I recently wrote about the 6 technology revolutions that are happening beyond Digital. These revolutions are real and happening right now. These are some experiences which have made it real for me.
(En español aquí)
Another visit to a young startup in a Spring Madrilian morning. I am expecting nothing out of the ordinary. I meet a very young executive in the company offices in a nice place in town. He seems intelligent and prepared. Then the surprises start coming. They’ve raised a substantial amount of money, all from international investors. They sell mostly outside Spain, companies here are generally not sophisticated enough. They have attracted over 50 top coders from all over Europe to Madrid. Impressive, what are they up to?
Their initial product is a Software-as-a-Service that helps companies recruit new coders by analyzing contributions to public repositories such as Github and determining which are the best fit. They can determine who will work well with your current teams based on AI-based analysis of code. Wow! But that is only a stepping stone to their real goal. They are using AI-analysis of billions of line of publicly available and client contributed lines of code to build a Virtual Assistant that helps you code. It will predict what goes next and fix frequent mistakes for coders. Over time it will be even able to do the heavy lifting based on a high-level architecture blueprint by a human programmer. They are already using an initial version of it for their own coding.
I am shocked. We are talking about replacing coders with machines. It might still take some years, but they seem reasonably close to having something that is at least helpful. What job category is safe if even coders can be enhanced by AI and partially automated? How fast can things move forward once you can have machines coding at digital speed for you?
I am in the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, always a place to see the latest gadgets and technologies. I like to wander around just taking in the latest and greatest. It used to be phones, but lately, phones are boring glass rectangles. It is hard to be excited by the exact dimensions or the bezel design. However, each year there is more virtual and enhanced reality, that is exciting.
I first stop at a US technology company that is helping retailers design their spaces. They have a software that allows you to see how a physical space will look once you equip it. I spend five minutes virtually placing Coke machines and Coke shelves in a booth. You can do it real time and get a perfect depiction of how it will look. Of course, you can choose the color, size, and the inventory. And even take a picture with real people standing to the side of the machine.
I then move to a Catalonian startup that allows you to virtually visit apartments with VR-glasses. You can see the whole thing in a minute and feel as if you have been there. Having house hunted with more than 50 apartment visits I think about the time I would have saved, for myself and for the real estate broker.
Finally, I get a glimpse of Google’s latest gadget. An augmented reality kit for phones called Tango (this would in time lead to the Google ARCore). You can mix and match reality and images seamlessly. They have many apps, some for furniture retailers that allow you to place and buy your furniture at home, some exciting games and educational ones for children. I know I am getting that phone, even if the boring glass rectangle is too big for my own good.
Disrupting many of the real estate industries most established paradigms will just be the first step for integrated reality. The opportunities from there are limitless. We will need to get used to a wholly different medium, but once we have there will be no turning back.
New Energy Transportation Matrix
The car is stunning. It is sleek and elegant, beautiful lines. I have never been a gearhead. When we bought our last car my wife had to argue for the upgrade to nice wheels. However, even I can appreciate the beauty of this car. The huge tablet in the console also helps. It has Google Maps and Spotify integrated. At last free from those terrible proprietary infotainment systems that car manufacturers take sadist pleasure in inflicting on us. I am test driving one of the first Tesla’s to come to Spain.
The driving itself is amazing. Acceleration in “ludicrous” mode is so impressive that my daughters continuously ask for the “amusement park ride”. I am lectured by a gearhead friend on all the advantages of electric in terms of stability and power. Apparently, the Tesla (and most other electric cars) will have better handling and acceleration that the nicest Italian sports cars. The silence is also awesome, so different from the incessant clatter of internal combustion.
Then I try autonomous driving. This is the real game-changer. Even with something between level 3 and 4 it is impressive. In highways and traffic jams you can let it do everything itself. I can only imagine what level 5 could bring in terms of giving us back hours of driving and reducing accidents, also allowing children and the elderly or disabled access to transportation, and slashing the cost of transport by an order of magnitude. Of course, the impact it will have on jobs is scary too.
Recharging is still a bit slow, but manageable. With the current 450km range I think back and calculate that I would be in trouble three times a year. And only in one of the three we don’t do an extended stop for lunch which would be enough to recharge. Considering plummeting solar power and storage costs I now understand why oil-producing countries are willing to take much lower prices for their barrels, it is better to get some money than to have black muck sitting below ground unused.