Dear Reader,

Let’s jump right in today…

Breaking news from the Oculus Connect conference…

Facebook held its Oculus Connect conference last week. This is one of the largest virtual reality (VR) events of the year. And Facebook made a huge announcement…

Facebook’s Oculus Rift headset is the best VR platform on the market today. At the conference last week, Facebook announced that it has done more than $100 million in Oculus Rift sales.

And given that the Oculus Rift S sells for $399, this means Facebook has sold around 250,000 headsets. The actual number is probably a bit lower because the sales figure includes some software sales, but it’s not too bad for a product still in the early adopter phase.

But the big news was the unveiling of a new virtual world simulator called Horizon

Horizon is a completely new VR world accessed through the Oculus Rift. It’s a world where people can “live” through their VR headsets. They can have houses, jobs, and stores. And, of course, they can interact with other people in this world.

We can think of Horizon as the VR version of Second Life, an immersive world in which people can create an alternate reality for themselves online.

We already know that there is a market for this kind of virtual world. Second Life drew around 1 million monthly active users at its peak. And more than 36 million people created Second Life accounts at one point or another.

Facebook is in a unique position because it has about 1.6 billion daily active users. These are people who log into Facebook every day to interact with others.

It’s not a stretch to think that a meaningful percentage of these billion-plus people will be interested in moving their interactions from a static screen to Horizon’s fully immersive virtual world. We can think of it as social media on steroids. That’s why this is such a powerful idea.

I believe these types of VR worlds are the future. Humans naturally live vicariously through others, and Horizon will provide a construct allows them to do so through their own social media avatar.

I’m not suggesting that this is a good thing or that it’s good for society (short answer: it’s not). I’m only suggesting that it is going to be very popular.

I’ve said it before: I don’t approve of Facebook’s business practices on a personal level. But it’s an incredible business and investment, and Horizon is a big bet on the future of social interaction… right up Facebook’s alley.

The world’s first fully functional robot dog…

Robotics company Boston Dynamics just announced that its first major robot, Spot, is ready for public release.

Spot is a yellow “doglike” robot. It has a wide range of functionality. It can go upstairs and downstairs. It can carry objects around. It can open doors. And Spot is even capable of dancing.

Spot, the Robotic Dog

Source: Boston Dynamics

To start, Spot is geared for enterprise applications rather than home use.

For example, Spot could check for gas leaks at industrial sites. Just put environmental sensors on its back and send it in to get the reading. This would ensure that human workers were not put in harm’s way.

As another example, Spot could carry a mesh networking radio for humans working in remote locations like oil fields or forestry sites. This would allow teams of workers to stay connected to a central operator in places where cell service may not be available.

So Spot will be quite useful from an enterprise standpoint. But I think home use is far more interesting to most of us. And fortunately, it wouldn’t take much for Boston Dynamics to turn Spot into a consumer product.

Spot can already take voice commands. It can map out rooms and navigate difficult spaces. Spot has everything it needs to “live” in a home.

And imagine being able to place a clothes basket on Spot’s back and say, “Spot, please take this to the washing machine.” Or you could place a food item on its back and say, “Spot, please take this to Tommy.”

People will find all sorts of uses for an advanced robot dog like this. I expect to see Spot and other consumer robots in the home in the near future. Boston Dynamics has been working on robotics for years, so I’m really excited to see a new product hit the market.

Amazon just took Alexa to the next level…

Last Thursday, Amazon had a product launch event in Seattle. And it had a major surprise for the market. It released a pair of smart glasses. These are glasses that have Alexa built right in. They have a microphone to take voice commands. And they have a little speaker just behind the ear for answering questions. It is strategically placed so only the user can hear it most of the time.

And best of all, Amazon’s smart glasses look just like a pair of designer glasses. They aren’t big, bulky, or futuristic. They are stylish. And they weigh 1.1 ounces… just like a normal pair of glasses.

Amazon’s Smart Glasses

Source: Reuters

This is an incredible product launch. And once again, Amazon has beaten Apple, Facebook, and Google to the punch. These are the most attractive, consumer-friendly smart glasses ever released.

And the glasses only cost $180. That’s cheaper than many designer frames out there. Plus, users can put prescription lenses in them. So they can function as normal eyeglasses as well.

With this launch, Amazon is making the digital assistant ubiquitous. For the first time, consumers can have Alexa available to them all day, every day… no matter where they are. And of course, Alexa is one of the best digital assistants on the planet.

Think about how novel this is…

Imagine you’re walking down the street and say, “Alexa, please remind me to pick up dinner at 5 p.m. today.” This is a game changer. We’ll never forget to take care of our small daily tasks ever again.

There are countless uses for a digital assistant throughout the day – from scheduling to reminders, receiving phone calls, and even instructing Alexa to act on any one of “her” 100,000 skills. That’s why I believe these smart glasses will become an incredible business for Amazon.

In fact, I believe Amazon may very well become the leader for digital assistant technology with this move. The glasses are a Trojan horse. It has cracked the code and made it convenient. Consumers no longer need to fiddle with their smartphones… They can issue voice commands and discreetly receive answers hands-free.

Amazon continues to catch other technology giants on their back foot. It allocates capital toward innovative products that lead the industry. And it remains one of my favorite long-term technology investments.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge