Alongside our daily news coverage, features and interviews, Verdict’s news team sifts through the week’s most intriguing data sets to bring you a roundup of the week in numbers. 

This week saw IT outages at McDonald’s, Greggs, Sainsbury’s and Tesco, rumours that Google and Apple are in AI talks and Ubisoft showcasing some next-gen GenAI NPCs.

Greggs, McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s and Tesco suffer IT outages

The UK’s AI minister and Undersecretary of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has urged companies to ramp up their cybersecurity measures, in the same week that saw IT outages plague Greggs, McDonald’s, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

Jonathan Berry, responsible for overseeing the UK Government’s AI plan and cybersecurity, said organisations big and small need to “step up” in response to the “host of challenges and risks” the UK is facing in the cybersecurity sector. 

According to the latest government figures, 75% of medium and large businesses in the UK experienced some form of cybersecurity incident in the past year, along with 79% of high-income charities.

On the same day as Berry’s statement, UK bakery giant Greggs suffered a major IT outage, which forced many of its stores around Britain to temporarily close. 

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A statement from the bakery chain said: “We are currently experiencing issues accepting payments in our shops. We are working to resolve this as soon as possible.”

The IT outage at Greggs followed McDonald’s, Tesco and Sainsbury’s suffering similar issues across their stores on Friday 15 March and Saturday 16 March.

Although is not currently clear what caused the IT glitch at Greggs, the four incidents have highlighted how disruptive payment and IT failures can be to retail businesses.

McDonald’s blamed the issue on a third-party configuration change. 

The news comes as the value of cybersecurity deals in the UK peaked in 2023, according to GlobalData’s Deals Database.

In 2023, the value of cybersecurity deals totalled $83.6bn, a significant increase over 2022, which saw deals total $47bn.

The value of cybersecurity deals witnessed a peak in 2020 with a total value of $64bn; this was an increase over 2019, which saw deals total just $12.4bn.

Ubisoft, Nvidia develop prototype AI-powered NPCs

Nvidia and Ubisoft have partnered to advance the development of AI-driven non-player characters (NPCs) for modern games.

The collaboration involves Nvidia’s Avatar Cloud Engine technology and assistance from Inworld AI to create 'NEO NPCs' that interact dynamically with players and the game environment.

NPCs’ personalities are crafted by human writers, who shape their character, backstory and conversation style. The learning language model then improvises dialogue, which is continually tweaked to align with the writer’s vision.

These NPCs are designed to avoid repetitive behaviours and respond realistically to in-game events, enhancing immersion and storytelling.

Ubisoft’s narrative team contributed by developing complete backgrounds, knowledge bases and conversational styles for two NPCs as a proof of concept.

The NEO NPCs possess environmental and contextual awareness, and conversational memory, and excel in collaboration and strategic decision-making.

Nvidia's Audio2Face technology enables appropriate facial animations and lip-syncing for these characters, enhancing immersion further.

While no specific announcement about integrating this technology into Ubisoft titles was made, it is anticipated to be on the road map.

The news comes as the value of US gaming deals saw a steep decline in 2023, according to GlobalData’s Deals Database.

In 2023, the total value of gaming deals in the US totalled $17.8bn, a significant decrease from 2022, which saw deals total $138bn.

In its latest Predictions report, GlobalData forecasts that the gaming industry will be worth a staggering $470bn by 2030.

Apple in talks to deploy Google’s Gemini AI on every iPhone

Apple is reportedly in talks to deploy Google‘s Gemini AI models on every iPhone.

The two companies are reportedly in active negotiations to use Google’s Gemini AI models to drive Apple’s AI features, which will be fitted into iPhone software in late 2024. 

Apple has also reportedly held similar talks with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI. A decision is not likely to be made before June, around the time Apple holds its developer conference. 

A partnership with Google could dramatically boost Google’s competitive advantage in the market. Microsoft has invested billions of dollars in OpenAI. 

Alon Yamin, co-founder and CEO of AI text analysis platform Copyleaks, told Verdict that the industry had been watching Apple due to its quietness regarding AI. 

“Some might be quick to think that Apple dropped the ball on being part of the AI market,” Yamin said.

“However, historically, [Apple have] always been very strategic, so this decision raises more questions about their plans and only puts more eyes on their annual conference in June, when they are expected to make an official announcement,” he added.

Apple CEO Tim Cook previously said that the company was devoting “a tremendous amount of time and effort” to AI tools.

According to GlobalData’s 2022 Patent Statistics and Analytics report, AI experienced the highest rise in patent applications and publications. The total number of patent publications including AI increased from around 150,000 in 2020 to more than 200,000 in 2021.

In a 2023 survey conducted by GlobalData, around 20% of businesses stated that they had a high adoption rate of AI into their workdays. As AI seeps into every sector, the companies creating the technology need to continue being honest and not rely upon AI as a marketing strategy.