The pope’s deepfaked drip

March 28th, 2023

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Everybody wants to be a cat. After winning Best Documentary at last year’s Oscars, acclaimed drummer (and all-around nice guy) Questlove has found his next film project… and it may surprise you. The Roots’ co-frontman is rumored to direct a live-action/hybrid adaptation of Disney’s The Aristocats. With his background in music, he shouldn’t have a hard time picking up his scales and arpeggios. IYKYK.

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In other news… The pope gets drippy, Uber Eats cleans up its app, and coffee lures employees back to the office.

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AI

Pope x Prada // Illustration by Kate Walker

Fashion pope was AI getting the better of us

The Future. The photo of Pope Francis wearing a swagged-out white puffer jacket that went viral over the weekend was actually created using Midjourney. Yep, the internet was fooled by AI, and it won’t be the last time. As the tech improves, we may run out of visible-to-the-naked-eye ways of knowing an image is fake… and that could have much deeper repercussions than getting duped by the pope in a puffy jacket.

Deepfaked dripNo, the pope isn’t really out there in all that swag.

  • The Verge breaks down some tell-tale signs in the image: a wonky crucifix, a hand not actually holding a coffee cup, and glasses that look like they’re out of a Dalí painting.

  • Also, internet sleuths discovered that the photo was posted on the Midjourney subreddit with alternative outputs.

Once the photo was debunked after going viral on Twitter and other social platforms, Chrissy Teigen probably summed up our collective gasp at the AI unrobing best: “I thought the pope’s puffer jacket was real and didn't give it a second thought. No way am I surviving the future of technology.”

Not so GucciSo, as you’re all wondering: how could this happen? The Verge has a few theories.

  • Since the pope is a celebrity, Midjourney has had plenty of photos to train and draw on.

  • The pope is kind of known for wearing things that could come from a fashion house (he doesn’t, according to The Vatican).

  • Midjourney is good at generating “hyperreal” images — dramatic poses, saturated colors, and a faux sense of being photorealistic.

When you mix all those factors with a mindless scroll through Twitter on a lazy Saturday afternoon, it’s easy to see how we can be fooled.

BUSINESS

The Hunger Games // Illustration by Kate Walker

Uber Eats trashes virtual brands

The Future. Uber Eats is purging its app of thousands of virtual storefronts, citing that the inflation of same-menu, different-name brands is clogging the app and hurting customer trust. While many restaurants opened up virtual brands to test out new styles or just keep the kitchen busy during typical slow hours, the culling may improve the quality of the app’s offerings and speed up how long it takes for a customer to find something to eat.

Menu multiplicationUber Eats doesn’t want to be The Cheesecake Factory menu of dining options.

  • The company announced that it's removing about 5,000 online storefronts — 13% of virtual brands in North America.

  • That includes an NYC deli with 14 brands serving the same sandwiches and a San Francisco-based Pakistani restaurant that duplicated its menu across 20 brands.

  • It’s also introducing new rules: more than half of a virtual brand’s menu needs to be different from the parent brand’s menu — and needs the photos to back it up.

Currently, Uber Eats hosts more than 40,000 virtual restaurants — 8% of the listings in the US and Canada. There were only 10,000 in 2021.

Tastes like SEOFor many restaurants, the “Wild West, anything goes kind of situation” (Uber Eats Head of Dark Kitchens John Mullenholz’s words) of virtual restaurants gave brands the ability to experiment to see what works with customers.

Matt Newberg, the founder of food publication HNGRY, said that “an Indian restaurant with a menu ranging from tandoori chicken to dosas might create multiple brands with the same menu but give each a different name and lead photo.” When the restaurant figured out which brand got the most hits and with which photo, it could pour its energy into that one.

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BUSINESS

Cappuccinos and conference rooms

Coffee energizes a return to the office

The Future. Many employees are now working from home most of the time, and as a result, there is less opportunity for organic bonding in the office since nobody wants to be there. So, companies are putting more emphasis on creating social spaces to reignite the coffee break as a way to craft community and motivate people to return. It’s a small gesture, but it may be impactful for a workforce looking to retie social connections.

Communal brewIs coffee going to save the office?

  • According to Bloomberg, hybrid work has led to less dedicated offices, cubicles, and more hot desks… meaning communal office spaces are more crucial than ever.

  • That has led to the importance of coffee being available in the office as a key motivator to getting people together for in-person meetings.

  • And it’s not just any coffee, but quality offerings like top-shelf espresso and nitro cold brews.

  • And with happy hours and Friday night work outings a thing of the pre-pandemic age, coffee breaks are turning into one of the best ways to get to know your colleagues.

In other words, it’s not really about the coffee, but what the coffee break opens the space for. But you might as well have some good coffee while at it.

TOGETHER WITH THE HUSTLE

Your new Hustle

Have five min in the AM? There’s a breezy morning read that’ll keep you up to date on everything business and tech. It’s called The Hustle. 

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Highlights

The best curated daily stories from around the web

Twitter crashes in value 

Did Elon Musk clip Twitter’s wings? After infamously spending $44 billion to acquire Twitter, the controversial CEO claims that the company is now worth only $20 billion. Wait, what? He made the announcement in an employee memo about a stock-compensation program, saying that it’s in dire financial condition (even after the cost cuts, layoffs, and paid subscription schemes) and at one point was four months away from bankruptcy. In his words, Twitter is now “an inverse start-up.”

Read more → deadline

MSCHF wants you to put your shoes on backwards

Top trollsters MSCHF is revolutionizing footwear yet again. The “BWD Shoe” has two different ways it can be worn: regularly with your toes hanging out the front like a slipper or reverse so you can let your toes snuggle up to the sneaker’s heel. Is this the most ridiculous or most versatile shoe ever created? Find out for yourself when it drops on April 11.

Read more → highsnobiety

Teams lets your avatar do the talking

If you have a massive pimple on your forehead or forgot to shower, Microsoft Teams will now let you hide your embarrassment. The video conferencing software is allowing users to tap in custom-created avatars to sit in on meetings and emote via emoji reactions… giving people a break from being on-camera. Most amazingly, the avatars can also emote simply from a user’s vocal cues, just in case your webcam is broken.

Read more → theverge

Half of all American employees have a side hustle

Thanks to soaring living costs and inflation, Americans aren’t cutting the budget; they’re just working more to pay for the things they have. According to LendingClub, about half of Americans have some side gig to bring in extra income — selling items on eBay, working TaskRabbit, managing rental properties. And those already making $100,000 per year are even more likely to have a side gig. About $50 billion is made overall through these supplemental gigs… with most of it not reported for taxes.

Read more → bloomberg

The Drop Store imagines a water-scarce grocery store

The Drop Store, an initiative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, imagines a future that has been ravaged by a too-little or too-dirty water crisis… via grocery store prices. Pizza in the form of a pill will run you $163. Five grains of rice are $89. A tablespoon of “pure” water costs $198… or you can get 20 ounces of regular brown water for $199. The whole thing is pretty fascinating (and depressing). And not-so-fun fact: currently, two billion people are living without access to clean water.

Read more → fastcompany

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Today's email was brought to you by David Vendrell.Edited by Nick Comney. Publishing by Sara Kitnick.

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