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Amazon Echo Frames review, MrBeast jumps the shark and the Apple Watch gets un-banned

Hey, folks, and welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular newsletter recapping the week that was in tech. Typically, the stretch between Christmas and New Year’s tends to be on the sleepier side — but that wasn’t the case in 2023. Fortunately, the TC crew was around to document all that happened.

This edition of WiR spotlights Brian’s review of the new Amazon Echo Frames, MrBeast’s bizarre TV-like game show, the Apple Watch U.S. ban and the expected release date of the Apple Vision Pro. We also cover Hyperloop One reportedly shutting down, Xiaomi’s first EV, The New York Times suing OpenAI and CBS’s and Paramount’s parent company getting hacked.

It’s a lot to get through, so we’ll hop to it. But first, a reminder to sign up here to receive WiR in your inbox every Saturday if you haven’t already done so.

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New Echo Frames: Brian test drove Amazon’s new and improved Echo Frames, which feature upgraded sound and a 14-hour battery. He found the AR shades to be lacking compared to the Ray-Ban Metas, particularly factoring in the $270 price tag (they’re currently discounted to $200).

MrBeast jumps the shark: Amanda writes about MrBeast’s bizarre new reality show, which had two contestants agree to cohabitate in a bright, asylum-like room for 100 days in exchange for $185,000 each in prize money. What’s intriguing about the experience, she says, is that it’s emblematic of the trade-off that’s become normal on social media: If you endure suffering for content, you might just be able to pay off your debt.

Apple Watch banned — then not: A recent U.S. ban on Apple Watch imports — centering on a pair of pulse oximetry sensor trademarks held by health tech company Masimo — nearly remained in place after the Biden administration declined to veto an earlier ruling by the International Trade Commission. But then, an appeals court instituted a pause, allowing Apple to resume sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 — at least temporarily.

Vision Pro, coming soon: In more Apple news, noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has narrowed down what he believes will be a late January or early February release date for the Vision Pro, Apple’s hotly anticipated AR heads-up display. Kuo says that the first wave of Vision Pros are being shipped to Apple in about a month, with total shipments numbering around 500,000 for the full year.

Hyperloop One crashes and burns: One of the longest-running hyperloop startups is reportedly shutting its doors. Hyperloop One, once backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, will cease operations on December 31, Sean writes. It’s the latest stumble in the tech industry’s attempt to bring life to an idea Elon Musk first put forth in a white paper in 2013, and it comes after Hyperloop One raised — and spent — hundreds of millions of dollars since its founding in 2014.

Xiaomi releases a car: Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi has revealed its first electric car: a sharp-looking sedan called the SU7. Slated to roll out in China next year, it’s another entry into an increasingly crowded market for EVs — and an attempt in this software-obsessed world to match the tech people find in their phones up to what goes on inside their car.

NY Times sues OpenAI: The New York Times is suing OpenAI and its close collaborator (and investor), Microsoft, for allegedly violating copyright law by training generative AI models on Times’ content. It’s an open question whether the suit will be successful, but it highlights the growing conflict between content creators and the vendors using their work to train — and commercialize — generative AI technologies.

National Amusements hacked: National Amusements, the cinema chain and corporate parent of media giants Paramount and CBS, confirmed it experienced a data breach last December in which hackers stole the personal information of tens of thousands of people. Details of the breach only came to light a year after the fact; the company began notifying those affected just earlier this month.

Audio

In need of listening material as you prep for a killer New Year’s? TC has you covered, as always.

The Equity crew said goodbye to 2023 with its annual predictions episode. As they attempt to do every year, the hosts brought in a number of voices to speak on startup trends, media, proptech, AI and transport — and went back and vetted their predictions from last year. 

On Found, Dom and Becca broke down 2023 in startups by looking back on some of their favorite conversations — and looking forward to predict some startup trends in 2024. They talked about innovative climate tech companies, AI ethics and fundraising, building good founder relationships and what next year could look like for startups.

And on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn remixed an episode from earlier in the year — one featuring an interview with Deana Burke and Natasha Hoskins, the co-founders of Boys Club. Boys Club is a social decentralized autonomous organization for the “crypto curious,” originally designed to get women and non-binary people into the web3 world but that now aims to be an open space for anyone looking to get into the industry.

TechCrunch+

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

Investors share their predictions: Rebecca asked over 40 VCs when they expect the next venture bubble to pop next year, which startups they think will IPO first, if they expect to see more startups shutting down in 2024 than in the past few years — and more.

Diversity commitments: Dom checked up on the VCs that made commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion following the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. So who kept their word? Read on to find out.

Investor survey roundup: Karan put together a curated list of timely TC investor surveys from the year. They touch on topics including alternative protein, the robotics revolution, the Silicon Valley Bank collapse and the future of power. 

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