Why systems need stories

My 2020 list with 40 proofs that technology is nothing without creativity

Appropriate Response by Mario Klingemann
“Appropriate Response” by Mario Klingemann, a prayer bench that triggers a neural network trained with 60,000 quotes

Technology can solve human problems — but I believe that it can help storytelling in increasing a brands’ emotional impact. That’s why I send weekly inspiring creative tech nuggets to creatives and strategists at Jung von Matt and friends from the tech bubble. In a format called ”Five for the week“ I help to cover AI, AR, and other emerging technologies, provide blueprints, or expose hypes and buzzwords.

The following 40 pieces are my personal favorites from the 2020 issues. They show how creative technologies evolved and how they help brands staying relevant and innovative. And even better: In some cases, they also helped communities during these crazy times.

#1: Filter bubble simulator
How would a conspiracist, a climate denier, or a prepper see their YouTube? This site simulates the recommendation algorithm of various personas:

#2: This article exists to spot persons that do not exist
You might have heard of the AI project „This person does not exist“. The New York Times gives a deeper look into the topic of artificially generated human photos. And more importantly: How to spot fake faces. All humans you find on this page were created with a GAN model featuring 70,000 photographs of people.

#3: Re-using old tech ideas
Some ideas are easy and just a combination of old elements, but still have relevance and value, when embedded in a different story or context. In this case, it’s all about AR beauty filters — which absolutely sound like 2016. But in the context of a pandemic, the factor #stayathome gets in the game. So a relatively old idea gets a new story: L’Oréal makes digital make-up only wearable online in Zoom, to look fresh while in home-office.

#4: Make your own plot twist
Sony filed a patent to let users generate alternative movie endings. With the help of a neural network, users could narrate their desired scene, speaking the text they want the characters to speak, and describing the general setting. The machine takes the input and combines it with materials from the original movie to simulate entirely new scenes.

#5: Watch this, climate deniers
Europe built a big data-model that completely recreates the earth’s climate to simulate the impacts of weather events and climate change on society.

#6: Data in — AR out
I really like the idea of data-fed augmented reality. With the rise of web-based AR applications, you’ll able to view experiences that are much more personalized. To view projections that are not only tailored on camera measurements like a face-filter — the experience changes completely based on the data you put in. In this case, an app calculates the carbon emissions of your data usage. And visualizes it as a huge AR cloud. Also called „Carbon Thumbprint“:

#7: Appropriate response
AI artist Mario Klingemann built „Appropriate Response“, an installation that uses neural network GPT-2 to permanently generate quotes. Visitors kneel on a prayer bench in front of a board of letters and get AI-generated quotes (triggered by a sensor in the knee pad).

#8: Tech + Gamification
I’m loving it how you can combine storytelling or gamification elements with technology to add emotions or change use cases or user habits. In these both cases, characters tell individual stories and influence data and/or UX:

is a navigation app that uses different characters to change navigation settings. „Nightlight“ helps you at night with avoiding unlit streets, „The Commuter“ calculates 100 different routes to provide a new route every day. gamify saving with different characters that automate how you save money. „Rain“ saves £1.00 only when it’s raining, „Grimm“ saves £0.75p every time you spend money at night.

#9: Do not feed the influencer
IKEA Japan used virtual Influencer Imma for a physical installation. A sort of living billboard played a 9-hour long video that showed her day in a tiny IKEA equipped flat (maybe bigger than most of the flats in Tokyo). And while you might think that no humans were harmed during production, you’re wrong: Imma’s appearances are always produced with a human actress — the actual face is a deep-fake.

#10: Saves your next idea meeting
This GPT-3-based AI can generate business ideas. At a current speed of 84 ideas per hour.

#11: He knows what you listened to
Spotify and The Weekend launched an interactive experience that combines data and a deepfake artist, that interacts with you based on your listening data.

#12: These actors never went to a film set
Due to COVID restrictions, this Hulu ad was done with deepfake characters. The shoot was done with body doubles. The actual stars were recorded over Zoom — by capturing several different facial angles and asking them to say the vowels (‘A’ ‘E’ ‘I’ ‘O’ ‘U’) at each angle along with ‘Hulu Has Live Sports Again.’

#13: Painting with heat
When thinking about ideas for modern digital artworks (may they crafted by humans or an AI), there are two main questions to ask: Which data should be used and how should it be visualized. Japanese retailer UNIQLO used an approach that perfectly matches the promoted product “Heattech”, which uses the wearers’ heat to keep the jackets warm. To visualize this, creatives used human body temperature and it’s representing color tones to create real-time digital artworks as the campaign visuals.

#14: Weird: Neuralink for cockroaches
You can order a neuroscience kit that transforms a living cockroach into a cyborg to control it with your smartphone.

#15: In case of a moon disaster
Deepfakes put wrong things in people’s mouths. Or rewrite history. In this case, Nixon is giving the speech that was prepared if the Apollo 11 mission fails.

#16: The best coloring book I’ve seen this year
Nike combined a coloring book with AR to create an experience that transfers your drawings in real-time to a 3D shoe model to create your very own customized shoe.

#17: Scan your own tuna
There is no better combination of a real-world problem and a technology that can solve it. And since Japan seems to have a problem with tuna quality, a creative from Dentsu made an app that can analyze it. Because the cross-section of a tuna’s tail gives information similar to trees’ annual rings, an AI can find patterns on the fish to determine color, sheen, firmness, and the layering of fat.

#18: Fakes with purpose
People find purposes for deepfakes, that go more further than creating funny videos. Here film-makers used it to guard the identities of gay and lesbian couples in a documentary:

#19: “Well, here we are.”
Someone collected all the first words on Mars, found in Sci-Fi movies.

#20: Best of Webby Awards: AI Versus
Two AIs you can chat with — each fed with material from Russian TV stations, to reveal how biased their world-views are.

#21: Cloud Sneaker
To celebrate a new Nike AirMax sneaker, AQKA created a cool experience: Once the camera recognizes a sky around you, it maps clouds on it. Clouds that are formed as the sneakers silhouette. Once you tap on one of these, you can unlock special songs or interviews from local superstars. Why most think of AR as a product presentation and/or configuration tool, Nike turned the product into an interactive sandbox to increase the playtime.

#22: AI Never Gonna Gives You Up
First, you hear a part of the Rick Astley classic, but then an AI attempts to continuously generate more of the song

#23: From data to story
Your mobile or desktop browser has a basic set of insights they know about your current context (location, device, time, weather, Facebook login, etc.). So what to do with this data? Audio is a thing right now, so why not generate personalized audio stories based on contextual data. These guys made it happen, spoken by a computer voice: (German)

Volkswagen had a different approach to this mechanic: With the story of entertaining children while driving, they made kids stories that include real-time-location data in the storyline.

#24: Music on demand is around the corner
Give it a genre, an artist, and lyrics and Jukebox will produce an imitation of well-known performers such as or . Training it on 1.2 million songs, OpenAI shows again how well neural networks are at imitating human composers. You can also give it the first few seconds of a song and it will autocomplete the rest.

#25: This headline could adapt to every viewer
As done on Youtube: Tom Scott wrote a bot that tells you in real-time how much people watched his video. No big deal, but the new thing is the medium: It changes the Youtube title every time you watch the video. That makes me curious: Which external data could also change that title?

#26: Robo-prayer
A robotic mouth that recites generated prayers fed from different religions.

#27: Anti-touch
AI could help to prevent from touching your face in video calls. This relies on only two factors of AI technology: Face and hand tracking. Another example of solving everyday problems with simply given bits of tech.

#28: Sync your skills to rule the game
If I have to name a state-of-the-art case that perfectly combines innovation, communication and product, I have a new blueprint: adidas X Google Jaquard. Together with EA Fifa Mobile they created sensors that sync your gaming account with your soccer shoes to add scores in real-life that level up your online game.

#29: A broken heart to see the light
I’m still not a big fan of unuseful IoT devices, but this gadget made me think: A lightbulb that flickers when a couple breaks up. The idea isn’t that new and its data source is also not that innovative (Who talks about „break up“ on Twitter?) but it could inspire us about uncommon data connections for unseen IoT ideas.

#30: 15 minutes of fame
Alone among bots. And everyone loves you. Botnet is a tool that makes you feel like a famous influencer for a few minutes.

#31: Grand Theft Video
How to create a fashion promotion for just a dime? Including a helicopter and fancy locations? Simply hack the game ’Grand Theft Auto’, dress the characters with your collection, and film it. It’s that easy.

#32: Fashion generation
A fashion collection that designers create together with an AI. An idea that every second lifestyle brand got presented for years, now got real. Acne Studios worked with creative coder Robbie Barrat, who had previously experimented with an AI fed with Balenciaga outfits. Acne flew him to Stockholm for the HW 2020 collection, where he trained a neural network with the last four collections. The results were some prints for a collection and a tool that allowed designers to change generated designs with the push of a button.

#33: Only the degrees are real
In time of Covid, an Indian university held a graduation party with over 2,000 students. But: They held it virtually and created a realistic avatar replacement for every one of them. Students were also able to roam around a virtual campus, visit their hostels and departments virtually.

#34: Travis Bott
A Travis Scott song, whose lyrics and melody were composed by an AI — and it doesn’t even sound that wrong. It is based on a database of Travis Scott songs. Matching to it: A music video including a glitchy deepfake protagonist.

#35: Synthetic weatherman
A BBC experiment in GitHub generates real-time deepfake videos that present the weather forecast of various cities.

#36: Controllable surveillance
There is a subreddit that lists public surveillance cameras that you can control with an interface.

#37: Feelvertising
By 2024, more than half of all advertising will be targeted not on interest, but on emotions, which will be calculated and recognized by AI. IKEA already used this last year for its Virgil Abloh Collection: Since many bought the carpets only as resellers, Ikea Belgium wanted to find out how much the buyers felt about the carpet. Only real emotions led to the checkout.

#38: Copy and paste
With the help of machine learning, you can now snap elements from real life and place them from your smartphone to your desktop.

#39: A screen for everyone
From this year’s CES: A screen with “parallel reality” that aligns its pixels so that each user sees the content intended for him. (From 18,000 variations to one million) Passengers can, for example, see only the information that concerns them personally.

#40: Unlock with an autocrat
The Russian TV station “Rain” was taken off air in 2014. Order from above. Putin promised for years to do something against censorship, but without success. So Russian programmers have added image recognition to a website. If you hold a picture of Putin in the camera, you can access the content for one day for free.

That’s it! If I should add you to the “Five for the week” mailing list, .

Senior Concept Creative at Jung von Matt. Basically curious. Never not learning. Mostly about culture, innovation, tech, art, music & food.

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