Smile, you’re on AI camera

November 22nd, 2023

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Iced out. All right, ladies and gentlemen. This might just be the best unplanned ad of the year. Last week, a woman on TikTok posted a video of her Stanley steel tumbler that managed to survive a devastating car fire. The craziest part? It still had ice in it. The video went viral and even reached Stanley’s president, Terence Reilly, who jumped into action and stitched the video — promising the woman a brand new car. Talk about a quick response.

In other news… the rise of emotion AI, Binance gets bounced, and Hollywood sets its eyes on TikTok.

Top Trends

YouTube → The Karate Kid

X → James Gunn

Google → Melissa Barrera

Reddit → Mrs. Doubtfire

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All eyes on you // Illustration by Kait Cunniff with DALL-E

Companies want to measure your feelings with emotion AI

The Future. Several startups are leveraging a controversial tech called emotion artificial intelligence (EAI) to serve ads, monitor people’s reactions to film and TV trailers, assess the soft skills of prospective hires, and monitor employees’ emotions. With the rise of remote work and video conferencing, companies may soon be able to monitor the well-being of their workers wherever they are… whether they like it or not.

Smile, you’re on candid camera
The use of EAI is giving companies more customer insights than they ever thought possible… while also creating nightmares for employees.

  • EAI assesses facial expressions, muscular twitches, verbal cues, and pupil dilation (like Apple hopes to do with the Vision Pro) to determine moment-to-moment feelings.

  • This is typically done through a computer’s camera, but some companies have also equipped office chairs to record biometric data.

  • Companies then mix those findings with demographic data to turn them into cutting-edge customer insights… or not, since there’s a lot of debate about whether the technology is simply a bunch of pseudoscience.

But those controversies haven’t stopped brands like Disney and CBS from using the tech from firms like Smart Eye to recut a trailer if a joke isn’t working, or Ikea and Oracle from measuring the cognitive abilities of interviewees via the recruitment platform HireVue.

The scary use-cases include reports of call centers leveraging the tech to monitor employees’ attitudes on calls, which can then be used to assemble emotional profiles and can even affect their employment at the company.

And since none of this needs to be legally disclosed to employees, it could already be happening without your knowledge.

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“And then the law closed in…” // Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao pleads guilty to money laundering

The Future. On the heels of FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial, the next biggest leader in crypto is facing his own reckoning. Changpeng “CZ” Zhao, CEO of the biggest crypto exchange in the world, is stepping down after being found guilty in US court for money laundering. While there are still people who unwaveringly believe in the utility and philosophy of crypto, the demise of FTX and the confidence crisis at Binance may scare the average consumer away from putting their faith in the decentralized currency movement.

Another fall from grace
Binance’s Changpeng Zhao may be joining SBF in chains in a cell block.

  • Per the plea agreement, Zhao will have to pay a $50 million fine and could spend up to 18 months in prison (though, living in the UAE, extradition may be tough).

  • He can keep his ownership of Binance, but he has to step down from the C-suite and he’ll be unable to return.

  • Additionally, Binance will pay fines totaling $4.3 billion and admit wrongdoing.

  • Binance exec Richard Teng is expected to become CEO in the wake of Zhao’s exit.

The case stemmed from Zhao and Binance’s knowledge that it had millions of US users since 2019, despite not being registered there. On top of that, the exchange never set up systems to catch money laundering to countries that the US had sanctions against… resulting in Binance processing payments from Americans to users in Iran totaling $899 million. Yikes.

On the heels of the indictment, Binance’s namesake token fell 5.3% in value… in case you holders out there were wondering.

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Plus, you can snag over 600 extra hours a year and save $1,500 on your first month.


Courtesy of Peacock

TikTok could prove complicated for Hollywood

The Future. TikTok is all the rage, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood wants to harness its influence… and its young user base. While turning to the platform to distribute premium titles may prove difficult (or, simply, a money-loser), TikTok’s rise as a marketing hub has already proven invaluable. And maybe that’s the only thing it should continue to be — a small screen to drive people to the big screen.

Big dreams, small screen
Hollywood would really like to figure out if TikTok can be a new distribution platform for top-shelf film and TV.

  • The studios and streamers have already been experimenting, with Paramount briefly putting up Mean Girls in 23 parts and Peacock making the first episode of Killing It available on the platform.

  • And while some independent creators have released scripted series on the platform, Adam McKay’s nonprofit Yellow Dot Studios became the first with A-list talent to drop one — the office comedy Cobell Energy.

  • So far, Cobell Energy hasn’t sparked, with the pilot garnering only 14,400 views as of Monday and the show’s account counting only 650 followers — metrics that don’t really lead to monetization (which aren’t that high to begin with).

And that’s kind of the point — monetization (ad revenue, especially) on TikTok is really only possible if an account is already popular, which may make generating revenue on the platform harder than the already-hard streaming wars.

And even though users are pirating movies and shows on the platform, that’s after they’ve already been eventized in theaters or other legit channels — the TikTok-ization of Hollywood projects may just be people getting caught up in the endless scroll. The same happened with YouTube last decade.

While the experimentation likely won’t end soon, it’s important to reflect on the last time Hollywood rushed into premium, mobile-first content: the short-form, short-lived Quibi.

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Your votes were split nearly 50/50 on yesterday’s poll: Are you using AI at work?

“I’m a writer/videographer, and right now, audiences view the use of AI as cheating. My job is to please the audience, so…”

“In music production programs.”

“My work is project and people management. The personal touch is required.”

“Still figuring out how best to instruct ChatGPT. If I provide my own writing and ask for particular revisions, it usually does okay. If I ask it to write for me, it spits out unusable content — which I guess is job security!”


The best curated daily stories from around the web

Media, Music, & Entertainment

  • The mystery of Banksy’s identity may have finally been cracked — The BBC has strong evidence that his name is Robert “Robbie” Banks. Read more → thr

  • Dave Filoni (the mastermind behind The Mandalorian and Ahsoka) is following in his mentor George Lucas’ footsteps by taking the Chief Creative Officer role at Lucasfilm — putting him in charge of the development of the entire Star Wars slate. Read more → variety

  • A class-action lawsuit against Meta over its use of copyrighted materials to train its AI has been stripped of basically all its charges by a federal judge. Read more → thr

Fashion & E-Commerce

  • Lionel Messi’s Argentina jerseys that he wore during the 2022 World Cup will be auctioned off by Sotheby’s… which could potentially fetch a record sum for sports memorabilia. Read more → hypebeast

  • Following Ryan Reynolds’ success with Aviation Gin, the spirit is having a celebrity moment, with Woody Harrelson, Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and Emma Watson all cashing in on the Gin Rush. Read more → fastcompany

  • Kim Kardashian’s Skyy Partners has inked its first deal — a minority stake in the truffle-infused sauce brand TRUFF. Read more → bloomberg

Tech, Web3, & AI

  • The OpenAI drama continues as Sam Altman is yet again negotiating with the board of directors about a potential return. Read more → theinformation

  • The ongoing Epic vs. Google trial has exposed a bombshell sweetheart deal between the app store giant and Spotify — when users signed up for Spotify on its own payment system, it didn’t have to pay commissions; when users signed up on Google’s, the streamer only had to pay 4%. Read more → theverge

  • xAI’s Grok chatbot is already lurking around X to answer users’ “spicy” questions. Read more → techcrunch

Creator Economy

  • YouTube is warning users that if they don’t disable their ad-blocking software, their experience watching videos will become “suboptimal.” Read more → insider

  • Snap may roll out a premium, ad-free version for $15.99/month (do people really not want ads on Snapchat that bad?). Read more → theverge

  • At the Roblox Innovation Awards, a 19-year-old creator named Muneeb beat out Gucci, Karlie Kloss, and several other high-profile brands in the fashion category for his “Catalog Avatar Creator experience.” Read more → bbc

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Today’s email was written by David Vendrell.
Edited by Melody Song. Copy edited by Kait Cunniff.
Published by Darline Salazar.

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