- RIP: Magic Leap
- The most important drone delivery company in the U.S.
- Meet “Amy,” the AI crypto researcher
Some recent research out of the University of California reminded me of a very funny, and very successful, advertising campaign back in the ‘80s. I suspect that some of you will remember this and get a chuckle.
This was a Wendy’s commercial with three “mature” women mesmerized by the size of a big bun and perplexed by what was hidden within…
“Where’s the beef?” was the expletive voiced by the smallest of the three. It quickly became a hilarious catchphrase…
The latest research out of the University of California made me laugh almost as hard. The researchers were analyzing the life cycle of the production of lab-grown meat. Yes, that’s a “thing.” Or at least, it is trying to become a thing.
Billions have been spent trying to “grow” meat in a laboratory. The goal, not surprisingly, is “sustainability” and to “save the environment,” which is what made the research so interesting.
Laboratory “meat” is grown by taking animal stem cells and growing them in a scaffold within a broth full of nutrients. Those nutrients include sugars, growth compounds, salts, amino acids, and vitamins that are all required to grow the cells.
It is an energy intensive process. And the broth and cultivation of the “meat” needs to be a very pure process. Otherwise, the animal cell cultures can be destroyed.
And here lies the problem. The researchers found that the carbon dioxide equivalents required to produce a kilogram of lab-grown meat were anywhere between 4 and 25 times higher than carbon dioxide equivalent emissions for regular beef production.
It wasn’t even close. Lab-grown beef is many multiples worse for the environment than producing real beef from cows.
And the results are even better when using regenerative farming techniques. Grass-fed cows graze on the land and eat plants that have already absorbed carbon dioxide. Their hooves turn over the soil and allow new plants to grow, which sequester even more carbon dioxide.
The herds move from pasture to pasture, benefiting the earth and producing beef that is far healthier than grain-fed, industrially produced cattle.
Farmers have been using these techniques for decades, if not centuries, knowing that it is good for the land. A single acre of regenerative farmland can sequester 2.5-7.5 metric tons of carbon per year.
I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to eating clean food. I avoid processed food and only eat proteins that are free of chemicals, antibiotics, and growth hormones and are pasture-raised. And I think about the life cycle of the production of anything, especially when I’m told that it is “clean” or “sustainable.” Lab-grown meat is not.
Where’s the beef? Just so we don’t forget, here’s what it should look like:
Magic Leap just threw in the towel…
We haven’t talked about Magic Leap in a while… This was a promising company that we’ve been following over the last few years in The Bleeding Edge.
If we remember, Magic Leap was once one of the exciting players in the world of augmented reality (AR). I first profiled the company back in 2017 as one of the most interesting tech companies to follow in the years ahead. I even tested out the Magic Leap One headset way back in 2019.
In hindsight, it turns out that Magic Leap hit its peak that year.
The company raised a massive $280 million venture capital (VC) round in April 2019. And it followed that up with a $500 million round in November 2019. That valued the company at around $6.7 billion.
Magic Leap had all the capital it needed to commercialize its Magic Leap One headset. And the company had even struck deals with impressive content producers. That’s what got me so excited about it.
Magic Leap was primed to become the Apple of the AR space. That’s because Magic Leap positioned itself as a “full-stack” solution. It was set up to produce the headset, the AR operating system, proprietary lens technology, and the software applications that would run on it. This is what Apple does with its consumer electronics devices. That’s why Apple’s products are so good.
And as I mentioned way back then – I found Magic Leap’s augmented reality graphics to be incredible. The early versions of the tech were already impressive and getting better.
But then the wheels fell off.
Magic Leap’s founder and CEO left the company, as did others. And the board brought in a replacement – Peggy Johnson – who wanted to take Magic Leap in a new direction. That’s when Magic Leap announced that it would pivot to enterprise applications.
Even when I heard the news, I was skeptical it would work. While not an impossible plan, Magic Leap had always positioned itself as a consumer electronics company targeting the mass market. That was the company’s go-to market strategy, and it was built to achieve that end. A pivot like this wouldn’t be easy or a sure thing. And the competitive landscape for enterprise AR companies was full, with a few failures already.
As it happens, the pivot from consumer to enterprise applications was an absolute disaster. Magic Leap didn’t win any material deals in that space. And the company ended up selling itself to the public investment fund of Saudi Arabia for $450 million last December.
To put this in context, Magic Leap raised nearly $4 billion in venture capital over its lifespan. And it was worth over $6.7 billion at its peak. Yet, the company was only worth $450 million by December 2022. That’s a 93% drop in value – ouch.
And that’s why Magic Leap’s latest move caught my eye. The company just announced that it is supporting the OpenXR standard. This industry standard focuses on compatibility for software applications across AR platforms.
This may sound good on the surface. But Magic Leap’s original goal was to become a de facto industry standard much in the way that Apple’s software is. Magic Leap’s proprietary operating system was its strategic advantage, its moat, upon which software developers could build high-performance, compelling AR applications. The fact that it’s now adopting OpenXR suggests the company is throwing in the towel on its grand vision.
That’s because the companies who adopt industry standards like this are typically hardware-only producers. They make the hardware and let other companies produce the software that will run on it.
That’s what Magic Leap is signaling here. It’s going to focus on selling AR headsets… and that’s it. The dream of becoming a full-stack solution in the AR space is over.
Worse yet, an open standard like this is designed to meet a lowest common denominator. It has to be designed to run on a wide range of hardware platforms, some of which are high-performance and some low. This directly impacts the quality of the applications.
What’s so telling here is that Magic Leap is making this announcement just weeks ahead of when we expect Apple to reveal its first AR headset. I see this as a last-ditch effort for Magic Leap to stand against Apple’s forthcoming mixed reality headset.
It won’t work.
I suspect Magic Leap will ultimately be scrapped for its intellectual property (IP). Then the company will be dismantled. In fact, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if Apple buys Magic Leap’s IP for a tiny fraction of what the company was once worth.
It’s sad to see Magic Leap’s story come to an end this way. I was so excited about its potential. It’s not often we see a small company with such an ambitious goal and the technology to pull it off.
But this appears to be the end of the road for Magic Leap. And that leaves the AR space wide open for Apple to dominate in the years ahead.
Zipline is now the top player for drone deliveries…
Drone delivery company Zipline just raised $330 million in its Series F investment round. This values the company at an impressive $4.2 billion.
Regular readers may remember Zipline. We most recently checked in on the company back in April. It had just revealed its next-generation drone delivery platform.
What’s neat about the new system is that Zipline’s drones now deploy little droids to complete package deliveries. The droids descend from the main drone, package in tow. It’s an incredible delivery system. The product design makes a lot of sense.
And with its latest raise, Zipline is now the best-funded drone delivery company in the market. It also has the most advanced Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifications in the industry.
So Zipline is now a stand-out in the drone delivery space. And the company has inked several big commercial deals.
The biggest deal is with health and supplement giant GNC. GNC will contract with Zipline to provide drone deliveries to its customers in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Zipline also has a deal in place with a pizza chain out in Seattle, Washington. And it is working with a prescription medicine company to provide drone delivery services in Long Island, New York.
The beauty of drone deliveries is that they can happen much faster than ground-based deliveries – especially in those places where traffic is a major concern.
This makes the logistics much easier. Instead of calculating the best routes, drones fly from Point A to Point B in a straight line.
So Zipline is now offering drone deliveries in three new major cities. And it has the funding now to expand to many more.
This is very bullish for the future of drone deliveries in the U.S. And it’s a major milestone for Zipline. If any subscribers that live in these areas have the chance to test out these new delivery services, please take some pictures and let us know what the experience was like here.
Exchange/broker based generative AIs…
Digital assets exchange Crypto.com just made a new product announcement that I had been expecting from the industry. The popular exchange is going to deploy its own generative artificial intelligence (AI) for its customers. It’s called Amy.
Amy is a GPT-powered chatbot much like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The difference is, Amy was trained exclusively on data pertaining to the digital assets industry. It is designed as a useful resource for all customers that have an account on Crypto.com.
Going forward, Crypto.com customers will be able to ask Amy all kinds of questions before making any investment decisions. This can be done with a simple prompt right on the site. Here’s what it looks like:
What I love about this is that Amy is capable of providing real-world data in seconds related to the subject matter at hand.
For example, investors could ask Amy to list the top 10 digital assets with the most momentum at the current time. Or investors could ask Amy to list all the digital assets that have recently crossed their 200-day moving averages.
This opens the door for investors to easily do more extensive research and analysis before making any decisions. And best of all – Amy does all the hard work. Anybody can piggyback on the AI’s capabilities.
I think this was inevitable.
If we think about digital asset exchanges and online brokerages – they already have all the historical data they need to train a generative AI. It’s just a matter of taking the time to structure that data and pay for the computing power necessary to do the training.
So I think we’ll see most digital asset exchanges and traditional brokerages follow suit here. They’ll have to. Any company that doesn’t will fall behind. And it’s good for business. Tools like Amy facilitate more trades, and more trades mean more revenue for exchanges/brokerages.
We should expect to see more of this. One of the most obvious applications of generative AI is to train it on industry-specific knowledge. Digital assets are a perfect example. But a generative AI could just as easily be designed to “learn” any sector or industry we can think of.
Editor, The Bleeding Edge