Living The Future

“When can I make some artificial intelligence?” she asked.

My daughter recently opened a conversation asking when she could start making artificial intelligence (AI). It was a Sunday evening and she was finishing some homework around 7:30p.m.;  work that could  have easily been done on Saturday, but I digress.  I had an idea of where this was heading, but wanting to make sure, I asked why she wanted to know.  Head down, pencil moving, without missing a beat, she says,  “I want to know when I can make some AI to do my math homework, all of it at once.”

Aright then.  Siobhan is nine.   Was I surprised by this question, no. She sees AI in shows online and reads about it fictional worlds and in her non-fiction books on her ipad.   She understands the basics,  this thing called AI can, does and will make her life easier.

DASH ROBOT

And she’s thinking about ways to speed up that process, for applications that will help her out right now.  She may be young, but she’s hardly alone. From students to CEOs, millions of people right now, today are thinking about what AI is or can be, how to use it, when and increasingly, more importantly who can make.

SKYKING Mini Drones

This conversation with my daughter is taking place in a home shared with two robots-Dash and MiPtwo SKYKING Mini Drones, iPhones, iPads, a Samsung Gear VR headset, Samsung Galaxy phones and an assortment of other pieces of technology; some of which did not exist on the consumer market even 5 years ago.  We are living in the future right now.   These emerging technologies have working applications. They work and thousands and thousands all over the world are working to make them work better.    And while it’s real hard to imagine what will be hanging out in our homes ten years from now, we do know the tech is developing rapidly.  To put it all in context lets not forget the iPhone was born to consumers in 2007, barely eleven years ago.

MiP WowWee Mini Robot

 

While we wrestle with the continuum of mixed emotions that change often triggers, let’s not forget that right now, today, we are living parts of what the future will bring.

Future of Work

I’m obsessed with all things future of work, mostly because it effects, well, everything.  With so much converging digital technology rapidly changing products, services and social mores faster than most of us, never mind government policy can keep up.  Life is changing fast; and slowly at the same time.

Humans find change unsettling or exciting, often both at the same time.  Context is important and it’s often hard to remember how young so many of the companies that consume our lives are.  Facebook is fourteen, that’s 14 years young.  Google is  19 and pulling up the rear, Amazon is  23 years old.  They are young and yet, deeply embedded in our lives.   It’s important to note, the tech that making them possible, including computational power has been decades in the making.  That would be the fast, yet slow change that tech brings.   Bottom line is these companies have changed they way we communicate, connect, work and live.  In a word: everything.

The entire world’s workforce is trending toward many, most workers by 2020 or 2025, depending on the report,  will be working on a project basis as a freelancer or contract worker.   That means all kind of change and these exciting startups below are applying all sorts of technology from #AR to #AI to this changing marketplace today.   I’ve linked to company videos that explain more.

  • PowerToFly  is says Wikipedia, “a recruiting platform that connects companies to women in tech”.  They are building a robust community of talent and a direct pipeline into companies from Dow Jones to GitLab.  They are creating a new model in human capital and solving a relentless diversity in tech problem.
  • JustWorks  the company says “is a platform that automates payroll, benefits, and compliance so entrepreneurs can focus on what matters: growing their business and their team.”  I would add, entrepreneurs and anyone working for themselves in any capacity.
  • BEAM is “a full-service, interactive marketing and experience design agency.”  They developed a mind-blowingly interesting an HR onboarding augmented reality (#AR) prototype”. It’s worth the time, check out the video.

 

 

 

 

 

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?