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​Tech 5: SEC Okays Spot Bitcoin ETFs, Google Confirms Layoffs

After months of speculation, the SEC has finally granted approval to 11 applications for Bitcoin spot ETFs.

Meanwhile, Tesla begins selling its newest Model 3 in North America following successful launches in Europe, China and the Middle East.

And exhibitors showed off some exciting new products at the 2024 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week.

Keep reading for this week's top stories in tech.

1. SEC grants Bitcoin spot ETFs in a landmark decision

In a highly anticipated move, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved 11 spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds (ETFs) on Wednesday (January 10), marking a significant milestone for the cryptocurrency industry. This decision has been a topic of interest in the crypto community since the SEC approved futures-based Bitcoin ETFs in 2021, and is seen as a major step toward mainstream adoption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The funds officially began trading on the NYSE ARCA, the Cboe BZX and the NASDAQ a day after the approval.

Research analyst Matteo Greco of Fineqia International (CSE:FNQ) said in an emailed note that the news was met with low volatility in the price of Bitcoin, likely the result of a false post from the SEC’s X account 24 hours earlier that approval had been granted.

When the actual approval was confirmed hours later, Bitcoin was trading at US$45,000. Shortly after, it surged to nearly US$47,000 before stabilizing back to the US$45,000 to US$46,000 range. Other cryptocurrencies also saw their value increase as investors reacted to the news. As of writing on January 12, Bitcoin was trading at US$43,555.39, according to data sourced from CoinGecko.

Significant trading volume was recorded on the first day of the market for Bitcoin ETFs, with a total of US$4.6 billion worth of trades being made. In an interview with CNBC’s Squawk Box, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said that investment firm Grayscale’s court victory in August 2023 was a key factor in the Commission’s decision to approve. Grayscale's proposal to convert the Grayscale Bitcoin Trust into an ETF was rejected by the Commission in June 2022, prompting the firm to file a lawsuit against the SEC. The court ruled that there was not a legal basis to deny the request, and thus ordered a reassessment, which led to a new approach by the Commission.

In correspondence with INN, Aurelie Barthere, principal research analyst at Nansen, had this to say: “The approval of Bitcoin ETFs by the SEC represents a major step forward that addresses two key obstacles cited by institutional investors - regulatory uncertainty and risks surrounding custody. BTC ETFs have the potential to be a true test of institutional appetite for cryptocurrency by helping alleviate these concerns. Over time, the impact of ETF approval on driving broader crypto adoption will become clearer.

“We expect the approval of additional crypto ETFs to drive further institutional adoption in 2024. As the first crypto to receive an ETF nod, Bitcoin has paved the way and demonstrated regulatory acceptance, opening the door for other large cryptocurrencies to gain similar access to traditional financial markets through innovative investment vehicles.”

2. Engineers develop a mobile robot that can help out with household tasks

Engineers from Stanford University working in collaboration with Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Deep Mind have built a mobile robot that will help users complete chores and tasks around the house. The robot, which operates by way of a large battery so it’s free to move around its environment untethered, is the next iteration of Google’s humanoid ALOHA system. It is trained using a combination of database ingestion and physical demonstrations that the robot can mimic.

YouTube videos highlight the robot’s impressive dexterity, which enables it to complete tasks such as making a meal or hanging up a shirt, feats that most other robotic assistants aren’t able to accomplish. The research team also points out that, by comparison, their model’s price tag of about US$32,000 is quite reasonable.

More information on the Mobile ALOHA’s – the name given to the system by its developers – learning capabilities can be found on Cornell University’s January 4 edition of arXiv.

3. Tesla unveils updated version of Model 3 sedan in North America

The newest version of Tesla’s (NASDAQ:TSLA) Model 3 sedan, which has been available in Europe, the Middle East and China since the fall of 2023, became available to the North American market on Wednesday. The Highland, as it has been reportedly named by the design team, includes many of the same features that Tesla drivers value, with a few aesthetic tweaks. Notably, the Model 3 Performance variant was not included in this upgrade project. Only upgraded rear-wheel drive and long-range models are available, which come with a host of new features and improvements.

The 2024 model features a noticeably sleeker hood, comes with upgraded tires and is available in two new colors, Stealth Gray and Ultra Red. The interior, according to Tesla’s website, is noticeably quieter thanks to acoustic glass, and the backseat comes with its own display, entertainment system and climate controls. Seat material and speaker quality have also been upgraded, and the long-range model is expected to be able to travel further distances, reportedly 341 miles from a single charge compared to 333 miles in the older model.

4. CES 2024 debuts the. newest tech trends of the year

The annual Consumer Electronics Show, which was held in Las Vegas from January 9 to 12, unveiled some exciting new products that could hit the shelves soon. Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of products powered by artificial intelligence (AI) at the event, including a keyboard that comes with a button to automatically launch Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) AI Copilot, a mirror that provides insights into your heart health by analyzing the blood flow in your face, an anti-snore smart pillow and an app that can apparently ‘translate’ an infant’s cries to tell adults what they need.

For more detailed coverage of the latest products and tech developments, check out CNET's top picks from the event.

5. Google cuts hundreds of jobs

A Google spokesperson has confirmed recent layoffs affecting several hundred positions in the central engineering and hardware team, as well as employees working on its voice-activated software product Google Assistant and other departments. The news was first reported by 9to5Google on Wednesday, with multiple news outlets picking up the story on Thursday (January 11).

The most recent downsizing is one of several the company has made in recent years as it continues to pursue efforts to reduce costs and shift its focus to developing sophisticated AI software. The move has been called "needless" by the Alphabet Workers Union, which took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to express disappointment in a post that states: “Tonight, Google began another round of needless layoffs. Our members and teammates work hard every day to build great products for our users, and the company cannot continue to fire our coworkers while making billions every quarter. We won’t stop fighting until our jobs are safe!”

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Technology for real-time news updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Meagen Seatter, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.


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