Weekend Roundup: Anything-Other-Than-COVID-19 Edition (Seriously!)

It’s the weekend! You made it through yet another wild week. Let’s take a moment and not mention COVID-19. Sound good? Sounds good! Let’s cover other things going on in tech, from Google’s nifty new “art” app to the automation of cybersecurity. 

Your Selfie: Modern Art

Google’s Arts & Culture app attracted a lot of buzz two years ago, thanks to its neat-o trick of pairing users’ selfies with famous portraits. Now it’s back with a new feature: Rendering your photos in one of many famous art styles. 

“After taking or uploading a photo, choose from dozens of masterpieces to transfer that style onto your image,” reads the explanatory note on Google’s blog. “(And while you wait, we’ll share a fun fact about the artwork, in case you’re curious to know a bit more about its history.) For more customization, you can use the scissors icon to select which part of the image you want the style applied to.” 

This feature, dubbed Art Transfer, relies on machine learning to transform that decent shot of today’s grilled-cheese sandwich into a Frida Kahlo masterwork. “Art Transfer doesn’t just blend the two things or simply overlay your image,” the blog continued. “Instead, it kicks off a unique algorithmic recreation of your photo inspired by the specific art style you have chosen.” If you can’t go to a museum this weekend, in other words, you can give yourself an art-y experience at home.

For those concerned about their privacy, this processing is apparently done on-device, without your image reaching Google’s cloud. Nonetheless, keep in mind that Google is probably using data from the process to improve its A.I. and machine-learning efforts in some way. 

Amazon Detective 

Cybersecurity takes a lot of skill and effort, even at the best of times. Amazon’s new generally-available tool, Amazon Detective, is designed to automate the scanning of customers’ cloud resources. Previewed last year, it’s supposed to sniff out vulnerabilities and possible cyber-attacks.

The caveat, of course, is that Amazon Detective is designed expressly to scan AWS logs. “Amazon Detective works across your AWS accounts, it is a multi-account solution that aggregates data and findings from up to 1000 AWS accounts into a single security-owned “master” account making it easy to view behavioral patterns and connections across your entire AWS environment,” reads the company’s blog posting on the matter, which also includes a handy tactical breakdown of how it works (including slides). 

In many ways, Amazon Detective is a potential preview of a future in which automation is used increasingly to scan systems for weaknesses. That won’t put flesh-and-blood cybersecurity professionals out of a job, but it could radically change their workflow; for example, if software can handle many of the “low level” security tasks that confront a company on a weekly basis, technologists can spend more time on high-level tasks such as long-term security strategy. 

WeWork’s Founder Loses Big

For a couple months in there, it looked as if WeWork founder Adam Neumann had one heck of a golden parachute ready to deploy, despite the implosion of his “Uber, but for office space” startup: roughly a billion dollars. In exchange for stepping away, Neumann would earn $975 million in stock buybacks from SoftBank, which invested quite a bit of money in WeWork. 

But according to CNN, WeWork failed to meet certain conditions, and now Neumann is out all of that sweet, sweet cash (and probably having a bad weekend as a result). Hopefully things go a little better for the WeWork engineers and other employees who are still trying to figure out how to navigate the company through multiple problems.   

Have a good weekend, everyone! And keep washing those hands!