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Facebook, Microsoft set deepfake detection contest

Deepfake detection
Deepfake detection software developed at the University of California at Berkeley analyzed head tilt and facial mannerisms to determine that this video of President Donald Trump was faked. (Berkeley Video)info

Facebook says it’s working with Microsoft, the Partnership for AI and an international team of academics to create the Deepfake Detection Challenge, a competition to develop better tools for flagging faked videos.

“We are also funding research collaborations and prizes for the challenge to help encourage more participation,” Facebook’s chief technology officer, Mike Schroepfer, said today in a blog posting. “In total, we are dedicating more than $10 million to fund this industry-wide effort.”

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‘Photo Wake-Up’ makes stills come eerily alive

Moonwalk GIF
Photo Wake-Up can turn a photo of an Apollo moonwalker into an animation that has the astronaut walking out of the frame. (UW / NASA Image)

What would it be like to see pictures of moonwalkers, comic-book characters and painted portraits get up and walk right out of their frames? It’s an eerie thought – but Photo Wake-Up, a software application developed by computer scientists at the University of Washington and Facebook, gives you an idea how it would look.

And someday, the app could come to an augmented-reality headset near you.

The project has been in the works for months. It won a share of the spotlight last November at UW’s annual Madrona Prize competition, and made another media splash a month later when the team put out a preprint paper.

Next week, the researchers will be presenting their results at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition in Long Beach, Calif.

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Facebook cancels its internet drone program

Facebook says it’s ending its campaign to build a fleet of high-altitude drones to boost internet connectivity, after spending millions of dollars on the years-long effort. In a Facebook blog post, engineering director Yael Maguire noted that other companies were building high-altitude platform stations, or HAPS. “Going forward, we’ll continue to work with partners like Airbus on HAPS connectivity generally, and on the other technologies needed to make this system work, like flight control computers and high-density batteries,” Maguire said.

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Facebook opens AI labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh

Facebook Seattle
Facebook is upgrading the status of its Seattle AI research operation. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

After months of work to beef up its artificial intelligence research teams in Seattle and Pittsburgh, Facebook is acknowledging that those two cities are getting official status as AI labs in their own right.

“Facebook AI Research is opening two new labs in Seattle and Pittsburgh, which will join the existing sites in Menlo Park, New York, Paris, Montreal and Tel Aviv,” Yann LeCun, Facebook’s chief AI scientist, said in a posting on May 4.

LeCun’s statement confirms what sources told GeekWire in March about Facebook’s growing Seattle presence in AI research, as well as rumors we heard back then about the social-media giant’s plans for Pittsburgh.

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Elon Musk deletes SpaceX and Tesla from Facebook

SpaceX on Facebook
This is an archived Portuguese-language version of SpaceX’s Facebook page, which has been deleted. (SpaceX / Facebook via Archive.org)

Facebook suffered another blow today: Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, had those two companies’ official pages removed from the embattled social network.

Musk’s action came after it was pointed out to him on Twitter that SpaceX actually had an official Facebook page. “I didn’t realize there was one,” he tweeted.

The context for Musk’s wild and woolly tweetstorm is the controversy over Facebook’s handling of personal data from users. A series of reports found that the information was mishandled, and ended up being used inappropriately to micro-target voters in the 2016 presidential election.

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Facebook escalates AI talent wars

Facebook Seattle
Facebook already has a significant presence in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Facebook has made a high-profile hire as part of a plan to expand its AI research team in Seattle — adding to an already-fierce competition for talent in the artificial intelligence field.

The social network has signed up Luke Zettlemoyer, a computer science professor at the University of Washington who was most recently a senior research manager at Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2.

Zettlemoyer is considered a rising star in the AI field, and was among the researchers featured last November in a New York Times article about the bidding war for artificial intelligence talent. He left AI2 last week and began at Facebook this week.

His move comes as the Allen Institute, created by Paul Allen, looks to ramp up its own hiring in a tight market for AI talent with help from an additional $125 million in funding from the Microsoft co-founder.

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Zuck and Musk trade zingers over AI fears

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg
Tech billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are feuding over AI. (SpaceX / Facebook Photos)

Techies, grab some popcorn: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and SpaceX/Tesla CEO Elon Musk are throwing shade at each other over what Musk considers the scariest issue facing humanity: the rapid rise of artificial intelligence.

It all started last week at the National Governors Association’s summer meeting in Rhode Island, where Musk complained that policymakers and tech leaders weren’t sufficiently worried about AI.

“I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street, killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said.

Over the weekend, Zuckerberg basically said Musk was being reckless.

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Facebook’s second drone test raises the bar

Facebook Aquila drone
Facebook’s Aquila drone takes to the air. (Facebook Engineering Photo)

The drive to provide global internet access from the air is more of a horse race in the wake of Facebook’s second test flight of its full-scale Aquila high-altitude drone – a flight that the company said was more successful than the first one.

Facebook is developing the ultralight, solar-powered drone as a platform for beaming down network connectivity from a height of more than 60,000 feet, for months at a time. The idea is to provide internet service – including, of course, access to Facebook and its advertisers – to some of the billions of people who are in areas too remote for existing avenues of access.

A year ago, Facebook’s first test flight ended in a crash that substantially damaged the aircraft, apparently due to a gust of wind that put the drone in the wrong configuration for landing.

It took months for Facebook to fine-tune the drone’s design for the second flight, conducted May 22 at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

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Facebook tests ‘Tether-Tenna’ for broadband

Tether-Tenna demonstrated
Yael Maguire, who heads the Facebook Connectivity Lab, shows off the Tether-Tenna system during Facebook’s F8 developers conference in San Jose, Calif. (Facebook Video)

Facebook is adding tethered helicopters known as “Tether-Tennas” to its toolkit for widening internet access around the globe, even in emergency situations.

The Tether-Tenna concept calls for sending a car-sized helicopter equipped with telecommunications equipment hundreds of feet up in the air, to provide connectivity in areas where wireless capacity has been lost due to a disaster or other emergency.

A tether keeps the copter anchored to the ground and provides the cable links for electricity and data, theoretically allowing the Tether-Tenna to stay on duty for months at a time.

“We call this a type of insta-infrastructure,” Yael Maguire, the head of the Facebook Connectivity Lab, said today during Facebook’s F8 developers conference in San Jose, Calif.

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Facebook beams ‘likes’ into Star Trek universe

Image: Facebook Reactions
Facebook’s reaction emojis take on a Star Trek look for fans today. (Credit: Facebook)

Do you love “Live Long and Prosper”? Then you’ll probably be reacting to Facebook posts with Star Trek icons today.

The social-media giant morphed its usual lineup of like, love, haha, wow, sad and angry emojis to reflect a Trek vibe, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “Star Trek” TV show’s U.S. premiere.

The thumbs-up for “Like” adds a Starfleet sparkle. “Love” has been turned into a Vulcan salute, the “Haha” face has a Captain Kirk hairdo, “Wow” gets the Spock treatment, “Sad” looks like Geordi La Forge from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and “Angry” has the furrowed brow of a Klingon.

“We wanted to mark this fun, nostalgic moment and help the passionate community of Star Trek fans celebrate in some unique ways on Facebook,” Lindsey Shepard, marketing lead for Facebook Messenger, said in a Medium post explaining the shift.

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