OpenAI fires CEO Sam Altman, Airbnb acquires GamePlanner.AI, and Epic battles Google over antitrust

Hello, folks, and welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s newsletter that recaps the biggest tech industry events of the past week (or more). Microsoft’s Ignite conference, where the tech giant laid out its vision of a “copilot” powered future, flooded the channels in the middle of the week. But there are many notes besides.

In this edition of WiR, we look at the unexpected firing of OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, the amazing Humane – and perhaps overly ambitious – Ai Pin, the closure of the popular video chat service Omegle, Airbnb acquired the secretive company of a co-founder of Siri, and Amazon launched a discounted health plan. We’ve also covered the watermelon emoji used as a symbol of political unity on social media, electric air taxi testing in New York City, the ongoing Epic-Google antitrust lawsuit and the driverless car company Cruise’s escalating misfortune.

There’s a lot to cover — so let’s get to it. But first, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already.

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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman fired off: In a surprising turn of events, Sam Altman has been fired from OpenAI, the AI ​​startup behind ChatGPT, DALL-E 3, GPT-4 and other highly capable AI systems. . In a post on OpenAI’s official blog, the company wrote that Altman’s departure follows a “board deliberation review process” that concluded Altman was “not always forthright in his communications” with other board members, “impeded its ability to exercise its responsibilities.” OpenAI CTO Mira Murati will take over as interim CEO.

Ai Pin in person: Brian reviews the Ai Pin, an amazing new product from Apple-veteran-backed, well-funded startup Humane. He wrote that the matchbook-sized device, which has a laser system for projecting UI elements onto the surface and a mic and speaker array for responding to voice commands, feels like “very early days ” – and that the price ($699) and mandatory subscription ($24 per month) do not help. Still, it’s clear that a lot of care has gone into the product, he added.

Bose’s QuietComfort Ultra gets its name: In other hardware news, Brian tested Bose’s new QuietComfort Ultra headphones, which start at $429. In his estimation, Bose makes some of the most comfortable and best-sounding headphones on the market – combined with best-in-class noise cancellation. That’s high praise for Bluetooth headphones.

Omegle has closed: Omegle, the popular online chat service that allowed people to connect and talk to strangers (and that was all the rage in this writer’s high school days), is shutting down after more than 14 years. Founder and CEO Leif K-Brooks cited growing misuse of the platform, including by people committing “unspeakably horrific crimes.” But the next Wired report suggests that Omegle was forced to shut down by a lawsuit from a survivor of sexual abuse.

Airbnb buys Siri co-founder’s company: This week Airbnb acquired a secretive AI startup, GamePlanner.AI for nearly $200 million, CNBC said. GamePlanner was co-founded by Adam Cheyer, who famously helped co-launch the startup Siri, which was acquired by Apple and whose technology forms the basis of Apple’s AI-powered Siri assistant. In announcing the acquisition, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky suggested that the 12-person startup is combining AI and design expertise to create AI-driven experiences — like a consultancy focused on AI.

Amazon launches new health plan: Amazon this week announced a One Medical membership benefit for Prime members, which gives them access to health care services for $9 per month or $99 per year. (Remember that Amazon snapped up One Medical, a leading healthcare tech provider, in February for nearly $3.9 billion.) At $199 a year initially, members save $100 on 24/7 service at virtual care at One Medical with the new plan, Lauren wrote, as well as benefiting from in-person visits to locations across the US

The watermelon emoji, symbol of protest: Morgan writes about how the watermelon emoji has a complicated history in Palestinian protests online. The watermelon motif as a political statement became common after the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, but images of the watermelon have been especially prevalent this year as Israeli officials enforce bans on the Palestinian flag — and amid global calls for a ceasefire in response. of Israel to attack Hamas.

Air taxis fly over NYC: Joby Aviation and Volocopter gave the public a clear look at what the future of aviation could look like last week, with both companies conducting short demonstration flights of their electric aircraft in New York City. The demonstration flights were made during a press conference last Sunday, where the mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, announced that the city will electrify two of the three heliports located in Manhattan.

Epic and Google revealed this: Although Match settled its antitrust case with Google over the Play Store’s payment north of $300 million, Fortnite maker Epic Games continued to settle the case this week, reports Sarah. The game maker argued that Google’s commissions on in-app purchases were anti-competitive and that Google was using its market power to compete unfairly by negotiating special deals with developers. and manufacturers running their own app stores.

Cruise turns: Cruise, GM’s self-driving car subsidiary, this week began laying off contingent workers after halting all driverless operations. This is after it lost key commercial permits that allowed it to operate a robotaxi service in San Francisco and halted production of its built Origin autonomous vehicle. Cruise also suspended its employee stock program as GM took a more active role in shaping the company’s safety culture, tapping one of its executives to lead the legal and policy, communications groups and Cruise’s finances.

Uber fights against unfair deactivation: Uber has introduced a feature aimed at solving the issue of unfair deactivation that ride-hail and delivery drivers often face. Starting Monday across the US, the company is rolling out a technology that identifies Uber Eats riders or customers who regularly give bad ratings or feedback in order to get a refund.

Audio

Need a podcast to pass the time, perhaps during Thanksgiving prep? (This writer must be a cook – possibly one ube babka, inspired by his loving Filipino partner.) Well, you’re in luck. TechCrunch has you covered – there’s plenty to add to the playlist from the TC library.

This week Equitythe crew talks about the Google search-related antitrust lawsuit currently underway and what it could mean for startups.

FOUND featured two conversations all about fashion continuity from TechCrunch Disrupt 2023. In the first, three guests — Jim Ajioka from Colorifix, Beth Esponnette from unspun and Julie Willoughby from Circ — talked to Harri about of new trends. In the second, Morgan interviews Jemima Bunbury from Blend, a curated fashion app that is changing the way people shop online.

And so on Chain Reaction, Stani Kulechov, the founder of Avara, talks about the Aave protocol, Avara’s platform-focused stablecoin GHO and his social network protocol Lens.

TechCrunch+

TC+ subscribers have access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you already know if you’re a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are some highlights from this week:

Next, a money maker: German software company EQS Group has been taken private by Thoma Bravo for about €400 million ($435.1 million) in a deal that represents a whopping 53% premium to its pre-announcement value. Alex explores what this could mean for the many startups operating in the regulatory tech market.

What it means to be human in an AI world: Haje considers the meaning of art – and why we’re upset that robots are making it now – in light of the push against generative AI, especially art-generating AI like OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 and Midjourney.

The trial period is over: While the crowdfunding market looks bad for startups, the test continues to be unsustainable for their investors, Rebecca reports. VCs spend all their attention and capital on helping their existing portfolio companies get on board in the increasingly difficult fundraising market – but the funds are not in place to support this strategy.

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