• What’s a Vertiport?
  • This flying car company just called it quits…
  • Nvidia’s new AI software can help build virtual worlds…

Dear Reader,

I was reminded of the hemline theory after watching a few clips from a recent fashion show. 

I know, that’s probably not something you’d expect me to do. But I find immense value in researching different industries and finding connections that I wouldn’t have otherwise known about.

And there’s a direct connection between fashion and the state of affairs of the global economy. Fashion speaks to the current sentiment of consumers. It’s a reflection of how things “feel” at the moment that the clothes are being designed.

It’s a kind of sign of the times, which is why I find it interesting.

The hemline theory was developed in 1926 by an economist, George Taylor. He posited that when hemlines got shorter, the economy was healthy and improving. And when hemlines started to drop, it was a sign that the markets were going to decline.

Taylor wasn’t wrong. In the 1920s, flappers wore knee-length skirts, which were considered short at the time as the post-world war economy boomed in the U.S. And when the stock markets crashed years later, fashion quickly returned to long hemlines that fell back toward the ground.

The booming economy of the 1960s brought about the miniskirt, and the oil crisis that followed in the 70s saw a return of much longer dresses.

Intuitively, it makes sense. After all, when we’re all feeling good about the economy, life, and our prospects, it puts us in a brighter mood. And when things are ugly and we have a negative outlook on what’s going on in the world—as we’re faced with now—it’s certainly going to impact various aspects of our lives, including how we might dress.

Which brings me back to the fashion show. 

It was the Balenciaga Summer 2023 fashion show, now also referred to as “The Mud Show.” I have to show you this, otherwise you might not believe me. Here’s a short clip from the event below:

Models Walk Through Mud

Source: hypebeast.com

The runway was literally made of mud, and the models walked through muddy water as they made their way around the loop—all while deep, dark, ominous music pounded in the background. 

It was a dystopian nightmare… just like the hell we’ve been living through the last couple of years. Well done, Balenciaga! Bravo!

While it’s depressing and even upsetting for some, there’s a bright spot in this mud show that we’re all living through right now.

About a decade ago, a couple of economists from the Erasmus University in Rotterdam researched the hemline theory to test its accuracy between the years of 1921 and 2009. What they found was interesting…

Taylor was correct in that there was a correlation between fashion and the condition of the economy. But it turns out that fashion is a lagging indicator, not a leading one.

That makes sense. After all, a designer designs based on how he or she “feels” at the moment. And designers are working on collections at least a year in advance. Again, that was Balenciaga’s Summer 2023 show, not 2022.

Considering that Balenciaga’s hemlines were dragging through mud, barring a nuclear war, it can’t get much worse. We’re at one extreme of the spectrum right now in a seemingly bizarre, coordinated effort to bring about collapse and pain. So many brave souls are working hard and fighting to get things back on track.

I believe that we’ll win, and that Balenciaga’s mud show will prove to be a lagging indicator suggesting that much better times are ahead.

Vertiports: next-generation air transportation…

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) just released guidance for how vertiports should be designed.

Vertiports are like heliports, except they’re designed for electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and not helicopters.

Battery-powered eVTOL aircraft can hover, take off and land vertically without relying on a runway. And because they’re typically smaller aircraft, they require less space than helicopters.

Soon, these aircraft will offer a way for people to avoid congested road traffic in urban settings—giving us a new mode of transportation.

Here’s what the FAA’s guidance looks like for these new vertiports:

FAA Vertiport Guidelines

Source: FAA

This image is right out of the FAA’s report on vertiports and eVTOL transportation. We can see it depicts two squares, and the proper measurements for each one.

The inner square is the landing area for eVTOLs. And the outer square is a safety buffer during takeoff and landing. We can also see the FAA provides lighting requirements for vertiports.

And while it’s not shown in this image, vertiports need to be distanced at least 500 feet to 700 feet away from any existing commercial runways.

The symbol in the center square—which is the brand-new vertiport symbol—kind of reminds me of a TIE fighter in Star Wars. We’ll start to see this pop up in cities around the country as these facilities get built.

That’s the big takeaway here: eVTOL transportation is coming soon. 

We expect the first commercial services to launch in 2024. And the FAA is clearly onboard. The agency wouldn’t put out this guidance if it didn’t expect to approve eVTOL flights in the near future.

So we’re about 18 months out right now. That’s plenty of time for the first wave of vertiports to be built—or even convert existing heliports into vertiports.

And here’s another interesting insight: the FAA is already anticipating autonomous eVTOL aircraft. Check out this image:

Rooftop Vertiport Beacon

Source: FAA

This depicts a rooftop vertiport. It looks a lot like the first design, except there’s one major addition.

See that beacon in the top, left-hand part of the image? These beacons will communicate directly with eVTOL aircraft, much like traditional flight control.

The difference is that the beacons will help guide autonomous eVTOLs safely onto the landing area. That’s what their true purpose is.

Flights will almost certainly begin with pilots, but it won’t be long before they’re fully autonomous. Full autonomy will also make for a better business model, and lower flight costs. Because eVTOLs are small, weight is very important. So if there’s no pilot, that means one more passenger can join the flight.

We’ll start to see the first vertiports going up around the U.S. in the months to come. And then we can look forward to the first eVTOL services in 2024.

I’ll definitely go for a ride at one of the first vertiports…

An early eVTOL company just surprised the industry…

Regular Bleeding Edge readers may remember the name Kittyhawk. Having recognized the burgeoning eVTOL opportunity, it was one of the most prominent eVTOL start-ups out there.

We first talked about Kittyhawk back in June 2020.

For a refresher, the company was backed by Google cofounder Larry Page. Page envisioned the next generation of air travel very early on.

Kittyhawk also had a strong leadership team in place. It was led by a former Google executive who was instrumental within Google’s autonomous driving division, which ultimately became Waymo.

This made perfect sense. As we noted, the big-picture vision is to create autonomous aircraft. And eVTOL would make short-distance air travel affordable to a larger consumer base.

Well, Kittyhawk just announced that it’s shutting its doors. It’s winding down the company as we speak. Considering how much progress is being made in the industry, as well as the clear support from the FAA we just reviewed, this came as a surprise to the industry.

After all, Larry Page is a billionaire many times over. He could fund Kittyhawk himself if he wanted to without needing any additional capital…

But not that he would need to. There are incredible levels of interest and investments in eVTOL companies right now—even amidst the economic mess we find ourselves in.

Plus, the company showed great promise in its early demonstrations. That’s what makes this so odd.

Kittyhawk officially stated that it couldn’t find a path toward building a viable business. But I don’t buy that for a second. Especially since the FAA just gave the entire industry the greenlight, as we just discussed.

I suspect this is a case where there were some disagreements between Page and the management team. That’s my bet. So I don’t believe that the closure of Kittyhawk has anything to do with the industry, and it isn’t an indication that others will fail.

This announcement opens the door for some of the other prominent eVTOL companies out there to take center stage. Ironically, one of those companies could be the joint venture that Kittyhawk established with aerospace giant Boeing.

It’s called Wisk Aero. And Wisk is working with Boeing on an air taxi service.

Unlike Kittyhawk, Wisk will continue with its own operations. And Boeing reaffirmed its commitment to the venture as well.

I hate to see a company like Kittyhawk shut down when it showed so much potential. But perhaps it was just a pet project of Page that lost its luster…

The good news is that Wisk Aero and plenty of other companies are racing ahead to make the future of air transportation a reality.

Nvidia democratizes the creation of virtual worlds…

We’ll wrap up today with a big announcement from Nvidia, the most valuable semiconductor company in the world.

Nvidia just released a new artificial intelligence (AI)-based software model. It’s called GET3D.

This is interesting. GET3D takes two-dimensional (2D) images and models them into highly complex three-dimensional (3D) renderings. This is an incredibly fast way to create objects for games and metaverses.

Some of the other major software players like Google, Meta (formerly Facebook), and OpenAI each have similar machine learning technology. But NVIDIA has optimized its technology for its own semiconductors, making it extremely inexpensive to generate millions of images.

GET3D can operate on a single Nvidia graphics processing unit (GPU). That’s it. It doesn’t need massive computing power to work—just one small computing system.

In fact, Nvidia demonstrated that GET3D could create one million new 3D images in just two days using a single GPU. This is something that would have taken years to do previously.

Even better, this process is incredibly cheap.

Anyone could buy a single Nvidia GPU for $1,000 or so and use GET3D to crank out their own 3D images. This puts the technology in a range that’s accessible to consumers and hobbyists.

Alternatively, we could rent computing power from Amazon Web Services and run GET3D that way. This would be even cheaper, likely only costing a few hundred dollars to produce a million images.

This NVIDIA development is something that will democratize the ability to create 3D objects for games and virtual worlds. I expect GET3D to become quite popular with developers.

This is such a smart strategy by NVIDIA that it’s employed in the past. As a semiconductor company, it develops easy-to-use software that’s optimized for its own semiconductor architecture. So naturally, individuals and corporations want to purchase NVIDIA’s hardware.

Nvidia is simply creating more demand for its GPUs with this. It’s a great strategy. And it’s the reason why Nvidia is the most valuable semiconductor company in the world.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge