August 5, 2023
Issue No. 65
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
- AI: White Castle’s AI Drive-thrus
- Blockchain: The Rise and Fall of $BALD
- Gaming: Twitch Prohibits Gambling Promotions Including CS:GO Skins
- Web3, Metaverse, and NFTs: Animoca’s nWay Launching Web3 Mech Game “Wreck League”
- Legal Landscape: Generative AI Services Pulled from App Store in China Ahead of New Regulations
White Castle Brings AI to its Drive-thrus
White Castle plans to roll out AI voices to over 100 of its drive-thrus by 2024 in an effort to speed up orders.
Working with SoundHound, White Castle will use speech recognition technology to have an AI voice interact with customers and process orders, which they claim will take just over a minute. The AI-enabled drive-thru will look similar to the normal ones but with helpful messages for customers. However, voice-powered AI is still learning to handle different accents. Customers can still speak to employees if orders are incorrect.
Some initial locations tested the AI drive-thru with mixed reactions from customers. White Castle plans to expand the AI drive-thrus to more Midwest locations but doesn't expect layoffs.
Other fast-food chains are also testing AI drive-thrus. SoundHound says its AI is fully automatic while Google's with Wendy's has a human monitoring the AI. It remains to be seen how effective the AI drive-thrus will be at handling the noises of drive-thru customers.
Dell and Nvidia Working on Next-gen Generative AI Solutions
Dell Technologies is launching new solutions to help customers navigate generative AI, including validated designs with Nvidia, professional services, and new workstations. A survey found 91% of respondents used generative AI in their lives and 71% for work.
The new Dell Generative AI solutions involve validated designs with Nvidia for deploying AI workloads. Professional services can guide where generative AI benefits businesses. New Precision workstations target data scientists to build AI applications.
The Dell/Nvidia design focuses on inferencing use cases. It includes Nvidia's Nemo framework and Triton Inferencing Server along with Nvidia GPUs and Dell infrastructure. There are multiple potential generative AI uses like software development and chatbots.
Chhabra emphasized these solutions are just the beginning and Dell will offer more over the long journey helping customers with generative AI.
Meta's AI Push Spans Music Making and AI Personas
In recent AI developments, Meta unveiled both text-to-sound tools and personalized chatbots.
Meta released three tools under AudioCraft to create sound from text prompts using its own music. MediaGen generates music, AudioGen creates sound effects, and EnCodec decodes audio. However, the tools lack diverse training data.
Meta also plans to launch AI personas on Facebook and Instagram next month. The chatbots could have different styles and personalities to boost engagement and showcase Meta's AI progress. While touting user benefits, the bots could facilitate data collection and ad targeting.
Meta's dual announcements demonstrate its AI initiatives across generative audio and personalized chatbots. However, limitations in the audio tools and potential data misuse of chatbots remain concerns.
In Other AI News…
- Microsoft kills Cortana in Windows as it focuses on next-gen AI
- Google’s generative search feature now shows related videos and images
- Google Assistant reportedly pivoting to generative AI
- Akkio raises $15M to advance no-code AI platform for businesses
- Inworld, a generative AI platform for creating NPCs, lands fresh investment
- SettleMint’s AI assistant aims to help web3 developers write better smart contracts
Blockchain and DeFi
$BALD Token Gained over 4M% and Then Rugs, Rumors of SBF Being Involved
The BALD token on the Base blockchain surged in price, gaining over 4 million percent from issuance to its peak. News of the surge spread on social media, attracting traders hoping to profit from the gains. The coin also surged in price following the story of Twitter user @cheatcoiner.eth, who turned $500 into $2 million on $BALD.
However, on July 31 users reported that the token's deployer account had removed liquidity, causing the price to crash to near zero. Similarly, other Base meme coins that were shilled by cheatcoiner rug-pulled, leading to many users losing money.
Some evidence suggests that Sam Bankman Fried of FTX or an Alameda executive may have been involved in the BALD rug pull. Transactions show funds flowing between FTX and the BALD deployer account. The BALD deployer also had a similar writing style to Bankman Fried and was a major yield farmer on DyDx. The BALD deployer account also deposited into FTX during FTX's bank run.
Curve’s crvUSD Briefly Depegs After Protocol Exploit
Curve Finance's crvUSD stablecoin briefly dropped in value on August 3 amid uncertainty after an exploit at the protocol. The stablecoin fell as much as 0.35% before regaining its peg to the U.S. dollar.
Curve uses an algorithm called PegKeeper to maintain the crvUSD peg by managing interest rates and liquidation ratios based on supply and demand. Curve Finance compared the crvUSD event to a similar drop in the value of USD Coin in March stemming from the Silicon Valley Bank collapse. The crvUSD had a smaller 0.35% dip compared to that event.
The crvUSD is facing its first stress test since launching in May as Curve Finance suffered a hack on July 30. In the aftermath, Curve's governance token CRV dropped 20.91%. Many wondered if there would be a domino effect on other protocols as Curve Finance founder Michael Egorov tried to decrease his stablecoin loan position using CRV as collateral.
Other DeFi protocols have supported Curve during the crisis, with Huobi co-founder Jun Du purchasing $4 million worth of CRV and Aave's Marc Zeller proposing a $2 million CRV purchase by the Aave Treasury.
Coinbase Launches Official Mainnet Bridge UI, Partners with Coca-Cola, Atari, and Others
Coinbase's Base network has released a user interface (UI) for its bridge, allowing end users to access the network for the first time without using developer tools. Base has set August 9 as its official launch date.
As Coinbase prepares to launch the mainnet, it has partnered with brands like Coca-Cola, Atari, OpenSea, Pixelmon, and Showtime to offer daily on-chain collectible mints. The mints will highlight art, music, gaming, and more leading up to the August 9 launch. The daily mints are part of an "Onchain Summer" initiative.
As part of the launch, Base will award over 100 Ether, worth around $184,000, in grants to developers and content creators during this month-long "Onchain Summer" celebration.
In Other Blockchain & DeFi News…
Twitch Prohibits Gambling Promotions Including CS:GO Skins, Community Divided
Twitch has introduced new community guidelines that prohibit streamers from promoting websites dedicated to skin gambling. The rules apply to all streamers and ban the sponsorship or promotion of skin gambling sites for games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Twitch explained the move follows renewed interest in CSGO gambling due to Valve's release of CS:GO 2 earlier this summer.
Previously, Twitch had not enforced gambling violations, but the new guidelines suggest that will change. A YouTube video found that around 75% of the top 300 CS:GO streamers on Twitch have sponsorships from skin gambling sites, some with up to five sponsorships. Another video showed how easy it is for kids to sign up and bet on these sites.
The skin gambling scene has thrived thanks to Counter-Strike and Valve's neutral stance. At this point, Twitch has not disclosed any penalties for rule violations or suspended any CS:GO streamers retroactively. Twitch and Valve have not yet provided clarification on the new rules.
Nintendo's New Console is Reportedly Launching in the Second Half of 2024
Nintendo's new game console is reportedly scheduled to launch in the second half of 2024.
Sources familiar with the matter told VGC that the new hardware is on track to release next year. Eurogamer's sources also aligned with that launch window prediction.
The console will reportedly still be usable as a portable device like the Nintendo Switch with an LCD screen and cartridge slot for physical games.
Developer kits for the Switch successor have been distributed. It's unknown if the new system will be backward compatible.
In June, Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa hinted at backward compatibility, saying Nintendo wanted to help consumers "smoothly transition" to the next generation console while still using their accounts.
Lara Croft, Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg, And 21 Savage Join the Roster in Call Of Duty: MW2 And Warzone
Tomb Raider's Lara Croft, Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg, and 21 Savage will join Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone as playable operators during Season 5, which begins August 2.
Lara Croft will arrive mid-season as an operator bundle, while 21 Savage will also come in an operator bundle. Snoop Dogg will launch with the season and Nicki Minaj will arrive "in-season."
Season 5 celebrates 50 years of hip-hop. Anyone who logs in 4 separate days between August 7-16 will receive a free gift including War Tracks from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, and a Weapon Blueprint.
Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg, and 21 Savage recorded voiceover work for their operators.
Season 5 will add 4 new maps at launch - 2 core maps and 2 gunfight maps - plus a mid-season core map. More operators, weapons, game modes, and content will be added.
This season will also feature a special event revealing the 2023 Call of Duty game. The event will have players join Shadow Company to secure a chemical weapon threat.
The new season launches August 2 for Modern Warfare 2 and Warzone on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.
In Other Gaming News…
Web3, Metaverse, and NFTs
Animoca’s nWay Launching Web3 Mech Game “Wreck League”
Wreck League, an upcoming Web3 fighting game from developer nWay, lets players build, own, and battle mechs in real time on PC, Mac, and Android devices. Players assemble mech parts into full mechs that can have over 1.5 quadrillion combinations.
The game has two versions: a Web3 version requiring NFT ownership for tournaments and a free Web2 version without NFTs. Players can create mech NFTs and sell copies of those mechs in the Web2 store, earning a cut of revenue.
In Season 1, Yuga Labs' Yugaverse mechs will be available. Players can collect mech parts and assemble them to mint full mech NFTs. Yuga Labs characters like Bored Apes will have special helmets in the game.
The Web2 store acts as a bridge between Web3 and Web2 players. Web2 players buy mechs created by Web3 players, who earn a cut. Both developers and NFT players can create mech content. Kim aims to unite the communities through a symbiotic relationship, with Web2 players realizing value on the Web3 side over time.
Wreck League is planned for release in Fall 2023.
Bandai Namco Partners with Oasys for NFT Pet Game 'RYUZO'
Video game company Bandai Namco has partnered with Oasys, a gaming blockchain network, to develop RYUZO, an AI-driven virtual pet game centered on NFT digital creatures called RYU.
The game was launched by Bandai Namco Research in collaboration with Attructure and published by Double Jump.Tokyo. Before launch, 10,000 digital NFT eggs (MARYU) were airdropped to Oasys' initial NFT series holders.
Once hatched, the RYU creatures are soulbound to their original wallet and cannot be transferred or sold. Like Tamagotchi pets, RYU evolves based on user interactions. Users can feed and race the creatures.
The AI enables the MARYU creatures to learn new skills, offering a more advanced virtual pet experience. Players can generate new MARYU generations in the game.
Though the nurturing phase ends in a year, the creatures remain active after. Oasys plans future collaborations and NFT releases. The first collaboration is a crossover event with the blockchain game Brave Frontier Heroes, indicating Oasys intends to extend reach and engagement through partnerships.
Amazon Prime Partners with ‘Mojo Melee’ to Give Out Free NFTs to Prime Subscribers
Mojo Melee, a casual auto battler game built on Polygon, has partnered with Amazon to offer free NFTs and in-game currency to Amazon Prime subscribers. The first promotion gives Prime subscribers who create a new Mojo Melee player account one NFT for the Gwyn Rockhopper champion character as well as 885 Ore in-game currency. Normally players must level up before being able to mint NFT champions.
The Amazon deal will last 6 months and include additional monthly NFT and content drops, giving Prime subscribers an advantage. Mojo Melee is playable via web browsers and an Android app, combining elements of chess and real-time strategy games. Developers Mystic Moose describe it as a streamlined introduction to the auto battler genre.
This isn't the first time Amazon Prime Gaming has partnered with a game to offer free NFTs. Mythical Games' Blankos Block Party has offered Prime subscribers free NFT avatars and accessories. Amazon is reportedly looking to launch its own NFT marketplace but those plans have yet to materialize.
In Other Web3, Metaverse, and NFT News…
Legal Landscape, Policies, and Regulation
Generative AI Services Pulled from App Store in China Ahead of New Regulations
Multiple generative AI apps have been removed from Apple's China App Store, two weeks before new generative AI regulations take effect on August 15.
Apple sent developers notices saying their apps were removed for violating the new regulations by not having the required permit. Apple cited the new licensing requirements, telling OpenCat its ChatGPT-based app did not have the required permit to operate in China from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
China has been leading efforts to regulate the generative AI space as apps using large language models like ChatGPT have grown popular there. The unpredictable nature of these models is a concern for China's censors. China has already imposed licensing requirements in other areas like video games.
It remains unclear what criteria will be needed for a generative AI license, but the new regulations are likely to deter many developers, especially independent ones, leaving the market to deep-pocketed internet giants who can navigate compliance.
SEC Charges Hex Founder Richard Heart With $1 Billion Unregistered Securities Offering
The SEC has charged Richard Heart, founder of the Hex project, with conducting unregistered securities offerings that raised over $1 billion. Heart and his PulseChain project are also charged with misusing $12 million in offering proceeds to buy luxury goods including a 555-carat black diamond.
Heart began marketing Hex in 2018 claiming it was a "high-yield blockchain certificate of deposit" designed to make people "rich." The SEC takes issue with Heart promoting a 38% staking reward and urging investors to "sacrifice" crypto instead of investing. The SEC alleges Heart defrauded investors by spending their assets on luxury goods.
The SEC lawsuit contains frequent quotes from Heart's YouTube streams where he promoted Hex as a way to "get rich." The SEC says Hex meets the Howey test for being a security.
Allegations share that Heart spent $3.4 million in PulseChain offering proceeds on luxury cars and watches. Heart also promoted the unregistered PulseX offering by predicting 10,000x returns. The SEC notes Hex, PulseChain, and PulseX have massively depreciated in value.
The SEC is demanding a jury trial and wants to permanently bar Heart and his projects from selling crypto securities, recover ill-gotten gains, and impose civil penalties.
US DoJ Fears a Run on Binance if Prosecutors Bring Fraud Charges
The Department of Justice is reportedly considering charging crypto exchange Binance with fraud but hesitating due to concerns an indictment could cause a run similar to FTX, harming consumers. Officials are reportedly considering fines or non-prosecution deals instead of criminal charges to reduce harm.
Binance was already the target of a probe for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Russia. The SEC sued Binance in June for allegedly offering unregistered securities and the CFTC targeted Binance and its CEO in March for violating regulations.
It's unclear what criminal charges against Binance or its CEO could mean for crypto. No charges had been filed against Binance at publication. Binance launched Binance Japan on Aug 1.
The prices of BNB and Bitcoin both dropped around 2.5% immediately after the report about possible fraud charges against Binance.
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