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Feb 15, 2023 18 min read

🕙 TechNews: What's happening in Tech this week #113

🕙 TechNews: What's happening in Tech this week #113
Table of Contents

The news, insights, and information that you need to know about what happened in Tech this week.

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Starbucks Use Case: Building customer loyalty with NFTs

Starbucks, as one of the first big brands to make a decisive move toward leveraging blockchain for loyalty, faces the problem of winning over both Web3 experts and a public whose interest in NFTs is still quite low. And the Odyssey beta, which is serving as a testing ground for the brand, highlights both the challenges and opportunities of being a first mover.

Starbucks expand loyalty program with NFTs
Starbucks has one of the largest and most successful customer loyalty programs on the planet, driving around 50% of its business. The latest strategy is to expand customer engagement with NFTs directly into the Rewards program.


1. Centre Pompidou unveils new permanent exhibition on NFT art and blockchain

Paris’s leading contemporary art museum, the Centre Pompidou, has announced a new permanent exhibition focused on the relationship between art and the blockchain. According to the press release, the Centre Pompidou will display 18 NFT artworks by 13 French and international artists, including blue-chip collectibles, such as CryptoPunk #110 and Autoglyph #25, both donated to the museum.

The exhibition, scheduled for spring 2023, will mark the first time that the Centre Pompidou has brought NFTs into its collection, which includes masterpieces by Vassily Kandinsky, Marc Chagall, Piet Mondrian, Frida Kahlo, and many other ground-breaking artists. Yuga Labs, which owns the CryptoPunks IP, donated the NFT through its Punks Legacy Project. The initiative, which aims to gift CryptoPunks to museums around the world, kicked off with the donation of CryptoPunk #305 to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

‎‎‏‏‎ “Seeing CryptoPunk #110 displayed in the Centre Pompidou, arguably the world’s most prestigious contemporary art museum, is a great moment for the Web3 and NFT ecosystem, and we’re honoured to help drive this cultural conversation,” said Yuga Labs co-founder Greg Solano

Source. Centre Pompidou


2. PayPal pauses work on launching its own Stablecoin

Payments giant PayPal is pausing work on launching its own stablecoin amid a regulatory crackdown on crypto, according to Bloomberg. The company, which lets customers buy, sell and hold tokens like bitcoin and ether, had been aiming to launch the stablecoin in the coming weeks but is putting the project on hold to better understand how digital assets will be regulated going forward, according to the report, which cited a person familiar with the matter.

  • Stablecoins are tokens that are pegged to the value of a fiat currency.

The pause comes a day after CoinDesk reported that Paxos, a blockchain payments company that had been working with PayPal on its stablecoin, is under investigation by the New York State Department of Financial Services. A spokesperson for PayPal told Bloomberg that the company is exploring a stablecoin and if they do decide to move forward with the project, they will “work closely with relevant regulators.” Source: The Information

Japanese Digital Yen: a viable alternative to stablecoins & CBDC?
Wiser! Essay: Plans to launch a digital Japanese yen have been unveiled by a consortium of over 70 banks. It’s not a CBDC or a stablecoin but it offers a real alternative to either of them.


3. Alphabet experiences second largest daily market cap loss ever after AI own goal

Shares of Alphabet came under massive selling pressure as the company has failed to impress investors with its newest AI edition. The market valuation of Alphabet has been reduced by nearly $110 billion due to today’s decline.

The trigger was when Google launched an online commercial to promote the new AI chatbot, Bard. But it provided an incorrect answer (duh!)  In the ad, Bard is asked, “What new findings from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) can I discuss with my nine-year-old?”

Bard responded with a variety of responses, one of which is that the telescope was used to capture the first images of extrasolar planets or exoplanets. This is incorrect. The issue was only discovered just before Google’s launch event for Bard in Paris, where senior executive Prabhakar Raghavan introduced Bard as the company’s future. Raghaven told the audience “the only limit to your search will be your creativity.”

Google was prompted to issue a statement regarding the share price decline, stating that Bard’s response “highlights the necessity of a robust testing procedure.” Noticable by its absence was Alphabet’s explanation as to why the product launch team didn’t think to manually triple fact-check the response, just in case! Source: Investro

Bing has c9% of the global Search marketshare

Bing has played second fiddle to Google Search for years, is that about to change?

Microsoft's integration of ChatGPT into Bing, and Google's unveiling of its underwhelming AI chatbot Bard, has sparked competition in internet search after decades of domination by Google, which holds 88% of the US market share. Bing's AI-powered revamp is looking promising, and its success may depend on how much value people place on complex searches, such as planning an anniversary weekend. Source: Chartr


Image credit: Réponses Photo

4. An AI-generated image on a magazine cover has raised questions of authenticity

Réponses Photo is a popular French photography magazine you’re unlikely to have heard of until now. That’s because they’ve gone and put an AI-generated image on the cover of its latest edition, demonstrating how far the technology has come in producing photorealistic images. The magazine aims to highlight how difficult it is to recognise an authentic image, and warns that it won't be long before readers win a competition with an AI-generated image. The increasing difficulty in distinguishing between human- and AI-created images has even led to an artist being banned from a Reddit art community, suggesting the need for a way to tell the difference.

ANSWER: The one on the right is the AI generated fake photo.


5. Shopify introduces blockchain tools & NFTs to 450 million buyers, giving millions exposure to the blockchain

Shopify, the multi-billion dollar e-commerce giant popular with small to medium sized businesses, has launched a series of new blockchain tools. The reason is to give merchants a host of web3 tools, functions and features to easily build token gated apps using NFTs.

In simple terms, these means that merchants can use digital technology in the form of a non-fungible token to manage access to their websites. For example, if they provide subscription content that's behind a paywall. The features allow merchants to do more than just access, because the smart contract functionality of a NFT lends itself to holding exclusive discounts & benefits for customers.

A key advantage from using NFTs to handle access is that users can verify themselves with new features like Sign-in With Ethereum, without having to give up any personal information to third-parties (i.e name, address, etc). It's like using Google or Facebook for signing into an app but without having to give away the keys to your house in the process.

This is big because Shopify is an-commerce giant. In 2021, it had 450 million buyers place an order on the platform worth $80 billion of orders processed.

Shopify use-cases

For more on what Shopify and other consumer brands are doing with NFTs and blockchain to engage with customers and increase loyalty and sales, check out the Brand Strategy Collection of 250 consumer brands in emerging tech.

Further Reading

Shopify Launches Comprehensive Blockchain Suite For Merchants | Bitcoinist.com
E-commerce giant Shopify has launched its new blockchain suite of products for merchants. This development is expected to improve user experience on


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6. AI is making stars like Tom Hanks and Harrison Ford look younger in movies

But voices in the industry express concern about where we might be heading.

In the trailer for his upcoming film, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Harrison Ford looks remarkably young for an 80-year old.

“That is my actual face at that age,” the actor explained on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “They have this artificial intelligence (AI) programme. It can go through every foot of film that Lucasfilm owns because I did a bunch of movies for them and they have all this footage including film that wasn’t printed: stock. They could mine it from where the light is coming from, the expression. But that’s my actual face. Then I put little dots on my face and I say the words and they make it. It’s fantastic.”

Ford is not the only actor to get a digital facelift with an assist from AI. Tom Hanks, Robin Wright and other cast members will play younger versions of themselves in Here, directed by Robert Zemeckis, thanks to a tool that the AI company Metaphysic says can create “high-resolution photorealistic faceswaps and de-ageing effects on top of actors’ performances live and in real time without the need for further compositing or VFX work”.

Metaphysic’s website proclaims: “We are world leaders in creating AI generated content that looks real” and suggests: “Use AI to create your own hyperreal avatar”. The company has just struck a deal with the Creative Artists Agency “to develop generative AI tools and services for talent”, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Here's The Thing: Do we really want our favourite characters going on forever, well past their sell by date? In Martin Scorsese’s 2019 movie, The Irishman, AI was used to knock four decades off Al Pacino, then 79, and Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, both 76. But, IMHO, there was something unreal and a bit creepy about the way the actors looked on film.

You could say that prosthetics, make-up and cosmetic surgery have been used for ever to make someone look younger. But somehow it just doesn't seem the same. Because not matter how good the tech is to make the face look 40, if the body is 80 (like Harrison Ford's) then it won't walk, run and jump like a 40 year old. Unless it was Lee Majors, of course! Source: The Guardian

Further Reading

Deepfakes are being used for state-sponsored propaganada
🔐 Premium: The rise of deepfakes has given us many funny and light-hearted movies. However, there’s a darker side to the generative AI that creates a false reality which is hard to see if fake. New evidence provides a frightening reminder of the flip side to the emerging tech.
This Singer Deepfaked Her Own Voice—and Thinks You Should Too
Self-described “computer musician” Holly Herndon explains why AI vocal clones can help give fellow artists sovereignty over their work.
The deepfake dangers lurking in the metaverse
The technology exists for anyone to create a hyperreal avatar of themselves. But do we stop these deepfake images from being misused?


7. Reddit's NFT collectible avatars is a perfect web3 use-case

Reddit’s NFT “Collectible Avatars” project is a prime example of an effective Web3 ”on-ramp” (which is jargon to “getting more customers). Thanks to the Super Bowl this week, about 1.3 million of the official Super Bowl LVII NFT avatars have been minted since Monday, including more than half a million on Tuesday. In total, users have now minted nearly 10 million of Reddit’s Collectible Avatar NFTs to date, according to public blockchain data available on Dune.

Because they’re free avatars, Reddit’s Super Bowl NFTs aren’t generating a lot of trading action. Secondary market prices start at just $0.23 on top NFT marketplace OpenSea, and the platform has only transacted about $7,600 worth of trades for the NFL collection since launch.

💰But it’s not about the money.

The bigger draw of Reddit’s NFT program is that it’s bringing people into the space in an accessible manner. Reddit users can simply click a button, pick the avatar they want from the collection, choose a password for a newly created wallet, and they’re set. The avatars can optionally be transferred to an external wallet and then traded or sold.

More than 6.6 million unique wallets now hold Reddit’s Polygon avatars, according to data available on Dune, including about 500,000 new wallets created this week amid the Super Bowl promo. The Super Bowl avatars were offered free to all Reddit users, who can claim one of four unique avatar styles—including those for the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles—through the Reddit platform at no cost. Reddit’s Collectible Avatars are minted on Polygon, an Ethereum sidechain network that enables cheaper, faster transactions.


8. Tractor maker John Deere's strategy is to generate at least 10% of its revenues from digital sources

John Deere, which has debuted tech like self-driving tractors, crop-spraying drones, and weed-identifying sprayers, said in January that it was “finalising a satellite partner." John Deere wants to connect farmers as part of its strategy to digitise its revenue sources. Last year, Deere set a strategic goal to get 10% of its revenue from software subscription fees by 2030. The company currently offers its customers free connectivity services through its JDLink platform.

Here's The Thing: Farm equipment is becoming smarter. Nowadays, the latest agricultural machines are loaded with sensors and powered by artificial intelligence. This makes internet connectivity important to farmers and the firms that supply the equipment to them, like John Deere.

But John Deere isn’t alone in seeing the opportunity in this sector. Microsoft has a built a platform called (bizarrely) FarmVibes.Connect to bring connectivity to remote and rural areas.

Source: TechBrew


9. Language app Duolingo uses AI to personalise the learning experience

Duolingo is a language learning platform that uses AI systems, such as Birdbrain, to personalise lessons for its 50 million active learners. Birdbrain is based on decades of research in educational psychology and recent advances in machine learning. It allows Duolingo to provide a gamelike approach with a simple user interface and bright cartoon characters.

This helps the platform achieve its mission of making the best education in the world universally available. With Birdbrain, Duolingo is able to scale the learning experience and provide 1 billion exercises per day.

Read this to find out how Birdbrain works and what it's done for Duolingo.


10. Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com to launch ChatGPT-style product

JD.com, one of China’s largest e-commerce players, said on Friday it plans to launch a ChatGPT-style product, joining a flurry of Chinese giants to announce plans for rival technology to OpenAI and Google's Bard. China tech giants Baidu, Alibaba, and NetEase have all announced their plans for ChatGPT rivals in the last couple of weeks.

The thing is that all of the announcements have fallen short of saying the generative AI product will be all-encompassing like ChatGPT. Instead, the Chinese alternatives to ChatGPT are all framed as application specific. The speculation is that this is because the CCP will be concerned about AI tools that can answer difficult questions about China's authoritarian approach to government (which may be well-founded but is also worthy of the "conspiracy theory" label.)

Here's The Thing: Over the past two years there has been intense scrutiny from Chinese regulators on China's technology firms. As a result, the CCP has overseen the introduction of new regulation covering issues such as antitrust and data protection. It was this tightening of regulations that saw LinkedIn become the last of the major Western tech firms to pull out of China in 2021.

Since the end of 2020, Chinese technology firms have had to adapt to a new regulatory situation and their announcements around their ChatGPT responses, which have been circumspect, reflect that reality.

  • Alibaba announced via its cloud division that it is working on a ChatGPT-style of technology that could be integrated into its cloud computing products.
  • NetEase meanwhile said that its education subsidiary Youdao has been working on generative AI, adding that the technology could be integrated into some of its education products.
  • JD said it will release an “industrial version” of ChatGPT called ChatJD. It will be a chatbot product focused on the fields of retail and finance. The product will be able to generate content as well as have human-to-computer dialogue, JD said.

ChatGPT, which has been developed by San Francisco-based startup OpenAI, is a chatbot that uses the technology of generative artificial intelligence. It allows people to ask it questions and it comes back with human-like responses.

Further Reading

Can AI lawyers replace human ones?
🔐 Premium: This is the question posed by DoNotPay, an AI powered tech lawfirm that has hit the headlines because of a stunt to use AI to actually represent a defendant in a US court of law. Will it happen? What does it mean? Are we one step closer to Minority Report?
How to create unique content with ChatGPT and QuillBot
Content creators know how time consuming the process of writing long form content is. From research to storyboarding, writing to editing. But, with generative AI tools like ChatGPT and QuillBot, all of that has changed. Here’s one way that you can save time and make money quicker using AI.
ChatGPT wrote this article (with a little help from me)
The promise and potential of generative AI has created much excitement, headlines and discussion. There’s little doubt that the tools using artificial intelligence to create content are fascinating. But can they be relied upon?
🎙️Big Tech Little Tech Podcast Episode #14
Artificial intelligence is a broad topic. From science fiction to enterprise-level supply chain product tracking, AI has had time to grow up. Are people still generally suspicious of AI, or will it prove its usefulness in time?


Other Tech News, Insights and Information

Elon Musk specific headlines

Further Reading

7 AI Creation Tools To Save Time and Be More Productive
The widespread use of generative AI has exploded in 2022. First, with the release of GPT-3, followed by DALL-E and Stable Diffusions, there are now countless content creation and productivity tools utilising AI. Here are 7 AI tools I use the most.
Brand Strategies For The Metaverse
Major consumer brands are investing in the emerging technologies for tomorrow’s digital world. From NFTs to blockchain, from web3 to the Metaverse. This database of over 250 consumer brands is, IMHO, the largest single collection of brand strategies for the metaverse.
Wiser! Top 10 Technology Predictions 2023
From 2023 being the year of AI to NFTs becoming a tech for customer engagement, from Elon Musk walking away from Twitter empty-handed to Meta pivoting again, these are my Top 10 Wiser! Technology Predictions for 2023.


🤖 Use AI Writing Tools To Do The Heavy Lifting

Do you ever need to summarise an interesting, long-form article without going through the effort of doing it yourself? Like, when your boss can’t be arsed to read it themselves and they dump it on you to do it for them. Well, here’s a hack you’ll find useful (and one that I use myself).

Check out Quillbot’s Summariser Tool. There’s a free and a paid version and you have options to adjust how you want the summary presented for you.

2X Your Content Creation with Quillbot’s AI Writing Tool
What if you could generate a single piece of content and reuse it across multiple platforms, saving you time while still giving value? The good news is that you can do it just like me. Using the AI-powered writing tool from Quillbot.
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