Friday Five: fake faces and sonic logos

Zone’s Matt Blackwell handpicks and shares the five best stories on new digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. The VR revolution has not been televised

It seems as if VR has been on the cusp of going mainstream for quite a few years now without ever truly making it, which has led some critics to start planning the platform’s funeral. Don’t close the casket just yet though, as analysts still predict the VR industry will crack $117bn by 2022.

From transforming employee training programmes to an entertainment platform worthy of Hollywood investment, the article argues that the VR revolution is already upon us. It’s interesting to read about some of VR’s implications beyond gaming, but until I start seeing the tech in the hands of regular folk and not just touted by huge corporations, I think I’ll be keeping my black suit close at hand.

2. The dawn of authentic fakes

Reckon you’ve got what it takes to distinguish between the faces of real people and those who have been made up by a computer? Well put your money where your mouth is and give it a whirl. For reference, I tried it five times and got them all wrong because clearly I am an idiot.

Beyond highlighting my inadequacies, it also goes to show that computers are getting better at fabricating human faces. And while the initial idea behind the tech was innocent, moving on from the uncanny valley and entering a world of believable fakes could prove a boon for hackers and bots looking to peddle misinformation.

3. The Rosetta Stone of rat chat

They may give some people the creeps, but did you know that rats are actually a lot like us? They’re sociable critters with a physiology so similar to ours that studies using rats as proxies have bagged 75 Nobel Prizes. And now we could be on the verge of decoding their ultrasonic chatter thanks to a deep learning algorithm called DeepSqueak.

So what does this mean for us humans? It’s the first step on a very long road, but having a more solid understanding of rodent calls (which sound quite a bit like birdsong, in case you were wondering) and what they mean could prove a hugely promising step for all sorts of scientific research.

4. The sweet sound of sonic spending

You may recall Mastercard’s announcement that it was venturing into the world of wordless logos last month, but it’s gone one step further this week, making a song and dance about what it deems to be the next big thing for branding: an audio logo.

The jingle was developed with input from musicians including Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and will be adapted across a range of assets, so get ready to hear it in musical scores, ringtones and point of sale acceptance sounds. By investing in a sonic brand identity, Mastercard clearly envisions a future in which voice shopping plays a key role, which is kinda awks because use of the medium actually declined last year.

5. Sharing isn’t always caring

You’ve probably experienced it at some point — social media feeds crammed with photos of newborns or saccharine missives providing a detailed breakdown of the first day at school. There’s even a word for if these days: sharenting. But has anyone stopped to think of the effect this is having on the children themselves?

This article interviews kids to get an idea of what it’s like to grow up in the age of social media, where reams of intimate information and pictures are available to anyone with an internet connection. I think there’s probably a balance to be struck between self-indulgent oversharing and the hardline stance favoured in France.

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