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google

Google To Potentially Invest Hundreds Of Millions Into Character.AI Startup 

Google is currently in conversation to invest in Character.AI, an artificial intelligence chatbot platform startup. According to CTech News, Character.AI was created by Noam Shazeer and Daniel De Freitas, two former employees of Google Brain. 

Google is prepared to invest “hundreds of millions of dollars” into Character.AI as it continues to train chatbot models to talk to users, according to sources who spoke to Reuters. 

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Character.AI and Google already have a standing relationship in which they use Google’s cloud services and Tensor Processing Units to train its chatbot models, so this investment would deepen that partnership. 

Character.AI allows users to log in and choose from a variety of celebrities, movie characters, creatures, etc. to chat with. Users can even create their own character chatbot to speak with. Subscription models cost $9.99 a month, but the platform is also free to use. 

According to data from Similarweb, reported by CalTech, “Character.AI’s chatbots, with various roles and tones to choose from, have appealed to users ages 18 to 24, who contributed about 60% of its website traffic. 

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The demographic is helping the company position itself as the purveyor of more fun personal AI companions, compared to other AI chatbots from OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.”

Within the first six months of launching, Character.AI saw about 100 million visits every month. 

Reuters wrote that “The startup is also in talks to raise equity funding from venture capital investors, which could value the company at over $5 billion.

In March, it raised $150 million in a funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz at $1 billion valuation.

Google has been investing in AI startups, including $2 billion for model maker Anthropic in the form of convertible notes, on top of its earlier equity investment.”

meta

Meta, Instagram-Parent Company, Sued By Multiple States Over ‘Addictive’ Features And Negative Mental Health Impacts On Youths

Dozens of states are suing Meta, the parent-company of Instagram, accusing the major tech company of harming young users’ mental health through addictive features, such as infinite news feeds and frequent notifications that demand users’ attention.

google

Google To Replace Passwords With Passkeys In New Update 

On Tuesday, Google announced an update to the way they plan to enforce cybersecurity: by replacing passwords with passkeys instead. According to Gizmodo Magazine, Google claimed it’s planning to “make passwords a rarity, and eventually obsolete.” 

Passkeys have been around for a little while now. A passkey is defined as any sort of short form method of unlocking your devices or accounts, for example, using your fingerprint or pin code to unlock your phone. 

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The biggest advantage of these types of cybersecurity systems is that hackers will need your entire device, not just your password, to gain access to your accounts; as most passkeys only work on the single device they’re implemented on. 

According to Google, passkeys are 40% faster than passwords as well, and are popular among consumers due to the fact that they don’t need to memorize long randomized passwords full of various letters, numbers, and symbols.

According to Gizmodo, technology experts have been predicting for the past decade that the use of passwords for cybersecurity would likely become obsolete, however, every year that sentiment has been proven wrong, especially with the rise of new streaming services and social media platforms in the past five years alone. 

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Google, however, is the platform that has the best chance at being the catalyst for this transition. As one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Google has the potential to set a new precedent when it comes to how the average person protects their presence online. 

Google has stated that when a user logs into their account, a new prompt will appear asking if the user wants to create and use passkeys, allowing them to “skip passwords when possible” if you go into the settings of your Google account, and use other features. 

With these new changes, it’s still not likely that passwords will go away anytime soon. 

“The tech industry has a lot of work to tackle before you can forget all your passwords, but that impossible dream is now a massive step closer to reality,” wrote Thomas Germain.

ai

Amazon Invests up to $4 Billion in OpenAI Rival Anthropic in Exchange for Minority Stake

On Monday, Amazon announced it will invest up to $4 billion into the artificial intelligence company Anthropic. In exchange, Amazon will gain partial ownership, and Anthropic will use the company’s cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), more widely.

The growing relationship between the two firms is an example of how some large tech companies with extensive cloud computing resources are using those assets to strengthen their position in the artificial intelligence industry.

According to a statement released by Amazon, Anthropic will use AWS as its primary cloud provider, using the cloud platform to do most of its AI model development and research into AI safety. Anthropic will also have access to Amazon’s suite of in-house AI chips.

“AWS will become Anthropic’s primary cloud provider for mission-critical workloads, including safety research and future foundation model development. Anthropic plans to run the majority of its workloads on AWS, further providing Anthropic with the advanced technology of the world’s leading cloud provider.”

In addition, Anthropic has committed to making its AI models available to AWS users long-term, providing them with early access to features, including the ability to customize Anthropic models for their own purposes.

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“With today’s announcement, customers will have early access to features for customizing Anthropic models, using their own proprietary data to create their own private models, and will be able to utilize fine-tuning capabilities via a self-service feature.”

Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers already have access to Anthropic’s AI models through Amazon Bedrock, the tech giant’s storefront for AI goods. Bedrock not only supports Amazon’s own models but also those from third-party developers such as  Stability AI and AI21 Labs.

In a press release, the co-founder and CEO of Anthropic, Dario Amodei, said that his company is “excited to use AWS’s Trainium chips to develop future foundation models.”

“Since announcing our support of Amazon Bedrock in April, Claude has seen significant organic adoption from AWS customers. By significantly expanding our partnership, we can unlock new possibilities for organizations of all sizes as they deploy Anthropic’s safe, state-of-the-art AI systems together with AWS’s leading cloud technology.”

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Anthropic stated that Amazon’s minority stake would not alter the company’s corporate governance structure or its dedication to the ethical advancement of artificial intelligence.

“Our corporate governance structure remains unchanged, with the Long Term Benefit Trust continuing to guide Anthropic in accordance with our Responsible Scaling Policy. As outlined in this policy, we will conduct pre-deployment tests of new models to help us manage the risks of increasingly capable AI systems.”

Several cloud market leaders, like Microsoft and now Amazon, have made investments into artificial intelligence technology. OpenAI, the company that developed ChatGPT, received $1 billion from Microsoft in 2019. Microsoft recently also invested $10 billion in OpenAI and is striving to integrate OpenAI’s technology into consumer-facing Microsoft products such as Bing.

This deal is Amazon’s most recent push into the artificial intelligence space to compete with industry leaders like Microsoft and Alphabet’s Google.

tiktok

TikTok Creators File Lawsuit Challenging Montana Ban

A group of TikTok creators in Montana have filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s new ban of the app, arguing that the law signed by Governor Greg Gianforte violates their First Amendment rights.

The ban signed by Gov. Gianforte on Wednesday is the first state-level ban of the social media platform. The complaint was filed just hours later in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana Wednesday evening.

The lawsuit asserts that TikTok is comparable to other forms of media, which the state does not have the authority to keep Montanans from accessing and contributing to.

“Montana can no more ban its residents from viewing or posting to TikTok than it could ban the Wall Street Journal because of who owns it or the ideas it publishes.”

The group of creators stated that the new ban, set to take effect in January 2024, goes far beyond restrictions already in place in Montana and other states.

Other states have prohibited the use of TikTok on government devices, citing a potential threat to national security because of TikTok’s ties to China via its parent company ByteDance. The Montana ban extends to personal devices, making it illegal for TikTok to operate the app and for the Apple and Google app stores to offer it for download within state lines.

According to the law, TikTok could be fined $10,000 for each violation of the ban, plus another $10,000 for each day the infraction persists. Google and Apple may face the same fines.

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A spokesperson for Gov. Gianforte said in a statement that the Governor’s decision was motivated by wanting to protect “Montanans’ personal and private data being harvested by the Chinese Communist party.”

“While the Chinese Communist Party may try to hide their nefarious spying and collection of individuals’ personal, private, sensitive information under the banner of our First Amendment, the governor has an obligation to protect Montanans and their individual privacy right, as guaranteed by the Montana Constitution, from the Chinese Communist Party’s serious, grave threats.”

TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, has stated that the Chinese government has never asked TikTok for its data on users in the U.S. There has also been no evidence to suggest otherwise.

Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, released a statement saying that the office expects a legal challenge but is “fully prepared to defend the law.”

Emilee Cantrell, another spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s office, told The New York Times that the state would enforce the ban through “geo-fencing,” which is “already in use across the gaming industry.”

“A basic internet search will show you companies that provide geolocation compliance. If companies do not comply with the ban, the agency will investigate and hold offending entities accountable in accordance with the law.”

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In addition to citing the First Amendment, the lawsuit argues that Montana’s ban violates the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving TikTok users of other rights without due process.

It also asserts that the new law violates federal authority to set foreign policy and regulate interstate commerce, undermining the federal government’s powers under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union described the ban as “unconstitutional.” Ramya Krishnan, a lawyer at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, told The New York Times that to justify a ban and have it hold up to legal scrutiny, the state would have to demonstrate its security concerns are real.

“Many have hypothesized that China might demand that ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, turn over Americans’ data or use TikTok to push disinformation in some way, but neither Montana nor the U.S. government has pointed to any evidence that China is actually doing this. That’s a problem because speculative harms can’t justify a total ban on a communications platform, particularly one that’s used by hundreds of thousands of Montanans daily.”

TikTok told Reuters that the new measure “infringes on the First Amendment rights of the people of Montana by unlawfully banning TikTok.”

“We want to reassure Montanans that they can continue using TikTok to express themselves, earn a living and find community as we continue working to defend the rights of our users inside and outside of Montana.”

The five plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit include a former Marine sergeant, a rancher, a swimwear business, and an exercise influencer.

Geoffrey Hinton, ‘The Godfather Of A.I.’, Leaves Google And Warns Of Future Dangers Of A.I.

In 2012, Geoffrey Hinton and two of his graduate students from the University of Toronto created technology that has become the foundation of Artificial Intelligence systems used by some of the biggest tech companies in the world. Now, Hinton has left his job at Google and is warning many about the risks of AI technology, stating that he now regrets his life’s work.

samsung

Alphabet Stock Drops After Samsung Considers Switching Default Search to Bing

Samsung is considering ending its long-standing partnership with Google in favor of Bing as the default search engine for its devices. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, saw its stock drop by more than 3% in early trading Monday as a result of the news.

According to The New York Times, Google’s internal response to the possible change was “panic.” It is unclear whether Microsoft’s decision to incorporate ChatGPT into Bing was a driving factor in Samsung’s deliberation.

Since Google makes the bulk of its money from search ads, the development of AI search technology represents the greatest threat to Google’s search business in the past 25 years. As it stands, Google’s contract with Samsung generates around $3 billion in annual revenue. Google’s contract with Apple, which is up for renewal this year, brings in $20 billion in revenue.

Recent advances in AI have prompted Google to explore ways to incorporate AI into its flagship search product. According to internal reports, around 160 designers, engineers, and executives at Google are all working together in “sprint rooms” on a new project called Magi to build competitive AI-powered search features.

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Google is also working on a brand-new search engine that uses artificial intelligence more broadly. Plans for this new search engine are still in the early stages, and a release date has not been set. The future system will anticipate user searches, provide curated lists of potential purchases, and be more conversational, similar to Bing’s new search engine format. In the meantime, the goal of the Magi project is to enhance Google’s current search engine.

Jim Lecinski, a former Google vice president of sales and service and professor of marketing at Northwestern University, said the company has to now persuade users that it is as “powerful, competent and contemporary” as its competitors.

“If we are the leading search engine and this is a new attribute, a new feature, a new characteristic of search engines, we want to make sure that we’re in this race as well.”

During a test last week, Google employees quizzed the Magi project’s enhanced Google search on its conversational skills by asking it follow-up questions. Next month, Google plans to roll out the tools to the public, making them available to as many as 1 million users, with added functionality coming in the fall. According to The New York Times, the number will increase to 30 million users by the end of the year. The tools will only be available in the United States.

In a roadmap document, a Google executive revealed that the company is thinking about integrating artificial intelligence into Google Earth’s mapping features and providing a separate feature that lets users conduct music searches via conversation with a chatbot.

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A feature that uses AI to generate images within image results is also in the works, as is a feature that uses AI text conversations to teach users a new language. Users will also be able to ask a chatbot questions as they browse the web using a product called Searchalong.

Last year, Google made $162 billion from its search business. According to The New York Times, Google was taken aback by the prospect of Samsung, which sells hundreds of millions of smartphones with Google’s Android software every year, switching its default search engine.

In a statement to CNN, Google spokesperson Lara Levin said the company has always been committed to using AI to “improve the quality of our results” and “offer entirely new ways to search,” citing a feature rolled out last year that allowed users to search by combining images and words.

“We’ve done so in a responsible and helpful way that maintains the high bar we set for delivering quality information. Not every brainstorm deck or product idea leads to a launch, but as we’ve said before, we’re excited about bringing new AI-powered features to search and will share more details soon.”

Google has been involved in AI research for a long time, and its DeepMind lab in London is world-renowned. The company has also contributed to the development of autonomous vehicles and large language models used by chatbots. Due to concerns over the accuracy of AI, Google has been slow to integrate it into its search engine.

snapchat

Snapchat Launches AI Chatbot Powered by ChatGPT

Snapchat is launching its own artificial intelligence chatbot powered by OpenAI’s viral ChatGPT. The feature, called My AI, will be available to Snapchat Plus subscribers starting this week.

In a blog post, Snapchat shared how My AI can help subscribers with various tasks and assist them in their day-to-day activities.

“My AI can recommend birthday gift ideas for your BFF, plan a hiking trip for a long weekend, suggest a recipe for dinner, or even write a haiku about cheese for your cheddar-obsessed pal.”

Snapchat cautioned, however, that the chatbot is “experimental” and may respond in unexpected ways.

“As with all AI-powered chatbots, My AI is prone to hallucination and can be tricked into saying just about anything. Please be aware of its many deficiencies, and sorry in advance!”

An AI hallucination is a term for when an AI presents false facts as the truth. In other words, it may confidently output completely made-up answers, leading to misinformation. At times, the answers may even be nonsensical.

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In an email to CNET, a Snapchat representative described how the company customized the latest version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology for its platform.

“My AI was trained to have a unique tone and personality that plays into Snapchat’s core values around friendship, learning, and fun. It has been trained to adhere to our trust and safety guidelines.”

The company’s community guidelines prohibit the chatbot from responding with explicit, inflammatory or violent content.

Snapchat will store all conversations between subscribers and their My AI to review and help improve product experience. Users can also submit direct feedback to Snapchat by pressing and holding any message. Snapchat advised users not to “share any secrets with My AI” and to not rely on it for advice.

Currently, the feature is only available to Snapchat Plus members. However, in an interview with the Verge, Snapchat founder and CEO Evan Spiegel said the goal is to make the feature available to all of Snapchat’s 750 million monthly users.

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Snapchat is the latest in a string of companies to integrate artificial intelligence into their platforms. Google recently revealed its ChatGPT contender Bard. The chatbot infamously made a factual error during an ad demo, costing Google a $100 billion drop in market value.

The same week, Microsoft announced it would integrate ChatGPT into its search engine Bing.

Since Snapchat is a messaging service, Spiegel believes it is uniquely positioned to create a personable chatbot. Spiegel told the Verge, “The big idea is that in addition to talking to our friends and family every day, we’re going to talk to AI every day.”

Unlike other AI chatbot integrations on platforms, Snapchat’s My AI interface suggests the chatbot is intended to be more than just a productivity tool. The chatbot has an avatar, and its “user profile” resembles a regular Snapchat friend profile. Users can even change the chat’s wallpaper.

The current price for a subscription to Snapchat Plus is $3.99 per month.

bard

Google’s AI Chatbot ‘Bard’ Makes a Factual Error, Costing Alphabet $100 Billion in Market Value

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, saw a $100 billion drop in market value after Bard, its competing chatbot to Microsoft’s ChatGPT, made an error in an ad containing a demo.

google

Texas Sues Google Over Facial Data Collection

The state of Texas is suing Google for illegally collecting Texans’ facial and voice recognition information without their consent, according to a statement issued by the state attorney general’s office on Thursday.

For over a decade, a Texas consumer protection law has barred companies from collecting data on Texans’ faces, voices or other biometric identifiers without receiving prior informed consent. Ken Paxton, the state’s attorney general, said Google violated this law by recording identifiers such as “a retina or iris scan, fingerprint, voiceprint, or record of hand or face geometry.

“In blatant defiance of that law, Google has, since at least 2015, collected biometric data from innumerable Texans and used their faces and their voices to serve Google’s commercial ends. Indeed, all across the state, everyday Texans have become unwitting cash cows being milked by Google for profits.”

The law imposes a $25,000 fine for every violation. According to reports, millions of users in Texas had their information stored. The complaint explicitly references the Google Photos app, Google’s Nest camera, and Google Assistant as means of collection.

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A spokesman for Google, José Castañeda, accused Paxton of “mischaracterizing” products in “another breathless lawsuit.”

“For example, Google Photos helps you organize pictures of people by grouping similar faces, so you can easily find old photos. Of course, this is only visible to you, and you can easily turn off this feature if you choose and we do not use photos or videos in Google Photos for advertising purposes. The same is true for Voice Match and Face Match on Nest Hub Max, which are off-by-default features that give users the option to let Google Assistant recognize their voice or face to show their information. We will set the record straight in court.”

This lawsuit is the latest in a string of major cases brought against the company. Earlier this month, Arizona settled a privacy suit against Google for $85 million. Indiana, Washington and the District of Columbia also sued Google in January over privacy invasions related to location tracking.

In a much larger antitrust case, 36 states filed a lawsuit against Google in July over its control of the Android app store.

Paxton has gone after large technology corporations in the past for their privacy and monopolizing practices. In 2020, his office joined nine other states in filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google, which accused it of “working with Facebook Inc. in an unlawful manner that violated antitrust law to boost its already-dominant online advertising business.”

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After the Jan. 6 insurrection, Paxton demanded Twitter, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to be transparent about their content moderation procedures. This year, he also opened an investigation into Twitter over its reported percentage of fake accounts, saying that the company may be disingenuous about its numbers to inflate its value and raise its revenue.

In February, Paxton sued Meta for facial recognition software it provided users to help tag photos. The lawsuit is ongoing. However, Instagram is now required to ask for permission to analyze Texans’ facial features to properly use facial filters.

“Google’s indiscriminate collection of the personal information of Texans, including very sensitive information like biometric identifiers, will not be tolerated. I will continue to fight Big Tech to ensure the privacy and security of all Texans.”

In 2009, Texas revealed its privacy law, which covered biometric identifiers. Other states were implementing similar laws around the country during this same time. Texas was unique in that in the case of violations, the state of Texas would have to sue on behalf of the consumers.