Microsoft Develops Secret AI Chips to Reduce Development Costs

In an effort to reduce development costs for in-house and OpenAI projects, Microsoft has reportedly been developing its own artificial intelligence (AI) chips in secret. The project, called “Athena,” has been in the works since 2019 and appears to be designed to reduce the company’s reliance on Nvidia’s GPUs. According to a Google search, Nvidia’s H100 GPU, one of the more popular options for training machine learning systems, can cost as much as $40,000 on reseller services like eBay.

In response to these high costs, several Big Tech companies, including Meta, Google, and Amazon, have all developed their own machine-learning chips in recent years. Microsoft’s Athena project is likely a continuation of this trend. While details remain scarce as Microsoft has not officially commented on the project, The Information’s report claims that the chips are already being tested by members of Microsoft’s internal machine-learning staff and OpenAI’s developers.

The development of in-house AI chips is becoming an increasingly popular trend among tech giants as they seek to reduce costs and improve the performance of their machine-learning systems. These systems require vast amounts of computational power, and GPUs have traditionally been the go-to solution for many companies. However, as the demand for GPUs has increased, so too have the costs, leading many companies to explore alternative solutions.

One such solution is the development of specialized AI chips that are designed specifically for machine learning tasks. These chips can be optimized for the specific demands of machine learning workloads, resulting in faster performance and reduced power consumption compared to general-purpose GPUs.

Microsoft’s Athena project is likely an attempt to gain a competitive edge in the rapidly growing AI market. As the generative AI arms race continues to heat up, companies are investing heavily in AI research and development. With its own in-house AI chips, Microsoft could potentially reduce costs, improve performance, and gain a strategic advantage over its competitors.

In conclusion, Microsoft’s secret development of AI chips is likely part of a broader trend among tech giants to reduce development costs and improve the performance of their machine-learning systems. The project, code-named “Athena,” is already being tested by Microsoft’s internal machine-learning staff and OpenAI’s developers, indicating that it may be close to production. As the demand for computational power continues to grow, specialized AI chips may become increasingly important for companies seeking to gain a competitive edge in the AI market.


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Italy Bans Microsoft-Backed AI Chatbot

Italy’s decision to ban the Microsoft-backed AI chatbot, ChatGPT, has caused controversy within the tech industry and the country. The Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, criticized the ban as excessive and potentially damaging to national business and innovation.

The ban followed concerns raised by Italy’s national data agency about possible privacy violations and failure to verify the age of users. On Friday, March 31, OpenAI took ChatGPT offline in Italy, making it the first Western country to take measures against the AI chatbot.

Salvini expressed his thoughts on the ban through a post on Instagram, stating that he found the decision of the Privacy Watchdog that forced #ChatGPT to prevent access from Italy disproportionate. He also argued that dozens of services based on artificial intelligence are currently in operation, and therefore, common sense needs to be exercised, as privacy issues concern practically all online services.

Furthermore, Ron Moscona, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney and an expert in technology and data privacy, said the ban by the Italian regulators was surprising, as it is unusual to completely ban a service due to a data breach incident.

OpenAI has stated that it adheres to privacy regulations in Europe and is willing to cooperate with Italy’s privacy regulatory body. The company takes measures to minimize personal data when training its AI systems, including ChatGPT, as its goal is for the AI to acquire knowledge about the world, not to obtain information about specific individuals.

While the ban could harm national business and innovation, Salvini hopes that a rapid solution will be found, and ChatGPT’s access to Italy will be restored. “Every technological revolution brings great changes, risks, and opportunities. It is right to control and regulate through international cooperation between regulators and legislators, but it cannot be blocked,” he said.

The AI chatbot is also under scrutiny in other regions worldwide. The Center for Artificial Intelligence and Digital Policy (CAIDP) lodged a complaint against ChatGPT on March 31, intending to prevent the deployment of potent AI systems to the general public. The CAIDP characterized the chatbot as a “biased” and “deceptive” platform that jeopardizes public safety and confidentiality.

In conclusion, the ban on ChatGPT in Italy has created significant controversy within the country and the tech industry. While concerns about privacy and age verification have been raised, the ban has also been criticized as excessive and potentially harmful to national business and innovation. OpenAI has stated that it adheres to privacy regulations in Europe and is willing to cooperate with Italy’s privacy regulatory body. The debate over the regulation of AI chatbots continues worldwide, with concerns about public safety and confidentiality at the forefront.


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Microsoft developing Web3 wallet for Edge browser

It would seem that Microsoft is working on a new Web3 wallet that will handle cryptocurrencies and NFTs. This wallet will be integrated into the Edge web browser. The wallet, the development of which has just begun, will be noncustodial, which means that Microsoft will not have access to users’ passwords or recovery keys. Also, the wallet will be incorporated inside the browser rather than functioning as an extension. It has been stated that users will be able to trade, transfer, and acquire crypto assets using the wallet. Also, the wallet will interface with Coinbase and MoonPay to make it simpler for customers to purchase cryptocurrency and deposit it into their wallets.

The software documenter Albacore was the one who released screenshots of the early user interface for the Edge wallet. Albacore also said that the decision by Microsoft to integrate a cryptocurrency wallet in its default browser was problematic. An introduction page for the wallet is shown in the user interface. This page invites users to try out the new feature and offer feedback on their experience with it. It seems that the wallet will also support NFTs, enabling users to search for their first NFTs across a variety of markets before storing and organizing their collections inside the wallet.

This move by Microsoft is a component of a larger attempt to improve the functionality of its Edge browser and play catch-up with industry rivals like Google Chrome and Apple Safari. Microsoft made the announcement in February that it will be integrating OpenAI’s ChatGPT, an AI-driven search engine and chat feature, into its Bing search engine and Edge browser. ChatGPT is a tool that allows users to have conversations powered by search results. Microsoft is sending a signal that it is committed to being competitive and relevant in an environment that is becoming more favorable toward cryptocurrencies with the release of a Web3 wallet.


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The Metaverse: The Future of Social Life?

During the course of the last year, the cryptocurrency and Web3 markets saw a contradiction consisting of very volatile markets and strong hopes for the future of the field.

Users and investors have both continued to pour their resources into the business, particularly in sectors that are concerned with the metaverse.

A recent study conducted by CoinWire in December 2022 among over 10,000 crypto investors indicated that user attitude towards the metaverse has digital reality positioned to affect all aspects of social life. The survey was conducted to find out how users feel about the metaverse.

69% of respondents feel that the metaverse would redefine social lifestyle with a new approach to entertainment, and 65% of respondents believe that the metaverse will bring about a new approach to social activities.

The opinions of 61.2% of people about how it would influence their income, 49.6% of people regarding how it will effect businesses, and 45% of people regarding how it will affect education were likewise high.

Microsoft has been awarded 158 patents linked to the metaverse over the course of the last five years, putting it ahead of other major tech companies such as Meta, Tencent, and Epic Games.

As the metaverse continues to advance, it will be in a position to have the potential to influence social life in a more discernible way.

At the Consumer Electronics Show 2023, for instance, it was recently announced that new metaverse capabilities would include the ability to touch and smell virtual objects.

In addition, the poll found that more over half of the respondents who are involved in the metaverse hold some type of cryptocurrency. This percentage was calculated as 53%.

The results of the poll put the United States of America in first place when it comes to innovation in the metaverse.

According to the data shown above, the countries of China and India have the most favourable attitudes regarding regular participation in the metaverse: 78% and 75%, respectively.

In addition, the report found that even though almost nine out of ten respondents had heard of the term “Web3,” 52% of them still had some kind of uncertainty as to what it actually entails when something is termed “Web3.” In line with the uncertainty that many investors feel, more than sixty percent of investors said they want more regulations to be applied to the industry.

Around the course of the last year, regulatory agencies all over the world have started adopting and debating new regulations for the business.

Despite this, aspects of Web3 such as the metaverse continue to be towards the top of the priority list in many countries.

The South Korean government has just made its test city in the metaverse accessible to the general public.

According to a research published by McKinsey, it is anticipated that the value of the metaverse would reach $5 trillion during the next seven years.


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Microsoft Shares Strategies for Integrating Crypto into Regular Payment Transactions

Microsoft, a global pioneer in payment technology and innovation, has announced plans to develop methods of integrating crypto, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT), and metaverse into the world’s financial sector to make daily payments seamless.


Raj Dhamodharan the Executive Vice President of Digital Asset & Blockchain Products and Partnerships at Microsoft outlined 5 different methods of making this possible.


The first method Raj stated was the use of crypto cards. Raj noted that Microsoft has partnered with Gemini in the United States to offer a credit card that uses crypto for making rewards payments. A recent announcement was made in Europe as Microsoft creates the world’s first debit card to be personalized into a customer’s NFT avatar.


The second method according to Raj is the provision of Services through crypto. Crypto users and companies can now get support in terms of cybersecurity, advisory, and banking services from Microsoft.


Thirdly, companies can form a partnership with giant-crypto companies such as  Paxos and Uphold to convert crypto into fiat so as to simplify payment transactions. The fourth key involves integrating some cryptocurrencies approved by Microsoft into their network so as to expand the choice of payments for users.


Lastly, Raj mentioned the relevance of partnering with metaverse and NFTs. According to him, “Customers of Coinbase can already use Mastercard to pay for NFTs, and in June we announced intentions to extend these options to eight additional NFT marketplaces and infrastructure providers.”


Making Payments Easy with Crypto


In 2020, the world’s top cryptocurrency exchange Binance announced the release of “Binance Card,” a new product that promises to offer crypto payment services anywhere in the world. The “Binance Card” offers many more features than a typical payment card. It functions similarly to a typical debit card supplied by your bank.

Also, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stated that the tech business is open to embracing Bitcoin as a form of payment for its transportation and Uber Eat delivery services in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box.

Image source: Shutterstock


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Metaverse Gaming Features Already Exist in Web2, Says Microsoft Gaming Boss

The entire concept of the Metaverse and Web3.0 might be new to outsiders, but gamers it has been living in this reality for years. 


Phil Spencer, the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft Gaming, revealed this position in an interview with Bloomberg Studio 1.0, highlighting that gamers nowadays do not really understand the thrill of the metaverse “because the technologies proponents claim as novel are ones they have experienced in games for years.”

“It’s not at all surprising to me that gamers might look at metaverse and think… I already have an avatar of myself, I can already go into a shared world, and I can already have voice conversations,” he said.

Spencer reiterated how Microsoft has been very cautious when it comes to certain offshoots of the blockchain gaming ecosystem, such as Play-to-Earn (P2E). The tech giant is cautious as it does not want its platforms to be unduly monetized, although Spencer noted that some forms of monetization are already commonplace in the Web2.0 ecosystem.

“There have been gold farmers, people who literally just spend their time doing some menial task in a game to accrue some currency that they can then sell to some other rich player for real money, so that person doesn’t have to spend their time… But now you find games that are starting to build that into the economy of the game itself,” 

Microsoft’s reservations regarding monetizing NFTs and their underlying innovations have pushed its Mojang Studios, the startup behind the Minecraft game platform, to ban all forms of NFT and monetization-related activities, as announced back in July. 

The limitations Minecraft announced have pushed platforms like NFT Worlds to pull out from Minecraft as its primary gaming platform. In all, Microsoft still remains one of the major tech giants pursuing metaverse-related advancement as Web3.0 evolves.

Image source: Shutterstock


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GameStop stock up on rumors of Microsoft NFT game partnership

The stock price of popular video game store chain GameStop (GME) surged roughly 13% in one day amid rumors circulating online regarding a partnership with Microsoft to work on NFT gaming.

At the time of writing, GME sits at $115.60 as of market close on Feb. 8 and has also held around that level in after-hours trading according to data from TradingView.

GME started February at around the $100 region and has been pumping this month on the back of GameStop’s partnership with NFT focused Layer-2 Ethereum scaling solution Immutable X to develop its upcoming NFT marketplace. As part of the deal, GameStop is also rolling out a $100 million grant program denominated in IMX tokens for NFT content creators and tech developers.

The latest rumors circulating via channels such as Reddit and Twitter suggest that GameStop may team up with Microsoft to launch NFT integrations into existing games, along with creating new NFT focused games.

Twitter user “P_MackD” shared a photo earlier today that contained compiled screenshots of tweets from Immutable X and Microsoft execs cryptically posting the “probably nothing” meme regarding the major partnership with GameStop.

Yorke Rhodes III in particular, the director of Microsoft’s blockchain department tagged Xbox, Microsoft and GameStop in his tweet, potentially hinting that the tech giant may have a role to play in the Immutable X and GameStop partnership behind the scenes.

While it is unclear what the exact connection between the three parties is, a Feb. 6 post on the r/Superstonk Reddit community outlined a notable hypothesis of what the partnership could entail.

Commenting on Microsoft’s major $69 billion acquisition of gaming giant Activision Blizzard, bamfcoco1 pointed to the firm’s turn-based player vs player collectible card game Hearthstone as something ripe for NFT integrations via Immutable X and GameStop.

Related: 3 things every NFT investor should know to avoid a tax nightmare

The Redditor argued that Hearthstone’s declining user base from a peak of roughly 23.5 million to 3.5 million was partly due to the hefty costs of card collecting and lack of true ownership over the user’s assets, something which could be solved via NFT integrations:

“With the ability to freely mint and trade NFTs on Immutable X’s platform, it’s a no brainer. GameStop could launch Hearthstone on their brand new Web3 platform by simply making an NFT for every card and then distributing them accordingly to users’ existing card collections. It’s about as easy as it would get.”

It appears that Web3 and NFT related announcements have a strong impact on the price of GameStops shares. Cointelegraph reported in early January that the price of GME gained a whopping 26% in after hours trading after the unveiling of the firm’s new NFT division.