December 30, 2023
Issue No. 85
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
Sipher Team Wraps up 2023 with a BANG!
Sipher recapped their achievements and milestones in 2023. It was a challenging year but the team remained passionate and heads down in building the game. 2023 saw continuous progress on the game despite market conditions. The $SIPHER chart grew even though marketing efforts were not prioritized over the past couple of years to focus on development.
They also looked forward to upcoming developments in the Final Closed Alpha testing and beyond in 2024. In this upcoming Final Closed Alpha players can expect new Ion Surge abilities, a competitive 1v1v1 Arena PvP mode, and an in-game leaderboard to showcase the top performers. Additional features included new corruption gameplay, banners, character augments, UI upgrades, and more.
In their messages, the leadership team thanked supporters and recapped the year. The Community Manager expressed gratitude for the passion and involvement that has helped shape Sipher.
Make sure to check out the full report 👇🏻
SIPHER WRAPPED 2023
Hello, Sipherians! 2023 has been full of challenges but we are excited as ever for what’s to come for Sipher Odyssey. Join us as we recap all the amazing achievements in 2023 and cheers to exciting times ahead in 2024!
A personal note from @Trewco_:
Wishing everyone a Happy New Year as we look ahead in anticipation of upcoming milestones. With your continued support, we are confident that 2024 will be a landmark year in fully delivering the Sipher vision and leaving our mark on the industry. Thank you to all of our supporters for being part of the journey so far! ❤️
Microsoft Releases Copilot Apps, Reportedly Working on AI PCs
Microsoft has launched dedicated Copilot apps for Android and iOS, allowing users to access the AI chatbot without needing the Bing mobile app. The Android app brings ChatGPT-like conversation abilities as well as image generation through DALL-E 3 and text drafting assistance to mobile. Unlike ChatGPT's free tier, Copilot provides access to OpenAI's latest GPT-4 model without payment.
Microsoft's new Copilot apps come after it rebranded Bing Chat to Copilot and developed a standalone web experience separate from Bing Search. The iOS app launch followed just days later and also lets Apple users communicate with Copilot, generate images, summarize text, and access GPT-4 capabilities.
In other news, upcoming Surface devices will reportedly be Microsoft's first true "AI PCs" with next-gen neural processing units and Arm-based Qualcomm chips designed to run future Windows AI features. New Surface Pro 10 and Laptop 6 models launching next year will have Intel options as well. The Surface Pro 10 may have a brighter higher resolution display with rounded corners while the Laptop 6 screen increases slightly to 13.8 inches. Both are expected to include dedicated buttons to open Copilot and new ports. More significant Surface Pro redesigns could come in 2025 along with a refreshed Laptop Studio.
OpenAI Seeks Funding, Could Value the Company at over $100B
Just weeks after facing a dramatic leadership crisis that saw the brief ousting and reinstatement of CEO Sam Altman, OpenAI is now seeking fresh funding that could value the company at over $100 billion. This would make OpenAI the second largest US startup by valuation after SpaceX.
OpenAI is in talks with investors to secure new funding, according to a Bloomberg report citing unnamed sources. The company has surged in prominence due to models like ChatGPT and received a $10 billion investment from Microsoft earlier this year. However, it recently navigated turbulent waters when Altman was suddenly removed by the board before being reinstated days later after significant backlash.
OpenAI is also exploring a $8-10 billion chip project called Tigris through discussions with Abu Dhabi AI firm G42. This capital would allow the development of customized hardware to power its technologies. Investor enthusiasm for AI helped both the S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq indexes rally strongly this year in defiance of recession predictions and interest rate hikes.
Fresh funding at a $100 billion valuation would position OpenAI as the second largest US startup, cementing its leadership in the fast-growing AI sector following Microsoft's major investment. However, the company must stabilize its management structure after its recent board reversal and leadership crisis.
Salesforce Launches Campaign to Demand "More from AI”
Salesforce is raising the bar on ethical and trustworthy artificial intelligence with its new "Ask More of AI" initiative. As companies rush headlong into AI, Salesforce is calling for a more thoughtful approach that maintains customer trust.
According to the company's launch messaging, there are bigger questions to address than just how to implement and monetize AI. Key concerns include transparent and secure data usage as well as data privacy.
Salesforce advocates building "trusted data, trusted architecture, and trusted experiences" into AI systems. This means combining internal data with real-time external feeds, implementing security controls from the start, and fostering long-term customer relationships through data protection.
As part of the campaign, Salesforce will offer guidance from industry leaders on critical issues like trust, privacy, and bias. The goal is to help companies ethically unlock AI's potential while upholding security and transparency standards.
In a statement, Salesforce pledged to "earn and maintain customer trust by providing accurate, secure, transparent and ethical AI solutions." The company urges others to join the "trust revolution" through online conversations using the hashtag #AskMoreOfAI.
Only time will tell if Salesforce's principles help boost the adoption of trustworthy AI practices across the sector. However, the campaign highlights growing demands for accountability as technologies become more integrated into daily life.
In Other AI News…
Armored Core VI Online Update — New PvP Maps, Ranked Matchmaking, and More
FromSoftware has released a new update for Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon that focuses on improving the online multiplayer experience. The free update adds ranked matchmaking and a ranked leaderboard to facilitate competitive play across PlayStation, Xbox, and PC platforms where the game is available.
Players can now climb the rankings and show off their skills against other pilots. The update also includes new parts to customize mech loadouts with enhanced abilities. Additionally, several new multiplayer maps have been added for PvP combat in the online arena.
The trailer highlights some of the new content coming in the ranked update, showing off enhanced mech abilities and intense fight sequences across the additional maps. Pilots can now battle it out in slick urban environments surrounded by towering buildings or amid colorful vistas with hazards like water and cliffs.
This provides existing Armored Core VI players who have finished the main campaign with new challenges and progression paths in the game's robust online suites. The focus on ranked modes, customization, and fresh battlefields gives pilots incentive to return and test their metal against rivals on the reworked competitive multiplayer ladder.
Slay the Spire: Downfall Mod was Spreading Malware
The popular Downfall mod for Slay the Spire was recently exploited to spread malware to players via a security breach. Table9, the mod's developer, informed users that on Christmas Day, hackers hijacked the Downfall Steam page and Discord/Steam accounts to seed malicious files triggering password theft from browsers and messaging apps. Files containing "password" were also targeted.
During the breach, players encountered a suspicious Unity library installer popup. Table9 advised fully disconnecting from the internet when investigating computer files made by the malware. The developers' accounts were hijacked, slowing initial warnings to players. However, Table9 contained the breach and later reversed the hack, declaring Downfall safe to download again.
Most antivirus software blocked the malware from spreading online, so "[players] weren't automatically damaged." Still, personal info leakage represents a troubling rise in hijackings affecting the gaming community. Just last week, Insomniac faced a security incident spilling workers' private records as well as details on unreleased projects. As digital threats grow bolder, developers must shore up protections while informing players of risks.
Fallout: London Gets April 2024 Release Date in New Trailer
The ambitious Fallout: London mod overhauls Fallout 4 with a new setting in the historic city. After revealing the project in 2021 and sharing a 2023 release window the previous year, the mod's developer Team FOLON has provided an update announcing an April 2024 launch date.
In a new trailer, they showcase more areas of London like well-known landmarks alongside new enemies, weapons, and other additions. Team FOLON explained the date change from a planned 2023 release in a statement, noting scripting team members faced difficulties due to regional conflicts that slowed progress. To catch up, they reorganized teams but lost testing time.
The team is committed to delivering a polished experience on the first release and wants to avoid issues other projects have faced. They see the new April 23, 2024 launch as allowing sufficient time for robust testing. It also means Fallout: London will debut closer to the premiere of the Amazon Fallout television series on April 12.
Despite missing their original window, enthusiasts now have a confirmed date to look forward to fully exploring a new vision of post-apocalyptic London within the familiar Fallout 4 framework. The mod aims to provide an extensive new story and location for players while upholding high quality.
In Other Gaming News…
Web3, Metaverse, and NFTs
Analysts Predict Crypto Users to Reach Nearly 1B in 2024
Analysts from crypto exchange Bitfinex project that the number of global cryptocurrency users will significantly increase over the next few years. As of December 2023, their report found there were approximately 575 million crypto owners worldwide, up from 432 million at the start of the year. If positive market trends continue, Bitfinex analysts forecast the number of users could climb to between 850-950 million by 2024.
They cite increasing global interest and acceptance of digital assets as fueling these predicted gains. Figures from research firm Statista corroborate ongoing growth, projecting over 833 million crypto users in 2024 and nearly 1 billion by 2028. Recent decades have seen exceptional expansion of individuals engaging with blockchain technologies and virtual currencies.
Bitfinex analysts also note investment activity growing within the space. Should a much-anticipated US Bitcoin ETF gain approval, it could surpass forecasted inflows based on historical charts by granting crypto access to the $30 trillion American advisory market according to Grayscale CEO Michael Sonnenshein. While economic headwinds in 2023 challenged the industry, many industry observers believe conditions are ripe for the next leg of widespread crypto adoption in the next few years if trends of rising participation continue.
Trump Dumps Millions in ETH Holdings
Former president Donald Trump appears to be exiting his cryptocurrency holdings after a failed third attempt to boost his NFT business. Blockchain analysis from Arkham shows Trump has been sending over $2 million worth of Ethereum to Coinbase in the last three weeks from NFT royalties, having sold over 1,000 ETH.
While he still retains around $2.2 million spread across ETH, WETH, MAGA coin, Pepecoin, and other assets, this signals a move away from crypto. His first two NFT drops saw initial success before losing value when he launched a 100,000-piece "Mugshot Edition" collection this month, indicating fatigue with Trump NFTs had set in.
The collection has sold less than half its pieces so far, as prices for his older NFTs also started falling after the announcement. Some online critics scolded Trump for not holding onto Ethereum longer or switching to rival blockchain Solana.
His earlier NFT drops gained value after debuting in December 2021 and April 2022, but the third launched around the same price as its initial mint despite featuring artifacts from his recent arrest. Trump has not publicly explained the recent crypto sell-offs, though he mentioned owing over $100 million in legal fees due to ongoing criminal cases against him.
The blockchain sales represent a changing crypto strategy after unsatisfactory results in reviving interest for his NFT business with collectibles capitalizing on his arrests and prosecutions.
ARK Invest Sells GBTC Holdings to Invest into Bitcoin ETF
ARK Invest, led by Cathie Wood, has fully liquidated its $200 million position in Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) shares. The investment firm took half of the funds, around $100 million, and invested it in the Bitcoin Futures ETF Bito. This makes ARK Invest the second largest holder of Bito, according to Bloomberg analyst Eric Balchunas, who sees the move as temporary as ARK waits for a more liquid portfolio option.
ARK began offloading GBTC shares in October when Bitcoin hit $34,000, selling over $30 million worth from its ARK Next Generation Internet ETF. In addition to selling off GBTC, ARK also liquidated $27.5 million in Coinbase stock from the same ETF. This comes as speculation intensifies around the approval of a spot Bitcoin ETF by the January 10th, 2024 deadline. Analysts like Balchunas give high odds of this occurring.
Cathie Wood, a known Bitcoin advocate, has said the chances of a spot ETF approval are promising. However, in the short term, growing anticipation could negatively impact Bitcoin's price. ARK's positioning suggests preparations for greater access to crypto markets pending regulatory green lights.
In Other Web3 & Metaverse News…
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