Thomas's Innovation Wrap #24

🔬 Living robots, 🌞 investing to combat climate change, and 👁️ the end of privacy

Greetings,

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

🔬 Biology

Researchers have built the first living robots out of repurposed frog cells.

Though only a millimetre or so across, the artificial organisms Dr Bongard and Dr Levin have invented, which they call xenobots, can move and perform simple tasks, such as pushing pellets along in a dish. That may not sound much, but the process could, they reckon, be scaled up and made to do useful things. Bots derived from a person’s own cells might, for instance, be injected into the bloodstream to remove plaque from artery walls or to identify cancer. More generally, swarms of them could be built to seek out and digest toxic waste in the environment, including microscopic bits of plastic in the sea.

💊 Health

Mojo Vision has created smart contact lenses that create an augmented reality display in a user’s field of vision. There’s no timeline for launch, but the company has received US FDA approval as a “breakthrough” device to test the contact lens to help people with visual impairments. For people with regular vision, using the hard scleral lens may have risks that outweigh the benefits.

Physicists have developed a process to modify red blood cells so they can be used to distribute drugs to specific targets within the body.

"We call these super-human red blood cells. We think that they could work as the perfect stealth drug carriers which can outsmart our immune system," explains Maikel Rheinstädter, a senior advisor on the study and professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at McMaster.

Researchers have identified a possible missing link in the pathology of Alzheimer’s.

💲 Finance

Alphabet has become a $1 trillion market capitalisation company for the first time! It’s the fourth US company to do so after Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.

ATM is a new Wall Street acronym that stands for Alibaba, Tencent, and Meituan Dianping. It’s gaining popularity over BAT after Baidu fell 20% and Meituan Dianping rose 132% in 2019, causing Meituan Dianping replacing Baidu as the third biggest internet company in China.

The Bank of England wrote a paper on global real interest rates from 1311 to 2018 which is covered by Quartz here. They find that negative real interest rates are more common historically than people realise.

BlackRock, the world’s largest investment manager, is exiting coal investments in their active funds. In a letter to clients, they said:

Thermal coal is significantly carbon intensive, becoming less and less economically viable, and highly exposed to regulation because of its environmental impacts. With the acceleration of the global energy transition, we do not believe that the long-term economic or investment rationale justifies continued investment in this sector.

🌞 Climate Change & Renewables

More companies are focusing on reducing their carbon emissions. Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030, and by 2050 aims to remove all the carbon they’ve emitted into the environment since their founding in 1975. PepsiCo plans to power its US operations 100% by renewable electricity this year, and plans to cut their global emissions by 20% by 2030.

The EU unveiled a €1 trillion investment plan to fight climate change that would put the EU on a path to becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050. The plan represents one quarter of the EU’s budget.

Germany has set aside $50 billion to phase out coal-fired power stations.

In addition, operators of power plants will be provided with 4.35 billion euros across the next 15 years to compensate for the shutting down of their facilities.

Energy firm RWE, which operates lignite-fired power stations in Germany, said it would get 2.6 billion euros in compensation, adding that over 3,000 jobs would have to be cut in the short term, with total job losses rising to around 6,000 by 2030. Shares in the firm were up by more than 2% on Thursday afternoon.

A meta-analysis confirms that climate change is making wildfires worse.

In light of the ongoing wildfire crisis in Australia, Richard Betts at the UK Met Office in Exeter and his colleagues reviewed 57 peer-reviewed studies about the link between climate change and wildfire risk. All the studies found that climate change increases the frequency or severity of fire-favourable weather conditions.

James Murdoch has attacked his family’s media empire, accusing News Corp’s Australian publications of promoting climate change denialism.

Construction has started on the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Dogger Bank Wind Farms is situated off the coast of England and consists of three 1.2 gigawatt offshore sites. Together they will generate enough energy to power 4.5 million homes per year.

Volkswagen is cutting its investment in hydrogen fuel-cell development as they believe they won’t be as competitive as battery-electric drivetrains for at least another decade.

🧱 Advanced Materials

Sand, gelatin, and bacteria have been combined to create living bricks that match the strength of cement-based mortar. The living bricks even reproduce.

Just like cell division, a parent brick can be divided to produce two new bricks. Srubar and his team were able to repeat the process for three generations in a single week, obtaining eight bricks from the original parent.

Researchers have found a way to boost the power of piezoelectric materials by 50x while turning them transparent, which could lead to new applications like actuators for invisible robotics and screens that power themselves when touched.

🤔 The Disinformation Age

Gideon Lewis-Kraus from WIRED writes a thoughtful article on misinformation and the role of social media: Bad Algorithms Didn’t Break Democracy.

In the end, as it becomes increasingly untenable to blame the power of a few suppliers for the unfortunate demands of their users, it falls to tech’s critics to take the fact of demand—that people’s desires are real—even more seriously than the companies themselves do. Those desires require a form of redress that goes well beyond “the algorithm.” To worry about whether a particular statement is true or not, as public fact-checkers and media-literacy projects do, is to miss the point. It makes about as much sense as asking whether somebody’s tattoo is true. A thorough demand-side account would allow that it might in fact be tribalism all the way down: that we have our desires and priorities, and they have theirs, and both camps will look for the supply that meets their respective demands.

👁️ Surveillance and Privacy

The New York Times profiles Clearview AI, company that might end privacy as we know it. The company allows users to upload an image of an individual and find other public images of that person (along with time and location it was taken) sourced from a database of more than three billion images they have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo, and millions of other websites.

But without public scrutiny, more than 600 law enforcement agencies have started using Clearview in the past year, according to the company, which declined to provide a list. The computer code underlying its app, analyzed by The New York Times, includes programming language to pair it with augmented-reality glasses; users would potentially be able to identify every person they saw. The tool could identify activists at a protest or an attractive stranger on the subway, revealing not just their names but where they lived, what they did and whom they knew.

The EU is considering a temporary ban on facial recognition in public spaces.

The FBI is pressuring Apple to create a backdoor that would allow the government to break encryption on the iPhone (again). Such a move would reduce security for everyone.

💎 Artificial Intelligence

Apple acquired Xnor.ai for $200 million, a Seattle startup focused on efficiently deploying AI on edge devices like smartphones.

Earlier this month NEON unveiled their artificial humans at CES, which are lifelike avatars that are simulated in real-time. The core of NEON’s technology is an artificial neural network that generates realistic facial expressions and body movements that can be used to create more “human” interactions. For a deeper dive into what Neon is and what it isn’t, see this video by Good Content | Tech (23 minutes).

📱 App Economy

A recent meta-analysis shows there’s no reason to panic about kids being on their phones.

Mr. Hancock’s analysis of about 226 studies on the well-being of phone users concluded that “when you look at all these different kinds of well-being, the net effect size is essentially zero.”

TikTok was the second-most downloaded app in 2019 (behind WhatsApp), and is estimated to be generating $40 million per month in revenue. In the US, consumers spent 85 million hours on TikTok in 2019, up from 15 million hours the year before, placing usage ahead of Amazon Prime Video and Twitch, but behind Netflix, Disney Plus, and Hulu.

🎮 Gaming

NPD released their top 20 best-selling games of the decade in the US. Call of Duty games account for 10 of the top 20 (and 7 of the top 10), while Grand Theft Auto V takes the top spot overall.

App Annie expects the mobile game industry to generate $100 billion in revenue in 2020, up 16% from $86 billion in 2019.

YouTube Gaming has signed three video stars as game live streaming competition increases between Twitch (Amazon), Mixer (Microsoft), and Facebook Gaming.

🛰️ Space

SpaceX tested a key safety system on the Crew Dragon, its spacecraft designed to carry people, by blowing up a rocket. The test passed (video here) and should mean SpaceX can start bringing astronauts to the International Space Station. A trip to the ISS on the Crew Dragon is expected to cost NASA $55 million per person, a reduction from the current cost of around $86 million per person.

European researchers are working on a system to extract oxygen from moon dust.

All this work is a lead-up to a system that could function on the Moon. The ESTEC scientists are aiming to have a functional, Moon-ready version by the mid 2020s. Equipped with such a device, future lunar explorers and colonists will be able to breathe a bit easier.

NASA researchers are investigating growing lunar bases from fungus.

⚙️ Mobility

TechCrunch profiles Baraja and their unique lidar technology (used by autonomous vehicles to sense the world).

It’s a bit difficult to grasp this concept, but once one does it’s hard to see it as anything but astonishingly clever. Not just because of the fascinating optics (something I’m partial to, if it isn’t obvious), but because it obviates a number of serious problems other lidars are facing or about to face.

Hyundai and Kia have invested $111.5 million in Arrival, a startup British automaker building electric delivery vans.

Front view of an electric van in a large hangar

⚡ Other Snippets

The New York Times profiles Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire looking for a special woman to accompany him to space.

Gartner expects IT spending to hit $3.9 trillion in 2020, up 3.4%, with enterprise software spend growing 10.5% to $503 billion.

Epic Systems, a major medical records vendor, is going to stop working with Google Cloud due to insufficient interest from customers. They’re going to focus on working with Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure instead.

CNBC profiles ethical hackers in a 13 minute video that features Casey Ellis from Bugcrowd (a Startmate alumni company) and Marten Mikos from HackerOne.

An Australian neobank called Volt has raised $70 million at a reported $285 million pre-money valuation, bringing its total funding to $100 million to date. The company aims to raise another $50 million in a Series D, and plans to IPO late this year.

Australian hotel booking tech company SiteMinder has raised $100 million at a valuation of $1.1 billion. SiteMinder provides software to 35,000 hotels worldwide and connects the hotel’s back-end booking system to third-party websites such as Agoda and Boooking.com.

Have a great week,

Thomas

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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 #23

🌞 New renewable milestones, 🔗 tokenising an NBA contract, and ⚡ a profile of Canva

Good morning,

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

💲 Finance

The Visual Capitalist highlights the impact of previous recessions and expansions on cumulative GDP growth.

Everything You Need to Know About Recessions

A recent paper looking at AI-based investing strategies show they’ve struggled to live up to expectations.

🔬 Biology

The New York Times looks into altering the DNA of an entire species in an article titled “The Gene Drive Dilemma: We Can Alter Entire Species, but Should We?” - a fascinating and scary topic.

“This notion of permanently altering the genetics of an entire species — it goes against everything I was trained to think,” says Kuiken, who served on the United Nations’ technical experts committee for gene drives. “What’s hard to accept is that, at this point, it might end up being our best option. There’s this kind of fantasy that we can go back, that we can restore some lost Eden. But the reality is that we aren’t making those choices.”

🤖 Robotics

Agility Robotics are beginning to sell a bipedal robot called Digit that can pick up boxes for a price in the low-to-mid six figures. The first production run is for just six units, with the first two units being sold to Ford to research last-mile package delivery.

💻 Chips and Computing

A Goldman Sachs survey last month showed that among technology executives at large companies, Microsoft Azure remains a more popular cloud computing provider than Amazon Web Services.

Intel will soon make Optane DC persistent memory available on workstations. Persistent memory sits between DRAM (memory) and SSDs (storage) in terms of speed, and its addition should speed up memory-heavy workloads that are currently forced to access the SSD.

Optane DC persistent memory is poised to have a transformative impact on the storage hierarchy, and industry experts are anticipating rapid and significant growth. In a 2019 Flash Memory Summit presentation, Jim Handy of Objective Analysis predicted revenues of 3D XPoint—the non-volatile memory technology that Intel branded as Optane—in excess of $3.5 billion through 2023.

IBM’s quantum-computing service now has over 100 customers, up from 40 a year ago.

🔗 Blockchain and Crypto

NBA player Spencer Dinwiddie is planning to convert part of his three-year $34.36 million contract into an upfront payment by selling digital tokens on the Ethereum blockchain. The tokens effectively act as a bond with a 4.95% interest rate, a full pay out in 2023, and become tradeable 12 months after the initial sale.

🎮 Gaming

Remember how Pokémon GO launched with a bang and then faded away? Turns out the game just had its best year ever with an estimated $894 million in gross player spending according to estimates from Sensor Tower.

Pokémon GO Worldwide User Spending by Year

Blizzard have decided to outsource some of their esports competitions. ESL (owned by Modern Times Group in Sweden) announced last week that they’d be running ESL Pro Tours for StarCraft II and Warcraft III: Reforged in 2020, with Blizzard contributing $4.6 million in prize money for the first season of both Pro Tours.

Overwatch League enters its third year this year and will see a major change in its format as the league shifts to home-and-away matches. With teams spread around the world, @snivyTsutarja highlights the intense travel schedule this will create. London Spitfire is expected to travel the furthest with over 76,000 miles (over 123,000 kilometres) of travel planned in 2020.

💊 Health

Scientists at MDI Biological Laboratory have been able to increase the lifespan of a nematode worm (commonly used for lifespan research) by fivefold, which would be equivalent to a human living for 400 or 500 years.

The new research uses a double mutant in which the insulin signaling (IIS) and TOR pathways have been genetically altered. Because alteration of the IIS pathways yields a 100 percent increase in lifespan and alteration of the TOR pathway yields a 30 percent increase, the double mutant would be expected to live 130 percent longer. But instead, its lifespan was amplified by 500 percent.

On Saturday Chinese researchers revealed a draft genome of the virus that’s causing the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan. Releasing the draft genome is letting researchers around the world help to develop an antibody.

Baric hopes this virus’s discovery and the response to it illustrate the speed at which scientists can move by working together. “One of the things that’s sad is that the public doesn’t realize how incredibly competent the public health and the basic science community are at going from a newly discovered virus to a tremendous amount of capacity to trace and try to control its spread,” Baric says.

DNA testing company 23andMe has, for the first time, sold the rights to a drug it developed using its customers’ data.

23andMe has sold in excess of 10 million DNA testing kits. More than 80 per cent of their customers have agreed to their data being used by the company for research and by scientists trying to understand the causes of diseases and how best to treat them.

A trial has started in Sydney that gives prospective parents free access to pre-pregnancy genetic tests. The tests identify situations where both prospective parents carry a recessive gene that could lead to a genetic disease.

AI and lasers are being used to help speed up the diagnosis of brain tumours during surgery.

The traditional method, which requires sending the tissue to a lab, freezing and staining it, then peering at it through a microscope, takes 20 to 30 minutes or longer. The new technique takes two and a half minutes. Like the old method, it requires that tissue be removed from the brain, but uses lasers to create images and a computer to read them in the operating room.

🌞 Renewables

Denmark passed 50% in renewable electricity generation in 2019 due to a large expansion in wind power.

Britain’s electricity since 2010 has seen wind surge to second place, coal collapse, and fossil fuel use nearly halve.

China announced over the weekend that they wouldn’t cut subsidies for new energy vehicles in 2020 like they did last year. The move should benefit Tesla’s new plant in China, domestic competitors like BYD and NIO, and battery manufacturer CATL.

👓 Virtual and Augmented Reality

Mark Zuckerberg is pitching AR and VR as a potential solution to the housing crisis (eventually) in his 2030 outlook letter.

Augmented and virtual reality are about delivering a sense of presence -- the feeling that you're right there with another person or in another place. Instead of having devices that take us away from the people around us, the next platform will help us be more present with each other and will help the technology get out of the way. Even though some of the early devices seem clunky, I think these will be the most human and social technology platforms anyone has built yet.

The ability to be "present" anywhere will also help us address some of the biggest social issues of our day -- like ballooning housing costs and inequality of opportunity by geography. Today, many people feel like they have to move to cities because that's where the jobs are. But there isn't enough housing in many cities, so housing costs are skyrocketing while quality of living is decreasing. Imagine if you could live anywhere you chose and access any job anywhere else. If we deliver on what we're building, this should be much closer to reality by 2030.

UploadVR calls Panasonic’s new prototype VR glasses intriguing because they’re significantly lighter than comparable headsets while providing a high resolution image where crisp text is visible and there’s no screen door effect.

VentureBeat explored all the other VR and AR developments at CES 2020, arguing that VR and AR are thriving.

🍔 Alternative Foods

Will we soon reach peak meat? The Atlantic discusses.

Although nine in 10 Americans don’t consider plants an acceptable substitute for meat, they increasingly consider plant-based “meat” products—like burgers from Impossible Foods, and sausages from Beyond Meat—an acceptable complement. The investment firm UBS projects that the plant-based meat market will grow by a factor of 20 this decade, reaching $85 billion in annual sales by 2030. Cases of plant-based proteins shipped to commercial restaurants rose last year by more than 20 percent, while regular meat’s sales grew by only 2 percent.

KFC launched a plant-based chicken sandwich in the UK.

Impossible Foods now makes pig-free pork.

A plant-based steak has been revealed that mimics the texture and appearance of a real meat steak. The company behind the steak, Novameat, creates the steak by copying the structure of real meat using a patented micro-extrusion technology that can produce fibres at between 100 and 500 microns in diameter. The 50g steak costs $1.50 to make, which is similar to supermarket prices for traditional steak, but that cost will come down as the production process is scaled up. They’re still working on the taste.

⚡ Other Snippets

Sound vibrations can be used to shake metal alloy grains into a tighter formation during 3D printing according to a Nature Communications study led by Carmelo Todaro from RMIT. This can have implications for 3D printing building lunar colonies.

The Atlantic looks at how bots are destroying political discourse, highlighting how widespread fake public comments have become.

The Google AI Blog summarised everything Google Research achieved in 2019 and their focus for 2020.

Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides appeared on CNBC to say they’ve seen steadily increasing demand from prospective space tourists and plan to re-open sales later this year. The company aims to begin commercial operations this year and aims to be profitable by 2021.

Travelex currency exchange counters were forced offline by a ransomware attack on New Year’s Eve. The hackers demanded a $6 million random.

CNBC profiles Australian entrepreneur Melanie Perkins from Canva in a piece titled “How a 32-year-old turned a high school yearbook idea into a $3.2 billion business”.

Have a great week,

Thomas

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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 #22

💻 EUV explained, 🌞 lithium-sulphur batteries, and 🛰️ the space economy in 2020

Happy New Year!

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

💻 Chips and Computing

Engadget created a 17 minute video explaining EUV (extreme ultraviolet lithography) and how the process technology will be used in manufacturing high-end chips. This is one of the most accessible videos I’ve seen explaining the semiconductor manufacturing process and how EUV differs from traditional lithography.

A massive optical computer is being built that could outpace quantum computers on certain tasks like optimisation problems.

A machine made from a 5-kilometre-long fibre optic cable coiled into a box a few metres across could give quantum computers a run for their money on certain tasks. The device, which performs calculations using pulses of light, will be one of the most sophisticated optical computers ever built.

IEEE Spectrum profiles Cerebras Systems and their giant AI chip, which Cerebras claims will smash deep learning training speeds.

The statistics Cerebras quotes are pretty astounding. According to the company, a 10-rack TPU2 cluster—the second of what are now three generations of Google AI computers—consumes five times as much power and takes up 30 times as much space to deliver just one-third of the performance of a single computer with the WSE. Whether a single massive chip is really the answer the AI community has been waiting for should start to become clear this year.

Chip designer Ambarella has announced a new robotics platform that will provide a unified software infrsutrcture for robotics perception across Ambarella’s CVflow family of chips.

💊 Health

Google researchers and collaborators at Northwestern University and three British medical institutions have created an AI model that can detect breast cancer in mammograms more accurately than human experts with higher detection rates and lower false positives (paper published in Nature).

Some argue that detecting cancer more often (without distinguishing between detecting cureable cancers from harmless cancers and incurable cancers) won’t necessarily lead to better health outcomes.

🌞 Renewables

A team of researchers led by Dr Mahdokht Shaibani at Monash University have developed a lithium-sulphur battery that could power your phone for five days (paper published in Science Advances).

Mahdokht Shaibani at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, and her colleagues have developed a battery with a capacity five times higher than that of lithium-ion batteries. The battery maintains an efficiency of 99 per cent for more than 200 cycles, and a smartphone-sized version would be able to keep a phone charged for five days.

“In order to have much cheaper energy and more ethical batteries, we need a radically new energy storage system,” says Shaibani. The researchers will further test battery prototypes with a view to manufacturing them commercially in Australia in coming years.

More of the UK’s energy came from clean sources than fossil fuels for the first time in 2019 thanks to increased use of wind, solar, and nuclear energy.

💲 Finance

China’s stock market was one of the few to finish down over the past decade with a decline of 7% for the Shanghai Composite. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite increased 189% and 295% over the same period.

One Medical filed for an IPO (S-1 here). The Alphabet-backed company runs a chain of primary care clinics that seek to differentiate themselves through better use of technology in practice operations, e.g. online scheduling, virtual consults, and the use of machine learning and natural language processing to automate recommendations and workflows.

VentureBeat lists (and describes) 13 potential tech IPOs in 2020: Airbnb, Wish, DoorDash, Procore Technologies, Casper, Robinhood, Credit Karma, Snowflake Computing, GitLab, Asana, Instacart, Unity, Rubrik Hybrid.

Singapore plans to grant up to 5 new digital bank licenses in 2020 (announced last August). Gaming peripherals company Razer applied for a license through a consortium called “Razer Youth Bank” which will focus on youths and millennials and will be “integrating lifestyle" experiences” onto its platform. Singapore has also seen applications from ride-hailing company Grab (in conjunction with SingTel), Ant Financial, and several others.

Personal plug: My fund (Perpetual’s Global Innovation Share Fund) had a good year.

The WSJ argues that stock picking in Japan is like rummaging through a thrift shop, which is a sentiment I agree with.

🎮 Gaming

The video game industry grew 4% to $120 billion in 2019, according to SuperData, with mobile games accounting for the majority of spend ($64 billion). Fortnite was the highest revenue-generating game in 2019 with estimated revenue of $1.8 billion (down from $2.4 billion in 2018).

⚙️ Mobility

Baidu secured a license to test self-driving cars in Beijing, making it the first company to do so in the Chinese capital.

Bosch unveiled a new long-range lidar sensor designed for automotive use at the Consumer Electronics Show.

🛰️ Space

Verge looks at the risky venture of Spaceport America (13 minutes). Spaceport America is a spaceport paid for and built by the State of New Mexico, and currently has only one tenant: Virgin Galactic.

The NY Times summarises key space and astronomy events in 2020.

Quartz writes that 2020 is the year of the $1 trillion space economy, highlighting the rise of mega-constellations, the rise of mini-constellations, new options for human spaceflight, NASA’s public-private partnerships, and the US Space Force.

🔬 Biology

A computer made from DNA can compute the square root of 900. The computer sits in a test tube and was developed using 32 strands of DNA to store and process information.

The DNA computer could help to develop more complex computing circuits, says Guo. “DNA computing is still in its infancy, but holds great promise for solving problems that are too difficult or even impossible to handle by current silicon-based computers,” he says.

Guo believes DNA computers may one day replace traditional computers for complex computations.

The scientist behind the controversial birth of the world’s first CRISPR-edited babies has been sentenced to three years in prison for forging ethical review materials and violating national regulations on scientific research and medical management.

👓 Virtual and Augmented Reality

Michal Abrash, chief scientist at Facebook, believes that mass adoption of augmented reality is 5 to 10 years away. He also believes that augmented reality will replace the mobile phone, while virtual reality will replace the PC.

When you put on a VR headset, all of a sudden you have completely configurable environments that you can swap or anybody can pop in, pop out. I very much believe in VR as a collaborative workspace. I actually think it will be a better workspace than reality, ultimately.

🔒 Cybersecurity, Cybercrime, and Cyberwar

The WSJ published its investigation into the Cloud Hopper corporate hack and it appears the attack was more widespread than originally reported (by Reuters in June) with the attacks impacting at least a dozen cloud providers and multiple companies.

The Journal found that Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. was so overrun that the cloud company didn’t see the hackers re-enter their clients’ networks, even as the company gave customers the all-clear.

Inside the clouds, the hackers, known as APT10 to Western officials and researchers, had access to a vast constellation of clients. The Journal’s investigation identified hundreds of firms that had relationships with breached cloud providers, including Rio Tinto, Philips, American Airlines Group Inc., Deutsche Bank AG , Allianz SE and GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

The UK is looking into whether trading outages on the London Stock Exchange were actually caused by a cyberattack aimed at disrupting markets.

The US army has banned soldiers from using TikTok, which it now considers a security threat.

The White House has expanded the use of cyber weapons, but stays secretive on policies.

Ransomware may have cost the US more than $7.5 billion in 2019, according to a cybersecurity firm Emisoft.

A startup called TypingDNA raised $7 million in a Series A; the company uses AI to identify people by how they type.

⚡ Other Snippets

D-Link has introduced two new home security cameras that incorporate edge-based AI to detect both people and breaking glass, enabling users to get quick notifications if either is detected.

Mike (@NonGaap) discusses his theories on the rise of influencer marketing through the 2010s and where it sits today. Interesting read.

So why does Kim “Famous for Nothing” Kardashian and the rest of the Kardashian/Jenner family deserve our respect?

They are pioneers of the “attention economy” and the massive fortune they have accumulated has laid the groundwork for an entire generation of “influencers” to make a living on the Internet.

YouTube is limiting data collection on children’s videos in response to a federal privacy clampdown. The move will ultimately hurt creators of children’s video content.

Consulting firm AT Kearney believes that the rise of non-meat meat will mean conventional meat supply will drop by more than 33% by 2040.

Tencent finalised their agreement to buy a 10% stake in Universal Music Group from Vivendi for €3 billion, valuing the music business at €30 billion.

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 #21

💲 This decade's best performing tech stock, 🤖 warehouse robots, and 💊 ramping up AI in drug development

Greetings,

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

💲 Finance

The best performing technology stock in the world this past decade was Polish game developer CD Projekt with a stunning return of 21,000% (70% per year), including a 91% return this year.

Growth has been driven by the success of The Witcher series of games. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which launched in 2015, is the highest scoring game (by user score) on Metacritic for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Netflix’s recent Witcher series has rekindled interest in the game leading to more people playing The Witcher 3 today than there were at launch. Earlier this month CD Projekt signed a new IP rights deal with the original Polish author of the series which should pave the way for The Witcher 4.

The stock has also benefited from the highly anticipated launch of Cyberpunk 2077 in April 2020 (first teased in May 2012), which will give the company a second major gaming franchise.

If you’re interested in origin stories, I loved The Story of CD Projekt by Noclip in 2017 which tells the story of how the company went from importing game CDs (hence the name) to becoming one of the best game developers on the planet. Truly breathtaking.

Netflix was the best performing stock in the S&P 500 over the past decade with a return of over 4,100%.

Taiwanese stocks are near their highest levels in three decades thanks to the rally in semiconductor stocks. TSMC, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the index, is up almost 50% this year.

💊 Health

GlaxoSmithKline is recruiting 80 AI specialists by the end of 2020 as it aims to ramp up its use of AI to help find treatments for conditions such as cancer and autoimmune diseases.

In recent years, the increasing use of AI in the pharmaceutical industry has begun to transform the way in which scientists develop new drugs. Drug development traditionally takes years, but AI can speed the process up and increase the success rate of new medicines from 10% currently.

GSK believes choosing targets – proteins or other molecules – based on genetic evidence means they are twice as likely to succeed. This has led the company to invest heavily in human genome research, which involves analysing the workings and interactions of genes, and cell and gene therapy, which aims to fix genetic defects and re-engineer patients’ cells to fight disease.

AI is also being used to detect cancer, with a recent proof-of-concept study showing that AI can be used to detect acute myeloid leukemia (AML), one of the most common forms of blood cancer, with high reliability.

🤖 Robotics and Drones

Uniqlo’s robots have replaced 90% of its human workers at its flagship warehouse after they figured out how to get a robot to fold t-shirts.

While it sounds easy, the ability to lift soft textiles has been a challenge for clumsy robotic arms. Add to this the need to sort through constantly changing seasonal clothes, in shades that are hard to distinguish and wrapped in various forms of packaging, and humans have always come out on top.

Uniqlo robot developed with Mujin from company

The Federal Aviation Administration wants to start tracking drone locations by requiring drones to incorporate technology that allows them to be easily tracked.

An autonomous, electric crop-spraying drone company called Pkya raised an $11 million seed round.

🌬️ Renewables

US utilities are on a record borrowing spree thanks to low interest rates, and that’s benefiting renewable energy.

New homes in California are required to have rooftop solar panels from January 1.

Spanish energy firm Iberdrola has decided to invest $500 million in a wind and solar farm in South Australia as the first of a series of renewable power projects it hopes to develop in Australia.

Viteri said Australia was an ideal place to invest because of its high power consumption and stable market.

“It’s a place where renewables are going to play a much more relevant position in the coming years, clearly,” he said. “It’s a bit far away from where I am now, that’s the only problem.”

👓 Virtual and Augmented Reality

The FDA has approved an augmented reality system for use in spinal surgery. The system would give surgeons an x-ray view of their patient’s anatomy and help with real-time surgical navigation.

Teslasuit’s new VR gloves let you feel virtual objects. They’re expected to launch in the second half of 2020 and cost $5,000, so still a while away from mass market.

Teslasuit Glove Product Image

▶️ Streaming

The rise of streaming has hurt TV viewership and may be about to impact advertising income as well.

Magna Global’s 2020 forecast for television advertising predicts a 5% decline in overall spending — the steepest drop in over a decade. The silver lining is that it still predicts overall spending will increase as dollars flow away from linear television and into new formats, such as streaming and podcasting. While the top line data may be positive, the overall theme of the report is clear: Advertisers are beginning the long-anticipated march away from linear television to meet consumers where many of them now spend the bulk of their TV-watching time.

As if to make the point more clearly, Samba TV, a provider of connected TV analytics that has code on more than 25 million smart televisions globally, reported astounding figures for live television consumption during the Thanksgiving holiday this year: Thanksgiving Day saw a 41% decline in total live TV viewers from 2018. Black Friday and Saturday were also down by a third. The bottom completely fell out on Sunday, with a 65% decrease in viewership compared to 2018.

⚙️ Mobility

Tesla secured funding to open a Shanghai car plant by taking a new $1.4 billion loan from Chinese banks. Tesla stock also reached a new all-time high on Friday.

Electric vehicle startup Rivian raised $1.3 billion from T. Rowe Price, Amazon, Ford, and others.

GP: Rivian R1S Reveal 190213 EC - 105736540

🤔 The Disinformation Age

Scientific American discusses how disinformation hacks your brain.

Unfortunately, digital tools may be making our memories even weaker and less effective for judging truth. As Brashier and Marsh point out, “search algorithms return content based on keywords, not truth. If you search ‘flat Earth,’ for example, Google dutifully returns photoshopped pictures for a 150-ft. wall of ice that keeps us from slipping off the planet.” For this reason, relying on the internet as truth-on-demand rather than looking to our memories and acquired knowledge can backfire in serious ways.

Brashier and Marsh also point out a more basic mismatch between our brains and the digital environment: We tend to make truth our default judgment. This is especially true for visual information. As with the other cues we use to form truth judgments, this is a handy and useful adaptation in other contexts. After all, humans lived for millennia in an environment where we could trust most of our senses most of the time. Now, however, we find ourselves in a new information ecosystem, one in which, according to some sources, we will soon consume more false media than true media. When it comes to coping with that magnitude of misinformation, our brains are simply not well equipped.

Dealing with disinformation will be one of the major challenges of the next decade.

US Cybercom is contemplating information warfare to counter Russian interference in the 2020 election.

💎 Artificial Intelligence

VentureBeat summarises generative adversarial networks (GANs) - their history, how they work, and current applications.

Tencent have written a paper which shows how its MOBA-playing AI system beats 99.81% of human opponents.

⚡ Other Snippets

WIRED summarised the worst hacks of the decade.

Ghost kitchens (also known as cloud kitchens, dark kitchens, and virtual kitchens) are a popular topic this week with The New York Times and VentureBeat both discussing their rise, which goes hand-in-hand with the rise of food delivery. Uber founder Travis Kalanick, who recently sold all of his shares in Uber, is also getting into cloud kitchens.

Ryan Kaji, an 8-year-old who made his name opening toys in YouTube videos, now has a $150 million retail empire.

Retail sales for Ryan-branded products are expected to reach $150 million this year, compared with $42 million a year ago, according to pocket.watch.

For geeky New Year’s revellers out there: How To Make The Best Drinks In Sci-Fi.

Have a great week and a Happy New Year!

Thomas

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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 #20

👓 Augmented reality in retail, 🤖 industrial inspection robots, and 💲 Shopify's strategy explained through StarCraft

Greetings,

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

👓 Virtual and Augmented Reality

Bosch unveiled the smartglasses platform that manufacturers can use to add “smarts” to regular glasses. The teaser video shows a heads-up display that can support navigation, show notifications, and display select information.

L’Oréal is expanding its use of augmented reality after virtual try-on services prompted customers to buy more makeup and hair products over the past year.

Virtual reality is being used by some surgeons to train for difficult surgeries. “Surgical Theater” virtual reality visualisation software is now used by 15 US hospitals.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Levy practiced with Surgical Theater software dozens of times before operating on a newborn named Reef at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego.

The $10,000 mixed-reality XR-1 headset is apparently quite good and can blend reality and augmented reality seamlessly.

💲 Finance

Shopify stock has more than tripled in the past year. This is a great post that explains their strategy and how they’re fighting Amazon, told through the lens of StarCraft (you don’t need to be familiar with StarCraft to follow it).

China’s Alipay will give its users financial advice for the first time. The automated service will be provided through a partnership between Ant Financial, which operates Alipay, and US fund giant Vanguard.

💊 Health

Some companies are selling new tests that use epigenetics to guess how fast you’re ageing.

Larry Jia, founder and CEO of Zymo Research and Epimorphy, has been selling an epigenetic test that is a modified version of Horvath’s clock to researchers and consumers since 2017. He also took the test himself—and discovered that he is biologically a half-year older than his chronological age, which is 61. He began prioritizing sleep and cutting back on his hours to reduce his work stress, but the number didn’t budge—maybe, he says, because he can’t eliminate the stress of running a company. “Sometimes there are things you can’t control,” he says.

Xenotransplantations are one step closer to reality after scientists created the most extensively gene-edited pigs to date.

The Chinese company and its U.S. collaborators reported today that they have used the genome editor CRISPR to create the most extensively genetically engineered pigs to date—animals whose tissues, the researchers say, finally combine all the features necessary for a safe and successful transplant into humans.

A veteran NHS neurosurgeon believes the first human head transplant could be achieved by 2030. Apparently the trick is to keep the spinal cord intact…

🤖 Robotics

Gecko Robotics raised $40 million for scaling its industrial inspection robots. Their robots are designed to carry out regular inspections of industrial sites and equipment, and using the data gathered their software aims to predict when and where infrastructure failures are likely to occur.

Dusty Robotics closed a $5 million round that will help it scale its first product, FieldPrinter, an autonomous robot that takes layout plans created with building information modelling (BIM) software and prints those layouts out on the floor. Typically this job is done by a human crew using printed documents, measuring tools, and chalk.

Dusty Robotics

🎮 Gaming

Facebook apparently wants to get into game streaming too with the acquisition of PlayGiga for 70 million euros; the startup has been working with telcos to create game streaming technology for 5G.

Puma is now making gamer shoes, I mean, Active Gaming Footwear

The 2019 League of Legends World Championship finals hit record viewership with 44 million concurrent viewers. Earlier this month Bilibili acquired the exclusive rights to stream the finals in China for the next 3 years. They agreed to pay $113 million.

EA and Respawn unveiled the Apex Legends Global Series esports competition with $3 million in prizes.

⚙️ Mobility

California now allows driverless truck and cargo van testing on public roads.

Yandex, Russia’s leading internet company, is getting into the lidar sensor business.

Supersonic passenger planes could become a reality as new designs reduce the problem of sonic booms.

The X-59's very long pointed shape is intended to cut through the air more efficiently so the shock waves are minimized. In fact, the nose of the plane is so long, there isn't even a forward facing window. The pilot will rely on a 4k monitor to see ahead.

CNBC explores why we don’t have electric planes yet (15 minute video).

Skyryse raised $13 million to launch an autonomous helicopter platform. The platform is designed to work with existing commercially available helicopters.

🌬️ Renewables

The world’s largest offshore wind turbine has started generating power. GE Renewable Energy’s 260-metre tall Haliade-X 12 MW wind turbine was installed at the port of Maasvlakte-Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and produced 262 megawatts of energy across a 24 hour period, enough to power 30,000 households in the area.

The Houston Chronicle argues that battery storage is on the verge of changing the Texas power grid. Falling lithium-ion battery prices is driving investment in battery storage, which has the potential to turn renewable power from intermittent power sources into reliable generators of electricity.

By 2024, Lumbley projected, the costs for installing battery storage will fall low-enough for the technology to become widespread. At that point, batteries would begin to undercut one of the key roles for natural gas-fired power plants: filling in for renewables when the winds aren’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

“By adding storage,” Lumbley said, “there’s just no more air left in the room for new natural gas projects.”

🛰️ Space

Trump signed a $1.4 trillion spending bill that included the launch of the US Space Force, the first new US military service since 1947.

CNBC explains why SpaceX and Amazon are launching 42,000+ satellites (to provide internet access).

⚡ Other Snippets

Facebook removed a network of 900 fake accounts that was deceptively spreading pro-Trump narratives to about 55 million users. What made the network unique is appears to be the first time a group of fake accounts have used AI-generated faces for their profile pictures in order to appear genuine.

two profile photos with analysis boxes pointing out disrepencies

A new technique potentially increases 3-D printing speed by 1,000 to 10,000 times.

What makes FP-TPL a disruptive technology is that it not only greatly improves the speed (approximately 10—100 mm^3/hour), but also improves the resolution (~140 nm / 175 nm in the lateral and axial directions) and reduces the cost (US$1.5/mm^3).

Adoption of smart home devices could rise after Amazon, Apple, and Google agreed to create an open-source standard that would lead to greater interoperability between devices made by different companies.

Intel acquired AI chip startup Habana Labs for $2 billion.

Habana offers two silicon products targeting workloads in AI and machine learning: the Gaudi AI Training Processor and the Goya AI Inference Processor. The former, which is optimized for “hyperscale” environments, is anticipated to power datacenters that deliver up to 4 times the throughput versus systems built with the equivalent number of graphics chips at half the energy per chip (140 watts). As for the Goya processor, which was unveiled in June and which is now commercially available, it offers up to 3 times the AI inferencing performance as Nvidia chips, where throughput and latency are concerned.

New mobile phone detection cameras in NSW, Australia caught more than 3300 people illegally using their phones while driving in its first week.

Atlassian is making supporting remote work a priority. Currently Atlassian has more than 300 remote employees, amounting to nearly 8% of their workforce.

“We think that by doing remote we can tap into a whole new workforce that our competitors aren’t tapping into,” Atlassian Co-CEO Scott Farquhar told CNBC.

Creditors are seeking to exhume the body of a dead crypto executive after he took at least $137 million in customer assets to the grave when he died without giving anyone the password to his encrypted laptop.

Have a great week and a great Christmas!

Thomas

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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.

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