Technology Report takes pride in extensive coverage of the Computer Electronics Show “CES” in Las Vegas, but it’s looking more and more like we will miss the show this year thanks to a busy schedule – including live reporting from Vietnam on the growing technology business scene in Southeast Asia.
However we won’t miss coverage of CES 2011. In fact I predict the best coverage we’ve ever had could be this year as we’ll focus daily attention on the best and brightest reporting, reviews, and press event information as the tsunami of technology news surges from CES Las Vegas starting on Tuesday January 4th with the “CES Unveiled” press event. We’ll try to measure the buzz and interest as new products are released and reviewed, and as always try to look beyond the hype at important underlying themes in technology as well as direct you to the best first hand accounts.
Stay tuned for CES 2011 … reported live and virtually …. right here
Update: After seeing the demo of Wordlens and hearing that reviewers were “disappointed” due to speed and effectiveness I think this application needs a lot of work.
Remains, however, a great idea
Kudos to the folks at Quest Visual: Questvisual.com. Their free iPhone application “Wordlens” allows real time translation by simply pointing your iPhone at a sign or other text.
As any traveler knows it’s very helpful to be able to interpret signs, menus, and other text. This is naturally very difficult in countries where you don’t speak the language. Wordlens is only available in spanish now but other languages are on the way, and this is clearly a great step in the direction of our phones and handheld devices becoming “universal translators”
Via Singularity Hub
more at Quest Visual: Questvisual.com
Check out this great interactive graphic from the BBC showing how broadband has spread through the world since 1998. Note the relationship between affluence / development and broadband use. Although correlation is not causation, it’s clear for many reasons that one of the best ways for poor countries to get a bigger piece of the global economic pie is to develop more robust broadband infrastructures in their own countries.
The BBC article attached to the graphic discusses Kenya as an example of this move to development via the use of technology – in Kenya’s case to work on the surging need for call centers to service customers in the UK and USA.
Over at the Neurdon blog we’re following a great series about Artificial Intelligence “AI” in general and about developments in Darpa SyNAPSE, the best funded project to date that is working on a “general artificial intelligence” – in short a machine that can think pretty much like we do.
This is the article, about a new chip called a “Memristor” that seemed to spawn a lot of discussion. It’s a new approach under development as part of the DARPA SyNAPSE project. [thanks to my good pal Roy K who always forwards me very interesting stuff!]
It’s encouraging to see the debate over computer consciousness take such a serious tone as this topic is arguably one of the most intriguing in all of human history. Many experts believe we’ll see machines become self-aware within 10-20 years. Given the massive computational superiority computers already enjoy over humans, one can make a strong case that a conscious computer – or more likely a computer + human brain hybrid – will clone its intellect and improve that intellect over and over in a very short time, leading to levels of intelligence far beyond that of “normal” humans.
Also encouraging that pioneers in the field like the article’s authors: Sean Lorenz, Heather Ames & Massimiliano Versace are willing to discuss this topic rather than shelve it as so many in computer research have done. I think early inflated optimism about artificial intelligence led to so much disappointment in the computer community that the “old guard” programmers are being too stubborn now, especially in the face of very significant advances in the understanding of human neurobiology and in computational speeds and memory capacities.
From the post “ Moneta_And_The_C_Word”
Although Searle has argued for biological embodiment as a necessity for causation of consciousness, this paper puts forth the argument that biological embodiment is not the only embodiment that can produce consciousness. Instead, we argue that the brain is an optimal form of embodiment giving rise to consciousness because it can produce observable reports, oral reports, and observed and measured activity. The first two qualifications of consciousness can be replicated with computer simulations as discussed by the proponents of WBE. However, the third qualification requires a unique stipulation for embodiment that is able to self organize and generate unique global and local patterns of activities within its constituent elements. At this point in time, this is only achievable within brain tissue. However, with the advancement of neural chip development, we would argue that embodiment necessary for consciousness would be achievable in a new medium, the neuromorphic chip.
IBM’s Watson search routine is one of the best in the world. Watson is not as popular as Google search partly because it takes longer to answer questions, but in many ways Watson may be a more powerful “Search Algorithm” than Google search.
Watson’s brilliancy will be tested in February against Jeopardy’s best contestants:
IBM had announced a Jeopardy test for Watson over a year ago and we are checking on why there has been such a long delay in the contest, now scheduled for three episodes in February 2011.
See Technology Report’s Jeopardy post from CES 2009
Reuters reports today on the delays in the Google Chrome Netbook which will push the device launch into the middle of 2011. Although it’s far too early to see if Google can break into the hardware business profitably, it’s somewhat surprising how difficult is has been for Google to branch out successfully into hardware adventures like smartphones and netbooks: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B65H620101207
My take is that Google is very concerned about protecting it’s dominant and hugely profitable online advertising empire, and is working hard to find ways to make sure they can capitalize on the boom in mobile device usage. However I think all parties are exaggerating the profits to be had in mobile. Tiny screens mean far less real estate on which to advertise. Also, difficulties with targeting, advertising fatigue, and many other factors suggest to me that even as mobile online use explodes the profits from this may not, although larger screens and more netbooks could help preserve the existing advertising streams indefinitely.
As always we’ll have to stay tuned to see how this new online landscape shakes out.
Super insightful tech insider Henry Blodget has a really interesting take on valuations of some of the online big players. Article here. He makes a strong case that Myspace, once the darling of the social networking scene, now may be worth “next to nothing” as Facebook and Twitter seem to have eaten up their social networking lunch, leaving Myspace without any profits. The caveat is that with modifications he thinks Myspace might resume profitable operations and fetch 0.5 to 1 billion in a buyout, but this is only about the 580 million that Rupert Murdoch paid for Myspace many years ago.
Supporting his low valuation notion is the fact that the now-nearly-forgotten early Social network Friendster recently sold for a paltry approximately 26 million. Techcrunch Reports on that
Update: The deal didn’t go through though it appears there was disagreement within the Groupon Board about accepting Google’s offer.
Sites such as TechCrunch are quoting expected 2011 revenues for Groupon in the *two billion* range, considerably higher than the numbers noted below. My quick estimate method below no longer holds up as “low revenue” – many of the deals now show thousands of groupons sold and tens of thousands in revenue for some cities. Also, based on a Charlie Rose interview with Groupon founder Andrew Mason, it’s clear that Groupon is signing a lot of deals now for future runs, so the revenue numbers probably reflect a lot more than simply the deals showing at the site now.
Rumors continue to swirl that Google may buy Groupon for anywhere from 2.5 to 6 billion dollars depending on the rumor source. With money to burn it won’t be too surprising to see Google pick up Groupon but one has to wonder why Groupon has become such a sensation, going from complete near obscurity to billion dollar valuation (based on recent 135 million investment) to a potential multi billion value in the course of just a year.
A Techcrunch report suggested Groupon’s annual revenues are about 350 million with “profits” of about a million a week. So if we estimate the EBITA at about 52 million a year the rumored Google purchase price of 5 billion is almost 100x earnings – this seems very rich to me given all the uncertainties of online commerce, especially for a business model that would appear to be easy to copy and improve upon. Groupon’s marketing of the concept to big players has been extraordinary, but it remains to be seen if this model can continue to grow and generate the massive profits needed to justify a valuation of over 5 billion dollars.
Looking at a bit more detail brings even more confusion. If we review what appear to be all the cities here: Groupon Cities , we find that several are not yet active and those that are appear to only generate hundreds of dollars in revenue per day on deals that are often overpriced boutique shopping or expensive cosmetic treatments like “laser hair removal”. How could Groupon be generating a million a day in revenue from 150 cities, many of which are not yet online and few of which appear to be earning even 1000 per day from the deals?
I’m guessing that the revenue numbers suggested by Techcrunch are high and also that Groupon revenue must come in large part from large deals they are striking with big players for the future rather than from current coupon deals. If so it raises some important questions about this business model.
CES 2011 brings an excellent new online planning tool – a virtual conference brochure with extensive information about the conference tracks, keynotes, exhibitors, and more.
Follow this link for the brochure: http://digital.virtualmarketingpartners.com/vmp/CES/conference-program-2011/
As any previous CES attendee knows, the number of CES sessions and keynotes alone is overwhelming, and only with planning are you likely to avoid missing talks and sessions you’d like to attend.