This tech (scarily) lets video change reality

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a method to turn one video into the style of another. While this might be a little unclear at first, take a look at the video below. In it, the researchers have taken an entire clip from John Oliver and made it look like Stephen Colbert said it. […]

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have created a method to turn one video into the style of another. While this might be a little unclear at first, take a look at the video below. In it, the researchers have taken an entire clip from John Oliver and made it look like Stephen Colbert said it. Further, they were able to mimic the motion of a flower opening with another flower.

In short, they can make anyone (or anything) look like they are doing something they never did.

“I think there are a lot of stories to be told,” said CMU Ph.D. student Aayush Bansal. He and the team created the tool to make it easier to shoot complex films, perhaps by replacing the motion in simple, well-lit scenes and copying it into an entirely different style or environment.

“It’s a tool for the artist that gives them an initial model that they can then improve,” he said.

The system uses something called generative adversarial networks (GANs) to move one style of image onto another without much matching data. GANs, however, create many artifacts that can mess up the video as it is played.

In a GAN, two models are created: a discriminator that learns to detect what is consistent with the style of one image or video, and a generator that learns how to create images or videos that match a certain style. When the two work competitively — the generator trying to trick the discriminator and the discriminator scoring the effectiveness of the generator — the system eventually learns how content can be transformed into a certain style.

The researchers created something called Recycle-GAN that reduces the imperfections by “not only spatial, but temporal information.”

“This additional information, accounting for changes over time, further constrains the process and produces better results,” wrote the researchers.

Recycle-GAN can obviously be used to create so-called Deepfakes, allowing for nefarious folks to simulate someone saying or doing something they never did. Bansal and his team are aware of the problem.

“It was an eye opener to all of us in the field that such fakes would be created and have such an impact. Finding ways to detect them will be important moving forward,” said Bansal.

Popbase helps YouTube stars build closer relationships with their fans

Entertainment has changed. New platforms led by YouTube have emerged to change the dynamic of broadcast media — once dominated by the rigid programming of TV — while the internet has enabled new media stars to engage with their audiences in new, high-touch ways. Developments like live streaming, social media and more have made the […]

Entertainment has changed. New platforms led by YouTube have emerged to change the dynamic of broadcast media — once dominated by the rigid programming of TV — while the internet has enabled new media stars to engage with their audiences in new, high-touch ways. Developments like live streaming, social media and more have made the stars of today more relatable and more easily reachable than those of yesteryear.

The easiest example to grasp is arguably the Kardashian family.

They dominate the media, have accrued millions of fans on social networks and have branched into retail, fashion, production and more. Their relationship with fans is 24/7 and, regardless of how you feel about the family, their popularity is a clear indicator of this new always-on connection between public figures and their fans.

A new startup is seizing on an opportunity to help up-and-coming online entertainers take a leaf out of that book and grow their relationships with fans.

Popbase is an app that operates almost like an interactive forum for new media.

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The app is designed to take the relationship beyond videos and encourage a more interactive experience. Initially, that means trivia quizzes, exclusive content and news snippets — i.e. exclusive content clips for members — but the plan to go beyond that and enable games, augmented reality, collectibles and more.

While the primary goal is to help grow the fan-creator relationship, Popbase is also aimed at enabling YouTubers to monetize their brand through in-app purchases and advertising around content. Creators take a 60 percent cut of all revenue with the remainder going to Binary Bubbles, the Los Angeles-based startup behind the service. However, that revenue split can rise as high as 70 percent for creators when they “start doing really well,” according to Binary Bubbles CEO Lisa Wong.

In addition, there are incentives for referring others to the platform.

“YouTubers who aren’t as huge as PewDiePie [the star with 65 million subscribers] work very hard,” Wong told TechCrunch in an interview. “With Popbase, we are giving them a chance to gamify and monetize their YouTube content and personality.”

If you recall the once-wildly popular ‘The Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ app — which was reportedly grossing $200 million per year — Popbase’s strategy is to allow influencers with a more modest budget to tap its platform and offer some of those customized experiences for their audiences.

So far, Binary Bubbles has signed up five YouTubers — with a collective fan base of one million followers — and it is looking for more influencers with a following that sits between 10,000 and one million fans.

Popbase users can watch content with a virtual avatar of the YouTube creator

Wong, who spent over 25 years working in the video game industry for companies like Sony PlayStation and Activision, started Binary Bubbles in January 2017 alongside CTO Richard Weeks and CBDO Amit Tishler. Wong reconnected with Weeks — a programmer whose past employers include Lucas Art — when they both worked on an AR project, and the addition of Tishler, who is an artist/animator, rounded out the founding team.

The startup has raised around $145,000 to date, and it is targeting a total pre-seed round of $500,000.

WeTransfer is getting weird…

What do you do if you’re a European startup competing against the likes of Box and Dropbox, and are looking to make a splash in international markets like the U.S.? Well, if you’re the Dutch startup WeTransfer (which raised a cool $25 million about three years ago to take the U.S. market by storm), you […]

What do you do if you’re a European startup competing against the likes of Box and Dropbox, and are looking to make a splash in international markets like the U.S.?

Well, if you’re the Dutch startup WeTransfer (which raised a cool $25 million about three years ago to take the U.S. market by storm), you get weird. Really, really, avant garde-level weird.

The latest overture to the hipsterati is the company’s three video set collaboration with King Krule (which I applaud for no other reason then it lets me write about King Krule on the site).

Here’s the first video from the collaboration between the (Beyonce-and-Tyler-the-Creator-and-New-Yorker-approved) artist and the file transfer and storage service.

On the WePresent “platform” (which, back in my day, we would have called a “web zine”), Krule discusses the process for creating the video — as he will for all subsequent releases — with its directors and creative team.

The first video in the series was directed by longtime Krule collaborators Michael and Paraic Morrissey who work under the nom de video cc. Wade.

The King Krule collab isn’t the first time that WeTransfer looked to cash in on some cultural cache. The company has teamed up with McSweeney’s on a story collaboration called “Clean” written by Shelly Oria and Alice Sola Kim.

Whether or not these forays into the world of the Kool Kidz are the result of a shift in strategy brought on by the company’s relatively new chief executive, Gordon Willoughby (formerly of Amazon), they’re pretty great. (At least, in the sense that we’re writing about WeTransfer for the first time in a few years.)

I can’t say whether WeTransfer’s file sharing service is notably better or worse than Box or DropBox, but their hipster cred is undeniable. Points to you, WeTransfer. Points to you.