The week's best bits in 4 bites

AI bringing the Flintstones into the modern era

Making cartoons is hard and usually takes a studio full of animators months and months to animate short episodes.

Source: Youtube/Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2)

The Simpsons famously took between six to eight months to create a single episode, which meant the show could never tackle meaty current events as it was always months behind the curve. Movie studio Pixar revolutionized computer-generated graphics and many TV shows, like South Park, have adapted the CGI method, but purists would argue that these are not cartoons in the classical sense. Classic cartoons require classic animation, which is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

Researchers at Cornell University are trying to fight this assumption by training an AI to create animated scenes from the Hanna-Barbera classic cartoon, The Flintstones from simple text-based instructions. The AI, named Craft by the researchers, has watched over 25,000 three-second clips all which contained descriptions of who was in the clip and what was going on.

With that training, Craft can put together rudimentary animated scenes including characters, scenes, props, and behaviors from simple text instructions. The results so far have been mixed, but they definitely show promise. For a developed AI, 25,000 clips is a relatively small dataset, which means there is a lot of room for improvement. Watch this space.

SpaceX wants to use ‘party balloons’ to help with future rocket launches

SpaceX is a money-making machine. Its reusable rockets offer a significantly cheaper way of getting things into space than anybody else in the rocket business can offer. That is not enough for Elon Musk though.

Source: Engadget

Musk wants to increase profit margins even further by reusing, not just the first stage rocket booster, but every stage of the rocket all the way up to the nose cone. To try and reuse the upper rocket stage from future missions, SpaceX thinks ‘party balloons’ could be the answer. As Elon Musk said himself, This sounds crazy, but…

The only information released so far on this project has been Musk’s personal Twitter account. He claims that balloons could be an excellent, and cost-efficient, way of allowing the upper stage of the rocket overcome problems caused by air resistance while maintaining the structural integrity of the rocket.

If SpaceX can pull this off and start reusing all stages of their rocket boosters, it’ll cut the cost of launching to stuff into space even further and will make SpaceX launches even more attractive to potential clients. There could even be a positive knock-on effect on the environment as it’ll mean there is less rocket waste crashing into the earth at breakneck speeds.

At the very least, however, this is another excellent example of how Musk and SpaceX are constantly thinking outside the box to come up with novel solutions to the types of problems that stand in the way of getting into space as efficiently as possible.

Fortnite: Battle Royale on the Jumbotron

As if having to be at a baseball game all day wouldn’t be bad enough, what about if the game doesn’t really get started because of torrential rain. That was the scenario that greeted poor Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays fans on Saturday at Progressive Fields, home of the inappropriately named Indians.

Source: Compete Kotaku

The rain was coming down hard, and the traps were out to stop the field becoming waterlogged. There was no baseball action for the fans to watch, but the staff at Progressive field came up with a novel way to keep the fans in the stand entertained. They started playing Fortnite and hooked their feed up to the Jumbotron.

The game ended up being canceled, but at least the rain gave the opportunity for something that is actually entertaining to happen in a baseball stadium for once.

Arrested for using WhatsApp

WhatsApp is famous for its end-to-end encryption that protects all messages sent on the platform. Whenever you start a new chat with somebody, who has a recent version of the app, it reminds you that all messages sent in the chat are protected by end-to-end encryption. With WhatsApp owned by Facebook and the privacy scandal that is currently gripping the social network a reminder of such encryption is reassuring, to say the least. This does not mean, however, that law enforcement cannot get their hands on media you’ve been sending via WhatsApp and then use it to take you down.

Source: BBC

This is the lesson being learned by a family of drug traffickers in Wales, UK. WhatsApp encryption might be difficult to break remotely, but if law enforcement can get their hands on your phone, it becomes much easier for them to access what you’ve sent via WhatsApp.

South Wales Police announced that using a phone they’d acquired in a raid in August 2017 they’d been able to discover a picture of a man’s hand holding some ecstasy tablets and show that the image had been sent via WhatsApp in an attempt to offer drugs for sale. The police were able to match the fingerprint of the person holding the drugs to a known suspect and cracked the case wide open. The break led to the arrest and conviction of 11 people, including Elliot Morris and both his parents, and enabled police to find £20,000 (about $28,500) worth of bitcoin in a drug dealers’ accounts.

They’ll no doubt think twice about what they send via WhatsApp from prison.

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