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  • Chinese Universities Obtain Banned Nvidia Chips Through Resellers to Advance AI Initiatives.

Chinese Universities Obtain Banned Nvidia Chips Through Resellers to Advance AI Initiatives.

Apple continues acquisitions to catch up on AI and Microsoft animates photos

Today’s Highlights:

📰 News: China acquires banned microchips and Microsoft animates photos

💰 Funding: Apple makes acquisitions to catch up on AI

⚡️ Top News Stories:

  • Despite the U.S. expanding an embargo last November to include additional high-end Nvidia AI chips, Chinese universities and research institutes have recently acquired these through resellers embedded in Super Micro, Dell, and Gigabyte Technology servers.

  • These transactions involved entities like the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shandong Artificial Intelligence Institute among others, with Nvidia stating that the chips were likely part of stock available before the new restrictions and did not constitute a violation of export controls.

  • Super Micro, Dell, and Gigabyte stated they comply with all applicable laws, with Super Micro emphasizing that the servers identified were of older generations not suited for large scale AI operations.

  • The acquisitions, although limited in number, highlight ongoing access to advanced technology that could potentially be used for military AI applications, despite U.S. efforts to limit China’s capabilities in this area.

  • The U.S. and Taiwan enforce strict export controls, with significant penalties for violations, as the transactions underscore challenges in completely halting the flow of advanced chips to China.

  • Microsoft Research Asia introduced VASA-1, an AI model capable of animating a single photo to match an audio track in real-time, potentially useful for creating virtual avatars and other applications.

  • The technology, termed VASA (Visual Affective Skills Animator), analyzes a static image and audio clip to generate videos with realistic facial expressions, head movements, and lip-syncing without altering the original voice.

  • VASA-1 has been trained using the VoxCeleb2 dataset, which includes over 1 million utterances from 6,112 celebrities, enabling it to produce high-resolution videos at 40 frames per second with minimal latency.

  • While showcasing the technology's potential through various demonstrations, Microsoft emphasizes that it aims to develop virtual interactive characters, not impersonate real individuals, and does not plan to release this as a product or API.

  • Despite the potential positive uses such as enhancing educational and therapeutic experiences, concerns exist about the misuse of such technology, including creating fake videos or harassment; Microsoft has expressed a commitment to advancing forgery detection.

  • Menteebot is a new human-sized AI robot that understands and responds to commands using natural language, allowing for a highly interactive experience.

  • This robot is equipped with advanced AI algorithms and natural language processing capabilities, enabling it to perform tasks with human-like balance and control, including running, walking sideways, and lifting heavy objects.

  • Unlike traditional robots which operate on fixed commands, Menteebot can be "trained" by users through simulations in a digital environment, learning to perform tasks repetitively until mastered.

  • Despite its potential, there are concerns about whether Menteebot will live up to its promotional claims, reminiscent of previous AI technologies that failed to meet expectations.

  • Set for release in 2025, Menteebot will be available in two versions: one for residential use and another for commercial applications, with no price announced yet but expected to exceed previous technology costs significantly.

Snapchat boosts AI transparency and safety with new labels, rigorous ad reviews, and future watermarking of AI-generated content

  • Snapchat enhances AI features for greater transparency and safety, including new contextual icons and labels.

  • Political ads on Snapchat will undergo strict review processes to ensure compliance and accuracy.

  • Future updates will introduce watermarks on AI-generated images to clearly indicate their artificial origin.

  • The platform employs a red-teaming strategy to robustly test and secure its AI models against potential threats.

  • Snapchat commits to continuous education and updates on its AI tools to safeguard against harmful or misleading content.

Slack expands its AI capabilities to all paying customers, introducing tools that auto-generate channel recaps and facilitate conversational search across multiple languages. The AI features, which include daily summaries and integration with third-party apps like Salesforce, aim to enhance user interaction and streamline communication within the platform.

HarperCollins Publishers partners with ElevenLabs to produce audiobooks using AI text-to-speech technology, focusing on expanding their foreign language and deep backlist series. This collaboration will allow for faster, cost-effective audiobook production, overcoming linguistic barriers and increasing the availability of diverse titles in non-English markets.

CAA has launched an initiative called CAA Vault, which creates AI clones of A-list clients to explore new creative opportunities, such as reshooting scenes, dubbing, and using AI for stunt doubles. Partnering with AI firms to scan and replicate clients' bodies, faces, and voices, CAA aims to eventually offer this technology across the entertainment industry, acknowledging and adapting to the significant impacts AI is expected to have on Hollywood.

The Canadian federal government has allocated $50 million over four years for retraining initiatives through the Sectoral Workforce Solutions Program. This funding, part of a broader $2.3 billion investment to enhance AI technology adoption, aims to support workers in sectors most likely to be impacted by AI advancements. The initiative acknowledges both the challenges and opportunities presented by AI, aiming to prepare the workforce for significant economic and societal transformations.

Microsoft has strengthened its AI supercomputing team by hiring former Meta executive Jason Taylor as the new corporate vice president and deputy CTO. Taylor, who managed Meta's AI, data, and privacy infrastructure, will aid Microsoft in developing advanced systems necessary for keeping pace with the rapid advancements in AI technology. This move comes amidst reports of Microsoft and OpenAI's plans to build a highly robust supercomputer.

Cognizant and Microsoft have expanded their partnership to integrate Microsoft's generative AI and Copilot technologies with Cognizant's advisory services, aiming to boost generative AI adoption across industries. This collaboration is expected to significantly contribute to U.S. and Indian GDP growth, with a focus on transforming business operations and enhancing employee and customer experiences. 

Bank of America forecasts a 36% increase in Apple stock, driven by the launch of an AI-enabled iPhone 16 and other catalysts. The bank's "Buy" rating is supported by expected enhancements in shareholder returns, AI developments, and improved profit margins from in-house chip production.

Quantum computers can now run powerful AI designs like transformers, initially developed for chatbots. Recent research has demonstrated that quantum transformers could potentially solve complex problems in encryption and chemistry by efficiently focusing on crucial parts of input data. This innovation opens up possibilities for quantum-AI integration, enhancing capabilities in fields where classical computers lag, despite current limitations in quantum technology development.

💰 Top Funding News:

Apple has acquired Paris-based AI startup Datakalab to enhance its on-device AI capabilities. Datakalab focuses on algorithm compression and embedded AI systems, aligning with Apple's emphasis on privacy and local data processing. This acquisition supports Apple's strategy to advance sophisticated AI technologies in its products, such as those expected in iOS 18. Datakalab has previously worked on projects like analyzing human emotions through facial recognition.

Langdock has raised $3 million in a seed round led by General Catalyst to develop a chat interface that helps companies integrate LLMs without vendor lock-in. This interface allows for flexible use of various foundational, open-source, or proprietary models, catering to companies that want regulatory-compliant integration within the EU. Langdock's solution also includes security and cloud services, with customers like Merck, which has deployed the interface to 63,000 employees. The funding round included contributions from notable European investors and competes with Paris-based Dust, which has also developed an LLM interface for businesses.

Webflow, a web design and hosting platform valued at $4 billion, has acquired Intellimize, an AI startup specializing in website personalization, for an undisclosed eight-figure sum. This marks Webflow's first acquisition, aimed at enhancing its offerings by integrating Intellimize's AI-driven personalization tools. Intellimize, known for adjusting web content based on user behavior, will continue to operate its services independently while also integrating with Webflow's platform. The move will expand Webflow's capabilities in marketing optimization, meeting a growing demand among customers for more personalized web experiences.

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