We started into our 11th (official) year with a team of 20+ people, an innovation unit that is now more diverse and skilled than ever. Together, we took care of 10+ medium and large-scale projects, most of them funded by the EU and focused on core topics like human language technology (HLT), immersive media / extended reality (XR), and verification/disinfo countering.
The HLT group made quite a splash by fully rolling out and marketing tools like plain X (for top-notch multilingual content adaptation) and Monitio (for top-notch multilingual content monitoring). They also continued work on SELMA (another project dedicated to improving media monitoring and news content production). The XR group put a lot of work into XReco (a data-driven XR ecosystem for the entire content industry) and SERMAS (which has a strong focus on avatars and socially acceptable immersive tech). They also successfully wrapped up MediaVerse and XR4DRAMA (watch a comprehensive documentary on the latter over on YouTube). On the verification front, the KID2 team published their combined knowledge about tools and workflows in a very handy, continuously updated graph database called howtoverify.info. They also came up with the excellent idea of a natural language interface for geospatial searches in Open Street Map (for a paper and a code repository check out this arxiv link). Team vera.ai also continued their work on new tools for content verification, with a focus on technology able to detect deep fakes and other synthetic media. Once mature, they'll be integrated into the InVID / WeVerify / vera.ai "fake news debunker", a (Chrome) browser extension for verification purposes. The free plug-in is already a big success in the community: 100.000+ journalists and investigators use it on a regular basis. There are also two brand-new verification projects: news-polygraph and AI-CODE (more info on that one in early 2024). Other important projects included Callisto (EO data + satellite journalism + more) and TruBlo (experiments in the field of blockchain tech and distributed trust). Both of them recently crossed the finishing line, so stay tuned for upcoming "lessons learned" articles.
Regarding the ubiquitous and challenging topic of (generative) AI, most of us read lots of articles and papers and played around with a plethora of tools – often reacting with a mix of marvel, disbelief, and slight horror ("It's basically text to anything now" or: "Say goodbye to truth as we know it"). A much enjoyed experiment was the AI-driven Podcast Creator (hand-coded by our tech lead himself and documented here). In the meantime, the AI4MEDIA consortium continued to explore crucial topics like explainability, robustness, and privacy in AI (all public reports over here).
We also watched, accompanied, and adapted to radical changes in a more classic domain, namely that of social media. With Twitter going down the drain (no need to elaborate), we put more time into managing our Highlight Page on LinkedIn (3200+ followers and good interaction rates) – and also launched on Mastodon a couple of months ago. The decision to embrace the ActivityPub protocol and officially "toot" turned out to be very rewarding: We went from 0 to 3800+ followers in no time, sparked interesting conversations – and received a lot of feedback from a still relatively small, but very active, tech-savvy, and progressive community. So Mastodon is clearly a staple in our social media mix now, and we're hoping to get more DW people to join the Fediverse.
As for work culture and ReCo life in general, the (tentative) end of the Corona crisis allowed for more conference visits and face-to-face meetings – a development that was met with joy and relief by all team members. To give just one example, the photo at the top was taken at a resort in Heimbach in the Rur Eifel area, where we met for a very productive, 48h team retreat (that also featured delicious vegan BBQ and tough table tennis matches). Simultaneously, the working from home/anywhere quota remained pretty high. As one colleague put it: "It's the mix that counts." And that mix is hopefully here to stay.
In any case, we'll be back soon – with more R&D, more technology for journalism, and more insights.
Stay safe, enjoy the holidays, and have a good start into 2024!