w/Wiser! #125 - 11th May 2023
This is the first week of the new model for the Wiser! newsletter. From now on, the main issue of Wiser! is sent to only the paying subscribers on a Friday, that's you! All those subscribers on a free plan, which is and will always be the majority, will have to wait until Tuesday to get what you're seeing today.
I'm still nervous about taking this approach in case it bombs, but the reason for doing it is simple. To test how much value there really is in this newsletter.
Here's The Thing: it takes a considerable amount of time to produce Wiser! There's the research, the filtering out the chaff, thinking of the impact of the story, writing the story and then setting it up on the newsletter platform. There's all the other stuff, like membership management, admin, finding advertisers, cross promotions with other newsletters.
Frankly, without a core group of readers who value my work enough to make a small contribution of only €12 to get this email (which is just €0.23 an issue) I would have to call it quits.
And remember, all paying subscribers (that's you) now get a free copy of my new eBook: The Utility of Emerging Technology.
Premium subscribers get even more, because they get access to my long-form weekly article AND the reference database of 250+ consumer brands, organisations, locations and personalities using emerging tech to build better customer relationships.
For now, the best that you can help me is to use the thumb buttons at the bottom of this email to let me know what you think of it. Or better still, hit the Comment button and leave me a message.
P.s. Remember: Insight and Information Gives You Leverage!
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The utility of Virtual Reality and the metaverse: don’t write it off just yet!
One of the defining characteristics of the metaverse is its technical complexity, with elements such as blockchain, crypto, NFTs, interoperability, and community creator economy as components. However, to avoid the need to understand this tech jargon, I prefer to think of the metaverse simply as a 3D version of the internet.
This in itself, makes the technology a little more accessible and understandable. However, the question is: is the metaverse all hype? And have we seen the back of it? Well, I’d say, hold your horses, there cowboy, don’t be so quick to write this space off just yet. There are many use cases and real-life examples where a 3D, immersive experience is delivering value and benefits that can not be achieved using conventional technologies or approaches.
In this week’s Premium article for Wiser! readers, I take a look into the utility of virtual reality and give the real-life examples that demonstrate the utility of virtual reality.
What's happening in the Brand Strategy Collection?
Consumer brands are using emerging technologies, like AI, NFTs, virtual reality and blockchain, to win new marketshare and engage with their customers. Over the past 6 months, I've tracked, analysed and documented over 250 consumer brands, organisations and personalities with are enhancing their brand using emerging tech.
Access to the Brand Strategy Collection is limited to Premium members only.
This week's updates include:
Wendy’s AI chatbot will take your order now
Wendy's is partnering with Google to develop an AI chatbot that can take customers' drive-thru orders, with the aim of reducing wait times and improving the customer experience. The chatbot, called "Wendy's FreshAI," will be tested for the first time at a Columbus, Ohio, restaurant in June. Google is customising Bard, its large language model, to understand Wendy's-specific terminology, such as "Frosty" and "JBC."
“It will be very conversational,” Wendy's Chief Executive, Todd Penegor, told the WSJ. “You won’t know you’re talking to anybody but an employee.”
Here’s The Thing: the chatbot is designed to take verbal orders from customers who are waiting in line at Wendy's. Its purpose is to streamline the ordering process and reduce long wait times. Anticipating the human worker at risk criticisms, Wendy's emphasised that AI will not replace human workers (at least not yet). Instead, employees will become “monitors” of the AI-powered drive-thru and provide customer assistance as needed (much like you find 1 or 2 assistants helping out at the dozen self-checkout tills at a supermarket.) Source.
Klarna launch AI-powered shopping feed
Buy Now, Pay Later provider, Klarna has updated its app to include new features such as a personalised shopping feed, a personal shopping service called Ask Klarna, and a resell feature. The AI-powered shopping feed is powered by Klarna’s proprietary AI product recommendation engine.
Here’s The Thing: AI tools are now table stakes in any intuitive user interface. Complete front-to-back integration is meant to help users find products and track spending while accessing back-end information like shipping updates, digital receipts and manage returns. The new Ask Klarna free personal shopping service provides on-demand access to shopping experts via chat or video call. How long before we take all this for granted? My guess is not long, just like when Amazon reset our expectation for home delivery to next day fro 4-5 days, and free. Source.
The Utility Of Emerging Technologies:
how consumer brands use emerging tech to build better customer engagement
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1. Warren Buffet compares AI to the Atomic Bomb
At Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, Warren Buffett compared artificial intelligence to the creation of the atom bomb, expressing both concern and amazement over AI’s rapid advancement. He explained how his friend, Bill Gates, showed him ChatGPT. He admitted the technology “can do amazing things.” Specifically, Buffett was impressed by the chatbot’s ability to check legal opinions. However, he also expressed his worries, stating, “I know we won’t be able to un-invent it and, you know, we did invent, for very, very good reason, the atom bomb in World War II.” Source.
2. Is Microsoft Edge slowly killing off Google Chrome?
Microsoft has just released significant new updates to Bing Chat. The new features include image and video answers, plugins (similar to ChatGPT), chat history, and better integration with the Edge browser. To top it off, Microsoft have removed the waitlist.
Here’s The Thing: anyone with a Microsoft account can now access all these features for free. I switched from Brave (a derivative of Chrome) over to the Edge browser over a month ago and have not looked back. Bing Chat is fully integrated with Edge and it’s just as easy to use on my laptop, tablet and smartphone. The AI doesn’t always get it right, so I’m still cautious about relying on it 100%, but it’s just a matter of time as Microsoft continues to relentlessly push updates to maintain its lead in the AI race. Source.
Internal leaked doc suggests Google is screwed by AI
Bloomberg reported a leaked internal document from Google engineer Luke Sernau, that pretty much suggested that Google are screwed. The takeaway is that Google does not have a secret sauce, or what investors would call “a moat” when it comes to AI.
Here’s The Thing: The Google advertising model is entirely built on their dominance of Search that allows them to return results that deliver the best advertising returns. Now, AI Search has removed the need to wade through links and read articles yourself because the AI will do that for you. Source.
3. AI can now read minds
Scientists have developed a new AI method called CEBRA that can translate brain signals into video with over 95% accuracy in frame prediction. The study, reported in Nature, involved inputting data from a mouse's brain and a video to predict movement, and the results showed highly similar latent variables across different types of neural data, with differences in performance across the visual system of the mouse. This research could have mind-boggling future applications and open up new frontiers in our understanding of the brain through AI technology. CEBRA. Source.
4. Should Facebook be able to monetise the data of underage users?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed changes to a privacy order applying to Facebook. The FTC allege that the company failed to protect children’s data and “misled parents” about the functions of the Messenger Kids app. Samuel Levine, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, said “Meta’s recklessness has put young users at risk, and Facebook needs to answer for its failures”.
Meta’s response so far has been to say that the FTC’s case is a “political stunt” and that the commission lacks authority to change court-approved settlements. They also say that the FTC is behind the curve and not up to speed with changes Meta has already made. The commission is pushing for a blanket ban on Facebook monetising the data of underaged users, and to prevent it from launching new products or services without permission. No wonder Meta is fighting tooth and nail. Learn more: Source..
5. European Parliament votes to temporarily ban spyware
A European Parliament special committee has voted to temporarily ban the sale, acquisition and use of spyware. The surveillance technology industry is booming and EU countries and companies are on the frontline. The committee found that both Hungary and Poland had illegally used software to monitor journalists and opposition figures. The industry is murky and largely unregulated.
Last year an investigation by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz found that a jet linked to an Israeli spyware tycoon had secretly flown surveillance hardware from Greece and Cyprus to Sudan. There they were given to General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who commands the RSF militia, which is currently wreaking havoc across the country of 40 million people. Source
6. Anthropic shows how its AI training differs from OpenAI's
Anthropic, a startup founded by former OpenAI executives, is trying to carve out its own well-defined spot in the fast-developing market for services powered by large language models, known as generative AI. In a blog post, the startup explained the methods it employed to train its ChatGPT-like chatbot called Claude to generate results that are less harmful and more accurate than other generative AI services.
While Anthropic previously used human contractors to vet the results its language models produced, it has now automated that process based on a set of “constitutional” principles that determine whether or not Claude will engage with certain types of questions and requests.
Here’s The Thing: Anthropic’s goal is to make the checking process faster and more scalable whilst also avoiding subjecting humans to the worst examples of “disturbing” content generated at the behest of other humans. This is a different path to OpenAI who have adopted an approach known as “Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback,” which relies on human input to train the large language models to respond accurately to questions and avoid overtly racist or hateful language. Source.
7. Apple isn’t growing anymore, but that’s ok
The last of the BigTech earnings calls came from Apple, and it came just after I’ve put last week’s Wiser! to bed. No surprise, it showed that once again Apple remains king of the smartphone, even in a shrinking market. IDC recently reported that worldwide smartphone shipments fell 14.6% in the last quarter. Yet Apple reported on Thursday that iPhone revenue bucked the trend, growing 1.5% in the quarter.
However, in other categories Apple’s results were so-so. Sales of Macs and iPads declined while wearables dropped slightly. The Services business grew but only 6%. Overall, Apple’s revenue fell 3%, and Apple predicted a similar result in the next quarter. Having said all of that, Apple is still a huge cash generating machine, even if it is slowing down. Source.
8. Spotify reportedly removed tens of thousands of AI-generated songs
Spotify has reportedly pulled tens of thousands of tracks from generative AI company Boomy. It's said to have removed seven percent of the songs created by the startup's systems, which underscores the swift proliferation of AI-generated content on music streaming platforms. Universal Music reportedly told Spotify and other major services that it detected suspicious streaming activity on Boomy's songs, to glean more money from Spotify, which pays out on a per-listen basis. Source.
9. Amazon plans to increase investment in AWS and generative AI
Amazon plans to increase its investment in emerging technologies, such as cloud computing and AI, and reduce spending in their core fulfilment and transportation areas. Amazon are reported to be offering to pay customers $10 to come and pick up their own packages in some parts of the USA.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy stated that the company is not done investing in its cloud business, AWS, and continues to invest in generative AI and machine learning. Jassy believes that new cloud business will come from machine learning in the next few years. Amazon's AWS segment sales increased by 16% YoY to reach $21.4 billion. Source.
Amazon has a new home robot with ChatGPT-like features that understands its surroundings
Amazon is developing new features for its Astro home robot in a Project called “Burnham”. The project will add conversational abilities and artificial intelligence to Astro and enable the robot to remember what it saw and where it’s been. Astro will be able to engage in Q&A dialogues, follow up on previous interactions, and take appropriate actions. It will understand everyday activities in a home setting by leveraging common-sense knowledge derived from language model training. Source.
10. Star Wars limited edition 'digital toy' NFTs land on flow
To celebrate "Star Wars Day, aka “May 4th," the NFT startup Cryptotoys announced the launch of digital collectibles based on the popular sci-fi franchise. The Star Wars NFT collection includes 15 limited edition "digital toys" of iconic characters from the series, such as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Darth Vader. The NFTs are minted on the same blockchain network as collectibles like NBA Top Shot and UFC Strike.
Here’s The Thing: one utility for NFTs is “collectibles”. In this collection, the buyer is buying blind, in other words, they don’t know which character they’re going to get. Which is part of the appeal, because the secret to collectibles is “scarcity” and “status.” Create a limited number of a limited edition for an iconic brand and you have the core ingredients for a collectible. The beauty of the digital model for the NFT producers is that they will continue to know where every NFT is and, in perpetuity, claim a royalty every time the NFT exchanges hands, unlike other collectible. Source.
What else is going on in Tech
- AI identifies 3 new anti-ageing drugs. New research by biotech Integrated Biosciences and scientists from MIT and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has demonstrated the potential of AI in discovering novel senolytic compounds (small molecules linked to suppressing age-related diseases.)
- Sam Altman’s Worldcoin has released its first major consumer crypto product. Worldcoin’s “minimalist” wallet, called the “World App”, wants to help you prove you’re human in the age of AI. (I wrote this about it 18 months ago.)
- Hollywood writers and studios battle over the future of AI.
- Kazakhstan collects $7 million in crypto taxes.
- Airbnb revenue growth slows to 20%.
- Meta has announced a new open-source AI model that links together multiple streams of data, including text, audio, visual data, temperature, and movement readings.
- OpenAI reported $540 million in losses last year. CEO Sam Altman plans to raise $100 billion in the next few years to develop a smarter AI capable of self-improvement.
- PwC is to put $1 billion toward scaling its own AI capabilities as well as helping its clients do the same over the next three years.
- The US Gov has pledged a mere $140 million to “establish seven new National AI Research Institutes focused on ‘responsible AI innovation.”
- Founded by robotics and AI leaders from Microsoft and Nokia, Ally Robotics have designed a ”radically cheaper” and more user-friendly robot that can learn simply by watching humans perform a task.
- Bank of Canada asks for public feedback about a national digital currency. The bank cites the diminishing use of cash, potential competition with cryptocurrencies and national economic stability as reasons to prepare for the potential shift.
- ChatGPT is featured in a new NBA commercial. Made with singer/songwriter ****Jack Harlow, the ad shows him asking ChatGPT about the NBA playoffs and some of the most iconic moments in NBA history.
Interesting Facts and Figures
- 5 to 20: That’s the number of years Geoffrey Hinton, “the godfather of AI,” thinks it will likely take for AI algorithms to “outstrip” their human creators, Wired reported.
- 30%: That’s the percentage of back-office roles at IBM that CEO Arvind Krishna told Bloomberg he “could easily see...getting replaced by AI and automation over a five-year period.”
- 24 million: that’s the number of lines of computer code needed to operate a modern fighter jet, according to the announcement of a new strategic agreement between BAE Systems and Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.
- 23%: that’s the percentage of Americans who said they’d never get a cellphone in 2000.
- $774 million: that’s how much in-game currency Roblox brought in to its users last quarter. The platform is on track for 1 billion daily active users )that’s 1 in every people in the world!