Hello, hello! 👋🏻👋🏻
Hope everyone had an enjoyable Memorial Weekend last week.
Three day weekends are magical. We need more of them. In our modern, hyper-speed society, it’s very hard for me to keep up. Three day weekends always seem like those much-needed moments where I get to come up for air after holding my breath underwater for a while.
It’s also a great time to think.
Market noise obviously dies down when people are on vacation. Nothing like a dramatic reduction in noise to aid in our quest to find long-term signals, even if temporary.
And here’s what’s been on my mind…
Arming the Rebels? Or Spawning the Rebels?
One of the things that I’ve been thinking a lot about is this concept of “arming the rebels”. This is a phrase that has been popularized by Shopify. Shopify describes their strategy as “arming the rebels” against the incumbents (e.g. Amazon).
Given Shopify’s breathtaking success in recent years pursuing a strategy that asymmetrically competes against Amazon (since Shopify actually also partners with Amazon in some ways), it’s no wonder their strategy is gaining wider acceptance.
Despite Amazon’s success, Amazon still represents only ~10-15% of US retail (e-commerce is about 20-30% of retail and Amazon is about 50% of e-commerce). If Shopify is successful long-term, Shopify has the potential to arm and unite the remaining 85-90% of the non-Amazon market against Amazon. And in doing so, Shopify could achieve a scale that is much more significant than even Amazon.
It turns out this is true of most industries. Other than a few very narrow sectors (usually industries requiring significant capex / infrastructure investment), most industries are extremely long-tailed.
In the US, everyone thinks of the largest corporations as drivers of the economy, but in reality 70-80% of the economy is driven by small businesses.
What has been lacking are companies that “arm the rebels”. These are companies that are focused on empowering the little guys without squeezing them out. Shopify’s success seems to be convincing more and more people that such a strategy can work.
But what I find most interesting is how Shopify’s own “arming the rebel” strategy seems to be shifting.
Year’s ago, Shopify’s strategy was very much about “arming the rebels” and ensuring that small e-commerce stores would be able to put up an equally attractive e-commerce website experience as the most sophisticated marketplaces out there. While this indeed remains the core of Shopify’s platform, more and more e-commerce gravity appears to be shifting into newer social media channels like Snap, Pinterest, Instagram, TikTok, etc. Many Shopify merchants not only sell through their own websites but must engage in different social media channels in order to drive sales and awareness.
In a way, Shopify still “arms the rebels” but is also increasingly a key partner to a lot of the marketplaces and social media giants out there, including Amazon.
As this new landscape unfolds, I’m not sure “arming the rebel” is the most appropriate term anymore.
In a way, Shopify’s strategy seems to have evolved to become “spawning the rebels”.
Marketplaces like Amazon get big because they are good at what they do. Nobody gets big by being bad at what they do. The problem is that once a platform gets big, they are less incentivized to keep improving because competition declines.
This is where I think Shopify is evolving in a very interesting way. Shopify appears to understand that power is shifting to the marketplaces and social media channels and away from the open internet and websites that dominated during the desktop PC era. In the modern mobile age, merchants cannot compete against the incumbents through websites. To compete, merchants need to be in the walled gardens and in apps. And Shopify continues to “arm the rebels” by coopting and partnering with the walled gardens.
This puts Shopify (and all of Shopify’s merchants) in a dangerous position in the long-term since their long-term destinies would be at least partially controlled by platforms that may or may not remain friendly.
But Shopify seems to realize that the best way to keep incumbents / platforms “real” is by amping up competition.
What Shopify seems to be doing today is NOT just “arming the rebels” but ALSO spawning as many competing platforms as they can.
Shopify is empowering not just merchants, but also Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok, Etsy, Walmart, Facebook, Google, and many more. Yes, all of these are platforms and walled gardens as well, but they all have their sites set on Amazon, not the little guys.
This change in strategy is very interesting and likely has broader implications for other sectors.
For example, if you consider Apple’s current issues with the App Store, it’s clear that Apple’s problems are precisely because they didn’t evolve to “spawn the rebels”. The App Store originally empowered millions of new small-time developers. While millions of developers still develop for the App Store, the economics and success are increasingly captured by just a handful of mega-companies like Facebook, Tencent, and Google. By failing to “spawn new rebels”, Apple’s App Store destiny became much, much entwined with the whims of the growing walled gardens that have formed on top of the App Store.
Anyway, just as this concept of “arming the rebels” is starting to gain mainstream attraction, I am starting to wonder if the new paradigm should be “spawning the rebels” instead.
What will likely define the competitive landscape in the coming years (decades?) in tech will likely be less about aggregation, but rather companies that can commoditize the power of the platforms and spawn as many competing platforms as possible.
It takes a network to defeat a network. It was always probably a bit of a tall order to expect all the little guys to band together in such a way that can compete against the incumbents. But if you can spawn a LOT of networks, all of the networks can credibly threaten and pressure each other. That pressure would keep everyone “real”. And that is likely the most ideal outcome.
#1 DOJ signals plans to coordinate anti-ransomware efforts with the same protocols as it does for terrorism
On Thursday, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco issued an internal memo directing US prosecutors to report all ransomware investigations they may be working on, in a move designed to better coordinate the US government’s tracking of online criminals.
In recent weeks, cybercriminals have increasingly targeted organizations that play critical roles across broad swaths of the US economy. The fallout from those attacks show how hackers are now causing chaos for everyday Americans at an unprecedented pace and scale.Source: CNN
Finally – The country is starting to recognize that the two oceans (and Navy) we have relied on for defense is no longer sufficient.
Warfare of the 21st Century is cyber in nature and not formal. Warfare of the 21st Century is informal but persistent. A slow fire that never explodes, but consumes all the same.
Cyberwarfare is a tax, and it slowly taxes its target to death.
#2 DOJ preparing to sue Steve Wynn to register as foreign lobbyist: report
The Department of Justice is reportedly preparing to sue luxury Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn in order to force him to register as a foreign lobbyist over allegations that he attempted to lobby Trump administration officials to obtain a diplomatic favor for China.
The Journal reported that the potential legal dispute comes from previous reports that Wynn in the summer of 2017 allegedly attempted to push U.S. officials to send back to China a businessman who has been residing in New York, Guo Wengui.
Among Wynn’s alleged efforts to lobby U.S. authorities on behalf of China was a reported hand-delivered letter to Trump himself from the Chinese government regarding Guo, according to the Journal.
Wynn, who previously served as finance chair for the Republican National Committee, has denied reports of the letter, as well as any allegations of wrongdoing on behalf of a foreign government.Source: The Hill
Another “Finally!” – Almost two years ago, Capital Flywheels raised the concern that capital is politicizing. Capital has had a very easy century over the last 100 years. Capital was free to move about the world, and the prevailing assumption was always that Capital encourages liberalism and that people of the “free world” would use their capital to promote the beliefs and ideals of the “free world”.
It’s become increasingly obvious that neither of these things are true. Capital has not really encouraged much liberalism in most of the developing world. To the extent that liberalism has increased, it is much more likely to have been the result of the distribution of American (Hollywood) media. And it turns out, you also can’t really trust business people to use their capital to promote the beliefs of the “free world” if their success depends on the contrary.
I’m a firm believer that people do not bite the hands that feed them. For many business people, especially those operating in countries that have different beliefs compared to the liberal world, it makes no financial sense to promote liberal ideas if it damages their financial outcomes. This is why no sensible business person that wants to succeed in countries like China would go there actively seeking to promote liberal ideas.
It always seemed silly to me that western politicians would make such impossible assumptions about human behavior.
The US government appears to now recognize this error. Steve Wynn may be an American running an American company. But if his success requires promoting foreign actions that are contrary to the interests of his own country, then he should be recognized as a foreign agent.
The era of neutral Capital is over.
#3 You Can Earn 6% Interest on Bitcoin. Is It Worth the Risk?
At a time when interest rates on conventional bank deposits are pinned to the floor—often below 0.5%— financial technology companies are offering to pay owners of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies annual percentage yields of 2% to 6% and sometimes more. You can deposit your coins with a few taps on one of their smartphone apps.
Yields are part of a surprising turn in the crypto market. Bitcoin and its descendants, such as Dogecoin, Ether, and countless other tokens, are often seen as a way to avoid the established financial system. Some “hodlers” (crypto slang for long-term holders) are wary of yield accounts because they’d have to entrust the service with their private keys, the alphanumeric strings that grant control of a digital asset. But alongside that world has sprung up a complex, interconnected market that looks a lot like a wilder version of Wall Street—complete with financial derivatives, arbitrage, borrowing, and a panoply of middlemen. Some have called it a shadow banking system for crypto.Source: Bloomberg
While DeFi (decentralized finance)has been on my radar for a few years, I only started to spend the last few months to truly understand it in earnest.
What always gets me, is how little people understand about how DeFi can offer extremely high interest rates. What always gets me, is how few people question whether this “arrangement” is too good to be true?
What will be interesting to see is what happens when crypto investors / DeFi participants recreate and relive banking history…There’s no way to describe what DeFi is other than banking and credit creation. And until the government created FDIC to insure deposits, every 5-10 years saw banks collapse because of bank runs and credit crunches. DeFi has no “insurance” right now. I’m not sure why 2-6% yield is good compensation for potential catastrophic losses. “Lending” your money / crypto to a DeFi network without knowing who is “borrowing” it and with no insurance seems like an idea that needs work…
#4 An EV company is planning a crypto-mining car that will dig for bitcoin and dogecoin while parked
However, the technology – which Daymak calls the Nebula Miner – is yet to secure a patent. And the Avvenire range is yet to begin production, although Daymak has received more than $350 million of pre-orders, with the bitcoin-mining Spiritus three-wheeler set to launch in 2023.Source: Business Insider
I thought about putting this in the Economics section, but this is clearly a cultural / societal phenomenon now.
What a world!
But both EV and crypto space is littered with frauds…is this more believable because it’s both an EV and crypto company or does that make this doubly shady?
#5 Amazon Introduces Tiny ‘ZenBooths’ for Stressed-Out Warehouse Workers
In one of its most dystopian moves yet, Amazon is introducing tiny booths where its overworked warehouse employees can momentarily escape a job so grueling, many employees say they don’t feel like they have enough time to even use the bathroom.
The “ZenBooth” or “Mindful Practice Room,” as it’s called, is part of the WorkingWell program Amazon announced on May 17. According to an Amazon press release, WorkingWell is a mix of “physical and mental activities, wellness exercises, and healthy eating support” meant to “help them recharge and reenergize.” One of the WorkingWell initiatives is AmaZen, which “guides employees through mindfulness practices in individual interactive kiosks at buildings,” according to a press release.Source: Vice
I almost burst out laughing reading this.
#6 Amazon Agrees to Buy MGM Film Studio for $8.45 Billion
The proliferation of streaming services, including newer arrivals such as HBO Max and Disney+, has put pressure on Amazon to acquire more programming. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos has made no secret of his desire for movie moguldom, and MGM’s vast backlog provides an abundance of streaming material, not to mention an opportunity to mine the iconic James Bond and Rocky franchises for new films and television shows.
Pachter said that Amazon’s studios produce a few hundred hours worth of television shows and movies a year. MGM adds a back catalog of 25,000 hours that Amazon could divvy up between its Prime Video offering, or its free-to-stream, ad-supported IMDb TV.Source: Bloomberg
This is Amazon’s largest acquisition ever.
#7 Activision building internal mobile games studio for “triple-A experiences”
Activision looks to be building a new in-house studio that is dedicated to developing new triple-A mobile games.
As spotted via numerous job listings on its careers hub, the Santa Monica-based studio will first turn its attention towards the Call of Duty franchise, creating a new entry for the platform. This potentially could be a mobile version of Call of Duty: Warzone, a free-to-play battle royale game that launched in March 2020 on console and PC.
“Welcome to Activision Mobile. We’re a new in-house studio, dedicated to developing the best triple-A mobile games in the world,” reads the job specification.
“Our first project is a new triple-A mobile title in the Call of Duty franchise and we’re looking for great talent from mobile, console and PC backgrounds passionate about their work, who share our belief in what triple-A experiences on mobile can and should be.Source: Pocket Gamer.biz
Currently Activision partners with Tencent and Netease on mobile games. Will be interesting to see whether Activision brings it all back in-house or whether it will maintain a hybrid partnership model.
But one thing is clear – The PC and consoles used to be the only places for triple-A gaming experiences. But mobile has come a long way, and in many parts of the world, mobile is THE preferred platform.
#8 You can now explore a surreal Gucci garden inside Roblox
For the next two weeks, the virtual realm of Roblox is getting a dose of high fashion. Currently, fashion house Gucci is hosting an artsy garden space, which will be available for Roblox users to explore starting today through to May 31st. The space was conceived as a virtual counterpart to a real-world installation called the Gucci Garden Archetypes, which is taking place in Florence, Italy.
As they enter the Gucci Garden experience, visitors will shed their avatars becoming a neutral mannequin. Without gender or age, the mannequin symbolizes that we all begin our journeys through life as a blank canvas. Wandering through the different rooms, visitors’ mannequins absorb elements of the exhibition. With every person experiencing the rooms in a different order and retaining different fragments of the spaces, they will emerge at the end of their journey as one-of-a-kind creations, reflecting the idea of individuals as one among many, yet wholly unique.Source: The Verge
Digital worlds and physical world become one.
People are even buying digital Gucci bags at real world prices!
#9 [Translated] PagPhone: It’s smartphone, digital bank and machine, all together in one device!
Take your business in your pocket with PagPhone
The PagPhone is a smartphone and card machine, all together on the same device. Perfect for you not to miss any sales, accepts payments by credit card, debit card, Pix, QR Code and by approximation (NFC).
The phone that sells anywhere!
PagPhone is a complete mobile phone that guarantees greater convenience and mobility for your business. You can receive payments, reply to customers on social networks and WhatsApp, take and post pictures of the products, all on a single device.Source: Pagseguro
In Latin America, I’ve mostly only written about Mercadolibre, but there are a lot of pretty interesting companies / concepts from Latin America, especially Brazil.
In a way, Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina have been the perfect cauldrons for fintech innovation because of how broken their system is. In Brazil, banks charge incredibly high rates with annual rates reaching >100%. Argentina has gone through decades of hyperinflation, which creates challenges of its own for traditional financial systems. And Mexico is largely unbanked. Put all of this together and you get novel experimentation in a way that is less likely to happen in the developed world.
For example, I have written before how BNPL as a concept actually arose in Brazil and not in the US / Affirm as is often credited.
And even super-hot credit card firm, Brex, has its roots in Brazil.
Anyway, Pagseguro just launched a smartphone that also integrates a traditional POS as well as software necessary for managing a business including in-house banking offerings (Pagbank). Similar to how Square revolutionized retail by providing an integrated hardware + software POS device, Pagseguro is taking “business-as-a-service” to a whole new level. Probably not super relevant for developed markets, but this concept could be very interesting for developing markets.
#10 Square Takes Aim at JPMorgan With Checking, Savings Accounts
Square Inc., whose technology has already upended the way small businesses take card payments, is quietly preparing to offer checking and savings accounts to those customers, taking direct aim at behemoths such as JPMorgan Chase & Co. Square’s shares jumped on the news.
Evidence of the still-unannounced plan appeared in hidden code in a recent update to Square’s app for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad. The code references both types of accounts and indicates that the checking version will integrate with Square’s existing debit card for businesses. It also suggests that Square will differentiate itself by eschewing monthly service charges and fees tied to minimum balances and overdrafts.
Based on the language in the hidden code, Square is planning to offer a 0.5% interest rate for its savings account through 2021, a rate on par with other online-only savings accounts. Funds from sales processed through Square will be immediately available to spend in the checking account.Source: Bloomberg
What’s the difference between a digital wallet that holds cash and an actual “bank account”? A bank account is insured and allows the bank to lend the money out.
Contrast this to DeFi where your money is being lent out all the same, but not insured.
#11 Apple Is Looking for Crypto Experience in ‘Alternative Payments’ Job Post
Apple is looking to hire a business development manager with experience in the cryptocurrency industry to lead its “alternative payments” partnership program.
In a Wednesday job posting, Apple said candidates should have five years or more “working in or with alternative payment providers, such as digital wallets, BNPL [buy now pay later], Fast Payments, cryptocurrency and etc.”Source: Coindesk
#12 Visa Unlocks Digital-First Banking and Payment Experiences for Clients
Visa (NYSE:V), the world’s leader in digital payments, today announced the expansion of Visa Fintech Partner Connect—a program designed to help financial institutions quickly connect with a vetted and curated set of technology providers. By streamlining the discovery process, Fintech Partner Connect can help Visa’s issuing partners create digital-first experiences without the cost and complexity of building the back-end technology in-house. Initially launched in Europe, Visa Fintech Partner Connect is now available to clients in the U.S and in markets across Asia Pacific, Central Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
With Visa Fintech Partner Connect, Visa clients can discover technology and service providers offering tools and solutions across the customer journey. Visa clients can get in touch with program partners through the Visa Partner website and receive benefits such as reduced implementation fees and pricing discounts.Source: Businesswire
Now this is interesting. Visa is a network. Most people think Visa is just a credit card network. But all networks are fungible. Once you have the network set up, you can run anything on it. Doesn’t have to be just credit cards. The current credit card network connects banks, merchants, and consumers. Now Visa, is allowing fintech companies to sell into this network. In a way, Visa just became an app store! Magic.
#13 Etsy targets Gen Z shoppers with $1.6 billion Depop acquisition
The $1.6 billion acquisition lets Etsy access Depop’s young and growing userbase. Etsy says more than 90 percent of Depop’s users are under 26, meaning they mostly belong to Gen Z, while Etsy’s own users are firmly millennial, with a median age for sellers of around 39. Etsy claims that Depop is the 10th most visited shopping site for Gen Z consumer in the US.
“We are simply thrilled to be adding Depop — what we believe to be the resale home for Gen Z consumers — to the Etsy family,” Etsy chief executive Josh Silverman said in a press statement. “Depop is a vibrant, two-sided marketplace with a passionate community, a highly-differentiated offering of unique items, and we believe significant potential to further scale.”Source: The Verge
#14 L’Oréal taps TikTok for social selling pilot
As part of the pilot partnership, beauty shoppers will be able to get their hands on select products from L’Oréal’s Garnier and NYX Professional without leaving the social media app.
The brands will showcase the products via their account pages, which can be used as a perusing landing page for prospective buyers.
“As we continue to develop our brand experience online and innovate with our partners, leveraging creator content alongside that of our brands is extremely important; TikTok has offered a great opportunity for us to leverage the power of advocacy through our creator partners, bringing our products to the customer, wherever they are.”Source: Cosmetics Business
#15 Shopee pulls ahead of Tokopedia in Indonesia as e-commerce thrives
Sea Group’s Shopee took the lead with a GMV of USD 14.2 billion, marginally ahead of local player Tokopedia. Lazada, with USD 4.5 billion, and Bukalapak, with USD 3 billion, further trailed behind. Shopee already surpassed Tokopedia early last year in terms of monthly web visits. With its in-house digital wallet ShopeePay, the company’s integrated ecosystem played a significant role in the company’s growth, said Momentum Works CEO Jianggan Li. “E-wallets and digital payments make users more sticky.”
Shopee managed to achieve a year-on-year order growth of 128%. Its massive free delivery and discount promotions, a tactic borrowed from China’s e-commerce players, contributed to the brand’s popularity, according to Li. Another factor is Shopee’s International Platform. Buyers gain access to a larger selection of items from sellers in China, Malaysia, and other countries. Local sellers, meanwhile, can tap into a bigger market. Alibaba-backed Lazada offers a similar service.
In just four years, the share of e-commerce in Indonesia increased from just 2% in 2016 to 20% of retail sales in 2020. “It will continue to grow,” Li said. “While GMV growth will eventually slow down, increased transaction volumes are opening up opportunities.” Business ideas in logistics, digital finance, fresh groceries, on-demand fulfillment, and new consumer brands will follow.Source: KrAsia
#16 Instagram Launches A New Section for Shopping Product Drops
On Instagram, drops will now have their own destination inside the app at the top of the Shop tab, where consumers can discover, browse and shop all the latest product launches as well as view upcoming launches. Shoppers also can sign up to receive reminders about products they’re interested in, and look through products and collections from other drops that recently took place on Instagram.
Brands on Instagram had already been running drops before today, following Instagram’s release of a product reminders feature back in 2019 that allowed consumers to get notified when an item in which they were interested became available for purchase. To date, brands across fashion, beauty, streetwear and others have leveraged the feature, the company says, including Hill House Home, Dragun Beauty, adidas and others.
The new Drops location simply organizes the product launches in one place to make it easier to browse and shop. Instagram tells us it’s curating the featured drops in this section. To be considered, brands need to use the product launch feature which is available to businesses on Checkout with Instagram.Source: TechCrunch
#17 Snapchat: How Branded AR Influences Purchasing
Across the four markets measured, more than half of people aged 13–49 claimed to have used AR in the past, and nearly one-third have used branded AR. Snapchatters lean even further into these behaviors: they are 56% more likely than non-Snapchatters to have used branded AR. While the global pandemic may have contributed to accelerated branded AR adoption, this behavior is here to stay — more than 3 in 4 of all consumers believe AR technology will play a role in how people shop in the next five years. In fact, 57% claim they will increase their use of AR post-pandemic.Source: Snap
#18 AMD WANTS TO PUT TOGETHER THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
“At AMD, we are always thinking about what’s next,” explained Lisa Su, chief executive officer at the company in her Computex keynote address, the third year in a row that she was asked to give one (which you can see at this link). “Advanced technology is a key foundation of our product leadership, and that means putting the best process technology together with the best packaging technology. We were early adopters of 7 nanometer advanced manufacturing technology from TSMC, and by now we have delivered more than 30 products in 7 nanometer across all of our markets. And our roadmap to 5 nanometer technology is right on track, including our first Zen 4 products, which will be available next year.”
“We are also the leaders in advanced packaging technology,” Su said. “Our investments in innovation in packaging have been a multi-year, multi-technology journey. In 2015, AMD introduced high bandwidth memory, or HBM, and silicon interposer technology to the GPU market, which led the industry for memory bandwidth in a small form factor. We then set a new performance trajectory for compute in the datacenter and PC markets in 2017 when we introduced high volume multichip module packaging. And in 2019, we introduced chiplets, using different process nodes for the CPU cores and the I/O in the same package, which enabled significantly higher performance and capabilities.”
It was always a matter of time before chips would move more solidly into the third dimension. Chips are not really flat objects, 2D objects, but have dozens of layers of materials stacked up to create their transistors and circuits. But eventually, because of the limitations of the reticle size of lithographic equipment and the high cost of making a big chip compared to the lower cost of making many chiplets in the same area (the yields are statistically better on the smaller chips so the number of wafers it takes to get a certain amount of raw compute is smaller, which drives down the cost), we all knew that we would go 2.5D (with chips linked to each other over interposers to a full-on-3D stacking of dies to create much more compact devices that have all sorts of benefits.
This is where, Su hinted in her keynote, AMD is going: Up.
“We have worked closely with TSMC on their 3D fabric to combine chiplet packaging with die stacking to create a 3D chiplet architecture for future high performance computing products.”Source: The Next Platform
AMD’s Lisa Su presented at Computex. Most of the announcements were quite vanilla, but the most interesting one is probably 3D stacking of logic chips. 3D stacking has already become the norm for memory products, but bringing this to logic chips is a very new and interesting undertaking.
AMD still has its work cut out for them when it comes to competition with Nvidia, but AMD continues to execute well against Intel in the CPU space.
#19 NVIDIA Base Command Platform Provides Enterprises with Fast Path to Scale Production AI
NVIDIA today unveiled NVIDIA® Base Command™ Platform, a cloud-hosted development hub that lets enterprises quickly move their AI projects from prototypes to production.
“World-class AI development requires powerful computing infrastructure, and making these resources accessible and attainable is essential to bringing AI to every company and their customers,” said Manuvir Das, head of Enterprise Computing at NVIDIA. “Deployed as a cloud-hosted solution with NVIDIA-accelerated computing, NVIDIA Base Command Platform reduces the complexity of managing AI workflows, so that data scientists and researchers can spend more time developing their AI projects and less time managing their machines.”
Base Command Platform provides a single pane of glass view across AI development. It facilitates easy sharing of resources through a graphical user interface and command line APIs, as well as integrated monitoring and reporting dashboards.
A broad range of AI and data science tools, including the NVIDIA NGC™ catalog of AI and analytics software, APIs for integration with MLOps software, Jupyter notebooks and more, helps researchers plan and schedule workloads, refine models and gain insights more quickly.Source: Nvidia
Nvidia also presented at Computex. Thought this new platform for AI workflows and hardware abstraction was a very interesting development.
And it’s a subscription product, too! When will investors start to get Nvidia credit for evolving from hardware sales to platforms + subscription services?
#20 NVIDIA DLSS: No Man’s Sky And 8 Other Games, Including The First VR Titles, Add Performance-Accelerating Tech This Month
This month, DLSS comes to No Man’s Sky, AMID EVIL, Aron’s Adventure, Everspace 2, Redout: Space Assault, Scavengers, and Wrench. And for the first time, DLSS comes to Virtual Reality headsets in No Man’s Sky, Into The Radius, and Wrench.
By enabling NVIDIA DLSS in each, frame rates are greatly accelerated, giving you smoother gameplay and the headroom to enable higher-quality effects and rendering resolutions, and ray tracing in AMID EVIL, Redout: Space Assault, and Wrench.Source: Nvidia
Nvidia’s position in VR is also underestimated. One of the challenges for bringing about VR is that humans get sick pretty quickly if visual fidelity and frame rates are not high enough. Nvidia’s DLSS capabilities are possibly a game changer since it improves visual fidelity AND frame rates by using AI. This allows the system to render faster by rendering less but letting AI algorithms fill in what “should be there”. In a way, this is very much like how human eyes work. We never see (or need to see) all of the details. We see some details and our brains fill in the rest using our own mental models of what we expect to see.
#21 Facebook F8 Refresh: It’s All About Developers
This year, after a brief pause in programming in 2020, we’re bringing F8 back to its roots as a true developer conference. As we look to the future, it’s helpful to take measure of the progress we’ve made on our ultimate goal of helping developers find innovative solutions for connecting people. That’s why the announcements covered today are focused on Facebook technologies designed to unlock new opportunities for developers and businesses around the world to build and grow on our platforms.Source: Facebook
Facebook held their developer conference. They seem to be getting back to their roots as a platform before they totally got absorbed in trying to create God’s advertising platform. Now back to developers and back to creation of tools that will make their products more like platforms.
Lots of interesting stuff related to commerce like this:
And for AR:
#22 The Age of Autonomous Killer Robots May Already Be Here
A “lethal” weaponized drone “hunted down” and “remotely engaged” human targets without its handlers’ say-so during a conflict in Libya last year, according to a United Nations report first covered by New Scientist this week. Whether there were any casualties remains unclear, but if confirmed, it would likely be the first recorded death carried out by an autonomous killer robot.
In March 2020, a Kargu-2 attack quadcopter, which the agency called a “lethal autonomous weapon system,” targeted retreating soldiers and convoys led by Libyan National Army’s Khalifa Haftar during a civil conflict with Libyan government forces.
The Kargu-2 is a so-called loitering drone that uses machine learning algorithms and real-time image processing to autonomously track and engage targets. According to Turkish weapons manufacturer STM, it’s specifically designed for asymmetric warfare and anti-terrorist operations and has two operating modes, autonomous and manual. Several can also be linked together to create a swarm of kamikaze drones.Source: Gizmodo
#23 Waymo’s Driverless Taxi Service Can Now Be Accessed on Google Maps
Waymo One, the ride-hailing service that uses driverless vehicles in the suburbs of Phoenix, can now be accessed and booked through Google Maps.
This will be the first fully autonomous ride-hailing option available in the app, which will roll out first to Android users, Waymo said Thursday. The team-up not only brings together two Alphabet companies, it signals Waymo’s push to become more visible and accessible to the public.
The Waymo One service only uses driverless vehicles, which means that a safety operator is not physically behind the wheel. It also means that if it pops up on Google Maps, users can be assured that it will indeed be driverless.
The process still requires a bit of app hopping. There isn’t a direct way to access, book and pay for the Waymo One rides in Google Maps. Instead, the user is brought over to the Waymo app to complete the booking. Users first have to input directions to or from a location in Waymo’s Metro Phoenix territory, which includes parts of Chandler, Mesa and Tempe, from an Android device. Once the user taps on the ridesharing or transit tab, they will see the estimated price and ETA of their trip with Waymo.Source: TechCrunch
Something to keep in mind for Uber. Though it’s not clear how soon Google will roll out across the country beyond Phoenix. And not sure how long it will take for Google to clean-up the user experience. The booking process seems non-ideal.
#24 Pinterest’s Use of AI Drives Growth
The image-search site lets people post, or pin, photos and videos of things that interest them into collections called boards. The key to the site’s popularity is that it lets you discover ideas through images saved by people and brands you follow—and suggests other images that might be a good fit for you. You also get ads that follow your interests but carry a “promoted” tag.
The process of figuring out what people like and finding appropriate images happens without human intervention. It is handled by an advanced AI called a neural network that makes millions of calculations incredibly quickly to find pins to catch your eye.
Neural networks are driving “nearly 100%” of growth, says Jeremy King, Pinterest’s senior vice president of engineering and a former executive vice president and chief technology officer at Walmart Inc.
“It’s like this giant machine-learning engine that is being powered by the people that are [pinning content],” he says.
So, what does this look like in practice?
Let’s say a homeowner is thinking of installing a bathroom floor and pins flooring ideas, such as images depicting tiles. Pinterest needs to figure out what the user is pinning and what those images signify. A “convolutional” neural network—which analyzes images—will scrutinize the pixels in the tile pins and classify them by, say, material, size and color.
The system will match those attributes to other pinned images of tiles on the site with similar features. Now it’s got some attributes of the tiles figured out. Next up: figuring out what the tiles are for.
The neural network looks at those images of tiles and the other images in those pictures. If the network spots something like a bathtub, it might determine the tiles are for bathroom flooring.
The power of Pinterest’s neural networks is that they make associations a user wouldn’t normally make. Users installing a new bathroom floor might not even think about buying a vanity until an ad popped up showing a unit that exactly fits their interests. Pinterest argues that the fact that the ad was presented to a Pinterest user in the same format as their pins actually enhances the user experience.Source: WSJ
Pinterest’s AI capabilities continue to fly under the radar. Google may have the best algorithms, but the algorithms are only as good as the data. Pinterest has almost 500 million users labelling their image dataset for free. And the labels are much more complex. For example, people may sort dog photos into cute and not-cute. They may sort travel photos into different categories that reveal distinct nuances that computers might have a hard time discerning.
#25 U.S. Finds No Evidence of Alien Technology in Flying Objects, but Can’t Rule It Out, Either
American intelligence officials have found no evidence that aerial phenomena witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years are alien spacecraft, but they still cannot explain the unusual movements that have mystified scientists and the military, according to senior administration officials briefed on the findings of a highly anticipated government report.
The report determines that a vast majority of more than 120 incidents over the past two decades did not originate from any American military or other advanced U.S. government technology, the officials said. That determination would appear to eliminate the possibility that Navy pilots who reported seeing unexplained aircraft might have encountered programs the government meant to keep secret.
Americans’ long-running fascination with U.F.O.s has intensified in recent weeks in anticipation of the release of the government report. Former President Barack Obama further stoked the interest when he was asked last month about the incidents on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” on CBS.
“What is true, and I’m actually being serious here,” Mr. Obama said, “is that there is footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are.’’Source: NYT
Is it real or is it not? Is it better or worse if it is a military capability of an adversary (China? Russia?) vs real-life aliens?