Month: January 2024

Google spent billions of dollars to lay people off

Google logo and black swirls
Illustration: The Verge

Google spent $2.1 billion on severance and other expenses as it laid off more than 12,000 employees over the course of 2023. And the layoff charges keep coming: in just the one month of 2024 so far, the company has already spent $700 million on employee severance charges as part of layoffs targeting another 1,000-plus roles. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, revealed the figure alongside its fourth-quarter earnings release on Tuesday.

Despite the cuts, Google ended 2023 with growth across most of its core business lines. Google posted $86 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2023, a 13 percent increase year over year. The search giant’s core digital ads and cloud computing businesses also showed steady growth, which CEO Sundar…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

Replika’s new AI therapy app tries to bring you to a zen island

ai avatar Tomo sits in front of a tree
Tomo, the AI avatar | Luka, Inc.

AI companion company Replika partnered with the team behind the AI dating simulator Blush to release Tomo, a wellness and meditation app with an AI-generated avatar guiding users. Its the kind of concept that seemed destined as soon as generative AI took off, but in the time I’ve spent with Tomo, I found myself wondering if I can ever open up to an AI like I can with a real therapist.

Tomo, now generally available on the Apple iOS store, brings users to a virtual island retreat, greeted by an AI-generated avatar guide named… Tomo. Tomo offers programs to help people explore personal growth, mental well-being, and fulfillment. It also provides guided meditation, yoga, affirmation classes, and, most of all, talk therapy.

Users can try out…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

YouTube TV listened to sports fans, and it’s fixing multiview’s biggest problem

A screenshot of YouTube TV’s multiview feature
Fantasy players and sports bettors should be salivating right now. | YouTube

Since its launch last spring, YouTube TV’s multiview functionality has been a huge quality-of-life improvement for sports fans. You can use it to watch multiple games concurrently without making space for extra TVs — but until now, you could only watch the predetermined sets of games that YouTube thinks would appeal to most viewers. An incoming update changes that, finally letting you customize multiview with your preferred combination of broadcasts, as spotted by 9to5Google.

While a big improvement over the curated multiview feeds YouTube TV launched with, it sounds like you’re still bound by certain limitations. For instance, although you can build your own bundle of specific games, you can still only choose them from a predetermined…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

Spec Ops: The Line permanently removed from Steam and other digital stores

Screenshot from Spec Ops: The Line featuring the game’s protagonist in tactical gear wielding a rifle staring at a urban city covered by sand.
Image: 2K

We finally know why Spec Ops: The Line was delisted — it’s the licensing. Video game newshound Wario64 first sounded the alarm on social media that the game had been removed from Steam and other PC storefronts seemingly without explanation.

On X, Cory Davis, the game’s designer and director, was also out of the loop asking the game’s publisher 2K why this happened. “Makes no sense,” Davis wrote. “Especially because the themes portrayed in [Spec Ops: The Line] are more relevant now than ever.”

In an email to The Verge, 2K communications director Joe DiMiero offered the reason for the game’s removal:

Spec Ops: The Line will no longer be available on online storefronts, as several partnership licenses related to the game are expiring….

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

Elon Musk won’t get his $55 billion pay package after all

Elon Musk stands, frowning, in front of flame emoji
Illustration by Kristen Radtke / The Verge; Getty Images

Elon Musk isn’t going to get that $55 billion pay package after all, a Delaware Court of Chancery judge has ruled. The ruling means Tesla’s board will need to come up with a new proposal.

The ruling threatens Musk’s fortune if it makes it through an appeal, Bloomberg reports. Without the options in that package, Musk may only be the third-richest man in the world.

Tesla shareholders approved the package in 2018, which gave Musk incentive to hit specific milestones, including a market valuation of $650 billion, which was more than 10 times Tesla’s value at the time. The trial hinged on a specific question: did Musk mislead the shareholders when he gave them the plan?

Greg Varallo, attorney…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

SmartLess is leaving Amazon for $100 million

SmartLess Media/YouTube

SiriusXM has inked a multiyear deal with SmartLess Media for exclusive rights around the flagship podcast hosted by Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes as well as a number of other SmartLess shows. The three-year deal cost the satellite radio giant a total of $100 million, anonymous sources told Bloomberg, and brings the popular hosts into SiriusXM’s celebrity-packed roster, which includes Howard Stern, Kevin Hart, and Conan O’Brien.

This also means that the flagship SmartLess podcast and SmartLess Media will no longer be under the wing of Amazon. In 2021, Amazon paid what Bloomberg reported was anywhere between $60 and $80 million for exclusive rights to SmartLess and any future shows developed by its podcast network. Under the…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

Meta’s free Code Llama AI programming tool closes the gap with GPT-4

Meta logo on blue background
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Meta’s latest update to its code generation AI model, Code Llama 70B, is “the largest and best-performing model” yet. Code Llama tools launched in August and are free for both research and commercial use. According to a post on Meta’s AI blog, Code Llama 70B can handle more queries than previous versions, which means developers can feed it more prompts while programming, and it can be more accurate.

Code Llama 70B scored 53 percent in accuracy on the HumanEval benchmark, performing better than GPT-3.5’s 48.1 percent and closer to the 67 percent mark an OpenAI paper (PDF) reported for GPT-4.

Built on Llama 2, Code Llama helps developers create strings of code from prompts and debug human-written work. Meta simultaneously launched two…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

TikTok goes full YouTube

TikTok logo
Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

Vertical video platform TikTok wants users to turn their phones around and start shooting horizontal videos — long ones, too.

TikTok appears to be incentivizing creators to start posting horizontal videos that are more than a minute long, according to a prompt seen by creators @candicedchap and @kenlyealtumbiz. The platform says it will “boost” these videos within 72 hours of posting. Creators who’ve been on TikTok for more than three months will be eligible for the viewership boost, as long as the videos are not ads or from political parties.

The Verge reached out to TikTok for additional information but didn’t immediately hear back.

Most people who watch TikToks do so on their…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

Microsoft says Apple’s new App Store rules are ‘a step in the wrong direction’

Apple Apps Photo Illustrations
Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Apple’s new plan to comply with the European Union’s tech regulations has already drawn criticism from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney and Spotify. Now Microsoft is weighing in with its own concerns, calling the App Store changes in the EU “a step in the wrong direction.”

Apple has proposed a new Core Technology Fee for apps that want to operate on third-party app stores in the EU. It will require developers using third-party app stores to pay €0.50 for each annual app install after 1 million downloads. Apple will also still take a 17 percent commission from the developers who choose to use third-party payment processors.

“Apple’s new policy is a step in the wrong direction,” says Xbox president Sarah Bond in a post on X. “We hope they…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News

Embracer lays off 97 Eidos employees and cancels new Deus Ex game

Embracer Group, the company attempting to forge one video game publisher to rule them all, has just presided over another round of layoffs. Eidos Montreal is letting go of 97 game developers and support staff, the company announced today on X, shortly after Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier scooped that the studio has canceled an unannounced Deus Ex video game.

Image: Eidos Montreal

“The global economic context, the challenges of our industry and the comprehensive restructuring announced by Embracer have finally impacted our studio.”

“The global economic context, the challenges of our industry and the comprehensive restructuring announced by Embracer have finally impacted our studio,” wrote Eidos Montreal. Eidos…

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Posted by Experimentor in Podcast News