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AI February 20, 2023

Big Tech Quit Metaverse in Chase of AI Chatbot Hype



Big Tech Quit Metaverse in Chase of AI Chatbot Hype

Chinese technology giant Tencent Holdings is reportedly culling staff at its extended reality (XR) unit and folding plans for virtual reality (VR) hardware. It joins a host of Big Tech to have cut, or abandoned, spending on the metaverse as focus shifts to the new AI chatbot craze.

Tencent took a bet on the metaverse concept of virtual worlds. In June last year, the world’s largest video game publisher announced the official launch of the XR unit to drive Tencent’s extended reality business including software and hardware development, Reuters reported.

Also read: Unpacking the New AI-powered Microsoft Bing Search and Edge Browser

The division has around 300 employees, said the report. Tencent intended to develop “a ring-like hand-held game controller” but the plans came unstuck after it failed to breakeven, forcing management to shift attention to more profitable areas.

Big Tech put brakes on metaverse

According to the report, Tencent’s XR project was not expected to become profitable until at least 2027. “Under the company’s new strategy as a whole, it no longer quite fit in,” Reuters said, quoting three sources with knowledge of the development.

Tencent becomes the latest big technology group to have either cut its metaverse ambitions by letting staff go, or completely suspended spending in the area. Both Meta and Microsoft have scaled back their metaverse plans in a big way.

The cut-backs coincide with the current hype surrounding artificially intelligent chatbots, which began with OpenAI’s breakout hit ChatGPT.

Microsoft is leading a spending spree in AI tech, with billions of dollars poured into acquiring ChatGPT-powers for its Bing search engine. Since the integration, daily visits to have climbed 15% and searches for “Bing AI” have soared around 700%, according to Similarweb.

Rival Google has Bard, which failed at launch last week – a failure that wiped off $100 billion from the company’s total market value.

“[Corporates] rushed into the new area [metaverse] as they had to,” Ilman Shazhaev, CEO and founder of metaverse platform Farcana, told MetaNews. “Can you imagine Meta or Microsoft lagging behind their competitors and not innovating?” he quipped, rhetorically.

“Staying way behind the latest technologies is as bad as stepping into a new niche that is not too profitable. They react on hype, driven by a desire to support their stocks. The metaverse is a hot topic, so companies make good PR by showing their presence in this tech niche.”

‘World not ready for metaverse’

The global tech giants’ exodus has raised questions about whether the metaverse as a practical idea is losing steam.

Speaking to MetaNews, Sebastian Menge, the cofounder of burn-to-earn fitness platform Fitburn, said big tech companies may be suspending investment in the metaverse because of a lack of clarity regarding the future of the industry.

“Artificial intelligence differs from metaverse: it has more real-life utility, making things easier, like ChatGPT, fulfilling simple tasks or retrieving information for us,” he detailed. “So I guess this will halt the development of the metaverse.”

Continuing, Menge said:

“In my opinion, the world is not ready for the metaverse – and the metaverse is not ready to be put out into the world, either. When the Covid lockdown was over, most of us would choose real interactions with people we got used to having virtual meetings with.”

In January, Microsoft announced it will be shutting down its virtual reality metaverse arm AltspaceVR on March 10. The unit will now “focus on the immersive experiences” at Mesh, a new VR division that Microsoft is launching for its video conferencing platform Teams.

The platform featured user-generated spaces called “Worlds” and allowed users to chat, hang out and host events. AltspaceVR could be thought of as Microsoft’s equal to Meta’s idea of a metaverse. In total, Microsoft cut 10,000 jobs as consumer spending declines.

Microsoft also sacked the entire staff at its popular extended reality projects HoloLens and Mixed Reality Tool Kit (MRTK). In contrast, the Washington-based firm invested a reported $10 billion in OpenAI, the private AI company that created ChatGPT.

‘AI frenzy will go down, too’

A slowing global economy has seen disposable incomes falling across regions, hitting businesses hard. To cut costs, several companies, including Amazon, Google and Meta (formerly Facebook), have all let go off thousands of workers in recent months.

Pico, a virtual reality headset manufacturer owned by ByteDance, Tik Tok’s parent company, revealed it fired employees in its metaverse unit last week..

Meta sacked staff at its Reality Labs, the unit in charge of its metaverse vision, following a $13.7 billion loss in 2022. The decision by Meta founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who renamed Facebook in 2021 to reflect its metaverse focus,  may signal tough times ahead.

Ilman Shazhaev, the Farcana CEO, said, “we are now definitely at the peak of inflated expectations” for artificial intelligence, but “we will see the hype going down soon, especially with ChatGPT becoming a new trend.”

He adds that while the metaverse and AI spaces target different niches, companies want to merge the two. He pointed to his own project, Farcana metaverse, which uses AI to create art for games and GPT models to generate music and sounds based on players’ emotions.

“AI is great for generating content for metaverse,” Shazhaev stated. “With the great size of the virtual space in metaverse, content creation must automate.”

“Artificial intelligence can help with picture generation as well as music and text. ChatGPT can be essential to power life-like communication in Metaverse. So there is a great synergy between both,” he said.

Metaverse not dead

While global tech giants are opting out of the metaverse, not everyone is as pessimistic. Last week, Dubai launched what it is calling “Mall of the Metarvese”, a virtual shopping experience that’s meant to reflect and feel like real-life shopping.

Big brands such as Carrefour, VOX Cinemas, THAT Concept Store, Ghawali and Samsung Store will soon be joining the Mall. It is a big statement of intent from Dubai, the rich city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates famous for luxury shopping and ultra-modern buildings. The metaverse may not be dead, after all.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney, Unsplash.


Judge Orders All AI-Generated Research To Be Declared in Court



Judge Orders All AI-Generated Research To Be Declared in Court

A Texas federal judge has ordered that AI-generated content should not be used to make arguments in court, and that such information must be declared and verified by a human.

Judge Brantley Starr’s ruling comes after one attorney, Steven Schwartz, last week allowed OpenAI’s ChatGPT to “supplement” his legal research by providing him with six cases and relevant precedent. All the cases were untrue and completely “hallucinated” by the chatbot.

Also read: ChatGPT’s Bogus Citations Land US Lawyer in Hot Water

The debacle received wide coverage, leaving Schwartz with “regrets.” Other lawyers who may have been contemplating trying the stunt now have to think twice, as Judge Starr has put an end to it.

Judge Starr also added a requirement that any attorney who appears in his courtroom declare that “no portion of the filing was drafted by generative artificial intelligence,” or if it was, that it was checked “by a human being.”

Judge Starr lays down the law

The eminent judge has set specific rules for his courtroom, just like other judges, and recently added the Mandatory Certification Regarding Generative Artificial Intelligence.

This states that: “All attorneys appearing before the Court must file on the docket a certificate attesting either that no portion of the filing was drafted by generative artificial intelligence (such as ChatGPT, Harvey.AI, or Google Bard) or that any language drafted by generative artificial intelligence was checked for accuracy, using print reporters or traditional legal databases, by a human being.”

A form for lawyers to sign is appended, noting that “quotations, citations, paraphrased assertions and legal analysis are all covered by this proscription.”

According to a report by TechCrunch, summary is one of AI’s strong suits and finding and summarizing precedent or previous cases is something advertised as potentially helpful in legal work. As such, this ruling may be a major spanner in the works for AI.

The certification requirement includes a pretty well-informed and convincing explanation of its necessity.

It states that: “These platforms are incredibly powerful and have many uses in the law: form divorces, discovery requests, suggested errors in documents, anticipated questions at oral argument.

“But legal briefing is not one of them. Here’s why.

“These platforms in their current states are prone to hallucinations and bias,” reads part of the certification.

It further explains that on hallucinations, AI is prone to simply making stuff up – even quotes and citations. While another issue relates to reliability or bias.

Chatbots don’t swear an oath

The certification further notes that although attorneys swear an oath to set aside their personal prejudices, biases, and beliefs to faithfully uphold the law and represent their clients, generative AI is the programming devised by humans who did not have to swear such an oath.

In the case of Schwartz, he said in an affidavit that he was “unaware of the possibility that its (ChatGPT) content could be false.”

He added that he “greatly regrets” using the generative AI and will only “supplement” its use with absolute caution and validation in future, further claiming he had never used ChatGPT prior to this case.

The other side of ChatGPT

Launched last November, ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI. The AI-powered chatbot is trained on billions of data sets from the internet and can perform a variety of tasks such as generating text and translating languages.

Despite going viral and provoking a fierce AI race, ChatGPT has its downsides – it can hallucinate and has misled Schwartz, who was representing Roberto Mata in a lawsuit against Colombian airline Avianca. Effectively, the chatbot provided citations to cases that did not exist.

Yet when Schwartz asked ChatGPT if one of the supposed cases was a real case, it responded “yes, (it) is a real case.” When asked for sources, the chatbot told Schwartz the case could be found “on legal research database such as Westlaw and LexisNexis.”

The matter came to light after the opposing counsel flagged the ChatGPT-generated citations as fake.

US District Court Judge Kevin Castel confirmed six of them as non-existent and demanded an explanation from Schwartz.

“Six of the submitted cases appear to be bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations,” wrote Judge Castel in a May 4 order.

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Nvidia Debuts AI Tools in an Era Where “Anyone Can Be a Programmer”



Nvidia Debuts AI Tools in an Era Where “Anyone Can Be a Programmer”

The world’s most valuable chip maker Nvidia has unveiled a new batch of AI-centric products, as the company rides on the generative AI wave where anyone can be a programmer.

Nvidia announced a new supercomputer and a networking system, while the company also aims to make video game characters more realistic.

The wide range of products include robotics design, gaming capabilities, advertising services, and networking technology, which CEO Jensen Huang unveiled during a two-hour presentation in Taiwan on Monday.

Also read: Google Claims its AI Computer Outperforms Nvidia’s A100 Chip

Most notable of the new products is the AI supercomputer platform named DGX GH200 that will help tech companies create successors to OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

According to the company, the new DGX GH200 supercomputers combine 256 GH200 superchips that can act as a single graphics processing unit (GPU). The result is a system that boasts nearly 500 times the memory of a single Nvidia’s DGX A100 system.

“Generative AI, large language models, and recommender systems are the digital engines of modern economy,” said Huang.

“DGX GH200 AI supercomputers integrate Nvidia’s most advanced accelerated computing and networking technologies to expand the frontier of AI.”

So far, Microsoft Corp., Meta Platforms Inc., and Alphabet’s Google are expected to be among the first users, according to Nvidia.

The DGX GH200 supercomputers are expected to be available by the end of 2023.

The GH200 superchips which power the new supercomputer work by combining Nvidia’s Arm-based Grace GPU and an Nvidia H100 Tensor Core GPU in a single package.

The chipmaker also revealed that it’s building its own supercomputer running four DGX 200 systems at the same time to power its own research.

Nvidia also released its ACE generative AI model for video games, enabling gaming companies to use generative AI for large games with multiple non-player characters, giving them unique lines of dialogue and ways to interact with players that would normally need to be individually programmed.

Easy ad content

Alongside the hardware announcement, the company said it has partnered with advertising giant WPP to create a content engine that uses its Omniverse technology and generative AI capabilities to help build out ad content.

The move is intended to cut down the time and cost of producing ads by enabling WPP’s clients to lean on Nvidia’s technology.

Electronics manufacturers such as Foxconn, Pegatron, and Wistron are using Omniverse technology to create digital twins of their factory floors, so they can get a sense of how best to lay them out before making any physical changes.

A new computing era

Presenting at the forum, Huang acknowledged that advancements in AI are ushering in a new era in computing. He says anyone can be a programmer simply by speaking to the computer.

According to the Nvidia boss, gone are the days when programmers would write lines of code, only for it to display the “fail to compile” response because of a missing semicolon.

“This computer doesn’t care how you program it, it will try to understand what you mean, because it has this incredible large language model capability. And so the programming barrier is incredibly low,” said Huang.

“We have closed the digital divide. Everyone is a programmer. Now, you just have to say something to the computer,” he added.

Huang said his company has managed to bridge the digital gap, and the tech giant will continue to capitalize on the AI frenzy that has made Nvidia one of the world’s most valuable chipmakers.

Nvidia’s stock price is rising

Nvidia’s major announcements came as shares of the tech giant jumped last week on news that the company anticipated second quarter revenue above Wall Street’s expectations, based on the strength of its data center business.

The company hit the $1 trillion market cap just before the US markets opened on Tuesday. Its shares are trading at $407 in the pre-market, nearly 5% up from Monday.

Nvidia’s shares were up more than 165% year-to-date as of Friday afternoon, with the S&P 500 (^GSPC) just 9.5% higher in the same frame.

Rival chip maker AMD has experienced a similar boost in share price, rising 93%. However, Intel (INTC) is lagging behind with shares up just 8%.

According to Yahoo Finance tech editor Daniel Howley, while analysts see Nividia well ahead of its chip rivals in the AI processing space, how long that continues to be the case is anyone’s guess.

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ChatGPT’s Bogus Citations Land US Lawyer in Hot Water



ChatGPT's Bogus Citations Land US Lawyer in Hot Water

A lawyer in the United States is facing disciplinary action after his law firm used popular AI chatbot ChatGPT for legal research and cited fake cases in a lawsuit.

Steven A. Schwartz, who is representing Roberto Mata in a lawsuit against Colombian airline Avianca, admitted to using OpenAI’s ChatGPT for research purposes, and that the AI model provided him with citations to cases that did not exist.

Mata is suing Avianca for a personal injury caused by a serving cart in 2019, claiming negligence by an employee.

Also read: Opera Unveils GPT-Powered AI Chatbot Aria

Bogus all the way

According to a BBC report, the matter came to light after Schwartz, a lawyer with 30 years experience, used these cases as precedent to support Mata’s case.

But the opposing counsel flagged the ChatGPT-generated citations as fake. US District Court Judge Kevin Castel confirmed six of them as non-existent. He demanded an explanation from Schwartz, an attorney with New York-based law company Levidow, Levidow & Oberman.

“Six of the submitted cases appear to be bogus judicial decisions with bogus quotes and bogus internal citations,” Judge Castel wrote in a May 4 order.

“The court is presented with an unprecedented circumstance.”

The supposed cases include: Varghese v. China South Airlines, Martinez v. Delta Airlines, Shaboon v. EgyptAir, Petersen v. Iran Air, Miller v. United Airlines, and Estate of Durden v. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, none of which did not appear to exist to either the judge or defense.

Lawyer claims ignorance

ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI. Launched in November, the AI is trained on billions of data from the Internet and can perform a variety of tasks like generate text, translate languages, and even write poetry, and solve difficult math problems.

But ChatGPT is prone to “hallucinations” – tech industry speak for when AI chatbots produce false or misleading information, often with confidence.

In an affidavit last week, Schwartz said he was “unaware of the possibility that its [ChatGPT] content could be false.” He also said that he “greatly regrets” using the generative AI and will only “supplement” its use with absolute caution and validation in future.

Schwartz claimed to have never used ChatGPT prior to this case. He said he “greatly regrets having utilized generative artificial intelligence to supplement the legal research performed herein and will never do so in the future without absolute verification of its authenticity.”

The career attorney now faces a court hearing on June 8 after accepting responsibility for not confirming the authenticity of the ChatGPT sources. Schwartz was asked to show cause why he shouldn’t be sanctioned “for the use of a false and fraudulent notarization.”

ChatGPT’s confident lies

According to the BBC report, Schwartz’s affidavit contained screenshots of the attorney that confirmed his chats with ChatGPT.

Schwartz asked the chatbot, “is varghese a real case?”, to which ChatGPT responded “yes, [it] is a real case.” When asked for sources, it told the attorney that the case could be found “on legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis”.

Again, the attorney asked: “Are the other cases you provided fake?” ChatGPT responded “No”, adding that the cases could be found on other legal databases. “I apologize for the confusion earlier,” ChatGPT said.

“Upon double-checking, I found the case Varghese v. China Southern Airlines Co. Ltd., 925 F.3d 1339 (11th Cir. 2019), does indeed exist and can be found on legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion my earlier responses may have caused,” the chatbot replied with confidence.

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