There's a small, secret startup that you might have heard of recently -
Clearview AI. The company has produced what is possibly the most polarizing facial recognition product ever produced. The people it is made for, law enforcement, are in love, but the tech industry wants to hinder its growth and future potential. Law enforcement loves it
There's no doubt that the use of facial recognition technology is causing problems for those who use it. New York
tried it in schools, and that immediately drew criticism. But, the place where the technology, especially that produced by Clearview AI, is being used the most is law enforcement. While publicly recognizing the potential for abuse, law enforcement is using it with perceived success. According to , agencies have been using Clearview AI to identify the victims of child exploitation, both in photo and video. In Indiana, they ran photos of 21 victims through the system and came back with 14 identities. This allowed them to contact the victims and ask if they wanted to provide statements. The New York Times Does privacy matter?
According to the company's policies, it would appear that the answer is no. Because of how the company acquires and stores images, privacy advocates argue that it creates new kinds of harm. The company stores the images uploaded by law enforcement, known as probe images, forever. Yes, the internet never forgets, but the accumulation of this kind of imagery by Clearview AI creates a new way for these images to make their way into the public's hands.
Tech companies hate it
Probe images are not enough to produce a viable facial recognition technology. So, how did they get a usable database of images? Exactly where you think - social media. The company has scraped public photos from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and more, to produce a database of billions of photos of faces.
These companies, who are against the use of these photos in the Clearview AI platform, have
ordered the company to stop scraping data and to stop using data they have already scraped. While the sites' privacy policies may prohibit the behavior, there is a legal precedent against them. LinkedIn lost a battle to prevent similar behavior from a company called hiQ. hiQ had been scraping public data from profiles for years and was granted permission to continue. The court concluded that data made public was just that - public.
As with the discussion around
outlawing encryption, the question comes down to whether or not law enforcement can and should regularly violate our privacy to combat child exploitation. There is no way this is the end of the story - it is likely just the beginning.
Here's the pitch: A service that allows you to stream videogames to be able to be played on any device you own. This is what everyone had hoped for when Google launched
Stadia, though it was not to be. Like other services that came before, the service was very limited. The biggest limitation is that you have to get the game from Google Stadia, whether you already own it or not. It also meant that if Google didn't support the game, you couldn't play it. However, GeForce Now has taken a different approach. Play your games
Nvidia's been testing its game streaming platform,
GeForce Now, for about a month in closed beta, and years before that in various states. This platform sets itself apart from the rest of the pack in several important ways. The most important is that the games library is not closed, like with Stadia. Instead, you can play games from the markets that you already use.
The platform, which left closed beta this week, currently supports the most important game marketplaces: Steam, Epic Games Store, Battle.net, and Uplay. It runs an instance of the store, under your credentials, in the cloud, and uses that account to install and stream the game. Because of this model, it means that you can sync your saved games from these stores and pick up where you left off.
Play where you want
Another of Stadia's major drawbacks was the questionable device support. For a platform billed as play anywhere, you couldn't play on many devices. With GeForce Now, the supported device list is extensive. For Android, the minimum system requirements are "An Android phone with 2GB with Android 5.0 (L) or later, and OpenGL ES3.2 support or higher." To put the device age into perspective, Android 10 is the current version.
The most prominent downside to the platform is a lack of iOS support. That means that iPhone and iPad owners are currently out in the dark. This could be for several reasons, the most likely of which is Apple's previous removal of similar apps from the App Store. It might also involve Apple's controller support limitations. But, for those with Windows, Mac, Android, or Shield, you can play now.
One surprising aspect of GeForce Now is the price. The company currently offers a free option, which allows for 1-hour gaming sessions, or $5 per month for extended sessions and priority access.
Over the past year or so, Intel seems to have forgotten that they are in the processor business, letting their biggest competitor, AMD, gain ground. While Intel has not released any processors on upgraded architecture or smaller silicon footprints, AMD has continued to innovate, recently
releasing 7nm chips. This constant forward movement from AMD has had a positive impact on the company, bringing their desktop market share to 18.3 percent and mobile share to 162 percent for the fourth quarter. What it means for AMD and Intel
These gains are big news for both AMD and Intel, as an increase for AMD means a decrease for Intel. Considering AMD's nearly non-existant market share just a few years ago, it shows the importance of continued innovation in the PC space, despite the belief that the industry is in decline. In reality, the PC space has been growing for the past few quarters.
As they have pushed the processor business, the company has added hardware partners. While Microsoft has used AMD hardware for its Xbox products, the Surface line has always been Intel. That is until this generation, where a custom AMD Ryzen option was added to the lineup for some new models. There has also been an increase in the number of available laptops running Ryzen mobile processors, helping to lead to the 4 percent increase over last year.
A new partner emerges
A new partner might be about to appear - Apple. According to some code in macOS, five new hardware pieces from AMD have support added, including system processors. The company has been rumored to be looking for a way out with Intel, with the most common rumor pointing to an Apple-designed ARM processor. However, as everyone in the industry has noted, switching to ARM processors would mean huge changes for developers and users. However, a switch to AMD (which Apple already uses for video hardware) would be a lateral move for both groups.
This move could indicate a change for both Apple and Intel. For Intel, it would be the first potential complete loss of a hardware partner, one that made a big move years ago to switch from Motorola to Intel. But, the biggest signal is from Apple, which has mostly ignored their computer business for the past decade. As the tablet market shrinks and the PC market grows, they might be ready to put effort into that division once again.
When we talk about the streaming wars, we are usually talking about Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and the rest. However, the battle has been heating up over on the gaming side of things, with Twitch losing some ground to Mixer, Facebook, and YouTube. This week, an announcement from Activision brings that divide a little closer because of a new partnership with Google.
The two companies have signed a multi-year deal in the eSports market. Activision will use Google Cloud as its backbone for competition systems, but that is far from the most interesting part of the agreement. The significant aspect of the deal is that all Activision eSports competitions will stream exclusively on YouTube (with the exception of China). This means that YouTube, which has had trouble gaining traction in game streaming, will become the only place to watch official
Call of Duty, Hearthstone, and Overwatch tournaments.
This move comes at a time when YouTube has been
mired in controversy around the data it collects about children. A non-trivial percentage of game streaming viewers are under 13, meaning that this could bring that issue to a head once again.
The company seems less concerned about the negative consequences. The company's head of gaming, Ryan Wyatt, said,
Both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League are the quintessential examples of world class esports content. As a former Call of Duty esports commentator myself, I couldn't be more excited for Activision Blizzard to choose YouTube as its exclusive home for the digital live streaming of both leagues. This partnership further demonstrates our dedication to having a world class live streaming product for gaming.
Call of Duty League season started today, January 24, 2020, with 12 teams battling it out in Minnesota. The Overwatch League season will kick off on February 8, 2020. Both events are available exclusively on each league's official YouTube channel.
Last year, Google made what seemed like a fairly simple change to its mobile search results: it added the favicon of the domain to some results. The favicon is the icon that you see on the left of a browser tab, and usually shows the site's branding (like the green icon you see on our website). It appeared that Google was trying to make a small visual change that could help better identify the website on the other side of the result.
The company decided that, because the response was so positive on mobile, that they would bring the feature to the desktop search experience. That seemingly simple change backfired on Google when users noticed something about the new markers: they were the same size as the ad marker. This makes it far more difficult for some users to casually determine which results are legitimate and which are paid.
This minimized distinction was immediately met with claims of deception, with people claiming that Google did this on purpose to confuse users and drive additional ad clicks. As advertising is Google's primary business model and users have become more and more observant of which results are ads, it would not be surprising for the company to want to enhance its returns. In this case, however, it truly does appear to be just a case of a bad design decision. The design has since been removed, with
a statement, saying, While early tests for desktop were positive, we are always incorporating feedback from our users. We are experimenting with a change to the current desktop favicons and will continue to iterate on the design over time.
So, we will likely see a return of the favicons to search results on the desktop experience in the future, it will only be after solving the perception issue this design created. Favicons still appear on Google News posts, but News does not display ads.
There is no doubt that eSports is quickly growing into an American classic. Platforms like Twitch and Mixer have made it easy for regular home players to watch the pros and learn how to play at a higher level. They have also made it easier for new players to be discovered. In the US, though, the most common recruiting tool for professional sports is through high school competition. Because of that, the announcement that
Fortnite is officially recognized as a high school sport could bring that recruiting process to a popular eSports title. Competition will begin in Spring 2020, with infrastructure already in place.
How does a game become an official school sport, though? It is done through an organization called the
National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the governing body of school sports. Outside of the traditional sports, like football, soccer, and lacrosse, NFHS recognizes Speech, Debate & Theater and eSports as non-traditional sports. eSports works differently from most of the others, in that competition does not take place on a traditional field. To make the process easier for schools, they have partnered with a company called PlayVS, which provides the infrastructure for competition and tournaments.
This brings up a constant topic
within our organization - why does the NFHS not recognize robotics as a sport? Videogame titles are fleeting, but engineering is not. has hosted robotics competitions since 1992 (Maize Craze) and has likely led to more students becoming professionals in the field than all other sports combined. This is because science and engineering are the only sport that any student can go pro. Yet, NFHS does not recognize FIRST FIRST or its competitor VEX as an official sport. This distinction prevents students from counting competitions as excused absences and making funding a difficult process. Hopefully, NFHS will fix this because students participating in these activities deserve recognition.