Carta takes heat, Samsung unveils an upgraded Ballie, and Volkswagen brings ChatGPT to cars

Image Credits: Samsung

Hello, fine friends, and welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular recap of noteworthy happenings in tech over the past few days. Our team on the ground at CES 2024 had plenty to report from the show — and more’s on the way. (Here are thorough roundups of all the announcements.) But the world didn’t stop turning for CES.

In this edition of WiR, we cover Carta’s allegedly unethical tactics, Samsung’s Ballie home robot, Volkswagen bringing ChatGPT into its cars and Amazon embracing more generative AI. Also on the agenda is the launch of OpenAI’s GPT Store, Logan Paul’s CryptoZoo debacle, Harvard’s robot exoskeleton and a major hack at Fidelity Financial.

It’s a lot to get through, so we won’t delay. But first, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already done so.

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Carta’s ethics in question: Carta, the cap table management outfit, is being accused of unethical tactics by startup Linear’s CEO Karri Saarinen. Saarinen alleged in a LinkedIn post that Carta misused sensitive information that startups entrust to the company in pursuit of its own goals. Carta decided to exit secondary trading following the credibility hit.

Samsung’s Ballie returns: Remember Ballie, Samsung’s spherical home robot from CES 2020? Samsung brought it back at this year’s keynote with a few on-trend AI upgrades. The new and improved Ballie is around the size of a bowling ball, sporting a 1080p projector and a spatial lidar sensor to help it navigate rooms and obstacles.

Volkswagen cars get ChatGPT: Volkswagen is getting into the ChatGPT game. On Monday, the German automaker announced plans to add an AI-powered chatbot into all Volkswagen models equipped with its IDA voice assistant. Why? For drivers who want an AI-based chatbot to read researched content out loud to them, of course.

Amazon, GenAI and apparel: After recently turning to generative AI to enhance its product reviews, Amazon this week shared how it’s now using AI to help customers shop for clothing online. The company’s employing personalized size recommendations, a “fit insights” tool for sellers, AI-powered highlights from fit reviews left by other customers and reimagined size charts to enable customers to find better-fitting clothing in the Amazon marketplace.

OpenAI’s GPT Store: OpenAI has launched a store for GPTs, custom chatbot apps powered by its text- and image-generating AI models (e.g., GPT-4 and DALL-E 3). The GPT Store, as it’s called, lives in a new tab in the ChatGPT client on the web and features a range of GPTs developed both by OpenAI’s partners and the wider dev community.

CryptoZoo refunds . . . maybe: Logan Paul is offering refunds for CryptoZoo, the failed and allegedly fraudulent Pokémon-inspired NFT game that he launched in 2021. The catch? You can’t sue him if you get a refund. Morgan has the full story.

New day, new exoskeleton: A joint team from Harvard and Boston University has developed a soft robotic exoskeleton that detects movement and utilizes algorithms to estimate the walker’s gait. Cable-driven actuators kick in, assisting walking midstride. If the promising early results are any indication, this new technology could someday be commercialized, Brian writes.

Fidelity hacked: Real estate services giant Fidelity National Financial has confirmed hackers stole data on 1.3 million of its customers during a November cyberattack that knocked the company offline for a week. In a filing with federal regulators, Fidelity didn’t say which specific customer data was stolen — but, as Zack writes, all signs point to it being personal or sensitive in nature.

KYC and GenAI: KYC, or “know your customer,” is a process intended to help financial institutions, fintech startups and banks verify the identity of their customers. Not uncommonly, KYC authentication involves “ID images,” or cross-checked selfies used to confirm a person is who they say they are. But GenAI could sow doubt into these checks.

Twitch layoffs: Another round of layoffs is hitting Twitch. The Amazon-owned livestreaming platform will cut 35% of its staff, or roughly 500 employees — the latest blow for the already-beleaguered company, which cut hundreds of jobs last year amid leadership changes, rising operating costs and community discontent.

Audio

Need a podcast to listen to while you do the dishes, commute to work or otherwise go about the day’s chores? Good news — TechCrunch is churning out episodes that’ll do the trick.

On Equity‘s newly revamped Wednesday episode, the crew dug into news that PhotoRoom is raising more money, Treasure Financial is cutting staff, and two micromobility companies are tying the knot to try and use scale to their advantage. They also looked at what’s going on in the world of AI hardware, why Keith Rabois is heading back to Khosla Ventures, and Seedstars Africa Ventures adding $30 million to its upcoming fund.

Meanwhile, the folks at Found spoke with Markus Witte, co-founder of Babbel, a language learning app that had been operating since 2007. Markus talked about why he decided to step down as CEO and take on the role of chairman and how all four co-founders have worked together to stick to the original mission of Babbel even after nearly 20 years.

And on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn interviewed Michael Sonnenshein, the CEO at Grayscale Investments. Grayscale is a digital asset investment firm that aims to provide products and services to institutional and individual investors; it’s well known for its Grayscale Bitcoin Trust and now its new bitcoin spot ETF product.

TechCrunch+

TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:

The Siri dilemma: Haje writes that Apple’s Siri needs to get a lot smarter, and quickly — lest it be left in the dust by competitors (assuming it hasn’t been already).

Enterprises skeptical of GenAI: Generative AI gets a lot of press, from image-generating tools like Midjourney to Runway to OpenAI’s ChatGPT. But businesses aren’t convinced of the tech’s potential to positively affect their bottom lines; at least, that’s what surveys suggest.

The $1 trillion liquidity gap: Just how backed up are the venture capital markets today? The value of the most mature startups in the United States that need to find an exit neared the $1 trillion mark through Q3 2023, Alex reports — a massive (and growing) problem.



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