Can you tell real faces from fake AI-created ones? It's tough! Plus: Facebook's chief AI scientist talks hardware

Also, DeepMind published new code to help train agents play football


Roundup It's Monday. It's a new week. The coffee's on. The hangover's over. Let's brighten your morning with some developments from the world of machine learning.

More AI fakery: A seemingly growing number of academics, industry types, and policy wonks are wringing their hands off over the dangers and perils of fake content being pumped out by AI at the moment. Here’s two more websites for everyone to fret over: they show just how realistic neural networks are getting at copying human faces and, perhaps even more worryingly, airbnb adverts.

If you think you can’t be fooled by dumb machines then put yourself to the test with this game that challenges you, in each round, to pick from two side-by-side photos which one is a genuine snap of a human, the other being a computer-generated one.

For the game, Which Face is Real?, like the other website, This Person Does Not Exist, all the AI-crafted images were created by Nvidia’s Style-GAN. Not to boast, but we played it and managed to cruise through, picking the right answer nearly all the time.

However, we came across one example that completely flummoxed us. You’d think that the lady with the different coloured eyes was created by software instead of the more normal-looking guy on the right, but, no, we were wrong.

style_gan_game

The picture on the left is a real photo, and the right is the fake one made by Style-GAN.

Which Face is Real? was created by Jevin West, an assistant professor, and Carl Bergstrom, a professor, both at the University of Washington.

If that spooked you out, then here’s more AI trickery. Everything on This Airbnb Does Not Exist is completely bogus. All the images and text are, again, forged by StyleGAN.

“None of the pictures, nor the text, came directly from the real world,” said the site’s creator, Christopher Schmidt, a Google engineer. “The listing titles, the descriptions, the picture of the host, even the pictures of the rooms: They are all fevered dreams of computers. It may be that we all need to think a little harder going forward before deciding something is real."

Get ready not for fake news and articles, but convincing fake accounts and profiles, we suspect.

AI hardware: Yann LeCun, Facebook’s AI veep and chief scientist, spoke at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference last week about the new types of hardware needed to push progress in AI.

At the moment, most neural networks are trained and ran using GPUs. They’re pretty good at performing calculations in parallel so it’s handy for performing tons of matrix calculations quickly, but they can be quite expensive and aren’t optimised for all model architectures.

LeCun outlines three different types of chips needed for specialised tasks. A chip for training requires rapid speeds so researchers don’t have to wait around for their results, and can tinker with their machine learning code more quickly to finetune the optimum model. Once the neural network is set in stone, it should run on another chip that doesn’t need as much power and is less expensive. If you want to access it via servers, however, then another type of hardware is needed for data centers. Smaller models that can fit onto devices like smartphones require cheap accelerators that can perform on the fly.

“This might require us to reinvent the way we do arithmetic in circuits,” he said. “So, people are trying to design new ways of representing numbers that will be more efficient.”

Self-driving cars also get blinded by the Sun: Autonomous cars being tested in Boston can’t see the colour of traffic lights due to solar glare.

NuTonomy, a self-driving car startup that launched a fleet of pilot taxis in Singapore, admitted that sometimes the “low evening sun and solar glare” make it difficult for its cars to see the traffic lights.

In a testing report, first publicized by Xconomy, it said: “In a sense, the challenge for an AV’s sensors resembles the challenge for human drivers: it can be difficult to perceive the state of a traffic light while staring into the sun. Likewise, solar glare can interfere with our traffic light detection software.”

If the sensors can’t detect a green light, human drivers have to take over. NuTonomy said it was trying to solve the issue by adding glare shields and improving the software and hardware.

AI football: Have you ever wanted to train a tiny team of bots to play football? Well, here’s your chance. DeepMind have published code to help set up a virtual environment with the game engine MuJoCo.

A friendly competitive game of football encourages agents to cooperate with one another, apparently. At first they’re pretty clumsy and run around randomly, but eventually they’re able to dribble and pass the ball to one another.

If you feel like testing out your own reinforcement learning algorithms, then here’s the code and a paper, emitted this month, with more details. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022