“Starting today, October 24th, we’re making influenza shots available to everyone,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt. “There’s no reason for anyone to delay or go without their seasonal flu shot.” Von Eschenbach announced that the FDA is forming a “rapid response team” of experts to help make sure antiviral drugs are available in the event of a flu pandemic. In early September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recommended that flu shots be reserved for people at risk for serious flu complications until today. (The recommendation did not apply to MedImmune’s live-virus vaccine [FluMist], which is licensed only for healthy people between ages 5 and 49.) Despite some scattered shortages caused by delayed vaccine deliveries, the CDC stuck to that timetable. See also: “Providers in areas with sufficient flu vaccine already should open up their programs to the expanded group of people” not at high risk for complications, she said. She recommended that clinicians who have an ample supply of vaccine inform local public health officers so the latter can help shift surplus doses to providers who need them. CDC officials repeated their estimate that at least 71 million doses of flu vaccine will be available in the United States this season, compared with about 60 million last year, when the loss of 48 million doses expected from Chiron triggered shortages. CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said the flu season is just beginning. “We’re seeing very sporadic activity in seven states, and local activity in one state.” Leavitt observed that oseltamivir has been “much in the news” because of the chance that H5N1 avian flu will lead to a human flu pandemic. Many countries, including the United States, are trying to build stockpiles of oseltamivir, but the drug takes a long time to produce. Some localized vaccine shortages have been reported as a result of delayed deliveries, but they are expected to clear up soon, Gerberding said. At a news briefing, officials also warned that the threat of a flu pandemic may spur the sale of fake versions of the antiviral drug oseltamivir (Tamiflu). To make sure they get the genuine article, officials said, people should seek the drug through their physician. The best way to avoid fake oseltamivir is to get it from state-licensed pharmacies, said von Eschenbach. “We feel strongly that the best protection for patients is to avail themselves of the drug in the context of a doctor-patient relationship.” He added that people seeking a flu shot should make an appointment, because some providers may not have received their vaccine yet. In a news release issued this afternoon, he said, “Using the Rapid Response Team approach, we believe we could review a complete drug application in six to eight weeks.” Because demand for the drug far exceeds the supply, said Leavitt, “We’re concerned about the threat of counterfeiting of Tamiflu.” The CDC still expects 60 million doses from Sanofi Pasteur, 3 million from MedImmune, and 8 million from GlaxoSmithKline, said CDC spokeswoman Christina Pearson. She said the agency also expects up to 18 million doses from Chiron, which until last week was projecting 18 million to 26 million. Gerberding said that right now she does not expect a shortage of oseltamivir for use against seasonal flu. “The manufacturer still has several million doses in the pipeline,” she said. “The doses that haven’t been distributed yet exceed the number prescribed last year by a significant amount. At this point there’s no evidence of a shortage that’s going to result in any clinical impact on patients. We’ll monitor that.” Oct 24, 2005 (CIDRAP News) Seasonal influenza shots are not just for high-risk groups anymore, and everyone interested in a shot should go ahead and seek one out, federal health officials said today. Gerberding said people who experience flu symptoms and have not been vaccinated, especially if they are in a high-risk group, should call their physician promptly to find out if treatment with an antiviral drug would be appropriate. Preventive treatment with an antiviral may be indicated n some cases, such as for people who can’t be vaccinated because of an egg allergy. In response to questions, Leavitt and Andrew von Eschenbach, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said they had seen no evidence of counterfeiting to date. But Leavitt said, “It’s a situation that’s ripe for counterfeiting. The WHO [World Health Organization] now indicates that counterfeit drug making is a $34 billiona-year industry. We’re seeing it in many other instances.” FDA news releasehttp://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2005/ucm108502.htm
Philippe DaumanThe bitter dispute between the Redstones and several directors of Viacom is rumbling on, with Shari Redstone, daughter of Sumner, stating she does not want to run the media giant.In the latest salvo in the battle for control of Viacom, Shari Redstone’s team issued a statement that said the mogul’s daughter ‘has made it abundantly clear that she has no desire to manage Viacom nor Chair its Board and is fully engaged in running and growing her firm, Advancit Capital’.The Shari camp added that although she does want to run the media giant, she does has an active interest in how it is run.“What she wants for Viacom is the best management in place, and strong, independent directors who will properly oversee that management,” the statement said.It added that the current Viacom directors should direct their energies into developing ‘a specific long-term plan to turn around the current state of Viacom’.Sumner Redstone’s family trust ultimately controls Viacom and the current dispute centres on his decision to remove Viacom boss Philippe Duaman, and another company director, Fred Salerno, from its board.The Dauman side allege that Sumner, 93, can no longer manage his own affairs, a claim Redstone’s daughter and legal team vehemently deny.The latest statement from Shari Redstone also said that Fred Salerno was wrong to suggest that Sumner Redstone did not want his daughter to run Viacom.“Salerno must have missed the widely reported fact that Sumner named Shari the non-executive Chair of both companies in the irrevocable Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust in 2002,” the statement said.“He must have also missed the portion of the February Viacom Board meeting where Shari was offered the Chair position and turned it down.”
TiVo is due to exit the Australian market after its licence there expires on October 31.In a statement on the TiVo Australia website, TiVo said “it’s been a delight serving Australia over the past nine years, but all good things must come to an end.”TiVo said it will cease to operate the TiVo Service, which delivers electronic programming guide data to viewers’ TiVo devices.“Without it, there will be no electronic programming guide and TiVo recording features such as Season Pass and WishList will stop working,” said the company.TiVo is now running ‘swap out’ for Australian customers, who can register online to get A$100 (€72) off a Fetch Mighty device to replace their TiVo box. This will mean customers can pay A$299 for the device, instead of the usual A$399.“The TiVo Swap Out offer expires on 31 October 2017 and is only open to TiVo devices which have connected to the TiVo service in the 6 months prior to 1 March 2017,” said TiVo.The Fetch Mighty is a four tuner DVR that also offers access to apps like Netflix and Stan. Viewers can also add more than 40 premium channels in the Ultimate Pack for A$20 per-month.
TV technology outfit Kudelski Group, home of the Nagra and Conax brands, saw its integrated digital TV revenues drop significantly in the first half, with its Conax brand taking a particular hit in emerging markets. The company was also hit by restructuring costs. Kudelski’s integrated digital TV revenues dropped by 16.4% in the first half to US$280 million (€246 million). The company said that its digital TV business had been “resilient” in developed markets, but that it saw a sharp drop in emerging markets, with Conax seeing its revenues decrease thanks to its exposure in this segment.Overall, Kudelski posted revenues of US$446.1 million, down from US$497.2 million, resulting in negative operating income of US$2.2 million compared with an operating profit of US$15.4 million for the same period last year. The company turned in a net loss of US$36.5 million, compared with a loss of US$5.3 million for the prior year period.The company was boosted by the performance of its cybersecurity division, offset by higher than normal seasonality having an impact on its Skidata public access unit.Kudelski said it expected the TV business to recover in the second half, driven by additional sales to existing customers, particularly in the Asia Pacific and African markets. Integrated digital TV operating expenses are expected to drop following a restructuring programme earlier this year that saw the Nagra and Conax teams come together and a restructuring of its French operations. Kudelski this week announced the sale of its SmarDTV conditional access module and set-top unit to an affiliate of French CAM specialist Neotion, which it said was in line with its strategy of focusing on core activities.The company confirmed its full-year financial guidance, with an expectation that operating income will be between US$30 million and US$45 million.
Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor)Dec 10 2018The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest integrated health care system in the United States, providing care at 1,243 health care facilities, including 172 VA Medical Centers and 1,062 outpatient sites. Many of the 9 million veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare program will, at some point, have to decide whether to seek care at a VA or non-VA facility. In a new study, researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, Vermont, used the most current publicly available data to compare health outcomes for VA and non-VA hospitals within 121 local healthcare markets that included both a VA medical center and a non-VA hospital.In their findings, recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dartmouth Institute Professor William Weeks, MD, PhD, MBA, and Alan N. West, PhD, of the White River Junction VA Medical Center note that several recent studies using broad representative samples of VHA patients with representative samples not in the VHA system have found that outcomes at VA hospitals are at least as good as those in the private sector. Several circumstances they say could account for these findings: The VHA may provide better care than the private sector in every local area. Alternatively, non-VHA care may be better than VHA care in more local areas but by a small amount, whereas VHA care may be better than non-VHA care in fewer local areas but by a large amount in each area. The average across all patients and hospitals would favor the VHA in the former circumstance and might favor the VHA in the latter.”We wanted to take a closer look at local healthcare markets and specific health conditions because if you’re a veteran deciding where to seek treatment what you’re really concerned with are the outcomes at your local VA,” Weeks says.Related StoriesStudy analyzes high capacity of A. baumannii to persist on various surfacesStudy: Two-thirds of pneumonia patients receive more antibiotics than they probably needIt is okay for women with lupus to get pregnant with proper care, says new studyWeeks and West identified 15 outcome measures that were reported by VHA and non-VHA hospitals by using data from Hospital Compare, a Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Studies (CMS) website which provides information on how well hospitals provide recommended care to their patients. These measures included 30-day risk-adjusted mortality rates for four common diseases–acute myocardial infarction, COPD, heart failure, and pneumonia–plus 11 additional patient safety indicators. They used each hospital’s ZIP code to assign the hospital to one of 306 hospital referral regions–limiting their analyses to the 121 regions in which at least one VHA and one non-VHA hospital reported at least one of the measures. (The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care defines these regions as distinct health care markets.) The researchers found that VA hospitals were likely to provide the best care in a local health care market and rarely provided the worst care in local markets.”Our findings suggest that, despite some recent negative reports, the VA generally provides truly excellent care,” Weeks says. “If that is the case, outsourcing VA care to non-VA settings solely for patient convenience should be reconsidered.”However, Weeks and West also raise the possibility that VA and non-VA hospitals may report data differently to Hospital Compare. If so, the authors recommend the VA and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) take steps to adapt reporting methods to ensure fair comparisons by end users who are trying to make healthcare decisions. Source:https://tdi.dartmouth.edu/news-events/veterans-health-administration-hospitals-outperform-non-vha-hospitals-most-healthcare-markets
Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Dec 12 2018In a medical records analysis of information gathered on more than 6,000 people, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers conclude that simply asking older adult patients about their weight history at ages 20 and 40 could provide real value to clinicians in their efforts to predict patients’ future risk of heart failure, heart attacks or strokes.In a report published Nov. 14 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the investigators say the younger-weight question is potentially a cost-efficient, high-value “ask” likely to help physicians decide how to advise and treat their older patients, particularly now that many people change primary care physicians throughout their lives, and lifelong health records may not transfer. Asking this simple question about prior lifetime weights provided prognostic information about a person’s heart failure risk that was incremental to their measured weights at older ages and other measured traditional heart disease risk factors.”We’ve known that the longer a person is obese, the more it becomes problematic by increasing their heart failure risk,” says Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “That is why measuring a person’s weight at older ages may not tell the whole story about their risk. There’s now more evidence that newly obese people are in overall less danger. Our findings emphasize the importance of lifelong maintenance of a healthy weight, as greater cumulative weight from young adulthood is more risky to heart health.””We already routinely measure weights during a patient’s clinic visit to make health recommendations, but we think adding this low-tech question about their prior weight histories can further help direct clinical care,” she adds. “While we acknowledge that self-reported weight history is imperfect, at the very least, asking the question sparks patient reflection and self-motivation to get back to healthier weights from their younger ages.”Heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular diseases remain the No. 1 killers of Americans. Heart failure, also known as congestive heart failure, is a condition marked by a gradual weakening and stiffening of the heart muscle, diminishing its ability to pump blood. Physicians routinely attempt to assess risks for heart disease and heart failure as patients age with measures of blood pressure, cholesterol, exercise levels, family history, diet and weight, Michos noted. Although a single weight measurement in an older adult is helpful, she says, weight history is even more informative, and the new study was in part designed to identify a practical way of getting it that would be considered informative enough to add to clinical care.For the study, the researchers used data already gathered on 6,437 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) recruited between 2000 and 2002 who were age 45 to 84 at time of enrollment into the study. Participants were followed an average of 13 years, and lived in six U.S. communities: Baltimore, Maryland; Chicago, Illinois; Forsyth County, North Carolina; New York City, New York; Los Angeles County, California; and St. Paul, Minnesota. On average, they were 62 years old at the study’s start. Almost 53 percent of the participants were women. About 39 percent of participants were white, more than 26 percent were African-American, 22 percent were Hispanic and a little more than 12 percent were Chinese-American.Related StoriesRepurposing a heart drug could increase survival rate of children with ependymomaResearch opens possibility of developing single-dose gene therapy for inherited arrhythmiasImplanted device uses microcurrent to exercise heart muscle in cardiomyopathy patientsEach participant filled out a survey that reported their weight history at age 20 and 40. Their weights were further tracked during the study period using measurements from a standardized scale over five different in-person visits. All weights were converted to body mass indexes (BMI) by dividing the weight by the square of height. A BMI less than 25 kilograms per meter squared was considered normal, while a BMI between 25 and 30 was considered overweight, and 30 and above was considered obese.By the end of all participants’ last visit, 290 people had experienced heart failure, and 828 experienced cardiovascular disease events such as heart attacks, stroke and or death as determined by participant and family interviews and patient medical records.As expected, Michos says, the standard measured weights taken at clinic visits during the 13-year study period were associated with later heart failure risk, with a 34 percent increased likelihood of heart failure for every 5 kilograms per meters squared increase in BMI, after accounting for other established heart disease risk factors such as age, smoking, physical activity, blood pressure and diabetes. But then her team found that even after taking into account these current measured weights at older ages, that having a self-reported history of obesity at age 20 (144 participants) was associated with a more than threefold risk of heart failure, and having a history of being obese at age 40 (716 participants) doubled the risk compared with people who had a BMI in the normal range at those ages.”Our study confirms that maintaining a normal weight over the lifespan is the most ideal, and that when and for how long a person becomes obese are highly informative in assessing heart disease risk in older adults,” says Michos.Michos cautioned that the new study was designed to look at associations between self-reported lifetime weights and heart disease risk over time, and not determine cause and effect or attempt to determine the accuracy of patients’ recall of their weight at young ages. Patient self-reporting can result in bias or imperfect memory, but the researchers believe most older adults have reasonably accurate recall of their younger adult weight. Their study findings suggest that even with these known limitations of weight recall, that simply asking about weight history was helpful in risk assessment. Right now, clinicians just don’t routinely ask about a person’s weights at key life points such as young- and mid-adulthood, Michos says, but it is so easy to do.Michos says that we need to investigate how we can incorporate this ask (about lifetime weight recall) into electronic health records and into clinical practice.About 1 in 3 deaths in the U.S. are due to heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. About 92 million American adults are living with some form of cardiovascular disease. About 5.7 million people in the U.S. live with heart failure, and more than half a million are diagnosed each year. More than half of people with heart failure will die within five years of diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Source:https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/your-weight-history-may-predict-your-heart-failure-risk
Source:http://www.lse.ac.uk/ Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Mar 4 2019Children conceived through medically assisted reproduction (MAR), such as IVF, are at no more risk of developing emotional or behavioral problems than those conceived naturally according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).The paper, published in the journal Social Science and Medicine – Population Health, shows that children born via MAR actually do slightly better than those conceived naturally. However, this seems to be explained by the characteristics of their parents, since couples who have access to these treatments tend to be highly educated and affluent.Related StoriesWhy Mattresses Could be a Health Threat to Sleeping ChildrenRevolutionary gene replacement surgery restores vision in patients with retinal degenerationDaily intake for phosphates in infants, children can exceed health guidance valuesOnce the researchers took family background into account, they found that children born through MAR do have a slightly increased risk of emotional or behavioral problems between the ages of three and five, but that this disappears at around age six.Dr Anna Barbuscia, lead author of the research and a Fellow in LSE’s Department of Social Policy, said: “There have been some concerns that as children born as a result of fertility treatment enter adolescence, they might develop behavioral or emotional problems related to, for example, identity issues. But we don’t see any sign of this.”Also, given that our research relies on a measure of mental development and psychological well-being that is based on parental responses, the lower scores we see for younger children may be more to do with their parent’s anxiety. One can imagine the extra vigilance that a mother or father might have, particularly in the early years, over the welfare of a much longed for child.”The researchers used data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study a longitudinal survey that followed around 19,000 children born in the UK in 2000-2002 and their families. The researchers used data from 12,989 of these children of whom 404 were conceived through medically assisted reproduction. They compared levels of emotional and behavioral problems up to the age of 14.Dr Barbuscia said: “We know that children who are wanted and who have caring parents tend to do better emotionally and behaviorally. Our research shows that this remains true however a child is conceived.”
Competing bids from Comcast and Disney for the bulk of Twenty-First Century Fox come as the media landscape changes and companies get more involved in both creating and distributing content. This Aug. 1, 2017, file photo shows the Twenty-First Century Fox sign outside of the News Corporation headquarters building in New York. The potential for another media megadeal are sending shares of Comcast, Twenty-First Century Fox and Disney into motion before the opening bell. After a judge cleared AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, many now expect Comcast to top Disney’s pending $52.4 billion stock offer for the entertainment assets of Twenty-First Century Fox, possibly as early as Wednesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) This combo of file photos shows the 21st Century Fox sign outside of the News Corporation headquarters building on Aug. 1, 2017, in New York, bottom, and a Comcast sign on Oct. 12, 2017, in Hialeah, Fla. Comcast is making a $65 billion bid for Fox’s entertainment businesses, setting up a battle with Disney to become the next mega-media company. (AP Photo/File) SPORTSDisney’s deal includes getting Fox’s regional sports network, which shows hometown sports in several cities including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. Those networks would complement Disney’s nationally focused ESPN. Disney recently launched ESPN Plus, a separate streaming service with more local offerings. That service could benefit from Fox’s regional offerings.Comcast already has similar regional networks through NBC Sports, including ones in Boston, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area. Getting the Fox networks would expand Comcast’s territorial reach.STREAMINGWhichever company prevails will control streaming service Hulu. Currently, Comcast, Disney and Fox each has a 30 percent stake, with Time Warner owning the other 10 percent. With Fox’s share, either Comcast or Disney would end up with a controlling 60 percent stake.Disney already plans an entertainment-focused streaming service in 2019. If Disney prevails, it could combine that with Hulu or keep them as separate services.If Comcast prevails, Disney’s service could be less appealing, as it wouldn’t have Fox video. Comcast doesn’t currently have similar streaming ambitions and wouldn’t benefit as much from the Fox video. Comcast might run into regulatory problems because the cable operator would control a larger portfolio of content along with its distribution. However, a federal judge on Tuesday approved a similar attempt by DirecTV owner AT&T to buy Time Warner. The judge rejected the government’s fears that the AT&T deal could lead to higher prices for consumers or hinder online alternatives from getting content.Regardless of which company prevails in buying Fox, the Fox television network and some cable channels including Fox News will stay with media mogul Rupert Murdoch. In this Aug. 8, 2017, file photo, The Walt Disney Co. logo appears on a screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The potential for another media megadeal are sending shares of Comcast, Twenty-First Century Fox and Disney into motion before the opening bell. After a judge cleared AT&T’s $85 billion takeover of Time Warner on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, many now expect Comcast to top Disney’s pending $52.4 billion stock offer for the entertainment assets of Twenty-First Century Fox, possibly as early as Wednesday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) This March 29, 2017, file photo shows a sign outside the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. Comcast made a $65 billion bid Wednesday for Fox’s entertainment businesses, setting up a battle with Disney to become the next mega-media company. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Comcast-Disney fight highlights shifting media landscape Explore further © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. In fact, Fox and Disney might pair too well, as far as regulatory concerns go. BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield estimates the combined studios make up 45 percent of worldwide box office revenue. A larger studio could use its power to keep its movies in more theaters longer and squeeze out rival movies.Comcast’s Universal movie business has such franchises as “Jurassic Park.” The Fox properties would expand Comcast’s reach, though the company would have just 25 percent of the box office with Fox added, according to figures from Box Office Mojo.TELEVISIONFox’s TV productions include “The Americans,” ”This Is Us,” ”Modern Family,” and “The Simpsons.” Its networks include FX Networks and National Geographic. The Fox businesses would pair well with Disney channels like ABC, the Disney Channel and Freeform. “Modern Family” already airs on ABC.Comcast owns NBCUniversal, including the NBC broadcast network, CNBC and USA. Comcast’s studios produce “Chicago Fire” and “Will & Grace,” both airing on NBC. X-Men and other movies from Fox’s studios would help beef up Disney’s upcoming streaming service. Comcast, already a major cable operator, would get a larger portfolio of cable channels including FX and National Geographic.Comcast’s $65 billion cash bid Wednesday is higher than what many analysts were expecting and tops Disney’s all-stock offer, valued at $52.5 billion when it was made in December.GBH Insights analyst Dan Ives said Comcast’s price “speaks to Comcast really wanting these key assets.” Disney is expected to make a counter offer.Each bid raises different regulatory concerns, though this week’s approval of AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner signals that regulators might have a hard time stopping mega-mergers.Here’s how the companies would match up:MOVIESFox’s film studios, with “Avatar,” X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Deadpool, would pair well with Disney’s studios. This includes reuniting the Marvel franchises X-Men and the Avengers, as some of those characters were already in Fox’s hands when Disney bought Marvel in 2009. Disney also has the Muppets, Pixar and “Star Wars.” INTERNATIONALInternationally, Fox’s cable and international TV businesses are part of the offerings. That’s key for Comcast, which has a limited overseas presence.Disney and Comcast had already been at battle in the U.K. over Sky, an operator of television channels. Fox has a 39 percent stake in Sky and has been trying to buy outright, with the intention of selling the full company to Disney as part of that deal. U.K. regulators have given the OK to that offer if Fox sells Sky News. Regulators there also have cleared Comcast’s $30.7 billion offer for the 61 percent of Sky that Murdoch doesn’t own.Other international networks include Fox Networks Group International, Star India, Tata Sky and Endemol Shine Group.THEME PARKSComcast and Disney have made extensive use of their portfolios at their theme parks in California, Florida and overseas. Disney, for instance, is expanding its attractions related to “Star Wars.” On the flip side, Disney turned its Pirates of the Caribbean ride into a major movie franchise. Comcast’s Universal Studios has attractions based on Universal’s “Fast and the Furious” franchise.Either company would be able to expand its opportunities with Fox, though the theme parks have historically been able to reach licensing deals with rival studios. Universal, for instance, has rides based on Fox’s “The Simpsons” and Warner Bros.’ “Harry Potter.” Disney has licensed Fox’s “Avatar” for its “Pandora” park within Walt Disney World. Citation: How Fox’s businesses would match up with Disney and Comcast (2018, June 14) retrieved 18 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-06-fox-businesses-disney-comcast.html
Provided by Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne Credit: CC0 Public Domain Creating and modifying a virtual reality environment just got a lot easier thanks to software being released today by Imverse, an EPFL spin-off. The secret behind Imverse’s program, which works much like a photo editor, is a three-dimensional rendering engine based on 3-D pixels called voxels. The rendering engine can be used for other virtual reality applications as well, such as depicting real people. The startup’s initial target market is the movie and video game industry. Imverse is also aiming high for another reason: the technology on which its software is based can be used for many other applications. The company’s powerful voxel-based rendering engine obviates the need for those notorious polygon grids so familiar to video-game and animated-film makers. Voxels are not new, but until recently they required too much computing power to be feasible for real-time rendering.”This technology was developed over the past 12 years at EPFL’s Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience, for use in neurology research. It lets us create smarter tools, processes and approaches for connecting hardware and software,” says Bello, a virtual reality expert. Bello, together with colleague and co-founder Robin Mange, sees broader implications – and thus a particularly bright future – for their technology. “And not just in virtual reality – we started with that field to show the high level of precision it can attain,” he adds.Shaking a friend’s hand in the real and virtual worlds at the same timeThe startup is also hard at work on bringing real-time representations of users’ bodies – and of other people around – into the virtual reality environment. Their mixed-reality technology has already been used by an artist to make a short film called Elastic Time. They showcased their system at Sundance, giving industry professionals a chance to try it out. “The ability for people to interact in real time in both the real and virtual worlds will lead to ever more possibilities,” concludes Bello. Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne A voxel-based, high-potential technology Wearing a virtual reality headset and using manual controllers, you can use Imverse’s new software to select tools that let you bring depth, cut, paste, paint and zoom in and out – much like in a photo editor. Your virtual environment can therefore respond to your creative flourishes, even from a 2-D or 360 photo: in an instant, your surroundings can change as you push back walls, create space here and there, add furniture and experiment with colors. The beta version of this software program will be available online starting today.Creating a 3-D scenario 10 times fasterImverse’s time-saving technology could come in handy in a wide range of fields, such as real estate, architects, graphic designers, decorators and photgraphers – engineers could even use it for certain kinds of modeling. But the EPFL spin-off is initially setting its sights on the movie, medias and video game industry, where its software could be used for such tasks as sketching out scenarios in 3-D, previewing movie sets and how they could change during a film and mapping out the locations of cameras and actors. “Producers can use it to take a photo of a real set, convert the 360 degrees image into a 3-D environment and then, using virtual reality, edit it in order to visualize the scene before they film it. And they’ll be able to do these things 10 times faster than with conventional programs,” says Javier Bello, the startup’s co-founder and CEO.Setting its sights on the movie industry from the start may seem ambitious, but the company has done its homework. Imverse’s founders have already begun feeling out the industry and making contacts, including at Sundance – the largest independent film festival in the US – early this year, and then later at the Cannes Film Festival. “Our first target market is the entertainment industry, because people who work there are already familiar with the types of software used for visual effects and motion capture. They can quickly grasp how our program can simplify their work and save them time,” adds Bello. What’s more, going after the movie and game industry will put them into contact with heavyweights like Intel, Microsoft and Oculus. Immersive virtual-reality creation software for everyone Explore further Citation: Modifying a virtual environment in just a few clicks (2018, October 17) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2018-10-virtual-environment-clicks.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
CSIS spokesman Andrew Schwartz told the AP that “no one named Katie Jones works for us.”Jones also claimed to have earned degrees in Russian studies from the University of Michigan, but the school said it was “unable to find anyone by this name earning these degrees from the university.”The Jones account vanished from LinkedIn shortly after the AP contacted the network seeking comment. Messages sent to Jones herself, via LinkedIn and an associated AOL email account, went unreturned.Numerous experts interviewed by AP said perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Katie Jones persona was her face, which they say appears to be artificially created.Klingemann and other experts said the photo—a closely cropped portrait of a woman with blue-green eyes, copper-colored hair and an enigmatic smile—appeared to have been created using a family of dueling computer programs called generative adversarial networks, or GANs, that can create realistic-looking faces of entirely imaginary people. GANs, sometimes described as a form of artificial intelligence, have been the cause of increasing concern for policymakers already struggling to get a handle on digital disinformation. On Thursday, U.S. lawmakers held their first hearing devoted primarily to the threat of artificially generated imagery.Hao Li, who directs the Vision of Graphics Lab at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, reeled off a list of digital tells that he believes show the Jones photo was created by a computer program, including inconsistencies around Jones’ eyes, the ethereal glow around her hair and smudge marks on her left cheek.”This is a typical GAN,” he said. “I’ll bet money on it.” Russia expert Keir Giles poses for a portrait during an interview at London’s St. Pancras Station on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Giles, who is affiliated with Britain’s Chatham House think tank, was one of the people who was targeted by a LinkedIn user calling herself Katie Jones earlier this year. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter) More information: Test your ability to tell a real face from a fake one at: www.whichfaceisreal.com/Generate your own deepfake faces at: thispersondoesnotexist.com Last month, retired CIA officer Kevin Mallory was sentenced to 20 years in prison for passing details of top secret operations to Beijing, a relationship that began when a Chinese agent posing as a recruiter contacted him on LinkedIn.Unlike Facebook’s friends-and-family focus, LinkedIn is oriented toward job seekers and headhunters, people who routinely fire out resumes, build vast webs of contacts and pitch projects to strangers. That connect-them-all approach helps fill the millions of job openings advertised on the site, but it also provides a rich hunting ground for spies. And that has Western intelligence agencies worried. This image captured on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 shows part of a LinkedIn profile for someone who identified themselves as Katie Jones. The Associated Press has found it is one of many phantom profiles that lurk on the social media platform. (AP Photo) Citation: Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets (2019, June 13) retrieved 17 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-experts-spy-ai-generated.html But Katie Jones doesn’t exist, The Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn. And several experts contacted by the AP said Jones’ profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program.”I’m convinced that it’s a fake face,” said Mario Klingemann, a German artist who has been experimenting for years with artificially generated portraits and says he has reviewed tens of thousands of such images. “It has all the hallmarks.”Experts who reviewed the Jones profile’s LinkedIn activity say it’s typical of espionage efforts on the professional networking site, whose role as a global Rolodex has made it a powerful magnet for spies.”It smells a lot like some sort of state-run operation,” said Jonas Parello-Plesner, who serves as program director at the Denmark-based think tank Alliance of Democracies Foundation and was the target several years ago of an espionage operation that began over LinkedIn .William Evanina, director of the U.S. National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said foreign spies routinely use fake social media profiles to home in on American targets—and accused China in particular of waging “mass scale” spying on LinkedIn.”Instead of dispatching spies to some parking garage in the U.S to recruit a target, it’s more efficient to sit behind a computer in Shanghai and send out friend requests to 30,000 targets,” he said in a written statement. LinkedIn says it’s working to combat Chinese spy accounts “I literally accept every friend request that I get,” he said.Lionel Fatton, who teaches East Asian affairs at Webster University in Geneva, said the fact that he didn’t know Jones did prompt a brief pause when he connected with her back in March.”I remember hesitating,” he said. “And then I thought, ‘What’s the harm?'”Parello-Plesner noted that the potential harm can be subtle: Connecting to a profile like Jones’ invites whoever is behind it to strike up a one-on-one conversation, and other users on the site can view the connection as a kind of endorsement.”You lower your guard and you get others to lower their guard,” he said.The Jones profile was first flagged by Keir Giles, a Russia specialist with London’s Chatham House think tank. Giles was recently caught up in an entirely separate espionage operation targeting critics of the Russian antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab. So when he received an invitation from Katie Jones on LinkedIn he was suspicious.She claimed to have been working for years as a “Russia and Eurasia fellow” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, but Giles said that, if that were true, “I ought to have heard of her.” This image captured on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 shows part of a LinkedIn profile for someone who identified themselves as Katie Jones. The Associated Press has found it is one of many phantom profiles that lurk on the social media platform. (AP Photo) Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. British , French and German officials have all issued warnings over the past few years detailing how thousands of people had been contacted by foreign spies over LinkedIn.In a statement, LinkedIn said it routinely took action against fake accounts, yanking thousands of them in the first three months of 2019. It also said “we recommend you connect with people you know and trust, not just anyone.”The Katie Jones profile was modest in scale, with 52 connections. But those connections had enough influence that they imbued the profile with credibility to some who accepted Jones’ invites. The AP spoke to about 40 other people who connected with Jones between early March and early April of this year, many of whom said they routinely accept invitations from people they don’t recognize.”I’m probably the worst LinkedIn user in the history of LinkedIn,” said Winfree, the former deputy director of President Donald Trump’s domestic policy council, who confirmed connection with Jones on March 28.Winfree, whose name came up last month in relation to one of the vacancies on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, said he rarely logs on to LinkedIn and tends to just approve all the piled-up invites when he does. Russia expert Keir Giles poses for a portrait during an interview at London’s St. Pancras Station on Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Giles, who is affiliated with Britain’s Chatham House think tank, was one of the people who was targeted by a LinkedIn user calling herself Katie Jones earlier this year. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter) Explore further