• Google Assistant’s résumé now includes 42 languages
  • 2020 may be the year we find other life in the universe
  • This may be a turning point in self-driving car development

Dear Reader,

Every March finds me in Washington, D.C., at an event that I always look forward to… the D.C. Blockchain Summit.

This event is hosted by the Chamber of Digital Commerce, an outstanding industry organization that represents the digital asset and blockchain industry. Longtime readers might remember that I am an active member of the organization.

The Chamber’s strategic location in D.C. is critically important. Digital assets can be seen as money, and money can be transferred or used for investment purposes.

The industry has been under a lot of regulatory scrutiny. And because of this, understanding the regulatory environment and tax perspective regarding digital assets is critical for both entrepreneurs and investors.

This is why the work that the Chamber is doing is so important. The team provides a rational voice for the blockchain industry in D.C. as well as for investors in digital assets. While it has been a tough couple of years for the industry due to strict regulations, I remain very bullish on the long-term prospects for the industry.

This is why the D.C. Blockchain Summit is such a great event every year. The Chamber does an excellent job of attracting incredible speakers from the regulatory and political community to discuss these issues and provide insight on what’s to come.

It is a great balance between the business issues and opportunities and the perspective of what is happening in Washington, D.C.

This year will be no different. In fact, it will probably be more exciting than ever.

Brian Quintenz, commissioner of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Hester Peirce, commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; James Sullivan, deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Association; and so many other incredible speakers will be there.

As will I…

The Chamber has been kind enough to offer my readers a 15% discount on the event. If you think you might be interested in attending, please go here, click on “Register Now,” and use the promo code “Brown2020” for the discount.

There will be a lot of discussion of digital asset securities, central banks and private companies issuing their own digital currencies, and the regulatory challenges for digital tokens and currencies. There are always a couple of major announcements at the event that I look forward to.

If you do decide to attend, please make sure to say “hello” if you see me. It’s always great to connect with readers.

Now for our insights…

The year of the digital assistant…

New numbers out from Google show that 500 million people are using Google Assistant every month. That’s right – half a billion people each month engage with Google’s artificial intelligence (AI)-driven digital assistant. Clearly, this technology is catching on.

For those who haven’t used it, Google Assistant is Google’s version of Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri.

Advancements in digital assistants are going to be one of the hottest topics in tech this year. Advancements in AI and natural language processing continue to make digital assistants more and more useful for consumers.

As a reminder, digital assistants can do things like make phone calls, set reminders, check the news or sports scores, play music, find recipes or podcasts, check the weather, analyze traffic patterns, and much more. All via voice command.

And at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week, Google announced that one of the new features Google Assistant will gain in 2020 is the ability to read to users. Maybe it’s an article or a news story. Maybe it’s the text from a web page. Maybe it’s an eBook.

This may not sound remarkable since screen-reading software has existed for some time. But here’s the difference: Users can say “Hey Google, read it,” and a humanlike voice will read out loud.

With Google’s natural language processing advancements, it won’t sound like a robot. Instead, Assistant will sound exactly like another person was reading, with pauses and a natural cadence. There’s nothing awkward or artificial about it.

Oh, and Google Assistant can read in forty-two different languages. How’s that for impressive?

Plus, Google Assistant can now be accessed from several different devices. Not only is it available on smartphones, but users can also access Google Assistant on smart speakers and even the Google Nest Hub, which is the control display for Google’s smart home products.

Google’s Nest Hub

Source: Google

We are going to see the use of digital assistants explode this year. The technology has become simple enough that anyone can use it.

As for the market, Amazon’s Alexa still has a big lead on Google Assistant. But Google is trying to make up ground with new features. It will be interesting to watch this battle unfold this year.

New images reveal the size of the Milky Way Galaxy…

The American Astronomical Society just held its annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii… and a new panoramic image of the Milky Way galaxy was all the rage.

The image was taken by the SOFIA (“Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy”) flying telescope. A modified Boeing 747 aircraft opens a hatch during flight to reveal a large, 2.7-meter reflecting telescope.

SOFIA captures images of space at an altitude of 38,000–45,000 feet. This altitude puts it above 99% of Earth’s infrared-blocking atmosphere.

NASA’s SOFIA Flying Telescope

Source: NASA

These high altitudes enable NASA to capture images that simply wouldn’t be possible on Earth. Just have a look at this photograph of the core of our Milky Way galaxy… more than 600 light-years across…

Infrared Image of the Center of the Milky Way Galaxy

Source: NASA

That means it would take over 600 years, traveling at the speed of light, to cross this part of the Milky Way. For comparison, our own solar system is only about one light-year across, measuring from the Sun to the Oort cloud.

This really puts into perspective how small our solar system is in the grand scheme of things… and how large the Milky Way galaxy is.

Now, if you look at the center of this picture – that’s where some of the densest clusters of stars in the galaxy reside. Astronomers confirm that some of these stars shine one million times brighter than our Sun.

And there is a massive black hole at the center of the galaxy that gets bigger by the day. All of this dense matter is what feeds the black hole, which in turn creates the gravitational pull that gives the galaxy its spiral shape.

I share this story today because I believe this decade will be the most exciting year for space exploration in history.

We are going to send more probes out to Mars. We will have our first manned mission to Mars. We will have a manned presence on the Moon. We will see a new space station launched. We will see the world’s first commercial space station and with it the birth of space tourism.

And we are discovering hundreds of exoplanets within the Milky Way galaxy. These are planets that are inhabitable. They have all the necessary elements for life.

The odds are good that within this decade we will find evidence of extraterrestrial life. That doesn’t mean we will find humanlike aliens. But there’s a great chance we’ll find plants or bacteria living on another extraterrestrial object.

And that will prompt the question that’s been dormant for so long: Is there intelligent life out there? Perhaps you can guess what my answer is…

I am very excited to watch the new space race play out. This is going to be just an incredible decade for space travel and exploration.

The big technical debate surrounding self-driving cars…

A company called Velodyne just revealed a small, solid-state lidar system at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week. Lidar refers to “light detection and ranging.” And the theory is that lidar will be used in all self-driving cars.

What’s significant about Velodyne’s announcement is that it has driven the size and cost of lidar down tremendously.

Velodyne’s Latest Lidar Technology

Source: Velodyne

The early models of Google’s Waymo cars each had a big bulky box on top that contained a large mechanical lidar unit. And that box cost thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars.

Obviously, at those price points, it’s not economical to mass-produce self-driving cars with such a large expense for just one component.

Well, Velodyne’s new lidar system is the size of a box of matches. And it costs $100. At that size and price, it is viable for every self-driving car.

But here’s the big debate – lidar may not be necessary…

That’s the position Tesla has taken for years. And Teslas have now driven two billion miles autonomously without using a lidar system.

So Tesla has already shown that lidar isn’t necessary. And several other companies are following suit. Intel’s MobilEye division just demonstrated its self-driving system that does not use lidar. Qualcomm did the same. And last year Toyota did the same.

That begs the question – now that it is affordable, is lidar worth adding to these systems that have proven viable without it? If the answer is no, we are looking at a dramatic shift in the industry that could spell disaster for companies like Velodyne.

Now, Velodyne’s new lidar system hits the market around the middle of this year. That means the earliest car models it would go into would be 2023 or 2024 models. And that’s just because carmakers start working on new car models three to four years in advance.

So we may not get the answer to this question right away, but it will have major implications for investors in this space.

The company that we’ll need to keep our eyes on is Tesla… We’ll need to see if it adds this technology to future models at these dramatically lower price points.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge

P.S. Another debate taking place right now surrounds a little-known group of stocks that come with a “timer” attached to them. Once that timer hits zero, the stock price can rocket hundreds of percent in days or even hours.

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Should such a government process have such a profound impact on publicly traded stocks?

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Like what you’re reading? Send your thoughts to [email protected].