• Apple prepares for life after the iPhone…
  • Meet your new neighborhood watch: An AI-powered drone
  • Tesla tried to keep this deal quiet… I think I know why

Dear Reader,

Today, we’re going to give recognition to John Goodenough of the University of Texas at Austin, Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University, and Akira Yoshino of Asahi Kasei Corporation.

These are three names that I wouldn’t expect anyone to know. But their inventions have improved the lives of nearly everyone on the planet.

These three gentlemen just received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries. Smartphones, iPads, laptops, and even electric vehicles wouldn’t exist without lithium-ion battery technology. These batteries are the single source of power for these devices.

This technology is so pervasive in our daily lives that we don’t even think about it. But we’d be lost without it.

This award was long overdue. And Goodenough, who is 97 years old, has become the oldest Nobel laureate ever…

Apple’s latest acquisition is telling…

Apple just bought an animation company called IKinema for an undisclosed sum. This is a tiny company. It only has 13 employees.

But IKinema has done great work in animation. Its specialty is 3D motion capture technology. This allows the company to morph video footage of people into animated characters.

Apple didn’t say why it wanted IKinema. But in light of Apple’s recent moves, it is clear what it is up to…

We recently talked about Apple’s newest augmented reality (AR) patent. This tech will allow Apple to track users’ facial expressions. It looks to me like this will be used to translate real facial expressions to a digital avatar. The avatar will represent the speaker in an AR or virtual reality environment.

If we dig deeper and look at Apple’s other acquisitions since 2015, we gain even more insights. RealFace, FlyBy Media, Emotient, Faceshift, Vocal IQ, and Metaio… Apple has been on a buying spree in recent years.

And these companies bring with them the technology for facial recognition, AR software, expression analysis, facial motion tracking, and voice recognition.

Putting it all together… To me, it’s obvious that Apple is gearing up for a major product launch.

It is working on an interactive voice-activated AR product. And it will feature the ability to do immersive video chats in AR with avatars.

Acquisitions and patent filings are great ways to find key signals about future product directions in high tech. Whenever a company makes a series of complementary technology acquisitions, we can see how these different elements will be used for new product development.

My longtime readers know that I believe that augmented reality glasses will one day replace smartphones. Even the iconic iPhone will be no more. Apple’s acquisitions suggest that the company has a similar view and is preparing for this future.

I’ve predicted that Apple will do a major AR product release in 2020… And I believe that more than ever today.

Combine that with the future launch of Apple’s 5G-enabled smartphones in the fall of 2020, and Apple is in for one heck of an exciting year.

The new age of AI-powered defense is here…

Early stage drone company Anduril just raised $126 million in a Series B venture capital round. Among the backers were Andreesen Horowitz and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.

Anduril develops AI-powered drones. These drones can provide a range of security services. They can patrol a border, secure a facility, or provide support for military operations out in the field.

And because the AI is so sophisticated, these drones can run autonomously. They don’t need a controller. Plus, they are equipped with facial recognition technology. In other words, the drones are perfectly equipped for security and surveillance functions.

A Surveillance Drone

Source: Anduril

Palmer Luckey founded Anduril in 2017. Luckey was the cofounder of virtual reality (VR) company Oculus. As we may recall, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2 billion back in July 2014.

Luckey’s new company has already signed contracts with a dozen different agencies within the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. This shows us how much progress Anduril has made with its drones in just a couple of years.

And Anduril is now valued just north of $1 billion. So the company went from nothing to $1 billion in just over two years. That’s impressive… especially for a hardware company.

And here’s why I’m writing about Anduril today…

The company got its start with military applications. But I see this technology being even more useful in the private sector. That’s because it provides unobtrusive advanced security.

With these drones, you don’t need a physical barrier or expensive security systems to protect something. You just put the drones to work, and they take care of everything.

You can secure power plants, industrial facilities, corporate headquarters, conferences and gatherings, and even private neighborhoods.

We shouldn’t be surprised if our future neighborhood watch is a fleet of AI drones provided by Anduril…

Tesla’s stealth acquisition…

Tesla just acquired a Canadian company called Hibar Systems. This is an interesting acquisition…

Hibar is a hot company in the lithium-ion battery space. It is most well-known for small cell batteries that use a mechanized pump injection system.

And Hibar has made great progress in mainland China. In fact, more than half of Hibar’s business comes from China.

Perhaps this acquisition isn’t a coincidence, as the first Teslas will roll off the Shanghai production line (Tesla’s first manufacturing facility in mainland China) this month. And Tesla’s Shanghai plant will hit full production early next year.

Yet Tesla’s biggest constraint is producing enough batteries. And Panasonic, Tesla’s battery partner, has been slow to scale up battery production.

So Tesla is being proactive here. It is exploring the next generation of small cell battery tech. And Tesla is building the potential to produce its own batteries.

And get this…

Tesla never even announced this acquisition. The company hasn’t said a word about it. The deal was only discovered through some regulatory filings in Canada.

What’s more, Hibar Systems pulled down its entire website. All that remains is a single page with an address and contact information.

Clearly, Tesla is keeping this one close to the vest. That tells me it has something special with this Hibar deal.

Tesla wouldn’t have bothered with this low-key acquisition unless Hibar had something that Tesla thought would be a future competitive advantage.

We’ll keep a close eye on this story in these pages. Tesla’s unique approach to lithium-ion batteries is already a competitive advantage compared to other electric vehicle manufacturers. I suspect we’ll hear a major announcement about Tesla’s battery technology that will further extend its lead in battery tech sometime in 2020.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge