Tech News of the Week: Humanoid Robots, AI Avatars & Bitcoin Halving

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • After months of hype, Bitcoin halving is finally here.
  • Could Microsoft's VASA-1 Break Face ID?
  • Netflix will no longer share its subscriber numbers from 2025.
  • Samsung dethrones Apple, but sales of Chinese smartphones surge.
  • Hackers target LastPass users.

What is happening in the tech industry today? In a week where the bizarre meets the technological, we’ve seen everything from Microsoft’s VASA-1, which could eerily bring photographs to animated life (yes, like those unnerving ads where your great-great-grandpa sings happy birthday), to Meta’s enhanced AI assistant, which promises a near-human conversation without ever risking human error. Imagine demanding to talk to a natural person and getting a peppy AI instead!

Meanwhile, Netflix is riding high on a wave of new subscribers, only to turn secretive about its numbers next year — what are they hiding, a secret series binge-watch formula?

Then there’s Qtum, wielding an army of 10,000 GPUs like a tech wizard, driving its blockchain AI ecosystem despite a GPU shortage that has gamers and crypto-fans weeping into their energy drinks.

Join us on another adventure in tech as we round up the most significant news and bizarre stories that caught our eye.

Is Bitcoin Halving Another Example of ‘Buy the Rumor, Sell the News’?

After months of hype, the highly anticipated Bitcoin halving event is almost there. This pivotal occasion reduces the reward for mining new blocks by half, effectively tightening the supply of Bitcoin and potentially driving up its price.

Will it live up to its promise of significant market movements, intensifying investor interest and setting the stage for a new price rally? Or is it another example of “Buy the Rumor, Sell the News”?

Bitcoin Halving, Will the Price Go Up? (Techopedia)

Microsoft Vasa-1 Creates AI Videos From Static Images & Audio Files

Microsoft has unveiled VASA-1, a cutting-edge framework designed to create hyper-realistic talking heads from a static image and an audio clip. VASA-1, for Visual Affective Skills Avatar, is engineered to synchronize lip movements with audio, replicate a broad range of facial expressions and head motions, and generate high-resolution videos at up to 40 frames per second.

Microsoft’s VASA-1 intriguingly dances on the fine line between creepy and cool.

Initially, it lures users in with its potential to animate photographs into interactive, talking faces while simultaneously stirring concerns about the unsettling possibilities of AI impersonating humans too convincingly.

This technological advancement also prompts crucial questions about the future of biometric systems like Face ID; as AI becomes adept at mimicking human features and expressions, ensuring the security and uniqueness of personal identification technologies becomes more challenging. Will our security measures evolve swiftly enough to keep pace with these innovations?

VASA-1: Lifelike Audio-Driven Talking Faces, Generated in Real Time (Microsoft)

64% of Software Developers Admit Using GenAI for Work

Docker’s recent survey reveals that 64% of software developers use generative AI to enhance their work, highlighting its growing integration into daily programming activities. This significant adoption rate underscores the technology’s role in streamlining coding processes, improving documentation, and aiding in problem-solving, marking a transformative shift in how developers interact with their craft.

64% of Software Developers Use GenAI For Work (Techopedia)

The Worst AI Product Ever!

Elsewhere, Humane’s AI Pin, a wearable device developed by former Apple executives, has faced significant criticism from tech reviewers who argue that it falls short in nearly every functionality it promises.

Despite its innovative approach to blending technology with daily wear through features like photo-taking and projecting images onto the user’s hand, the consensus suggests that the $700 device, complemented by a monthly subscription, largely disappoints in practical use, with issues ranging from poor visibility in bright light to inadequate battery life and overheating concerns.

‘Bad at almost everything’: AI wearable panned by reviewers (BBC)

Meet Meta’s Upgraded AI Assistant

Meta has launched an enhanced version of its AI assistant, now powered by the advanced Llama 3 model. It brings users more innovative, faster, and creative capabilities across multiple platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

This upgrade, accessible via a new web interface and expanding globally, allows users to generate visuals, receive tailored recommendations, and even transform images into animated GIFs. It promises to enrich user interaction and engage them within Meta’s ecosystem.

Meta’s Upgraded AI Assistant is Smarter, Faster, and On the Web (Techopedia)

Netflix Rewrites the Script: Celebrates Growth, Stops Sharing Subscriber Insights

Netflix has reported a substantial profit increase for the first quarter of the year, attributing part of this success to its recent measures against password sharing. The company announced a significant addition of 9.3 million subscribers, boosting its total to nearly 270 million.

Despite this growth, Netflix revealed an unexpected shift in its reporting practices; starting next year, it will no longer publicly share its subscriber numbers. The decision stems from the company’s belief that these figures no longer accurately represent its value, suggesting a strategic pivot in communicating its progress and value to investors.

This move raises questions about the metrics that will define Netflix’s future business model and how Wall Street and the broader market will receive this change.

Netflix is going to stop telling the world how many subscribers it has. Why? (Business Insider)

Samsung Dethrones Apple, but Chinese Brands Surge Ahead

Samsung has reclaimed its title as the world’s best-selling smartphone manufacturer, capturing a 20.8% global market share as detailed in the latest International Data Corporation (IDC) report, surpassing Apple’s current 17.3%.

This shift in market dominance, bolstered by the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S24 series and its innovative AI features, underscores the intensifying competition between the tech giants and signals evolving consumer expectations in the smartphone industry.

Samsung Takes Smartphone Crown From Apple (Techopedia)

Qtum Foundation’s 10,000 GPUs Powering Its Blockchain AI Ecosystem

The Qtum Foundation is significantly expanding its technological capabilities by bringing online 10,000 GPUs to power its new blockchain AI ecosystem. This marks a major stride in combining advanced artificial intelligence with blockchain technology.

Despite the high demand and scarcity of modern GPUs, influenced by their widespread use in AI development, gaming, and cryptocurrency mining, Qtum has successfully transitioned from a mining-focused operation to an AI-driven platform, enhancing its credibility and technological prowess in the AI space.

Qtum Foundation powers AI Web3 initiatives with 10,000 Nvidia GPUs (VentureBeat)

Meet Boston Dynamics’ New Humanoid Robot

Boston Dynamics has announced its latest innovation, a next-generation all-electric humanoid robot named Atlas, which it describes as a significant step towards commercializing robotics in everyday settings.

This new Atlas robot is poised to transform various industries. It is equipped to tackle complex tasks in labs, factories, and beyond, enhancing Boston Dynamics’ impressive lineup of advanced robotic solutions.

An Electric New Era for Atlas (BostonDynamics)

LastPass Targeted Again

LastPass users were recently ensnared in a sophisticated phishing scam using the CryptoChameleon phishing-as-a-service kit. The scam employed emails, SMS, and voice calls to deceive victims into surrendering their master passwords.

The attackers cleverly mimicked legitimate LastPass communications, prompting users to input their credentials on a fraudulent site that convincingly replicated the LastPass interface, ultimately compromising user accounts and personal data.

LastPass users targeted in phishing attacks are good enough to trick even the savvy (ArsTechnica)

The Bottom Line

This week’s tech news highlights a transformative period in AI and robotics, showcasing cutting-edge technologies’ immense potential and ethical concerns. Microsoft’s VASA-1 is redefining human interaction with machines by animating still photos, raising questions about the boundaries of AI’s use.

Meanwhile, Meta’s upgraded AI assistant and Qtum’s significant GPU investment reflect a robust push towards integrating AI across various platforms and industries, emphasizing the growing reliance on AI to enhance user engagement and operational efficiency.

But the big question from another week in tech is how can we balance technological advancement and the preservation of human interaction?

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