Category: Media Innovation

Wearing your #AR or #VR: A Path to Commercialization?

source: inverse.com

Can you imagine this? Your hand open, palm up and suddenly with your finger tips you have access to anything you have right now, today in your smartphone?  This is a prototype from Leap Motion, VR/AR developers out of San Francisco.  Click here to read the full article. But before you go, check out this video.   I could watch it all day!

It’s exciting to see converging technologies- in this case #AR and #Wearables- converge  into a potential utility application.    Thank you Keiichi Matsuda, the creative director and VP of design who is developing this.  This application, tool, feels like a lovely path to commercialization.

 

 

 

 

Google’s Plan to Take on Fake News

Unintended consequences is a term of art that comes to mind a lot when it comes the explosion of digital technology and the news.  Professional journalism is a bucket of specific skills that translate into contextually correct information upon which people make decisions in their daily lives at work or not. If the information or data is wrong or bad, well, we can imagine that leads to bad results.  The job of a professional journalist is not different than say that of an accountant or doctor, it takes skills, knowledge and experience to create that credible news product.  Opinions are not professional news by a long shot. Anyone can have an opinion.  Anyone can’t produce a professional news product anymore than just anyone can operate or balance a corporate balance sheet.  Technology companies are finding out that providing the platform for which information, data, and opinions both professional and personal is a landmine full of potential opportunities for bad actors to act badly. And yes, they have a responsibility to be part of the solving for these unintended consequences.  And it is critical they work with professional journalists en mass to do so.

Google has announced a series of initiatives, actions that sound robust, that seem robust. As presented in Yahoo News it includes the following:

“Misinformation

  • The Disinfo Lab, which combats misinformation during elections and breaking news
  • MediaWise, a partnership with the Poynter Institute, Stanford University, and the Local Media Association to improve digital information literacy for young consumers

Subscriptions

  • Subscribe with Google, which will allow users to subscribe to various news outlets

New Storytelling

  • AMP Stories, a Snapchat Discover-like product that presents full-screen, multimedia-rich reading experiences on the mobile web

Security 

  • Outline, an open-source tool from Google’s Jigsaw that lets companies set up own VPN on a private server “

I says seems, because it’s unclear who is involved and exactly how these programs might work. Yet, it is a hopeful step.  Credible information is critical always.  And we need it badly today.

Rubber Hits Road

The past two months I’ve been cruising along, working with my usual mix of entrepreneurs, investors, corporates, and academics right at that corner of new technology and real life. There is of course the intersection of cool tech and the movies which we visit on occasion, but mostly we are in the business of applying rapidly changing technology.

In the real world, AI, AR, VR, Blockchain, etc, are changing fast; faster than much of it can be productized and commercialized. There are a head spinning number of potential applications and developing usable products is of course the first step and then it must be injected into the way we do business.  Integration is a minefield of challenges.  And before that can all happen, more changes appear.

The past week I came across some interesting connections involving Generation Z and the news business.

Recently, I’ve met a few startup teams, focused on products for Generation Z, those born between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. What radically struck me is this, they say  Gen Z is weary of technology and yearning for human contact. Of course they use their devices, computers, ipads, even smartphones (the average age  of attainment in the United States is 10 years old, at least according to this), but they also want in equal measure human connection.   This idea of injecting more humanity into tech is impacting  the nature of the tech being created to serve them.  One of the most interesting companies is Blue Fevr. So, hold that thought.

The news business, like many industries, is trying like crazy to define a sustainable business model.  It’s no secret, a free press is critical to a functioning democracy and our free press is struggling.  It costs “real” money to cover and report local, state, national and international news; and do it well.  The news business like many industries was slow to realize the import of radically changing technology in the 80’s and 90’s, to get in on that change early.  That resistance exists today for many reasons even in the face of real consequences (there are somewhere around 1000 less newspapers in the United States today than there were in 1980 and broadcast news audiences of simultaneously been shrinking).

News is about what people do, when they do it, how they do it and why they do it individually, collectively or grouped together in cities, states, organizations, corporations, firms, or businesses–it’s not going away.  But professional journalism is in trouble, perhaps it’s not too strong to say in jeopardy over the long term .  There is a tremendous amount of experimenting going on by and among corporate, public, and independent news entities which is encouraging.

Two startups I’ve also come across are NewsPicks and Purple.  Both of them are injecting a different kind of connectivity and human interaction.  Purple’s added value is the relationship between a journalist and her followers, a person not a bot.   NewsPicks for which I am a ProPicker in full disclosure, provides a commentary feature and allows for upvotes. Those features together encourage thoughtful engagement in an highly curated environment of premium content and a diverse group of professionals. Purple has apparently proven there is a market by racking up subscribers we will see where that goes.

Five years ago we talked a lot about algorithms, and they have found a place in headlines, article placements and other ways.  They will stay too.  But looking forward I find the interesting inflection point is how do we inject more humanity in our news products? How do we develop and discover the features audiences will decide they must have and will pay for?

 

Virtual Reality is Isolating, I Bet Not

The idea virtual reality is an isolating experience and thus won’t scale to the masses without a multi-user winning application, always puzzles me.  There are plenty of challenges, yes.  Indeed, it’s a tall order to ask someone to strap on an awkward chunk of plastic over their eyes. And if they  do it, there’s gotta be a serious reward.   Lots of brilliant people around the world are working on that part right now, as I write.

As for isolating. Yes and No. No matter what gadgets or technologies come to bear there are many things that humans like to do alone or better yet can really only do alone, like:

Reading

 

 

 

 

Painting

 

 

Writing-Typing-Computing

I could go on, but I won’t. You get the drift. Many centuries and many gadgets later, we are reading more books than ever. I bet nothing in the world, at least in my lifetime, is going to change that.  Virtual reality will find a place as it’s singular purpose is realized. I’m beting on that too.

 

Reality: There Will Be Winners.

Travel at the speed of light.  That’s the superpower my amazing 9 year old daughter said recently she wished she had. Why?  She wants to be able to see things being made everywhere in the world whenever she wants. She’d hang out in Billund, Denmark at Lego, Florida at NASA, Antartica at one of the science stations among other places.

The way she sees it, the only really cool places to be are where new things are being made or the blocks for making things are being created, in other words, where change is alive and thriving.   She gets a thrill out of change and discovery and realization, which is actually what a lot of human “discovery” is.  That is to say bacteria exists and North America existed before people identified or realized it.  Change is jet fuel for the process.  We change what we do, what we think, how we think, how we do what we do based on the every flowing nuggets of identifying and realizations.

While it can be scary or great fun depending on your perspective, it is inevitable.  Technology is a tremendous symbol of constant evolution, sometimes small and then often every once in a while huge.  We are at a HUGE moment right now.   New threads, related threads and entirely new lines of inquiry are exploding around digital transformation.  There are potential applications for every single part of our personal and work life. The rate at which we embrace this in the marketplace depends on our ability to travel not at the speed of light per se, but across disciplines and functions, to assign focus and resources on the potential roads to adoption that either optimize our business or create new products and services.

I have this conversation almost daily with executives especially in media and entertainment.  They are often surprised when I say, don’t spend all your time or all your money on what’s coming, but a small percentage of both and do it consistently.  They say they expect me to push harder for more.  No.  Development takes time and there are too many pieces right now to even have a cohesive plan in most businesses as to what the application is, who to hire, how to engage consumer/enterprise base and so on.  Here’s a few thoughts I had earlier this year.

“What are some of the ingredients to getting on that practice path to winning?

1) Pay Attention and Be Curious

Take time to stay close to what’s happening on the ground and assign this task to a person who knows your business so they can assess and understand the applications to your core business. It’s shocking how many people I’ve talked to at legacy media and entertainment companies who have absolutely no idea, and haven’t even tried any VR/AR experiences. Don’t be that company.

2) Allocate Enough Resources

There is so much to research, experiment and perfect to bend the latest technologies in new directions. It requires significant R&D resources and the risk that comes along with that. The cold, hard fact is a lot of things might not work at all, but that’s critical intelligence. And the other side of the coin is that something eventually will work. This is not to say quit the elements of your current day job, but some minimal amount of time needs to be spent because, given your expertise, you might actually help accelerate what that winning, home-run unicorn company, product, or service might actually look like.

3) Weigh the Risk and Rewards

There’s been a steady stream of analysis and reports on a big, emerging VR/AR opportunity. For example, Goldman Sach’s 2016 VR/AR report reveals wide agreement among technologists, practitioners, and key market players that the next generation of computing is here, and in short order it will grow to become a trillion-dollar global market within the next decade across enterprise and consumer products. They don’t say that in a vacuum.  If you’re paying attention, you’ve already seen the evolving products and the promise behind them. (See suggestion #1, above.)

That’s a good start. It’s not so much as suspending belief; it’s more about getting past the inability to see all the possibilities that lay ahead. I remember those days in the not-so-distant past when people would actually argue about why anyone would want a personal computer in their home. It sounds crazy today, but it wasn’t then. The current VR/AR conversation often veers into that territory.  And those arguments will sound crazy ten years from now. Believe that. Remember above all else, there will be winners.