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First Feature Film Starring An AI Robot To Hit Screens in 2021

The humanoid robot was ‘taught’ method acting by her creators.




(TMU) – For the very first time, a feature film will star an artificially intelligent robot. The AI actor, named Erica, was designed with the idea of applying method acting to robotics; she will play the main character in a science fiction feature film entitled ‘b’, set for release in 2021.

Financially backed by Bondit Capital Media, Belgium-based Happy Moon Productions and New York’s Ten Ten Global Media, the $70-million-dollar film is being brought to life by Tarek Zohdy, Sam Khoze, and visual effects supervisor Eric Pham. The story is reportedly about a scientist who creates an artificially intelligent woman (Erica) and then discovers a dangerous plot to alter human DNA.

Japanese scientists Hiroshi Ishiguro and Kohei Ogawa created the lead AI actor as a kind of proof-of-concept experiment about how to teach AI acting skills. In addition to coding Erica, the scientists had to figure out how to channel method acting to enable her to simulate human emotions.

Co-creator Khoze explains the challenges of creating an artificial ‘leading lady’:

“In other methods of acting, actors involve their own life experiences in the role. But Erica has no life experiences. She was created from scratch to play the role. We had to simulate her motions and emotions through one-on-one sessions, such as controlling the speed of her movements, talking through her feelings and coaching character development and body language.”

The announcement comes at a time when the entertainment industry is increasingly anxious about paring down productions due to COVID-19. It also comes during a time when Hollywood is increasingly using CGI advances to replace human actors with technologically simulated characters. Just this May, casting agency CAA signed a fully CGI virtual influencer/actress named Miquela.

According to ScreenRant, “Many actors and other creatives in the film industry are fearing that the efficiency of these robots whose sole purpose would be acting, who don’t need to earn a salary to provide for their families and who don’t care about union regulations will abolish the need of human actors.”

The film b does not even have a director attached yet, nor has it signed a human co-star. Nevertheless, producers began filming some of Erica’s scenes in 2019 and plan to wrap up principal photography in Europe in June of 2021.

It remains unknown what the effect of b and Erica’s debut will be on the film industry. Will it start a trend of producers looking to save money and cash in on an AI boom? Or will the ‘uncanny valley’ rear its awkward head again and render an alienating experience for viewers?

Darren Hendler, head of Digital Domain’s Digital Humans Group, says the AI revolution in filmmaking is coming, slowly but surely:

“[Machine learning] hasn’t been widely adopted yet because filmmakers don’t fully understand it,” he says. “But we’re starting to see elements of deep learning and machine learning incorporated into very specific areas. It’s something so new and so different from anything we’ve done in the past.”

Ultimately, he sees a symbiotic relationship where creative humans and creative algorithms work side by side and evolve together.

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Science & Tech

Elon Musk Says Cryptocurrency Will Be Used On Mars

Justin MacLachlan



SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stated that any future economy on Mars will likely be cryptocurrency-based.

The tech billionaire, who is also one of the co-founders of online payments giant PayPal which originally strived for a system like Bitcoin, has said in the past that he hopes to send the first humans to Mars as early 2024, with the ultimate aim of setting up a “self-sustaining city on Mars as soon as possible”.

Now, while responding to a Twitter thread started by AI researcher Lex Fridman, Musk stated that a “Mars economy will run on crypto”, suggesting it could be with the novelty cryptocurrency dogecoin which made him the unofficial CEO or a crypto asset named Marscoin.

Although Musk may have been making a joke, the Marscoin project actually exists. Marscoin was founded in 2014 and saw a brief surge in popularity during the cryptocurrency market bull run in late 2017 but its volume has died down. The altcoin currently has a market cap of less than $100,000, according to CoinMarketCap at the time of this report.

In comparison Dogecoin started as a meme is currently sitting at a market cap of $580,928,809 according to Coingecko.

Dogecoin, the project that Musk is the former CEO of, could be a more likely candidate to use. This is given its popularity and that it shares many of the same decentralized properties as Bitcoin.

The SpaceX founder has regularly spoken about his life goal to travel to Mars and earlier this year ordered employees to accelerate the development of the next-generation rocket.

SpaceX has previously stated that it would not recognize international law on Mars, instead, they said they would set up “self-governing principles”.

According to the Terms of Service of SpaceX’s Starlink internet project that TMU reported on, any future settlements on the Red Planet would “recognize Mars as a free planet”, adding that “no Earth-based government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities.”

The terms stated: “Disputes will be settled through self-governing principles, established in good faith, at the time of Martian settlement.” Interestingly enough, this is something that could be achieved through blockchain technology and smart contracts.

“It would be people voting directly on issues,” Musk previously said in a 2016 interview. “The potential for corruption is substantially diminished in a direct versus a representative democracy.”

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Report: Electric Cars Could Be Cheaper Than Gas Cars in Just 2 Years

Justin MacLachlan



According to a new report by energy research firm BloombergNEF, electric cars are getting cheaper and cheaper each passing year. The research firm found that in just two to three years, electric cars are on track to become cheaper than gasoline-powered vehicles.

According to the report, the market average for Lithium-ion batteries will become just $101 per kWh by 2023. This means that the overall price of the electric vehicle will go down, as the most expensive part of these cars is the battery pack itself.

The report states that Lithium-ion battery pack prices were above $1,100 per kilowatt-hour in 2010. However, they have since gone way down in price as much as 89% in real terms to $137/kWh in 2020.

A survey by BNEF’s 2020 Battery Price Survey, which considers passenger EVs, e-buses, commercial EVs and stationary storage, foretells that by 2023 the average pack price for the batteries will be $101/kWh. The report says that “its at around this price point where automakers should be able to produce and sell mass market EVs at the same price as internal combustion vehicles in some markets.”

The researchers concluded that the prices of electric cars have dropped considerably this year due to “increasing order sizes, growth in [battery electric vehicle] sales and the introduction of new pack designs,” according to the report. New technologies and falling manufacturing costs, it predicts, could drive prices down even lower.

There’s also the chance that next-generation solid-state batteries “could be manufactured at 40% of the cost of current lithium-ion batteries,” according to the report, “when produced at scale.”

The report further predicts that the average prices of battery packs could become as cheap as just $58 per kWh by 2030 if these new solid state batteries were to be utilized resulted from lower manufacturing cost.

James Frith, BNEF’s head of energy storage research and lead author of the report, stated: “It is a historic milestone to see pack prices of less than $100/kWh reported. Within just a few years we will see the average price in the industry pass this point. What’s more, our analysis shows that even if prices for raw materials were to return to the highs seen in 2018, it would only delay average prices reaching $100/kWh by two years – rather than completely derailing the industry. The industry is becoming increasingly resilient to changing raw material prices, with leading battery manufacturers moving up the value chain and investing in cathode production or even mines.”

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Study Finds Eating Chili Peppers Could Extend Your Life

Justin MacLachlan



Do you love eating hot chili peppers? It turns out you might be doing more than just pleasing your taste buds, according to early preliminary research.

A recent study carried out by the American Heart Association study took earlier research from multiple countries on chili peppers and analyzed it. The determination by the researchers was that people who regularly ate chili peppers were “associated with a 25% reduction in death from any cause.”

The paper, released last month, further found that frequent chili-pepper consumption may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 26% and “cause 23% fewer cancer deaths compared to people who never or only rarely consumed chili pepper,” the AHA said in a statement on the research.

The investigation for the research of the report included more than 4,000 studies from various countries which included at least 570,000 participants. Of these participants, they were geologically located in the United States, Italy, China, and Iran. The researchers compared the outcomes of those who consumed chili pepper to those who rarely or never ate chili peppers. Then compared individuals who rarely or never ate chili peppers, the analysis found that people who ate chili peppers had:

  • A 26% relative reduction in cardiovascular mortality;
  • A 23% relative reduction in cancer mortality; and
  • A 25% relative reduction in all-cause mortality.

The American Heart Association expected to find health benefits from the chili peppers. Its well known that chili peppers serve as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food, slowing damage to cells.

However, senior writer Dr. Bo Xu of the study, stated in the research they were “surprised to find that in these previously published studies, regular consumption of chili pepper was associated with an overall risk-reduction of all-cause, CVD [cardiovascular disease] and cancer mortality.”

A few research highlights according to the American Heart Association are as follows.

  • Consumption of chili pepper may reduce the relative risk of cardiovascular disease mortality by 26%, according to an analysis of diet and mortality data from four large, international studies.
  • Chili pepper consumption was associated with a 25% reduction in death from any cause and 23% fewer cancer deaths, compared to people who never or only rarely consumed chili pepper.

The study seems to prove what the AHA said was a “significantly reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer” from regularly eating chili peppers. Dr. Xu, nevertheless, expressed that the “exact reasons and mechanisms” for the results are unknown, and further research is needed to confirm the initial study. In other words, the researchers cannot say for certain that eating chili peppers will extend a person’s lifetime. But initial results seem to suggest that is the case.

The preliminary research was presented virtually at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020 on November 13-17th. The event was seen as a “premier global exchange of the latest scientific advancements, research, and evidence-based clinical practice updates in cardiovascular science for health care worldwide.”

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