Immersive Experiences that Defy Reality

Immersive Experiences that Defy Reality

Rise Conference 2016, 31/5 13.20-13.45, Machine Stage
Min-Liang Tan (Razor), Edward Tang (Avergant), Regina Tan (Bloomberg)

There is a revolution happening in immersive content and entertainment. From virtual to augmented reality users can jump into new worlds either entirely or while keeping a foot in the real world. Razer is backing an open-source approach in an attempt to become the Android of VR, while Avegant’s Glyph has been referred to as a home theatre that attaches to one’s face.

Immersive Experiences that defy Reality

My favourite tagline lately is, “Perception is reality”.

Virtual Reality is not just about wearing a giant goggle to play video games. Virtual reality is about living in your world of choice. If Mickey Mouse is about making the dream come true, then Disney World theme parks are about the immersive experience in such dream. Avatar is taking this concept to the next level: plugging a cord into your body, so that you can control an Avatar drone and live in the Avatar world. The Avatar World is so real that your identity in such world overshadows that in the reality. Which world is reality, anyways, when one has a stronger identity in one over another?

How about the movie Inception, in which you could just sleep tight and travel to another reality as you wish? You had a choice to stay in your dream, or wake up. You if you choose to stay in the dream forever, you are in coma in essence.

Technology advances are making the virtual reality more real. Is it good or bad? One example quoted in the discussion was, if the VR device is creating a cliff so real that, when in virtual world you walk towards that cliff, your fear accumulates. Would the fear create a lasting psychological effect after you take off the VR device?

On a positive note, Inside Out is one of my favourite movie. Isn’t love about creating lasting joyful experiences for your loved ones? How about taking your loved ones for a virtual journey together? When virtual reality of one is connected to another, and different people can interact, how about a virtual tour together to navigate the ocean with Nemo?

Can Connected Cars Drive Change?

Can Connected Cars Drive Change?

Rise Conference 2016, Machine Stage
Rafay Khan, INRIX; Joseph Waring, Mobile World Live

What if you could take data gathered from 275 million vehicles to generate the best real-time information in the world of drivers? INRIX is working with the biggest car manufacturers around to do just this. CRO Rafay Khan gets under the hood of the traffic problems he thinks machine learning can fix.

Can Connected Cars Drive Change

With over 10-years of experience in connected automobiles industry, Rafay started off on delivering traffic and congestion information. In particular, Rafay looked into location based services such as parking; as well as road safety, using data collected from running cars to develop real time analytics.

How does it work? Imagine all the cars running around are equipped with sensors, and they have become your eyes and ears round the city. First application would be predicting road condition in response to weather. With temperature and humidity sensors installed on windshield wipers and car bodies, we could build a live temperature map and humidity map with up to half-mile accuracy.

Secondly, braking information. If cars ahead are using ABS braking, we can tell there is a situation ahead. Together with other sensors on the chassis, we can create algorithms to analyse data pattern to identify poor road conditions such as gravel, flood, icy roads, snow etc. This has wide ranging applications in the markets like the US and Germany.

“When people go wide, we go deep,” Rafay illustrated his strategy, “we are working with all the major auto makers like BMW, Toyota / Lexus, Porsche, Audi, Ford. How about privacy issues? “we may anonymize the data.”

How does Rafay roll out the business? “we first target truck companies as their tracking systems are well built. There are plenty of data already. Eventually we shall move to consumer market.”

On autonomous driving, Rafay is making a long stride, too. “We believe autonomous driving can ensure safety, and reduce congestion. INRIX provides real time data analytics. We get data from 250k – 270k devices every minute. 0.8 gigabyte of data is collected every day. We used aggregation learning technique to analyse the data real time and predict conditions of the road a couple miles ahead.”

Traffic monitoring bodes well with smart cities initiative worldwide. Most mature cities do not have room to increase road space. Therefore, traffic monitoring and routing becomes essential. INRIX has signed contracts with Denmark and Dubai, installing GPS probe sensors on the road to improve traffic monitoring capabilities. Related to that, data analytics that help to find parking is also a hot spot. “In most cities during the rush hours, up to 30% of the road traffic is looking for parking. The government wanted to get the tools as much as the drivers.”

Do we see room for connected automobiles industry to consolidate? “Not yet. There is new company for new services. There will be limited consolidation.”

What are other areas of growth? “Infotainment in the car.”


Ethically Integrating Machines into Society

Ethically Integrating Machines into Society

Ethically integrating machines into society
Rise Conference 2016, Machine Stage
Nell Watson, Singularity University

Humans can easily lead machines astray. Singularity’s Neil Watson says this is just one consideration as our society increasingly integrates autonomous machines. She’ll unveil a new project revolving around an ethical framework that’s easily understandable by both humans and machines and aims to let humans guide machines to make better decisions.

Ethically Integrating Machines into Society

Cognitive capability is not confined in the brain. There is also the “gut instinct”, or the interior nervous system. For humans, it refers to the eyes, spine and the guts. Recall last time how your gut feels when you saw something discomforting. Fishes can recognize the floor of the sea, and before the tides go out, the fishes can go. So yes fishes do have more than five seconds of memory, in this way. Crows can be trained to, and so can chimps or even ants experience their Eureka moments. Much of this cognitive capability can be taught by reinforcement learning.

Such cognitive capability is not just the gift for mammals, but for others too. Worms can map-out the surroundings. Plants got no brains but are adaptive to light and moisture. If we can accept that consciousness is not an on-off switch, but a dial, are we so sure that we are smart enough to know how animals are? How could we make assumptions on how animal behaviour resemble that of human?

Peter Singer’s Personism philosophy has its grounds. Animals can be human like. In legal world we have the notion of corporate persons too, which doesn’t even have flesh and blood.

So if a degree of personhood is expressed, can machines become persons one day? For instance, Open Worm, the world’s first digital lifeform, has over 320 “neurons”, and it has the necessary cognitive capabilities to navigate.

Isn’t that how human baby learn about the world?

We have to realize that digital offspring is coming to the world. How are we going to treat them? Untrained machines would tell the emperor that he is not wearing any clothes. This is inhuman as it does not care about human feelings. How are we going to treat them? Are we going to keep them in custody, or instead, treat machines like our dogs and condition them with care?

Are we playing the role of God? One day, people are changing from creators to curators. Nell believes we shall be teaching machines ethics, as she co-founded OpenEth, an ‘ethical explication engine’ that aims to crowdsource ethical heuristics for autonomous systems. She would like to specify scenarios to teach machines ethics.

One day, we may not just be teaching machine ethics, but also love. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved, just to love and be loved”, Eden Abez.

Wearable Tech as Fashion Articles

Wearable Tech as Fashion Articles

Rise Conference 2016, 31/5, Machine Stage
Sonny Vu (Fossil Group), Barbara Minuzzi (Investhaus and IH Ventures)

Technology and fashion are overlapping like never before, with wearables being the most obvious example of this. Sonny Vu, who’s gone from the head of Misfit to Fossil, manages partnerships with a dozen-plus major fashion brands and describes how the link between the two worlds is necessary and beneficial.

Wearable tech as fashion articles

Sonny founded in 2011 Misfit a technology start up on wearables. Unlike Jawbone and Fitbit who try to launch their own techy-looking product, Misfit took a different-route – partnering with traditional fashion brands, Speedo and Swarovski to name a few. Misfit raised about $63 million in venture capital in three rounds of funding. Investors included Xiaomi, GGV Capital, JD.com, Horizons Ventures, as well as Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners. In 2015 Fossil Group bought Misfit for $260 million. “Imagine how 200+ engineers and cloud technicians are working side by side with Swiss watchmaking craftsmen. How cool is that marriage!” Sonny joined Fossil after the merger, taking the wearable product niches to over twenty Fossil operates brands like Michael Kors, Armani, Kate Spade, Diesel, DKNY etc. In 2016 Fossil is launching 100 wearables across eight brands.

Fossil has sold over 50 million “connected” watches and accessories, in which 35 million are watches. How come Fossil succeeded in wearables while some other brands are struggling? “Two reasons. First, Fossil’s brands and Misfit team have a shared interest to make wearables relevant, fashionable. Second, we have a goal of getting the best in both worlds, to have wearables changing the personal lives.”

Wearables is no longer just a plastic strap of flashing lights on your wrist. It can be fashion. “People want things much more wearable but doesn’t look like wearable technology.” Sonny’s team is leading the effort to combine great fashion brands and technology know-how, solving the pain points such as charging the device. Traditional fashion items do not require charging. Can we make wearables free from charging? “Very difficult. How about charging the device two times a week? Not great unless it has a lot of benefit. How about six months of battery life? Fossil is already there.”

“Fashion is customization, it is about self-expression, which is very difficult from consumer electronics perspective.” Sonny elaborated. “A successful tech start-up may launch a few products a year at best. In the fashion world, it produces a few dozen new products a year.” The key of success for wearable fashion is “staying culturally relevant.”

We are no stranger to “sports and performance” wearables, which have activity trackers that are used during workouts. At best we may wear it three hours a day. However, “some people just want things that fits their lifestyle. How about wearing it 21 hours a day instead of 3?” Sonny believes wearable fashion has to be broad reaching. There are mainly three categories of wrist wearables: fitness bands and trackers, display smartwatches, and hybrid smartwatches that looks like traditional watch but connected. “For men, there is always room for luxury watches like Rolex. People who pay $100k+ for watch don’t just buy it for telling the time. These watches can be connected and stay relevant. However, that just reach less than 1% of the mass market. We target watches of price range $50-$100. The mass market. This is where stories are to be told.”

How about wearables for women? “It has a very high bar. Wearables on the body is for self-expression. Over last few years we are getting better at this.”

And kids wearables? “Some products have appeal, but this segment is difficult in general. How do you keep these devices to stay on the bodies?”