May 24, 2016

Weekly Tech News Roundup: Google, AI, Hyperloop, VR, and More

Emergent Future Issue #11: Google, VR, Hyperloop, and More

Issue 11
Google's annual I/O conference was all about the future of AI, researchers unveiled a Hyperloop prototype, and VR goes IMAX. Plus, we share a few surprising discoveries, projects to try at home, and our top reads from the past week.

Google Bets Big on AI at I/O

You Might Have Heard: Google announced a bunch of new tech last week during their 10th annual I/O developers conference.

Their vision for a more ubiquitous and conversational way of interacting with technology was on display, highlighted by:

  • Google Assistant – a conversational AI and search bot, like Siri
  • Google Home – their version of the Amazon Echo
  • Allo and Duo – mobile messaging and video apps with a built-in Google chatbot, like WhatsApp or FB Messenger
  • Daydream – a VR headset and platform, like Oculus

"Google is doubling down on artificial intelligence as the next great phase of computing,” Walt Mossberg writes. "And they believe Google can do it better than anyone else."

They better hope they can, since we’ve already seen these products and services from other companies, Buzzfeed writes. In a sense, Google is playing catchup.

But Did You Know: Google is now building its own chips to expedite its machine learning algorithms? They've created a Tensor Processing Unit, a custom ASIC specifically tailored for TensorFlow.The new hardware is "roughly equivalent to fast-forwarding technology about seven years into the future."

Who's playing catchup now?


Everybody’s Talking About: Hyperloop

Researchers from MIT unveiled a prototype pod that uses magnetic levitation to travel at about 229 miles per hour. The team will test the pod this summer at a one-mile racetrack near SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. A trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles could be made in as little as 30 minutes.

Some, however, are wondering if Hyperloop is really the future of travel, or really just an expensive option for the rich.

More: Hyperloop Technologies, an LA startup, has started shooting mag-lev capsules along a track in Las Vegas to show off a radical idea for the future of freight and mass transit.


What We’re Keeping An Eye On: IMAX and Google are teaming up to develop a "cinema-grade" VR rig to capture 360-degree images. IMAX plans to launch six VR experiences at multiplexes and malls later this year.

The move makes sense given Google's announcement of Daydream, their new VR headset and content platform. Google says Daydream will start shipping this fall.

PLUS: Learn more about Daydream, its Cardboard origins, and Google's ambitions with this new VR platform

Watch: The Philosophy of Virtual Reality

Surprising Discoveries

What We're Reading

  • If Apple needs strong AI and big-data services in the next decade to remain competitive, they need to have already been developing that talent and those assets. (
  • Peter Thiel’s Hamilton College commencement speech: "Do not squander your ignorance. Go out and do what your teachers and parents thought could not be done, and what they never thought of doing." (Fortune)
  • The rise of APIs: "Developers can focus on their own unique functionality and surround it with fully functional, distributed processes developed by other specialists, which they access through APIs." (TechCrunch)
  • For the VR generation, the differences between TV and movies may already be irrelevant. (LA Times)
  • Great companies versus great technology: Google’s go-to-market gap (Stratechery)

Try This At Home

Emergent Future is a weekly, hand-curated dispatch exploring technology through the lens of artificial intelligence, data science, and the shape of things to come. 

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Matt Kiser

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