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Where are ALL the killer Augmented Reality apps?

Last episode, the Joes checked out the cavalcade of AR & VR Devices announced at CES 2019 and bemoaned the lack of applications for the wide variety of AR smartglasses that debuted. While indulging their rampant technophobia, the guys missed some truly outstanding Augmented Reality use cases — from seamless navigation to a little toy NASA cooked up in 1982. NASA!

TRANSCRIPT

00:00 Joe Johnson: Welcome to the In Reality Podcast. Now, starting, three, two, one.

[music]

00:07 JJ: Welcome to the In Reality Podcast, where we cover all things augmented and virtual reality. The In Reality Podcast is hosted by Joe Bardi, and Joe Johnson, and features news, commentary and perspective from industry veterans and experts. First up, introductions. I’m Joe Johnson, creative director at Marxent Labs.

00:22 Joe Bardi: And I’m Joe Bardi, communications director here at Marxent.

00:24 JJ: Last episode, we checked out the cavalcade of AR and VR devices that were announced, shown off, teased, etcetera at CES 2019. And we bemoaned the lack of applications for the wide variety of AR smart glasses that debuted. Joe Bardi, I blame myself for this. I’ve been so focused on my rampant technophobia, I missed some truly outstanding use cases, from seamless navigation, to a little toy NASA cooked up in 1982. NASA, Joe.

00:47 JB: Joe, it’s time to put our hater blockers on, and get lit AF with some on-fleek augmented and virtual reality applications.

[vocalization]

01:00 JJ: The genesis of this week’s episode is a story from Next Reality, titled ‘Mimesys Brings Its Version of Augmented Reality Video Calling to Magic Leap via Intel RealSense’. And if that headline is making your head hurt, you’re not alone. The release of avatar chat for Magic Leap One, and Spatial for HoloLens in 2018, both apps that enable users to make holopresence calls to users on their respective mixed reality headsets, appear to have, quote, “revolutionized video calling via augmented reality”. Users can select cartoonish but expressive avatars, and while on the call, their movements and facial expressions are translated into sometimes choppy, sometimes awkward, sometimes accurate holograms in mixed reality. Whether they’ve revolutionized video calling, created the least useful video chat applications, or invented the first Star Wars hologram is a separate debate. But Mimesys has apparently one-upped both applications with a unique solution that will enable real-time holographic calls for enterprise businesses in 2019. Instead of representing users with avatars, Mimesys’s solution utilizes Intel RealSense depth cameras, Magic Leap headsets, and high-bandwidth, low-latency network connectivity to capture participants on video, and transmit the footage in real-time for display via the spatial computing capabilities of the Magic Leap One.

02:07 JJ: Call participants can interact with 3D content simultaneously, and their interactions with that content are combined with their holographic video. Davy Loots, CTO of Mimesys writes, quote, “We aim to do nothing less than change the way people communicate, and work together remotely. Using the capabilities of new devices like the Intel RealSense depth cameras, 8th Gen Intel cores, and Magic Leap One air headsets, we can bring the human element to a remote interaction like never before. We achieve this by capturing and displaying people as true three-dimensional holograms of themselves. The real secret sauce in Mimesys’s offering is the elimination of elaborate motion capture studios for holopresence calling. Like Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture studio, in favor of off-the-shelf depth cameras for everyday use. With its dramatically reduced footprint and significant cost savings, their system is usable now, despite some frame rate constraints, and some occasionally unflattering video representation in three dimensions. So what do you think, Joe? Killer app? Giant waste of time, somewhere in between?

03:00 JB: Somewhere in between.

03:01 JJ: Did you watch the videos?

03:02 JB: I did. So the first thing I thought of when I was reading about this was Animoji on the iPhone.

03:08 JJ: Okay.

03:08 JB: It’s like… This is like…

03:09 JJ: You’re gonna have to connect the dots for me.

03:10 JB: So Animoji on the iPhone is you wanna send a text message, you hold it up, and it turns your face into a panda, and it matches your facial expression.

03:17 JJ: How good is it?

03:18 JB: The matching of the facial expressions is good, because they’re animated characters, you really have to exaggerate your expressions to get good play. But that TrueDepth camera on the iPhone works great, and so… Whatever. But it’s a gimmick.

03:33 JJ: Sure.

03:33 JB: It’s a goof.

03:34 JJ: We’ve talked about how gimmicks can be toys, and toys are integral in everybody’s lives at this point, though.

03:38 JB: It’s hard for me to see a business application where you’re using avatars for the people.

03:45 JJ: Okay. So what you’re saying is Mimesys is doing the right thing here.

03:48 JB: Yes, you… It needs to be the reality of the people. You need to be capturing, actually, the people. And, up until now, that was incredibly expensive, and very difficult, and you needed something like Microsoft Holo Studio to do that.

04:01 JJ: Did you watch the stuff for that?

04:02 JB: Yes, yeah.

04:03 JJ: Their solution wasn’t bad.

04:04 JB: No, it’s cool.

04:04 JJ: But it’s super-expensive.

04:06 JB: Yes, it’s an industrial solution, almost. And it’s not something that you can have in every conference room, right?

04:12 JJ: Yeah.

04:12 JB: To me, even this solution is still…

04:16 JJ: Nascent?

04:16 JB: Too much technology, not enough bang, right? So when I think of… I still remember the first time I saw what we used to call The Death Star Conference Phone.

04:27 JJ: Yeah.

04:27 JB: That big, black conference call phone.

04:30 JJ: The one with the nice curves.

04:31 JB: Yeah. That became standard in conference rooms in the late 90s, or maybe early 2000s, maybe even earlier than that, and I may have just work for bad companies.

04:38 JJ: Yeah.

04:39 JB: That was a very simple piece of hardware. You just turned it on. It had good sound. It worked. It was great for conference calling, right?

04:45 JJ: Yeah. So, hang on, let me break in real quick. The Mimesys system is what? I think it’s four RealSense cameras from Intel. I imagine, eventually, when the cameras get good enough, they’ll only need maybe two. And, at that point, maybe you just install in a corner of a given conference room, and that’s your holographic conference room.

05:01 JB: Call me when it’s one device…

05:03 JJ: Yeah.

05:03 JB: That you put in the middle of the table that plays… Pick images of the people you’re talking to.

05:10 JJ: I mean, it could be as easy… So you know electronic whiteboards, right?

05:13 JB: Yes.

05:13 JJ: They’re ubiquitous now.

05:14 JB: Yes.

05:14 JJ: And they could probably make that work, like you have four cameras installed on the corners of your digital whiteboard, or whatever.

05:20 JB: Right.

05:20 JJ: And they capture everybody in the room simultaneously. This is a computing challenge, obviously.

05:25 JB: Sure.

05:26 JJ: But it could be that… It could be that easy.

05:28 JB: And for large companies that have a lot of… Have large communication budgets and stuff like that.

05:33 JJ: And have a bunch of employees spread across the globe.

05:35 JB: Yes, this does feel like this is now viable.

05:39 JJ: Yeah.

05:39 JB: For most companies…

05:40 JJ: Yeah, it’s not a thing.

05:41 JB: Probably not yet, but that’s true with most of the technology we end up talking about in the show, is we’re looking at stuff that…

05:47 JJ: You mean we were always talking about cutting-edge technology instead of stuff that’s good?

05:49 JB: More or less. I will say I think it’s awesome, I love it.

05:52 JJ: Yeah.

05:52 JB: I love the… And I think the applications for that kind of… Just that telepresence extend far beyond the office.

05:58 JJ: Yeah.

06:00 JB: I have kids. I think of grandparents who are far away, being able to actually interact.

06:03 JJ: Yeah.

06:03 JB: And you’re seeing some of that with the… Oh, god, what is it? The Google… Whatever the one with the screen at Amazon. I don’t remember who, too, makes it. I just remember the commercial with the girl cooking dinner, and the father is helping her. And he’s on a screen, and he’s in the room, and then she says, “Alexa, hang up.” It’s the Amazon Alexa with a screen, whatever that thing is called.

06:23 JJ: We’re gonna link that in the show notes.

06:24 JB: Yes. But, regardless, my point is there’s a desire for the ability to have much… Sort of present phone communication. That’s why FaceTime and video chat is such a hit.

06:36 JJ: I think that’s interesting. There’s definitely a segment that never uses any of that stuff. I know that you and I would rather text rather than phone call, basically, in any scenario. And I don’t know when I would have a need for telepresence other than for my job.

06:48 JB: Right.

06:49 JJ: But there are definitely people that use those things. Like I see people using FaceTime on a street all the time in St. Petersburg. I’m walking down a road, I saw three or four people just FaceTiming each other, and it was like the future, like it was in a science fiction film that I didn’t realize I was in. It was really interesting.

07:08 JB: Yeah. Yes. I like that we live in the age of video… It’s like, what would happen if we all could make video calls and nobody really cared or thought about it… ‘Cause when I was a kid, it was like, one day you’ll make…

07:15 JJ: Dick Tracy on the watch and… Yeah.

07:16 JB: Exactly.

07:17 JJ: Or I remember video calls in Back to the Future Two.

07:21 JB: Yeah, sure.

07:22 JJ: Not to get super nostalgic…

07:23 JB: And you’re like, “Wow, that’s gonna be amazing.” And now we all have it, and everybody takes it for granted…

07:27 JJ: Yeah, it’s pretty ubiquitous at this point.

07:28 JB: Which is amazing. It’s amazing. But, regardless, the bottom line is the companies that are making this hardware and the software continue to look for killer apps.

07:38 JJ: Yeah.

07:38 JB: For 3D visualization tools like the Magic Leap One.

07:42 JJ: I’m just gonna point back to a… I’m gonna point back to a prediction that I made, that the real killer apps are gonna go to enable people to interact with each other. And the fact that in this holopresence call using Mimesys’s system, you can interact with 3D objects together, there’s a multiplayer component to it…

07:56 JB: Right.

07:57 JJ: I can’t see it working if you can’t meaningfully interact with each other’s digital avatars. That’s just coming with it.

08:03 JB: And one other thing I found surprising, reading all of this, is that Facebook is never mentioned.

08:08 JJ: Oh yeah.

08:09 JB: This is really why Facebook bought Oculus and…

08:13 JJ: That’s what they talked about anyway.

08:14 JB: It’s the idea of social interaction, that’s kinda their corner.

08:18 JJ: Yeah.

08:19 JB: Right. And so…

08:19 JJ: Is it though?

08:20 JB: Well, no, their corner is selling as advertising based upon our likes and dislikes, but that was how they were presenting themselves, and it seems like it’s already passing them.

08:30 JJ: Yeah.

08:30 JB: Which is sort of interesting, which I just noted. I thought it was interesting.

08:33 JJ: Yeah, I think it’s great. There are some other social interactions where I would like holopresence, like have you ever used big screen, the VR big screen app?

08:40 JB: No.

08:41 JJ: So big screen is basically a shared theater that you play with other players in VR. And it’s literally just you watch a movie together in a VR space, and you’re gonna voice chat or whatever. Holopresence would be fun there. Replicating as many real-world things that we love as best as we can, I think, is probably the way it’s gonna go.

08:58 JB: It will be very useful in the coming future, when no one leaves their house.

09:01 JJ: I’m looking forward to that.

[chuckle]

09:03 JJ: Let’s move on.

09:05 JB: Yes. Space, the final frontier.

09:08 JJ: Is that where we’re going?

09:09 JB: Isn’t DOUG next?

09:10 JJ: DOUG is next. So, moving on from holopresence, although kinda not, we’re gonna talk about my man, DOUG. Not the Nick toon with the big nose, but the dynamic on-board ubiquitous graphic software that has been in development by NASA since 1992.

09:24 JB: Say that five times fast.

09:25 JJ: No.

09:26 JB: Don’t…

09:27 JJ: No. When an astronaut in training puts on a virtual reality headset, they’re looking at an artificial 3D environment rendered to reproduce everything an astronaut might see when they go on an actual space walk at NASA’s virtual training… At NASA’s virtual training facility.

09:41 JB: Now, there are no UFOs in… That they can’t report or see in the training.

09:46 JJ: You know, I don’t know. I haven’t asked… Look, I haven’t gone to SpaceCamp recently…

09:49 JB: It’s don’t ask, don’t tell about UFOs.

09:50 JJ: But I really want to. I still really want to.

09:52 JB: Ah, SpaceCamp. Max in space.

09:54 JJ: So, anyway, DOUG makes it so that every astronaut who walks out the door of a spacecraft and takes their first non-step into space can feel like they’re following a routine or they’ve done it before. The entire VR training system links an array of sensors that track head, chest, and hand movements as well. A pair of gloves can reproduce a lot of the different things that someone’s hand, in particular, does, that includes closing and opening palms, pointing, grasping an object, twisting a wrist, everything, which, as we know, is super-important for interacting meaningfully with virtual objects.

10:21 JB: Yes.

10:22 JJ: And the application of this long-term VR hardware and software development are obviously far-reaching. Training for the harsh realities of space can easily be used as a framework for other dangerous training scenarios, whether it’s like armed forces, offshore construction and drilling operations, or handling customer complaints at Walmart’s customer service desk. [laughter] Obviously, that last one is only a touch less dangerous than a space walk. But the idea of getting multiple reps in for challenging scenarios before ever having to face them is certainly an appealing option, right?

10:45 JB: Sure. And Walmart was doing Black Friday training in VR this year, because…

10:50 JJ: Yeah. It’s almost like they called it back on purpose.

10:51 JB: Because they needed to manage the riot at the front door.

10:54 JJ: Yeah. I think… It’s always interesting to me. We talked about the space program being a launching pad for a bunch of technologies in the 70s and 80s.

11:03 JB: Velcro Tang.

11:04 JJ: Yeah. Oh, Tang. So, the reason I brought this up, obviously, is because we made a prediction earlier that gaming was going to pave the way for more meaningful interactions in the virtual world, but I didn’t actually know that NASA had a VR training facility since ’92.

11:22 JB: Yeah, that’s a long time.

11:23 JJ: Yeah. I think it would be really interesting to see what software they’ve put together, because I know that their training system is very, very detailed. It has to be. So I wonder when some of that stuff’s gonna fall into our hands.

11:33 JB: Yeah, what is the actual timeline on that? It’s probably a 20-year kind of horizon, between when NASA comes up with it and starts to use it, when something…

11:43 JJ: Starts to drop in our hands.

11:43 JB: How long after Velcro was on the Mercury 5 that it’d end up on my sneakers.

11:48 JJ: I don’t think it was that long. Hang on, let me look this up, actually.

11:52 JB: And I should say I’m glad that that pipeline still exists, ’cause I was a little bit maybe worried that it was going away, as the United States is sort of pulled back from space exploration…

12:02 JJ: Space exploration as a core tenant of what we do?

12:03 JB: We moved to privatizing some of it, which has its pluses and minuses, for sure. You’re defraying the risk onto people like Elon Musk, but at the same time, there’s something… I don’t know, there’s some element of national pride, I feel like, that gets lost, although national pride can be a weird thing to begin with.

12:17 JJ: So here’s an interesting thing about Velcro, actually invented in the 50s.

12:20 JB: Ooh.

12:21 JJ: And was not made popular…

12:22 JB: It was a golden age.

12:24 JJ: Not made popular for everyday use until later.

12:27 JB: Yeah, 70s?

12:29 JJ: Yeah, in the 70s. That sort of follows VR was invented before ’92, but NASA has been using it for a long time, for a very specific purpose. I wonder… The fact of the matter is Grognards like me love simulations.

12:42 JB: Yes.

12:43 JJ: If I could get a simulator version of Star Citizen in VR, I absolutely would. Is there anything else we want to cover in the virtual training stuff?

12:50 JB: The only thing I would say, beyond this, is talking about government programs and government use of AR and VR. We haven’t really discussed quote unquote “battlefield uses” and stuff like that, but…

13:02 JJ: They’re coming, man.

13:03 JB: There was a bunch of stories last couple of months about a new system The Pentagon is using, that’s gonna use AR heads-up displays that will keep track of all the troops and the equipment and everything in a battlefield situation.

13:16 JJ: Yeah.

13:16 JB: For coordination.

13:17 JJ: I know that the army is investing money in a complete soldier system, where they put a bunch of sensors on a guy’s body.

13:23 JB: Right.

13:23 JJ: And then they use that to monitor health, combat readiness, inventory, stuff like that.

13:28 JB: And my interest in that isn’t so much in dystopian warfare.

13:31 JJ: Sure.

13:32 JB: It’s more like how does that trickle down to other applications where what you have are large numbers of people who are all coordinating on an activity…

13:41 JJ: Sure.

13:41 JB: Which may be as simple as…

13:42 JJ: Production lines.

13:43 JB: Delivering stuff. Who knows, right? It’s really interesting to me because it feels like this technology is leading us to this new place where team members, employees will be connected and networked in a way that even five, 10 years ago, we would not have imagined, yeah.

14:02 JJ: We didn’t really imagine, yeah. Maybe it’s as simple as when you get all of your workflow stuff put together, and you understand who has to do what in a process, so stuff gets marked off, maybe a mixed reality headset just alerts you when it’s your time to get on something, or whether you got stuff that… Stuff outstanding. I could see uses for that in my everyday life.

14:20 JB: Yeah, absolutely.

14:21 JJ: Alright. Well, let’s move on.

14:22 JB: Alright.

14:23 JJ: So DOUG has a whole host of serious use cases that we covered, so I wanna dig into the lighter side of possible AR use. Specifically, I wanna talk about Snap glasses.

14:31 JB: Yay.

14:31 JJ: Yay. A while back, we talked about Snap’s plan to distribute smart glasses that would link up to your phone, and capture photos and videos for distribution on their expanding social network. You remember that?

14:40 JB: I do.

14:40 JJ: Did we talk about it in any meaningful way?

14:43 JB: We talked about the vending machines and how they were out, and…

14:45 JJ: How maybe that was a bad way to distribute $150 glasses?

14:48 JB: Randomly launching stores and not telling anyone where they were was maybe not the best distribution plan.

14:52 JJ: So you’re saying a tech company that focuses on social media, maybe not a great brick and mortar retailer?

14:57 JB: They maybe didn’t think that way… They didn’t think it all the way through. The other thing I think we talked about was how they looked like… They looked more “normal”, quote unquote, more like Buddy Hollys or whatever.

15:06 JJ: Let me move on to that sum then.

15:07 JB: Yeah.

15:07 JJ: So 2018 was a rough year for Snap, from executive departures to slowing user growth. The company that once shined on Facebook’s advances is definitely facing a difficult future. According to CEO Evan Spiegel… Spiegel? Spiegel? I like Spiegel better.

15:21 JB: I like Spiegel too.

15:22 JJ: Spiegel. Part of that future is tied to augmented reality. In a lengthy memo to Snap employees, dated September 26th, 2018, Spiegel outlines Snap’s desire to, quote, “lead the way in augmented reality”. By, quote, “unlocking the value of our platform on camera-enabled devices, it means investing in spectacles hardware as an enabler of our augmented reality platform. Our investment is a big bet. It’s risky, but if we’re successful, it will change the trajectory of Snap, and computing, as a whole.” So I think we probably need to talk about those glasses, and why they think that AR is the future of their company. Do you have any guesses on why they think that’s the case?

15:56 JB: Well, they’ve had a lot of success with AR masks and sort of overlays on Snap videos.

16:02 JJ: The lenses, yeah.

16:02 JB: And I think, for a lot of people, that’s their main interaction with AR, quote unquote “AR”.

16:08 JJ: Yeah.

16:09 JB: Is, “Oh, I made myself look like a deer on Snapchat and it was cute.”

16:13 JJ: Yeah.

16:13 JB: Snap has seen one of the stickiest features that they have, is nominally AR, and it became a differentiator for them. It’s still something that Facebook doesn’t really do, or whatever.

16:23 JJ: Yeah.

16:23 JB: And so I think it’s natural for them to be like, “Well, this works, so how can we lean into this thing that we’re doing pretty well?”

16:30 JJ: Didn’t Snap use a bunch of its investment money in camera tech?

16:33 JB: They did.

16:34 JJ: Like picking up IPN stuff?

16:35 JB: They bought a bunch of companies to… Yes, the… Last year’s big release was the, what they called, World filters, right?

16:43 JJ: Yeah, which is just a markerless version of the tracking system…

16:46 JB: And that was based off of somebody they had purchased. I forget who.

16:49 JJ: Psy-magine? It’s Psy-magine?

16:51 JB: Did they buy…

16:51 JJ: Snap bought Psy-magine.

16:52 JB: Oh, yes, Snap bought Psy-magine. That’s right. So, yes.

16:54 JJ: Yeah, they use their markerless tech to develop the World filters.

16:56 JB: So they saw a path forward.

17:00 JJ: Yeah.

17:00 JB: Right? And… For all of these companies for some… I think they all look at Apple and they’re like, “We wanna make the hardware because that’s where the money is.” And so, it became sort of a natural…

17:09 JJ: You mean like a vertical integration of your ecosystem?

17:11 JB: Something like that.

17:12 JJ: Yeah. Okay. So I think where Snap has an advantage with smart glasses is… So, their previous version of the glasses, basically, were just cameras that tied to your smartphone.

17:21 JB: Yeah. And there was no AR functionality to them at all.

17:23 JJ: No, none at all. And the new Snap glasses are not AR-enabled either.

17:26 JB: Right.

17:27 JJ: But they are better recording devices, in general, and they’re less showy about their recording stuff. So, one of the stories that I read about these indicated that the real problem with the first iteration of them is that it indicated to people when they were being recorded like all the time.

17:41 JB: Right.

17:42 JJ: And I think that people were a little more hesitant to be recorded, in general, in public back in the day. I think people always talk about glass holes.

17:50 JB: Yes.

17:50 JJ: The Google glass people that… You knew.

17:52 JB: Yes.

17:52 JJ: Because the form factor, the glasses, was like, “You’re a cyborg”.

17:56 JB: They also looked ridiculous, so…

17:58 JJ: They did. You’d look like a weird creepo when your recording device was on. The new ones, I’ve seen edited videos of people using them at this point. I think they have like five hours of recording time for the smart glasses, which is really impressive.

18:10 JB: Yeah.

18:10 JJ: I think Snap’s interesting position is they’re going to be able to generate a ton of content. They’re gonna get a lot of looks at what’s going on in life, and they might be able to figure out ways to help people’s every day operation via just looking at this massive pile of data of people recording their everyday surroundings.

18:28 JB: Sure.

18:29 JJ: Now, that obviously necessitates that people pick up snap glasses. They’ve only sold 220,000 of the original pairs, they took like a $40 million write-off on inventory.

18:39 JB: Yeah, they were… They weren’t expensive, but they were expensive.

18:42 JJ: 150?

18:43 JB: Yeah, at 150 or 200. And then…

18:44 JJ: Although they did just look like Ray-Bans.

18:46 JB: They just looked like sunglasses, which… You can spend $200 on sunglasses. I wouldn’t.

18:50 JJ: Upper-middle class people can.

18:51 JB: I wouldn’t.

18:52 JJ: I would not.

18:53 JB: Because I’d break them in three seconds, which is my overarching problem with this entire coming market, is that I’m terrible with glasses.

19:00 JJ: And, as somebody who has to use prescription lenses, a lot of these AR devices are not enabled for prescription lenses yet.

19:05 JB: Yeah.

19:06 JJ: Because you have to put a weave into them and stuff, and it’s a whole pain in the ass.

19:09 JB: Right. But… So the thing about the Snap glasses that I find the most fascinating.

19:13 JJ: Yeah.

19:13 JB: Is they are clearly… Their first foray into what will be AR glasses, but different than Vuzix with the blade or a couple of those other companies that have AR glasses, they are not leading with AR. That is not the feature that they…

19:27 JJ: They’re leading with a camera.

19:28 JB: They’re leading with a camera and a recording system.

19:30 JJ: That let’s them use the app that they already have…

19:32 JB: Correct.

19:32 JJ: Massive user base for.

19:33 JB: So it’s like if you like… We know you already like doing this thing. So here’s this technology that you can use to do this thing you’re already doing.

19:41 JJ: Sure.

19:42 JB: If you get a critical mass around that, now you can… Version 3.0 can add the AR functionality.

19:47 JJ: Stick some AR stuff in there.

19:48 JB: And you’ve already got a market for the physical glasses that doesn’t have to be created.

19:52 JJ: So here’s a conversation that we finally have to have about bandwidth. Right?

19:56 JB: Right.

19:56 JJ: So bluetooth can enable decent bandwidth, and low-ish latency, it has some connection problems or whatever. Where do we get to the point where the glasses have a display in them that can enable computing and they’re wirelessly connected to your smartphone rather than wired up to a tether and then being operated that way? ‘Cause I think that’s the next level.

20:17 JB: This is where I just say the words 5G, and everybody’s like, “Oh okay… ”

20:21 JJ: Oh, 5G. Yeah.

20:21 JB: And it solves it all.

20:22 JJ: Let’s talk about 5G real quick.

[laughter]

20:24 JJ: How much research have you done about 5G currently?

20:27 JB: I know that the current… I know that AT&T, I believe, is advertising they have 5GE.

20:31 JJ: But that is not real.

20:32 JB: The E stands for “Fake”, I don’t really know how that works.

20:36 JJ: It does. Here’s why the E stands for fake. They got a bunch of money from the government to expand 5G presence nationwide, and they’re really, really not getting it done right now.

20:44 JB: Oh, is that right?

20:45 JJ: Oh yeah, they’re way behind. So it’s a long story about telecoms and taking government money to expand access to high-bandwidth, low-latency networks, and then not doing it, especially for rural areas. Are you familiar with that?

20:56 JB: Yes, I’ve heard that story before.

20:57 JJ: Yeah, so…

20:58 JB: I’m glad that it’s translated to the next generation of wireless networks.

21:00 JJ: Politics aside, the contention is always that we don’t get enough from these private companies for the money that… And since it’s government money, it’s literally all of our money.

21:08 JB: Right.

21:08 JJ: For bandwidth.

21:09 JB: It’s publicly-owned.

21:10 JJ: Yeah, I mean…

21:10 JB: The airwaves. It’s interesting, right? I loved fiber optic, I had Fios early, whatever.

21:15 JJ: I had Fios, it was great.

21:17 JB: But it definitely feels like the idea that we’re gonna lay thousands of miles of cables is an old idea that’s not gonna last into the future.

21:24 JJ: Sure. You’re saying that 5G will bridge that gap?

21:26 JB: 5G seemed to me like the first real modern futuristic wireless network, where you’re really gonna be able to have good data transfer speeds.

21:33 JJ: As a frame of reference for this, my father worked in the telecom… Still works in the telecom industry. He was one of the guys that laid 3G and 4G transmitters and stuff. The truth of the matter is wireless is always gonna be way behind wired technologies in terms of data transfer.

21:48 JB: But… So my understanding, though, is when 5G actually finally gets off the ground probably in about another two years, it will exceed the bandwidth of what I have in my house right now, coming in on a fiber network.

22:00 JJ: Let’s double check that math. So you might be right. Fifth gen cellular networks may eventually replace wire networks. There are some concerns about that mostly around security, coverage, flexibility, and stuff.

22:12 JB: But speed, Joe, raw speed. I felt like this was largely behind Verizon selling Fios. Now, I have frontier, etcetera. Verizon got out of the home game entirely, because…

22:25 JJ: Well, they know their roadmap, and if 5G is on it…

22:27 JB: And it is, obviously.

22:27 JJ: And they know that it wipes out those speeds or at least makes them sort of obsolete…

22:31 JB: Right.

22:32 JJ: In terms of cost.

22:32 JB: And you have… And its entire legacy network, it’s all this hardware that you have to maintain, it’s expensive to keep all of that fiberoptic cable working, and outages, and whatever.

22:40 JJ: It’s expensive to keep wireless repeaters working and stuff too.

22:43 JB: Sure.

22:43 JJ: But, obviously, it’s easier to get at most of that stuff.

22:45 JB: Yes, and everyone has a wireless plan of some kind.

22:50 JJ: Sure.

22:50 JB: Whereas, fewer and fewer people have cable plans now of some kind.

22:54 JJ: Yeah, but they all… Everybody pays an ISP for something.

22:57 JB: Yes, yeah. They get you, somehow, always.

23:00 JJ: They’re gonna get you some way.

23:00 JB: Exactly.

23:01 JJ: Yeah, so 5G may or may not be the solution. And I think that that largely depends on people’s free access to it.

23:09 JB: Yeah.

23:09 JJ: You know what I mean? Not necessarily cost-free, I just mean unfettered access. We’ve had conversations about net neutrality…

23:17 JB: Yes.

23:17 JJ: Being a concern. And this just expands that for me, honestly.

23:21 JB: So what we’re really saying here is that the future is only gonna get more complicated, and rights issues and usage issues are only gonna get more complicated as technology improves.

23:32 JJ: Yeah, especially since you consider who’s actually paying for the development and deployment of these networks. I’m getting afield, sorry.

23:39 JB: But, no, there’s no doubt that Verizon and AT&T and whatever are gonna make billion-dollar investments in this stuff and…

23:44 JJ: It’ll pay off. I’m sure it will.

23:46 JB: You wanna see companies that make billion-dollar investments reap some benefit from that investment…

23:50 JJ: Absolutely.

23:51 JB: Because it benefits all of us. That’s the organizing principle of how the economy of the country works.

23:55 JJ: That is how it works.

23:56 JB: As much as I like the idea of there also being a free 4G network.

24:00 JJ: Not free.

24:01 JB: No, no. No, free, for education purposes in hospitals, literally, whatever, that’s not I’m watching videos and playing games. That is fun. You should pay for that.

24:13 JJ: Yeah, alright.

24:14 JB: This is my moral code that I’m now spilling out, apparently.

24:17 JJ: You should have to pay for your fun?

24:18 JB: You should have to pay for your fun, damn it.

24:19 JJ: You’re a parent, I love it.

24:20 JB: I am. I am. I’m punishing vice.

[music]

24:29 JJ: Alright. Well, do we have any other takeaways? Is there anything you wanna talk about? I did have some additional show notes about killer apps that are not government or enterprise-related.

24:40 JB: Okay.

24:41 JJ: You want me to run ’em down?

24:41 JB: Sure, go ahead.

24:42 JJ: So Niantic got a crap load of money recently. Did you see that?

24:46 JB: Yes.

24:46 JJ: Do you know why? Do you know really why they did?

24:48 JB: Because they were like Pokemon Go is a success so you must know what you’re doing?

24:51 JJ: Yes and no. The other thing that they’re doing is that they are working on some really next level AR features, they’ve figured out ways to do occlusion in AR…

25:01 JB: Okay.

25:01 JJ: On a mobile phone. Now, it involves high-bandwidth, low-latency network connections to a neural net to do it.

25:07 JB: Where will that come from?

25:08 JJ: That might come from a 5G network.

25:09 JB: Yeah.

25:10 JJ: But they figured out that… That problem solved, sort of, right?

25:14 JB: Cool.

25:14 JJ: They have some other technical challenges. They’ve also managed to figure out how to do actual interactive multiplayer via phones…

25:20 JB: Right.

25:20 JJ: In AR app. They are absolutely making games that are building the framework of AR interactivity for the future.

25:28 JB: Yeah.

25:28 JJ: Yeah.

25:28 JB: Which makes sense because they, more than most, saw just how much money is out there to be grabbed if you can…

25:37 JJ: From people that wanna play a game outside.

25:39 JB: Exactly.

25:40 JJ: They just wanna play games with their friends outside. They wanna go for a walk.

25:42 JB: I wanna play video games outside. Imagine that.

25:45 JJ: I do. Honestly, I do. So I’ve been a gamer for a long time, but I’ve also gone through this change in my life where I really like being outside, doing stuff outside.

25:52 JB: Yeah.

25:52 JJ: Pokemon Go was the first real brick in the wall, that I think is eventually gonna be built… Or the first brick…

25:58 JB: Crack in the wall.

25:58 JJ: Well, crack in the wall, brick in the building, or whatever, right?

26:01 JB: Okay. We’ll mix our metaphors.

26:03 JJ: The building is… And we often talk about maybe applications not being there, but I think that they’re gonna grow organically, the idea that we’re gonna create digital spaces that are also in the real world that we can all interact with. I’m looking forward to being able to play shooters with my friends in the woods instead of having to do it at my computer.

26:23 JB: Yes, or in the house where I have to yell at my kids and tell ’em to get out.

26:25 JJ: I would love to, instead of be playing paintball outside, carrying, I don’t know, a mixed reality headset. And maybe a… When I say a marker, I mean like a paintball marker, like a gun that, you know, shoots light. It’s basically laser tag, yeah.

26:38 JB: Yeah, that you attach a phone into, that’s your heads up display. So you have the feel of I’m holding a thing and I’m pointing and I’m shooting and…

26:43 JJ: Something like that. Yeah. Or using the mixed reality headset to overlay digital information in that real-world space.

26:47 JB: Or… Sure.

26:48 JJ: Would be probably a better fit for me. But the idea of doing that, like combining things that we all… We all loved playing cops… Some of us play cops and robbers, some of us played X-Men. I played X-Men.

26:58 JB: I wanna play a game where I go into the woods with my friends, and we are all on the same team, and, slowly, we encounter a creature or an alien or something.

27:05 JJ: Oh, man, like a…

27:06 JB: And then another and then another until we find a ship where they’re all coming out of it, ’cause the system knows that you found an open field, so it knows it has the space to put everything down.

27:17 JJ: Yup.

27:17 JB: That’s a cool experience. It seems like something that will be really fun, that feels like it’s possible for the first time right now.

27:24 JJ: Yeah, I think we’re right on the cusp of that, and I’m really excited about it, I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

27:27 JB: Yeah.

27:27 JJ: Alright. Well, I’m looking forward to hunting down aliens from outer space instead of shooting deer with you some time.

27:33 JB: Yes, that’s gonna be so great.

27:34 JJ: No, I’m serious. That sounds really great.

27:35 JB: I know. Yes.

27:36 JJ: Well, we just finished up an episode by saying “That sounds really great.” So I’m gonna cut it right there.

27:40 JB: Great. Great. That sounds great.

[chuckle]

27:43 JJ: We’ll see everybody next week.

27:45 JB: Bye.

[music]

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