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News, Tech Roundup

Tech Beat by Namecheap 21 October 2022

In this week’s lead story, we examine the new trend of text-to-image, computer-generated art programs. These programs have become big news this year, but what will this disruption mean for the industry and for hard-working artists? We decided to take a closer look at the question of AI artwork.  Check out our article, “What does robot art mean for humans?” to learn more.

In other news

  • New ultra-white reflective paint will help people stay cooler. A team at Purdue University has developed a paint that can potentially reflect 97.9% of the sun’s rays, which has various applications for keeping the planet cool, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Most commercial paints only reflect between 80-90% of sunlight. A highly reflective paint was developed last year but was still too thick to be applied in most situations. Now with the new ultra-thin formula, the paint can be applied to different forms of transportation to keep passengers cooler, and even to spacecraft. This can save on the energy used for air-conditioning, which also produces heat and contributes to global warming.   
  • New AI tool could help detect blood poisoning. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have introduced a new AI-based early warning system for Sepsis, according to a report in Undark. The Targeted Real-time Early Warning System (TREWS) goes through patients’ medical records looking for ways of identifying the condition, which can be lethal if left undetected. Sepsis causes over a quarter of a million deaths in the US every year, which is more than diabetes or lung cancer. It’s hoped that TREWS will help us to understand more about this life-threatening condition. 
  • Black hole ejects the remnants of a star it consumed. Gizmodo reports that a black hole observed from six different locations has been spitting out material from a star that entered the void in 2018. Astronomers were at first confused by the event because it began last year, which is unusual after three years. In most cases, a tidal disruption event occurs when a star gets too close to a black hole and is destroyed, then orbits the black hole, after which heated material can be detected from Earth. It doesn’t usually take so long for the black star to digest star material, so it seems that this one was a particularly tasty morsel.
  • Water pipes identified as a potential energy source. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory discovered that water flowing through pipes, irrigation channels, and aqueducts throughout the US could be used to harness 1.41GW of hydroelectric energy. The researchers reached this conclusion, according to The Register, following a study involving bolting small and micro-scale hydroelectric generators to water infrastructure. They examined existing data from water regulators, as well as remote sensing and feature detection techniques. Currently, hydropower only generates 530MW in the US. This discovery spells new potential for hydroelectric power without having to disrupt or drain additional waterways.
  • Robot dogs are the best goalies. A group of engineers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Hybrid Robotics Lab have successfully trained a nine-kilogram, four-legged robot called Cheetah to be more capable than your favorite soccer goalie. According to IEEE Spectrum, the best professional goalkeepers in the English Premier League can save 80% of attempted goals, while. Cheetah can save 87.5%. Researchers behind the project hope their success will bring them one step closer to creating a robotic soccer player that can compete with humans in the near future.
  • New ransomware switches off security software. Sophos cybersecurity experts revealed details about BlackByte ransomware that gets around security infrastructure. According to ZDNet, the ransomware is able to bypass detection through vulnerabilities in over a thousand antivirus software drivers. It exploits a Windows graphics utility driver and gains access to an authenticated user account to get around the security drivers in various endpoint products. Because of the seriousness of this malware, the FBI has issued a warning after a number of high-profile attacks, and Sophos recommends everyone, especially companies, update antivirus software immediately.  

Tip of the week: Dabbling with AI art

Are you curious about trying out Ai-generated art for yourself? Some of the options available to the public include Midjourney (which utilizes Discord), DALL-E, and Stable Diffusion. These are either free or freemium software options that will allow you to try out AI artwork without a background in computer science. 

In each case, you enter a text string, which can be as simple as “dog walking in the snow” or “boy skateboarding in Central Park in the style of Monet” and the artificial intelligence model will draw on content within its database and/or from publicly-available images on the Internet to create its own approximation of your request. 

Depending on the AI model, you can fine-tune your request with parameters to adjust the size, aspect ratio, level of detail, colors, and stylistic elements of the resulting image. Don’t worry if this seems complicated — as these programs gain popularity, communities and websites are popping up to provide guidance on how to make the best use of the tools. 

And as far as what you can create and how you can use the resulting images, each model offers its own usage rights and rules for content, with most disallowing sexual or violent images.  

You can join online groups to view and share AI artwork you’ve generated — there’s the ai Art subreddit as well as one for Stable Diffusion, and Facebook has the Prompt Whispering group, just to name a few. There are also discussions across the web focused on the ethics of “replacing” human creators with AI as well as copyright conversations since so much of this art draws on existing artwork without attribution or payment to the original creators. 

Have you played with AI art generators? Let us know about your experiences — or concerns — in the comments. 

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Robert O'Sullivan avatar

Robert O'Sullivan

Robert has lived and worked in distant locations around the globe and is currently based in the Balkans. In addition to travel, he has a passion for language, writing, technology, and making sophisticated concepts more appealing and understandable for readers, which are talents he puts to good use at Namecheap. More articles written by Robert.

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