September 2, 2023
Issue No. 69
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
Call of Duty Partners with Modulate to use AI to Fight Toxicity in Voice Chats
Call of Duty announced a collaboration with Modulate to add AI-based voice chat moderation using Modulate's ToxMod technology. This is in an effort to address toxicity issues in Call of Duty's voice channels. ToxMod identifies toxic speech like hate speech, harassment, and discrimination in real time and issues penalties. It will complement existing text filtering and reporting systems.
The system aims to create a welcoming environment for all players according to Activision's CTO. An initial beta will start on August 30 in Modern Warfare II and Warzone in North America to test its effectiveness. A full worldwide rollout excluding Asia will coincide with Modern Warfare III's November 10 release, initially supporting English with other languages to be added.
Modulate's CEO praised this advancement in gaming trust and safety measures as a significant step in supporting the large player base of Call of Duty. Over a million accounts have been banned since Modern Warfare II for violating the code of conduct. Updated filtering and Ricochet anti-cheat tech have also helped.
The voice moderation beta focuses on harm rather than keywords. Violating the code through toxic behavior risks penalties according to the security policy. It detects issues like bullying and harassment in real-time but enforcement requires additional review of associated recordings. Players can disable voice chat or check their status and penalties through in-game notifications.
Yahoo Mail introduces new AI-powered capabilities, including a ‘Shopping Saver’ tool
Yahoo introduced new AI tools in Yahoo Mail to help users save time and money. A new Shopping Saver tool surfaces forgotten gift cards, discount codes, and store credits, drafting messages to apply savings after purchases. Nearly half of US adults have unused gift vouchers, aiming to help recoup some of the estimated $23 billion in unused funds.
In addition, upgrades were made to existing search and writing assistant capabilities. The search bar now suggests common questions to guide the search rather than keywords alone. New filters like sender, recipient, and date further refine results.
Writing assistant replies can now be generated in various tones like urgent, grateful, or apologetic, beyond just professional or casual previously. Yahoo developed the generative AI features using Google Cloud's platform, now available to web browsers after testing with iOS users.
GM to use Google AI Chatbot for OnStar Calls Service
General Motors uses Google's AI technologies to handle simple inquiries through its OnStar virtual assistant chatbot. This allows OnStar employees to focus on more complex requests. GM provided details about this collaboration to coincide with Google Cloud's conference.
The automaker introduced the OnStar Interactive Virtual Assistant in 2022, which utilizes Google Cloud's conversational AI. GM envisions future vehicle uses of generative AI to enhance the ownership experience. The assistant is deployed using Dialogflow and can now handle over 1 million customer inquiries monthly in supported US and Canada vehicles.
The virtual assistant addresses mostly simple questions like navigation assistance. However, it is trained to recognize emergency-indicating words and route those calls to specialists. Using AI has decreased wait times and market research found mostly positive customer reactions. It has also freed OnStar specialists to spend more time assisting customers requiring human support.
GM previously said it would use ChatGPT to help owners find handbook information, program functions like garage codes, or integrate calendars. The shift to AI for simpler queries allows OnStar employees to focus on complex requests from customers while maintaining a positive customer service experience.
DoorDash Launches AI-powered Voice Ordering
DoorDash has launched AI-powered voice ordering to address the one in five customers who prefer ordering takeout by phone. However, up to 50% of calls from customers currently go unanswered, resulting in lost business for restaurants. The new solution aims to meet customer demand where they are ordering.
Rajat Shroff from DoorDash said supporting operators by capturing unmet demand through voice ordering investments will help partners grow. AI voice ordering is becoming more common across the industry, with SoundHound partnering with Oracle for drive-thru POS integration allowing order dictation, and Uber Eats launching Alexa integration for order tracking.
DoorDash's offering couples AI with live agents to ensure calls are answered with little wait, allowing operators to gain unmatched customer demand during peak times. The AI can also handle calls so employees can focus on in-store customers. Returning customers can quickly reorder favorites while agents can assist.
DoorDash was founded on AI principles according to its cofounder Tony Xu, who decided in 2013 to build the software on artificial intelligence to bridge the physical and digital worlds. Machine learning has since helped with logistics and navigation of delivery drivers, adjusting restaurant offerings if staff call out, and providing personalized recommendations.
Samsung ‘Samsung Food’ — Meal Planning and Recipe Discovery Platform with AI Features
Samsung has launched a new meal planning and recipe discovery platform called Samsung Food, which is based on the Whisk platform acquired in 2019. The app contains over 160,000 recipes in eight languages. Users can search for recipes, create shopping lists, plan meals, and follow creator content. Recipes can be saved with ingredients added to shopping lists. Integrations allow direct online shopping in some regions.
The Samsung Food website resembles Whisk's interface and app download links still point to Whisk. The app is now available on Samsung's Bespoke refrigerators, allowing meal planning directly on the connected refrigerator screen. Samsung aims to better integrate appliances like microwaves and ovens to customize cooking based on selected recipes.
Tailored recipe search features incorporate "Food AI" personalized to user preferences. For example, dishes can be made vegan-friendly by substituting ingredients or creating fusion dishes across cuisines. By the end of 2023, Samsung intends to integrate the platform with Samsung Health for nutrition logging and diet management. It plans vision AI integration in 2024 to analyze food photos and provide nutritional details, advancing personalization. The platform expands Samsung's efforts in connected home appliances and digital health services.
Snapchat Jumps on the AI Selfie Train with ‘Dreams’
Snapchat launched Dreams, its take on generative AI selfies popularized by apps like Lensa. Located in Memories, Dreams displays AI-generated selfie packs after uploading real photos. The first pack is free, with additional packs costing $1 each. Australians and New Zealanders gained initial access, with a global rollout following.
VP Jack Brody said Snapchat aims to be playful and introduce novel experiences. Early access showed photo packs taking 30 minutes to generate. Quality varied - some didn't capture likeness well while others were funny. Brody implied more options may come as community creation was introduced for lenses.
While My AI uses ChatGPT, Dreams relies on open-source tech with each style made by Snap. Friends can soon be included, requiring agreement even in single player. Terms prohibit using others' photos without consent. Sponsored Dreams are also planned to introduce branded packs.
Snapchat maintains huge daily user growth despite less pop culture attention than peers. Memories content is shared over 280 million times daily, meaning Dreams will introduce millions to generative AI experiences for the first time. It joins competitors rolling out new AI-powered features in their apps and platforms.
In Other AI News…
- Nvidia and AMD say they face new restrictions on AI chip sales
- Quora’s Poe launches bot search, announces enterprise package
- Runway announces ‘Creative Partners Program’ giving select users unlimited plans, new features
- Typeface teams with GrowthLoop and Google Cloud to launch unified ‘GenAI Marketing Solution’
Sipher Odyssey Releases Latest Development Update
In their development update, Ather Labs shared details about the Closed Alpha launch of Sipher Odyssey. A select number of players were invited to participate in the closed alpha testing, with more players being slowly added over time. These playtesters are to provide crucial feedback on shaping the future of the game. Those selected would receive access emails containing instructions and guidelines.
Gameplay progress made during the closed alpha will be periodically reset as new build updates are released to synchronize data. Owners of Sipher Inu and Neko NFTs who connect their wallets will be able to see their tokens represented in-game for the first time.
Players can expect the closed alpha to be available initially across all mobile platforms. The development team seeks player feedback on their experiences to help refine areas like gameplay, features, economy, and more. Both the founder and game director emphasized the importance of community input received during this phase of testing.
Sony Raises PS Plus Prices by up to $40
Sony announced it is raising prices for its PlayStation Plus subscription tiers starting in September. The annual Essential plan will increase from $60 to $80, Extra from $100 to $135, and Premium from $120 to $160. The new rates take effect on September 6th for new subscribers.
For current subscribers, the price hike will not apply until their next renewal date or after November 6th. However, Sony notes that making any changes to subscriptions, such as upgrades or additional time, will result in paying the new higher price immediately.
The company stated the global price increases will allow it to continue offering high-quality games and extra benefits through PlayStation Plus. Sony also pointed out that the annual plans will remain a better value than monthly options.
Launched last year, PlayStation Plus serves as Sony's version of Xbox Game Pass by providing access to a rotating selection of games each month that can be downloaded and played. The lineup for September includes Saints Row, Black Desert: Traveler Edition, and Generation Zero.
Project Mugen Unveils Official Gameplay Reveal Trailer
The official gameplay trailer for the upcoming open-world RPG Project Mugen was revealed. The trailer provided a first look at the game's urban setting and gave players a peek at the story, combat, and anime-style aesthetics.
In the trailer, players take on the role of an Esper known as the "Infinite Trigger" who investigates anomalies and supernatural occurrences threatening the balance of a unique urban paradise. In this world, humans coexist with the supernatural. As an Esper, players will team up with other Espers having different stories to confront the Chaos endangering humanity.
The game involves exploring diverse cities while diving into mysteries and forging memories with companions. Players will embark on a quest to recover lost memories while confronting challenges in various cities. The ultimate goal is to unlock the key to saving the world.
Project Mugen will launch as a full free-to-play title on PC, mobile, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5. The trailer highlighted the vibrant cities, combat, and chance for players to tackle mysteries alongside other Espers with their own individual stories. This provided audiences with a first look at the gameplay and narrative of Project Mugen.
In Other Gaming News…
- Starfield PC Specs Required To Run Bethesda’s Sci-Fi RPG
- Saints Row Developer Volition Games Has Been Shut Down
- Microsoft pulls $1 Xbox Game Pass trial with Starfield on the horizon
- Lenovo takes aim at the ROG Ally with Legion Go gaming handheld
- A Valorant esports team has disbanded despite winning a crucial tournament
Web3, Metaverse, and NFTs
Otherside: Legends of the Mara Open Beta Launching in September
Yuga Labs announced an open beta for Legends of the Mara (LotM) will launch in September, granting Otherdeed land NFT holders another taste of the Otherside metaverse. LotM is a 2D strategy game while Otherside is a large-scale 3D world. It will reveal more about Kodas, which exist on 10% of Otherdeed plots but are not permanently tied to land.
In LotM, players can evolve their Mara into a powerful Kodamara, harvest sediment, and defeat attacking forces. All Otherdeed owners can claim a Vessel to grow into a Mara. Under the right conditions with a catalyst, Maras can evolve into Kodamaras to protect Otherside, though not as powerful as Kodas. There are Hunter, Farmer, and Enchanter Mara types. Evolution depends on the Odiac constellations and consuming seasonal catalysts matching the land's traits.
Yuga Labs shared that LotM will evolve over months with rewards for Otherdeed owners. It first released the coveted Otherdeed NFTs in May 2022, crashing Ethereum networks from heavy demand and minting over $1.26 billion in trades. The experience offers another taste of the in-development Otherside metaverse ahead of its full launch.
Friend.tech Declared ‘Dead’, Arkham Suggests Otherwise
While transaction activity on the Friend.tech social app has declined 95% from its peak, on-chain data shows users continue holding over 3,870 ETH worth of keys, only a 10% drop. Total cumulative volumes have remained flat at around $85 million this week after surging from $2-80 million in the app's first two weeks.
Data indicates total daily returning users, defined as using the app on consecutive days, have nearly doubled in the past week to over 5,000. New users have dropped but returning users have remained steady. New user acquisition has steadily declined since launch, though developers claim over 75% of key holders use the app daily and 50% weekly, with average active key holders spending 30 minutes daily.
While revenue activity has slumped, on-chain data and developers' user metrics suggest core retention and engagement remain healthy despite exaggerated claims of an "exit" by some analysts based solely on revenue metrics. Continued holding and steady recurring usage indicate the platform maintains relevance.
Airline Giant Lufthansa Launches NFT Loyalty Program on Polygon
Lufthansa Group, the parent company of one of the world's largest airlines, launched a public NFT-based loyalty program called Uptrip. All Lufthansa Group airlines including Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, and Swiss International are participating. Passengers can collect digital trading cards themed on destinations, aircraft, and holidays when flying with the airlines.
By collecting all cards in certain themed collections, Uptrip users can unlock perks like free Wi-Fi, lounge access, and redeemable miles. A trading feature will enable filling collection gaps. Uptrip comes from Lufthansa Innovation Group and uses the Polygon blockchain for lower-cost transactions than Ethereum. It was previously soft-launched with over 20,000 testers accumulating over 200,000 cards.
Lufthansa Group already has 36 million members in its traditional program. Uptrip capitalizes on Polygon's popularity for loyalty programs, following launches from Starbucks, McDonald's, Reddit, and others seeking cheaper transactions than Ethereum for digital collectibles rewarding customer engagement.
In Other Web3 & Metaverse News…
Legal Landscape, Policies, and Regulation
Court Grants Grayscale’s Petition for Review in Bitcoin ETF Case Against SEC
In its battle against the SEC blocking its Bitcoin Trust conversion to an ETF, Grayscale won a ruling from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. The firm had sued the SEC in June after being denied, arguing approval of bitcoin futures ETFs but not direct holdings was arbitrary.
The court vacated the SEC's order, meaning the regulator must now review Grayscale's application. CEO Sonnenshein said the legal team would review the decision, calling it a "monumental step" for investors and the Bitcoin ecosystem. A spokesperson said Grayscale will pursue next steps with the SEC.
The SEC said it would review the ruling but did not specify its response. Bitcoin prices rose on the news. The court echoed Grayscale's argument that the SEC did not dispute a 99.9% correlation between bitcoin spot and futures markets. Rejecting this relationship fell short of reasoned decision-making.
During previous oral arguments, Grayscale strategist Verrilli cited the correlation, while an SEC attorney said the causal relationship was unknown. Judge Rao had questioned why Grayscale was wrong on the connection between the markets. An analyst put Grayscale's chances of winning at 70%.
However, the next steps remain unclear as the SEC could potentially deny the application through different reasoning even if deemed insufficient by the courts. The ruling builds industry support but does not guarantee Grayscale's desired outcome.
OpenAI Accused of String of Data Protection Breaches in GDPR Complaint Filed by Privacy Researcher
A complaint was filed with the Polish data protection authority alleging OpenAI's ChatGPT chatbot breaches multiple provisions of the EU's GDPR, including lawful basis, transparency, fairness, access rights, and privacy by design. It argues that OpenAI failed to properly assess risks and notify regulators prior to launch as required.
The complaint cites an incident where ChatGPT provided inaccurate information about the complainant in a biography. When he asked OpenAI to correct errors, it initially blocked his profile but then said corrections were not possible. This ignores individuals' right to rectification under the GDPR.
OpenAI also apparently failed to comprehensively respond to the complainant's subject access request, omitting details about how personal data is used to train models. The complaint argues that OpenAI systematically ignores GDPR obligations regarding training data processing and intends to hide this information.
It further alleges ChatGPT is fundamentally incompatible with GDPR principles by design due to the inability to correct data and lack of protection measures. OpenAI is accused of accepting this non-compliance and testing the tool after production rather than during design.
If violations are confirmed, the complainant hopes the regulator will order OpenAI to fulfill all GDPR rights and investigate whether issues are systemic, requiring lawful processing reforms. It also calls for OpenAI to submit a legally required DPIA.
The complaint aims to properly exercise individual rights and ensure the GDPR system works as intended. It could take the Polish DPA 6-24 months to investigate. OpenAI was contacted for comment but did not respond regarding GDPR compliance, impact assessments, or prior regulator engagement.
Uniswap Lawsuit Dismissed: DeFi Crypto Exchange Not Liable for ‘Scam Tokens’
A class action lawsuit against Uniswap for losses from scam tokens was dismissed. The suit accused the DEX of securities violations for acting as an unregistered broker and allowing token issuers like MXS, BUNNY, and AWF to defraud traders.
Judge Failla said plaintiffs' difficulty was the anonymous nature of issuers. While redress would ideally come from actual defrauders, plaintiffs argued that Uniswap facilitated trades. As a DeFi protocol using blockchain instead of banks, Uniswap is permissionless, enabling anyone to create and list tokens.
While some tokens gain, others crash. A report claimed 97% of Uniswap tokens were "rug pulls" but faced pushback. Failla found fees and a governance token insufficient to establish liability. She declined stretching securities laws, saying concerns were for Congress.
Core smart contracts were distinct from liquidity pools controlled by issuers. Existing law does not address decentralized protocols' smart contracts. Uniswap's core functions could operate lawfully like bitcoin, unlike other tokens.
Failla analogized to payment apps like Venmo not being liable for drug deals using the platform. Regulatory clarity is developing as Gensler warned of DeFi scrutiny. State law claims were dismissed without prejudice, allowing potential resurfacing. The lack of caselaw on DeFi raised open regulatory questions.
In Other Legal News…
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