Look at all the psychedelic art people are creating with Google’s DeepDream AI code

DeepDream Kyle McDonald Flickr
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Just a few days after Google open-sourced its code for generating trippy images using artificial intelligence, you can now explore a subreddit page on social discussion board site Reddit that’s specifically devoted to sharing pictures created with DeepDream.

Reddit user UngerUnder announced the establishment of the subreddit yesterday. Hat tip to Will Knight of the MIT Technology Review for tweeting out a link to the subreddit this morning.

The subreddit, which goes by the name DeepDreaming, is a veritable shrine to machines tripping on data. It’s already a riot to look through.

The top spot is currently held by “The Dog Is Watching,” a patchwork of many, many dog heads and too many eyes to count.

"The Dog Is Watching"

Above: “The Dog Is Watching”

Image Credit: Reddit user MethodOverDrive

Below that is “Matchstick Crane,” a tall structure decorated with dog heads. Eyes patiently look on from the sky in the background.

"Matchstick Crane"

Above: “Matchstick Crane”

Image Credit: Reddit user UngerUnder

There is also “Open Wide,” a mysterious tree stump composed of dogs.

"Open Wide"

Above: “Open Wide”

Image Credit: Reddit user UnderUnder

Not that r/deepdreaming is the only place to explore DeepDream art.

Over the past few days, people have been tweeting out their DeepDream creations with the hashtag #deepdream. Flickr is chock full of DeepDream images, too. There’s even a page on the website Know Your Meme dedicated to DeepDream. But now people can share, explain, and critique DeepDream creations on a dedicated subreddit.

Note: Please do not hold us responsible if you throw up while viewing the images.

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Google gets into the carpooling game with the launch of RideWith in Israel

Carpooling
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Google is entering the carpooling business this week with the launch of a new app called RideWith.

The service will actually rolling out via Waze, the GPS-powered, crowdsourced traffic-thwarting company acquired by Google more than two years ago. According to a report in Reuters, the new app will launch as a pilot only in Tel Aviv, Israel, but as with most beta projects, there will be scope for opening it to new markets depending on the outcome of the tests.

Carpooling has become an increasingly popular means of saving money and improving efficiency through sharing car journeys, letting travelers save money while ensuring there are fewer vehicles on the road. The main driver is essentially paid by other people to drive them to and from places, though the fee is typically small — it’s supposed to cover costs such as fuel. This is a big differentiator from the likes of Uber, which caters more for drivers seeking to make a profit.

RideWith will use Waze’s navigation system to identify which routes cars take most often, and try to pair drivers with people looking to travel to the same destinations. Drivers will also be limited to two journeys each day, thus serving as a deterrent for those seeking to build a business out of it.

Launching in Israel first makes sense for the pilot project given that Waze first came to fruition in Israel, initially as “Freemap Israel,” back in 2006. From Google’s perspective, this move may not be entirely surprising, either — it has long been rumored to be launching a ride-hailing service, however it was expected to involve autonomous cars.

Google’s so-called self-driving car may be fully functional, but its road-tests seem to suggest that for as long as people continue to share road-space with their robotic counterparts, accidents will always happen. So for now, Google is still betting on the human touch. And by steering clear of a more traditional taxi-like service, it should go some way towards helping the Internet giant avoid the legal wrangles faced by the likes of Uber.

By restricting the scope of the service to carpooling, this actually aligns RideWith more with BlaBlaCar, the heavily funded French startup that’s currently steamrolling its way to European dominance.


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Cannes Lions: Advertising and marketing execs slowly learning to love their new tech overlords

Google's beach cabana at Cannes Lions. Suck it, Mountain View.
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CANNES, France — Standing on the second floor balcony of the Marriott hotel where Pinterest was holding a networking event, Bob Gilbreath, an Old Fashioned cocktail in hand, could gaze at the beach across the street and marvel at tech’s total dominance of the worlds of advertising and marketing.

It was the start of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, one of the most import events on the ad world’s calendar. The private beaches that line the water in Cannes had been rented by one big tech name after another: Salesforce, Google, Facebook.

Gilbreath was here as cofounder of Ahalogy, a new-breed digital marketing firm with 45 employees that focuses exclusively on Pinterest. But he can still remember coming to Cannes Lions a few years earlier when, as a product manager for Procter & Gamble, he noted a handful of executives from Facebook.

“It was a real novelty at the time,” he said. “Now, adtech has taken over.”

Indeed it has. New platforms, Big Data, and the growth in mobile and cloud computing are forcing big changes on the advertising and marketing industries. The rise of new digital startups and influential giants like Google and Facebook could be seen and felt across every inch of Cannes Lions.

Having discovered Cannes Lions, Silicon Valley has swooped in like a conquering army, transforming every corner of this massive conference and assimilating any person or thing that stands in its way.

Tech’s victory has not converted all doubters. Along with discussions about targeting and personalization, the weeklong conference included many discussions about whether technology was killing creativity, with some even arguing the rush into the digital had gone too far, too fast.

Still, the anxiety caused a few years ago by the arrival of tech in Cannes has gradually given way to acceptance, and in many cases excitement about the new opportunities.

Greg Grimmer is chief operating officer of Fetch, an agency that launched in 2009 to focus on mobile. It counts Uber and Supercell among its clients. Grimmer said the global ambition of many startups has created a new dynamic for advertisers who can help them get their messages heard around the world.

“These companies are far more ambitious,” he said. “And they want to move fast.”

Cannes <3 Adtech

Facebook on the beach at Cannes Lions. Suck it, Menlo Park.

Above: Facebook on the beach at Cannes Lions. Suck it, Menlo Park.

Image Credit: VentureBeat/Cannes Lions

Cannes Lions can seem like one massive, freewheeling party along the French Riviera. And, well, that’s because it is.

Outside the conference center, companies rent the yachts that line the harbor to host their guests. They invite celebs like Sting and Kim Kardashian to stop by for the glamour factor. Or they sponsor them to appear on stage, like Pharrell Williams, to impart words of wisdom about what it means to be creative.

But behind the scenes, Cannes Lions is also where a massive amount of business still gets done. Partnership deals are signed. Executives spend most of their time in hotel rooms hashing out deals. The parties and speaking slots at the main conference are designed to dazzle clients.

The pressure, along with the partying, is intense. Companies spend months preparing for Cannes Lions. Everyone knows to some degree that if they have a bad week here, it could affect their entire year. And everyone has a tale to tell about a friend of a friend who lost their job after a bad Cannes Lions.

Tech giants understand the stakes, and they made their presence felt at every turn.

Facebook unveiled a new, immersive mobile ad product it was developing. Microsoft gave an hour-long demo of the HoloLens on the main stage. Twitter talked about viral versus cyclical trends, and how data could help advertisers find the value in both. Tinder hosted an official after-hours networking event. Box was sponsoring the press room.

And for the first time this year, Cannes organizers tacked on a two-day event devoted solely to the topic of innovation.

Amid this high-tech saturation bombing campaign, Snapchat still managed to stand out as the main attraction.

Founder Evan Spiegel snagged a high-profile keynote slot, and the theater was packed for his appearance. Just before Cannes Lions, Snapchat had announced a new video ad product. And the next day, the company made a splash by announcing Truffle Pig, a social content shop for large brands launched in partnership with ad giant WPP and the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

The press conference was held on the Daily Mail yacht.

Cannes fears Adtech

Somewhere back in Oakland, many Pandora employees are hard at work.

Above: Somewhere back in Oakland, many Pandora employees are hard at work.

Image Credit: VentureBeat/Chris O'Brien

While the march of technology across advertising now feels inevitable, that doesn’t mean that everyone is ready to bow down.

Sitting on a beach stage one morning, just a short hop from the water’s edge, The Economist hosted several executives to discuss the shifting landscape. Gannon Jones, head of brand marketing for MillerCoors LLC, insisted that creativity still mattered and issued a bit of a warning about the obsession with tech.

“I think technology is starting to get in the way of creative,” he said. “It’s causing us as marketers to fixate on the technology and the capabilities. We have so much data and so much information, more than we actually need.”

Sitting next to him, Michael Wege, senior vice president and chief growth and marketing officer for Hershey, echoed that sentiment.

“You can get enamored by the platforms and you can get enamored by the data,” he said. “But if you don’t have a great idea, it won’t matter.”

Yet a third panelist, Laurent Faracci, senior vice president for global marketing and digital excellence at RB, was happy to wave tech’s flag.

He said the ability to track, personalize and target messages had helped numerous clients improve brand recognition. What’s more, he said that there’s no getting around the fact that more and more media consumption is happening on mobile gadgets, a platform many marketers still don’t understand.

Marketers and advertisers need to embrace tech to understand this new world, he said.

“That is very complex for agencies, and it’s very complex for us,” he said. “But it’s also an opportunity. In the broadcast world, you had one message for everyone. Now, technology can advance and boost that message.”

Making peace

The Periscope team was in Cannes with a real Periscope that you could use with your smartphone to Periscope. Get it?

Above: The Periscope team was in Cannes with a real Periscope that you could use with your smartphone to Periscope. Get it?

Image Credit: VentureBeat/Chris O'Brien

The tech industry was certainly sensitive to these lingering fears about creativity. And throughout the week, there were attempts to ease the anxiety by trying to reconcile that tension.

Perhaps, techies argued, tech was not killing creativity, but creating new and imaginative forms of expression and storytelling.

At a session called “Scientists vs. Poets: The Art of Connecting Data to Storytelling,” two colleagues from DigitasLBi planned to discuss, according to the program, how “in today’s hyper-connected world, the best marketing comes when you embrace the creative tension between left-brain and right-brain. Powerful storytelling will always be the best way to motivate people’s behavior, but data and analytics can help brands get under the skin of that behavior.”

Maybe the Internet of Things would be a conduit for new messages and stories. Tim Berners-Lee appeared on stage to discuss how artificial intelligence could revolutionize the way people communicate and discover new things.

That richer, more immersive world lies just over the horizon. And when we reach it, tech companies insisted, the worlds of digital and creativity will both thrive.

“What is really exciting right now is the idea that we are moving from taking a webpage and putting it on phone to getting into a kind of experience where you can look underneath that and find something that’s fuller, three-dimensional and encouraging you to use your finger and your ears to explore,” said Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, during his keynote talk. “We’re entering a new era of creativity.”


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Want Google’s Cardboard VR Headset? OnePlus Is Giving Them Away For Free, If You Pay Shipping

cardboard Since about 10 seconds after Google launched its do-it-yourself Cardboard virtual reality headset, other companies have been selling pre-made clones — and Google is totally fine with that. The catch: many of the clones cost upwards of $20-30 bucks, and that’s before shipping. Paying that much for what is essentially a piece of cardboard can feel a bit silly. Looking to capitalize… Read More

Apple, BlackBerry, and Google: The next round of gadget leaks has begun

Apple Google BlackBerry
If you’re not reaching, engaging, and monetizing customers on mobile, you’re likely losing them to someone else. Register now for the 8th annual MobileBeat, July 13-14, where the best and brightest will be exploring the latest strategies and tactics in the mobile space.

It’s summer. Those two words can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In the gadget world, it means the leaks have begun.

New gadgets typically arrive in time for the back-to-school season, and definitely ahead of the holiday shopping bonanza. It may only be July, meaning gadget makers are still nowhere near ready to show off their work, but the Internet doesn’t care.

In just this week alone, we’ve received multiple rumblings and early glimpses of what Apple, BlackBerry, and Google are up to. What better way to kick off a weekend than to see what the grandfather of smartphones, and the current two biggest mobile behemoths are up to?

Apple

On Tuesday, 9to5Mac provided an extensive look at what may be the iPhone 6S. The claim is that these are the first photos of the iPhone 6S’s external metal casing and its internals, courtesy of “a proven source familiar with Apple’s supply chain.”

9to5mac_6s8

The new iPhones are expected to include Force Touch, and according to the images, largely maintain the exterior design of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Expectations include same general sizes, a different internal mounting structure, and no dual-lens camera system.

9to5mac_6s3

9to5Mac followed up with LTE speed details on Wednesday and internal component details on Friday. Like the iPhone 5S, these updates are very much about changes and improvements on the inside.

BlackBerry

Last month, rumors that BlackBerry was building an Android smartphone returned in full force. As one who loves the hardware but hates the software, I have to say I’m excited.

Today, infamous leaker Evan Blass (evleaks) posted more details of BlackBerry’s Android phone, codenamed Venice, which is expected to feature a dual curved display (think Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge) with a physical keyboard that slides up from underneath (think Palm Pre). Apparently, it’s coming to AT&T in the U.S., and a high-resolution render indicates it will look something like this:

You’ll notice that Blass’ image clearly shows Google apps, which would suggest Venice is getting a largely unmodified version of Android, unlike Amazon’s Fire OS which is based on a fork of Google’s mobile operating system. The hardware is similar to the slider that BlackBerry showed off back at Mobile World Congress in March.

But the above device is clearly running BlackBerry OS 10. A smartphone with BlackBerry hardware expertise and Google’s software skills, however, is a lot more intriguing.

Google

On Thursday, Droid Life spotted an FCC filing that describes what is clearly a wearable, and may be the next Google Glass. We know the next version is coming soon, thanks to eyewear maker Luxottica, but that’s about it.

This device has the model name “GG1″ (which may or may not stand for the first Google Glass), has Bluetooth LE, rechargeable and non-removable batteries. It comes with an AC charger and a USB cable that can provide a “path for charging and data transfer.”

Screen-Shot-2015-07-02-at-9.56.40-AM

The e-label above does seem like it could be the size of a Google Glass screen. The GG! could of course be something completely new, but right now the first broadly-available Google Glass seems like a good bet.

Oh, were you looking for smartphones? Rumor has it that Google will be releasing two new Nexus phones this year, one from LG and a larger one from Huawei.

Final thoughts

This happens every year, and this week is just the beginning. Nowadays, it’s actually a shock when a device is unannounced without having leaked previously in some shape or form.

Expect more iPhone 6S, BlackBerry Venice, Google Glass, Nexus, and many more leaks in the weeks and months ahead. No device is safe.

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Media firms are excelling at social: Reach grows by 236%

social-media-reach

Getting any engagement from social media is a tough game, with only 1 percent of messages having any kind of real impact.

But, according to a new study released by SocialFlow, media and entertainment companies are doing better than ever with their social media marketing.

The study — which takes its findings from over eight million organic posts — shows that the average reach per post for media companies publishing to Facebook increased 67 percent from March 2014 through March 2015.

“It’s clear that media companies are producing more, and better, content than most marketers,” Jim Anderson, CEO at SocialFlow, told me. “Just look at your own News Feed and you will probably see that.”

In that same period, total reach for media companies grew by 236 percent, and SocialFlow saw a jump in engagement too. Across the year, average engagement per post on Facebook for media companies was up 44 percent.

socialflow-media-entertainment-socialMedia and entertainment companies, it seems, are not only embracing Facebook, they are excelling at it.

“The top-performing 10 percent of posts on social media drive about 80 percent of the total reach,” Anderson said. “And nine out of 10 of those top-performing posts come from media and entertainment companies.”

Media companies that use Twitter saw a more moderate increase in engagement over the year — just 3 percent — but that is in the face of a much higher volume of tweets from media publishers: up 98 percent on last year. Increased engagement of any kind in a space that has twice as much noise is still an impressive gain.

But there could be more to those findings that meets the eye.

“Good content deserves to be seen again,” Anderson said. “Too much content is competing for a fixed amount of consumer attention, and the reality is that most people don’t see your posts the first time.”

How are companies dealing with this issue? Content recycling.


What works in social:
Social media management: Tools, tactics … and how to win
is available now on VB Insight for $299, or free with your marketing tech subscription


While publishing similar tweets at various times per day is a fairly common practice, SocialFlow’s study details the results of recycling posts on Facebook, and the results are interesting.

Content that is posted twice gains 1.7 times the reach and 1.5 times the engagement than a single post. And posting the same content three times increases that to 2.1 times reach and 1.7 times engagement respectively.

socialflow-facebook-post-recycling

“Television networks learned many decades ago the value of reruns,” Anderson said. “Savvy social media managers are starting to embrace the recycling of content as well.”

But the report errs on the side of caution.

Recycling posts can be seen as “spammy,” and marketers need to be aware of the effect that a poor reuse strategy can have on Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm — the “secret sauce” that determines whether your content will be seen in people’s feeds or not.

“Facebook’s EdgeRank doesn’t punish recycled posts, it punishes bad posts,” Anderson said. “You can double your reach by taking a high-quality post and publishing it three times.”

The study — the second in SocialFlow’s series on Organic Publishing to Social Networks — is available now.

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Google open-sources its software for making trippy images with deep learning

Whoa, cool.

Google today announced that it has open-sourced its code for generate wild and crazy images using a type of artificial intelligence called deep learning.

The deepdream project is now available on GitHub. The project relies on the open-source Caffe deep learning framework. Deep learning involves training artificial neural networks on a large pile of data — for example, pictures of geese — and then throwing them a new piece of data, like a picture of an ostrich, to receive an educated guess about it.

Today’s software release comes a couple of weeks after Google Research showed off how it could visualize what neural networks are seeing when they perform deep learning.

“We have seen a lot of interest and received some great questions, from programmers and artists alike, about the details of how these visualizations are made,” software engineers Alexander Mordvintsev, Christopher Olah, and Mike Tyka wrote in a blog post today. “We have decided to open source the code we used to generate these images in an IPython notebook, so now you can make neural network inspired images yourself!”

Deepdream in action.

Above: Deepdream in action.

Image Credit: Google/GitHub

The software is highly customizable. “We encourage readers to experiment with layer selection to see how it affects the results,” Google says in the IPython notebook (.ipynb). “Execute the next code cell to see the list of different layers. You can modify the make_step function to make it follow some different objective, say to select a subset of activations to maximize, or to maximize multiple layers at once. There is a huge design space to explore!”

Facebook, another company that has been open-sourcing its deep learning tools, last week released an academic paper showing how it can generate samples of images that look real to people 40 percent of the time.

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2 Google self-driving car accidents in June show why humans don’t belong behind the wheel

Artwork on a Google self-driving car.

Google today announced that in June its Lexus autonomous sport-utility vehicles got into two accidents. In both cases, the incidents can be chalked up to human error.

Google’s self-driving cars have now been involved in a total of 14 “minor accidents” in 1.8 million miles’ worth of autonomous and manual driving, the company said in the second ever monthly report from its self-driving car project.

The two new accident reports, which were submitted to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, are amusing — but they suggest that self-driving cars can be less likely to cause accidents than people who are behind the wheel:

June 4, 2015: ​A Google Lexus model autonomous vehicle (“Google AV”) was travelling westbound on California St. in Mountain View in autonomous mode and was stopped behind traffic at a red light at the intersection of California St. and Rengstorff Ave. A vehicle approaching from behind collided with the rear bumper of the Google AV. The Google AV was stopped for approximately 17 seconds prior to the collision. The approximate speed of the other vehicle at the time of impact was <1 mph. There were no injuries reported at the scene by either party. The Google AV sustained no damage and there was no visible damage to the other vehicle.

June 18, 2015: ​A Google Lexus model autonomous vehicle (“Google AV”) was traveling northbound on
California St. in Mountain View in autonomous mode and was stopped at a red light in the straight-only lane at the intersection of California St. and Bryant St. The lane to the left of the Google AV was a left-turn-only lane. The vehicle waiting immediately behind the Google AV in the straight-only lane began to move forward when the green arrow left turn signal appeared (despite the signal for the straight-only lane remaining red) and collided with the rear bumper of the Google AV. The Google AV had been stopped for about 11 seconds at the time of impact. The other vehicle was traveling about 5 mph at the time of impact. There were no injuries reported at the scene by either party. The Google AV sustained minor damage (scrapes) to its rear bumper. The other vehicle sustained minor damage (scrapes) to its front bumper.

Read the full report for the month of June here (PDF).

In May, Google’s fleet of self-driving vehicles were involved in one accident, while in April there were two accidents, according to the first report (PDF) Google released on its self-driving car project.

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IE falls below 55% market share as Chrome and Firefox gain

Internet Explorer

In June 2015, we saw Microsoft Edge branding finally show up in Windows 10, as well as the first full month of Chrome 43 and Firefox 38 availability. Now we’re learning that Microsoft’s current browser, Internet Explorer, has finally fallen below the 55 percent market share mark.

The news is a stark reminder that for many months to come, we’ll be watching Edge slowly but surely steal share from IE. It will take years before IE becomes completely irrelevant on the Web.

See also: Windows 7 passes 60% market share ahead of Windows 10’s debut

Between May and June, here is how the browser market changed, according to the latest figures from Net Applications:

  • Internet Explorer: down 1.15 points to 54.00 percent
  • Chrome: up 0.86 points to 27.23 percent
  • Firefox: down 0.18 points to 12.06 percent
  • Safari: up 0.06 points to 4.99
  • Opera: up 0.08 points to 1.31 percent

Breaking the IE figure down further shows good news for Microsoft’s browser: The latest version, IE11, grew 1.14 percentage points to 27.22 percent. IE10 gained 0.30 points to 5.55 percent, IE9 slipped 0.77 points to 6.76 percent, and IE8 fell a solid 1.21 points to 13.58 percent.

ie_market_share_june_2015

In October, IE11 managed to pass IE8 to become the world’s most popular browser, and the gap continues to widen. This new trend became possible when Windows XP, whose users can’t upgrade past IE8, started to lose significant share. As a result, IE11 can grow unchallenged, until, of course, Edge arrives later this month.

Among the really old versions, IE7 slipped 0.12 points to 0.26 percent and IE6 fell 0.33 points to 0.52 percent.

chrome_market_share_june_2015

Google’s Chrome passed the 25 percent mark in April. Chrome’s gains ensure more than one in four Web users still use the browser.

Chrome 43 captured 17.55 percent, Chrome 41 fell to 1.02 percent, and Chrome 40 slipped to 0.61 points. Older versions will continue to plummet as the latest version takes over, as is typical with Google’s numbers.

firefox_market_share_june_2015

As we’ve noted before, Mozilla’s Firefox has been hitting new lows for months. In June, it was up 0.18 points to 12.06 percent, though that’s still less than 1 percent above its latest low of 11.6 percent in February.

Thankfully, Firefox’s built-in upgrade system continues to work well. Firefox 38 grabbed 9.03 percent, while Firefox 37 dropped to 0.45 percent and Firefox 36 fell to 0.18 percent.

Net Applications uses data captured from 160 million unique visitors each month by monitoring some 40,000 websites for its clients. This means it measures user market share.

If you prefer usage market share</em, you'll want to get your data from StatCounter, which looks at 15 billion page views. The operating system figures for June are available here.

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