- As any graphic designer, ad exec or 13th century stained glass artist would tell you - images have real power to inspire, influence or coerce us. Motherboard profiles the bizarre pseudo-spiritual beliefs around image making and meme circulation from the recent election. Perhaps there's something in opacity of algorithms and automated content sorting lead humans to turn to magical thinking.
- The startup Jibo, working on a robot helper for the home has announced another delay - putting their initial product shipments about 2 years out from the original plan. Complex hardware is difficult for even huge companies with deep benches of talent and solid vendors to execute successfully on (see Samsung's recent recall stumbles) so delays are the norm for startups. The more troubling complication the article mentions is that beta testers didn't seem to be able to find ways of interacting with the device that were especially useful or rewarding. Shipping late is forgivable, shipping an underwhelming first product is usually a death sentence for startups. Jibo would probably be in much better shape if Amazon's Echo products hadn't come along in the interim - we're guessing that Alexa takes care of 90% of the needs that something like Jibo (a fixed location robot) would do for a user.
- The Brookings Institute with a report on why bringing manufacturing back is more of a time travel issue than a geographic one: automation is cheaper and technological advances mean more value produced with fewer jobs. In 1980 it took 25 employees to achieve $1MM in revenue in a manufacturing context; today the same amount can be generated by 5.
- The consumer wearable technology market herd continues to thin - Intel is shutting down their wearable offering, the Basis Ruby. Considering we've never seen anyone wearing one, we're not that surprised. Building a compelling consumer product line or brand is among the most difficult business opportunities to pursue.
Feeding the Future:
- Cows are a substantial source of methane, a problem substance in efforts to slow climate change. So far reducing meat and dairy consumption has been the primary prescription for cutting cow-originated fumes, but a farmer in Canada along with some researchers have found that switching livestock feed to seaweed resulted in significant gas reductions (~20%), which may make the climate, and the cows, rest a little bit easier.
- As people in the U.S. are recovering from the overload of Thanksgiving leftovers in the form of turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing, a startup called Spoiler Alert is working to develop tools to curb food waste. Current estimates put the amount of food waste value in the U.S. at around $218 billion annually across consumer, farm and store stakeholders. A recent triumph of the startup was helping the Greater Boston Boston Food Bank find homes (and stomachs) for 11,000 organic eggs. It's a great example of how technology can be used to reduce inequality and waste within a complex system - something we can all be thankful for.