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Business December 20, 2022

Microsoft Activision Bid Shakes Gaming

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Microsoft Activision Bid Shakes Gaming

When Microsoft boldly announced its $69bn takeover bid, the biggest deal in the history of the business, for games publisher Activision Blizzard last week, the world of gaming was shaken to the core.

Also read: Restaurants Engaging Customers in the Metaverse

“It’s the biggest tech merger and acquisition in history,” GlobalData principal analyst Rupantar Guha says. The deal would bring the company founded by Bill Gates as a software engineering business closer to the metaverse.

Big metaverse push

But what really is Microsoft’s play at Activision Blizzard?

“I think every large tech company is looking to dominate gaming and 3D experiences and by extension the Metaverse, and this acquisition bid by Microsoft very much represents a play in that direction,” Gordon Midwood, the CEO of Anything World says.

Even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reckons the planned acquisition would bring the tech giant, which is already invested in the gaming industry, a step towards the metaverse, a buzz word for an immersive virtual world that is being created by various actors.

He is not the only big tech executive making a push for the metaverse in recent years. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg went as far as renaming the company he founded 18 years ago to Meta Platforms to represent the change of focus to the metaverse.

To date, Zuckerberg has spent no less than $20 billion on the metaverse project. But his expinditire has not necessarily translated into big wins in the battle for the metaverse judging by the numbers he has at his Horizon Worlds.Unlike Zuckerberg, Nadella realises deep pockets alone will not guarantee dominance in the virtual world.

A gateway to the metaverse

If anything, he realises that video games are the natural gateway into the metaverse.
“Acquisitions of gaming companies) It’s a pretty shrewd tactic I believe. It’s also very interesting that large technology companies have great trouble creating compelling games themselves,” Midwood tells Meta News.

Where Zuckerberg has been building his own metaverse, Nadella intends to buy.
His choice is very logical. “It’s a shift in mindset and expertise that they in general cannot seem to master, so in this regard acquiring existing gaming companies makes a lot of sense,” Midwood says.

It’s a view shared by other gaming industry experts who see video games as the natural gateway into the metaverse for tech companies.

Jason Yim, founder and CEO of Trigger XR, says video games will play a critical role in the metaverse, saying it runs “through the heart of video games.”

“Fortnite and Roblox are excellent examples of how a game, a digital experience, can converge media, entertainment, technology, and business. The metaverse can be developed because of innovations in video game technology, methodology, and its proven revenue-driving community,” Yim tells Meta News.

It’s a point Midwood concurs with. He says video games are “100%” the gateway into the metaverse.“I would argue strongly that the only viable Metaverse platforms right now are gaming platforms, most notably Fortnite of course but also League of Legends, World of Warcraft and others. Roblox, although a slightly different animal, also belongs on this list,” he says.

Powerful incentive

This is because tech behemoths have what Michael Wolf, a media consultant, describes as “powerful incentives” to take the next step and develop full gaming operations.

“Every one of these [tech] companies knows gaming is going to be a growth area, and it ties into their metaverse ambitions more broadly,” Wolf says.

“With the virtual worlds of games expanding to become venues where players can do things like make purchases or watch movies, “everything you do in the real world you will be able to do inside games.”

Microsoft Activision Bid Shakes Gaming

Gaming now key battleground for metaverse dominance

As such, gaming is now a critical key battlefield for the big tech tech companies seeking to dominate the metaverse and digital economy involving billions of users.

But Midwood says its important to understand that they are two different “metaverses” to consider.

The first one, according to Midwood, is the real-world metaverse, that allows for the placement of digital content over the real world.
In it, consumers will first “try this as their gateway to the metaverse via social AR experiences” such as face lenses/FX available across Snap, Facebook, and Instagram.

“The Second is the immersive metaverse, which is entirely digital and experienced through desktop or VR devices,” he added. In the latter, gaming would be the first natural step into the metaverse because games are the current form of immersive 3D content that can aggregate a critical mass of users.”

Once the critical mass is achieved, Midwood reckons other experiences, experiments, and innovations will naturally follow.

“Think live events/concerts and brand/retail experiences. Over time, we will see utility added to these worlds, the first being across commerce,” he adds.

Winners and winners


Are the big tech players going to win the metaverse race to dominate the metaverse? For Midwood, this can easily go either way. He believes the metaverse will be an entire ecosystem charecterised by “winners”and what he described as “foundational” companies who will “continue to succeed and help define the space.”

“However, once core technology is set in place, disruptors can come on board and suddenly change the zeitgeist,” Midwood says.

“Pokemon Go, for instance, could only have happened once mapping was in place. Or the economics for certain things won’t work until Apple comes along and grows the VR market from millions of users to billions.”

Harbinger of the battles to come

But other industry watchers feel the Microsoft deal is but a tip of the iceberg given the intensification of the competitive battle between Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation. To many, it’s a harbinger of a the bigger battle ahead. Pelham Smithers, a longtime games industry analyst, believes this may serve to help reboot “the console wars, rather than a switch away from console wars to a more general war on multiple platforms.”

Why is gaming hot right now

The gaming industry made a total $180bn in annual revenue in 2021, a figure double that of the movie industry.

Activision’s games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush, attract hundreds of millions of players between them. Its most popular games are being distributed via consoles, PCs or smartphones.

Additionally, the makers of these games have found a way of monetising their expanding audiences beyond traditional means and now make money from advertising, in-game purchases and subscriptions. It’s estimated that a total of 2.7bn people are active gamers in the world.

Call of Duty is now available also on the mobile market, a key revenue driver.

Several biggest tech firms already own significant equity stakes in the gaming industry world. Apple and Google app stores are the shop fronts for the single largest segment of the gaming market.

Regulatory hurdles ahead

Amazon’s Switch and Google’s YouTube boast of mass audience for viewing video games while Oculus headsets, (Facebook’s) VR headsets, control the virtual reality market.

However, Microsoft faces strong opposition from rivals in the gaming industry such as Tencent, the Chinese company that leads the industry by gaming revenue. In 2020, it had revenues of $30.6bn from gaming, Sony, also has significant market share in the industry but does not have the balance sheet to support an acquisition on the scale of Activision.

But its not the only hurdle the company faces. The deal still has to get the regulatory nod to be consummated.

Image credits: Shutterstock, CC images, Midjourney.


Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech



Quest 3 Headset Will Have Better Mixed Reality Tech, says Zuckerberg
Artist's rendering.

Meta, keen to be a Metaverse giant, plans to launch virtual reality headset Quest 3 later this year, with better mixed reality technology, said CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Meta confirmed that the release should be called Meta Quest 3. It’s expected to cost between US$300 and US$500, which is about a third of the Quest Pro (the Quest Pro is currently priced at $1,499.99).

Also read: Meta Employees Undermine Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Strategy

The new headset will provide support for Meta Reality, which is technology that enables virtual reality headsets to also be used for augmented reality. This technology allows devices to create mixed reality experiences.

Meta Reality in Next-Gen Consumer Headset

The mixed reality ecosystem is relatively new, but Zuckerberg thinks it’s going to grow a lot in the next few years.

“Later this year, we’re going to launch our next generation consumer headset, which will feature Meta Reality as well, and I expect that this is going to establish this technology as the baseline for all headsets going forward, and eventually of course for AR glasses as well,” said Zuckerberg.

Beyond MR, the broader VR ecosystem continues growing. There are now over 200 apps on Meta’s VR devices that have made more than $1 million in revenue, Zuckerberg said.

How Meta Reality will look in more affordable headsets is yet to be clear.

Meta’s Reported Win over FTC will be Crucial

Meta has reportedly won court approval earlier this week to acquire VR fitness app Supernatural’s maker, Within, which will be a huge boost for Zuckerberg’s ambitious metaverse project.

Meta’s plan was to acquire Within and Supernatural back in October 2021, but it was blocked by the FTC’s complaint file to stop the deal. The FTC’s complaint was justified by saying Meta already owns a “virtual reality empire.”

Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2 is arguably the best VR headset, even after a massive hike in its price last year.

“There is a lot of work there that we haven’t actually shipped the product yet. VR, which is starting to ramp, right, Quest 2, I think, did quite well. We have multiple product lines there with the Quest Pro,” said Zuckerberg about Quest 3.

When Meta shipped Quest Pro at the end of last year, it was something their CEO was “really proud of” and believed it was the first mainstream mixed reality device to set the standard for the industry with Meta Reality.

“As always, the reason why we’re focused on building these platforms is to deliver better social experiences than what’s possible today on phones,” said Zuckerberg.

The possible benefit could be expected in Quest 3 through the acquisition of Within.


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Microsoft Warns Employees Not to Share Sensitive Data with ChatGPT



Microsoft Warns Employees Not to Share Sensitive Data with ChatGPT

Microsoft has warned its employees not to share sensitive data with an artificially intelligent (AI) chatbot, ChatGPT from OpenAI. Employees of American multinational tech giants had asked in an internal forum whether ChatGPT or any other AI tools from OpenAI were appropriate to use at their work, Business Insider reported.

Also read: 30% of College Students Use ChatGPT

In response to that inquiry, a senior engineer from Microsoft’s CTO office allowed to use ChatGPT but couldn’t share confidential information with the AI chatbot.

“Please don’t send sensitive data to an OpenAI endpoint, as they may use it for training future models,” the senior engineer wrote in an internal post, per Insider.

ChatGPT, here only for two months, is already raising concerns in the academic sector. Microsoft has become a partner of OpenAI, the parent company of ChatGPT, and has confirmed an investment of ten billion dollars.

Microsoft is planning to integrate OpenAI’s technology into its products, including the Bing search engine and other software, to enhance their capabilities, as reported previously.

The major concern of Microsoft regarding “sensitive information” may include sharing internal software code and seeking checks and advice from the chatbot.

Amazon’s Same Concern

ChatGPT has continuously made headlines since its launch last November but has also faced bans, especially in the academic sector as it became the cheating partner for students’ schoolwork. Recently, the tech giants have also raised their concerns over its use.

Amazon warned its employees to beware of ChatGPT last week, as reported by Insider. Insider claims that an Amazon lawyer has urged employees not to share code with ChatGPT via an internal communication form.

“This is important because your inputs may be used as training data for a further iteration of ChatGPT, and we wouldn’t want its output to include or resemble our confidential information (and I’ve already seen instances where its output closely matches existing material),” the lawyer wrote.

The lawyer placed more emphasis on requesting that employees not share “any Amazon confidential information” (including Amazon code they are working on) with ChatGPT via Slack.

Personal Data Concern

As concerns about data privacy grow among large corporations, an OpenAI representative has directed questions about the company’s data and privacy policy to ChatGPT’s FAQ page. The terms of service of OpenAI grant the company the right to use all input and output generated by ChatGPT users, with the stipulation that personally identifiable information (PII) is removed from the used data.

However, it’s quite impossible for OpenAI to identify and remove all the personal information from the data provided to ChatGPT, says Emily Bender, who teaches computational linguistics at the University of Washington.

“OpenAI is far from transparent about how they use the data, but if it’s being folded into training data, I would expect corporations to wonder: After a few months of widespread use of ChatGPT, will it become possible to extract private corporate information with cleverly crafted prompts?” said Bender.

Vincent Conitzer, a computer science professor and director of an AI lab at Carnegie Mellon University, said, “All of us together are going to have to figure out what should be expected of everyone in these situations. Is the responsibility on employees to not share sensitive information, or is the responsibility on OpenAI to use information carefully, or some combination?”

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China Catches Up On Quantum Computers, Makes 1st Delivery



China Catches Up On Quantum Computers, Makes 1st Delivery

China has officially caught up with Canada and USA in the race to deliver a complete quantum computer system to a customer according to a state media report.

Chinese quantum computing company, Origin Quantum Computing Technology developed a 24-qubit Wuyuan system before delivery to an unknown user more than a year ago, the science ministry’s Science and Technology Daily reported.

Also read: How AI Can Accelerate Metaverse Development

According to Origin Quantum, they are the only Chinese company in the quantum computing industry that can deliver real quantum computers as well as full-stack development and follow up services.

According to a statement sent to the Global Times on Monday by East China’s Anhui Province based Quantum Computing Research Centre, the group developed the computer and successfully delivered it to a user.

“More than 100 quantum computing companies in the world have put enormous investment into quantum research and development. Canada’s quantum computing company sold its first quantum computer in 2011, followed by IBM of the US in 2019.

“Chinese Origin Quantum delivered a quantum computer in 2021,” Zhang Hui, director of the Anhui Quantum Computing Engineering Research Center was quoted as saying.

Eyebrow raising announcement

The announcement by Chinese state media has raised eyebrows among skeptics questioning its timing.

Weifeng Zhong, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va told TechNewsWorld that this could be a gimmick to just show China as a tech giant with a transparent administration.

“Quantum technology has a high priority for national security in China. If this were something very important, I doubt it would be disclosed like this in a transparent way by Chinese authorities,” explained Zhong.

“The fact that it was delayed for a year suggests that they realize now that it’s not important to national security, so they’re trying to use it to build China’s image as a technology leader at a time when they’re trying to open up their economy to the rest of the world,” added Zhong.

But what is quantum computing?

A quantum computer is a type of computer that uses quantum mechanics to store and process data, as opposed to classical computers that use classical mechanics. Quantum computers use quantum bits (qubits), which can exist in multiple states at once, to perform computations that are not possible on classical computers, making them particularly well-suited for certain types of complex calculations.

The  24-qubit Wuyuan quantum computer based on superconducting technology developed by the same company  becomes the third to be delivered to customers after Canada in 2011 and USA’s IBM in 2019.

Superconducting technology is currently one of the most mature and well-developed implementations of quantum computing, and many companies and research organizations are working to develop and commercialize superconducting quantum computers. Superconducting technology is one of the main implementations of quantum computing.

In superconducting quantum computers, quantum bits (qubits) are made from tiny electrical circuits that are cooled to very low temperatures, close to absolute zero, in order to minimize the amount of thermal energy and increase their coherence time, which is the time during which a qubit can maintain its quantum state.

What does China offer in its quantum computers

Speed: Quantum computers can perform certain operations much faster than classical computers, which can greatly speed up complex computations.

Parallel processing: Quantum computers can perform multiple calculations simultaneously, which allows for more efficient processing of large amounts of data.

Simulating complex systems: Quantum computers can be used to simulate complex systems, such as molecules and materials, which can lead to new discoveries in fields such as chemistry and materials science.

Cryptography: Quantum computers can be used to break certain encryption algorithms, which makes them useful for developing new, more secure encryption methods.

Optimization problems: Quantum computers can be used to solve complex optimization problems, such as logistics and scheduling problems, which have many potential real-world applications.

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