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At August’s Black Hat cybersecurity conference, the Democratic National Committee tried to raise awareness of the risks of deepfake videos. Using deep learning tools, videos are manipulated to superimpose a person’s face onto a video of someone else. As the 2020 presidential election draws near, concerns are mounting over the potential threats that deepfakes pose to the democratic process, because a single falsified video posted shortly before an election could throw the outcome before reviewers are able to disprove the content. Although technology and tools to spot fakes are improving, it is a laborious process involving considerable human insight. Moreover, reviewers are up against a fast-developing technology. Already, deepfakes are reaching a point where modifications are very difficult to spot. Furthermore, freely available software such as FakeApp allows anyone to create deepfakes. Ultimately, it could lead to a crisis of misinformation – an infocalypse – where a growing stream of fake news will make it increasingly difficult to trace the authenticity of news sources. In such a world, trusted sources with validation mechanisms in place will increase in value.
Cities as the playground of immersive AR experiences
Recently, game publisher Niantic launched a new augmented reality (AR) game: Harry Potter – Wizzards Unite. Similar to Pokemon GO, Wizzards Unite-players have to find virtual monsters by exploring their physical environment; the game also enables players to collaborate to complete tasks and advance in the storyline. By using the physical environment and grouped activities as real-time inputs, more engaging and immersive gaming experiences are created. However, enabling technologies are crucial. 5G for instance, allows for with higher bandwidth and lower latency, more computing power in devices (at the edge) and better centralized learning (in the cloud) to coordinate real-time multiplayer gaming. Featuring the most advanced technological infrastructure, cities will see the first mainstream adoption of AR gaming. Urban companies can experiment with new business models: leveraging their physical property as in-game advertisement assets, luring gamers to their brick-and-mortar stores, or boosting in-game purchases of location-based virtual gadgets. Furthermore, urban environments can be “gamified”, for example in interactive sightseeing tours or social activities. As such, cities will become the playground as location-based AR becomes the next-gen gaming platform.
Geoengineering has its moment in the sun
For a long time, geoengineering has faced skepticism. Still, many experts are distrustful about deliberate and large-scale interventions in the Earth’s climate system. They warn against unforeseen consequences and worry that publicity for geoengineering will lend legitimacy to the idea that it may be a solution to climate change. Over the last years, however, scientists and governments are beginning to take geoengineering more serious. With the effects of climate change worsening, a growing group of experts believes it would be irresponsible not to explore geoengineering as a means to potentially save lives, species and ecosystems. Meanwhile, governments are experimenting, with more than 50 countries deploying cloud seeding, a technique that changes the amount and/or type of rainfall. Technological innovation is enabling even more ambitious types of climate engineering, such as solar radiation management (reflecting sunlight to reduce global warming), stratospheric aerosol injection (spraying particles into the stratosphere to block sunlight), and carbon capture. Further technological advances combined with more climate change-driven crises could boost the momentum for geoengineering and see it emerge as a serious response to climate challenges.