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This Google filter transforms you into masterpieces by van Gogh and Frida Kahlo

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I’ve always liked to imagine myself as a great artist, but my talents sadly aren’t quite up to par. Luckily, a new Google feature can at least make me look the part.

The Big G’s latest update to its Arts & Culture app introduces a quintet of Art Filters that transform you into masterpieces by the likes of Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo.

The feature uses 3D-modelled augmented reality filters to map your face onto artifacts. It also applies machine learning-based image processing to keep your head movements and facial expressions aligned with the virtual objects.

To use the filters, just open up the app for Android or iOS, tap the camera icon at the bottom, and select Art Filter to pick the artwork you want to become. You can then snap a video or photo and the filters will embed your image onto the artifacts.

[Read: This AI turns your home videos into cute cartoons]

Frustrated painters can transform into iconic self-portraits from van Gogh and Kahlo or Johannes Vermeer’s mysterious Girl with a Pearl Earring, while historians can try on a traditional Samurai helmet or an Ancient Egyptian necklace. You can also learn more about the story behind each creation.

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Google bills feature as a cultural education tool, and it does provide a fun (albeit fleeting) way of interacting with historical objects that COVID-19 has made harder to see in-person.

Here’s hoping the Big G adds some more masterpieces in the future. A trip to Hieronymus Bosch’s hellscapes sounds like an appealing break from the real world right now.

Published October 8, 2020 — 11:41 UTC

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Dell’s G5 15 gaming laptop is 27 percent off right now

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Dell is discounting a well-equipped version of its G5 15 gaming laptop. Normally, this particular model costs $1,640, but right now, you can get it for $1,200. This specific model’s configurations include a six-core Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB NVMe SSD, a 1080p display with a 144Hz refresh rate, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 with Max-Q graphics chip.

At this price, it’s a good deal for a gaming laptop that’s equipped to handle ray-tracing effects in games like Control or CD Projekt Red’s upcoming (and highly anticipated) title Cyberpunk 2077. Otherwise, it should be able to run most games at smooth frame rates and take advantage of its fast-refreshing display.

Dell G5 15

  • $1,200
  • $1,640
  • 27% off

Prices taken at time of publishing.

A G5 Dell gaming laptop that features an Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 144Hz refresh rate display, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card.

We had a chance to check out the G5 15 SE, which my colleague Cameron Faulkner reviewed in July. Color differences aside, its design is almost a match to the laptop that’s discounted right now at Dell. The main difference between them is this G5 15 has an Intel CPU and Nvidia GPU, whereas the G5 15 SE is powered by AMD for both the GPU and CPU.

The deal ends on October 31st, but it could likely sell out before then. So if you are in the market for a new gaming laptop, this might be a good option for you.

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Facebook’s controversial Oversight Board starts reviewing content moderation cases

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Facebook’s external body of decision makers will start reviewing cases about what stays on the platform and what goes beginning today.

The new system will elevate some of the platform’s content moderation decisions to a new group called the Facebook Oversight Board, which will make decisions and influence precedents about what kind of content should and shouldn’t be allowed.

But as we’ve reported previously, the board’s decisions won’t just magically enact changes on the platform. Instead of setting policy independently, each recommended platform policy change from the oversight board will get kicked back to Facebook, which will “review that guidance” and decide what changes, if any, to make.

The oversight board’s specific case decisions will remain, but that doesn’t mean they’ll really be generalized out to the social network at large. Facebook says it is “committed to enforcing the Board’s decisions on individual pieces of content, and to carefully considering and transparently responding to any policy recommendations.”

The groups’ focus on content taken down rather than content already allowed on the social network will also skew its purview. While a vocal subset of its conservative critics in Congress might disagree, Facebook’s real problems are about what stays online — not what gets taken down.

Whether it’s violent militias connecting and organizing, political figures spreading misleading lies about the integrity of elections or false claims by Myanmar military personnel that fuel ethnic cleansing, dangerous content that spreads on Facebook remains a major concern in 2020.

Noting the criticism, Facebook claims that decisions about content still up on Facebook are “very much in scope from Day 1” because the company can directly refer those cases to the Oversight Board. But with Facebook itself deciding which cases to elevate, that’s another major strike against the board’s independence from the outset.

Facebook says that the board will focus on reviewing content removals initially because of the way its existing systems are set up, but it aims “to bring all types of content outlined in the bylaws into scope as quickly as possible.”

According to Facebook, anyone who has appealed “eligible” Facebook and Instagram content moderation decisions and has already gone through the normal appeal process will get a special ID that they can take to the Oversight Board website to submit their case.

Facebook says the board will decide which cases to consider, pulling from a combination of user-appealed cases and cases that Facebook will send its way. The full slate of board members, announced in May, grew out of four co-chairs that Facebook itself named to the board. The international group of 20 includes former journalists, U.S. appeals court judges, digital rights activists, the ex-prime minister of Denmark and one member from the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank.

“We expect them to make some decisions that we, at Facebook, will not always agree with – but that’s the point: they are truly autonomous in their exercise of independent judgment,” the company wrote in May.

Critics disagree. Facebook skeptics from every corner have seized on the oversight effort, calling it a charade and pointing out that its decision aren’t really binding.

Facebook was not happy when a group of prominent critics calling itself the “Real Facebook Oversight Board” launched late last month. And earlier this year, a tech watchdog group called for the board’s five U.S.-based members to demand they be given more real power or resign.

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 doesn’t know who its villain is

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The Trial of the Chicago 7 really shouldn’t be so fun to watch. The film, which premiered on Netflix last weekend, tells the story of a historic miscarriage of justice. In 1968, during that year’s Democratic National Convention in Chicago, eight men were charged with inciting a riot when their protest against the Vietnam War led to a confrontation with police in front of the Conrad Hilton hotel. Aaron Sorkin’s film follows Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale, as they mount their defense against a biased court.

It feels timely, too, given this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and their ongoing fallout — protesters are again being charged after demanding justice. Although in The Trial of the Chicago 7, the titular trial is only pursued because Richard Nixon’s newly installed administration decides to press charges that Lyndon Johnson’s DOJ did not recommend. It is a show trial demanded by a Republican government as retribution against citizens it deems unruly, presided over by a judge who’s transparently partisan. The phrase “the Radical Left” is used by the prosecution, and police brutality comes front and center. Crowds chant that “the whole world is watching” — although it’s hard to tell, in the end, because the film is laser focused on its subjects.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is also a Sorkin movie, which means it’s a drama with expert pacing, crackling dialog, and a worldview so white and male you can just feel how eagerly it wants to lecture you. (It’s also very funny.) But because it’s peak Sorkin, his stylistic tics are on full display. A pivotal moment in the film’s final act, for example, actually hinges on one character’s grammatical critique of another’s quote. By now Sorkin has earned his reputation as a compelling filmmaker with comically consistent shortcomings. His legal dramas are whirlwinds of oratory that use words like bullets in a mob movie, and his politics are so resolutely centrist you could parody them, as comedian / podcaster Kevin T. Porter has, simply by juxtaposing scenes of his latest work against his previous work. The joke is simple: Aaron Sorkin repeats himself all the damn time.

But as the saying goes, broken clocks can occasionally be useful if you happen to look at them at the right time. In The Trial of the Chicago 7, Sorkin has found a subject that amplifies his well-worn strengths (chatty indignation, a gift for reduction) and minimizes his equally loud weaknesses (his awful writing of women, his penchant for liberal fanfiction). The movie is good: it’s propulsive and fun and cathartic, a pop history with good footwork and a great right hook, taking aim at targets worthy of its audience’s scorn. Even so, it’s not quite enough. The film is positioned as something timely and vaguely heroic, but its shortcomings mean the film runs out of gas right when it counts.

The main problem: despite its likable heroes and clear villains, The Trial of the Chicago 7 cannot bring itself to indict the system that turns the wheels of its story. The film establishes the trial as a vindictive act, but it launders that tale of political retribution through Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as federal prosecutor Richard Schulz. In the film, Schulz is cast as an honorable man attempting to discharge his duties honorably, a reassuring presence when contrasted with the outrage-inducing Judge Julius Hoffman (Frank Langella).

Of course both of their goals are the same: they want to lock up American protesters. It’s part of a larger fantasy, one that resolutely believes there are good people on both sides of the aisle, even if they have some truly awful goals.

More egregiously, Bobby Seale’s story is truncated. In the non-Sorkin version of history, Seale didn’t have a lawyer and, in fact, had been unconstitutionally denied one for days. After his repeated demands for a lawyer irritated Judge Hoffman, the judge had Seale bound and gagged in the courtroom for days. Sorkin doesn’t soft-pedal that particular horror, but he does abbreviate it. In The Trial of the Chicago 7, Seale (played with furious restraint by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is only shown bound and gagged once, for the film’s climax.

Softening Seale’s courtroom treatment is the kind of adaptation choice that makes you wonder who the film thinks its villain is. Gag a man for one day, and maybe the man presiding over an individual courtroom is the bad guy. But if it happens for days, it becomes clearer that the whole damn system is broken.

This strange reticence to address institutions is also apparent in the film’s nonexistent examination of the police. While the movie is frank in its depiction of a protest as a complicated event involving large crowds, high passions, and brutal cops — badges are covered, citizens are violently beaten, and escalation is the only tactic employed — the film treats the actions of law enforcement as a natural occurrence, like a thunderstorm. It’s like Sorkin thinks nobody was responsible.

That choice also feels in line with Aaron Sorkin’s work on The West Wing or The Newsroom. Those shows make the argument that the system will eventually course-correct, and that while it can be momentarily co-opted by bad actors, the good guys will win in the end. Which, to put it another way, is activism for the wealthy and the comfortable. People who can see and say that something’s wrong, but who can also ignore their own complicity.

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