Saudi Arabia, WEF Launch Innovation Accelerator, Explore Collaborations in Global Metaverse Village

The delegations at the signing ceremony in Davos (SPA)
The delegations at the signing ceremony in Davos (SPA)
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Saudi Arabia, WEF Launch Innovation Accelerator, Explore Collaborations in Global Metaverse Village

The delegations at the signing ceremony in Davos (SPA)
The delegations at the signing ceremony in Davos (SPA)

A high-level delegation from Saudi Arabia participated in a multilateral meeting with the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) leadership at WEF’s 2023 Annual Meeting in Davos.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, Ambassador to the United States; Abdullah bin Amer Alswaha, Minister of Communications and Information Technology; Bandar bin Ibrahim Alkhorayef, Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources; and Faisal Fadhil Alibrahim, Minister of Economy and Planning, met with Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of WEF and Borge Brende, President of WEF, to explore areas of mutual interest. 

Alswaha, Chairman of the Board of King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and Chairman of the Board of The Research, Development and Innovation Authority (RDIA), and Brende signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) to establish a new accelerator program to help ignite innovation in Saudi Arabia. 

Under the LoI, KACST will work alongside WEF to connect experts and knowledge partners from the public and private sectors to identify and unlock new promising markets as part of the ongoing work to transform Saudi economy. 

During the meeting, the delegates highlighted the Kingdom’s role as a Pioneering Partner in the Forum’s Global Collaboration Village, which will leverage the metaverse to serve the global community. 

Saudi Arabia intends to build a house in the village, opening a door to opportunities, investment, and collaboration between various national stakeholders and international entities. It will be used as a tool for attending events, interacting with people, sharing knowledge and making announcements. 

It was highlighted in the meeting that Saudi ARAMCO, as one of Saudi leading private sector entities, is the first company to build a house in the Global Collaboration Village. 

The meeting also covered investment in green technologies, as well as female and youth empowerment as a vital enabler in effective climate action. The meeting provided updates on the progress of projects launched at WEF’s 2022 Annual Meeting. 

In addition, delegates addressed the future of the mining industry in Saudi Arabia and its untapped opportunities, especially considering the increasing demand for minerals and the importance of leveraging the Fourth Industrial Revolution and green technologies. 



Nvidia Hits $2 Trillion Valuation as AI Frenzy Grips Wall Street

 This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
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Nvidia Hits $2 Trillion Valuation as AI Frenzy Grips Wall Street

 This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)
This photograph taken in Paris on February 23, 2024 shows a US multinational Nvidia's graphic processing unit (GPU). (AFP)

Nvidia hit $2 trillion in market value for the first time on Friday, riding on an insatiable demand for its chips that made the Silicon Valley firm the pioneer of the generative artificial intelligence boom.

The milestone followed another bumper revenue forecast from the chip designer that drove up its market value by $277 billion on Thursday - Wall Street's largest one-day gain on record.

Its rapid ascent in the past year has led analysts to draw parallels to the picks and shovels providers during the gold rush of 1800s as Nvidia's chips are used by almost all generative AI players from chatGPT-maker OpenAI to Google.

That has helped the company vault from $1 trillion to $2 trillion market value in around eight months - the fastest among US companies and in less than half the time it took tech giants Apple and Microsoft.

"For AI companies today - the leaders of the sector - what's going to be binding for them is not going to be demand. It's just going to be their capacity to answer the surging demand," said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

Nvidia's shares were last trading up about 2%. They had risen as much as 4.9% to a record high $823.9 earlier in the session, giving the world's fourth most valuable company a market capitalization of $2.05 trillion.

Its shares have surged nearly 60% this year, after more than tripling in value in 2023. The chip designer's 2024 share surge has been crucial to the S&P 500's gains, contributing to more than a quarter of the stock index's rise this year.

Its latest market-beating forecast of a whopping 233% growth in first-quarter revenue helped global markets notch record highs on Thursday.

The breakneck growth has drawn analysts and investors from far and wide to Nvidia.

"I'm a European fund manager, but I must have had more emails about their results than I've had about any other set. There have been calls, every broker doing 10-minute debriefs, it's been mind boggling," said one investor, who declined to be named.

Despite the share surge, Nvidia's valuation has fallen due to rapid increases in analysts' estimates. It has a 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio of about 31, down from 49 times a year ago, according to LSEG data.

"Leading cloud computing companies plan to boost their capital expenditure to satisfy demand for AI training and inference, and it appears that virtually all this spending will fall into Nvidia's pockets," said Brian Colello, a strategist at Morningstar.

"We anticipate revenue will rise by a couple of billion each quarter throughout fiscal 2025 for Nvidia as more chip supply comes online."


Tech Titans Yield to New EU Rules before March Deadline

The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
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Tech Titans Yield to New EU Rules before March Deadline

The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File
The EU long ago set its sights on big tech with a bolstered legal armory to rein in companies like Apple. Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP/File

2024 will be a year of change for the world's biggest tech companies as they bow to EU rules that come into force next month, shaking up how Europeans use vastly popular platforms from Google to Instagram.
The European Union long ago set its sights on big tech, aiming to rein in globally dominant companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft.
The landmark law known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA) breaks new ground because, rather than acting after the fact, it seeks to prevent companies from becoming powerful enough to edge out rivals, AFP said.
"This is really a big, big intervention in markets that affect people's lives every day," said Fiona Scott Morton, senior fellow at think tank Bruegel.
Brussels in September named six so-called "gatekeepers" that face tougher curbs: Google's Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok parent ByteDance, Meta and Microsoft.
It singles out 22 "core" platform services by the big six, including Amazon Marketplace, Apple's App Store, Facebook, Instagram and Google's Chrome browser.
"The point of the law is to open up these platforms and make the interface widely accessible so that there can be competition," Scott Morton told AFP.
The firms have until March 7 to comply, with a flurry of changes announced since the start of the year -- even as Apple, TikTok and Meta pursue challenges to aspects of the law.
"We'll get some of the benefits of the opening up of these markets pretty quickly," Scott Morton predicted.
Wind of change
One of the biggest changes announced so far came from Apple, which said in January it would allow alternative app stores on the iPhone for the first time.
The firm has moved grudgingly to comply, while also legally contesting that its app stores across all products including the iPhone should count as one.
Google's EU users are seeing banners asking if they want to keep their Google services, like YouTube and Chrome, linked -- and therefore allow data sharing.
Another big change will be choice screens: the EU wants firms to make it easier for users to choose their default search engine or browser, in an attempt to challenge Google search's dominance.
Google has promised to overhaul its results page, with a group of links to price comparison websites and removing some features such as Google Flights.
Microsoft has also announced steps to comply -- including letting Windows users in the European Economic Area (EEA) -- uninstall its Edge browser from their computers, and scrapping pop-ups urging new users to try the interface.
The EEA includes the bloc plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Advertising services by Amazon, Google and Meta must also adjust to the new rules, and Amazon last month detailed changes to its ad service, including providing more information about pricing.
Letting users decide how much of their data should be shared between the biggest companies' various platforms is one of the headline changes sought by the EU.
Meta said last month that users in the EU, in the EEA and in Switzerland will be able to create a separate Facebook Messenger account if they do not want it linked to their Facebook account.
Individuals will also be able to access Facebook Marketplace and Facebook Gaming without using their main account information.
At the same time, Meta is contesting the law's application to Facebook's Messenger and Marketplace services.
Likewise, Chinese-owned TikTok, the only non-US business on the EU's list, says it does not meet various thresholds for the law to apply and has been wrongly designated.
Core Apple issues
Of all the giants it targets, the DMA has perhaps the greatest potential to alter Apple's closed ecosystem.
Apple has not hidden its contempt for the DMA, which it says creates privacy and security risks.
Inside the industry, Apple has been accused of acting in bad faith -- including by Meta's Mark Zuckerberg who suggested its changes made it no easier to create alternative app stores on the iPhone.
"Apple clearly has no intention to comply with the DMA," said Rick VanMeter, executive director of the more than 70-member Coalition for App Fairness, which has long called for Apple to open up its marketplace.
"Apple is introducing new fees on direct downloads and payments they do nothing to process, which violates the law," he said.
Apple has said that its changes comply with the DMA.
One vocal critic is Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify, which is part of the app coalition and called Apple's announced changes "a new low" for the firm.
Echoing a rising chorus among Apple's competitors, Spotify voiced hope that the DMA will end "unfair stifling of innovation disguised by Apple as security protections".


Google to Pause Gemini AI Model's Image Generation of People

A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
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Google to Pause Gemini AI Model's Image Generation of People

A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024.  EPA/ERIK S. LESSER
A Google business logo on an office building in midtown Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 21 February 2024. EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

Alphabet's Google said on Thursday it is pausing AI model Gemini's image generation of people and will release an improved version soon.

"We're aware that Gemini is offering inaccuracies in some historical image generation depictions," Google had said on Wednesday.

Google started offering image generation through its Gemini AI models earlier this month, but over the past few days some users on social media had flagged that the model returns historical images which are sometimes inaccurate.


US Smartphone Sales Slump in January on Fewer Device Upgrades, Counterpoint Finds

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
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US Smartphone Sales Slump in January on Fewer Device Upgrades, Counterpoint Finds

Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)
Logo of an Apple store is seen as Apple Inc. reports fourth quarter earnings in Washington, US, January 27, 2022. (Reuters)

US smartphone sales plunged 10% in January on weak demand for cheaper Android devices and as customers delayed upgrades ahead of the launch of Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S24 series, according to data from Counterpoint Research.

The research firm said U.S. smartphone sales last month were nearly half of the record levels seen in the same period in 2017, underscoring fears that the market may have peaked.

"Tough times in the volume-driven low-end coupled with delayed upgrades in anticipation of new products drove the market lower," said Maurice Klaehne, senior analyst at Counterpoint Research.

Smartphone sales have waned after the pandemic-driven boom, as an uncertain economic outlook and lack of major new features led consumers to stick with their existing devices.

Samsung has tried to drum up interest for its new Galaxy smartphones, which went on sale on Jan. 17, by offering multiple artificial intelligence (AI) functions including a two-way voice translation in real-time.

Counterpoint said the S24 series has performed well in the US market during the initial 1-2 weeks of launch, and that it could spark a rebound in smartphone sales in February.

Apple, meanwhile, continued to gain market share in the US last month, thanks to promotional offers for its iPhone 15 series, and as cost-conscious consumers sought its older iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 devices, whose prices have come down.

"This combination is enabling Apple to maintain stability in a market experiencing double-digit declines," Counterpoint said.


White House Wades into Debate on 'Open' Versus 'Closed' Artificial Intelligence Systems

FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
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White House Wades into Debate on 'Open' Versus 'Closed' Artificial Intelligence Systems

FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
FILE - The OpenAI logo is displayed on a cell phone with an image on a computer monitor generated by ChatGPT's Dall-E text-to-image model, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)

The Biden administration is wading into a contentious debate about whether the most powerful artificial intelligence systems should be “open-source” or closed.
The White House said Wednesday it is seeking public comment on the risks and benefits of having an AI system's key components publicly available for anyone to use and modify. The inquiry is one piece of the broader executive order that President Joe Biden signed in October to manage the fast-evolving technology, The Associated Press said.
Tech companies are divided on how open they make their AI models, with some emphasizing the dangers of widely accessible AI model components and others stressing that open science is important for researchers and startups. Among the most vocal promoters of an open approach have been Facebook parent Meta Platforms and IBM.
Biden’s order described open models with the technical name of “dual-use foundation models with widely available weights” and said they needed further study. Weights are numerical values that influence how an AI model performs.
When those weights are publicly posted on the internet, “there can be substantial benefits to innovation, but also substantial security risks, such as the removal of safeguards within the model,” Biden’s order said. He gave Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo until July to talk to experts and come back with recommendations on how to manage the potential benefits and risks.
Now the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration says it is also opening a 30-day comment period to field ideas that will be included in a report to the president.
“One piece of encouraging news is that it’s clear to the experts that this is not a binary issue. There are gradients of openness,” said Alan Davidson, an assistant Commerce secretary and the NTIA's administrator. Davidson told reporters Tuesday that it's possible to find solutions that promote both innovation and safety.


Nvidia’s Stock Rally Sputters Ahead of Quarterly Report

A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
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Nvidia’s Stock Rally Sputters Ahead of Quarterly Report

A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)
A view of a Nvidia logo at their headquarters in Taipei, Taiwan May 31, 2023. (Reuters)

A scorching rally in Nvidia's shares this year came to a halt on Tuesday as investors worried if the high-flying chip designer's quarterly results would justify its towering valuation.

The stock fell 5.3% to $687.91. If losses hold, it could be the biggest percentage drop in more than eight months.

Nvidia has been at the heart of the frenzy around artificial intelligence (AI). A more than 40% surge in its stock this year helped it replace Alphabet as the third most valuable US company, behind Microsoft and Apple.

The market capitalization of Nvidia was $1.79 trillion on Friday.

"The market is maybe a little bit hesitant whether they (Nvidia) can deliver a strong enough guidance to reinvigorate the market even higher," said Frank Lee, head of technology research at HSBC.

The company will report quarterly results on Feb. 21. Analysts expect earnings of $4.56 a share and revenue to rise to $20.378 billion from $6.05 billion a year earlier, according to LSEG estimates.

Still, Nvidia's eye-popping run this year that pushed it to new peaks and powered gains in US stock markets could make the stock vulnerable if earnings are less than stunning.

"You can't come out and simply meet or slightly beat for the stock to go higher, Nvidia's going to need to blow it away," said Dennis Dick, a trader at Triple D Trading.

Nvidia options are pricing a swing of about 11% in either direction following results, according to data from options analytics service ORATS.

Other AI-focused stocks such as Super Micro Computer fell 11.6% and Arm Holdings dropped 7.3%.

Advanced Micro Devices was down nearly 6%, having recorded double-digit gains on a year-to-date basis.

Nvidia's shares are trading at 32 times its forward earnings estimates compared with the industry median of 25.4.


Saudi Media Minister, SDAIA President Launch AI Center for Media

The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
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Saudi Media Minister, SDAIA President Launch AI Center for Media

The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)
The projects aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media. (SPA)

Saudi Minister of Media Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosary and Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) President Dr. Abdullah bin Sharaf Al-Ghamdi launched on Tuesday the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Center for Media and the Future Camp of Generative Artificial Intelligence for Media.

The two launches, at the start of the Saudi Media Forum 3 held in Riyadh, aim to foresee the future of AI and its applications in all forms of media in a way that enhances the Kingdom's position as a leading country in the AI data field to achieve the goals of the Kingdom's Vision 2030.

The projects aim to boost the national media competencies' benefits of AI to ensure a competitive environment in the media sector's advancement by utilizing advanced technologies.

The launches come within the cooperation framework between the Ministry of Media and SDAIA to achieve integration in the services of the two sectors to meet the aspirations of the wise leadership that aim to achieve the benefit of advanced technologies and reflect them on various government sectors.


Nintendo Shares Slide on Reports of Delayed Switch Successor Release 

A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
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Nintendo Shares Slide on Reports of Delayed Switch Successor Release 

A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)
A customer browses the gaming section of Nintendo products in a shop in Tokyo, Japan, May 6, 2021. (AFP)

Nintendo shares fell 6% on Monday after reports by games media and Bloomberg that its next-generation console will be delayed until early 2025 from later this year.

While Nintendo has not commented on plans for a successor device beyond saying that it is always working on new hardware and software, the Kyoto-based gaming firm is widely expected to be planning to launch a new device to succeed its aging Switch console.

The company raised the full-year sales forecast for the Switch earlier this month as the hybrid home-portable device continues to attract consumers even as it nears its eighth year on the market.

"We want to maintain the momentum of the Switch business," Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa told an earnings briefing at the time.


AI-Operated Robots Assist Visitors to the Grand Mosque

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
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AI-Operated Robots Assist Visitors to the Grand Mosque

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)
The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah. (SPA)

The Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque has deployed AI-operated robots to assist worshippers and visitors at the Grand Mosque in Makkah, SPA said on Sunday.
The robots provide information and guidance on a variety of topics, including how to perform the Hajj and Umrah rituals, Islamic rulings and fatwas, directions to different locations within the mosque, and translations in multiple languages.
Each robot is equipped with a touchscreen display, a high-definition camera, and a powerful speaker system. It can also connect to the internet via Wi-Fi, thus able to access real-time information, in 11 languages: Arabic, English, French, Russian, Persian, Turkish, Malay, Urdu, Chinese, Bengali, and Hausa.


OpenAI Reveals Sora, a Tool to Make Instant Videos from Written Prompts 

The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
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OpenAI Reveals Sora, a Tool to Make Instant Videos from Written Prompts 

The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)
The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output from ChatGPT, March 21, 2023, in Boston. (AP)

The maker of ChatGPT on Thursday unveiled its next leap into generative artificial intelligence with a tool that instantly makes short videos in response to written commands.

San Francisco-based OpenAI’s new text-to-video generator, called Sora, isn’t the first of its kind. Google, Meta and the startup Runway ML are among the other companies to have demonstrated similar technology.

But the high quality of videos displayed by OpenAI — some after CEO Sam Altman asked social media users to send in ideas for written prompts — astounded observers while also raising fears about the ethical and societal implications.

“An instructional cooking session for homemade gnocchi hosted by a grandmother social media influencer set in a rustic Tuscan country kitchen with cinematic lighting,” was a prompt suggested on X by a freelance photographer from New Hampshire. Altman responded a short time later with a realistic video that depicted what the prompt described.

The tool isn’t yet publicly available and OpenAI has revealed limited information about how it was built. The company, which has been sued by some authors and The New York Times over its use of copyrighted works of writing to train ChatGPT, also hasn’t disclosed what imagery and video sources were used to train Sora. (OpenAI pays an undisclosed fee to The Associated Press to license its text news archive).

OpenAI said in a blog post that it’s engaging with artists, policymakers and others before releasing the new tool to the public.

“We are working with red teamers  —  domain experts in areas like misinformation, hateful content, and bias  —  who will be adversarially testing the model,” the company said. “We’re also building tools to help detect misleading content such as a detection classifier that can tell when a video was generated by Sora.”