Posts with «author_name|pranav dixit» label

Stable Diffusion 3 is a new AI image generator that won't mess up text in pictures, its makers claim

Stability AI, the startup behind Stable Diffusion, the tool that uses generative AI to create images from text prompts, revealed Stable Diffusion 3, a next-generation model, on Thursday. Stability AI claimed that the new model, which isn’t widely available yet, improves image quality, works better with prompts containing multiple subjects, and can more accurate text as part of the generated image, something that previous Stable Diffusion models weren’t great at.

Stability AI CEO Emad Mosque posted some examples of this on X.

#SD3 can do quite a lot of text…

— Emad (@EMostaque) February 22, 2024

The announcement comes days after Stability AI’s largest rival, OpenAI, unveiled Sora, a brand new AI model capable of generating nearly-realistic, high-definition videos from simple text prompts. Sora, which isn’t available to the general public yet either, sparked concerns about its potential to create realistic-looking fake footage. OpenAI said it's working with experts in misinformation and hateful content to test the tool before making it widely available.Stability AI said it’s doing the same. “[We] have taken and continue to take reasonable steps to prevent the misuse of Stable Diffusion 3 by bad actors,” the company wrote in a blog post on its website. “By continually collaborating with researchers, experts, and our community, we expect to innovate further with integrity as we approach the model’s public release.”

It’s not clear when Stable Diffusion 3 will be released to the public, but until then, anyone interested can join a waitlist.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Rivian is laying off 10 percent of its salaried employees

Electric car maker Rivian announced on Wednesday that it’s laying off 10 percent of its salaried workforce to cut costs after facing a quarterly loss. The Amazon-backed company reported that it lost $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter of 2023 and said that it expects to build 57,000 electric vehicles in 2024, the same number it built last year.

“Our business is facing a challenging macroeconomic environment — including historically high interest rates and geopolitical uncertainty — and we need to make purposeful changes now to ensure our promising future,” Rivian’s founder and CEO wrote to employees in an email, CNN reported. "We must strategically prioritize our growth areas of the business, including the launch of Peregrine and R2 as well as investing in our go-to-market capabilities."

As part of its plans to cut costs, Rivian will shut down a factory in Illinois in the middle of this year and will upgrade its manufacturing line to boost production rates by 30 precent.The company is expected to unveil the R2, a compact SUV in the $40,000 to $60,000 range, on March 7, although deliveries of the vehicle won’t start until 2026.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Don't use smartwatches and rings that claim to measure blood sugar without needles, the FDA warns

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday issued a safety communication warning people to stay way from smartwatches and smart rings that claim to measure blood sugar levels without pricking the skin. “The FDA has not authorized, cleared, or approved any smartwatch or smart ring that is intended to measure or estimate blood glucose values on its own,” the agency wrote in the communication, and asked consumers, patients, and caregivers to stay away from such devices.

Non invasive blood sugar monitoring isn’t currently possible on any consumer device Popular wearables like the Apple Watch and the Oura ring can, instead, pair with FDA-authorized wearable devices like the Dexcom G7, which uses needles to read your blood sugar levels. Getting a smartwatch or a smart ring to monitor blood sugar levels without penetrating the skin would represent a huge medical advance, allowing people with diabetes, for instance, to stop pricking themselves each day, and alerting pre-diabetics.

Both Apple and Samsung have reportedly been working on the tech for years. Last year, Bloomberg reported that Apple’s no-prick monitoring was at a “proof-of-concept stage” and could come to the market once the company managed to figure out how to shrink its size. Apple has been working on the project since 2010, although it will likely still be years before the technology is small enough to be built into the Apple Watch. Samsung, too, is exploring ways to build the technology into the Galaxy Ring, a product that the company recently announced.

Until that time, be skeptical of any device that claims to do this right now. Current smartwatches and smart rings “do not directly test blood glucose levels,” the FDA writes. If you spot any company selling a device with these claims, you can report it to the FDA through the agency’s MedWatch Voluntary Reporting Form.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Amazon, one of the world's largest employers, has called the National Labor Relations Board 'unconstitutional'

Amazon, a company that employs more than 1.54 million people, has claimed that the National Labor Relations Board Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency responsible for protecting the rights of workers, is unconstitutional. Amazon made the claim in a legal document filed on Thursday as part of a case in which prosecutors from the Board have accused the e-commerce giant of discrimination against workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island who had voted to unionize, according to The New York Times.

Amazon is not the first company to challenge the Board’s constitutionality. Last month, Elon Musk’s SpaceX sued the NLRB after the agency accused the company of unlawfully firing eight employees and called the agency “unconstitutional” in the lawsuit. Weeks later, grocery chain Trader Joe’s, which the NLRB accused of union-busting, said that the NLRB’s structure and organization was “unconstitutional,” Bloomberg reported. And in separate lawsuits, two Starbucks baristas have independently challenged the agency’s structure as they sought to dissolve their unions.

Amazon’s claim is similar to the existing claims filed by SpaceX and Trader Joe’s. In the lawsuit, the company’s lawyers argued that “the structure of the N.L.R.B. violates the separation of powers” by “impeding the executive power provided for in Article II of the United States Constitution.” In addition, Amazon claimed that the NLRB’s hearings “can seek legal remedies beyond what’s allowed without a trial by jury.”

Seth Goldstein, a lawyer who represents unions in the Amazon and Trader Joe’s cases told Reuters that these challenges to the NLRB increase the chances of the issue reaching the Supreme Court. And they might cause employers to stop bargaining with unions in hope that courts will finally strip the federal agency of its powers, Goldstein said. Amazon has a contentious history with the NLRB, which said the company broke federal labor laws last year. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Xbox Game Pass subscriptions have begun to taper off

Game Pass, Microsoft’s subscription service for games, has 34 million subscribers as of February 2024. Microsoft revealed the number in a blog post where it shared its plan about the future of the Xbox business.

The latest number reveals that Game Pass growth has slowed down drastically. It took Microsoft three years since Game Pass launched in 2017 to get to 10 million subscribers in April 2020. In the next five months, the company added five million subscribers, and hit 18 million subscribers by January 2021, a growth rate of nearly 90 percent per year. A year later, the company announced that Game Pass had 25 million subscribers. Over the last two years, Game Pass has added nine million subscribers, which would be an average annual increase of just 18 percent.

Game Pass lets players pay a monthly fee to Microsoft for unlimited access to an evolving library of games that they can play on their consoles or PCs. In an announcement on Thursday, the brand’s leaders revealed plans to bring Xbox games to more platforms including the PlayStation 5 and the Nintendo Switch, both of which have far more users than Xbox. There are currently no plans to offer Game Pass on either Sony or Nintendo's platforms.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

OpenAI’s new Sora model can generate minute-long videos from text prompts

OpenAI on Thursday announced Sora, a brand new model that generates high-definition videos up to one minute in length from text prompts. Sora, which means “sky” in Japanese, won’t be available to the general public any time soon. Instead, OpenAI is making it available to a small group of academics and researchers who will assess harm and its potential for misuse.

“Sora is able to generate complex scenes with multiple characters, specific types of motion, and accurate details of the subject and background,” the company said on its website. “The model understands not only what the user has asked for in the prompt, but also how those things exist in the physical world.”

One of the videos generated by Sora that OpenAI shared on its website shows a couple walking through a snowy Tokyo city as cherry blossom petals and snowflakes blow around them.

Introducing Sora, our text-to-video model.

Sora can create videos of up to 60 seconds featuring highly detailed scenes, complex camera motion, and multiple characters with vibrant emotions.

Prompt: “Beautiful, snowy…

— OpenAI (@OpenAI) February 15, 2024

Another shows realistic-looking wooly mammoths walking through a snowy meadow against a backdrop of snow-clad mountain ranges.

Prompt: “Several giant wooly mammoths approach treading through a snowy meadow, their long wooly fur lightly blows in the wind as they walk, snow covered trees and dramatic snow capped mountains in the distance, mid afternoon light with wispy clouds and a sun high in the distance…

— OpenAI (@OpenAI) February 15, 2024

OpenAI says that the model works as a result of “deep understanding of language,” which lets it interpret text prompts accurately. Still, like basically all AI image- and video-generators we’ve seen, Sora isn’t perfect. In one of the examples, the prompt, which asks for a video of a Dalmatian looking through a window and people “walking and cycling along the canal streets,” omits the people and the streets in the video entirely. OpenAI also warns that the model can struggle to understand cause and effect — it can generate a video of a person eating a cookie, for instance, but the cookie may not have bite marks.

Sora isn’t the first text-to-video model around. Other companies including Meta, Google and Runway, have either teased text-to-video tools or made them available to the public. Still, no other tool is currently able to generate videos as long as 60 seconds. Sora also generates entire videos at once, instead of putting them together frame-by-frame like other models, which makes sure that subjects in the video stay the same even when they go out of view temporarily.

The rise of text-to-video tools has sparked concerns over their potential to more easily create realistic-looking fake footage. “I am absolutely terrified that this kind of thing will sway a narrowly contested election,” Oren Etzioni, a professor at the University of Washington who specializes in artificial intelligence, and the founder of True Media, an organization that works to identify disinformation in political campaigns, told The New York Times. And generative AI more broadly has sparked backlash from artists and creative professionals concerned about the technology being used to replace jobs.

OpenAI said that it was working with experts in areas like misinformation, hateful content and bias to test the tool before making it available to the public. The company is also building tools capable of detecting videos generated by Sora and including metadata in the generated videos for easier detection. The company declined to tell the Times how Sora had been trained, except stating that it used both “publicly available videos” as well as videos licensed from copyright holders.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Their children were shot, so they used AI to recreate their voices and call lawmakers

The parents of a teenager who was killed in Florida’s Parkland school shooting in 2018 have started a bold new project called The Shotline to lobby for stricter gun laws in the country. The Shotline uses AI to recreate the voices of children killed by gun violence and send recordings through automated calls to lawmakers, The Wall Street Journal reported

The project launched on Wednesday, six years after a gunman killed 17 people and injured more than a dozen at a high school in Parkland, Florida. It features the voice of six children, some as young as ten, and young adults, who have lost their lives in incidents of gun violence across the US. Once you type in your zip code, The Shotline finds your local representative and lets you place an automated call from one of the six dead people in their own voice, urging for stronger gun control laws. “I’m back today because my parents used AI to recreate my voice to call you,” says the AI-generated voice of Joaquin Oliver, one of the teenagers killed in the Parkland shooting. “Other victims like me will be calling too.” At the time of publishing, more than 8,000 AI calls had been submitted to lawmakers through the website.

“This is a United States problem and we have not been able to fix it,” Oliver’s father Manuel, who started the project along with his wife Patricia, told the Journal. “If we need to use creepy stuff to fix it, welcome to the creepy.”

To recreate the voices, the Olivers used a voice cloning service from ElevenLabs, a two-year-old startup that recently raised $80 million in a round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Using just a few minutes of vocal samples, the software is able to recreate voices in more than two dozen languages. The Olivers reportedly used their son’s social media posts for his voice samples. Parents and legal guardians of gun violence victims can fill up a form to submit their voices to The Shotline to be added its repository of AI-generated voices.

The project raises ethical questions about using AI to generate deepfakes of voices belonging to dead people. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission declared that robocalls made using AI-generated voices were illegal, a decision that came weeks after voters in New Hampshire received calls impersonating President Joe Biden telling them to not vote in their state’s primary. An analysis by security company called Pindrop revealed that Biden’s audio deepfake was created using software from ElevenLabs.

The company’s co-founder Mati Staniszewski told the Journal that ElevenLabs allows people to recreate the voices of dead relatives if they have the rights and permissions. But so far, it's not clear whether parents of minors had the rights to their children's likenesses.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Who makes money when AI reads the internet for us?

Last week, The Browser Company, a startup that makes the Arc web browser, released a slick new iPhone app called Arc Search. Instead of displaying links, its brand new “Browse for Me” feature reads the first handful of pages and summarizes them into a single, custom-built, Arc-formatted web page using large language models from OpenAI and others. If a user does click through to any of the actual pages, Arc Search blocks ads, cookies and trackers by default. Arc’s efforts to reimagine web browsing have received near-universal acclaim. But over the last few days, “Browse for Me” earned The Browser Company its first online backlash.

For decades, websites have served ads and pushed people visiting them towards paying for subscriptions. Monetizing traffic is one of the primary ways most creators on the web continue to make a living. Reducing the need for people to visit actual websites deprives those creators of compensation for their work, and disincentivizes them from publishing anything at all.

“Web creators are trying to share their knowledge and get supported while doing so”, tweeted Ben Goodger, a software engineer who helped create both Firefox and Chrome. “I get how this helps users. How does it help creators? Without them there is no web…” After all, if a web browser sucked out all information from web pages without users needing to actually visit them, why would anyone bother making websites in the first place?

The backlash has prompted the company’s co-founder and CEO Josh Miller to question the fundamental nature of how the web is monetized. Miller, who was previously a product director at the White House and worked at Facebook after it acquired his previous startup, Branch, told Goodger on X that how creators monetize web pages needs to evolve. He also told Platformer’s Casey Newton that generative AI presents an opportunity to “shake up the stagnant oligopoly that runs much of the web today” but admitted that he didn’t know how writers and creators who made the actual website that his browser scrapes from would be compensated. “It completely upends the economics of publishing on the internet,” he admitted.

Miller declined to speak to Engadget, and The Browser Company did not respond to Engadget’s questions.

Arc set itself apart from other web browsers by fundamentally rethinking how web browsers look and work ever since it was released to the general public in July last year. It did this by adding features like the ability to split multiple tabs vertically and offering a picture-in-picture mode for Google Meet video conferences. But for the last few months, Arc has been rapidly adding AI-powered features such as automatic web page summaries, ChatGPT integration and giving users the option to switch their default search engine to Perplexity, a Google rival that uses AI to provide answers to search queries by summarizing web pages in a chat-style interface and providing tiny citations to sources. The “Browse for Me” feature lands Arc smack in the middle of one of AI’s biggest ethical quandaries: who pays creators when AI products rip off and repurpose their content?

“The best thing about the internet is that somebody super passionate about something makes a website about the thing that they love,” tech entrepreneur and blogging pioneer Anil Dash told Engadget. “This new feature from Arc intermediates that and diminishes that.” In a post on Threads shortly after Arc released the app, Dash criticized modern search engines and AI chatbots that sucked up the internet’s content and aimed to stop people from visiting websites, calling them “deeply destructive.”

It’s easy, Dash said, to blame the pop-ups, cookies and intrusive advertisements that power the economic engine of the modern web as the reason why browsing feels broken now. And there may be signs that users are warming to the concept of having their information presented to them summarized by large language models rather than manually clicking around multiple web pages. On Thursday, Miller tweeted that people chose “Browse for Me” over regular Google search in Arc Search on mobile for approximately 32 percent of all queries. The company is currently working on making that the default search experience and also bringing it to its desktop browser.

“It’s not intellectually honest to say that this is better for users,” said Dash. “We only focus on short term user benefit and not the idea that users want to be fully informed about the impact they’re having on the entire digital ecosystem by doing this.” Summarizing this double-edged sword succinctly a food blogger tweeted at Miller, "As a consumer, this is awesome. As a blogger, I’m a lil afraid.”

Last week, Matt Karolian, the vice president of platforms, research and development at The Boston Globe typed “top Boston news” into Arc Search and hit “Browse for Me”. Within seconds, the app had scanned local Boston news sites and presented a list of headlines containing local developments and weather updates. “News orgs are gonna lose their shit about Arc Search,” Karolian posted on Threads. “It’ll read your journalism, summarize it for the user…and then if the user does click a link, they block the ads.”

Local news publishers, Karolian told Engadget, almost entirely depend on selling ads and subscriptions to readers who visit their websites to survive. “When tech platforms come along and disintermediate that experience without any regard for the impact it could have, it is deeply disappointing.” Arc Search does include prominent links and citations to the websites it summarizes from. But Karolian said that this misses the point. “It fails to ponder the consequences of what happens when you roll out products like this.”

Arc Search isn’t the only service using AI to summarize information from web pages. Google, the world’s biggest search engine, now offers AI-generated summaries to users’ queries at the top of its search results, something that experts have previously called “a bit like dropping a bomb right at the center of the information nexus.” Arc Search, however, goes a step beyond and eliminates search results altogether. Meanwhile, Miller has continued to tweet throughout the controversy, posting vague musings about websites in an “AI-first internet” while simultaneously releasing products based on concepts he has admittedly still not sorted out.

On a recent episode of The Vergecast that Miller appeared on, he compared what Arc Search might do to the economics of the web to what Craigslist did to business models of print newspapers. “I think it’s absolutely true that Arc Search and the fact that we remove the clutter and the BS and make you faster and get you what you need in a lot less time is objectively good for the vast majority of people, and it is also true that it breaks something,” he says. “It breaks a bit of the value exchange. We are grappling with a revolution with how software works and how computers work and that’s going to mess up some things.”

Karolian from The Globe said that the behavior of tech companies applying AI to content on the web reminded him of a monologue delivered by Ian Malcolm, one of the protagonists in Jurassic Park to park creator John Hammond about applying the power of technology without considering its impact: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could they didn’t stop if they should.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Disney is investing $1.5 billion in Epic Games to create a 'games and entertainment universe'

Disney will invest $1.5 billion in Epic Games, the creator of Fortnite, the company announced on Wednesday. As part of the initiative, Disney and Epic Games will create a brand new “games and entertainment universe” over the next few years, Disney said in a statement.

“Our exciting new relationship with Epic Games will bring together Disneys beloved brands and franchises with the hugely popular Fortnite in a transformational new games an entertainment universe,” wrote Disney CEO Bob Iger in the statement. “This marks Disney’s biggest entry ever into the world of games and offers significant opportunities for growth and expansion.”

Players will be able to “play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar, and more” in the new entertainment universe, which will be powered by Epic’s flagship Unreal Engine. Disney currently uses Unreal Engine to produce movies, video games, and content used in Disney theme parks around the world. It has also partnered with Epic Games previously to bring characters from Marvel, Tron, and Star Wars to Fortnite.

Neither company disclosed how much the valuation of Epic Games, a private company, would be after Disney's investment. Chinese technology conglomerate Tencent currently owns 40 percent of Epic Games, while Sony owns just over 5 percent.

“[We] are collaborating on something entirely new to build a persistent, open and interoperable ecosystem that will bring together the Disney and Fortnite communities,” said Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney in the statement. “Disney was one of the first companies to believe in the potential of bringing their worlds together with ours in Fortnite[.]”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery are launching a streaming service just for sports this fall

Three of the biggest sports TV companies in the US — ESPN, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery — will launch a streaming sports service in the fall of 2024, the companies said in a joint statement on Tuesday. It will stream sporting events from networks that all three companies own, including games from the NFL, MLB, NHL, and the NBA. Importantly, subscribers will also be able to stream linear channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, SECN, ACCN, ESPNEWS, ABC, FOX, FS1, FS2, BTN, TNT, TBS, truTV, and ESPN+, helpful for anyone thinking about canceling cable.

The name of the service and its pricing will be announced later this year, the companies said. It will be available as a standalone app that anyone in the US can subscribe to. But customers will also be able to bundle it with their existing Disney+, Hulu, and Max subscriptions for an undisclosed fee.

Each network will own one-third of the service, which will be run by an independent management team. Still the new service won’t be the one-stop shop that diehard sports fanatics might want it to be. Amazon, for instance, owns Thursday Night Football; Apple owns Major League Soccer; NBC owns Sunday Night Football; and Paramount owns some NFL rights.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at