February 26, 2024

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The VR topic seems to have completely disappeared as every manufacturer and topic refocuses on AR. It’s nothing new, but Apple’s flagship headset has taken a giant leap forward with virtual reality, embracing the hybrid world more fully.

So far, Apple hasn’t really added much to the conversation — the headphones haven’t started shipping, after all — but if you bet against the Cupertino giant right now, you’re in for a particularly spicy mix that doesn’t match reality. This is a huge opportunity for startups.

Can we find humanity in artificial intelligence?

3d illustration of robot humanoid reading book in futuristic artificial intelligence and fourth industrial revolution concept. (3d illustration of robot humanoid reading book in futuristic artificial intelligence and fourth industrial revolution concept

Image Source: Nanostock (opens in new window) / Getty Images

There’s an old joke: Bob stares into the infinite abyss of space and says to his friend, “Do you think there’s intelligent life out there?” Ana replies, “Why would there be – there’s hardly any.” Yes, it’s funny, but the punch line keeps echoing in my head as the AI ​​train continues to zip along the tracks. You see, I don’t think AI is inherently evil or good, but it has to be trained on something, and the best we have is a lot of human knowledge. Humans may not be inherently evil, but gosh, we’re not particularly kind either.

This week, Devin pointed out that Fable Studios, which showed an AI-generated fake episode of South Park during the writers’ strike, was insensitive at best in its timing.

Apple (you know, that big Cupertino-based company. They make headphones and stuff) has also been in the AI ​​news. Related to the startup, it removed an AI-powered content generator modeled after the Meta Threads app. Not very relevant to startups, but I imagine this will make a startup or two nervous, and the company is reportedly testing an AI chatbot similar to ChatGPT. Maybe Siri will finally get smarter — because right now, she’s far below par for being “smart.” I’ll probably complain more about this in next week’s column.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of Shein (disposable clothing is inherently bad for the environment), but there’s another reason for the feud with the clothing maker right now: Designers are outraged that Shein used artificial intelligence to copy their work, and are suing the company.

You scribble, you need to be stable: You may have seen “Draw some circles, now draw the rest of the owl” A meme that has been circulating the internet. This week, Stability AI took the meme to a whole new level with the launch of Stable Doodle, a sketch-to-image tool.

hello bard: Google’s Bard chatbot is finally available in the EU, in over 40 languages. As you might expect, though, the EU is watching the matter closely, just as privacy advocates are.

bye joanne: The recent death of roboticist Joanne Pransky left a lasting impact on the industry, bringing a uniquely human element to conversations about robots and automation. A much-needed addition to the conversation, if you ask me.

The chain is off. . .

california cyclist bike

Image Source: Guan Bing/Getty Images

…or the chain could fall off. Fashion-forward bike company VanMoof collapsed this week, and we can’t help but wonder how the popular e-bike pioneer went bankrupt last week despite a booming market. The company came off the cliff this week by officially declaring bankruptcy in the Netherlands.

On the transportation front, Tesla announced that the first Cybertruck is finally rolling off the assembly line after years of promise. Tesla also announced one of the crazier things I’ve heard in the heat of the moment – as someone who’s been driving an FSD Tesla for a while and turned off the feature because I’ve been fearing for my life, I had a good belly laugh when I learned that Tesla plans to license its FSD technology to other OEMs soon. It will be interesting to see what happens on both fronts, especially as competitors react. Ford has slashed the price of its F-150 Lightning EV pickup, and with the release of BlueCruise 1.3, the manufacturer is pushing hard on the gas pedal for hands-off driving.

when payday is negative: For the time being, it seems that Tesla’s director-level compensation is a bit too high, and they paid $735 million to settle their own overpayment claims.

That’s right, it’s human: I whine about drivers doing something utterly stupid every time I drive out, but Cruise and Waymo’s blaming humans and their poor driving skills for delays in robo-taxi permits seems a bit of an exaggeration. People drive poorly, that should be the most predictable first thing ever, shouldn’t it? Safety regulators were outraged by the company’s ads, saying it was vulgar to use accidents with human drivers as a sales tactic.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t catch fire?: Rebecca reports New York City gig workers need help using safe e-bikes amid lithium battery fires.

Big Trends in Entrepreneurship

honey cow

Image Source: Hadjkamps (opens in new window) /TechCrunch (opens in new window)

Startup layoffs have been in our headlines for most of this year. Tech startups may be in a pruning phase right now, according to our stock podcast.

Rounds have risen and fallen slightly over the past year, but the overriding theme is whether startups can reach profitability — or at least have a clear path to getting there. This prompted Alex to analyze whether software startups are really good businesses on TC+.

When it comes to good business, it’s generally accepted that “Shark Tank” is entertainment with a round of due diligence after the cameras stop rolling. But Manish reported that Shark Tank India’s investors had failed to deliver on their promises, leaving some participants in the show unhappy (yes, that’s definitely a word).

TechCrunch+ interviewed a founder who decided to replace himself as CEO. It was a very honest and vulnerable conversation. You should read it. While I’m biased — I wrote this — this story is rarely told about startups, yet it’s all too common.

There have been some interesting exits over the past week. Here’s a small part of it.

quick exit: Amanda reports that Passes acquired Fanhouse after about 24 hours of talks, but some creators are concerned about the move.

milking: Christine reports that infant formula company Bobbie has raised $70 million, with a large chunk of the money being used to acquire rival Nature’s One.

express some more milk: It’s not uncommon for a VC firm to back a startup again after it exits, especially for a company that remains a private company; however, that’s what happened with Performance Livestock Analysis (PLA) this week.

Top reads on TechCrunch this week

peep, seat, seat: Aria meets a 19-year-old MIT dropout who is “replacing gunpowder” for the defense industry.

then not a fan: Amanda reports that Ami Gan is leaving OnlyFans after about two and a half years as CEO. Chief Strategy and Operations Officer Keily Blair will take over as CEO.

I hope you have built a website for me: Kyle writes that Wix’s AI Site Generator tool, released today, will allow users to describe their intent and generate a site with a home page, inner pages, text and images, as well as business-specific sections for events, bookings and more.

Finally, I tried to buy an article on TechCrunch. I know, I write for TechCrunch, so this is a pretty weird thing to do, but I paid $800 to lure some scammers. What I didn’t expect was that I had inadvertently fallen into a rat’s nest of Fiverr-powered organized crime and villains posing as my colleagues.

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