Google’s ‘Speak to Go’ lets you travel the globe with your voice

“Speak to Go” is optimized to work with VR headsets on its Daydream and Cardboard platforms buy you can also try it out on your phone or computer without a headset, you just need to enable the mic on Chrome and get to voice exploring.

Tap the space bar and say an address and Google will drop you at that exact location if there’s Street View data available, say a city or country and the web app will place you somewhere random allowing you to discover new vistas.

On desktop the app is just a gimmicky voice search tool for Google Maps, but on a Google Cardboard headset you get a more real sense of exploration as you’re cut off from other forms of input and it’s just you speaking and moving your head to explore.

 Why it’s hot:

The app showcases the strengths of WebVR in getting new users into experiences that are seamless and intuitive. WebVR allows users to visit virtual reality experiences in a browser just by visiting a URL without requiring a headset.

Today, Google showed off a host of VR web applications on its new WebVR Experiments page, one of which lets you explore the world using voice search.

The next generation of AI will augment our brains

When Elon Musk is not driving the expansion of intergalactic colonial footprint through SpaceX or exploring ways to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, he is building a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink. 

The company is creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain with the aspirational hope to help humans merge with software and keep pace with the advancements of artificial intelligence. Musk is once again pioneering the exploration of tech innovation – progress called “neural lace”, which is a sci-fi shorthand for a brain-computer interface humans can use to improve themselves.

Image result for neuralinkThe aspiration is very positive – could help improve memory and allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices. Forget Google Glass, iWatches or Oculus Rift – our ability to connect with digital ecosystems will be embedded in our brains, arms, legs, abdomen.

Why It’s Hot: 

  • Closer step to merging biological intelligence and digital intelligence will help accelerate the speed of the connection between our brains and digital outputs of who we are – emails, texts, likes, web searches, online purchases, etc.
  • Bigger leap on medical innovation – ameliorating the effects of Parkinson’s, epilepsy, and other neurodegenerative diseases through electrodes and other implants.

Why It might be COLD: 

  • it is incredibly dangerous and invasive to operate on the human brain and only those who have exhausted every other medical option choose to undergo neuro-related surgeries. it’s always a last resort -would the risk be worth it?

Wi-fi in Cars

Following Chevrolet’s lead, Jaguar Land Rover is the latest carmaker to offer an unlimited in-car data plan in the US. The AT&T prepaid data plan will cost $20/mo and allows up to eight devices to connect simultaneously to the in-car Wi-Fi network enabled by cellular hotspot.

Why it’s hot:

Expect this to become more popular as an offering among major automakers, since connections in vehicles is beneficial for both carmakers and drivers. If carmakers can get more car owners to stump up for a subscription fee, they can offset the costs of building in the tech and connecting to the vehicle. Increasingly, the important market opportunity for carmakers is data, too, and offering an in-car connection is one way to help encourage the flow of said information. Audible commands will begin to proliferate car conversations. 

bye bye brick & mortar banks

When’s the last time you opened up a bank account? Whether it was applying online or in-person at a bank retail, the process involved ton of paperwork and ID authentications via your driver license, passport, social security card, etc. Most often, we had to visit our nearest bank to get faster services – instead of waiting on the phone with a customer service representative, speaking to my bank rep always expedited my checks and debit cards. But now that most service features are automated by our apps, will we still need brick and mortar banks?

Banking startups don’t think so. The new era of banking is mobile-first/mobile-only – Starling Bank UK launched without a single brick and mortar location. You still have to apply online but upon approval of your account, which involves things like photographing your passport or driving license via the app, you are issued a Starling Bank MasterCard debit card that can be used in the U.K. and abroad.

Why it’s hot:

The banks allows you to :

  • view your current account activity in real time, something most legacy banks fail or fall over trying to do. This takes the form of push notifications and the “Starling Pulse,” a real-time feed that displays all your account activity.
  • secure the app using biometric identification.  In addition to being asked to provide a 6-10 digit passcode, you are asked to record a short video message of you reading out a specific phrase. If you find your fat thumb making passcode mistakes and locking you out, you can voice open the bank app.

If salad ingredients and robots made love…

It would be a company called Chowbotics. They just landed $5 mil in Series A, further developing the food service robotic industry.

Its flagship product is called Sally, a salad-making robot that uses 20 different food canister to prepare and serve more than 1,000 types of salad. Number of pilot customers have signed on- restaurants, co-working spaces, and corporate cafeterias.

Benefits :

  • Sally-made salads can be precisely measured – know exactly how many calories are going into your food.
  • Data-driven platform can measure both popularity of specific recipes, # of caloric intake, increase or decline of demand on ingredients  – all that can help both healthcare and the food industry make better informed decisions.

 

bitcoin surpasses the value of gold

For the first time ever, the price of one bitcoin has surpassed the price of one ounce of gold. Bitcoin – a digital currency has the ambition to eventually replace gold as the preferred alternative asset and store of value for investors. This hasn’t happened yet for many reasons, including the fact that it’s still complicated to invest in bitcoin, as well as its volatile price history. So today’s price swap could be a sign that more mainstream investors are allocating at least some portion of their alternative investment portfolio to bitcoin.

While today’s swap can be attributed to a good day for bitcoin (up ~3%) and a bad day for gold (down ~1.3%), the big picture is that bitcoin has more than doubled in the last year (up ~185% from a year ago) while gold is essentially trading exactly at the price it was a year ago.

Why it’s hot: 

We should pay attention because…gold is quite literally the “gold standard” of alternative assets, often used by investors to hedge against potential losses in more traditional assets like real estate and the stock market.

It’s going to become much easier to invest in bitcoin very soon as the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) is about to announce whether they will approve the Winklevoss bitcoin ETF in the US Market. (Fun Fact: Winklevoss twins sued Mark Zuckerberg for $65 mil for stealing their idea as a basis for Facebook. The brothers are actively working to build the first digital currency platform amongst other start up businesses.) If the Winklevoss bitcoin ETF gets approved, it’s going to be easier for both Wall Street and regulars investors to buy the digital currency.

Digital currency means less emphasis on cash and traditional payment systems such as credit cards. welcome to the future of cashless, creditless economy. 

 

what we should eat is defined by our DNA

A startup called Habit is providing personalized nutrition/diet plans and meals based on customers’ DNA. For $299, with few drops of blood and saliva, scientists and nutritionists can tailor nutritional advice specified to your biological make up – what food your body craves, rejects, etc.

Once customers’ metabolic and DNA analyses are gathered, Habit also recommends individual’s health goals through its Nutrition Intelligence Engine algorithm to place them into one of seven Habit types. Each type has different plan specifies the ideal ratio of carbs, protein, and fat in each meal in addition to the TYPES of carbs, protein, and fat their body will respond best to.

Meal plans and access to health coach are further complemented by personalized meals that are delivered fresh to your door – for extra cost of course. Working with biometric devices such as Fitbit, participants can use their devices to monitor their progress and enable Habit staff to input any changes to plans/meals as needed.

Why it’s HOT:

  • this is a business model around hyper personalization, based on individual biological make up, can’t get more personal that this.
  • there will be the growth of converging science/nutrition/data to create consumer facing products and services.
  • Habit was valued at $210 bil by Morgan Stanley Research for its meal-delivery services – with the potential to disrupt and clearly differentiate itself from Blue Apron and other food delivery services.

From inspiration to purchasing on Pinterest

Pinterest is known to be a curation tool, enabling people to collect inspirational images and content. But the platform has been evolving into an e-commerce machine, matching users with merchants. This week, Pinterest launched a slew of new offerings to inspire, inform, and drive purchasing capabilities. The new offerings are : Lens, Shop the Look, and Instant Ideas.

The visual search tool, dubbed Lens, allows users to search by using the phone’s camera. Take a picture of your favorite chair and Pinterest will show various chairs from multiple brands. It’s an image search API that matches real-world objects with similar-looking images found on Pinterest. Think Shazam for products.

Why it’s hot: This is yet another validation of the growth consumers using mobile to search/communicate with images instead of traditional text/typing. This will become more common, driving mobile technology developers to integrate the image search APIs (EX: Amazon Rekognition, driving facial imaging capability).

Shop the Look allows Pinners to tap a blue icon and see similar products that they can purchase via Buyable Pins on Pinterest. Brands like CB2, Macy’s, Target, Neiman Marcus and Wayfair are already on board with more brands in queue.

Why it’s hot: By generating demand for products that are similar, we’re going to see a growth of smaller companies and entrepreneurs entering the market to compete with larger, established brands by offering similar products at lower cost. It’s a good thing for our economy – proliferation of perfect substitution effect.

Instant Ideas, showcases images on the user’s home page that are relevant to their likes, similar to Amazon’s recommendation engine based on your past browsing/purchasing decisions.

Why it’s hot: Through Instant Ideas, both consumers and professionals alike will be able to increase their reach of content and go deeper within a specific vertical. (Pinterest is known to be a favorite tool amongst designers – interior, fashion, industrial, etc.)

Here are additional stats on Pinterest :

  • With more than 100 million daily users, 85% are female.
  • Nearly 75% of Pinterest users have purchased something on the platform.
  • Majority of the users – roughly 60% – are in the U.S.
  • Average user stays on the platform for 15 mins at a time and Saturday afternoon/evenings are the best time to post.

Source: http://adage.com/article/digital/pinterest-intros-lens-a-visual-search-tool/307920/

Transition from Maker Economy to Grower Economy

Radical breakthroughs in science and technology are helping us grow natural alternative materials. Here are two emerging companies driving the creation and the adoption of ‘synthetic DNA’ for our maker economy.

For those who struggle with the conflicting guilt over buying genuine leather vs. faux leather, stress no more. In Brooklyn, $53 mil funded Modern Meadow is biofabricating and designing cells to produce and assemble collagen and other proteins to yield leather that is “biologically identical” to traditional types. But instead of killing animals to supply leather, we are growing the leather-like material in labs.

In upstate NY, Ecovative is growing synthetic wooden material. The company takes a fiber made from wood or plants and chops it up. They add mycelium (a root system in mushroom) to the mix, letting it grow through and around the fibers. The company then takes the composite and shapes it into any form, creating a solid surface that looks and feels laminated. Similar to 3D printing, the wooden fibers can be molded into any solid shape – chairs, packaging, and everything in between.

Ecovative recently received a Department of Defense contract to develop “programmable materials” to grow temporary living structure for the military.

Source: http://fortune.com/2017/01/26/synthetic-dna-bolt-threads/

Why it’s hot: 

Category Trend: analysts estimate that both the private and public sector will be using more alternative materials in manufacturing industries. It’s great to see how technology and science helps us become growers of resources to fuel our maker economy.

We are growing natural resources instead of consuming them – i.e. we are now able to grow meat in petri dishes. Imagine, in the future we’ll be leveraging 3D printing capabilities to build living cells – from skins, organs, etc.