Hello, hello! 👋🏻👋🏻
Welcome back to another edition of Tidbits covering all the recent things worth talking about in business, media, and technology.
#1 Intel Lands Pentagon Deal to Support Domestic Chip Making
Intel Corp. INTC 1.43% said it would provide commercial foundry services in the first phase of a broader Defense Department program that aims to build up domestic design and production of cutting-edge chips.
The chip maker on Monday said its foundry services unit will join with companies such asInternational Business Machines Corp. , Synopsys Inc., Cadence Design Systems Inc. and others as part of the RAMP-C program, which is short for Rapid Assured Microelectronics Prototypes – Commercial.
The program was designed to support a U.S.-based, chip-building ecosystem that could give the government agency access to technology and help secure its long-term needs for products, Intel said. The National Security Technology Accelerator, a nonprofit consortium that works with the Defense Department, didn’t respond to requests for comment about contract details.Source: WSJ
The ability to make semiconductors is becoming the most critical geopolitical capability. But only time will tell if the US can do enough to re-shore leading edge manufacturing. There are significant advantages to scale. And all that scale currently resides in Taiwan and South Korea.
I also can’t help but recall Peter Thiel’s advice to choose your enemies well because soon you will become just like them. It’s uncanny how US strategy is becoming more and more like China’s (Industrial / infrastructure programs, civil-military fusion, etc).
👻 Cryptocurrencies + NFTs
#2 Somebody just paid $1.3 million for a picture of a rock
Clip art of a rock just sold for 400 ether, or about $1.3 million, late Monday afternoon. The transaction marks the latest sale of EtherRock, a brand of crypto collectible that’s been around since 2017 – making it one of the oldest non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on the block.
EtherRock is, as the name implies, a JPEG of a cartoon rock, built and sold on the ethereum blockchain. There are only 100 out there, and that scarcity is part of what’s driving up its value.
So, what are these rock pics good for? According to the EtherRock website, “These virtual rocks serve NO PURPOSE beyond being able to be brought and sold, and giving you a strong sense of pride in being an owner of 1 of the only 100 rocks in the game :)”Source: CNBC
I don’t really know what to say, but I guess that rock does look better than all of these other invisible rocks. They’re all different, mind you…you just can’t see the differences because it’s all invisible.
I’m not sure I would bet on these as assets, but if I try hard enough I can rationalize how it might be worth that much money to some people as an access fee or status. Sometimes you need to spend money to enter a realm of the world that cannot be accessible without great sums of money. Maybe that is what this is. But for the people that want to bet on this purely as an asset without any ability to parlay that asset into access or status, I am worried for you.
#3 The Rise of the Meta-Apes
Originally launched in 2017, Cryptopunks were given away to early adopters for free but in 2021, the community witnessed a rare Alien Punk sold for a whopping $7.5 million and a constant rise in floor price (as of right now, the floor price for a single punk is 44 ETH, I wonder what it’ll be by the time this is published). NFTs traveled from the digital metaworld into established auction houses such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s with Cyptopunks leading the space and inspired community members working behind the scenes to pump out their own collectives. The Bored Ape Yacht Club was one of the many, but unlike some of the other collectibles that were released this year, BAYC really connected with people.
The answer is community. As soon as you own an Ape, you get access to community boards, activations, and member-only exclusive drops. Not to mention the engaging Ape Twitter community. There have been multiple collectible projects inspired by BAYC features, non-affiliated BAYC merch stores opened, as well as multiple comic community projects aiming to give individual Apes their own stories. As the community says, Ape strong together. The Community is the reason why we decided to join forces with the Bored Ape Yacht Club to introduce their first release available to non-Ape members.Source: The Hundreds
Country clubs of the digital age. The NFT is the membership card.
#4 Visa jumps into the NFT craze, buying a ‘CryptoPunk’ for $150,000
The payments processor said Monday it bought a “CryptoPunk,” one of thousands of NFT-based digital avatars, for nearly $150,000 in ethereum.
“We think NFTs will play an important role in the future of retail, social media, entertainment, and commerce,” Cuy Sheffield, head of crypto at Visa, said in a blogpost Monday.
“To help our clients and partners participate, we need a firsthand understanding of the infrastructure requirements for a global brand to purchase, store, and leverage an NFT.”Source: CNBC
In other news, Visa pays $150k to learn more about NFTs.
#5 Video-game serfs
When Vincent Gallarte was laid off in July, the Manila IT analyst found an unusual financial lifeline: an online game that rewards players in cryptocurrency. In his first two weeks of Pokémon-like questing and battling, Gallarte earned more than 37,000 pesos ($732), three times what he would have made at his “real job.”
Like a lot of newcomers to so-called play-to-earn games, the 25-year-old Gallarte hadn’t had any particular interest in the world of Bitcoin, Ether and other cryptocurrencies. Now he imagines a lucrative side-hustle. “I started playing Axie the same day my employer terminated my contract,” he said. “I’m so grateful.”
In Axie Infinity’s virtual world of Lunacia, players steer colorful, blob-like creatures called Axies to acquire two kinds of coins. Smooth Love Potions (SLP) are awarded for successful battles and can be cashed out or used in the game to breed new Axies. Axie Infinity Shards (AXS) can be earned in seasonal tournaments or for selling Axies in the game’s marketplace. AXS can be cashed out too, but like other governance tokens, they’re designed to function like shares: Sky Mavis says holders will eventually be able to vote on new game features or corporate spending proposals. …
But players need three Axies to get started, at a minimum of around $200 apiece. That was far too much for the newly unemployed Gallarte. He sought out a sponsor, someone who lends his Axies to new players in exchange for a percentage of their in-game takings, sometimes as much as 90%. Anything a player earns with a borrowed Axie accrues to its owner, who is then supposed to wire the player his cut.
Doesn’t it feel like the dystopian future we deserve? Like in a decade everyone will make their living by steering colorful blob-like creatures around to acquire coins in a virtual world, but ownership of the colorful blob-like virtual creatures will be concentrated among a hereditary elite of people who, like, bought Dogecoin in 2014, and in order to scrape together enough to live on you will need to indenture yourself to a member of that elite, steering their blob-like virtual creatures around to earn coins for them and getting a few crumbs for yourself. And you’ll work 16-hour days in the Smooth Love Potions mines just to feed your children, but every once in a while in a rare free moment you will stop and ask yourself “wait why do our overlords want all these Smooth Love Potions anyway?”Source: Matt Levine / Bloomberg
Serfs don’t get to ask questions!
Also – It’s All the Same
💬 Media + Games
#6 Netflix’s gaming platform is live, but only in Poland
Netflix’s foray into gaming has officially started, if you live in Poland. The streaming service announced on Thursday that users of its Android app in Poland can now try its in-the-works gaming platform with two existing Stranger Things games made by Netflix’s developer partner BonusXP, a Texas-based studio. The games were first developed and released in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
“Today members in Poland can try Netflix mobile gaming on Android with two games, Stranger Things: 1984 and Stranger Things 3. It’s very, very early days and we’ve got a lot of work to do in the months ahead, but this is the first step,” reads the company’s announcement. Netflix is promising no ads or in-app purchases, and any games that normally cost money — such as Stranger Things 3 — are now included free with an active Netflix membership.Source: Protocol
First peak into Netflix gaming. It’s only a peak because the two games that are now available were already previously available for a while for download via app stores. What’s new is that it’s now linked directly into the Netflix app.
It gives us a taste of how the games will be distributed in the app, but not much more color on what type of games will be coming. Seems like it will mostly be games centered around existing Netflix Originals IP.
#7 Netflix and Video Games
With this in mind, and as someone who previously helped operate several SVODs and now invests in and produces games, I thought it was time to revisit the topic of Netflix and gaming. This essay will cover four areas: (1) Why Netflix wants to enter gaming (beyond the money); (2) The challenges Netflix faces when entering gaming; (3) What Netflix seems to be doing; and (4) Where this might be going and when.
For decades, the key decision for consumer leisure was essentially “what to watch.” After all, video was the most dominant entertainment category. And by far. In the United States over 90% of the population watched TV each day and for an average of 5.5 hours. The next closest media category was audio with 2.5 hours per day, nearly half of which takes place during commutes and a quarter of which is done while working. In this regard, it’s not fair to say consumers “pick” audio half as frequently as they do video. Rather, they mostly pick audio to complement another activity they have to do. When given the choice between various content categories and without constraints, most humans have picked video.
The most threatening problem for Netflix is the generational changes that are making “where to watch” the second question, not the foundational one. For hundreds of millions, the question is now “what to do.” Leisure, in other words, defaulted to TV for decades. It no longer does. This means that fighting for leisure time via video means losing share one way or another. And it’s likely this share is lost to gaming.Source: Matthew Ball
Thought-provoking essay on how Netflix may approach gaming and why gaming is something worth thinking about.
#8 Amazon Partners with Affirm to Deliver Pay-Over-Time Option at Checkout
Affirm (NASDAQ: AFRM), the payment network that empowers consumers and helps merchants drive growth, today announced that its flexible payment solution will soon be available to Amazon.com customers at checkout. Amazon and Affirm are testing with select customers now, and in the coming months, Amazon plans to make Affirm more broadly available to its customers.
As a result of Amazon and Affirm’s partnership, select Amazon customers now have the option to split the total cost of purchases of $50 or more into simple monthly payments by using Affirm. Approved customers are shown the total cost of their purchase upfront and will never pay more than what they agree to at checkout. As always, when choosing Affirm, consumers will not be charged any late or hidden fees.
“By partnering with Amazon we’re bringing the transparency, predictability and affordability that Affirm provides today to the millions of people who shop on Amazon.com in the U.S.,” said Eric Morse, Senior Vice President of Sales at Affirm. “Offering Affirm’s alternative to credit cards also delivers more of the payment choice and flexibility consumers on Amazon want.”Source: Businesswire
Didn’t expect this one, but it makes sense! Affirm already has a partnership with Shopify (and gave Shopify a meaningful stake in the company in the process…wonder if Amazon got a stake as well). The business model of BNPL requires linking up merchants not unlike what merchant acquirers typically do. This is a complicated and time consuming process. Affirm’s strategy seems to be linking up major platforms that already have large consumer reach (Shopify, Amazon, Peloton, etc).
This was also a key reason why Square acquired Afterpay. Square already has a lot of merchant relationships. It’s relatively easy to push Afterpay’s BNPL option through to merchants that are already hooked up to Square.
Still, I wonder what Affirm’s long-term vision will be. BNPL standalone is likely just a feature…Afterpay has been making an effort to own the customer by at least launching a consumer-facing wallet / commerce portal. While Affirm’s reach is growing because of the platforms its linked up with, its consumer touchpoint is quite limited.
#9 Visa and Ascenda partner on next-gen loyalty and rewards in Asia Pacific
Visa, the world leader in digital payments, today announced a strategic partnership in Asia Pacific with Ascenda, the loyalty technology company. The payments network will be first globally to leverage Ascenda’s new Nexus platform, which will enable Visa’s partners to adopt a comprehensive new rewards program for their customers.
Reward programs continue to evolve as consumer preferences and behaviours change, in line with larger trends on how people shop. The rise of eCommerce has created new habits and opportunities to engage before, during and after the transaction. The increased role that data plays in the average consumer’s day has led to greater expectations around receiving personalised rewards instead of a general set of benefits. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional benefits like air miles have been less easily used.
With this backdrop of a changing environment, the Visa and Ascenda partnership means card issuers, like banks or fintechs, can deploy rewards programs that are easy to implement and use, in a fraction of the typical lead-time. The digital rewards portal powered by Ascenda comes with offers and promotions from leading merchants via Visa Offers Exchange and Ascenda’s global network.Source: PR Newswire
Visa continues to evolve away from just being a dumb (but very valuable!) pipe between banks, merchants, and consumers. Visa continues to move into higher value-added areas as it fully embraces its destiny as a network rather than just a credit card network. All networks are fungible. No reason Visa has to be pigeonholed into what it has always done.
Although this partnership doesn’t really move Visa away from credit cards, it does help re-position credit cards more appropriately for where the world is going.
As I’ve written before, payments and loyalty is converging. Historically, loyalty programs were only about creating loyalty between consumers and the bank that issues the credit card. The 3% rewards I get on food and travel from my Chase Sapphire Reserve only creates loyalty between me and Chase…not the restaurants I frequent. And I’ve also argued that these reward programs are only tangential to what consumers actually want…as BNPL takes off, it’s becoming increasingly clear that consumers want more engagement with their merchants, not with their banks! They want more of what their favorite merchants can offer, and they would likely prefer loyalty programs that are built around the merchants they love.
This is where Visa and Ascenda comes in. Progammable and tailored rewards programs.
All part of the convergence of payments, data, commerce, and identity.
#10 South-east Asia’s ecommerce juggernaut Shopee sets sights on Latin America
Sea entered Latin America in 2017 with Free Fire, its battle royale video game that is now the highest-grossing mobile title in Latin America and south-east Asia. The company’s gaming division, which is profitable, is used to subsidise the unprofitable ecommerce unit.
It launched Shopee Brazil in 2019, initially only allowing people to buy items from merchants outside the country. It now offers access to local sellers and this year launched services in Mexico, Chile and Colombia.
There are already signs its push into the region is succeeding. Shopee is the most downloaded ecommerce app in Brazil this year, with more than double the number for MercadoLibre, according to Sensor Tower data.
Shopee’s strategy is centred around low-priced products on a platform that analysts have described as a “gamified” shopping experience. Simple games can be played within the app, through which users are able to win rewards such as discounts.Source: FT
Sea’s success in Latam is starting to gain more airtime. While there is rightfully skepticism about whether Sea can make much headroom against local giants like Mercadolibre, Sea is generally a much more aggressive operator than Mercadolibre. Sea moves much more quickly and has an immense cash cannon in the form of Free Fire (Latam is the largest geography for Free Fire). Sea will have a hard time closing the logistics gap with Mercadolibre, but it’s more of a race against time rather than a race against money. I estimate Mercadolibre has spent perhaps $3-4 billion cumulatively on logistics (directly and indirectly). Sea can easily support that level of investment given its Free Fire cash generation and capital raising activities.
I also think Sea’s team is just incredibly good at coming up with absolutely cursed jingles and marketing like this flagged in the article:
#11 [Translated] Shopee launches page dedicated to major brands in Brazil
The Shopee e-commerce platform now has a page dedicated to major brands in Brazil. The Official Shopee already has more than 30 companies, such as Nivea, Reserva, Emporium Nestlé, Free Fire, Faber-Castell, Duracell, Mundo Danone, Everlast, Philips, Huawei, Realme and Black&Decker, which offer more than 15,000 products in various categories with the “Official” red seal and differentiated prices.Source: Newtrade
And maybe Shopee is moving upmarket?
#12 POPULAR ONLINE BUSINESSES ARE OPENING STOREFRONTS THANKS TO TIKTOK
The coronavirus pandemic shut down the dreams of many budding small businesses, who had to either abandon ship or find a way to pivot to a new digital-only world. Now, with the country opened up and a large swath of empty storefronts waiting, pandemic-born small businesses are hoping to translate their online followings to IRL shoppers. Many say those followings have given them a necessary boost to get started.
“We had a line down the block for a good part of the morning, I would say for like two and a half, three hours,” Emma Rogue, the owner of Manhattan vintage and thrift store Rogue, which opened in June of this year, tells me in a phone call. Her store — the second TikToker-owned business to land on Stanton Street in the Lower East Side — began as a Depop store which Rogue promoted on TikTok when the pandemic prevented her from selling at street fairs and pop-ups.
“Whenever people come in, I ask, ‘How did you find out about the shop?’ I would say 95 percent say TikTok,” she says. “A few have said Instagram, some have even said Snapchat because I got a feature on this NBC Snapchat show. It aired and then a girl came in, not even an hour later, and she was like, ‘Oh yeah, I just saw it on Snap.’”Source: The Verge
Impressive! Small businesses used to be primarily reliant on Facebook local ads and Instagram for engagement, but TikTok seems to be quite effective! Better yet, since the content is entirely pushed organically at the moment, it’s free (but at the whims of the algorithm).
People have been talking about the Instagramification of businesses / venues of interest over the last decade…I wonder what the TikTok-ification of the world will end up like?
#13 Scaling social commerce: Shopify introduces new in-app shopping experiences on TikTok
With TikTok Shopping, Shopify is the first commerce platform to bring organic product discovery and shopping tabs to TikTok, helping creators and merchants deepen their relationships with consumers
Social commerce represents one of the fastest growing channels for Shopify merchants, especially as more creators rely on these platforms to build their businesses. Today, in partnership with TikTok, we’re announcing a new way for entrepreneurs to reach consumers with TikTok Shopping. For the first time, Shopify merchants with a TikTok For Business account will soon be able to add a shopping tab to their TikTok profiles and sync their product catalogues to create a mini-storefront that links directly to their online store for checkout.
Shopify and TikTok have also partnered to bring product links to Shopify merchants, which can be used to tag products in organic TikTok posts. The TikTok community can choose to shop directly from the merchant’s storefront or click a tagged product in a merchant’s TikTok video, which will take them to the merchant’s online store for checkout.Source: Shopify
And now TikTok is enabling Shopify merchants to tap directly into the power of their network. TikTok-ification of commerce. And for Shopify, it continues to expand its scope of aggregation. Shopify = e-commerce channel + platform aggregator.
#14 Joybird First to Launch ‘Inspired by Pinterest Trends’ on Marxent 3D Space Planner
Today Marxent, the leader in 3D commerce for furniture and home improvement, announced a new way to bridge the gap between inspiration and design for furniture retailers by connecting Pinterest Trends data to room design through their patented 3D space planning technology. The company has partnered with Joybird, a storied e-commerce innovator, to bring ‘Inspired by Pinterest Trends’ to the online furniture retailer’s 3D Space Planner. This comes as part of Joybird’s larger partnership with Pinterest, while Marxent’s 3D Cloud-powered 3D Space Planner provides users with the only tool that features content inspired directly by Pinterest.
The new feature allows shoppers to browse photos that reflect current Pinterest Trends data within the Joybird 3D Space Planner tool, then customize the scene in 3D to reflect their real-life floorplan all without searching through catalogs or product pages to find the look that inspired them. Pinterest-inspired photos pair with Marxent’s patented 3D design tech for a groundbreaking e-commerce experience.Source: PR Newswire
Pinterest as catalogue API.
#15 China Plans Control of Tech Algorithms U.S. Can Only Dream Of
Chinese regulators are seeking to implement far-reaching rules about the algorithms technology companies use to recommend videos and other content, claiming authority over internet services that governments like the U.S. have struggled to regulate.
The Cyberspace Administration of China unveiled a 30-point draft proposalfor “algorithm recommendation management regulations” that would directly affect companies including ByteDance Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Kuaishou Technology. The rules would forbid practices that “encourage addiction or high consumption” as well as any activities that endanger national security or disrupt social and economic order.
Here are some of the key proposed regulations.
Companies must disclose the basic principles of any algorithm recommendation service, explaining the purpose and mechanisms for recommendations in a “conspicuous” manner.
They must provide users convenient options for turning off algorithm recommendations and “immediately” implement any requests to opt out.
Algorithms should not be used for price discrimination based on users’ preferences and habits.
Providers must regularly assess and test their algorithms and data to avoid models that will induce users’ obsessive behaviors, excessive spending or other behaviors that violate public order and morality.
They must adhere to “mainstream values” and “actively spread positive energy, and promote the application of algorithms for the better.”
Algorithms cannot be used to set up fake accounts or falsely influence rankings and search results to benefit the provider, influence online discourse or avoid regulatory oversight.
Algorithms cannot endanger national security, disrupt economic and social order or infringe on the legitimate rights and interests of others.
Algorithm providers who can influence public opinion or mobilize the masses need to submit their services for the CAC’s approval. Those without approval could be fined by up to 30,000 yuan and ordered to terminate service.Source: Bloomberg
I think this is a tech issue, but it’s really hard to say what China’s goals are for a lot of the recent actions.
Some of these are pretty straightforward, but others seem very nebulous and hard to implement. For example, how does one exactly create an algorithm that avoids obsessive behaviors? Almost all algorithms are designed around feedback loops. The way you know it is working is that the flywheel flies faster. If people are more and more engaged, then you know it is working. How does one design an algorithm that doesn’t encourage more engagement or only just enough engagement?
This isn’t just a China question. This is a question for every tech company everywhere.
#16 S.Korea parliament committee votes to curb Google, Apple commission dominance
A South Korean parliamentary committee voted on Wednesday to recommend amending a law, a key step toward banning Google and Apple from forcibly charging software developers commissions on in-app purchases, the first such curb by a major economy.
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google have faced global criticism because they require software developers using their app stores to use proprietary payment systems that charge commissions of up to 30%.
“Dominant app store operators with large platforms should by now look to profit from value-added services, not just taking a cut from apps sold on its store,” said Yoo Byung-joon, a Seoul National University School of Business professor who specialises in electronic commerce.
It also allows the South Korean government to require an app market operator to “prevent damage to users and protect the rights and interests of users”, probe app market operators, and mediate disputes regarding payment, cancellations or refunds in the app market.Source: Reuters
It’s becoming increasingly clear that existing App Store rules are unlikely to hold. Even if it holds in some countries, it’s not likely to hold around the world. Apple and Google still have pending case in the US with Epic, but South Korea is unlikely to be the only country that wants to force Apple and Google to be more open.
It makes sense that with the platforms maturing into powerful forces in our global economy that both Apple and Google continue to evolve their business models so that they derive profits via more / newer value-added services rather than a straight rent on distribution.
The part about allowing the SK government to order the platforms to prevent damage and protect users even when they are conducting payments outside of the Apple / Google solution seems excessive to me, though.
#17 ByteDance Said to Consider Buying Chinese VR Gear Maker Pico
Founded in 2015, Beijing-based Pico employs more than 300 employees and sells its VR headsets to businesses globally as well as consumers in Asia. An investment in the firm would mark ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming’s first foray in VR and a potential new source of revenue after hitting the jackpot with TikTok, its Chinese counterpart Douyin and news aggregator Toutiao.Source: Bloomberg
It’s interesting that so many software-first companies think they need to control AR / VR hardware. Facebook, Snap, Microsoft, and now Bytedance. Other than Apple, though, there are very few companies that seem to be able to do both hardware and software / platforms well. Microsoft has done decently well with Xbox, but the list is pretty small beyond that.
#18 SNAPCHAT’S NEW AR FEATURES CAN IDENTIFY THE WORLD AROUND YOU
Starting Thursday, a feature called Scan is being upgraded and placed front and center in the app’s camera, letting it identify a range of things in the real world, like clothes or dog breeds.
Scan’s prominent placement in Snapchat means that the company is slowly becoming not just a messaging app, but a visual search engine. Scan also helps address a growing problem for Snapchat users: how to find the millions of AR effects, or Lenses, that are made by Snap’s creator community. With its ability to suggest Lenses based on what you’re looking at, Scan could bring more visibility to the Lenses people make, incentivizing them to keep making AR content for Snapchat.
This latest version of Scan, which Snap previewed at its developer conference earlier this year, adds detection for dog breeds, plants, wine, cars, and food nutrition info. The majority of Scan’s features are powered by other companies; the app Vivino is behind the wine scanning feature, for example. Soon Allrecipes will power a Scan feature that suggests recipes to make based on a specific food ingredient. Snap plans to keep adding more abilities to Scan over time using a mix of outside partners and what it builds in-house.
Scan’s biggest new addition is a shopping feature that was built by Snap and aided by its recent acquisition of Screenshop, an app that lets you upload screenshots of clothing and shop for similar items. Scan can recommend similar clothes based on what you’re looking at and let you buy clothes you discover. Scan’s shopping feature will also soon be added to the camera roll section of Snapchat called Memories, letting people shop for clothes based on what they have saved from their camera or screenshots.Source: The Verge
Snap is not first to visual search (Google is first…I think? And Pinterest has had visual search for a while as well.), but it’s certainly doing it in a more interesting way than the others! It’s integrated straight into the camera that ~300 million DAUs already use.
But what’s most interesting is that it’s a two-way channel. Through the Snap camera, you can augment your world with different filters and effects. And you can scan it for information. On top of that, the scan can also pull up all the relevant things that Snap can do for you based on what it recognizes. The competing features from Google and Pinterest are more one-dimensional. It just basically pulls up a generalized search. Snap’s version also searches for info, but it also searches across all of the capabilities that have been enabled on their platform via partnership and mini-apps. Still a work in progress, but it’s a promising start.
#19 Synopsys’ AI-Assisted EDA Tools Aim To Cut GPU Design Costs in Half
Physical design of modern chips is an expensive and difficult process, and as fabrication technologies get thinner, IC design costs are escalating. Nowadays it takes years to develop a new CPU or GPU architecture and then it may easily take about 24 months or more to design physical implementation of the chip. At 3nm design cost of a sophisticated GPU will approach $1.5 billion, according to some analysts, a sum that not all companies can afford. But there is a way to cut these costs by as much as 50% and development time by orders of magnitude using AI-enabled design tools, says Synopsys.
Modern EDA tools greatly simplify development of chips, but chip floorplan, layout, placement, and routing require input from human engineers that use their experience to develop efficient designs. Every small aspect of a chip design requires people to evaluate different design options and make multiple decisions. While experienced engineers tend to work fast, they cannot evaluate hundreds of design options in a reasonable amount of time, explore viability of all possible combinations and then simulate tens if not hundreds of different layouts to find the most optimal one. By contrast, the Synopsys DSO.ai platform can do just that with one noticeable exception: it does not have to simulate all the 10^90,000 possible ways to place and route an IC as it can figure out the best one using artificial intelligence.Source: Tom’s Hardware
Pretty detailed discussion of how modern chips are designed, and how the process can evolve when AI-assistance is brought into the picture.
The more I read about Synopsis and Cadence’s AI-assisted tools for designing chips, the more bullish I am about their potential.
🚘🌽 Mobility + Delivery
#20 Alphabet’s drone delivery service Wing hits 100,000 deliveries milestone
Wing, the drone delivery company operated by Google-parent Alphabet, is about to rack up 100,000 deliveries. The company says it will pass the threshold in the next few days, a significant milestone for a technology that has nevertheless yet to prove its utility at scale.
Wing currently operates in three countries: Australia, the US, and Finland. Its biggest success has been in Logan, Australia: a suburb of Brisbane where more than 50,000 of its total deliveries have been carried out. Logan is home to around 300,000 residents, and Wing’s service is accessible to just over a third of this population. Users can download the Wing app and order a small selection of goods, including coffee, groceries, sushi, cakes, pet food, and sportswear. Deliveries are generally made in under 10 minutes, and Wing’s record for a delivery is two minutes and 47 seconds from order to arrival.
Part of the reason for Wing’s success seems to be the specifics of its design. Wing’s drones can operate as both fixed-wing aircraft and hovering copters. Unlike Amazon’s delivery drones, the aircraft also don’t need to land to drop off goods. Wing’s craft fly to their location, descend to a height of seven meters (23 feet), and then lower their packages on a tether, automatically releasing them onto the ground. A recent report from Wired about Amazon’s struggling delivery drone program in the UK identified the need for the company’s drones to physically land on the ground as a major engineering challenge.Source: The Verge
I didn’t know Google was doing this. Interesting how it’s getting decent usage in suburban areas. Suburban areas are also harder to deliver to. So if this works, it would drastically improve the efficiency of suburban logistics.
🚀 Enterprise Software
#21 Jensen Huang interview: The physical world and the metaverse can be connected
Jensen Huang: Ha, I know! I was actually kind of surprised by it. I was going to say something at the end anyway, because it’s one of the most important things we’re doing. It’s a little bit like the beginning of the internet. People didn’t understand it then. Nobody had spent that much time with it. Time proved otherwise. The same thing is going to happen to the metaverse and to Omniverse.
A lot of people think that — when you say “metaverse,” they imagine putting on VR headsets, but it’s obviously not just that. You can do that, but you can also enjoy it in 2D. One of my favorite ways of enjoying the metaverse is a whole bunch of robots in the metaverse doing work and communicating with robots that are outside in the physical world. The only thing that’s coming through is just ones and zeroes and messages. The physical world and the metaverse can be connected in a lot of different ways. It doesn’t just have to be humans. It can be machine to machine.
Huang: When I think about Omniverse, I see it as a metaverse for engineers and designers. It’s connected to consumer metaverses. It’s porous in that way. But the question is — just as with the internet, you can have consumer sites, industrial sites, enterprise sites. They can be connected in some way. I see it very much the same way. But the primary use of Omniverse, I think, is going to be for digital artists who are doing things that are pretty great, where they need a lot of technology to do it. Everything has to be simulated from scratch, because creating it is otherwise too difficult. And industrial use. That’s where I see our strong base today.Source: Venturebeat
Omniverse = “Metaverse for Engineers”. I like that!
#22 MRNA’s Next Chapter Has Nothing to Do With COVID-19 Vaccines
The tremendous efficacy of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines has generated plenty of excitement about its potential use in vaccines for other diseases. And vaccines may be just the beginning. Last month, researchers used mRNA to deliver CRISPR gene-editing technology that could permanently treat a rare genetic disease in humans—an advance that experts say has implications far beyond the treatment of a single condition.
“To imagine using [CRISPR] as a therapy for people, you need to figure out how to get these editing tools into the cells you’re trying to fix. That’s where messenger RNA comes in,” explains Daniel Anderson, a professor of chemical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a co-founder of CRISPR Therapeutics, which uses CRISPR technology to develop medications. Anderson was not involved in the research.
As Dr. John Leonard, Intellia’s president and CEO, puts it: “mRNA is a way to make CRISPR gene editing come alive. CRISPR is the workhorse; mRNA encodes it.”Source: Time
Here’s another interesting take on how mRNA could be transformative. CRISPR is powerful but there are still issues with figuring out how to get the CRISPR tools into cells. Well, we know how to get mRNA code into cells and the code can code for basically anything…problem solved!
#23 This is the Language Each Country Wants to Learn the Most
Source: Visual Capitalist
Not particularly surprised by the popularity of English, but I am surprised that Japanese is the most popular languages to learn in US / CA (used to be Spanish!), Hong Kong, and Taiwan. I’m also frankly surprised Chinese is not that popular despite China’s significant clout in the world today (only Belize and Laos list Chinese as the most preferred language to learn).
#24 Burn the Runway
Source: Burn the Runway by Party Round
Oooo, now that’s what I’m talking about.
Burn the Runway is a game that allows you to pick from a number of high-profile start-ups (WeWork anybody?) and simulate the burning of their cash runway through various ill-advised (but fun!) spending adventures (Jets! Ferraris! NFTs!).
Games fundamentally have the power to improve society by helping us learn faster through tighter (and enjoyable) feedback loops. This game has the power to make start-ups more efficient at what they already do.