The Wonder, February 15 - The American AI initiative, AR navigation, a smart dock, and an unexpected use of recycled waste

INblog, technology, the wonder|BYsf appworks

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

1. The American AI Initiative

This week President Trump signed an executive order creating the American AI Initiative, the first meaningful effort to direct Artificial Intelligence development in the US.

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Hot Take
Nations around the world have been launching programs to stimulate AI development. The Trump organization has basically ignored the topic until now..

How it works
Federal Agencies will be asked to prioritize AI spending, federal data will be made available to researchers, and fellowships and apprenticeships will be created to help prepare federal workers for the age of automation.

All bark, no bite?
18 countries have launched national AI strategies and half of those include new sources of funding (as little as 20M from Australia and Denmark to nearly $2B from South Korea). The executive order includes no new funding.

One more thing…
The initiative doesn’t address immigration even though part of the reason America has a lead in AI has been its ability to attract foreign talent. The number of overseas grad students in the US fell by 5.5% from 2016-2017, likely due to researchers being put off by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

2. AR we there yet?

Google is rolling out AR navigation to local guides for testing. The feature is designed to be used while walking and augments the camera feed with arrows and indicators to guide users to a destination.

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Hot Take
As Augmented Reality matures, we’re going to see more and more people stumbling around the streets with their phones in front of their faces (Pokemon GO anyone?). Let’s hope this doesn’t lead to more traffic accidents..

Why it matters
Safety concerns aside, contextual data can be useful to consumers, both educationally and in finding what you are looking for. It also offers a treasure trove of data for advertisers looking to pinpoint offers with precision accuracy.

In the not so distant future…
That still doesn’t solve the ‘walking around with a phone in front of you’ problem. Google Glass as a consumer device came out too soon – well before society had a chance to digest and regulate the privacy issues. But AR glasses, lenses, and contact lenses will eventually make their way into a future where we have Heads Up Display always on and a camera always recording.

3. What's up, dock?

Check out this Kickstarter campaign for a dock that turns your smartphone into your computer. 

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Hot Take
Your mobile phone might already be more powerful than your computer, not because phones have surpassed computers (size still matters), bit because people tend to upgrade their phones more quickly than their computers. They also tend to buy higher end phones and mid-range computers.

What it means (to Apple)
At the very least, it’s a rethinking of operating systems as “desktop or mobile” as we move towards a model where consumers have a single Super Personal Computer and multiple screens. At most, it’s another opportunity to miss a turn in technologies in the post-Steve Jobs world, as they did with Voice Assistants and AI.

4. One person's trash...

Tokyo Olympic 2020 medals will be made entirely from recycled waste./span> 

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Hot Take
What at first looked like a joke makes a lot of practical sense when you read into it. Electronic waste can be quite valuable and there are a number of projects aimed at recovering the precious metals contained within old laptops and phones.

How it works
More than five million smartphones were handed into some 2,400 NTT Docomo stores. Collection centers also collected 47,488 tons of discarded gadgetry. As of last June, 93.7 percent of the gold and 85.4% of the silver needed had been sourced from donated devices.

5. Prepare for takeoff

Richard Branson is going to space. 

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Hot Take
Talk about putting your mouth where you money is. Branson has invested over a billion dollars in space exploration over the decades. Now he’ll be the first of the Space-preneurs to strap himself in. Safe flight!

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy the Wonder, please consider forwarding it to a friend. We’ll see you next week!

-Andrew and Darius