Thomas's Innovation Wrap #50

💲 Kodak finds new life, 🛰️ NASA searches for life, and 💻 Intel struggles with life

Greetings,

Here's your weekly wrap of technology, innovation, and finance news.

🛰️ Space

NASA successfully launched its new plutonium-powered rover, Perseverance, to Mars to search for signs of alien life.

The Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity robotic helicopter.

Virgin Galactic unveiled the interior of their SpaceShipTwo spaceliner.

Amazon will invest $10 billion in its satellite internet network, Kuiper, after receiving FCC approval. The network will consist of 3,236 low Earth orbit satellites and will compete with SpaceX’s Starlink network.

CNBC details how SpaceX beat Boeing in the race to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

💲 Finance

Eastman Kodak is having a good week! The company, which went bankrupt in 2012 and re-listed in 2013, has pivoted from photography to cryptocurrencies to drugs. The stock rallied after receiving a $765 million federal loan to produce ingredients for coronavirus treatments.

Alphabet’s revenue dropped for the first time in its history during Q2, while Facebook’s revenue grew 11%, underscoring the superiority of Facebook’s advertising model and the substitutability of their ad slots; not even an ad boycott could stop them.

💻 Chips and Computing

Intel is struggling with their 7-nanometre production process and is considering outsourcing manufacturing, sending their stock down 20% over the past week. TSMC, who they’d potentially outsource to, saw their stock rise 19% over the past week, while Intel competitor AMD’s stock has risen 31%.

“With the latest push out of process technology, we believe that Intel has zero-to-no chance of catching or surpassing TSMC at least for the next half decade, if not ever,” Susquehanna analyst Chris Rolland wrote in a research note.

Google claims its new TPUs are 2.7 times faster than the previous generation.

💊 Health

Coronavirus vaccine hopes are rising after several positive results.

There are more than 160 coronavirus vaccines in development around the world. About 140 of these are at the preclinical stage, meaning they are still being looked at in laboratories and in animal tests. Another 25 are already being tested in people.

The rate at which the tally has risen to 160-plus is unusually fast. “What is phenomenal is the numbers changing over the past few months. The amount of research is incredible,” says Sheuli Porkess at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.

🛍️ Ecommerce

COVID-19 is driving luxury brands to prioritise online.

Kering, which owns brands including Gucci and Saint Laurent, said on July 28 that e-commerce accounted for 13% of its total retail sales (pdf) in the first half of 2020, up from just 6% during the same period last. CFO Jean-Marc Duplaix pointed out on a call with investors that even as stores have reopened around China and Europe, digital growth continued to accelerate.

UPS average daily shipping volume rose 21% in 2Q, faster than the company has ever recorded, thanks to the surge in ecommerce purchases. The demand has improved pricing power for UPS, which has increased prices in the double-digit percentage range for some large shippers in recent weeks.

“At the beginning of the second quarter, we assumed demand would slow,” Chief Executive Carol Tomé said on Thursday’s earnings call. “Instead, we saw just the opposite.”

▶️ Streaming

The gap between when a movie shows at the cinema and when it’s available to rent online will shrink from 90 days to 17 days, at least for Universal Pictures movies that show at AMC theatres after the two companies struck a deal. As part of the deal, AMC will receive part of Universal’s digital rental revenue which has never happened before.

“AMC enthusiastically embraces this new industry model,” AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a statement, adding that the company is, for the first time, “participating in the entirety of the economics of the new structure.”

🎮 Gaming

Matthew Ball wrote an excellent piece on Nintendo, Disney, and Cultural Determinism. For an investor, understanding a company’s culture and what they will do is much more important than understanding what they could or should do.

Culture is the critical distinguisher between not just Nintendo and Disney but also Nintendo, its gaming peers, and the consumer digital ecosystem overall.

Electronic Arts reported its strongest June quarter sales ever as people stayed home and played games.

Net revenue soared to $1.46 billion, topping estimates calling for $1.05 billon. Of that, $1.1 billion came from the live services and other category, while the full game category brought in $359 million. Live services are generally in-game items, perks, and added content purchased after the game is sold.

⚡ Other Snippets

Facebook researchers have developed a general AI framework called Recursive Belief-based Learning (ReBeL) that performs better at Texas Hold’em Poker than humans and any prior poker AI (see their paper).

Mark Zuckerberg says there’s no end in sight for Facebook employees working from home, while Google plans to keep employees home until at least July 2021.

Alternative meat startups have raised $1.4 billion from venture investors so far this year, more than doubling the $500 million raised last year. Impossible Foods has raised the most, at $500 million, followed by Oatly, Memphis Meats, and Perfect Day.

Have a great weekend,

Thomas

Share Thomas's Innovation Wrap


About Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice is the portfolio manager for the Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, based in Sydney, Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @thomasrice_au.

Thomas's Innovation Wrap #49

💎 An impressive natural language model, 💊 oxygen's impact on cognitive function, and 🛰️ a Disney veteran joins Virgin Galactic

Greetings,

Here's your weekly wrap of technology, innovation, and finance news.

💎 Artificial Intelligence

This week we saw the first example uses of GPT-3, the latest natural language machine learning model from OpenAI, and the results are impressive! Several people were given access to the company’s API, which allows you to provide a text input and get a natural language answer in response.

For example, here someone has fed the model a question addressed to Richard Dawkins, and GPT-3 has generated an email response that sounds like Richard Dawkins could have written it.

Image

Other examples include GPT-3 being used to summarise complex text, to write blog posts, speculative fiction, business memos, and code, and one person used it to create a functional search engine that responds to arbitrary queries.

It’s impressive, but it’s also important to understand its limitations. At its core, GPT-3 is an extremely sophisticated text predictor that has effectively ingested all the text available on the internet. While the responses are realistic, the model has no understanding of the words it produces, and therefore its realistic prose shouldn’t be mistaken for reasoning or intelligence. It also means it’s still prone to making silly mistakes that people would pick up on.

💲 Finance

Personal Plug: The Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, which I run, was featured in last week's AFR article How top fundies beat the virus as the third-best performing global fund in Australia over the previous 12 months.

Image

Chinese fintech giant Ant Group, which owns Alipay, plans to go public via a dual-listing in Shanghai and Hong Kong. The company last raised money in mid-2018 at a $150 billion valuation.

Ant’s listing would draw more global investors to Hong Kong, and make mainland Chinese companies an even larger part of the city’s $5 trillion stock market. Many U.S. money managers already hold Hong Kong-listed stocks, and some retail brokers also let individual investors in the U.S. trade shares on the city’s bourse.

Google has become the latest investor in India's Jio Platforms, investing $4.5 billion for a 7.7% stake. The investment comes three months after Facebook invested $5.7 billion in the company.

Many analysts and executives consider India one of the last great untapped digital markets. While expansion in most big markets has slowed, India will be adding around 171 million new wireless internet subscribers in the next five years, according to estimates from GSMA Intelligence. That is twice the number expected to be added in China and the U.S. combined.

WeWork's Chairman Marcelo Claure expects the company to see positive cash flow and profits in 2021, a year ahead of schedule.

“Everybody thought WeWork was mission impossible. [That we had] zero chance. And now, a year from now, you are going to see WeWork to basically be a profitable venture with an incredible diversity of assets,” Claure was quoted by the FT as saying. 

🛰️ Space

Virgin Galactic has appointed the Head of Disney’s International Parks, Michael Colglazier, as their next CEO. The 30-year Disney veteran joins just as Virgin Galactic is about to start commercial operations which shifts the focus from technology R&D to running and growing what is essentially a consumer entertainment experience (suborbital space flights). The current CEO, George Whitesides, will take on a newly created role of Chief Space Officer, which will allow him to focus on the company's future technology developments.

The change at the top is telling. Evolving its technology to enable hypersonic travel between cities on Earth is a key part of the company’s long-term business case. Departing CEO and former NASA man George Whitesides will still pursue that vision under the new title of chief space officer, but putting Mr. Colglazier at the helm shows that Virgin is sensibly more focused for now on creating the best theme-park thrill experience.

The United Arab Emirates is planning to send an orbiter called Hope to Mars.

Hope will blast off from Tanegashima, Japan, aboard a Japanese rocket, and if all goes well it will arrive at Mars in February 2021. This will make the United Arab Emirates just the fifth spacefaring power to reach the planet, after the US, Soviet Union, European Union and India.

🌞 Renewables

Joe Biden has announced a plan to spend $2 trillion over four years to significantly escalate the use of clean energy.

Campaign officials said they expected to achieve the goal by encouraging the installation of “millions of new solar panels and tens of thousands of wind turbines,” but also keeping in place existing nuclear energy plants. The plan also will call for investing in carbon capture and storage technology for natural gas.

Bloomberg Green profiled Proterra, a US startup that's trying to lead the electric bus revolution in the US. China is currently leading the world in electric buses, with over 420,000 in 2019, compared to a mere 600 in the US.

💊 Health

An Israeli study suggests that pure oxygen treatment can improve cognitive function (see the paper).

One of the volunteers from his experiment, Avi Rabinovitch, 69, said that he “entered this study healthy, and left it a tiger,” adding that his memory and cognition have improved.

Efrati recruited 63 people aged 65-plus, took MRI scans and tested their cognitive abilities. He then gave some of them a 60-day course of treatment during which they spent 2-hour stints in a pressurized chamber five times a week, breathing pure oxygen for some of the time.

🎮 Gaming

US video game spending hit a 10-year high in June.

Spending has been dramatically higher in 2020 than it was compared to last year, with sales through June up 19 percent year over year, and June sales specifically were up 26 percent compared to the same month in 2019. While NPD’s numbers don’t cite a specific reason for the boost in sales, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that a major contributing factor was the spike in video game playing caused by millions of people having a sudden boost in free time thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns.

Microsoft’s cloud gaming service, xCloud, will launch in September.

🔒 Cybersecurity

Twitter was hacked last week and several high-profile accounts were compromised. One of the more interesting summaries I've read came from Jeremy Arnold, who summarised conflicting media narratives of the attack and highlighted what was missing from the media coverage. He followed up that post with a sequel today.

Something went very wrong yesterday. Well a few things really, which happened to involve some of the most important people alive. Yet the resulting journalism has mostly been curiously thin (and in two major cases fundamentally irreconcilable).

⚙️ Mobility

Some civilian aircraft now have the option of adding an auto-land capability by Garmin.

Until recently, total “auto-land” capabilities were unimaginable in virtually any civilian aircraft. Now private pilots are getting access to sophisticated automated safeguards, going beyond those used in many commercial aircraft. Proponents of the systems predict they could start reshaping jetliner cockpits within the next decade.

Propeller Aero has raised $26 million ahead of the launch of DirtMate, a new product that builds 3D maps of work sites in real-time. The product extends the company's offerings beyond drone mapping technologies.

Founded in 2014 by Rory San Miguel and Francis Vierboom (who has since left the business), Propeller Aero's drone mapping technology is used by some of the world's biggest mining, quarry and construction companies to create 3D maps of their worksites. This allows for swift, safe measurement of things such as how much space is left in a landfill site, or the level of a new road.

⚛️ Quantum Technology

If you ever wanted to learn about Quantum Technology, Michael J. Biercuk wrote an article for national security professionals that tells you what to read and where to look to learn more, including an introductory video series produced by Q-CTRL, a company he founded and leads.

The level of true potential for quantum technology in national security and more broadly is profound and fully justifies major investments such as the U.S. National Quantum Initiative. However, this level of promise has inevitably led to hype in the popular media, company press releases, venture-capital newsletters, and (international) government program announcements. It is essential that in making an informed assessment you seek the truth beyond the hype.

⚡ Other Snippets

KFC in the US will soon expand its Beyond Fried Chicken offering to Southern California following successful trials in Atlanta, Nashville, and Charlotte. KFC in Russia will soon start trialling cell-based chicken nuggets in partnership with 3D Bioprinting Solutions, a laboratory for biotechnological research founded by INVITRO, the largest private medical company in Russia.

Graphcore unveiled its new AI processor, the Colossus MK2.

Identity-as-a-service startup Auth0 raised $120 million at a post-money valuation of $1.92 billion.

A new Lancet report suggests that every global region could see populations declines by the end of the century except for Africa, which could triple in the same period. The report predicts that by 2100, India will be the most populous country with 1.09 billion people, followed by Nigeria at 790 million people and China at 730 million people.

HSBC UK customers can now get a mortgage without leaving their home via Zoom. John Lewis also launched a personal shopping service via Zoom.

Have a great week,

Thomas

Share Thomas's Innovation Wrap


About Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice is the portfolio manager for the Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, based in Sydney, Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @thomasrice_au.

Thomas's Innovation Wrap #48

🔬 A new class of gene editors, 💲 NVIDIA rises to the top of US semis, and 🎮 Sony's Epic investment

Greetings,

Here's your weekly wrap of technology, innovation, and finance news.

⚙️ Mobility

Boom Supersonic announced they would be unveiling their XB-1 demonstrator supersonic jet on October 7th. The company hopes the XB-1 will pave the way for the company’s 55-passenger Overture jet that can potentially fly from New York to London in three hours and 15 minutes, half the time it currently takes.

🔬 Biology

A relatively new startup called Tessera Therapeutics is developing a new class of gene editors capable of writing long stretches of DNA, something Crispr can’t do.

So far, company scientists have identified about 6,000 retrotransposons (what Tessera calls RNA writers) and 2,000 transposons (DNA writers) that show potential. Tessera’s team of 35 scientists have been conducting experiments in human cells to understand how exactly each one works. Sometimes, a promising, naturally-occurring gene writer will get tweaked further in Tessera’s lab, to be more precise or go to a different location. The company hasn’t yet demonstrated that any of its gene writers can eliminate an inherited disease. But in mouse models, the team has consistently been able to use them to insert lots of copies of a large green fluorescent protein gene into the animals’ genomes as a way of proving that they can reliably place designer DNA.

💲 Finance

NVIDIA became the most valuable US chipmaker on Wednesday, surpassing Intel for the first time. The 2037% rise in NVIDIA’s share price over the past five years has been driven by their chips becoming a primary way to train machine learning models.

The WSJ profiled Afterpay, the most valuable tech company listed in Australia. The stock is up more than ninefold from its March low as the company rapidly adds new users in the US and bad debt issues (a key part of the bear case) have not yet materialised.

Analysts had expected buy-now-pay-later providers to struggle in an economic slowdown, hit by rising bad debts and consumers tightening purse-strings in response to lost jobs and lower income. So far, the opposite appears to have happened.

By June 30, Afterpay had 5.6 million active U.S. users, more than half of its global customer base, as lockdowns, layoffs and store closures pushed shoppers to buy online.

🛍️ Ecommerce

Live-streaming has become a lifeline for some Chinese retailers looking to sell online, and international brands like Louis Vuitton and Gap are joining the trend.

Some big companies, such as local cosmetics brand Forest Cabin, have trained sales staff to run regular live streams, answering customers’ virtual queries much as they would deal with in-store visitors.

Until last year, 80% of the company’s sales happened in-store. That has now flipped, and 80% of sales are online, said Chief Executive Sun Laichun. “The Covid-19 epidemic changed how we operate,” he said. Even as the epidemic raged, first-quarter sales, propelled by live streaming, actually increased 20% from a year earlier, he added.

Louis Vuitton tapped movie star Zhong Chuxi to host its first live stream on social-commerce platform Xiaohongshu in March, while Gap’s live-stream debut on Taobao in April was fronted by Viya, one of China’s best-known social-media influencers.

🎮 Gaming

Sony made a strategic investment of $250 million in Epic Games, maker of Unreal Engine and Fortnite, which gives Sony a 1.4% stake in the company and values Epic Games at $17.86 billion. The two companies will explore opportunities for further collaboration across gaming, music, and film. Back in April, Fortnite held a popular in-game event with Sony Music artist Travis Scott that had 12.3 million concurrent players participating (video).

“Sony and Epic have both built businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music. Together we strive to build an even more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators alike,” said Tim Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Epic.

🤖 Robotics

Coronavirus outbreaks are spurring Tyson Foods to invest more in robotic butchers. Meat remains a challenging area for robotics due to the soft material and variability involved.

Tyson’s technicians are trying to teach machines to recognize and quickly adjust to differences in meat coloration and shape, part of what executives say makes meat processing harder for machines than, say, assembling cars from uniform, manufactured components.

In meat plants, “our parts are infinitely variable,” said Marty Linn, previously the principal engineer of robotics for General Motors, who joined Tyson last year to help direct its automation efforts.

🛰️ Space

A NASA mission to explore Psyche, a weird metal asteroid, is on track for its August 2022 launch after the mission passed its critical design review last week.

Most of the objects in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter are rocky. But, strangely, 16 Psyche appears to be made primarily of metallic iron and nickel, a composition similar to that of Earth's core. For that reason, scientists suspect that 16 Psyche may be the exposed core of an ancient planet, whose rocky outer layers were stripped away by impacts long ago.

⚡ Other Snippets

Twitter engineers wrote an interesting blog post explaining how they refactored their ad platform architecture last year after it had seen ten years of iterative development.

As we continue to grow our ad business, adding a new product will be as easy as plugging and playing these horizontal platform services as needed. 

Twitter is also working on a subscription platform codenamed Gryphon, according to two online job postings.

Personal plug: The fund I run now has a 3-year track record. Check it out. 😃

Have a great week,

Thomas

Share Thomas's Innovation Wrap


About Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice is the portfolio manager for the Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, based in Sydney, Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @thomasrice_au.

Thomas's Innovation Wrap #47

💲 Trading music royalties, 🌞 hydrogen power viability, and 👓 holographic optics for lightweight VR

Greetings,

Here's your weekly wrap of technology, innovation, and finance news.

⚙️ Mobility

TuSimple, an autonomous truck company backed by UPS, is adding service delivery routes throughout Texas in 2020 and 2021 and hopes to be shipping nationwide by 2024. Autonomous trucking is a more straightforward problem to solve than autonomous cars because it’s easier to pre-map the routes you’ll take.

“Imagine if you could influence, back in the day, where a railroad track was being built, and you could build that railroad track right to your front door,” TuSimple president Cheng Lu told Recode. “As a shipper, wouldn’t that give you a big advantage?”

Waymo is expanding its autonomous truck testing to the American Southwest.

In a first step toward this vision, Waymo says it will soon expand testing on roads in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas along the I-10 corridor between Phoenix and Tuscon, as previously announced. This year Waymo mapped routes between Phoenix, El Paso, Dallas, and Houston and ramped up testing in California on freeways in Mountain View, but the focus for the rest of 2020 will be on the American Southwest.

💲 Finance

Interest in music royalties as an alternative asset class is higher than its ever been with investor sign-ups to Royalty Exchange, a marketplace for buying and selling music royalties, four times higher than it has ever been.

Investors see music royalties as a relatively safe, stable asset amid current market volatility. Executives who oversee transactions for borrowing against, buying and selling music rights and royalty streams say their phones have never been busier; they are closing a record number of deals. Low interest rates combined with an asset that produces yields largely untethered from the broader economy are making music an attractive investment.

Lemonade, a chatbot-driven AI-powered home & contents insurer backed by SoftBank, listed on the NYSE. It jumped 138% on Thursday from their IPO price of $29 and is now up 180% to $81.19, giving them a market cap of $4.5 billion.

Young people in South Korea are flocking to open hundreds of thousands of trading accounts, contributing to a significant increase in net purchases by retail investors.

The Korea Financial Investment Association says trading accounts used by investors in their 20s and 30s jumped more than 50% year-over-year in the first quarter.

Tesla is making new all-time highs, prompting Elon Musk to taunt short-sellers with a new line of official Tesla short shorts selling for $69.420.

Palantir Technologies, a data-analytics company founded in 2004 and valued at $20 billion, has filed to go public. The company generated $750 million in revenue last year but is not yet profitable.

🌞 Renewables

The Economist examines the various ways hydrogen is again being considered as a viable energy carrier.

The economics, then, seem to be pointing in the right direction for hydrogen to become, if not dominant, then at least an important part of the mix. The Hydrogen Council, a lobby group based in Brussels, thinks the gas could be satisfying 18% of the world’s energy demand by 2050. The share prices of firms that make fuel cells, electrolysis equipment and the like have consequently been marching upward.

Rocky Mountain Institute, a research group focused on sustainability, claims in a new report that replacing all global coal plants with clean energy plus battery storage could result in net savings as early as 2022. The key assumption in the report — the levelised cost of renewable energy and storage in future years — is sourced from Lazard’s 2019 analysis.

🤖 Robotics

Travel restrictions due to Covid-19 are helping to drive the use of inspector robots in factories to check for quality control.

The pandemic has forced many manufacturers to rethink established practices. In some places, remote sensing and machine learning substitute for fewer visits, overnight package deliveries, and manual inspections. Robots may be far from displacing humans in manufacturing that requires nimble fingers and flexibility. But systems like the one used by P2i show how AI can help machines carve out niches in manufacturing.

Building a PlayStation 4 takes just 30 seconds for a team of 32 robots at Sony’s largely automated factory (see additional graphics).

"There's probably no other site that can manipulate robots in this manner," said an engineer. Every process -- all the way to final packaging -- is automated. The blend of robotic and human labor is painstakingly optimized with a priority on return on investment.

👓 Virtual and Augmented Reality

Facebook Reality Labs has unveiled holographic optics for thin and lightweight virtual reality.

In this work, “Holographic Optics for Thin and Lightweight Virtual Reality,” researchers Andrew Maimone and Junren Wang propose a new class of near-eye displays, which combine the power of holographic optics and polarization-based optical folding — an approach that could be used to develop future sunglasses-like VR hardware. These two methods help keep the optics as thin as possible while making the most efficient use of space. We anticipate that such lightweight and comfortable form factors may enable extended VR sessions and new use cases, including productivity.

Google has acquired North, a startup focused on smart glasses. They reportedly paid $180 million for the startup, less than $200 million North had raised to date.

⚡ Other Snippets

Luluemon has bet on the future of home fitness by acquiring Mirror, a $1,495 wall-mounted screen used for streaming workout classes. They paid $500 million for the company.

OneWeb, which filed for bankruptcy protection in March, may live on with a $1 billion investment from the UK government and Indian cellphone operator Bharti Global. The company plans to launch a constellation of 42,000 low-earth-orbit satellites that will compete with SpaceX’s Starlink constellation.

It hopes the OneWeb constellation will provide it with a precise Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT) service that could be used in place of the EU’s Galileo sat-nav system, which the U.K. is banned from following Brexit.  

Axon Enterprise is looking to develop a Taser effective enough to replace pistols over the next decade.

Pokemon Go continues to post record revenues and has now surpassed $3.6 billion in lifetime spending.

Hedge fund legend, mathematician, and philanthropist Jim Simons gave his first-ever podcast interview a few weeks ago with UC San Diego Professor Brian Keating.

Have a great week,

Thomas

Share Thomas's Innovation Wrap


About Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice is the portfolio manager for the Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, based in Sydney, Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @thomasrice_au.

Thomas's Innovation Wrap #46

💊 Gene-editing to cure heart disease, 💻 an ARM-based supercomputer, and 🎮 early Cyberpunk 2077 reviews

Greetings,

Here's your weekly wrap of technology, innovation, and finance news.

🛰️ Space

NASA's next mission to Mars will include an experimental helicopter for the first time which will help with surveying the planet.

If it works, the small helicopter, named Ingenuity, will open a new way for future robotic explorers to get a bird’s-eye view of Mars and other worlds in the solar system.

A mission to Mars by China would put the nation among the world's space leaders.

Due to launch in July, the mission, if successful, would mark dramatic progress for China’s space program. In recent years it has fielded several lunar landers but made only one attempt on Mars, an orbiter that piggybacked on a failed 2011 Russian mission to the martian moon Phobos.

Virgin Galactic and NASA have launched a new program to train private astronauts for missions to the International Space Station.

Relativity Space, a 3D rocket printing startup, has signed a deal with satellite operator Iridium to launch up to six satellites as early as 2023. Relativity says that by 3D-printing their rockets, they use 100 times fewer parts than traditional rockets, along with a more straightforward supply chain, and this will lead to cost savings for Iridium. Bloomberg also profiled the company.

⚙️ Mobility

Amazon has entered the self-driving car market through the acquisition of Zoox which pits it against Waymo, Cruise, Uber, Tesla, and in all likelihood Apple as well. The company spent over $1 billion acquiring Zoox, and some estimate they'll need to spend an additional $2 billion per year on development to get the technology to market.

“This fits well into Amazon’s model for automating its distribution network spanning from warehouse robotics, to last mile delivery services,” Somo wrote. He added that the acquisition should “drive operational efficiencies, scale and eventually result in substantial cost savings across their distribution network.”

🎮 Gaming

Newzoo predicts there will be over 3 billion gamers by 2023, or 39% of all humans, driven by demographics (there's a new gamer born every day) and widespread access to games through mobile devices.

How many gamers are there in the world? How many people play games

Call of Duty Mobile has shot past 250 million downloads in its first eight months, surpassing where Fortnite and PUBG were at the same point in time after launch. Adapting strong PC franchises for mobile has been a successful strategy for several developers, with NCsoft's mobile version of Lineage 2 leading to record company profits earlier this year. Nexon's pending Mobile Dungeon & Fighter launch in China will likely do the same.

CD Projekt held their first Night City Wire episode for Cyberpunk 2077 which included a new trailer and the release of new gameplay footage. I'm impressed, and think this game will be one of the best sellers on next-generation consoles after its November 19 release. Early reviews of the game, which came out after the Night City Wire event, were largely positive.

But with expectations as high as possible and another delay announced earlier this month to give it time to polish, CD Projekt Red is taking a gamble that Cyberpunk 2077 will be worth it. With its abundance of choice around playstyles, character personality, and narrative, the game wants to offer a bit of everything to everyone. It’s a slick action title, a deep and meaty narrative RPG with consequential decision-making, and a wildly immersive simulation of daily urban life in the far future all rolled into one.

After my brief time with an experience that feels worthy of dozens if not hundreds of hours, I’m willing to believe CD Projekt Red may have actually pulled this juggling act off.

Microsoft is shutting down live-streaming service Mixer despite spending tens of millions of dollars to poach popular streamers Ninja and Shroud from Twitch less than a year ago. This just goes to show how difficult it is to disrupt Twitch's lead, at least in Western markets.

💊 Health

Could this be a cure for heart disease? A gene-editing experiment in monkeys looks like it has permanently reduced LDL and triglyceride levels, which are associated with a much higher risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.

Not only did the system work in 13 monkeys, the researchers reported, but it appeared that every liver cell was edited. After gene editing, the monkeys’ LDL levels dropped by 59 percent within two weeks. The ANGPTL3 gene editing led to a 64 percent decline in triglyceride levels.

A new cancer drug from Merck KGaA that targets cancer's ability to repair its DNA is showing promising results in its phase I trial (see the paper).

The new study, designed to test the drug's safety, found that half of patients given the new drug either alone or with platinum chemotherapy saw their cancer stop growing, and two patients saw their tumors shrink or disappear completely.

Using CRISPR to edit human embryos may not be safe after new research showed it could result in significant unwanted changes to the genome at or near the target site.

“If human embryo editing for reproductive purposes or germline editing were space flight, the new data are the equivalent of having the rocket explode at the launch pad before take-off,” says Fyodor Urnov, who studies genome editing at the University of California, Berkeley, but was not involved in any of the latest research.

Telehealth startup Ro is hitting record sales each month since it expanded its online pharmacy business before the pandemic started.

💎 Artificial Intelligence

Facebook AI has released an AI development tool based on NetHack, an amazing ASCII game from 1987. :)

Facebook NetHack Learning Environment

💻 Chips and Computing

A Japanese supercomputer named Fugaku has taken the top spot in Top 500 supercomputer speed rankings, which is the first time a supercomputer based on ARM processors has taken the top place.

Fugaku has successfully taken the top spot in the TOP500 supercomputer tracker from Summit with a score of 415.53 petaflops in the LINPACK benchmark. Summit manages a “mere” 148.6 petaflops, making Fugaku almost three times faster. However, Fugaku has no GPUs. The system has also taken the top spot in measures of AI application processing (HPL-AI), Conjugate Gradients (HPCG),  and data-intensive workloads (Graph500). No system has led in all four categories at the same time before. It’s also the first Japanese system to top the rankings in almost a decade. 

Apple will stop using Intel chips for their Macs and will instead move to ARM-based processors. This move highlights how far Intel has fallen behind and is a boon for SoftBank (which owns ARM) and TSMC (which will likely be the foundry for the new processors).

Still, ARM-based chips can pack some punch. Benchmarks run on the latest MacBook Air (with an Intel i5 configuration) suggested that its performance wasn't as fast as the 2018 iPad Pro, which uses Apple's own ARM-based A12X. In a multi-core test, that tablet had 73 percent faster performance than the new MacBook Air.

A new study shows it's possible to get an artificial neuron to communicate directly with a biological one using dopamine which potentially lays the groundwork for … cyborgs? (see the paper).

The new study now tackles the other half: chemical computing. It adds a layer of compatibility that lays the groundwork not just for brain-inspired computers, but also for brain-machine interfaces and—perhaps—a sort of “cyborg” future. After all, if your brain can’t tell the difference between an artificial neuron and your own, could you? And even if you did, would you care?

🔒 Cybersecurity

Salesforce has invested an estimated $100 million in security software provider Tanium at a $9 billion valuation.

Tanium’s technology gives IT teams visibility into all those devices that employees are now using from home, an issue that’s becoming more important by the day as the coronavirus pandemic drags on and companies keep their staffers out of the office.

Microsoft has spent $165 million to acquire CyberX, an IoT cybersecurity firm that increases Microsoft’s exposure to security for industrial control systems (see their blog post).

A leak-focused activist group has published BlueLeaks, a 269-gigabyte collection of police data that includes emails, audio, video, and intelligence documents.

💲 Finance

Bloomberg writes about how everyone is chasing the same alternative data. Trying to generate alpha from alternative data is hard; it's highly competitive and at best only ever gives you an edge on short-term results. Long-term stock returns are driven by what will happen many years into the future, which isn't directly observable and thus remains an almost entirely theoretical game.

Canva has raised $60 million at a $6 billion valuation (A$8.7 billion) as it plans to open a new office in Austin, Texas. The raising makes the SAAS design company the most valuable private technology company in Australia, and more valuable than many listed domestic peers (WiseTech A$6.9 billion, SEEK A$7.6 billion).

Zoom is no longer the best-performing work-from-home stock after being surpassed by Fastly. Fastly is a developer-driven content delivery network (CDN) that counts Shopify, Spotify, and Slack as customers. The company should grow revenue by over 40% this year.

Dell is looking to spin off its 81% stake in VMware. VMware's an interesting business, with an excellent management team, but corporate governance concerns stemming from Dell’s ownership stake have always negatively impacted the stock’s valuation.

Etsy stock has tripled in three months as a surge in face mask sales introduced new shoppers to the platform.

⚡ Other Snippets

I enjoyed this interview with Paul Bassat, co-founder of both Square Peg and SEEK. (As a side note, SEEK was the first big "win" of my investing career as a young analyst; we bought the stock for ~$2.30 in May 2005 on the view the market greatly underestimated the pricing power of the job ad business, and we sold it for ~$7.50 two years later when that became reflected in the price.)

Amazon launched Honeycode, a no-code app building service.

Facebook is facing advertising boycotts from several companies (Unilever, Coca Cola, Verizon, Hershey) after the social media platform was criticised for not doing enough to combat hate speech and disinformation. Facebook has been the most resilient advertising platform during the pandemic largely because their ad slots are highly substitutable and their auction-based pricing model means that the next-highest bid often replaces advertisers that reduce their spending, limiting the impact.

CSIRO scientists in Australia have discovered how to genetically modify cotton to make it coloured.

Human IPO is a startup that lets people sell up to 500 hours of their time on the open market. One share corresponds to one hour of time, and investors can buy shares to make a bet that those hours will be worth more in the future. They can also redeem shares to have a one-on-one meeting.

A prototype US military electroshock weapon can hit a person 100 metres away.

California will require at least 50% of truck sales to be electric by 2035, with the goal of making all new trucks sold in California zero-emission by 2045.

Isaac Asimov's sci-fi classic Foundation is coming to streaming in 2021 via AppleTV.

Have a great week,

Thomas

Share Thomas's Innovation Wrap


About Thomas Rice

Thomas Rice is the portfolio manager for the Perpetual Global Innovation Share Fund, based in Sydney, Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @thomasrice_au.

Loading more posts…