Google’s Gemini is coming for more apps, Cruise is cutting its workforce, and Tesla issuing a recall
Image credits: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Hey guys, welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular newsletter covering major events in tech — or most of them, anyway. As the world’s largest AI conference, NeurIPS, takes place in sunny New Orleans, Google is sharing more about Gemini, its leading AI model family — and a lot has been happening elsewhere.
In this edition of WiR, we cover Cruise cutting 24% of its driverless workforce (thus invoking Tesla’s Autopilot), the dilemma of Twitch’s new nudity policy, Adobe’s updated app design language, and Instagram’s launch of an innovative AI-powered background editor. We also highlight the expansion of Meta’s Threads app, the FCC’s refusal to support Starlink, Apple’s changing policies around push notification data, and Amazon’s competition with its own Goodreads service.
There’s a lot to summarize, so we won’t go overboard. But first, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already.
Gemini comes to more applications: Google’s Gemini GenAI models — specifically the Gemini Pro, a lightweight version of a more capable model, the Gemini Ultra, set to arrive in the coming months — are making their way into more Google products. Duet AI, the company’s suite of development aids for code completion and generation, will soon begin using Gemini. So do AI Studio (formerly MakerSuite), Google’s AI app design experience on the web, and Vertex AI, the tech giant’s AI development platform for enterprises.
Cruises reduce workforce: Cruise, General Motors’ self-driving car subsidiary, has decided to lay off 900 employees, mostly field employees, as part of a plan to cut costs and revamp the company, Kirsten said. Wall Street appears to be approving of the cuts, which follow an Oct. 2 incident that left a pedestrian stranded and then towed by one of Cruise’s robotaxis. General Motors shares rose after announcing a downsizing.
Remember Tesla’s problems: Tesla is limiting the use of its Autopilot driver-assistance software as part of a two-million-vehicle recall — one of the first findings to come from an ongoing multi-year investigation by the nation’s top auto safety regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). ). In documents released Wednesday, NHTSA says the way Tesla cars check to see if drivers are paying attention to the road while using Autosteer, an Autopilot feature that allows cars to remain stationary in the center of the lane even around large curves, is “inadequate.”
Nudes on Twitch: This week, Twitch announced sweeping updates to its sexual content policy and content rating system, briefly allowing previously banned content like depicted nipples and “erotic dances” — but then quickly backing down. Starting Friday, depictions of real and fictional nudity will be banned on Twitch again. Streamers will still be able to show nudity in M-rated games.
Adobe unveils Spectrum 2 Adobe has released an update to Spectrum, the design system the company has used as the foundation for all of its applications and web products for the past 10 years. The new design system is called Spectrum 2 (no surprise there), and it steps back a bit from the austerity of the current Spectrum design and adds a fair number of splashes of color. You can already find parts of Spectrum 2 in recent Adobe web applications like the company’s Firefly generative AI service, Adobe Express, and some new web experiences in Acrobat.
Background editor for Instagram intro: Instagram introduced its GenAI-powered background editing tool for US-based users on Wednesday. The tool allows users to quickly change the background of their photos; When users tap the new background editor icon on a photo, they get pre-populated prompts like “On the red carpet,” “Be chased by dinosaurs,” and “Surrounded by puppies.” Users can write their own prompts to change the wallpaper as well.
Topics grow: Rumor has it that Meta is preparing to launch Threads in the EU next month – possibly with a “view-only mode” to comply with EU regulations on data processing and recommendation algorithms. In the meantime, the social network is working on bringing its fact-checking software to Threads and testing support for ActivityPub, the open social networking protocol embraced by decentralized social networking platforms, including Mastodon.
FCC denies Starlink: The FCC has permanently rejected Starlink’s request for $885 million in public funds to expand orbital communications infrastructure to cover parts of rural America, saying the company “failed to demonstrate its ability to deliver the promised service.” As Devine points out, the money in question was part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, a multibillion-dollar program to support the launch of Internet service in places that private companies had previously decided were too expensive or remote to do so.
Apple changes its notification policy: Apple said it will no longer turn over users’ notification logs to law enforcement unless the company obtains a valid order from a judge. Previously, the company allowed police to obtain these records through a subpoena, which police departments and law enforcement agencies issue without judicial oversight. The policy change comes days after US Senator Ron Wyden revealed that governments could “secretly force Apple and Google” to hand over the contents of notifications sent to customers’ phones.
Amazon competes with its own Goodreads site: Amazon this week launched its own competitor to Goodreads, the book tracking and recommendations site it also owns. The Your Books app organizes all the books you’ve purchased, borrowed, or saved, including print books, as well as Amazon Kindle and Audible titles. As Sarah points out, with your books, the focus is more on commerce and leveraging Amazon data to make recommendations, rather than relying on other people’s opinions, negative or positive, as is the case with Goodreads.
Need some podcast listening on the weekend? Good news – TechCrunch has a lot to offer there.
on justice, the crew welcomed Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and co-founder of WordPress, along with Kishan Bajaria, founder of Texts.com. Automattic bought the all-in-one messaging app Texts.com for $50 million last October, and on this week’s episode of Equity, the hosts delved into the deal, what it means — and the overall state of the written word online.
while, is found It centers around James Wagner, co-founder and CEO of Joule Case, a startup company working to create a cleaner alternative to diesel generators. Wagoner spoke about his journey to start the company after the first startup he and his co-founder launched did not survive the 2008 financial crisis.
and on Chain reactionJacqueline interviewed Johan Kerbrat, Managing Director of Cryptocurrencies at Robinhood. Johan is leading the app’s efforts to expand its cryptocurrency exchange business and make digital assets more accessible to retail investors.
TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and polls – which you know about if you’re already a subscriber. If not, consider subscribing. Here are some highlights from this week:
corresponding encounter. it is in: Alex writes about the recent lawsuit filed by fast fashion retailer Temu against its main competitor Shein. In it, Temu alleges “questionable copyright infringement” complaints filed against it by Shein — and also alleges that Shein is abusing its suppliers by taking advantage of “monopoly power” and “exclusive dealing agreements.”
COP28 summary: Tim reports on the proceedings of this year’s UN Climate Change Conference. He says the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) was important in some unexpected ways – and not just because the United Arab Emirates, the world’s seventh-largest oil producer, hosted the conference.
Epic fallout: Google losing the antitrust lawsuit brought by Epic Games regarding the Play Store will have far-reaching implications for the mobile app economy. Alex has the full story.