What an honor.
You’ve gotta understand, when you visit SRI http://www.sri.com/ it’s like going to church for anyone technology-minded. In just a few buildings, so much has been invented. Let’s start with the Internet itself. The first node on the Internet was installed there (the other first node was at UCLA).
The mouse was invented there, along with hypertext linking and much more by Doug Engelbart (who gave the “Mother of All Demos” way back in 1968. Info about that is here:
But the invention list goes on and on. Surgical robotics. SIRI. HDTV.
So when they invite you over, it’s a big thrill.
What did I learn?
First, a few lessons about why Silicon Valley continues to be an innovation leader, mostly thanks to military spending, but more on that later in the newsletter.
What else did I learn? Let’s start with the revelation that our phones can still get much smarter. Look at this set of demos, which show that your phone will soon be able to recognize you simply by your voice:
Voice Recognition: https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/10153535018584655/
Part II: https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/10153535022454655/
Using that technology, your phone can figure out who is talking, and even unlock at the sound of your voice. I can think of dozens of places where that will improve our lives. Think about Amazon’s Echo, which is a device that sits in your home, listening to you. Imagine if it could tell that it’s you speaking, and not your wife or your kids.
But let’s see something else they showed me at SRI: contextual video search. Watch it in action here: https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/10153534062499655/
You could search “man eating a hamburger,” and it would take you to videos of people doing exactly that. It can also take you right to the part of the video where that activity is happening.
How does this work? Artificial intelligence and machine vision learning systems. I want this so bad for my Facebook videos. Imagine being able to search for specific people talking and doing different things.
As we walked through the halls, our guides (both the current and former president of ventures there) said, “the next guy is probably our smartest employee.” Who were they talking about? Patrick Lincoln, director of the computer science lab at SRI (his info can be found at: https://www.sri.com/about/people/patrick-lincoln).
Here, he gives me a first look at how SRI does computer and network security:https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/10153533744664655/
It's an amazing look inside how this lab protects itself against hackers.
Then it got more fun, they put a robot on me!
What was that for? Well, it was developed for the military. For soldiers. Why? They need to carry 100 pound backpacks and walk long distances. The task of the robot is to assist you when walking. Now the researchers are working on making it commercially available to all of us. I can imagine a version you buy at mountaineering stores that will help you backpack.
They outfitted me with the robot, and had me walk around. It has a little motor on both sides that pulls on a cord headed down to my shin. It puts up to 100 pounds of force to assist me in walking. Very cool. In the two-part video you see the robot, the sensors that were designed to figure out where my legs and feet were and how fast I’m walking, and the computer and motor pack on my back.
Robots you wear:
Part II: https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/10153533957779655/
Finally, we visited a part of the campus I hadn’t visited before (2,200 people work at SRI, mostly in Menlo Park, California and Princeton, New Jersey, but here I was visiting its headquarters in Menlo Park). It's David Cooper’s lab, where he does sensor systems. Here they use new kinds of sensors to figure out what kinds of illnesses people have:
Which brings me to the point. Why do Silicon Valley and Israel still stand out in the world of innovation? Largely due to labs like these, which are doing government-focused work. Siri, for instance, was built for the government to enable workers to do new kinds of searches.
That’s why I keep going back. These labs continue doing long-term research that takes four to 10 years, maybe longer, before it bears fruit commercially. In fact, as we walked away from the interview, Norman Winarsky, former president of SRI Ventures, agreed when someone else said, “we’re going to be commercializing some of the stuff Pat’s working on now for the next 15 years.”
It shows just how important even a single extremely smart person is to a lab, a region and to a country.
I walked away thinking how just a small number of people have really changed my life in very deep ways. Many of whom have walked through the doors of this lab.
Here are some other things I’ve done, or that caught my eye, just in the past week.
I got a tour of smart clothing manufacturer Athos:
https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/10153536233849655/ These clothes help athletes have better workouts.
My friend Ken Yeung looks into the top startup helper, Y Combinator:
Startups. Here Andreessen Horowitz schools you about your phony metrics:https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/posts/10153529206464655
Lots of data about the collaborative economy from Jeremiah Owyang:https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/posts/10153529114734655
State of Artificial Intelligence in one post: https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/posts/10153529106419655
This startup told me to fly a kite. PhotoKite lets you fly a drone with a camera in a new way. Useful for journalists and others who want to fly a camera in places where drones won’t be allowed:
Facebook announced it's developing “M” which is a personal assistant built into Messenger. Here I sit down with Bob Rosenschein and talk about it. He started Answers.com. He's a great one to talk to about this:
Steve Rubel podcast: https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/posts/10153526922189655 We talk about my role at Rackspace, marketing trends and the innovation I’m seeing around the world.
On September 2nd, I’m speaking at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco:https://www.facebook.com/Kevin.M.OMalley/posts/10153495363143605
My wife and I are enjoying Blue Apron, which ships food to you that you make at home. We're eating healthier and learning how to cook more things, too:
I sat in the front row at Obi Worldphone launch last night. Here John Sculley, former CEO of Apple and Pepsi, launched a new set of very nicely designed smartphones for less than $200. Here is the video I shot and why it matters:https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/posts/10153541066019655
The hot development trend: React lets you reuse code for Web, iOS, and Android:
https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/posts/10153540199749655 My developer friends are talking a lot about React lately.
My first live video on Facebook was on a boat cruise with a few computer science professors:
https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/vb.501319654/10153524425424655/ All at the Think Big Festival (a conference about robotics and artificial intelligence). Fun times, and I had a robot chasing my orange shoes!
I visited the drought-resistant shower company, Nebia, which is getting a lot of attention since the shower head it developed uses 70% less water:
Something fun to end the week. I was behind the scenes as country music performer Pete Stringfellow filmed his latest music video: https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/10153532253254655/
Cool look into one of the summer’s musical hits: https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/posts/10153536149809655
Sneak peek at music technology soon to come from Retronyms:https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble/videos/10153539423549655/ this was a fun visit to a startup that many musicians are using to create their music.
Thanks, what an incredible week, and thank you to so many at SRI who gave me an amazing tour!
I read all my email at email@example.com and anything done in response to this newsletter goes to the top of my inbox. I’m also at +1-425-205-1921 or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble. Please let me know how I, or Rackspace, the leading managed cloud company, can be of service to you. Thanks too to Hugh Macleod and team for helping me do art each week for this. We love his work! You can find more at http://www.gapingvoid.com
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Not really connected to your letter, but you know people so I thought I'd just tell you.