What I'm Reading - 5/15/2018
Three to five links every weekday - articles that make me go "Hmmmm..."
This idea came during the early discussions of the PS4, back in 2010, before livestreaming superstars were racking up thousands of subscribers, before YouTube had fully transformed into a glitzy repository of fathomless money, fame and youth — the concept of a mainstream figure like Drake sharing a virtual stage with a gaming celebrity like Ninja seemed a distant dream.
As Aoki recalls, the PS4 was designed with sharing capabilities in mind from the start. So by the time the Share button was first pitched, Sony had already decided to use a ring buffer — a circular data structure that overwrites the oldest footage first — to record the user’s last few minutes of gameplay, though the exact length varied with the day. Before that, the planned share functions had required users to dig into the PS4’s hardware menu, like on the PS3 before it. With this previous approach in mind, the concept of introducing a new button on the DualShock 4 dedicated to sharing seemed like a way of making the player’s life a little easier.
“It really resonated in the room,” Aoki says. “It obviously was a great idea, that a hardware button is incredibly easy to understand. But more than that, it’s a message for the PlayStation side of things, that users can share out, connect, show other players their epic moments. It just matched up. After that, it was easy for me to pitch that up to the executives, because it went along so well with the core PS4 concept.”
Very recently, the outbreak of AI-doctored pornographic videos in which the faces of the original actors had been swapped with those of celebrities and politicians caused panic over the implications of artificial intelligence applications blurring the line between what’s real and what’s not. Similar concerns surfaced when Google demonstrated an AI technology that could create human voice patterns that were indistinguishable from humans at last week’s I/O Conference.
For the most part, the concerns are well-placed. Thanks to advances in machine learning and deep learning, AI applications are becoming extremely convincing at reproducing human appearance and behavior. There are already several applications that can convincingly synthesize a person’s face, voice, handwriting, and even conversation style. And virtually anyone with a computer, an internet connection, and evil intentions can put them to destructive use.
Experts are already predicting how the combination of these applications will help bad actors conduct fraud and forgery, or cause chaos by ushering in a new age of fake news that is hard to verify and debunk. However, while most of us fret over its evil applications, we’re missing out on the positive uses AI-synthesizing technology has to offer. There are plenty of ways that AI’s imitation power can change people’s lives for the better.
Both John Vrionis and Jyoti Bansal have benefitted from the venture-capital business, the former as a longtime investor and the latter as a successful startup founder. But if you ask them about the industry, they'll tell you that it's broken, or at least a particular part of it is. The industry has a serious breakdown when it comes to funding and nurturing very early, or seed, stage companies, they say.
So they've teamed up to form their own venture firm focused specifically on those types of companies. In the process, they're attempting to do lots of things differently than the typical venture firm. In fact, they think their planned tack is so different that they wanted it reflected in their firm's name, which they are unveiling on Tuesday — Unusual Ventures.
When trying to solve the problems they saw in seed-stage investing, the partners said to themselves, "Let's start with first principles — How can we do this differently?" said Bansal, who founded and served as CEO of AppDynamics before he sold it to Cisco for $3.7 billion last year. He continued: "Our goal is to be innovative about how to do this and think of it in very innovative, problem-solving kinds of ways."