June 28, 2023

Emerging Technologies Highlights: Week of June 28, 2023

This week, we first highlight positive developments for the metaverse sector as a whole. New reports indicate the potential of Immersive technologies to attract young users and reshape the hospitality industry for the better. Most notably, analysts emphasize AI's potential to accelerate the metaverse's development by creating AI-powered avatars and facilitating the creation of virtual worlds.  Collaborations continue, as FC Barcelona joined forces with the World of Women’s NFT collection.

Meanwhile, big players are saving crypto from collapse. Some of the biggest names in finance are making new bets on cryptocurrencies, adding competition and momentum to an upstart industry under increasing pressure from US regulators. As regulatory pressure and crypto scam scandals accumulate, such support is much-needed.

Lastly, two major regulatory decisions were announced in the past few days. The European Union secured a political deal to keep unbacked crypto out of the traditional financial system. Japan, meanwhile, announced that token issuers no longer have to pay corporate taxes on unrealized cryptocurrency gains. These announcements match a broader trend: as Europe and the US impose harsher regulations on emerging technologies, Asia and Africa are embracing them outright to get a competitive edge and attract talent. This competitive dynamic might lead European and American decision-makers to change their strategy down the line.


The bottom line: Token issuers in Japan no longer have to pay corporate taxes on unrealized cryptocurrency gains, according to a law revision by the National Tax Agency on June 20.  The tax exemption goes into effect nearly six months after the Japanese government approved a proposal eliminating the requirement for crypto firms to pay taxes on paper gains on tokens they issued and held. Legislators in Japan have been discussing new crypto tax rules since last August as part of broader tax reform for 2023, but the tax authority has only given the final approval this week.

The bottom line: Some of the biggest names in finance are making new bets on cryptocurrencies, adding competition and momentum to an upstart industry that is under increasing pressure from US regulators. The world's largest money manager, BlackRock, wants to start a new exchange-traded fund using bitcoin as an underlying asset. Two other sizable money managers, Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab, are backing a new cryptocurrency exchange with Citadel Securities. And one of the world's biggest lenders, Deutsche Bank, wants to operate a crypto custody business that would hold digital assets for its clients.

The bottom line: Naum Lantsman was sure his cryptocurrency investments were making money. Every time he'd log on to the trading platform he was using, it looked like he was reaping windfall profits. But Lantsman, in fact, was one of a growing number of people who've fallen victim to cryptocurrency scams.

The bottom line: Increased digitalization and ever-evolving technology are shaking up the global hospitality industry. French hotel giant Accor is dipping its toe in the metaverse to create new customer experiences. The emerging metaverse, a digital world powered by 3D, virtual reality, and augmented reality technologies, is set to open up all sorts of new ‘try before you buy’ experiences for hotel customers in the future.

The bottom line: Whether the metaverse becomes the next frontier of brand-consumer interaction or not, one thing is for sure: Those who embrace it early stand to gain a competitive edge in engaging the next generation. Gen Z, who have grown up in a digital world, are seeking immersive, social, and valuable digital media experiences, and research reveals that gaming has already become their top entertainment activity, surpassing traditional TV and streaming services.

The bottom line:  Artificial intelligence (AI) tools are rapidly changing how we investigate and imagine the world and the urban environment. They can generate a highly "realistic" representation of an urban scene with just a single prompt – but not always for the best. Using AI to help design cities of the future risks creating a regressive world like The Jetsons unless we recognize the technology's susceptibility to stigma and bias, write MIT scientists Fábio Duarte and Washington Fajardo.

One Useful Thing, On giving AI eyes and ears

The bottom line: Over the past seven months, AI has come to mean chatbots. All of the web interfaces of the big Large Language Models (Bard, Bing/ChatGPT, and Claude) started as chatbots, and that has shaped our popular understanding of what AI can do. It anthropomorphizes AI as “someone” you can talk with, making us think that AIs can only communicate via text. But even this is just the beginning, and new modes of using AI are appearing, which further increases their capabilities. 

Psychology Today, Generative AI in the Metaverse

The bottom line: Generative AI could increase the effectiveness of collaboration and connection in the metaverse. Building an empathy-driven large language model could enhance avatar interaction in the metaverse. Multi-sensory interactions in the metaverse would enable rich connections across locations and generations. Building the database of multi-sensory immersive virtual worlds is the biggest gap to the potential for LLMs to generate dynamic virtual worlds. 

The bottom line: On Tuesday, The European Union (EU) secured a political deal on new bank-capital legislation, including for crypto assets, after lawmakers sought “prohibitive” rules to keep unbacked crypto out of the traditional financial system. The political deal, which also introduces sweeping and controversial changes to how banks assess the risk of corporate and home loans, must now be voted on by member states in the EU’s Council and lawmakers to become legislation. This process can, in practice, take many months.

The bottom line: European football giant FC Barcelona has partnered with the non-fungible token (NFT) project World of Women to release the second artwork in its 'Masterpiece' collection.  Titled 'Empowerment,' the NFT artwork is inspired by Alexia Putellas, a renowned Spanish football player. Alexia, who captains Barcelona and represents the national team of Spain, serves as the inspiration for this unique piece.

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