• A new entrant in the race to $100 genome…
  • Amazon’s new patent and its antitrust dilemma…
  • Facebook is “innovating” the only way it knows how…

Dear Reader,

It’s happening right now.

And it’s unstoppable.

Last November, OpenAI launched its generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, ChatGPT. And companies around the world have been scrambling to figure out not only what it means, but also how to use this powerful technology in their own businesses.

And yesterday, OpenAI opened the doors and made the product so cheap and easy to use, the flood of adoption in the coming months will be mind-boggling.

OpenAI just made ChatGPT available to all through its application programming interface (API). Which means any company can make some simple modifications to their own software code and ChatGPT will become part of their software program.

Also now available through an API is Whisper, which is OpenAI’s speech-to-text artificial intelligence. Whisper enables speech recognition, transcription, and translation in multiple languages.

Aside from the simplicity of adding ChatGPT and/or Whisper to any existing software program, OpenAI has made some significant improvements that have decreased the cost of using ChatGPT by 90%.

High utility + simple to use + low cost = rapid adoption.

In this case, it will be more like exponential adoption.

I know the thought of artificial intelligence can be overwhelming and hard to comprehend at times. So let’s use some easy-to-understand examples.

Imagine a company like Amazon/Whole Foods or Instacart integrating with ChatGPT. A user would simply type or say something like, “I need food for a beef wellington dinner, deli sandwiches, and bacon and egg breakfasts for this week – for four people.”

In seconds, ChatGPT will be able to source recipes, calculate amounts based on the number of people, and populate a shopping list. Done. 

All a user has to do is review the shopping list, perhaps add a couple more things, and press a button to purchase and have it delivered to their home.

And guess what, Instacart is already integrating ChatGPT. It will be available to all users later in the year. Amazon won’t be far behind. Having this technology will allow it to further influence purchasing decisions. That will result in higher margins and product sales.

Another exciting example is education. This is one of my favorite applications. Quizlet is already working with ChatGPT to superpower its learning software which historically was centered around flashcards and other basic study tools for students of any kind.

Now, a learner can simply prompt the software and tell it what it would like to learn. “Please quiz me on the 50 state capitals.” Or “I want to learn about the most famous renaissance artists.”

Knowledge will be curated, at our fingertips, and in a format that is easy to learn and study from. And in time, teaching styles will be adapted to optimize learning for each individual.

It’s happening right now.

And it’s going to be everywhere.

A new kind of short-read sequencing for just $200…

Personalized medicine is about to become the new normal. That’s thanks to several incredible breakthroughs around genetic sequencing.

It started when genetic sequencing giant Illumina released its new sequencer back in October. That machine can sequence a whole human genome for just $200. Previously it cost about $800.

Shortly after Illumina’s announcement, Chinese company Complete Genomics rolled out a new sequencing machine of its own. And the company claims it can sequence a whole human genome for just $100.

And the story just got even better…

Early stage company Element Biosciences just launched a genetic sequencing machine as well. And Element can sequence whole human genomes for just $200. Same as Illumina.

Element is using short-read sequencing technology just like Illumina. But rather than sequencing by synthesis (SBS), it is using sequencing by binding (SBB) which may have some advantages in terms of accuracy. We can think of it as a more orderly sequencing process that is less prone to errors.

So, we suddenly have three very strong competitors in the short-read genetic sequencing market in addition to other players in the long-read sequencing space like Pacific Biosciences. That’s fantastic. This is a huge tipping point for the industry just in the last few months.

As we discussed before, at just $200, genetic sequencing is cheap enough for most insurance companies to cover it. That’s the key to unlocking personalized medicine for the masses.

When insurance companies begin covering whole genome sequencing, doctors will start to include it as part of their routine patient care. Doing so will enable them to accurately diagnose any underlying conditions very quickly… and then they can prescribe treatments specific to those conditions.

This will reduce healthcare costs dramatically. The days of running test after test and experimenting with ineffective treatments are over. And we’ll see patient outcomes improve dramatically as a result.

Everybody wins here. Sequencing companies… health insurance companies… health care companies… and patients – personalized medicine will be a big boon for all of them.

So we’ll be tracking Element Biosciences very closely going forward.

The company is still private right now. But it could make for an incredible investment target at some point down the road.

And in the meantime, Ilumina remains one of my favorite long-term investments on this trend. This is still a “greenfield” market. And there’s plenty of room for Illumina, Complete Genomics, Element Biosciences, and a host of others to thrive.

Amazon’s home robotics strategy is all about advertising…

Amazon just revealed that it has inked a new patent. This one is for something called an autonomously motile device. Quite an odd name.

This is simply a mobile robot designed to operate in the home, or potentially in a store or office. It’s capable of understanding human language, and it can control devices around the home autonomously.

Here’s a look at the patent filing:

Amazon’s New Patent Filing

Source: USPTO

Here we can see the robot is loaded with speakers, a camera, a screen, and various kinds of sensors. Imagine this device wandering around the house.

And this comes at an interesting time for Amazon.

We looked at Amazon’s first home robot, Astro, back in October. The big question we asked was whether this would be something consumers would adopt. Are people open to having robots in their house?

Well, Amazon hasn’t done much with Astro since. It’s not even widely available right now. Consumers who are interested in Astro must request an invitation from Amazon to purchase it.

There have been some privacy concerns around what Amazon will do with a device like Astro. And those concerns were exacerbated recently as a result of Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot. Amazon made the acquisition to bolster its home robotics strategy.

Readers likely know iRobot well already. It makes the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaners. I suspect quite of few of us have them in our homes. I have a model that’s at least 10 years old, and it still works great.

But the latest iRobot models have a camera on them. And one of the robots recently took a picture of a woman in the bathroom on the toilet… and then posted it on Facebook.

It’s hard to understand what set of programming resulted in something this bizarre. Needless to say, that didn’t go over very well. And it raised a lot of concerns over privacy.

This is likely why Amazon has delayed to launch of Astro. And it gives us insight into Amazon’s strategy here… It’s all about advertising dollars.

Sadly, advertising has become a material part of Amazon’s business over the last few years.

If we go back to 2018, Amazon’s advertising revenues were miniscule. The company didn’t even break them out.

But last year, Amazon reported advertising revenues of nearly $40 billion. That makes up roughly 7% of Amazon’s total business.

Now, Amazon has explicitly promised that it will never sell consumer data. And that’s probably the case. Selling data isn’t Amazon’s business.

But that’s only because Amazon doesn’t need to sell our data. Instead, Amazon wants to use this data to send us very targeted ads for products available on its ecommerce platform.

And that’s why home robots now have cameras.

Using computer vision, they are able to identify everybody in the house and build a dossier of lifestyles and routines, as well as catalog what is and isn’t in each home. Then, Amazon uses that information to determine exactly which products to market to each person.

I can certainly see the utility of home robotics. And given the advancements in AI in the last three months alone, the utility factor is going to become irresistible to most.

At the same time, do we really want robots roaming around and secretly snapping pictures of us and our homes? I certainly don’t. 

But I’m certain most consumers will be knowingly or unknowingly willing to sacrifice privacy for the benefits of the technology.

Amazon is currently dealing with an antitrust investigation levied by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the U.S. The topic is over whether Amazon’s acquisition of iRobot is anti-competitive. And it is already known that the European Union is about to launch a similar antitrust case as well.

But even if the acquisition doesn’t go through, as we can see from Amazon’s patent, it already has the intellectual property, and the technology (Astro), to aggressively enter the home robotics market and collect data on us and our homes.

Meta is doing what it does best…

Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, just made a big announcement.

It is launching a subscription-based account verification service for both Facebook and Instagram.

The service will cost $11.99 a month for users who sign up on the web. And it will cost $14.99 for those who sign up through a smartphone app store. The extra cost when purchasing through the app is because of the added commission from the app stores.

The new service is called “Meta Verified.” It requires users to submit a government ID to verify their identity. Then Meta will put – get this – a blue badge on their account to let others know that their ID was verified.

Does this sound familiar?

This is the same model Elon Musk employed when he acquired Twitter. Musk set up a service where anyone who signed up for $8 a month on the web, or $11 a month on the app, could get verified. And that’s indicated by a blue check on their account.

This move angered a lot of people at first. That’s because, previously, Twitter only gave blue checks to people selectively. In some cases, they had to pay thousands of dollars for it. But it was largely reserved for public figures that Twitter wanted to amplify… the “elites.”

So account verification wasn’t readily available to regular folks. Musk changed that. And it made the “elites” and those who bought their blue checks for large sums pretty angry.

As a result, we are now seeing record numbers of real users on Twitter. The bot situation has dramatically improved. Fake accounts are down. And the subscription service gives Twitter a stable source of recurring revenue.

That’s why Meta is rushing to do the exact same thing. They are basically copying the model completely – right down to the blue badge.

This is what Meta is really good at. The company has done quite well by simply copying what other, smaller social media platforms do.

And I find it humorous that Meta isn’t even changing the color of its badge for verified users. Twitter has the blue check. Meta will have the blue badge. Couldn’t they have at least picked a different color to be unique?

Regardless, this is a good move by Meta. Twitter proved that the verification model works. And after working out a few early bumps in the road, it helps cut down on bots and fake accounts tremendously.

Meta is already testing this service in Australia and New Zealand right now. It’s going to work out all the bugs in those markets. Then we’ll start to see blue badges become available in U.S. and European markets.

As regular readers know, I’m no fan of Meta’s business practices. But I do like this move. Most users will like it, and a much smaller number won’t for reasons stated earlier.


Jeff Brown
Editor, The Bleeding Edge