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 September 23 2016

Weekly Recap: Bot War, Artificial Pop Music, Karma, Massive Yahoo Breach, etc.

On-Line Bot War

Bot Wars.

The way in which software agents, or “bots”, interact on-line is poorly understood. Researchers at Oxford University studied Wikipedia’s bots, tasked with correcting common mistakes, performing tedious jobs or erasing suspicious alterations. These bots account for 15% of all changes made to the worldwide encyclopaedia. Sometimes, though, bots work at cross-purposes, undoing one another’s work in what Wikipedians call an “editing war” that can last for years: Bot 1 edits an entry, Bot 2 reverses the changes, and back and forth until a third party (bot or human) intervenes to settle the conflict. The researchers are particularly interested in how relatively simple bots can generate complex dynamics with unanticipated results.

MIT Technology Review, “The Growing Problem of Bots That Fight Online.”


Artificial Pop Music

Next year, SONY CSL Research Laboratory in Paris will release an album of songs composed with AI. As a foretaste, SONY CSL released Daddy’s Car, composed in the style of The Beatles (or is it the Beach Boys?), on Youtube. The creation process is based on a database of some 13,000 pop and jazz scores (called “lead sheets” in the lingo). Punch in the desired style and length of the piece, and a computer program called FlowComposer spits out a tune. A second program called ReChord generates music by matching audio chunks from other recordings and songs. Humans add the final touches with sound mixing and lyrics. Human composer Benoît Carré is working on this particular album; he was lead singer for Lilicub, the pop group whose song Voyage en Italie was a hit in France in 1996.

Popular Science, “Listen to a Song Written by Artificial Intelligence, Inspired by The Beatles.”

SONY CSL Research Laboratory, Paris, “FlowComposer: composing with ai.”


Karma, GoPro’s new drone

GoPro’s first drone was highly anticipated and did not disappoint, with two welcome innovations: a foldable design for easy carrying, and a 3-axis stabilizer that can be removed for other uses. No need for a phone or a tablet, as the drone comes with a touchscreen controller and, to ease the learning curve, a training flight simulator app. Weighing in at 1 kg, it’s top flight speed is 55 km/h, maximum radius 1 km, and in-flight autonomy, 20 minutes. The Karma will go on sale on October 23 for US$800 (US$1,100 with the new Hero 5 Black camera).

Circuit Breaker, “GoPro’s Karma drone folds up and fits in a backpack.”


Yahoo’s mega-hack

Yahoo Breach.

The former Web giant confirmed it was the target of a large-scale attack at the end of 2014, with at least 500 million user accounts being compromised. Stolen information includes names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords, and security questions and answers. The company has promised to alert affected users. The news could not come at a worse time for Yahoo, which is in the process of being bought out by Verizon. Sources within Yahoo say the company has experienced a number of security incidents that have been mishandled by CEO Marissa Mayer.

Recode, “Yahoo confirms data breach with 500 million accounts stolen, as questions about disclosure to Verizon and users grow.”


Facebook angers advertisers

Facebook Lies.

Facebook has overestimated how much video people have watched for the last two years, the firm has admitted. One advertiser suggested that, in some cases, video viewing statistics had been overestimated by up to 80%. The error affected a Facebook metric called “average duration of video viewed”, which was supposed to tell publishers for how long, on average, people had watched a video. However, the metric did not include viewers who had watched for less than three seconds in the count. Discounting the shorter views—including people who had ignored a video in their news feed—inflated the average viewing times for each video. The Wall Street Journal quoted ad-buying firm Publicis as saying that Facebook’s misreporting was “unacceptable”. Publicis said it showed the need for third-party verification of statistics gathered by Facebook. The social network has previously been criticized for counting a video as being “viewed” after three seconds.

BBC News, “Facebook ‘overestimated’ video viewing time.”


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