- Robots are taking on monotonous, dangerous jobs…
- These graphics look unbelievably real…
- A solution to deepfakes is here…
It’s time for a holiday… just not the kind that we’re used to…
States around the U.S. are resorting to a gas tax holiday to lessen the impact of rising oil prices due to the foreign policy decisions levied by the west. Here are a few examples:
Maryland stepped up to suspend the gas tax for 30 days; net savings per gallon will be 36.1 cents
Georgia did the same until May 31, saving 29.1 cents a gallon
From April 1–June 30, Connecticut is reducing state gas tax by 25 cents a gallon
Many more states will follow.
And California, of course, has no desire to be outdone by any other state. Its governor is planning on an $11 billion package, not all of which is gasoline. $9 billion of the package will come in the form of sending $400 debit cards to registered vehicle owners.
Where is all this money coming from?
It seems amidst record levels of debt and money printing, the solution is to just dig deeper… But at what future cost? We can already see the direct impact to trillions of dollars of money printing in the rising prices of the products that we use every day.
And at the same time, the House budgets for members of the House of Representatives were just increased by 21%. Given what is happening right now, we can make a strong argument for less federal spending, not more. I’m not sure how much more chaos and insanity we can all take.
Making matters worse, many of the “elites” are telling us to go out and buy an electric vehicle (EV) in order to solve the problem of rising gas prices. However, there are two small problems with that suggestion:
The average cost of an EV is $56,437… Is the government going to buy us all a free car?
As we learned a couple of weeks ago in The Bleeding Edge, 60% of our electricity comes from coal and natural gas, and another 20% comes from nuclear fission reactors (zero emissions but produces radioactive waste).
The EV proposal is not a solution to high gas prices. It’s not a “clean” solution either.
I predict that far stronger actions will be taken.
The U.S. has the ability to ramp up domestic production as dirty deals with Iran and Venezuela will not be welcomed politically. And then the hammer will drop… the current administration will move to ban all oil and gas exports in order to keep oil down to less than $100 a barrel and thus gas prices low.
Until then, we’ll continue to see stimulus packages left and right as inflation continues to steam ahead as a stopgap measure until domestic production increases and gas prices drop. These gas tax holidays are a direct form of stimulus, one that will only result in state budget shortfalls. And then the states will turn to the federal government for more support.
This kind of nonsense can go on a lot longer than we might expect; but in time, it won’t end well. As investors, the “safest” place for our money is in assets whose value is growing at a rate faster than the rate of inflation.
Holding cash is akin to annual confiscation of our savings at a rate equivalent to the real rate of inflation.
Yet another solution to labor shortages…
A tiny robotics company caught my attention as I was going through early stage funding rounds this week. It’s called Skyline Robotics.
Skyline just raised $6.5 million in its Series A venture capital (VC) round. The company is now valued at just under $20.1 million.
Normally, a small round like this wouldn’t jump out at me. But Skyline’s robotic solution is quite timely. The company makes robots to clean the outside of skyscrapers. Check it out:
Robotic Window Cleaners
Source: Skyline Robotics
Here we can see one of Skyline’s robots in action. It might look pretty incredible, but Skyline didn’t try to reinvent the wheel to build its autonomous solution.
Skyline took an off-the-shelf robotic arm and incorporated a form of artificial intelligence (AI) called computer vision. Then it fitted the robot with lidar sensors to sense depth. This technology allows the robot to apply just the right amount of pressure as it scrubs back and forth to clean the windows.
This is addressing an obvious problem: We have ongoing labor shortages across the U.S. right now.
And cleaning windows while suspended hundreds of feet above the ground is a job very few humans want to do. It’s both monotonous, dangerous, and certainly uncomfortable. That’s a terrible combination.
To make matters worse, we’re building skyscrapers taller than ever right now. We have recently seen a 176% increase in buildings built taller than 200 meters around the world. For context, 200 meters is about 656 feet.
The higher up we go, the windier it gets. That makes cleaning windows even more dangerous.
Skyline has the perfect solution. And believe it or not, the company is getting into a great business.
This may surprise us, but window cleaning is a $40 billion a year industry. That’s an incredible opportunity. If Skyline can capture just a fraction of that market, it will be a tremendously successful company.
And this is yet another example of how AI and robotics are automating the jobs that humans don’t want to do anyway. We can expect to see many more developments like this in the coming months.
I’m also working hard to help my readers profit from this shift. To learn more about the opportunities I see, please go right here.
Metaverses will look just like reality in the near future…
As regular readers know, I pay close attention to obscure tech conferences and industry events that most analysts ignore… That’s one of the things that gives me an edge in the markets.
And an announcement at the Game Developers Conference 2022 in San Francisco was pretty incredible.
Gaming giant Unity Software just released a short film called Enemies. Unity made the film using its updated gaming engine, and it highlights just how powerful Unity’s tech has become.
Here’s a clip from Enemies:
Unity Software’s Short Film Enemies
This looks like a real actor, right? We can see the emotion in the face and eyes. The hair moves naturally as the head turns.
But this person isn’t real. The company generated her using computer graphics.
We talked about Unity Software’s two latest acquisitions last month. The first was Peter Jackson’s Weta Digital, the visual effects firm behind The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. The second was character development company Ziva Dynamics.
Now we see what Unity had in mind when it acquired Weta Digital and Ziva. The gaming giant can now create hyper-realistic computer-generated characters. And this opens the door to two major revenue streams.
Up to this point, Unity Software’s technology has been used to make games. That has been primarily where the company made its money, through licensing fees.
But now Unity has the tech it needs to break into the television and movie industry. In addition to games, Unity’s engine now enables the creation of new television shows and movies.
What’s more, Unity is positioning itself to be a leader in the burgeoning metaverse trend.
A metaverse is a virtual world where people meet and interact with each other via virtual avatars. Up to this point, these avatars have tended to be blocky, cartoonish characters.
But future metaverses will be far more lifelike and immersive. They will feature avatars who look and sound just like real humans, creating a more engaging and natural feeling for users.
As a result, people will spend a lot more time in these digital worlds than we may presently expect.
And that’s where Unity comes in. Unity’s engine can now power the creation of human-like avatars for use in hyper-realistic metaverses. This will unlock another massive revenue stream for the company.
So I’m very excited about the work Unity Software is doing. And it clearly signals to us that future metaverses will be human-like worlds.
That said, it’s still not time to buy Unity Software (U). Unity currently trades at an enterprise value-to-sales (EV/sales) ratio of 26. It’s still too rich for my liking.
Still, we will track Unity Software and its valuation and continue to look for a good entry point.
And while Unity isn’t yet a recommendation at its current levels, there is a growing arena of metaverse investments ready for early investors… To learn more about these opportunities, go right here for the details.
This AI can detect deepfakes…
A company called V7 Labs just released a solution to the deepfake problem. It’s an artificial intelligence (AI) that can detect deepfakes with 99.3% accuracy.
As a reminder, deepfakes are altered media content. They are fake images, videos, or audio where an AI mimics a real person’s image or voice.
This technology is incredibly sophisticated. It can also be used to create “people” that don’t exist in real life… and makes it nearly impossible to know if anything, or anyone, is real.
For example, look at the two images below. Can you tell which one is fake?
Which Picture Is Fake?
I asked my team this same question on our morning call last Thursday. They guessed that the image on the right is fake and the image on the left is real.
They reasoned that the lighting in the image on the right looked too idealistic. It perfectly illuminates the woman’s face.
On the other hand, the lighting in the image on the left isn’t great. Plus there’s the side of somebody’s head poking through in the top right portion of the picture. It looks like someone cropped this photo from a Facebook page.
Well, my team was wrong. Both of these pictures are deepfakes.
An AI known as a generative adversarial network (GAN) created them.
V7 Labs’ new product combats deepfakes created by GANs. Best of all, it runs as a web browser extension. Anyone can install the extension and put V7’s AI to work.
And one of V7’s cofounders, Alberto Rizzoli, demonstrated why this technology is so important in a screencast video accompanying the release.
In the screencast, Rizzoli opened the profile of someone who had reached out to him on LinkedIn. V7’s browser extension quickly determined that the person portrayed in the profile was likely a deepfake.
Here’s a look at how it works:
Fake Picture Detector
Here we can see Rizzoli click on the profile of someone named Andrea Weaver. Then he right-clicks on the person’s picture and “check fake profile picture.”
That’s the feature that V7’s extension enables.
And as we see, V7’s AI quickly determined that this was most likely a deepfake. Andrea Weaver is not a real person.
And the AI went on to explain why Andrea was most likely a deepfake.
For starters, Andrea’s earrings are in an awkward place. If we look closely, the piercing is up towards the top of the earlobe. That’s not where most people have their ears pierced. The AI also suggested that Andrea’s pupils did not appear normal.
These are nuances that most humans wouldn’t notice. In the case of the pupils, I’m not sure the human eye can even discern what the AI is noticing.
This is a much-welcomed breakthrough. And it’s something that any of us can use. We can run V7’s AI on social media profiles and even news clips to gain insight on whether the person depicted is real.
Having an AI that can combat deepfakes on our behalf like this is critical.
The technology isn’t perfect as it can only detect fakes made by GANs, but clearly, more tools to spot AI deception by using AI are going to proliferate out of sheer necessity.
The digital world is bursting with fakes. Fake news, fake videos, and fake pictures. We simply cannot trust what we see online anymore, especially on Facebook, Twitter, or the other major social media platforms.
With V7’s release, we are finally getting solutions. This is the beginning of what will become a booming industry.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge
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