Glimpsing the Future of Technology

We’d just seen the future.

We couldn’t quite believe what we saw. Or what we experienced for that matter.

Marooned at sea, all we could see was miles of empty ocean around us.

Then, all of a sudden, far off in the distance, something caught our eye. Gulp…

Moments later, hurtling towards us at a hundred miles an hour was a great white shark. We froze up. It was exhilarating. And equally frightening.

If you’ve never put on a virtual reality headset in your life, you won’t fully appreciate the oddity of that sensation. That moment when you understand your experience isn’t real…but your brain objects.

Then again, it’s not an entirely foreign concept. You experience something similar every night when you go to sleep. Dreams not only appear real, but they can elicit both physical and emotional responses in your waking state. Viewing through a first-person perspective, the brain struggles to discriminate the real from the imaginary.

We bring up virtual reality for a reason. It’s one of the best examples of technology introduced far ahead of its time. In fact, some 30 years after making its debut, it’s still far from reaching critical mass. Despite that, the future for VR today looks better than ever. Not just for gaming, but for virtual tourism and education as well.

Yet why did it take so long? Why is it that some products find instant success, while others flounder for decades, or become obsolete?

There are a number of reasons to explain this. Be it lacklustre technology. High cost of production. A lack of consumer familiarity. A target base without spending power. Or even just a lack of practical everyday uses.

These are all problems newer technologies need to overcome if they want to become tomorrow’s smartphone.

One heavily-publicised piece of tech that’s struggled to overcome these hurdles is 3D printing.

Like VR, the initial hype surrounding 3D printing has waned. But, unlike VR, we may not have to wait 30 years to see it fulfil its potential. Changes are afoot. And, most exciting of all, Aussie researchers are leading the charge in this space.

3D printing’s big breakthrough?

This week saw the fledgling 3D printing industry take a big step in the right direction. The ABC reports:

A new type of 3D printer developed in Darwin that is faster and cheaper than any existing metal 3D printing technology could revolutionise manufacturing in Australia, the NT Government says.

A $400,000 Government grant has allowed Charles Darwin University to acquire the LightSpEE3D [developed by Victoria-based Spee3d] printer where new applications for the technology will be researched.

Spee3d claims LightSpEE3D is the first of its kind in the world. And it’s not exaggerating. The results so far have been stellar.

In fact, Spee3d was able to bring down the print time of an automotive part to 20 minutes, down from an estimated 100 to 200 hours. What’s more, the cost of printing the part plummeted from US$5,000 to US$30!

How’s that for productivity gains?

The printer is set to make its way to Charles Darwin University later this year. Scientists and Spee3d engineers will collaborate in developing different applications for LightSpEE3D. The hope is to make it accessible to new industries, in addition to bringing back big-scale manufacturing to Australia.

As it is, 3D printing still has many obstacles to overcome to reach critical mass. But if LightSPEE3D delivers on its promise, we see that changing very quickly. We can’t wait to see what they come up with.

From gold bullion to virtual gold

The best thing about mainstream adoption of new technologies is that it opens doors to previously unimagined developments.

Desktop computers, for instance, have been part of the mainstream for decades. Across the developed world, you’ll struggle to find a home without one.

But, without computers, there’d be no need for processing units or graphics cards. The NVIDIA Corporation [NASDAQ:NVDA] success story wouldn’t exist.

And without the likes of NVIDIA pushing the limits of graphical fidelity, where would the cryptocurrency market be today? After all, mining coins takes a special kind of computing muscle, which is heavily reliant on powerful graphics cards.

Moreover, without graphics cards, the insane triple, quadruple, and even quintuple-digit gains we’re seeing in the crypto space would be lost to investors.

Those who worked on the original computer likely never imagined their tech birthing an entirely new asset class in such a short space of time. But that’s what technology does. It opens doors to imagination.

We can only sit and wonder at the kind of ground-breaking shifts 3D printing will usher in.


This week in Markets & Money

On Monday, Vern looked at the effects of central banking policy on gold since 2008. In the decade since, the Fed has pumped US$10 trillion into the financial system. It’s no surprise then that gold boomed in the immediate years following the start of the credit boom.

But gold has lost 40% of its value since 2012. Why is that? Vern suspects it has something to do with the Fed being unable to hit its inflation target.

Might that suggest the US economy is riding high? Not quite. Bank lending is sliding across the board. It takes more than $4 of debt to generate $1 of GDP growth in the US. Small wonder the private sector is keeping its hands in its pockets.

Last time we were in a similar mess, in 2008, central banks had room to manoeuvre. In lowering rates, they made borrowing more affordable. But there’s little wriggle room left.

According to Vern, central bankers should be wary of putting the privileged few ahead of the masses when the next crisis hits. Otherwise, he says, the discontent will not be contained to the polling booths.

For more on this story, click here.

On Tuesday, Jason suggested that things are looking up for gold punters. US inflation is low, and the latest US retail sales showed a decline. Neither suggests the Fed is likely to raise rates anytime soon. That bodes well for the Japanese yen, which is trading at its strongest level since early July.

Jason says that you should pay attention to the yen. He believes the Japanese currency is the best indicator for the gold price. Why is that? You’ll find all the details here.

On Wednesday, Jason noted that one of his friends had recently asked him if there was going to be a stock market crash. His answer? Not yet.

Jason doesn’t rule out a 10–15% correction in the months ahead. But he believes any correction would present a good buying opportunity more than anything. While acknowledging the world can’t survive on artificial money forever, Jason believes investors should use common sense.

For one, there haven’t been any major defaults in the financial system. Yet prior to 2008, there were plenty. Because of this, there’s little immediate risk of a crash in Jason’s view. That could change if defaults start ramping up. Until then, though, his advice is to go with the flow. And to not be afraid in making what could be a highly-profitable punt on the smaller end of the market.

For more on this story, click here.

On Thursday, Bernd looked at the rising tide of marijuana legalisation in the US. 29 states and the District of Columbia have now legalised medicinal marijuana. As a result, some US$6 billion of legal sales were recorded in 2016 alone. What’s more, a reduction in marijuana-related incarcerations have kept many from ending up behind bars.

For the most part, the US government has sat back and watched this tide come in. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions is attempting to fight it. Not that it will be easy. Voter approval for legalised marijuana is at an all-time high. And the industry is bringing in serious money. By 2021, legal cannabis sales in the US could amount to US$19 billion.

Nonetheless, government meddling does appear to have spooked some investors. Some of the big marijuana stocks slid this past week. And may slide further if the government tries to disrupt the industry’s emergence. Yet, as Bernd says, the tide will eventually sweep Sessions, and any other obstacles, away. And the pot stocks will likely resume their surge higher.

What does this mean for you? Quite simply that now might be the ideal time to buy the dip.

For more on this story, click here. To learn about the four best pot stocks on the ASX right now, go here.

On Friday, Vern reminded readers about the perils of the next crisis on the age pension ‘charade’. As Vern sees it, something has to give. Either benefits must be reduced, or taxpayers will have to take up the slack to fund deficits. Or both.

Whatever happens, the effects will be deflationary. People on benefits will have less spending power. As will income earners with leaner after-tax salaries.

Unfortunately, with pension funds highly exposed to market forces, Vern says that a disaster of biblical proportions is lying in wait.

For more on this timely message, click here.

Until next time,

Mat Spasic,
For Markets & Money

Markets and Money offers an independent and critical perspective on the Australian and global investment markets. Slightly offbeat and far from institutional, Markets and Money delivers you straight-forward, humorous, and useful investment insights from a world wide network of analysts, contrarians, and successful investors.

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