The Wonder, June First - Meanwhile, IRL

INblog, technology, the wonder|BYandrew greenstein

A Weekly Snapshot of Life-Changing Technology

1. An Emotion Journal

Amazon is working on a device that can read human emotions.

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Hot Take
It feels sensational, at first, but it’s a natural culmination of many of Amazon’s initiatives over the past few years – to build a more realistic voice assistant, to build a home robot, to get into healthcare, to understand consumer behavior on an immensely personal level..

Do You Mind?
Amazon joins a crowded field, with Microsoft, Alphabet, IBM, and many others developing technologies designed to derive emotional states from images, audio data, and other inputs.

Flashback…
…to 2016, when we took a team of developers to London and won the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon with our Emotion Journal, which used IBM Watson to detect emotion in real-time through voice..

2. Robot Reboot

Robot butlers operated by remote workers are coming to do your chores.

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Hot Take
Fans of the 80/20 rule might recognize that, while we may be close to having our chores done by robot butlers, the final 20% of the way is quite a chasm to overcome. That changes if we use humans to cover the gap. It’s not artificial intelligence, it’s AUGMENTED intelligence..

One small step for robots…
Think of remote robot handlers as stepping stones for the real deal. Many autonomous robots have humans standing by to take over when they get stuck. This data is fed back into the system to improve its capabilities.

Step Aside, Uber
Let’s pour jet fuel on the gig economy by enabling people to serve others in a variety of tasks, delivered remotely from the comfort of their homes.

3. BLUEprint

A team from UC Berkeley has created a low-cost and safe robot that could become the AI-powered workhorse of the future.

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Hot Take
Robot sales have doubled over the past five years, but the cost to create them has not changed. Blue is a robot that could cost just $5,000 – orders of magnitude smaller than similar robots that sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Déjà Vu
50 years ago a computer cost the equivalent of a half a million dollars. That cost made personal use prohibitive. What happens when robots are cheap enough that they become accessible to the masses?

Two’s Company
Across the bay, students from Stanford unveiled a quadrupedal robot costing just $3,000.

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4. Picture This

Google is rolling out new Augmented Reality features this month so that users can view and interact with 3D objects directly from search.

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Hot Take
AR is still in its infancy, but could get a big boost when it shows up on the world’s most popular website. This could be the mass adoption tipping point we’ve been waiting for..

Play It Out
Picture this – you have a question about anatomy so you google it. A representation of an arm appears and you click it. The camera opens and the arm is sitting on your desk, seemingly alive. You can move around it and examine it closely. If you still can’t picture it, click this link.

The Big Picture
Sometimes you just have to see something to ‘get it’. As learning becomes more interactive and accessible, complex concepts become easier to understand and knowledge assimilation speeds up. The cycle repeats and the rate at which our society is able to learn increases.

5. Meanwhile, IRL

A busy Walmart location in New York has been quietly testing artificial intelligence-enabled cameras, interactive displays, and a massive data center.

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Hot Take
For years we’ve seen technology boost digital sales while chipping away at brick and mortar. Innovation groups have been scratching their heads trying to figure out how that same tech could create an advantage IRL. Walmart is taking a novel approach by showcasing the technology in use (rather than trying to hide it), and letting consumers have some fun with it..

This is not a drill
Cameras and real-time analytics automatically trigger out-of-stock notifications to internal apps that alert associates when to re-stock. Other sensors notify employees when shopping carts need to be corralled or checkout stands attended to so that employees can spend less time monitoring and devote more time to interacting with customers. A giant, interactive wall demonstrates how AI can determine body positioning.

5. Smart...Purse?

Louis Vuitton has introduced a set of handbags that feature built-in flexible displays.

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Hot Take
One of the more fun phenomena in technology is to release something new and see what people do with it. We were just introduced to the foldable screen and already the digital canvas is materializing in unexpected places. What else might we one day affix our screens to?.

Catch 22
If you carry your purse wherever you go, it makes sense to integrate phone and screen functionality so that you don’t need to carry your phone wherever you…oh wait.

Thanks for reading! We’ll see you next week. 

-Andrew Greenstein, on behalf of SF AppWorks