How awesome is this: together with Fairfake.ai (part of 3DUniversum) and Victor Mids we created this deepfake, starring our book. Victor is famous in the Netherlands for his illusional Mindfucks. I had a lot of fun making this with our intern Nour Yousseff and Sezer Karaoğlu from 3DUniversum. These kinds of collaborations are the cherry on the pie and make my job so much fun : ).
Grateful for this review @ Frankwatching:
“I hadn’t read much about synthetic media before I read Real Fake, so I was really curious if the topic actually interests me at all. And if I could follow the story. The short answer is : yes, I could. And I’m sure you can too. The book outlines the pros and cons of a world full of synthetic media, in a very accessible way. The authors make you think, but do not play into fear. It was the first time in a long time that I read a book so quickly and really gained new insights. Are you looking for an exciting Christmas present for someone? Then put this book on the list. Ideal for anyone who also but has some interest in technology and the future.”
Read the full review @ https://www.frankwatching.com/archive/2021/12/12/synthetische-media-deepfake/
Het Parool – Rise of the virtual influencer: the line between real and fake is getting blurred (December 2021)
Cool to be cited as a source in this article from Dutch newspaper Het Parool. The article is about the difference between digital influencers and influencers of flesh and blood:
The rise of the virtual influencer shows the extent to which our digital and physical world overlap, write Menno van Doorn, Sander Duivestein and Thijs Pepping in Real Fake. ‘There are more and more digital people who move in public space and contribute to the public debate; people respond to them as if they really existed, because they evoke real emotions. This is called a ‘parasocial relationship’: the more often we see an entity, the stronger our relationship with it becomes. Despite realizing that it is a one-sided relationship, we find ourselves believing in it.
For the younger generations, digital celebrities are hardly less real than the flesh-and-blood influencers they follow on Instagram, having grown up in a reality that is both physical and digital, write Van Doorn, Duivestein and Pepping. “In a world of half-truths, filters and sponsored content, their explicit inauthenticity can be a refreshing change.”
The first seconds show that I’m not an acting talent, but the One Minute MasterClass about Real Fake went pretty well. I think ;p.
The video was made for Fontys University of Applied Sciences because there is a shortage on the labor market. Solid education is crucial for the further development of ICT. Education in technical know-how, as well as in the ethical implications of our digital creations. To tackle this problem, Fontys Hogeschool ICT challenged me to give a masterclass about our book Real Fake. They gave me 60 seconds… Here’s the result (subtitled):
Review Real Fake @ Dutch Future Society – Real Fake: A Guide to an unprecedented Synthetic World (November 2021)
Very happy with this review at Dutch Future Society. This club, DFS for short, wants to increase awareness of possible futures in the Netherlands. With this they want to contribute to the innovative power of companies and organisations. By finding better ways to think about the future, they hope to create a better future. Hopefully our book will contribute to that.
The introduction to the review:
In October 2021, the book Real Fake van Menno van Doorn, Sander Duivestein & Thijs Pepping was published by Bot Publishers. The book, with the subtitle ‘Playing with reality in times of AI, deepfakes and the metaverse’, is about the influence of digitization and in particular artificial intelligence on our sense of reality and the way we tell stories. Real Fake appeared at the moment when the hype about the metaverse – a not yet existing digital network of all kinds of virtual spaces where storytelling, truth and fiction, fantasy and reality have to find a place – erupted. So perfect timing.
Read the whole story @
Marco Derksen is a well-known name in the marketing world. He is a popular speaker and is constantly working on the future and ‘the century of his daughters’ as he puts it. Happy and honored that he read our book and wrote a review. Some quotes:
“Personally, the book has given me insights into how my own story about the century of my daughters could develop further and it has guided my search for the new west or as the authors call it: the recovery story for the adjustment of the economic and social system.”
About the Narrative Economy chapter:
“It was especially this part of the book that a new world opened up for me with examples such as the online horse racing platform Zed Run, the story of the young black astronaut Aku, the Loot project or the crowdfunding platform MetaFactory.”
“Real Fake is a fascinating book that has given me new insights into how my daughters century could develop further and helped me in my quest for the new west. The positive future story that focuses on a better world. It will take some time before all those new insights are processed, but expect a new blog with the translation of these new insights into my own story!”
Read the whole review @
Reflection on Facebook’s Meta @ Nu.nl – Why Facebook’s metaverse is the future of the internet (October 2021)
An interview remains exciting and fun; this time with Bas Scharwachter from the popular Dutch news platform Nu.nl. The reason to ask me was the increased attention for the metaverse due to Facebook’s name change. And yes, I had something to say about that ;p.
Talking points included:
– Facebook probably has three reasons: 1) distancing from negative sentiment, 2) business-wise, ala Google / Alphabet, 3) They actually believe in it; 10,000 (20%) of employees already work in Facebook’s Reality Labs, and they promised billions in investments.
– The idea is old; we’ve been growing slowly towards metaverse-like environments for decades rather than a sudden transition.
– Fortnite, Roblox, Decentraland, OpenSea, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Coinbase, NVIDIA’s Omniverse, and Digital Twins are all building blocks for the metaverse
– There is now a lot of enthusiasm, fear and ridicule again, but again it will not be heaven or hell. Existing problems and opportunities will intensify and many new ones will emerge.
– So it is important to become even more aware of our current relationship with technology: do a digital detox, regularly ask yourself which app and which behavior gives you good energy and inspiration and which drains all the energy.
– And I haven’t even mentioned the balance of power and regulation. Facebook Files? You ain’t seen nothing yet. One thing seems certain: Zuckerberg’s metaverse will suck.
– Big Tech is only getting bigger. Yesterday, after the interview, the market closed with Microsoft as the world’s most valuable company. It surpasses Apple with €2.15 trillion… (NL GDP 2020: €800 billion)
As it goes, only a few seconds were used in the video below, but it was a fun conversation and I’m already looking forward to the next one :).
Review Echt Nep @ Adformatie: ‘The fourth media revolution’: creating your own reality in the metaverse (October 2021)
“Three experienced researchers publish an infectious book about automated manipulation and creation in the metaverse.” That sounds intriguing right? The first review of our book, and glad the book was received well! 😀
Read the full review @
Is it real or fake?
How obvious will it be in the future for real faces to appear during a video meeting? The new deepfake tool DeepFaceLive that allows you to change faces in real-time in Teams, Zoom and Twitch caused a lot of commotion recently. Again proof that it is becoming easier to manipulate reality with the use of technology.
On social media such as Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram, it is already the most natural thing in the world to use Hollywood-worthy effects. That may seem like a far-from-my-bed show for many IT managers right now. But there will come a time when CIOs have to make a choice: whether to introduce a deepfake detector or to integrate that technology as a service within the existing Teams environment. In short, reality ethics is becoming a new responsibility on the IT manager’s plate.
Real versus Fake
The new DeepFaceLive technology works with preloaded or uploaded facesets. The app runs solely as a Windows 10 application and requires a powerful computer that most professionals don’t use yet. The general verdict on internet forums is that deepfake detectors will spot most counterfeits right away. At the same time, that of course also depends on the final quality and tweaks of the user. A happier face manipulation is Snap Cam, which makes all of Snapchat’s AR tricks available for the laptop. By downloading the app, you can use Snap Cam as a virtual camera in Teams. This way you no longer have to just let out a fake cough when you call in sick. You can also show ‘your’ red-shot eyes, thanks to the use of a virtual ‘flu look’. Hanging up paper streamers to congratulate your colleague is no longer necessary, because putting on a virtual birthday hat is so easy.
Thanks to synthetic media, an era is dawning in which the creation of images, text, sound and video is no longer a monopoly of the film industry and editing studios. Anyone can get creative with the help of artificial intelligence. This ‘Hollywood-to-the-home’ effect ensures accessibility and thus democratization of creativity. More than ever, everyone has the opportunity to create their own reality that is just as easy and quick to share with each other. So anyone can have a Hollywood studio at home.
Director Victor Riparbelli of the digital human company Synthesia makes it happen. “With synthetic media, you can make videos without cameras, without actors, without studios, without film crews and without post-production,” he says. Via a service of Synthesia.io you indicate which digital human you want to call on. The chosen digital person then speaks in a video in accordance with the language, text, accents and intonation you have specified.
Meanwhile, the youth spends quite some time in these virtual worlds, for example on Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft. Singer Ariana Grande recently gave a big concert in Fortnite. While players listened to her, the singer floated through space in unique mini-games and ran through a magical maze. These are all harbingers of the so-called Metaverse in which Facebook, Microsoft and Nvidia are currently investing heavily. It is the world where contact is no longer made via flat apps and websites. It’s a permanent 3D virtual world of rich experiences where you create amazing digital memories together. In such a metaverse, users assume their own identity with their own data, clothing, status and other digital assets. It is a view in which everything is connected to everything and everyone and the experience of reality becomes fluid.
In that future of the metaverse, the CIO becomes a reality manager. Which reality is accessible to whom? What is running where? Technology users are now increasingly making reality choices. Consciously or unconsciously, everyone already has their own ideas about the extent to which a photo may be edited. A little more color in a photo is fine in itself. Why not immediately eliminate a few wrinkles automatically? Nobody sees it, right?
Organizations are also increasingly taking a stand in this reality debate. For example, at the end of 2020, Google decided to stop turning on the beauty filters by default on their Pixel phones and to use more neutral words to describe the manipulations, Snapchat agreed. In the context of inclusiveness, food and beauty giant Unilever announced that it would no longer excessively digitally tinker with products and the bodies of models.
It is naive to think that taking such ethical stances should be purely business-oriented. IT should also get involved in this. IT managers need to be part of the policy makers who indicate the possibilities in nuances, boundaries and playing fields in reality ethics. This gives the CIO a new responsibility: the role of reality manager.
Author: Thijs Pepping is trend analyst at Sogeti’s New Technology Exploration Institute (VINT)
Algemeen Dagblad – The distinction between ‘real’ and ‘fake’ is blurring and demands Reality Ethics (August 2021)
Thanks to the use of technology, it is becoming easier to manipulate reality. It is not the plastic surgeon, but beauty filters that more often result in larger lips, a narrow waist or a large muscle bundle. A simple app works wonders.
According to Norwegian critics, digital beauty filters provide what they call ‘kroppspress’. In other words, body pressure. According to a study by 3Vraagt en Brandpunt, 82 percent of young people in the Netherlands think that digital filters provide an unrealistic ideal of beauty. Norway is one of the first countries in the world to introduce legislation requiring influencers and advertisers to label retouched photos showing that the image is fake. A good step in the direction of new reality ethics, which the Netherlands can take as an example. Now that technology that smooths out wrinkles or makes eyes bigger is available to everyone, Norwegian legislation is more current than ever. The new law requires ads to bear a label when retouching a body’s shape, size or skin. Without a label, manipulated images can be fined or even jailed.
The big question in the real versus fake discussion is what is and is not ethical. Last year, Google decided not to enable beauty filters by default on their Pixel phones. Beauty giant Unilever is no longer excessively digitally tinkering with fashion model bodies and the word ‘normal’ is disappearing from more than 200 products.
‘Normal’ is anything but normal. It is a normative concept that includes with ‘normal’ and excludes with ‘abnormal’. For example, according to Unilever, it is no longer normal to have ‘natural coloring’ in your hair. After all, gray hair is not abnormal. A white skin color is no longer normal and a dark skin color is no longer abnormal either. The bandwidth in which consumers are ‘allowed’ to find themselves is thus becoming wider. Influencing reality to make dreams come true has never been easier. This requires additional reflection. However, the practice is unruly. In the case of Norwegian law, it is not clear whether adjustments to lighting or color saturation of a photo are allowed. This creates gray areas. What about the influence on plastic surgery? Will such legislation lead to an increase in medical interventions to circumvent the mandatory label? This means that even a notification requirement for physical corrections should be a consideration. Consumers will also wonder which manipulations are still acceptable during a video meeting or in a LinkedIn post. In any case, Norway has taken a bold step. The Netherlands should follow to raise awareness about real versus fake. And thereby underline the much-needed ethics of reality.
P.s. It’s always a plus if printed on real paper ;p: https://www.thijspepping.com/verschil-tussen-echt-en-nep-wordt-steeds-vager/
‘The Metaverse’ is hot and happening. It is the ultimate virtual world that builds on the ‘digital twin’ of the physical environment. A metaverse makes it possible to experiment, experience and play endlessly and without risk. In a way risk-free experimenting is becoming more accessible, more real and cheaper. What will your organization’s metaverse be?
Digital twins and simulations are not new. The high quality support services to build it are. The integration of different simulations into a larger whole is developing at lightning speed. This brings the construction of your own ‘metaverse’ ever closer. A metaverse of your organization in which all work, design and production processes will be integrated.
Popular games like Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft are actually precursors of an all-encompassing metaverse. There are more and more connections between games and other virtual worlds. Artists perform in Fortnite and Gucci gear is for sale in Roblox. In Minecraft, real environments are imitated perfectly, whether or not as parody. These fanciful, virtual worlds, in which users live and create new worlds, are a good start to a metaverse where there are more and more interactions between ‘real’ and ‘fake’. It’s no surprise, then, that Nvidia — the company that makes billions of dollars a year making chips for hyper-realistic video games — is adopting the metaverse as a concept to build all kinds of new virtual worlds. Microsoft, IBM and Siemens have also embraced the world of the metaverse.
new generation of simulations
For example, Nvidia is building a virtual digital twin of a BMW factory in Germany. This helps the carmaker virtually plan new work processes before implementing the changes in their physical factory. Microsoft offers digital twins as-a-service with Azure Digital Twins. These Internet-of-Things platforms are used to create digital models of objects, places, business processes or people. The objects are manipulated, discussed or experienced in a mixed-reality manner via Microsoft Mesh. Siemens also states that many 2D simulations have now been exchanged for 3D models that make the step to Augmented and Virtual Reality much smaller. Working remotely on a new product or process becomes much easier, according to the technology company. Who knows, maybe this new generation of simulations will lead to the long-awaited breakthrough of XR glasses and headsets.
Where until recently models mainly contained a specific machine or part, it is now increasingly about the entire system of machines, even including the people who work with them. In the future, artificial intelligence will move through the metaverse. Adjustments and new planning schedules are then automatically tested and applied in practice. Siemens is expected to start using this example of virtual technology in three years’ time.
the map is not the terrain
Not everyone is enthusiastic about the advance of simulations. “The map is not the terrain” was the warning of philosopher and scientist Alfred Korzybski. As early as 1931, Korzybski had the opinion that many people too often confuse models and reality. Since the advent of the computer, this warning has again been applauded. For example, technology sociologist Sherry Turkle of MIT in her book Simulation and its discontents (2009) quotes a physics teacher at MIT from the 1980s: “My students know more and more about computer reality, but less and less about the real world. And they no longer even really know about computer reality because simulations have become so complex that people don’t build them anymore. They just buy them and can’t get beneath the surface.” Forty years later, in 2021, more time and energy is being spent on simulations than ever before. They are becoming more and more detailed and comprehensive. Thanks to the use of Augmented and Virtual Reality, simulations are increasingly influencing the experience and psyche of people. Simulations, digital twins and the metaverse will irrevocably change the relationship with reality. “Maps created Empire”, historian John B. Harley once said of the origin of the paper map. With digital twins as interactive 3D maps of reality, the question arises: What will they create?
fake and/or real
The perfect computer simulation will probably never be created. Yet the virtual world is increasingly becoming the battleground of endless, risk-free design, experimentation, sale and collaboration. In a playful way, these simulations have an effect on how reality is experienced. Just as photos and videos gave us a different way of seeing, the metaverse offers a new way of living and experiencing. To counter the temptation and assertiveness of simulations, it is not wrong to introduce ‘The map is not the terrain’ as the mantra for this decade. Let it be your compass in upcoming discussions, design sessions and data analysis. Because no matter how cool, effective and productive simulations become, the most important question remains what it yields and what value is attached to it. The metaverse shows in its own way that the boundary between ‘fake’ and ‘real’ has long since disappeared. And the gray area that has arisen in between is the ultimate playing field of the IT manager.
Author: Thijs Pepping is trend analyst at Sogeti’s New Technology Exploration Institute (VINT)
The question of what working will look like in the future has been brutally limited in the past year to the question: Will working from home become the norm? All associated consequences, such as the role of the office and other physically flexible workplaces, are of course also up for discussion.
Now that the end of the corona era seems to be in sight, it is high time to put those questions from before the pandemic back on the agenda. Because the issue of The Future of Work is constantly evolving and is increasingly becoming the future of life. Either way, it is in any case much more than the office or home workplace. Before the pandemic, the future of work was mainly about further automation, replacing human work by robots, the impact of artificial intelligence on daily operations and the relationship between humans and machines. At the time, that discussion also seemed to be increasingly limited to one key question: will my job still exist in five or ten years? After a forced high dose of experience working from home and the associated accelerated digital transformation, it seems useful to broaden the debate about the future of work. To make policy in preparation for what is to come. The following three perspectives will undoubtedly influence your own transformation agenda.
1) from hybrid to asynchronous
Everyone now agrees that a black-and-white scenario will no longer hold true. For example, most professionals talk about a ‘hybrid’ working environment instead of a ‘remote-versus-office’ workplace. Automattic and WordPress founder Mullenweg goes one step further, drawing on his remote working experience with 1,170 employees speaking 93 languages and operating in 75 countries. His keyword is working asynchronously. That means something like ‘I start where and when it suits me in my way’. According to Mullenweg, many managers still think too much about working inside or outside the office. That question is no longer relevant. We now need to find answers to the question of how to get the most out of the new possibilities, whereby working everywhere in a way and time that suits employees is the starting point. This asynchronous working is, for example, about smart choices. When do you opt for a video call, an e-mail message, a face-to-face meeting or an app? Which medium or which place suits which consultation, collaboration or specific assignment?
2) employee experience
Asynchronous working fits perfectly with the so-called Employee Experience (EX), one of the spearheads of industry analyst Forrester Research. While Customer Experience is common among marketers for an optimal customer experience, attention for EX is also increasing, according to Forrester. Organizations that score high on employee experience are better off from the corona crisis, according to their research. If three times as many people will be working anywhere and anytime after the pandemic, it will be important for organizations to rethink what that experience should be like. This can be about the freedom to choose which tools you want to work with. Or being able to decide for yourself what your favorite physical workplace will be because it is much closer to cycling. Or facilitating a good home office that looks different for one colleague than for another. One size fits all becomes a thing of the past. Career perspective, leadership, sustainability aspects such as CO2-neutral working and calling on the most user-friendly technology contribute to an optimal EX. According to Forrester, this is the future in which organizations increasingly develop into platforms for personal development and meaning.
A healthy balance between control and trust is also appropriate. Already there is a huge amount of statistical applications available that quantify the value of employees. Mostly based on artificial intelligence. The question is how leading these should be in relation to the policy based on trust in employees. In that respect, the management style must change from time- and effort-driven employees to colleagues who are judged on productivity and concrete results of what employees deliver. For example, the KPI ‘time spent’ is replaced by ‘concrete contribution to the intended organizational objectives’. A coaching and inspiring manager instead of a controlling manager is needed for this.
3) view your company as a media company
A third important perspective, or rather: lesson, of working anywhere and anytime when it suits you, is the adaptation to the medium. Video and image have turned out to be pretty much the most important media in many organizations. Whether it was the kick-off of the year where many employees watched a simulated TV broadcast or the many webinars and other video performances during the corona year. Conversations on LinkedIn grew a whopping 48 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to last year. In this way you can actually say that organizations become media companies. Companies are turning into professional broadcasting stations and Subject Matter Experts are becoming true B2B influencers.
the new story of work
These three perspectives confirm the continuous recalibration of work. The office was once a metaphor for an industrial perspective on work. Workers were seen as producers who let the chimney smoke. Now that the future of work is becoming increasingly intertwined with the future of life, it is time for new policies. In the (near) future, the individual will take center stage more than ever. Organizations are seen as platforms that help individuals achieve goals and especially gain meaningful experiences. The big question is how you will facilitate this.
Author: Thijs Pepping is a trend analyst at SogetiLabs’ Research Institute (VINT).
A honeybee with an Instagram account. Absurd? Not according to the 277,000 people who follow bee_nfluencer, also known as ‘B’. Through Disney-esque photos along with well-written stories, the philanthropic network Fondation de France calls out to save bees. B frames it as follows: “The more Instagram followers I have, the more money I will collect.”
The bee is one of the many examples where organizations, projects, goals or business departments are given a face in the form of a virtual character or digital person that you may encounter as an influencer, chatbot or digital colleague. This requires more and more psychological knowledge from IT managers. Together with a chatbot function, such a virtual character as honeybee B belongs to the new generation of automated interlocutors. These are now also called Virtual Humans, Conversational AI or Digital Humans. The virtual face or body is meant to strengthen a trusting relationship with real people for better conversation. The customer must feel that he or she is understood with or without an empathic algorithm that really listens.
Chatbots are now commonplace for many organizations. The digital assistant is often added to websites as an extension of customer contact via a call center or an FAQ. After all, 80 percent of customer questions are standard questions that a smart chatbot can now answer perfectly. The digital assistant also helps to qualify potential customers, for example. This saves money on personnel costs, organizations are available 24×7 and routine tasks are left out of the hands of employees who can take on much more challenging work.
But one virtual entity is not the other. For example, marketers determine the word choice of honeybee B. For others, artificial intelligence ensures conversation. The company UneeQ has developed an impressive number of digital people. Chief economist Daniel Kant of the Swiss bank UBS has been fully digitized using 120 cameras. This avatar advises the bank staff during customer meetings. Furthermore, UneeQ has made the virtual saleswoman Kiri for Vodafone and the BMW 3-series driver gets help from digital Sophie. Also, Mel, the virtual concierge, is already active.
For less than $900 you can get started with the production of an artificial person with a starter package from UneeQ. A more advanced virtual human costs about $4000 per month. With such prices, digital individuals are becoming increasingly accessible to any organization.
In addition to the appearance, the interior of this artificial human plays a crucial role. Many digital humans still disappoint. Real-life examples are often surrounded by mystery to increase the hype. Digital chief economist Daniel Kalt of Swiss UBS, for example, looks very impressive. At the same time, it appears that for the time being his answers are mainly pre-programmed. This makes the artificial Kalt little more than a slick animated ‘Q&A’ chatbot. Still, the state of the art concerning chatbots and the underlying architecture gives good hope. For example, GPT-3, the prestigious language model of OpenAI, has no fewer than 175 billion parameters and an estimated set of training data of about 570 to 700 GB of text. This language model can generate texts that are barely distinguishable from the spoken or written word of real people. Developments in so-called affective computing should also provide a solution. Measuring intonation, facial expression and better analyzes of intention from language ensure that the human being of flesh and blood is increasingly better understood.
One of the leading companies in this field is the New Zealand Soul Machines. Founded by Mark Sager, former winner of two Oscars for the digital characters in the films Avatar, King Kong and Spiderman 2. For example, the company developed digital receptionist Ava for software company Autodesk. IPSoft’s virtual assistant Amelia also responds much better to the state of mind and personality of her lifelike interlocutors. Amelia’s brain is trained on current conversations with multiple interlocutors who ask her various questions. Her realistic tone combined with a relevant facial expression and the right understanding make the digital conversation more and more real.
At the moment, part of the new generation of chatbots dangles in the so-called Uncanny Valley: they try to imitate a real person, but are not yet realistic enough, which often makes them feel uncomfortable. In such a case it is better to stay away from reality. Honeybee B shows that people need little to project consciousness, intentions and feelings onto a virtual animal for a pleasant feeling.
In the coming years, the next step will be taken in the ancient illusion that inanimate objects can also count on a lot of sympathy. Despite the fact that we know full well that there is a mock interaction or a one-sided relationship. In 1956, Donald Horton and Richard Wohl wrote in their paper ‘Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction: Observations on Intimacy at a Distance’ how people can build close relationships with brands and organizations without real personal contact.
technology and psychology
This development requires a new mix of knowledge and expertise that goes beyond technology alone. Skills in the field of psychology, marketing and communication are becoming increasingly important. Which tone-of-voice, face, timbre of the voice and character suit your organization, project or goal in the development of virtual humans? A big task that often starts with thinking about the character that fits. Whether it’s a digital colleague, virtual influencer or an advanced chatbot that helps customers on their way. In line with other developments such as the use of algorithms and digital working from home, the production of ‘virtual humans’ requires much more psychological knowledge within the IT department.
Author: Thijs Pepping is a trend analyst at SogetiLabs’ Research Institute (VINT).