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Finally, Meta avatars have legs (in beta).

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Meta’s greatest innovation since the News Feed—legs—is ready for beta testing. Meta Quest headsets can now download an update that lets you walk on two feet like Ardipithecus ramidus, an early hominid that achieved bipedality 4.4 million years ago. Now it’s complete.

Meta launched its virtual reality social products with disembodied torso avatars. Finally, our digital likenesses can stand tall. Users report only legs in Horizon Home, where you first turn on your headset.

Quest headsets support hand tracking, but not leg and foot movements. This makes natural-looking legged avatars harder. Early testers say you can only see legs in third person, which should make the visual less jarring.s

Last October, Mark Zuckerberg announced Meta was developing legs. Perhaps this feature will launch before Meta’s September Connect event.

As Editor here at GeekReply, I'm a big fan of all things Geeky. Most of my contributions to the site are technology related, but I'm also a big fan of video games. My genres of choice include RPGs, MMOs, Grand Strategy, and Simulation. If I'm not chasing after the latest gear on my MMO of choice, I'm here at GeekReply reporting on the latest in Geek culture.

Artificial Intelligence

Microsoft’s new AI product raises concerns and prompts thoughts of a dystopian future

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Microsoft has experienced significant developments in the past few days. The company’s annual Build conference, which took place from May 21–23 in Seattle, featured a wide range of exciting announcements about upcoming technology. A significant focus of these announcements was the seamless integration of artificial intelligence into future devices. However, there is one announcement that has already sparked controversy and could potentially lead to legal consequences for the company.

The AI-powered “Recall” feature, which Microsoft describes as a timeline of your PC’s past, has generated curiosity and concern among experts and everyday users. This feature captures screenshots of your active screen at regular intervals and stores them on your device. The program will then be able to search through these screenshots as well as all of users’ past activity—files, photos, emails, browsing history, and more.

According to Dr. Kris Shrishak, an expert in artificial intelligence and privacy, this could be a significant concern for privacy.

“The potential for screenshots being taken during device usage could have a significant impact on individuals,” Shrishak expressed concern. Some individuals may be hesitant to visit specific websites or access certain documents, particularly those of a sensitive nature, if Microsoft is continuously capturing screenshots at regular intervals.

Microsoft, on the other hand, emphasizes the presence of safeguards: privacy has been a fundamental consideration in Recall’s design, according to the company. Users have the ability to restrict the frequency of screenshots being captured.

“Recall snapshots are stored on the local hard disk and are safeguarded through data encryption on your device,” the company explains. “Screenshots in Recall are exclusively associated with individual user profiles and are not shared with other users, made accessible to Microsoft, or utilized for targeted advertisements […]” Keep in mind that other users and other applications or services cannot access or see screenshots.

While some may find it reassuring, safety experts remain skeptical. According to Microsoft, it is important to be aware that certain sensitive information, such as passwords and financial account numbers, may not be concealed in screenshots. This means that if a computer’s Recall privacy settings are misconfigured, if it becomes infected with malware, or if it simply malfunctions, it could potentially pose a significant security risk.

According to Muhammad Yahya Patel, the lead security engineer at Check Point, the attack is a one-shot opportunity for criminals, as he explained to TechRadar.

According to Patel, with Recall, users will have the convenience of a grab-and-go experience, as everything they need will be stored in a single location—their screenshot database. Just think about the vast amount of information that could be stored on a machine and the potential harm that threat actors could cause with it.

It is worth noting that there are significant concerns surrounding Recall, which has led to legal issues for Microsoft. In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the national data protection authority, has taken action by initiating inquiries with Microsoft to ensure that user privacy is adequately safeguarded.

The office emphasized the importance of organizations being open and honest with users regarding the use of their data. They also stressed the need for organizations to only process personal data when it is absolutely necessary to fulfill a specific purpose. This statement was released on Wednesday. It is crucial for the industry to prioritize data protection from the very beginning and thoroughly evaluate and address any potential risks to individuals’ rights and freedoms before introducing products to the market.

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Technology

Almost 40 percent of webpages from 2013 have succumbed to digital decay

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Have you been searching for an article you read several years ago but just can’t seem to locate it? If it was written in 2013, there is a high possibility that it has vanished from the internet. According to recent research conducted by the Pew Research Center, a significant number of webpages created in 2013 have become inaccessible due to “digital decay.”. The study revealed that nearly 40 percent of these webpages are no longer accessible.

The new analysis reveals the transient nature of online content, challenging the notion of its permanence. Digital decay refers to the gradual deterioration, corruption, or obsolescence of digital information as time passes.

Based on their findings, 38 percent of the content that was present in 2013 cannot be accessed anymore. Upon broadening the scope of their analysis, the researchers made a significant discovery: a staggering 25% of web pages that once existed between 2013 and 2023 are now inaccessible. Typically, this occurred because the relevant page(s) were deleted or removed from otherwise functional websites.

Within this context, the team has defined “inaccessible” as a page that is no longer available on the host server. This typically results in a 404 error message or another error code.

The researchers collected data for their analysis by utilizing random samples of nearly 1 million webpages from the Common Crawl archives. These archives serve as an internet repository that captures snapshots of the web at various points in time. They collected this data from the years 2013 to 2023 and subsequently verified the existence of those pages.

Approximately 25 percent of the creations from this period were no longer accessible as of October 2023. This sum consists of two categories of obsolete content: 16 percent of the pages were “individually inaccessible” but were located on otherwise accessible root-level domains. Unfortunately, the remaining 9 percent were unreachable as the root domain had ceased to exist.

“As expected, the older snapshots in our collection had the highest proportion of inaccessible links,” explained the authors of the report.

By the end of 2023, a significant portion of the pages collected in the 2013 snapshot had disappeared. However, the content of the 2021 snapshot experienced a decline, resulting in the loss of approximately one in five pages.

Additionally, there were intriguing comparative findings regarding various types of web pages. As an expert in artificial intelligence, I analyzed the reference links to 50,000 English-language Wikipedia pages. It was discovered that a significant majority of the sampled pages, specifically 82 percent, contained at least one reference link that directed users to external websites other than Wikipedia. However, it is concerning that 11 percent of the references cited on Wikipedia are no longer accessible.

Approximately 2 percent of the source pages sampled had inaccessible or broken links, while about 53 percent had at least one broken link.

Government websites also had some interesting features. It was discovered that approximately 75% of the 500,000 government web pages analyzed had at least one link. On average, each page had 50 links, but there were quite a few pages that had even more. Most of these pages are directed to secure HTTP pages, while a small percentage redirect to other pages.

However, approximately 21 percent of the government pages that were analyzed had at least one broken link. City government pages, it appears, were the most problematic in this regard.

Even news sites were not exempt from the issue. Researchers discovered that a significant majority of the news sites they analyzed, approximately 94 percent, included at least one outbound link redirecting readers away from the site. On average, the typical page had approximately 20 links, while the top 10 percent of pages boasted around 56 links.

The analysis reveals that the majority of these links were directed towards secure HTTP pages, similar to government websites. Approximately 32 percent of the links on these news sites led users to different URLs than the ones initially provided. Approximately 5 percent of news website links are currently inaccessible, with about 23 percent of all pages containing at least one broken link.

After conducting a thorough analysis on Twitter (now X), the researchers discovered that, among the 5 million tweets shared from March 2013 to 2023, a significant 18 percent were no longer accessible.

“In most instances, this occurred because the account that initially shared the tweet had either become private, suspended, or completely deleted,” clarified the researchers. In the case of the remaining tweets, the account that originally posted the tweet was still visible on the site, while the specific tweet itself had been removed.

In certain languages, tweets were found to be more susceptible to disappearing or being deleted. For example, a significant portion of Turkish-language tweets and a smaller percentage of Arabic tweets were no longer accessible.

Typically, tweets that are removed from the site tend to vanish shortly after being posted.

The report can be found on the Pew Research Center website.

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Artificial Intelligence

Google’s artificial intelligence system, known as AI Overviews, is producing peculiar and potentially hazardous outcomes

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Google has recently introduced AI overviews. And it’s not going very smoothly. The feature was recently launched in the US and is expected to be available worldwide by the end of 2024. However, initial results indicate that there are some challenges to be addressed. Users on social media were swift to highlight the humorous responses, but soon after, a number of individuals began raising concerns about some of the answers.

AI Overviews is a tool that is currently being tested. After submitting a query, search engines generate a result using artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, machine learning algorithms lack consciousness. They possess the expertise to identify words and phrases within specific contexts. Consequently, when posed with a question, they generate an answer that is anticipated to align with the query. Even if the AI has to improvise. It is similar to fabricating fictional legal cases for a lawyer.

Google’s AI Overviews retrieve information from actual websites, but they may struggle to distinguish between serious answers and those meant to be satirical or comedic. It seems that certain “news” sites, such as The Onion, and social media platforms like Reddit are unintentionally amusing the less knowledgeable AI.

Google has recently introduced AI overviews. And it’s not going very smoothly. The feature was recently launched in the US and is expected to be available worldwide by the end of 2024. However, initial results indicate that there are some challenges to be addressed. Users on social media were swift to highlight the humorous responses, but soon after, a number of individuals began raising concerns about some of the answers.

AI Overviews is a tool that is currently being tested. After submitting a query, search engines generate a result using artificial intelligence. Nevertheless, machine learning algorithms lack consciousness. They possess the expertise to identify words and phrases within specific contexts. Consequently, when posed with a question, they generate an answer that is anticipated to align with the query. Even if the AI has to improvise. It is similar to fabricating fictional legal cases for a lawyer.

Google’s AI Overviews retrieve information from actual websites, but they may struggle to distinguish between serious answers and those meant to be satirical or comedic. It seems that certain “news” sites, such as The Onion, and social media platforms like Reddit are unintentionally amusing the less knowledgeable AI.

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One method for cleaning a washing machine involves the use of chlorine, bleach, and vinegar. The revised response emphasizes the importance of using them separately rather than merely mentioning them in passing. Combining these substances results in the formation of chlorine gas, which can be extremely toxic.

Speaking of toxicity, Google’s AI Gemini is not performing any better. It mistakenly identified the destroying angel mushroom (Amanita bisporigera) as a white button mushroom. This mushroom is extremely hazardous, capable of causing severe damage to the liver and kidneys.

“Doctor Google” has evolved into a new and concerning incarnation. However, satirical websites also provide comedic advice. AI Overviews will inform you that there are potential health benefits associated with engaging in certain activities, which may contribute to a stronger immune system.

If you wish to challenge scientific findings, it is advisable to conduct your own research.

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