#SpatialTech #ImmersiveTech: The Challenges

To Be Clear: 4 Truths About New Technologies

When it comes to emerging technology, four things are simultaneously true:

  1. Innovations in everything from artificial intelligence to augmented reality to robots are discovered and refined nearly every second of the day, every day.    
  2. Innovation is not a buzzword but a condition, a state of mind, a way of organizing life and work so that you’re forever poised to make new products, services, or better ways of doing things.  
  3. Integrating new ideas so that you can develop new outcomes is hard, especially when the destination is unclear. 
  4. Tremendous opportunities for good coexist alongside tremendous potential challenges and even terrible outcomes.

We don’t live in a binary world where things are either good or bad. It was recently pointed out to me that my blog is wholly bullish on immersive tech like virtual and augmented reality. After a quick review, I realized that may be true, but a closer look shows I’m well aware of the challenges.  

See #1 above.  I’d say awareness of the work being done is important, and second, we have to participate from wherever we sit at the table, be it as creator, developer, implementer, buyer, or seller. It’s important that decision-makers build a strategy that’s right for their organization because playing catch-up in a field that’s evolving daily is hard to do. 

And there are major concerns on every level. Users and consumers are rightly worried about data collection and privacy issues, to name just two. The type of data that new VR headsets can collect with the latest eye-tracking technology is unprecedented. These devices are increasingly able to collect all sorts of data about us, incl. how we breathe, how often we blink, how much we move around, and where we look. A lot of this information can and eventually will be used to get a good picture of the user’s health, even to diagnose and treat disease.  

Whose hands will that data be in? A private company?

Which bring me right to #4. Impact. If we are researching the use of VR to treat pain, shouldn’t we be asking if it can also cause it? Who needs to be at the table making decisions about how these applications are made, who can use them, and when? These emerging technologies are powerful. As builders and adopters, we need to be mindful of these questions and do what we can to make sure that the ecosystems surrounding tech development lead to answers we all want to live with.

Keep Those NEW Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Headsets Coming!

Another new day is dawning for augmented reality (AR) glasses. Yeah, you might have heard about virtual reality (VR) or AR, and maybe you even tried them out and thought, nope, just like 3D movies, these will be a flash in the pan. There have been many new days since Facebook bought Oculus, a VR headset “startup” for $3 billion, yes, billion, or at least that’s the widely reported number, five years ago. We have seen the launch of high-profile device startups from VR eye-tracking headsets from FOVE to AR glasses like ODG.

But the new products I saw at the latest AWE blows this all away. More on that below. Let me first be clear: Nothing since 2014, including the latest round of immersive technology products to hit the market, is new. The underlying research for what we see now has been in the works from Boston to San Francisco to London to Rio to Tel Aviv to Johannesburg for many decades. This technology is not new, it just works a lot better than it did.

I came late or early to this party, depending on how you look at it. In April 2015 I walked into a “science fair” the likes of which most of us have never experienced, into a world where I was dancing on stage with Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, where I could work through my phobia of heights (or other fears if I had them), to where I was witnessing the sounds from witnesses to the killing of Trayvon Martin from the exact vantage point in the building complex where it happened, to watching still photographs transformed into 3D videos- precious memories immortalized not in the form of a flat video, or “flatty,” as I’ve heard videos as we know them today called, but something much more vivid, more emotionally arresting.

I became hooked on that day in Silicon Valley, and have only developed an obsession since then. I’ve worked on the venture capital side, written and directed a VR experience for Google, advised Fortune 500 companies and dozens of startups or projects on AR and VR, and now work to accelerate the entire lot of stakeholders at RLab.

That’s what we do at RLab. We aim to support and speed up the evolution of these technologies. So this is all to say when I was at AWE Santa Clara last month, I was struck by a couple of things: the AR glasses and VR headsets are smaller, designed better, and they have more features. Just to name a few.

That’s me on the left. Nreal, a Chinese company, is getting ready to release AR glasses where the resolution and brightness are nearly indistinguishable from real life, and perhaps better because the lightning will be controlled for all environments.

Rokid also had glasses that like many today also have built-in directional sound, which means you don’t need to stick something inside or on top of your ears to hear perfectly. This audio tech that’s becoming widely available is pretty amazing. Other seamless features include the ability to move from a VR environment, fully immersed in a digitally created world, to AR, where you are interacting in the real world with a digital creation; as Jake Steinerman illustrated on Twitter:

Lastly, the headsets and glasses are just more comfortable. They have frames and glass areas that reflect their ability to project images versus having huge areas for glass and tiny, tiny digital visuals.

It definitely feels like immersive tech’s heyday is on the horizon. It will be, I believe, the realization of the internet of things, or IoT, when our devices, from watches to AirPods to computers, refrigerators, cars and all other devices in our lives are connected and have the ability to interact, to be immersed in the world around us in ways we haven’t even thought about today.

As with all technological advances the opportunities from healthcare to entertainment are staggering, as are the monstrous concerns about data, privacy and impact (hows does VR impact the brain?)- big issues for another article. This one is about the fact that it will be possible. Imagine walking into a room that immediately adjusts to your temperature preference, or the ability to project frameless digital images- right into the air around you or have your best friend beam into your New York City apartment, sit on your couch and have a lovely visit when she is physically in London. The possibilities are extraordinary.

At RLab, an initiative launched by the NYC Economic Development and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, we are operated by NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering among a consortium of universities including Columbia University, CUNY and The New School. We focus on supporting startup formation and growth, education and training and corporate innovation, which is where my team comes in. How is your company thinking about these technologies? Empowering your employees? Iterating your products and services? I bet at RLab we can help you and your business understand the value today and into the future. Reach out! We will be happy to hear from you.



Image result for brooklyn tech triangleI could not be more excited about this KPMG report which lays out a global sentiment by executives that NYC is leading global tech innovation. The Wall Street Journal makes a compelling case as to why, explaining much of the growth seeding and encouraging a burgeoning eco-system of technologists, investors, corporates and subject matter experts across sectors has been driven by the City and others to the tune of billions in investment.

One element is what’s called the Brooklyn Tech Triangle;  it stretches from Dumbo to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Downtown Brooklyn.  RLab, focused on the next generation of user interfaces, spatial technology including virtual reality, augmented reality and related technologies, calls the Navy Yard home.   That’s where I am these days heading up the team working with corporates on learning about the applications of these technologies, convening relevant audiences, supporting venture programs and prototyping the many applications to come given the array of advances we are witnessing today. It’s an extraordinary time in an extraordinary place. Go #NYC!

Three Takes on Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies

There’s lot to learn about *blockchain and *cryptocurrencies.  Here are three sources of excellent perspectives.

The title of the first article provocatively says, “You Don’t Understand BitCoin Because You Think Money is Real”. In it, journalist Maria Bastilles delivers a critical analysis, giving us a detailed overview of the context for which we should consider these growing digital currencies.

“Money itself is an illusion, a mass hallucination. You’re working hard to make it, grow it, and keep it, but even so, the only real thing about it is its symbolic power. Which is indeed awesome, considered from a certain angle.”

Second, for more detail of the state of the industry in broader terms with detailed comes from well respected investor and thought leader Alyse Killeen and reads Bitcoin: A Leaderless Movement.

“The technologies that make Bitcoin possible — cryptography, proof-of-work processes, peer-to-peer networking — have existed and been utilized prior to Bitcoin’s introduction, but the method of collaboration in Bitcoin technology is revolutionary. It’s a revolution with extraordinary potential for women’s leadership of a global transformation”.

Lastly, I just finished Cryptoasset: The Innovate Investors Guide to Bitcoin and Beyond by Chris Burniske and Jack Tatar. It reads like a mystery. Let us not forget the original design and launch  was by someone or somebodies who call him|herself or themselves, Satoshi Nakamoto. Yet, it is a steady global revolution.

“I have come to understand that bitcoin-and the blockchain beneath it- is a technological advancement that has the potential to revolutionize financial services the same way email did the post office”.

-Brian Kelly, Manager of the BKCM Digital Asset Fund

*A blockchain is a digitized, decentralized, public ledger of all cryptocurrency transactions.(investopedia.com

*A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. (Investopedia.com)

MAGIC LEAP: No Matter What it’s All Good

Image result for magic leap

source photo Variety.com

Opinions about augmented reality (AR) upstart Magic Leap (ML) today rage far and wide; endlessly. Investors have backed the reclusive startup to the tune of more than a billion dollars to create an AR system including a new type of headset that has the potential to kick the industry into high gear.  Other than a few video releases like this or this, most of us have gotten few glimpses of the system and products.  They’ve raised a lot of money, been building for a few years, and the “people” are getting antsy they want to see it.  In the absence of actual knowledge, the volume is up on the talk after the company announced it will ship products by summer’s end.

I’ve been saying this for a long time and will memorialize it here:  We should all be excited no matter what.  We will all be winning no matter if ML as a company wins or loses and here’s why:

  • Success. If ML succeeds the entire world will have access to amazing hardware and software to experience a better version of AR than we have now.  No doubt the applications will range from medicine to movies to industrial manufacturing and education, and so many others.
  • Fails.  Failure can mean many things.  The tech can succeed and the company fails or all sorts of other combinations.  But here’s the thing, ML employs hundreds if not thousands of people by the time it will be said and done,  and those people will have tremendous learnings to carry out into the world and spread around. In other words, technology evolutions work a bit like Lego blocks, the next generation is usually built on the successes and failures of what came before.   Thus, armed with the knowledge of a failed experiment, the next generation will be built until one works.
  • Regardless.  Regardless of what happens to ML, there’s no doubt its mere existence encouraged the world’s largest tech companies and so many others to hit accelerate on AR or MR or visual tech development. The startup triggered billions of investment into R & D and something is real likely to come out of it as a result.

My take presumes ultimately AR will manifest into daily uses, both at work and at play; I believe it’s coming.  Whether ML is a household name twenty years from now or not, it will have played a central role in developing what AR becomes.  #Truth.