ISTM #21: AWE From Irrational Exuberance to Clean & Sober

AWE

I recently attended the 10th annual Augmented World Expo (AWE) at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Silicon Valley. With 7,000 attendees— up almost 25 percent from last year— over 350 speakers and 250 booth exhibits, it was by far the biggest event ever for the Immersive Technology community.

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ISTM #20 Zucked: When Algorithms Replace Ethics



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I am about halfway through Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee. I am only halfway through because I am reading more slowly and carefully than I usually read. This is partly because almost every page causes me to stop and think about the deteriorating relationship between people and technology and the self-evident truth of this broadside against the most powerful company in history is painful for me to accept.

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About ItSeemstoMe

ItSeemstoMe is my personal blog and newsletter. It is for business decision makers and is about disruptive technologies. I mostly cover Immersive Technologies such as AR and non-gaming VR as well as AI-powered products such as autonomous cars, robots, chatbots, drones and wearable tech. I am always looking for a good story and if you have one, we should talk.

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ISTM #15: Will Exit VR Become the Netflix of VR?

I met Exit VR co-founder Ilya Druzhnikov on an extremely rainy night at a tech event in Pacifica. We were two of only three people who showed up, so it gave us time to talk. I learned that he and Yoni Koenig, his business partner, had devised a rare business model that promises to be lucrative and sustainable.

In 2016, at a time when both the tech and entertainment communities were going bonkers over the near-term promise of VR and AR, Ilya and Yoni decided to run a field test. They took a battered old van and converted it into a mobile VR lab. Equipped with state-of-the-industry VR gear, they would park it where people gathered in the many diverse neighborhoods of San Francisco. They would vary the price for viewing as well as the time per visit and the apps that were shown.

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ISTM #12: How Two Otter Encounters Inspired Me to Change My New AI Book

Last week, I interviewed an AI startup named AISense whose single product, Otter Voice Notes, a cloud-based platform, seems to me to have as many uses as Word does. It records conversations of almost any length between multiple people with uncanny accuracy and speed.

Start with the billion-dollar transcription industry that serves medical procedures, legal testimony and depositions, then move into all forms of education and training, and there’s the foundation for a big business opportunity. Add to that all your business meetings and Zoom video conversations. Take all the time required to turn talk into text, correct the invariable typos and homonyms, delete “um’s” and so on. Eliminate the time and expense of turning spoken words into accurate text, and I think you will see how such technology can change your life.

It turns out there are already 13 AI Speech startups: almost all have technologies in the market and such competitive markets invariably accelerate innovations while keeping prices low. AISense is the apparent leader right now and seems to be well-positioned to maintain that lead. Whether or not it does, users still win because this level of competition usually leads to rapid innovation and refinement. Otter provides users 600 free minutes a month and the platform allows users much longer recording periods, so that you can automatically record 10 hours of conference presentations if you wish.

For me, there was another revelation: Otter.ai changed the actual dynamics of my meeting with its founders. Because I trusted their tech to take notes, I could enjoy a more immersive and authentic face-to-face interaction with co-founders Sam Liang and Yun Fu and JD Lasica, my friend and fellow author, who was also present.

Otter produced an entirely more comprehensive transcript than I ever could have otherwise accomplished, and the tags produced let me find what I needed afterward with great speed. This is AI Augmentation at its best: the humans get to do humanly interactive things, while Otter tirelessly takes notes.

Liang and Fu explained how Otter’s AI can extract conversation summaries with bulleted key points and action items. It will use social graphs to see the relationships between conversation participants and can detect emotions. My talks with the Otter guys have excited me for other, more personal, reasons. They have to do with Augmenting People: Why AI Should Back Us Up, Not Push Us Out.

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ISTM #11: An AI Coach in Your Pocket

I met in San Francisco last week with the three founders of PocketConfidant, a promising AI startup based in San Francisco and Nice. Two of them are executive coaches and the third is a computational neuroscientist and IT professional who have developed software to augment the services that coaches perform increasingly for business leaders and students all over the world. They are the first company I’ve actually interviewed for Augmenting People, Why AI Should Back Us Up, Not Push Us Out, my new book scheduled for release next year.

The company, formed earlier this year, is a Business Solution Partner of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a self-regulating global organization that awards credentials only to those that it says meet rigorous education and practice requirements. Executive coaching is taught at an increasing number of elite institutions such as Harvard and Yale. ICF has about 55,000 members and is growing at a modest pace, while the demand for them is growing much more rapidly. For me, there is some irony to be covering an area that sees job growth, since most research for my new book finds me looking at appalling predictions of vocational reductions.

The growth is coming in two areas:

*Early-phase companies where scaling is suddenly rapid, and young entrepreneurs find their jobs moving from product development to managing staff and adapting to systematic management; and

*Global Enterprises where coaches are a function of HR, who uses it to fast-track junior employees who demonstrate leadership potential but lack experience.

Coaches are different from mentors in that they never suggest anything: they simply ask questions in the classic Socratic method. Clients use critical thinking to find answers within themselves. (In fact, one of the very first AI end-user applications, Symantec QA, was based on the Socratic method when it was introduced back in 1985.)

In the US, at least the number of certified coaches is growing more slowly than the demand, according to MarketResearch.com, the pressure on coaches is to be available to more people and have more time than is possible.

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ISTM #10: Does Your Grandpa Want a Robot for a Pal?

robotIt’s a problem that is getting a lot of attention. The world’s population is getting older. If you are under 70 years of age today, AI will likely be involved in how you are cared for. If a child is born into your family today, those who make such predictions say she or he can expect to live 100 years, or longer.

The problem is complicated further by predictions that as many as a billion jobs may disappear, replaced by automation in the workplace. I am researching for a book I plan to write: Augmenting People: Why AI Should Back Us Up, Not Push Us Out. I think that the future of humankind may be decided by how business and society address this issue, but for now, let’s just address caring for our elders.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is about to play a huge role in this area–as in so many other areas. For example, Google is developing AI retinal sensors to detect cardiovascular diseases. There will soon be nanochips that swim a patient’s bloodstream hunting down cancer cells and big pharma companies are developing AI-enabled drugs to detect debilitating and fatal diseases. Surgeons are using robotics to perform delicate operations with increased precision and less intrusion.

All of these are medical miracles if you ask me, but miracles have a tendency to create unintended consequences. The United Nations predicts that by the year 2100, the world’s elderly population will rise from 965 million today to about 3.1 billion people:

Who will care for them?

As I continue my research, I have been thinking there will be a great many new jobs created for younger people by the needs of older people. After all, speculation varies on it, but predictions for humans being replaced by Robots, Chatbots, Nanobots, and other AI systems in future versions of today’s workplace vary greatly with at least one futurist predicting a loss of one billion jobs in a population that continues to grow.

Surely, people will always be needed to help people. We have certain qualities that no robotic machine will have in any future scenario for most of this AI-dominated century. The smartest of these machines have not a single iota of common sense. The chatbot that gives you the wrong answer online doesn’t really mean it when it says they are sorry it didn’t work, because it lacks empathy. The faces of future robots may become extremely realistic, but I believe there will remain something mechanical in their eyes when they gaze into those of an elder patient who wishes to be listened to.

Don’t get me wrong. AI can and will do a great deal for senior citizens. In my recent talks on Facebook, several people pointed to the wonderful help that voice-activated AI devices such as Amazon Echo, Siri and Google Assistant can provide and this is bound to get better. But right now these devices really can’t provide much help based on the context of age, mental health or personal history of a user, particularly if dementia accompanies old age.

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