Facebook can make VR Avatars look – and move – exactly like you

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Research assistant Autumn Trimble sits inside “Mugsy,” one of the capture facilities Pittsburgh’s Facebook Reality Lab uses to create “codec avatars.”

“There’s this big, ugly sucker at the door,” the young woman says, her eyes twinkling, “and he said, ‘Who do you think you are, Lena Horne?’ I said no but that I knew Miss Horne like a sister.”

It’s the beginning of a short soliloquy from Walton Jones’ play The 1940’s Radio Hour, and as she continues with the monologue it’s easy to see that the young woman knows what she’s doing. Her smile grows while she goes on to recount the doorman’s change of tune—like she’s letting you in on the joke. Her lips curl as she seizes on just the right words, playing with their cadence. Her expressions are so finely calibrated, her reading so assured, that with the dark background behind her, you’d think you were watching a black-box revival of the late-’70s Broadway play.

There’s only one problem: Her body disappears below the neck.

Yaser Sheikh reaches out and stops the video. The woman is a stunningly lifelike virtual-reality avatar, her performance generated by data gathered beforehand. But Sheikh, who heads up Facebook Reality Labs’ Pittsburgh location, has another video he considers more impressive. In it, the same woman appears wearing a VR headset, as does a young man. Their headsetted real-life selves chat on the left side of the screen; on the right side, simultaneously, their avatars carry on in perfect concert. As mundane as the conversation is—they talk about hot yoga—it’s also an unprecedented glimpse at the future.

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Alternatives to Facebook

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Facebook has been under relentless attack since the Cambridge Analytica scandal in early 2018. Broadcasters and news publishers have declared open season on Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and other senior executives at the company. And while not quite ubiquitous, #deletefacebook pops up every time there’s a story about data privacy. The EU has fined them, the US is trying to figure out how to regulate them, and the notion that free services should be absolutely free (as opposed to checking a box on a terms and conditions page that allows the free service to use your data as payment) is gaining traction.

Whether or not Facebook deserves the scrutiny it is under is a great topic for another article. Today, I want to have a look at alternatives. If you don’t like Facebook, what might work for you? Is the time right for the reemergence of focused social networks?

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Pew: 74% of users don’t know Facebook records their ad preferences

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Facebook has been in the news quite a bit for its ad targeting over the past year, most notably with reports that the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica used improperly obtained data to develop “personality” profiles on U.S. voters and target ads toward them during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But many users are still unaware what information Facebook actually collects for ad targeting purposes.

A new survey out this morning from Pew Research found that 74 percent of Facebook users surveyed did not know there was a “your ad preferences page” where they could see which ad categories Facebook had placed them into, based on interests and information they’ve shared with the service. Pew surveyed 963 U.S. adults with Facebook accounts between September 4 and October 1, 2018.

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The dawn of a new Big Tech regulatory era?

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At the ShellyPalmer Innovation Series Breakfast at CES 2018, I had a Socratic discussion about the influence of the big technology platforms and other emerging technologies on our lives and the need for responsible innovation with David Sapin, US Risk & Regulatory Leader, PwC. We also talked about the growing “techlash” buzz for more industry regulation and, while we agreed that there was a need for formal approach around some aspects of the industry, we felt that the best approach at the time might be an industry self-regulatory approach to responsible innovation (see A Case for Responsible Innovation).

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Video swells to 25% of US digital ad spending

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This year will mark a milestone for digital video advertising in the US, according to eMarketer’s latest ad spending forecast. In 2018, video will grow nearly 30% to $27.82 billion. That means video ad spending will make up 25% of US digital ad spending.

Media strategy is mobile strategy and the brands that thrive understand that creative and brand messaging must be designed to reach consumers in a mobile-first world. Advance your strategy with ten trends from Verve that point to a mobile future in which relevance, context, and measurability define the work we do.

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Exclusive: Tim Berners-Lee tells us his radical new plan to upend the World Wide Web

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With an ambitious decentralized platform, the father of the web hopes it’s game on for corporate tech giants like Facebook and Google.

Last week, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, asked me to come and see a project he has been working on almost as long as the web itself. It’s a crisp autumn day in Boston, where Berners-Lee works out of an office above a boxing gym. After politely offering me a cup of coffee, he leads us into a sparse conference room. At one end of a long table is a battered laptop covered with stickers. Here, on this computer, he is working on a plan to radically alter how all of us live and work on the web.

“The intent is world domination,” Berners-Lee says with a wry smile. The British-born scientist is known for his dry sense of humor. But in this case, he is not joking.

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More than 1 in 4 Americans have deleted the Facebook app in the past year, according to a new survey

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Facebook has had a year full of controversies over misinformation and the way it provides access to user data.

A new study from Pew taken shortly after the Cambridge Analytica scandal found that 26% of Americans had deleted the Facebook app from their phone in the last year.

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The web had failed to serve humanity: Tim Berners-Lee was crushed when Russia used Facebook to meddle in U.S. elections

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World wide web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee said he was “devastated” by recent abuses of the web, in an interview with Vanity Fair.

He is working on a new platform, named Solid, to re-decentralise the internet and take power away from monopolies like Google and Facebook.

He still has hope that the internet can become a something that serves humanity well.

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Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018

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YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat are the most popular online platforms among teens. Fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online ‘almost constantly’

Until recently, Facebook had dominated the social media landscape among America’s youth – but it is no longer the most popular online platform among teens, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Today, roughly half (51%) of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

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Facebook plans to create its own cryptocurrency

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Facebook is exploring the creation of its own cryptocurrency, a virtual token that would allow its billions of users around the world to make electronic payments, people familiar with Facebook’s plans told Cheddar.

“They are very serious about it,” said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing unannounced plans.

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Face-swapping videos could lead to more ‘fake news’

IMG_6453Fake news has been a problem swamping the internet. Now there is a way to make fake videos with nothing more than your laptop. FakeApp can be used to make fake videos of people using images or other videos of them. Several social media platforms are filled with these deepfakes. While the technology still needs works, it’s been used to put celebrities into pornographic films. What would happen if world leaders became digital puppets? Following is a full transcript of the video.

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