- How W.E.B. Du Bois used data visualization to tell the story of black lives in America for the World's Fair in 1900. The hand-drawn and painted diagrams feel very contemporary in their ability to bring immediate visual clarity to complex information.
- The augmented reality startup Magic Leap has raised $ 1.39B of investment over the last 6 years, but limited demonstrations of the technology has led to questions of whether that money has produced real product value or if they are on the road to vaporware. This week a photo of a supposedly working prototype was leaked. It's... really big and fairly ugly, and quite far from a reasonable-looking piece of wearable tech. The CEO disputes the claim that the device depicted is a prototype, describing it instead as a test rig. We will have to wait and see if they can make good on their massive valuation.
- Hoteliers have been using robots for room service, and they'd like more, according to The Economist. Like restaurants, hotels have tight margins, lengthy service hours, low wages and are often dependent on undocumented workers and immigrants generally. With an uncertain future for immigration in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, there could be a shrinking supply of labor for hotels and restaurants in those countries, triggering a commensurate investment in automation for those industries.
Feeding the Future:
- Regular readers of this newsletter know that we are generally skeptical of "smart" products related to cooking, finding that they somehow manage to complicate simple tasks while preventing development of new skills and the pleasure of improvisation. Well, there's finally some cooking tech that looks genuinely innovative and useful from our perspective: a new type of oven using RF (radio frequency) to quickly cook multiple foods at different intensities of heat simultaneously. This apparently allows for some bizarrely precise operations, like their demo of cooking a fish within a block of ice. This could mean that making nutritionally complete meals from fresh ingredients becomes much more practical for busy people and families. And while you can imagine these devices being highly prescriptive ("run this program for your steak cooked to Anthony Bourdain's preferred level of doneness") it doesn't preclude experimentation which is a hallmark of technologies that augment human potential instead of making us more like automatons. That's the kind of futuristic thinking we can get behind.
Solutions from Down the Supply Chain:
- Chance the Rapper became the first to win a Grammy for a streaming-only album, a notable milestone for independent artists and producers everywhere. While widespread internet adoption was supposed to unlock a direct-to-audience model where craft producers or creative visionaries could deliver their works without editorial meddling and aggressive fees taken out, that model is still more theoretical than practical. While this award is a big, visible crack in the foundation in the old way of doing business, the window of opportunity for independent creators to find an audience online (and success on their own terms) may be closing if net neutrality goes away.