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Following on the wild speculation of the Season 2 premiere, the Joes bring in a fresh catch of AR/VR news, including the unveiling of the Samsung Galaxy S9, Google releasing ARCore 1.0, IBM’s Watson making the jump to VR, and eBay adding Augmented Reality Tools. It’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started …
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF SEASON 2: EPISODE 2
00:07 Joe Johnson: Welcome to season two, episode two of the In Reality podcast, where we’re covering all things augmented in 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 and I’ve been in the AR/VR industry for five years now at Marxent.
00:28 Joe Bardi: I feel like it’s six years now.
00:31 JJ: First up introductions. I’m Joe Johnson, Creative Director at Marxent Labs, and I’ve been in the AR/VR industry for five and three-quarters years now.
00:38 JB: And I’m Joe Bardi. I’m the senior content strategist here at Marxent and I’ve been in the industry for about two years.
00:43 JJ: We spent our last show spouting baseless speculation. So this week we’re going to dig into as much real news as possible. Prepare to feast your brain on the latest news about Samsung’s Galaxy S9, Google’s ARCore, IBM’s Watson living in VR. Are we watching The Matrix? And eBay using AI and AR to render brick-and-mortar shopping obsolete.
01:00 JB: Sold!
01:04 JJ: Ready player one? Let’s do this.
01:18 JB: Breaking news, Seoul, South Korea.
01:22 JB: Dateline, February 18th.
01:24 JJ: Are you gonna do the whole thing this way?
01:25 JB: Oh, no, I’m not.
01:27 JJ: Great. Up first, the Samsung Galaxy S9 has been unveiled. The much buzzed about handset arrives with a nearly identical form factor as the S8, which means Samsung is touting hot new features as a way to entice customers to upgrade. So what do you get with a snazzy new S9? The basic specs are as follows. You’ve got your Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. That’s only in North America, folks. Samsung has a proprietary processor for Europe.
01:52 JB: Ooh.
01:52 JJ: You get four or six gigs of RAM depending upon if you go with the S9 or the S9 Plus. You get your 65 gigs of storage, support for micro SD, two different sized batteries, IP68 dust and water resistance, support for fast wired and fast wireless charging, so a lotta good features.
02:09 JB: Can it butter bread?
02:10 JJ: It cannot butter bread yet. Beyond the stats, the big headline is a redesign camera module which contributes to more powerful augmented reality features being available on the handset. And we’re not just talking about those terrifying AR emojis.
02:23 JB: I do love those.
02:23 JJ: They are amazing. We’ll talk about those in a second. So is the S9 enough for Samsung to maintain their group on the title of the world’s largest smartphone maker? Or are they just swimming upstream against Apple?
02:33 JB: What are the numbers? Oh, wow, ding! Holy shit.
02:39 JB: Dunked on.
02:40 JJ: Slammed. Jesus Christ. Was that a fish pun?
02:43 JB: Swimming up stream. Come on!
02:45 JJ: That’s a fish pun?
02:47 JB: Why is that not a fish pun? It’s about fish, fish swimming. I don’t know. Do they all have to have scale in them or what?
02:54 JJ: We’ll get to this at the end of the show.
02:56 JB: I don’t know how I’m gonna work in gill at all.
02:57 JJ: We’re gonna get to this at the end of the show. But more importantly, what are the actual numbers on Samsung phones in the wild versus iPhones in the wild?
03:06 JB: Oh, my god.
03:07 JJ: The actual numbers.
03:08 JB: I have to look them up, but it’s…
03:10 JJ: Oh, burn.
03:11 JB: Yeah. I don’t have it. But I know that total numbers, it’s hundreds of millions versus hundreds of millions.
03:16 JJ: Okay. Where are you going with that?
03:20 JB: I don’t know. You asked me a question.
03:22 JJ: Well, my position is largely that the moniker of most important or most ubiquitous smartphone is largely irrelevant.
03:29 JB: Yes, yes. That’s awesome.
03:31 JJ: [03:31] ____ that true. The reality is these companies make billions and billions, maybe trillions, I don’t know, of dollars.
03:36 JB: Not yet. They’re getting there.
03:37 JJ: And it’s just like a title that they get to use in advertising.
03:40 JB: Yes, yeah. The S9 reveal and similar to Apple’s reveal in a lot of ways too, and Apple is now confronting stories of weak sales for the iPhone 10. These are mature products.
03:53 JJ: Shocker.
03:54 JB: They’re mature products. We just don’t get excited like we used to.
03:58 JJ: You mean phones as commodities is gonna get old?
04:00 JB: Yes.
04:00 JJ: Yeah.
04:00 JB: Yeah, and so…
04:01 JJ: Look, I know that I’m not an early adopter anymore, because I don’t wanna buy a new smartphone every year. I’m not going to. It’s a grand plus to get a decent top of the line smartphone.
04:09 JB: Yes, unless you wait three weeks because they go on sale almost immediately.
04:14 JJ: Yeah, or unless I wanna sell my soul to the man.
04:16 JB: Well, yeah, that too, but we’ve…
04:18 JJ: I’m all about that.
04:18 JB: We’ve already established you will not sell your soul to the man.
04:20 JJ: Oh, I already did.
04:21 JB: Oh, never mind.
04:22 JJ: I did it years and years ago.
04:23 JB: You have no soul left to sell.
04:24 JJ: I didn’t sell out. I bought in. It’s complicated.
04:26 JB: Yeah, but you did get a ColecoVision before anyone else.
04:28 JJ: Yeah. More important than talking about phones as commodities though, are there any features on this list that are relevant?
04:33 JB: So for us…
04:34 JJ: Like beyond the feature parody.
04:36 JB: Samsung is pushing the camera and the AR functionality. The phone can run ARCore, Google’s SDK. They…
04:44 JJ: They could probably run ARKit if they wanted to hack it together.
04:47 JB: I sense the AR emojis are going to be disappeared and forgotten very, very quickly.
04:53 JJ: No, no. You don’t understand. Two years from now when I get a Galaxy S9, I’m going to send you nothing but creepy 3D images of my face making weird, weird facial expressions. Folks, I cannot emphasize enough. The potential for performance are enabled by the Galaxy S9.
05:08 JB: It’s true. Yeah. No, it’s true. That’s a fair point. And I do like ironic uses of these technologies, so perhaps there is hope for the AR emoji. I will say the press pile-on has been brutal.
05:21 JJ: Well, how so?
05:22 JB: Every story about the S9 makes reference to terrifying/horrifying/underwhelming AR emojis.
05:28 JJ: So, would you say that reporters are schooling around this issue?
05:31 JB: Yeah, oh, ding. Yes, yes. I think that these people write how many of these reviews a year and sometimes they see a feature and it’s just like shooting fish in a barrel.
05:43 JJ: Yeah.
05:44 JB: Ding.
05:49 JJ: Yeah. It’s a little sad that the addition of augmented reality functionality boils down to whether or not this toy that’s sort of included as an… I don’t know if it’s included as an afterthought. Is it like Samsung’s screwing around in Snapchat or Apple’s playground. I don’t know, but whatever.
06:05 JB: It’s all marketing, right? That’s all it is. They have to get their press run, they have to get notices, they had to be seen as competing with Apple. Add emojis are BS. I’ve sent a few of them and I only sent them to make a joke about how ridiculous the thing I’m doing is.
06:22 JJ: You’re old enough to do things in an ironic way though.
06:24 JB: That’s true, that’s true.
06:25 JJ: What about the kids with their hip hops and their rock musics?
06:30 JB: If they are spending $1200 on a smart phone, they need to stop selling the drugs.
06:36 JJ: Are you saying I need to be able to stop meth?
06:37 JB: I’m saying if you’re 15 and you have $1200 to drop in a smartphone, it’s a lotta money.
06:41 JJ: I don’t think you understand the growing wealth inequality in the world.
06:44 JB: I think you’re right, I don’t. I’m on the wrong side of it apparently.
06:46 JJ: Yeah. You feel, you filthy prole.
06:49 JB: I think that we all like the new hotness and everybody likes to play with fun gadgets.
06:55 JJ: Hey! I love consumerism too, man. I bought a Yoda for my Star Wars Destiny deck. Really broke the bank.
07:02 JB: Do. Do or do not, there is no try.
07:04 JJ: Let me look at this list of features again and see if there’s anything that jumps out at me.
07:07 JB: There isn’t. It’s a phone.
07:09 JJ: I don’t know. Let’s talk real briefly about… I know that there was some buzz about the Snapdragon 845 being uniquely positioned to use AR. Do you remember any of that story?
07:20 JB: Yes. And again, I always felt like that was marketing to confront the fact that Apple got a ton of great press for the A-11 Bionic and those stories were all about how they were two years ahead of every other chip maker. And I think it’s in Qualcomm’s interest to be like, “No, no, no! The Snapdragon is amazing.”
07:39 JJ: I think that’s interesting. We were talking about Qualcomm’s stuff in the office like four years ago. And we were like, “Hey, I can’t wait ’till the Snapdragon processor comes out.” I can’t even really think about how we’re gonna leverage this frankly.
07:53 JB: Yeah.
07:53 JJ: I guess we’ll have to get it in Ken’s hands and find out.
07:55 JB: Pretty much, pretty much. And I think that it’s fair to say that at this point the capability of the tech has surpassed what it’s actually being used for.
08:06 JJ: I would agree with that.
08:07 JB: And which is good because let’s face it, if you bought a phone this year, you’re probably now gonna keep it for at least three years…
08:13 JJ: Or a month.
08:15 JB: Because that seems to be what more and more people are doing now is they’re just getting them and keeping them and not upgrading which is part of why all these companies have numbers problems.
08:23 JJ: Do they all have numbers problems?
08:26 JB: You know the, what’s it called? It’s called the problem of large numbers where you eventually, when you make so much money, you can’t increase your sales by any sort of meaningful percentage because you’re already selling so much.
08:37 JJ: Are you sure inflation won’t help with that?
08:38 JB: Well, look at this, if you sold 65 million smartphones last year, how do you sell 75 million this year, right? You have to find 10 million more people to buy a smartphone and…
08:47 JJ: There’s a great moment in The Wire and maybe you remember it. Have you seen The Wire?
08:51 JB: Sorry, Jason. No, I haven’t seen The Wire.
08:52 JJ: Call out. Call [08:53] ____.
08:54 JB: No, I know.
08:55 JJ: Anyway, there’s a moment in I think the third season where Stringer Bell’s in a SUV with two other drug dealers.
09:00 JB: No spoilers.
09:01 JJ: Yeah. And he says that he’s dropping all of his MCI stock. You remember MCI stock?
09:05 JB: I do.
09:06 JJ: Because all of the drug dealers in the show have two cell phones. And how are you going to continue to sell cell phones to people when they already have two of them?
09:16 JJ: Now, my language isn’t as colorful as Stringer Bell’s, but they continue to make phones these days. So they’ll undip, they’ll go back up. The numbers will go back up.
09:25 JB: Yeah. Well no, it’s not that they’re going down. It’s that they can’t grow anymore. It’s like Facebook has a billion users, right? If you wanna be on Facebook, you’re on Facebook. How do you get the rest?
09:34 JJ: Or MCI’s dead!
09:37 JB: Well, MCI is… That’s true, MCI died. And the fact of the matter is…
09:41 JJ: Kids, MCI was a telecommunications company that was founded some time in the 90s probably. Maybe the 80s, I don’t know.
09:47 JB: Oh my god! I think it goes back before that. They bought…
09:48 JJ: Maybe it’s part of Ma Bell, I don’t know.
09:49 JB: They merged or purchased another company called WorldCom in the 90s.
09:53 JJ: Oh wow, WorldCom.
09:54 JB: And that’s what destroyed the whole thing. I think that much like AOL and Time Warner merging and it became an albatross for both companies or whatever. Same deal. I feel like Enron is somehow involved in this too.
10:05 JJ: Why don’t we just throw a bunch of other corporate malfeasance into them.
10:07 JB: Yeah, whatever.
10:09 JJ: Did I…
10:11 JB: No. I mean, whatever, they went under.
10:13 JJ: Are we migrating to too many topics?
10:15 JB: No, no.
10:17 JJ: It wasn’t a great one? That wasn’t a great one. Forced that one.
10:20 JB: That’s birds.
10:22 JJ: Actually, all animals migrate.
10:23 JB: Yeah. Whatever. Alright.
10:25 JJ: No, we gotta get out of this somehow.
10:28 JB: Let’s just go to the next topic.
10:30 JJ: We have to come down on… What’s our conclusion? What is the big take away?
10:34 JB: Bottomline is Galaxy S9, nice phone. Excited to see what the AR capabilities are except mostly it’s gonna be whatever’s built to the AR core. It’s not really much to do with the phone itself. Which does have a powerful processor and all that, that can handle these things. But it’s gonna be the what developers do with the AR core framework that dictates how much AR works for the S9. And I think it’s more fascinating from a marketing perspective how they focused on AR…
11:00 JJ: Yeah. We will be focused on that.
11:00 JB: AR is a big deal and sort of the ongoing chess match with Apple as the two biggest phone providers, etcetera.
11:06 JJ: Nice. Alright. Well, I enjoy horse races too. Am I gonna buy one in two years?
11:11 JB: What did you buy your last phone?
11:12 JJ: Let’s see. I’m currently in a Galaxy S7.
11:15 JB: Ah. I think you’re gonna go to the S10 in 2021.
11:18 JJ: Alright. Looking forward to it.
11:30 JJ: So, speaking of augmented reality enabled handsets, Google has officially taken the wraps off of the 1.0 version of its AR core STK which brings OS level support for augmented reality applications to a wide range of smartphones running Android. These include all Google Pixel phones, all recent Samsung flagship phones, the Android O version of LG’s V30 and V30 plus, the Asus’ ZenFone AR and the Oneplus 5. Good lord, Joe! I don’t even know any of those phones. I’m not gonna lie.
11:57 JB: You’re not hitting the Android eBay page, looking for discounts…
12:00 JJ: Definitely not. ARCore 1.0 improves upon the preview version by including support for anchoring virtual objects to any textured surface, not just flat horizontal ones. Google says that 100 million Android phones currently support ARCore and it’s working with its hardware partners to bring more ARCore phones to market in the future. ARCore’s release comes a full eight months after Apple took the wrap off of its own ARKit SDK, and in the period since, ARKit enabled software was publicly released as part of iOS 11, thousands of apps offering different spins on AR have hit the App Store. But I haven’t used any of them.
12:32 JB: That’s true.
12:32 JJ: Because I don’t have an iPhone.
12:33 JB: That’s right.
12:34 JJ: There’s even an ARKit 1.5 already in developer preview which brings new features to the platform. So Joe, the question is, “Is Google ever going to catch up here? Or is smart phone AR going to be something that Apple owns and everyone else just imitates?”.
12:47 JB: I think that they’re gonna catch up. In fact, they’re probably, like right this second, have caught up at least as far as feature parity or whatever.
12:54 JJ: I think they’re going to surpass them largely because visual search, I think, is the future of AR.
13:00 JB: I do too.
13:00 JJ: I think the idea of using your phone to look at an object and then get relevant contextual behaviour out of it, is probably going to be the big… I think that’s the AR killer app.
13:10 JB: Yes.
13:10 JJ: I think that music… Like the idea that you can find anything out about your world through your phone is the killer app.
13:16 JB: Yes. People are gonna go for it hook, line and sinker.
13:18 JJ: Yeah, like when your camera… Ding!
13:22 JJ: When people’s camera is basically Wikipedia/eBay/Amazon, I think then AR really hits its stride.
13:35 JB: Yes. Yeah, that’s… Everyone I talk to about AR, they’re… People have different levels of knowledge and you start to talk to them about it and no matter what, whenever I discuss AR search, which is something that a lotta people haven’t thought about, people get it instantly. They just, “Oh, I totally get that. I point the phone at the thing and then it tells me what I want to know [13:53] ____.”
13:53 JJ: Or even better you can combine it with voice search and then be like, “Hey, how about this?” And then it figures out what you wanna know about the object, that you’re looking at, or even better it selects the object from a scene based on the context of the thing you said. Again, we’re talking about AI here.
14:08 JB: Yes.
14:08 JJ: It’s all about prediction. It’s all about interpreting us and you know, I think Google’s ahead in all of those departments relative to Apple.
14:16 JB: Yes. Google…
14:17 JJ: Apple is a product company. They makes things and not software.
14:20 JB: And Google… They cannot compete in any of the data science stuff. They do not collect…
14:25 JJ: You’re telling me, Maps.
14:26 JB: They do not collect… Exactly. They do not collect the volume of data that Google collects.
14:31 JJ: A fun anecdote, going to someplace with a friend of mine, I’m navigating using Google Maps and she’s navigating using Apple Maps and she had some completely different route that’s showing up.
14:40 JB: She was never seen again.
14:41 JJ: She was never seen. But I was in the car with her, it was just fun to see how much…
14:44 JB: And yet she still managed to get lost.
14:46 JJ: I know. Actually, she didn’t get lost, she just went her way and I was like, “Let’s see what the time difference is between what these would’ve been.” And I just thought it was really interesting, the benefits of big data in our day to day lives, as somebody who fears that stuff and embraces it in sort of in equal measure, I’m hoping that visual search is red.
15:07 JB: Yeah, yeah. It’ll get a little dicey when I hold my phone up and it tells me everything about you.
15:14 JJ: Or when I hold my phone up and I pay for a database that gives me a bunch of information about you.
15:20 JB: Yes, yeah.
15:21 JJ: It’s…
15:23 JB: But this is…
15:23 JJ: Man, can you imagine dating in the realm of visual search?
15:26 JB: Oh, my God.
15:27 JJ: Isn’t that amazing/horrible?
15:30 JB: I just wanna have an app for if I show it to somebody, they tell me if they have a police record.
15:33 JJ: Oh.
15:35 JB: That’d be amazing.
15:35 JJ: So you joke. You joke. But they’re doing that in China right now.
15:39 JB: I’m sure. I’m sure.
15:39 JJ: In the most troubled province in China, the surveillance state is out of control, I mean, for western viewers. They have facial recognition. They have facial recognition and AR-enabled glasses for police. The reality of the situation is though that the people live in fear there. Like the ethnic minority that lives there, and I’m gonna have to find the story about this, I’m sorry everybody. The reality of the situation is yes, crime has gone down but everybody lives under the stasis.
16:08 JB: Yeah.
16:08 JJ: Technologically enabled stasis. So I don’t think I’m wrong to be afraid of that stuff. I just hope it turns out better here. Now, I mean, not that here is any better than anywhere else. But…
16:17 JB: Yeah, I like personal freedom. I like to know that if I do anything fishy, I can get away with it.
16:25 JJ: Ding!
16:25 JB: And not immediately get picked up by the police state. That all said, I’m sure most of technology was in use for the SuperBowl this year.
16:34 JJ: Yeah, probably.
16:34 JB: And the olympics or whatever.
16:35 JJ: They just keep it low key.
16:37 JB: We’re already getting facial scanned constantly, I would assume…
16:40 JJ: I facial scanned you just a second ago.
16:42 JB: Yeah, you did. It was very disconcerting.
16:47 JJ: To be fair, people do that sort of… People do pattern recognition. Our brains are just pattern recognition machines so you can make the argument that computers doing it is just us using a tool to do what we already do better.
16:58 JB: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But with access to databases full of information…
17:02 JJ: Yeah.
17:03 JB: And it gets weird.
17:04 JJ: Is this like the Manhattan project but for… Hang on, let me rephrase that. So there was this big move to get to nuclear power in the ’50s and that turned into a weapon and now everybody’s justifiably concerned about what it means to have nuclear weapons all over the world. Is there going to be a moment like that for say, data integration with visual recognition software, audio recognition software, any number of like location API’s, all that stuff converging into a place where the world is fundamentally different and everybody’s really concerned about where it’s going?
17:36 JB: That’s a really interesting question. I like your reference…
17:39 JJ: Can you tell I’m bullish?
17:40 JB: Yeah. I like the reference to the Manhattan project. It’s interesting because I remember, and I’m gonna conflate a whole bunch of things here…
17:47 JJ: Let’s do it.
17:47 JB: Just go with me. I remember Bob Woodward, I think, had a book on the Bush administration where he discussed how they were engaged in a modern Manhattan project.
17:58 JJ: Yeah, with the…
18:00 JB: And it was really vague as to what he was talking about?
18:01 JJ: Are you talking about the TPS stuff the…
18:03 JB: It was like…
18:03 JJ: Sonar information or whatever it is, yeah.
18:05 JB: Yes, yeah. It was a surveillance program thing, and it was like they were trying to collect every piece of information out of Iraq as it was happening in real-time. But the Manhattan Project of that was to make a database that contained all of the world’s information, but that was super-searchable.
18:20 JJ: Is it in Utah right now? Is it some yottabytes of information?
18:23 JB: The government built all of these data centers and they have… They’re collecting all of the world’s phone calls and whatever. But it’s useless because how do you search it? You can only find stuff after you know something is important.
18:32 JJ: You just ask Google.
18:33 JB: You can go back and find it. Google’s algorithm is inadequate for this particular problem. So that, to me, is sort of where the Manhattan Project element came in. Although I suspect that that’s where AI development is all leading to.
18:45 JJ: Well, we know that a lot of DARPA stuff ends up finding its way into public hands, eventually.
18:54 JB: And thank God for that.
18:54 JJ: Yeah, and thank God for that. I’m always big on space program stuff also.
19:00 JB: Me too. I love velcro and GPS.
19:01 JJ: I don’t think that the government making things inherently makes them destructive or not useful.
19:05 JB: The Internet.
19:06 JJ: Yeah. Look, don’t get me started on how much I love the Internet and hate the Internet. But really, they’re all just amplifications of humans, in general. So if I’m upset about big data, I’m really upset about people.
19:18 JB: Yes, that seems right.
19:19 JJ: Yeah.
19:21 JJ: Alright, man!
19:25 JB: So wait, what was it? What was this topic about again?
19:25 JJ: Hang on, I got it. Let me wrap this up. I think we’ve landed on the fact that software is what’s going to make AR truly useful. We have cameras, we’ve had cameras for a long time. We’ve had ways to… I don’t know where I’m going with this.
19:40 JB: You have all of these tools, you have all of these materials but nobody has really built the right house yet.
19:46 JJ: Yeah, you can’t really tie it all together.
19:47 JB: And that’s sort of what is happening now, and what ARCore represents and what ARKit represents. And all of that is these companies making, putting their best foot forward on a technology that I really think is the next decade’s major thing.
20:00 JJ: That’s bold!
20:00 JB: I’m just… That’s…
20:03 JJ: Look, I’ve read plenty of science fiction. I think you’re probably right.
20:05 JB: Yeah. So it’s exciting to me to be able to watch this moment in time with a feeling for what’s coming next because it’s rare. You always notice these things after they’ve happened.
20:16 JJ: Yeah, what’s our moon landing for AR? Is it being able to Google search any object you look at?
20:22 JB: I think when you drive down the street of a major city and you see half the the people holding their phones up pointing at buildings or pointing at stuff. The same way AirPods have slowly started to… You see the white with no thing suddenly have taken over cities, there’s more and more of them. You will start to see this kind of… The same way you saw Pokemon players all of a sudden for two weeks after Pokemon Go first came out, people wandering around the streets. You will eventually start to see people doing visual search. And as you see it, it’s gonna become more and more prevalent.
20:49 JJ: Well, I’m looking forward to the moon landing.
20:52 JB: Yeah, it’s great that people want ways to remove the phone, and instead, we’re gonna put the phone right in between all of us even more.
21:00 JJ: I’m gonna go back to a previous comment that we made: Everything that we see through our eyes is an impression of reality anyway.
21:07 JB: It’s true.
21:07 JJ: So if you’re just adding another layer to it that helps you figure things out, I don’t have a problem with that.
21:11 JB: Alright.
21:12 JJ: Alright.
21:23 JJ: There’s been a lot of speculation about how virtual reality will be integrated into work environments. Some anticipate communal telepresence work environments akin to Facebook Spaces’ concept; while others are excited about the possibility of completely new ways of visualizing their work product. Think architects, product designers, or 3D modelers. IBM’s effort to shape a new set of tools comes in the form of a partnership with Unity Technologies, the developer of a popular gaming engine that’s fast becoming the VR industry’s most widely used platform. IBM has built an SDK for Unity that lets developers draw on the cloud-based Watson artificial intelligence suite in their own projects. Some of the capabilities that Watson offers include Watson Visual Recognition, the ability to let users draw objects with a controller and have their sketches automatically converted into 3D models, as well as speech-processing capabilities that allow users to interact with VR environments via voice commands and translate foreign languages automatically. A story post, the SiliconANGLE, mentions enterprise interest in the tools, but concludes that the major revenue opportunity in the short-term is video game industry adoption of the tools, since in the US alone, video games generated $36 billion in 2017.
22:24 JJ: Real talk, Joe. Is the video game industry the software equivalent of the space program in the 70s? I keep hearing enterprise users expressing interest, but also being gun shy about spending money to develop the tools that they all clearly want. Are video gamers subsidizing the conference room of the future?
22:39 JB: Wow, that’s a big question. Let me mull it over for a second. Yeah, just hang on, mullet. Boop! Mull it over?
22:48 JJ: No. Yeah, I got it. I got it.
22:49 JB: Okay, just [22:49] ____.
22:50 JJ: Well, I like to ask big questions because they’re unanswerable and people can just debate them forever.
22:55 JB: Yes. Well, there’s that. Also, I happen to like this question a lot because it’s sort of evocative, and I think you’re on to something.
23:01 JJ: Yeah, you think so?
23:03 JB: I think that when you look at industries that are innovating for whatever reason: A, the video game industry has been locked in a 30-year non-stop development cycle to increase quality of images and the ability to push pixels, all of that.
23:19 JJ: Simulate environments.
23:20 JB: Exactly.
23:22 JJ: Create believable AI opponents for you.
23:24 JB: Right. Yes, make fake people seem real, all of that.
23:29 JJ: Yeah, I think gaming is actually just a quest to make another world.
23:31 JB: Yes. And now, the real world has sort of come around to this idea.
23:35 JJ: “Hey, how can we use this?”
23:36 JB: Yeah. And it’s like, “Oh, well, I need to sell more whatever. People are doing this; this may be an avenue to do that.” And it’s going… That’s all going to work if you’ve… Just following how Amazon has done over the last five years, you can see that people are all about convenience, and they enjoy online shopping.
23:58 JJ: Well, I know for my own part, having been involved in game design and development, a lot of the things that they spend time thinking about, which is how to train users without making them bored, how to do it quickly, how to reduce friction between somebody wanting to do something and actually doing it, all of the UX stuff that comes about as part of games is invaluable for retail. Invaluable for retail.
24:25 JB: Right, yes. Yeah, absolutely. And we still consider games and movies to be different things, and I think that that’s gonna go away. I don’t think…
24:39 JJ: Yeah, you talked about that in the last podcast.
24:40 JB: Yeah, I don’t think the young kids give a damn about these distinctions; they’re just entertaining themselves over a period of time. And I think that as entertainment becomes more immersive, that is where advertising and commerce merges in.
24:54 JJ: Well, the name of the company is Marxent which is marketing times entertainment.
24:57 JB: Yes, that’s true. [chuckle] I did not need to go there, but I did.
25:00 JJ: It’s fine. I think it’s appropriate. I don’t like a distinction between work and play myself. And the idea that gaming figures out ways… Or sorry. The idea that people, companies, institutions figure out ways to take elements of gaming, and then integrate it into what they do in a way that makes it more appealing to people to participate in those things, I think that’s a good thing, personally.
25:26 JB: Yeah.
25:28 JJ: I’m reminded of Montessori schools where you’re still doing work, you’re still learning things, but the way that they approach it is like how do people naturally want to learn things, and how do we amplify that instead of trying to make them do it like they’re learning in a factory?
25:41 JB: Yeah. I wanna go back to Watson, too, ’cause Watson started this whole thing. I love Watson ever since Watson appeared on Jeopardy! I’ve been a big fan.
25:49 JJ: Did he slay? I don’t remember.
25:50 JB: He did very well. He did very well. In fact, I think that since the time he was on Jeopardy! Now, he would…
25:55 JJ: Did you anthropomorphize it as a he?
25:57 JB: He has a… I consider it a male voice.
26:00 JJ: Oh.
26:03 JB: You know what he sounds like, what Watson’s… And Watson, although Emma, but Watson, to me, also… I’m sorry, I go back to Sherlock Holmes, I can’t help it.
26:09 JJ: No, it’s fine.
26:10 JB: Which I think where IBM is going for as well. I think Watson is one of the most engaging presences in advertising today.
26:17 JJ: Yeah?
26:17 JB: Yes. And he speaks to… He goes to the thing that I have always dreamed of, that I think that many people want out of their smartphones, and that we just don’t get.
26:27 JJ: A friend?
26:27 JB: A real personal assistant who has intelligence.
26:31 JJ: So you’re looking for a slave first?
26:33 JB: I am looking for Jarvis. That is what I’ve always want…
26:34 JJ: Oh, Jarvis.
26:36 JB: Since I saw Iron Man, within minutes, I was like, “Paul Bettany, if you’re available, I’d like to use your voice. That’d be fantastic.”
26:42 JJ: Yeah, it is beautiful.
26:43 JB: But that sort of… I just want to banter with my personal assistant as I apparently fly through the city. But no…
26:50 JJ: Like a pet or a slave?
26:52 JB: Like a… You know what? It’s like the best parts of a spouse. You don’t have to pay attention to its feelings, or needs, or emotions at all, and it will always be nice to you and it will always do whatever you need done. It’s always got your back. Even in the best relationships, people are just not like that. You’re maintaining a relationship. So yes, apparently, I just want a slave laborer that I can abuse horribly and will always love me.
27:21 JJ: I just wanted to drag that out of you.
27:22 JB: Yes, you did. You got me. I’m cornered.
27:24 JJ: Look, when it comes down to AI…
27:25 JB: This is terrible. I’m like the new sharecropper. I’m trying to enslave our digital creations already. [laughter] It’s terrible.
27:31 JJ: I like to attack why I like Watson from a different angle than you do. The thing I like about Watson is that it’s the first real public-facing AI, the one that has a rep for him, for itself.
27:44 JB: It’s got a personality.
27:45 JJ: Yeah. And I’ve made the point last week that I think that AI will become more relatable to us, and the way that it will develop is in ways that are relatable to us. And in that way, we can trust that part of our relationship with artificial intelligence will always be rooted in a friendship or a kinship in the way that they are developed. I know that’s a weird way to put it, but…
28:05 JB: It’s the only way for it to gain our trust, and then lull us into a false sense of security.
28:09 JJ: Where it slays us all in the middle of the night.
28:11 JB: Before we all get killed in our sleep by the AI.
28:12 JJ: I, for one, look forward to entertaining our artificial intelligence overlords.
28:15 JB: This is totally a non sequitur, but if you’ve seen the video of how the AI animated a man running, you know that…
28:24 JJ: Oh, it’s great.
28:24 JB: You know that the revolution is not imminent.
28:27 JJ: We are linking to that in the text.
28:28 JB: I’ll include that in the show notes for sure.
28:30 JJ: But I will drag you back to… Let’s talk about how visual search, AI, all of these things can empower a workplace. So they’re using it for architect… I think it’s the original use case for this, their SDK’s for architects and stuff like 3D modeling. The ability to go into a VR space, draw some idea that you have. Telepresence isn’t just talking to somebody. As soon as we figured out how to use video conferencing, a lot of people switched over to it. I think that eventually, there will be a lot of people who switch over to VR teleconferencing for all of the benefits that it has. I’m still gonna wanna text you, instead of virtually…
29:07 JB: Well, so the trick of that is that no one actually wants to be seen. If you’re working from home and you have to do a call, you don’t wanna actually go on video because you’re probably [29:17] ____…
29:17 JJ: Sure, but if you could build your avatar.
29:19 JB: But if you’re in VR, you just show up in a business suit because that’s what your avatar has on, perfect!
29:26 JJ: Yeah, I think there are a lot of opportunities with VR telepresence or VR shared spaces that allow for people with maybe disabilities, or even better, this is great for, and this is something I’m always concerned about, is people whose outsides don’t match their insides. For the transgendered community, to work from home remotely as whatever gender you want, is… I don’t know if it’s groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it’s a nice tool to have. In Ready Player One, there’s a character, Aech, who is a female but feels that she’s male and presents as male in the OASIS. There’s a moment of revelation for the characters, but clearly, she was more comfortable as a he, and this matrix telepresence enabled her to live the life that she wanted to, and I think that’s a great thing.
30:14 JB: Yes, absolutely.
30:14 JJ: The truth of the situation is that whenever people are enabled to be the person that they wanna be, I think it’s a good thing.
30:22 JB: Yes.
30:23 JJ: So if I can go to a business meeting in my jammy jams, but I’m all slicked up, and the avatar’s closest to what I wanted to look like, better for everybody.
30:31 JB: And because of that, the video game industry is the defense department of the 21st century.
30:35 JJ: I’m serious. It touches on so many different things.
30:39 JB: It does.
30:39 JJ: It’s wound its way into every piece of our culture. I don’t know anybody my age that doesn’t game at least a little bit.
30:44 JB: It’s where, I don’t wanna say, “our brightest minds,” but certainly, the brightest minds in tech gravitate towards that discipline.
30:53 JJ: Yeah, well, culturally, it’s part of their upbringing in a lot of cases. And a lot of that genius ends up going there. I’m not saying that everybody in the games industry is a genius, but…
31:03 JB: No, no. It’s like any other industry.
31:05 JJ: It’s just like, yeah.
31:06 JB: There’s a lot of math.
31:06 JJ: There is a lot of math.
31:07 JB: That separate the folks out. [chuckle]
31:11 JJ: There’s a reason I’m in advertising.
31:22 JB: And finally, America’s largest online yard sale is adding augmented reality features. Per a story in Payment Week, eBay has announced new AR tools for developers that make it possible for shoppers to see how something looks on their body or in a real-world space. For example, a shirt on a wearer, a fish bowl on a shelf, or tires on a car. Sellers will also benefit as one of the new AR tools determines optimal packing sizes for objects, which is useful for selecting from the US Postal Service “if it packs it ships” boxes. The AR tool overlays the box on an item and highlights problem areas. While these tools may seem like minor additions, they are part of a larger plan that sees eBay leveraging new tech tools to get an edge. This includes using artificial intelligence data to customize their homepage, whatever that means, Payment Week.
32:04 JJ: That probably means personalized suggestions from eBay’s listings.
32:09 JB: Yes, algorithmically-generated suggestions are just burning up the charts in music services and the app stores.
32:14 JJ: Well, they are. Are they?
32:17 JB: No, all these companies, they’re just spending billions of dollars trying to figure out how to better surface content.
32:22 JJ: Is that right?
32:23 JB: Yeah.
32:24 JJ: It’s very interesting.
32:24 JB: Once you reach a certain number of things…
32:25 JJ: It’s interesting. There’s a Salesforce report that talked about AI recommendations being the biggest revenue-generators on websites.
32:33 JB: Yeah. So I’m going back to Spotify versus Apple Music, which is Apple Music used people, Spotify used algorithms, or vice versa. I don’t remember which is which, but whichever one was using people over algorithms was generally winning. Actually, it was probably a tie, I don’t know. Moving on.
32:51 JJ: Is it the case of a cat trying to do… Or is it the case of a cat picking stocks, and that it’s just about as good as the market picking index funds?
33:00 JB: Yeah, something like that. The monkey that outperformed the S&P.
33:01 JJ: Yeah.
33:03 JB: And bringing a more intimate and personalized experience to shoppers. EBay hopes this added personalization will help it compete with the brick-and-mortar stores, which have the advantage that you can go in and touch the merchandise. See it, like it, buy it. It’s the holy grail of near-future retail that eBay’s grasping at. Is now the moment when online shopping reaches parity with its real-world counterpart, specifically when it comes to clothing furniture and inherently, personal items, Joe?
33:26 JJ: Oh, is that the question? Read the question.
33:27 JB: That is the question, yeah.
33:29 JJ: Alright. See it, like it, buy it. Yeah, I think that Amazon is doing everything it can to smooth your process from, “I want a thing” to “I own the thing.”
33:40 JB: I keep catching that Amazon app, AR ad, it’s running on the TV a lot these days.
33:45 JJ: Don’t they have a thing that you can order for your house that’s like a button that orders a specific type… You can order Tide pods by hitting a button in your room.
33:51 JB: Yes, yeah. Yeah, that’s… It’s on the food section of their website.
33:53 JJ: Yeah. Amazon is pouring millions of dollars into the idea that if you make it easy for somebody to impulse buy anything, they’ll impulse buy anything.
34:03 JB: They will. They will.
34:06 JJ: And I don’t know that they’re wrong, frankly.
34:07 JB: No, they’re not.
34:09 JJ: I referenced that Salesforce report earlier, but the fact of the matter is like AI suggestions, absolutely do generate impulse revenue.
34:18 JB: For sure.
34:19 JJ: And bigger baskets of impulse revenue. I know that I myself fell prey to it this week. [chuckle]
34:25 JB: What’d you buy?
34:26 JJ: I was just ordering audio equipment for work, but like, “Hey, there’s these other things that I can just pack into my thing and I get it in a day.” It’s really hard…
34:33 JB: Yup. “Buy this and save.”
34:35 JJ: It’s really hard to resist the urge to be gratified instantly. It is. Despite the fact that I think that intelligence… The highest marker of intelligence is the ability to delay gratification, we’re all failing.
34:46 JB: I am stupid.
34:47 JJ: Yeah, we’re all stupid. [laughter] Well, hackers love the idea that human beings are all fundamentally wired the same way.
34:55 JB: Right.
34:55 JJ: They love it. Social engineering, all that stuff.
34:55 JB: Yes.
34:56 JJ: It’s true. We’re all running on the same basic dopamine receptors, and buying stuff feels good, and getting stuff feels better.
35:06 JB: Yes.
35:07 JJ: Yeah.
35:07 JB: And people can be misled and taken advantage of. [chuckle]
35:11 JJ: Well, I don’t think that eBay is going to mislead anybody.
35:13 JB: No, no, I don’t mean any of that.
35:14 JJ: I think that the use a box to figure out… Or use an AR box to figure out if you can ship the thing you wanna ship, great idea!
35:21 JB: That’s a great idea!
35:21 JJ: That’s a great tool!
35:22 JB: Yeah.
35:23 JJ: Now, less so the idea that you’re gonna put a shirt that some guy listed on eBay.
35:31 JB: That seems highly unlikely.
35:32 JJ: You’re gonna have to 3D-model, or at the very least, texture whatever that shirt is on to a 3D model of a shirt. And as we have experienced, by developing an app for Custom Ink a billion years ago, it’s not easy to do that.
35:43 JB: Right.
35:43 JJ: Human beings have a lot of weird shapes that are not standardized.
35:47 JB: We do come in all shapes and sizes.
35:49 JJ: Lord knows I do.
35:50 JB: Yes. There’s a lot of fish in that ocean.
35:52 JJ: A lot of fish in the sea.
35:54 JB: We can’t put… I just…
35:57 JJ: Ding! I just wanted to give you one. That was good, that was not bad. A lot of fish in that ocean.
36:03 JJ: But we talk repeatedly about how pervasive AR’s… Little AR things are going to need to be until eventually, it just reads like a critical mass. We’re doing a lot of nuclear weapon analogies today.
36:16 JB: We do, yeah.
36:17 JJ: But once you reach a critical mass, people just… AR is not a fancy thing anymore; it’s just we live in mixed reality at that point.
36:25 JB: Yes, yeah. And that’s what I wanna see, right?
36:30 JJ: Do you?
36:31 JB: Yes, I’m a big fan of transitions. What’s gonna happen?
36:35 JJ: Dude, do you need to tell me something?
36:37 JB: No, no, no. No, I’m okay.
36:41 JB: When you’re going through these sort of periods of upheaval, you don’t know where it’s gonna end up, and there’s an excitement to that, and that’s fun. But when the first iPhone came out, everybody was like, “Oh my God! Smartphones, whatever.” I’d much rather have one today. The ones back than were terrible.
36:56 JJ: Yeah, that’s fair.
36:57 JB: And so, I feel like we’ve sort of gone through something like marker-based tracking and stuff like that. Those earliest…
37:04 JJ: Yeah, there were definitely growing pains.
37:07 JB: They were good proofs that the technology worked, but they weren’t sort of ready for primetime yet, and we’re just hitting that moment now.
37:13 JJ: I know that we have discussed that ARKit felt like the big moment, like when you moved past marker-based tracking, and you were doing SLAM, basically, really good SLAM tracking, that it’s ready for public adoption to a large extent.
37:28 JB: Yup, and the reason that’s exciting is because when technologies hit that point, it’s really only the beginning because you don’t know what clever developers and companies are gonna spin those technologies out into.
37:38 JJ: I think we have a good idea: They keep trying to spin it into ways to spend money.
37:41 JB: Yes, well… [chuckle]
37:42 JJ: So I mean that. Any way that you spend money right now, I’m sure that there’s an AR or VR way to modulate how you do that. Whether it’s as simple as… Oh God! I’m gonna scare the crap out of myself. You’re using your smartphone in your house somewhere, and your smartphone recognizes that you’re missing something. Or you could use a piece of furniture or something, like let’s say you’ve got an aquarium, and it’s like, “Hey, I see you have an aquarium. Would you like all of these other things?” And you get an ad in your house for a thing that you probably want. I’m just thinking about my partner, she’s… If she gets this recommendation for a fish tank item that she’d want, she’ll probably pick it up. Those are the opportunities for big data and AR to converge in our homes. And whether or not you like that is entirely up to you.
38:28 JB: Yeah, yeah.
38:29 JJ: I’ll tell you what, I’m not gonna buy a smart fridge, though.
38:31 JB: Yeah, that’s a… I was looking at smart washer/dryers yesterday, and I was like…
38:36 JJ: Yeah. What would a smart washer/dryer do for you?
38:38 JB: I don’t even know, other then empty my wallet twice as fast.
38:42 JJ: Is that right?
38:43 JB: Yeah.
38:43 JJ: How so?
38:44 JB: Well, when you get… So Samsung has these nice two-in-one units, and there’s a couple of other companies that are making them as well, and they’re much more advanced, and they’ve got all these snazzy features, and they do multiple types of washes. And really, their intelligence is based on knowing what the different types of clothing are, whatever. You’re going from a $350, $400 purchase to a $1,400 purchase.
39:03 JJ: Yeah. Oh, you’re just saying that the overall cost of the unit is… Okay.
39:06 JB: Yes, yes! That’s… Smart features are expensive.
39:09 JJ: I don’t shop smart appliances.
39:11 JB: Well, I was just… Did it as… My dryer broke. It was a look.
39:14 JJ: Yeah, that’s fair.
39:14 JB: I spent a Sunday at a laundromat. And I was like, “I don’t wanna do this.”
39:17 JJ: “Never again.”
39:18 JB: “Don’t wanna do this again.”
39:18 JJ: “Never again.”
39:18 JB: I forgot what this was like.
39:20 JJ: You were like a fish out of water.
39:21 JB: Yeah. And let me tell you, the laundromat was… Oh!
39:24 JJ: Ding!
39:24 JB: Dammit! Dammit! I have, I have… I’ve really… I’ve lost this battle.
39:28 JJ: No, you haven’t. I’ve only made two that were any good.
39:31 JB: I don’t know that that’s true.
39:32 JJ: Okay.
39:32 JB: I don’t know that that’s true.
39:33 JJ: Well, I’ll go back through and I’ll see if I’ve done any other good ones.
39:35 JB: Yeah. I think… Yeah.
39:37 JJ: Fish out of water. Damn, son!
39:39 JB: Yeah, that was good, that was good. Anyway. So wait, where were we? See it, like it, buy it. Holy grail…
39:46 JJ: We were talking about, is the holy grail, basically, see it, like it, buy it. And I think we’ve landed on… Yeah, absolutely it is.
39:53 JB: Yeah, the answer is yes, and you’re gonna see a lot more companies and a lot more industries start playing with this.
39:58 JJ: Remember PayPal had a AR payment system that they just patented.
40:01 JB: They did. Yup.
40:06 JJ: I don’t… You’re gonna see a lot of weird AR patents coming out of weird places.
40:09 JB: Yeah. And this is all laying the groundwork for next year, the year of the AR glasses.
40:14 JJ: Oh, you think so?
40:15 JB: Yeah. Right, that’s where that goes.
40:16 JJ: I don’t know, man. I think that where AR glasses will have to get to is feature parity with today’s smartphones, and I don’t think they’re gonna get there in a year.
40:26 JB: Oh, no, not yet. That’s five years, minimum, right? Middle of next decade.
40:29 JJ: Yeah, that’s what I meant. If we’re postulating that current mobile hardware is just at the infancy of being acceptable for AR use, you’re gonna have to miniaturize it a lot, and figure out a bunch of new display technologies for glasses that are actually usable that way. Now, you could do it as… It could be something as simple as OLED screens that are not transparent, and there’s a forward-facing binocular camera. But then, that’s gonna be disorienting as hell.
40:55 JB: They’ve all… The actual strategy.
40:56 JJ: I’m sure they’re already thinking about it.
40:57 JB: No, the strategies being involved are way crazier than that.
41:00 JJ: Well, yeah, the laser’s projected in my eye, and all that stuff.
41:03 JB: Yeah, it’s about the visible light field and all this stuff.
41:04 JJ: They’ll figure it out, I’m sure, but I don’t think they’re gonna figure it out in a year. I think it’s five years for glasses.
41:08 JB: I think your point about miniaturization is right on, that smartphones have matured to the point where they are a mature product, they are commodities at this point. And this is…
41:16 JJ: Yeah, so what’s… Really we’re talking about what the next wave of mobile computing is.
41:18 JB: Yes, and that’s… And it’s gonna be…
41:20 JJ: And since we’ve sort of landed on the fact that audio and visual search are super important, you can’t use your hands, really, until they figure out better AR tracking to interact with your glasses. So you’re gonna need visual and audio search to even really use that UI, I think, like UI for mobile glass… Like mobile-capable glasses. I think you’re gonna need good audio search or audio recognition, any of that stuff.
41:44 JB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
41:45 JJ: But I could see that happening. I use “Okay, Google” and Siri enough to see that happening in the next five years. I don’t think that’s outside the realm of possibility at all.
42:04 JB: Yeah. No, it’s just can you pile in the sensors so that you’re casting a wide enough net to gather all that data?
42:10 JJ: I think so.
42:11 JB: Wow! Ding!
42:15 JJ: Hang on, is casting a wide enough net that…
42:17 JB: That’s fishing, man! That’s what you do. That’s not how you fish, you cast a net.
42:20 JJ: Are you just doing any ocean metaphor at this point?
42:21 JB: I am making any reference to fish, or fishing, or things that swim in the ocean, kelp, carp, seaweed, I don’t… Whatever.
42:31 JJ: Alright. Well, since it’s the end of our show, it’s time for us to talk about what happened today.
42:36 JB: What happened today?
42:37 JJ: What happened today is we got off the elevator, and I walked to the door, and like Wolverine detecting Sabretooth miles away, I smell… Is that… What is that? And we go in the office. And then somebody had microwaved fish.
42:50 JB: Yes.
42:51 JJ: Delicious.
42:52 JB: After I picked Joe up off the floor.
42:53 JJ: Pungent fish.
42:54 JB: It was with a hint of lemon.
42:56 JJ: Yeah. So anyway, Joe Bardi told me that he could get 10 fish puns into this episode.
43:01 JB: And I feel… I came way short, but I feel like together…
43:04 JJ: Yeah, we got to a good place.
43:06 JB: As a team, we may have made the 10.
43:09 JJ: Well, in reality, we are a good team. I’m Joe Johnson.
43:11 JB: And I’m Joe Bardi.
43:12 JJ: And we’ll see you next week.
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