3 things direct from the future

Edition 93

Once every 2 weeks I will deliver “3 things direct from the future”. A 2 minute read that will always give you:

  • one thing that can help,
  • one thing to be wary of, and
  • one thing to amaze.

If this sounds interesting to you then please subscribe.


1. One thing that helps

Be My AI

Be My Eyes is an app that connects visually impaired people with a volunteer who can help them “see” when they need it. Now the company is integrating AI into the app to reduce the need for real human volunteers. It’s called Be My AI.

Be My AI allows blind people to harness the power of ChatGPT. It can get information from food packaging, read instructions for a new gadget, take pictures of artwork and give descriptions of them, read a menu, get relevant information from the receipt, translate text, and much more.

This is great for when users want a quick solution that is available 24/7. If their device is also braille-capable, they can read from their screen instead of listening to the instructions.

Another great example of technology levelling the playing field for all.


2. One to be wary of

Virtual Influencers

Virtual influencers aren’t a new thing. They’ve been around for a long time but recent advances in tech and AI have allowed almost anyone to create their virtual idol. A virtual influencer doesn’t have an attitude, costs less, and is always available compared to a human influencer. They’re probably less annoying than most professional influencers too! That’s why marketing agencies have considered using virtual influencers instead of human ones. But this uptick in virtual influencers and AI in general, may have unintended consequences.

First up is transparency. We have reached a point where sometimes a virtual person is indistinguishable from a real one. This creates some questions as to how virtual influencers should be used and by whom. Some countries and social media companies require virtual influencers to be labelled as such in order to distinguish from content featuring real humans. Then there’s the danger of not knowing if you’re seeing the real Hugh Jackman or if someone has nefariously created a fake virtual one. The issue of people having their likeness stolen and used in ways they would not like is real.

While real humans still dominate the influencer world, their virtual counterparts may pose new and perplexing challenges that governments and companies need to tackle head-on.


3. One to amaze

Hear Your Mind

Got a song stuck in your head? (my daughter’s constant playing of Doja Cat’s “Paint the Town Red” means I think I’ll never be able to shake it). Well, researchers have finally found a way to get it out! I mean, they’ve found a way to listen to your brain waves and recreate the noise in your head. Researchers from Albany Medical Center in New York hooked up 29 participants into around 2,600 intracranial electroencephalography (iEEG) nodes as they listened to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 1”. Nodes placed over the brain’s auditory processing centre provided the best data for the researchers to “hear” the song.

An algorithm interpreted the iEEG recording to “decode brain activity and then encode a reproduction.” Here’s the result:

OK maybe Roger Waters wouldn’t be stoked with the results but you can actually hear the rhythm. This technique allowed the researchers to translate the brainwaves to listen to “prosody” – the pattern of rhythm, stress and intonation in a language that also allows for music interpretation. This discovery is hoped to help people with speech and hearing difficulties.

I’m thinking of being able to create a Spotify playlist of the constant noise in my head. I’ll be sure to share it with you.

Have a great week.

Daniel J McKinnon

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