🏛️ No, face rec tech didn't identify Antifa at the Capitol and we got a cute new image generating tool

💃 The app that went big with algos promoting dance videos is getting into drug discovery

The Good

This is more neat than good but: A new product by OpenAI (the folks that brought you the crazy text generator called GPT-3) can create images from text. As a tweet pointed out, this is not a new capability, but it is a vast improvement. Here is what the tech could do in 2015 compared to now:

It gets cuter than avocado armchairs, too. Here is what it can do when asked to create an illustration of a baby daikon radish in a tutu walking a dog.

As this Register article points out, this is still a few years out from putting even stock images out of business, so it’s not going to be taking jobs from Disney animators anytime soon. You can go and play with limited prompts and create your own. Here is what it came up with when I asked it to do an illustration of a robot koala hybrid.

The Bad

From all evidence, what happened at the Capitol on Wednesday was a haphazardly-planned but deadly right-wing insurrection. But since the buck doesn’t stop anywhere with these folks, some supporters are trying to claim that the people who stormed the Capitol were Antifa.

Matt Gaetz, a congressman from Florida, pointed to a Washington Times article claiming that face rec tech identified two people associated with Antifa in the Capitol. Specifically, the article claimed “has a tattoo that indicates he is a Stalinist sympathizer” and the other “is someone who shows up at climate and Black Lives Matter protests in the West.”

There are multiple problems here but let’s just unpack the technological ones. First, and I thought this was obvious, but face rec tech isn’t built to do tattoo recognition. There is tech that many police departments have that can do this to track down a person of interest, but it’s usually just computer-assisted matching able to do a search with a limited amount of keywords (although there are some fancier AI versions out there). If the tattoo was on his face, sure, maybe, but you also don’t need AI to go “there is the guy with the Stalinist tattoo on his face.”

Second, besides deplatforming Nazis, I’d say Antifa is best known for a strict adherence to covering their faces, limiting their exposure in a situation like this. I’m sure there have been some that have been photographed but this overarching fact wasn’t addressed in the piece. The fact is most of the faces I saw in all the Capitol photos were uncovered. Maybe that’s Antifa really committing to the part but the simpler explanation is it isn’t Antifa.

And finally who has heard of, XRVision, the company in the story? Not I, and here is a good explainer about how little anyone know about XRVision. The company’s tech hasn’t been publically tested, its unclear what data sources they have, and even if identifying Antifa members is a service they offer. I come across small companies claiming to do face rec tech all the time, mostly run by retired police officers and other non-technical folks. I am suspicious of face rec tech claims from anyone besides Big Tech and government (suspicious of those too, but for other reasons). Companies with powerful face rec tech like Clearview AI are the exception, not the rule.

But most importantly, XRVision has asked for a retraction stating it was “outright false” and Washington Times has since taken the story down. It is not totally unreasonable to think XRVision might have done something like this, as they have shared some pretty weird Hunter Biden/tech stuff. XRVision is based in Singapore, and despite (or maybe because) the city state’s authoritarian streak, it is unlikely in the company’s best interest to be too closely connected to the storming of a political building.

More News

The company behind Tik Tok wants to use its AI prowess to do drug discovery. Okay?

Do you want AI to roast your music taste to within an inch of your life? There is neural network for that.

Delivery robots are cuter in Japan.

An Italian court found that companies can be held liable even for a discriminatory algorithm, even if the discrimination was unintentional.

Roboticists are taking inspiration from how sea lions move for possible amphibian robots.

The U.S. government plans to fund more AI and cloud computing efforts.


Until listening to this much Lana Del Rey is considered a good thing,