TTI/Vanguard: Deepfake Diagnostics

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First, deepfake people (Chris Piehota, virtual conference, Jun 2020; Dan Brahmy and Yossef Daar, Israel Virtual Startup Forum, Jan 2021); now, deepfake geography. But why wouldn’t hoax protagonists fabricate satellite imagery depicting whatever might bolster their false claims? In fact, inserting fake features into maps is an age-old falsification ruse. University of Washington researcher Bo Zhao says the current challenge is to educate the public on how to spot realistic-yet-bogus geographic pics. 

Caregiving is a multifaceted endeavor, encompassing feeding, washing, dressing, and being social with the subject of that care. For instance, Karen Liu (Boston, Apr 2017) discussed her dress-the-patient robot not long ago. A team of Boston-area researchers, including MIT CSAIL’s Daniella Rus (Boston, Apr 2014), are extending the scope of robotic tasks to include hair brushing—a challenge that furthermore provides insights into mathematical models and control systems for manipulating all manner of soft fibers. Although the project purposefully considers how best to tame straight, wavy, and curly hair, the RoboWig demos do not appear to extend to the detangling of Black hair, further exacerbating the unintentional bias of far too many machine-learning systems. (Julie Ancis, Washington, D.C., Sep 2017)

As Cahterine Mohr (Boston, Apr 2014) made clear, surgical robots extend the sight, reach, and dexterity of human surgeons, but are not permitted to initiate actions on their own. This might be changing, given the broad effort to bring neural net-based AI into the OR. As with many AI systems, near-term automation will assist rather than replace human practitioners, in this case by stepping in for particular phases of an operation, such as incisions or sutures and, even then, with constant oversight of an expert. Training data comes from the large corpus of surgery videos collected from day-in and day-out use of the da Vinci Surgical System.

Bitcoin transactions are expensive in terms of both electricity and time (Vassilis Zikas, virtual conference, Mar 2021). As such, aspects of transactions are performed off-chain at low cost in a Lightning Network—an additional network of payment channels between blockchain users. A researcher at TU Wien has developed an algorithm to improve both the performance and security of such networks. 

This past year, when nonessential workers discovered what they loved or hated about their homes—which overnight had also become their workplaces and their children’s schools—some people realized their residences no longer adequately met their needs or fed their souls. People fortunate enough to do something about it include a Dutch couple who moved into Europe’s first 3-D-printed house (Behrokh Khoshnevis, Detroit, May 2015) and design guru David Kelley (San Jose, Feb 2003), who downsized from the 6000-square-foot dream home he had built in 2000 to something much more modest but equally bespoke.  

The brewmeisters at Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing have had a front-row seat to Front Range forest fires, leading them to deeply consider what beer might become as climate change strips away the ability to grow top-quality ingredients. To highlight the need to act now to mitigate the looming climate disaster, their response is Torched Earth Ale, an admittedly lousy-tasting brew made from what the land would put forth as conditions further degrade, such as “smoke-tainted water, climate-proof dandelions, and drought-resistant grains.” High-quality coffee is at least as susceptible, given that only two species—Coffea arabica and Coffea robusta—make up 99% of global joe production, and C. arabica is particularly endangered by a warming planet. Fortunately, a recently rediscovered species, Coffea stenophylla, is more heat tolerant, tastes great, and can be coplanted on existing coffee plantations to forestall a worldwide coffee shortage. (Bill Schafer, Boston, Apr 2017)

Light-field photography relies on a microarray to simultaneously capture an image at multiple depths that can then be used to reconstruct a 3-D image, permitting photographers to adopt a shoot-first–focus later mindset (Ren Ng, Seattle, Dec 2012; Marc Levoy, San Francisco, Dec 2014, and Charlotte, Dec 2010). Texas A&M researchers are achieving similar results by applying machine learning to any existing 2-D photo. “We can download and use any image on the Internet, even ones that are 100 years old, and essentially bring it back to life and look at it from different angles.” 

First ears; now noses: Advances in cellular-based 3-D printing is enabling fast growth of implantable body parts. (Lawrence Bonassar, San Jose, Feb 2012; University of Maryland, field trip, Sep 2019) 

Conventional mining for industrially important metals is an environmentally calamitous process. An international team of mining researchers have developed a new technique that entails the injection of an acid into the metal-bearing ore followed by the application of an electric field that migrates the dissolved metallic ions to a point of recovery. Copper has been successfully recovered from low-permeability ore in a lab-scale proof-of-concept demonstration that could eventually usher in a new era of efficient mining. (Jeremiah Pate, Berkeley, Mar 2019; Peter Corke, Santa Monica, Dec 2007) 

“Everyone knows that we’re doing a science experiment with Earth. And the number-one, number-two, number-three, and number-four contributors to it are the mining and burning of coal.”—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.