Kiss’ final show ended with a performance by digital avatars made to immortalize the band

Kiss’ final live performance at Madison Square Garden in New York last night also turned out to be the first for the band’s successors — four digital avatars that will play on in the real members’ retirement from physical shows. Kiss concluded the last show of its “The End of the Road” tour by introducing the new virtual band, which then performed “God Gave Rock And Roll To You.”

The avatars weren’t just straight replicas of the current band members — Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer — but interpretations of them “as fantasy-based superheroes,” said Pophouse Entertainment, which partnered with George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic for their creation. And, it says that’s just “one of the many and varied ways in which Kiss will live on as digital performers through their avatars in the future.” Industrial Light & Magic also created the digital avatars of ABBA (or ABBAtars) for the ongoing ABBA Voyage show in London.

No specific plans for the virtual band have been announced just yet, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see similar Kiss experiences pop up in the near future. Gene Simmons, who founded Kiss alongside Paul Stanley, said the move will keep the band “forever young and forever iconic,” while Stanley called it a way to “see Kiss immortalized” and take the group “to a completely different level beyond being just a music band.”

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Google is reportedly pushing the launch of its Gemini AI to 2024

Google has canceled its Gemini launch events scheduled for next week and now plans to launch its GPT-4 competitor in January, according to The Information. The company teased Gemini at I/O 2023, touting it then as a foundational model with “impressive multimodal capabilities” early in its training.

Google initially planned to debut it before the end of the year in an unusually timed launch between the holidays — which it didn’t publicly announce — but sources told The Information that Gemini was struggling with non-English queries, prompting CEO Sundar Pichai to delay its release. Gemini is intended to be able to handle a broad range of applications, combining different types of data like images and text for more advanced tasks. In May, Google said, “Once fine-tuned and rigorously tested for safety, Gemini will be available at various sizes and capabilities.”

Gemini is expected to bring improvements to Google’s existing AI and AI-enhanced products too, like Bard, Google Assistant and Search. But, given the significance of this release and the dominance rival OpenAI already has in the space, it seems Google isn’t going to risk rushing Gemini out the door.

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Amazon is swallowing its pride to ensure its internet satellites get to orbit on time

Amazon announced on Friday that it’s signed a contract with SpaceX to deliver batches of its Project Kuiper satellites to low Earth orbit in 2025. SpaceX is undoubtedly Amazon’s biggest competitor as it breaks into the satellite internet space, and already has a constellation of over 4,000 Starlink satellites in operation. It’s also a rival of Blue Origin, the aerospace company founded by Jeff Bezos that has its own rockets in development. But when it comes to launches, SpaceX’s pace and the reliability of its Falcon 9 rocket is unmatched.

The contract with SpaceX is for three Falcon 9 launches, Amazon said in a blog post. They’re expected to lift off in mid-2025. Amazon is planning to start customer pilots of its Project Kuiper satellite internet service by the end of next year, and will soon start deploying the fleet that will support it. It launched its first two prototype satellites in October. The company already has deals for upcoming launches on United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan rocket, Arianespace’s Ariane 6 and Blue Origin’s New Glenn — all of which have been hit by development delays and may or may not make their first flights between this year and next.

Amazon said in its announcement that “the additional launches with SpaceX offer even more capacity to support our deployment schedule.” The company has said its Project Kuiper constellation will consist of 3,236 satellites, at least half of which must be in operation by summer 2026 to comply with its FCC license.

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23andMe hackers accessed ancestry information from thousands of customers and their DNA relatives

An SEC filing has revealed more details on a data breach affecting 23andMe users that was disclosed earlier this fall. The company says its investigation found hackers were able to access information from 0.1 percent of its userbase, or the accounts of about 14,000 of its 14 million total customers, TechCrunch notes. On top of that, the attackers were able to exploit 23andMe’s opt-in DNA Relatives feature to access “profile information about other users’ ancestry.” 23andMe hasn't said how many of these users were affected. Hackers posted information from both groups online.

When the breach was first revealed in October, the company said its investigation “found that no genetic testing results have been leaked.” According to the new filing, the data “generally included ancestry information, and, for a subset of those accounts, health-related information based upon the user’s genetics.” All of this was obtained through a credential-stuffing attack, in which hackers used login information from other, previously compromised websites to access those users’ accounts on other sites. In doing this, the filing says, “the threat actor also accessed a significant number of files containing profile information about other users’ ancestry that such users chose to share when opting in to 23andMe’s DNA Relatives feature and posted certain information online.”

Engadget has reached out to 23andMe for comment. Following the discovery of the breach, 23andMe instructed affected users to change their passwords and later rolled out two-factor authentication for all of its customers. In another update on Friday, 23andMe said it had completed the investigation and is notifying everyone who was affected. The company also wrote in the filing that it “believes that the threat actor activity is contained,” and is working to have the publicly-posted information taken down.

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Amazon just dropped the first teaser trailer for its Fallout series

Amazon has released the first official teaser trailer for Fallout, its upcoming live-action series based on the best-selling video games. The clip gives us a look at Amazon’s take on the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Yellowjackets actor Ella Purnell emerging from Vault 33 to meet it for the first time. The series will be set in Los Angeles 200 years after a nuclear war brought Earth to ruins.

The trailer arrives a few days after Amazon released stills from the show, now showing a deeper look at the characters and the horrors they’ll encounter in the wastes. And it so far seems a promising indication of how the series will approach its well-loved source material. 

Starring alongside Purnell, Fallout also features Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight) as a breakout ghoul, Aaron Moten (Emancipation) as a member of the Brotherhood of Steel and Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) as a vault overseer. There’s also a dog named CX404, which we see in the video and in marketing materials toting around a severed hand. Fallout comes out on Prime Video on April 12 next year.

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OpenAI’s GPT Store won’t be released until 2024

OpenAI is pushing the launch of its GPT store to early 2024, according to an email seen by The Verge. The company introduced its GPT Builder tool in early November at its first developer conference, giving subscribers an easy way to create their own custom AI bots. At the time, OpenAI also said it would soon release a GPT Store for users to list their GPTs and potentially make money from them. It was initially slated for a November launch. But, with the surprise ouster of OpenAI’s since-reinstated CEO Sam Altman, the month didn’t quite pan out as planned.

“In terms of what’s next, we are now planning to launch the GPT Store early next year,” OpenAI said in its email to GPT Builder users on Friday. “While we had expected to release it this month, a few things have been keeping us unexpectedly busy!” The email also notes that the company has been making improvements to GPTs based on users’ feedback, and says some updates to ChatGPT are on the way.

OpenAI has been in the process of reorganizing its leadership following the turmoil of the past few weeks. The company confirmed on Wednesday that Altman was back as CEO, with Mira Murati now in place as CTO and Greg Brockman as President. It also announced the formation of a new initial board, which includes representation from Microsoft — its biggest investor — as a non-voting observer.

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