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👉 Issue #56 of QX Snapshots is out!

Welcome to QX Snapshots - a weekly recap of the key news on emerging technologies. In this newsletter, you will get a "digest" of the latest info on Enterprise Blockchain, AI, Quantum Technology, and Metaverse. Hope it brings you value :)

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Every Friday we share key snapshot news on AI, Quantum Technologies, Metaverse, and Enterprise Blockchain/DLT.

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[Blockchain] Hong Kong Launches Project Ensemble for Tokenisation Market, Athens Exchange Upgrades with Sui Blockchain, and Russia Develops BRICS Blockchain Payment System. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) has launched Project Ensemble to support the development of Hong Kong's tokenization market. The project aims to create a wholesale central bank digital currency (wCBDC) sandbox to explore innovative financial market infrastructure for seamless interbank settlement of tokenized money. The project will initially focus on tokenized deposits and their use in tokenized asset transactions. The HKMA will form a wCBDC Architecture Community and collaborate with relevant stakeholders to foster asset tokenization and fintech innovation. Project Ensemble is part of the HKMA's broader initiatives to facilitate the development of the tokenization market in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Athens Exchange Group (ATHEX) has selected Mysten Labs and its Sui blockchain platform to upgrade its Electronic Book Building (EBB) system. The EBB is a fund-raising mechanism that offers liquidity for companies seeking funds. ATHEX aims to leverage Sui's architecture to enhance the EBB's speed, security, and developer-friendly experience. Mysten Labs' Solutions Engineering team, based in Athens, will provide local support. This collaboration marks a significant step forward for both Sui and the enterprise blockchain community, as it further demonstrates the potential for blockchain technology to be adopted by traditional financial institutions and investors. Also, Russia announced the creation of a new blockchain-based payment system for BRICS members. The system aims to be an alternative to the US dollar for cross-border transactions, incorporating digital assets and cryptocurrencies. It is designed to be user-friendly for governments, businesses, and citizens, and could potentially challenge the dominance of the US dollar in the global market. The specific launch timeline was not provided, but the payment system is expected to be a key focus for BRICS this year, to enhance the alliance's global presence in the financial system.

[AI] Anthropic Unveils Claude 3 AI Model Family, Inflection Boosts AI Assistant with Inflection-2.5, and Midjourney Introduces Turbo Mode for Faster Image Generation. Anthropic introduces the Claude 3 model family, setting new industry benchmarks in AI performance. The family includes Haiku, Sonnet, and Opus models, each offering increasing levels of speed, and cost-effectiveness. Claude 3 models excel in analysis, content creation, code generation, and multilingual conversation. They have strong vision capabilities, fewer refusals, improved accuracy, and near-perfect recall. Developed with responsible design, the models are easier to use and follow complex instructions. Opus and Sonnet are now available through the Claude API, Amazon Bedrock, and Google Cloud's Vertex AI Model Garden, with Haiku coming soon. Meanwhile, Inflection has launched Inflection-2.5, an upgraded AI model powering their personal AI assistant, Pi. The model is competitive with leading LLMs like GPT-4 and Gemini, achieving 94% of GPT-4's performance while using only 40% of the training compute. Pi now incorporates real-time web search capabilities and has shown significant improvements in user engagement and retention, with one million daily active users and over four billion messages exchanged. Inflection-2.5 demonstrates strong performance across various industry benchmarks, particularly in STEM areas, while maintaining Pi's unique personality and safety standards. The model is available to Pi users on multiple platforms. Also, Midjourney is launching V6 Turbo mode, allowing users to generate images 3.5 times faster than the standard Fast mode, but at twice the GPU time cost. Turbo mode is for groups, public events, or when users need images quickly. It currently supports regular /imagine, vary, and remix jobs. Midjourney offers three modes: Fast (default, uses monthly GPU time), Relax (unlimited but queued), and Turbo (fastest but most expensive). Users can switch modes using the /fast, /relax, or /turbo commands, the /settings menu, or by adding --fast, --relax, or --turbo parameters to their prompts.

[Quantum Technology] Open Quantum Institute Launches at CERN, Google and XPRIZE Unveil $5M Quantum Computing Challenge, Chevron Invests in Quantum Tech for Energy Sector. The Open Quantum Institute (OQI), a multilateral science diplomacy initiative incubated by GESDA, has launched its three-year pilot phase at CERN. The OQI aims to promote open and inclusive quantum computing to accelerate its potential for society and support the development of quantum solutions addressing the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During the pilot, the OQI will focus on selecting SDG-related use cases in fields like health, energy, climate action, clean water, and food security. CERN will host the OQI from 2024 to 2026, while GESDA will remain the science diplomacy advisor and fundraiser, and UBS will act as the lead support partner. Meanwhile, Google has partnered with XPRIZE to launch a $5 million competition aimed at finding real-world applications for quantum computing. The three-year contest challenges teams to describe socially beneficial applications of quantum technology, determine algorithm run times, and prove the superiority of the quantum approach over classical computing. Twenty teams will share a $1 million prize in the initial round, with three winners ultimately receiving $1 million each. The competition aims to accelerate practical quantum computing and address the uncertainty surrounding its usefulness, despite the significant progress made by Google and other companies in recent years. Also, Chevron Technology Ventures has invested in OQC's $100m Series B funding round to develop quantum computing for the oil and gas market. The sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of 37.9% due to increasing demand for efficient optimization and simulation. Quantum computing has the potential to improve Chevron's core business performance and create new growth opportunities. OQC's technology provides groundbreaking opportunities for the industry, including catalyst development and optimization, transportation and distribution efficiency, and the discovery of new materials for lower carbon products. Chevron's investment is a significant milestone in harnessing quantum computing for the energy sector.

[Metaverse] Meta Shift Towards Enterprise Metaverse, Education and Fitness, UK Investigates IP in the Metaverse, Nissan Drives Safety Education in Virtual Reality. In a recent blog post, "Game Changers: 3 Predictions for Technological Transformation in 2024 & Beyond," Meta presented its top three forecasts for how the metaverse will change. Meta predicts significant changes in the tech landscape for 2024 and beyond, despite the hype shifting from the metaverse to AI. The company remains committed to both technologies, highlighting the rise in consumer interest in virtual and mixed reality, particularly in fitness, wellness, and education. Meta's "Caddy" demo showcases the potential of the metaverse in training and education, enabling collaboration on CAD models and making 3D modeling more accessible. The company believes that virtual and mixed reality technologies will have a significant impact on various fields, including skills acquisition, education, and entrepreneurship, ultimately transforming industries and learning outcomes. Meanwhile, the UK government released a report ' IP and Metaverse(s)' examining potential IP challenges related to the development of the Metaverse. It identifies key characteristics of the Metaverse, including interoperability, decentralization/centralization, convergence of physical and digital, and multiple contributors. Existing IP issues such as infringement, licensing, and virtual property persist, while new challenges arise from the Metaverse's unique features. The report emphasizes the need for IP to remain relevant in the Metaverse as a safeguard for users' rights and freedoms. It recommends addressing unresolved issues in copyright, trademarks, patents, designs, user-generated content, virtual property, NFTs, and platform liability to ensure a balanced and inclusive Metaverse ecosystem. Also, Nissan launched its metaverse platform, Nissan Heritage Cars & Safe Drive Studio. The platform educates visitors on traffic safety through interactive experiences with iconic heritage vehicles. Developed with universities and the Traffic Safety Future Creation Lab, the studio features three exhibits set in historical eras, offering mini-games and activities that impart crucial traffic safety lessons.

[General technology]   Autonomous Robot Ships Set Sail, Glacier Raises Funds for Robots Recycling, and India Welcomes AI Humanoid Teacher Iris. Ocean Infinity and Sea-Kit International are developing autonomous, remotely controlled ships that require minimal or no crew on board. These vessels, equipped with advanced technology, can perform tasks such as surveying the seabed and inspecting underwater infrastructure. Remote operation centers allow operators to control the ships and their underwater robots from hundreds of miles away. While challenges remain, such as ensuring safety and reliability, proponents believe autonomous shipping will lead to more efficient, sustainable, and safer maritime transport. The International Maritime Organisation is currently developing guidelines for autonomous shipping, while governments like the UK are keen to support this emerging industry. Meanwhile, Glacier, an AI and robotics company for the recycling industry, has secured $7.7m in funding from Amazon's Climate Pledge Fund and other investors. Glacier's powered robots automate the sorting of recyclables, identifying over 30 categories of materials and preventing millions of items from ending up in landfills annually. The company will use the funding to further develop its low-cost robots and expand its team. Glacier is also collaborating with Amazon to test its technology for minimizing landfill waste and promoting the use of recycled materials in packaging, ultimately contributing to more sustainable waste management practices. Also, Iris, India's first sari-clad AI humanoid robot teacher, has begun teaching in Kerala. Developed by Makerlabs Edutech as part of the 2021 NITI Aayog project Atal Tinkering Lab, Iris is a multilingual instructor designed to advance traditional learning. With personalized voice assistance and the ability to answer complex academic questions, Iris aims to revolutionize education in India, where a shortage of good-quality teachers is reported nationwide. The introduction of humanoid robots in teaching is seen as a compelling solution to address the educational needs of India's 265 million students.

FEATURED: Multichain Taprootized Atomic Swaps: Introducing Untraceability through Zero-Knowledge Proofs

By: Oleksandr Kurbatov, Dmytro Zakharov, Anton Levochko, Kyrylo Riabov, Bohdan Skriabin

“Blockchain technology has created numerous decentralized services and networks, operating according to predefined rules and using various cryptocurrencies. However, frequently, one needs to conduct certain operations between two different chains, which is usually quite problematic. In this paper, we primarily focus on the problem of exchanging funds between several chains via an atomic and untraceable way. Now, imagine the setting where Alice wants to exchange tA tokens on Chain A to Bob’s tB tokens on Chain B. The most apparent option for Alice and Bob is to use centralized approaches where the mediator Carol is introduced, which: (a) takes Alice’s tA tokens and sends them to Bob, (b) takes Bob’s tB tokens and sends them to Alice, (c) takes some fee as a reward. However, there is an obvious reason why this scheme is entirely unsecured: Carol can steal the tokens within the swap process, so the approach works properly only if Alice and Bob trust Carol completely. For this reason, several approaches involving mediators were developed to mitigate the issue where mediators can easily steal the tokens, such as Axelar Network [1], for example. Despite the better security of such options, these methods still rely on validators. The Atomic Swaps [2] were introduced to address this issue, removing the need for third-party identities. However, one of the core disadvantages of atomic swaps implementation in the classical form (see [2–4]) is the “digital trail”: any party can link the two transactions across blockchains where the swap occurred and find out both the participants of the swap and the proportion in which the assets were exchanged. On the other hand, atomic swaps is a technology that initially assumed the involvement of only two parties, hence a “mathematical contract” between them directly. That is, an ideal exchange presupposes two conditions: (a) only counterparties participate in the exchange (must-have) and (b) only counterparties can trace the exchange (nice-to-have). This paper describes the design of the concept of Taprootized Atomic Swaps, with the help of which it is now possible to conceal the very fact of the swap. To an external investigator/auditor, transactions that initiate and execute atomic swaps will appear indistinguishable from regular Bitcoin payments. In the other accounting system (i.e.,”blockchain) involved in the transfer, more information is disclosed (the fact of the swap can be traced). However, it is impossible to link this to the corresponding Bitcoin transactions unless, obviously, the investigator has quite a specific insight from the involved parties (additional context can be provided by the time of the swap and approximate amount). 

This paper focuses on implementing the protocol between EVM-compatible blockchains [5] and Bitcoin [6] or other taproot-compatible systems. Atomic swaps offer a means to bridge the gap between these networks, enabling users to exchange Ethereum-based tokens (ERC-20 tokens [7]) with Bitcoin and vice versa. However, note that this approach might be implemented for any two blockchains with the following condition: “initiator” chain must be taproot-compatible, while another chain should be smart-contract-compatible. Our paper is structured as follows: first, in Section 2, we will discuss currently existing approaches and how they differ from what we offer. In Section 3 we introduce basic cryptographic primitives, which our protocol proposals are based on. In Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6, we describe three versions of the Taprootized Atomic Swap protocol, all offering different possibilities and corresponding limitations. In Section 7, we outline the concrete implementation of the protocol. Finally, in Section 8, we conclude, summarizing everything described in the paper.”

Read the full paper here.


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