• Wear these, and enter a metaverse…
  • This partnership is changing the game for retail…
  • Apple joins The Great Recalibration…

Dear Reader,

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen what it was like for several private companies in tech to cross a line—to overreach well beyond the scope of their business and assert themselves as a biased “judge” of what information is acceptable or unacceptable for us to see.

This “judgement” has been unlawful and has manifested in the form of censorship, banning, or simply outright de-platforming for sharing thoughts, opinions, and even scientific facts. 

Most find this acceptable. Some believe that the ends justify the means, even if illegal. I do not. All opinions and facts should be permitted, if not encouraged, in an open and free society.

But what if a company took things one step further? What if it fined users who espoused views that it didn’t agree with?

Would you be OK with that? Would you be OK if a company simply deducted your money from your account if it didn’t like something you said on social media?

Just guessing… but I think the answer would be “No.” And I hope that all Bleeding Edge readers would immediately stop using that service.

Sadly, this isn’t a hypothetical situation. In fact, it caused a major riff in the tech community over the last three days. And the reason for the riff was caused by none other than fintech giant PayPal.

PayPal, while a fantastic business, is a known “bad actor.” It’s been happy to de-platform both organizations and individuals that it disagrees with politically.

But last week, it went one step further.

PayPal announced a new Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) that empowered it to subject users to damages of $2,500 per violation, “which may be debited directly from your PayPal account(s).”

A “violation” is definied as “sending, posting, or publication of any messages, content, or materials that, in PayPal’s sole discretion, are harmful, obscene, harassing, or objectionable,” or “are fraudulent, promote misinformation, or are unlawful.”

There were all sorts of other reasons that PayPal could take its users money. But I think we can understand clearly from the above statement that if PayPal at its “sole discretion” doesn’t like something we say… it will simply take our money.

The reaction from the community was swift. Former PayPal president David Marcus’ comment pretty much summed it up:

Former PayPal Exec Responds to New Policy

Source: Twitter

“Insanity.” Perfectly said.

The new policy was scheduled to go into effect on November 3. But over the weekend, due to the outrage caused from PayPal’s new policy, the company quickly reversed course with an obviously contrived announcement.

“PayPal is not fining people for misinformation and this language was never intended to be inserted into our policy. We’re sorry for the confusion this has caused.”

Yeah, right! And it leaves me with one final thought…

Account closed!

Meta makes digital avatars “real”…

Meta (formerly Facebook) just published some research that pairs AR / VR technology with a form of artificial intelligence (AI) called machine learning.

This is interesting, as it will impact how we cross the boundary between the real world and a digital world like a metaverse. It appears this confluence of technologies will make digital avatars incredibly lifelike.

Specifically, Meta applied machine learning to the motion sensors inside of its AR / VR headset. This enabled the AI to capture the motions of the user’s entire body without any additional sensors… just by using the subtle changes in movement captured by Meta’s AR headset sensors.

Here’s why that’s interesting:

Human Motion Tracking

Source: QuestSim

In the top screen, we can see a person jogging and doing some very nuanced movements while wearing Meta’s headset. And in the bottom screen, the figure we see is the AI-predicted motion of the person wearing the headset represented in a digital format.

We would think this could only be possible in a room full of sensors and cameras, or if the person was wearing a suit of sensors from head to toe. But that’s not the case.

The machine learning algorithms are predicting these complex movements just from the headset. It’s incredible how accurate this is…

So accurate, in fact, that it eliminates the need for individuals engaged in an augmented or virtual world to wear additional haptic technology or apparel with embedded sensors to accurately depict themselves in a virtual world.

This lowers the barrier to entry and makes it simple for consumers to engage in an augmented or virtual world. To help the imagination, let’s use the approach that Niantic is taking. 

As a reminder, Niantic is the creator of Pokémon Go—the most successful augmented reality game to date. We also know that Niantic is developing its own AR eyewear. Niantic’s version of a metaverse is a digital overlay, or augmented version, of the real world.

Using technology similar to what Meta developed, any consumer participating in Niantic’s metaverse would have their location and movements represented in Niantic’s metaverse in real-time. This includes their walk, their gait, and the movement of their arms and legs.

It would enable those who were participating in the augmented world, even if done remotely, to see a real-time view of all participants in Niantic’s world.

That’s powerful. And all consumers would have to do is simply don a pair of the AR eyewear and engage.

This may all sound like a science project, or science fiction, but I assure you it’s not. The tech is real, and it’s ready for commercialization.

The last remaining piece—which is being worked on by several major players—is the development and commercialization of a pair of sleek, form-fitting AR glasses. Something that people could wear for hours on end.

Once that happens, it’s the beginning of the end for smartphones.

Walmart dives into a well-known metaverse…

On a similar note, Walmart just made its first move into the virtual space.

The brick-and-mortar retail giant is launching its own world within the Roblox metaverse. Here’s what it looks like:

Walmart Partners With Roblox

Source: Walmart

Here we can see “Walmart Land.” It’s a virtual world designed to provide immersive experiences for Roblox players.

As a reminder, Roblox was a metaverse before the term had even been coined. It’s geared toward kids and teenagers. And it allows them to interact with each other in real time, making it incredibly popular.

In fact, Roblox has 52 million daily active users. That makes it one of the most successful virtual worlds in existence today.

So what’s Walmart up to here?

Well, the retail giant is using this as a way to market the clothing and toys available in its stores. It’s all focused on the younger demographic.

What’s more, Walmart will introduce virtual versions of its own toys inside of Walmart Land. This will allow Roblox users to sample what’s available.

And there’s even a feature where kids will be able to make a Christmas list for anything they want in the real world. That makes the timing of this launch quite convenient.

Walmart also plans to experiment with entertainment events inside of Walmart Land. The company plans to hire famous actors, actresses, and musicians to enter the virtual world and engage with Roblox players.

So this is certainly an interesting development. Walmart probably isn’t a company we would expect to jump into the metaverse space… but yet, here it is.

To date, mostly individual brands have invested in making a metaverse presence, which is what makes Walmart—as a major retailer—so progressive.

If Walmart finds the presence leads to engagement, and ultimately conversion into online and / or in-store business, we’ll see many other retailers jump “in.”

Apple shifts away from China…

Historically, Apple’s supply chain for manufacturing iPhones has been almost entirely in Taiwan and China. Key semiconductors and components are typically manufactured in Taiwan and shipped to China for assembly into a finished product. 

This is typical of so many kinds of consumer electronics, as the cost of manufacturing in mainland China has been compelling to consumer electronics companies. 

But not anymore.

Not only has that cost advantage declined significantly, but the geopolitical risks have simply become too great. During the last two years, the lockdowns in mainland China that persist to this day directly impacted the manufacturing of products for companies like Apple, Tesla, and so many others.

In many ways, this was the catalyst the industry needed to take the big step toward decentralizing manufacturing and building more resilient supply chains. 

To that end, Apple just announced that it’s producing the iPhone 14 in India. The company expects about 5% of its global production to come from India by the end of this year.

And that’s just the start.

By 2025, Apple expects 25% of global iPhone manufacturing to be done in India. This is a huge shift. Apple has produced older versions of the iPhone in India for about five years now. But never brand-new, high-end models.

This tells me Apple is now embracing a decentralized manufacturing strategy.

COVID-19 revealed just how fragile highly centralized manufacturing and global supply chains are. We will continue to see companies like Apple rearchitect their manufacturing base in response. 

The Great Recalibration is a global phenomenon, and one that consumers will be the primary beneficiaries of.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge