🚀 The deal with celebrity deepfakes
Plus, DALL-E is now open to everyone!
🎮 Google shuts down Stadia. Google’s games streaming platform, Stadia, will be shuttered less than three years after launch. Stadia allowed users to play games across platforms with no downloads, using either Google hardware or existing controllers. Stadia’s GM said it “hadn’t gained the traction with users that we expected” - but the company may continue to use the infrastructure for other Google gaming efforts. Google will refund all Stadia hardware purchases and subscriptions.
🛑 Meta cuts budgets. A May memo revealed that Meta would freeze hiring in certain business segments through 2022 due to missed revenue targets. This week, Mark Zuckerberg took it a step further, telling employees that the company would restructure and cut budgets across groups for the first time in its history. Zuckerberg had previously said that there were “probably a bunch of people at the company who shouldn’t be here,” and encouraged employees to self-select out.
🏎️ Porsche goes public. In one of the biggest public offerings ever in Europe, Porsche debuted on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange this Thursday. In the roadshow, the company emphasized its 20% profit margins and the early success of Porsche’s first electric vehicle, the Taycan sedan. Porsche’s listing raised $9.1B for its owner, Volkswagen Group - this is double the entirety of all the other European IPOs combined thus far this year. The stock closed its first day of trading flat.
🎨 Generative AI becomes more open. This week, OpenAI’s DALL-E image generator debuted to the public! Now, anyone can create AI art with text prompts. The technology was launched in July in beta, with 1.5M early access users creating 2M images per day. You may have heard OpenAI’s name before - it’s a research laboratory that also developed GPT-3, which creates human-like text based on a small amount of relevant data. Sign up for DALL-E here!
Check out this beautiful (if unintelligible) DALL-E re-creation of Accelerated 😂
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Last Friday, news broke that Bruce Willis became the first celebrity to sell the rights for his “digital twin” (deepfake) to appear in films, ads, and other projects. Willis, who retired from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia, had reportedly sold the rights to a Georgia-based startup called Deepcake. The company had already produced a digital twin of Willis for a Russian telecom commercial (see above).
On Saturday, things took a turn for the weird. A representative for Willis issued a statement that he had not, in fact, sold any rights - and that he had no ongoing partnership with Deepcake. It’s unclear where the confusion originated (and how it became a global headline), but the incident raised some interesting questions about where deepfakes fit in the world of entertainment.
Unsurprisingly, there’s debate about who owns a celebrity or other public figure’s digital image (the celebrity him or herself? The person or company who created the deepfake?). This is deeply entwined with the existing discourse around “publicity rights,” which govern the commercial use of someone’s image and vary by state. As you can imagine, it gets complicated quickly - especially considering that the laws change based on whether the person in question is dead or alive.
While deepfakes are still rare on the big screen, you may have seen some of the viral UGC featuring the “digital twins” of celebrities, including TikToks of Harry Styles and Tom Cruise. Popular deepfake creators on YouTube make dozens of videos swapping celebrities for each other. And there was also a controversial case last year of a documentary using an AI-generated version of Anthony Bourdain’s voice, a type of audio deepfake that is also increasingly used in cyberattacks.
For celebrities, there are pros and cons of deepfakes. If you can star in a movie or TV show without ever having to appear on set, you might be a proponent of this technology (should someone pitch this to the cast of Grey’s Anatomy?). But you may also lose out on roles to another actor’s “digital twin” (a depressing thought), and you’re at a higher risk of your likeness being used without your consent.
For everyday consumers, the use cases for deepfakes might not be as obvious. Apps like Reface and Wombo make it easy to plug your face into a movie scene or generate cool lip-syncing videos. But could there eventually be a way to monetize your digital twin? FWIW, we’ve had the same question about genetic data - it brings up complex questions around ownership and what people should be able to '“sell.”
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puppy of the week 🐶
Meet Goose, a 2.5-year-old goldendoodle that lives in Missouri.
He enjoys watching football, playing in the snow, and hanging out with his new baby sister.
Follow him on Instagram at @goosedoodledood!
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