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[D] Lawsuit alleges fabricated results at Pinscreen led by Hao Li

The filing can be found here.
These are very serious allegations: generated models results were blatantly fabricated for academic papers as well as public demonstrations. In addition, there's some pretty awful allegations of worker abuse, including an attack on the plaintiff when they attempted to confront Li about the academic misconduct.
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page 21, top screenshot:
anyways ... it's important that we know exactly who is using the webcam to generate the avatar
since we are just using pre-cached avatars
it's called SIGGRAPH "Real Time Live" not "Pre-Cached Live" ... this is bad
11 points · 4 days ago
I’m not familiar with their process but are we talking blatant fabrication here, or just “regress to a pre trained latent vector distribution” type stuff?
When I read it, it looked like the demo was supposed to do rendering on the spot fromnscratch. Sadegi himself tried it and observed it took a long time, and had issues (screenshot of his message is there). That's why they had faked it.
I didn't spend time to find the conference page (or the videos?) for it, that would be helpful.
6 points · 4 days ago · edited 3 days ago
I believe their presentation at SIGGRAPH 2017 RTL is here
40 points · 4 days ago
anyone want to wager on whether this leads to other whistleblowers coming out about other ML & AI startups that are still faking it?
Is this just an isolated personality, or a symptom of competitive market?
Probably the tip of the iceberg. Lots of "AI" companies are just mechanical Turks under the guise that they're gathering training data.
I actually don't think there's anything wrong with it as long as (1) they're honest that humans are doing some of the stuff behind the scenes, (2) they're not misleading scientific conferences.
There is a saying in SV: fake it till you make it.
The problem is that if they would acknowledge that it's not gonna work, they wouldn't get more investments. At some point you're incentivized to keep the con going.
The Silicon Valley TV show addressed this:
But I think that there needs to be a line between creating the perception that you're really far along and outright fraud. For example if they presented demos and admitted (but perhaps in a way to not draw attention to it) that certain pieces are touched up by a human, they might still be able to build enthusiasm for their product, they could get around that issue without actually committing fraud.
This should also be a wakeup call to computer vision community to be better at preventing fraudulent demos.
Oh my god :( Sad sad behavior. Plus, I always suspected some people make academic literature forcibly is an example: Page 83 of the document, by Li "We need to make sure that people cannot easily implement it" "maybe we add a lot of things about the hair cutting etc." So much for reproducibility :(
They really don't, though, in general. One man's clear explanation is another man's "WTF is this shit?" Explaining things clearly is a skill, and not a skill that is widely distributed.
Also, people write for their peers, since that is going to be most of the audience for their paper.
This is true to some degree; technical writing is a skill that is usually not picked up naturally, and taught in a class thats ignored by most CS students (if taught at all) IME. It is, in my opinion, very hard. But as the person youre responding to quoted, what you are describing is not the case:
here is an example: Page 83 of the document, by Li "We need to make sure that people cannot easily implement it" "maybe we add a lot of things about the hair cutting etc."
Li is allegedly a crook, but the comment was speculating that this is the reason why technical papers are hard in general.
I was going to highlight stuff like
[April 18, 2017] Li: “We need to make sure that people cannot easily implement it”
[June 21, 2017] Li: “What I mean is that it’s not easy to tell how to tweak data to get the results we want”
but then I found this, which is even worse IMHO
[February 4, 2017] Li: “One of our tasks is to map segmented hair images to 3D hairstyles
[February 4, 2017] Li: “Here is a paper that is kinda related”
[February 4, 2017] Li: “But not exactly what we want”
[February 4, 2017] Li: “Don’t share it”
[February 4, 2017] […]
[February 4, 2017] Li: [c118-f118_2-a523-paper-v1.pdf]
[March 3, 2017] Li: “Don’t share this paper”
[March 3, 2017] Li: “It’s under review”
This is ... bad ... so weird because this guy seemed like a respectable academic.
8 points · 4 days ago · edited 3 days ago
Isn't it normal to ask that a prepublication draft not be leaked until it has been accepted?
EDIT: Ooops. I misunderstood the messages exchanged. Thanks to /u/netw0rkf10w for setting me straight.
You don’t get it.
« Li’s academic misconduct included sharing confidential under-review scientific paper submissions from competitor research groups within Pinscreen and suggesting to look for “details that can be used.” »
He was either a reviewer or an area chair and was sharing a paper under submission from another group/competitor with his team (and asked them to not share it).
6 points · 3 days ago
You are absolutely correct. I misread the message exchange and thought it was his own paper.
I should have read through to page 18.
I guess it depends whether it was his or not?
Now that reads extremely bad. If anything this kind of "fake it till you hopefully make it" is really a big issue for research in such a competitive corporate setting.
It seems that some people didn’t read the PDF before commenting. Maybe it’s too long. So here’s the link to a visual TL;DR:
4 points · 3 days ago
This literally cannot get more SIGGRAPH.
2 points · 3 days ago
Peer reviews used as evidence! This is so exciting.
11 points · 4 days ago
Not familiar with the situation. Could anyone give a summary of the events?
Established Professor and CEO of startup fakes his results to bring in fame and fortune until employee calls him out on it.
Hao Li Shit!
3 points · 4 days ago
7 points · 4 days ago
It seems they wrongfully terminated & assaulted the employee when he exposed them, hence the lawsuit :/
From what I read, he hadn’t exposed them until he was assaulted. He was just convincing them to stop cheating.
Pinscreen damaged Sadeghi’s personal property remaining at Sadeghi’s desk at Pinscreen’s office. In storing it negligently, Pinscreen broke Sadeghi’s handmade sculpture, which has sentimental value
Okay now I want to know what his sculpture is.
Really sad, I took this Prof Li's graphics class last year. He seemed like a fine person ethically. :(
Oh boy! Do you have surprises in your future. :( Sorry.
Most people are believed, respected, revered, and/or financially rewarded based on the strength of their reputations, which leads to some folks wanting to maintaining these reputations at all costs. People rationalize the "end justifies the mean" mentality, and many times get away with it, which only reinforces these behaviors.
3 points · 3 days ago
oh sweet summer child
14 points · 4 days ago · edited 4 days ago
I follow and admire Hao Li work so these news have left me speechless. Deeply disappointed.
4 points · 4 days ago · edited 3 days ago
Here's the SIGGRAPH 2017 RTL demo in question
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Wow. So this company must be completely fucked now right? How does a person like Li even come to exist?
I mean, is it really surprising even a little bit?
The competition is so fierce, and it's essentially a winner takes all game. Even if your algorithm/implementation is really really good, if there's someone marginally better than yours, they'll get a keynote speech, while you'll just be a footnote.
Woah! Did you actually read the document?
It’s not surprising, it’s unbelievable!
Oh wait, “throwaway2”. Never mind.
I'm curious what would happen, since their app is now actually able to do the avatar generation in "seconds", albeit after the faked RTL demo.
Is it? I haven't looked at the app lately -- is it able to actually do the real time rendering that they were faking? I guess that would change things a little, but there's still some pretty wild behavior in these allegations.
The evidence alledging fraud as well as labor law violations, seems damning. Oof.
However, after reading through the alleged events, I'm not sure that the claims of battery and false imprisomment amount to quite that, presuming what's there is true to the word. Was he not harboring property that was not his, being the laptop? Since when do employees have rights to 'remove personal data' from company hardware, and return it at their convenience?
6 points · 3 days ago · edited 3 days ago
Pinscreen's Dr Hi had every right to demand the immediate return of all of Pinscreen's property upon terminating Dr Sadeghi. They could have asked the assistance of the office building's physical security to obtain this. Just the presence, outside the conference room, of a security guard is enough to keep things smooth. It's standard procedure recommended by HR consultants.
Instead, Dr Hi allegedly lost his temper, assaulted Dr Sadeghi physically and verbally (hence the battery complaint) then ordered Pinscreen employees to tackle Dr Sadeghi and hold him down (hence the false imprisonment complaint). I can't understand either how those employees complied, if this were a normal office environment. How does this compare to the above procedure ?
The CFO advising Dr Hi to stop at the time was probably hearing the ka-ching! of liability.
With the alleged video recording supporting this, this should be settled by Pinscreen out of court in no time.
4 points · 3 days ago · edited 3 days ago
There's no question thay Hi's actions did not approximate what I think any office considers SOP for firing an employee.
To one of your points, and after reading some on what legally constitutes 'assualt', it seems the claim will stick. Excuse the ignorance on my.part.
I guess what irked me was the mention in the filing that Sadeghi intended to return the laptop a later time, after removing ..whatever. As if that's okay. But, obviously, Hi's own (alleged) actions don't even compare, especially as the authority/managerial figure, being wholly disproportionate, childish, perhaps even criminal,
Wow, this is not good. Not very surprising that something like this would happen if you think about it, given how tough the competition is.
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