Hooray for Google! Writing about finance would be a lot more boring if it wasn’t for them.
After all, here in Australia, we don’t do much more than buy and sell houses with one another.
That’s why a top story this morning on the ABC News website is about a house selling in Sydney for more than $1 million — despite the fact that a woman lay dead in it for eight years.
That’s the game we play here. But the direction of our lives that’s determined through innovation largely happens elsewhere.
And it’s exciting stuff right now.
Over in the US, Google-owned Boston Dynamics released a video this week of their latest Atlas robot.
Atlas is 175 centimetres tall and weighs 81 kilograms. In the video, he takes a walk in the woods over uneven and snowy ground. He picks up boxes. He gets to his feet after being knocked over. He follows a box being dragged in front of him.
These simple things alone represent a considerable advancement in robotics technology. How long before your local shelf stacker at the supermarket looks something like a friendly Terminator?
The wave of technological innovation keeps getting bigger and bigger. Today’s Markets and Money explores what’s coming…
The innovation and investment happening now
Google (officially called Alphabet these days) has been busy. While the robotics division has been playing with Atlas, the company announced new a dictation tool on Google Docs.
It’s Silicon Valley’s latest move to make the keyboard obsolete, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Perhaps more important is what’s fuelling the advance in dictation tech: artificial intelligence that helps computers decipher what people are saying.
The WSJ further notes that Google’s speech recognition technology is now so good it can automatically generate captions for YouTube videos.
Get used to interacting with computers. Let’s hope their listening skills are better than mine.
That’s not all. Google also announced on Wednesday that it’s going to add Google Fiber to parts of San Francisco. That’s the 11th US city with a planned, or existing, Fiber network, delivering speeds of one gigabit a second. The major cities of Los Angles and Chicago might be next.
I reported on this last year and will say the same thing now. Google Fiber is laying something like 21st century railroad tracks across the continental US, like the railroad barons of the 19th century.
Instead of carrying cargo, these tracks carry data and information. But they will drive innovation and productivity higher in the same way.
That’s something to keep an eye on in the future. But, right now, the tech world is turning its attention to one thing only.
It might be the biggest shift since the personal computer…
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An industry bigger than the personal computer?
Imagine for a moment you’re walking across a wooden plank over a deep, rusted pit.
How would you feel if someone asked you to step off it?
Software worker Erin Bell didn’t feel safe enough to move at all.
Here’s the kicker, according to the Wall Street Journal back in January:
‘In reality, Ms. Bell was walking on a carpet with a virtual-reality headset strapped to her face. “I knew I was in a virtual environment,” she said later, “but I was still afraid.” ’
Yes, virtual reality headsets are about to hit the market in March and April.
You can see from Ms Bell’s example how powerful this technology is already.
Some analysts are touting that Virtual Reality (VR) will be as game changing as the PC and smart phone. Could it be even bigger?
Quite possibly. One company to keep an eye on is Oculus, because they’re at the forefront of VR technology.
The Oculus virtual reality system is called the ‘Rift’. It’s due to launch in April.
Why Facebook paid $2 billion dollars for this company
Oculus was the brainchild of 23 year old Palmer Luckey. He sold Oculus to Facebook Inc. [NASDAQ:FB] for $2 billion in May 2014.
Some say they overpaid, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. He’s positioned his company at the centre of this industry.
Zuckerberg believes VR will become the next major computing platform, changing how we live, work, and communicate.
Or, as he puts it…
‘Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face – just by putting on goggles in your home.’
‘The reason we’re interested in it as a social company is because we think this is going to be a new way people interact.‘
VR creates a totally new and intuitive way to interact with your environment, using hand gestures and a graphical 3D interface.
In the long run, the VR headset could become as lightweight as a set of glasses.
Right now most people associate VR with video games. Developers in the gaming space have been the first to recognise the potential.
But other industries are following.
For example, the American home improvement company Lowes uses the technology to help customers envision their household remodelling plans. Lowes wants a competitive advantage in the US home improvement market.
Sotheby’s is beginning to show luxury homes in VR. If we extrapolate this trend, it won’t be long before any real estate buyer can tour a house from their living room. Think of the savings in time — and money — and potential for international buyers.
VR will stream live events like sports and concerts, solving the problem of limited seating. Any event will be available to anyone, anywhere. Watching in VR will essentially make you feel like you’re physically attending with the best seat in the house.
VR may also be the future of movies, where you can be completely immersed in the film.
The list of potential applications for VR is endless. This is why over at Cycles, Trends and Forecasts we say we’re living in a time of prodigious technological innovation — probably unmatched in human history.
Advances in self-driving cars, synthetic biology, 3d printing, robotics and energy are brewing what we’re forecasting as the biggest boom of all-time over the next 10 years.