Wiser! #43: Microsoft takes on Facebook head to head in the metaverse virtual workspace; Pinterest moves for your attention, and Facebook turns off facial recognition (for now).
In this issue of Wiser!;
- Microsoft throw their hat into the metaverse ring
- The Attention Economy: Pinterest start a live shopping TV channel
- Facebook shuts down its use of facial recognition (but not for ever)
- China's algorithm laws are safer than Facebook (video)
- Shiba Inu passes Dogecoin in the top 10 of cryptocurrencies
- Plus Hertz and Tesla; Musk tops $300 billion; Coinbase becomes a bank; US Gov delays the Microsoft mega AR deal
Microsoft throw their hat into the Metaverse ring
Hot on the heels of Facebook becoming Meta, Microsoft have shown us a glimpse of their vision for the metaverse at their annual conference called Ignite.
And it is all about the future of working. In direct competition to Facebook's Horizon workrooms, Microsoft plans to combine their Mesh virtual reality platform with MS Teams, one of the fastest-growing platforms during the pandemic. Today, Teams is used by around 150 million people daily.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, described the Mesh/Teams integration as ‘a shared, immersive experience’.
Wiser! Take: Quite simply, whether you use Mesh or Horizon, you are going to be able to appear as a custom made 3D avatar in your video call. There will be no need for energy-sapping green screens or to rearrange your background (bookshelves are the most effective background if you want to make a power move on a video call).
Virtual reality video calls will use AI to turn your voice into an animated 3D avatar with actions and movements to reflect how you're saying whatever it is that you're saying. Eventually, Microsoft intends to make Teams a suite of fully immersive VR rooms to hold meetings, give presentations, make sales calls, or handle customer services calls.
However, a bigger winner is the ability to restore simple office chit-chat, something that has been sorely missed in the Work From Home economy that has sprung out of the pandemic.
As David Mattin put it in the latest issue of New World Same Humans,
"Meta and Microsoft are on a collision course. A war to own the next iteration of the internet is beginning, and the future of work will constitute crucial terrain. Ready your avatar, and strap in."
To get an idea of what's coming, take a look at this Twitter thread to see what Shopify has built for its employees.
To find out more about Facebook's move to the metaverse, read this...
#AttentionEconomy: Live shopping on Pinterest
The trend for live shopping is growing. You'll remember that I've written about TikTok's move in this space as social media platforms vye for the attention of an already digitally-saturated audience.
You only have to look West to China to see its growth in popularity. In 2019, over a third of China’s online shoppers made a live-stream purchase in a sector that hit nearly $165 million in 2020.
The latest platform to join in is Pinterest. The launch of the unimaginatively named Pinterest TV will give influencers access to the platform’s 454 million regular users. To incentivise video creation, Pinterest announced it’ll dish out $20 million to creators for generating “inspirational” content. Pinterest also recently debuted a TikTok-inspired feature called “Takes” that allows users to tag products in their Idea Pins. The San Francisco-based firm hopes the move will make its content more shippable.
Wiser! Take: Every social media platform is vying for the attention of their users in the so-called Attention Economy. They are also looking for new business models that do not rely on advertising revenues. Pinterest is no different.
Pinterest TV represents a big step forward into the world of live-streaming eCommerce. And with companies expected to spend about $13.8 billion on influencer marketing in 2021 (up from $9.7 billion in 2020), it is no surprise that social media platforms are looking to get their share of this increase in spend.
I often say, if you want to see what's happening next in the West, look to the East. In China, top influencers have their own shows and appear every night for up to 4 hours at a stretch selling highly curated products. If it's taking off in China, then it's most likely coming our way.
Here's the tweet thread I tweeted about this story...
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Facebook shuts down facial recognition (for now)
Facebook's announcement that they are "limiting the use of facial recognition software in its products" the week after announcing it's the new coming of the internet is as misleading as Boris Johnson claiming he wants more action on climate change then signing off on the Cambo oil field.
Facial recognition software will be a core component of the next computing platform, aka the metaverse. The current system of passwords is hopeless, clumsy and, if you've ever lost your mobile then tried to reset a password, a barrier to user experience.
Biometrics is going to be front and centre of the human/machine interface until someone invents the telepathy machine (which Elon Musk is no doubt thinking about). You only have to look at China to see how it works at scale (and before anyone gets all angsty in the comments, I'm referring to payments and the good people of China going about their daily digital business, not what the state might be doing).
The issue is not "facial recognition software" per se, but the algorithms that sit behind it. Facebook turning off the software that is used by around 650 million a day and then deleting all of the data tells you more about what Facebook has been using the data for than it is a reflection on facial recognition software itself.
To the point that the VP of AI, Jerome Pesenti went on to say in the blog post that announced the move that facial recognition would be back.
Wiser! Take: Facebook will still work on facial recognition technology. For the last 10 years they have used facial recognition to automatically identify and tag people in pictures and videos. This was a massive benefit as it made it easier for users to engage with each other, leading them to spend yet more time on Facebook.
Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool that will be central to identity verification and fraud prevention going forward. It is not going away despite the concerns about the appropriateness of the tech. However, until lawmakers and regulators catch up with the industry and get their heads and hands around the issue, it is going to continue to be a source of great angst amongst large parts of the population.
As we enter the era of the metaverse it is only going to become more of a source of friction until confidence can be established in the tech. And that is going to need some fairly comprehensive rules and means of enforcement to be established.
P.S. On the subject of China, watch this video for a perspective on China, algorithms and BigTech, featuring a great friend of Wiser!, Richard Turrin.
Snippets of Insight and Information
Shiba Inu has passed Dogecoin in the top 10 of cryptocurrencies
Both of these so-called meme coins were created as jokes and yet they have a combined market cap of $73billion! Largely fuelled by their support from Elon Musk
On Sunday night, Musk posted a semi-ironic tweet on accepting Dogecoin for a so-far fictional University he wants to set up. Earlier, Musk had tweeted he was thinking of “starting new university: Texas Institute of Technology & Science."
While the acronym set up the joke, Musk’s tweet about accepting Dogecoin cryptocurrency as the only fees for tuition has cemented it further. But with Musk, you can never really tell which idea is a joke - and which joke really becomes true.
As of yesterday afternoon, Dogecoin, which launched in 2013 as a joke, ranks No. 10 with a market value of over $35 billion. It's currently trading at around 27 cents.
The token called Shiba Inu was launched in 2020 to poke fun at Dogecoin, now ranks No. 9 with a market value of over $38 billion. Shiba Inu hit an all-time high of $0.00008616 last Thursday.
Elon Musk becomes the 1st person to be worth more than $300 billion
Musk's wealth hit $302 billion after a surge in Tesla stock price. This is greater than the annual GDP of Finland or Chile, and exceeds the market value of Netflix and PayPal, a company that he co-founded. After selling PayPal, Musk put all of the $180 million he pocketed from the deal into Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City. He is famously quoted as saying "I had to borrow money to pay the rent". Bless! Source: CBS News
Coinbase moves a step closer to being a bank
Coinbase have announced that customers can now borrow up to $1 Million (which means that users do not need to sell their Bitcoin and can leverage the crypto as a digital assets, just like rich people do.). Source: Coinbase
US military has delayed the Microsoft AR megadeal
Earlier this year the US military announced a $22 billion deal with Microsoft to deploy its HoloLens augmented reality headsets. It was the biggest deal ever in this space and would have seen the US Gov fund Microsoft R&D for the next 10 years. The deal is now on hold for at least a year. (I wrote about the original deal here). Source: The Register
DeepMind takes the next step in robotics research
The company has acquired the rigid-body physics simulator MuJoCo and has made it freely available to the research community. DeepMind’s mission is to develop artificial general intelligence (AGI), the flexible kind of innate and learned problem-solving capabilities found in humans and animals. Source: VentureBeat
Hertz spoke too soon about the Tesla deal
Remember the deal that Hertz announced for 100,000 Teslas? The one that propelled Tesla’s market cap past $1 trillion? Well, it seems that Hertz spoke too soon after Elon Musk tweeted on Monday night that “no contract has been signed yet. Tesla has far more demand than production, therefore we will only sell cars to Hertz for the same margin as to consumers. Hertz deal has zero effect on our economics.” This was shortly followed by a statement from Hertz that said Tesla deliveries had already started!
There is a serious point to be made from this difference in perspective. Both Tesla and Hertz are publicly listed companies. Statements like this influence share price and it is highly likely that the SEC will be looking closely (again) at Musk's use of Twitter to influence the market. Source: Axios
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