A tiny implant may prevent a person from getting HIV for a year, reports the New York Times....

The implant: It’s a plastic tube the size of a matchstick that slowly releases an anti-HIV drug. It would be placed under the skin of the arm.

HIV prevention: Even if you don't have the virus, taking anti-HIV drugs daily can stop you from getting infected. Such "pre-exposure prophylaxis," or PrEP, is for people at high risk of getting the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Set and forget: The idea behind the implant is that it would make PrEP easier. Because it would release an antiviral drug little by little over months, people would not have to remember to swallow pills. It’s based on a similar implant for birth control.

The evidence: The device is being developed by Merck, which carried out a three-month-long preliminary test in just 12 men. It contains an experimental, but long-acting, anti-HIV drug called islatravir. The company presented the prototype today at an HIV science conference in Mexico City

Downsides: Without having to fear the HIV virus, people on PrEP drugs might end up getting other sexually transmitted diseases, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, more often. That was the finding of a study published this April on 4,375 gay and bisexual men in Australia.

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It’s the same AI technique behind deepfakes, but also a $432,500 artwork....

The news: The tool lets users upload their photos, then view a classical-style faux watercolor, oil, or ink portrait based on the photo a few seconds later. Each one is unique. You can give it a go here.

How it was made: The tool’s creators at the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab used generative adversarial network (GAN) models, a popular AI technique. It involves getting two neural networks to duel each other to produce an acceptable outcome: a generator, which looks at examples and tries to mimic them, and a discriminator, which judges if they are real by comparing them with the same training examples. In this case, they used 45,000 portrait images to train the program, including paintings by Titian, van Gogh, and Rembrandt.

No smiling, please: None of the portraits it creates include smiles, because it was uncommon for such overt facial expressions to be painted in the era the training examples cover. 

Is it safe? You might worry about the privacy implications of uploading your photo, especially after the recent furor over FaceApp. However, the researchers have promised the pictures are immediately deleted after processing by their servers, and they won’t be used for any other purpose. 

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TR 35

Innovators Under 35 | 2019

It’s part of our ethos that technology can and should be a force for good. In these profiles you’ll find people employing innovative methods to treat disease, to fight online harassment, and to create the next big battery breakthrough.