AI, Brain Interfaces & TV at #Rutberg17


By: R. Scott Raynovich

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. -- The opening "future of technology" discussion here at the 2017 Rutberg Future Mobile (FM) event ranged from the science fiction of brain-computer interfaces to the pedantic daily ritual of operating the television remote.

Autonomous driving, AI, augmented reality (AR), and brain-computer interfaces are places with the potential for the most growth, said Gene Munster, managing partner with Loop Ventures.

"The next wave of technology [over the next ten years] is going to be more impactful," said Munster. "It's a combination of robotics, AR, and VR [virtual reality] too. This is going to have an impact on how we work and how our government is structured."

In particular, said Munster, the next big battle in tech is around AI and AR. And he sees an unfolding brain tech battle -- the idea of controlling computing functions with thought. Munster thinks brain tech has a lot of opportunity because it is a "non-consensus" bet -- people aren't sure it can happen.

"Things like AirBNB -- when you hear about it and it doesn't make sense but maybe it could happen, that's the kind of bet we make," said Munster.

Munster pointed to Loop's investment in Boston-based Neurable, which uses a headband to help users control applications such as a gaming or VR headset.

Munster, a former market analyst with Piper Jaffray, said the public companies to watch over the next ten years are Tesla (TSLA) and Google-Alphabet (GOOGL) because of their wide-ranging investments in AI and data analytics.

Tony Werner, President, Technology and Product, Comcast Corporation, said that many of the gains in technology can be harvested by traditional companies. He pointed out that the Comcast share price has gone up faster than Google over the last 10 years. [Editor's note: We checked this out and it's not really true -- though the gains are very similar. Google and Comcast are up approximately four-fold over the last 10 years.]

Werner points out that Comcast has been plugging in voice-command remotes that have been performing well over time, with usage increasing and close to 15 million devices in circulation. He believes that voice command and AI has a bright future. Comcast is also investing in mobile technologies, where Werner thinks mobile content and backhaul bandwidth demand for 5G will increase.

All of these advances don't come without challenges. As Praveen Akkiraju, CEO of Viptela, pointed out during audience questions, VR and brain interfaces will have large privacy implications.

"That's a common question in brain tech: Will people know what my thoughts are?" Munster said. "I don't know the answers. We do know that whatever concept humans have about privacy will be amped up."

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