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Intel Labs looks to future

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Car tail lights saving lives, immersive displays allowing photos to tell their own story and personalised shopping experiences were a few of the innovations presented by Intel at its 11th annual Research@Intel event last week.

The event was a showcase of new research spawned from Intel’s internal efforts and external collaborations. Justin Rattner, Intel’s chief technology officer, kicked off the event by highlighting some of the 20 ground-breaking research projects on exhibition.

Supplementing its own robust and diverse research efforts, Intel Labs two years ago deployed a unique model of direct collaboration with the world’s leading academic researchers, creating a global network of seven Intel Science and Technology Centers (ISTCs) and six Intel Collaborative Research Institutes (ICRIs). Each center has built its own vibrant community of researchers to speed advances in embedded, cloud, social and secure computing, among other fields. Today’s event showcases a sample of these research advances and many from Intel’s own labs across these and many other sectors, including visual and context-aware computing as well as significant progress in fields such as big data.

‚”The majority of our research is conducted by Intel’s own researchers but we are delighted by the quality and quantity of research coming out of the ISTCs and ICRIs,‚” said Rattner. ‚”Importantly, the deeply collaborative structure of these engagements is based on an open IP model benefiting not just Intel and researchers, but the high technology industry and human society at large.‚”

Research@Intel Demo Showcase

Demos at the Research@Intel event are housed in four different zones. These zones include:

Enriching Lives: Developing computing experiences that simplify, enhance and enrich people’s lives. This research is intended to help people be understood, expressive and free. One demonstration, titled ‚”Be Meaningful,‚” using ‚”Shelf Edge Technology (SET),‚” can help detect a person’s presence in a store and create a more meaningful, personalized shopping experience. If a car needs an air filter, for example, SET could use the vehicle’s service records to alert the owner about the need for a specific filter when the owner enters an auto parts store. If a person has peanut allergies, SET could warn of potentially dangerous products. If a person plans to cook salmon for dinner, SET could recommend wines to best compliment the dish.

The Data Society: Unlocking the power of data for everyone. In addition to pushing the boundaries of what institutions can do with big data, Intel Labs has put an emphasis on the exploration of meaningful data exchange among individuals. Researchers are looking at ways to adapt the digital infrastructure to allow people to better capture, move and work with digital information easily and effectively. In a demonstration titled, ‚”Vibrant Data Communities,‚” Intel Labs researchers combine public and personal data with context-aware algorithms to identify and present the most useful information to individuals. For example, air quality sensors in a neighborhood could help steer a person clear of pollen hotspots in during allergy season.

Intelligent Everything: Innovations that transform inanimate objects by adding sensing capabilities, helping enable sustainable and smart living experiences. In one demonstration, researchers are working on easy-to-use tools to automate contextual cues with already-existing sensors so that a home behaves usefully in response to events and a family’s unique needs. The demonstration shows how to easily link a Web camera and a music system to act as a home security system and to link a Web camera that receives contextual cues from a baby in a crib and an alarm by the parents’ bed to act as a baby monitor.

Tech Essentials: Technology building blocks including circuits, architecture and software that provide a foundation for all of the areas above. For example, the ‚”Protecting Sensor Data‚” demonstration uses Intel hardware and software to prevent malicious parties for accessing personal information recorded by cameras, microphones and GPS locators embedded in mobile devices.

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Prepare for deepfake impact

Is the world as we know it ready for the real impact of deepfake? CAREY VAN VLAANDEREN, CEO at ESET SA, digs deeper

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Deepfake technology is rapidly becoming easier and quicker to create and it’s opening a door into a new form of cybercrime. Although it’s still mostly seen as relatively harmful or even humorous, this craze could take a more sinister turn in the future and be at the heart of political scandals, cybercrime, or even unimaginable concepts involving fake videos. And it won’t be just public figures that bear the brunt. 

deepfake is the technique of human-image synthesis based on artificial intelligence to create fake content either from scratch or using existing video designed to replicate the look and sound of a real human. Such videos can look incredibly real and currently many of these videos involve celebrities or public figures saying something outrageous or untrue.

New research shows a huge increase in the creation of deepfake videos, with the number online almost doubling in the last nine months alone. Deepfakes are increasing in quality at a swift rate, too. This video showing Bill Hader morphing effortlessly between Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan is just one example of how authentic these videos are looking, as well as sounding. If you search YouTube for the term ‘deepfake’ it will make you realise we are viewing the tip of the iceberg as to what is to come.

In fact, we have already seen deepfake technology used for fraud, where a deepfaked voice was reportedly used to scam a CEO out of a large sum of cash. It is believed the CEO of an unnamed UK firm thought he was on the phone to his boss and followed the orders to immediately transfer €220,000 (roughly US$244,000) to a Hungarian supplier’s bank account. If it was this easy to influence someone by just asking them to do it over the phone, then surely we will need better security in place to mitigate this threat.

Fooling the naked eye

We have also seen apps making DeepNudes where apps were able to turn any clothed person into a topless photo in seconds. Although, luckily, this particular app has now been taken offline, what if this comes back in another form with a vengeance and is able to create convincingly authentic-looking video?

There is also evidence that the production of these videos is becoming a lucrative business especially in the pornography industry. The BBC says “96% of these videos are of female celebrities having their likenesses swapped into sexually explicit videos – without their knowledge or consent”.

recent Californian bill has taken a leap of faith and made it illegal to create a pornographic deepfake of someone without their consent with a penalty of up to $150,000. But chances are that no legislation will be enough to deter some people from fabricating the videos.

To be sure, an article from The Economist discusses that in order to make a convincing enough deepfake you would need a serious amount of video footage and/or voice recordings in order to make even a short deepfake clip.

Having said that, In the not-too-distant future, it may be entirely possible to take just a few short Instagram stories to create a deepfake that is believed by the majority of their followers online or by anyone else who knows them. We may see some unimaginable videos appearing of people closer to home – the boss, our colleagues, our peers, our family. Additionally, deepfakes may also be used for bullying in schools, the office or even further afield.

Furthermore, cybercriminals will definitely use such technology to spearphish victims. Deepfakes keep getting cheaper to create and become near-impossible to detect with the human eye alone. As a result, alt that fakery could very easily muddy the water between fact and fiction, which in turn could force us to not trust anything – even when presented with what our senses are telling us to believe.

Heading off the very real threat

So, what can be done to prepare us for this threat? First, we need to better educate people that deepfakes exist, how they work and the potential damage they can cause. We will all need to learn to treat even the most realistic videos we see that they could be a total fabrication.

Secondly, technology desperately needs to develop better detection of deepfakes. There is already research going into it, but it’s nowhere near where it should be yet. Although machine learning is at the heart of creating them in the first place, there needs to be something in place that acts as the antidote being able to detect them without relying on human eyes alone.

Finally, social media platforms need to realize there is a huge potential threat with the impact of deepfakes because when you mix a shocking video with social media, the outcome tends to spread very rapidly and potentially could have a detrimental impact on society.

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A career in data science – or your money back

The Explore Data Science Academy is offering high demand skills courses – and guarantees employment for trainees

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The Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) has announced several new courses in 2020 that it says will radically change the shape of data science education in South Africa. 

Comprising Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics and Machine Learning, each six-month course provides vital digital skills that are in high demand in the market place.  The full time, fully immersive courses each cost R60 000 including VAT. 

The courses are differentiated from any other available by the fact that EDSA has introduced a money back promise if it cannot place the candidate in a job within six months of graduation and at a minimum annual starting salary of R240 000.

“For South Africans with drive and aptitude, this is the perfect opportunity to launch a career in what has been called the sexiest career of the 21stcentury,” says Explore founder Shaun Dippnall.

Dippnall and his team are betting on the explosive demand for data science skills locally and globally.

 “There is a massive supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills being demanded by companies.  

“We are offering specifically a work ready opportunity in a highly skills deficient sector, and one which guarantees employment thereafter.”

The latter is particularly pertinent to young South Africans – a segment which currently faces a 30 percent unemployment rate. 

“If you have skills in either Data Science, Data Engineering, Data Analytics or Machine Learning, you will find work locally, even globally. We’re confident of that,” says Dippnall.

EDSA is part of the larger Explore organisation and has for the past two years offered young people an opportunity to be trained as data scientists and embark on careers in a fast-growing sector of the economy.  

In its first year of operation, EDSA trained 100 learners as data scientists in a fully sponsored, full-time 12-month course.  In year two, this number increased to 400.  

“Because we are connected with hundreds of employers and have an excellent understanding of the skills they need, our current placement rate is over 90 percent of the students we’ve taught,” Dippnall says. “These learners can earn an average of R360 000 annually, hence our offer of your money back if there is no employment at a minimum annual salary of R240k within six months.

“With one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world – recently announced as a national emergency by the President – it is important that institutions teach skills that are in demand and where learners can earn a healthy living afterwards.”

There are qualifying criteria, however. Candidates need to live in close proximity (within one hour commuting distance), or be prepared to live, in either Johannesburg or Cape Town, and need to be between the ages of 18 and 55. 

“Our application process is very tough. We’ll test for aptitude and attitude using the qualifying framework we’ve built over the years. If you’re smart enough, you’ll be accepted,” says Dippnall.

To find out more, visit  http://www.explore-datascience.net.

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