Amazon says a whopping 140 third-party stores in four countries use its Just Walk Out tech

Amazon published a blog post on Wednesday providing an update about its Just Walk Out technology, which it reportedly pulled from its Fresh grocery stores earlier this month. While extolling Just Walk Out’s virtues as a sales pitch to potential retail partners, the article lists a startlingly minuscule number of (non-Amazon) stores using the tech. There are now “more than 140 third-party locations with Just Walk Out technology in the U.S., UK, Australia, and Canada.”

Mind you, that isn’t the number of companies or retail chains licensing the tech; that’s the total number of locations. Nor is that the tally in one state or even one country. In four countries combined — with a total population of about 465 million — Just Walk Out is being used in “more than 140 third-party locations.”

On average, that means there’s one third-party Just Walk Out store for every 3.3 million people in those four countries. (They must be busy!) By contrast, there are over one million retail locations in the US, and, as of 2019, Starbucks had 241 locations in New York City alone, and there are over one million

Amazon had reportedly already planned to remove Just Walk Out tech from its Fresh grocery stores for roughly a year because it was too expensive and complicated for larger retail spaces to run and maintain. The company now pitches its tech as ideal for smaller convenience stores with fewer customers and products — like its own Amazon Go stores, which it has been busy shutting down over the last couple of years.

A medical workers scans a badge at an Amazon-powered Just Walk Out kiosk in a hospital.
Amazon

The company reportedly gutted the team of developers working on Just Walk Out tech earlier this month. (You get one guess as to how the laid-off workers were instructed to leave the office.) As part of recent layoffs from Amazon’s AWS unit and Physical Stores Team, the company allegedly left only “a skeleton crew” to work on the tech moving forward. A skeleton crew to maintain a skeleton sounds about right.

In fairness, some of those locations are at high-traffic venues. That includes nine merch stores at Seattle’s Lumen Field (home to the Seahawks and Sounders), near Amazon’s headquarters. Delaware North, a large hospitality and entertainment company, has opened “more than a dozen” stores using the tech. Amazon says stores adopting Just Walk Out have reported increased transactions, sales and customer satisfaction.

Despite the reported gutting of Just Walk Out’s development team, Amazon says it “continues to invent the next generation of this technology to improve the checkout experience for large-format stores.” Its next steps include improving latency for “faster and more reliable receipts,” new algorithms to recognize customer actions and new sensors better.

If the reports about layoffs are accurate, the handful of remaining Just Walk Out developers will have their work cut out for them.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/amazon-says-a-whopping-140-third-party-stores-in-four-countries-use-its-just-walk-out-tech-191649492.html?src=rss

Samsung is once again the leader in global smartphone shipments

After being briefly overtaken by Apple in 2023, Samsung once again holds the title for most global smartphone shipments. The International Data Corporation (IDC) Mobile Phone Tracker's preliminary data for 2024's first quarter showed Samsung reclaiming the lead it has held since 2010. 

Samsung has reportedly shipped 60.1 million units worldwide in quarter one, representing 20.8 percent of the market share. Apple shipped 50.1 million units for 17.3 percent of the market share. Both companies saw a decrease from 2023's quarter one, though Apple's was much more significant (-9.6 percent) than Samsung's (-0.7 percent). The top five brands remained the same in quarter one as all of 2023, rounded out by Xiaomi with 40.8 million units, Transsion with 28.5 million units and OPPO with 25.2 million units shipped. Transsion overtook OPPO to enter fourth place. 

The IDC points to these numbers as an indication that the smartphone market is strengthening. "Firstly, we continue to see growth in value and average selling prices (ASPs) as consumers opt for more expensive devices knowing they will hold onto their devices longer. Secondly, there is a shift in power among the Top 5 companies, which will likely continue as market players adjust their strategies in a post-recovery world," said Nabila Popal, research director with IDC's Worldwide Tracker team in a statement. "Xiaomi is coming back strong from the large declines experienced over the past two years and Transsion is becoming a stable presence in the Top 5 with aggressive growth in international markets. In contrast, while the Top 2 players both saw negative growth in the first quarter, it seems Samsung is in a stronger position overall than they were in recent quarters."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-is-once-again-the-leader-in-global-smartphone-shipments-122528177.html?src=rss

Avalanche Studios devs have reached a contract agreement in bid to unionize

Late last year, over 100 employees of Avalanche Studios, the makers of Just Cause, announced an intent to unionize. The workers have officially ironed out a collective bargaining agreement with the Swedish labor unions Unionen and Engineers of Sweden. The agreement goes into effect during the second quarter of 2025.

While specifics of the agreement remain unknown, Avalanche said that it “will help standardize frameworks around essential areas such as salaries, benefits, employee influence, and career support.” The company says it’s working closely with both unions to ensure a smooth implementation of these frameworks.

Avalanche was founded in Sweden, but has since become a global entity. With this in mind, the move to unionize only impacts workers located in Sweden, which amounts to around 100 people. The company employs more than 500 workers globally.

Despite that caveat, this is still another high-profile move toward improving the rights of workers in the gaming industry. Avalanche joins several other companies that recently organized under collective labor contracts. Sega of America workers overwhelmingly voted to unionize last year, a move that impacted 200 employees. Over 300 ZeniMax Studios quality assurance workers voted to unionize last year, and parent company Microsoft didn’t stand in the way. Activision, another Microsoft company, boasts a union with over 600 members, which is the largest one in the entire industry.

This is all good news for workers, but there’s also a dark cloud floating around the industry. There have been a boatload of layoffs throughout the past several months. As a matter of fact, over 6,000 people lost their jobs in January alone. Impacted workers hail from many of the companies mentioned above, like Sega of America, Activision Blizzard and ZeniMax.

As for Avalanche, it’s continuing work on the forthcoming Xbox exclusive Contraband. The game’s been in the pipeline since 2021 and it looks to be an open-world co-op adventure set in the 1970s.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/avalanche-studios-devs-have-reached-a-contract-agreement-in-bid-to-unionize-183645291.html?src=rss

Meta asks a judge to throw out an FTC antitrust case

Meta has asked a judge to dismiss a Federal Trade Commission antitrust case against the company before it goes to trial. Alongside 48 states and territories, the FTC sued Meta in 2020 in an attempt to force the company to divest Instagram and WhatsApp, which it bought in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

The agency and dozens of attorneys general claim that Meta (then known as Facebook) bought the two platforms to stifle competition. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg “recognized that by acquiring and controlling Instagram, Facebook would not only squelch the direct threat that Instagram posed, but also significantly hinder another firm from using photo-sharing on mobile phones to gain popularity as a provider of personal social networking,” the FTC asserted. “Just as with Instagram, WhatsApp presented a powerful threat to Facebook’s personal social networking monopoly, which Facebook targeted for acquisition rather than competition.”

Meta notes that not only did the FTC approve both acquisitions in the first place, but its initial complaint was dismissed for failing to to state a plausible claim. While a judge has allowed an amended complaint to move forward, Meta claims that "the agency has done nothing to build its case through the discovery process" to show that the company holds monopoly power in the “personal social networking services” market and that it caused harm to consumers and competition through the purchases.

In its motion for summary judgment, the company points out that Instagram, which accounted for nearly 30 percent of the company's total revenue in the first half of 2022, wasn't making any money when it bought the service for $1 billion in 2012. Instagram had just two percent of the billion-plus users it has now, Meta says, adding that it introduced features such as direct messages, livestreaming, Stories and shopping. As for WhatsApp, Meta made the service free to use, added end-to-end encryption and implemented voice and video calling.

Meta argues that it has invested billions of dollars and millions of hours of work into the apps. It claims that both Instagram and WhatsApp are in a better place as a result, to the benefit of consumers and businesses.

Elsewhere, Meta argues that the FTC failed to establish a relevant antitrust market, claiming that the agency's definition of an “personal social networking services” market used "an artificially limited set of only four companies – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and MeWe – ignoring many of the most popular activities people engage in on Facebook and Instagram." For instance, Meta points out that YouTube and TikTok offer similar short-form video features to Reels.

What's more, the FTC's allegation that Meta has a “dominant share” of the artificial “personal social networking services market” doesn't hold up, according to the company. Meta says that's because the FTC's "market share numbers are meaningless without a properly defined market."

Meta, which accused the FTC of wielding "structurally unconstitutional authority" against the company in a separate case last year, also took the opportunity to take more potshots at the agency and antitrust rules. "The decision to revisit done deals is tantamount to announcing that no sale will ever be final," Jennifer Newstead, Meta’s Chief Legal Officer, wrote in a blog post. Newstead claims the Instagram and WhatsApp "lawsuit not only sows doubt and uncertainty about the US government’s merger review process and whether acquiring businesses can actually rely on the outcomes of the regulatory review process, but it will also make companies think twice about investing in innovation, since they may be punished if that innovation leads to success."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-asks-a-judge-to-throw-out-an-ftc-antitrust-case-203950108.html?src=rss

Meta asks a judge to throw out an FTC antitrust case

Meta has asked a judge to dismiss a Federal Trade Commission antitrust case against the company before it goes to trial. Alongside 48 states and territories, the FTC sued Meta in 2020 in an attempt to force the company to divest Instagram and WhatsApp, which it bought in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

The agency and dozens of attorneys general claim that Meta (then known as Facebook) bought the two platforms to stifle competition. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg “recognized that by acquiring and controlling Instagram, Facebook would not only squelch the direct threat that Instagram posed, but also significantly hinder another firm from using photo-sharing on mobile phones to gain popularity as a provider of personal social networking,” the FTC asserted. “Just as with Instagram, WhatsApp presented a powerful threat to Facebook’s personal social networking monopoly, which Facebook targeted for acquisition rather than competition.”

Meta notes that not only did the FTC approve both acquisitions in the first place, but its initial complaint was dismissed for failing to to state a plausible claim. While a judge has allowed an amended complaint to move forward, Meta claims that "the agency has done nothing to build its case through the discovery process" to show that the company holds monopoly power in the “personal social networking services” market and that it caused harm to consumers and competition through the purchases.

In its motion for summary judgment, the company points out that Instagram, which accounted for nearly 30 percent of the company's total revenue in the first half of 2022, wasn't making any money when it bought the service for $1 billion in 2012. Instagram had just two percent of the billion-plus users it has now, Meta says, adding that it introduced features such as direct messages, livestreaming, Stories and shopping. As for WhatsApp, Meta made the service free to use, added end-to-end encryption and implemented voice and video calling.

Meta argues that it has invested billions of dollars and millions of hours of work into the apps. It claims that both Instagram and WhatsApp are in a better place as a result, to the benefit of consumers and businesses.

Elsewhere, Meta argues that the FTC failed to establish a relevant antitrust market, claiming that the agency's definition of an “personal social networking services” market used "an artificially limited set of only four companies – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and MeWe – ignoring many of the most popular activities people engage in on Facebook and Instagram." For instance, Meta points out that YouTube and TikTok offer similar short-form video features to Reels.

What's more, the FTC's allegation that Meta has a “dominant share” of the artificial “personal social networking services market” doesn't hold up, according to the company. Meta says that's because the FTC's "market share numbers are meaningless without a properly defined market."

Meta, which accused the FTC of wielding "structurally unconstitutional authority" against the company in a separate case last year, also took the opportunity to take more potshots at the agency and antitrust rules. "The decision to revisit done deals is tantamount to announcing that no sale will ever be final," Jennifer Newstead, Meta’s Chief Legal Officer, wrote in a blog post. Newstead claims the Instagram and WhatsApp "lawsuit not only sows doubt and uncertainty about the US government’s merger review process and whether acquiring businesses can actually rely on the outcomes of the regulatory review process, but it will also make companies think twice about investing in innovation, since they may be punished if that innovation leads to success."

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/meta-asks-a-judge-to-throw-out-an-ftc-antitrust-case-203950108.html?src=rss

Samsung is doubling its semiconductor investment in Texas to $44 billion

It looks like President Biden’s CHIPS Act is starting to pay off. Samsung is planning on doubling its investment in Texas, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. This will bring the total investment in the state’s chip-manufacturing sector to $44 billion, as Samsung already spent nearly $20 billion to build a factory back in 2021.

The ambitious expansion will reportedly take the form of a new chip manufacturing facility, a packaging site and a research and development space. It’ll all be located in or near Taylor, Texas, as that’s where the pre-existing semiconductor facility was built. The current manufacturing hub isn’t operational yet, but will begin building “crucial logic chips” later this year. For the geographically challenged, Taylor is around a 40 minute drive from Austin.

If this actually happens, it’ll be a huge win for the Biden administration. One of the main goals of the CHIPS Act, after all, is to lure global chipmakers to build on US soil. To that end, Washington plans on awarding more than $6 billion to Samsung as further incentive to keep things running in the good ole USA.

The CHIPS Act has allowed the federal government to award funding and offer loans to many tech companies to encourage domestic spending. Back in February, the multinational semiconductor company GlobalFoundries received a grant of $1.5 billion to help pay for a major US expansion, in addition to a $1.6 billion loan. It plans on building a new fabrication facility in Malta, New York, which will handle the manufacture of chips for the automotive, aerospace, defense and AI industries.

More recently, Intel received the largest CHIPS grant to date, snagging up to $8.5 billion to continue various US-based operations. The current plan is for Intel to use that money to manufacture plants that make leading-edge semiconductor chips meant for use in AI and other advanced applications. The company’s building two new fabrication facilities in Arizona and two in Ohio. Additionally, it’s going to use the money to modernize two pre-existing fabs in New Mexico and expand one location in Oregon. All told, Intel is going to invest $100 billion in US-based chip manufacturing. The various projects are expected to create 20,000 construction and 10,000 manufacturing jobs.

The Biden administration signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law back in 2022 to foster domestic semiconductor research and manufacturing and to lessen America’s reliance on Chinese suppliers. It sets aside $52 billion in tax credits and funding for firms to expand stateside production.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-is-doubling-its-semiconductor-investment-in-texas-to-44-billion-154322399.html?src=rss

Samsung is doubling its semiconductor investment in Texas to $44 billion

It looks like President Biden’s CHIPS Act is starting to pay off. Samsung is planning on doubling its investment in Texas, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. This will bring the total investment in the state’s chip-manufacturing sector to $44 billion, as Samsung already spent nearly $20 billion to build a factory back in 2021.

The ambitious expansion will reportedly take the form of a new chip manufacturing facility, a packaging site and a research and development space. It’ll all be located in or near Taylor, Texas, as that’s where the pre-existing semiconductor facility was built. The current manufacturing hub isn’t operational yet, but will begin building “crucial logic chips” later this year. For the geographically challenged, Taylor is around a 40 minute drive from Austin.

If this actually happens, it’ll be a huge win for the Biden administration. One of the main goals of the CHIPS Act, after all, is to lure global chipmakers to build on US soil. To that end, Washington plans on awarding more than $6 billion to Samsung as further incentive to keep things running in the good ole USA.

The CHIPS Act has allowed the federal government to award funding and offer loans to many tech companies to encourage domestic spending. Back in February, the multinational semiconductor company GlobalFoundries received a grant of $1.5 billion to help pay for a major US expansion, in addition to a $1.6 billion loan. It plans on building a new fabrication facility in Malta, New York, which will handle the manufacture of chips for the automotive, aerospace, defense and AI industries.

More recently, Intel received the largest CHIPS grant to date, snagging up to $8.5 billion to continue various US-based operations. The current plan is for Intel to use that money to manufacture plants that make leading-edge semiconductor chips meant for use in AI and other advanced applications. The company’s building two new fabrication facilities in Arizona and two in Ohio. Additionally, it’s going to use the money to modernize two pre-existing fabs in New Mexico and expand one location in Oregon. All told, Intel is going to invest $100 billion in US-based chip manufacturing. The various projects are expected to create 20,000 construction and 10,000 manufacturing jobs.

The Biden administration signed the CHIPS and Science Act into law back in 2022 to foster domestic semiconductor research and manufacturing and to lessen America’s reliance on Chinese suppliers. It sets aside $52 billion in tax credits and funding for firms to expand stateside production.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/samsung-is-doubling-its-semiconductor-investment-in-texas-to-44-billion-154322399.html?src=rss

YouTube CEO warns OpenAI that training models on its videos is against the rules

AI models using individual's work without permission (or compensation) is nothing new, with entities like The New York Times and Getty Images initiating lawsuits against AI creators alongside artists and writers. In March, OpenAI CTO Mira Murati contributed to the ongoing uncertainty, telling The Wall Street Journal she wasn't sure if Sora, the company's new text-to-video AI tool, takes data from YouTube, Instagram or Facebook posts. Now, YouTube's CEO Neal Mohan has responded with a clear warning to OpenAI that using its videos to teach Sora would be a "clear violation" of the platform's terms of use.

In an interview with Bloomberg Originals host Emily Chang, Mohan stated, "From a creator's perspective, when a creator uploads their hard work to our platform, they have certain expectations. One of those expectations is that the terms of service is going to be abided by. It does not allow for things like transcripts or video bits to be downloaded, and that is a clear violation of our terms of service. Those are the rules of the road in terms of content on our platform."

A lot of uncertainty and controversy still surrounds how OpenAI trains Sora, along with ChatGPT and DALL-E, with The Wall Street Journal recently reporting the company plans to use YouTube video transcriptions to train GPT-5. On the other hand, OpenAI competitor Google is apparently respecting the rules — at least when it comes to YouTube (which it owns). Google's AI model Gemini requires similar data to learn but Mohan claims it only uses certain videos, depending on permissions are given in each creator's licensing contract.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/youtube-ceo-warns-openai-that-training-models-on-its-videos-is-against-the-rules-121547513.html?src=rss

YouTube CEO warns OpenAI that training models on its videos is against the rules

AI models using individual's work without permission (or compensation) is nothing new, with entities like The New York Times and Getty Images initiating lawsuits against AI creators alongside artists and writers. In March, OpenAI CTO Mira Murati contributed to the ongoing uncertainty, telling The Wall Street Journal she wasn't sure if Sora, the company's new text-to-video AI tool, takes data from YouTube, Instagram or Facebook posts. Now, YouTube's CEO Neal Mohan has responded with a clear warning to OpenAI that using its videos to teach Sora would be a "clear violation" of the platform's terms of use.

In an interview with Bloomberg Originals host Emily Chang, Mohan stated, "From a creator's perspective, when a creator uploads their hard work to our platform, they have certain expectations. One of those expectations is that the terms of service is going to be abided by. It does not allow for things like transcripts or video bits to be downloaded, and that is a clear violation of our terms of service. Those are the rules of the road in terms of content on our platform."

A lot of uncertainty and controversy still surrounds how OpenAI trains Sora, along with ChatGPT and DALL-E, with The Wall Street Journal recently reporting the company plans to use YouTube video transcriptions to train GPT-5. On the other hand, OpenAI competitor Google is apparently respecting the rules — at least when it comes to YouTube (which it owns). Google's AI model Gemini requires similar data to learn but Mohan claims it only uses certain videos, depending on permissions are given in each creator's licensing contract.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/youtube-ceo-warns-openai-that-training-models-on-its-videos-is-against-the-rules-121547513.html?src=rss

Apple cuts over 700 jobs following its car and display project closures

Over 700 people at Apple have recently lost their jobs, according to the latest WARN report posted by the Employment Development Department of California (EDD). Most of the people who were laid off worked at Apple's offices in Santa Clara, with 371 of them coming from the company location that primarily dealt with the company's now-defunct electric vehicle project. Under California law, companies are required to file a report with the EDD for each location affected by layoffs under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) program. 

Eight Apple locations in Santa Clara were hit by layoffs, including the main car office, though one of them worked on its in-house MicroLED display project that was reportedly scrapped in March due to costs and technical difficulties. The company was hoping to produce its own screens for iPhones, Macs and its smartwatches, but that clearly isn't happening anytime soon. 

Apple's original car ambitions were to build a fully autonomous vehicle without pedals and a steering wheel, until it decided to develop an electric vehicle instead. A previous Bloomberg report said Apple canceled the initiative internally called "Project Titan" after investing billions of dollars and a decade into it. The employees who were developing the vehicle were given the chance to transfer to Apple's other divisions, including its teams that are reportedly working on artificial intelligence and home robotics. But based on Apple's WARN report, it wasn't able to re-integrate everyone into the company. 

Apple is believed to be in the very early stages of developing personal robotics for people's homes. One of the machines that's currently a work-in-progress is a robot that follows people around, while the other is a table-top device that uses a robot to move a display around, according to another Bloomberg report. The company's work on personal robotics is part of its efforts, which also include the Vision Pro, to find new sources of revenue. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apple-cuts-over-700-jobs-following-its-car-and-display-project-closures-061524777.html?src=rss