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  • SoftBank Launches Strategic Partnership with Perplexity

SoftBank Launches Strategic Partnership with Perplexity

Also: Meet the AI candidate standing for election as an MP in the UK

Good morning!

Today’s briefing highlights several transformative developments in AI and technology. SoftBank Corp. has launched a strategic partnership with Perplexity, offering their mobile service customers a free one-year trial of the premium AI answer engine. In the UK, an AI-powered candidate, Steve AI, is set to run for Parliament, promising a novel approach to political representation. Meanwhile, skepticism towards AI-generated news is growing globally, according to a report from the Reuters Institute. The IMF has raised concerns about AI exacerbating income inequality, urging swift policy responses. Microsoft’s stock hits a new high, fueled by widespread adoption of its AI services. Additionally, innovations like the Pixelbot 3000 are simplifying Lego art creation, and McDonald’s concludes its AI drive-through trial with IBM amid challenges. On the AI tools front, new advancements predict harvest times and accelerate drug discovery. Lastly, You.com is raising $50 million to expand its AI assistant capabilities.


  • 🇯🇵 SoftBank Launches Strategic Partnership with Perplexity

  • 👨🏻 Meet the AI candidate standing for election as an MP in the UK

  • 📰 Global audiences suspicious of AI-powered newsrooms, report finds

  • ⚠️ IMF warns of ‘profound concerns’ over rising inequality from AI

  • 📈 Microsoft Stock Hits Record High On AI Adoption Trend

  • 🤖 The Pixelbot 3000 turns simple AI prompts into Lego mosaic masterpieces

  • 🍔 McDonald’s to end AI drive-through test with IBM

SoftBank Corp. has announced a strategic partnership with the AI startup Perplexity, offering customers of its mobile services—SoftBank, Y!mobile, and LINEMO—a one-year free trial of Perplexity Pro, the premium version of Perplexity’s AI answer engine. Starting June 19, 2024, users can experience this advanced service, typically priced at 2,950 yen monthly or 29,500 yen annually, which offers powerful features such as the ability to select from multiple advanced language models, generate high-quality images, and manage search histories. This initiative provides an exclusive opportunity for SoftBank’s customers to utilize Perplexity’s conversational AI technology, which delivers precise and reliable answers based on the latest web data, enhancing their mobile experience with cutting-edge AI capabilities.

In a unique twist to the UK’s upcoming general election, an AI-powered candidate named Steve AI is standing for election as an MP for the Brighton Pavilion constituency. Created by entrepreneur Steve Endacott, Steve AI represents a novel approach to political engagement, using technology to directly interact with constituents. Supporters can contribute to policy development through an interactive platform on Steve AI’s campaign website, which gathers public input and only adopts policies that receive over 50% support. Endacott, disillusioned with traditional parties, aims to use this AI-driven method to ensure that the voices of the people are accurately represented in Parliament. Although Endacott will physically attend Parliament if elected, his votes and stances will be guided by the AI platform’s continuous feedback from constituents. This innovative campaign reflects a broader trend of integrating AI into various sectors, including politics, highlighting potential shifts in how democratic processes could evolve with technology.

A recent report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism reveals growing global skepticism towards AI-powered newsrooms. Based on surveys from nearly 100,000 individuals across 47 countries, the findings highlight significant discomfort with AI-generated news, especially for sensitive topics like politics. In the U.S. and UK, over half of respondents expressed unease with news primarily created by AI. This skepticism is compounded by concerns about misinformation, which have risen notably, particularly in regions like the U.S. and South Africa, both facing elections this year. Additionally, the report underscores ongoing challenges for news organizations, including the static rate of paid news subscriptions, with 17% of respondents across 20 countries paying for online news—a figure unchanged for three years. The study also notes the growing influence of individual personalities over traditional news outlets on platforms like TikTok, suggesting a need for newsrooms to engage directly and strategically with their audiences to build trust and maintain relevance.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has issued a stark warning about the potential societal impacts of AI, highlighting “profound concerns” over increasing inequality and significant labor market disruptions. In its latest report, the IMF stresses that AI’s transformative power could exacerbate income disparities by displacing higher-skilled jobs, a shift from earlier automation trends that primarily affected lower-skilled workers. The report calls for urgent government action to mitigate these effects, such as enhancing unemployment insurance and investing in lifelong education and training to help workers adapt. The IMF also cautions against implementing special AI taxes, suggesting instead that increasing taxes on capital gains and corporate profits could better address rising inequality. The report underscores the need for agile policy responses and international cooperation to manage AI’s global impacts and ensure that its benefits are broadly shared.

Microsoft’s stock has reached an all-time high, driven by robust adoption of its AI offerings, particularly its Copilot services. Analyst Daniel Ives of Wedbush Securities highlighted that Microsoft is experiencing accelerated enterprise-scale AI deployments, significantly boosting its potential for revenue through AI and Azure cloud services. He upgraded Microsoft’s price target to $550, noting that over 70% of Microsoft’s user base is expected to adopt AI functionalities within the next three years. As the company capitalizes on its competitive advantage over rivals like Amazon and Google, Ives predicts that fiscal 2025 will mark a significant inflection point for Microsoft’s AI growth. Other analysts, such as Brent Thill from Jefferies, reaffirmed Microsoft as a top AI investment, emphasizing its strong position in the ongoing AI revolution that also benefits companies like Apple and Nvidia.

A dedicated YouTuber has revolutionized the art of creating Lego mosaics with the introduction of the Pixelbot 3000, a custom-built Lego printer that uses AI to transform simple prompts into intricate Lego art. Unlike its predecessor, the Bricasso, which required manual mosaic design and scanning, the Pixelbot 3000 simplifies the process using OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 to generate images. Users input their desired artwork, and the AI creates a cartoon-style image, which is then processed into a 32x32 grid. The printer uses this grid to replicate the image with Lego bricks, matching colors to the nearest available shades from a limited palette of 15 Lego colors. This innovative approach not only automates a typically time-consuming process but also brings a new level of precision and ease to creating Lego masterpieces, allowing anyone to produce high-quality Lego art with minimal effort.

McDonald’s is concluding its AI-driven Automated Order Taker (AOT) pilot program with IBM across more than 100 locations by July 26, 2024. Despite some successes, the technology faced significant challenges, particularly in interpreting different accents and dialects, which impacted order accuracy. This decision reflects McDonald’s ongoing commitment to exploring AI solutions for its drive-throughs while acknowledging the need for improvements. The company remains open to future AI advancements and has already partnered with Google Cloud to enhance its restaurant technology, although details of this collaboration are yet to be disclosed. The move comes as many fast-food chains, like Chipotle and Yum Brands, experiment with AI to streamline operations. McDonald’s plans to continue evaluating scalable voice ordering solutions that could better integrate with its systems and provide a more accurate and cost-effective alternative to human order takers.

🛠️ AI tools updates

Researchers at the National Robotarium in Edinburgh have developed an advanced AI system capable of predicting crop yields up to six months before harvest. This tool leverages AI to count flowers on fruit trees from standard smartphone photos, providing a 90% accuracy rate, significantly better than traditional manual counts. This innovative approach, tested in peach orchards in Spain, offers farmers a way to optimize the use of resources such as water and labor, improve harvest planning, and reduce environmental impact. The AI system recognizes specific features like petal shapes and edges, which helps in estimating potential yields and making informed decisions about crop management, such as targeted pruning and herbicide application. With agriculture consuming about 65% of the world’s fresh water, of which nearly half is wasted, this technology could be crucial in promoting sustainable farming practices and maximizing crop output. The research team plans to expand the use of this tool to other crops like apples, pears, and cherries, potentially benefiting fruit growers worldwide.

Researchers from Monash University have unveiled PSICHIC, a groundbreaking AI tool designed to transform the early stages of drug discovery. Published in Nature Machine Intelligence, PSICHIC offers a novel approach to virtual screening by predicting the interactions between proteins and molecules using only sequence data. This method eliminates the need for expensive and intricate 3D structure analyses typically required in drug development. The AI system accurately decodes these interactions with exceptional speed and cost-effectiveness, providing a significant leap over traditional techniques. During tests, PSICHIC successfully identified a new drug candidate by analyzing a vast library of compounds against the A1 receptor, a key therapeutic target. Unlike previous methods, which often struggled to predict the functional effects of drugs, PSICHIC accurately determined how these compounds might behave within the body. This tool represents a major advancement in drug discovery, promising to streamline the development of new medications and significantly reduce costs.

💵 Venture Capital updates

You.com, a startup known for its AI-driven search engine, is set to raise $50 million in Series B funding, potentially valuing the company between $700 million and $900 million. This capital injection comes as You.com shifts focus from being just a search engine to becoming a multifaceted AI assistant aimed at boosting productivity. Despite a decrease in user engagement following the rise of competitors like Microsoft’s AI-enhanced Bing and Google’s AI-generated search answers, You.com still saw 11 million visitors in May and has achieved a significant increase in its annual recurring revenue. The funding round is led by Georgian, with participation from existing investors. CEO Richard Socher, previously the chief scientist at Salesforce, envisions You.com leveraging advanced AI to not only answer queries but also assist with tasks such as writing and coding, positioning the company in the competitive AI-assistant market alongside giants like Google, Microsoft, OpenAI, and Apple.

🫡 Meme of the day

⭐️ Generative AI image of the day