This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.
Welcome to the new surreal. How AI-generated video is changing film.
The Frost nails its uncanny, disconcerting vibe in its first few shots. Vast icy mountains, a makeshift camp of military-style tents, a group of people huddled around a fire, barking dogs. It’s familiar stuff, yet weird enough to plant a growing seed of dread. There’s something wrong here.
Welcome to the unsettling world of AI moviemaking. The Frost is a 12-minute movie from Detroit-based video creation company Waymark in which every shot is generated by an image-making AI. It’s one of the most impressive—and bizarre—examples yet of this strange new genre. Read the full story, and take an exclusive look at the movie.
—Will Douglas Heaven
Microplastics are everywhere. What does that mean for our immune systems?
Microplastics are pretty much everywhere you look. These tiny pieces of plastic pollution, less than five millimeters across, have been found in human blood, breast milk, and placentas. They’re even in our drinking water and the air we breathe.
Given their ubiquity, it’s worth considering what we know about microplastics. What are they doing to us?
The short answer is: we don’t really know. But scientists have begun to build a picture of their potential effects from early studies in animals and clumps of cells, and new research suggests that they could affect not only the health of our body tissues, but our immune systems more generally. Read the full story.
This story is from The Checkup, Jessica’s weekly newsletter covering all things biotech. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.
I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.
1 Apple is preparing to reveal its mixed reality headset
But if the Reality Pro device lacks that essential killer app, Apple’s got an uphill slog ahead of it to convince us to care. (Platformer $)
+ The latest product says a lot about how Apple wants to defend its existing products. (FT $)
+ Meta managed to announce its latest Quest 3 headset just in time. (Bloomberg $)
+ Human moderators in the metaverse are proving essential to digital safety. (MIT Technology Review)
2 A blood test for 50 kinds of cancer is showing promise
It could help doctors to find the cancer’s source and how best to treat it. (BBC)
+ How AI analysis of disease in primates could help us humans. (FT $)
3 Elon Musk has been accused of insider trading
He’s been accused of using his influence to push Dogecoin, for the third time. (Quartz)
4 Boeing has delayed its crewed spaceflight for NASA again
Originally slated to take off in April, the flight has been dogged with issues. (TechCrunch)
+ SpaceX has eclipsed Boeing in recent years. (WSJ $)
+ Future moon missions’ large landers could make things seriously dusty. (New Scientist $)
5 How India built a sprawling hacker for hire industry
While Russia, China and Iran’s hackers are notorious, India’s networks are growing rapidly. (New Yorker $)
+ The hacking industry faces the end of an era. (MIT Technology Review)
6 All that leftover hand sanitiser is ruining people’s lives
The stench after old stock caught on fire is unbearable for California residents.(Wired $)
7 Apple customers are struggling to withdraw their cash
Early adopters of its savings account have been left feeling like guinea pigs. (WSJ $)
+ They’re starting to complain about the long transaction times. (The Information $)
8 Online adverts are already terrible
But the generative AI boom means they’re poised to get even worse. (The Atlantic $)
9 You don’t need an app for that
Our phones are becoming app graveyards for pointless applications we simply do not use. (Vox)
10 Fans in China have resurrected a dormant pop star’s career
But Stefanie Sun isn’t too happy about them cloning her voice with AI. (Rest of World)
+ Google’s new AI can hear a snippet of a song—and then keep on playing. (MIT Technology Review)
Quote of the day
“If I could guarantee it wasn’t a scam, I would pay up to $250 for it.”
—Arick Jones, a publicist, tells the Wall Street Journal how much he’d be willing to pay for an invitation code to join Bluesky, the exclusive social network backed by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
The big story
The delivery apps reshaping life in India’s megacities
Every day, N. Sudhakar sits in his hole-in-the wall grocery store in the Indian city of Bangalore. Packed floor to ceiling with everything from 20-kilogram sacks of rice to one-rupee ($.01) shampoo sachets, this one-stop shop supplies most of the daily needs for many in the neighborhood. It’s one of the roughly 12 million family-run “kiranas” found on almost every street corner in India.
Increasingly, the technology industry is presenting stores like his with a new challenge. Across the road, a steady stream of delivery drivers line up to grab groceries from a mini-warehouse built to enable ultra-fast deliveries.
In India’s megacities, the urban middle class is gradually getting hooked on online shopping. These shoppers make up a fraction of the population, but their spending power is considerable. The battle for India’s street corner is well underway. Read the full story.
We can still have nice things
+ We still don’t fully understand why we find cute things cute, but this fun video helps to shed some light on how it seems to influence our behavior.
+ Today marks 21 years since The Wire debuted on HBO. Where does it rank among your favorite shows?
+ This robot is a true artist, and no one can convince me otherwise.
+ Buckle up: we’re going on an urban adventure!
+ The ancient art of Japanese Noh mask making is hypnotic.