latest music video from Charli XCX uses the technology as a special effect.

The “1999” video is a perfect use case for deepfakes. In it, Charli and singer Troye Sivan pay homage to various 1990s touchstones, like Steve Jobs, TLC’s “Waterfalls” music video, Titanic, the Nokia 3310, The Sims, and so on. At two points, the creators of the video used the same basic deepfakes algorithms to paste Charli and Sivan’s faces onto dancers imitating the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys.

Ryan Staake, the video’s director and head of creative studio Pomp&Clout, says the decision to use deepfakes was part artistic, part practical. Speaking to The Verge, Staake says the crew had a limited window to shoot the video, so they used deepfakes to avoid having to dress up the two singers as every single member of the bands.

A clip from the music video where AI was used to superimpose Charli XCX’s face onto the backing dancers.

“When you start to think about the complexity of getting them in and out of wardrobe and makeup for each of those characters, it would take five times longer,” says Staake. “So in a way, it was a pragmatic solution. But then, we also started playing off the bizarreness and aesthetics of it. It’s one of those things where part of the excitement is just trying to see if it works. Like, can we use this weird fake celeb porn tool in a legit music video?”

Despite its reputation for being a pornography tool, the underlying technology behind deepfakes is part of a wide-ranging, legitimate field of study in AI. Over the past few years, various algorithms have been designed that can tweak and edit realistic video. Researchers have created tools that can alter people’s expressions and turn them into human puppets. The work has also been used in mainstream apps.

Although tools like Photoshop and After Effects can achieve similar results, the machine learning algorithms are often easier for amateurs to use — hence the technology’s popularity and experts’ fears that it will be used for misinformation and hoaxes.

 Image: Pomp&Clout
A behind-the-scenes shot showing Charli XCX (center) and dancers imitating members of the Spice Girls.

Staake says his team used the same basic algorithms that were first shared on Reddit, tweaking them to improve the resolution and editing the resulting footage slightly to match complexions. As is usual for this sort of process, the algorithms require a lot of data of the subject’s face. Staake says that meant getting Charli XCX to “do a range of weird expressions onstage — opening her mouth, blinking her eyes — to create a solid basis for the algorithms.”

The result is largely convincing, and Staake says any imperfections just add to the effect. “I kind of like that it’s just off enough that it’s like, ‘Who the hell is that person?’”

This seems to be the first time these algorithms have been used in a music video, and perhaps the first time they’ve been used for commercial purposes at all. According to Staake, it’s just the beginning. He says his team has used machine learning algorithms in other music videos (like this one, to generate a postcard effect), and deepfakes will likely become part of their regular editing toolkit.

“We’ve been playing around with it a lot internally, learning how to use it, where it works best,” he says. “I think we’re definitely going to see more of this. It’s an utterly amazing tool.”

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cbenard
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-v1b9waHWY
Plano, Texas

Apple to Offer Original TV Content Free to Apple Device Owners

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Apple is developing a new digital video service that will combine the company's own subscription services and original television content with content from various media companies, reports CNBC.

Citing sources familiar with Apple's plans, CNBC says that Apple will provide Apple-owned and created content for free to customers who own devices like the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, with the television shows housed in the company's TV app.


Apple already offers its current popular TV show, "Carpool Karaoke: The Series" for free to all users within the TV app. "Carpool Karaoke" was initially limited to Apple Music subscribers, but was moved to the TV app as a free offering earlier this year.

The upcoming streaming service will also include subscription channels where customers will be able to sign in to access content from other companies like HBO and Starz. The channels will be similar to Amazon Prime Video channel subscription options, with customers able to access all of their content within the TV app rather than needing to download and sign into individual apps.

Apple has more than a dozen original television shows in the works right now, with the company aiming to produce television shows with broad consumer appeal that won't taint its brand image. For that reason, rumors suggest Apple is avoiding risqué content that avoids nudity, raw language, and violence.

Current shows run the gamut from sci-fi to comedy, with a full list of all of Apple's products available in our Apple TV roundup. Several shows have started the casting process, including "Serial," a drama about a podcast that reopens a murder case, an untitled space drama from Ronald D. Moore, and an epic world-building drama called "See."

Rumors have suggested Apple is spending $1 billion on original content in 2018, and according to CNBC's sources, the company has been seeking out "tent pole" franchises that could draw customers to a future Netflix-style subscription service.

Peter Stern, who joined Apple in 2016, is working alongside iTunes chief Eddy Cue to establish deals with media companies in an attempt to put together Apple's planned streaming service. Stern is said to have a lighter touch than Cue, with experience in the cable industry that could help him secure the content deals Apple has previously been unable to attain.

To go along with the video subscription service, Apple is also aiming to talk print media companies into joining Texture, the magazine subscription service that it purchased earlier this year. News organizations are reluctant to give Apple control of the subscriber billing relationship, a struggle Apple will need to overcome to establish a full newspaper and magazine subscription service.

Apple is planning to launch a revamped TV app in early 2019, which is likely when we'll hear more about its upcoming subscription plans.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 12
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Caution)

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