Future Friday – driverless taxis are live

Progress is made in small steps over many years. Most project take longer to become reality than initially expected. Both these cliches hold true for autonomous vehicles as well.

The buzz about autonomous driving is peaking for a while already and we reach new (small) milestones on a regular basis. ‘Is this still news?’ you might ask. In my opinion it is. We have been teased with the promise of full autonomous driving for a long time already and so far there always was a driver present for safety reasons. Accidents have happened although rates appear to be lower than human drivers. But this week Google’s sister company Waymo released its driverless taxi service, Waymo One, to the public. A select group of beta users can order a driverless taxi in the Phoenix (U.S.) area 24/7.

A small reminder that the future is approaching fast. Even though progress is made in small steps over many years.

Here is the release video:

And a review by The Verge:



Future Friday – Blockchain bear markets

Fred Wilson, an experienced VC, has a nice piece on the current cryptocurrency bear markets. In this piece he compares where we currently are with the price of Amazon shares. After the internet bubble Amazon shares fell from a high of $90 to a low of $6. Kind of comparable to the price of most blockchain based assets.

While currently cryptocurrency assets have lost most of their value, and with that investor’s expectations of their future value this looks a lot like Amazon stock at their low point. I don’t provide investment advice, neither does Fred Wilson, but we all know the valuation of Amazon currently.

Having said that, I’m still a strong believer of the underlying blockchain technology powering these digital assets. While it’s hard to predict which implementation of the blockchain technology will power our future, the technology itself is a safe bet for widespread adoption. Look at the below graphs (form Fred’s article) for some perspective on where we are today:

Amazon share price 1998 - 2006
Amazon share price 1998 – 2006
Amazon share price 1998 - 2018
Amazon share price 1998 – 2018. The earlier turbulence is hardly visible.

Future Friday: Computational photography

Since the introduction of digital photography, advancements have mostly been hardware based. Enhancing photos was largely called editing and a separate activity from actually taking the picture with your camera. With the omnipresent camera phone the software aspect of photography has become bigger and bigger. Camera’s have become better at detecting the type of scene in front of it and adjusting the settings automatically.

This week Google unveiled their “Night Sight” feature for their line of Pixel phones (and later probably all Android powered camera’s). The image below compares a Night Shift photo on the right to an (already impressive) iPhone XS photo on the left:

Night Shift
iPhone XS on the left, Google Pixel 3 with Night Shift on the right

Combining multiple photos all with different exposure settings, alignment, merging, tone mapping and white-balance adjustment result in these amazing achievements. As a photography fan I’m enthusiastic about the possibilities this add to the camera that you carry most.

For a more in-depth look at the challenges and technology behind Night Shift see the article on the Google AI blog.

Enjoy your Friday!


Future Friday: Photo realistic faces generated using AI

As an entrepreneur or innovator it is not only fun but also highly relevant to stay on top of advancements in technology. They can impact your project or business in many ways, such as solve problems previously deemed unsolvable or create opportunities for new business models. That is why every Friday I will highlight an aspect of a new technology, a new innovative app feature or a project that got funded that gives us that glimpse into our future, today.

Generating faces using AI

Two imaginary celebrities generated randomly by an AI system. (c) Nvidia
Two imaginary celebrities generated randomly by an AI system. (c) Nvidia

It is already commonplace to use AI powered algorithms to detect features of human faces such as age, hair color, smile, gender etc. The technology is production ready and used to track people on public roads. It is an entirely different technological challenge to have an AI system generate photo realistic images of humans according to specified human features. That hurdle has now been taken. Have a look at the below video to see what’s¬†possible. Follow this link to find out more.

Have a nice Friday!