On the Impact of Automation (Mark Zuckerberg, Best Buy, Retail and more) by FPM Team

  • Last week Mark Zuckerberg said, during his Harvard University commencement speech, “Our generation will have to deal with tens of millions of jobs replaced by automation like self-driving cars and trucks. But we have the potential to do so much more together. Every generation has its defining works. More than 300,000 people worked to put a man on the moon – including that janitor. Millions of volunteers immunized children around the world against polio. Millions of more people built the Hoover dam and other great projects. These projects didn't just provide purpose for the people doing those jobs, they gave our whole country a sense of pride that we could do great things.” 
  • Also, the report “Retail Automation: Stranded Workers? Opportunities and risks for labor and automation” by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute said “The impact of significant reductions in retail workers may mirror the impact of manufacturing job losses. Retail sales at brick-and-mortar stores … are increasingly constrained as consumers shift to online shopping. At the same time, many parts of the country are experiencing upward structural wage pressure as concerns about income inequality are gaining political traction. Major retailers, including Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s and WalMart, have collectively closed hundreds of stores over the last few years in attempts to stem losses from unprofitable stores. These headwinds are pushing retailers to rethink the traditional retail business model … this report argues that companies which use technology to support their workers are likely to benefit from long-term productivity gains. However, technology also has the potential to automate part of the sales process and render a range of jobs redundant. Taken together, store closures and automation technology have the potential to accelerate job losses in retail, an industry that employs approximately 10% of the total US labor force.”
  • During its quarterly investor conference call, Best Buy Chief Financial Officer Corie Barry said, "We believe there’s real opportunity to take waste out of the system through automation and there are places like our supply chain, there are places like some of our call centers, where we believe we have real opportunities to become more automated.”

OUR TAKE

  • While workplace automation is part of the pursuit of "faster/better/cheaper" solutions, current advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, etc may increase the pace of labor displacement.
  • Issues for technology, business and community leaders to address include 1) how worker adaptation will be managed 2) how broadly will economic benefits be distributed and 3) how educational systems adjust to marketplace changes.    

On AI, Machine Learning, VR, Robotics and the Cloud (JP Morgan, Google, OpenAI) by FPM Team

  • Last week, JP Morgan released “Big Data and AI Strategies: Machine Learning and Alternative Data Approach to Investing”, a report which said “over the past year, the exponential increase of the amount and types of data available to investors prompted some to completely change their business strategy and adopt a ‘Big Data’ investment framework. Other investors may be unsure on how to assess the relevance of Big Data and Machine Learning, how much to invest in it, and many are still paralyzed in the face of what is also called the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution … As more investors adopt alternative datasets, the market will start reacting faster and will increasingly anticipate traditional or ‘old’ data sources (e.g. quarterly corporate earnings, low frequency macroeconomic data, etc.). This gives an edge to quant managers and those willing to adopt and learn about new datasets and methods. … Regardless of the timeline and shape of the eventual investment landscape, we believe that analysts, portfolio managers, traders and CIOs will eventually have to become familiar with Big Data and Machine Learning approaches to investing. This applies to both fundamental and quantitative investors, and is true across asset classes.”
  • Also, the non-profit AI research group, OpenAI, said in the note Robots that Learn We’ve created a robotics system, trained entirely in simulation and deployed on a physical robot, which can learn a new task after seeing it done once. Now, we’ve developed and deployed a new algorithm, one-shot imitation learning, allowing a human to communicate how to do a new task by performing it in [virtual reality]. Given a single demonstration, the robot is able to solve the same task from an arbitrary starting configuration.
  • Note: OpenAI’s backers include include Sam AltmanGreg BrockmanElon MuskReid HoffmanJessica LivingstonPeter ThielAmazon Web ServicesInfosysYC Research and Microsoft.
  • Finally, during its developer conference, Google announced that “Researchers require enormous computational resources to train the machine learning (ML) models that have delivered recent breakthroughs in medical imagingneural machine translationgame playing, and many other domains. We believe that significantly larger amounts of computation will make it possible for researchers to invent new types of ML models that will be even more accurate and useful.  To accelerate the pace of open machine-learning research, we are introducing the TensorFlow Research Cloud ... to support a broad range of computationally-intensive research projects that might not be possible otherwise."

OUR TAKE

  • Regarding JP Morgan’s comments  – As technology continues to reshape the financial services industry, it is worth revisiting a famous quote by Walter Wriston (CEO of Citibank / Citicorp from 1967 to 1984): “Information about money has become almost as important as money itself”.
  • Regarding Robots that Learn – this example of the integration of AI, virtual reality and robotics illustrates the future direction of product prototyping and design.
  • Regarding Google’s TensorFlow cloud – the battle for mind-share among software developers and researchers will require significant investments by firms including AmazonMicrosoft, FacebookApple and IBM.

Virtual Reality in the Park: Earth Day @ Golden Gate Park by FPM Team

VR in the Park - Dravis - Future Perfect Machine.jpg

Come celebrate Earth day on April 22 in Golden Gate Park.

  • You can paint in 3 dimensions,
  • float through the work of an Oscar-Winning designer,
  • meet a rocket scientist,
  • battle space pirates,
  • compose music in new ways,
  • explore ocean habitats
  • encounter Shakespeare's Hamlet
  • and more.

To purchase tickets, click here

This "hands-on" event provides you the opportunity to experience leading edge Virtual Reality.

Our experience ecosystem includes HTC VIVE, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, Lyra VR, Google Earth VR, Google Tilt brush, Space VR, Blortasia by Kevin Mack, The Blu by Wevr, T-Mobile, To Be with Hamlet and Urban Safari.

"Field Trip to Mars" on the Magic Bus by FPM Team

An example of an immersive experience without a headset. McCann New York's work with Lockheed Martin to develop "Field Trip to Mars".  The project won 19 Lions awards in 11 categories at Cannes in 2016.  

Learn more from the 2 minute video below

Thoughts on Virtual Reality Market Growth by FPM Team

  • Last week, Michael Seibel, partner and CEO of the Y Combinator accelerator program, said in a blog post, “About a month and a half ago I tried the new Oculus and was completely blown away. Even though there were clear rough points – expensive computer, not wireless, limited apps – I was amazed. The next morning I had two thoughts: 1) Because VR games are so physical, gaming will no longer be perceived as an unhealthy activity. I could have used this growing up. 2) Because VR is so immersive, I can imagine myself spending significant amounts of time (hours) with a headset on, every day. As a result, gaming will not be the only significant use case for VR. My headset will steal time from other screens (tv/laptop/phone) and as a result there will be an explosion of VR consumer apps, entertainment apps, developer tools, and more. If I were starting a company today, I would look at the home screen of my phone and ask how many of these apps will have to be rebuilt for VR and which of the traditional incumbents are going to be too slow to adapt.”
  • Separately, Vocatic reported that “Last year, we had a plethora of headsets that used virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), including the Oculus RiftHTC ViveSamsung GearGoogle's Day Dreamer, and Sony's PlayStation VR. But they were still mostly used by tech enthusiasts. In 2017, this technology might truly become more broadly adopted by the mass-market … VR technology broke far out of the gaming world last year. Marriott Hotels used VR to promote travel to exotic locales and preview their suits. Media companies like The New York Times have packaged stories in VR, and Pornhub has been developing 360-degree "experiences." Schools all over the world have used the Google Cardboard — which pairs to phones to enable viewing of VR media — to take kids on field trips around the world.”

OUR TAKE

  • Virtual reality will profoundly change how we will access and share information and experience content.
  • Its impact will be felt in many areas including educationentertainmentdata visualizationmedical therapydesignprototyping and more.
  • At the same time, many content and application developers will need to learn new skills to pursue these market opportunities

Blortasia: A Virtual Reality Art Experience by FPM Team

Do you ever want to get inside the art work of Salvador DaliJackson Pollock or perhaps Roger Dean’s “Close to the Edge” Yes album cover?  Or float among colors in another dimension? Then Shape Space VR’s Blortasia is for you.

Blortasia is really what virtual reality is all about –  the opportunity to explore totally new experiences.  It provides a peaceful, colorful trip in the sky while listening to ambient sounds.  (currently available on the HTC VIVE)  

According to Blortasia’s creator Kevin Mack, the application started as an experiment to explore the possibilities of real-time virtual reality art. “Technology provides me with an endless palette of new possibilities and enables me to dissolve traditional boundaries of medium, process, style and genre. My intention is to create beautiful psychoactive art that engages the imagination, inspires wonder, and enhances well being.”  

Kevin’s credits include doing the special effects for Fight Club and receiving an Oscar for Best Visual Effects for his work on the film “What Dreams May Come.”

"Alexa, How was the Consumer Electronics Show?" by FPM Team

  • Last week, as thousands of companies displayed their latest products in Las Vegas, comments from media outlets included:
  • WIRED - “Alexa Just Conquered CES. The World Is Next – You can’t walk the sprawling floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center without tripping over a speakeran appliance , or even a robot or two that supports Alexa. Amazon’s voice assistant is clearly the darling of CES 2017.”
  • Wall Street Journal – “Amazon’s talking, helping, sometimes wisecracking virtual assistant became a hit in 2016, built into the company’s line of Echo countertop speakers. At the big CES electronics trade show in Las Vegas this week, she started taking over all kinds of other gadgets.”
  • Billboard - “Amazon's virtual assistant Alexa is shaping up to be a regular fixture at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), kicking off Thursday in Las Vegas, with the tech … in products ranging from power switches and vacuums to smart speakers for kids.”
  • Bloomberg - “Amazon has been partnering with prominent brands to rapidly expand Alexa’s reach. Echo users can order a pizza from Domino’s or check their balances on a Capital One credit card. In December, Wynn Las Vegas and Amazon announced plans to equip all 4,748 rooms in the resort with the Echo, enabling guests to control lightsroom temperaturedrapery and televisions via voice commands.”
  • Separately cover of The Economist stated “Now we’re talking – Voice computing Comes of Age”, with commentary including  ”Creative and truly conversational computers able to handle the unexpected are still far off. Artificial-intelligence (AI) researchers can only laugh when asked about the prospect of an intelligent HALTerminator or Rosie (the sassy robot housekeeper in “The Jetsons”). Yet although language technologies are nowhere near ready to replace human beings, except in a few highly routine tasks, they are at last about to become good enough to be taken seriously. They can help people spend more time doing interesting things that only humans can do. After six decades of work, much of it with disappointing outcomes, the past few years have produced results much closer to what early pioneers had hoped for.”

OUR TAKE

  • Alexa and other digital assistants, such as Microsoft CortanaApple Siri, and Google Assistant will facilitate the creation of new classes of applications in many markets. 
  • Concerns about the use of these services  include 1) increased exposure to cyber-crime, 2) erosion of privacy and 3) displacement of jobs.
  • As clever as these solutions seem, the market is still at an early stage of evolution.

"To Be With Hamlet": Shakespeare in Virtual Reality by FPM Team

During our recent visit to New York University’s Media and Games Network (MAGNET), we met with a team of innovators working on a Virtual Reality production where Shakespeare’s Hamlet meets the ghost of his father (Hamlet: Act I, Scene 5 at Elsinore Castle).

The “To Be With Hamlet” project is led  by Javier Molina, an engineer and media artist. and is supported by a broad set of technology and artistic collaborators.

In performing the virtual scene, Zachary Koval and Roger Casey acted out their roles in black body suits.  Their motions interact with Ikinema software and Optitrack motion capture technology to create live, photorealistic avatars.  The Unreal game engine is used to manage digital assets.  The project is using the M3diate platform, developed by another NYU team,  to “broadcast” the VR session to larger audiences. 

Also, HTC Vive VR headsets are used by viewers to enter the virtual reality scene in real-time and  “teleport” themselves around the scene.  

To Be With Hamlet” is a unique experience and another example of how VR is reshaping the world around us.

The project's website is http://hamletvr.org/