Saturday, February 25, 2017

(The Big Disrupt) driverless cars: Why Google's Lawsuit against Uber is a brilliantly cynical move

In what has been a terrible February for the Uber, sometime ally and enemy Google decided to pile on to a Uber's self inflicted woe by filing a civil lawsuit against the company accusing them of stealing key aspects of their self driving car tech . 

Google's self driving spinoff Waymaccuses former employee Anthony Lewandowski of stealing 14,000 files on its LiDAR designs which allows its cars to use lasers to navigate the physical world and using the stolen files to form a startup called Otto which was acquired by Uber last August . 

The civil lawsuit marks a new low in Google's relationship with Uber which has  been strained since reports leaked two years ago that Google was planning to launch its own rideshare service with a driverless fleet, a move that would see Google compete with Uber directly.  

Since then, Uber have been very proactive about developing its own fleet of driverless cars which would significantly cut down their costs which have so far seen the company burn through cash at an unprecedented rate. Uber have made a lot of progress in the last two years largely through famously raiding Carnegie Mellon's much respected robotics department for talent, securing key partnerships  with automakers such as  Toyota who outstrip Google in driverless car patents and smart acquisitions but they still lag behind Google who have been pioneers in the space, particularly LiDAR technology.    

One of the major costs hampering the development of driverless cars for the mass market is the prohibitive cost of LiDAR technology which encouraged Google to develop its own LiDAR to lower costs which have declined steeply since google forked out a whopping $75,000 per unit 8 years ago. Google itself has managed to cut Lidar costs by a whopping 90% but leading Lidar maker Velodyne plans to cut the price of lidar sensors even further to a mere $50 per sensor. What this all means is with cheaper lidar sensors, Google can provide a cheaper driverless car to mass market. 

This is bad news for Uber and other players in the race to bring driverless cars to market as while the price for lidar sensors have plunged, Google is the only player to come up with it's own in house solution which gives them a major competitive advantage. The only reason Uber brought Otto just three months after it was formed was to develop its own in house solution and hire Lewandowski to lead the effort but just six months later, Uber are almost certainly going to pay dearly for their $680 million acquisition regardless of what happens going forward. 

In sum, Google and Uber have been on a collision course two years and with Waymo willing to drag Uber's name through the mud in what may be one of the nastiest trade secret battles ever, expect more of the same as the two former allies lock horns.  

(The Big Disrupt) Driveless cars: Google vs Uber

If you’re like most people, you hate your morning commute. It’s an unfortunate fact of life for many of us. Bus, train, car, or subway, many of us have to get from point A to point B for a variety of reasons. The internet may be a killer tool and fun place to play, but the fact remains that certain activities simply cannot be accomplished on a computer.

There is up and coming technology that may change how we understand, and use, transportation: self-driving vehicles. These machines have long been the topic of intrigue, but the idea has only been taken seriously since the turn of the century. In the early 2000’s a number of auto manufacturers started taking an interest in autonomous vehicles. Big names like Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Renault, Toyota, and Tesla, to name just a few. In 2015, five states in the USA were pioneers that allowed for the testing of such vehicles on their roads (under heavy regulation).

As one can expect, there is fierce competition around this topic. Just like Bell Telephone and other industry pioneers, there is a lot money to be made as the first to a new market. And where there is big money, there are big risk-takers. Case in point: Google just filed a suit against the freelance taxi company, Uber, on February 23rd, 2017 (WIRED). The basis for this suit is Google’s allegation that a former Google employee, Anthony Levandowski, stole proprietary information and, after resigning, used that information to start a self-driving truck company. This trucking company, Otto, was recently acquired by Uber. As part of the acquisition Levandowski was placed in charge of their self-driving tech. According to the NY Times the acquisition happened about seven months after Levandowski left Google.

It certainly seems suspicious doesn’t it?

As the sparks fly between Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and Uber it is worth noting that the two companies have friendly ties in their past. Alphabet had invested in Uber once upon a time and even shared an executive with Uber’s board of directors. Oddly enough, that executive had stepped down due to ‘overlap between the two companies’ shortly before the theft is reported to have happened. Coincidence?

The more tech we invent and involve in business, the more frequently this is going to happen. It is getting easier and easier to pull stunts like this and, most likely, what we see publicly is not the half of it. A person no longer has to be an ‘expert’ to be able to accomplish these acts. There are plenty of people out there who are motivated by money and all it takes is with a thumb drive and the right motivation. As life and business become easier and more streamlined with new technology, so too does corporate espionage.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

(The Big Disrupt) Advertising: Death of the Industrial Advertising Complex by @L2

Check out this great video as L2's brilliant Founder and Chairman Scott Galloway dissects why the industrial advertising complex is dying.    

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

(TV) The Walking Dead: The Walking Dead season 7 episode 11 Extended trailer

The Walking Dead Review: ‘New Best Friends’

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 10
By Garrett Yoshitomi

The Walking Dead follows-up last week’s plot churning mid-season premiere with the equally well-paced, “New Best Friends.” Unlike most Walking Dead episodes, “New Best Friends” jumps around to multiple different storylines, keeping the main plot moving forward, while allowing secondary subplots to take shape and support the main narrative. It’s a welcome change from the singular storyline format we’ve grown accustomed to, and I hope it’s something that continues as we make our way into the meat of season 7B.

Back in December, the mid-season finale ended with a post-credit sting that teased a leather-clad mystery individual spying on Alexandria. Last week, nary a clue was offered to help viewers identify this person, although it was strongly implied that they were responsible for kidnapping Gabriel. What we now know is that this mystery individual is actually part of a larger coalition- an all-black everything group of dumpster divers, known collectively as, The Scavengers. After just one episode of screen time, I’m not entirely sure what to make of these bowl cut sporting mouth breathers, other than that they really know how to blow their entire special effects budget on one walker.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
The Scavengers are a welcome change of pace as a brand-new, show-only group, without a direct comic book counterpart, but they’re just so…strange. From the way they dress, to the way they talk (definitely the way they talk) nothing about them feels natural, even within the bounds of this fictional zombie universe. With all their heebie jeebie-ness, The Scavengers seem ripe to eventually betray our heroes, and at the very least, their unusual mannerisms set themselves up as a group that shouldn’t be completely trusted. But, on the other hand, there is something oddly calming about Jadis and her whimsical speech patterns. The Scavengers live by an ethos, “they take, but do not bother,” and it’s possible that a double cross is more of a “bother” than they’re willing to deal with. It certainly would be for Rick and co.

This week, we continue to see The Kingdom teetering between peace and all-out war with The Saviors, with yet another supply exchange ending on less than friendly terms. King Ezekiel’s magnanimity notwithstanding, there’s a pretty clear path that leads to The Kingdom joining forces with Rick. If The Saviors attack a member of The Kingdom, Ezekiel will be forced to retaliate and fight alongside Alexandria and The Hilltop. With tensions so high, and a wildcard like Richard willing to force conflict through any means necessary, it’s only a matter of time until The Kingdom’s uneasy alliance with The Saviors comes to a screeching halt. However, the writers seem content to let Ezekiel’s reluctance linger, and it’s likely that The Kingdom’s involvement becomes the “will they, won’t they” storyline of the season.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
After over half a season, we finally get our long-awaited Carol reunion. I’ve made my thoughts pretty clear on how important it is for Carol to finally meet up with the main group, and learn what happened to Glenn. For viewers, it’s the final piece of closure we need for the most impactful death of the series; and for the show, it’s an important step in Carol’s character development, as she’s forced to face the realities of her decision to abandon the group. Unfortunately, this episode gives us neither, and with the way things play out, it’s fair to wonder if Carol will ever find out.

For the record, I don’t think the writers handled this in the worst way possible. An awkwardly timed, “Glenn’s dead,” from Daryl, followed by generic sobs of regret from Carol, would have been the doomsday scenario for this scene. And, with all the angst-y Rosita dialogue we’ve been getting lately, something to this effect seems right up these writers’ alley. Perhaps it’s beyond the purview of the current writing staff, but there exists, somewhere out there in the aether, the perfect Daryl and Carol scene, or #Caryl scene, if you will. A scene where these two star-crossed soulmates share a tender moment of grief and remembrance, wading through the heartbreak together, while coming to terms with their guilt, and remembering Glenn for all that he meant to the group.
(Photo Credit: AMC)
But alas, that scene (or something much better) is not the one we get. Instead, Daryl withholds Glenn’s fate from Carol, to spare her the feelings of righteous vengeance that would immediately course through her veins had she learned the truth. Sure, Daryl simply not telling Carol, is nowhere near as rewarding, or sexy, as that perfect #Caryl moment that plays upon our every heartstring. But, those types of scenes are risky, and can just as easily end in a giant, heaping awkward mess. The scene we do get is a nice middle ground when compared to the alternatives. Not nearly as ambitious as it could have been, but it’s unexpected and plays well with the rest of the episode. It’s the plot-driven, rather than the character-driven choice, and the writers make it work, for the most part.

As Carol continues to stay isolated from the rest of the group, her long-term outlook grows hazy. Not only is she physically removed from her friends, but she’s also narratively removed from them. Rick and the gang are leaving poor Carol in the dust in terms of shared storylines, and for all intents and purposes, she’s basically operating a half season behind even someone like Tobin, which is not a good sign for her long-term viability. The further Carol gets away from the main cast, the less important of a character she becomes, and the more expendable she is to the plot. To put it another way, Carol’s already been getting way less screen time than she has in any other season, (a troubling trend in its own right), do you really think the writers will then take what little screen time she is getting, and dedicate it to her playing catch-up? In a half-season that already has so much ground to cover in such a short amount of screen time, it seems unlikely.


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