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Challenges and tradeoffs on the road to AR




Presented by Intel


Anyone involved in virtual reality over the course of the past few years, whether as a developer of VR, as a user of VR, or simply tracking the industry’s progress, will agree there’s a word they’ve heard a few times too many: Holodeck. The well-trod Star Trek concept has become a threadbare metaphor for a supposed end-point for VR technology.

While aspirational visions serve a purpose, they can also do us disservice. The reality is that we are a very long way from that Holodeck vision and that’s OK. VR is already serving many useful purposes with near-term solutions that don’t attempt to fool all our senses to the point of a complete suspension of disbelief. Most of the industry, it seems, has come to accept this, as have most VR users. We have, collectively, come to terms with the fact that great product solutions can exist in the near term, that deliver some portion of the Holodeck promise, while leaving other portions to the fictions of Star Trek and other sci-fi.

It is surprising then, when looking at augmented reality [1], that so many believe in the promise of a “Holodeck of AR” — sleek and stylish glasses delivered via hardware and software magic that rather than bringing us to any imaginable universe, instead bring any imaginable augmentation of the senses to our real world. Moreover, many believe this is deliverable in the near-term time horizon.

While solutions spanning the immersive technologies domain (AR, VR) will share dependence on common underlying technologies, augmented reality is in many ways a harder problem. AR can be thought of as a whole bouquet of thorny technical problems, each of which is its own very deep rabbit hole.

As with VR, AR involves an input-output loop that needs to execute sufficiently quickly to fool the conscious and subconscious to a degree where the results seem congruous with the surrounding world and the user’s sense of what seems natural. What’s more, in order to dovetail with the surrounding world, the solution may need to communicate with and draw from surrounding information sources. The sophistication of the processing that the solution may need to perform may vary by use case. And the solution needs to be embodied in something that a user can wear or carry in a manner suitable to their situation.

This is where the challenge becomes apparent. The sheer number of possible inputs and outputs that one can imagine, the depth of each that might be required, the sophistication of the processing that may be required for a given task, and the desired attributes for the embodiment of that solution (price, form factor, etc), make this a boundless problem.

Attributes of AR solutions

For a sampling of the technical challenges facing AR, see the Illustration below, which attempts to present the wide variety of attributes that an AR solution may embody. Titled the ‘Attributes of Augmented Reality [2], this — while almost certainly incomplete — is meant to illustrate the breadth of challenging problems to address. I’ve divided them into four main areas:

  • Sensing: Seeing, hearing, sampling, and otherwise deriving the state of the world surrounding the user.
  • Processing: Making sense of all of that data, what it means in the context of the computational tasks, simulations and/or and applications at hand, and making decisions about what to do next.
  • Augmenting: Taking the output of this processing and presenting it back to the user’s senses in a way that augments their sense of their environs.
  • Embodying: The attributes of the physical manifestation of the device or devices that deliver this solution.

This is an admittedly over-simplified division; and the sub-categories within each area are only a subset, to which many working within the field could add. This, in a way, is the point: Solutions that do ALL of these things, let alone do them well, cheaply, and unobtrusively, are a long way off.

Even more challenging still is the number of problems in the space that are ones for which solutions do not yet even exist. I like to think of the problems as falling within three distinct domains:

Problems at the intersection of power, performance, and time. For those of us that work in Silicon Valley, these are the easiest to understand. For known solutions to problems, they are simply a matter of “how long before Moore’s Law allows us to do this in real-time, within a certain power envelope?”

Problems requiring breakthroughs in science. This is a more challenging category of problems, requiring breakthroughs in limitations of existing technologies — or more often — multiple breakthroughs. Examples in recent years include image-based inside-out 6DOF-tracking, or Waveguide display technologies. Lightfield displays are an example that feels further out on the edge of today’s R&D. While predicting when these problems will be solved is much harder, there’s a certain faith that people in the field have enough smart people in labs around the world working on these problems to make progress in solving them.

Problems requiring breakthroughs in design, user experience, and social norms. I sometimes encounter folks who believe that if we tackle problems in the two above categories, the third category of problems will be resolved in short order. Personally, I think this is the hardest category of the three. We can look at many technology transitions and see that there was a sort of “maximum rate of absorption” at which the design community could adapt to the new paradigm (e.g. the half-decade of attempts at 3-finger swipes, swirly gestures, and other touchscreen UI attempts before the dust settled on what most apps use today on smartphones).

Similarly, there’s an analogous societal component — it takes time for people to get used to intrusions of technology (real or perceived) on their lives. (Google Glass learned this lesson painfully.)

Specialization versus Jack of all trades

Until a point in the far future where we can deliver all of the attributes of AR at extremely high quality, inexpensively, and seamlessly, we’re going to see interim solutions that are forced to make tradeoffs between them. This is a Good Thing. I hold a strong conviction that the path to success in this space is in doing fewer things extremely well, not many things in a compromised fashion.

It’s likely we’ll see AR solutions that tackle particular problems in point solution devices. We’ll see solutions that make compromises on some attributes in order to exceed expectations on others. We’ll see solutions that complement existing screens rather than replace them. And like with VR, we’ll see solutions that leverage the power of existing devices (PCs, game consoles, smartphones, etc.).

Fostering an environment for progress

If we take the view that solutions will need to decide on different tradeoffs for different optimal solutions for particular problems, customer segments or form factors — and that we want many solutions to make attempts at different flavors of AR solutions — then how to encourage this?

The first step is to acknowledge that the “AR Holodeck” is not likely to arrive in the near term, and that interim, specialized solutions are not only OK, but may be preferred. Second is to foster an environment that allows a multitude of solutions to materialize — through open platforms and open standards. Finally, the industry requires collaboration — as entrants solve a problem in one domain, to share that solution with others to allow cross-pollination. Through these kinds of efforts, we may get our “holodeck of AR” eventually, but we’ll have been using AR for years already by the time that happens.

Kim Pallister manages the VR Center of Excellence at Intel. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and not necessarily represent the view of Intel Corporation

Footnotes

[1] I’m going to avoid getting into the AR/MR nomenclature debate. For purposes of this article and the illustrative Attributes of AR poster – I’m covering the full spectrum of cases where a solution would supplement a user’s environment with spatial elements, regardless of how seamlessly or realistically the solution attempts to integrate them into the environment.

[2] To give credit where it’s due: I owe thanks to the folks at Ziba Design for helping lay out the design in a far more cohesive way than I originally had it on my whiteboard. Also, a huge thanks to John Manoogian III for his creation of the *brilliant* Cognitive Bias Codex, from which I took inspiration.


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Facebook’s first in-house incubator, LDN_LAB, launches in London




Facebook has officially opened its first in-house incubator, which will be housed in the company’s London headquarters.

The company first announced LDN_LAB back in December when it opened its new HQ in the U.K. capital. The incubator will launch three 12-week courses throughout 2018, with seven U.K. startups constituting the inaugural program which kicked off on Monday.

Each three-month program will focus on helping startups grow their business, with the first intake focusing specifically on using technology to build communities.

This feeds into Facebook’s broader mission to help people have more meaningful social interactions, which seemingly involves investing in communities. Indeed, Facebook launched its first Communities Summit in the U.S. last year to bring group and page admins together under one roof, and later expanded it to Europe. A few weeks back, Facebook also pledged up to $10 million in grants for a new community leadership program.

Facebook’s new HQ in London’s West End represents Facebook’s largest engineering hub outside the U.S. and it’s expected to house more than 2,000 employees by the end of 2018.

LDN_LAB is being spearheaded by an advisory panel that includes Facebook EMEA VP Nicola Mendelsohn, with support from London VC firm Bethnal Green Ventures. Participants will gain access to mentoring from “senior Facebook executives” covering elements such as product development, software engineering, data science, and marketing.

“Facebook itself emerged from a vibrant startup ecosystem which enabled us to move fast and innovate,” noted Facebook VP for northern Europe Steve Hatch. “With LDN_LAB, we want to help pave the way for the next generation of startup success stories in London and across the U.K., who will ultimately grow the economy and create jobs.”

The first seven startups, which largely hail from London and which include five female founders, kicked off their participation in the program yesterday by meeting their mentors and pitching their businesses. They include:

  • Sharecare: A platform for connecting volunteers with elderly people needing support.
  • Teacherly: A collaborative platform for teachers to create and share lesson plans.
  • Olio: A network for neighbors to connect with each other and local shops to prevent surplus food from being thrown out.
  • Goodgym: A non-for-profit that connects runners with community-based volunteering initiatives.
  • Mush: A social network for new mothers.
  • Rabble: Gamifying fitness to make it more fun.
  • Tabl: An independent food community and marketplace.

The second segment of the program will focus narrowly on content creators from Facebook and Instagram who will be given access to workshops and mentoring, while the third intake, which will begin in August, will invite “community leaders and builders” to participate. It appears this will focus largely on Facebook Groups and Pages admins.

Though LDN_LAB is Facebook’s first in-house incubator, the company has in fact previously ran incubators elsewhere. Last January, for example, it opened an incubator for data-driven startups in Paris’ Station F campus.

Tinyclues Closes $18 Million Investment Round for International Growth




PARIS & LONDON & NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–February 22, 2018–

Tinyclues, provider of a leading AI-first marketing campaign intelligence solution, today announced the closing of a USD 18 million Series B investment. Lead investor in the round was the EQT Ventures fund (“EQT Ventures”), with participation from existing investors, Alven, Elaia Partners and ISAI.

This press release features multimedia. View the full release here: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180222005622/en/

Tinyclues announced the closing of a USD 18 million Series B investment (Photo: Business Wire)

Tinyclues announced the closing of a USD 18 million Series B investment (Photo: Business Wire)

The Tinyclues solution uses a unique Deep AI technology that captures the latent business and customer insights contained in first-party data. It then predicts the future buyers for any product or service campaign with incredible accuracy, allowing brands to present highly relevant product offers to highly qualified audiences. Using Tinyclues to reinvent the way they create, target and orchestrate campaigns, Tinyclues customers have secured an outstanding +49% average increase in campaign revenue, in addition to a significant improvement in customer experience.

Backed by EQT Ventures, Tinyclues will further accelerate its already impressive growth in North America and Europe; in 2017, the company more than doubled its annual recurring revenue. The investment will also support an aggressive AI-first product development timetable, further empowering brands to win new sources of revenue from intelligent marketing campaigns.

“Tinyclues is changing the game for B2C marketers by adding an AI-first campaign intelligence layer on top of their campaign management solutions and processes,” said David Bessis, founder and CEO of Tinyclues. “As a result we’ve had a triple-digit annual growth and we’ve been able to seek out a top investor that shares our energy, drive and entrepreneurial spirit.”

Bessis continued: “EQT Ventures provides us not just with capital, but also access to individuals with exceptional technology-business growth experience, eager to help us drive our aggressive plans for international growth and our ambitious product roadmap.”

Tinyclues now powers marketing campaigns for more than 80 enterprise companies including Air France, Arcadia, Cdiscount, Charles Tyrwhitt, Club Med, Fnac Darty, Lacoste, Manor, OUI.sncf and Vente-privee.com.

“Tinyclues is transforming a multi-billion dollar global market with Deep AI expertise and a world-class team,” said Alastair Mitchell, Partner and investment advisor to EQT Ventures. “A huge percentage of sales for brands and retailers comes through promotional campaigns – mostly using manual segmentations or crude lookalike algorithms. AI is transforming this. Tinyclues’ platform automates the targeting of customers and the orchestration of campaigns. As a result, Tinyclues increases campaign revenue for its customers by up to 250%. This is game-changing not just for marketing campaigns, but promises to revolutionize the wider value chain, including retail category management, merchandising and customer communication.”

With the support of EQT Ventures, Tinyclues is moving forward its vision of AI-first marketing solutions, removing the guesswork from campaign marketing and redefining how B2C marketers interact with customers.

“For too long, targeted marketing had to rely on static rules and predefined workflows that forced customers into arbitrary segments. Tinyclues’ AI-first vision means that marketers no longer have to worry about figuring out the right criteria: they can simply input their marketing agendas and business goals, and let the AI compute the best audience for each campaign. Not only does AI maximize business impact and long-term customer engagement, but it also creates a radically new experience for marketers: by assisting them with quantitative aspects, it enables marketers to finally focus on content and strategy. This sets new standards for what marketers can expect from software,” concluded Bessis.

About Tinyclues
Tinyclues is the leading AI-first Marketing Campaign Intelligence solution enabling companies to generate additional revenue through intelligent campaign targeting and planning. Tinyclues’ solution uses Deep Artificial Intelligence to identify future buyers for any promoted item, even in the absence of recent intent. Companies like Brandalley, Cdiscount, Club Med, Corsair, Fnac, Lacoste, La Redoute, Manor, OUI.sncf, Rue du Commerce, Sarenza, Vente-privee.com, Vestiaire Collective, and more are using Tinyclues to optimize and orchestrate more than 600 million messages per month across channels such as email, mobile push notifications, direct mail, call centers or Facebook to generate quantified and sustainable additional revenue. Tinyclues has been listed as a Vendor to Watch in Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Analytics.
For more information, visit http://www.tinyclues.com
Twitter: @tinyclues

About EQT Ventures
EQT Ventures is a European VC fund with commitments of just over €566 million. The fund is based in Luxembourg and has investment advisors stationed in Stockholm, Amsterdam, London, San Francisco and Berlin. Fuelled by some of Europe’s most experienced company builders, EQT Ventures helps the next generation of entrepreneurs with capital and hands on support. EQT Ventures is part of EQT, a global leading investment firm, with more than 170 investments and 80 exits. EQT has raised approximately EUR 38 billion, and its companies employ c. 110,000 people and have revenues of approximately EUR 19 billion.

About Alven
Paris-based Alven is an early-stage venture capital firm with over $500 million under management. Alven backs primarily ambitious European entrepreneurs in the digital technology space. Alven’s sectors of interest include notably AI, data-driven platforms, SaaS, security solutions, as well as disruptive consumer models with a particular focus on marketplaces and web brands.
Past or current investments include Algolia, Dataiku, Drivy, Happn, Wit.ai (Facebook), CaptainTrain (Trainline/KKR), Bime Analytics (Zendesk), Frichti, Tinyclues, iAdvize, Peopledoc and Wynd.

About Elaia Partners
Created in 2002, Elaia Partners is an independent Venture Capital firm, focused on the digital economy and deep-tech. Elaia Partners has more than €250m under management and invests in high potential disruptive start-ups from the first financing rounds to the emergence of global leaders. With more than 60 years of cumulated experience in both venture capital and digital industries, the investment team offers a close, proactive and relevant support to its entrepreneurs.
In September 2017, Elaia Partners launched a new line of activities dedicated to pre-seed and tech-transfer vehicles. The first initiative is the structuring of PSL Innovation Fund, together with Paris Sciences & Lettres research university.
Elaia Partners was an early investor in companies such as Sigfox, Mirakl, Criteo, Teads, adomik, Talent.io, Agriconomie, EasyRECrue, Shift Technology, Tinyclues, Orchestra Networks, Agnitio, etc.
Twitter: @Elaia_Partners
www.elaia.com

About ISAI
Launched in 2010, ISAI is “the” French tech entrepreneurs’ fund gathering more than 200 entrepreneurs across the world. Almost 150 successful entrepreneurs, who have invested in ISAI, and more than 50 startup cofounders supported by ISAI share the collective ambition to write great entrepreneurial stories. ISAI invests in differentiated projects founded by ambitious teams that it rigorously selects and actively supports. ISAI means “different & remarkable” in Japanese. ISAI likes digital business models with a progressive capital intensity: marketplaces, adtech / martech, SaaS / Big Data / AI… With €160M under management, ISAI Gestion, authorized by French regulator AMF, can fund and support high potential companies at early stages (venture capital, €150k to €2M initial ticket with ability to follow on) or at more mature stages (growth equity, €1M to €15M investments).

Tinyclues
Francois Laxalt
Tel: +33 (0)6 800 513 80
E-mail: francois.laxalt@tinyclues.com
or
EQT Ventures
Lucy Wimmer
Tel: +44 (0)755 1289 177
Email: lucy@eqtventures.com

Rancher finds “creepy and un-American” spy cam tied to his tree, sues feds


Enlarge / U.S. Border Patrol supervisor Eugenio Rodriguez surveys the Rio Grande River and surrounding environs August 7, 2008 in Laredo, Texas. (credit: John Moore / Getty Images)

Last November, a 74-year-old rancher and attorney was walking around his ranch just south of Encinal, Texas, when he happened upon a small portable camera strapped approximately eight feet high onto a mesquite tree near his son’s home. The camera was encased in green plastic and had a transmitting antenna.

Not knowing what it was or how it got there, Ricardo Palacios removed it.

Soon after, Palacios received phone calls from Customs and Border Protection officials and the Texas Rangers. Each agency claimed the camera as their own and demanded that it be returned. Palacios refused, and they threatened him with arrest.

Read 26 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Twitter will crack down on automation and simultaneous actions across multiple accounts




(Reuters) — Twitter said on Wednesday it would no longer allow people to post identical messages from multiple accounts, cracking down on a tactic that Russian agents and others have allegedly used to make tweets or topics go viral.

The San Francisco-based social network also said it would not allow people to use software to simultaneously perform other actions such as liking or retweeting from multiple accounts.

Twitter, known for freewheeling discussions in short messages, is under pressure from users and Western governments to stem the spread of false news and foreign propaganda, often done with the help of automated accounts known as bots.

Twitter bots disseminated propaganda before the 2016 U.S. elections and have continued to inflame U.S. politics under cover of anonymity, academic researchers and U.S. authorities say.

On Friday, the office of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians and three Russian companies, including St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency known for trolling on social media. The court document said those accused “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

Twitter’s new restrictions are aimed at improving “information quality,” Yoel Roth of the company’s policy team said.

“These changes are an important step in ensuring we stay ahead of malicious activity targeting the crucial conversations taking place on Twitter – including elections in the United States and around the world,” Roth said in a statement.

Posting identical messages to multiple accounts, or simultaneously retweeting or liking a message from multiple accounts, could help vault something into Twitter’s trending list, giving a false impression of how viral it is among real people.

Twitter said it would give users until March 23 to comply before suspending accounts. It made an exception for bots of broad interest such as earthquake alerts.

Twitter has cracked down on other violations of its terms of service, including fake accounts by people inflating their following.

Some U.S. users with conservative politics complained their number of followers had gone down after Twitter asked them to verify their identity. #TwitterLockOut was among the trending topics.

Former Twitter user Jared Taylor, editor of the white supremacist magazine American Renaissance, sued Twitter on Tuesday in state court in San Francisco, saying the decision to ban him violated California law governing “privately owned public forums.” Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Another company, privately held online publisher Medium, recently removed accounts belonging to far-right U.S. commentators including Mike Cernovich, who said on his Twitter account on Wednesday that Medium was acting unlawfully.

Medium said it would not discuss individual accounts, but a recent rule change banned people from spreading “disinformation.”

Find Your Grind and ReKTGlobal team up for $450,000 in esports scholarships




Find Your Grind (FYG) has partnered with esports platform ReKTGlobal to create a scholarship program for students and others who want to pursue esports. Each year, the two will be offering $450,000 through the program, which focuses on high school students but is open to anyone.

FYG founder Nick Gross says that esports aptitude isn’t a prerequisite for applicants. Instead, the program is searching for people who have “identified a purpose and a direction” and demonstrate a passion for competitive gaming. ReKTGlobal will also be connecting recipients with folks in the industry and professional players. The scholarships aren’t earmarked for any particular purpose; when students receive one, they can use it for anything, such as college tuition or buying computer equipment.

In 2017, the organization began offering several different types of scholarships aside from esports. It started out focusing on music, art, and technology awards and programs. It has teamed up with Will.I.Am’s I.Am.Angel Foundation, which helps prepare kids for college and provides scholarships.

Through a partnership with memorabilia company Jostens, FYG is on tour until April to speak to high school students about opportunities in creative fields.

“Think Tony Robbins meets Vans Warped Tour,” said Gross in an email to GamesBeat. “We’re really trying to break the mold of ‘the perfect grades equals the perfect college equals the perfect life.’ At each of the events this year we’ve elected two students who embody our scholarship principal of ‘stories not scores’ — our scholarship program supports the kids who have identified a purpose and a direction by helping them take that next step. ”

ReKTGlobal specializes in esports infrastructure, such as building venues for competitions and bringing esports events to conventions. FYG partnered with it to help strategize and execute the new esports scholarship. ReKTGlobal will also be guiding the organization in future events and membership programs.

“I became an investor [in ReKTGlobal] last year, and during every FYG tour stop the No. 1 request we’d get are that the kids wanted to learn more about esports/gaming,” said Gross. “90 percent of kids these days are about playing or watching esports/gaming, so this was a void that was missing which REKTGlobal helps fill.”

FYG’s new program doesn’t just award folks who want to play esports. It also offers other scholarships geared toward various gaming-related disciplines, such as cosplaying, concept art for games, and esports commentating. And though it’s previously focused on encouraging high schoolers to pursue creative opportunities, Gross says that they decided to open up the esports scholarship to everyone. He says that by taking applications for a wide array of skills as well as from various demographics will encourage diversity in the industry.

“We wanted [the scholarships] to be available for the entire esports ecosystem, whether you’re a 30-year-old aspiring gamer or a 14-year-old cosplay fanatic,” said Gross. “It’s important that we open this up to the entire community and not just limit it to high school students.”

Esports is slated to hit $906 million in revenues this year, according to market researcher Newzoo. And the audience will continue to grow — the analyst predicts that esports fans will grow to 250 million strong by 2021.

Heartland Tech Weekly: Tech’s growing obsession with income inequality




Last week, I wrote about Venture for America founder Andrew Yang’s unlikely run for president, with the aim of convincing the general public about the need for universal basic income. Whether or not one agrees that UBI is a necessity in today’s digital economy, the stories highlighted in this week’s Heartland Tech newsletter show that inequality is increasingly becoming top of mind for tech companies and their executives.

Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes has a new book out today where he joins Yang in calling for the implementation of UBI. Meanwhile his former employer is giving troves of personal data to  Stanford researcher Raj Chetty, who will study the roles social divisions play in income inequality, Politico’s Nancy Scola reported.

Finally, as I reported yesterday, a tech think tank is calling for an overhaul of workforce training programs as artificial intelligence is poised to automate an array of tasks that workers perform today. But at the same time, the think tank — the Information Technology and Innovation Fund — came out against UBI, arguing that artificial intelligence won’t automate as many jobs as people fear.

What I feel is missing from these discussions is the hiring practices that may have contributed to income inequality. Certainly, automation threatens to disrupt the jobs of millions of Americans from Silicon Valley to the Heartland — as has been true with any new technology.  But when nearly 3 in 4 new jobs go to the 40 percent most prosperous ZIP codes in the U.S. — and companies with huge market caps like Facebook are often the ones adding these jobs — it’s not enough to simply look at how training and UBI can aid communities that are receiving fewer and fewer jobs.

As always, please send me your thoughts via email. And be sure to sign up for one of the remaining tickets to VentureBeat’s inaugural BLUEPRINT event, taking place in two weeks in Reno, Nevada.

Thanks for reading,

Anna Hensel
Heartland Tech Reporter

Featured Video

Please enjoy this video from CNBC, “Facebook cofounder’s proposal to rethink inequality”

From the Heartland Tech Channel

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Silicon Valley backlash won’t necessarily cause an exodus to Middle America

OPINION: Peter Thiel is fleeing liberal Silicon Valley for … Los Angeles. That’s according to a story from the Wall Street Journal this week, which reports that Thiel is planning to relocate to a home he bought in the City of Angels six years ago. Fifty staffers from Thiel Capital and the Thiel Foundation are also reportedly planning […]

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AT&T offers roadmap for U.S. cities that want early 5G service

The upcoming transition from 4G to 5G cellular technologies has consumers eagerly awaiting the chance to get their hands on smartphones with extraordinarily fast internet speeds. In the meantime, city mayors are grappling with how to get their citizens access to 5G service as soon as possible, without getting bulldozed by telecom companies. In a blog […]

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The Iowan Project wants to identify skilled tech workers who have left the state 

A lot of young professionals dream of leaving their hometowns after graduating high school or college in search of broader career opportunities or new lifestyles. It seems like an inevitable thing. However, it’s also a problem for states like Iowa that are losing valuable tech talent to other ecosystems. But what if Iowa could identify […]

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Beyond VB

Facebook’s next project: American inequality

A Stanford economist is using the company’s vast store of personal data to study why so many in the U.S. are stuck in place economically. (via Politico)

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When you give Alaskans a universal basic income, they still keep working 

A universal basic income (UBI) is at the heart of the debate about how society will organize itself after robots and algorithms do more and more of today’s work. Not everyone agrees how we do this. (via Quartz)

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Facebook’s brewing legal battle with cities and states 

Last week, Seattle became the first city to crack down on the secrecy surrounding online political ads. Experts say it likely won’t be the last. (via Governing)

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Austin Blockchain Collective to Advocate for Local Crypto Startups

One of the top selling points for blockchain technologies is that it decentralizes whatever it is used for — cryptocurrencies, government records or health data. So, it might sound a little strange for a bunch of local blockchain-based startups to centralize their efforts. But that’s exactly what’s happening. (via Austin Inno)

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Virtual reality is poised for big business-to-business sales




Why is the allure of virtual reality in the enterprise becoming increasingly difficult to resist for many marketers? Are there real-world use cases in business-to-business (B2B) marketing today, and will these translate into sales venues any time soon?

While some companies are active in VR and AR in the enterprise, many large businesses have been hesitant to leap into VR. This is true because the focus has been all about the technology and not as much about the potential value of these kinds of applications. Simply creating a VR application for the sake of the VR experience has no inherent value to the customer, nor does it have any value to the marketer, other than the hype it generates. After the hype wears off, however, one is left with nothing sustainable, in terms of brand association, recall or customer loyalty.

The evolution of the virtual

VR has been around for a long time. The first public experience of this kind was the Sensorama, unveiled in 1962 as a multi-sensory 3D stereoscopic movie experience that included stereo sound and even aromas to complete the “real life” simulation.

Since then, the technology has evolved substantially and is most commonly delivered in the form of a head-mounted display, which has become more popular for computer games than any other application. When one looks at virtual reality in the enterprise, we are really early in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle – in fact, we are just emerging from the “Innovation” stage and are beginning the “Early Adopter” phase. What this means is that the underlying technology is still advancing rapidly, but leading companies are willing to begin to solve important problems in this innovative way because of the significant benefits that would accrue were these early projects proven to be successful.

What is the real value of VR for marketing and sales? Well, the answer revolves around the notion of immersive experiences. When one dons a headset, all visual connection to the real world is suspended, and the user is immersed in the virtual 3D scene. (This is different from augmented reality, in which a combination of real-time views of the real world and digital objects are blended).

What this means for sales

For marketers, immersive applications are useful when complex products and solutions are difficult to understand in conventional experiences (such as presentations, or even touch-screen modes). Communicating a business outcome for complex products and solutions is extremely difficult to demonstrate “live” in the real-world with physical products or less tangible solutions (such as cloud computing, software data flows, electric grid re-routing, or molecular reactions). Demonstrating these complex solutions within a “virtual” immersive environment – such as a hospital, laboratory, data center, manufacturing plant, or oil refinery – that is contextually relevant to the user can be a highly effective way to help customers relate to what the product or solution is, how it works and why it will benefit them.

In 2017, Sirius Decisions reported that B2B salespeople’s top challenge is “their inability to communicate value differentiation.” This is why VR is starting to become a viable “early adopter” solution for many leading enterprises. Giving customers access to immersive platforms to learn about the relevant product or solution can realistically help marketers and salespeople overcome their biggest barrier to closing business.

For every company, this engagement-building with customers is a key element to developing long-lasting and lucrative relationships. At Kaon Interactive, we have identified three primary factors that contribute to successful engagement strategies:

  1. Multi-sensory engagement: Getting customers involved in learning about, and using, products in a way that involves multiple senses – touch, sight, sound and even smell all play a role.
  2. Intellectual engagement: Sharing relevant and useful information with customers so they have a meaningful experience learning about and using the company’s products and solutions.
  3. Emotional engagement: With B2B purchases, building an emotional connection is at least as important as creating a logical case for people to buy; and, continuing to develop emotional connections post-purchase leads to loyal customer relationships.

As an example, at Cisco Live in June 2017, Dell EMC used a VR application developed by Kaon Interactive for its enterprise prospects and customers. The application addressed a complex subject – how data centers are becoming more and more integrated to support the growth requirements of highly scalable applications and data repositories. This application uses VR to immerse the user inside the data center and look at how data flows using the cloud. End-user customers and prospects visualized their own IT transformation with converged and hyper-converged solutions, and thereby resulted in a deeper understanding of the company’s differentiated value propositions.

Conclusion

As VR hardware continues to evolve and become simpler for the mainstream, these experiences will become more useful in sales engagements. For example, Lenovo is the first to announce the availability of an all-in-one VR headset based on Google’s Daydream platform, which will deliver high-quality VR experiences with very little setup required. Another dimension of technology evolution that will dramatically impact B2B marketing is WebVR, the ability to deliver VR experiences on websites. Because of the recent launch of the Microsoft Mixed Reality platform, WebVR is now a reality and will become a pervasive VR environment for both B2C and B2B applications.

Immersive VR applications have the potential to transform the connection with between buyers and customers because they offer the ability to help them understand differentiated value by delivering the most engaging, personalized and truly useful experiences.

Gavin Finn is President and CEO of Kaon Interactive.

AWS’ Serverless Application Repository compounds its early advantage




Amazon Web Services gave its customers an easier way to get started with serverless applications today. The cloud provider launched the Serverless Application Repository out of beta, which provides customers with an app store to try out different applications built using Lambda, its event-driven computing service.

AWS made a major splash when it announced Lambda at its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas roughly three and a half years ago. It allows developers to write short computing functions that run in response to trigger events, without managing the underlying computing infrastructure used to run those functions.

Serverless application development has drawn quite a bit of interest from AWS customers, since it has the potential to alleviate a major drag on developers’ time.

This launch makes the already easy-to-use Lambda even easier to adopt. Customers don’t even have to write code to use applications from the repository, but the service also allows them to modify the applications they deploy. That way, it’s possible for Lambda novices to see how other companies build on the service, improving their own skills.

It also helps improve the network effects that keep people using AWS products. The more people who publish and consume serverless apps through the repository, the more likely people are to build apps on top of Lambda — and that effect keeps compounding.

Getting people deeper into the Lambda ecosystem is really good news for AWS, since it’s hard to port code that integrates with AWS’s technology to other cloud platforms, like those operated by Microsoft and Google.

Developers can publish their applications through the repository in a few steps. First, they set up a unique ID for the project, add an open source software license, and connect it to a source code repository.

Customers can search the repository for apps that they want to run, and either consume them as-is, or modify the code to meet their needs. If they do make changes, customers will be able to submit them to the application’s creator for inclusion in future iterations of the software.

Running applications from the repository doesn’t cost customers anything beyond what they pay for the cloud services underpinning it.

Ex-Google engineer: I was fired for being too liberal


Enlarge (credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

An ex-Google engineer has sued his former employer, claiming that he was wrongfully terminated as a result of expressing his politically liberal opinions—which included opposing harassment and white supremacy—on internal message boards.

According to his lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in state court in San Francisco, Tim Chevalier served as a site reliability engineer from December 2015 until November 2017.

Chevalier, who identifies himself as a “disabled, queer, and transgender” man, routinely spoke out in favor of minority and traditionally underprivileged rights—in particular to counter the opinions offered up by another then-colleague, James Damore.

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