This email newsletter was sent out May 7th. Every week I email out a newsletter named "Life and Tech." You can subscribe here:http://eepurl.com/bjalx5
(I'm now caught up, all in preparation for this week's "Tech on Deck" -- more info on that virtual event here:https://www.facebook.com/events/1678325252396131/ ).
Unless you have been living under a rock you know that Oculus Rift is coming in early 2016 thanks to its announcement this week (https://www.oculus.com/…/first-look-at-the-rift-shipping-q…/ ) along with fact Google has thrown a half billion into an augmented reality company, Magic Leap, and Microsoft, last week, got a ton of press for its HoloLens augmented reality demos. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are about to spring into the world in a big way and the hype knob is turning way up.
At the Collision Conference in Las Vegas this week there was one guy who is already benefitting from augmented reality technology: Blippar’s CEO Ambarish Mitra. https://blippar.com/en/
His technology is featured on the covers of cereal boxes from General Mills (they make a variety of breakfast cereals from Wheaties to Lucky Charms).
Today Blippar turned on a new visual search engine. It got quite a stir out of the audience at Collision when he brought two puppies onto stage. Pointed his mobile phone at one, and it properly identified the breed as a pomeranian. Whoa.
As he pointed his phone at a variety of other things, Coke cans, cereal boxes, and even fresh fruits, it properly identified them and then a circular menu popped out with details about the object you were aiming at. All even color matched with the object you were aiming at (carrots brought an orange background, for instance).
Backstage Mitra explained more about his technology. He has millions of images in his databases, thanks to his mobile app’s 50 million users. His team has built a deep learning system that learns new objects at a fast clip. He says the secret isn’t in the deep learning part of the technology but in gathering enough properly curated images of objects so that the system can learn the difference between, say, a box of cereal, a dog, or a can of Coca Cola.
Why are brands excited by this? For the first time they can have a real relationship with the buyer at the point of consumption. For instance, I was drinking a can of Diet Coke in the speaker room. Coke, before this, had no idea that can was even being distributed there. After all, we were standing in a temporary structure built just for the conference. But now Coke can build new experiences that spring out of the Blippar’s app. They get a ton of data they never could before about who their customers are, where they are, and what context they were interacting with the brand in the first place (which is another way they are ahead of Google and Microsoft’s Bing, amongst others: Blippar is a mobile first company and isn’t encumbered by having to keep old web users happy).
Mitra demoed a few of the augmented reality experiences brands have built for me. Some were simple, others were full 3D virtual experiences. You can put full games on top of a soda can, for instance, or make 3D models pop out of a magazine ad. Just by aiming your mobile phone’s camera at things.
Which gets me to the whole point of this newsletter. Our lives are about to be augmented. Someday we’ll be wearing glasses that tell us more about things in our world (which is why Hololens and Magic Leap have gotten such big investments, more on those in a second). Mitra’s Blippar is positioned to be the underlying technology and he’s already winning (he bought competitor Layar last year which lost to Blippar because Blippar’s focus on brands and not just on technology gave it a deeper war chest).
Let’s back up though and break down the virtual reality and augmented reality space. Blippar shows that there are already startups who are building software and positioning themselves to provide pieces of a new ecosystem of apps and technologies that will enable new consumer electronics gadgets.
I see them as two separate spaces that probably will combine in the future.
2016 will see a variety of virtual reality gadgets. Oculus Rift will be the best selling, but will be joined by Valve’s headset, HTC’s Vive, which will ship earlier, but is coming from a video game company, not Facebook, with its 1.44 billion users. Insiders are telling me that Oculus has some mind blowing stuff it hasn’t shown off yet, which shows how the hype is building. Also joining are a variety of mobile phone-based headsets, from Google’s Cardboard, to Merge VR’s foam-based set that takes an iPhone 6, to Samsung’s Gear VR, which costs about $200 and takes a Samsung phone to power it. I expect to see a number of big booths at next year’s CES show to be demonstrating these to lots of willing buyers (at this year’s show Oculus had a long line waiting to try its prototypes and most I talked to said something like “holy cow.” Well, it was Vegas so a few expletives might have been used. Heh. Point is that there’s a LOT of interest in Oculus).
In 2017 we’ll see the augmented reality glasses, like Microsoft’s Hololens, Meta’s SmartGlasses, and Magic Leap jump into the fray, amongst others. What are these and how are they different? Their screens let you look through them to the real world. Where Valve and Oculus only let you see virtual images painted on your screens (along with possibly images from a camera so you can see where in the room you are).
Augmented Reality will let you have glasses you can wear while walking around. Sort of like how Google Glass worked, but with much nicer screens. This is the world where Blippar will really take off. Why? Because our expectations are that you’ll look at something and be able to learn more about it.
Today Blippar showed off just how cool that world will be.
A few notes on the Collision Conference.
You might not have heard of it yet. But it’s part of the fastest growing series of conferences I’ve seen in my career. Four years ago founder Paddy Cosgrave was sitting in his bedroom begging people to come to Ireland to speak at his new conference, called “Web Summit.” He told me most turned him down until he got a huge break: he met rock star Bono in a Dublin restaurant. Got the courage to introduce himself and ask if he could come along to a pub crawl for geeks he was arranging. Then he called back all those who had turned him down “hey, I know you told me to get lost, but now Bono is joining us, want to go on a pub crawl through Dublin with Bono?”
That first conference had a few hundred people. That got me to join the next year. Why? Techcrunch’s Mike Butcher, and others, told me it was the best conference they had ever been to. The year I joined there were a few thousand attendees. Last November, that conference had 22,000 attendees.
So what does Collision have to do with Web Summit? It’s the same conference and expo run by the same team, but Paddy and his team believe that every country should have their own brand. They are also holding a Web Summit in Hong Kong, called “Rise.”
This is the most impressive startup and technology conference. And that’s saying something. I’ll see you at Web Summit in Dublin in November.
The Blockchain is going to change, well, nearly everything about business.
Here is legendary investor Tim Draper (he’s the “D” in DFJ, which invested in Hotmail, Skype, Tesla, SpaceX, amongst many other things) talking about how he’s getting rid of legal documents when funding startups by incorporating those agreements directly into Blockchain technology. What’s that? It’s a new kind of ledger, decentralized, built into the software underneath Bitcoin. Keeps track of all the owners and agreements that go into owning a piece of a company. Listen to Tim talk about it here:https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/vb.501319654/10153263857234655/?type=2&theater
A new cloud is coming, says CRV investor.
Devdutt Yellurkar is a venture capitalist at CRV and explained to me that he’s seeing a new “Cloud 2.0” taking shape.https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/vb.501319654/10153263910299655/?type=2&theater What’s that? A set of new companies like Qubole that are set to disrupt existing cloud vendors by taking away the most lucrative of their business assets: databases. I found this to be very interesting for us at Rackspace, since we provide service on top of so much of the cloud (just this week we announced support for Microsoft Office 360).
My first week with Apple Watch.
Lots of people have been asking me what I think of Apple’s new watch. So far it does what it needed to do: be better than the competition (by just doing that it will sell 90% of the smart watches sold this year since most of the people who can afford a $400 watch are already Apple customers). That said, it’s not a category redefinition like the first iPhone was to the mobile phone industry. It doesn’t bring much new beyond its “crown” which lets you scroll up and down through emails and notifications.
I find its real value is that it saves me time. How? Everytime someone calls I look at my watch. I get a lot of spam calls and calls from people who block their caller ID. I never accept those, and it saves me seven seconds every time I get one of those because I can decline the call right from the watch.
Sometimes my phone is in the next room on the charger while I’m watching TV, too. Maybe my boss is calling just to check on something. I can answer him right from the watch without getting off the couch. That’s happened a few times in the first week already and everytime it happens it makes me happy I have the watch.
That said I’ve already removed most of the apps and most of the notifications from my watch. Why? They aren’t contextual enough. When I am watching a movie I don’t want to get bothered by, say, Facebook or Twitter. That stuff can always wait. Messenger, on the other hand, I kept on because if a customer is trying to get an answer that’s worth walking out of a movie for. Same with texts and phone calls. They are worth keeping on the watch. The other stuff, not so much. App developers need to rethink the value they are delivering to the watch. I’ll try apps as they update and see if they get smarter about delivering only really key notifications to the watch.
I do like the map integration on the watch and when Apple Pay gets more ubiquitous I can see that paying from the watch will be nicer too. The health monitoring is nice, although people who are really serious about health, like marathon runners, find it isn’t rugged enough, nor is it water proof, so they find they prefer devices from Garmin and others that are made more for them.
So, do I recommend you buy it? Only if you can get enough value out of it by saving a few seconds here and there by not being asked to pull your phone out of your purse or pocket. Translation: rich people will probably get enough value. Busy sales people and execs probably will too. It isn’t the kind of thing that I am going to be highly evangelistic about, but I’m happy I have mine.
I read all my email at firstname.lastname@example.org and anything done in response to this newsletter goes to the top of my inbox. I’m also at +1-425-205-1921 or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble. Please let me know how I, or Rackspace, the leading managed cloud company, can be of service to you. Thanks too to Hugh Macleod and team for helping me do art each week for this. We love his work!
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