August 19, 2023
Issue No. 67
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
- AI: ChatGPT in Danger, Could go Bankrupt by 2024
- Blockchain: Ledger Announces U.S. PayPal Integration
- Gaming: Netflix Introduces TV Game Streaming in Limited Beta Test
- Web3, Metaverse, and NFTs: Zynga to Debut Web3 Title “Sugartown”
- Legal Landscape: SEC Delays Bitcoin ETF Approval Deadlines to Early 2024
ChatGPT in Danger, Could go Bankrupt by 2024 at Current Rate of $700K in Daily Expenses
OpenAI spends around $700,000 per day to run ChatGPT. Their costs are currently being covered by recent investments made by companies like Microsoft. However, these investors may stop funding if OpenAI does not become profitable soon, which could cause the company to face bankruptcy by the end of 2024. Microsoft's $10 billion investment is currently keeping OpenAI afloat, but the company's losses have doubled to $540 million since developing ChatGPT. While the CEO no longer owns equity, OpenAI has shifted from a non-profit to a for-profit business model.
Visitor numbers to the ChatGPT website peaked at 1.9 billion in May but have since declined to 1.7 billion in June and 1.5 billion in July. This decline is partly due to companies prohibiting employees from using ChatGPT directly but allowing API access. However, the rise of open-source alternatives provides new competition. Meta's Llama 2 model, available through a partnership with Microsoft, can be used commercially and modified more freely than OpenAI's offering.
Other challenges include GPU shortages limiting OpenAI's ability to improve models. Elon Musk developing a rival chatbot also poses a threat. While the paid version may generate more revenue, the financial viability remains unclear. An IPO could lead to OpenAI's acquisition by a larger company, providing an exit for investors. However, uncertainty remains around OpenAI's ability to become profitable and sustain itself long-term.
Adobe Rolls out New Generative AI Features on Adobe Express
Adobe is now rolling out AI-powered features to Adobe Express, its cloud-based all-in-one design platform, using its Firefly generative AI model. Designed to make content creation more accessible, Adobe Express provides quick templates for social graphics, videos, editing PDFs, and more. The latest version of Express is now available on desktop for free, with plans to roll it out to mobile soon. An Adobe Express Premium subscription is included at no extra cost for existing Creative Cloud members, and an enterprise tier is available.
Users can now generate custom text and image effects using prompts in over 100 languages. Quick actions like automatic background removal and animating from audio are also included. A full list of new features can be found on Adobe's website. In comparison to Canva, which has supported similar AI features since 2019, Adobe Express is still playing catch-up in terms of simplicity and capability. While the generative features can work well, they are not as advanced as Photoshop's Generative Fill tool powered by Firefly. However, Adobe asserts that Firefly is commercially safe since it is entirely trained on Adobe-owned content. This could convince some to use Express over competitors.
Google Introduces New Updates to AI-Powered SGE and is Reportedly Developing Life Advice Tools with DeepMind
Google is introducing several new updates to its AI-powered Search Generative Experience (SGE). One feature allows users to hover over words in AI responses to view definitions and related images to aid understanding. Another update focuses on improving coding information across languages by highlighting syntax. SGE is also getting an experimental feature that aims to help users browse the web by providing an AI-generated list of key points from articles and jumping to relevant sections. This is similar to existing content highlighting but powered by AI. Publishers can opt out of this feature for paywalled content. Rival Bing Chat already offers a comparable article summarization feature.
In other news, Google's DeepMind unit is reportedly developing at least 21 different generative AI tools focused on providing life advice, planning assistance, and tutoring according to the New York Times. Over 100 Ph.D.s have been working on the project which is being tested through Scale AI to examine if the tools can offer help with relationships and intimate questions. However, Google emphasizes the tools are not intended for therapeutic use and links to mental health resources instead of advice. There is ongoing debate around using AI for medical or therapeutic purposes given past incidents where chatbots provided harmful advice.
In Other AI News…
Blockchain and DeFi
Ledger Announces U.S. PayPal Integration, Lets Users Buy Crypto from Within App
Image Credits: Ledger
Ledger Live has added PayPal as a new fiat on-ramp option for purchasing cryptocurrencies. Previously, Ledger Live supported purchases through partners like MoonPay, Ramp, and Simplex.
Ledger chairman and CEO Pascal Gauthier stated that combining Ledger Live and PayPal will simplify transactions while maintaining security. He said Ledger is committed to simplifying crypto and PayPal aims to facilitate affordable, reliable money movement.
Founded in 2014, Ledger claims to have sold over 6 million of its Ledger Nano hardware wallets since, establishing it as a leading manufacturer. In May, it faced controversy over a secret recovery phrase storage service before clarifying its wallet functionality.
While PayPal debuted its stablecoin PYUSD on August 7th, the August 15th Ledger Live announcement did not list PYUSD as one of the available coins bought through PayPal integration. PayPal's addition continues Ledger Live's expansion of fiat-crypto on-ramps for purchasing digital assets directly in its wallet app without additional withdrawal steps. This aims to streamline the process using PayPal's established online payment network.
Shibarium Ethereum L2 Goes Live on Mainnet, $1.7M ETH Gets ‘Stuck’ in Bridge
Shiba Inu launched the mainnet for its Shibarium Ethereum layer-2 scaling solution on August 16th after months of testing. Shibarium uses a novel proof-of-participation consensus and is designed to interact with Ethereum while providing better scalability and costs. The Shiba Inu community also built a decentralized exchange, native token, metaverse, and game around cryptocurrency.
Prior to launch, over 100 companies were reportedly developing Shibarium. Shiba Inu's developer noted Shibarium incorporates decentralization, interoperability, and user focus like the proposed "everything app" concept, governing the ecosystem through its technology and community framework. Shibarium will utilize Heimdall validators and Bor block production similar to Polygon, with the Tendermint consensus engine and EVM compatibility.
However, Shibarium encountered major issues after launch. Approximately $1.7 million of stuck Ethereum and $762,000 of locked BONE tokens were found. Other users reported RPC node communication problems. Trading volume plunged the Shiba Inu price 8% amid the multi-hour network freeze, though developers claimed the difficulty stemmed from unexpected traffic rather than a specific issue.
As a precaution, moderators restricted some discussions and asked users to connect wallets to participate, implying the problems prevented planned announcements. The launch highlights scalability challenges when blockchain networks face sudden surges.
Sei Network Launches Token and Mainnet Beta, Community Frustrated over Small Airdrop
Sei Labs has unveiled the mainnet beta launch of the Sei network, a Cosmos SDK-based Layer 1 blockchain aiming to facilitate frictionless trading between digital assets. It features built-in front-running prevention. The launch introduced the SEI governance token, trading at a $350M market cap and a $1.9B fully diluted valuation. Korean exchanges like Upbit and Bithumb see strong SEI demand while Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken also listed it.
The project distributed 51% of the 10B total SEI supply through staking rewards, ecosystem initiatives, and airdrops. However, many receiving small allocations vented frustration on social media about airdrop amounts. The team and private investors each received 20% while the 9% foundation portion was also allocated. Notably, the vesting schedule was not released.
In April, Sei Labs raised $30M in two strategic rounds including from Jump Crypto. It expects DEX volumes to rise with ongoing regulatory issues and plans to capitalize on this trend. Over 30 applications are currently live on the network, with further updates anticipated in the second half of 2022. Eligible airdrop recipients can follow blog instructions to claim, though the functionality is not yet live. The launch draws comparisons to Sui, another hyped Layer 1 that debuted in May.
Netflix Introduces TV Game Streaming in Limited Beta Test
Netflix has unveiled a pivotal move into gaming with direct TV game streaming. Gaming chief Mike Verdu announced a limited beta test for members in Canada and the U.K., allowing TV gaming for two games. PC browser gaming support will follow. Unique to Netflix, a smartphone controller app will be used for now, with eventual mouse and keyboard support on PCs.
The beta test includes Night School Studio's narrative adventure game Oxenfree, and a new mystery game called Molehew's Mining Adventure. Netflix aims to make gaming accessible on TVs, computers, and mobiles. This cautious approach is intended to refine technology and controller functions, acknowledging their early game venture.
In contrast to Google's Stadia, which closed three years after launch, Netflix is proceeding with a careful understanding of the complexities of cloud gaming. Their methodical foray into the "Netflix for games" market is a nod to the challenges faced by competitors like Xbox Cloud Gaming and Nvidia's GeForce Now.
Despite the deliberate start, Netflix is committed to gaming, acquiring studios, and developing 16 in-house games. Led by Joseph Staten of Bungie fame, they are working on a significant "AAA multiplatform game and original IP." While Netflix's current gaming lineup leans mobile, this TV expansion signals a potential shift towards titles with existing PC versions, signaling a robust gaming future for the streaming giant.
Wayfinder Early Access Launch Faces Server Issues
"Wayfinder" by Airship Syndicate recently debuted in Early Access on PC and PlayStation but encountered launch hiccups with server problems and instability, inconveniencing players. The development team is actively addressing these issues to enhance the player experience.
As an early access title, Wayfinder is still in development, making it susceptible to certain glitches. Despite this, Airship Syndicate aimed to offer an enjoyable gaming experience. Swiftly responding to crash reports and server disruptions, the team initiated updates and fixes. Due to extended maintenance, temporary server capacity reduction was implemented to ensure stability and accommodate players in the Evenor game world.
The development team thanked players for their patience and advised those encountering the "Maximum player capacity is reached, please try again later" error to wait briefly before retrying. The limited server capacity was maintained overnight for stability and comprehensive issue investigation. A detailed account of the launch and future plans will be provided by the Wayfinder team.
Acknowledging the launch challenges, the Wayfinder team promised a detailed update the next day, outlining the situation and upcoming strategies. Despite initial setbacks, the team is committed to resolving server issues for a seamless gameplay experience. Players should follow Wayfinder's official channels for further updates.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III Revealed with First Trailer
Activision showcased the next Call of Duty title, Modern Warfare III. The game will feature a single-player campaign continuing the story of Modern Warfare II. It introduces a new type of mission called "open combat" that allows players more choices in their play style, such as being stealthy or going in guns blazing. These are meant to complement the more linear story missions the series is known for. Unlike past annual entries, Modern Warfare III is a direct sequel to 2022's Modern Warfare II as the story picks up where it left off.
For multiplayer, Modern Warfare III will launch with 16 maps and modes including "hardpoint" and "kill confirmed" as well as a new 3v3v3 mode. Significantly, multiplayer content and progression will carry over from Modern Warfare II, allowing weapons and operators unlocked in the previous game to transfer. This is a first for the Call of Duty franchise. The zombie mode returns and is the largest map yet, described as an open-world survival experience blending new and classic zombie mechanics.
Activision emphasizes that development across Modern Warfare II and III has been closely coordinated between Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games to continue the narrative and allow progression without disruption between the two titles. Modern Warfare III will launch on November 10th for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC through both Steam and Battle.net.
In Other Gaming News…
Web3, Metaverse, and NFTs
Zynga to Debut Web3 Title “Sugartown”
Zynga announced its first web3 project called Sugartown, a gaming platform and transmedia IP developed specifically for the web3 space.
As one of the first major mobile studios to launch a native web3 title, Sugartown was created by Zynga's in-house web3 division to empower players with on-chain asset ownership through games.
Built on Ethereum, Sugartown will feature various games where players can earn rewards by unlocking in-game tokens. The platform aims to advance web3 through transparency, trust, and accessibility according to its website.
To access Sugartown and its ecosystem, players must collect Oras tokens. These were created when characters accidentally opened a portal to another dimension. Oras can be obtained through allowlists, giveaways on social media, and collaborations. With Oras, players can stake energy to play games and earn Sugar, an in-game currency for rewards. Zynga has not confirmed the total Oras supply but will announce mint details soon.
Sugartown's VP said the launch demonstrates Zynga's continued innovation leadership as the first major mobile developer to create an original IP for web3, aiming to empower players through a sustainable platform of fun games while building an engaged community.
Wreck League Genesis Mint 1 Goes Live, Closes with 50% Boxes Minted
Wreck League's Genesis Mint 1 took place from August 17th to 18th. On the 17th, a pre-queue opened at 8:30 am PT, with the actual mint beginning at 9 am PT and running for 24 hours.
There were 25,000 Majestic boxes available for 150 APE each, containing 10 random mech parts. Additionally, there were 5,000 Booster boxes available for 50 APE each containing 5 random parts.
The mint closed on August 18th with only 50% of all boxes minted. However, the team still sold over $2M worth of boxes, and two more mints are expected for Season 1.
The rarity of purchased boxes will be revealed on August 24th, ranging from common to legendary tiers. However, boxes cannot be opened until September 14th, in which box NFTs shall be burned and the mech parts inside made claimable, allowing users to begin building their mechs.
Koda NFT holders who were snapshotted also received benefits like a rarity boost during the mint. Separately, Koda holders can claim a free Founder's Box from August 31st guaranteed to contain a pre-built Founder's Mech.
McDonald's Is Giving Away Free Soulbound NFTs
McDonald's Singapore is giving away 2000 free Grimace NFT collectibles via their mobile app starting the week of August 21st. Partnering with Bandwagon Labs and artist The Hidden Walls, each NFT will feature the iconic purple character in varying expressions and accessories. Owners will access exclusive treats in the future.
The NFTs will be minted on the Polygon network, though a tutorial video showed connecting to Ethereum. Importantly, each will be a "soulbound" token meaning it cannot be transferred, making it a free keepsake rather than a tradeable asset. Users can participate via a crypto wallet like MetaMask connected via Web3Auth, abstracting the blockchain aspects.
Bandwagon Labs founder Clarence Chan noted the minting process happens seamlessly in the background. McDonald's Singapore senior director of Marketing Drina Chee said they're excited to bring Grimace closer to fans through these unique digital collectibles.
McDonald's has experimented with NFTs in other regions previously. Their Hong Kong branch debuted a virtual world in The Sandbox game incorporating NFTs in July. The U.S. division released commemorative McRib NFTs in 2021, while France issued pixelated Big Mac artwork.
Broadly, this free Singapore giveaway allows McDonald's to engage customers via the emerging NFT trend and hotly anticipated Grimace remake, without enabling speculation since tokens cannot be transferred beyond initial wallets. It explores brand promotions utilizing new web3 technologies.
In Other Web3 & Metaverse News…
Legal Landscape, Policies, and Regulation
SEC Delays Bitcoin ETF Approval Deadlines to Early 2024
The SEC continues to delay decisions on spot Bitcoin ETF applications, pushing back deadlines into 2024. In June, BlackRock added its application, renewing interest given its size. Others like ARK Invest have also filed but received delays, now with a deadline of January 2024 to approve or deny their application. While the SEC started approving Bitcoin futures ETFs in October 2021, it has never allowed a spot crypto ETF.
Applying firms must engage in negotiations with the SEC, which has the authority to delay up to 240 days by opening proposals to public comments. Some speculate smaller firms may have an edge over incumbents. Past applications faced an uncertain regulatory landscape, and the SEC ultimately rejected the Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust filing in 2013. Part of the challenge is the direct investment a spot ETF enables compared to futures-linked products.
SEC enforcement against major crypto exchanges also shows its greater oversight desires. However, politicians are considering bills to clarify SEC and CFTC roles regarding digital assets. Additionally, a court ruling that XRP is not a security challenge preexisting interpretations.
The applications put the SEC in a powerful gatekeeping position influenced by political dynamics. By August 2022, analysts estimated a 65% chance of approval based partly on BlackRock's filing. Firms anticipate the SEC may approve multiple applications simultaneously to avoid competitive advantages. As regulations develop further through legislation and litigation, both the industry and SEC will need to compromise.
China Tries to Find Balance in Regulating AI while Supporting it
Beijing is set to implement new regulations for AI this week, aiming to balance state control with industry support. The guidelines require companies to register services and undergo security reviews before launching.
Seven agencies will oversee regulation, including reviewing data used to train models. The rules are less stringent than an earlier draft but demonstrate China's proactive approach to AI governance compared to other nations. The U.S. lacks legislation though industry leaders warn of risks from generative AI. China began consulting experts in recent years to develop tailored policies.
The Chinese regulations include labeling synthesized media clearly and disclosing data sources transparently. This addresses concerns about manipulated videos and respecting creators' works. Companies must also establish public complaint mechanisms.
While the U.S.' hands-off approach allowed tech giants to thrive, experts warn of dangers without oversight as AI impacts many aspects of life. European and U.S. policymaking remains early-stage by comparison.
Beijing prioritized AI development and established a multi-year roadmap. Top firms are investigating models after a regulatory crackdown, hoping to prop up China's economy and compete internationally. While U.S. companies like OpenAI currently lead, Chinese equivalents actively develop AI. However, ensuring information control presents challenges as generative models can behave unpredictably. Companies experiment with two-model filtering systems and regulatory spot-checks, and censorship may increasingly incorporate dedicated AI.
Judge Grants SEC Request to File a Motion for Appeal in Ripple Case
In the SEC's ongoing case against Ripple Labs, Judge Analisa Torres granted the SEC's request to file an interlocutory appeal regarding her recent ruling. Such an appeal allows a trial court decision to be reviewed before the full case concludes. The decision permits the SEC to file an appeal motion by August 18th, to which Ripple can respond.
Ripple opposed the potential appeal, arguing interlocutory appeals require a purely legal question, and the SEC cited no new issues. Ripple also claimed immediate appeal would not further the litigation's termination.
In a recent interview, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse expressed belief the SEC faces a lengthy appeals process. He noted the current legal determination establishes XRP as a non-security for retail transactions. According to Garlinghouse, any SEC appeal of this ruling would further solidify Torres' decision. The Judge's granting of an appeal motion allows the SEC to argue for a review of her interpretation of securities law regarding XRP distributions.
In Other Legal & Regulatory News…
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