Epic Games Wins $92M From Google Play. A jury in the Epic Games v. Google antitrust trial has found that Google violated antitrust laws by using its dominant position in the mobile app market to stifle competition and awarded Epic Games $92 million in damages. This is essentially a do-over of the case Epic lost to Apple last year when Apple was allowed to keep its commission structure in place. The difference: this was a jury trial. Google says it will appeal. In an interview with Yahoo after the verdict, Sweeny said Google lost because “they wrote things down.” If the verdict stands, big changes are ahead for the app store business models.
Mistral Raises Another $415M. The French AI startup secured the Series C funding at a $2 B valuation. The round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, with participation from existing investors Bpifrance, Eurazeo, and Partech. Mistral’s technology is designed to be easy to use, even for people who are not familiar with coding or AI. Critics contend there are no guardrails. Mistral, however, maintains that its platform is safe and that users are responsible for the content of their chatbots.
The European Union has finalized a groundbreaking law to regulate AI, potentially setting a global standard. The AI Act aims to balance the rapid advancement of AI technology with necessary oversight and risk management. LLMs must reveal their training data, comply with copyright laws, and provide technical documentation if demanded by regulators. The AI Act also addresses contentious issues like facial recognition, granting exceptions for law enforcement in specific scenarios. Additionally, the legislation differentiates between proprietary and open-source AI models, exempting open-source models from certain restrictions.
OpenAI entered into an agreement with media giant Axel Springer. The deal signifies a dramatic development in the relationship between AI entities and journalism companies. Under this deal, ChatGPT will have access to materials from Axel Springer’s publications, such as Germany’s Bild and Welt, and U.S. sources like Politico and Business Insider. This access will support the development of timely news summaries and further refine its advanced language models. Many leading journalism firms are actively exploring partnerships or compensation models with AI companies, including OpenAI, for the utilization of their content in training sophisticated AI models.
Essential AI Raises $56.5M to build “the Enterprise Brain.” The Series A funding round was led by March Capital including participation from AMD, Franklin Venture Partners, Google, KB Investment, NVIDIA, and Thrive Capital. Essential AI previously raised $8.3 for a total of nearly $65 million in funding raised to date. Essential AI is developing full-stack AI products that quickly learn to increase productivity by automating time-consuming and monotonous workflows.
Tesla’s Humanoid Robot Optimus Can Handle Eggs or Lift a Car. Tesla just posted his remarkable demo of the robot handling eggs – and not breaking them. It has sensors in its fingers.
German Bionic Raises $15M. The company with a country in its. name announced this week it has raised a Series A extension in order to increase production for its exoskeleton for front line workers. The self-learning smart suits amplify lifting movements, give walking assistance, and prevent poor posture. The company emphasized its smart suits are “AI-based,” and will optimize its work as it acquires more data.
Metaverse Gaming studio Farcana raised a $10 M seed funding. The round was led by Animoca Brands, Polygon Ventures, and Fenbushi Capital. Other participants included Merit Circle, Rarestone Capital, MMPro Trust, Unpopular Ventures, Kapo Capital, Emchain, Hasu Capital, and Dravus Investment. Farcana is developing a team ability shooter game with tactics shooting and action gameplay similar to Overwatch and Valorant. The game will have an inbuilt tournament system that guarantees Bitcoin rewards to the top 10% gamers.
VR goggles aren’t just for people. Scientists built mini ones for mice. Northwestern University researchers have created miniature virtual reality goggles for mice to study fear, anxiety, and PTSD, potentially aiding human health research. These tiny goggles immerse mice in realistic virtual environments, overcoming previous challenges in simulating such experiences for rodents. The mice, believing they’re in a real scenario, display fear and stress responses, providing insights into brain processes related to these emotions. This technology, mirroring advancements in human VR, is expected to lead to significant neuroscience discoveries, particularly in understanding and treating conditions like PTSD.
Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses Review: Better, Cooler, and More Useful Than Ever. Our friend, Moor Insights analyst Anshel Sag, took great care with this lengthy review of Meta’s new iteration of Ray-Ban Stories: “The latest collaboration between Meta and Luxottica marks a significant improvement over their predecessor, Ray-Ban Stories. These glasses, powered by Qualcomm’s AR1 Gen 1 platform, offer enhanced features like superior camera capabilities (12MP photos, 1920 x 1440 video), increased storage (32GB), and advanced wireless connectivity. Notable upgrades include IPX4 water resistance, a sleek design, and a battery life of 36 hours with the charging case. The inclusion of Meta AI facilitates voice commands and messaging, enhancing day-to-day usability. Despite some areas needing improvement, such as video frame rate and continuous use battery life, the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses represent a major step forward in wearable technology, combining style, functionality, and a strong value at $299, signaling Meta’s leadership in the evolving smart glasses market.” But the cool is about to get even cooler as Meta is starting to use the useless camera on the Stories into a very useful computer vision sensor (as I predicted they would do when introduced earlier this fall).
RIP Bose Frames. Yes, they were hella dorky, but damn these are some good audio smart glasses. When you’re on a dog walk or riding your bike, who cares how they look. Bose punted on its experiments with spatial audio almost immediately after it started in 2019, but the Frames persisted until now.
Animator Jon Draper, who created the AIAnimation.com website and Cinematic AI community, made this extraordinary AI animated Christmas Card. “It was created using some of the latest AI animation tools (MidJourey, Photoshop AI Tools, Runway ML) and a bit of editing and color adjustments in Adobe Premiere,” said Draper. Music is “Our Own Christmas Song” by The Whiskey Wasps.
This Week in XR is also a podcast hosted by the author of this column, Ted Schilowitz, Futurist, Paramount Global, and Rony Abovitz, founder of Magic Leap. This week our guest is ForeVR founder and CEO Marcus Segal, who was COO of Zynga games for seven years. We can be found on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.
What We’re Reading
Fortnite Made The Metaverse After Everyone Else Quit (Paul Tassi/Forbes)
The Year AI Ate The Internet (Sue Halpern/The New Yorker)
Finland’s Metaverse Strategy (Tony Vitillo/Skarred Ghost Blog)