Apple to open first retail stores in India next week

Nearly two decades after Apple entered India, the iPhone-maker is ready to open its first set of retail stores in the South Asian market.
Apple will open Apple BKC, its Mumbai store, on April 18, and its Delhi outlet Apple Saket on April 20, the company said in a statement Tuesday.
Apple has long explored expansion into India, but curbed its enthusiasm because the market for premium smartphones and laptops remains tiny in the country. Even through India is the second-largest internet market, most smartphones that sell in the country are priced under $200.
India currently contributes little to Apple’s topline, but the iPhone maker has said in the past that it’s bullish about its prospects in the country. 
“These new retail locations mark a significant expansion in India that will offer great new ways to browse, discover, and buy Apple products with exceptional service and experiences for customers,” Apple said in a statement.
Apple has been aggressively hiring employees for its stores in India in recent months, according to recruitment posts. The company, which launched its online store in India in 2020, had initially planned to debut the first retail outlet in 2021 but delayed those plans after COVID struck.
The iPhone-maker is also pushing to turn India into a key hardware manufacturing hub for the company.
Apple’s contract manufacturing partners, Foxconn and Wistron, have ramped up local assembling for iPhone and other Apple gadgets in India in recent quarters. In a report last year, JP Morgan analysts estimated that Apple would expand its manufacturing capacity in India to produce 25% of all iPhones by 2025.
More to follow.
Apple to open first retail stores in India next week by Manish Singh originally published on TechCrunch

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Jakarta-based cloud kitchen startup Legit Group gets Series A to take over the rest of Indonesia

Legit Group, a cloud kitchen brand operator based in Jakarta, has its eyes on the rest of Indonesia after raising a $13.7 million Series A. The round was led by MDI Ventures, the venture capital arm of PT Telcom Indonesia Tbk, the largest telecom conglomerate in Indonesia. It included participation from Sinar Mas Digital Ventures (SMDV), returning investor East Ventures and Winter Capital.
This funding follows a $3 million seed round raised by Legit Group in 2021, from East Ventures and AC Ventures. Since then, Legit Group says its sales have grown three times.
Founded in 2021, Legit Group currently operates four of its own cloud brands: Pastaria, Sei’Tan, Sek Fan and Ryujin. It covers 30 points in Jabodetabek, the larger Jakarta metropolitan area. Its goal with the new funding is to expand into new areas with large delivery markets, since 80% of its outlets are currently in Jakarta.
Legit Group’s team left to right: Monica Evanti Andriani, Felix-Nugroho, Cendyarani, Juliana-Thamrin, Bram-Hendranata
Before founding Legit Group, chairman Bran Hendrata spent 15 years in the F&B industry. During that time, he built F&B company Ismaya Group into one of the largest in Indonesia. Hendrata told TechCrunch he became interested in cloud kitchens after witnessing the shift toward online food delivery during the pandemic. He believed the changes in habits would continue after the pandemic, as Indonesia’s growing middle class demanded convenience, like having restaurant-quality food delivered to their homes.
Other cloud kitchen startups in Indonesia include Yummy and Hangry. Legit Group is currently working on an operating system that it says will give it an advantage over other cloud brand operators, but Hendrata said the company isn’t ready to comment on the tech yet since it’s one of the biggest projects they’re working on with the new funding.
The startup plans to expand further in Jabodetabek and will also enter 2nd tier cities like Surabaya and Malang this year. It also plans to launch new brands that will have different peak hours than its existing ones to more efficiently utilize its kitchens.
In a statement about the investment, MDI Ventures CEO Donald Wihardja said, “Legit Group founder’s experience, Bram who has been successful and profitable in the F&B business world for 15 years, as well as their ability to develop innovative, effective product and marketing strategies, makes MDI Ventures increasingly confident that our support as a major investor will strengthen their position in the F&B industry and accelerate their business growth.

Ghost Financial whips up new capital into finance tools for ghost kitchens

Jakarta-based cloud kitchen startup Legit Group gets Series A to take over the rest of Indonesia by Catherine Shu originally published on TechCrunch

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Eclipse eclipses previous fundraises with a whopping $1.23 billion across two new funds

The market may be be tightening, but not for Eclipse Ventures, a Palo Alto-based venture firm that just raised $1.2 billion across two new funds. One fund, with $720 million in capital commitments will be invested in early-stage outfits, as well as companies that Eclipse itself incubates. The remaining $510 million will be funneled into growth-stage companies, including outfits that have never before raised outside capital but that also fit into Eclipse’s broader themes. The vehicles bring the firm’s capital under management to $4 billion.
That’s a lot for a venture firm that was founded just eight years ago, but apparently, Eclipse’s pitch —  that legacy industries need to modernize how they operate in order stay competitive — is resonating with its investors.
As firm founder Lior Susan explains it, “The thing that I always talk about is automation in general because there is just so much opportunity. So you know, 5% of the world’s GDP, or $45 trillion, is blue-collar wages. But there are not enough truck drivers or warehouse workers or agricultural workers or construction workers in the world, and we’ll see even fewer as more people retire. All will be replaced by automation, and we intend to build a lot of those companies in those markets.”
There are many ways to pull traditional industries into the 21st century, judging by Eclipse’s wide-ranging portfolio. One of its biggest bets, for example, is on Bright Machines, a still-private company that looks to ensure that all the different components in a factory are connected to a central control system that can monitor and manage their operations in real-time. Eclipse also backed Enovix, a company that went public through a special-purpose acquisition company last year and is producing lithium-ion batteries for small devices like smart watches, as well as 3D cell technology and batteries for electric vehicles. Eclipse was also an early investor in Lucira, a company focused on developing and commercializing infectious disease test kits. (It staged a traditional IPO in early 2021 when Covid was still rampant.)
To find out a bit more about how Eclipse is looking at the world right now — and how all that fresh capital might be deployed — we hopped on the phone with this morning with Lior, who spend eight years in the Israel Defense Forces before selling a company he helped his brother build and deciding to launch his own venture firm. Our chat has been edited for length and clarity.
TC: You just announced two funds, one of which is a growth fund. Why not just raise a bigger flagship fund?
LS: We think there is a massive opportunity for Eclipse at the early growth stage, and not just at the early stage. Our first bet from this new fund, for example, is Watchmaker Genomics, a company that will accelerate pharma manufacturing using enzymes and automation. Justin, one of our partners, knew the team for a couple of years; they’d bootstrapped the business to advanced revenue and traction after selling their previous company to Roche for $1.2 billion, and we kind of elbowed our way in because they wanted someone to help them accelerate their manufacturing. We invested alongside Decheng Capital, which is an expert in the world of biotech.
Are you really interested in healthcare or are you more focused on startups that improve back-end processes, no matter the industry or vertical?
We have a whole healthcare infrastructure thesis around investing in picks and shovels on the manufacturing side and in terms of logistics and the supply chain. We have amazing companies, including Rune Labs, Nucleus, and a few others that are building picks and shovels and automation for the worlds of pharma.
Nucleus [RadioPharma] is a company that you co-created with the Mayo Clinic. Eclipse has incubated other companies, too. Is this strategy changing as the market softens and opportunities become available elsewhere?
Not at all. Our model is impacted by the size of the opportunity, and $75 trillion out of the world’s $100 trillion GDP is going to undergo a digital transformation. I’ve been saying that for eight years, and I think everyone now agrees with us — the government, other investors, the public markets. Everyone wants to be Elon Musk. Everyone wants to build cars and rockets and to solve tough problems. So our incubation strategy has been driven by the size of the opportunity more than anything else.
One of the companies you helped to create, Bright Machines, raised some debt funding from Silicon Valley Bank back in November after it decided to scrap plans to go public. How has SVB’s implosion impacted Bright Machines and Eclipse more broadly?
We’d been working closely with Silicon Valley Bank from the firm’s establishment. Naturally, I don’t know enough to comment on how they ran the bank. I will tell you that the people over there were incredible and that the work that they did for the broader ecosystem of startups, not only for Eclipse, was incredible, so on a personal note, I’m sad to see [its demise].
On the business side, I think because it’s going to leave a vacuum in this market, there is a whole suite of new opportunities [that will emerge from this]. I think we will see new entrants in this market. We’re also thinking personally about what we should do, to tell you the truth, because there are extraordinary opportunities to provide not only equity but also non-dilutive capital in this world.
Wait — you’re thinking about providing debt to your own companies?
Not yet, not yet. That’s still above my pay grade. But you know, as an investor and operator, you always need to think about the opportunities currently in front of you.
Eclipse eclipses previous fundraises with a whopping $1.23 billion across two new funds by Connie Loizos originally published on TechCrunch

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Hybrid Workforce: Finding Balance Between Office and Remote Productivity

As the tides of change continue to shape the modern work landscape, the hybrid workforce model has emerged as an increasingly popular and compelling option for companies worldwide. By offering unparalleled flexibility and cost savings, it’s no wonder that more and more organizations are taking the plunge into this exciting new way of work.
According to a recent survey, a staggering 56% of hiring managers anticipate that hybrid work arrangements will soon become the standard work mode in the foreseeable future. However, with great innovation comes great challenges. For companies transitioning to a hybrid workforce, striking the right balance between remote and in-office work can be one of the most significant obstacles to overcome.
The question arises: how do companies divide their employees’ time most effectively between remote work and office work? In this article, we will dive deep into the myriad of challenges that come with achieving the perfect equilibrium of office and remote productivity, offering insights and strategies to help companies achieve a successful hybrid workforce.
Tips to Achieve Optimal Hybrid Workforce Productivity
Hybrid work is becoming the new norm, and with it comes the challenge of maintaining optimal productivity. Here are some tips to help you achieve just that:

Set clear communication expectations: Foster a work environment that prioritizes consistent communication and leverages state-of-the-art technology to facilitate seamless collaboration while ensuring each team member has a clear delineation of their duties and obligations.
Prioritize work-life balance: Empower your workforce to prioritize self-care and maintain a harmonious work-life equilibrium, fortifying against burnout and ensuring sustained productivity.
Invest in the right technology: Leverage advanced technological tools, including video conferencing, team messaging applications, and project management software, to facilitate seamless connectivity between employees working remotely and those stationed in-office.
Foster team building and camaraderie: Plan team building activities, encourage virtual coffee breaks, and provide opportunities for in-person gatherings to help foster a sense of community.
Provide necessary resources and support: Ensure employees have access to the necessary resources, such as ergonomic office equipment, and provide the necessary support to ensure they can work effectively and efficiently.

By following these tips, you can achieve optimal hybrid workforce productivity and reap the benefits of a successful and sustainable work model.
The Benefits of a Hybrid Workforce
A harmonious interweaving of both physical and virtual workspaces, the hybrid workforce empowers employees with the freedom to work from any locale, providing them with unrivaled flexibility, while granting employers an avenue to curb operational costs. The potential advantages of this pioneering model are infinite. It bridges the great divide between office vs. remote, fostering a new paradigm of work that augments collaboration, promotes productivity, and fuels innovation.
During the time frame of January 25th to February 5th, 2023, an estimated 40% of gainfully employed individuals in Great Britain reported having conducted their work duties remotely at some point over the course of the previous seven days.
To begin with, hybrid work ushers in a new era of work-life balance, granting employees a higher degree of autonomy and agency in managing their personal responsibilities. This newfound control empowers workers to operate more efficiently, increasing productivity and overall job satisfaction.
Hybrid work models not only bring great benefits to organizations but also help the environment by diminishing traffic congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, employers can revel in the advantage of significantly lower overhead costs, including rent, utilities, and office supplies.
Moreover, hybrid workforce models enable organizations to tap into the vast global talent pool, allowing employers to access the most excellent talents worldwide. At the same time, employees can expand their career horizons beyond their geographical boundaries. As a result, hybrid work models are not just a trend but an intelligent solution that supports businesses, the environment, and talented individuals alike.
Challenges of a Hybrid Workforce
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a seismic shift has occurred in the way we work, and many companies have embraced the hybrid workforce model as a means of adapting to this new reality. While the advantages of this approach are manifold, it is not without its significant hurdles that must be surmounted. Below are outlined some of the most prevalent obstacles faced in implementing this new paradigm and the strategies that can be utilized to overcome them.

Difficulty in communication and collaboration: Maintaining effective communication and collaboration in a hybrid workforce can be challenging due to the heterogeneity of employees working in the office and remotely. This can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and disharmony among team members, risking sub-optimal outcomes if not addressed.
Inadequate work-life balance: The convenience of working from home may cause employees to struggle with separating their work and personal lives, leading to an erosion of healthy boundaries that exacerbates stress, exhaustion, and ultimately diminished output.
Technological issues: To optimize the productivity of a hybrid workforce, a sturdy and dependable technological infrastructure is imperative, guaranteeing seamless communication, collaboration, and unfettered access to vital resources regardless of location. However, sluggish internet speeds, antiquated software, and inadequate hardware are some of the technological challenges that could potentially impede the performance of a hybrid workforce.
Challenges in team building and morale: Remote work may bring about a sense of seclusion and detachment from the team, causing a detrimental impact on both morale and team-building initiatives. This is particularly arduous for fresh hires who strive to forge camaraderie with their peers. It can be the difference between a smooth transition into the workforce and a lackluster start to their career journey.

Final Thoughts
The rise of the hybrid workforce ushers in a new era of both challenge and opportunity for organizations seeking to thrive. Achieving the optimal balance between office and remote productivity is paramount to success. This can be accomplished through the implementation of clear communication channels, the strategic use of cutting-edge technology, and the cultivation of a culture of work-life balance and team building.
It is the organizations that can recognize the unique advantages of a hybrid workforce and adopt a mindset of adaptability, trust, collaboration, and innovation that will truly excel in this new digital age. By embracing the full potential of the hybrid workforce, these organizations can lay the foundation for growth and success, making them well-positioned for long-term achievement and prosperity.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Rebrand Cities; Pexels; Thank you!
The post Hybrid Workforce: Finding Balance Between Office and Remote Productivity appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Lightspeed fuels Indian workspace interiors platform OfficeBanao with 6M funding

OfficeBanao, an Indian startup offering a workspace interiors platform to businesses in the country, has raised $6 million in seed funding led by Lightspeed.
In India’s competitive workspace interior market, traditional providers have long dominated the landscape, often requiring substantial investment of time and resources for clients to achieve their desired results. Furthermore, many of these established firms primarily target large corporations, offering only partial solutions that leave customers seeking third-party assistance to fully design their new or existing office spaces. OfficeBanao is challenging this status quo with its comprehensive, end-to-end service, which features an interactive visual design process tailored to businesses of all sizes — from small and mid-sized enterprises to ambitious startups and established giants.
The Gurugram-headquartered startup’s platform brings architects, contractors, designers, material suppliers and even office furniture providers together under one umbrella, streamlining the process for clients. Catering to a diverse range of commercial interiors, the startup covers all stages of design, procurement, and execution for projects that span from modest $12,200 office spaces to sprawling $610,000 designs and beyond.
Additionally, OfficeBanao is using newer technology to advance the interior design process for workspaces. By expediting the fulfillment of design requirements and streamlining operations, the platform not only delivers greater efficiency for clients but also ensures a seamless experience for service providers.
Historically, workspace interior providers have turned to tools such as AutoCAD, 3ds Max and even Excel spreadsheets to manage their operations. OfficeBanao is taking a stab at it through a tech suite that elevates the industry standard, the startup says. This suite features an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that supplants traditional spreadsheet usage, an innovative technology layer that integrates seamlessly with AutoCAD to grant clients straightforward access and a proprietary 3D solution capable of previewing an astonishing 10,000 options for boardrooms or meeting spaces in mere seconds, OfficeBanao co-founder and CEO Tushar Mittal said in an interview.
Mittal co-founded OfficeBanao in January 2022 with Akshya Kumar (CTO) and Divyanshu Sharma (CBO and CPO) after spending years in the industry designing and building workspaces for multinational clients at real-estate developer DLF and interior design firm SKV. The founders’ experience and know-how about the market have helped bring a competitive edge to the startup against the competition, they say.
“There is a huge demand… but the only problem is it is not vertically integrated anywhere. So, people are going here and there and not getting a one-stop solution,” he said while answering how OfficeBanao stands differently.
The level of transparency the startup offers to its clients and supply chain also makes it different from the other players in the market, he added.
OfficeBanao currently has customers in more than 15 cities, including in some of the untapped tier-2 cities of the country. Over the next few months, the startup is looking to expand to the top 25 markets. It also leverages platforms such as LinkedIn and Instagram to attract new customers in different markets.
The startup plans to deploy the all-equity seed funding and partnership from Lightspeed India Venture Partners to expand its headcount from the current 110 to 250-300 people by the end of the year to create a solid technology-driven foundation and better meet the demand.
Mittal told TechCrunch that OfficeBanao has a revenue run rate of around $5 million per quarter and is improving every quarter. The startup was all bootstrapped until now.
“OfficeBanao is a mission-driven company, committed to making a meaningful difference in how workspaces are developed in India. We are delighted to partner with them and are excited to see how they transform this market,” said Rahul Taneja, partner, Lightspeed, in a prepared statement.
“With depth of experience and supplier network, the team is best placed to disrupt the existing opaque and sub-par experience that plagues the industry today. It is encouraging to see the early progress, the sustainable business model and most importantly, the customer delight they have delivered – and we look forward to their continued expansion.”
Lightspeed fuels Indian workspace interiors platform OfficeBanao with 6M funding by Jagmeet Singh originally published on TechCrunch

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Teamwork: Project management software review

This is our hands-on tested review of Teamwork. Learn about the pros and cons of Teamwork’s features with our in-depth review.
The post Teamwork: Project management software review appeared first on TechRepublic.

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Daily Crunch: Don’t post your darkest, deepest secrets on Twitter Circle

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.
Happy Monday Crunch! There’s just one month left to submit nominations for Startup Battlefield 200, so if you want to be on the TechCrunch stage and catapult yourself to fame, fortune, and the attention of every startup, investor, and journalist in the room, maybe get on that!
Oh, and did you know that our podcast Found is up for a Webby award?
— Christine and Haje
The TechCrunch Top 3

Welcome to our inner circle, made of Swiss cheese: Amanda has a PSA for you: “Do not post your deepest darkest secrets on your Twitter Circle.” There’s a bug (yes, another one) going around that makes those tweets go out to people who aren’t in your “circle of trust.”
All the perks, none of the ads: YouTube Premium, the platform’s $11.99-per-month version, now has some new features, including Apple SharePlay support, higher quality video and ways to manage your queue. Sarah has more.
I knew the way you know about a good melon: Rob Solomon, former GoFundMe chairman and president, is finding his next big thing in digital commerce by starting Kite with investment firms Juxtapose and Blackstone. The firms pumped $200 million into the new endeavor, which will invest in, acquire and operate high-potential, digital-first consumer product brands, Christine reports.

Startups and VC
Many insurtechs solve for insurance distribution and policy administration. Instead, Axle provides access to real-time insurance data, automated insurance verification and monitoring of ongoing coverage so that customers, like rental car companies, can reduce their operational costs, Christine reports.
Things were a bit slower over the holiday weekend, but here’s a few more to feast your eyes on:

AI can do that, probably: Devin sat through the Y Combinator Demo Day and notes that the latest batch sure was a lot of “maybe AI can do…this?”
Who’s a good boy?: Pet influencers are hotter than ever. But how do dogs do taxes? Amanda wonders, then finds out and shares it with us.
Like a website for your ears: Don’t miss today’s episode of our Equity podcast, where the team is diving into the world of crypto price stability, Uber selling Careem, and valuations for YC.
A long, slow march: Over on TC+, Ron examines what happens when your startup fails.
We’re good, thanks: Also on TC+, Anna wonders, What if Scandinavian startups don’t need Y Combinator?

In the new normal for VC, builders will win
Image Credits: LEREXIS (opens in a new window) / Getty Images
Large VC firms ensure deal access using a complex mix of strategy, research and relationship building, but “looking deep to the vision and initiative of each founder is the only way forward,” says Will Robbins, a general partner at Contrary Capital.
Because so much capital is readily available, “we are never going back to the days where venture capital firms can win by being the only term sheet on the table,” writes Robbins, who shares his perspective on collecting deal flow, building a tech stack, and productization “for LPs thinking about the decade to come.”

In the new normal for VC, builders will win

Three more from the TC+ team:

They’re coming for you next: Anthony Cimino and Holli Heiles Pandol advise that the startup sector should keep its eye on the SEC.
Like the matrix, for insurance: Anna and Ram break down everything you need to know about parametric insurance.
You gotta pay yourself: If you’ve raised venture capital, pay yourself, Haje advises.

TechCrunch+ is our membership program that helps founders and startup teams get ahead of the pack. You can sign up here. Use code “DC” for a 15% discount on an annual subscription!
Big Tech Inc.
Please give a big TechCrunch welcome to one of our newest writers, Morgan Sung. Today, she has her first story on Meta Verified, which gives you a little blue check next to your name. However, to get that check, you have to use your legal name, a policy that is raising concerns among sex work circles.
Meanwhile, Uber sold its stake in super app Careem to Emirates Telecommunications for $400 million. Kirsten writes that Careem was founded in 2012 as a ride-hailing rival to Uber and had since added other delivery features, including food and packages, bus services and credit transfers. Following the close of the sale, it will be broken into two companies.
And we have five more for you:

Put ’em on watch: Ron writes that U.K. regulators could be right about cloud portability obstacles.
I’m going to hug him and squeeze him and call him George: If you’ve ever wanted your own chatbot, now you can make one. Sarah reports on Poe’s AI chatbot app, which lets you make your bots using prompts.
How’d you get that chicken on your head?: Basic virtual backgrounds are so 2021. A chicken on your head or a hug from a koala are soooo now, thanks to Snapchat Lenses, which can be accessed during Microsoft Teams meetings. Aisha has more.
Where have all the PCs gone?: Brian reports that global PC shipments dropped by a third in Q1, which is the fourth consecutive drop, by the way.
If you didn’t get enough Twitter above…: We’ve got more for you here. Missing those official Russian accounts? Don’t worry, you can find them again in search results, Ivan reports. Oh, and there was this whole thing about how Twitter won’t let you retweet, like or reply to Substack links. Amanda has more.

Daily Crunch: Don’t post your darkest, deepest secrets on Twitter Circle by Christine Hall originally published on TechCrunch

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Researchers populated a tiny virtual town with AI (and it was very wholesome)

What would happen if you filled a virtual town with AIs and set them loose? As it turns out, they brush their teeth and are very nice to one another! But this unexciting outcome is good news for the researchers who did it, since they wanted to produce “believable simulacra of human behavior” and got just that.
The paper describing the experiment, by Stanford and Google researchers, has not been peer reviewed or accepted for publication anywhere, but it makes for interesting reading nonetheless. The idea was to see if they could apply the latest advances in machine learning models to produce “generative agents” that take in their circumstances and output a realistic action in response.
And that’s very much what they got. But before you get taken in by the cute imagery and descriptions of reflection, conversation and interaction, let’s make sure you understand that what’s happening here is more like an improv troupe role-playing on a MUD than any kind of proto-Skynet. (Only millennials will understand the preceding sentence.)
These little characters aren’t quite what they appear to be. The graphics are just a visual representation of what is essentially a bunch of conversations between multiple instances of ChatGPT. The agents don’t walk up, down, left and right or approach a cabinet to interact with it. All this is happening through a complex and hidden text layer that synthesizes and organizes the information pertaining to each agent.
Twenty-five agents, 25 instances of ChatGPT, each prompted with similarly formatted information that causes it to play the role of a person in a fictional town. Here’s how one such person, John Lin, is set up:
John Lin is a pharmacy shopkeeper at the Willow Market and Pharmacy who loves to help people. He is always looking for ways to make the process of getting medication easier for his customers; John Lin is living with his wife, Mei Lin, who is a college professor, and son, Eddy Lin, who is a student studying music theory; John Lin loves his family very much; John Lin has known the old couple next-door, Sam Moore and Jennifer Moore, for a few years; John Lin thinks Sam Moore is a kind and nice man…
With that information, the agents are then asked to come up with their next actions given the time and circumstances. For instance, they might tell the John agent that it is 8 AM and he just woke up. What does he do? Well, he brushes his teeth, kisses his wife (hopefully in that order), gets dressed, then goes to the kitchen.
Meanwhile, another, totally independent ChatGPT instance representing John’s son Eddy has also been prompted with its own information. It too gets up, brushes its teeth, then goes to the kitchen.
And now the overarching structure of the experiment steps in: The agents representing John and Eddy aren’t both “in” the same virtual space or anything. Instead, when John has finished getting dressed and says he will move to the kitchen, the experimental framework informs him that his son Eddy is there, because in its own instance, Eddy has decided to move into the kitchen at an overlapping time in the experiment-level “day,” based on an estimate of how long various actions take.
Since they’re both in the room at the same time, the experimental setup informs them that the other person is there — along with information like that there is a table no one is sitting at, the stove is on, etc. What do they do next?
John: Good morning Eddy. Did you sleep well?
Eddy: Good morning dad. Yeah, I slept great.
John: That’s good. What are you working on today?
Eddy: I’m working on a new music composition for my class. It’s due this week, so I’m trying to get it finished. But I’m having so much fun with it!
John: That sounds great!
What a nice, normal interaction between a parent and child. Then Mei comes in and they have a pleasant interaction as well. And it’s all accomplished by asking totally separate chatbots what they would do if, in a fictional town where it is this person and had a family like this and was in a room at this time, where this was happening… what would “they,” a real human, do?
So ChatGPT guesses at what a person would do in that situation, and gives their answer as if they’re playing a text adventure. If you then told it, “it is pitch dark, you are likely to be eaten by a grue,” it would probably say it lights a torch. But instead, the experiment has the characters continue with their day minute by minute, buying groceries, walking in the park and going to work.
Image Credits: Google / Stanford University
The users can also write in events and circumstances, like a dripping faucet or a desire to plan a party, and the agents respond appropriately, since any text, for them, is reality.
All of this is performed by laboriously prompting all these instances of ChatGPT with all the minutiae of the agent’s immediate circumstances. Here’s a prompt for John when he runs into Eddy later:
It is February 13, 2023, 4:56 pm.
John Lin’s status: John is back home early from work.
Observation: John saw Eddy taking a short walk around his workplace.
Summary of relevant context from John’s memory:
Eddy Lin is John’s Lin’s son. Eddy Lin has been working on a music composition for his class. Eddy Lin likes to walk around the garden when he is thinking about or listening to music.
John is asking Eddy about his music composition project. What would he say to Eddy?
[Answer:] Hey Eddy, how’s the music composition project for your class coming along?
The instances would quickly begin to forget important things, since the process is so longwinded, so the experimental framework sits on top of the simulation and reminds them of important things or synthesizes them into more portable pieces.
For instance, after the agent is told about a situation in the park, where someone is sitting on a bench and having a conversation with another agent, but there is also grass and context and one empty seat at the bench… none of which are important. What is important? From all those observations, which may make up pages of text for the agent, you might get the “reflection” that “Eddie and Fran are friends because I saw them together at the park.” That gets entered in the agent’s long-term “memory” — a bunch of stuff stored outside the ChatGPT conversation — and the rest can be forgotten.
So, what does all this rigmarole add up to? Something less than true generative agents as proposed by the paper, to be sure, but also an extremely compelling early attempt to create them. Dwarf Fortress does the same thing, of course, but by hand-coding every possibility. That doesn’t scale well!
It was not obvious that a large language model like ChatGPT would respond well to this kind of treatment. After all, it wasn’t designed to imitate arbitrary fictional characters long term or speculate on the most mind-numbing details of a person’s day. But handled correctly — and with a fair amount of massaging — not only can one agent do so, but they don’t break when you use them as pieces in a sort of virtual diorama.
This has potentially huge implications for simulations of human interactions, wherever those may be relevant — of course in games and virtual environments they’re important, but this approach is still monstrously impractical for that. What matters though is not that it is something everyone can use or play with (though it will be soon, I have no doubt), but that the system works at all. We have seen that in AI: If it can do something poorly, the fact that it can do it at all generally means it’s only a matter of time before it does it well.
You can read the full paper, “Generative Agents: Interactive Simulacra of Human Behavior,” here.
Researchers populated a tiny virtual town with AI (and it was very wholesome) by Devin Coldewey originally published on TechCrunch

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Transformer Response Optimization (TRO): The New SEO

ChatGPT plugins are out and thriving — but there are plenty more to check out. In the next few weeks, we should see more plug-ins added to this iOS app store-like environment. Exciting news!
A notable plugin delivered is the internet-powered ChatGPT. The article will mainly focus on the impact of this plugin. Unique from the original ChatGPT, with this plugin, users can surf the web while getting a response. Being able to surf the web fixes one of the main competitive advantages Google and other search engines had over earlier versions. That is that people can now access up-to-date information to make informed decisions while also using ChatGPT.
Now, what does this mean for SEO and the SEO industry?
Is this the End of SEO?
No, this is not the end of SEO.
Search engines will be critical for how many people will access websites and surf the entire internet. It will stay that way for a long time. Many tech laggards will take years until they are comfortable with using chatbots to access information.
Think back to when the internet began. When introducing the idea of accessing information on a screen — many replied back with faces of confusion.
Or, think back to when social media started. Surely, many of us heard the now very-obvious question from a relative or a friend, “How do I friend you on Facebook?”
Further, the whole information ecosystem is in a unique paradox of incentives.
The monetization of Google, publications, and blogs all depend on traffic from search. Or, in other words, referral clicks onto another webpage. This group does not want traffic and revenue stolen by Chatbot responses.
On the other hand, OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard depend on the internet and its content to deliver accurate, up-to-date results. If ChatGPT and Bard destroy the monetization of the publications on which it trains on — it will also destroy any access to new information for datasets.
The internet gave birth to these generative transformers, but it also holds the kill switch to stop its growth. Website owners are already debating whether or not to block the ChatGPT scrapper in their robots.txt file.
The internet and SEO are not going anywhere. That said, things are going to change very rapidly. And SEOs will have to go to the furthest extremes to improve their content than AI-generated content. However, with the help of AI, this should not be too difficult to accomplish.
How Will You Be Better than a Know-it-all Chatbot?
Quizlet is a great example of a site with a “GPT shield.” Users on Quizlet can do more than simply read content. They can create flashcards, play games, get terms read out loud, and host quiz sessions with friends. While students may use ChatGPT for help creating their flashcards, the interactivity of Quizlet makes it a better device for studying.
Yet, most sites do not have the developers to add the level of interactivity a site like Quizlet has. What can traditional site owners do?

First, be predictive. It is more work to converse with a Chatbot than to simply have all the information laid out predictively. You’ll want to make the content of your site easier to digest, which will help build a site’s “GPT shield.”
Second, create more than just text. Some people are visual learners. Creating amazing, human-designed graphics that chatbots cannot output will differentiate your site from the bots.
Third, use surveys, polls, and other interactive elements. Engaging your audience is something these bots will have difficulty doing. If you can have communities of people interacting and engaging with other humans, this will definitely help build up your “GPT shield” further.

With the onset of AI-generated content being relatively cheap, SEOers will likely spend more time building new areas of interactivity and engagement rather than the text content itself.
What is Transformer Response Optimization (TRO)?
Instead of simply protecting your site from GPT with a “GPT shield,” why not also join the dark side and have your content be part of the generative output?
Transformer response optimization (TRO) is the process of maximizing the potential for a dataset to generate a desired response over an undesired response. While similar processes have been used to improve response quality over time (i.e., making a response more human), processes have not been used by companies to deliver specific responses tailored to marketing and PR goals.
The main questions of Transformer Response Optimization (TRO) are: first, how to become part of the data; and two, how to statistically make your response the best response.
Similar to the early days of SEO, if you mention the response that you desire enough times throughout the datasets, it will likely generate the desired response in the Chatbot.
A TRO company may help a company get positive press in a number of known source materials for the bots datasets. This may come in the form of listicles or other mentions that push the probability of a desired generated response.
Two Reasons to Start Thinking about TRO
Here are two reasons why you might want to work on TRO.
First, many theorize that the chatbots will likely have to include source material from where they received information. This means the chatbot might source your site similarly to how a search engine would in search results. However, instead of the top 10 results, it might include the top 3 source materials that helped generate the response. Searchers, who check out the source material or want more information, will generate clicks and traffic to your site.
Second, your company not being in the response can cost you credibility and customers. For example, if Netflix asked a Chatbot, “What are the best streaming services in the world?” The company would want Netflix to be mentioned on this list. Being on the list could mean the difference between them or a competitor getting a streaming service sale. Also, a consumer may see streaming services on the list as better — simply because the bot recognized them first.
TRO will become an important tool apart of every SEOers toolbox.
Final Thoughts and Predictions
The internet gave birth to these generative transformers — but it also holds the kill switch to stop its growth. Both of these information sources will have to grow together now, in the new age of the internet.
In the next five years, AI will make information not only readily available on webpages, but provide us with the ability to focus on interactivity and engagement on webpages.
Transformer response optimization, or whatever the internet decides to call it, will become a new branch of internet optimization and a huge industry.
Featured Image Credit: Hatice Baran; Pexels; Thank you!
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Space: The ultimate testing ground for data storage technologies

Learn why data reliability and data integrity are essential to product design and development.
The post Space: The ultimate testing ground for data storage technologies appeared first on TechRepublic.

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