Friday, November 13, 2015

Back in September, TTI/V member organization Toyota hired Gill Pratt to head a new AI/Robotics initiative that began with a $50 million R&D collaboration with MIT and Stanford. Asked if that wasn’t a rather modest sum, Pratt said of his new employer, “Once they make the decision to do it, they go whole hog. They just decide, ‘okay this is what we’re going to do, and we’re in this to win’.” This week, we saw what the whole hog looks like: a $1 billion investment in a new company devoted to AI, called Toyota Research Institute Inc.

Those kinds of long-term investments are a hallmark of Japanese business culture, Eamonn Fingleton argued in his talk, “Why the East Asian System Is Winning” (Tokyo, July 2012). Are most companies overly focused on short-term profits? Of course. Whose fault is it? Almost everyone’s, according to a NY Times infographic.

The vision of mesh networks for emergency workers is 15 years old. Last week, another of our members, Intel, announced its Wearable Smart Gateway, which it describes as “the world’s first wearable, intelligent communications gateway” for first responders.

In still more member news, Ericsson and Cisco announced a strategic partnership. TechCrunch seems uncertain what kind of strategic partnership it is, but it’s clearly different from merger (Dell-EMC) and mitosis (HP).

Former McKinsey managing partner Michael Wolf offered nine interesting predictions at a recent Wall Street Journal, but two factoids stood out for us:

  • The average American spends more time per day on tech and media then sleeping (David Virshup, Seattle, Dec 2006)
  • The day in question is 31 hours long, because of multitasking (Gloria Mark, Pasadena, Feb 2006).

The news that The North Face is using genetically engineered spider silk in its new Moon Parka will remind many of us of Tiger Tao’s recent presentation at Biotech and Beyond (San Diego, Feb 2015), but longstanding members will also recall Todd Blackledge’s talk, “Spiders, Silk, and Webs: Biomimicry and the Role of Basic Biology” (Charlotte, Dec 2010).

Want to use a drone to take photographs and videos that are as stunning as those Eric Cheng showed us a year ago? Eric wants you to as well, and offers help in the form of a new book, Aerial Photography and Videography Using Drones, and a companion learn-by-video.

But drones are a compromise with our fantasy future. Where are our jetpacks? Maybe here.

Another compromise with our fantasies is virtual reality. TTI/Vanguard has been talking about it for a long time (Nicholas Negroponte, London, July 1992; Edward LaHood, Cambridge, May 1996; Linda Stone and Kirk Marple, London, Sep 1997, to name just three early talks). With YouTube, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal throwing their hats in the VR ring, maybe its time has finally come.

Of course, Facebook, which bought Oculus Rift last year, isn’t standing still. This week, it announced what it grandiosely called a “teleporter” by 2025. It also claimed, at the Dublin Web Summit, that its AI group has “cut learning time for machines by 10x.”

Finally, if you missed New York’s Veteran’s Day parade on Wednesday, you can view it virtually through your Google Cardboard. And to the many veterans in our membership, please accept our gratitude.

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”
– Thucydides

The TTI/Vanguard Team

Author: Steven Cherry

Director of TTI/Vanguard, “a unique forum for senior-level executives that links strategic technology planning to business success. In private conferences that are part classroom, part think-tank, and part laboratory, its members—corporate and government leaders, entrepreneurs, researchers, and academics—explore emerging and potentially disruptive technologies.”

Twenty years experience as a technology journalist and editor, at the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), and the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Founded the award-winning podcast series, Techwise Conversations covering tech news, tech careers and education, and the engineering lifestyle. Teaches an intensive writing class as an adjunct instructor at NYU. Previously taught essay writing and creative writing at The College of New Rochelle.