November 18, 2023
Issue No. 79
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
ArtVenture Releases Miss Universe Feature that Transforms you into a Queen 👑
The tool analyzes a user's uploaded facial image and seamlessly adds the relevant style for an evening gown, interview dress, bikini, talent, or coronation outfit.
A #WeAreAllMissUniverse campaign is underway, to celebrate the launch of the tool and the upcoming Miss Universe 72 pageant. This campaign is a fun way to celebrate while promoting inclusivity.
Check out the details below 👇
Meta Teases New AI-powered Editing Tools for Facebook and Instagram
Meta will introduce new AI-powered editing tools to Facebook and Instagram using their Emu image generation model. Emu Edit allows users to precisely alter images through text inputs like "turn the dog into a panda" without selecting areas. It can identify objects to edit while preserving other details. Emu Video can generate videos from text prompts or reference images.
Zuckerberg demonstrated Emu Edit, which looks similar to existing Adobe and Google tools for removing and replacing objects. Unlike manual selection, Emu Edit identifies sections to edit based on a prompt without input. Meta says it focuses changes only on relevant areas like adding text to a hat without altering the design.
Emu Video reportedly makes "high-quality" social videos, though quality is subjective. Results appear an improvement over Meta's previous rough Make-A-Video animations. No timeline was given for features on Facebook and Instagram.
Introducing image editing directly benefits users versus third-party services. Emu's capabilities integrate generative AI seamlessly into the social experience. This allows convenient creation and editing tools without leaving the platforms.
Realtime Generative AI Art is Here!
The AI art community is excited about LCM-LoRA, a new technique developed by IIIS Tsinghua University and HuggingFace researchers. It enables real-time generative AI art creation through apps like Krea.AI and Fal.AI.
Users can paint simple sketches or shapes alongside text, and the apps will automatically render different, new AI art instantly even when shapes/lines are moved. This works for 2D images and potentially 3D assets too, speeding up production in films, games, and more. Experts commented this development will drastically change and unleash a new era of generative AI.
LCM-LoRA reduces the sampling steps AI models need to transform the source material into high-quality images. It works by accelerating the popular Stable Diffusion model and its variants, allowing them to generate eye-catching results in real time through fewer computational resources. As a "universal training-free acceleration module," it can plug into various Stable Diffusion implementations. While promising for Stable Diffusion, it remains unclear if it can extend to proprietary models like DALL-E 3 or Midjourney. The early demos from apps integrated with LCM-LoRA suggest it enables groundbreaking real-time AI art creation.
‘Lyria’, a New Gen-AI Model for Music by Deepmind and YouTube
Google DeepMind unveiled its newest AI system for music generation called Lyria. It can generate high-quality vocals, lyrics, and musical backing mimicking popular artists' styles. Experiments on YouTube Shorts include "Dream Track", letting creators generate 30-second songs in the voices of artists like Charlie Puth and Demi Lovato. An NVIDIA researcher said Lyria could unlock capabilities like text-based editing and style transfer seen in image models.
Lyria and similar tools could revolutionize the music industry by empowering artists through advanced creation tools. Partnering with YouTube could redefine music streaming and consumption, fostering closer fan relationships. This disruption to traditional distribution could create new opportunities. It reinforces Google's leadership in applying AI creatively.
DeepMind uses SynthID, originally for images, to watermark AI music, ensuring traceability to demonstrate responsibility. They affirmed continued engagement in standard-setting for ethical development and deployment.
Dream Track gives limited creators AI instrumentals applying topics and artists. Music AI tools released later include generating instrumentation from humming, creating ensembles from MIDI input, and backing tracks for vocals. YouTube emphasizes artists' testing input on evaluating results and experiences.
Microsoft Announces More AI Breakthroughs During their Ignite Conference
Microsoft's Ignite conference showed its vision for generative AI leadership. Announcements strengthened infrastructure with in-house Maia and Cobalt chips for efficient enterprise AI. Maia is an AI-focused GPU for cloud training and inference of generative workloads. Cobalt is an Arm-based general CPU. Nvidia launched an AI foundry service on Azure with new models, helping enterprises build custom AI apps tapping enterprise data with RAG.
Microsoft enhanced data security and unified threat intelligence across security apps and clouds using generative AI. New Purview upgrades let Copilot users control data access and automatically classify sensitive responses. Security Copilot and Defender XDR use AI to identify, detect, and respond to threats across applications, clouds, and hybrid clouds in real-time. Deeper app integrations allow easier access to sales and service data across Microsoft 365 than before.
Microsoft and Google joined Onehouse supporting the OneTable open-source project, which could reshape cloud data lakes through consistently formatted reliable data needed for all AI projects. Mirroring enables database replication across proprietary sources for cheaper data consolidation in Azure Fabric.
Atlas Raises $6M for its 3D Generative AI Platform
Atlas, a 3D generative AI platform, has emerged from stealth with $6 million in seed funding. The funding consisted of two rounds led by venture capital firms 6th Man Ventures and Collab+Currency. Based in Vienna, Atlas was founded in 2021 by Ben James with a background in architecture and self-taught coding skills. The platform partners with game developers and brands to build virtual worlds much faster using traditional methods.
Atlas allows the creation of detailed 3D models from reference images and text descriptions. Its proprietary software was created in-house with expertise in AI, gaming, and design to streamline workflows for creators. Past projects saw a 200x increase in speed. Current partners providing funding include Consortium 9 and Square Enix, and Atlas also works with small indie game studios. Using custom 3D generative engines, partners can generate consistent virtual assets ready for deployment.
In Other AI News…
Game Awards' Game of the Year 2023 Nominees Announced
The Game Awards 2023 Game of the Year nominations have been unveiled, reflecting the highly competitive landscape the gaming industry has experienced this year. With a plethora of high-quality releases from both AAA developers and indie studios, the gaming landscape has been characterized by a diverse array of genres, from survival horror to traditional RPGs.
Alan Wake 2, released just a few weeks ago, has quickly garnered recognition as one of the most experimental and original games of the year. Following Alan Wake and newcomer Saga Anderson, the game explores the mysteries of a cult and The Dark Presence, a monstrous force influenced by fiction.
Baldur's Gate 3, although currently available only on PC and PS5, has become one of the best-received titles of 2023, designed for RPG enthusiasts with a focus on freedom of choice and impactful decision-making.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom successfully blends elements from Breath of the Wild while introducing new content and mechanics, making it a standout title for Nintendo at TGA 2023.
Spider-Man 2, from a technical standpoint, stands out with minimal frame drops, impressive ray-tracing, and a highly detailed digital rendition of New York City, showcasing the capabilities of the PlayStation 5.
Resident Evil 4 Remake, while a remake rather than an original game, has received stellar reviews and represents another success for Capcom.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the second Nintendo game nominated for GOTY, continues the franchise's legacy with stunning visuals, vibrant colors, and expressive character designs.
KOTOR Remake Reportedly Not Under Development
The situation surrounding Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic Remake takes a concerning turn as reports indicate that the game is currently not in development. Journalist Jeff Grubb asserts on the Game Mess Mornings podcast that no studio is actively working on the project, refuting previous claims of a new team being assigned to the remake. Grubb emphasizes that there is no ongoing development for the game at any studio, raising questions about its future.
The removal of the reveal trailer from Sony's YouTube channel adds to the uncertainty. While Sony attributed the removal to copyright issues with the trailer's music, Grubb suggests a deeper connection, hinting at Sony distancing itself from the project. The absence of official statements contributes to the lack of clarity surrounding the fate of the Knights of the Old Republic Remake.
Originally in development at Aspyr Media, the project was reportedly shifted to a Saber Interactive studio in Eastern Europe. However, Grubb's revelation suggests that this move has not resulted in active development and leaves the game's production status in limbo. The CEO of Embracer Group, the parent company of Saber and Aspyr, declined to comment on the state of the KOTOR Remake during an earnings call, further adding to the mystery.
The prevailing lack of transparency and the absence of official communication raise concerns among fans and the gaming community. With key details emerging through unofficial channels, the overall outlook for the Knights of the Old Republic Remake appears grim, and uncertainties persist about the involvement of any company in its development. The possibility of further updates or clarifications from Saber and Embracer remains uncertain, leaving fans in anticipation and doubt about the fate of this highly anticipated Star Wars title.
Persona 5 Tactica Releases as a Tactical Twist for Phantom Thieves
Persona 5 Tactica gracefully extends the Phantom Thieves' legacy, introducing players to a fresh tactical RPG experience in The Kingdoms—a departure from the series' usual social-centric mechanics. This installment retains the signature cartoony visuals and strategic elements, offering a contained yet engaging adventure.
Unlike its predecessors, Tactica forgoes explorable locations between missions, confining players to each Kingdom's hideout. While this simplifies the gameplay, limiting activities to group talks, skill upgrades, and occasional side missions, it feels somewhat lackluster. The absence of a traditional equipment system, apart from purchasable guns, streamlines gameplay but may leave players craving a more immersive experience.
Missions unfold on tile-based battlefields, requiring players to strategically maneuver three party members. Diverse enemy types, including sumo wrestler-inspired Legionnaires, spice up combat scenarios. The importance of tactical positioning is highlighted, with cover playing a pivotal role in protecting characters from enemy onslaughts. The introduction of the Triple Threat, Tactica's take on the All-Out Attack, adds a satisfying strategic layer, especially when executing it with a well-placed triangle formation.
Optional quests creatively challenge players' skill knowledge, adding depth to the gameplay. Tasks like defeating all enemies in one round using the One More system showcase the game's commitment to innovative mechanics. While Tactica could aim for more ambitious gameplay elements, its appealing presentation, humor, and solid performances ensure an enjoyable continuation of the Persona universe. Notably, newcomers Erina and Toshiro shine, contributing to the overall charm of this strategic take on the Phantom Thieves' narrative.
In Other Gaming News…
Web3, Metaverse, and NFTs
Disney Reveals NFT Platform With Dapper Labs, Including Star Wars and Pixar
Disney announced a partnership with Dapper Labs to launch Disney Pinnacle, an NFT collectibles platform. Inspired by physical pins sold at Disney parks, Pinnacle will offer digital pins minted as NFTs on Flow blockchain like NBA Top Shot. Pinnacle will feature characters from Disney, Pixar, and Star Wars such as Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Darth Vader.
Pinnacle was designed for mobile, unlike Top Shot which launched on the web. It will have similar formats to Dapper's other platforms but be optimized for phones with new economy and accessibility features for collectors. Ridhima Kahn introduced Disney to Dapper when at Andreessen Horowitz, later helping facilitate the partnership when joining Dapper.
Dapper is known for NBA Top Shot's success during the 2021 NFT boom. It built Flow blockchain to handle broader consumer applications. The announcement comes as the NFT market shows signs of recovery from the 2022 downturn. Gharegozlou believes the next wave of ownership-based apps and platforms will be more polished than early introductions of NFTs. Pinnacle is opening a waitlist and will gradually onboard beta users before the full launch, though no timeline was given.
JPMorgan Collaborates with Axelar, Oasis, Layer Zero, and Ava Labs to Demo Cross-Chain Funds Tokenization
JPMorgan collaborated with blockchain firms Axelar, Oasis Pro, and Provenance Blockchain to demonstrate how asset managers could tokenize funds on various blockchains. Using Axelar's interoperability, they managed portfolios and executed trades across tokenized assets on Provenance's private blockchain. Oasis Pro handled the actual tokenization of assets like Apollo funds.
The demonstration allowed wealth managers to purchase and rebalance tokenized positions across multiple chains. JPMorgan aims to create efficient solutions through personalized, scalable portfolios regardless of asset class or location. Tyrone Lobban said the goal is better outcomes for asset/wealth managers and investors.
Additional participants in the demo included LayerZero, Ava Labs, Biconomy, and WisdomTree. It was part of Project Guardian led by MAS to explore decentralized finance opportunities and risks. The announcement highlighted growing traditional finance interest in blockchain.
Onyx used Axelar for interoperability with Provenance Blockchain Zone. Oasis Pro implemented the actual tokenization on that blockchain. Anthony Moro called it the first such interoperable institutional solution. Provenance Blockchain has supported over $16 billion in transactions with $9 billion in on-chain assets.
Game Distribution Platform G2A Launches Gaming-focused NFT Marketplace
Digital game vendor G2A has launched an NFT marketplace for Web3 games called G2A Geekverse. The marketplace aims to showcase and provide information on curated Web3 games while allowing gamers to buy and sell game-related NFT assets. G2A CEO Bartosz Skwarczek said the company has followed blockchain gaming since CryptoKitties and found gamers already engage in the sector despite criticism.
G2A Geekverse intends to serve as an online space where fans can learn about the best Web3 games and participate in the NFT economies of partnered games. Traditional game distributors have opened to Web3 gaming in 2023. In July, Google Play started accepting certain NFT games allowing NFT sales and earnings, but prohibits NFT gambling.
G2A Geekverse aims to similarly promote curated Web3 games and their NFT assets to take advantage of the gaming industry's warming outlook on blockchain technologies.
OKX Unveils ‘X1’ ZK-based L2 Built Using Polygon’s CDK
Crypto exchange OKX has launched a testnet for an Ethereum layer-2 network called X1, which is being developed using Polygon's chain development kit. X1 will use zero-knowledge proofs to validate deposits and withdrawals between layers. OKX is the sixth largest exchange by volume. When the X1 mainnet launches, OKB will be the native coin to pay gas fees.
X1 utilizes the Polygon CDK, potentially integrating it into Polygon's ecosystem of scaling solutions. OKX will also contribute resources to enhance the CDK technology stack. OKX chief innovation officer Jason Lau stated that X1 will help onboard new users to Web3 by delivering accessible, scalable applications to maintain interoperability.
X1 aims to make developing consumer-friendly dApps easier for developers. OKX previously created OKT Chain, an Ethereum sidechain that uses OKB. Other major exchanges like Binance and Coinbase have also built their own networks, with Binance launching BNB Chain in 2019 and Coinbase introducing its layer-2 Base network in August.
Aurory Announces 'Seekers of Tokane' and Epic Games Store Launch
Aurory has launched a new expansion called Seekers of Tokane, adding roguelike RPG gameplay to the Pokémon-inspired battling. In early access, NFT holders can explore procedurally generated lands, battling creatures with their Nefties. Each portal transports players to a unique environment, never the same twice. Players
Seekers of Tokane adds new lands, biomes, and creatures over time. It features avatar customization, upgraded PVP battles, and a Neftie amplifier system. Battles now allow choosing three moves per turn or swapping Nefties. Elements were added, making some Nefties stronger than others based on type.
Technical challenges led Aurory to seek alternative distribution. The browser limits performance for its scale. Seekers of Tokane will launch on Epic Games Store for a smoother experience. While first using Solana, Aurory expanded to Ethereum layer-2 Arbitrum for more users.
Aurory's team drew inspiration from Pokémon's simplicity but added its own systems. Battles were improved based on playing Pokémon games. The procedural generation creates infinite explorable worlds from random land seeds. This expansion brings Aurory closer to the standard for MMOs but on the blockchain.
Dairy Queen Opens NFT Pop-up Store in China
Dairy Queen is partnering with local NFT project Weirdo Ghost Gang to open a pop-up NFT store in Chengdu, China from November 15th to December 31st. The "Ice and Snow Season" themed store will sell co-branded merchandise like a Dairy Queen-WGG ice cream. WGG NFT holders will also receive exclusive perks.
Beyond showcasing Dairy Queen's digital marketing efforts, the collaboration aims to enhance consumer understanding of the WGG NFT art collection. WGG features 5,555 "Lil Ghosts" created by ManesLab in 2021, surpassing over 21,510 ETH in volume. Its floor price is currently 0.485 ETH.
In September, WGG partnered with food retailer Jiujiu Duck Neck to offer discounts for NFT holders at over 500 stores. Last month, it held a "Ghost Season" event displaying NFT art on 3D screens at Beijing's The Box shopping center.
Amid the crypto winter, many NFT projects are partnering with traditional companies for marketing. In March, the Wassies NFT collection opened a namesake pop-up hotel in Singapore offering Wassie-themed rooms for around $100 per night until September. Dairy Queen and WGG aim to similarly promote their brands and NFT collection through their joint store.
In Other Web3 & Metaverse News…
Legal Landscape, Policies, and Regulation
Genesis Files to Reduce $1B in 3AC Claims to $33M
Genesis filed for bankruptcy court approval to reduce the $1 billion claim asserted against it by collapsed hedge fund Three Arrows Capital (3AC) to just $33 million. Genesis argued this settlement is necessary to smooth its Chapter 11 reorganization process. If approved, 3AC would receive an unsecured claim of $33 million, relinquishing over $1 billion in original claims against Genesis.
Genesis was one of 3AC's largest borrowers until 2022. Under the agreement, Genesis would also give up any claims to AVAX and NEAR tokens, and both firms would mutually release each other from liability. However, Genesis reserves the right to claim against Digital Currency Group.
The settlement aims to significantly reduce the risks and expenses of protracted litigation that could stall Genesis' bankruptcy proceedings. It would promptly distribute funds under a reorganization plan upon court approval. Creditors have until November 24 to object before a hearing on November 30.
The proposal comes as the crypto industry still feels the effects of FTX's collapse one year ago. Both Genesis and 3AC suffered losses through exposure to the defunct exchange, with Genesis' derivatives business locked out of $175 million on FTX.
Europe's AI Act Negotiations Reach a Crunch Point Ahead of Pivotal December Talks
Negotiations on the EU's AI Act between the European Parliament and Council are at a difficult stage, with divisive issues around what should be banned, fundamental rights impact assessments, and exceptions for national security. Co-rapporteur Benifei says Parliament will not concede on protections for fundamental rights.
Civil society groups are concerned the Council is opposing recommendations like fully banning remote biometric identification. Industry lobbying, particularly from US giants and European startups Mistral and Aleph Alpha, is pushing governments to oppose regulations for foundational models.
Parliament wants requirements for model creators, but countries like France and Germany are blocking this. Generative AI is a key issue dividing lawmakers due to lobbying pressure. If no deal is reached, the narrow timeline for negotiations risks failing the AI Act before the European elections next year reboots the political landscape.
Key sticking points center on Article 5 prohibitions, fundamental rights impact assessments, and law enforcement exceptions. Compromise may be possible on assessments, but Parliament will not weaken them to the point of ineffectiveness. Simova argues the aim to safeguard rights through product safety law is inherently difficult.
If the Council does not show flexibility on Parliament's red lines by December, Benifei warns the Act risks failing to adequately protect fundamental rights. This could cause the EU to fall behind globally in setting ethical AI governance standards. The next trilogue is December 6 and may make or break the legislation.
Australia Updates Capital Gains Tax Guidance, Includes Wrapped Tokens & DeFi
Australia's Taxation Office has updated its guidance on applying capital gains tax to cryptocurrency to include wrapped tokens and decentralized finance interactions. The new guidance states that wrapping or unwrapping a crypto asset constitutes an exchange triggering a capital gains tax event. This also applies to depositing or withdrawing from liquidity pools as well as receiving rewards from DeFi platforms in crypto.
While the guidance is non-binding and represents the tax office's interpretation rather than legislation, it could discourage Australians from participating in DeFi. Critics argue that wrapping is a core cross-chain function and taxing each use goes beyond what users expect. One lawyer noted the guidance could also apply to transferring tokens to centralized exchanges.
The capital gains tax is based on an individual's tax rate but qualifies for a 50% discount if the asset is held over 12 months. Australia's Board of Taxation will deliver its formal review on digital asset taxation, which will include capital gains tax treatment, to the government by February 2024. This aims to provide fuller clarity on taxing cryptocurrency.
In Other Legal & Regulatory News…
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