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AI is really getting pervasive

This is a screenshot of my television. Notice the advertisements around the play field: they are advertising an Italian company, yet the game was played in Germany …

OK, I guess there should be something wrong with me. I was watching a soccer match on my television, Germany vs Italy, and my attention was drawn on the advertisements that were shown around the play field.

What puzzled me was that in spite of the game being played in Germany, the ads were related to Italian companies, and in Italian. How could it be? I would have imagined that being the stadium in GErmany local ads would be displayed.

The real ads, in German about German companies, that were present at the stadium.

Well, as a matter of fact, they were!

Look at the second screenshot. It clearly shows local ads. What is going on?

The images that are broadcasted are modified in real time once they are transmitted in Italy, for the Italian audience.
Artificial intelligence analyses the images and identifies the space where ads are displayed. Then it substitutes the real ones (the one that people at the stadium are seeing) with the ones that would affect the Italian audience! In the second screenshot the substitution was not made because it was either too difficult for the image recognition software to detect the “ads” area or because it was judged too small to be worth the substitution.

What is this? A sort of augmented reality, or a sort of mixed reality? You name it.

What is interesting here is that:

  • it took a strage guy like myself to detect the “fake”
  • we are watching live event that as a matter of fact are manipulated. We see something that is not real!
  • It is getting more and more difficult to distinguish reality from artefacts. Wait for the Metaverse: it will become way worse!
  • AI is really becoming pervasive, and it works in the backstage, hidden from our perception,

Obviously in this case there is not a problem in the falsification of the image, but this very same technology could be used for misleading an audience.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.